Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Desert in Words: Yosef, Mashiach Ben Yosef, Bittersweetness and the Torah Portion of Vezot HaBracha


When reading Moshe's blessing for the tribe of Yosef, there is one word that immediately stands out: Meged. It is repeated five times in a blessing that is itself only five verses long. Meged means "sweet," or "sweet fruits." It appears in Tanach also in Shir HaShirim, and Rashi states that it's used a metaphor for the sweet reward of keeping Hashem's commandments.

Looking at Moshe's blessing alone it is hard to understand the need for such repetition. However, in the context of Yaakov's blessing to Yosef (as well as to Yosef's sons Efraim and Menashe) it becomes easier to understand why Meged is indeed repeated so often.
As with the other tribes as well, there are incredible parallels between Moshe's blessing and Yaakov's. In addition, Moshe's blessing is also related to Yaakov's blessing for Ephraim and Menashe. We could spend pages and pages drawing parallels between these blessings, and how they in fact complement one another. Below, the verses for both Yaakov and Moshe's blessings (five verses each) are laid out, and then each verse is paired up to show just how similar the blesssings are.

Returning to the importance of the repetition of the word Meged in Moshe's blessing, there is also one aspect of Yaakov's blessing that truly stands out. Every verse in Yaakov's blessing is extremely positive, but there is one verse that recounts Joseph's suffering:

23. They heaped bitterness upon him and became quarrelsome; yea, archers despised him.

Rashi notes, in relevant part: "His brothers heaped bitterness upon him (Joseph), [and] Potiphar and his wife heaped bitterness upon him by having him imprisoned."

Despite the other amazing blessings that Joseph received, one cannot but remain with a certain "bitter taste" about Joseph's life and legacy. Embittered by his own brother, and then by the masters of the household he had served so loyally and exceptionally.

Moshe comes to take away this bitterness by blessing Joseph with sweetness - five times, one for each verse of Yaakov's blessing (and his own).

Also, there appears to be a reference to the cause of Joseph's "bitter" encounters: his two dreams. The first one was agricultural, in which he saw his brother's sheaves bowing to his. The second, astrological, where not only his brothers' stars bowed to him, but even the sun and the moon as well. After the dreams, Jacob sends his son to Hebron, which is described as a deep valley, even though it was in fact a mountain. (Bereshit 37:14, See Rashi)

Moshe now endows these moments with sweetness. He speaks of the sweetness of the heavens as well as the "deep," the sweetness of the sun and the moon's yield, of the crops of mountains, hills, and of the land as a whole.

Moshe, who is from the tribe of Levi, originally one of the main instigators against Joseph, now comes to fix the past and sweeten it.

At the same time, Moshe's blessings may actually also be a reference to the future, concerning the progeny of Joseph and the times of Mashiach. In Zechariah, we find the following passage:

10. And I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplications. And they shall look to me because of those who have been thrust through [with swords], and they shall mourn over it as one mourns over an only son and shall be in bitterness, therefore, as one is embittered over a firstborn son.

11. On that day there shall be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the Valley of Megiddon.

Rashi - as one mourns over an only son: As a man mourns over his only son. And our Sages expounded this in tractate Sukkah (52a) as referring to the Messiah, son of Joseph, who was slain.

Moshe's blessings and emphasis on the word Megged may in fact be a prayer on behalf of Mashiach Ben Yosef, one that may mitigate the circumstance surrounding his death and even spare him of his fate altogether:

R. Isaac Luria (Ari-zal) notes that the descendant of Joseph, by being the precursor of the ultimate Mashiach, is in effect kissey David, the "seat" or "throne" of David, i.e., of Mashiach. Thus when praying in the daily Amidah, "speedily establish the throne of Your servant David," one should consider that this refers to Mashiach ben Yossef and beseech G‑d that he should not die in the Messianic struggle.16 As all prayers, this one, too, will have its effect.[1]

May we all do our part, and may we all merit to truly live in the times of Mashiach, immediately, in our days.

Here are Yaakov's blessings regarding Ephraim and Menashe:

15. And he blessed Joseph and said, "God, before Whom my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, walked, God Who sustained me as long as I am alive, until this day,

טו. וַיְבָרֶךְ אֶת יוֹסֵף וַיֹּאמַר הָאֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר הִתְהַלְּכוּ אֲבֹתַי לְפָנָיו אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק הָאֱלֹהִים הָרֹעֶה אֹתִי מֵעוֹדִי עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה:

16. may the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land."

טז. הַמַּלְאָךְ הַגֹּאֵל אֹתִי מִכָּל רָע יְבָרֵךְ אֶת הַנְּעָרִים וְיִקָּרֵא בָהֶם שְׁמִי וְשֵׁם אֲבֹתַי אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק וְיִדְגּוּ לָרֹב בְּקֶרֶב הָאָרֶץ:

Yaakov's blessing to Joseph is as follows:

22. A charming son is Joseph, a son charming to the eye; [of the] women, [each one] strode along to see him.

כב. בֵּן פֹּרָת יוֹסֵף בֵּן פֹּרָת עֲלֵי עָיִן בָּנוֹת צָעֲדָה עֲלֵי שׁוּר:

23. They heaped bitterness upon him and became quarrelsome; yea, archers despised him.

כג. וַיְמָרֲרֻהוּ וָרֹבּוּ וַיִּשְׂטְמֻהוּ בַּעֲלֵי חִצִּים:

24. But his bow was strongly established, and his arms were gilded from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob; from there he sustained the rock of Israel,

כד. וַתֵּשֶׁב בְּאֵיתָן קַשְׁתּוֹ וַיָּפֹזּוּ זְרֹעֵי יָדָיו מִידֵי אֲבִיר יַעֲקֹב מִשָּׁם רֹעֶה אֶבֶן יִשְׂרָאֵל:

25. from the God of your father, and He will help you, and with the Almighty, and He will bless you [with] the blessings of the heavens above, the blessings of the deep, lying below, the blessings of father and mother.

כה. מֵאֵל אָבִיךָ וְיַעְזְרֶךָּ וְאֵת שַׁדַּי וִיבָרֲכֶךָּ בִּרְכֹת שָׁמַיִם מֵעָל בִּרְכֹת תְּהוֹם רֹבֶצֶת תָּחַת בִּרְכֹת שָׁדַיִם וָרָחַם:

26. The blessings of your father surpassed the blessings of my parents, the ends of the everlasting hills. May they come to Joseph's head and to the crown (of the head) of the one who was separated from his brothers.

כו. בִּרְכֹת אָבִיךָ גָּבְרוּ עַל בִּרְכֹת הוֹרַי עַד תַּאֲוַת גִּבְעֹת עוֹלָם תִּהְיֶיןָ לְרֹאשׁ יוֹסֵף וּלְקָדְקֹד נְזִיר אֶחָיו:

Now, Moshe's blessing (Devarim33):

13. And of Joseph he said: "His land shall be blessed by the Lord, with the sweetness of the heavens with dew, and with the deep that lies below,

יג. וּלְיוֹסֵף אָמַר מְבֹרֶכֶת יְהֹוָה אַרְצוֹ מִמֶּגֶד שָׁמַיִם מִטָּל וּמִתְּהוֹם רֹבֶצֶת תָּחַת:

14. and with the sweetness of the produce of the sun, and with the sweetness of the moon's yield,

יד. וּמִמֶּגֶד תְּבוּאֹת שָׁמֶשׁ וּמִמֶּגֶד גֶּרֶשׁ יְרָחִים:

15. and with the crops of early mountains, and with the sweetness of perennial hills,
טו. וּמֵרֹאשׁ הַרְרֵי קֶדֶם וּמִמֶּגֶד גִּבְעוֹת עוֹלָם:

16. and with the sweetness of the land and its fullness, and through the contentment of the One Who dwells in the thornbush. May it come upon Joseph's head and upon the crown of the one separated from his brothers.
טז. וּמִמֶּגֶד אֶרֶץ וּמְלֹאָהּ וּרְצוֹן שֹׁכְנִי סְנֶה תָּבוֹאתָה לְרֹאשׁ יוֹסֵף וּלְקָדְקֹד נְזִיר אֶחָיו:

17. To his firstborn ox is [given] glory. His horns are the horns of a re'em. With them, he will gore peoples together [throughout all] the ends of the earth these are the myriads of Ephraim, and these are the thousands of Manasseh."
יז. בְּכוֹר שׁוֹרוֹ הָדָר לוֹ וְקַרְנֵי רְאֵם קַרְנָיו בָּהֶם עַמִּים יְנַגַּח יַחְדָּו אַפְסֵי אָרֶץ וְהֵם רִבְבוֹת אֶפְרַיִם וְהֵם אַלְפֵי מְנַשֶּׁה:

Looking at the similarities between the verses of the two blessings, one could pair up each verse as follows: 

22. A charming son is Joseph, a son charming to the eye; [of the] women, [each one] strode
along to see [Shur] him.   כב. בֵּן פֹּרָת יוֹסֵף בֵּן פֹּרָת עֲלֵי עָיִן בָּנוֹת צָעֲדָה עֲלֵי שׁוּר:

17. To his firstborn ox [Shor] is [given] glory. His horns are the horns of a re'em. With them,
he will gore peoples together [throughout all] the ends of the earth these are the myriads
of Ephraim, and these are the thousands of Manasseh."   יז. בְּכוֹר שׁוֹרוֹ הָדָר לוֹ וְקַרְנֵי רְאֵם קַרְנָיו בָּהֶם עַמִּים
יְנַגַּח יַחְדָּו אַפְסֵי אָרֶץ וְהֵם רִבְבוֹת אֶפְרַיִם וְהֵם אַלְפֵי מְנַשֶּׁה:

[The references to Ephraim and Mannasseh parallels also the blessings previously made to them by Yaakov: "may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land."]

23. They heaped bitterness upon him and became quarrelsome; yea, archers despised him. 
כג. וַיְמָרֲרֻהוּ וָרֹבּוּ וַיִּשְׂטְמֻהוּ בַּעֲלֵי חִצִּים:

14. and with the sweetness of the produce of the sun, and with the sweetness of the moon's
yield,   יד. וּמִמֶּגֶד תְּבוּאֹת שָׁמֶשׁ וּמִמֶּגֶד גֶּרֶשׁ יְרָחִים:

24. But his bow was strongly established, and his arms were gilded from the hands of the
Mighty One of Jacob; from there he sustained the rock of Israel,   כד. וַתֵּשֶׁב בְּאֵיתָן
קַשְׁתּוֹ וַיָּפֹזּוּ זְרֹעֵי יָדָיו מִידֵי אֲבִיר יַעֲקֹב מִשָּׁם רֹעֶה אֶבֶן יִשְׂרָאֵל:

16. and with the sweetness of the land and its fullness, and through the contentment of
the One Who dwells in the thornbush. טז. וּמִמֶּגֶד אֶרֶץ וּמְלֹאָהּ וּרְצוֹן שֹׁכְנִי סְנֶה

25. from the God of your father, and He will help you, and with the Almighty, and He will
bless you [with] the blessings of the heavens above, the blessings of the deep, lying
below, the blessings of father and mother.   כה. מֵאֵל אָבִיךָ וְיַעְזְרֶךָּ וְאֵת שַׁדַּי וִיבָרֲכֶךָּ בִּרְכֹת שָׁמַיִם מֵעָל בִּרְכֹת
תְּהוֹם רֹבֶצֶת תָּחַת בִּרְכֹת שָׁדַיִם וָרָחַם:

13. And of Joseph he said: "His land shall be blessed by the Lord, with the sweetness of
the heavens with dew, and with the deep that lies below,   יג. וּלְיוֹסֵף אָמַר מְבֹרֶכֶת יְהֹוָה אַרְצוֹ
מִמֶּגֶד שָׁמַיִם מִטָּל וּמִתְּהוֹם רֹבֶצֶת תָּחַת:

26. The blessings of your father surpassed the blessings of my parents, the ends of the
everlasting hills. כו. בִּרְכֹת אָבִיךָ גָּבְרוּ עַל בִּרְכֹת הוֹרַי עַד תַּאֲוַת גִּבְעֹת עוֹלָם

15. and with the crops of early mountains, and with the sweetness of perennial hills
טו. וּמֵרֹאשׁ הַרְרֵי קֶדֶם וּמִמֶּגֶד גִּבְעוֹת עוֹלָם:

26 (b) May they come to Joseph's head and to the crown (of the head) of the one who was
separated from his brothers.    תִּהְיֶיןָ לְרֹאשׁ יוֹסֵף וּלְקָדְקֹד נְזִיר אֶחָיו:

16(B) May it come upon Joseph's head and upon the crown of the one separated from his
brothers.   תָּבוֹאתָה לְרֹאשׁ יוֹסֵף וּלְקָדְקֹד נְזִיר אֶחָיו:

[1] J. Immanuel Schochet, “Mashiach in Jewish Law,” Appendix II, citing (Pri Eitz Chayim, Sha'ar Ha'amidah:ch. 19; and Siddur Ha-Ari; on this blessing. The Ari's teaching is cited in Or Hachayim on Leviticus 14:9, see there (and also on Numbers 24:17, where he relates this prayer to the next blessing of the Amidah); and see also Even Shelemah, ch. 11, note 6. Cf. Zohar II:120a (and Or Hachamah there), and ibid. III:153b) Available at:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Desert in Words: "Eclipse" in Leadership and the Torah Portion of Haazinu

In the Torah portion of Haazinu, we come across a very interesting verse:
And Moses came and spoke all the words of this song into the ears of the people he and Hoshea the son of Nun. (Devarim 31:44)
There appears to be an obvious contradiction/question within the verse itself: Who actually spoke the words of the song? Was it Moshe or was it Moshe and Yehoshuah together?
In order to answer this question, it is important to look into the previous Torah portion, Vayelech, which serves as an introduction to the song Haazinu itself. G-d's commandment regarding the song was not just to Moshe, but to Moshe and Yehoshuah together (Devarim 31:16-30):
14. And the Lord said to Moses, "Behold, your days are approaching [for you] to die. Call Joshua and stand in the Tent of Meeting, and I will inspire him. So Moses and Joshua went, and stood in the Tent of Meeting. (…)
19. And now, write for yourselves (plural) this song, and teach it to the Children of Israel. Place it into their mouths, in order that this song will be for Me as a witness for the children of Israel.
Rashi - this song: [This refers to the passage beginning with] הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם [until] וְכִפֶּר אַדְמָתוֹ עַמּוֹ (Deut. 32:1-43).
Yet, we see that it was not Yehoshua who wrote down the song, but Moshe:
22. And Moses wrote this song on that day, and taught it to the children of Israel.

23. And He [Rashi states that this refers to G-d] commanded Joshua the son of Nun, and said: "Be strong and courageous! For you shall bring the children of Israel to the land that I have sworn to them, and I will be with you."

24. And it was, when Moses finished writing the words of this Torah in a scroll, until their very completion,
Moshe, in the conclusion to the Torah portion of Vayelech, further states:
28. Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, and I will speak these words into their ears, and I will call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses against them.
29. For I know that after my death, you will surely become corrupted, and deviate from the way which I had commanded you. Consequently, the evil will befall you at the end of days, because you did evil in the eyes of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands.
30. Then, Moses spoke into the ears of the entire assembly of Israel the words of the following song, until their completion.
We are left with at least a couple more questions. If Moshe is still the leader and the one that ultimately performs Hashem’s commandment, why is Yehoshuah included at all in the commandment, as why does verse 31:44 imply that he was also the one that spoke the song to the Jewish people? And if Yehoshuah is also the one commanded to act, why doesn’t he do so?
Now let us examine Rashi’s comments to our initial verse:
And Moses came and spoke all the words of this song into the ears of the people he and Hoshea the son of Nun. (Devarim 31:44)
He and Hoshea the son of Nun: It was the Sabbath upon which there were two leaders, authority was taken from one and given to the other. — [Sotah 13b]
Rashi continues:
Moses appointed a meturgeman [literally, an interpreter, here a spokesman] for Joshua, [to relay to the public what Joshua said,] so that Joshua could expound [on the Torah] in Moses’ lifetime, so that Israel would not say [to Joshua], “During your teacher’s lifetime you did not dare to raise your head!” - [Sifrei 31:1]
Rashi further notes, still under the same verse:
And why does Scripture here call him Hoshea [for his name had long since been changed to Joshua (see Numb. 13:16)]. To imply [lit., to say] that Joshua did not become haughty, for although he was given high status, he humbled himself as he was at the beginning [when he was still called Hoshea]. — [Sifrei 32:44]
Even though (as we mentioned in the last post) there can only be one leader, Rashi states that for this "Sabbath" there were actually two. The word Sabbath is particularly appropriate here, because just as the Sabbath is the culmination of the previous week and the foundation of the next, so too here, it was the culmination of Moshe's leadership and the foundation of Yehoshua's.
Rashi does nevertheless state that Moshe was the one that spoke the words of the song. It appears that, out of awe and reverence for his teacher, Yehoshua could not bring himself to act in any way that could make him comparable to Moshe. Yehoshua’s reluctance is so strong, to the point that Hashem Himself, exclaims (as cited above) ""Be strong and courageous! For you shall bring the children of Israel to the land that I have sworn to them, and I will be with you." (Devarim 31:23) Moshe therefore appointed someone to amplify Yehoshua's words so that he could expound on the words of song and that all could hear him, further empowering Yehoshua as the new leader.
It would seem odd that Rashi comments that Moshe made Yehoshua speak in public in order to counter those that would say, "During your teacher’s lifetime you did not dare to raise your head!" After all, that is exactly what a person is supposed to do when one is before his teacher! Not only that, we actually learn this particular lesson from Joshua himself, who previously answered a single question in front of Moses, ultimately causing him to remain childless. Here however, the situation is quite different because Yehoshua is no longer only the disciple of Moshe, but actually already the leader himself. For this brief moment, Moshe and Yehoshua’s leadership eclipsed (literally, given that Moshe is compared to the sun and Yehoshua to the moon).
Finally, Rashi notes that despite this empowerment, Yehoshua humbled himself, just as he was at the beginning of his tutelage. It is not just that Yehoshua had become the leader and humbled himself, but that he was made to play a leadership role while Moshe, the greatest prophet of all time, was still alive and well. Despite the potential for Yehoshua, even if for a split second, to see himself as higher than Moshe, he nevertheless saw himself simply as Hoshea, which was his name before Moshe’s blessing, which changed his name to Yehoshua. Yehoshua knew that he owed everything to Moshe: not only his name, but also the very essence of who he had now become as the leader of the Jewish people.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Desert in Words: Being Strong and Courageous and Connected to the Head. (Nitzavim-Vayelech)

We're playing a bit of catch-up here, due to the high holidays and the entire month of Tishrei. Let's begin by addressing a theme that appears in Nitzavim as well as Vayelech.
The Torah portion of Nitzavim begins with the following verse:
You are all standing this day before the Lord, your God the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel, (Devarim 29:9):
In Hebrew, the exact wording is רָאשֵׁיכֶם שִׁבְטֵיכֶם, [lit., “your leaders, your tribes,”], which leads Rashi to comment as follows: “The leaders of your tribes.” Some suggest that Rashi's comments are necessary given that the leaders themselves are obviously part of their respective tribe. While that may be true, perhaps there is also a deeper point Rashi is trying to make, which is that when it comes to the "head," it makes little sense to speak of more than one. There is only one head. That head is the tribe, as Rashi notes in a different place, "HaNassi Hu HaKol," the head of the tribe is everything.
We see this in Rashi's discussion of apparently repetitive verses found in Vayelech, which are also repeated in the Book of Joshua. In Vayelech, Moshe urges the Jewish people as follows:
Be strong and courageous! Neither fear, nor be dismayed of them, for the Lord, your God He is the One Who goes with you. He will neither fail you, nor forsake you." (Devarim 31:6)
He then immediately urges Joshua in a similar manner:

7. And Moses called Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, "Be strong and courageous! For you shall come with this people to the land which the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them. And you shall apportion it to them as an inheritance. (Devarim 31:6)
Towards the end of the Torah portion, he again urges Joshua:
And He commanded Joshua the son of Nun, and said: "Be strong and courageous! For you shall bring the children of Israel to the land that I have sworn to them, and I will be with you." (Devarim 31:23)
Rashi compares the two times that Moshe addresses Joshua, and draws a contrast between the two:
for you shall come with this people: Heb. כִּי אַתָּה תָּבוֹא אֶת-הָעָם הַזֶּה [as the Targum renders:]“For you shall come with this people,” [hence, the אֶת here means “with.” Accordingly, Moses’ statement of leadership role to Joshua can be understood as follows]: Moses said to Joshua, “The elders of the generation will be with you, [for] everything should be done according to their opinion and counsel.”
Rashi continues:
In contrast, however, the Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Joshua,“For you shall bring (תָּבִיא) the children of Israel to the land which I have sworn to them” (verse 23). [God’s statement of leadership role to Joshua here means:] “You shall bring them [even if it is] against their will! Everything depends [only] upon you; [if necessary,] you must take a rod and beat them over their heads! There can be [only] one leader for a generation, not two leaders for a generation.”- [Sanh. . 8a]
While Joshua is told to take advice from the elders as a whole and to follow their opinions and counsel, he must also understand that he is the one in charge and the one that is ultimately going to be held accountable.
[As an aside, it is interesting that Rashi goes as far as stating that if necessary, Joshua is to take a rod and beat [the Jewish people] over their heads, because Moshe himself was punished for apparently much less than that, taking a staff and hitting a rock, instead of speaking to it. It comes to teach us that Moshe was not necessarily wrong in principle by hitting the rock, it's just that this was not what G-d had commanded.]
In the Book of Joshua, the repetition of the verse "be strong and courageous" is said to represent two different aspects of life altogether:
Be strong and have courage; for you will cause this nation to inherit the land that I have sworn to their ancestors to give to them. (Joshua, 1:6)
RASHI - Be strong and have courage: in worldly pursuits, as the Scripture states: “For you will cause this nation to inherit the land.”
Just be strong and very courageous to observe and do in accordance with all of the Torah that Moses My servant has commanded you. Do not stray therefrom right or left, in order that you succeed wherever you go. (Joshua, 1:7)
RASHI - Just be strong and very courageous: in Torah, as the Scripture states: “To observe and to do in accordance with all of the Torah.”
We also see that Joshua strength and courage as the head of the Jewish people is ultimately for the purpose of being connected to his head, Moses.
There is a very important application of the above in our daily lives, especially as the Torah portion of Nitzavim (as usually Vayelech as well) always comes before Rosh Hashanah. There is something to be learned from all the sages, all the Tzadikim, and there is certainly a way to do everything according to their will. Yet, at the same time, there must be one ultimate head of the generation, just as we observe only one head of the year. We also cannot choose to have one leader and apply a set of standards for "religious" considerations and another for worldly matters. Ultimately, they both stem from the same place, and we must have a single leader (and set of principles) to guide us in both areas of life.
Again, that is not to say that we are not supposed to learn from all the sages (and from every individual, as stated in Pirkei Avot). Similarly, this is also not to say that there is not a hierarchy in leadership, just as each tribe had a leader, who in turn was ultimately subservient to their leader, the head of the entire generation. Ultimately even the head of generation is but simple and completely nullified and subservient slave in the hands of the One and Only. The King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Week 6 (Book 2): Being Pressed to Perform, Yehoshua and Awe

HAAZINU: Is this how you repay the Lord, you disgraceful, unwise people?! Is He not your Father, your Master? He has made you and established you. (Deuteronomy 32:6)
HAFTARAH: Bands of [those that shall inherit] the nether world have surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me (II Samuel 22:6)
PROPHET: Yehoshua
On Week Six, the second week of Cheshvan, Haazinu’s verse continues the same theme of the previous week: the people’s ungratefulness and disgraceful behavior, after everything that G-d had done for them. This again appears to be a reference to the Flood, when people showed enormous ungratefulness, and seemed to forget that G-d was the Creator.
The Haftarah’s verse also continues the same theme of the previous week, speaking of being being surrounded by the netherworld, and being confronted by the snares of death, like in the times of the Flood.
The quality for this week is awe. After the flood, Noah felt a tremendous awe and fear of G-d, as he saw the entire world be destroyed. Awe is also a feeling inspired by the Temple itself. It is also important to be able to differentiate between awe (Eimah) and fear (Yirah), next week’s quality:
The second quality above, fear ("yirah"), is the more generic term for fear. It is typically used for the fear one has of an immediate threat. The first quality, awe ("aimah"), is typically translated as awe or dread. It implies a low-grade or long-term fear -- of something not as visible or impending. Yirah implies the fear or fright one feels in the presence of danger -- or when going into that job interview. Aimah is the dull but gnawing sense of dread or foreboding one has for a distant yet lurking danger, such as one has when marching into war or, tragically, the citizens of the State of Israel often experience today.
When studying Torah one likewise experiences this same combination of fear and awe. The Machzor Vitri (a commentary on the Siddur (prayerbook) authored by Rabbeinu Simcha of 11th Century France) explains that one feels a more direct fear for his Torah teacher in whose presence he sits, and a more general sense of awe realizing he is ultimately in G-d's presence --and that it is G-d's Torah he must not misunderstand. We may also explain that the sense of awe stems from the realization we are attempting to fathom G-d's infinite wisdom, while the fear is for the more immediate -- that we may not understand what we study or that we allow the Torah's lessons to be neglected and forgotten.[1]
Yirah is a feeling described when Yaakov rested at the place that would later come to be the site of the Temple. After waking from his sleep, the Torah states that Yaakov “was frightened, and he said, ‘How awesome (Norah) is this place! This is none other than the house of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven.’” (Genesis 28:17) Moshe also experienced similar fear when G-d spoke with him at the site of the burning bush, on Mount Horeb (Sinai):
5. And He said, "Do not draw near here. Remove your shoes from your feet, for the place upon which you stand is holy soil."
6. And He said, "I am the G-d of your father, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob." And Moses hid his face because he was afraid [yareh] to look toward G-d. (Exodus 3:5-6)
Right before beginning the conquest of the Land of Israel, Yehoshua, the prophet linked to this week, also has an experience similar to that of his master and teacher, Moshe:
And it was when Joshua was in Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and saw, and, behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand; and Joshua went to him, and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”
And he said,“No, but I am the captain of the host of the Lord; I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and prostrated himself, and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”
And the captain of the Lord's host said to Joshua, “Remove your shoe from your feet; for the place upon which you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Yehoshua’s reaction is considerably different than Moshe’s. Yehoshua had this feeling of impending danger, as he was literally about to march into war. Yet, when encountered with the Divine, the Torah does not state that Yehoshua was afraid, like Yaakov and Moshe had been, even though the angel had a sword in his hand. Perhaps this is because Yehoshua’s encounter is not nearly as intense or as surprising as Moshe’s. In Moshe’s encounter, it is G-d Himself that appears to Him at the site of the burning bush, while to Joshua it was the archangel Michael. Moshe’s encounter was prior to the giving of the Torah, and G-d’s first open revelation to a prophet since Yaakov’s times. Yehoshua, being Moshe’s main disciple as well as his successor, was accustomed to Divine revelation.
Perhaps, (on Yehoshuah’s level of course, which is something we cannot even begin to fathom), he still required some additional yirah. The Talmud (Megillah3a; Eruvin 63a) teaches that one of the reasons why the angel in Joshua’s story appeared to him was because Joshua was neglecting Torah study at night, when he was not in active battle. [2] Perhaps that is also why the angel Michael appeared with a sword. The Talmud (Eruvin 63a)[3] also states that previously, Yehoshua was punished severely for asking a halachik question in front of his teacher, Moshe. Elazar is similarly punished for answering in front of Moshe. Perhaps that is why the following prophet is Pinchas and not Elazar. Pinchas did show tremendous fear, and also specifically asked Moshe before killing Zimri.
This week’s levitical city is Gath-Rimmon. Gath-Rimmon means winepress of pomegranites; in Cheshvan we are pressed to do as much as we can to fill ourselves with good deeds (like the pomegranite that is filled with seeds). It is a time of immense personal effort in changing the world for the better.

An important lesson we learn from this week's quality to acquire the Torah is to realize that sometimes it is not enough simply “to go with the flow.” We have to press ourselves – realize that there is so much more we can be accomplishing. This is done in part by focusing a bit more on our of awe of G-d.


Week 6 (Book 3): Descending in order to Ascend and Sweetening "Bitter Waters"

SONG OF THE SEA: Your right hand, O Lord, is most powerful; Your right hand, O Lord, crushes the foe.
HAFTARAH: also the clouds dripped water. The mountains melted at the presence of the Lord,
TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 6 - forbidden relationships, "bitter waters."
JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Marah and arrived in Elim, and in Elim there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they camped there.
The sixth week of the year is the second of the month of Cheshvan. The verses of the Song of the Sea speaks of Hashem’s right hand, which exacts punishment and represents the attribute of gevurah. The theme of the week remains related to the Flood, as also demonstrated in theHaftorah’s verses that state that“clouds dripped water,” and “mountains melted.”
Daf Vav (Folio 6) of Sotah discusses forbidden marriages (another one of the main causes of the Flood, as angels were marrying humans, etc.), and also the subject of how the bitter waters of Sotah would punish (or absolve) a woman accused of adultery whose witnesses were not available for testimony. Punishment through “bitter waters” for sexual sins is also a main theme of this month.
Yered (יֶרֶד) seems to be the “kosher” version of Irad (עִירָד), whose name is the same, but without the Ayin. “Ayin” literally means the eye, and part of what got Cain in the situation that he was the jealous way in which he looked at Abel’s sacrifices that had been accepted by Hashem. Sexual sins (as well as many others) begin with the eye.
Ayin also means "nothingness." Ecclesiastes states that the difference between humans and beasts is Ayin, "nothing." The deeper explanation of this verse is that the difference between people and animals is the ability to regard oneself as nothing, as simply part of the Infinite Light. Perhaps the difference in names here can also be attributed to the fact that Yered truly made his Ayin into true nothingness, to the point that it does not even show up anymore in his name.
Interestingly, while the names of Cain’s generations are Enoch, Mehujael, and then Irad, Seth’s generations are the other way around: Mahalalel, Yared, and then Enoch. “Yered” and “Irad” come from the verb “Laredet,” which literally means to go down. While Cain’s generation literally went “downhill,” to greater and greater depravity, the descent in Seth’s generations was a positive one. The difference seems to be as follows: Cain’s three generations stand for “education (of lack thereof)” (Enoch, Chanoch in Hebrew, comes from the word chinuch, education) followed by a “profane existence, (Mehujael, from the word chol, profane)” and then further “descent” (Irad). Seth’s three generations stand for “praise” (Mahalel, from the word Hallel, praise), followed by “lowering oneself” (Yared) in order to “educate” (Enoch) the next generation. The results speak for themselves.
Afterwards, Cain’s descendants are Methushael, Lemech, and then Yuval, Yaval, Tuval-Cain, and Na’amah. Seth’s descendants are Metushelach, Lemech, and then Noah. Cain’s generations found more and more found more ways to be depraved, to the point where Lemech has two wives, one only for pleasure (as was the culture at the time, see Rashi). They also found more and more effective ways of killing people, with weapon’s technology, to the point where Cain himself is killed by it.
On the other hand, Yered taught his son well - Enoch walked with G-d, and was so holy, that Hashem removed him from this earth so as to not be badly influenced by its corruption. Enoch’s son was Metushelach, who merited to be the person to live the longest, and passed away without having to experience the flood. Metushelach’s son was Lamech, who had great hopes that his son, Noah, would bring comfort to the world. Even though Noah was not able to save the world, he did save humanity from being completely destroyed, and was a wholesome and righteous individual, who faithfully followed Hashem’s commands. Yered symbolizes our service for this month, which is to go down from the heights of Tishrei, and elevate this world, to make it a home for Hashem.
In the sixth week, the Jews journey from Marah and camp in Elim. In Elim there are twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. The personal journey for this week involves internalizing the concept of “sweetening the bitter waters,” and preparing ourselves for the revelations of the springs of water (12 Tribes) and the 70 palm trees (nations). The strength of the twelve tribes is used to “water” the palm trees, to purify, give life, and elevate the seventy nations.
Again, here’s Rabbi Shimon Jacobson’s interpretation of this journey:
Elimah (or Elim) is the stage of growth and recognition of the deeper strength that emerges from bitter loss and pain. From Marah– after experiencing bitterness – we become empowered with the resources of Elimah: Elimah consists of the same letters as the name Elokim (which is written with a heh), only that the order of the letters (eli mah) means the hidden dimension of love – twelve water springs and seventy palms (the secret and the hidden, sod in Hebrew, is gematria 70) – that emerges from within the dark and the bitter (The Maggid of Mezritch – Ohr Torah Massei. Explained in Ohr HaTorah Massei pp. 1378. 1393. See Degel Machne Efraim).
Because of the exile, there is a great mix-up both in regards of who is from what nation of the world, as well as which Jew is from which tribe. “Mix-up” in Hebrew is “Bilbul,” the root for the word “Bavel,” Babylonia. Part of our work in exile is to undo this whole mix-up, not only in nations, but also in values, morality, etc., and hence the Talmud we study is known at the Talmud Bavli (the Babylonian Talmud). Through logic and traditional rules of interpretation, we’re able to make sense out of confusion, and place everything in its proper place. The Hebrew word for the Flood, “Mabul” is also related to the word Bilbul, in that the Flood also mixed everything together.

An important lesson we learn from Yered (which means to descend) in our approach to prayer and Divine service is understanding the role of humility. The Chazan (the prayer leader) is called "Yored Lifnei HaTeivah," one who descends in front of the Ark (It is worth noting that early mystics were called Yordei Merkabah, those that descend [to reach] the [Divine] Chariot). The place where the Chazan stands would literally be lower than the rest of the synagogue, and Jewish law forbids praying from a physically elevated place (with certain exceptions). The rationale for all this is because prayer has to come from a place of humility, "MiMa'amakim Karaticha Hashem," one must call out Hashem from the depths, literally. As mentioned last week, it is essential to "Know Before Whom You Stand."

Week 6 (Book 4a): Dealing with Difficult People

STORY OF CHANNAH: 6 And her rival vexed her sore, to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb.
TZADIK: 7 Cheshvan- Rav Yehuda Meir Shapiro of Lublin
PROVERBS: Chapter 6
Week 6 is the second week of Cheshvan. The verse from the story of Channah continues to reflect the story of our matriarch Rachel, whose yahrzeit is on the 11th of Cheshvan. As mentioned in the previous week, G-d had not graced her with children. Yet she watched how her own sister, who Jacob did not intend to marry, had one child after the other.
The Pirkei Avot adjective associated to this week is again associated with love: “loves people.” In Hebrew, it is written “Ohev et HaBri’ot,” which literally means loves “the creatures.” This is a quality very much associated with Aharon HaKohen, Moshe’s brother and the first High Priest. As Hillel states in the first chapter of Pirkei Avot, “Hillel would say: Be of the disciples of Aharon--a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah.” (emphasis added). Our sages explain that people are referred her as creatures (or creations), because Aharon loved those people that had no obvious positive qualities other than the fact that they were created by G-d. In Cheshvan, when we are “out and about” in the world, we are likely to encounter people that also do not appear to have any positive qualities, yet we must love them and learn from them.
In the above verse from the story of Channah, we see the difficult situation she was in. Channah had to live with a rival, Peninah, that vexed her about the fact that she had children while Channah did not. Such a situation required great “love for people,” and the ability to judge others favorably. In fact, we are told that Peninah’s motives were in fact positive ones – she wanted to enhance Channah’s prayers.
Chapter 6 of the Book of Proverbs encompasses many of the basic ideas of loving G-d’s creatures. It speaks of how to behave when encountering strangers, and what to look out for when faced with unscrupulous and violent men and evil and adulterous women. The chapter also teaches us to learn lessons from other creations, animals: the ant, the bird and the deer.
1. My son, if you have stood surety for your fellow, have given your hand for a stranger, 2. you have been trapped by the sayings of your mouth; you have been caught by the sayings of your mouth.
5. Save yourself like a deer from the hand and like a bird from the hand of the snare. 6. Go to the ant, you sluggard; see her ways and become wise,
12. An unscrupulous man, a man of violence, walks with a crooked mouth;
13. he winks with his eyes, shuffles with his feet, points with his fingers.
24. to guard you from an evil woman, from the smoothness of the alien tongue.
25. Do not covet her beauty in your heart, and do not let her captivate you with her eyelids.
This week, we discuss another important rabbinical figure related to the Rizhin dynasty. The 7th of Cheshvan is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yehuda Meir Shapiro of Lublin, known for institutionalizing the Daf Yomi cycle. Rav Shapiro was a devoutchassid of Rabbi David Moshe Friedman, the Chortoker Rebbe, discussed in Week 4. Rav Shapiro was the chief rabbi of Galina and Piotrkov, and author of the book Or HaMeir. He is also well known as the founder of Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin, in 1930.
Rabbi Shapiro faced tremendous challenges and difficulties in convincing the Jewish leadership and the rest of the community at the time to institute the Daf Yomi cycle, in part because of his young age. Today it is the hallmark of the vibrancy of Talmudic scholarship worldwide.
Also mentioned in Week 4 was the Holy Yid of Peshischa. The 7th of Cheshvan is the yahrzeit of not one, but two of his descendants, both of them rebbes in their own right: Rabbi Nosson Dovid Rabinowitz of Shidlowitz, grandson of the Holy Yid, and Rav Yerachmiel Tzvi Rabinowitz of Biala-Shedlitz.
It is also important to mention the continuation of the line of Rav Menachem Mendel of Kosov, founder of the Vizhnitz dynasty, also mentioned last week. The 9th of Cheshvan is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yidele Horowitz, the Dzikover Rebbe, who was raised by his maternal grandfather, Rabbi Yisrael Hager, Rebbe of Vizhnitz:
Although known as a formidable scholar and a man of exceptional character, he shunned the limelight and abhorred any reverence or treatment as a Rebbe. He lived a very frugal life. Absolutely all the monies forwarded to him by admirers and Chassidim were immediately distributed to orphans and widows.[1]
Other yahrzeits this week include that of Rabbi Yehudah HaChassid (6th of Cheshvan), Rabbi Shlomo Dovid Yehoshua Weinberg of Slonim son of Rabbi Avrohom, the Bais Avrohom (6thof Cheshvan), and Rabbi Asher bar Yechiel, the Rosh.


Week 6 (Book 4b): the Temple, Shimon and Hamas

16. "Behold, you are comely, my beloved, yea pleasant; also our couch is leafy.
17. The beams of our houses are cedars; our corridors are cypresses."
1. "I am a rose of Sharon, a rose of the valleys."
TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 6 - the Metzorah

Week 6 in the Jewish calendar is the second week of Cheshvan. The Song of Songs verses for this week again appear connected to boh main themes of Cheshvan: the Temple and the Flood.

The first two verses again are said by the Jewish people, and again they speak of Hashem resting in our midst. Below are Rashi’s comments regarding the first two verses:

yea pleasant: For You overlooked my transgression and caused Your Shechinah to rest in our midst, and this is the praise of the descent of the fire (Lev. 9:24): “and all the people saw and shouted for joy.”

also our couch is leafy: Through your pleasantness, behold our couch is leafy with our sons and with our daughters, all of whom gather to You here, as it is said (ibid. 8: 4): “and the congregation gathered [to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting].” The Tabernacle is called a bed, as it is said (below 3: 7): “Behold, the litter of Solomon,” and the Temple is called a bed, as it is said concerning Joash (II Chron. 22:11, II Kings 11:2): “in the bed chamber” which was in the “House of the Lord” (ibid. 3), because they [the Sanctuaries] are the source of Israel’s fruitfulness and procreation.

The beams of our houses are cedars: This is the praise of the Tabernacle.

The second verse also mentions structures made of cypresses, like the cypress wood used in the construction of the Ark.

The third verse, which begins a new chapter in Shir HaShirim, speaks of the rose of the valleys, Chavatzelet HaSharon. Our sages note that Chavatzelet(rose) stands for Chav Tzel, the “shade of love” constructed byBetzalel, the Temple itself.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the sixth mentioned is Shimon. Of all of Jacob’s sons, he is the one most associated with violence, such as what caused the Flood (literally, Chamas). Jacob states that the weapons of Shimon and Levi are those of “Chamas.” The name Shimon comes from Shmiah, hearing.

Daf Vav(Folio 6) of Shvuot discusses primarily the afflictions of the Metzorah; there is a debate about its color. The Metzorah represents a high degree of guilt and negative social behavior, such as Lashon Harah, evil speech (and also hearing such speech).

Chapter 6 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above:

6. For so says the Lord of Hosts: Cut the trees and cast on Jerusalem a siege mound; that is the city whose sins have been visited upon her, everywhere there is oppression in its midst.
ו. כִּי כֹה אָמַר יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת כִּרְתוּ עֵצָה וְשִׁפְכוּ עַל יְרוּשָׁלִַם סֹלְלָה הִיא הָעִיר הָפְקַד כֻּלָּהּ עֹשֶׁק בְּקִרְבָּהּ:
7. As a well lets its water flow, so has she let her evil flow; violence and spoil is heard therein before Me continually; sickness and wounds.
ז. כְּהָקִיר בַּיִר מֵימֶיהָ כֵּן הֵקֵרָה רָעָתָהּ חָמָס וָשֹׁד יִשָּׁמַע בָּהּ עַל פָּנַי תָּמִיד חֳלִי וּמַכָּה:
8. Be corrected, O Jerusalem, lest My soul be alienated from you; lest I make you a desolation, a land uninhabited.
ח. הִוָּסְרִי יְרוּשָׁלִַם פֶּן תֵּקַע נַפְשִׁי מִמֵּךְ פֶּן אֲשִׂימֵךְ שְׁמָמָה אֶרֶץ לוֹא נוֹשָׁבָה:

Beyond the connection made here between Jerusalem and trees, there is also a connection between water and punishment for evil and the hearing of Hamas (violence and spoil). Repentance can save the land from desolation. In fact, the entire chapter focuses greatly on complete desolation, completely uninhabited, similar to the world after the Flood.


Week 6 (Book 5): Reviewing the Second Week of Cheshvan - Psalms 16-18; 32:7-9; 89:7

Chapter 16
1. A michtam,1 by David. Watch over me, O G-d, for I have put my trust in You. 2. You, [my soul,] have said to G-d, "You are my Master; You are not obligated to benefit me.” 3. For the sake of the holy ones who lie in the earth, and for the mighty-all my desires are fulfilled in their merit. 4. Those who hasten after other [G-ds], their sorrows shall increase; I will not offer their libations of blood, nor take their names upon my lips. 5. The Lord is my allotted portion and my share; You guide my destiny. 6. Portions have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, a beautiful inheritance is mine. 7. I bless the Lord Who has advised me; even in the nights my intellect admonishes me.2 8. I have set the Lord before me at all times; because He is at my right hand, I shall not falter. 9. Therefore my heart rejoices and my soul exults; my flesh, too, rests secure. 10. For You will not abandon my soul to the grave, You will not allow Your pious one to see purgatory.11. Make known to me the path of life, that I may be satiated with the joy of Your presence, with the bliss of Your right hand forever.
Chapter 17
1. A prayer by David. Hear my sincere [plea], O Lord; listen to my cry; give ear to my prayer, expressed by guileless lips. 2. Let my verdict come forth from before You; let Your eyes behold uprightness. 3. You have probed my heart, examined it in the night, tested me and found nothing; no evil thought crossed my mind; as are my words so are my thoughts. 4. So that [my] human deeds conform with the words of Your lips, I guard myself from the paths of the lawbreakers. 5. Support my steps in Your paths, so that my feet shall not falter. 6. I have called upon You, for You, O Lord, will answer me; incline Your ear to me, hear what I say. 7.Withhold Your kindness-O You who delivers with Your right hand those who put their trust in You-from those who rise up against [You]. 8. Guard me like the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings 9. from the wicked who despoil me, [from] my mortal enemies who surround me. 10. Their fat has closed [their hearts]; their mouths speak arrogantly. 11. They encircle our footsteps; they set their eyes to make us stray from the earth. 12.His appearance is like a lion longing to devour, like a young lion lurking in hiding. 13. Arise, O Lord! Confront him, bring him to his knees; rescue my soul from the wicked [who serves as] Your sword. 14. Let me be among those whose death is by Your hand, O Lord, among those who die of old age, whose portion is eternal life and whose innards are filled with Your concealed goodness; who are sated with sons and leave their abundance to their offspring. 15. Because of my righteousness, I shall behold Your countenance; in the time of resurrection, I will be sated by Your image.
Chapter 18
1. For the Conductor. By the servant of the Lord, by David, who chanted the words of this song to the Lord on the day the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. 2. He said, "I love You, Lord, my strength. 3. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my rescuer. My G-d is my strength in Whom I take shelter, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 4. With praises I call upon the Lord, and I am saved from my enemies. 5. For the pangs of death surrounded me, and torrents of evil people terrified me. 6. Pangs of the grave encompassed me; snares of death confronted me. 7. In my distress I called upon the Lord, I cried out to my G-d; and from His Sanctuary He heard my voice, and my supplication before Him reached His ears. 8. The earth trembled and quaked; the foundations of the mountains shook-they trembled when His wrath flared. 9. Smoke rose in His nostrils, devouring fire blazed from His mouth, and burning coals flamed forth from Him. 10. He inclined the heavens and descended, a thick cloud was beneath His feet. 11. He rode on a cherub and flew; He soared on the wings of the wind. 12. He made darkness His concealment, His surroundings His shelter-of the dense clouds with their dark waters. 13. Out of the brightness before Him, His clouds passed over, with hailstones and fiery coals. 14. The Lord thundered in heaven, the Most High gave forth His voice-hailstones and fiery coals. 15. He sent forth His arrows and scattered them; many lightnings, and confounded them. 16. The channels of water became visible, the foundations of the world were exposed-at Your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of Your nostrils. 17.He sent from heaven and took me; He brought me out of surging waters. 18. He rescued me from my fierce enemy, and from my foes when they had become too strong for me. 19. They confronted me on the day of my misfortune, but the Lord was my support. 20. He brought me into spaciousness; He delivered me because He desires me. 21. The Lord rewar-ded me in accordance with my righteousness; He repaid me according to the cleanliness of my hands. 22. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not transgressed against my G-d; 23. for all His laws are before me, I have not removed His statutes from me. 24.I was perfect with Him, and have guarded myself from sin. 25. The Lord repaid me in accordance with my righteousness, according to the cleanliness of my hands before His eyes. 26. With the kindhearted You act kindly, with the upright man You act uprightly.27. With the pure You act purely, but with the crooked You act cun- ningly. 28. For the destitute nation You save, but haughty eyes You humble. 29. Indeed, You light my lamp; the Lord, my G-d, illuminates my darkness. 30. For with You I run against a troop; with my G-d I scale a wall. 31. The way of G-d is perfect; the word of the Lord is pure; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. 32. For who is G-d except the Lord, and who is a rock except our G-d! 33. The G-d Who girds me with strength, and makes my path perfect. 34. He makes my feet like deers', and stands me firmly on my high places. 35. He trains my hands for battle, my arms to bend a bow of bronze. 36. You have given me the shield of Your deliverance, Your right hand upheld me; Your humility made me great. 37. You have widened my steps beneath me, and my knees have not faltered. 38. I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back until I destroyed them. 39. I crushed them so that they were unable to rise; they are fallen beneath my feet. 40. You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued my adversaries beneath me. 41. You have made my enemies turn their backs to me, and my foes I cut down.42. They cried out, but there was none to deliver them; to the Lord, but He did not answer them. 43. I ground them as the dust before the wind, I poured them out like the mud in the streets. 44.You have rescued me from the quarrelsome ones of the people, You have made me the head of nations; a nation I did not know became subservient to me. 45. As soon as they hear of me they obey me; strangers deny to me [their disloyalty]. 46. Strangers wither away, they are terrified in their strongholds. 47. The Lord lives; blessed is my Rock; exalted is the G-d of my deliverance.48. You are the G-d Who executes retribution for me, and subjugates nations under me. 49. Who rescues me from my enemies, Who exalts me above my adversaries, Who delivers me from the man of violence. 50. Therefore I will laud You, Lord, among the nations, and sing to Your Name. 51. He grants His king great salvations, and bestows kindness upon His anointed, to David and his descendants forever."
Chapter 32
7. You are a refuge to me; protect me from distress; surround me with songs of deliverance forever. 8. I will enlighten you and educate you in the path you should go; I will advise you with what I have seen. 9. Be not like a horse, like a mule, senseless, that must be muzzled with bit and bridle when being adorned, so that it not come near you.
7. Indeed, who in heaven can be compared to the Lord, who among the supernal beings can be likened to the Lord!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Week 5 (Book 2): The Flood, Aharon, and Perception of the Heart

HAAZINU: Destruction is not His; it is His children's defect you crooked and twisted generation. (Deuteronomy 32:5)
HAFTARAH: For the pains of death have encompassed me; streams of scoundrels would affright me. (II Samuel 22:5)
QUALITY TO ACQUIRE THE TORAH: Perception of the Heart (Binat Ha’Lev)
On the fifth week of the year, which includes Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, Haazinu’s verse makes a reference to destruction due to a twisted a crooked generation. Cheshvan is the month of the Mabul, the Flood that took place in the times of Noah.
This week’s Haftarah verse has an even greater connection to the Flood – the use of the phrases “pains of death encompassing” and “streams of scoundrels” both appear to be references to the events of the Flood. The Hebrew word for used “streams of scoundrels,” Nachalei Bli’al, can be more literally translated as “rivers of G-dlessness.”   
The quality for this week is perception of the heart. Noah’s main mistake was not using his heart to perceive that G-d wanted him to pray to save the rest of mankind. Prayer is called “the service of the heart.” The word for ark in Hebrew, Teivah, also means “word,” and is a reference to prayer. It is ultimately prayer that keeps us above the tumultuous waters of the world around us. (Perception of the heart may also have a connection to music, the theme of the song of the Crane, in Week 5 of Book 1)
Furthermore, Cheshvan will be the month of the inauguration of the Third Temple, which is also connected to prayer and Divine service. Furthermore, the Torah states that those that made objects for the Temple were called “Chochmei Lev,” wise of the heart.
This week’s prophet is Aharon. “Perception of the heart” is probably the best description of Aharon’s qualities. He was known for his ability to serve as a mediator, someone who was able to bring peace between people, and between husband and wife. Furthermore, Aharon was the very first high priest, Kohen Gadol, to serve G-d in the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, the mobile Temple used from the time of that the Jewish people was in the desert until the construction of the First Temple. 
The levitical city for this week is Taanach. The origin of the word Taanach is unclear, but it appears to have its roots in the verb, Lehi’taanot, which means to fast. There is a custom among pious Jews to fast on the first sequence of “Monday, Thursday, Monday” of the month of Cheshvan. This is known as “BaHaB.”  We do not fast simply for the sake of fasting. We fast in order to improve ourselves, to mark a distinction between the holiday period of Tishrei (a similar fast exists after Nissan), and to gain control over physicality. Part of the idea of the month of Cheshvan is to conquer the physical world around us with the spiritual heights we obtained during the month of Tishrei.

Another important lesson we learn from this week's quality to acquire the Torah is the need to make the Torah we learn touch our hearts. It cannot simply stay in our minds. As Rabbi Simon, one of my Talmud teachers in Yeshiva University, would ask, "Do you feel the question?" If you do not feel the question, you cannot truly appreciate the answer. If the Torah is not in your heart, you will not be able to reach the heart of others.

Week 5 (Book 3): the Field and the Flood

SONG OF THE SEA: and the elite of his officers sank in the Red Sea. The depths covered them; they descended into the depths like a stone.
HAFTORAH: when You marched out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the heavens also dripped;
TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 5: Themes – haughtiness and adultery. 
JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT FROM EGYPT TO THE HOLY LAND: They journeyed from Penei hahiroth (“face of rocks”) and crossed in the midst of the sea to the desert. They walked for three days in the desert of Etham and camped in Marah.
The fifth week is that of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. Cheshvan is associated with the Tribe of Menashe. As explained in Book 1, “Menashe, the firstborn son of Joseph, assisted his father in managing the entire Egyptian empire at the time. In Cheshvan, we bring all the holiness that we acquired in Tishrei, and use it in our day-to-day spiritual and physical endeavors to elevate the world.” The Song of the Sea speaks of marching (or stepping) out of the “field of Edom.” While early in life our forefather Jacob was known for being an “Ish Tam Yoshev Ohalim” (a wholesome/straightforward that dwelled in the tents [of study]), his brother Eisav is described as a man of the field (Ish HaSadeh), involved in the affairs of the world. While Efraim, who is connected to Tishrei could be described more in line with Jacob’s original description - in fact, he studied under Jacob during his childhood - Menashe’s role is in the “field” that at one point belonged solely to the realms of Eisav.
Cheshvan is also the month of the Flood, and the verses of the Song of the Sea for this week are also about how the Egyptian officers sank into the Sea of Reeds and how the “depths covered them.” This event has clear parallels with the Flood, when the entire world was covered by the world’s depths. The Haftorah also draws similar parallels, as it states that “the heavens dripped.”
Daf Heh (Folio 5) of Sotah, discusses the concept of haughtiness and adultery, two of the main contributors to the events that led to the Flood. Adultery and immoral sexual behavior in general is specifically described in the Torah as a reason for the Flood:
At the core of the disease of "civilization" in the time of Noah were sexual immorality and violent robbery, both flagrant affronts to the dignity of man, ADAM, created in the image of G-d. "And the land was corrupted and the land was filled with violent robbery. All flesh corrupted his path on the land" (Genesis 6:11-12). The Midrash teaches that the latter sin was that of the spilling of seed -- sexual immorality. When man abuses his sexual urge for self-gratification alone rather than elevating it to breed future generations who will glorify G-d, the entire earth is corrupted. The violation of the proper boundaries of personal moral conduct leads to a mentality in which everything is permitted, including violent robbery -- HAMAS.
Noah himself also showed a certain amount of lack of humility in not praying for other people and only focusing on himself and his family. We see later in the Torah that Avraham and Moshe did not act in this way.
Mahalalel seems to be a “kosher” version of Mehijael, son of Chanoch, son of Cain. Mahalalel contains the root “Halel” which means “praise,” While Mehijael could be related to Chai – life, but also “Chol,” profane. On Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan we elevate Chol in Hallel, connecting the spirituality of Tishrei (Hallel was said every day of Sukkot), with the month of Cheshvan, which for now lacks any holy days.
The difference in the names also points to an overall difference between the letters Hay and Chet in Judaism. Mehijael is spelled with a Chet while Mahalalel is with a Hay. The Hay is a Chet with an opening. Chet is related to sin, while Hey is related to malchut and to teshuvah. The Hay’s opening is for the repentant person, the Ba’al Teshuvah, to be able to re-enter his relationship with Hashem: “The word teshuvah can be read as tashuv-hey - returning, restoring the Hay.....for when man sins he causes the letter hey to be removed from the Divine Name.”[1]  In Cheshvan, we go beyond our boundaries in order to help the entire world do teshuvah.
In the fifth week, the Jews journey from Penei HaHiroth (“face of rocks”) and cross in the midst of the sea to the desert. They walk for three days in the desert of Etham and camp in Marah. The journey for this week is about internalizing the struggle of facing the rocks of the material world we are to elevate - notice the change from Pi (“mouth”) to Pnei (“face,” as well as Pnim, inside). We prepare ourselves to face the bitter world we are meant to sweeten. Cheshvan is known as Mar Cheshvan, bitter Cheshvan, because it has no holidays (yet). This is also exemplified in the fact that we are going from the sea to the desert.
Rabbi Shimon Jacobson describes this journey as follows:
The final stage of human maturation – as we move from our teenage years into full adulthood – is completely crossing over from the pure, inner world of “water” into the dry, arid world of the desert. Indeed, Moses had to coerce the Jews to away from the Red Sea out into the Shur Desert, where they traveled three days without finding water (Exodus 15:22). They didn’t want to leave the insulated “cocoon” of the Red Sea only to be thrown into a harsh and hostile desert, one that leads us into a state of bitterness (Marah). Yet, leave we must. This is the purpose of our existence: To transform the wilderness into a Divine sea (Ohr HaTorah Massei p. 1383).
Because of their bitter waters “the place was called Marah” (marah in Hebrew means bitter). When the Jewish people came to Marah and could not drink the bitter water there, they began to complain. “What shall we drink?” they demanded. When Moses cried out to G-d, He showed him a certain tree. Moses threw it into the water, and the water became drinkable. It was there that G-d taught them survival techniques and methods, and there He tested them. He said, “If you obey G-d and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I am G-d who heals you.”
The journey to Marah refers to the stage in our lives when we encounter a bitter experience – loss, disappointment, pain, sorrow or illness. We then have two choices: Either we will complain, become bitter and overwhelmed with anguish and grief, or we will learn to rise to the occasion and discover the deeper powerful light and sweetness that lays embedded within the dark and bitter.
Therein also lays the power of healing: The ability to sweeten the bitter and to uproot infection in its source.
An important lesson we learn from Mahalalel in our approach to prayer and Divine service is understanding that at the most essential level, prayer is about Hallel veHoda'ah, praise and thanksgiving. The mitzvah of prayer is to "serve Him with all your hearts." It is about getting excited, it is about singing to Him, even dancing to Him if possible. One cannot let oneself get bogged down in routine, in simply reading the words of a book, because there is a good chance one is not fulfilling anything at all. The intention has to be there, and the intention has to involve "knowing before Whom you stand," and doing so with joy. 


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