Friday, February 28, 2014

Leaving Egypt: Humbly Focusing on Actions (not their Amazing Results) and the Torah Portion of Pikudei

This week, we complete the second Book of the Torah, Shemot (Exodus). The very last verse of the Book, contains a part which is particularly reminiscent of the last verse in Deutoronomy, the last verse in the entire Torah. Both verses contain the phrase, "before the eyes of all" of Israel, although the verse in Exodus contains the word Beit, house, before the eyes of all the house of Israel..

The verse in Exodus speaks about the Hashem resting in the newly constructed Tabernacle (the Mishkan). Rashi focuses on how each place of encampment is called a journey.

It is curious that when Rashi interprets the last verse in Deutoronomy, he does not make any reference to the Mishkan or to the cloud of Hashem's presence. Rashi, instead focuses on the giving of the Torah and generally to the "miracles and mighty deeds" in the desert. Specifically, regarding the meaning of "before the eyes of Israel," Rashi focuses on the breaking of the Tablets, and how this was a laudable action by Moshe, of which Hashem approved.

38. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the Mishkan by day, and there was fire within it at night, before the eyes of the entire house of Israel in all their journeys.

לח. כִּי עֲנַן יְהֹוָה עַל הַמִּשְׁכָּן יוֹמָם וְאֵשׁ תִּהְיֶה לַיְלָה בּוֹ לְעֵינֵי כָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכָל מַסְעֵיהֶם:
before the eyes of the entire house of Israel in all their journeys: On every journey (מַסָּע) that they were traveling, the cloud would rest in that place where they encamped. The place of their encampment is also called a journey (מַסָּע). Likewise, “And he went to his stations (לְמַסָּעָיו) ” (Gen. 13:3) [i.e., to the stops along his journey], and likewise, “These are the journeys (מַסְעֵי) ” (Num. 33:1). Since from the place of their encampment they resumed their journeys, they are all called “journeys” (מַסָעוֹת).

לעיני כל בית ישראל בכל מסעיהם: בכל מסע שהיו נוסעים היה הענן שוכן במקום אשר יחנו שם. מקום חנייתן אף הוא קרוי מסע, וכן (בראשית יג ג) וילך למסעיו, וכן (במדבר לג א) אלה מסעי לפי שממקום החנייה חזרו ונסעו, לכך נקראו כולן מסעות: 

12. and all the strong hand, and all the great awe, which Moses performed before the eyes of all Israel.

יב. וּלְכֹל הַיָּד הַחֲזָקָה וּלְכֹל הַמּוֹרָא הַגָּדוֹל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה משֶׁה לְעֵינֵי כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל:
and all the strong hand: [This refers to] his receiving the Torah on the Tablets with his hands.

ולכל היד החזקה: שקבל את התורה בלוחות בידיו:
And all the great awe: [This refers to the] miracles and mighty deeds [that were performed for Israel] in the great and awesome wilderness. — [Sifrei 33:41]

ולכל המורא הגדול: נסים וגבורות שבמדבר הגדול והנורא:
before the eyes of all Israel: [This expression alludes to the incident where] his heart stirred him up to smash the tablets before their eyes, as it is said, “and I shattered them before your eyes” (Deut. 9:17). - [Sifrei 33:41] And [regarding Moses shattering the Tablets,] the Holy One Blessed is He gave His approval, as Scripture states, “[the first Tablets] which you shattered” (Exod. 34:1); [God said to Moses:] “Well done for shattering them!” - [Shab.   87a]

לעיני כל ישראל: שנשאו לבו לשבור הלוחות לעיניהם, שנאמר (לעיל ט, יז) ואשברם לעיניכם, והסכימה דעת הקב"ה לדעתו, שנאמר (שמות לד, א) אשר שברת, יישר כחך ששברת:

 Perhaps Rashi chooses not to mention the Mishkan and Hashem's Presence specifically, because the breaking of the Tablets (and Moshe's extensive prayers of repentance that followed), is in fact what ultimately permitted Hashem's presence to return to Israel's camp, "before the eyes of all of Israel." Rashi focuses on Moshe's actions, not on their consequences. This reminiscent of Moshe's own humility, related to the Sefirah of Netzach, who always focused on the job that needed to be done, and not on his own importance or the great results that followed from his actions. All greatness, and the credit for all the positive consequences of our choices ultimately belong to G-d Alone.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Back to Week 22 (Books 1 through 5)

Book 1:

Book 2:

Book 3:

Book 4a:

Book 4b:

Book 5:

Week 25 (Book 5): Reviewing the Fourth Week of Adar - Psalms 73-75; 77:13-15; 89:26

PSALMS (Introductions and Translations from

Chapter 73
This psalm addresses the question of why the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper, and prays for an end to our long exile. Read, and you will find repose for your soul.
1. A psalm by Asaph. Truly G-d is good to Israel, to the pure of heart. 2. But as for me, my feet nearly strayed; in an instant my steps would have been swept aside. 3. For I envied the revelers when I saw the tranquility of the wicked. 4. For there are no bonds1 to their death, and their health is sound. 5. They have no part in the toil of men, nor are they afflicted like other mortals; 6. therefore they wear pride as a necklace; their bodies are enwrapped in violence. 7. Their eyes bulge from fat; they surpassed the fantasies of their heart. 8. They consume [others], and talk wickedly of oppression-from on high do they speak. 9. They set their mouths against Heaven, while their tongues walk upon the earth. 10. Therefore His people return here,2 and suck the full [cup of bitter] waters. 11. And they say, "How can it be that G-d knows? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” 12. Behold these are the wicked, and they are ever tranquil, they have gained much wealth. 13. Surely in vain have I purified my heart, and washed my hands in cleanliness; 14. for I was afflicted all day, and my rebuke came each morning. 15. Were I to say, "I shall tell it like it is," behold I would turn the generation of Your children to rebels. 16. And when I pondered to understand this, it was unjust in my eyes; 17. until I came to the sanctuaries of G-d, and perceived their end. 18. Only on slippery places do You set them, You cast them into darkness. 19. How they have become desolate in an instant! They came to an end, they were consumed by terrors, 20. like a dream upon awakening. O my Lord, disgrace their image in the city. 21. When my heart was in ferment, and my mind was sharpened, 22. I was a boor and did not understand, like an animal was I with You. 23. Yet I was always with You; You held my right hand. 24. Guide me with Your counsel, and afterward, receive me with honor. 25. Whom do I have in heaven [besides You]? And when I am with You I desire nothing on earth. 26. My flesh and my heart yearn; G-d is the rock of my heart and my portion forever. 27. For behold, all those who are far from You perish, You cut down all who stray from You. 28. But as for me, the nearness of G-d is my good; I have put my trust in my Lord, G-d, that I may recount all Your works.

Chapter 74
The psalmist mourns and weeps over all the synagogues and study halls that have been burned: the Philistines destroyed the Tabernacle of Shiloh; Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the first Temple. We have been in exile for so long, without seeing any signs of redemption! When will the redemption come? Read, and you will find lamentation and consolation.
1. A maskil1 by Asaph. Why, O G-d, have You abandoned us forever, does Your wrath fume against the sheep of Your pasture? 2. Remember Your congregation which You acquired long ago, the tribe of Your inheritance whom You redeemed [and brought to] Mount Zion, where You rested Your Presence. 3. Lift Your steps to inflict eternal ruin, because of all the evil done by the enemy in the Sanctuary. 4. Your foes roared in the midst of Your meeting place; they considered their omens to be [genuine] signs. 5. The axes in the thicket of trees2 were reckoned as bringing [an offering] to the Above. 6. And now, all her ornaments together are smashed by hammer and hatchet. 7. They set Your Sanctuary on fire; they desecrated the Abode of Your Name to the ground. 8. Their rulers thought together in their hearts; they burned all the meeting places of G-d in the land. 9. We have not seen our signs; there is no longer a prophet, and there is none among us who knows how long. 10. How long, O G-d, will the adversary disgrace, will the enemy blaspheme Your Name forever! 11. Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand? Cast it out from within Your bosom! 12. For G-d is my King from long ago, working salvations in the midst of the earth. 13. In Your might, You divided the sea; You shattered the heads of the sea-monsters on the waters. 14. You crushed the heads of the Leviathan,3 leaving him as food for the nation [wandering in] the wilderness. 15. You split [the rock, bringing forth] fountain and brook; You dried up mighty streams. 16. Yours is the day, the night is also Yours; You established the moon and the sun. 17. You set all the boundaries of the earth; summer and winter-You created them. 18. Remember this, how the enemy reviled the Lord, and the vile nation blasphemed Your Name. 19. Do not give the soul of Your turtledove to the wild beast; do not forget the life of Your poor forever. 20. Look to the covenant, for the dark places of the earth are filled with dens of violence. 21. Do not turn back the oppressed in disgrace; [then] the poor and needy will praise Your Name. 22. Arise, O G-d, champion Your cause; remember Your insults from the perverse all day long. 23. Forget not the voice of Your adversaries; the tumult of Your opponents ascends always.

Chapter 75
How great is Israel! During their holidays they do not engage in frivolity, but in song and praise, and the study of the holiday's laws. Also, when they proclaimed (at the giving of the Torah), "We will do and we will hear!" they allowed the world to remain in existence. This psalm also admonishes those who indulge in worldly pleasures and attribute their prosperity to their own efforts.
1. For the Conductor, a plea not to be destroyed. A psalm by Asaph, a song. 2. We gave thanks to You, O G-d, we gave thanks; and Your Name was near [when] they1 told of Your wonders. 3. When I choose the appointed time, I will judge with fairness. 4. When the earth and all its inhabitants were melting, I established its pillars forever. 5. I said to the perverse, "Do not pervert [Israel]," and to the wicked, "Do not raise your pride.” 6. Do not raise your pride heavenward, nor speak with an arrogant neck 7. For not from the east or the west, nor from the desert does greatness come. 8. For G-d is Judge; He humbles one, and elevates the other. 9. For there is a cup [of punishment] in the hand of the Lord, with strong wine of full mixture; He pours from this, and all the wicked of the earth will drink, draining even its dregs. 10. But as for me, I will tell of it forever; I will sing to the G-d of Jacob. 11. I will cut off all glory of the wicked, but the glory of the righteous will be raised up.


Chapter 77

13. I meditate on all Your works, and speak of Your deeds. 14. O G-d, Your way is in sanctity; what G-d is as great as G-d? 15. You are the G-d Who works wonders; You make Your might known among the nations. 


26. I will set his hand upon the sea, his right hand upon the rivers. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Week 25 (Book 4b): Learning Torah and Listening to the Leader of the Generation

12. His eyes are like doves beside rivulets of water, bathing in milk, fitly set.
13. His jaws are like a bed of spice, growths of aromatic plants; his lips are [like] roses, dripping with flowing myrrh.
14. His hands are [like] wheels of gold, set with chrysolite; his abdomen is [as] a block of ivory, overlaid with sapphires.


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 25 - Oaths for the Past and Future


Week 25 in the Jewish calendar is the last week of Adar. The verses of Shir HaShirim of this week speak of various spices and aromatic plants, including myrrh, which Talmud is a reference to Mordechai. Rashi explains that the above verses are primarily a reference to the study halls of the Jewish people and how there they clarify and uncover the mysteries of the Torah. Our sages explain that it was the efforts of Mordechai and the Jews at the time to strengthen the public study of Torah that led to our redemption. As also mentioned previously, the month of Adar is about Megillat Esther, uncovering (Legalot) the hidden (Nistar).

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the twenty-fifth mentioned is Tola. Tola is also later the name of one of the Judges, who was from the Tribe of Issachar. Tola’s sons are mentioned in Chronicles (7:1), about which Rashi has a fascinating comment:

And of the sons of Issachar: Tola, and Puah, and Jashub, and Shimron: In the Pentateuch (Gen. 46:13) it is written: “and Job.” Job was his name [originally], but since they settled themselves (נִתְיַשְּׁבוּ) to learn Torah, as it is written (below 12: 33): “And of the sons of Issachar, who possessed understanding of the times,” he merited and was called Jashub (יָשוּב).

The role for Tola appears very much related to Mordechai (who was the leader/judge during the time of Purim) and the public study of Torah as described above.

Daf Kaf Heh (Folio 25) of Shvuot continues tod to it discuss different laws related to oaths, and whether they can apply to the past as well as to the future. Week 25 is the midway point of the “Counting of the Omer” of the weeks of the entire year.

Chapter 25 of the Book of Jeremiah is very much related to the above and thte general themes of this month. The chapter speaks of the importance of listening to the leader of the generation, in this case the king, as well as to the prophets and to the words of Hashem (the Torah). It also speaks much of drinking and getting drunk. It also discusses future destructions of other peoples (related to the destruction of Amalek). There is also a reference to Jerusalem, the levitical city related to this week. (See Book 2)

3. From the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, until this day, these twenty- three years the word of the Lord has come to me, and I spoke to you, arising early and speaking, but you did not hearken.                    

4. And the Lord sent to you all His servants, the prophets, sending them early, but you did not hearken and you did not incline your ear[s] to listen. (…)

8. Therefore, so said the Lord of Hosts: Since you have not hearkened to My words, (…)

15. For so said the Lord God of Israel to me; Take this cup of the wine of fury from My hand, and you shall give it to all the nations to whom I send you, to drink.

16. And they shall drink and reel to and fro and be like madmen because of the sword that I am sending among them.            

17. And I took the cup from the hand of the Lord, and I gave it to all the nations to whom the Lord had sent me, to drink.

26. And all the kings of the north, both near and far, one after the other, and all the kingdoms of the earth that are upon the face of the earth; and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them.

27. And you shall say to them: So said the Lord God of Israel; Drink, become drunk, and vomit, fall and you shall not rise, because of the sword that I am sending among you.      

28. And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup from your hand to drink, that you shall say to them: So said the Lord of Hosts: You shall surely drink.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Leaving Egypt: Shabat, Leadership and Community, and the Torah Portion of Vayakhel (TO BE CONTINUED)

What follows is an abridged version for this week's description of Netzach, Moshe's leadership qualities that unify [the other Sefirot] and leave an enduring impact. This week's Torah portion begins as follows:

1. Moses called the whole community of the children of Israel to assemble, and he said to them: "These are the things that the Lord commanded to make.

Moses called… to assemble: [He assembled them] on the day after Yom Kippur, when he came down from the mountain. This [word] is a [causative] expression [i.e., causing someone to do something], because one does not assemble people with [one’s] hands [i.e., directly], but they are assembled through one’s speech. 
Rashi teaches us that a community is brought together through the words of its leader. He does not directly assemble them [with one's hands]. That's impossible. The people have to be assembled by themselves. Moshe's words is what causes them to be assembled.

It is very interesting that this idea of assembly is contrasted with the idea of Shabat. Historically, Shabat is also what has given the Jewish people a sense of community.  It also brings Jews closer together physically, since Shabat observant do not have cars and must walk to shul. 

This idea of unity and lack of divisiveness is reflected in the continuing verse:  

3. You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwelling places on the Sabbath day."

The same is true for a leader. He is supposed to bring the people together in peace. Lehavdil, this is reflected in the words of American president Dwight Eisenhower: “Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”  

Week 25 (Book 4a): "An Ever-Increasing Wellspring"

STORY OF CHANNAH: 25 And when the bullock was slain, the child was brought to Eli.  

QUALITY OF PIRKEI AVOT: and he becomes as an ever-increasing wellspring

PROVERBS: Chapter 25

Week 25 is the last week of Adar. The verse from the story of Channah speaks about the slaughter of her animal sacrifice, as she brought Shmuel to Eli the Kohen Gadol. The last week of Adar is significantly tied to bringin contributions to the Temple. Those that did not bring their yearly half-shekel contribution by now, Jewish courts had the right to take it by force.

The Talmud (Berachot 31b) teaches that this verse is an indication of Shmuel’s hidden greatness:

And when the bullock was slain, the child was brought to Eli.24 Because the bullock was slain, did they bring the child to Eli? What it means is this. Eli said to them: Call a priest and let him come and kill [the animal]. When Samuel saw them looking for a priest to kill it, he said to them, Why do you go looking for a priest to kill it? The shechitah may be performed by a layman! They brought him to Eli, who asked him, How do you know this? He replied: Is it written, ‘The priest shall kill’? It is written, The priests shall present [the blood]:25 the office of the priest begins with the receiving of the blood, which shows that shechitah may be performed by a layman.26 He said to him: You have spoken very well, but all the same you are guilty of giving a decision in the presence of your teacher…

Adar is a month connected to revealing what is secret. That is the reason the text we read on Purim is called Megillat Esther, revealing (Legalot) what is hidden (Nistar). In this case, the hidden greatness of a little boy is revealed.

Along the same lines, last week’s Pirkei Avot quality was, “the Torah’s secrets are revealed to him.” This week, the quality is, “and he becomes as an ever-increasing wellspring.” A wellspring contains also this idea of revealing the hidden. The wellspring brings water (a metaphor for Torah) from the depths of the earth to the surface. The Hebrew term for wellspring Ma'ayan, is often associated with the hidden aspects of Torah, such as the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. Furthermore, as the story above indicate, Shmuel himself was a living example of an “ever-increasing wellspring.” 

Chapter 25 of the Book of Proverbs, particularly its first verses, contains the same theme as above:

1. These too are Solomon's proverbs, which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, maintained.
2. The honor of God is to conceal a matter, whereas the honor of kings is to search out a matter.  
3. The heaven for height, the earth for depth, and the honor of kings are unsearchable.      
4. Remove dross from silver, and a vessel emerges for the refiner.

As mentioned previously, this year there are two months of Adar, and yahrzeits are usually commemorated on the second one, unless the person passed away in the first Adar in a year that also had two. We will therefore, leave the descriptions for the next month, when we repeat weeks 22 through 25.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Week 25 (Book 3): Hezron and Sweetening Bitter Judgments

SONG OF THE SEA: The people complained against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord instructed him concerning a piece of wood, which he cast into the water, and the water became sweet. There He gave them a statute and an ordinance, and there He tested them.

HAFTARAH: Zebulun is a people that jeopardized their lives to die, as did Naphtali, upon the high places of the field.

TALMUD SOTAH - Daf 25 - Cancelling warnings


JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Tarah and camped in Mithkah.

Week 25 is the last week of Adar. The verses for this week speak of how Moshe sweetens the bitter waters of Marah.  Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk, whose yahrzeit is this week, teaches that this is the main service of the tzadik: to sweeten and to cancel the bitter decrees against the Jewish people. (See Mithka, levitical city for this week)

This week, the Haftorah’s verses regarding the reactions of each tribe come to a close, culminating with Zebulun, and, last but not least, Naphtali itself. These tribes completely incorporate the spirit of self-sacrifice required from a sheliach. (See Week 25, Book 1, regarding the frog) They are literally willing to give up their lives for the cause. Naphtali, as we know, represents the month of Adar. Zebulun, in its partnership with Issachar, also illustrates the other main theme of the month of Adar, which is duality. 1

Daf Kaf Heh (Folio 25) of Sotah discusses what do in cases of women that overall start behaving immodestly. It also discusses whether or not a husband can cancel a warning. The conclusion is that he can. This is the same theme as above, representing the avodah, the service of the tzadik, to use self-sacrifice in order to cancel decrees against the Jewish people, even when they are not behaving appropriately.

Hezron, son of Perez, is the father of Caleb. Hezron comes from the word chatzer, which means courtyard, or enclosure. A chatzer is a term often discussed in halachah, particularly in the tractate of Eruvim. There, the discussion is about two neighbors that share a common courtyard. In order to be able to carry on the courtyard, the two neighbors need to set up an eruv chatzeirot.[1] This way, both neighbors formally own the area together, and it is no longer considered a separate domain for either party. Interestingly, the word Eruv comes from the same root as Arev, which means sweet. When Jews come together, and the duality serves a positive function, there is sweetness. This is also one of the themes of the month. Chatzer is also a term connected to the courtyard of the Temple. (See Week 25, Book 2, regarding how this week is connected to Jerusalem).

In the twenty-fifth week, the Jews journey from Tarah and camp in Mithkah. Mithkah somes from the word matok, which also literally means sweet. The personal journey is to internalize the concept of spiritually elevating our environment through “holy foolish” behavior, and now focus on sweetening any bitterness we may experience personally or as a people.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Week 25 (Book 2): Micah the Morashite and "Faith in the Sages"

From outside, the sword will bereave, and terror from within; young men and maidens, suckling babes with venerable elders. (Deuteronomy 32:25)

Positive light: [The Purim decree will be turned on its head, regarding Amalek…] From outside, the sword will bereave, and terror from within; young men and maidens, suckling babes with venerable elders.

And the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness; according to my cleanness before His eyes. (II Samuel 22:25)

Faith in the Sages (Emunat Chachamim)

Micah the Morashite


The twenty-fifth week of the year is the last week of Adar. The verse in Haazinu continues to make reference to the destruction inflicted on the Jewish people, this time describing how they will be decimated regardless of age or gender. This was the decree that Haman imposed on the Jewish people in the times of Purim.

Again, if understood more positively, the verse is a reference to the destruction of Amalek. The Jewish people are commanded to wipe out all of Amalek, including women, the elderly and the babies. When killing Agag, the king of the Amalekites, Samuel exclaims: “As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women.” See Samuel I, 15:33:

The Haftorah continues its positive tone, and like in Week 23, again the term Leneged (before or against) is used. The term in this verse is Leneged Einav, “before His eyes,” which in this case can mean “for the one against His eyes.” Amalek is not only against the Jewish people, but against G-d Himself. It is like a thorn in His eyes. Amalek is very much associated with keri, a source of impurity. Cleanness or purity in this context might also mean fulfilling G-d’s commandment to destroy Amalek unquestioningly, correcting King Saul’s mistake.

The quality of this week is faith in the sages, emunat chachamim. This quality is certainly a central theme of the message of Purim, when the Jews showed faith in the actions of Mordechai and Esther. At first glance, Mordechai could even be blamed for starting the persecution against the Jews by not bowing to Haman. However, we see that the Jewish people did not blame him. On the contrary, they had full faith in him, stood behind him, and followed his directives. Haman saw the Jews as an “Am Mordechai,” a nation of Mordechai(s).

This week’s prophet is Micah the Morashite. Much of Micah’s prophecy is directed towards the heads of the Jewish people, its sages:

1. And I said: Hearken now, you heads of Jacob and officers of the house of Israel! Is it not incumbent upon you to know the judgment?
2. Those who hate good and love evil-who rob their skin from upon them and their flesh from upon their bones,        
3. and who ate the flesh of My people and flayed their skin from upon them, and opened their bones and broke them, as in a pot, and like meat within a cauldron 
4. then they shall cry out to the Lord, but He shall not respond to them; and He shall hide His countenance from them at that time, as they wrought evil with their works.  
5. So said the Lord concerning the prophets who mislead my people, who bite with their teeth and herald peace, but concerning whomever does not give into their mouth, they prepare war.
6. Therefore, it shall be night for you because of the vision, and it shall be dark for you because of the divination, and the sun shall set on the prophets, and the day shall be darkened about them.      
7. And the seers shall be ashamed, and the diviners shall be disgraced, and they shall all cover their upper lips, for it is not a statement of G-d.      
8. But I am truly full of strength from the spirit of the Lord and justice and might, to tell Jacob his transgression and Israel his sin.    
9. Hearken now to this, you heads of the house of Jacob and you rulers of the house of Israel, who condemn justice and pervert all that is straight.         
10. Each one builds Zion with blood and Jerusalem with injustice.          
11. Its heads judge for bribes, and its priests teach for a price; and its prophets divine for money, and they rely on the Lord, saying, "Is not the Lord in our midst? No evil shall befall us."         
12. Therefore, because of you, Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the Temple Mount like the high places of a forest.

The above text also echoes a very strong theme of Purim and the month of Adar: the fact that Hashem is hidden. In the Book of Jeremiah, the connection between Micah and emunat chachamim is even more obvious:

Then certain of the elders of the land rose and said to all the congregation of the people, saying: Micah the Morashtite was prophesying in the days of Hezekiah the king of Judah, saying: So said the Lord of Hosts: Zion shall be plowed for a field, and Jerusalem shall be heaps, and the Temple Mount as the high places of a forest. Did Hezekiah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the Lord? And he entreated the Lord, and the Lord renounced the evil that He had spoken concerning them. But we are doing great harm to ourselves [if we kill him]. (Jeremiah, Chapter 26, 17-19)

The levitical city for this week is Jerusalem, since the Temple was also considered a city of refuge. For now, half rests in the tribe of Judah, while the other half rests in the tribe of Benjamin. (See Week 9) In the future, Jerusalem will have its own territory, separate from those of each tribe. This week is the last opportunity of the year for contributing the half-shekel for the upkeep of the Temple in Jerusalem. In the Megillah, Achashverosh says that he would be willing to give Esther up to half his kingdom, which the sages learn to mean, up to Jerusalem.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Week 24 (Book 5): Reviewing the Third Week of Adar - Psalms 70-72; 77:10-12; 89:25

PSALMS (Introductions and Translations from

Chapter 70
David prays that his enemies be shamed and humiliated for their shaming him and reveling in his troubles. Then the righteous will rejoice, and chant songs and praises always.

1. For the Conductor, by David, to remind. 2. O G-d, [come] to rescue me; O Lord, hurry to my aid. 3. Let those who seek my life be shamed and disgraced; let those who wish me harm retreat and be humiliated. 4. Let those who say, "Aha! Aha!" be turned back in return for their shaming [me]. 5. Let all who seek You rejoice and delight in You, and let those who love Your deliverance say always, "May G-d be exalted!” 6. But I am poor and needy; hurry to me, O G-d! You are my help and deliverer; O G-d, do not delay!

Chapter 71
In this awe-inspiring prayer, David speaks of his enemies' desire to kill him, declaring him deserving of death.

1. I have taken refuge in You, O Lord; I will never be shamed. 2. Rescue me and deliver me in Your righteousness; incline Your ear to me and save me. 3. Be for me a sheltering rock, to enter always. You have ordered my salvation, for You are my rock and my fortress. 4. O my G-d, rescue me from the hand of the wicked, from the palm of the scheming and violent. 5. For You are my hope, O my Lord, G-d, my security since my youth. 6. I have relied on You from the womb; You drew me from my mother's innards; my praise is of You always. 7. I became an example to the masses, yet You were my mighty refuge. 8. Let my mouth be filled with Your praise, all day long with Your glory. 9. Do not cast me aside in old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails; 10. for my enemies say of me, and those who watch my soul conspire together, 11. saying, "G-d has forsaken him. Give chase and catch him, for there is no rescuer.” 12. O G-d, do not distance Yourself from me; my G-d, hurry to my aid. 13. Let the adversaries of my soul be shamed and consumed; let those who seek my harm be enwrapped in disgrace and humiliation. 14. But as for me, I will always hope; I will add to all Your praises. 15. My mouth will tell of Your righteousness, all day long of Your deliverance, for I do not know their number. 16. I come with the strength of my Lord, G-d; I mention Your righteousness, Yours alone. 17. O G-d, You have taught me since my youth, and to this day I tell of Your wonders. 18. Even into old age and hoariness, O G-d, do not abandon me, until I tell of Your might to the generations, and of Your strength to all who are to come. 19. Your righteousness, O G-d, reaches the high heavens, for You do great things; O G-d, who is like You! 20. You, Who has shown me many and grievous troubles, You will revive me again; You will lift me again from the depths of the earth. 21. You will increase my greatness; You will turn and console me. 22. I too1 will thank You on the lyre for Your faithfulness, My G-d; I will sing to You on the harp, O Holy One of Israel. 23. My lips will rejoice when I sing to you, as well as my soul which You have redeemed. 24. My tongue will also utter Your righteousness all day, for those who seek my harm are shamed and disgraced.

Chapter 72
David composed this psalm for Solomon, praying that he be granted the wisdom to provide justice for the poor.

1. For Solomon. O G-d, impart Your justice to the king, and Your righteousness to the son of the king. 2. May he judge Your people with righteousness, Your poor with justice. 3. May the mountains bear peace to the nation, also the hills, in [reward for their] righteousness. 4. May he judge the nation's poor, save the children of the destitute, and crush the oppressor, 5. so that they will fear You as long as the sun [shines] and the moon endures, generation after generation. 6. May [his words] descend like rain upon cut grass, like raindrops that water the earth. 7. In his days may the righteous flourish, with much peace until the moon is no more. 8. And may he rule from sea to sea, and from the river until the ends of the earth. 9. May nobles kneel before him, and may his enemies lick the dust. 10. The kings of Tarshish and the islands will return tribute, the kings of Sheba and Seba will offer gifts. 11. All kings will bow to him, all nations will serve him; 12. for he rescues the needy one who cries out, the poor one who has no one to help him. 13. He pities the impoverished and needy, and saves the souls of the destitute. 14. He redeems their soul from deception and violence, and their blood is precious in his eyes. 15. He revives [the poor], and gives him of the gold of Sheba; and so [the poor] pray for him always, and bless him all day. 16. May there be abundant grain in the land, upon the mountaintops; may its fruit rustle like the [cedars of] Lebanon, and may [people] blossom from the city like the grass of the earth. 17. May his name endure forever; may his name be magnified as long as the sun [shines]. And all nations will bless themselves by him, they will praise him. 18. Blessed is the Lord G-d, the G-d of Israel, Who alone performs wonders. 19. Blessed is His glorious Name forever, and may the whole earth be filled with His glory, Amen and Amen. 20. The prayers of David, son of Jesse, are concluded.


Chapter 77

10. Has G-d forgotten mercy? Has He in anger restrained His compassion forever? 11. I said, "It is to terrify me that the right hand of the Most High changes.” 12. I remember the deeds of Yah, when I remember Your wonders of long ago.


25. Indeed, My faithfulness and My kindness shall be with him, and through My Name his glory shall be exalted. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Week 24 (Book 4b): the Intoxicating Power of Food and Drink

9. "What is your beloved more than another beloved, O fairest of women? What is your beloved more than another beloved, that you have so adjured us?"
10. "My beloved is white and ruddy, surrounded by myriads.
11. His head is as the finest gold; his locks are curled, [they are as] black as a raven.


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: DAF 23 – Oaths on Forbidden Foods


Week 24 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Purim. The verses of Shir HaShirim of this week speaks of the “fairest of women,” a likely reference to Queen Esther, who was chosen above all the women of the Persian Empire. The reference to Israel’s Beloved being white and “ruddy,” appears to be connected to the wine of Purim. (See Week 23, Book 4a: “Do not look at wine when it is red; when he puts his eye on the cup, it goes smoothly.” (Proverbs 23:31))

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the twenty-fourth mentioned is Issachar. Issachar was conceived on the night that Rachel exchanged for the dudayim of Leah. The intoxicating nature of the dudayim seem to parallel the intensity of Purim, which is brought about as well through physical intoxication.

Daf Kaf Dalet (Folio 24) of Shvuot continues to discuss forbidden foods, and speaks about how one can violate more than one law in a single act of eating. One of the main points of contention of the Purim story was the fact that the Jews partook of Achashverosh’s festive meal.

Chapter 24 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. It speaks about duda’ey te’enim, translated as “pots of figs,” but which literally mean dudayim of figs. Some of the figs could be eaten – others not at all. This dichotomy, especially between the very good (Mordechai) and the very bad (Haman) is also symbolic of Adar. In this case, Jeremiah’s vision is referring to those that willingly go to exile in Babylon, and those that stubbornly decide to stay in the Land of Israel.

1. The Lord showed me two pots of figs, prepared before the Temple of the Lord after Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, had exiled Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and the princes of Judah and the craftsmen and the sentries of the gates from Jerusalem and brought them to Babylon. 
2. One pot [contained] very good figs like the first ripe figs, and the other pot [contained] very bad figs that could not be eaten because they were so bad. (…)

The end of this chapter also has language very similar to Haazinu’s verse for Week 24 in Book 2:  “They will sprout hair from famine, attacked by demons, excised by Meriri. I will incite the teeth of livestock upon them, with the venom of creatures that slither in the dust.” (Deuteronomy 32:24)

10. And I will send forth the sword, the famine, and the pestilence against them until they are consumed from upon the land that I gave them and their forefathers.

Week 24 (Book 4a): "When Wine Comes in Secrets Come Out"

STORY OF CHANNAH: 24. And she brought him with her when she had weaned him, with three bulls, and one ephah of meal, and an earthenware jug of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord, to Shiloh, and the child was young.    

QUALITY OF PIRKEI AVOT: The Torah's secrets are revealed to him    

Proverbs: Chapter 24

Week 24 is the week of Purim. The verse from the story of Channah depicts how she brought her son to the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in Shiloh. In Hebrew, the first word in the description of what she brings is Parim (bulls), spelled the same as Purim. Also mentioned in the verse is a jug of wine, which is also symbolic of Purim.

This week’s Pirkei Avot quality is that, “the Torah’s secrets are revealed to him.” The Talmud famously states, “Nichnas Yayin Yotzeh Sod,” when wine enters, secrets exit (are revealed). This is usually has a negative connotation. On Purim, however, this is indeed very positive. When one drinks, secrets of Torah are revealed to him.

Chapter 23 of the Book of Proverbs appears to be primarily about fighting evil, and very much brings to mind the dichotomy between “Blessed is Mordechai” and “Cursed is Haman.” One is supposed to drink on Purim until one does not know the difference between the two phrases.

1. Do not envy men of evil; do not desire to be with them;  
2. for their heart thinks of plunder, and their lips speak of wrongdoing.
15. Wicked man, do not lurk by the dwelling of a righteous man; do not plunder his resting place.
16. For a righteous man can fall seven times and rise, but the wicked shall stumble upon evil.       
17. When your enemy falls, do not rejoice, and when he stumbles, let your heart not exult,
24. He who says to a wicked man, "You are righteous"-peoples will curse him; nations will be wroth with him.   

The end of the chapter is also related to a practice that is usually bad during the year, but that on Purim gains a positive connotation: sleep during the day.

32. And I, myself, saw; I applied my heart; I saw and learned a lesson.      
33. Little sleep, little slumber, little clasping of the hands to lie down.
34. Then your poverty will come strolling and your wants like an armed man.

The above statement is very much reminiscent of the one in Pirkei Avot related to Purim and Week 24: “Rabbi Dosa the son of Hurkinas would say: Morning sleep, noontime wine, children's talk and sitting at the meeting places of the ignorant, drive a person from the world.”

As mentioned last week, this year there are two months of Adar, and yahrzeits are usually commemorated on the second one, unless the person passed away in the first Adar in a year that also had two. We will therefore, leave the descriptions for the next month, when we repeat weeks 22 through 25.  

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