Shabbat Shalom! It has been exactly two years since the inception of my journey into Judaism. Time flies when you are learning lots!
This week I want to write about two topics. Rabbi Berel Wein and the 613 Commandments.
Last night for Friday night services, I made my way to Ohel Leah Synagogue
in Mid-Levels Hong Kong. The special guest of the week was Rabbi Berel Wein
and his wife from Jerusalem Israel. Rabbi Wein, known in the Jewish world as “The Voice of Jewish History”, is an expert in all things history for Jews. His many videos, books, and lectures has made it to millions of Jewish and non-Jewish homes teaching and educating. For Shul, as in the Orthodox Jewish tradition, I sat upstairs at Ohel Leah with the women and the children while the men sat downstairs. After Shul, everyone made their way to the Shabbat dinner held at the Jewish Community Center next door. Rabbi Wein was to speak during dinner and I wanted to be front and center to hear from the expert himself. After the Rabbi and his wife sat down at the reserved table, I moved there too as I noticed it was not full. In addition to Rabbi Wein, our table consisted of the Assistant Rabbi Ariel and his wife Ayelet
with their children, Cantor Mohel and his wife from Israel, and me. Hebrew was the language they all shared – Rabbi Wein finally said we should speak in English, realizing I couldn’t understand Hebrew. I chatted with Rabbi Wein’s wife about my upcoming trip to Israel, plans to convert to Judaism, and hopes to speak Hebrew in the future. She seems pleased of my research into Jewish culture and history. We moved topics to traveling and I offered her some sightseeing recommendations in Hong Kong.
After much chatter, some food, it was time for Rabbi Wein to speak. The theme of his speech was the resilience of the Jewish people. Throughout history, Jews have been persecuted everywhere. The Jewish resilience should be applauded and respected. With over a billion Christians, over a billion Muslims, and over a billion Hindus, Jews are a lonely group in number in comparison. The Rabbi reaffirmed that though the Jewish numbers are small, that’s what makes the Jewish people special. Each and everyone count no matter how you look at it. It is the Jewish responsibility to model a higher moral ground for others. The country of Israel can be used as a model for other countries of the world.
The dinner came to a close and finished with dessert and song. I said my farewells to Rabbi Wein and his wife. Afterwards, I started talking to Assistant Rabbi Ariel about conversion at Ohel Leah. Rabbi Asher, currently out-of-town, told me that I need to live within walking distance from Ohel Leah Synagogue. I inquired with Rabbi Ariel about that remark as I didn’t completely understand what it had meant. Rabbi Ariel explained that once I am serious with conversion, I will not be able to take public transportation during Shabbat. Not living within walking distance of the synagogue would be an issue. See, I’m still learning as I didn’t even know of that rule. I was told to look into the seven Noahide Laws instead of a complete conversion. :-/
Meanwhile, been researching the 613 commandments or Mitzvahs and set a goal to memorize and practice all of it in the next month. The Chabad website has a great article on the 613 Mitzvahs. The 613 Mitzvahs are required of all Jews. Righteous gentiles are only required to follow the seven Noahide Laws that I stated earlier. Some are fairly basic while others are incredibly specific in nature. Some comes naturally to me while others will take some conscious effort to do. I committed to this exercise and will report back to you in one month’s time my progress.
Wish me luck.
Until next time! xoxo