Sunday, 10 September 2017

BRIT MILAH: HONOURING THE WORDS OF "HASHEM" CONCERNING ALL JEWISH MALE BORN


According to traditional Judaism, circumcision represents an everlasting covenant between the Jews and the Almighty God, that started from our father Abraham. In Genesis 17: 10 - 14, Abraham was commanded by Hashem to circumcise himself and that this act should be observed by every male among his descendants. The instruction is that every male shall be circumcised in the flesh of their foreskin when they are eight days old. Even the child of your servant(s) or anyone born under your roof ought to be circumcised in the flesh to signify a perpetual covenant, between the holy one of Israel and the people who have been chosen by Him. 

Chinonso, during Hafdala at the end of Shabbath
The significance of Brit Milah (circumcision ceremony in Hebrew) can be clearly seen, because should the eight day coincide on the day of Shabbath, the ceremony will still be fulfilled without any postponement. The Shabbath day has been set side as a day of solemn rest and worship, but however, Brit Milah being part of the 613 (six hundred and thirteen) laws must be carried out according to the law on the eight day after the birth of the male child. The only reason for the postponement of the celebration may include the following: 
  • when a child is born prematurely 
  • if a child is not strong enough due to serious medical problems
Traditional Circumcision in Igbo Custom 

The practice of circumcision is not alien to the Igbo people- long before the arrival of religion into west Africa. This had become one of the earliest proofs linking the origin of the Igbo tribes to their Jewish ancestors. It was required that a male child will be circumcised on the eight day after birth, and the act was usually carried out by a trained person. According to the tradition, it's on that day the child will be named, and prayers offered to the gods to keep the child safe and protected from any evil in the world.

Modern researchers and scholars have continued to argue while still asking that ultimate question- how did the early Igbo ancestors come to have almost similar practice of male children circumcision just like the requirements of  typical Israelite. 

Celebration of Brit Milah in Tikvat Israel Abuja

Conducting service in Hebrew
The Brit Milah ceremony is usually held in the synagogue as the custom demands, though it can also be performed at home or any convenient location chosen by the parent of the child. Recently in 2017, two parents in the synagogue celebrated the Brit Milah of their male child. According to the teaching of the Rabbis who have visited us in the past, this occasion is not just important to the child alone, but to all the grown-up people, both male and females around. It is religiously believed that Hashem will forgive at least half of the accumulated sins of any person present at the venue during the Brit Milah. So, it was certainly a moment of joy to be present to witness this great Jewish ceremony. 

Keeping the Records Straight

The ever first brit milah ceremony to be held in the Tikvat Israel Synagogue is that of Shumuel, first son of elder Baruck. This took place in 2007, and today Shumuel is in line as the next bar mitzvah celebrant in the synagogue in a couple of years to come.

Emmanuel Npumechi (April, 2017)

He was born as a twins (a boy and girl) to the family of elder Isaac Npumechi who is the chairman of the synagogue. His elder brother, Chinonso, had his own brit milah some two years before now. On the eight day after the new set of twins were delivered, members of the synagogue gathered in the early hour of the day to be part of this ceremony. Everyone carefully watched as the nurse trained to carryout the procedures according to the Jewish laws, performed the circumcision. The ceremony was conducted in Hebrew language, lead by Emmanuel, one of the chazans, Shortly after it was completed, there was a celebratory meal and drinks to entertained the people around. 

Daniel Yirmiyahu (May, 2017)

Yirmiyahh holding son after circumcision
The news of his birth was greeted with shouts and jpy after prayers were said by members of the synagogue during the Shabbath on behalf of his mother after she had spent few days in the hospital. On the eight day, according to the Hebrew tradition, the residence of elder Yirmiyahu was chosen as the venue for the brit milah. Sar Habakkuk and few members of the synagogue moved from Kubwa before sunrise to Madala, to join the celebration honouring the words of "Hashem" concerning all Jewish male born.

At the end of the brit milah prayers are usually said for the blessing of the child, and for the parents to raise him in a proper way, so he can grow up to trust in the creator.  Till date, according to the Jewish laws- conversion into Judaism requires that the person must be circumcised. Adult circumcision is now becoming common, although it's usually held in private and done at an agreed date of the one being circumcised. 


It's always an honour to observe all that Hashem has commanded us His chosen people to do throughout the generation. The penalty of non-observant of the brit milah is that the person shall be cut off from the people of God, as it is a reproach for an Israelite to be uncircumcised. We are His own, the first-born of the creator, and will continue to strive for perfection, by keeping the commandment so that it will be well with us all.



OTHER POSTS: 

Celebrating the Hebrew Tradition of "Coming of Age" (Bar and Bat) Mitzvah by the Igbo Jews in Nigeria
Sights and Sounds of the Savuot  Celebration from Abuja, Nigeria

Thursday, 7 September 2017

CELEBRATING THE HEBREW TRADITION OF "COMING TO AGE" (BAR AND BAT MITZVAH) BY THE IGBO JEWS IN NIGERIA


A book by Professor William Miles
At the age of thirteen (for boys) and twelve (for girls), Jewish children become recognized as full-fledged members of the Jewish community. This milestone is celebrated as bar mitzvah for males, and on the other hand bat mitzvah for female children. They are usually held on the first Sabbath after the thirteenth and twelfth birthday of boys and girls respectively, or even during the week days in some cases. 

Prior to reaching the age of bar mitzvah, the parents are responsible for any sinful actions committed by the child, in the sight of God. So, the focus of this ceremony is to mark the transition into Jewish full maturity. From this point in time the boys and girls become morally accountable for their own actions. There are several significance of attaining this age in the lives of Jewish children most especially for the boys. 

Celebrating Bar Mitzvah in Tikvat Israel Synagogue, Abuja
The synagogue is the most preferred venue for the celebration of bar and bat mitzvah. On that day the parents of the celebrant invite members in their circles, friends, and other guests to join in this occasion of "coming of age." The peak of the event is the reading from the Torah by the boy as he is called upon to be part of the Aliyah. The notion of this tradition is that a boy will be called up to read from the weekly Torah on a Shabbath early in his thirteenth year.

Before getting to this age, there are quite a number of restrictions in the lives of young Jewish children. The full permission to use the "Tefillin" to say prayers is limited until a boy reaches bar mitzvah age. This supposed age of maturity signals the beginning of a boy's eligibility to be called to read from the Torah and participate in a "Minyan." Other notable features of reaching the age of maturity include:
  • The right to own personal property 
  • The obligation to follow the 613 laws
  • To observe and keep the "Halakha"
  • Become fit to testify as a witness in the Rabbinical court. 

Tikvat Israel Synagogue Abuja

William Miles, Sar Habakkuk & Hezekiah
The first bar mitzvah held here was that of Hezekiah, who is currently the chief chazan of the synagogue. Till date, the memories of that great even is still fresh in our minds. Guests in attendance included families and friends, as well as members of some synagogues in eastern Nigeria who honoured the invitation. Professor Williams Miles came all the way from the United States for this great occasion, and brought gifts from Rabbi Gorin and Rabbi Wayne Franklin, which included tefillin, tallite, etc. 

The coming of the Sefer Torah to Abuja in 2014 was a ground-breaking ceremony on its own. The bar/bat mitzvah of Debora Nwafor, Emma, and Gabriel Ogbonna coincided with the arrival of the Torah.  Dignitaries present in the occasion included Rabbi Dolinger, his wife Naomi, and  Shai Afsai from the united States. The former Israel ambassador  to Nigeria, Uriel Palti, was also part of the invited guests. These set of celebrants became the first to use the Sefer Torah to celebrate their "coming to age ceremony." 

Azariah, during his Bar Mitzvah
The next celebration involved a boy and his sister. This bar and bat mitzvah was held on the same day at the synagogue. Azariah and Abdel are the children of elder Yirmiyahu, a renown member of the synagogue. It was a colorful occasion with quite a number of invited quests including some neighbors living around the synagogue. As usual, part of the even included a celebratory meal, and music to keep guests happy and entertained.

At the end of the celebration, the celebrants received gifts which included books and other religious items. They thank the guest at the end of the day, for finding time to come around to be part of the Mitzvah ceremony.



Avishai Synagogue Nkpor, Anambra

The invitation to attend this occasion marked the start of the "Keruv" recently embarked by Sar Habakkuk to the eastern part of Nigeria. The event was the bar/bar mitzvah of Benyamin Okonkwo, Maya Ihencheta, and Emet Ugochukwu. For this celebration, the Sefer Torah traveled the long road from Abuja (northern Nigeria), and the members of the Avishai synagogue couldn't hide their enthusiasm for the presence of the Torah in their congregation. 

Related Post: "THE TRAVELING" TORAH: STRENGTHENING THE JUDAISM NETWORK IN EASTERN NIGERIA

This occasion was held in the month of June, 2017. It was attended by leaders of several synagogues in Igbo land, families, members of the synagogues, and other invited guests. Sar Habakkkuk presented a Teffilin, Tallit, and Tarnack to the synagogue, and also gave gifts to the celebrants. 

Rock of Ages Restoration Synagogue

The next stop for the "Travelling Torah" was the Rock of Ages Restoration Synagogue. It was a remarkable achievement to extend the "Keruv" across the river Niger into Delta state. The venue of the bar mitzvah was in the synagogue located in Asaba, the capital of the state. The leader of the synagogue, elder Yonathan, heard about the Sefer Torah from Abuja synagogue, and requested Her presence to grace the bar mitzvah celebration. Sar Habakkuk traveled with a number of people to attend the occasion. There was plenty to eat and drink, and guests were entertained with music, and song presentation by a group of children. It was a memorable occasion, one that helped to strengthen the bonds within the synagogue in eastern Nigeria, to promote unity and peace among the Jewish brothers.


The celebration of bar/bat mitzvah will continue to play a significant role to strengthen the faith of Judaism in Nigeria. It's very important to make these occasions colourful and attractive, in ways that will create amazing pictures in the mindset of younger Jewish children before reaching the age of maturity. Undoubtedly, children are the hope and future of the survival of Judaism in Igbo land. Hence, it is worthwhile to prepare the children for this age of transition, and ensure they grow up to become respectable members in the Jewish community at large.  

Shalom!


Other Posts: 
SIGHTS AND SOUND OF THE SHAVUOT CELEBRATION FROM ABUJA, NIGERIA.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

"THE TRAVELING" TORAH: STRENGTHENING THE JUDAISM NETWORK IN EASTERN NIGERIA


In glory of her quiet chambers- surrounded by the best shinning walls - the "Torah" sits behind the white curtains, always clothed in grand beauty. The sun rises in front of her everyday, and by evening disappears across the mountains, sinking below the horizon. 

Hezekiah, and Bar Mitzvah celebrant, & Shumuel
Her presence has always signified hope, strength, and blessings. 
On the days of Shabbath, everyone in the synagogue are thrilled to bits as the Sefer Torah advances to the front of the congregation. How lovely the Jewish songs that fill the air as She makes her way out of the ark, and greeted with countless kisses, with affirmation from the women stand upholding the Torah as the word of truth give by the Creator to the children of Israel. 

Among other spectacular activities during the Torah service are the calling and picking of Aleya, for the reading from the pages of the scrolls.  The handshakes at the end of each reading, as well as the sequence of alternating the readers- all adds to the beauty of the ceremony. And then comes the moment, to pray for any sick in the congregation, then the pronunciation of blessings and success on the people.

But suddenly came the call - a call to serve a bigger purpose. A mission to strengthen and expand the outreach of Judaism through the length of Eastern Nigeria. The opportunity to serve is an honour, both in the sight of Hsshem, the Holy one, and before man. The strength also comes from Him, which is the reason we can align our pathway to work for the good of the whole Israelite, by preaching the truth and spreading the words to various people. 


The invitation to grace the Bar/Bath Mitzvah of Benyamin Okonkwo, Maya Ihencheta, and Emet Ugochukwu in Anambra state, marked the beginning of the journey of the Sefer Torah to eastern Nigeria. The arrival of the Torah from Abuja on the 21st June, 2017 launched us on the road to kindle the faith of our Jewish brothers in the Igbo land, especially in this era of distraction and religious lies trending in the public. 

Since the month of June, the Torah has been touring several synagogues in three states. Bellow is a record of the places so far visited: 

Avishai Synagogue

The Bar Mitzvah ceremony is the enrollment into the active and responsible Jewishness of young Jewish children. The Avishai synagogue, located in Nkpor in Anambra state invited brethren of the Tikvat Israel Synagogue Abuja to attend this glorious Jewish occasion. The occasion was a memorable one, as it witnessed the gathering of leaders of different synagogues, the college of Chazans, Jewish mothers, Jewish youths, and other invited guests. 


Divine Seed Synagogue
The next stop for the "traveling Torah" was the Divine Seed Synagogue in Neni, Anambra state. This historic visit was applauded by the members of the synagogue, as the occasion is the second visit of the Sefer Torah to their synagogue. On that day, a paper was presented by Mr. Eliada Chukwuma Ozoemena on the "Sin of Idolatry, the exile, and the return of the Jews."

Ohav Shalom Synagogue
Ohav  shalom synagogue is located in Obosi, Anambra state. When the lovely members of this synagogue learned that the Sefer Torah had come down all the long way from Abuja, across the river Niger; they sought to utilize this wonderful opportunity. Upon their invitation, the Sefer Torah was brought to their synagogue for a special service on a Monday. It was indeed a remarkable meeting, as the members were filled with great enthusiasm how a typical Torah service is being conducted in the Jewish way.

The Visit to Delta State
Once again, the Torah embarked on another journey, going across the river Niger, into Asaba the capital of Delta state. The occasion was a Bar Mitzvah that took place in the Rock of Ages Restoration Synagogue. Members and friends invited for the ceremony were truly excited for the presence of the Torah in their midst. The occasion witnessed a full house and a  lot of other activities which made it quite a memorable one. 

Beney Yisrael Synagogue 
The Beney Yisrael Synagogue is located in the heart of the town of Nnewi. When the Sefer Torah arrived there, during a combined service with all leaders and representatives of several synagogues, it was certainly the peak of the tour! This general meeting was symbolic and all members were reminded of their responsibility to continue to uphold the Jewish faith, strengthening one another, and abiding by the laws of the Torah as Hashem has commanded. 

Shortly after the Torah service, there was a book presentation and distribution to all the synagogues represented. The books includes copies of the JPS Bible, other Jewish books, and the encyclopedia Judaical. These books were long donated by Howard Gorin, David Tobis, and through the support of Rabbi Wayne Franklin. 




The Palace of the KIng
On the 17th of July, Sar Habakkuk lead a small delegation to pay a courtesy visit to His Royal Highness, King of Nnewi, Igwe Kenneth Onyemaeke Orizu III. 

Igwe Kenneth Onyemaeke Orizu III.

The Majesty, the king had requested for the Torah's visit in his palace. He expressed his joy to honour the visit, following unforgettable memories of the Igwe's visit to Jerusalem a few years ago. There was a call to preach and spread the Jewish religion across the length of the Igbo land, and for parents to make more efforts to teach their younger children about this one true religion.

During the visit, there was the usual breaking of the kola-nut according to the customs and tradition in the igboland. Sar Habakkuk was given the honour to perform the kola-nut ritual and he later took the stage to address the audience about the mission of their "Keruv." He thanked the king for honoring the visit of the Jewish brethren to the nnewi palace.



King of Glory Yahudim Synagogues
This synagogue is located in Inyaba Umudim village, in Nnewi North local government area of Anambra state. The Torah visited the brethren there, who expressed massive support to continue to strenghten the course of Judaism starting from their immediate surrounding, and spreading the word of truth to get more people involved. 

Shabbath Keeping in Ebonyi State
Last shabbath, on the 27th of August, the Sefer Torah was in Beit Ya'akov synagogue in Ebonyi State. The synagogue is located in the small town of Ezamgbo, just at the outskirt of the capital in Abakaliki. The brethren had learned about the "traveling Torah," and requested for the presence of the Torah in their midst for the Shabbath worship. Hezekiah, the chief Chazan of Tikvat Israel Synagogue Abuja with another chazan traveled from Anambra state to Ebonyi state to grant the wishes of these Jewish brothers, in line with the ultimate goal of strengthening the Judaism network in eastern Nigeria. 


The tour around the east has restored more hope to the Jewish Igbos in eastern Nigeria. This is because Torah is the truth, and the light that shines brightly to show us the path to Glory, bringing us closer to Hashem, the Creator. 

Today, as the Torah currently sits in Her ark inside Avishai Synagogue in Nkpor, away from home- she has been put into active use. The brethren took it upon themselves to hold Torah service every Monday and Thursday morning, before going out for their daily businesses. The end result is series of testimonies and changing features in the spiritual strenght of many brethren. 

We owe our profound gratitude to Kulanu for their support and commitment to ensuring the growth of Judaism in Nigeria, and around the African continent. David Tobis, will forever be remembered for sponsoring the coming of the Torah to Abuja. The installation was made by Rabbi Dolinger and his wife Naomi, who were accompanied by Shai Afsai, in the presence of the former Israel ambassador to Nigeria, Uriel Palti. No doubt, the bringing of the Torah has readily become a catalyst to extend the outreach of our "keruv" across the Igbo land. 

2014: Israel Ambassador, J. Davidson, B. Dolinger, Naomi
2013: David Tobis & Sar Habakkuk















Indeed, the journey to the east was a successful one, that gave us the chance to show our faith in the open, encouraging many others to follow this path of truth, and creating meaningful awareness of Judaism among the Igbo people. As we approach the end of the Jewish year, I would love to encourage all our Jewish brothers to remain steadfast and use this period to reconcile with the Holy One of Israel. So that the coming year will yield maximum return in all our works and endeavors. There is nothing absolutely impossible for Our Father in Heaven to do.

Sar Habakkuk reiterated that "the Sefer Torah is now certainly not for the Tikvat Israel Synagogue Abuja alone, but for the whole Jewish synagogues in eastern Nigeria. 

Friday, 30 June 2017

ACKNOWLEDGING RABBI GORIN FOR HIS SELFLESS CONTRIBUTION TO PROPEL THE JUDAISM NETWORK IN NIGERIA




Looking back over the years, one can tell the striking difference between the Jews in Nigeria today, and early Jews. In the past, little was known about the faithfuls who practiced true Judaism according to ways and pattern of the Israelite dwelling in the Holy land. But today, the Judaism order has picked pace, spreading around the Eastern and Southern parts of Nigeria, with a number of Synagogues operating in the Muslim occupied northern regions.

Most Synagogues have now fully integrated the use of Hebrew languages in their Shabbat worship, the yearly feastivals, and other Jewish ceremonies and celebrations. The overall focus, being to build the interest in the children, to enable them master the Hebrew tongue, for they are the future of Judaism in Nigeria.

Sitting in my chamber one day, I pondered over all these things, and accessed what has been achieved over a period of time. History is indeed one of the best ways, to figure everything out. Then going back into history, I traced it all to the books and Jewish materials, and also the libraries that were built for the purpose of educating the people about the history, the ways, and knowledge of Judaism. These books and libraries didn’t just fall from the sky, but rather came into existence through our encounter with a Rabbi who visited Nigeria over twelve years ago.
Rabbi Gorin & Late Elder Ashar
I first meet Rabbi Howard Gorin back in 2004 in Abuja, capital of Nigeria. In fact, he was the first Rabbi I had meet in person. It was indeed one of the turning points in history, that set the direction for the spread of Judaism around the region. He was visiting the country to meet and learn about the Nigerian Jews. Rabbi Gorin came to my place through Yirmiyahu, a devoted elder in one of the synagogues in the capital of Nigeria, then he was a guest in the Tikvat Israel Synagogue, in present day Kubwa. 

Rabbi Gorin returned back to Abuja in 2006, accompanied by Jeff Liberman who came at that time to carry out a movie project in Nigeria. They were guests in my house for a whole week, and it was indeed absolutely wonderful to have them around, and learning a great deal of things about the way of lives of the Jews. 

Jeff Liberman
During their stay, we traveled to Kaduna, located in the north region. We were privileged to meet with the governor of the state, a Muslim, and talked briefly concerning people and religion. Upon Rabbi Gorin’s request, we arranged a meeting which had the presence of the leaders of two inter-faith groups (Christians and Muslim), and the Rabbi greatly talked how both religions can co-exist and live in peace among themselves. 
 
We kept the Shabath with the Rabbi in our synagogue, before he traveled down to the east to visit other Nigerian Jews in their respective synagogues. He was accompanied by a few of us who followed him all the way from Abuja for the brief tour around the eastern region. The movement took us from Owerri, in Imo state, to Okigwe, and then to Abakaliki in Ebonyi state, before Rabbi Gorin flew back to the United States.

Daniel, Sar Habakkuk, and Rabbi Gorin
Shortly after a couple of days, we received a shipment of container containing several cartons of books, materials, computers, printers, scanners, etc. Rabbi Gorin had already given instruction on how the items would be distributed to get to the selected synagogues around Nigeria.


The Books, rich in Jewish contents were distributed to the following places:


Launching of the Books back in 2006 at Tikvat Yisrael Abuja
  • Imo State University (IMSU)
  • Port Harcourt Synagogue
  • Aba Synagogue (1) and (2)
  • Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT)
  • Nnamdi Azikwe University (UNIZIK)
  • Two Synagogues in Awka
  • Abakaliki Synagogue
  • Tikvat Israel Synagogue Abuja
  • Gihon Synagogue Abuja, as well as two other Synagogues in Abuja



Rabbi Gorin Also Opened a Library and School at:

  1. Akwaibom (Library & School)
  2. Port Harcourt (Library in Merl Elohin Synagogue)

 Rabbi Gorin offered the Sefer Torah to:
  1. Dr. Essain Synagogue in Akwaibom
  2. Merl Elohim Synagogue


Taking a critical look at the situation today, and seeing the results one can clearly picture these achievements and improvements; and relate it to what was planted by Rabbi Gorin. A set of computers totaling up to fourteen (14) desktops and other computer accessories were donated to Abuja Jewish community. The initial purpose was the erection of a big cyber café open to both the public and the synagogue members, for the generation of revenue to help sustain the necessary synagogue-running activities. But although, this was not achieved due to some misunderstanding, among some Jews in Abuja; and other prospective projects by Rabbi Gorin also suffered the same fate.
Jewish Children in the Library

However, to be able to keep things balanced and forge a continuous path to growth, it’s important to remember how we got to the present. Today, the younger children now have free access to tons of Jewish books that offer details about the Jewish people, their history, and what makes them different from the rest of the world. The Sefer Torah presence in some of our synagogues have significantly help to uplift the prestige of the Judaism pattern, as the Torah is widely known to be the Word of Hashem, given to the people of the Israelites by the Holy One of Israel (Blessed is He).


Fixing the Mezuzah



We will always remember the man, Rabbi Gorin, for his kind, lovely, and selfless contribution to the early growth of Judaism in Nigeria. He came to Nigeria with a purpose to show the people the light, which he did to the fullest, giving us a direction and a purpose. We will continue to follow in the paths that we’ve been shown, and make sure our younger children do the same. How we look forward to having you visit Nigeria again, to see how well we’ve carried on, and still desperate for more information, knowledge, and insight, to brighten our paths. 

May you remain blessed.
Long live Rabbi Gorin (Our Chief Rabbi)

Shalom.
Sar Habakkuk Nwafor
Leader, Tikvat Yisrael Synagogue Abuja
 







BRIT MILAH: HONOURING THE WORDS OF "HASHEM" CONCERNING ALL JEWISH MALE BORN

According to traditional Judaism, circumcision represents an everlasting covenant between the Jews and the Almighty God, that started ...