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M IAMI . . . 1
V OL. 2
AP R I L ’ 0 6
N IS AN 5 7 6 6
UN MOMENTO: A BOAB DE FONSECA ....... 2
!!מועדים לשמחה חגים וזמנים לששון
I N THE LIFE OF S EFARADÍM: HAKHAM P EREIRA M ENDES . . . ............................. 3
Congregación Ess Hayim — Newsletter The Spanish-Portuguese Jews of Houston
La Prensa sefaradí
Born in in Brazil, Jonatas as a contemporary artist brings a new concept of art highly appreciated for its originality. Jonatas studied art at the Bosque Dos Buritis Art Institute and a few years later, moved toward the Graphic Novelistic Industry taking classes from the well known South American Graphic Novelist, Edgar Franco. After moving to the United States, Jonatas has been studying under Ms. Firgau, perillustrated Hagaddáh in western ladino, for fecting his own artwork and adopting the the use of Spanish and Portuguese speakers. European Way to teach his pupils. His art Also, we plan to request some panel work to can be viewed at: beautify our Esnoga. www.jonatassilvachimen.zoomshare.c Mazal bueno to Miami om — Ess Hayim. Our qahal is planning to commission an
Blessed are they who can look back, and thereby learn how they should go forward. Blessed are they whose parentage knows no higher duty than to hand down what it received; who can point to the deeds of their fathers as the basis on which they have founded their own honor for their children. Theirs is the true immortality, which outlives all the more glittering show of lighter flame. As the earth absorbs heat from the sun and radiates it on all created things, so virtue receives vitality from ancestors, and transmits it to descendants. . – Moisés Angel (1858)
Buenas Nuevas בשורות טובות
We had the opportunity this month to
enjoy the visit of three gentlemen from Miami, where there are Sefaradi families of Spanish-Portuguese tradition. George, René haLeví and Jonatas Dias graced us with their presence during the first week of April, where we had the opportunity to talk about minhagim, halakháh, songs, food, and generally share our concerns and hopes for Sefardí education, culture, and rabbinic learning. We were glad to come to the knowledge that señor Dias is a talented painter and teacher of art, in the realist Spanish tradition, already being featured in the Miami artistic scene.
Same way, do not be ambitious, awaken for richness, nor lazy or without work, but be a person with good eyes, [which means]: work little, and occupy yourself [with the study of] Toráh, being that whatever little he gets, he becomes happy. Do not be violent (libertine), nor envious, nor carnal, nor one who goes after honors. Thus the Sages said: “Envy, carnality, and honors end the life of man in the world!” General rule: Walk through the middle measure in all classes of personalities, until your manners be in the middle, because this is what Salomon said: “All your ways may be ratified” MT: Hilkhot De‘ot; Chp. II, 14.
Moments in Jewish intellect: Immanuel Aboab
“Only man can dispose with absolute dominion, and his own control of his actions and thoughts.” the celestial machinery, and its sky, the plants and animals of substance: the Planets, and the earth. He provided man (above Stars in the Sky, herbs, Plants, everything else) of a supreme and animals benefit and prebeneath it, He “He [G-d] only gave man rogative, which is finally created free will, only and free will, with which (in man, as the absolutely his, imitation of His Divine finishing which he can make Majesty) voluntarily does touch of all use of for all his whatever he wants, withHis works, actions as he out having anyone forcing whose subpleases, without him in his doings.” stance he any cause of vioABOAB DE FONSECA made from lence that would earth, and as make him act form he breathed-in the divine against his own wish. On this intellectual soul: Thus, He subaspect, man has divinity, and jected to man’s dominion, the imitates his Creator, who (cont. fish of the sea, the birds of the p. 5)
P HILOLOGIC CORNER :
From Alef to Taw
FIRST PART TO NOMOLOGIA
After the Lord had created all
His works, with proper, and particular natures, all of whom observe their effects without any change: He only gave man free will, with which (in imitation of His Divine Majesty) voluntarily does whatever he wants, without having anyone forcing him in his doings. When G-d Almighty created
B. Short Vowels: (a) Pathaĥ gadol ( ) pronounced like a short Khamess [ă]. (b) Segol ( א ֶ ), pronounced like a short Ssere [ĕ]. It is also called Pathaĥ khattan, because of its phonetic kingship with the Pathaĥ, and they occasionally interchanged (c) Khamess hattuf, i.e. hurried Khamess ( ), pronounced like a short Ĥolem [ŏ]. Rem. When not followed by a Dagesh or Shewa quiescent, the Khamess ĥattuf is sometimes compounded with Shewa to indicate its short or hurried sound, e.g. ִי אנ ֳ 1K 10:11, ִי הל ֳ Pr 25:12 [ִי הל ֲ in our text]. ִי צר ֳ Gn 43:11 etc. (d) Ĥirekh without Yod, pronounced like a short Ĥirekh [ĭ].
A SHKENAZI A CADEMIC
By: Shira Leibowitz-Schmidt There is little question that SHAS has not been the typical Haredi movement. In spite of the fact that much of its ideology comes from the Ponovezh Yeshiva of Rabbi Shach and his North African disciples, traces of the Sephardi tradition continue to trickle into the SHAS system. But like anything else in Israel, there are both good and bad aspects to this movement. On the positive side, it is good to see an engagement of Orthodox Jews with modernity. It is refreshing to see an avoidance of Messianism and a propensity for the practical and reasonable. On the negative side, there is little cultural feeling for the Sephardic past and a pronounced attempt to find ways to integrate Sephardi students into the Ashkenazi mainstream in Zionist terms. There is nothing wrong
with good citizenry, but we must remember that Israel continues to harbor social, ethnic, religious and political prejudices that find themselves reinforced by SHAS. Anti-Arab provocation is a standard feature of the movement and an overall sense of hostility towards the deeper aspects of intellectual and cultural modernity are still alien to the group and its followers. So in the end this is a mixed bag. Things could be better and they could be worse. In the end, it still seems that the Sephardi tradition, as Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef has noted in private discussion, was left behind in the Arab world when the Jews packed up and moved to Israel. And this is a tragic truth that will ultimately serve to reinforce Ashkenazi cultural hegemony rather than renew, as the SHAS
slogan would famously have it, the Crown of Sephardi glory to its rightful place in Jewish civilization. — David Shasha
The last time I saw Mazal Azulai I asked about her son Ezra, who had been a Jewish Dennis the Menace in fourth grade and a vilde haya, a wild animal, in fifth-grade, when he attended a regular government school in Beersheba. Mazal smiled and said, "Ezra? After I moved him to the Shas school, he became a yo-yo." Puzzled, I was not certain whether that was praise or denigration. She continued: "In desperation I moved him to a Shas school in our neighborhood. He did well with the strict discipline, zero tolerance of violence, a dress code, (cont. p. 4)
ֻ ), (e) Khibbuss ( א pronounced like a short Shurekh [ŭ].
— Mikhlol, D. Qamhi
Henry Pereira Mendes came to Shearith Israel in 1877 and remained its guiding spirit for more than forty years. Born in Birmingham, England, in 1852, he was educated at University College, London, received most of his instruction in Judaism and Hebrew from his father, and was
a religious teacher in Manchester when the call came from Shearith Israel. An aristocraticlooking man, he had a precisely trimmed beard and moustache, and was partial to using a pince-nez. He had “a clear ringing voice of unusually sympathetic quality, precision of diction, and a rich and poetic vocabulary,” an associate recalled: “Small of stature, he was yet possessed of a benign dignity which emanated from within. Soft-spoken, courteous, fatherly, and tender, he won all hearts.” Shortly after assuming his post at Shearith Israel, Mendes entered New York University medical school. He was graduated in 1884 but decided to devote himself exclusively to the
THE LIFE OF S EFARADÍM : Hakham Henry Pereira Mendes
rabbinate and never practiced medicine He threw himself into Jewish charitable and benevolent causes, helping, for example, to organize the Hebrew Congregation of the Deaf, and founding a school for handicapped Jewish children. He lobbied aggressively for Jewish interests, protesting against Christian exercises in the public school, discriminatory immigration policies, and Sunday laws which penalized observant Jews who would not work on Saturdays. He was an early advocate of Zionism. He was also a founder of the New York Board of Jewish Ministers, its first secretary, and later its president. If all this were not enough Mendes played an active role in the wider community, representing the Jewish faith on important civic occasions. Once he delivered the prayer in the opening session of the United States Senate. Conscientious to a fault, Mendes abided by an austere moral code. He disapproved of such secular temptations as “low 'movies' and suspicious dancehalls.” To combat their appeal, he suggested that religious groups , all (cont. p. 6)
“We consecrate ourselves and our lives when we have the moral courage to speak out for what is right and pure, to speak out against what is wrong and impure.” The three R's of Judaism, the rabbi said, were Reverence, Righteousness, and Responsibility.
Bitter Herbs, are to remember men. the suffering of slavery, generWe use the appropriate wine [The reading on the first ally made with endives, lettuces for kiddush, that is, wine that night] We call Haggadá, which or other herbs with bitter flavor, HAS NOT been cooked or pasmeans narrative, the ceremony though mild. When we submerge teurized, normally called MEthat we make during two nights them in [salted] water, it symbol- BUSHAL . (one nights in the land of Israel), izes the bitterness and tears [of That who does not have wine, which talks about our People suffering]. they can make [kiddush] with leaving Egypt. The Bone symbolizes the wine made at home with grapes The order of our Haggadá sacrifice made on the Festival [i.e. grape juice] or bought from falls on two nights, the 15 and 16 while the egg makes reference to of Nissán: We use three plates: Costumbres: Pessá One for the cenceñas or masSpanish-Portuguese Minhagim sot; one for the roasted sheep R. Mordekhai de Meir haLeví de Lopes bone and the hard-boiled egg; סט and the third one for the kharosset, the bitter herb, and the vegetables used within the narrative. the additional sacrifice called the store, those which are kasher. This is the symbology: hagigá. Juices without [rabbinical] inThe cenceñas is the Poor’s bread The four cups of wine that one spection cannot be consumed. or the Bread of Affliction, of our must drink [represent] the four Nonetheless, it is customary to forefathers in Missráim. The respective captivities and eman- make kiddush over the cenceñas Kharóset, made with wine, cin- cipations : Babylonia, Persia, when there is no wine. namon, apples, raisins, almonds Greece and Rome. The same We use what is called the or similar, figs, dates, etc, repre- must be drunk reclining on the shimurím of cenceñas, in other sent the adobes that they were left side, posture that in antiquity words, what specially is used for forced to make. The Marór or was only [reserved] for freethe two nights of the Haggadá.
We do not hide Próximamente the afiIn the Works comen (the piece • Interactive teachof cenceña ing on the Web. that is Associate and Full broken members only. from the • Bet Oliveira, upmiddle coming new Bet cenceña), haMidrash in Jerubut we salem. only wrap • Social improvement it up and classes, by appointplace it ment only. somewhere, so it ca be given at the end of the Haggadá. We do not place the cup called Cos Elyáhu haNabí or the cup of the Prophet Elijah. The first-born [males], be him of father or mother, fast on the eve of the Festival. (cont. p. 6)
KASHER ( ) כשר- This literally means: “licit, approved.” The term, nonetheless, is used not only in matters relating to food, indicating what is permitted for a Jew according to the rules for food from the Toráh, but also regarding more extensive problems more, for example, a family whose origins were problematic from the point of view of the halakháh, as were the cases of the “ĥalalim,” the
“gerim,” the which is the antonym Of Words and Significance “assufim,” the of “kasher” in this by “khetuqim,” the case. Same with the Rabbi Jacob de Oliveira haLeví “ĥarurim” and the phylacteries or the נר ו ס ט “mamzerim” as tassels on the corners treated in the treadressed by a Jew, tise Qidushin 68a which can be (among other trea“kesherot” (plural of tises, but this page “kesherá” - feminine refers exactly to the of “kasher”) or permissibility with “pesulot” (plural the kohanim in feminine of “pasul”). questions of marriage, as well as mother, and does not know the A woman who comes to marry a with the rest of the Hebrews), identity of the father. Ĥarurim: kohen, necessarily she has to be who were people of uncertain freed slaves, who with his libclean from a any spot, familiar or origin, or problematic. Ĥalalim: erty becomes part of the People personal, that could make her children of a union of a kohen of Israel as all converts to Judainto “pesulá” to access marriage with a woman who is forbidden ism. Mamzerím: fruits of all with a son of Aharon. In case she to him, as a widow or a divorced sexual illicit relationships , exis apt to marry, the term woman. Gerim: convert to Judacept in the case of relationships “kesherá.” is utilized. ism by free will -- it is prohibamong single people, though ited (for a convert woman) to prohibited, it does not invalidate marry with a man from priestly the fruit. The term (casher) is lineage. Asufim: Every one who even used for objects and things, was found on the streets as a for example the Temple altar, in child and, by logic, the child is a case of one of its stones were Hebrew. Shetuqim: Everyone broken or moved, or if the mizknows about the identity of the béiaĥ (altar) becomes “pasul,”
standing for teachers, regular prayer times, a heavy study load, and utter devotion of the staff. "One day I noticed that as he was doing his homework on the kitchen table he was popping out of his chair every so often. Every time I entered the kitchen he would stand, then sit again. A yo-yo. "Ezra explained, 'Our teacher said we must stand when a parent or teacher enters the room.' "He stopped talking back and offered to help me whenever he could," said Mazal. She was so impressed by Ezra's improved deportment, study skills and newly acquired self-discipline that she enrolled his three sisters in the Shas girls' school, despite the dilapidated structures the city had grudgingly provided them. Similar decisions by thousands of families in the deprived neighborhoods of big cities and towns on the periphery have
changed the face of education for Sephardi children. Encouraged to come on aliya to Israel from Middle Eastern counties in the early decades of the state, huge numbers of Sephardim were shorn not just of their side locks, but also of their traditions. The more ambitious acceded to the government's incentives to send their children to secular schools. Mazal Azulai sent her four older children to secular schools, where not only did they lose touch with Jewish tradition, they also were left out of the Ashkenazi elite culture; they continued in the cycle of poverty of their parents. Her younger children, who had been enrolled in the government religious streams, found themselves in vastly under-funded schools with under-trained teachers before she moved them to the Shas system. The hopelessness of the Sephardi schoolmates of my children in Beersheba is seared into my memory. I tried to ame-
liorate their situation by introducing stamp clubs, tennis classes, trips with the Society for the Protection of Nature - all very Ashkenazi, middle-class activities that did not resonate with the background of these children and had no impact. I concluded that the problem was unsolvable. Then in the 1980s and 1990s Shas came on the scene and took children off the streets. Overcoming every possible obstacle local and national governments could throw at them, young rabbis and their wives established kindergartens in hundreds of neighborhoods and welcomed all - religious, traditional, secular. In the caravans they used for schools, they restored pride in Sephardi customs and instituted a long school day that kept the children busy with religious and secular studies. The discipline inherent in a strictly religious life style enabled the youth to thrive. This is
not surprising because only when given limits can human nature be channeled into productive avenues. This concept is reflected in one of the names of the Creator: Shadai. Rabbi S. R. Hirsch comments that in this Name is the Hebrew word indicating limits: dai. The Lord, who is unlimited, places limits on man through a system of study and mitzvot. On three issues of national import, Shas has been surprisingly moderate. With respect to the army, almost every single Shas MK in the past two decades has served in the army, as can be ascertained by checking the Knesset Web site. When I visited the Shas boys' school in Hadera recently, a tank-top-clad mother of a prospective pupil was asking the principal whether her son could serve in the army after graduating. He answered, "When your son graduates he can defer service for a while and (cont. p. 5)
M OMENTS :
(Blessed be his holy name) everything He does, He does by His own will and immense kindness. But not because He needs to do it, unlike the rest of the creatures whose works are natural and necessary. As we are able to see that the celestial bodies do no cease to move, nor in any way change their course, of whom proceeding from the first movement, that violently takes after it
all the spheres – “And for being man Free, In this natural from East to and absolute ruler of his course come the West. This is the will, we see that the Lord two Equinoxes reason why the exhorts His people to and two Solstices Sun, the Moon, incline themselves to of the year, where and all the Planvirtue, and apply their will we see the changets, and all the to his holy service,” ing of elemental Stars fixed in the things. Herbs and ABOAB DE FONSECA eighth sphere can plants produce make their round, offspring, their a complete revolution in twenty leaves, flowers and fruits, in four hours; at whose end return Spring and in Summer (. . .), (minus those whose natural Fall and Winter; it increases in course stop them) to the same number, then decreases; human place and point where they left. body complexion and moods With this they cause day and alter, as well as those of the night in this world, middles and animals, according to the variety endings, hours and minutes. In of the times, caused by the heavthe same manner, we do not see enly influence. In which each lacking, nor changing a single thing keeps its natural properties point of the natural course of without being able to expel it. every Planet, and Star, making The moon makes its own and the Sun to orbit in three hundred natural movement, and makes and sixty five days, and six its orbit in twenty seven days, hours (more or less), when its and eight hours (more or less), sphere moves from East to thus causing its New Moons and West, with a contrary movement Full Moons, along with all difthat causes the first movement. ferent effects on the sea, and
diverse changes. Each Planet moves, and the eighth Sphere where all stars are located, with diverse and circumscribed movements. Each Element has its particular quality: and at the end, no celestial or earthly creature can leave its limited and natural order imposed by the Almighty. Only man can dispose with absolute dominion, and his own control of his actions and thoughts, without having anyone force him to do otherwise: and only him (as well as the Angel) has this particular gift of free will, over all celestial and earthly creatures. And for such reason, the supreme Creator is shown in the sacred letters, where we read: And said Lord G-d, Here is man as one us to know good and wrong, and now, etc. [Gen. 3; 22] The Lord reprehending Cham, He says: Surely, if you were to make good, you shall be praised, and if you were not to do good, you will be at the door
of sin, and it shall be your desire, but you may rule over it [Gen. 4;7]. Because where we can clearly see that man has free will given by his Creator is when he is able to give himself to the tyranny of his appetites, or suppress it, and follow good. And for being man Free, and absolute ruler of his will, we see that the Lord exhorts His people to incline themselves to virtue, and apply their will to his holy service, saying: To heavens, and to earth I call as witnesses against you, I have put life and death, blessing and curse before you; choose life, so you can live, you and your progeny: to love the Lord your God, to listen in his voice and cling to him [Deut. 30;19]. And in many other places in Holy Scripture, it is clearly proven how the Lord gave men the will to follow either good or wrong; and for such a reason he deserves reward or punishment, according to the works he does. This would not
be the case if he did not have free will. And for men to be able to sin or deserve, the Lord reprimands him in his holy Law, and by the mouths of his servants the Prophets, to continue in goodness, exhorting him with strength to awe, and divine love, so to deserve the eternal beatitude for which he was created.
continue in a yeshiva if he wants, or he can go directly into the army. One thing is certain: In the army he won't be in the "yaldei Raful" remedial program for illiterate soldiers." Fifteen years ago I asked a teacher who taught the yaldei Raful whether it was true that 90% of the boys in that program were Sephardim. She said, "No, it's more like 99 percent." Since then this has completely changed for the better, largely due to the efforts of the Shas movement. For this reason alone Shas would get my vote, even though I have no children in their schools. The Beit Margolit girls' elementary school in Netanya is a typical example of the transformation wrought by Shas. Located in mobile classrooms with leaky roofs, an atmosphere of calm, purposefulness and cheerfulness is pervasive.
Sayings of the Fathers
Cutchiyadas en carne ajena no deuelen / Stabbings alien to your flesh do not hurt.
This means that no one gives importance to matters that do not touch you. It brings the fact on the indifference of others.
I was shown the students' scores on the national Meitzav achievement test. The school scored much above average in mathematics, Hebrew reading and writing, and English reading. Only in one category, English writing, was their score just at the national average. As I walked through the school, I saw one class reciting morning prayers, jaunty sailor berets perched on their heads. Another class was working on a science experiment; a third was preparing book reports in English. A second area of moderation and openness is (cont. p. 7)
to celebrate, even during the first seven days. It is important to continue after the Festival, [and] one only count the remaining 30 days of mourning, having counted the days spent during Pessá. One does not celebrate weddings, so they will not subtract the merriment of the Festival, but one can make the arrangements without celebrations. These arrangements are called qidushín or erusín.
remembering our elders
- Ia’aqob Lemus Fuentes - José de Guerra Neriah - Rosa de Olivera Martínez - Myriam de HerándezAbarbanel Ledezma - Margarito de Iohanan Ramírez y Valencia - Dolores de Peña
Que reposen en Gan Eden
Actitudes en el Festival We should keep a happy mood during the Festival, good eating and drinking, but even so, we should keep good manners, without frivolities or misbehavior. If one cannot fast before the Festival, be it for a bad dream. When someone is in mourning, this does not annul the obligation
Jonatas Dias, “Play the Song of Songs”
There are families who have traveled from Israel and Louisana to Houston to tend to their special health needs and care at our state-of-the- art hospitals. But since our Health Care system is notfree, they are in need of our help. Please contact: Mindy Rosenthal(713) 666-1881, x-344;
I N THE LIFE OF SEFARADÍM :
denominations cooperate to provide healthy alternatives for young people as a means of encouraging the “re-creation of the good that is in ever body and its evolution into higher realms. Those were the days of saloons street-corners, billiards and dance-halls in the rear of the saloon.” Like all Orthodox Jews he deplored intermarriage, and early in his ministry he wrote a play, based on the story of Esther, condemning the practice. Nothing better illustrated his unique way of combining religion and ethics than the sermon Mendes preached at the dedication of the Central Park West synagogue in 1897: “‘How far is God a power in shaping your life or character?’ — that is the main question. Have you ever stopped the unkind word on your tongue? Have you ever removed the impure thought from your heart? Have you ever abstained from
gain through another's loss? Have you ever conquered you self? Do you do anything for God' s sake, remembering that He does so much for you? Then is He our banner, leading you to victory over those most insidious Amaleks — our own passions, greed, and selfishness.” [. . .] But Mendes also laid great stress on living a moral life, as he explained in his little volume Bar Mitzvah for Boyhood, Youth and Manhood, which, while written many years later, reflected the views of a lifetime. He instructed each of his pupils to resolve: “I will, to the best of my ability, all my life live according to the spirit and word of God. I'll do my best to set the right example by making my personal life and my home life loving, and my business life, when by and by I enter business, honorable.” The thirteen-yearold who was about to assume new responsibilities must also
accept new obligations: “therefore you never will be a sneak at school, or a moral coward in business; you will never be ashamed of your religion and try to hide it.” Religion had to be a force in everyday life, Mendes continued: “We consecrate ourselves and our lives when we have the moral courage to speak out for what is right and pure, to speak out against what is wrong and impure.” The three R's of Judaism, the rabbi said, were Reverence, Righteousness, and Responsibility. — From The World of Benjamin Cardozo, by Richard Polenberg; pp. 15-17.
For Better Health - Doña Myriam Ocampo - Doña Imelda HernándezAbarbanel - Don Mordekhai de Meir haLevi de Lópes
Que el Dio’ les aumente y prospere
the attitude to higher education. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the founder of Shas, has given full backing to his daughter's Herculean efforts to establish a college. Adina BarShalom started the Haredi College in Jerusalem five years ago to enable haredi Beit Yaakov graduates to obtain fully recognized academic degrees in several professions. This year several men's
classes opened in separate quarters. The college is for all haredi subgroups - 55 percent of the students are Ashkenazim. The third area where Shas exhibits its moderation is in its attitude to the state and Zionism. When Rabbi Yosef addressed girls at the college recently, he was asked two questions by a skeptical non-religious visitor: whether Shas was a passing phenomenon, and about their attitude to Zionism. Yosef responded that he did not found Shas as an ephemeral political party, but as a means to restore Jewish education to every child in Israel, so that no child would grow up not knowing Shema Yisrael. Regarding Zionism, Rabbi Yosef reminded the questioner that Orthodox Jews say thrice daily, in the Amida prayer, "We shall turn our eyes to Zion," - "and we don't just say it, we mean it and live it."
On the geopolitical issue of settlements, borders, and relations with our neighbors, Shas is centrist and pragmatic rather than ideological. There are aspects of Shas that are problematic. Some of the MKs have not lived up to the high ideals the movement espouses. It is not sufficient to shrug this off by saying that almost all political parties fall short of ideal fiscal comportment (don't we all?). However, the steps the party head, Eli Yishai, has taken to improve in this area are reassuring. Meanwhile, what about Ezra Azulai, the yo-yo? After his studies in the Shas school he continued for a few years in a yeshiva, and finished his army service. Now, as a father of two (so far), he attends a kollel yeshiva for married men during the day, and studies business administration in the Haredi College at night.
As a gesture of gratitude hakarat hatov - he volunteers once a month to tutor children in the Shas school near him, helping them also break out of the cycle of poverty. While many parties can only promise to improve opportunities for the less privileged, Shas has an impressive track record of accomplishment. All Israel benefits from these initiatives. The writer, a Technion graduate, is a translator in Netanya affiliated with the Haredi College in Jerusalem. From The Jerusalem Post, March 7, 2006
F ROM OUR P RESIDENT : Pessáĥ – or like us the Sefaradim say: Pascuas de Ceceñas – is a time of herut (liberty). As we mentioned in the past issue, the rabbinic instituted feast of Purim serves as a threshold for the Pascuas de Ceceñas. What was the element absent in the narrative of Esther? Answer: G-d is not mentioned. And this is something else that Purim shares in similarity with the Pascuas de Ceceñas, in that the name of Moses is not at all mentioned as a protagonist of the Haggadáh story. Interesting, isn’t it? We’ll come back to that another time. For now folks, I will focus on the narrative background of Pessáĥ. The Haggadáh is an orderly narrative, where everybody participates – the very word seder means “order.” In the beginning, we commence the
dialogue by reminding ourselves “This is the bread of affliction that your forefathers ate in Egypt.” And at the end, we finish it with a blessing thanking Gd for “taking us from slavery to herut.” The Haggadáh introduces this dichotomy from the very beginning: “This year, here, slaves. Next year free, in the land of Israel.” And it is interesting to note how we begin treating the ceceñas (massot) as a “bread of affliction,” which is a coded form to represent slavery, and then at the same time we dare to drink the four cups of wine reclined comfortably on our left side, which in antiquity this was a privileged reserved only to free-men. Why have the two extremes [slavery / freedom] horizontally, side-by-side subtly weaved through the entire narrative? Maybe the answer begins in ancient times during bereshit, the beginning of generations. In his
beautiful and polished 18th c. Spanish, Rabbi Aboab de Fonseca wrote in his introduction to his Nomología: After the L-rd had created all His works, with proper, and particular natures, all of whom observe their effects without any change: He only gave man free will, with which (in imitation of His Divine Majesty) voluntarily does whatever he wants, without having anyone forcing him in his doings. Now, what does Fonseca’s book, which explains the basis for Jewish Law [gr. nomos = Law; logos = speech, word, reason], have to do with the very act of G-d bestowing free will to man? And furthermore, what is the point of this reasoning? Rabbi José Faur, in expounding Maimonides masterpiece Dalalat alHa‘irin (Guide of the Perplexed), points out in his Homo Mysticus via the story of Adam and Eve that the word sata’ [Satan represented by the
serpent] means “to deviate.” Maimonides explains that man, through disobedience due to his passions/imagination, left having direct access to G-d, he deviated from G-d, and succumbed to his desires. Initially, these were the grounds for idolatry, which is in essence the self-prevention from knowing the one and true G-d. The rabbis point out that during the slavery of Israel in Egypt, they fell into the lowest spiritual state, that all, except for the tribe of Levi, forgot the commandment of circumcision. To this we must add (cont. p. 8)
“El tribunal de la Inquisición” Goya
that the ancient Israelites were subject to a system where Pharaoh was the sun-god incarnate, where he was thought infallible and absolute. But G-d had other plans for Israel when hearing its cries of suffering. The very ten plagues, say the rabbis, are designed to bring down this notion of Pharaoh’s absolute dominion over man and the world, concept that was ingrained in ancient pagan
thinking vis-àof this From our vis their rulers. form of President The Haggadáh mental drives the point projections of G-d’s hand as a form as the direct of minut, instrument to i.e. aposbring Israel out tasy. (And of as such we slavery: can see “I will this behavpass over ioral menEgypt” I and not angel. “I will talities in our generation today.) smite every first-born” I and not More than the actual mateSeraphim. “I will make justice rial act of idolatry, Israel’s cries over all idols of Egypt” I and and action were against mental not messenger. I Amonai, I – idolatry, and them leaving Egypt and not other.” perhaps one of the strongest The initial mental venom emancipation statements in anbrought by Adam’s mentally cient antiquity. diverting passions — MaimonThe closest like-experience ides says — allowed human against the absolutist will of kind to develop projections man over other men we have in about divinity, which eventually our history is when our ancesallowed man himself to think to tors in Sefarad fell prey to the be G-d, or at least an intermediChurch and the Crown, who ary between G-d and man. Not thought themselves as infallible surprisingly, Jewish Law speaks and absolute holders of truth.
Special Thanks Gracias
Our most sincere and humble thanks to all the Jewish communities and families through out the following cities and countries, for their help and support:
• • • • • • • • • •
Atlanta Jerusalem Johannesburg, SA London Miami New York Philadelphia San Diego, Ca Sao Paulo, Brazil Houston, Tx Mushos mazales, mushos milás, mushos quereres de los misswás
Like the Israelites in ancient Egypt, Sefaradim were segregated away from the old Christians, and not allowed to leave the country. The Sefaradim, who had to live in captivity as Catholics, were thoroughly conscious of their own G-d given freedom of thought and action, and protested accordingly. Diego Enriquez del Castillo, one of these a Moses-like courageous men, confronted queen Isabel: The first [question you Majesty], if your nationals, just because they are your subjects, could be called [i.e. regarded as] captives? By which divine law, by which human laws, decrees, or statues, could one defend, argue, and demonstrate that those [nationals] may be forced as if they were slaves, and be obligated to serve you without pay? Awareness of both their Gd-given freedom, and their manimposed slavery for over 400 years (whether material or men-
tal) is a constant horizontal reminder too when we drink the four coups of wine in the ways of herut / freedom. It is an act of defiance against the most elemental notions of suppression and control, be it coming from political, social, ideological or “religious” minded people or systems. The given of the Torah, from which the Haggadah is another threshold for the following Festival of Shabuot, is intimately tied to the constitution of Israel as a Nation; and them wondering and receiving the Toráh in the desert for forty years a necessary condition to enter eress Israel as a emancipated self-governing Nation. And this is why also, Rabbi Aboab the Fonseca had to begin writing about the foundations of Jewish Law departing with the notion of freewill at creation exnihilo. It is interesting also to note that the People of Israel, and us
alone, is the only Nation unrepeated in history, who went into a land with an already available jurisprudence, working against the pagan concept of nationforming: Land before Law; whereas Israel’s idea of Nation is Law before Land. The captivity of Sefaradim is parallel with that of our ancestors in Missrayim, a reminder to tell our children for the sake and continuation of survival of kelal Israel. Next year in Yerushalayim! Mo‘adim leSimĥáh yall !! Ma‘azya E. Villanueva, ס ט
Shabbat - Minkháh Erev Shabbat, 7:30 PM - Shakharit, 8:15 AM - Minkháh, 5:00 PM - Arbit, 8:30 PM Sunday - Shakharit, 9:00 AM Daily; Mon - Thurs - Mincha / Arbit, 7:30 PM
Congregación Ess Hayim
7626 Sanford, Houston, Texas tel. 832.220.8016 www.esshayim.org
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