Monday, June 30, 2014

Week 39 (Book 3): Challenges to Faith in the Times of Exile

TORAH PORTION OF BESHALACH: 25. And Moses said, Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day [which is the] Sabbath on it there will be none. 
HAFTORAH:  why is his chariot late in coming? Why tarry the strides of his chariots?

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 39 – Laws of the synagogue, during the blessing of the Kohanim and Torah reading.
JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from the ruins and camped in Dibon gad.     

Week 39 is the week of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz and Gimmel Tammuz. The Torah portion section for this week describes how the mannah did not fall on the Sabbath. This made the people nervous, as Rashi explains:

And Moses said, “Eat it today, etc.”: In the morning, when they were accustomed to go out and gather, they came to ask, “Shall we go out or not?” He [Moses] said to them, “What you have in your possession eat.” In the evening, they came before him again and asked him whether they could go out. He said to them, “Today is the Sabbath.” He saw that they were concerned that perhaps the manna had ceased, and would no longer come down. [So] he said to them, “Today you will not find it.” What is the meaning of "today"? [This implies that] today you will not find it, but tomorrow you will find it. — [from Mechilta]

Tammuz is a difficult month It was in this month that the spies looked at the Land with negative eyes. It was also in this month that, because of Moshe’s brief delay in retunring from the mountain, the grave sin of the golden calf took place, followed by the breaking of the Luchot HaBrit (the Tablets of the Law). It is a month in which our Emunah is challenged. However, in the future, Messianic times, this will be a month of celebration. The mannah, the source of physical and spiritual substance, is not readily available this time of the year. In the words of Moshe in the Mechilta, “today you will not find it, but tomorrow [in Messianic times] you will find it.”

Similar to the above, the Haftorah verses speak of a son’s chariot delaying in coming home. This also represents a challenge to one's faith. In some ways continuing the theme of the previous week, taking the verse out of the context of Sissera’s death, the chariot can have another meaning as well. Visions of the Divine Presence, such as those of Ezekiel and Isaiah, as well as all esoteric kabbalistic literature related to it, are known as Ma’aseh Merkavah, “The Workings of the Chariot.” Starting in Tammuz, we think of how late the Shechinah is in returning to its holy place.

Daf Lamed Tet (Folio 39) of Sotah relates the laws of proper behavior in a synagogue, during the reading of the Torah and the blessing of the Kohanim. The daf also mentions the verses said by the congregation during the priestly blessing, which focus on Zion; during a blessing said on the afternoon of a fast day, the verses are about pleading to Hashem to save us from our exile. The synagogue is known as a mikdash me’at, a miniature Temple. It is during this time of the year, that we focus on Zion, on the Temple’s destruction, and its ultimate rebuilding.

The reign of Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, was completely disastrous. His counterparts in Israel were Ahaziah (one year), and a king also named Jehoram (seven years), the son of Ahab, who was also wicked. In fact, Jehoram of Judah married Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and and Jezebel, two of the most wicked and idolatrous people in all of Jewish history. Athaliah was wicked and idolatrous to an extreme, and led her husband on a similar path. Soon, idols and their priests were brought to Jerusalem. Athaliah then convinced Jehoram to kill his own six brothers. So steeped in crime and idolatry was this kingdom, that soon all the nations that had been tributaries of the Kingdom of Judah rebelled, ransacking every house, including the royal palace. Joram’s wives and all but one of his children are captured and killed. He himself suffered from an incurable disease and dies. As we begin this difficult month of Tammuz, the reign of king Jehoram shows how low we sometimes fall, and how important it is to repent. (His name means “G-d is exalted.”)
In the thirty-ninth week, the Jews journey from the ruins and camp in Dibon gad. Dibon appears relate to the word daveh (pining/moaning), while gad means (good) fortune, like the tribe of Gad, which is connected to the month of Elul, and teshuvah as explained in Book 1. As also explained in Book 1, the secret to success is connecting Tammuz and Av to Elul, transforming the word Dal (poor) into the word Dalet (door, gate) a reference to the gates of teshuvah. The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of repenting from and fighting against the sins that led to the destruction of the Temple, and now focus on pining for the good tidings that come from such repentance.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Words in the Desert: Miriam, the Red Heifer, and the Torah Portion of Chukat


This week's Torah portion begins with the description of the purification ritual of the "Red Heifer" followed by mentioning of the death of Miriam. Rashi notes the juxtaposition of these two subjects in verses regarding Miriam and states as follows:

1. The entire congregation of the children of Israel arrived at the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people settled in Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.

RASHI - Miriam died there: Why is the passage relating Miriam’s death juxtaposed with the passage of the Red Cow? To teach you that just as sacrifices bring atonement, so the death of the righteous secure atonement. — [M.K. 28a].

The parallels between Miriam and the Red Heifer appear to go beyond the idea of atonement for the Jewish people. The Red Heifer appears related to atonement for Miriam herself. The Red Heifer is said to be an atonement for the cardinal sin of idolatry, related to the Golden Calf (a young cow), but it also appears to be related to a sin that is equal to all three cardinal sins (idolatry, murder, and adultery): Lashon HaRah, evil speech. Miriam's words regarding Moshe, even though they were said with the best of intentions, is the quintessential example of Lashon HaRah. Below are two verses that recount the occurence and Miriam's punishment. The opening verse of the story and the last one:

1. Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses regarding the Cushite woman he had married (lit. “taken”), for he had married (lit. “taken”) a Cushite woman.

15. So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not travel until Miriam had entered.

Regarding the Red Heifer, the first verses of our Torah portion contain very similar language to the above:
1. The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying:
2. This is the statute of the Torah which the Lord commanded, saying, Speak to the children of Israel and have them take for you a perfectly red unblemished cow, upon which no yoke was laid.
3. And you shall give it to Eleazar the kohen, and he shall take it outside the camp and slaughter it in his presence.
4. Eleazar the kohen shall take from its blood with his finger and sprinkle it toward the front of the Tent of Meeting seven times.

Rashi's comments also parallel Miriam and her actions towards Moshe:

RASHI - This is the statute of the Torah: Because Satan and the nations of the world taunt Israel, saying, “ What is this commandment, and what purpose does it have?” Therefore, the Torah uses the term “statute.” I have decreed it; You have no right to challenge it. — [Yoma 67b]
and have them take for you: It will always be called on your name; 'the cow which Moses prepared in the desert.’- [Mid. Tanchuma Chukath 8, see Etz Yosef]
perfectly red: lit., red, perfect. It shall be perfect in redness, so that two black hairs disqualify it. — [Sifrei Chukath 5]
1) Just as Miriam was told by Hashem that she has no right to challenge Moshe's separation from his wife, so too, the Satan and the nations are told that they have no right to challenge the mitzvah of the Red Heifer.
2) Just as Miriam is introduced in the Torah as Miriam's sister, so to the Red Heifer will always be called by Moshe's name.
3) Just as Miriam attempted to disqualify Moshe's actions regarding his marriage to a "Cushite" (black) woman, which is repeated twice, so too, even just two black hairs disqualify a Red Heifer. 
There are other parallels between Miriam and the Red Heifer. Miriam is the ancestor of King David, who is described in the Torah as being red. She merited to have the line of David descend from her because she acted with pure unblemished faith before Pharaoh, when she did not obey his command to kill the newborn children of the Jewish people. 
Miriam was also from the Tribe of Levi, which did not have to serve as slaves in Egypt. She therefore had no yoke placed upon her.
It is interesting to note that in Book I of The Kabbalah of Time, Week 27, the week of the Cow, is very close to Miriam's yahrzeit. That week is also a week connected to purification through the Red Heifer, as it comes immediately prior to Passover.
Moshe's actions following the description of the Red Heifer and Miriam's death, appear to be a further attempt to spiritually fix what Miriam had done. After Miriam speaks to Aharon, Hashem appears and tells them:
6. He said, "Please listen [SHIMU NAH] to My words. If there be prophets among you, [I] the Lord will make Myself known to him in a vision; I will speak to him in a dream.
In this week's Torah portion, right after Miriam's death, there is no water for the people:
2. The congregation had no water; so they assembled against Moses and Aaron.
RASHI - had no water: From here [we learn that] all forty years they had the well in Miriam’s merit. — [Ta’anith 9a] 
10. Moses and Aaron assembled the congregation in front of the rock, and he said to them, "Now listen, [SHIMU NAH] you rebels, can we draw water for you from this rock?"
Moshe was trying, once and for all, to make the people stop doubting their leadership: "Please listen, understand!" The problem was that this time it was Moshe that did not properly understand - Hashem had said to use the staff to gather the people, but not to hit the rock... Miriam, whose merit the water had been provided until now, was known to speak (not hit) to crying children in the gentlest of manners:
 15. Now the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one who was named Shifrah, and the second, who was named Puah.

RASHI - Puah: This was Miriam, [called Puah] because she cried (פּוֹעָה) and talked and cooed to the newborn infant in the manner of women who soothe a crying infant. פּוֹעָה is an expression of crying out, similar to “Like a travailing woman will I cry (אֶפְעֶה) " (Isa. 42:14).

After all, knowing the power of words is the main lesson of the entire Book of Bamidbar.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Week 39 (Book 2): Baruch and Not Being Happy in Handing Down Decrees

HAAZINU: See now that it is I! I am the One, and there is no G-d like Me! I cause death and grant life. I strike, but I heal, and no one can rescue from My Hand! (Deuteronomy 32:39)

HAFTORAH: And I have consumed them, and I have crushed them that they cannot rise; Yes, they are fallen under my feet. (II Samuel 22:39)

QUALITY TO ACQUIRE THE TORAH: Does Not Take Pleasure in Handing Down [Halachic] Decisions (Einoh Sameach B’hora’ah)


LEVITICAL CITY: Betzer, City of Refuge

The thirty-ninth week of the year is that of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz as well as Gimmel Tammuz, the date of the Rebbe’s passing and also the beginning of the liberation of the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe. Tammuz is marked by the the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, when the walls of Jerusalem were breached. This month is represented by the tribe of Reuven, Jacob’s firstborn.
In the verse of Haazinu, G-d exclaims that He is the One true G-d. He causes death, but he also grants life. He strikes but He also heals. This verse perfectly represents the month of Tammuz, which before the times of Mashiach is associated with death and suffering, but which afterwards will be associated with life and healing.
The Haftorah verse for this week seems related to the very last words in Haazinu, which state that “no one can rescue from My Hand.” During this month, in the past we have been crushed and consumed, but in the future, the enemies of the Jews will fall under their feet.

The quality of this week is “does not take pleasure in handing down [halachic] decisions.” This is related to the idea of not using the Torah for one’s own honor. A more literal translation of the phrase, is that the person “is not happy” in making rulings. Tammuz has certainly been a month in which the Jewish people have not been happy in the past, as we have been handed down difficult decrees during this time. Yet, we must realize that it is also in our power to reverse these decrees, through Teshuvah, repentance. 
This week’s prophet is Baruch, the scribe of Jeremiah. Baruch was given the task of reading Jeremiah’s dire prophecies to the people; a task he certainly was not happy performing and in which he did not take pleasure. Nevertheless, he handed down the decrees, in accordance to his master’s will. Interestingly, all four prophets of the month of Tammuz are related to Baruch. After Baruch, the following prophet is his father, then his brother, and then finally his grandfather.

The levitical city for this week is Betzer, which is also a city of refuge. Betzer means fortification, a very appropriate name for this week, since it was in Tammuz that the fortifications of Jerusalem were breached. It is also worth noting that all cities for this week are connected to Moab, and Jeremiah’s prophecy against this nation in Chapter 48 of his book. Moab represents the kelipah of broad powers (both physical and intellectual), and the fear of losing them.[1] This is parallel to Reuven himself.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Week 38 (Book 5): Reviewing the Last Week of Sivan - Psalms 112-114; 105:15-17; 89:39

PSALMS (Introductions and Translations from

Chapter 112

This psalm, too, follows alphabetical sequence, each verse containing two letters, save the last two which contain three letters each. It speaks of the good traits man should choose, and of how to give charity-the reward for which is never having to rely on others.

1. Praise the Lord! Fortunate is the man who fears the Lord, and desires His commandments intensely. 2. His descendants will be mighty on the earth; he will be blessed with an upright generation. 3. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. 4. Even in darkness light shines for the upright, for [He is] Compassionate, Merciful, and Just. 5. Good is the man who is compassionate and lends, [but] provides for his own needs with discretion. 6. For he will never falter; the righteous man will be an eternal remembrance. 7. He will not be afraid of a bad tiding; his heart is steadfast, secure in the Lord. 8. His heart is steadfast, he does not fear, until he sees his oppressors [destroyed]. 9. He has distributed [his wealth], giving to the needy. His righteousness will endure forever; his might will be uplifted in honor. 10. The wicked man will see and be angry; he will gnash his teeth and melt away; the wish of the wicked will be ruined.

Chapter 113

This psalm recounts some of the wonders of the exodus from Egypt.

1. Praise the Lord! Offer praise, you servants of the Lord; praise the Name of the Lord. 2. May the Name of the Lord be blessed from now and to all eternity. 3. From the rising of the sun to its setting, the Name of the Lord is praised. 4. The Lord is high above all nations; His glory transcends the heavens. 5. Who is like the Lord our G-d, Who dwells on high 6. [yet] looks down so low upon heaven and earth! 7. He raises the poor from the dust, lifts the destitute from the dunghill, 8. to seat them with nobles, with the nobles of His people. 9. He transforms the barren woman into a household, into a joyful mother of children. Praise the Lord!

Chapter 114

This psalm explains why the tribe of Judah merited kingship.

1. When Israel went out of Egypt, the House of Jacob from a people of a foreign tongue, 2. Judah became His holy [nation], Israel, His domain. 3. The sea saw and fled, the Jordan turned backward. 4. The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like young sheep. 5. What is the matter with you, O sea, that you flee; Jordan, that you turn backward; 6. mountains, that you skip like rams; hills, like young sheep? 7. [We do so] before the Master, the Creator of the earth, before the G-d of Jacob, 8. Who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flintstone into a water fountain. 


Chapter 105

15. "Do not touch My anointed ones, and do not harm My prophets."
16. He called a famine upon the land; He broke every staff of bread.
17. He sent a man before them; Joseph was sold as a slave.


39. But You abandoned and You rejected; You became wroth with Your anointed.   

Friday, June 20, 2014

Week 38 (Book 4b): Unity and Captivity

SONG OF SONGS: 14. The pots [of figs] have given forth [their] fragrance, and on our doorways are all manner of sweet fruits, both new and old, which I have hidden away for you, my beloved."


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 38 – Collective Oath


Week 38 in the Jewish calendar is the last week of Sivan. The verse of Shir HaShirim of this week extends the connection with Chag HaBikkurim, also describing fruit, “new and old,” specifically dudayim of figs. Rashi comments that before there were two types of fruits, good and bad. However, "[n]ow, both of them have given forth their fragrance. They all seek Your countenance." Sivan is the ultimate in both Jewish unity and the Divine revelation that follows.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the thirty-eighth mentioned is Ezbon. Ezbon appears related to the word Etzbah, meaning finger. The finger is not a truly independent entity - it is a part of the hand, and must be united with it. This week is also connected with Ashbel, son of Benjamin. Ashbel means "taken captive." Again, Benjamin gave such a names as a sign of unity with his brother, mourning that Joseph had been sold as a slave.

Daf Lamed Cheit (Folio 38) of Shvuot continues to discuss the oath of a “pikadon,” a gift or deposit. This daf also begins a new chapter on “Shevuas HaDayanim,” the “oath of judges,” regarding partial admission, and discusses how to administer an oath. Most of the daf discusses the concept of a collective oath. As mentioned above, this week, and this month, are very much connected to the idea of collectivity.

Chapter 38 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. As in the previous week, the king of Judah shows receptivity to hearing the words of Jeremiah. He also promises not to punish him for them. The chapter includes references to collective reward and/or collective punishment, including for the women and children:

14. And King Zedekiah sent and took Jeremiah the prophet to him, to the third entrance, that was in the house of the Lord, and the king said to Jeremiah, "I ask you a word; do not conceal a word from me." 

15. And Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, "If I tell you, will you not put me to death? And if I advise you, you will not listen to me." 

16. And King Zedekiah swore to Jeremiah secretly, saying, "As the Lord lives who made for us this soul, I will neither put you to death nor will I deliver you into the hand[s] of these men who seek your life."  

17. And Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, "So said the Lord God of Hosts, the God of Israel; If you go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, your soul shall live, and this city shall not be burnt with fire, and you and your household shall live. 

18. But if you do not go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city shall be delivered into the hand[s] of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand[s]."  

19. And King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, "I fear the Jews who have defected to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hands and mock me."

20. And Jeremiah said, "They shall not deliver [you]; hearken now to the voice of the Lord, that I speak to you, and it shall be good for you, and your soul shall live.

21. But if you refuse to go out, this is the thing that the Lord has shown me.

22. Behold, all the women who remained in the house of the king of Judah shall be taken out to the officers of the king of Babylon, and they shall say, 'Your cohorts have enticed you and prevailed over you. Your feet have sunk into the mire; they have turned back.' 

23. And all your wives and your sons shall be brought out to the Chaldeans, and you shall not escape from their hand[s], for you shall be seized by the hand of the king of Babylon, and this city you shall burn with fire."

The very last verse of the chapter states that Jerusalem was conquered:
28. And Jeremiah stayed in the prison yard until the day that Jerusalem was taken, and he was [there] when Jerusalem was taken.

Week 38 (Book 4a): Strength and Long Life

STORY OF CHANNAH: 10. Those who strive with the Lord will be broken; Upon him will He thunder in Heaven; The Lord will judge the ends of the earth. And He will grant strength to His King, And raise the horn of His anointed one.      

PIRKEI AVOT ON THE GREATNESS OF TORAH: And it says (3:16): "Long days in her right hand; in her left, wealth and honor."


TZADIKKIM: Rebbe Yisrael Dan of Modzitz (20th of Sivan), Rebbe Shlomo Shapira of Munkatch (21st of Sivan) and Rabbi Mordechai-Tzemach Eliyahu.  

Week 38 is the last week of Sivan. In the verse from the story of Channah, she sings of how those that strive with Hashem are broken to pieces. The verse speaks of judgement, but also of how Hashem exalts and gives strength to the king of Israel.

The quotation in Pirkei Avot regarding the greatness of the Torah for this week also speaks of how the Torah exalting those that are close to it. It gives long days, wealth and honor.

Chapter 7 of Ecclesiastes speaks of the exaltation and length of days brought by wisdom:

17. Be not overly wicked, and be not a fool; why should you die before your time?

18. It is good that you should take hold of this, and also from this you shall not withdraw your hand, for he who fears God will discharge himself of them all.

19. Wisdom affords strength to the wise more than ten rulers who were in the city.

This week includes the yahrzeits of Rebbe Yisrael Dan of Modzitz (20th of Sivan), Rebbe Shlomo Shapira of Munkatch (21st of Sivan) and Rabbi Mordechai-Tzemach Eliyahu (25th of  Sivan 2010).


Reb Israel Dan was born in the year 5688 (1928) in the city of Warsaw capital of Poland. In the year 5696 (1936) as a child of 7 Made Aliya to Eretz Yisrael with his parents. In 5710 he married Rachel, the daughter of HaRav Shmuel Aharon Shadrovitzki zt'l, from Byalistok a great talmud chacham and Yiras Shamaim who was among the heads of Agudas Yisrael in Poland as well as Sgan Yoshev Rosh of the Agudah in Eretz Yisroel.

He was chosen to replace Maran H'Imrei Aish zt'l upon his passing.

His deep knowledge of the Torah became evident by many when he became the Admor upon the death of his father. When at his Tishim they would hear many beautiful Divre Torah that were pleasant to the ear.

For a number of years he headed the Chasidim in the city of Tel-Aviv where his father had lived. On Lag Ba'omer 5755 (May 18, 1995) he moved to a new building that was built by the Chasidim, in Bnei Brak.

Like his fathers he also composes Nigunnim and many of them have are already sung regularly in the houses of Israel.

The Rebbe [was] very active in the public interest, and [was] a member of The Moetzet G'Dolei Hatorah where his opinions [were] looked up to and very well received.

Adapted from

Rabbi Shlomo Shapira, author of “Shem Shlomoh” was the first Rebbe of Chassidut Munkach. He was the son of Rabbi Elazar Shapira and the grandson of Rabbi Zvi Elimelech Shapira of Dynow, the “Bnei Yissachar.” He was also the rabbi of the town of Munkatch. His biography is written down in a work by David Kahane entitled “Beit Shlomoh.”


Rabbi Mordechai-Tzemach (ben Suliman) Eliyahu (1929-25 Sivan 2010), the former Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, was born in Iraq. A noted sage in all areas of Torah study, as well as a significant kabbalist, he was considered to be one of the leading authorities on Jewish law in Israel. His son, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, is currently the Chief Rabbi of Tsfat.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Words in the Desert: Human Calculations and the Torah Portion of Korach

This week's Torah portion depicts Korach's rebellion against Moshe and Aharon and the Divine retribution that followed. Rashi makes an extensive comment that explains the nature of the rebellion, quoted below in most relevant part:

1. Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi took [himself to one side] along with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, descendants of Reuben.

RASHI - Dathan and Abiram: ... [Korach said] Who is entitled to receive the second [position]? Is it not I, who am the son of Izhar, who is the second brother to Amram? And yet, he [Moses] appointed to the chieftainship the son of his youngest brother! I hereby oppose him and will invalidate his word ...  He dressed [250 men] with cloaks made entirely of blue wool. They came and stood before Moses and asked him, “Does a cloak made entirely of blue wool require fringes [’tzitzith’], or is it exempt?” He replied, “ It does require [fringes].” They began laughing at him [saying], "Is it possible that a cloak of another [colored] material, one string of blue wool exempts it [from the obligation of techeleth], and this one, which is made entirely of blue wool, should not exempt itself? 

Korach was very smart. His logic was flawless. There was only one slight problem: the G-d of Israel is not limited to human logic. The main issue with Korach's dispute is not that he was wrong; people make mistakes all the time. The problem was that by limiting the entire situation to logic, he was not only debasing Moshe, but also Israel, the Torah, and G-d Himself. After all, Moshe did not make any decisions on his own. G-d was the One that appointed Moshe and his brother! Moshe did not decide that a cloak of Techelet requires Tzit-Tzit any more than he decided his role as leader. Korach's challenges put him on par with Dathan and Abiram, who our sages teach us, time and again failed to see the G-d's hand in everything that took place since the first moments of redemption from Egypt. It is therefore not coincidental that Rashi's comments are placed next to both of their names.

We also must open our eyes and realize that the events of our lives are truly Divinely ordained, and not simply a product of human calculations.

Week 38 (Book 3): Preparing for the Summer Months

BESHALACH: 23. So he said to them, That is what the Lord spoke, Tomorrow is a rest day, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake whatever you wish to bake, and cook whatever you wish to cook, and all the rest leave over to keep until morning.   24. So they left it over until morning, as Moses had commanded, and it did not become putrid, and not a worm was in it.  

where he sank, there he fell down dead.
Through the window looked forth, the mother of Sisera [peered] through the window;

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 38 - The Blessing of the Kohanim


JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Oboth and camped at the ruins of Abarim, on the Moabite boundary       

Week 38 is the last week of Sivan. Beshalach’s section for this week describes again how the sixth day was special. It also describes the concept of preparing for the Sabbath - as explained in Book 1, there is an idea about preparing for the difficult summer months to come. That preparation must be made in Sivan.

The Haftorah verses continue speak of how Sissera sank and fell down dead, and how Sisera’s mother were peering through the window. Again, taken out of the context of Sisera’s death, the verse also seems connected to the Sinai experience. Also, the mother peering through the window brings to mind the verse of the Song of Songs which states that G-d peers through the window to see their suffering, and that He is ready to return his Shechinah to its rightful place. Again, an apparent reference to the coming months.

Daf Lamed Cheit (Folio 38) of Sotah is all about the blessing of the Kohanim, and how the blessings given outside the Temple differentiated from the ones given inside. The blessing of the Kohanim, which halachically must be given out of love (as the brachah the make before specifies) is the ultimate example of brotherly love and peace amongst the Jewish people. The above verse of Shir HaShirim is also related to Birkat Kohanim.

Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa, was also an extremely righteous king. His counterparts in Israel were Omri, Ahab, and Ahaziah (1 year). Jehoshaphat’s name means G-d is Judge. (In Book 2, the prophet for this week is Daniel, whose name also means God is (my) Judge). Jehoshaphat’s one mistake was becoming overly friendly and at times even sought alliances with the evil rulers of the northern kingdom of Israel. This is the corollary to this month’s theme of brotherly love.One must know when to keep one’s distance. Overall, Jehoshaphat was extremely righteous and led the Jewish people for 25 years of significant peace and prosperity.

Contrast Jehoshaphat’s name with Ahab’s name, which makes no reference to G-d, but instead even suggests possible incest. His name means “brother-father.” Ahab himself appears to correct this problem when giving the name of his own son, Ahaziah, meaning, “one that holds on to G-d, which includes Hashem’s name; Ahaziah is also the name of one of the kings of Judah. Unfortunately, Ahaziah followed in the evil ways of his father, was involved in idolatry, and died after only two years of reign.

In the thirty-eighth week, the Jews journey from Oboth and camp in the ruins of Abarim, on the Moabite boundary. Abarim comes from the word Aveirah. Because of our sins related to the summer months of Tammuz and Av, our Temple lay in ruins. Rashi himself makes a parallel to Jerusalem in his commentary to the verse that describes Abarim, one of the few comments he makes regarding the journeys:

the ruins of Abarim: Heb. הָעֲבָרִים עִיּי, an expression denoting waste and ruins, as“into a heap (לְעִי) in the field” (Micah 1:6);“they have turned Jerusalem into heaps (לְעִיִּים) ” (Ps. 79:1).

Moab was a nation known for its immorality. Like Ahab, Moab’s very name suggests incest, and actually was given for that reason. (It is worth noting that after Ahab’s death, it was Moab that revolted against Israel) Moab means “from the father,” because the nation came into existence when Lot had relations with his own daughter. It is our job to fight such immorality, thereby elevating the sparks hidden in the kelipah of this nation.

The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of staying connected to our roots and true to our mission, and now focus on repenting from and fighting against the sins that led to the destruction of the Temple.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Week 38 (Book 2): Daniel and Not Acting Arrogantly with One's Knowledge

HAAZINU: who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their libations? Let them arise and help you! Let them be your shelter! (Deuteronomy 32:38)
HAFTORAH: I have pursued my enemies and have destroyed them; Never turning back until they were consumed. (II Samuel 22:38)
QUALITY TO ACQUIRE THE TORAH: Does Not Act Arrogantly With His Knowledge (Studies)
PROPHET: Daniel (Shemaiah)

Week Thirty-Eight is the last week of Sivan, and Haazinu’s verse continues the questions from the previous week, where G-d asks the Jews where is the protection that they sought from other gods. Again, a positive reading of the verse would be a continuation of the questions asked to Israel’s enemies. The Haftorah’s verse appears to directly support this reading, since it speaks of how King David (the Jewish people) was able to pursue his enemies and destroy them completely, without their being able to find any refuge.

The quality for this week is “does not act arrogantly with his knowledge (studies).” As explained in the previous week, haughtiness is diametrically opposed to holiness and to the Torah. Therefore, to act arrogantly based on his knowledge would be the utmost example of inappropriate behavior. After all the knowledge does not belong to the individual but to G-d. Another way to read the verse is to read it to mean “does not act arrogantly with His (G-d’s) knowledge,” because the knowledge is ultimately all G-d’s. This is also an important message of the month of Sivan.

This week’s prophet is Daniel. It is worth noting that in Book 1, we explained how Week 38 is that of the lion. Daniel is known primarily for his being thrown in the den of hungry lions and miraculously being saved.

Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream shows how Daniel does not act arrogantly with his knowledge. Interpretation of the dreams comes from G-d. Everything comes from G-d:

And to these youths, the four of them, G-d gave knowledge and understanding in every script and wisdom, and Daniel understood all visions and dreams. And at the end of the days that the king ordered to bring them, the chief officer brought them before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and of all of them, no one was found to equal Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; and they stood before the king. And in every matter of the wisdom of understanding that the king requested of them, he found them ten times better than all the necromancers and astrologers in all his kingdom. (Chapter 1:17-20)

Then Daniel entered and requested of the king that time be given him, and the interpretation would be told to the king. Then Daniel went home and let his colleagues, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, know of the matter. And to pray and beg of the G-d of heaven about this secret, that Daniel and his colleagues should not perish with the remaining wise men of Babylon. Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in the vision of the night; then Daniel blessed the G-d of heaven.  

Daniel spoke up and said, "May the Name of G-d be blessed from everlasting even to everlasting, to Whom are wisdom and might. And He changes the times and the seasons, He removes kings and sets up kings; He grants wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who know understanding. He reveals the profound and secret things; He knows what is in the dark, and light dwells with Him. To You, O G-d of my forefathers, I give thanks and praise, for You have given me wisdom and might, and now You have let me know what I requested of You, for the matter of the king You have let me know." (…)

The king spoke up and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, "Do you have the ability to tell me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?"   Daniel answered the king and said, "The secret that the king asks, no wise men, astrologers, necromancers, or demonologists can tell the king. But there is a G-d in heaven Who reveals secrets, and He lets King Nebuchadnezzar know what will be at the end of days; that is your dream and the visions of your head on your bed.  

You, O king, your thoughts came while on your bed, what will be after this, and the Revealer of secrets lets you know what will be. And I-not with wisdom that I possess more than all living, did He reveal this secret to me, but in order that they should let the king know the interpretation, and you should know the thoughts of your heart. (Chapter 2:16-30)

Daniel’s actions are like those of his predecessor, Joseph, in his first interaction with Pharaoh:

And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter for it, but I have heard it said of you [that] you understand a dream, to interpret it." And Joseph replied to Pharaoh, saying, "Not I; G-d will give an answer [that will bring] peace to Pharaoh." (Genesis 41:15-16)

Rashi explains that there is a discussion among the sages on whether Daniel should be considered a prophet. Therefore, some substitute Shemaiah. The prophet Shemaiah, who prophesized in the times of Rehavam, the son of Solomon, would be significantly out of the chronological order presented here. There was another Shemaiah (a kohen), the father of Uriah, which would be somewhat closer chronologically, but still out of order. Perhaps, the name Shemaiah is instead another hint to the quality of this week, and of Daniel. The name Shemaiah comes from the word “Lishmoah,” to hear, and the name of Hashem, meaning “heard G-d,” or perhaps “G-d heard.” It hints to the humility and complete lack of arrogance necessary for a prophet; to remember that his function is simply to be a conduit, to hear the word of G-d, when G-d hears His people. These are the qualities associated with the month of Sivan as well.

The levitical city for this week is Nahalal, whose name includes the word “hallel” to praise. To praise G-d for all the kinds he’s done for us is the ultimate form of humility.

Video for Week 38 (Book 2): Daniel and Not Being Arrogant with One's Knowledge

The Lion - Rabbi Yonatan Connection

Notice the connection between the Lion and the saying of Rabbi Yonatan: those that connect to truth in "poverty" (spiritual , intellectual, or physical) will be connected to it in "wealth." While those that disconnect in wealth, become disconnected in poverty. The Lion brings its tail (the "poor") to its head ("wealth"), while the Fox brings its head down to its tail.

The message is the same. Let's take advantage of the wealth and power of Sivan, so that we can make the most of Tammuz and Av, which are around the corner.

Tiferet shebeYesod (Balance and Beauty within the context of Foundation)


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