Saturday, August 31, 2013

Haazinu as a Reflection of the Torah Portions from Bereishit until Haazinu Itself

1. Bereishit. "Give ear O heavens... may the earth hear." (portion describes creation of heaven and earth)

2. Noah. "May my teaching drop like rain... dew... storm winds... raindrops (portion describes the Flood)

3. Lech Lecha. "When I call out the Name of Hashem, ascribe greatness to our G-d." (portion describes Avraham, first to call out the Name of Hashem, and influence others to ascribe greatness to our G-d).

4. Vayeira. "... perfect is His work... a G-d of faith..." (Isaac was a "perfect offering," and Abraham and Isaac were tested in their faith by the Akeidah)

5. Chayei Sarah: "Corruption is not His - the blemish is His children's, a perverse and twisted generation." (portion describes Sarah's death and difficulty with burial, which could make Abraham question Hashem's promise, but he doesn't. It also describes Ishmael (blemish in Abraham's children) and the generations of Ishmael (perverse and twisted).

6. Toldot. "... O vile and unwise people? Is He not your Father, your Master? ... created you and firmed you?" (vile and unwise is a reference to Eisav in this portion, who foolishly gave up the birthright and then lost his father's blessing. The portion also describes how Isaac became established, and the establishment of Yaakov through the blessing he received.

7. Vayetzei. "Remember the days of yore... Ask your father and he will relate to you..." (portion contains the story of Yaakov, which serves as a sign and for a guiding point for all subsequent generations.

8. Vayishlach. "When the Supreme One gave the nations their inheritance, whe He separated the children of man, He set the borders of the peoples according to the number of the Children of Israel." (portion contains meeting between Yaakov and Eisav, and the division of the land. Eisav goes to Seir, and Yaakov remains in the Land of Israel.)

9. Vayeshev. "For Hashem's portion is His people; Jacob is the measure of His inheritance." (portion describes Yaakov settling in the Land of Israel, His inheritance. It also describes how Yaakov's inheritance would develop, through Yehudah and Yosef).

10. Miketz. "He discovered him in a desert land, in desolation, a howling wilderness, He encircled him, He granted him discernment, He preserved him like the pupil of his eye (Joseph is protected by Hashem, Who finds him in desolation; Hashem gives him discernment to interpret Pharaoh's dream and rise to power)

11. Vayigash. "He was like an eagle arousing its nest, hovering over its young, spreading its wings and taking them, carrying them on its pinions." (Portion describes how Yaakov and his sons come down to Egypt, carried by Hashem.)

12. Vayechi. "Hashem alone guided them, and no other power was with them." (Before passing away, Yaakov gives blessings to his sons. Immediately prior to this, the Schinah leaves him temporarily, and the Midrash states that Yaakov is concerned that perhaps they are not all serving Hashem. They say to him "Shmah Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad." Hashem alone guides them. At this point, Yaakov says "Baruch Shem K'vod Malchuto L'Olam Va'ed and blesses them.)

13. Shemot. “ripe fruits from the field, honey from a stone, oil from a flinty rock” - this is a reference to the suffering and work of Jews as slaves (children taken from stones of birth stools; embittered life through mortar and bricks (1:13 - 1:15)

14. Vayera. cattle and other animals, blood of grapes "Dam... chamer" (plagues: blood, due to the mortar (Chomer), wild beasts, and plagues also inflicted animals)

15. Bo. became fat and kicked, contemptuous of the Rock of its salvation (Pharaoh, whose name is related to “overgrown.” He had a tremendously overgrown ego)

16: Beshalach. They would provoke His jealousy with strangers, they would anger Him with abominations. (the complaints of the erev rav, amalek)

17. Yitro. they would slaughter to demons without power, G-ds whom they knew not, newcomers recently arrived... (Yitro worshipped every possible idol, but then later he was a "newcomer" joining the Jewish people at Sinai.)

18. Mishpatim. You ignored the Rock Who gave birth to you, and forgot G-d who brought you forth (the Jewish people make a pact with Hashem, "Na'aseh VeNishmah," which basically represents the birth of the Jewish people, and even includes with "Dam Habrit" - reference to a circumcision. Nadav and Avihu and the elders see the Throne of Hashem (likeness of saphire brickwork), yet eat and drink. This was a big offense.   

19. Terumah. Hashem will see and be provoked by the anger of his sons and daughters (the giving to the Mishkan, which came from the people's heart, provokes Hashem to act kindly towards his children)

20. Tetzaveh. I shall hide my face... what their end will be, a generation of reversals - this is the only portion since Moshe is introduced that his name does not appear (this is also usually parasha before Purim, which is deeply connected to this connected of Hashem hiding his face, a story connected to the end of days, and one in which there is a major reversal, for the good)

21. Ki Tissah. "They provoked me with a non-G-d, so shall I provoke them with a non-people, with a vile nation shall I anger them." (Story of the sin of the golden calf; this was actually started by the erev rav - this non-people which Moshe brought out of Egypt with the Jews)

22. Vayakhel. "For fire will have been kindled in My nostrils and blazed to the lowest depths. It shall consume the earth and its produce, and set ablaze what is founded on mountains." (The portion describes the construction of the mishkan, which included the altars for incense and burnt offerings; the mishkan was the revelation of Hashem into the lowest depths, and later founded on the mountains of Shiloh and Jerusalem)

23. Pekudei. "I shall accumulate evils against them." (The portion describes the accumulation/accounting of the monies given to the Mishkan)

24. Vayikra. "bloating of famine, battles of flaming demons, cutting down by the noontime demon... the teeth of beasts... the venom of those that creep on the earth." (reference to all the different kinds of sacrifices, which sacrficied different beasts (same word), had specific times, and also involved flour, oil, salt, and blood)

25. Tzav. "On the outside, the sword will bereave, while indoors there will be dread, even a young man, even a virgin, a suckling with the gray-haired man. (description of different sacrifices, some brought indoors others outside; consecration of kohanim, every young man son of Aharon, and Aharon himself, a gray-haired man)

26. Shmini. "I had said, "I will scatter them, I will cause their memory to cease from man" (Nadav and Avihu are killed after entering the Mishkan and offering a foreign sacrifice)

27. Tazria. were it not that the anger of the enemy was pent up, lest his tormenters misinterpret; lest they say, 'Our hand was raised in triumph, and it was not Hashem Who accomplished this!" (woman delivering baby has pent up pain and feels tormented; portion also describes tza'aras, the spiritual disease that greatly humbles those that felt too haughty)

28. Metzorah. "for they are a nation bereft of counsel, and there is no discernment in them"  (this portion also describes tzara'as, and the cure for it, which was must be performed through the counsel and discernment of another, the Kohen)

29. Acharei Mot. "were they wise they would comprehend this, they would discern it from their end, [lit. "Acharitam"] (the importance of proper Yom Kippur service is discerned from the deaths (ends) of Nadav and Avihu.

30. Kedoshim. "For how could one pursue a thousand, and two cause 10,000 to flee, if not that their Rock had sold them, and Hashem had delivered them?" (the portion speaks of performing comerce and business (sales and deliveries) with proper ethics)

31. Emor. "For not like our Rock is their rock - yet our enemies judge us" (the portion describes how Kohanim are separate and must behave differently; furthermore, the portion describes how a son of an Egyptian judged how the show-bread was offered in the Temple, and ended up "blessing" Hashem.

32. Behar. "For their vineyard is from the vineyard of Sodom, and from the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of gall, so clusters of bitterness were given to them." (The portion talks about how fields [and vineyards] have to be put to rest during the Sabbatical years and the Jubilee years)

33. Bechukotai. "Serpents'' venom is their wine, the poison of cruel vipers." (portion contains blessings and a series of curses; if the Jews obey, then wine and other products will be obtained with little difficulty; if they don't obey, they receive punishment after punishment, that would appear to be cruel, were it not for the fact that they were necessary)

34. Bamidbar. "Is it not revealed [hidden? - internet translation] with Me, sealed in My treasuries?" (portion describes census - we are counted because we are dear to Hashem, we are his treasuries.

35. Nasso. "Mine is vengeance and retribution at the time their foot will falter, for the day of their catastrophe is near, and future events are rushing at them." (the portion contains the story of the Sotah, which contains vengeance, retribution, foot-faltering, catastrophe and threats of future events; events "rushing" could also be a reference to the Nazir (who creates vows to avoid negative future events) as well as the princes of each tribe that rushed to bring offerings to Hashem during the inauguration of the Temple)

36. Beha'aloscha. "When Hashem will have judged his people, He shall relent regarding His servants, when He sees that the enemy power progresses, and none is saved or assisted." (Moshe despairs from the people's complaints, and Hashem seeing that he is alone, provides for 70 elders to assist him in judging the people; similarly Miriam is judged but Hashem relents and lets her back in the camp)

37. Shelach. "He will ask where is their G-d, the rock in whom they sought refuge." (portion of the spies; instead of focusing on what Hashem commanded them, they sought refuge and desired to stay in the desert; portion also describes unintentional idolatry)

38. Korach. "the fat of whose offerings they would eat, they would drink the wine of their libations? Let them stand and help you! Let them be a shelter for you!" (portion describes Korach and other Levites' desire to offer sacrifices and libations in the place of the Kohanim; Moshe makes a meeting time the next day for them to offer incense sacrifices. They are all consumed; Korach and his group are swallowed by the ground)

39. Chukas. "See, now, that I, I am He - and no G-d is with me. I put to death and I bring life, I struck down and I will heal, and there is no rescuer from My hand. (portion describes red cow, which is the only was Hashem prescribes for purification from contact with the dead; portion also contains Miriam's death, lack of water, punishment of Moshe and Aaron, and attack from Amalek; portion also contains plague from fiery serpents and cure from looking at copper fiery serpent, whose healing power came from Hashem)

40. Balak. "For I shall raise My hand to heaven and say, "I live forever." (portion describes Balaam's attempt to destroy the Jewish people, which Hashem prevented, a sign of the eternality of the Jewish people; Pinchas also raised his hand to heaven and saved the people from the plague caused by the sin of Bal-Peor.

41. Pinchas. "If I sharpen My flashing sword and My hand grasps judgment, I shall return vengeance upon My enemies and upon those that hate Me shall I bring retribution (portion describes the great act of Pinchas, who avenged Hashem's vengeance.

42. Mattos. "I shall intoxicate My arrows with blood and My sword shall devour flesh, because of the blood of corpse and captive, because of the earliest depredations of the enemy." (portion describes war against Midian, exacting revenge for their previous actions)

43. Maasei. "O nations - sing the praises of His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants; He will bring retribution upon His foes, and He will appease His Land and His people. (portion describes journeys in the desert, as well as the conquering of the Land of Israel and the apportioning of the Land. It also describes the Levitical cities and the Cities of Refuge)

44. Devarim. "Moses came and spoke all the words of this Song in the ears of the people, he and Hoshea son of Nun." (portion starts "These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel..."; in this portion, Moshe reprimands the people, like in Haazinu)

45. Vaetchanan. "Moses concluded speaking all these words to all Israel." (in this portion, Moshe goes over many of the fundamental parts of the Torah, including the Ten Commandments and the Sh'mah)

46. Ekev. "He said to them, "Apply your hearts to all the words that I testify against you today, with which you are to instruct your children, to be careful to perform all the words of this Torah (in this portion, Moshe urges us to perform the entire Torah, even those commandments one might step over with one's heels; portion also contains the verse, "It shall be that if you forget Hashem, your G-d, and go after the G-ds of others... I testify against you today..." (8:19))

47. Re'eh. "For it is not an empty thing for you, for it is your life, and through this matter shall you prolong your days on the Land to which you cross the Jordan to possess it." (portion describes blessings and curses related to mitzvot; sanctity of the land; and many mitzvot related to daily life and the Land.)

48. Shoftim. "Hashem spoke to Moses on this very day, saying." (portion describes appointment of judges, a king, prophecy, all things that indicated that we will have important people to function like Moshe in every generation)

49. Ki-Tetzeh. "Ascend to this mount of Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, which is before Jericho, and see the Land of Canaan that I give the Children of Israel as an inheritance. (Moab represented evil qualities, which Moshe, by being buried opposite it, would counteract. Moshe seeing the Land of Israel also brought tremendous blessing to the Land. The portion begins by laws related to when a soldier "sees" a beautiful captive; the Torah formulates a way in which to counteract a desire for sin; the portion also contains the most commandments, including the commandment to remember to destroy the memory of Amalek, who is quintessential evil).

50. Ki Tavoh. "and die on the mountain where you will ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor, and was gathered to his people" (the portion contains many curses, associated with death and destruction)

51. Nitzavim. "because you trespassed against Me among the Children of Israel at the waters of Meribath-kadesh, in the wildereness of Zin; because you did not sanctify Me among the Children of Israel. (the portion begins with the entire Jewish people being present before Hashem [and before Moshe], and contains also warnings against idolatry and other transgressions; the people are responsible for revealed sins (those performed in front of others) and must combat them)

52. Vayelech. "For from a distance shall you see the Land, but you shall not enter there, into the Land that I give to the Children of Israel." (In this portion, Moshe says, "I can no longer go out and come in, for Hashem has said to me, "You shall not cross this Jordan. Hashem, your G-d, He will cross before you..."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Introduction to Potential Book 5

יבא ירחמיאל חיל

Book 5

Ultimately, it is important to have standards that apply to all. King Solomon was incredibly wise righteous, yet he mistakenly thought that the message in Devarim regarding kings having too many wives did not apply to him. This was a grave mistake, which ultimately led to his downfall. We have to internalize that everything in the Torah is eternal, and that no one is above its laws. These general standards also help us not deviate from the True Path: neither in the way of “elevating the world” (like King Solomon), nor in the way of separating oneself from it (like the nazirite, the Nazir).

Even if some general decrees seem inconvenient, we have to make them fit in our lives, and observe them in a manner that beautifies the mitzvoth and beautifies our lives.

This is the essence of the Book of Deuteronomy (Devarim): setting up general guidelines applicable to all. Devarim is also called Mishneh Torah (a repetition of the Torah), a review and summary of the rest of the Torah. Book 5 is an attempt to reflect these themes. The sets of 52 included in this book are as follows:

The Book of Psalms is King David’s “general” prayer book, as it contains the emotions of every person. King David is the ultimate general soul (Neshamah Klali), his life being given to him by Adam himself, whose name stands for Adam-David­-Mashiach. Perek Shirah incorporates not only man, but all of Creation.

The Book of Psalms is a read as a general Tikkun (spiritual correction), especially during the month of Elul for sins committed throughout the entire year. In fact, the Ba’al Shem Tov instituted that three psalms should read each day of this month, and that the entire book should be read by Yom Kippur. The Mishnah Berurah also sets forth the custom of reading the entire book of Psalms (twice) during this time period. The Book of Psalms along with Perek Shirah contain 156 chapters, fifty-two divided by three.  

Rebbe Nachman’s Tikkun HaKlali works as kind of “summary” of the book of Psalms. It contains the ten kinds of song contained in the Book of Psalms. Without counting the introductory verses of its Psalms, it contains 156 verses. Psalm 88 and 89 appear to be a summary of Tikkun Klali itself. (One of the hints to this idea, is the fact that according to the Baal Shem Tov's instructions, these Psalms are read on Rosh Hashanah) Without counting its introductory verse, Psalm 89 contains 52 verses. Its 33rd verse appears to be a summary of the entire Book, similar to the way in which Tzadik B’Emunatoh Yichieh (the righteous lives by his/her faith) is the summary of the entire Torah. The 33rd verse is, “But I shall not cancel My kindness from him, and I shall not betray My faith,” “VeChasdi Lo Afir M’Imoh, VeLo Ashaker B’Emunati.”

Introduction to Potential Book 4b

 ותצחק רחל די

Book 4b

The second part of Bamidbar is about a darker side of exile. It’s about wandering in the desert, being so close to Hashem that sometimes it hurts; feeling so far from Hashem that it hurts even more. The tests of exile bring about tremendous tragedy; yet they also reveal our true nature, our Divine Essence. As much as Bamidbar is about seeing things spiritually and connecting to our essence, it’s also about connecting to the power of words, of prayer. That is the root of the very word Midbar (desert): Davar, the spoken word. It takes going through Bamidbar (Numbers) to get to Devarim (Deuteronomy), which literally means, “words.” The sets of 52 explored in this text are as follows:

The Song of Songs (Shir HaShirim) encapsulates the stresses and longings of exile more than any other work in the Tanach. Perhaps that is why Rabbi Akiva stated that if the entire Tanach is holy, the Song of Songs is the “Holy of Holies.” The work expresses tremendous longing for Hashem: tremendous remorse over the sins that caused Him to distance Himself, and the longing for they day we will return to Him.

The first description of collective exile in the Torah is the description of the seventy souls (descendants of Jacob) that descended into Egypt. Each one of the souls contains an essential aspect of the Jewish people, and also of that particular week in the Jewish calendar.

The Tractate of Shevuos, which like the Tractate of Sotah, contains 49 folios and is studied during the Counting the Omer, is all about the power of words.

The Book of Jeremiah, which has 52 chapters, describes one of the greatest tragedies  to befall the Jewish people: the fall of the First Temple. Yet, within what appear to be an extremely sobering and bleak descriptions, there is also a glimmer of light and many references to the deep and unbreakable connection between G-d and the Jewish people. Also, the example of Jeremiah himself, his prayers, inner strength, and his impeccable behavior during this time, are a source of great inspiration.

Introduction to Potential Book 4a

 וישלח פנחס יד

Book 4a

In the first part of the Book of Numbers, Bamidbar, things are still going smoothly in the desert. The Tribes are counted, and a special focus on the “prince” of each tribe, the Nassi. The Princes bring offerings, Aharon lights the Menorah, the Second Passover takes place, and the formation is set in which the Jews will journey in the desert. Overall, it’s a general sense of feeling beloved and the eminent entrance into the Land of Israel.

Book 4a is also about realizing that we are spiritual in essence, connecting to the Tzadik (the righteous one) within each one of us, as well as the Tzadik Yesod Olam, the leader of the generation, who is also known as the Nassi. It is also about being on the level of being able to be confronted with ideologies and ideas that run counter to Judaism, and being able to reject the bad but yet elevate the kernel of truth found within them. As mentioned above, that is also what Bamidbar is about.

Much of these themes are reflected in the life of King Solomon, the consummate Tzadik, who lays everything before us in his writings, our spiritual encampment so to speak. As the King of Israel, along with King David, he is also the ultimate Nassi.

The sets of 52 explored in this book are as follows:

Hanna’s story and song is about the making of a Tzadik and Nassi: Shmuel. It is also about Elkanah and Eli, who were the leaders of the generation at the time.

Chapter 6 of Pirkei Avot lays out the characteristics connected to those who study Torah for its own sake, a stage of perfection associated with the Tzadik.

The book also explores the lives of more recent Tzadikim. Each Tzadik is particularly connected with the date of his/her passing, in which the soul of the Tzadik reached ultimate completion.

Finally, we delve into each of the writings of King Solomon, starting with the Book of Proverbs, followed by Ecclesiastes, Psalm 72 and the Song of Songs. There are 52 chapters in total. An attempt will also be made to describe the Thirteen Tales of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, which contain similar themes.

Introduction to Potential Book 3

וידבר יוסף

Introduction to Book 3: Paths in Avodah

If the first book, like Bereshit, was about Derech Eretz, Creation (Perek Shirah) and the foundations of our people (Pirkei Avot), and the second book, like Shemot, was about receiving the Torah, this third book is like Vayikra. Sefer Vayikra is also called “Torat Kohanim.” Much of it is about the day-to-day functions of the Kohanim in the Temple, which were given this position due to their lineage going back to Aharon. It is a Book about Avodah (“Divine service”), elevating the material world through personal sacrifice, inkeeping with the spiritual above-nature quality of the priestly service and the Temple itself. The sets of 52 studied under Book 3 are as follows:

The Torah portion of Beshalach (from the fifth aliyah to the end), contains the Song of the Sea (Shirat HaYam) followed by the description of the Mannah (Parashat HaMan) and the war against Amalek (Zechirat Ma'aseh Amalek). The Torah reading is then followed by the Haftorah, the Song of Deborah (Shirat Devorah). These texts relate to the above-nature service/prayer, in response to the Divine miracles the Jewish people experienced.

The generations from Adam through David (the 33rd, Lag Ba’Omer generation) until the last king of Judah (52nd) describe the function of the king, who was given this position due to his Davidic lineage. Adam himself was like a king, and his Avodah was to conquer and take care of the Garden of Eden, while avoiding the pitfalls of the evil inclination.

The Talmudic tractate of Sotah is also about a service of G-d that is above nature, above intellect, a concept known as shtut d’kedusha, “folly of holiness.”

The 42 journeys through the desert and the conquest of seven (later ten) Cana’anite nations living the Land of Israel are connected to the supernal also about elevating the material world. It is said that wherever the Jewish people traveled in the desert, that part of the desert would blossom. It was about working on oneself, and elevating the fallen sparks of the world in the process (Tikkun Olam). That is what Diaspora is all about, as well as the ultimate purpose of each soul that is “exiled” from Heaven and comes down to this world.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Introduction for Potential Book 2


ויחן דניאל גוב

Introduction to Book 2:  The Acquisition of the Torah

It is with great trepidation and excitement, that we set forth the second book in the series “Kabbalah of Time.” The first book introduced the reader to a way of “living with the times” that  allowed for integrating within oneself the Torah’s teachings regarding proper outlook and behavior. The goal of book one was that each one of us could be in touch with our song, the universal song of the soul.

There is a well known rabinnic aphorism that “proper behavior preceded the Torah” (Derech Eretz Kadma LaTorah).[1] Rabbi Elchanan Adler, Rosh Yeshivah at RIETS, further explains the idea of Derech Eretz by citing the same Talmudic passage used in book one of this series:

R. Yochanan said: Had the Torah not been given, we would have learned to be modest from cats, to avoid theft from ants, to avoid promiscuity from doves, and derech eretz from roosters. (Eruvin 100b)
Rabbi Adler also cites the Alter of Slobodka, who further explains the meaning of the statement “Derech Eretz Kadma LaTorah:

[U]pon reflection we will see that character traits and attributes are an introduction to the Torah and the primary foundation of the essence of a person, without which a person is not worthy at all of Torah … This is the intent of the Rabbis: Derech eretz preceded Torah by twenty six generations, for all of the good character traits and attributes are included in derech eretz; they were ingrained in human nature and for them there is no need for the giving of the Torah. The giving of the Torah came to build on these [traits and attributes] and to command him to continue to rise heavenward to ever higher levels transcending those which are in the realm of derech eretz. (Or HaTzafun Vol. 1 pg. 173, 175)[2]
The above, therefore, is the intent of this second book: to properly receive the Torah and rise heavenwards, building on the concepts of derech eretz we learned in the book one. While book one focused on proper outlook and behavior, book two’s focus is on the acquisition of the Torah. When we acquire the Torah, not only do we become better and more refined people, but we also free ourselves from all the things that usually enslave us, including our own evil inclinations, “For you will not find a freer person than one who is involved in the study of Torah. And all those who study Torah are uplifted (Pirkei Avot, Chapter 6:2)

The 48 Qualities to Acquire the Torah

While there are fourty-nine days in the counting of the omer, Pirkei Avot lists 48 ways in which the Torah is acquired. Many commentaries link these two numbers, and many Jew have even made it their custom to study one of the forty-eight qualities during each day of  the omer count.

In fact, the qualities to acquire Torah set forth in Pirkei Avot are a “summary” of the Torah itself. Pirkei Avot (Chapter 6:6) states that "Torah is greater than priesthood and kingship, for kingship is acquired with thirty qualities, priesthood is acquired with twenty-four, whereas the Torah is acquired with forty-eight ways.”[3] Just as with kingship and priesthood, these forty-eight qualities are not just means to an end, but rather represent essential aspects of the Torah itself.

In the Gaon of Vilna’s commentary on the Book of Proverbs, he states that “Eshet Chayil” (the woman of valor) is a reference to the Torah. He explains that Chayil (valor) has the numerical value of forty-eight, paralleling the forty-eight attributes necessary to acquire the Torah.

As in Book 1, we find that these qualities also parallel the weeks of the year. Pirkei Avot states that there are forty-eight qualities, but in fact there are fifty-two listed. The very first quality is implied in the introduction to this section, the desire and and the decision to acquire the Torah, as we see from the Book of Proverbs: “The beginning of wisdom [is to] acquire wisdom, and with all your possession acquire understanding.” When counting the 48 remaining qualities, one finds that there are actually 51. Therefore, together with the first quality found in the opening statement, there are 52 qualities in total.

The 48 Prophets

Just as there are forty-eight qualities to acquire the Torah, there are also forty-eight prophets found in the written Torah, the Tanach. These prophets are listed by Rashi in his commentary to the Talmudic tractate of Megillah (14a). It was through these prophets that the Torah was received and transmitted. Furthermore, all of these prophets refined themselves to such an extent that they are a “summary” of the values that the Torah represents.

The prophets also parallel the qualities needed to acquire the Torah, as well as the weeks of the year.[4] There are forty-eight male prophets, yet there are also an additional seven female prophets. This would bring the total number of prophet to fifty-five. However, of the seven female prophets, three of them were married to the male prophets above. If one counts the married male and female prophets together as single units, that leaves us with a total of fity-two prophets.

The 48 Levitical Cities

In Deuteronomy, the description of the six cities of refuge come immediately following the words, “And this is the Torah that Moses placed before the Jewish people.” (Deuteronomy 4:44) The Torah therefore seems to imply that the concept of the city of refuge somehow encompasses the entire Torah. The Talmud explains that all forty-eight cities designated to the Levites were cities of refuge, although the six cities listed had certain additional qualities.[5]

There are forty-eight Levitical Cities, in addition to Jerusalem, because the Temple itself was also considered a refuge. In addition, there are three more cities of refuge to be established in the future, once Israel’s borders are expanded. Thus, we see that these cities total fifty-two, one for each week of the year.[6]
It is well known that each of the twelve Jewish months is related to one of the Tribes of Israel. It is quite fascinating to note that each tribe was given four levitical cities within its borders, paralleling the four weeks of each Jewish month.[7] The Levites themselves are not given any property of their own other than those related to these cities.

Haazinu and the 48 Sabbath Torah Readings that Precede It

The Torah portion of Haazinu is often read on Shabat Shuvah, the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is said that this Sabbath encompasses all the Sabbaths of the entire previous year, and can serve to correct any mistakes made during them. is said to contain the entire Torah. There are usually forty-eight Torah readings performed on the Sabbath: a regular Jewish year has 50½ weeks, and at least two Sabbaths have Torah readings related to the festivals that occur during those days (Sukkot and Passover). During these roughly forty-eight Sabbaths, a total of fifity-two Torah portions read before we arrive to Haazinu.[8] The Torah portion following Haazinu, Vezot HaBracha, is not read on the Sabbath, but rather during the holiday of Simchat Torah.  

Our sages have taught that the portion of Haazinu encompasses the entire Torah. Nachmanides goes further and states that Haazinu contains everything that happens and everything that will ever happen in the history of the world.[9] Furthermore, Haazinu has 52 verses, one for each of the Torah portions that preceded it, starting from the very first one, Bereshit. The connection between these verses and the Torah portions is quite strong. (See Appendix 1) These fifty-two verses also parallel the weeks of the year.

Furthermore, each verse of the Haftarah for Haazinu, the song sung by King David before his passing, in II Samuel, Chapter 22, also parallel the weeks of the year.[10] David’s song contains 51 verses, and it appears that the verse following the 51st verse, the first in Chapter 23, is connected to David’s song as well. The Haftarah also offers important insight into Haazinu. King David appears to have made his song in such a way that it would parallel Haazinu, both in form but also in substance.

The end of book one attempted to show how certain apparently negative teachings in Pirkei Avot could be interpreted in a positive light. This concept of interpreting statements positively is even more important when it comes to understanding Haazinu. There are various parts of the text that appear to be very harsh, but that can be read as incredibly positive. After all, Haazinu is a summary of the entire Torah, and the Torah is the greatest expression of G-d’s love for his people and vice-versa. The greatest blessings are often disguised in what appear to be curses. The following passage from Hayom Yom, illustrates this idea:

The Alter Rebbe himself was the regular Torah-reader. Once he was away from Lyozna on the Shabbat of parsha Tavo, and the Mitteler Rebbe, then not yet Bar Mitzva, heard the Torah-reading from another. His anguish at the curses in the tochacha (section of admonition) caused him so much heartache, that on Yom Kippur1 the Alter Rebbe doubted whether his son would be able to fast. When they asked the Mitteler Rebbe - "Don't you hear this parsha every year?" - he replied, "When Father reads, one hears no curses."[11]
It is our prayer, that when you, dear reader, engage in this second adventure, that you also “hear no curses.” Instead may the prophets and prophecies below open your mind and heart to what is certainly the greatest and longest love affair ever to exist: the love between G-d and His people. The Zohar states: "Israel, the Torah and the Holy One Blessed Be He are One.[12] May you too fall in love with this Eshet Chayil, and may it free you and uplift you to new heights.

[2] Ibid.
[4]  The Talmud (Megillah 14a) says that there had been twice as many prophets as the number of people who left Egypt (2,600,000), but only those whose messages were for future generations were recorded.
[5]  The article also cites Rambam, Hilkhot Rotzei’ach 8:10.)
[6] It is interesting to note that just as the Levitical cities were 52 in total, consisting of 48 cities, in addition to Jerusalem, the capital, and three future cities, so too the United States has historically consisted of 52 entities, 48 states, the capital, and mainly 3 territories – Alaska, Hawai, and Puerto Rico.
[7] Each Jewish month is related to a constellation/zodiac sign, and the position of the levitical cities within each tribe appear to roughly parallel the shape of that constellation.
[8] In the Torah there are 54 parshiot, but Vezot HaBrachah is never read on Shabat, and Haazinu is a summary of all of the previous parshiot. From a different angle, we can see that of the 54 portions, there are a total of 6 times in which two portions are read together, leaving a total of 48 sections. The six double portions are: Vayakhel – Pekudei; Tazria – Metzora; Acharei Mot – Kedoshim; Behar – Bechukotai; Mattot – Masei; Nitzavim – Vayeilech.
Outside of Israel, sometimes Chukat - Balak are also read together, which is due to the additional day of holidays instituted by the rabbis.
[10][10] The first verse of the following Chapter is still very much related to the song, and can be counted as the 52nd verse. Weeks 1 and 52 both represent Rosh Hashanah. In fact, the first seven verses of Chapter 23 in II Samuel comprise of King David’s last song, and seem to parallel the 7 verses of the Rooster on Rosh Hashanah. There also appears to be a parallel with the opening and closing verses of Vezot HaBrachah, the words said by Moshe right before his passing.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Week 51 (Contd.): Chuldah (Wiesel) and Citing Your Sources

Week 51 starts this Tuesday night:

The quality needed to acquire the Torah for this week is “who relates a statement in the name of the one who said it.” During the week of selichot, we are careful not to take credit for our actions and the opportunity to do teshuvah. We pray in the merit of our patriarchs, repeatedly mentioning the 13 attributes of mercy words spoken by G-d Himself, and transmitted to us by Moses.

This week’s prophet is Chuldah. Incredibly, as explained in Book 1, Chuldah, wiesel in Hebrew, is also the animal of week 51! Chuldah’s story contains many aspects of this quality, both regarding the men that approach Chuldah in the name of Josiah the King, as well as Chuldah herself. Both in Kings, Chapter 22, and Chronicles, Chapter 34. The story repeats quite a few times that men (incidentally two of which are named Shaphan (“rabbit) and Achbor (“mouse”)) asked Chuldah in the name of king. Chuldah responds by speaking in the name of G-d.
Perhaps “beshem omroh,” which literally means saying something in the name of the one who says it (in the present), means more than just citing the source of the statement, but also means being true to the meaning of the original message. Chuldah exemplifies this quality probably more than any other prophet in the sense that King Josiah specifically sought out Chuldah instead of Jeremiah because he thought that perhaps as a woman she would be have more mercy than a man, and would be able to bring forth a more merciful outcome. Chuldah, however, speaks as strongly as Jeremiah would have, inkeeping with the quality of relating a statement “beshem omroh.” The sages even discuss why Chuldah would prophesize publically at all being that Jeremiah was the main prophet at the time – they explain that Jeremiah and Chuldah were actually relatives.

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