From the Desk - Saying Prayers in Aramaic
Shalom Friends! It's so good to be back home to Congregation Beth Ora. Baruch Hashem, Family Knopf had a wonderful time in England, celebrating the 100th birthday of my great aunt, and Carly and I had the priceless opportunity to spend three days in Yerushalayim. It was so special to be back in the holiest city, revisiting places which redolent of so many events of Jewish history and so many special experiences of my own during the years I lived there. As I am writing (Wednesday), work is being done to prepare for the Beth Ora blood drive. Even though I am not eligible to give blood here, I think it such a wonderful thing that this is being done at our synagogue. The sanctity of human life is a principal value in Judaism and I am delighted that so many lives will be saved through today's donations. Kol Hakavod to Shelley and Mark Sherman for organizing this event each year! No sooner do we finish our Purim celebrations and it's already time to get ready for Passover! In addition to the cleaning and the cooking, I'd like to highlight two other important things to be attending to at this time of the year. Pre-Passover Tzedakah (Maot Chittim) One of the hallmarks of Jewish communities is the existence of a charity fund. At Congregation Beth Ora, we are proud to administer a number of funds for good causes. With the approach of Passover, a special campaign is organized called Maot Chittim (money for wheat) or Kimcha d'Pischa (flour for Passover) to collect and distribute Passover foods for the needy members of the Jewish community. As we know, Passover can be expensive so I appeal to you to please give generously so we can help all members of the Jewish community to have a joyous Passover. Donations can be made through the office, marked for the Torah Fund. Selling Chametz We all know that there is a prohibition against eating chametz on Passover. In addition, we are also not supposed to even own any chametz during the holiday. Any chametz which we don't eat or get rid of before Passover should be sold to a non-Jew for the duration of the holiday. This sale can be done through myself and the forms for doing so are available through the office. If you have any questions regarding the sale or anything else relating to Passover preparation, please feel free to contact me. Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbat, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What's the Deal with.... Saying Prayers in Aramaic? We know that nearly all our prayers are in Hebrew. This is the language of the Bible - lashon hakodesh, the holy language. We also say the prayer for Canada and the State of Israel in English - the language which (most of us) best understand. But we also say some prayers in Aramaic which seems to carry neither advantage. So Barry Simon asked me, 'what's the deal?' When we think of an Aramaic prayer, the first that comes to mind is probably the Kaddish. One reason for this is given in the Zohar which explains that we use a secular language for Kaddish (as opposed to Hebrew) because we are thereby subjugating energies which are outside the realm of the holy and G-dly. A second reason is that Aramaic used to be the most commonly spoken language among Jews at the time of its composition. The Sages wanted the entire congregation to appreciate and identify with the sanctification of G-d's name expressed in this prayer. There are some other prayers that are said in Aramaic. One of these is Berich Shemei which we say before taking out the Sefer Torah. This is actually a passage from the Zohar which was written in Aramaic. There are also two prayers beginning with the words 'Yekum Purkan' which we say before taking the Torah back on Shabbat morning. These prayers were composed in Babylonia where Aramaic had been the daily language of the Jews for more than 1,000 years until Arabic became the vernacular in the ninth century. The final example of a prayer containing Aramaic is the Uva Letziyon prayer toward the end of weekday Shacharit, as well as in Shabbat Mincha. Again, at the time that prayer was established, the familiar language spoken by Jews was Aramaic and unlearned people did not understand Hebrew. Therefore, these sentences were included in Aramaic in order that the unlettered could understand it.