Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Week 43 (Book 5): Reviewing the Week of Rosh Chodesh Av - Psalms 127-129; 105:30-32; 89:44

PSALMS (Introductions and Translations from

Chapter 127

King David instructs his generation, and especially his son Solomon, to be sure that all one's actions be for the sake of Heaven. He also criticizes those who toil day and night in pursuit of a livelihood.

1. A song of ascents for Solomon. If the Lord does not build a house, then its builders labor upon it in vain. If the Lord will not guard a city, the vigilance of its watchman is in vain. 2. It is in vain for you, you who rise early, who sit up late, and who eat the bread of tension, for in fact He gives His loved ones sleep. 3. Behold, the heritage of the Lord is children; the fruit of the womb is a reward. 4. As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are the children of youth. 5. Fortunate is the man who has his quiver full of them; they will not find themselves shamed when they speak with enemies in public places.

Chapter 128

This psalm extols one who enjoys the fruits of his own labor, avoiding theft and deception, even refusing gifts. It also describes behavior appropriate to the G-d-fearing.

1. A song of ascents. Fortunate is every man who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. 2. When you eat of the labor of your hands, you will be happy, and you will have goodness. 3. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine in the inner chambers of your house; your children will be like olive saplings around your table. 4. Behold, so will be blessed the man who fears the Lord. 5. May the Lord bless you out of Zion, and may you see the goodness of Jerusalem all the days of your life. 6. And may you see children [born] to your children; peace upon Israel.

Chapter 129

The psalmist laments the troubles of Israel.

1. A song of ascents. Much have they persecuted me from my youth on. Let Israel declare it now- 2. "Much have they persecuted me from my youth on, [but] they have not prevailed against me.” 3. The plowmen plowed upon my back; they wished to make their furrow long. 4. But the Lord is just; He cut the cords of the lawless. 5. They will be humiliated and will be turned back, all the haters of Zion. 6. They will be as grass upon the rooftops that withers before one plucks it, 7. wherewith the reaper has never filled his hand, nor the sheaf-binder his arm; 8. and of which the passers-by never have said: "The blessing of the Lord be upon you; we bless you in the name of the Lord."

Chapter 105

30. Their land swarmed with frogs in the rooms of their monarchs.
31. He commanded and a mixture of noxious beasts came, lice throughout all their boundary.
32. He made their rains into hail, flaming fire in their land.


44. You even turned back the sharp edge of his sword, and You did not raise him up in battle.  

Week 43 (Book 4b): Holding On Through the Birthpangs of Mashiach

SONG OF SONGS: 5. "Who is this coming up from the desert, embracing her beloved?" "Under the apple tree I aroused you; there your mother was in travail with you; there she that bore you was in travail."
TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 43 – Guardians Who Are Exempt from Payment and the Loss of a Security.

Week 43 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Av. This is a difficult period in the Jewish year, and also the week of the yahrzeit of Aharon. The verse of Shir HaShirim of this week speaks of the Jewish people holding on strongly to Hashem (under an apple tree) (This 22-day period is connected to the apple (Tapuach), and the Tapuach’s song is from Shir HaShirim, See Book 6). It also speaks of the travail of the Jewish people, its birthpangs. This week’s themes – the proximity to G-d symbolized by Aharon, but also the difficulty of these days, associated with the birthpangs of Mashiach.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the forty-third mentioned is Imnah. Imnah appears related to the word Yemin, right, or right hand. It is a reference to Hashem’s great might, with which He redeemed us at the time of the Exodus. Although, during these day throughout history, we have experienced Hashem’s might “against” us, in the future, it will be in Av that Mashiach will be born and we will experience an even greater redemption, and witness even greater might.
Imnah also appears to come from the word Limnot, “to count.” This week is also connected to Muppim, son of Benjamin, whose name is a reference to Joseph’s exceeding beauty. It was Aharon’s job to count the Jewish people with Moshe, focusing on their good points, their strength and their beauty.
Daf Mem Gimmel (Folio 43) of Shvuot discusses cases when a shomer (guardian) is exempt from paying, how claims must be quantified, and what happens when a security is lost. This seems relate to the above, related perhaps to Aharon as a guardian of the Jewish people, who “quantified” (counted) them in the desert. It also appears related to the loss of the “security” G-d entrusted to us, the Temple, which took place during this time of the year.
Chapter 43 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter speaks of gathering all the people that had remained in the land. It also speaks of the interaction between the people and their guardian at the time - the prophet Jeremiah. However, the people did not listen to Jeremiah. Instead, they chose to listen to Johanan the son of Kareah, who gathered them and took them to Egypt.

4. And Johanan the son of Kareah and all the officers of the armies and all the people did not hearken to the voice of the Lord to dwell in the land of Judah.  

5. And Johanan the son of Kareah and all the officers of the armies took all the remnant of Judah that had returned from all the nations where they had been driven, to sojourn in the land of Judah, 

6. the men and the women and the children and the king's daughters and all the people whom Nebuzaradan the chief executioner had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch the son of Neriah. 

7. And they came to the land of Egypt, for they did not hearken to the voice of the Lord, and they came to Tahpanhes.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Week 43 (Book 4a): Israel, an Acquisition of G-d

STORY OF CHANNAH: 15. Also, before they would make the fat smoke, and the servant of the priest would come, and would say to the man who slaughtered, 'Give meat to roast for the priest, and he will not take from you cooked meat, but raw.    
PIRKEI AVOT ON G-D’S ACQUISITIONS: and one acquisition is the people of Israel… Israel, as it is written (Exodus 15:16), "Till Your nation, O G-d, shall pass, till this nation You have acquired shall pass"; and it says (Psalms 16:3), "To the holy who are upon earth, the noble ones, in whom is all My delight."      


TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried (author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, 26th of Tammuz), Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (the Yismach Moshe, 28th of Tammuz),  and Rabbi Shlomo (ben Benzion) Halberstam of Bobov (Rosh Chodesh Av).  

Week 43 is the week of Rosh Chodesh Av, the second of the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. The verse from the story of Channah speaks of how the sons of Eli would take for themselves would use a servant of the priests to force the Jewish person to give a great portion of his sacrifice even before it was ready. Their behavior showed a great disdain for the Jewish person bringing the sacrifice, as well as for those that served the priests in the Tabernacle.

The quotation from Pirkei Avot is about how the people of Israel is one of G-d’s acquisitions. The verses cited in support for this concept speak of how the Jews were acquired to be G-d’s servants after being freed from Egyptian servitude. They also speak of the Jewish people’s holy and noble character.  The sons of Eli denigrate both aspects above: they use the priests’ servants in the Tabernacle for their own selfish motives, and belittle the holiness and importance of the sacrifices brought by the people.

Chapter 12 is the last chapter of Ecclesiastes. The book ends with the well known words that encapsule the above relationship that the Jewish people have with G-d:

13. The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man.

14. For every deed God will bring to judgment-for every hidden thing, whether good or bad.
These words make clear our role as G-d’s servants, followers of His commandments.  They also point to just how noble and holy is this task – “for this is the entire man.”
Rashi’s comments also reflect this:

The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear God: What you can, do, and let your heart be to Heaven.

and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man: Because, for this matter, the entire man was created.

This week contains the yahrzeits of two prominent figures in Hungarian Jewry Chassidic Rebbes: Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried (author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, 26th of Tammuz) and Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (the Yismach Moshe, 28th of Tammuz).  Also this week is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shlomo (ben Benzion) Halberstam of Bobov (Rosh Chodesh Av).

From Ascent:

Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum [1759-28 Tammuz 1841], known as the Yismach Moshe after the title of his book of Torah commentary, was famed both as a scholar and wonderworker. A disciple of the Seer of Lublin, he was instrumental in the spread of Chasidut in Hungary. His descendants founded the dynasties of Satmar and Sighet.

From Chevrat Pinto:

Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried was born in Ungvar, Hungary in 1804 (5564). His father, Rabbi Yossef Ganzfried, died during his childhood, and this orphan was brought up by one of the great of his generation, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Heller, better known as Rabbi Hirsch Charif, the Rav of Ungvar. He saw in the boy the potential of becoming one of the great authorities of Israel. During all the years of learning next to his teacher, his soul thirsted to penetrate the depths of Halachah until a clear answer was achieved. It was this objective that was the driving force of his various Halachic books, and which pushed him to give us – us and future generations – books destined for the instruction of practical Halachah. All those that devoted themselves to the Torah and all Talmidei Chachamim received everything that he wrote in the field of Halachah with favor and love. Yet more than with any other book, each of which in itself represented a special blessing, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried acquired great merit for himself with his Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, a work that greatly benefited the general public. Beginning from 1864 (5624), when it was printed for the first time in Ungvar, this book has for more than a century been reprinted dozens of times in hundreds of thousands of copies. This has never been the case with any other author or book of its kind, so much so that Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried’s Kitzur Shulchan Aruch has become one of the most popular works of all time, destined for and worthy of every Jew. It is in complete harmony with Rabbi Yossef Caro’s hope that “young students consult it [the Shulchan Aruch] constantly, studying it by heart and having this study of youth well in their mouths in order to know the Halachah in each specific case, and also so as not to distance themselves from it in their old age.” Kitzur Shulchan Aruch study groups have been formed in hundreds of cities and towns, with the goal of learning and disseminating its teachings to the public at large in synagogues and houses of study.

“Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried was a man aided by Providence,” of the great masters of Lithuanian Jewry once said concerning him. In fact, none of the great men of Israel have ever seen in their lifetime, as did he, their works crowned by Halachic commentaries and new Dinim of other Rabbis. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch was printed 14 times during the lifetime of the author, and at each reprint he himself added numerous new Dinim. During his lifetime, Rav Ishaya Hacohen came and “encircled” his work with a commentary entitled Misgeret HaShulchan (lit. “The Border of the Table”), which was printed, with permission from Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried, together with the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. This resulted in a book that was important both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Despite the fact that Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried’s Shulchan was already vast in scope and had all sorts of sub-divisions, he decided to stay with the title Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (“Abridged Shulchan Aruch”). When a close friend asked why he incessantly clung to the name Kitzur, he responded with a smile: “In the book of Psalms, it is written, ‘You prepare [ta’aroch] a table [shulchan] before me’ [Psalms 23:5]. It not written, “You will lengthen [ta’arich] a table [shulchan] before me.’ ” May his merit protect us all. Amen.

Rabbi Shlomo (ben Benzion) Halberstam of Bobov, [1907 - 1 Av 2000], survived the Holocaust along with only 300 chasidim, succeeding his father who was among those martyred. Settling in Manhattan and then different locations in Brooklyn, he served as the third rebbe in the Bobover dynasty for over 50 years, rebuilding Bobov to an even more thousands than his father had before the war. In addition to being wise and pious, he was noted for his steadfastness in not taking sides in disputes. Interestingly, he passed away on the same Hebrew date as Aharon the High Priest, who was the first Jew to be known for "loving peace and pursuing peace" (Avot 1:12).

From Ascent:

Rabbi Shlomo (ben Benzion) Halberstam of Bobov, [1907 - 1 Av 2000], survived the Holocaust along with only 300 chasidim, succeeding his father who was among those martyred. Settling in Manhattan and then different locations in Brooklyn, he served as the third rebbe in the Bobover dynasty for over 50 years, rebuilding Bobov to an even more thousands than his father had before the war. In addition to being wise and pious, he was noted for his steadfastness in not taking sides in disputes. Interestingly, he passed away on the same Hebrew date as Aharon the High Priest, who was the first Jew to be known for "loving peace and pursuing peace" (Avot 1:12).

Friday, July 25, 2014

Words in the Desert: The Journey as the Cure and the Torah Portion of Ma'asei

This week's Torah portion speaks of the 42 journeys of the Jewish people in the desert. The second Rashi's opening comments make a parallel between Hashem and the Jewish people and a king that is taking his son back from a journey to find a cure for him:

1. These are the journeys of the children of Israel who left the land of Egypt in their legions, under the charge of Moses and Aaron.

RASHI: ... It is analogous to a king whose son became sick, so he took him to a far away place to have him healed. On the way back, the father began citing all the stages of their journey, saying to him, “This is where we sat, here we were cold, here you had a headache etc.” - [Mid. Tanchuma Massei 3, Num. Rabbah 23:3]

What is the cure and what is the illness? The Jewish people had not entered the Land yet. They were now at its border, ready to enter. Wouldn't it be more appropriate for Rashi to speak about an upcoming cure? And why are they on their way back?

The answer is that coming to Israel is the way back. The cure was the exile itself. Rebbe Nosson of Breslov speaks of how the exile took place because of a lack of faith. The exile and the wondering in the desert made it possible for that faith to be restored.

Similarly, the Counting of the Omer represents a period in which we cure ourselves. The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that 49 is the gematria of Choleh, sick. Only after we are cured can we receive the Torah.
49 also equals the number of journeys (42) plus the number of Cana'anite nations to be conquered (7). The first 42 days of the omer, as well as the 42 journeys, are about internal rectification, the sefirot of Chesed through Yesod. From 43 to 49, we tackle our outwardly behavior, in dealing with the reality of the world around. That reality must be conquered, and that requires "curing" the Sefirah of Malchut, kingship. Don't be afraid to show the world who's Boss.

Observation: It is well known that G-d's seal is truth, Emet, in Hebrew. There is also a well known explanation that the word Emet itself represents truth because its gematria is 441, and 4+4+1 = 9. 9 is a number very much connected to truth because any multiple of 9, if you sum up their digits, is a multiple of 9. For example, 18 is 1+8=9, 27 is 2+7=9, 36, 45, and so on.

In addition to the above well known concept, there also appears to be a another reason 441 is chosen. 441, for the reasons explained above, is also a multiple of the number 9. But not just any multiple: 441 is 49 x 9. 

Week 43 (Book 3): Facing Esau (Edom)

BESHALACH: 33. And Moses said to Aaron, Take one jug and put there an omerful of manna, and deposit it before the Lord to be preserved for your generations. 34. As the Lord had commanded Moses, Aaron deposited it before the testimony to be preserved. 

HAFTORAH: dyed garments of embroidery for the neck of the spoiler.' So may perish all Your enemies, O Lord; but they that love Him (should be) as the sun when he goes forth in his might."

TALMUD SOTAH: DAF 43 – Pinchas, Mashuach Milchamah


SEVEN CANA’ANITE NATIONS: Chittites         

Week 43 is the week of Rosh Chodesh Av, and begins the more intense part of the Three Weeks. Rosh Chodesh Av is the yahrzeit of Aharon, one of the few yahrzeit dates specifically mentioned in the Torah. The Torah section for this week is the first one to mention Aharon since the week of the yahrzeit Moshe, in Adar. Here again the focus is on the preservation of the omer, which, as previously explained, is connected to the times of Jeremiah and the destruction of the Temple.

The Haftorah verses once again speak of the enemy dividing spoils. Devorah then switches directions, praying that this shall be the fate of G-d’s enemies. This is similar to Av, which is to be transformed from being a month connected to Jewish suffering, to be one of Jewish triumph. Devorah sings that those that love Him should be as the sun when it goes forth in its might – Av is the hottest summer month – and the sun is usually associated with the gentile nations, not the Jewish people, who are associated with the moon. Devorah is hinting at the transformation of Jacob into Israel, who also represents the sun. (See Likutei Moharan)

Daf Mem Gimmel (Folio 43) of Sotah speaks of Pinchas as the Mashuach Milchamah in the war against Midian. The daf also discusses the cases of those people that are exempt from fighting a milchemet reshut, an non-mandatory war, and is devoted primarily to the case of a man that planted a vineyard and had not redeemed its fruit. The discussion of Pinchas could not be more appropriate for this week, since he is a Kohen (grandson of Aharon), and is connected to Mashiach (born on Tisha B’Av) both by being a Mashuach Milchamah in the last battle described in the Torah as well as being the same person as Eliyahu HaNavi (who will accompany Mashiach). Furthermore, the daf discusses how he is a descendant of Joseph. The Torah makes clear that it is the strength of Joseph that is able to defeat Esau. Pinchas appears to be the ultimate archetype of Mashiach ben Yosef. 

Amaziah the son of Yehoash began his kingship being very righteous, and his righteousness earned him a tremendous victory again none other than Edom (Esau). (See Book 1, Week 43, about how this week is related to Edom) His treatment of the Edomites is particularly severe. Amaziah’s counterparts in Israel were Jehoahaz (3 years), Jehoash (16 years), Jeroboam ben Jehoash (10 years). Amaziah’s victory against Edom led to haughtiness as well as idolatry, and he ends up being castigated by his own brother Amoz, the father of the prophet Isaiah. Amaziah’s haughtiness leads to a disastrous war against the King of Israel, Jehoash. Because of this loss, Jerusalem itself is looted, and even Amaziah himself is taken captive. Again, the destruction of Jerusalem is the main theme of this week. Another theme is sinat chinam (baseless hatred).

The forty-third week is connected to conquering the Chittites. The word “Chittites” comes from the word Chet, which means sin. The Chittites are connected to the negative side of Chesed, which expresses itself primarily in improper sexual relations. An example of such behavior is the story of David and Batsheva, who was married to Uriah HaChiti, Uriah the Chittite. Esau himself married two different Chittites (“Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite”) and made life bitter for Isaac and Rebeccah. (Genesis 26:34-35)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Week 43 (Book 2): Destruction that Leads to Peace

HAAZINU: Sing out praise, O you nations, for His people! For He will avenge the blood of His servants, inflict revenge upon His adversaries, and appease His land [and] His people. (Deuteronomy 32:43)

HAFTORAH: Then I ground them as the dust of the earth, as the mud of the streets I did tread upon them, I did stamp them down. (II Samuel 22:43)

PIRKEI AVOT QUALITY: Places Him [in The Path of] Peace (Ma’amidoh Al Hashalom)



The forty-third week of the year is that of Rosh Chodesh Av. Av is connected to the Tribe of Shimon, while  Rosh Chodesh  itself is the yahrzeit of Aharon the Kohen. It is the month of Tisha B’Av, which marks the destruction of the First and Second Temples, and also the day in which the Messiah is born.

In the verse of Haazinu, the theme of Divine retribution continues, although there is now a greater emphasis on praising the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. The Haftorah’s verse also continues the same theme, although here too there is a focus on the physical Land, and the mud of its streets.

The quality of this week is “places him [in the path of] peace” (ma’amidoh al hashalom). Aharon is very much associated with peace. Hillel states that we should all be students of Aharon, who “loves peace and pursue peace…” As explained in the previous week, the verb “ma’amidoh” is connected to raising students. This is hinted to in the lighting of the menorah, in the beginning of the Torah portion of Beha’alotchah, in which Aharon it told to “raise” the lights of the Menorah until they could stand on their own.

This week’s prophet is Haggai. His prophecy is very much connected to the theme of the destruction of the Temple, as well as its rebuilding. His words are also connected to peace:

1. In the seventh [month], on the twenty-first of the month, the word of the Lord came through Haggai the prophet, saying:

2. Say now to Zerubbabel the son of Shaltiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak the High Priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying:          

3. Who among you is left, who saw this house in its former glory? And as you see it now, is it not as nothing in your eyes? 

4. And now, be strong, Zerubbabel, says the Lord; and be strong, Joshua the son of Jehozadak the High Priest; and be strong, all the people of the land, says the Lord. And (for I am with you, says the Lord of Hosts) do      

5. the thing that I set up with you when you left Egypt. And My spirit stands in your midst; fear not.           

6. For so said the Lord of Hosts: [There will rise] another one, and I will shake up the heaven and the earth and the sea and the dry land [for] a little while.           

7. And I will shake up all the nations, and they shall come [with] the precious things of all the nations. And I will fill this House with glory, said the Lord of Hosts.         

8. The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, says the Lord of Hosts.

9. The glory of this last House shall be greater than the first one, said the Lord of Hosts. And in this place I will grant peace, says the Lord of Hosts.

(Chapter 2:1-9)(emphasis added)      

The levitical city for this week is Jatir. Jatir, comes from the word Yeter, which means the remains, what is left over after destruction. The name is very appropriate for the month of Av. Yeter can also mean “an addition,” which is related to the word Yoter, which means “more.” In the future with the coming of the Mashiach, Av will be a month of added importance and celebration.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Words in the Desert: Verbal Agreements and the Torah Portion of Matot

This week's Torah portion contains a striking parallel between how it begins and how it ends. The portion begins as follows:

2. Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel, saying: This is the thing the Lord has commanded. 3. If a man makes a vow to the Lord or makes an oath to prohibit himself, he shall not violate his word; according to whatever proceeded from his mouth, he shall do.
ב. וַיְדַבֵּר משֶׁה אֶל רָאשֵׁי הַמַּטּוֹת לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר זֶה הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהֹוָה

ג. אִישׁ כִּי יִדֹּר נֶדֶר לַיהֹוָה אוֹ הִשָּׁבַע שְׁבֻעָה לֶאְסֹר אִסָּר עַל נַפְשׁוֹ לֹא יַחֵל דְּבָרוֹ כְּכָל הַיֹּצֵא מִפִּיו יַעֲשֶׂה:
Towards the end of the Torah portion, the tribes of Gad, Reuven, and half of Menashe ask Moshe to dwell on the other side of the Jordan, not in the Land of Israel proper. They promise to join the rest of the people in conquering the land, and "build sheepfolds for our livestock here and cities for our children." Moshe responds:
24. So build yourselves cities for your children and enclosures for your sheep, and what has proceeded from your mouth you shall do."

כד. בְּנוּ לָכֶם עָרִים לְטַפְּכֶם וּגְדֵרֹת לְצֹנַאֲכֶם וְהַיֹּצֵא מִפִּיכֶם תַּעֲשׂוּ:
Rashi famously comments on how Moshe changes the order of the Tribes' promise. He states as follows:
We shall build sheepfolds for our livestock here: They were more concerned about their possessions than about their sons and daughters, since they mentioned their livestock before [mentioning] their children. Moses said to them, “Not so! Treat the fundamental as a fundamental, and the matter of secondary importance as a matter of secondary importance. First ‘build cities for your children,’ and afterwards 'enclosures for your sheep’” (verse 24) - [Mid. Tanchuma Mattoth 7]
Another comment made by Rashi, perhaps not as famous, is on the phrase that links the beginning of the Parasha to its end:
and what has proceeded from your mouth you shall do: for the sake of the Most High [God], for you have undertaken to cross over for battle until [the completion of] conquest and the apportionment [of the Land]. Moses had asked of them only “and… will be conquered before the Lord, afterwards you may return,” (verse 22), but they undertook,“until… has taken possession” (verse 18). Thus, they added that they would remain seven years while it was divided, and indeed they did so (see Josh. 22).

Moshe is holding the Tribes accountable for an additional condition, which Moshe himself had not asked of them. Moshe asked that they stay until the Land be conquered, but they vowed to stay until the Land had been properly apportioned, which required that they stay an additional seven years. 

The question is: how could Moshe hold them to this requirement if in fact they did not pledge to this in the form of a vow. All they said was, "We shall not return to our homes until each of the children of Israel has taken possession of his inheritance." One could even argue that they were still "negotiating" with Moshe.

From here we learn again, what is the main theme of the Book of Bamidbar: the tremendous power of words. (Midbar means desert, but has at its root Davar, word). One has to be so very careful about what one says, certainly involving the bad, but regarding the good as well. In Jewish law, any expression of willingness to perform a mitzvah or good deed brings upon an obligation.

Moshe is therefore able to take something that seemed abstract and perhaps even out-of-place in the outset of the parashah, and drive it home in the most practical of ways: a few added words led to a commitment to stay seven more years away from their families and livestock, and as Rashi concludes, "indeed they did so."

Week 42 (Book 5): Reviewing the Last Week of Tammuz - Psalms 124-126; 105:27-29; 89:43

PSALMS (Introductions and Translations from

Chapter 124

1. A song of ascents by David. Were it not for the Lord Who was with us-let Israel declare- 2. were it not for the Lord Who was with us when men rose up against us, 3. then they would have swallowed us alive in their burning rage against us. 4. Then the waters would have inundated us, the torrent would have swept over our soul; 5. then the raging waters would have surged over our soul. 6. Blessed is the Lord, Who did not permit us to be prey for their teeth. 7. Our soul is like a bird which has escaped from the fowler's snare; the snare broke and we escaped. 8. Our help is in the Name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Chapter 125

1. A song of ascents. Those who trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion which never falters, but abides forever. 2. Mountains surround Jerusalem, and the Lord surrounds His people from this time and forever. 3. For the rod of wickedness will never come to rest upon the lot of the righteous; therefore the righteous need not stretch their hand to iniquity. 4. Be beneficent, O Lord, to the good and to those who are upright in their hearts. 5. But as for those that turn to their perverseness, may the Lord lead them with the workers of iniquity. Peace be upon Israel.

Chapter 126

The psalmist speaks of the future, comparing our Divine service in exile to one who sows arid land, then cries and begs G-d to send rain upon it so that the seed not be wasted. When he merits to reap the crop, he offers thanks to G-d.

1. A song of ascents. When the Lord will return the exiles of Zion, we will have been like dreamers. 2. Then our mouth will be filled with laughter, and our tongue with songs of joy; then will they say among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for these.” 3. The Lord has done great things for us; we were joyful. 4. Lord, return our exiles as streams to arid soil. 5. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. 6. He goes along weeping, carrying the bag of seed; he will surely return with songs of joy, carrying his sheaves.


Chapter 105

27. They placed upon them the words of His signs and His miracles in the land of Ham.
28. He sent darkness and it darkened, and they did not disobey His word.
29. He turned their water into blood, and it killed their fish.


43. You raised the right hand of his adversaries; You caused all his enemies to rejoice.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Week 42 (Book 4b): Faithfulness in Exile


SONG OF SONGS: 4. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem; why should you awaken, and why should you arouse the love until it is desirous?"




TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 42 – Paying Back Loans


 Week 42 in the Jewish calendar is the last week of Tammuz, and the first of the three weeks of mourning over the destruction of the Temple. In the verse of Shir HaShirim of this week, the Jewish people call out to the other nations, adjuring them not to interfere in its relationship with G-d. It brings to mind the song of the Hound in Book 1, and how the Jewish people maintain their loyalty to G-d despite the difficulties of exile, and how G-d maintains his faithfulness to us. This is also captured in Rashi’s comment on the above verse: “Now the congregation of Israel addresses the nations, “Even though I complain and lament, my Beloved holds on to my hand, and He is my support in my exile; therefore, I adjure you.”

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the forty-second mentioned is Asher. Asher means “happy.” This week is also connected to Rosh, son of Benjamin, whose name means “head,” a reference to how Joseph was Benjamin’s superior. When Mashiach comes and the Temple is rebuilt, this week will be one of happiness, one in which we will feel like a “head” and not a “tail.” Both Asher and Rosh contain the same letters, Reish and Shin, just in reverse. With the slightest of variations, these letters spell Rash, poor. These weeks tend to be difficult times as well.

Daf Mem Beit (Folio 42) of Shevuoth continues to discuss the repayment of loans. It discusses the case of someone who is established as a liar, as well as questionable documents, and other cases of breaches of trust. Again, this is related to the 17th of Tammuz, in which payment is exacted for our spiritual “debts.”
Chapter 42 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter mentions faithfulness and G-d’s help during exile.

5. And they said to Jeremiah, "May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not do according to the entire matter that the Lord your God shall send you to us. 
6. Whether good or bad, we will hearken to the voice of the Lord our God, to Whom we are sending you, in order that it be good for us, for we will hearken to the voice of the Lord our God.

10. If you dwell in this land, I will build you up and I will not pluck you up, for I have repented of the evil that I have done to you. 

11. Fear not the king of Babylon whom you fear; fear it not, says the Lord, for I am with you to redeem you and to save you from his hand.

Week 42 (Book 4a): The Importance of Giving (not Taking By Force)

STORY OF CHANNAH: 14. And he would thrust into the fire-pot, or into the pot, or into the cauldron, or into the pan, everything which the fork would pick up, the priest would take therewith; so would they do to all Israel who came there in Shiloh.

PIRKEI AVOT ON G-D’S ACQUISITIONS: one acquisition is Abraham... Abraham, as it is written (Genesis 14:19), "And he blessed him, and said: Blessed be Abram to G-d Most High, acquirer of heavens and earth."


TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Avraham Mattisyahu Fridman of Shtefanesht (21st of Tammuz), Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin (22nd of Tammuz), and Rabbi Moshe Kordevero (23rd of Tammuz).  

Week 42 is the last week of Tammuz, part of the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. The verse from the story of Channah speaks of how the sons of Eli would take for themselves a disproportionate part of the sacrifice of each Jewish person. This behavior is antithetical to the Torah, which is primarily about love and about giving. The main reason the Second Temple was destroyed was because of Sinat Chinam, gratuitous hatred, caused by acts like these.

The quotation from Pirkei Avot is about how Abraham is one of G-d’s acquisitions. Abraham’s entire essence was about giving and love. The quotation that accompanies the above statement in Pirkei Avot comes immediately before Abraham gives ten percent of all he has to Malchitzedek, a priest (lit. Kohen). Abraham gave to the priest out of his own will, in contrast to the the sons of Eli, who forcefully took for themselves even more than what they were entitled.

Chapter 11 of Ecclesiastes begins with the same concept: the importance of giviing:

1. Send forth your bread upon the surface of the water, for after many days you will find it.

2. Give a portion to seven and even to eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the earth.

Rashi comments:

Send forth your bread upon the surface of the water: Do goodness and kindness to a person about whom your heart tells you that you will never see him again, like a person who casts his food upon the surface of the water.

for after many days you will find it: Days will yet come, and you will receive your recompense. Note what is said about Jethro (Exod. 2:20): “Call him that he should eat bread,” and he thought that he (Moses) was an Egyptian and that he would never see him again. What was his end? He became his son- in-law and reigned over Israel and brought him under the wings of the Shechinah, and his sons and grandsons merited to sit in the Chamber of Hewn Stone.

Give a portion to seven and even to eight: If you have shared your food and your drink with seven who need kindness, share further with eight who come after them, and do not say, “Enough.”

for you do not know what evil will be: Perhaps days will yet come and you will need them all. Then you will be saved from the evil by this charity, and if not now, when?

This week contains the yahrzeits of three important figures in Chassidism and Kabbalah: Rabbi Avraham Mattisyahu Fridman of Shtefanesht (21st of Tammuz), Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin (22nd of Tammuz), and Rabbi Moshe Kordevero (23rd  of Tammuz).

From Ascent:

Rabbi Avraham Mattisyahu Fridman of Shtefanesht [1848 - 21 Tamuz 1933], in Romania, was the grandson of the holy Rabbi Yisroel of Rhzhin. He succeeded his father, Rabbi Menachem Nochum, to be the second Rebbe in the dynasty, in 1869. While famed for his miraculous powers and having thousands of followers and admirers, he was also considered one of the true hidden tzadikim of his generation. In 1969 his remains -- which witnesses alive today testify were still as whole and fresh as the day he died! -- were exhumed and transferred from Romania to Nachlas Yitzchok in Tel Aviv, where his grave is still a holy site of prayer for thousands of Jews.

R. Shlomo of Karlin [1738-22 Tammuz 1792], was also a student of the Maggid, as well as of Reb Aharon the Great of Karlin, whom he succeeded in 1772. Most of the Chassidic leaders of the next generation in the Lithuanian region were his disciples. He died Kiddush HaShem, stabbed by a Cossack while in the midst of theAmida prayer.
Rabbi Moshe Kordevero (1522-23 Tammuz 1570), known by the anacronym of his name: Ramak, was considered the head of the Tsfat Kabbalists until his death shortly after the arrival of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria. Author of many major works of Kabbalah, including Pardes Rimonim ("Orchard of Pomegranates"), in which he systematized all kabbalistic knowledge that had been revealed until then.

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