Sunday, August 31, 2014

Week 48 (Book 4b): Heber and To Be Connected

SONG OF SONGS: 10. I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers, then I was in his eyes as one who finds peace.
TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 48 – New Moon

Week 48 in the Jewish calendar is the second week of Elul. The zodiac sign for this month is virgo. The verse of Shir HaShirim for this week continues to speak of the Jewish people as a young virgin/bride. She promises to stand strong against any who try to seduce her, and because of this she finds peace with her Husband.
Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the forty-eighth mentioned is Heber. Heber means friend, connection – perhaps a reference to the strong bond we have with G-d during this month, which stands for “Ani LeDodi veDodi Li,” “I am for my Beloved and my Beloved is for me.” Heber is also the name of the husband of another incredibly important Biblical female figure: Yael.
This week is also connected with Naftali. Of all the children of Jacob, it is only Naftali that is associated with a female animal because the prophetess Deborah comes from this tribe (Rashi). Naftali is described by Jacob as an Ayalah Shluchah (a swift gazelle, similar to the name Yael, which means “mountain goat”). Naftali also comes from the word for “sweetness,” also associated with the Divine closeness we experience during this month.
Daf Mem Cheit (Folio 48) of Shvuot discusses contradicting testimonies about the new moon and about whether money was given. It also discusses swearing of orphans, comparing it to that of a woman that swears in order to receive the rest of her ketubah that was already partially paid. Finally, the daf discusses overturning a final ruling and swearing about uncertain claims. Again, the theme Teshuvah and renewal (“New Moon,” overturning final rulings) is quite prevalent, as well as the female theme connected to Elul.
Chapter 48 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter speaks of the downfall of Moab. As mentioned last week, each gentile nation is associated with a specific impurity. (Likutei Moharan Torah Kuf Alef, Lesson 101)


The Desert in Words: Justice as a Communal Obligation and the Torah Portion of Shoftim

The Torah portion of Shoftim begins with a discussion of the appointment of judges. Below are a few of Rashi's comments on this subject:

18. You shall set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your cities that the Lord, your God, is giving you, for your tribes, and they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment. 

Judges and law-enforcement officials: Heb. שֹׁפְטִים וְשֹׁטְרִים. שֹׁפְטִים are judges who decide the verdict, and שֹׁטְרִים are those who chastise the people in compliance with their order, (who strike and bind [not found in early editions]) with rods and straps, until he [the guilty party] accepts the judge’s verdict.

and they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment: Appoint judges who are expert and righteous so that they will judge justly. — [from Sifrei]
19. You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show favoritism, and you shall not take a bribe, for bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts just words. 
You shall not pervert justice: [This is to be understood] according to its apparent meaning.  

you shall not show favoritism: Even during the statement of pleas [by the litigants]. This is an admonition addressed to the judge, that he should not be lenient with one litigant and harsh with the other, [e.g., ordering] one to stand [while allowing] the other to sit, because as soon as one notices that the judge is showing more respect toward his opponent, he cannot plead his case any longer [because he thinks that it will be of no use].

20. Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may live and possess the land the Lord, your God, is giving you. 

Justice, justice shall you pursue: Seek out a good court. (Sifrei; San. 32b) 

that you may live, and you possess [the land]: The appointment of fitting judges is sufficient merit to keep Israel alive and settled in their land. — [from Sifrei]

 It's very interesting to note that Rashi establishes obligations not only on those in the government in charge of appointing judges, not only on the judges themselves, but also on the law-enforcement officers as well as on the guilty parties. Last but not least, is the obligation of every litigant in seeking out a good court.

The pursuit of justice is truly a communal mitzvah, applicable to every single person and to the nation as a whole. It therefore comes as no surprise that the reward for appointing fitting judges is also a national one: "sufficient merit to keep Israel alive and settled in their land."

Friday, August 29, 2014

Week 48 (Book 4a): To Honor the Righteous

STORY OF CHANNAH: 20. And Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and he would say, "May the Lord grant you seed from this woman," because of the request which he had requested of the Lord, and they would go to his place.           
SONG OF SONGS: Chapter 4
TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Abraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook (first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, 3rd of Elul) and Rabbi David Zvi Shlomo Biederman (4th Lelover Rebbe, leader of Chassidic community in Jerusalem, 5th of Elul)

Week 48 is the second week of Elul. The verse from the story of Channah speaks of how Eli would bless Elkanah and Chanah with more children. The end of the verse states that “they (Elkanah and Chanah) would go to his (Eli’s) place.” This addition at first appears somewhat unnecessary. Yet, it serves to emphasize the extent to which Elkanah and Chanah would go in order to honor Eli, the Kohen Gadol and judge of the generation. Perhaps it was particular because of the honor shown to Eli that he was able to grant such a powerful blessing. Rashi comments that the inverse order found in Eli’s verses is also in order to emphasize Chanah’s righteousness:
because of the request which he had requested: for himself a son. And Eli would say to him, “May the Lord grant seed, etc.” May it be the Divine Will that all the children which you will have, will be from this righteous woman. This is (therefore) an inverted sentence.
This week’s Pirkei Avot quality that is “becoming to the righteous and becoming to the world” is honor. As noted above, honoring the righteous can serve as a direct link to G-d’s blessings. To honor the righteous is ultimately to honor G-d Himself.
Chapter 4 of the Song of Songs is completely about Hashem honoring the Jewish people. Every verse is one of praise for their attributes, their righteousness: “7. You are all fair, my beloved, and there is no blemish in you.”
This week contains the yahrzeits of two very prominent Jewish leaders in modern day Israel: Rabbi Abraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook (first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, 3rd of Elul) and Rabbi David Zvi Shlomo Biederman (4th Lelover Rebbe, leader of Chassidic community in Jerusalem, 5th of Elul)
From Orot:
Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook (5625/1865-5695/1935), served as the first Ashkenazic chief rabbi of Erets Israel. He was born in Grieva, a suburb of Dvinsk, Latvia, to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Hakohen Kook and Perel Zlata Felman. The elder Kook’s intellectual roots were in the famed Volozhin Yeshiva, founded by the eminent disciple of the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin. Abraham Isaac’s maternal grandfather Raphael, on the other hand, was a hasid of Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneersohn of Lubavitch, author of Responsa Tsemah Tsedek. At an early age, Abraham Isaac imbibed both of these influences, which would later germinate in his thought, producing a unique fusion of the mitnagdic and hasidic traditions. Abraham Isaac studied in his youth with the rabbi of neighboring Dvinsk, Rabbi Reuven Halevi, author of Responsa Degel haRe’uveni. Later, he studied in Lutchin and Smorgon. The young genius was engaged to the daughter of one of the great rabbis of the generation, Rabbi Elijah David Rabinowitz-Te’omim of Ponevezh.
During the year preceding his marriage, Abraham Isaac studied in Volozhin, where he developed an intimate relationship with the rosh yeshivah or dean, Rabbi Naphtali Zevi Judah Berlin.
After serving as rabbi in the small town of Zoimel and later in the city of Boisk (Bauska), Latvia, in 1904 Rabbi Kook accepted the invitation of the port city of Jaffa, Erets Israel, to serve as its rabbi. In Erets Israel, Rabbi Kook, who was himself an interesting mixture of the old and the new, exerted a profound influence on both the Old and New Yishuv, as they were referred to in those days. His brilliance in all aspects of Torah attracted the finest minds among Jerusalem’s young pietists: Zevi Pesah Frank, Jacob Moses Harlap, Israel Porath, and others, who would become the leaders of the next generation. By the same token, Rav Kook had a unique gift for reaching out to the modern elements in Erets-Israeli society who were alienated from Jewish tradition. Thus, Rav Kook cemented relations with the halutsim, the pioneers in the outlying settlements. Especially in the new settlement of Rehovot was Rav Kook able to count many friends. His deep philosophical thoughts, as well as the poetic expression he gave to them, could not fail to impress the avant-garde writers of the day. Samuel Joseph Agnon, Joseph Brenner, et al supped at Rav Kook’s shalosh se’udot (third meal of the Sabbath). Rav Kook served as rabbi of Jaffa for a decade.
In 1914 Rav Kook traveled to Europe to attend the conference of Agudat Israel, a newly formed Orthodox movement, in order to impress upon the delegates the importance of Orthodox participation in the settlement of Erets Israel. Due to the outbreak of World War One the conference was cancelled, and Rav Kook found himself stranded on the European continent, unable to sail home. He spent the war years, first as a private citizen in St. Gallen, Switzerland in the home of an admirer Mr. Abraham Kimhi, and later in London as rabbi of the prestigious East End synagogue Mahzikei Hadat, founded by East European immigrants.
At war’s end Rav Kook returned to Erets Israel, becoming the Ashkenazic Rabbi of Jerusalem, and eventually Chief Rabbi of Erets Israel. It was during this final phase of his career that Rav Kook emerged as a world leader of Jewry. In 1924 he spent the better part of a year in the United States as part of a three-man rabbinic delegation sent to raise funds for the destitute yeshivot of Eastern Europe. About that time, Rav Kook established a yeshivah of his own in Jerusalem, known ever since as Merkaz Harav. The institutions Rav Kook established, namely the chief rabbinate and Yeshivat Merkaz Harav, continue to this day. Rav Kook’s teaching was preserved both orally by his disciples, and in the abundant writings he penned, some of which have yet to see the light of print. Rav Kook returned his soul to his Maker on 3 Ellul, 5695/1935, the exact day on which he had entered Jerusalem sixteen years earlier.
Rabbi David Zvi Shlomo Biederman (1844-5 Elul 1918) was one of the most respected rabbinical figures in old Jerusalem through World War I, and the leader of its Chassidic community. He was the official head of Kollel Warsaw, and in 1883 succeeded his father as Lelover Rebbe.
This week also contains the yahrzeits of Rabbi Chanoch Henoch Dov of Alesk (1st of Elul), Rabbi Eliezer Hager (the Damesek Eliezer of Vizhnitz, 2nd of Elul), Rabbi Moshe Aharon Pinto (5th of Elul), Rabbi Yomtov Lippman Heller (the Tosfot Yomtov, 6th of Elul), Rabbi Zalman Leib (Yekutiel Yehudah) Teitelbaum (the Sigheter Rav, author of Yetiv Lev, 6th of Elul), Chacham Eliyahu Chaim (son of Chacham Moshe and father of Chacham Yosef Chaim, the Ben Ish Chai, 7th of Elul).


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Psalm 150: Praising Hashem with All of the Vowels


To find the vowel connected to each Hallelu, just find the vowel comes immediately after word "Hallelu." If a vowel has already been used, find the next available vowel. The last three Hallelu's stand for the three Chatafs. (It might be worth noting that they repeat the word Tziltzeleh (which has three shvahs).

א. הַלְלוּיָהּ


 | הַלְלוּ אֵל בְּקָדְשׁוֹ


 הַלְלוּהוּ בִּרְקִיעַ עֻזּוֹ:


ב. הַלְלוּהוּ בִּגְבוּרֹתָיו


 הַלְלוּהוּ כְּרֹב גֻּדְלוֹ:


ג. הַלְלוּהוּ בְּתֵקַע שׁוֹפָר


 הַלְלוּהוּ בְּנֵבֶל וְכִנּוֹר:


ד. הַלְלוּהוּ בְתֹף וּמָחוֹל


 הַלְלוּהוּ בְּמִנִּים וְעֻגָב:


ה. הַלְלוּהוּ בְּצִלְצְלֵי שָׁמַע


 הַלְלוּהוּ בְּצִלְצְלֵי תְרוּעָה:


ו. כֹּל הַנְּשָׁמָה תְּהַלֵּל יָהּ הַלְלוּיָהּ:


Week 48 (Book 3): Manasseh and Asking Hashem to Forget

BESHALACH: 7. He named the place Massah [testing] and Meribah [quarreling] because of the quarrel of the children of Israel and because of their testing the Lord, saying, Is the Lord in our midst or not? 8. Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim.  
TANACH VERSES FOLLOWING THE HAFTORAH: 8. that the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel, and he said to them, "Thus says the Lord, G-d of Israel; I brought you up from Egypt, and I brought you out of the house of bondage. 9. And I saved you from the hand of Egypt, and from the hand of all your oppressors; and I drove them out from before you, and I have given you their land.
TALMUD SOTAH: DAF 48 – Reforms of Yochanan Kohen Gadol

Week 48 is the second week of Elul, also including a day of Rosh Chodesh. Because of the people’s quarreling and testing of Hashem, doubting whether Hashem was in their midst, Amalek came and fought against them. (See Book 1, on how the scorpion in week 48 represents the coldness of Amalek) This ultimately brought them to cry out to G-d and battle against Amalek’s G-dlessness.
The Tanach verses for this week include G-d sending the people a prophet in response to their crying out to Him. Because the people in the times of Gideon cried for mercy, G-d responded with mercy and reassurance.
Daf Mem Chet (Folio 48) of Sotah describes the reforms made by Yochanan Kohen Gadol. The daf also describes a prohibition against singing after the destruction of the Temple, the loss of Ruach HaKodesh, and various spiritual declines since the Temple was destroyed and the Sanhedrin abolished. A general theme again the incredible need for teshuvah.
King Menasseh, the son of Hezekiah, was extremely evil and fell deeply into idolatry. Worse, he led the people of Judah to perform idolatry as well. However, after King Menasseh was taken captive a tortured, he did sincere teshuvah, and when he returned to the throne he acknowledged Hashem and tried to bring the people back. Menashe means to “forget.” In Elul, we ask Hashem to “forget” our inappropriate behavior throughout the year.
The forty-eighth week is connected to conquering the Chivites. Their name appears to come from the Aramaic word for snake: Chiviah. The Chivites are connected to the negative side of Yesod: being self-centered and overly concerned with one’s own pleasures. General, the perfecting of the sefirah of Yesod involves the control of one’s sexual impulses, exemplified by Yosef HaTzadik.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book of Lamentations, Chapter 5 Acrostic

Chapter 5 of Lamentations works as an acrostic if you take the three verses that begin with 'Al, עַל , and apply them as above for the letter Gimmel, Dalet and Samech (which is an exception). Furthermore, for the letter Tet, take the first letter of the second word in verse 13. Also, for those verses for which the first letter appears in more than one verse, use only one verse and take the second letter of the remaining verses.

7. Our fathers have sinned and are no more, and we have borne their iniquities.
ז. אֲבֹתֵינוּ חָטְאוּ וְאֵינָם וַאֲנַחְנוּ עֲו‍ֹנֹתֵיהֶם סָבָלְנוּ:

9. With our lives we bring our bread, because of the sword of the wilderness.
ט. בְּנַפְשֵׁנוּ נָבִיא לַחְמֵנוּ מִפְּנֵי חֶרֶב הַמִּדְבָּר:

5. We are pursued [with a yoke] on our necks; we toil but it does not remain with us.
ה. עַל צַוָּארֵנוּ נִרְדָּפְנוּ יָגַעְנוּ וְלֹא הוּנַּח לָנוּ:

17. For this our heart has become faint, for these things our eyes have grown dim.
יז. עַל זֶה הָיָה דָוֶה לִבֵּנוּ עַל אֵלֶּה חָשְׁכוּ עֵינֵינוּ:

21. Restore us to You, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old.
כא. הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ יְהֹוָה | אֵלֶיךָ וְנָשׁוּבָה חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם:

10. Our skin is parched as by a furnace because of the heat of hunger.
י. עוֹרֵנוּ כְּתַנּוּר נִכְמָרוּ מִפְּנֵי זַלְעֲפוֹת רָעָב:

1. Recall, O Lord, what has befallen us; behold and see our disgrace.
א. זְכֹר יְהֹוָה מֶה הָיָה לָנוּ הַבִּיטָה וּרְאֵה אֶת חֶרְפָּתֵנוּ:

2. Our heritage has been turned over to strangers, our houses to aliens.
ב. נַחֲלָתֵנוּ נֶהֶפְכָה לְזָרִים בָּתֵּינוּ לְנָכְרִים:

13. Young men carried the millstones, [and] youths stumbled under [loads of] wood.
יג. בַּחוּרִים טְחוֹן נָשָׂאוּ וּנְעָרִים בָּעֵץ כָּשָׁלוּ:

3. We have become orphans and fatherless, our mothers are like widows.
ג. יְתוֹמִים הָיִינוּ וְאֵין אָב אִמֹּתֵינוּ כְּאַלְמָנוֹת:

22. For if You have utterly rejected us, You have [already] been exceedingly wroth against us.
כב. כִּי אִם מָאֹס מְאַסְתָּנוּ קָצַפְתָּ עָלֵינוּ עַד מְאֹד:

20. Why do You forget us forever, forsake us so long?
כ. לָמָּה לָנֶצַח תִּשְׁכָּחֵנוּ תַּעַזְבֵנוּ לְאֹרֶךְ יָמִים:

4. Our water we have drunk for payment; our wood needs must come by purchase.
ד. מֵימֵינוּ בְּכֶסֶף שָׁתִינוּ עֵצֵינוּ בִּמְחִיר יָבֹאוּ:

11. They have outraged women in Zion [and] maidens in the cities of Judah.
יא. נָשִׁים בְּצִיּוֹן עִנּוּ בְּתֻלֹת בְּעָרֵי יְהוּדָה:

18. For Mount Zion, which was desolate; foxes prowled over it.
יח. עַל הַר צִיּוֹן שֶׁשָּׁמֵם שׁוּעָלִים הִלְּכוּ בוֹ:

8. Slaves rule over us, [and] there is none to deliver [us] from their hand.
ח. עֲבָדִים מָשְׁלוּ בָנוּ פֹּרֵק אֵין מִיָּדָם:

16. The crown of our head has fallen, woe to us, for we have sinned.
טז. נָפְלָה עֲטֶרֶת רֹאשֵׁנוּ אוֹי נָא לָנוּ כִּי חָטָאנוּ:

6. We have stretched out our hands to Egypt [and to] Assyria to get enough food.
ו. מִצְרַיִם נָתַנּוּ יָד אַשּׁוּר לִשְׂבֹּעַ לָחֶם:

14. The elders have ceased from the [city] gate, the young men from their music.
יד. זְקֵנִים מִשַּׁעַר שָׁבָתוּ בַּחוּרִים מִנְּגִינָתָם:

12. Princes were hanged by their hands, elders were not shown respect.
יב. שָׂרִים בְּיָדָם נִתְלוּ פְּנֵי זְקֵנִים לֹא נֶהְדָּרוּ:

15. The joy of our heart has ceased, our dancing has turned into mourning.
טו. שָׁבַת מְשׂוֹשׂ לִבֵּנוּ נֶהְפַּךְ לְאֵבֶל מְחוֹלֵנוּ:

19. [But] You, O Lord, remain forever; Your throne endures throughout the generations.
יט. אַתָּה יְהֹוָה לְעוֹלָם תֵּשֵׁב כִּסְאֲךָ לְדוֹר וָדוֹר:

Nachum Acrostic


In the first half of the first chapter of Nachum, half an acrostic can be easily identified.  The second half requires changing verses around and also focusing on when letters are repeated at the beginning of the sentence.

א. מַשָּׂא נִינְוֵה סֵפֶר חֲזוֹן נַחוּם הָאֶלְקֹשִׁי:

1. The harsh prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.

ב. אֵל קַנּוֹא וְנֹקֵם יְהֹוָה נֹקֵם יְהֹוָה

2. The Lord is a jealous and vengeful God

וּבַעַל חֵמָה נֹקֵם יְהֹוָה לְצָרָיו וְנוֹטֵר הוּא לְאֹיְבָיו ג. יְהֹוָה אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם:

and is full of wrath; the Lord avenges Himself upon His adversaries, and He bears a grudge against His enemies.  3. The Lord is slow to anger

 וּגְדָל כֹּחַ וְנַקֵּה לֹא יְנַקֶּה יְהֹוָה בְּסוּפָה וּבִשְׂעָרָה

and great in power, but He will surely not acquit; the Lord-[His way] is with a tempest and with a storm and cloud is the dust of His feet.

 דַּרְכּוֹ וְעָנָן אֲבַק רַגְלָיו ד. גּוֹעֵר בַּיָּם וַיַּבְּשֵׁהוּ וְכָל:

His way; and cloud is the dust of His feet.  4. He rebukes the sea and dries it up, and He has dried up (and) all...

 הַנְּהָרוֹת הֶחֱרִיב אֻמְלַל בָּשָׁן וְכַרְמֶל וּפֶרַח לְבָנוֹן אֻמְלָל:

the rivers; Bashan and Carmel are cut off, and the blossoms of the Lebanon are cut off

 ה. הָרִים רָעֲשׁוּ מִמֶּנּוּ וְהַגְּבָעוֹת הִתְמֹגָגוּ

5. Mountains quaked because of him and the hills melted,

וַתִּשָּׂא הָאָרֶץ מִפָּנָיו וְתֵבֵל וְכָל יוֹשְׁבֵי בָהּ:

and the land raised up from before Him-and the inhabited earth and all who dwell thereon.

 ו. לִפְנֵי זַעְמוֹ מִי יַעֲמוֹד וּמִי יָקוּם בַּחֲרוֹן אַפּוֹ

6. Who can stand before His fury and who can rise amidst His wrath?

 חֲמָתוֹ נִתְּכָה כָאֵשׁ וְהַצֻּרִים נִתְּצוּ מִמֶּנּוּ:

His wrath has reached [the earth] like fire, and the rocks have been broken up by Him.

 ז. טוֹב יְהֹוָה לְמָעוֹז בְּיוֹם צָרָה וְיֹדֵעַ חֹסֵי בוֹ ח. וּבְשֶׁטֶף עֹבֵר כָּלָה:

7. The Lord is good-yea, a stronghold on a day of trouble- and is cognizant of those who trust in Him. 8. But, with an overrunning flood...

 יַעֲשֶׂה מְקוֹמָהּ וְאֹיְבָיו יְרַדֶּף חֹשֶׁךְ ט. מַה תְּחַשְּׁבוּן אֶל יְהֹוָה:

He shall make a full end of its place, and darkness shall pursue His enemies. 9. What do you think of the Lord?
 כָּלָה הוּא עֹשֶׂה לֹא תָקוּם פַּעֲמַיִם צָרָה :

He will make a full end; the trouble will not rise twice.

לֹא יִזָּרַע מִשִּׁמְךָ עוֹד

No more [offspring] of your name shall be sown;

מָלֵא יא. מִמֵּךְ יָצָא חֹשֵׁב עַל יְהֹוָה:

fully ripe. 11. From you has emanated one who plots evil against the Lord,

מֹטֵהוּ מֵעָלָיִךְ וּמוֹסְרֹתַיִךְ אֲנַתֵּק:

his yoke from you, and I will rend your bonds asunder.

  וְכֵן רַבִּים וְכֵן נָגוֹזּוּ:

-and likewise many-and likewise they have crossed

י. כִּי עַד סִירִים סְבֻכִים וּכְסָבְאָם סְבוּאִים אֻכְּלוּ כְּקַשׁ יָבֵשׁ

10. For, while the thorns are entangled and the drunkards are drinking, they are consumed like dry stubble,

וְעָבָר וְעִנִּתִךְ לֹא אֲעַנֵּךְ עוֹד יג. וְעַתָּה אֶשְׁבֹּר

and passed over, I will no longer afflict you. 13. And now I will break off...

פֶּסֶל וּמַסֵּכָה אָשִׂים

a graven image and a molten image; I will make

יד. וְצִוָּה עָלֶיךָ יְהֹוָה

14. And the Lord shall command concerning you;

קִבְרֶךָ כִּי קַלּוֹתָ:

your grave, for you have become worthless.

 רָעָה יֹעֵץ בְּלִיָּעַל יב. כֹּה | אָמַר יְהֹוָה:

 one who counsels wickedness. 12. So said the Lord:

אִם שְׁלֵמִים

Though they be at peace...

 מִבֵּית אֱלֹהֶיךָ אַכְרִית

from the house of your god I will cut off

Week 48 (Book 2): Mashiach Ben David and Learning in Order to Practice

HAAZINU: And the Lord spoke to Moses on that very day, saying, (Deuteronomy 32:48)
HAFTORAH: The G-d who takes vengeance for me; And brings down peoples under me. (II Samuel 22:48)
PIRKEI AVOT QUALITY: Learns in order to Practice (Lomed Al Menat La’asot)
PROPHET: Unknown / Chanani (Mashiach ben David)
LEVITICAL CITY: Future City of Refuge (which will be in the Tribe of Gad on the other side of the Jordan River)

Week Forty-Eight is the second of the month of Elul, yet also includes the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul. The verse of Haazinu are of how G-d spoke to Moshe on that very day. Elul is about understanding that we are to live in the present, to make changes now, for a better judgment on Rosh Hashanah. Similarly, Haftorah’s verse for this week is in the present, unlike most of the rest of the Haftorah, which is either in the past or in the future.

The quality of this week also emphasizes the theme of the previous week, to be proactive in one’s learning and in one’s behavior: one “learns in order to practice” (lomed al menat la’asot). Our Teshuvah, return to G-d, during the month of Elul, must ultimately lead to a change in actual physical deed.
As explained in the previous week, the prophet for this week is said to be “unknown” by Rashi. Rabbeinu Chananel and the Vilna Gaon claim that it is “Chanani,” although we have no information about Chanani other than that he was the father of another prophet. As also explained last week, it is highly improbable that Rashi knew only 46 of the 48 prophets, especially given that he even suggests listing another prophet, Shemayah, in the case that Daniel should not be counted. Therefore, there is a distinct possibility that these two “unknown” prophets are referred to this way by Rashi because they had not yet come in Rashi’s time: Mashiach Ben Yosef and Mashiach Ben David.
One of the names given for Mashiach Ben David is Chanina. Another sage with this name, Chanina Ben Dosa, is mentioned in the Talmud as the quintessential example of a Tzadik Yesod Olam (the righteous one that is the foundation for the entire world): “The whole world is nourished because of Chanina, and for Chanina, one amount of carob is enough from Sabbath eve to the next.” (Brachot 17b) Chanina comes from the word “chen,” which is related to both mercy and grace. Rebbe Nachman teaches that Mashiach’s main weapon is prayer, and we learn how to pray from Chanah, whose name also comes from the word chen.
Yet, despite Mashiach’s focus on prayer and teaching Torah (mentioned last week), we know that ultimately the Messianic times will come when there are physical changes to the reality in which we live. That is one of the essencial aspects of the concept of malchut (kingship) and of King David himself, who was involved physically transforming the world for the better. As the Rebbe would always state, “HaMa’aseh Hu Ha’Ikar,” the main thing is the deed. The above is closely related to the quality for this week, to learn in order to do, to practice (lomed al menat la’asot).
In Week 48 of Book I, the Perek Shirah animal is the scorpion, a reference to the evil inclination and impurity related to coldness and indifference (a scorpion’s venum is cold). The scorpion is also likely a reference to Amalek, the archenemy of the Jewish people, who strikes “at the tail” of the camp (those least connected to the Torah), with “its tail,” as the verse states:
“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you went out of Egypt. Who met you on the way and attacked the weak ones, who were straggling [“tailing”] after you, and you were faint and weary and did not fear G-d.” (Deut. 25:17,18)
Rabbi Avraham Kahn further explains:
The Hebrew word for "meeting" used in this connection can also be translated as "cooling". The nations were afraid of the Jewish people but the cynicism of Amalek "cooled them down". Rashi compares the cynic to somebody jumping into a hot bath. Although he got burned, he nevertheless cooled it down for others, proving that it was possible to survive somewhat to jump into the hot water. Amalek jumped into the hot bath for no reason other than to "cool down" the Jewish people.[1]
While Mashiach Ben Yosef’s task appears to be more related to fighting against the “hot” impurity of the snake, Mashiach Ben David appears more connected to fighting the coldness and indifference of the scorpion, although the two are clearly related. Here is Rabbi Ginsburgh explanation of the scorpion:
Our sages teach us that the scorpion (עַקְרָב) is the deadliest member of the general category of poisonous creatures whose archetypal figure is the primordial snake of Eden. The Hebrew word for "scorpion," derives from the word meaning "heel" (עַקֵב) as is said: "And you [the snake] shall bite him [man] at the heel" (Genesis 3:15). Thus the scorpion symbolizes the consummate "bite" of the snake at the heel of man.
While the poison of the snake is considered "hot," the poison of the scorpion is considered "cold." The Mashiach is the one and only soul who can overcome, kill, and ultimately revive the primordial snake (in order to convert it to good). (The soul of Mashiach and his continuous state of consciousness manifest the ultimate rectification of "heat," "burning" solely in his love for God and Israel, as well as that of "cold"-absolutely "cold" to the false vanities of this world.) This is the secret of the well known gematria that "Mashiach" (מָשִׁיחַ) equals "snake" (נָחָשׁ).[2]
Every quality can be used for good or for bad. Love and fear, passion and indifference all have their proper place.
It is worth also looking at how the teachings for this week and the past one relate to previous sections of Pirkei Avot:
Rabbi Eliezer would say: The honor of your fellow should be as precious to you as your own, and do not be easy to anger. Repent one day before your death. Warm yourself by the fire of the sages, but be beware lest you be burned by its embers; for their bite is the bite of a fox, their sting is the sting of a scorpion, their hiss is the hiss of a serpent, and all their words are like fiery coals. (II:10)
Rabbi Eliezer tells us to repent one day before our death – given that no one knows when they are going to die, repentance should take place every day (especially during Elul). Interestingly, Rabbi Eliezer then turns to the idea of connecting to the sages, yet how one should be careful about his/her dealings with them. As the Talmud states, “If one merits it, the Torah is an elixir of life; if one does not merit it, the Torah becomes a potion of death." (Yoma 72b) This is said particularly regarding someone who studies Torah [and treats Torah scholars] without proper fear of G-d – someone who is cold and indifferent, like the scorpion, like Amalek above.
This in fact ties in to the other Pirkei Avot statement related to the qualities necessary to acquire the Torah of the past two weeks:
Rabbi Yishmael the son of Rabbi Yossi would say: One who learns Torah in order to teach, is given the opportunity to learn and teach. One who learns in order to do, is given the opportunity to learn, teach, observe and do. (IV:5)
Finally, it is also interesting that both weeks 47 and 48 are weeks of Rosh Chodesh (“head of the month”), almost always the only time this happens during the year. This parallels the two “heads” of the Jewish people, Mashiach Ben Yosef and Mashiach Ben David. This issue is thoroughly addressed in the appendix of Book I, part of which provided below:
This duality in the Jewish calendar is reflected in the Jewish people itself and in their two prototypical leaders: Judah and Joseph. As mentioned above, Judah represents Nissan. Tishrei is represented by Ephraim, the son of Joseph (his other son, Menashe represents the following month, Cheshvan).
The tension, balance, and contrast between Judah and Joseph is very apparent in the way the Torah places the very parallel stories of Joseph and Judah side by side,[3] as well as in the depiction of their direct confrontation, in the Torah portion of Vayigash.[4] Even the names of these two tribes are similar, because Joseph sometimes is called “Yehosef,” carrying the first three letters of G-d’s name, Hashem, just like Judah.
This balance and tension has continued throughout our history, most notably with King David and King Shaul, the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel (also called Ephraim in the Torah), and even eventually with the coming of two Mashiachs, ben David and ben Yosef, also known as Mashiach ben Ephraim.
Rabbi Moshe Wolfsohn explains that this division is reflected even in the current differences between Chassidic and Lithuanian/non-Chassidic. Similar differences seem to exist between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, and baalei teshuvah (those who return to G-d, acknowledging their mistakes) and tzadikim gemurim (righteous one, who never sinned in the first place). Joseph is the prototype of the tzadik gamur, while Judah of the baal teshuvah.
The prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the Holy Chariot, Hashem’s holy throne, has a lion on the right (the symbol of Judah) and an ox on the left (the symbol of Joseph). The same prophet Ezekiel, in the haftorah reading for Vayigash, is told by G-d to collect one stick for Judah and one for Ephraim, and to join them together, symbolizing that in future Yosef and Yehudah will become completely united.[5]
The Jewish calendar also contains another duality and synthesis: its days are counted in accordance with the cycles of the sun and the moon. While the West’s calendar (based on the Roman one) is purely solar, and the Islamic calendar is purely lunar, the Jewish calendar has aspects of both. Each month in the Jewish calendar follows the moon, yet, as mentioned in Week 22, the Jewish year often contains two Adar months. This way, Passover always occurs in the spring, and all other months correspond to particular seasons accordingly. Here also, Joseph appears primarily associated with the year as a whole (countering Esau), while Judah appears to be primarily connected to the lunar months (countering Yishmael).
This week’s prophet is unknown like last week’s. Like the one for last week, Rashi states that perhaps the prophet is Chanani, the father of one of the other prophets, whose name is mentioned. One of Mashiach ben David’s names is Chanina. Therefore, perhaps the prophet for this week is none other than Mashiach ben David. The greatest life example of Mashiach Ben David is the Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson. The Rebbe changed the face of world Jewry, rescuing so many from the cold forces of assimilation and the overall dispersal that had taken place all over the world after the Holocaust. The Rebbe also fought strongly against giving in to the forces of Yishmael in Israel. Those that wanted to give in were many times driven by indifference to the importance of the Land of Israel, and how giving up land was really a matter of Pikuach Nefesh. In Perek Shirah, in Week 48 of Book 1, the scorpion is a reference to the “cold” yetzer harah. It is also a reference to Amalek, who strikes “at the tail” of the camp, with “its tail.” Judah, the ancestor of King David and Mashiach, is the one that fights against Yishmael. The effects of the Rebbe’s campaign are still very much felt today in Israel, and all over the world, in many ways, more strongly than ever before. The Rebbe also exemplified the value of “Lomed al menat la’asot.” He always stated, HaMa’aseh Hu Ha’Ikar. The main thing is the deed.
The levitical city for this week is also unknown. It is also one of the additional cities to be added on the other side of the Jordan River, once Mashiach comes and the borders of Israel are expanded. The Tribe of Gad, which represents the month of Elul, also has its territory on the other side of the Jordan.

[3] Genesis, Ch. 37 - 39
[4] Genesis, 44:18
[5] Ezekiel 37:15; See Rabbi Matis Weinberg, Patterns in Time, on Chanukah

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Table II (From the Book): Cycles of 50 Years (Jubilees), with Historical Events Taking Place Mostly in Years 31-34 and 51-52; Leadership of Chassidic Movement and Chabad

1. Chassidic Movement
Shabtai Tzvi disgrace, not long after Chimelnicky massacres.
Fellowship of Hidden Tzadikim
Turning Point
Birth of the Ba'al Shem Tov
Fellowship of Hidden Tzadikim
2. Chassidic and Lithuanian Systems
52/ 2
Birth of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk, brother of Reb Zushya of Anipoli
(Birth of the Vilna Gaon)
Ba’al Shem Tov
Turning Point
Birth of the Alter Rebbe (Elul 1745) and Rav Chayim of Volozhin
Ba’al Shem Tov
3. Second Generation Chassidic Movement
Birth of Yaakov Yitzchak Rabinowicz, the “Yid haKodesh”
Magid of Mezeritch (1761 – 1772), Leadership Divided
Turning Point
Birth of the Ruzhiner Rebbe; Publication of the Tanya; Yud Tet Kislev
Alter Rebbe
4. Jewish
Pope forbids giving more rights to the Jews, and they lose the few rights they had received.
Mitteler Rebbe
Turning Point
Revolutions in Europe give Jews complete civil rights in many countries.
Tzemach Tzedek
(1827 – 1866)
5. Zionism
Birth of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (Elul 1865)
Rebbe Maharash
(1866 – 1882[1])
Turning Point
Publication of "The Jewish State." WZO and Jewish Colonial Trust established
Rebbe Rashab
(1893 - 1920)
6. Israel’s Independence
World War I; Balfour Declaration. Beginning of British Mandate
Rebbe Rayatz
(1920 – 1950)
Turning Point
1947- 1949
War of Independence, Declaration of State, shortly after the Holocaust
The Rebbe
(1950 – 1994)
7. Modern Israel
Six Day War, Yom Yerushalayim
The Rebbe
(1950 – 1994)
Turning Point
Benjamin Netanyahu is prime minister after surprise victory. Three years later, he is defeated by a wide margin.
Brotherhood of Chassidim

[1] The Rebbe Maharash passed away at the young age of 48, when the Rebbe Rashab was only 21 years old. The Rebbe Rashab officially became Rebbe at the age of 32.

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