Posted by & filed under General.

Purim Katan is a rare guest that deserves special attention. In the 19-year cycle of regular and leap years we have nineteen Purims, but only seven Purim Katans. We must truly utilize it for special activities.

There’s a strong connection between Purim and Purim Katan. The Mishnah teaches: “There is no difference between the first Adar and the second Adar, but the reading of the Megillah and the distribution of gifts to the poor.” (Megillah 6b)

Otherwise, both Purims are the same, with Purim Katan being first!

The theme of both is Jewish victory over enemies: “And it turned about: the Jews gained the upper hand over their adversaries.” (Esther 9:2). So much so, that: “Many from among the people of the land professed themselves as Jews.” (ibid 8:17). Others were overcome with the “fear of the Jews,” and deferred to them because “The fear of Mordechai had fallen upon them”. (ibid 9:3)

Purim Katan, too, carries this influence of evoking and eliciting the assistance and cooperation of the nations for the Jewish people.

In 5687 (1927), the previous Rebbe said the Maamar, “V’kibel Hayehudim” on Purim Katan, in the largest synagogue in the capital city of Russia, before a huge crowd. He didn’t consider the dangers, and exhibited superhuman self-sacrifice.

The Maamar discusses the reaffirmation of Kabollas HaTorah of the Jewish people, in the time of Mordechai. This came through the self-sacrifice of Mordechai for the Torah studies of the small children. Their Torah and self-sacrifice nullified the decree: “Out of the mouths of children and nursing babies You fashioned an invincible might… to end foe and avenger.” (Tehillim 8:3). Education of children is necessary for Jewish existence.

As you educate the child so he grows and develops and will teach his children, and they, their children, forever. The dedication to educating the young generation was the essence of the reaffirmation in Mordechai’s tiem, with an eternal force, so that “The remembrance shall not perish from their descendants” (ibid 9:28)

The “children and nursing babies” referred to in the Maamar are infants. The foundation given such young children, e.g., when their mothers sing to them lullabies about the greatness of Torah, sets the foundation for their upbringing and destroys the enemy.

The previous Rebbe stressed the importance of Jewish education and didn’t show fear of the enemy, emphasizing that the work for Jewish education would destroy the enemy. In fact, he explained, those who were foes would become allies and assist in the holy work. All of Torah would be reaffirmed in the broadest possible way.

Thus, the lesson of Purim Katan: If there arises “a foe and avenger” against Yiddishkeit, Torah and Mitzvos, not only must we not lose hope, but we must increase our activities in all areas of Yiddishkeit. Start with establishing the “invincible might” (through raising infants and babies to all aspects of Torah), which ends the foe. In fact, just a “Many from among the people of the land professed themselves Jews,” during the redemption of Purim, the foe is transformed, and assists in spreading Torah.

This leads to the ultimate redemption. First we reach the redemption of Purim, when Mordechai became great and the condition of the Jews improved. (Soon after the miracle of Purim, work on the Beis Hamikdash started again in the days of Darius.) Then we bring close the redemption of Purim and Pesach to the ultimate redemption.

May all these forces be utilized properly, to become a partner with HaShem, to reach the level of “Ad Lo Yoda”, beyond understanding and measure, which is the theme of Purim, but is even stronger on Purim Katan, because of its rarity.

May this all bring to action, from now into the future, from the redemption of Purim Katan to the true and ultimate redemption! (Sichah, Purim Katan, 5746)

© 2009 Congregation Levi Yitzchok, Chabad of Hancock Park
All rights reserved. Please send your questions or comments to:
356 N La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90036
Phone 323-954-8381 or 323-932-9001
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Posted by & filed under General.

For an excellent overview, see Jewish Calendar from Judaism 101. Also, you might see Yahoo!’s Judaism Resources: Calendars page.

The Orthodox Union also lists Shabbat and Holiday Candle Lighting Times for both American and international cities, as well as a Jewish Holidays website.

If you’re looking for more than just candle-lighting times, check out’s Zemanim (prayer time) Service. They can compute Alos HaShachar, Sunrise, Sunset, Sof Zeman K’rea Sh’ma, Plag HaMincha, Tzait hakochavim, etc.

For links to other Jewish Holidays sites, see Yahoo! Jewish Holidays.

Posted by & filed under General.

Jewish Holidays: A Guide & Commentary For a good reference book on the major Jewish Holidays, I’d suggest Michael Strassfeld’s The Jewish Holidays: A Guide & Commentary.

Rabbi Nathan Bushwick’s Understanding the Jewish Calendar explains some of the mathematical and scientific underpinnings of the calendar.

Calendrical Calculations For a comprehensive look at 25 different calendar systems (including Hebrew, Gregorian, Julian, Mayan and Hindu), and corresponding sample code in Lisp and Java, Reingold & Dershowitz’s Calendrical Calculations is an unparalleled resource.

Posted by & filed under Candle lighting.

Shabbat begins 18 minutes before sundown on Friday night. In Jerusalem, Shabbat begins 40 minutes before sundown.

According to the United States Naval Observatory,

Sunrise or sunset is defined to occur when the geometric zenith distance of center of the Sun is 90.8333 degrees. That is, the center of the Sun is geometrically 50 arcminutes below a horizontal plane. For an observer at sea level with a level, unobstructed horizon, under average atmospheric conditions, the upper limb of the Sun will then appear to be tangent to the horizon. The 50-arcminute geometric depression of the Sun’s center used for the computations is obtained by adding the average apparent radius of the Sun (16 arcminutes) to the average amount of atmospheric refraction at the horizon (34 arcminutes). [USNO]

Posted by & filed under Candle lighting, Observance.

Shabbat ends after sundown on Saturday night when there are three stars visible. Depending on latitude and longitude, this is usually between 42 and 72 minutes after sundown.

According to Wikipedia,

There are three widely observed practices, all of which have support in the halachic literature:

  • Appearance of three medium-sized stars in the sky (sun 7°5′ below the horizon, or 42 minutes after sundown), as in the Talmud. This is normative practice in Conservative Judaism. In Orthodox Judaism, this position is used widely for the end of rabbinical fasts, but less frequently for the end of Shabbat or biblical festivals.
  • Appearance of three small stars widely spaced in the sky (sun 8.5°-8.75° below the horizon): common practice in much of Orthodox Judaism [10]
    • “50 minutes after sundown” is actually a variant of this position. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ruled this way because most people cannot easily calculate when “8.5° after sundown” will occur, and 8.5° takes 50 minutes at its longest, near the summer solstice, at the latitude of much of the United States.[2]
  • 72 minutes after sundown (“opinion of Rabbeinu Tam“): equivalent to other definitions of nightfall, and safe according to all opinions. Common practice in Chasidic and other Charedi communities

Posted by & filed under Candle lighting.

Shabbat begins 18 minutes before sundown on Friday night.

Havdalah is 72 minutes after sundown on Saturday night.

So in a given week, Havdalah time is typically 90 minutes after the previous day’s candle-lighting time (18 + 72 = 90). Sometimes there’s an extra minute or two difference, and that’s due to sunset actually differing by a minute or two between Friday and Saturday nights.

Posted by & filed under Candle lighting.

Hebcal computes sunset based on an algorithm provided by the U.S. Naval Observatory (USNO). The USNO claims accuracy within 2 minutes except at extreme northern or southern latitudes.

Comparison to local NWS charts for sunrise and sunset (which are cheap and easy to come by) shows that with the double precision calculations, the charts produced by this program are no more than 1 minute removed from those charts in lattitudes lower than 41 degrees. Candle lighting times agree with those on popular calendars also to the 1 minute accuracy.

That said, the USNO algorithm can only approximate the candle-lighting times for your location. If you ever have any doubts about Hebcal’s times, consult your local halachic authority.

Posted by & filed under Candle lighting.

Since candle lighting times are determined from latitude and longitude, a process called geocoding is used to determine the geographic position of a zip code.

Our zip code database comes from the 1999 ZIP Code file from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Gazetteer project.

The Gazetteer data from 1999 is much more complete than their data from 1990 — but still not as good as the commercial-quality data you get from the U.S. Post Office. Gazetteer contains zip code, city name, latitude and lognitude but is missing time zone.

Fortunately, the Gazetteer data contain a FIPS code (which represents the county a zipcode is part of). The U.S. National Weather Service provides county-timezone data (keyed on FIPS code), which contains timezone and Daylight Saving Time data for each county. By joining these two data sources, we can get a complete picture of each zip code.

Posted by & filed under Candle lighting.

Candle-lighting and Havdalah times are available for the following 54 cities:

  • Ashdod (31d48′ N lat, 34d38′ E long, GMT +2:00, israel)
  • Atlanta (33d45′ N lat, 84d23′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Austin (30d16′ N lat, 97d45′ W long, GMT -6:00, usa)
  • Baghdad (33d14′ N lat, 44d22′ E long, GMT +3:00, eu)
  • Beer Sheva (31d15′ N lat, 34d47′ E long, GMT +2:00, israel)
  • Berlin (52d31′ N lat, 13d24′ E long, GMT +1:00, eu)
  • Baltimore (39d17′ N lat, 76d36′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Bogota (4d36′ N lat, 74d5′ W long, GMT -5:00, none)
  • Boston (42d20′ N lat, 71d4′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Buenos Aires (34d37′ S lat, 58d24′ W long, GMT -3:00, none)
  • Buffalo (42d53′ N lat, 78d52′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Chicago (41d50′ N lat, 87d45′ W long, GMT -6:00, usa)
  • Cincinnati (39d6′ N lat, 84d31′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Cleveland (41d30′ N lat, 81d41′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Dallas (32d47′ N lat, 96d48′ W long, GMT -6:00, usa)
  • Denver (39d44′ N lat, 104d59′ W long, GMT -7:00, usa)
  • Detroit (42d20′ N lat, 83d2′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Eilat (29d33′ N lat, 34d57′ E long, GMT +2:00, israel)
  • Gibraltar (36d8′ N lat, 5d21′ W long, GMT +1:00, eu)
  • Haifa (32d49′ N lat, 34d59′ E long, GMT +2:00, israel)
  • Hawaii (19d30′ N lat, 155d30′ W long, GMT -10:00, none)
  • Houston (29d46′ N lat, 95d22′ W long, GMT -6:00, usa)
  • Jerusalem (31d47′ N lat, 35d14′ E long, GMT +2:00, israel)
  • Johannesburg (26d10′ S lat, 28d2′ E long, GMT +2:00, none)
  • Kiev (50d28′ N lat, 30d29′ E long, GMT +2:00, eu)
  • La Paz (16d30′ S lat, 68d9′ W long, GMT -4:00, none)
  • Livingston (40d17′ N lat, 74d18′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • London (51d30′ N lat, 0d10′ E long, GMT +0:00, eu)
  • Los Angeles (34d4′ N lat, 118d15′ W long, GMT -8:00, usa)
  • Miami (25d46′ N lat, 80d12′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Melbourne (37d52′ S lat, 145d8′ E long, GMT +10:00, aunz)
  • Mexico City (19d24′ N lat, 99d9′ W long, GMT -6:00, mx)
  • Montreal (45d30′ N lat, 73d36′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Moscow (55d45′ N lat, 37d42′ E long, GMT +3:00, eu)
  • New York (40d43′ N lat, 74d1′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Omaha (41d16′ N lat, 95d56′ W long, GMT -6:00, usa)
  • Ottawa (45d42′ N lat, 75d71′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Panama City (8d58′ N lat, 79d32′ W long, GMT -5:00, none)
  • Paris (48d52′ N lat, 2d20′ E long, GMT +1:00, eu)
  • Petach Tikvah (32d5′ N lat, 34d53′ E long, GMT +2:00, israel)
  • Philadelphia (39d57′ N lat, 75d10′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Phoenix (33d27′ N lat, 112d4′ W long, GMT -7:00, none)
  • Pittsburgh (40d26′ N lat, 80d0′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Saint Louis (38d38′ N lat, 90d12′ W long, GMT -6:00, usa)
  • Saint Petersburg (59d53′ N lat, 30d15′ E long, GMT +3:00, eu)
  • San Francisco (37d47′ N lat, 122d25′ W long, GMT -8:00, usa)
  • Seattle (47d36′ N lat, 122d20′ W long, GMT -8:00, usa)
  • Sydney (33d55′ S lat, 151d17′ E long, GMT +10:00, aunz)
  • Tel Aviv (32d5′ N lat, 34d46′ E long, GMT +2:00, israel)
  • Tiberias (32d58′ N lat, 35d32′ E long, GMT +2:00, israel)
  • Toronto (43d38′ N lat, 79d24′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Vancouver (49d16′ N lat, 123d7′ W long, GMT -8:00, usa)
  • White Plains (41d2′ N lat, 73d45′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)
  • Washington DC (38d55′ N lat, 77d0′ W long, GMT -5:00, usa)