From Ruin to Renewal Section Glossary
"Baal Shem Tov" - "Master of the Good
Name;" Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer (1700-1760); founded, in Eastern Europe, the
Movement known as "Chassidut." In the disastrous wake of
Shabtai Tzvi, a false-Messiah who had gained enormous popularity in the Jewish Community
before converting to Islam, Chassidut raised the morale of the Jewish People. It
showed that the average Jew could be important without being a great scholar, by
emphasizing Prayer, Joy and Kabbalah.
"Bar Kochba" - "Son of the Star;" Leader of Revolt against Rome in 135 CE, last attempt, with initial success for a few years, to regain independence from Rome, after Destruction of Second Temple in about 70 CE. He was believed by Rabbi Akiva to be the Mashiach, and he was given this name based on the prophecy of Bilaam recorded in the Torah, which speaks of a "star shooting forth from Yaakov." Tragically, he was tricked into believing that Rabbi Elazar was involved in Treason. At that point, Bar Kochba executed him, he lost the support of Rabbi Akiva and the rest of the Rabbis, and presumably, of G-d. His name reverted to Ben Kosiba, either his real name or, appropriately, the "Son of the Lie."
Beitar - Jewish Fortress city in the Bar Kochba revolt; originally nearly "impregnable," but after betrayal of its secret tunnel network, it fell to Rome, resulting in the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Jews and the crushing of the Bar Kochba Revolt.
Bar Kosiba - see "Bar Kochba"
Bracha - Hebrew for "Blessing." There are two main types: "Birchot HaMitzvot," blessings sometimes only before the performance of a "Mitzvah," Torah-Command (as in Sefirat HaOmer), and sometimes after as well, as is done after the Reading of Megilat Esther. Second type is "Birchot HaNehenin," blessings made "before" (to request permission) and "after" (to say "Thank You") when eating or drinking or in some other way deriving benefit from G-d's World.
Chadash - Hebrew for "New." This refers to an early agricultural-Halachic state of the five types of grain ("chitim" - wheat; "seorim" - barley, "kusmin" - spelt, "shibbolet shual - oats, "shifon" - rye) which is obtained when they have taken root before the sixteenth of Nisan. Thus, before the sixteenth, these grains are considered "chadash," in which they are prohibited; after the sixteenth, they enter the stage of "yashan," old, in which they are permitted. In the time of the Temple, it was the actual Omer Offering (see below) which effected the change in status; post-Temple, it is the Day itself.
Hallel- Group of Psalms, composed by King David about 3300 years ago; used in Jewish Prayers on special occasions, such as Holidays and Rosh Chodesh, for special praise of G-d
Iyar - the month in the Hebrew Calendar which contains the bulk of the days of the Sefirat HaOmer. The month begins right after Holocaust and Bravery Remembrance Day (which occurs at the end of Nisan), and contains Israel's Memorial Day, Israel Independence Day, Lag BaOmer and Yom Yerushalayim. The month is sometimes called "Chodesh Ziv," the Month of Shining, because of the beauty of the Spring and, among other reasons, perhaps because of the brilliance of the Zohar, which is associated with Lag BaOmer and with Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
Kabbalah - Jewish Mysticism; basic book is the "Zohar," written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in the Second Century, CE, while in hiding from the Romans. He was recording an ancient tradition, much less known because of its esoteric nature. Despite this aspect, it is understandable, and meaningful, apparently, for average Jews who delve into it, as its popularity in Chassidut demonstrates. On the other hand, on its deepest levels, it is somewhat dangerous, as we see from the account of the four great scholars who "entered the PARDES," from which only one; namely, Rabbi Akiva, emerged whole in mind and soul. "PARDES" is an acronym, representing the four basic branches of Torah knowledge, the "S" corresponding to "Sod," Secret, as "Torat HaSod," the Secret Torah, is another name for Kabbalah.
Lag BaOmer - The thirty-third Day of the Omer ("Lag" is the pronunciation of the two Hebrew letters whose "gematria," the sum of the numerical equivalents (for example, num eq. of Aleph is 1, num. Eq. of Bet is 2, etc.) of each, similar to the game of Scrabble, equals "33"). On this Day, according to Tradition, the students of Rabbi Akiva, 24000 of whom had perished in a terrible plague, stopped dying. The Day is also the "yahrtzeit" (Yiddish for "death anniversary") of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. The day is a break in the partial mourning of the Sefira Period. Students go on outings with their teachers, families have picnics, and tens of thousands of Jews light bonfires, dance and sing at Meron, in the Galil in Israel, the burial place of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who wrote the Zohar, and his son.
Mapah - Hebrew for "Table-Cover," the name of the great work of the RAMA, Rabbi Moshe Isserles, which represented the Halachic opinions of the Ashkenazic (European, basically) Jewish World. This work was integrated with the "Shulchan Aruch," Hebrew for "Set Table," of Rabbi Yosef Karo, which represented the Halachic opinions of the Sephardic (Spain and North Africa, basically) Jewish World.
Mechaber - Hebrew for "The Compiler," Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch, described above under Mapah. The original "Shulchan Aruch," when covered with the "Mapah," allowed the creation of a "Super" (doesn't sound appropriate, somehow, but nevertheless it's true) Shulchan Aruch.
Omer - the name of the Grain-Offering of barley which was brought in the time of the Temple on the Sixteenth of Nisan. The bringing of this Offering in those times and, in our times, it is the Day itself, which constitutes the barrier between two "states" of grain, the prohibited "chadash" state and the permitted "yashan" state. The Counting of the Forty-Nine Days beginning the Second Day of Passover (Sixteenth of Nisan) until (and including) the Day before Shavuot, is a Positive Command of the Torah and is called Sefirat HaOmer.
Passover - The Festival of Redemption, in which the Jewish People, who had been captives and slaves in Egypt for more than two hundred years, were freed from the "House of Bondage." This Redemption was proof of many of the fundamental beliefs of Judaism. It was proof of the Existence of G-d, that G-d was concerned about the world, that He would and could intervene in human history in order to establish His moral order in the World. Passover represented Physical Redemption. The real goal was Spiritual Redemption, which was represented by the Holiday of Shavuot. Passover and Shavuot were connected by Sefirat HaOmer, the Counting of the Days from the Second Day of Passover till Shavuot, a period of time over which the Jewish People were expected to grow sufficiently to take the first step of spiritual growth, Accepting the Torah.
"PaRDeS" - an acronym, emphasizing the letters capitalized and bolded, referring to the four fundamental branches of Torah study; namely, "PSHAT," Simple Meaning, "REMEZ," Hinted-At Meaning, "DRASH," Derived Meaning and "SOD," Secret, or Hidden Meaning. In Hebrew, the word "pardes" means orchard, and the meanings are not unrelated. For when one tastes the fruit of the orchard, benefit is derived on many levels: the simple taste, the hinted-at, more subtle taste, derived benefit, such as when one makes grapes into wine, and the secret, unexpressed benefit, which lingers in the imagination. There was more than a "taste" of danger when one entered the "Pardes" of the Torah, as we see in the Talmud's account of the four great Torah scholars who "entered the Pardes," of whom only Rabbi Akiva emerged whole.
Pesach - Hebrew for "Passover"
Rabbi Akiva - one of the greatest of the Tannaim, Scholars of the Mishnah, the earliest written form of the Oral Torah. He was the Spiritual Leader of the Bar Kochba Revolt and it was he who initially proclaimed Bar Kochba the Mashiach. He was a Master of Transformation and Growth, as we see from the fact that he began to study Torah at the age of forty, and went on to become one of the greatest Torah Scholars. The death of 24,000 of his students constitute the traditional reason for the sadness of the Sefira, and the cessation of the plague on Lag BaOmer, the greatest cause for the happy nature of that Day. He could look at utter devastation and see future glory, as the Talmud tells us in Makot, where he and three of his colleagues gazed at the ruin of the Temple, and they wept. As they wept, he laughed! And he explained, "Just as I see the tragedies foretold by the Prophets fully realized before my eyes, so I see in my mind's eye the future realization of the Prophecies of Redemption foretold by the Prophets. He died a martyr's death, which he accepted with joy(!?), seeing it as the fulfillment of the command to love G-d with his whole life.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai - a great student of Rabbi Akiva, who excelled in the study of the "Revealed" Torah, but whose forte was the "Hidden" Torah. Pursued by the Romans, he fled with his son, Rabbi Eliezer, to a cave in the Galil Section of Israel, where they remained for thirteen years, immersed in the study of Torah. When he emerged from the cave, Rabbi Shimon was estranged from the rest of his People. When he saw them farming, or engaged in other normal pursuits, he criticized, "How can you waste your time on matters of this world, when we are obligated to study the Torah, whose values are of the Next World?" At that point, a Heavenly Voice was heard, which told Rabbi Shimon to return to the cave, for he was no longer fit for human society. He did so, and upon exiting, became the great Master of Kabbalah, known for his Authorship of the Zohar. His Yahrtzeit (Death Anniversary) is "celebrated" on Lag BaOmer, as per his instructions to his disciples, with bonfires, song and mystical fellowship.
Rabbi Yosef Karo - known as the "Mechaber," the Compiler, (1488-1575), for his work on the Shulchan Aruch, which represented a compendium of Jewish Law, as seen from the Sephardic Side. Before he produced the Shulchan Aruch, he had actually written a work of which the Shulchan Aruch was merely a digest. This was the Beit Yosef, which was a commentary on a work known as the Four Turim, by Rabbi Yaakov ben HaRosh, in which Karo presented the Talmudic arguments related to each topic discussed, and explained the reason(s) for the Halachic decision.
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon - otherwise known as RAMBAM, or Maimonides; twelfth century Torah scholar, who began his career in Spain. He, with his family, was pursued by the Almohades, a fundamentalist Moslem sect, who believed in spreading their religion by the sword. He spent the bulk of his career in Egypt, where in addition to producing some of the most important works of Halachic literature, also served as Personal Physician to the Sultan. Among his great achievements were the production of the "Yad HaChazakah," the "Strong Hand," also known as the "Mishne Torah," "Review of the Torah," as well as the "Perush HaMishnayot," "Explanation of the Mishnah," and the "Moreh HaNevuchim," "Guide for the Perplexed," a work of Philosophy. He was strongly criticized, mainly for the following reasons: He did not quote his sources in the Talmud with his Halachic decisions, which engendered the fear that this would discourage people from studying the Talmud, and he seemed to be too much involved with Greek Philosophy. He was also criticized by some who misinterpreted his works for not believing in the Resurrection of the Dead. However, the verdict of history on the RAMBAM seems to be summed up in the expression, "From Moshe (Rabbeinu, in the Bible) till Moshe (ben Maimon), there arose none like Moshe."
Rabbi Moshe Isserles - otherwise known as RAMA (1530 - 1572); in his short but incredibly productive life, Rabbi Moshe put an indelible stamp on the world of Torah scholarship. His MAPA, Tablecloth, representing the Ashkenazic Torah world, integrated with the Shulchan Aruch, and enabled it to represent the entire Jewish Torah spectrum.
Sefirat HaOmer - The positive command to count the days between the Second Day of Pesach and Erev Shavuot. In Leviticus (VaYikra) 23: 15-16, the Torah records, "You shall count for yourselves - from the day after the holiday, from the day that you bring the Omer Offering, seven complete weeks. Until the day after the seventh week you shall count, till the fiftieth day, and then bring a new grain offering to Hashem." The bolded words in the citation, "from the day after the holiday," were extremely controversial, and were at the center of a controversy with the Tzedukim (see their Glossary entry); they claimed that the Torah's words, "Mimochorat HaShabbat" meant, literally, Sunday. Since the count, according to them had to begin on a Sunday, it had to end, again according to them on the fiftieth day, with Shavuot always falling on a Sunday.
Shavuot - Feast of Weeks; the Time of the Giving of the Torah. This represented the Spiritual Redemption of the Jewish People, the culmination of Sefirat HaOmer, which was the link from Passover, which represented Physical Redemption.
Tzedukim - the deviationist sect which believed in the absolutely literal interpretation of the Torah. Therefore, in the expression "Mimochorat HaShabbat," the Shabbat referred to is "Shabbat Breishit;" the regular weekly Shabbat, implying that Sefirat HaOmer would always begin on Sunday and end on the Fiftieth Day; thus, Shavuot would always fall on a Sunday.
Yashan - Grain in the state of being "old;" meaning that at least one "Sixteenth of Nisan" had passed over the grain after it had taken root; opposite of "Chadash."
Yom HaAtzmaut - The Independence Day of the State of Israel. The Hebrew date is 5 Iyar, and the original English date, which varies from year to year while the Hebrew date is fixed, was May 14, 1948. On this date, the fledgling State declared its independence, thereby creating the first independent Jewish entity in nearly 1,900 years. News of this event brought tears of joy to Jews world-wide, as Israel's tiny armed forces organized and began to defend the State against invading Arab armies who vowed to crush it, G-d forbid.
Yom HaShoah Ve-HaGevurah - Holocaust and Bravery Memorial Day. This Special Day commemorates the awful tragedy that befell the Jewish People at the hands of the Nazis during World War II, in which 6,000,000 innocent victims were killed, including one and a half million children. It also commemorates the valiant efforts of good and brave people, Jewish and non-Jewish, whose efforts probably saved, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people from certain death. One who saves a single soul is as if he saved a whole world, but against the background of the horrific crime, the good is almost, but not quite, overwhelmed by the evil.
Yom HaZikaron - Israel's Memorial Day for those who gave their lives in defense of the State of Israel against its enemies - before Independence, in the War of Independence, the Sinai Campaign, the Six-Day War, the Yom-Kippur War, the Lebanon Engagement, the Intafada, and all related military tragedies.
Yom Yerushalayim - commemorates the historic Day in the Six-Day War when Israel, after King Hussein of Jordan ignored Israel's warning to stay out of the fighting, seized the Old City of Jerusalem, and the Eternal Capital of Israel was re-united for the first time in 1,900 years. Among the national treasures returned to Jewish control were the "Kotel HaMaaravi," the Western Wall of the Temple, and the "Har HaBayit," the Temple Mount.
Zohar - Basic Book of Jewish Mysticism; written by Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai in the Galilean Cave, during his period of enforced hiding from the Romans. Bar Yochai was a disciple of Rabbi Akiva, and was the recipient of a living tradition of Kabbalah from his master, but he is the one who recorded it for posterity in this work, whose name means "The Splendor," or "The Brilliance."