Monday, April 10, 2006


Hag Sameah Chaverim!
Andre Verissimo

Rabi Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Tuesday evening, April 18th begins the Seventh Day of Pesach, a full-fledged holiday which extends through Thursday evening April 20th. On Thursday Yizkor is recited, the prayer service for remembering one's loved ones who have passed on and giving merit to their neshamos (souls) in the next world.
The crossing of the Yam Soof, (usually translated as the Red Sea, more correctly translated as "The Reed Sea" or "Sea of Reeds") took place on the 7th day of Pesach. And the Jewish people continued their 50 day journey of self-perfection from leaving Egypt until the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai.
How do we begin to improve ourselves? It starts with a decision to change.

What if you had a special clock on top of your television that was counting down the hours and minutes until you were to die? When would you get up, turn off the TV and do all the things that you planned to do, hoped to do or thought about doing?

And what if in addition to your special clock, you had a special bank account where every morning you were credited in your bank account with $86,400 dollars on condition that you had to spend it all or lose it? What would you do? Spend it!! Well, you do have a special bank account called the Bank of Time! Each day you have exactly 86,400 seconds. What you don't invest wisely is written off each night. You can reap dividends, but you can't go into overdraft!
One has to value his time and know that it is limited in order to change. The Sephirat HaOmer period is about valuing time and about changing.


On the second day of Pesach, the Omer offering from the new barley crop was brought in the Temple in Jerusalem. It began a period of counting and preparation for Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and the yearly celebration of re-accepting the Torah upon ourselves. This period is called Sephirat HaOmer, the counting of the Omer.
Forty-nine days are counted and on the fiftieth day is Shavuot, the Yom Tov celebrating the giving of the Torah. There is actually a mitzvah to count each specific day which is done at the completion of Ma'ariv, the evening service.

This is a period of national semi-mourning (no weddings or even haircuts).

It was during this period that Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students died for not showing sufficient respect for each other. It is a time for us to reflect how we look upon and treat our fellow Jews as well as the tragedies that have befallen us because of unfounded (self-justified) hatred. It is a wonderful time to undertake to do an extra act of kindness; this will help to help bring perfection to the world and unity amongst Jews.

There are two customs for observing the semi-mourning period. The first is to observe it from the end of Pesach until the 33rd day of the Omer, this year Tuesday, May 16th. Many people get married on the 33rd day of the Omer for this reason. The second custom is to observe it from Rosh Chodesh Iyar (the beginning of the month of the Hebrew month of Iyar, Friday, April 28th) until Shavuot. Unusual for our heritage, one can choose each year which custom to follow!
These 50 days also correspond to the seven weeks after the Exodus from Egypt when the Jewish people prepared themselves to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai. When we left Egypt we were on the 49th level of Tuma, spiritual degradation. Each day we climbed one step higher in spirituality and holiness. Many people study one of the "48 Ways to Wisdom" (Ethics of the Fathers, 6:6) each day as a means to personal and spiritual growth. and