Saturday, October 18, 2014

Second Set of 22 Days: Gimmel & Dalet, Eden & Gehennom (Purgatory)

Monday, 19th of Tishrei, began the second set of 22 days of the Jewish calendar, which parallel the letters Gimmel and Dalet, as well as the Garden of Eden and Gehennom (Purgatory).

Gimmel and Dalet have an interesting relationship. Together, they stand for the idea of "Gommel Dalim," helping the poor. "Dal" means poor in Hebrew. It is a well known idea tht Gimmel is shaped in such a way that represents its running toward the "Dal," the letter Dalet.

The Garden of Eden and Gehennom have a similar kind of relationship on a spiritual plane. Gehennom is often translated as "hell," but hell and eternal damnation are not really a Jewish ideas. Judaism believes that a soul usually must undergo some form of cleansing before entering Heaven, and this cleansing takes place in Gehennom.

To some extent, the Garden of Eden represents spiritual richness, while Gehennom represents spiritual lacking. This is reflected in the verses that these elements sing:

  • The Garden of Eden is saying, "Arouse yourself, O north [wind], and come, O south! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow out; let my Beloved come to His garden and eat of its precious fruit." (Song of Songs 4:16)
  • Gehinnom is saying: "For He has satisfied the longing soul, and has filled the hungry soul with good." (Psalms 107:9)
These two elements also appear to clearly represent what is about to take place in the next 22 days. We'll still be in the midst of the holiday season, fully cleansed and joyous after Yom Kippur and fully engaged in the mitzvot of Sukkah and Lulav, which are very much linked to the Garden of Eden. The "mitzvah fruit" of these days, the Etrog, is said to have the smell of the Garden of Eden. We also shake the Lulav north and south (as well as in the other directions, East, West, up and down), as in the song above.

Following the holiday and Tishrei, we enter Cheshvan, which is called "Mar Cheshvan," "Bitter" Cheshvan, because it lacks any holidays (for now). We therefore use all our spiritual resources acquired in Tishrei to "enrich" the month of Cheshvan, infusing this month and the physical world as a whole with spirituality. 

Week 5 (from the Book): To Use All Tools Available in order to Elevate the World

The crane is saying, "Give thanks to G-d with the lyre; make music for Him with the ten-stringed harp." (Psalms 33:2)
Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi would say: Beautiful is the study of Torah with the way of the world, for the toil of them both causes sin to be forgotten. Ultimately, all Torah study that is not accompanied with work is destined to cease and to cause sin.
Those who work for the community should do so for the sake of Heaven; for then the merit of their ancestors shall aid them, and their righteousness shall endure forever. And you, [says G-d,] I shall credit you with great reward as if you have achieved it.
Be careful with the government, for they befriend a person only for their own needs. They appear to be friends when it is beneficial to them, but they do not stand by a person at the time of his distress.
He would also say: Make that His will should be your will, so that He should make your will to be as His will. Nullify your will before His will, so that He should nullify the will of others before your will.
Hillel would say: Do not separate yourself from the community. Do not believe in yourself until the day you die. Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place. Do not say something that is not readily understood in the belief that it will ultimately be understood [or: Do not say something that ought not to be heard even in the strictest confidence, for ultimately it will be heard]. And do not say "When I free myself of my concerns, I will study,'' for perhaps you will never free yourself.
He would also say: A boor cannot be sin-fearing, an ignoramus cannot be pious, a bashful one cannot learn, a short-tempered person cannot teach, nor does anyone who does much business grow wise. In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.
He also saw a skull floating upon the water. Said he to it: Because you drowned others, you were drowned; and those who drowned you, will themselves be drowned.
He would also say: One who increases flesh, increases worms; one who increases possessions, increases worry; one who increases wives, increases witchcraft; one who increases maidservants, increases promiscuity; one who increases man-servants, increases thievery; one who increases Torah, increases life; one who increases study, increases wisdom; one who increases counsel, increases understanding; one who increases charity, increases peace. One who acquires a good name, acquired it for himself; one who acquires the words of Torah, has acquired life in the World to Come.
Hod shebeChesed (glory and gratefulness within the context of kindness)
On the fifth week of the Jewish calendar, we celebrate Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. The month of Cheshvan is represented by the tribe of Menashe. Menashe, the firstborn son of Joseph, assisted his father in managing the entire Egyptian empire at the time. In Cheshvan, we bring all the holiness that we acquired in Tishrei, and use it in our day-to-day spiritual and physical endeavors to elevate the world. After the introspection and delving into the treasures of the Torah that took place in Tishrei, we must put our new resolutions into practice in this physical world. In this service, we use all powers, tools, and technologies available to us.  In Perek Shirah, the crane sings to G-d with joy, asking that we use musical instruments such as the lyre and the ten-stringed harp to thank Hashem.[1] With instruments, our music to Him will be even more beautiful.
The number five represents the five books of Moses, the Torah. At Mount Sinai, Moses brought the Torah down from heaven into this physical world, transforming it forever. Five is also one more than the number four, which as mentioned in the previous week, reflects the basic structure of the world(s).
In Pirkei Avot, the words of Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi are also related to the above description of the month of Cheshvan. Rabban Gamliel states that the study of Torah should be combined with making a living. Rabban Gamliel explains that it is specifically through the combination of Torah and work that one is able to stay away from sin. The subsequent sayings of Rabban Gamliel are also related to the concept of being active in the world. He describes how one should go about work on behalf of the community, as well as how to interact with the government. The additional sayings of Rabban Gamliel, as well as the words of Hillel, included in this section, also discuss how to interact with others and how to balance the need to engage with the material world, and yet not lose focus on what is truly important.
Hillel specifically talks about a situation of someone who was drowned in the water, which is very appropriate for the beginning of the month of Cheshvan, the month of the Flood. As will be further explained in week twenty-four, the Flood and its mighty waters are often used as a reference to material concerns, which threaten to drown us.
This week’s sefirah is hod shebechesed, which, as mentioned above, is closely connected with Aaron, and the service of the Kohanim (priests). As also mentioned, Cheshvan will be the month in which the future Third Temple will be inaugurated, and that is where the Kohanim will elevate the material world through their sacrifices.
A lesson in self-improvement that we can learn from the crane is the power of music. After all, music and the sound of instruments is one of the most powerful and ancient forms of fighting sadness. David would play the harp in order to gladden King Saul, who was tormented by depression. The Levites would also sing beautiful songs as the Kohanim performed their tasks.


[1] See Genesis 4:21, on how musical instruments, specifically the lyre is described in the Torah as one of the first technologies developed by human beings.

Week 5 (Book 2): The Flood, Aharon, and Perception of the Heart

HAAZINU: Destruction is not His; it is His children's defect you crooked and twisted generation. (Deuteronomy 32:5)
HAFTARAH: For the pains of death have encompassed me; streams of scoundrels would affright me. (II Samuel 22:5)
QUALITY TO ACQUIRE THE TORAH: Perception of the Heart (Binat Ha’Lev)
On the fifth week of the year, which includes Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, Haazinu’s verse makes a reference to destruction due to a twisted a crooked generation. Cheshvan is the month of the Mabul, the Flood that took place in the times of Noah.
This week’s Haftarah verse has an even greater connection to the Flood – the use of the phrases “pains of death encompassing” and “streams of scoundrels” both appear to be references to the events of the Flood. The Hebrew word for used “streams of scoundrels,” Nachalei Bli’al, can be more literally translated as “rivers of G-dlessness.”   
The quality for this week is perception of the heart. Noah’s main mistake was not using his heart to perceive that G-d wanted him to pray to save the rest of mankind. Prayer is called “the service of the heart.” The word for ark in Hebrew, Teivah, also means “word,” and is a reference to prayer. It is ultimately prayer that keeps us above the tumultuous waters of the world around us. (Perception of the heart may also have a connection to music, the theme of the song of the Crane, in Week 5 of Book 1)
Furthermore, Cheshvan will be the month of the inauguration of the Third Temple, which is also connected to prayer and Divine service. Furthermore, the Torah states that those that made objects for the Temple were called “Chochmei Lev,” wise of the heart.
This week’s prophet is Aharon. “Perception of the heart” is probably the best description of Aharon’s qualities. He was known for his ability to serve as a mediator, someone who was able to bring peace between people, and between husband and wife. Furthermore, Aharon was the very first high priest, Kohen Gadol, to serve G-d in the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, the mobile Temple used from the time of that the Jewish people was in the desert until the construction of the First Temple. 
The levitical city for this week is Taanach. The origin of the word Taanach is unclear, but it appears to have its roots in the verb, Lehi’taanot, which means to fast. There is a custom among pious Jews to fast on the first sequence of “Monday, Thursday, Monday” of the month of Cheshvan. This is known as “BaHaB.”  We do not fast simply for the sake of fasting. We fast in order to improve ourselves, to mark a distinction between the holiday period of Tishrei (a similar fast exists after Nissan), and to gain control over physicality. Part of the idea of the month of Cheshvan is to conquer the physical world around us with the spiritual heights we obtained during the month of Tishrei.

Another important lesson we learn from this week's quality to acquire the Torah is the need to make the Torah we learn touch our hearts. It cannot simply stay in our minds. As Rabbi Simon, one of my Talmud teachers in Yeshiva University, would ask, "Do you feel the question?" If you do not feel the question, you cannot truly appreciate the answer. If the Torah is not in your heart, you will not be able to reach the heart of others.

Week 5 (Book 3): the Field and the Flood

SONG OF THE SEA: and the elite of his officers sank in the Red Sea. The depths covered them; they descended into the depths like a stone.
HAFTORAH: when You marched out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the heavens also dripped;
TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 5: Themes – haughtiness and adultery. 
JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT FROM EGYPT TO THE HOLY LAND: They journeyed from Penei hahiroth (“face of rocks”) and crossed in the midst of the sea to the desert. They walked for three days in the desert of Etham and camped in Marah.
The fifth week is that of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. Cheshvan is associated with the Tribe of Menashe. As explained in Book 1, “Menashe, the firstborn son of Joseph, assisted his father in managing the entire Egyptian empire at the time. In Cheshvan, we bring all the holiness that we acquired in Tishrei, and use it in our day-to-day spiritual and physical endeavors to elevate the world.” The Song of the Sea speaks of marching (or stepping) out of the “field of Edom.” While early in life our forefather Jacob was known for being an “Ish Tam Yoshev Ohalim” (a wholesome/straightforward that dwelled in the tents [of study]), his brother Eisav is described as a man of the field (Ish HaSadeh), involved in the affairs of the world. While Efraim, who is connected to Tishrei could be described more in line with Jacob’s original description - in fact, he studied under Jacob during his childhood - Menashe’s role is in the “field” that at one point belonged solely to the realms of Eisav.
Cheshvan is also the month of the Flood, and the verses of the Song of the Sea for this week are also about how the Egyptian officers sank into the Sea of Reeds and how the “depths covered them.” This event has clear parallels with the Flood, when the entire world was covered by the world’s depths. The Haftorah also draws similar parallels, as it states that “the heavens dripped.”
Daf Heh (Folio 5) of Sotah, discusses the concept of haughtiness and adultery, two of the main contributors to the events that led to the Flood. Adultery and immoral sexual behavior in general is specifically described in the Torah as a reason for the Flood:
At the core of the disease of "civilization" in the time of Noah were sexual immorality and violent robbery, both flagrant affronts to the dignity of man, ADAM, created in the image of G-d. "And the land was corrupted and the land was filled with violent robbery. All flesh corrupted his path on the land" (Genesis 6:11-12). The Midrash teaches that the latter sin was that of the spilling of seed -- sexual immorality. When man abuses his sexual urge for self-gratification alone rather than elevating it to breed future generations who will glorify G-d, the entire earth is corrupted. The violation of the proper boundaries of personal moral conduct leads to a mentality in which everything is permitted, including violent robbery -- HAMAS.
Noah himself also showed a certain amount of lack of humility in not praying for other people and only focusing on himself and his family. We see later in the Torah that Avraham and Moshe did not act in this way.
Mahalalel seems to be a “kosher” version of Mehijael, son of Chanoch, son of Cain. Mahalalel contains the root “Halel” which means “praise,” While Mehijael could be related to Chai – life, but also “Chol,” profane. On Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan we elevate Chol in Hallel, connecting the spirituality of Tishrei (Hallel was said every day of Sukkot), with the month of Cheshvan, which for now lacks any holy days.
The difference in the names also points to an overall difference between the letters Hay and Chet in Judaism. Mehijael is spelled with a Chet while Mahalalel is with a Hay. The Hay is a Chet with an opening. Chet is related to sin, while Hey is related to malchut and to teshuvah. The Hay’s opening is for the repentant person, the Ba’al Teshuvah, to be able to re-enter his relationship with Hashem: “The word teshuvah can be read as tashuv-hey - returning, restoring the Hay.....for when man sins he causes the letter hey to be removed from the Divine Name.”[1]  In Cheshvan, we go beyond our boundaries in order to help the entire world do teshuvah.
In the fifth week, the Jews journey from Penei HaHiroth (“face of rocks”) and cross in the midst of the sea to the desert. They walk for three days in the desert of Etham and camp in Marah. The journey for this week is about internalizing the struggle of facing the rocks of the material world we are to elevate - notice the change from Pi (“mouth”) to Pnei (“face,” as well as Pnim, inside). We prepare ourselves to face the bitter world we are meant to sweeten. Cheshvan is known as Mar Cheshvan, bitter Cheshvan, because it has no holidays (yet). This is also exemplified in the fact that we are going from the sea to the desert.
Rabbi Shimon Jacobson describes this journey as follows:
The final stage of human maturation – as we move from our teenage years into full adulthood – is completely crossing over from the pure, inner world of “water” into the dry, arid world of the desert. Indeed, Moses had to coerce the Jews to away from the Red Sea out into the Shur Desert, where they traveled three days without finding water (Exodus 15:22). They didn’t want to leave the insulated “cocoon” of the Red Sea only to be thrown into a harsh and hostile desert, one that leads us into a state of bitterness (Marah). Yet, leave we must. This is the purpose of our existence: To transform the wilderness into a Divine sea (Ohr HaTorah Massei p. 1383).
Because of their bitter waters “the place was called Marah” (marah in Hebrew means bitter). When the Jewish people came to Marah and could not drink the bitter water there, they began to complain. “What shall we drink?” they demanded. When Moses cried out to G-d, He showed him a certain tree. Moses threw it into the water, and the water became drinkable. It was there that G-d taught them survival techniques and methods, and there He tested them. He said, “If you obey G-d and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I am G-d who heals you.”
The journey to Marah refers to the stage in our lives when we encounter a bitter experience – loss, disappointment, pain, sorrow or illness. We then have two choices: Either we will complain, become bitter and overwhelmed with anguish and grief, or we will learn to rise to the occasion and discover the deeper powerful light and sweetness that lays embedded within the dark and bitter.
Therein also lays the power of healing: The ability to sweeten the bitter and to uproot infection in its source.
An important lesson we learn from Mahalalel in our approach to prayer and Divine service is understanding that at the most essential level, prayer is about Hallel veHoda'ah, praise and thanksgiving. The mitzvah of prayer is to "serve Him with all your hearts." It is about getting excited, it is about singing to Him, even dancing to Him if possible. One cannot let oneself get bogged down in routine, in simply reading the words of a book, because there is a good chance one is not fulfilling anything at all. The intention has to be there, and the intention has to involve "knowing before Whom you stand," and doing so with joy. 


Week 5 (Book 4a): Loving G-d and Bringing Him into the World: Ryzhin and Bluzhev

STORY OF CHANNAH: 5 but unto Hannah he gave a double portion; for he loved Hannah, but the LORD had shut up her womb.   
TZADIKIM: Rav Menachem Mendel of Vizhnitz and Rabbi Yisrael Spira of Bluzhev (29th of Tishrei) 
Week 5 is the week of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan.  The verse from the story of Channah is about how Elkanah would give her a double portion, but that she could not become pregnant. This aspect of Channah runs parallel to the story of our matriarch Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel dearly, yet G-d had also not graced her with children. Today, one of the few dates of Cheshvan that we do commemorate is the anniversary of the passing (yahrzeit) of Rachel, on the 11th of Cheshvan.
The Pirkei Avot adjective associated to this week is also associated with love: “loves G-d.” In Hebrew, it is written “Ohev et HaMakom,” which literally means loves “the Place.” In various texts, G-d is called “the Place,” because He is not placed within the world, rather the world is placed within Him. There is no place devoid of G-d.[1] That means that even when we go outside our comfort zone, outside the “Garden of Eden” that is Tishrei and holiday observance, and into the “danger zone” that is Cheshvan and world involvement, G-d is always with us. We are always within Him.
Chapter 5 of the Book of Proverbs encompasses many of the basic ideas of loving G-d (reminiscent also of the love between Jacob and Rachel), and being aware of the pitfalls that exist once we engage with the world around us:
3. For the lips of a strange woman drip honey, and her palate is smoother than oil.      
4. But her end is as bitter as wormwood, as sharp as a two-edged sword. (...)
15. Drink water from your own cistern and running water from your own spring.           
16. May your springs spread out rivulets of water in the squares. (…)                                
19. [The wife of your youth] is a lovely hind and a graceful mountain goat, her breasts will satisfy you at all times; you shall always be intoxicated with her love.
Rashi explains that the “strange woman” is a reference to foreign gods and apostasy, while the “wife of your youth” and “your own cistern” is the Torah. The references to water are also appropriate for the month of Cheshvan, the month of the Flood.
This week, yahrzeits continue to be related to the Rizhin dynasty. The 29th of Tishrei is the yahrzeit of Rav Menachem Mendel of Vizhnitz, the son-in-law of the Rizhiner, and the founder of the Vizhnitz chassidic dynasty. Also (often) this week, is the yahrzeit of the Rizhiner himself, Rabbi Yisrael Friedman, on the 3rd of Cheshvan. An interesting story is told of an interaction between these two tzadikim, which very much exemplifies what was mentioned in the previous week, of how the spiritual path of Rizhin is about elevating the physical world yet also remaining above and beyond its limitations and pleasures:
One day when the Tzemach Tzaddik and the Rizhiner were engaged in a meal, the Rizhiner put his fork down after he was only half way through with his meal. When the Tzemach Tzaddik questioned him the Rizhiner said that before he was born, he had made a deal with his neshomo (soul), only to eat enough to get by, and not a morsel more. The Tzemach Tzaddik then commented that he just realized something. "All my life there was something that bothered me, and I just figured out the answer," he said. "On Friday night we sing shalom aleichem, welcoming the the angels that accompany us home from shul into our homes. But then, just a short while later, we sing tzeischem lesholom, bidding them farewell. Why do we send them away so soon? Now I realize why. It's because angels can't partake in earthly pleasures. They can't taste food. We don't want to show them disrespect by eating in front of them, so way say goodbye before we begin our meal," at which point the Tzemach Tzaddik put down his fork, indicating that he was in the presence of a maloch at that moment, the Rizhiner himself.[2]
Also usually this week, is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yisrael Spira, the Bluzhover Rebbe. Rabbi Yisrael survived the Holocaust, having himself experienced the agony and suffering of the concentration camps and having lost his wife and children. There are many stories of his miraculous survival, righteousness and dedication during this time and afterwards. The Bluzhever Rebbe was able to find G-d literally in the gates of hell on earth:
During the days of Chanukah, the Rebbe lit candles in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Once when he recited the blessings, a Jew asked him a question: “Rabbi, even if you stubbornly lit the Chanukah candles and said Lehadlik Ner and She’asa Nissim [the blessings of lighting candles and remembering the miracles], what justification do you have in saying Sheheheyanu Vekiyemanu Vehigi’yanu Lazman Hazeh [“Who has kept us alive and preserved us and enabled us to reach this time”]? During a time in which thousands of Jews are dying terrible deaths, why would you say Sheheheyanu?”
“I too asked myself this question,” the Rebbe replied. “I looked for an answer and found one: When I recited the blessing, I saw that a large crowd had gathered – risking their own lives in so doing – to watch the lighting of the candles. By the very fact that G-d has such loyal Jews – prepared to give their lives for the lighting of the candles – by that very fact alone we may recite Sheheheyanu.”[3]
Other yahrzeits this week include Shimon HaTzadik (29th of Tishrei), Rabbi Shmuel Tzvi son of Rabbi Yechiel Danziger of Alexander, the Tiferes Shmuel (29th of Tishrei), and (sometimes) Rabbi David ou-Moshe (1st of Cheshvan), Rabbi Baruch son of Rabbi Yisrael Hager, the Seret-Vizhnitz Rebbe, the Makor Boruch (2nd of Cheshvan), Rabbi Eliezer of Dzikov son of Rabbi Naftali Tzvi of Ropshitz (3rd of Cheshvan), Rabbi Yehudah Leib of Kopust (elder brother of Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch, 3rd of Cheshvan), and Rabbi Klonimus Kalman Shapiro of Piazetsna, the Aish Kodesh (4th of Cheshvan).


Week 5 (Book 4b): The Temple and the World, the Field and the Flood (again)

13. A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me; between my breasts he shall lie.         
14. A cluster of henna-flowers is my beloved to me, in the vineyards of Ein-Gedi."          
15. "Behold, you are comely, my beloved; behold, you are comely; your eyes are like doves."    


TALMUD SHEVUOTH Daf 5: Getting involved in the world


Week 5 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. Cheshvan is the month of the Flood as well as of the construction of the Third Temple. It is also connected to involvement in the world. The verses for this week appear connected to boh these themes.

The first two verses are said by the Jewish people, and they speak of Hashem resting in our midst. This is the idea of the Temple, the very reason for Creation. Rashi’s comments also reference Hashem’s resting among us, as he connects it to Hashem forgiving us and dwelling in the Mishkan. Kofer (a reference to henna-flowers in the Song of Songs, although it can also mean "pitch") is also used in the description of how Noah was to build the Ark: (Genesis, 6:14)

Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with compartments, and you shall caulk it both inside and outside with pitch.

עֲשֵׂה לְךָ תֵּבַת עֲצֵי גֹפֶר קִנִּים תַּעֲשֶׂה אֶת הַתֵּבָה וְכָפַרְתָּ אֹתָהּ מִבַּיִת וּמִחוּץ בַּכֹּפֶר:

The third verse also speaks of forgiveness and cleansing, yet this time appears more related to the Flood. It is the dove that announces that there is dry land, that the Flood itself is over. (Kofer and Gofer of the Ark may be connected; Noah also planted vineyards)

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the fifth mentioned is Carmi. Kerem means vineyard in Hebrew, as in the above verse of the Song of Songs. Carmi can be understood as Kerem-Yud, the vineyard of Hashem, a reference to the Temple. Cheshvan is also the time to get involved in the world, and cultivate our fields and vineyards. One of the first actions performed by Noah is to plant a vineyard. (Genesis 9:20)

Daf Heh (Folio 5) of Shvuot discusses various technical issues and interpretive methodology, such as deriving laws from general statements followed by particular ones. It discusses the idea of “forgetting after knowing” when it comes to Temple sacrifices, the two primary legal examples of taking things out of a private domain into a public one, and the signs of the appearance of the spiritual impurity known as Tzara’as. Overall, although there are also several referecences to the Temple, the main theme appears to be similar to what takes place once we re-enter the world of the physical, leaving our “private domain,” and risking “forgetting after knowing” about spirituality and sacrifice, and getting involved in the technicalities and minutiae of behaving ethically in a world still suffering of impurity. 

The beginning of Chapter 5 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to that of the above ones in Shir HaShirim:

1. Stroll in the streets of Jerusalem, and see now and know, and seek in its squares, whether you will find a man, whether there is one who performs justice, who seeks faith, and I will forgive her. 

2. And if they say, "As the Lord lives," they, nevertheless, will swear falsely.

The verses speak of impurity of the public domain, even in Jerusalem, the place of the Temple. Hashem wants to forgive, and He searches for someone within whom He can dwell. Someone that performs justice and seeks faith, like Noah at the time of the Flood. The entire theme of the chapter also relates to the great destruction to come, also like that of the Flood. 

Week 5 (Book 5): Reviewing the Week of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan - Psalms 13-15; 32:4-6; 89:6


Chapter 13

A prayer for an end to the long exile. One in distress should offer this prayer for his troubles and for the length of the exile.

1. For the Conductor, a psalm by David. 2. How long, O Lord, will You forget me, forever? How long will You hide Your countenance from me? 3. How long must I seek counsel within my soul, [to escape] the grief in my heart all day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? 4. Look! Answer me, O Lord, my G-d; give light to my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death. 5. Lest my enemy say, "I have overcome him," [and] my oppressors rejoice when I falter.6. I have placed my trust in Your kindness, my heart will rejoice in Your deliverance. I will sing to the Lord, for He has dealt kindly with me.

Chapter 14

This psalm speaks of the destruction of the two Holy Temples-the first by Nebuchadnezzar, and the second by Titus.

1. For the Conductor, by David. The fool says in his heart, "There is no G-d!" [Man's] deeds have become corrupt and abominable, no one does good. 2. The Lord looked down from heaven upon mankind, to see if there was any wise man who searches for G-d. 3. They have all gone astray together, they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. 4. Indeed, all the evildoers, who devour My people as they devour bread, who do not call upon the Lord, will [ultimately] come to know [the consequences of their actions]. 5. There they will be seized with fright, for G-d is with the righteous generation. 6. You scorn the counsel of the lowly, that he puts his trust in the Lord. 7. O that out of Zion would come Israel's deliverance! When the Lord returns the captivity of His people, Jacob will exult, Israel will rejoice.

Chapter 15

This psalm speaks of several virtues and attributes with which one should conduct oneself. He is then assured that his soul will rest in Gan Eden.

1. A psalm by David. Who may abide in Your tent, O Lord? Who may dwell on Your holy Mountain? 2. He who walks blamelessly, acts justly, and speaks truth in his heart; 3. who has no slander on his tongue, who has done his fellowman no evil, and who has brought no disgrace upon his relative; 4. in whose eyes a despicable person is abhorrent, but who honors those who are G-d-fearing; who does not change his oath even if it is to his own detriment; 5. who does not lend his money at interest, nor accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never falter.

Tikun HaKlali

Chapter 32

4. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my marrow became [dry] as the droughts of summer, Selah. 

5. My sin I made known to You, my iniquity I did not cover. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord," and You have forgiven the iniquity of my transgression forever. 

6. For this let every pious man pray to You, at a time when You may be found; indeed, the flood of many waters will not reach him. 

Chapter 89

6. Then the heavens will extol Your wonders, O Lord; Your faithfulness, too, in the congregation of the holy ones. 


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Rabbi Daniel Kahane and Ann Helen Wainer have recently launched a new book, which promises to change the way scholars and laymen understand the Jewish calendar as well as the structure of central Jewish texts. 

The book shows how the 52-day period spanning from Passover to Shavuot (Pentecost) is in fact a microcosm of the 52 weeks of the year. Additionally, it demonstrates how 52 rabbis and 52 animals listed in the sacred works Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”) and Perek Shirah (“Chapter of Song”) parallel the year’s weeks as well. Finally, the book explores the kabbalistic meaning behind the numbers and divine attributes (sefirot) related to each day from Passover to Shavuot known as the Counting of the Omer.

The Counting of the Omer has always been one of the key tools used by the Jewish People as a basis for spiritual development. The book expands its use to the entire year and shows amazing and eerie connections between how the weeks of the year and the days of the Omer parallel each other. “The basis for the entire book is one simple idea,” Rabbi Kahane says, “Just as the culmination of the Counting of the OmerLag Ba’Omer, falls on the 33rd day of the Omer, so too the week of Lag Ba’Omer falls on the 33rd week of the year. 

“The book’s use as a weapon against sadness should also not be underestimated,” exclaims Ann Helen Wainer, “its uplifting ideas and its connectedness to the song and harmony of nature, as well as the wisdom and foresight of our ancestors, is a true gift.”