Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Financial Crisis: A Stimulus for Change

Is there a deeper lesson at the heart of the current financial collapse? Can we use the current crisis to stimulate a lasting change in our approach to life?

For some of us, we watch the strange goings on in the financial markets, see their effect on the stock market and just shake our heads and wonder. Others of us have a far more personal stake in this matter. Perhaps we have seen our 401K accounts shrink and we wonder how we will support our retirement. Perhaps our stock losses are dramatic enough to cause sleepless nights and depression. Perhaps you find yourself postponing the purchase of the new home you have always dreamed of or even worse, perhaps the home you always dreamed of is going back to the bank and you wonder where your family will sleep tonight.

There are many views as to the causes of the collapse of the financial markets in the United States and the potential ramifications worldwide. The CEO's and top executives certainly have had their share of blame. With callous disregard for the health of their company, they focused on themselves. Of course, they were not the only ones making money. The pursuit of the quick dollar flowed from top to bottom. Even with those often - called victims, greed ran rampant. Many people were buying homes because they saw so much money being made around them that they did not want to be left out. Greed ruled over all levels.

As we have seen so often in the past and as recently as the "Internet bubble," all speculation comes to an end when there is no real foundation. When money is being made in unrealistic proportions with no solid basis... what goes up must come down. Like all Ponzi schemes, the winners have walked away and the losers are left holding the bag.

At the heart of all this is egoism and its desire for pleasure, for "me." We live in a culture that glorifies wealth, fame and power despite all evidence to the contrary that they bring happiness. We would all agree that lack of money can cause unhappiness, but can anyone point out any study that correlates wealth with happiness? All we have to do is to observe the lives of the rich and famous and see the misery they bring to themselves and others.

It has been said that it takes a significant emotional event to generate a change. Could our current financial situation trigger such an event? Is it possible that we are beginning to see that greed is not good? Is it possible to begin to see that happiness is not related to wealth, fame, and power? What if excess became shameful? What if we elevated the stature of people who are "givers" and demoted the stature of "takers?" What would the world be like if everyone gave more importance to looking out for each other rather than worrying about themselves?

This concept is a basic premise in authentic Kabbalah. Is it time to take this ancient wisdom out of mothballs and learn how we might create a society that loves thy neighbor as thyself? There are enough resources in our world. There is enough for everyone. All we have to do elevate the stature of sharing and demote the stature of getting. Truly, it is better to give than to receive. Take one moment to close your eyes and imagine all the possibilities and potential if we were all focused on helping each other. What would this world look like? How would it feel to be a part of a wondrous whole? Unity!

from: Privendo.com

To find more about Judaica
click here

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The True Significance of Judaica Seder Plate

In Judaism, the Seder Plate is one of beauty and deep symbolic significance. The Seder Plate officially embraces a ritualistic 15 steps of specific symbols and meanings that must be appropriately performed.

The Karpas of the Seder:

There is a step by step serving of a variety of food that can be served upon the Seder Plate. First come vegetables such as boiled potatoes, celery, parsley and so forth, but no bitter herbs can be served. Since Passover is the celebration of the Jewish nation's birth, there must be the Spring festival celebration with vegetables being the rebirth and rejuvenation symbol most appropriately to use. So the vegetables, also referred to as Karpas in the Jewish wording, is a must in the Borei Pri Ha'Adamah blessing.

The Marror and the Chazeret of the Seder:

The Marror & Chazeret actually are the herbs that run bitter to symbolize the Hebrew slaves that were literally embittered by slavery. It is common to use Horseradish as the Marror and for Chazeret, lettuce of Romaine is used..

The Charoset of the Seder:

The Charoset represents the extreme labors of the Jewish people and there is a blending of dates, nuts, cinnamon, apples and wine.

The Zero'ah of the Seder:

The Zero'ah once was the Pascal Lamb that was used in the Temple on the Passover eve, and it would be prepared for the last part of the Seder meal. But now it is more common to place upon the Seder plate as the commemorating offerings to be the bones of the chicken with some meat still remaining on the bones....

from: Privendo.com

To find more about Judaica
click here

Monday, October 13, 2008

Importance of Hamsa in Home Blessings

The Hamsa bracelet is used for protection against the evil eye. Hamsa bracelet is considered to be a powerful talisman that is used in the form of jewelry, lucky charms, and wall hangings for bringing in good fortune and prosperity.

Hamsa- Good luck charms

Hamsa bracelet is used for protection against evil forces that can cause negative influence in one's life. The word "hamsa" represents the five fingers on the hand that attaches its religious significance to the Holy Bible to the five books of the Old Testament series.

Different types of Hamsa offerings

-Hamsa wall hangings

Hamsa wall hangings are available which are used for homes. These Hamsa home blessings are used in the interiors of homes to protect them from the evil influences that can have bad effects. These hand made Hamsa wall hangings ward off negativity from the homes bringing prosperity and good luck to people. These Hamsa home blessings are used in offices too which help in bringing good luck in business by improving the business opportunities.

-Hamsa Pendants

Hamsa pendants made from sterling silver and gold are available in different shapes and patterns which can be worn along with chains.

-Hamsa bracelets

Hamsa bracelets made from gold, silver and leather are also sold in beautiful patterns in various designs that help in protecting against evil eye influences by removing the negative effects and the obstacles that are encountered in one's life.

Hamsa Offerings from Lucky Charms

Lucky charms, USA is an online store that provides authentic and exclusive range of lucky charm products like bracelets, anklets, talisman, necklaces and pendants among others which bring good luck and fortune.

Some of the special Hamsa offerings from Lucky charms include:

-Wooden home blessings

Lucky charms offers Hamsa wooden home blessings which are hand made with blessings written in English, Spanish and Hebrew language. These Hamsa home blessings have precious gemstones in them like Amethyst, Agate, Crystals, Opal among others which possess different qualities that is beneficial for different purposes. Along with that, Lucky charms also offer Hand made keys holder with home blessings, handmade hamsa with birthstones

- Metallic home blessings

Lucky charms offer a beautiful range of Hamsa metallic home blessings which can be used as wall hangings. These Hamsa wall hangings are well-decorated using silver plated birthstones, blue gem home blessings in different attractive shapes and sizes that are used both in the offices and homes to bring in good luck and happiness.

from: Privendo.com

To find more about Judaica
click here

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How to install a Mezuzah?

Jews have been putting mezuzot on the doors of their houses since biblical days. We read the commandment concerning the mezuzah every time we read the Shema: "inscribe them [these words] on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

The mezuzah reminds us of our relationship to God every time we leave our houses and every time we return.

A mezuzah can be made of practically anything: glass, wood, plastic, ceramic, clay, metal, but no matter what it's made of, the important part of the mezuzah is the parchment inside. The parchment contains two passages from Deutoronomy.

The first passage is the first paragraph of the Shema (Deut 6:4-9), the second is the second paragraph of the Shema (Deut 11:13-21) which is not usually recited in Reform services. Both of these passages contain the commandment for affixing a mezuzah. To be kosher, these passages must be written by hand on parchment. You can get kosher parchments for about $31 from our online store.

The back of the parchment contains the word Shaddai which means "Almighty," but also stands for shomer delatot yisrael: guardian of the doors of Israel. If you place the parchment in the mezuzah case yourself, roll it from left to right so that the word Shaddai faces out. If your mezuzah has an opening, Shaddai should appear in it, otherwise align the word with the front of the case.

The mezuzah goes in the upper third of the right doorpost (as you're going in). The top of the mezuzah should be angled toward the inside, but if the doorpost is too narrow, it can be placed vertically. Before affixing the mezuzah, say the following blessing:

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, asher kidshanu v'mitzvotav v'tzivanu likboa mezuzah. Blessed are you Adonai our God, sovereign of the universe, who makes us holy with the mitzvot and commands us to affix a mezuzah.

A Translation of the Text in the Mezuzah "Hear O Israel, G-d our Lord is G-d the Only One You shall love G-d with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your power. These words which I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them to your children and you shall speak about them when you dwell in your house, when you travel on the road, when you lie down and when you arise. You shall tie them as a sign on your arm and as a head ornament between your eyes. you shall inscribe them on the doorposts of your home and your gates.

And it shall happen, if you obey my commandments which I command you today, to love G-d within all your hearts and all your souls that I will give the rains of the land in its proper time, the light rains and the heavy rains, and you will gather your grain, your wine and your oil. I will give grass in your fields for your livestock. You will have enough to eat and you will be satisfied. Guard yourselves, lest your hearts lead you astray and you will serve other gods and you will bow to them. G-d will then become angry with you and will withhold the rain, and the land will not produce its bounty. You will quickly be lost from upon the good land that G-d has granted you. You shall place these words on your hearts and on your souls. You shall tie them as a sign on your arms and they shall be head ornaments between your eyes, and you shall teach them to your children to speak about them when you dwell in your house, when you travel on the road, when you lie down and when you arise. You shall inscribe them on the doorpost of your houses and your gates. So that you and your children may live many years on the land that G-d has promised to your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth."

from: Privendo.com

To find more about Judaica
click here

Saturday, October 11, 2008

How To Choose A Tefillin?

About Tefillin

Tefillin are two black leather cubes (boxes) that are worn by many Jewish men while at morning prayer. One of the cubes is called "Shel Rosh" and is placed on the forehead. The second is termed "Shel Yad", and is worn on the upper left arm. The cubes have long straps of leather attached to it which enable the man to wrap the tefillin on his head and arm. The straps of the Shel Yad are wound seven times down the arm and three times down the middle finger. Within the cubes are four sections of the Bible written on parchment paper. These sections declare the existence and unity of God and recall the liberation from Egypt. Once a man has had his Bar Mitzvah, he may wear the Tefillin during weekday prayers. Tefillin are not worn on the Sabbath (day of rest) nor on the Jewish holidays. The putting on of tefillin is like a ceremony in itself, for as the man puts on his tefillin, he recites a prayer. The use of tefillin stems from the Biblical commandment: "And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes" (Deut. 6:8). Today some women are reclaiming tefillin as part of their Jewish ritual.

Without a doubt tefillin are the most complex of the scribes activities, not in the writing but in the construction of the batim (housings) themselves which have to be perfectly square and take enormous efforts and craftsmanship.

They vary in quality, in the way they are made, and in their halakhic desirability. On the market today there are four types:

Peshutim (Simple Ones) - These are made using several pieces of parchment to form the inner walls of the head tefillin, glued within a slit square to divide it into the four required compartments. If the inserts are glued incorrectly then these batim are not kosher for use. The parshiyot inside commercially bought peshutim are generally of very poor quality, and often not valid for use.

Peshutim Mehudarim (Superior Simple Ones) - These make the box of the tefillin out of a single piece as required. They are typically made with 32 mm sides to the boxes, which are quite small. However, goat skin is used to form lighter weight batim, which when finished look almost identical to the more expensive cowhide type, but they are not as durable.

Dakkot (Thin Ones) - These are made by stretching a thin layer of parchment over a structural base similar to the peshutim. This outer parchment forms the entire box of the tefillin, including the inner as well as the outer walls and also the base, which is halachically desirable. Its thinness, though, means that the tefillin can become halachically invalid relatively easily if knocked or through normal wear and tear.

Gassot (Thick Ones) - These are made entirely out of a single piece of thick leather (usually with inserts to ensure they close flat). This requires the repeated use of several tons of pressure in industrial presses as part of a complicated but delicate production plan. The resulting batim are so durable and thick that they can be renewed even if seriously damaged and they typically last a lifetime. Gassot are made with boxes varying in size from about 20 mm per side to over 40 mm, though sides of 31-36 mm are considered standard. The pictures on this page show Gassot being made from a single piece of skin.

The choicest cow-hide is used from the cheeks and the neck where it is the thickest. Thus only one pair of tefillin is produced for each head of cattle. After undergoing a softening process the leather is cut to the size needed and left to dry slowly in the open air for at least three months. The box shapes are then formed through the appliance of considerable pressure and gradually the shape we are familar with starts to appear in the skin.

Each titura (cube), averaging 35 square millimeters in size, is sanded, squared perfectly, painted jet black with paint made from only kasher ingredients and measured, as many as twelve times. A lacquer finish provides wear resistant protection and a fine, faultless appearance which must be completely square or they are invalid for use.

On the head tefillin two shins, one with four heads protude. Once the parchments are placed inside in the specified manner, involving wrapping them in pieces of parchment and tying them loosely with calf’s hair. The batim are sewn shut with giddin (sinew) from a kosher animal with one of the calf’s hairs visible outside.

Finally, the leather retsu’ot (straps) which are black on one side and left plain are pushed through the ma’avarta (channel) and knotted according to the Ashkenazi or Sephardi custom.

Beit Ari vs. Beit Yosef scripts

One of the most honored professions in Jewish life is being a scribe or sofer. It has been the profession of many great men in Jewish history, chief among them the great Ezra, who succeeded in rebuilding the Second Commonwealth and Temple. The word sofer in Hebrew literally means "one who counts." Since a scribe in essence "counts" the holy letters of the Torah as he writes them, this is the word that came to describe this holy profession.

The scribe writes the Torah, the parchments inserted into the boxes of teffilin and the parchment inserted within the mezuzot affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes and premises. Thus, a scribe is usually called a sofer stam - the word stam being the acronym for sefer torah, teffilin and mezuzot.

Scribes are also employed to write gittin - bills of divorce, which must be written individually, by hand, for each particular case. A scribe writes with a quill made from the feather of a fowl and uses ink specially prepared for the task. His work is exacting, time-consuming and painstaking. No mistakes are allowed and in today's technologically advanced world, there are special computer driven programs that check the work of the sofer for accuracy and correctness.

The parchment used for a sefer torah, tefillin and mezuzot is also specially prepared and is derived from the hide of a kosher animal. The hide undergoes a process of flattening, thinning and bleaching to turn it into usable white parchment. There have been many instances of deerskin being used to make the parchment and those sifrei torah have a brown-colored background for the black lettering of the words of the Torah.

The scribe writes in a squarish script called in the Talmud ktav ashuri, "Assyrian script." Tradition assigns this script back to Moshe and Sinai. There are very strict halachic rules regarding the formation of each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, although there are a number of variant traditions.

The most common script is called beit yosef since it is the form prescribed by Rabbi Yosef Caro in the Shulchan Aruch - the primary work of Jewish law. However, the great kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Luria Ashkenazi promoted a script that differs slightly from beit yosef script in nine letters of the alphabet. This script is called ktav ari - ari being the Hebrew acronym for Rabbi Yitzchak Luria.

Most Ashkenazi, non-hassidic Jews, as well as most Sephardi Jews, use the beit yosef script, while most hassidic and kabalistically-oriented Jewish communities use the ktav ari script. There is a third variation of ktav ashuri, called ktav vellish. This script was in use in medieval central Europe, especially Bohemia and also in certain Yemenite and Near Eastern communities. It does not enjoy wide popularity today.

In addition to all of the above, the scribe must attach "crowns" - little exclamation point-like lines - to the tops of seven letters of the Hebrew alphabet when writing a sefer torah. Being a scribe requires patience, good writing and artistic skills and immense powers of concentration. It is not a task for the faint of heart or weak of hand.

No matter what variation of script is used, the scribe himself leaves his individualistic imprint on the parchment. No two scribes write exactly the same and people interested in purchasing a Torah or tefillin or mezuzot, naturally, search for a scribe whose calligraphy appeals to them.

Until the latter part of the 20th century, most scribes wrote in a bold and thick hand, so that the white background of the parchment was almost unnoticeable. However, over the past few decades, following the lead of scribes in Israel, the writing of the letters has taken on a much lighter, finer tone.

from: Privendo.com

To find more about Judaica
click here

Friday, October 10, 2008

How is History Depicted Through Silver Judaica?

The material of silver can be traced all the way back to the times of ancient history as one of the most chosen types of materials for the specific creations of such things as Hanukkah lamps, Kiddush cups, specific decorations of the Torah, along with numerous other kinds of silver Judaica that is literally used as celebratory vehicles for practicing the many Jewish holidays and Jewish celebrations throughout each and every year.

Some of the most detailed and oldest surviving silver Judaica pieces, are silver trays from the 18th and 19th Centuries. One of them is a silver Judaica tray that represents "The Sacrifice Of Isaac". This is a handcrafted silver tray made by a Jewish artist from Vienna Austria. This is known because there is a hallmark engraved upon the tray stating the words of "Alt Vienna". This piece is trimmed with all 12 signs of the Zodiac. The center provides a highly detailed scene with the sacrifice of Isaac along with the calling angel above that was to ultimately protect Isaac from the harm of Abraham. All of the detailed works is finely and delicately depicted by the means of hammering.

Another silver Judaica tray of the 19th Century was hand crafted by a Persian artist, and is proudly portraying the details of 4 different Jewish depictions. The first detailed picture is known as the Brit Mila with a ceremony and Mohel. The second Jewish scene is a ceremony of marriage, love and joy. The third depiction is of a ceremony that happens when a son is born, called the Pidyon Haben. The forth-detailed design is of the Ceremony of Bar Mitsva, and depicts the representation of a turning 13 years old. This specific tray also has an embossed rim of Israel's 12 tribes, and the Star of David with a torah crown is as the center top.

The last silver tray is known as niello and it has exceptionally rare scenes with a pictorial of the Jewish history and the story depiction of Aaron and Moses. There are at first depictions of the baby Moses being found and rescued by Miryam, and then the details of the grand Priest, Aaron visited the Egyptian Pharaoh, along with the transformation of his staff becoming a very large snake.

It is so hard not to be absolutely fascinated with these silver Judaica objects, along with all the many others when it comes to the exquisitely mastered details so painstakingly offered upon most all silver Judaica pieces whether they are contemporary or from the past times in Judaism.

from: Privendo.com

To find more about Judaica
click here

Thursday, October 9, 2008

How Dreidel is Connected With Hanukkah?

The wonders and religious means of direct Judaism representations throughout the year did not skip over the kids in games and fun, when it came to Hanukkah and the game with the Jewish Dreidel. Although today there are literally hundreds or more in variations of selections and styles, and Dreidels are easily found online, just as well as many places were Judaic items are carried.

Even with the large number of Dreidel styles to choose from, all Dreidels are basically shaped the same. There are 4 sides to this spinning top with the Hebrew letters of gimel, shin, heh, and nun upon each side. These 4 Hebrew letters that stand for Hebrew words that translates into the English language to say that in Israel "A Great Miracle Happened".

The game of Dreidel is started with what would be considered a small pile of something valuable or also known as the pot, and this pile would sit in the middle. There are many different variations as to what this small pile or pot could be made of. For instance, maybe it is made out of chocolates, candies, real coins or even chocolate coins. When each player has contributed one item from their own individual pile to make up the pot in the middle, each player spins the Dreidel during their individual turn. Depending upon which letter is facing up when it lands is how each player knows how to respond by doing nothing, taking half of the pot, taking all of the pot.

As mentioned earlier, there are many different kinds of Dreidels. There are hollow Dreidels, musical Dreidels, plastic Dreidels, ceramic Dreidels, wooden Dreidels, glass Dreidels, and even the highly expensive silver and gold Dreidels. All though the glass, gold and silver Dreidels will most often cost a few hundred dollars, they are highly desired for the fun of adding to the adult Dreidel collections that so many Jewish families love to do. In Jewish traditions, many Jewish families do the collections of all kinds of Silver Judaica so these collections can be passed down for many generations.

During the season of Hanukkah, Dreidels are such an important part that the white and blue Hanukkah festival lights that are lit up around many Jewish homes are in fact in the shapes of Dreidels! So whether you are young or old, the love of the Jewish Hanukkah Dreidel is just as much for collections as it is for family festival fun.

from: Privendo.com

To find more about Judaica
click here