Monday, December 26, 2016

Fifth Set of 22 Days: Tet & Yud, the Rivers & the Wellsprings

The 28th of Kislev begins the fifth set of 22 days of the Jewish calendar, which parallel the letters Tet and Yud, as well as the Rivers and the Wellsprings in Perek Shirah.

Just as we saw with the previous pairs, Tet and Yud are also complementary. Tet is connected to the Hebrew word Tov, good, which in turn is generally connected to the Torah and to light. Tet also means snake in Aramaic, which represents desire, as well as physicality in general. Connecting the two concepts, Tet is connected to the hidden good, as our sages comment that the Torah refers to the good inclination as good, and the evil inclination as "very good." (Rabbi Raskin, "Letters of Light: Tet"

Yud represents spirituality. It is simply a dot on the page. The Heavens are said to have been created with the letter Yud. The Yud also generally represents wisdom. It is also connected to the pintele yid, the spiritual essence of every Jew, which if one digs deep enough one will certainly find.

The Rivers and the Wellsprings have a similar relationship. As explained previously, water in general is a symbol of Torah. The Rivers also represent the revealed physical life - rivers are usually full of fish, as well as other fauna and flora that are a great source of sustenance for those near it.

Wellsprings represent Torah as well; Torah that comes from deep within, and comes out through much digging (like the wells of Isaac). The Baal Shem Tov had a vision in which he encountered Mashiach and asked him he would come. The answer: "When the your wellsprings have spread outwards."

The 22 days of this cycle all fall within Chanukah as well as the beginning of Teveth, including the fast of the Tenth of Teveth. Chanukah is about the victory of Torah and light over Greek wisdom and darkness. Teveth, the coldest month of the year, is known as the time when "the body benefits from the body." This is connected to physical desire and the snake, as mentioned above. The month of Teveth is represented by the tribe of Dan, which has the snake as its symbol.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the concept of "the body benefits from the body," has also a very spiritual dimension. It is about how the essence of the Jewish people connects to the essence of G-d. This is connected to the idea of digging and finding the spiritual within the mundane and the spread outward of the wellsprings of the Ba'al Shem Tov.

The tenth of Teveth has the potential for being an incredibly happy and spiritual day. This potential is connected to another fast which is also on the tenth of the month, Yom Kippur, and will be fulfilled with the coming of Mashiach.

Fourth Set of 22 Days: Zayin & Chet, the Waters & the Seas

This Wednesday, the 6th of Kislev, begins the fourth set of 22 days of the Jewish calendar, which parallel the letters Zayin and Chet, as well as the Waters and the Seas in Perek Shirah.

Just as we saw with Gimmel and Dalet and then with Heh and Vav, the letters Zayin and Chet are also complementary. Zayin represents Creation, the physical struggles connected to it as well as the spirituality within it, such as the ShabatZayin means weapon, and Zan means to provide (materially). There is a deep connection between making a living and going to battle. The word for Lechem (bread/sustenance) is also found in the word Milchama (war). 
(See Rabbi Michael Munk's, "Wisdom of the Hebrew Letters")

Chet, on the other hand, represents tremendous power and inner qualities that are above nature. Chet stands for Cheit (sin), but also the ability to overcome sin and live (Chaim). (Munk) Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, in the opening pages of Likutei Moharan, explains that Cheit is Chiut (vitality), which is also the inner wisdom (Chochmah) and thinking (Sechel).

The Water and the Seas have a similar kind of relationship. Water is the source of life in the physical world. We ourselves are made of mostly water. Yet water also represents the Torah, and is deeply connected to all things spiritual. The Waters sing: "The sound of His voice places the multitude of waters in the heavens and He raises the vapors from the end of the earth." (Jeremiah 51:16) Water is connected to both heaven and earth; the material as well as the spiritual.

The Seas represent tremendous awe-inspiring might, deep below the surface, yet reflecting also G-d's tremendous heights. The Seas say: "More than the voices of many waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea, Hashem is mighty on high." (Psalms 93:4)  The Seas also represent inner wisdom, waiting to be revealed, like in the splitting of the Sea of Reeds in our redemption from Egypt. (See Rabbi Slifkin's, "Nature's Song") 

The 22 days of this cycle all fall within KislevKislev represents the month of the physical and spiritual struggle against the Greeks. It is also a month very much connected with supernatural redemption (ie. the 8 days of Chanukah) as well as deep supernatural kabbalistic wisdom (represented by the olive oil and the light of the Menorah) and secrets, such as those revealed beginning on the 19th of Kislev - the Rosh Hashanah of Chassidut and the date of the personal redemption of the Alter Rebbe of Lubavitch.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Week 13 (from the Book): To Publicize Miracles with Pride and Humility

The starling is saying, "Their seed shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed that G-d has blessed." (Isaiah 61:9)

Akavia the son of Mahalalel would say: Reflect upon three things and you will not come to the hands of transgression. Know from where you came, where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give a judgment and accounting. From where you came--from a putrid drop; where you are going--to a place of dust, maggots and worms; and before whom you are destined to give a judgment and accounting--before the supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

Yesod shebeGevurah (foundation and firmness within the context of discipline and judgment)

We now come to the thirteenth week, which includes the beginning of Chanukah, when in Perek Shirah the starling declares that "Their seeds will be known among the nations and their offspring among the people: all who see them will recognize that they are the seed that Hashem blessed" (Isaiah 61:9). During this week, it is actually a mitzvah to publicize the miracles of Chanukah to the rest of the world, so that all may recognize the blessings bestowed on the Jewish people during the times of the Greeks. This mitzvah in Hebrew is called pirsumei nissa, to publicize the miracle.

The starling’s song’s focus on the seed of the Jewish people appears to be an important reference to the kohanim, the priestly class, whose lineage, unlike most of Judaism, is actually determined by the physical male seed. There are even DNA tests available to check for a “kohen gene,” to know with almost complete certainty if someone is or is not a direct descendant of Aaron, the first kohen. The Maccabees were kohanim, and their miraculous actions during the days of Chanukah made the seed of Aaron known among the nations. They ensured that Aaron’s offspring would be recognized as the seed Hashem blessed.

Chanukah also comes from the word chinuch, which means education. The starling also teaches us that just as each of us is a “seed,” planted, nurtured and blessed by our parents, teachers, and most importantly, by G-d, so too must we ensure that the same or better is done for our children and students. It is ultimately through education that we will defeat the forces of darkness and assimilation.

The number thirteen represents the thirteen attributes of G-d’s mercy, as well as the thirteen principles used in studying and interpreting the Torah. Thirteen is also the gematria of the Hebrew word echad, one, as well as ahavah, love. It is also a reference to the Tribe of Levi, which is the “thirteenth tribe,” when counted together with the other twelve. As kohanim, the Maccabees come from the Tribe of Levi. Their highly improbable victory over the Greeks was a revelation of Hashem’s great mercy and love, as well as of His oneness, and absolute power over creation.

In Pirkei Avot, Akavia the son of Mahalalel teaches: "Reflect upon three things and you will not come to sin: know from where you came, to where you are going, and to Whom, in the future, you are to provide an accounting. From where did you come? From a putrid drop. To where you are going? To a place of dust, maggots and worms. To Whom will you provide an accounting? To the King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He." (III: 1) It is interesting to note that this lesson in Pirkei Avot also speaks of the human seed, although in a much less flattering way.

Interestingly, there is quite a strong connection between the words of Akavia and Chanukah. Chanukah celebrates our victory against Hellenistic culture and humanism, which valued mankind, and in particular, the human body above all else. Akavia claims that the human being, or at least the body, comes from a putrid drop, and that its fate is to be consumed by worms. The lowly human being is then judged by G-d Himself. Akavia demonstrates to us that our life should be focused on G-d, not on man.

The thoughts of Akavia help us understand just how merciful G-d is towards His people. Despite our lowly past and lowly future, we nevertheless have a strong and direct relationship with the King of kings, just like children have with their Father. We have a spark of G-d within us, and when He punishes us, it is for our own good. Chassidism teaches us that we have no idea just how precious the body is to G-d, like the seed described in the song of the starling.

The sefirah combination for this week results in yesod shebegevurah. This could not be more appropriate: yesod means foundation, and it is this week that we celebrate Chanukah, when the Jewish people, through its deep connection to its religious foundation, as well as courage and strength, was able to resist the forced assimilationist policies of the Greeks.

Regarding self-improvement, we see from the song of the starling that we must not only publicize the miracles that we merit to witness, but also be aware that everything comes from G-d, our Creator, who is ultimately responsible for everyone and everything.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Week 12 (From the Book): Revealing Warmth to Those that Are Cold and Indifferent

The raven is saying, "Who prepares food for the raven, when his young ones cry out to G-d?" (Job 38:41)

Rabbi Tarfon would say: The day is short, the work is much, the workers are lazy, the reward is great, and the Master is pressing.

He would also say: It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it. If you have learned much Torah, you will be greatly rewarded, and your employer is trustworthy to pay you the reward of your labors. And know, that the reward of the righteous is in the World to Come.

Hod shebeGevurah (glory and gratefulness within the context of discipline and judgment)

During the twelfth week, it is the turn of the raven to exclaim with great humility that it is G-d that provides prey when its young roam in search of food. (Job 38:41) This is the week of Yud Tes Kislev, known as the Rosh Hashanah of Chassidism, the day in which the Alter Rebbe was released from prison and the yahrzeit of the Maggid of Mezeritch.

After being falsely accused of treason by the enemies of Chassidism, to the point of being threatened with the death penalty, the Alter Rebbe, through the help of G-d, emerged victorious. The release of the Alter Rebbe on Yud Tes Kislev directly led to a new phase in the history of Chabad philosophy. The Alter Rebbe saw it as not only a vindication of his work in earthly courts, but in the Heavenly Court as well. The Alter Rebbe became much more open and expansive in his teachings. 

The redoubled efforts to spread the Alter Rebbe’s teachings, celebrated this week, brought Chassidism’s warmth and love for Judaism into the coldest and most indifferent part of the Jew: the intellect. Geographically, the capital of "intellectual Judaism” was in Vilna, Lithuania, where the Alter Rebbe was sent as an emissary.

Chassidism has the power to uplift even the animals that are the most distant from Hashem. The raven was literally kicked out of Noah's Ark for not obeying its rule of celibacy.[1] The raven is also known for its cruelty and indifference to its offspring. However, even the raven can redeem itself. When Elijah the Prophet fled from the King Ahab and his evil wife, G-d determined that precisely the raven, which does not even provide for its own young, should bring food to Elijah.[2]

At the time Elijah ran away, he was overcome by despair and complained to G-d about the rebellious state of the Jewish people. G-d sought to teach Elijah that, like the raven, we all have the potential for warmth and good; it just needs to be revealed.

Interestingly, the very word for raven in Hebrew, orev, reveals that potential. Orev is related to the word arev, which, as explained in Week 3, means “responsible for the other,” as well as “sweet” and “mixed together” as in the saying, Kol Israel Arevim Zeh LaZeh, which means that “all of Israel is responsible for (sweet to and mixed together with) one another.” This saying also encompasses practically the entire basis of Chassidism and the Torah: to love your fellow as yourself.

The number twelve represents the twelve tribes of Israel. Despite our differences, and setbacks, we all are mixed together and responsible for one another and sweet to one another. Upon his deathbed, Jacob was very concerned about the differences among the different tribes. The Talmud teaches that his twelve sons responded to his concern by calling out in unison: “Listen O Israel (a reference to Jacob), Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One.”[3]

The number twelve is also closely associated with Elijah the Prophet himself, “a man whose eyes have seen twelve generations." Bear in Hebrew, dov, has the gematria of twelve. The Tanach teaches us that before Eliyahu rose to Heaven, Elisha asked Elijah to bequeath to him twice Elijah’s own power.[4] Shortly thereafter, Elisha purified the waters of a city, and was insulted by a group of youths. When Elisha responded to their insult, two bears immediately appeared and killed them.[5]

Elijah is most likely the biblical figure most associated with the revelation of the hidden and mystical secrets of the Torah. Elijah’s own teacher, Achiah HaShiloni was also the teacher of the Ba’al Shem Tov. It is therefore quite appropriate that he should be connected to the week of Yud Tes Kislev, given that the Alter Rebbe, who was freed on Yud Tes Kislev, taught the kabbalistic secrets revealed by the Ba’al Shem Tov.

In Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Tarfon reminds us that "the day is short, the work is plenty, the workers are lazy, the reward is great, and the owner insists [urges]." (II: 15) There is also a strong connection between the New Year of Chassidism and the teaching of Rabbi Tarfon. Chassidism came to light up a fire in order to awaken those who were depressed and spiritually asleep. It was like an alarm clock, a spiritual wake-up call: time is short, now is the time to serve G-d![6]

The number twelve is also linked to time: there are twelve months in the year, twelve halachic hours during the day, and twelve halachic hours during the night. In the Jewish calendar, a daytime halachic hour (shaah zmanit) is defined as 1/12 of the time it takes from sunrise to sunset. A nighttime shaah zmanit is 1/12 of the time between sunset and sunrise. The exact amount of time of each of these hours varies throughout the year. When the days are long, as in the summer, a daytime halachic hour is equivalent to more than sixty minutes. In the winter, when days are shorter, the daytime hour amounts to less than sixty minutes.

In this week, the sefirah combination results in hod shebegevurah. This week, we are inspired by the Alter Rebbe, who after facing the gevurah of incarceration, reveals even more the hidden secrets of the Torah through the teachings of the Chabad Chassidism. The sefirah of hod is connected with the inner dimensions of the Torah, the Kabbalah, just as Lag Ba’Omer, which is hod shebehod. Lag Ba’Omer is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who wrote down the seminal kabbalistic work, the Zohar.

A lesson for this week is that even the raven and its offspring recognize G-d’s kingship and the importance of requesting one’s sustenance directly from G-d.[7] We inspire ourselves in the song of the raven, who knows that it is never alone - G-d is always by its side.

[1] Midrash Tanchuma, Noach
[2] 1 Kings 17:2-7
[3] Talmud, Pesachim 56a
[4] 2 Kings 2:9
[5] 2 Kings 2:23-25
[6] Hayom Yom, 17th  of Av, 79a
[7] Psalm 147:9

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Week 11 (from the Book): Fighting Evil and Heresy, Yet Knowing How to Forgive

The stork is saying, "Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her, for her time has arrived, for her sins have been pardoned, for she has taken double from G-d's hand for all her sins." (Isaiah 40:2)

Rabbi Elazar would say: Be diligent in the study of Torah. Know what to answer a heretic. And know before whom you toil, and who is your employer who will repay you the reward of your labors.

Netzach shebeGevurah (victory and endurance within the context of discipline and judgment)

In the eleventh week, in Perek Shirah, the stork sings to the heart of Jerusalem, repeating G-d’s words that the time of punishment has ended, and that the city will be rescued from iniquity: the city has received a double punishment for its sins. (Isaiah 40:.2) This week marks the Chassidic holiday of Yud Kislev, when the second Rebbe of Lubavitch, the Mitteler Rebbe, was released from imprisonment. He had been briefly arrested on purely fabricated charges of seeking a rebellion against the government, which were strikingly similar to the accusations made against his father (discussed in Week 12). The life of the Mitteler Rebbe was a great example of purity, righteousness, and wonders - the prevailing characteristics of this month.

The verse of the stork is the continuation of the verses of the bat, and is also closely connected with Chanukah and the month of Kislev. The stork sings to the heart of Jerusalem. However, we must first ask ourselves, what is the heart of Jerusalem? As noted in week thirty-two, Jerusalem itself is called a heart. The heart of Jerusalem is most likely none other than the Temple itself, the Beit haMikdash. It was on Chanukah that the Temple in Jerusalem was liberated, cleansed of impurity, and rededicated to the service of G-d. The word Chanukah itself means "dedication."

The number eleven is also associated with kelipah, impurity, which consists of eleven attributes, known also as sefirot or crowns. In the Temple, that incense (ketoret), which consisted of eleven ingredients, was used in order to cleanse the people of Israel of their sins. Additionally, the incense functioned as a powerful remedy in the face of death, the greatest source of all impurity. The Torah states that Aaron “placed the ketoret [in the pan] and atoned for the people. He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was halted.”[1]

Like the numbers five and eight, eleven is also connected to the idea of being above the natural order, this time represented by the number ten. The power to purify and cleanse from spiritual impurity, and even to prevent certain death, is certainly such an above-nature quality.

One of the basic teachings behind the ketoret is that among the required spices used was the chelbena, which had a very foul odor. However, when it was mixed with the other ten elements, the ketoret’s aroma was sublime. The same can be said about us: even though individually we may not all be perfect, as a group, we atone for one another, and have a “good smell.”

In Joseph’s dream, eleven stars (eleven sheaves of wheat in the other dream) bowed down to him, each representing one of his brothers. When Joseph told the brothers about the dream, they were outraged. The idea of his brothers bowing to him appeared to be heretical and presumptuous. However, this was not heretical on Joseph’s part – he simply saw things more deeply. Joseph’s dreams represented the concept of self-nullification before the tzadik (in this case, Yosef HaTzadik) both in spiritual matters (stars) as well as material ones (wheat). Through this nullification, the tzadik is able to properly bind and blend and bring out the best in all eleven elements, very much like the ketoret.

The Pirkei Avot lesson for this week is taught by Rabbi Elazar, who states that one must be diligent in Torah study and know how to answer an epicurean (or heretic, apikores in Hebrew). This lesson is directly related to Kislev and the festival of Chanukah, because it is in these days that we celebrate our success in combating aspects of Greek philosophy that run counter to Jewish values. Epicureanism in particular, with its focus on worldly pleasures, is most likely the kind of Greek philosophy that is most antithetical to the Torah, and one that had particular appeal during the time when Chanukah took place.

Rabbi Elazar also advises: “Know before Whom you toil, and Who is the Master of your work that will pay your wages.” The emphasis again is on our direct connection with G-d, and His involvement in our struggles, a concept the Greeks simply could not fathom or accept.

For Rabbi Elazar, in order follow the righteous path, it is very important to have a “good heart,” and avoid a “bad heart” at all costs (this is reminiscent of the song of the stork, which is also about the heart). Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai states that within the words of Rabbi Elazar are contained the words of all other disciples.

Rabbi Matis Weinberg points out that the difference between the Hebrew word Tzion (Zion, Jerusalem) and Yavan (Greece) is just a single letter, the tzadik.[2]The difference between Judaism and Greek philosophy is the tzadik: the need to act justly before G-d, with a good heart, as well as the ability to be bound to G-d and to the righteous individuals of every generation. (It is no coincidence that the Midrash states that the Greeks demanded that a heretical statement be written specifically “on the horn of an ox,” a reference to Yosef HaTzadik).

This week, the combination of sefirot results in netzach shebegevurah. Therefore, we should be inspire ourselves in the Mitteler Rebbe, a great tzadik, and be disciplined and determined in our pursuit of Torah and mitzvot. The first chapter in the Code of Jewish Law, the Shulchan Aruch, teaches that the main place of gevurah is in the heart, where we can defeat (lenatzeach) our internal enemy, the yetzer harah, the evil inclination.

As to a lesson in self-improvement, we should follow the example of the stork. We must learn how to humbly ask for forgiveness, and also to truly forgive. After all, we are only alive due G-d’s daily forgiveness.

[1] Numbers 17:13

[2] Matis Weinberg, Patterns in Time Volume 8: Chanukah, Feldheim Publishers, New York, 1992, page 78.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

From the Sunrise to the Next

From Sunrise to the Next

After a period of focus and tranquility, the man now felt haunted by all sorts of dilemmas, lack of direction and confusion. Everything felt stagnant and repetitive. Health-wise, his situation was also far less than ideal. He was constantly tired and could not seem to focus. It was not clear how he was able to accomplish anything at all. 

In many ways it seemed like there was nothing to do but to stay put and work hard, and perhaps stop thinking so much. Yet there was something inside that was eating away at him. The feeling of wasting time, of not fulfilling his potential. There was hardly ever any feedback from anyone, and the man was afraid he wasn't growing enough. Perhaps he was demanding too much of himself... 

When he felt down, he would remember an insight he had as he was about to leave the Land of the Sheep: a certain period of 5 years in the distant future (almost 15 years away at the time) in which important redemptive events would take place. Now that time was just around the corner.

When the time arrived, the first thing he did was to travel to the grave of a second Great Lion - one whom he had always admired and also felt very connected. He was also supposed to meet his friend the Lamb but could not find him. Also his friend the Angel was supposed to be there, but didn't make it. Even his own son also wasn't able to come. The trip was filled  with great expectations, but his time there was marked by extreme confusion.

Eventually, things started becoming clearer. Six months later, he made it back to the land of the second Great Lion, and this time with his son. He also made it to the Promised Land along with his family, and he saw his friend the Angel as well as the Lamb. He visited the resting places of his ancestors, and later returned with a sense that he had somewhat regained the spirit of when he first returned there.  He then also visited the grave of the first Great Lion with his son, which was in the Land of the Dogs. This trip as well was extremely inspiring.

He then remembered the first message he received from the first Great Lion, in which he said that the man should be a teacher. He also remembered what he had momentarily understood when his son was born, a lion cub fiery as the sun: "The man finally understood the true meaning of what it meant to be a lion – to transmit everything he’d learned until now." 

Back in the Land of the Sweet Waters, all of a sudden things began improve significantly. He had more energy, and was given more interesting work. He was also given an opportunity to teach at a school of young cubs. The more he taught, the more he realized that he was always meant to be a teacher: to learn in order to teach and in order to do. 

Once again there was repetition, but things did not feel stagnant. On the contrary, the highest growth would come in finding consistency. That was now the challenge. In fact, it had been the challenge all along, the message received at the very beginning of his journeys and transformations. 

Key to this old new approach was being able to look not only at each month and each week individually, but also at each day and each moment. Every day was a whole year, beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with the repentance of Elul. Every day, the Book was received anew and transmitted to the next generation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hayom Yom, Daily Tehilim and Tanya

7th of Tishrei: Hashgacha Pratit (Seeing G-d's Hand in Creation)

Hayom Yom (7th of Tishrei): "A person who sets his heart and mind to observe all that happens to him and around him, will perceive G‑dliness tangibly in evidence... This form of the service ofteshuva comes from one's perceiving hashgacha p'ratit, (particular Divine Providence)."

Tehilim (39-43): "Behold, like handbreadths You set my days... Then I said, "Behold, I come with a Scroll of the Book written [about] me... May You, Lord, not withhold Your mercies from me; may Your kindness and truth constantly guard me....  By day the Lord ordains His kindness, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life... Send Your light and Your truth, they will guide me; they will bring me to Your holy mountain and to your sanctuaries."

Tanya (Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 20): "Likewise,“There is no place — or spiritual level — devoid of Him,” even in this physical world. [The Divine light is present,] however, [only] in an “encompassing” and “encircling” manner — not in a palpable indwelling, but in a concealed transcendence,as this concept (i.e., makkif, or Sovev Kol Almin) is explained in Likutei Amarim."

8th of Tishrei: Modesty/Humility

Hayom Yom (8th of Tishrei): "H - Hatznei'a..., "Walk discreetly with your G‑d," One must take care not to be conspicuous or ostentatious in the slightest... The artfulness lies in seeing that his piety not be noticed at all."

Tehillim (44-48) "... all day long my humiliation is before me, and the shame of my face covers me ... Is it not so that God can examine this, for He knows the secrets of the heart... All the glory of the princess is within; her clothing surpasses settings of gold. In embroidered garments she will be brought to the king; the maidens in her train, her companions, will be led to you."

Tanya (Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 20): "... the manner in which both these levels of illumination ultimately radiate within created beings,demonstrates its power and ability, inasmuch as it is a G‑d-ly radiation descending from Malchut of Atzilut, in the Element of the physical Earth in an immense manifestation surpassing [that of] the elements (viz., Fire, Air and Water) that transcend it, and even the heavenly hosts. (...) This is so only because the “feet” of Adam Kadmon culminate at the lowest level of Asiyah, and “below His feet,” i.e., below the lowest levels of Adam Kadmon, radiates the [infinite] Ein Sof-light which encircles (i.e., transcends) all worlds, at the very “place” at which there ceases the indwelling Divine illumination that permeates all the worlds, there begins the “encompassing” degree of Divine light that transcends all the worlds."

9th of Tishrei (Erev Yom Kippur): 

Hayom Yom (9th of Tishrei): "On Erev Yom Kippur the avoda is remorse for the past; on Yom Kippur - resolve for the future."

Tehilim (49-55): "Why am I afraid in times of trouble? [Because] the sins I trod upon surround me... but [all] will praise you if you better yourself... Offer confession as a sacrifice to God, and fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call to Me on the day of distress; I will free you, and you will honor Me... He who offers a sacrifice of confession honors Me; and to him who sets right his way, I will show the deliverance of God... Be gracious to me, O God, in keeping with Your kindness; in accordance with Your abounding compassion, erase my transgressions. Cleanse me thoroughly of my wrongdoing, and purify me of my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You alone have I sinned, and done that which is evil in Your eyes; [forgive me] so that You will be justified in Your verdict, vindicated in Your judgment. Indeed, I was begotten in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Indeed, You desire truth in the innermost parts; teach me the wisdom of concealed things. Purge me with hyssop and I shall be pure; cleanse me and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear [tidings of] joy and gladness; then the bones which You have shattered will rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and erase all my trespasses. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew within me an upright spirit... I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will return to You... The offering [desirable] to God is a contrite spirit; a contrite and broken heart, God, You do not disdain."

Tanya (Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 20): "There are, though, some [plants, trees and fruit] that result from a [prior] “elevation of mayin nukvin,” i.e., whose seeds serve as the above-mentioned arousal from below which calls forth the power of vegetative growth within the earth, namely, those which are sown and planted.

Nevertheless, these [too] are like yesh me’ayin, for the planted seed is of no estimation whatever in relation to the fruit, nor in relation to the whole tree with the branches and leaves.

Now, these fruits that [grow] by means of an “elevation of mayin nukvin,” i.e., by sowing and planting, are far, far superior to those that come up independently, only from the vegetative property in the soil.

And from this we will be able to understand [the concept of] the elicitation of the Supernal orot, the Divine illuminations, [that are drawn down] in the Worlds of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, (which is the ultimate purpose for the creation of man), as is explained elsewhere."

10th of Tishrei (Yom Kippur):

Hayom Yom (10th of Tishrei): On Yom Kippur it works out that we actually fast 26 hours.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Haazinu as a Reflection of the Torah Portions from Bereishit until Haazinu Itself

1. Bereishit. "Give ear O heavens... may the earth hear." (portion describes creation of heaven and earth)

2. Noah. "May my teaching drop like rain... dew... storm winds... raindrops (portion describes the Flood)

3. Lech Lecha. "When I call out the Name of Hashem, ascribe greatness to our G-d." (portion describes Avraham, first to call out the Name of Hashem, and influence others to ascribe greatness to our G-d).

4. Vayeira. "... perfect is His work... a G-d of faith..." (Isaac was a "perfect offering," and Abraham and Isaac were tested in their faith by the Akeidah)

5. Chayei Sarah: "Corruption is not His - the blemish is His children's, a perverse and twisted generation." (portion describes Sarah's death and difficulty with burial, which could make Abraham question Hashem's promise, but he doesn't. It also describes Ishmael (blemish in Abraham's children) and the generations of Ishmael (perverse and twisted).

6. Toldot. "... O vile and unwise people? Is He not your Father, your Master? ... created you and firmed you?" (vile and unwise is a reference to Eisav in this portion, who foolishly gave up the birthright and then lost his father's blessing. The portion also describes how Isaac became established, and the establishment of Yaakov through the blessing he received.

7. Vayetzei. "Remember the days of yore... Ask your father and he will relate to you..." (portion contains the story of Yaakov, which serves as a sign and for a guiding point for all subsequent generations.

8. Vayishlach. "When the Supreme One gave the nations their inheritance, whe He separated the children of man, He set the borders of the peoples according to the number of the Children of Israel." (portion contains meeting between Yaakov and Eisav, and the division of the land. Eisav goes to Seir, and Yaakov remains in the Land of Israel.)

9. Vayeshev. "For Hashem's portion is His people; Jacob is the measure of His inheritance." (portion describes Yaakov settling in the Land of Israel, His inheritance. It also describes how Yaakov's inheritance would develop, through Yehudah and Yosef).

10. Miketz. "He discovered him in a desert land, in desolation, a howling wilderness, He encircled him, He granted him discernment, He preserved him like the pupil of his eye (Joseph is protected by Hashem, Who finds him in desolation; Hashem gives him discernment to interpret Pharaoh's dream and rise to power)

11. Vayigash. "He was like an eagle arousing its nest, hovering over its young, spreading its wings and taking them, carrying them on its pinions." (Portion describes how Yaakov and his sons come down to Egypt, carried by Hashem.)

12. Vayechi. "Hashem alone guided them, and no other power was with them." (Before passing away, Yaakov gives blessings to his sons. Immediately prior to this, the Schinah leaves him temporarily, and the Midrash states that Yaakov is concerned that perhaps they are not all serving Hashem. They say to him "Shmah Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad." Hashem alone guides them. At this point, Yaakov says "Baruch Shem K'vod Malchuto L'Olam Va'ed and blesses them.)

13. Shemot. “ripe fruits from the field, honey from a stone, oil from a flinty rock” - this is a reference to the suffering and work of Jews as slaves (children taken from stones of birth stools; embittered life through mortar and bricks (1:13 - 1:15)

14. Vayera. cattle and other animals, blood of grapes "Dam... chamer" (plagues: blood, due to the mortar (Chomer), wild beasts, and plagues also inflicted animals)

15. Bo. became fat and kicked, contemptuous of the Rock of its salvation (Pharaoh, whose name is related to “overgrown.” He had a tremendously overgrown ego)

16: Beshalach. They would provoke His jealousy with strangers, they would anger Him with abominations. (the complaints of the erev rav, amalek)

17. Yitro. they would slaughter to demons without power, G-ds whom they knew not, newcomers recently arrived... (Yitro worshipped every possible idol, but then later he was a "newcomer" joining the Jewish people at Sinai.)

18. Mishpatim. You ignored the Rock Who gave birth to you, and forgot G-d who brought you forth (the Jewish people make a pact with Hashem, "Na'aseh VeNishmah," which basically represents the birth of the Jewish people, and even includes with "Dam Habrit" - reference to a circumcision. Nadav and Avihu and the elders see the Throne of Hashem (likeness of saphire brickwork), yet eat and drink. This was a big offense.   

19. Terumah. Hashem will see and be provoked by the anger of his sons and daughters (the giving to the Mishkan, which came from the people's heart, provokes Hashem to act kindly towards his children)

20. Tetzaveh. I shall hide my face... what their end will be, a generation of reversals - this is the only portion since Moshe is introduced that his name does not appear (this is also usually parasha before Purim, which is deeply connected to this connected of Hashem hiding his face, a story connected to the end of days, and one in which there is a major reversal, for the good)

21. Ki Tissah. "They provoked me with a non-G-d, so shall I provoke them with a non-people, with a vile nation shall I anger them." (Story of the sin of the golden calf; this was actually started by the erev rav - this non-people which Moshe brought out of Egypt with the Jews)

22. Vayakhel. "For fire will have been kindled in My nostrils and blazed to the lowest depths. It shall consume the earth and its produce, and set ablaze what is founded on mountains." (The portion describes the construction of the mishkan, which included the altars for incense and burnt offerings; the mishkan was the revelation of Hashem into the lowest depths, and later founded on the mountains of Shiloh and Jerusalem)

23. Pekudei. "I shall accumulate evils against them." (The portion describes the accumulation/accounting of the monies given to the Mishkan)

24. Vayikra. "bloating of famine, battles of flaming demons, cutting down by the noontime demon... the teeth of beasts... the venom of those that creep on the earth." (reference to all the different kinds of sacrifices, which sacrficied different beasts (same word), had specific times, and also involved flour, oil, salt, and blood)

25. Tzav. "On the outside, the sword will bereave, while indoors there will be dread, even a young man, even a virgin, a suckling with the gray-haired man. (description of different sacrifices, some brought indoors others outside; consecration of kohanim, every young man son of Aharon, and Aharon himself, a gray-haired man)

26. Shmini. "I had said, "I will scatter them, I will cause their memory to cease from man" (Nadav and Avihu are killed after entering the Mishkan and offering a foreign sacrifice)

27. Tazria. were it not that the anger of the enemy was pent up, lest his tormenters misinterpret; lest they say, 'Our hand was raised in triumph, and it was not Hashem Who accomplished this!" (woman delivering baby has pent up pain and feels tormented; portion also describes tza'aras, the spiritual disease that greatly humbles those that felt too haughty)

28. Metzorah. "for they are a nation bereft of counsel, and there is no discernment in them"  (this portion also describes tzara'as, and the cure for it, which was must be performed through the counsel and discernment of another, the Kohen)

29. Acharei Mot. "were they wise they would comprehend this, they would discern it from their end, [lit. "Acharitam"] (the importance of proper Yom Kippur service is discerned from the deaths (ends) of Nadav and Avihu.

30. Kedoshim. "For how could one pursue a thousand, and two cause 10,000 to flee, if not that their Rock had sold them, and Hashem had delivered them?" (the portion speaks of performing comerce and business (sales and deliveries) with proper ethics)

31. Emor. "For not like our Rock is their rock - yet our enemies judge us" (the portion describes how Kohanim are separate and must behave differently; furthermore, the portion describes how a son of an Egyptian judged how the show-bread was offered in the Temple, and ended up "blessing" Hashem.

32. Behar. "For their vineyard is from the vineyard of Sodom, and from the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of gall, so clusters of bitterness were given to them." (The portion talks about how fields [and vineyards] have to be put to rest during the Sabbatical years and the Jubilee years)

33. Bechukotai. "Serpents'' venom is their wine, the poison of cruel vipers." (portion contains blessings and a series of curses; if the Jews obey, then wine and other products will be obtained with little difficulty; if they don't obey, they receive punishment after punishment, that would appear to be cruel, were it not for the fact that they were necessary)

34. Bamidbar. "Is it not revealed [hidden? - internet translation] with Me, sealed in My treasuries?" (portion describes census - we are counted because we are dear to Hashem, we are his treasuries.

35. Nasso. "Mine is vengeance and retribution at the time their foot will falter, for the day of their catastrophe is near, and future events are rushing at them." (the portion contains the story of the Sotah, which contains vengeance, retribution, foot-faltering, catastrophe and threats of future events; events "rushing" could also be a reference to the Nazir (who creates vows to avoid negative future events) as well as the princes of each tribe that rushed to bring offerings to Hashem during the inauguration of the Temple)

36. Beha'aloscha. "When Hashem will have judged his people, He shall relent regarding His servants, when He sees that the enemy power progresses, and none is saved or assisted." (Moshe despairs from the people's complaints, and Hashem seeing that he is alone, provides for 70 elders to assist him in judging the people; similarly Miriam is judged but Hashem relents and lets her back in the camp)

37. Shelach. "He will ask where is their G-d, the rock in whom they sought refuge." (portion of the spies; instead of focusing on what Hashem commanded them, they sought refuge and desired to stay in the desert; portion also describes unintentional idolatry)

38. Korach. "the fat of whose offerings they would eat, they would drink the wine of their libations? Let them stand and help you! Let them be a shelter for you!" (portion describes Korach and other Levites' desire to offer sacrifices and libations in the place of the Kohanim; Moshe makes a meeting time the next day for them to offer incense sacrifices. They are all consumed; Korach and his group are swallowed by the ground)

39. Chukas. "See, now, that I, I am He - and no G-d is with me. I put to death and I bring life, I struck down and I will heal, and there is no rescuer from My hand. (portion describes red cow, which is the only was Hashem prescribes for purification from contact with the dead; portion also contains Miriam's death, lack of water, punishment of Moshe and Aaron, and attack from Amalek; portion also contains plague from fiery serpents and cure from looking at copper fiery serpent, whose healing power came from Hashem)

40. Balak. "For I shall raise My hand to heaven and say, "I live forever." (portion describes Balaam's attempt to destroy the Jewish people, which Hashem prevented, a sign of the eternality of the Jewish people; Pinchas also raised his hand to heaven and saved the people from the plague caused by the sin of Bal-Peor.

41. Pinchas. "If I sharpen My flashing sword and My hand grasps judgment, I shall return vengeance upon My enemies and upon those that hate Me shall I bring retribution (portion describes the great act of Pinchas, who avenged Hashem's vengeance.

42. Mattos. "I shall intoxicate My arrows with blood and My sword shall devour flesh, because of the blood of corpse and captive, because of the earliest depredations of the enemy." (portion describes war against Midian, exacting revenge for their previous actions)

43. Maasei. "O nations - sing the praises of His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants; He will bring retribution upon His foes, and He will appease His Land and His people. (portion describes journeys in the desert, as well as the conquering of the Land of Israel and the apportioning of the Land. It also describes the Levitical cities and the Cities of Refuge)

44. Devarim. "Moses came and spoke all the words of this Song in the ears of the people, he and Hoshea son of Nun." (portion starts "These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel..."; in this portion, Moshe reprimands the people, like in Haazinu)

45. Vaetchanan. "Moses concluded speaking all these words to all Israel." (in this portion, Moshe goes over many of the fundamental parts of the Torah, including the Ten Commandments and the Sh'mah)

46. Ekev. "He said to them, "Apply your hearts to all the words that I testify against you today, with which you are to instruct your children, to be careful to perform all the words of this Torah (in this portion, Moshe urges us to perform the entire Torah, even those commandments one might step over with one's heels; portion also contains the verse, "It shall be that if you forget Hashem, your G-d, and go after the G-ds of others... I testify against you today..." (8:19))

47. Re'eh. "For it is not an empty thing for you, for it is your life, and through this matter shall you prolong your days on the Land to which you cross the Jordan to possess it." (portion describes blessings and curses related to mitzvot; sanctity of the land; and many mitzvot related to daily life and the Land.)

48. Shoftim. "Hashem spoke to Moses on this very day, saying." (portion describes appointment of judges, a king, prophecy, all things that indicated that we will have important people to function like Moshe in every generation)

49. Ki-Tetzeh. "Ascend to this mount of Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, which is before Jericho, and see the Land of Canaan that I give the Children of Israel as an inheritance. (Moab represented evil qualities, which Moshe, by being buried opposite it, would counteract. Moshe seeing the Land of Israel also brought tremendous blessing to the Land. The portion begins by laws related to when a soldier "sees" a beautiful captive; the Torah formulates a way in which to counteract a desire for sin; the portion also contains the most commandments, including the commandment to remember to destroy the memory of Amalek, who is quintessential evil).

50. Ki Tavoh. "and die on the mountain where you will ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor, and was gathered to his people" (the portion contains many curses, associated with death and destruction)

51. Nitzavim. "because you trespassed against Me among the Children of Israel at the waters of Meribath-kadesh, in the wildereness of Zin; because you did not sanctify Me among the Children of Israel. (the portion begins with the entire Jewish people being present before Hashem [and before Moshe], and contains also warnings against idolatry and other transgressions; the people are responsible for revealed sins (those performed in front of others) and must combat them)

52. Vayelech. "For from a distance shall you see the Land, but you shall not enter there, into the Land that I give to the Children of Israel." (In this portion, Moshe says, "I can no longer go out and come in, for Hashem has said to me, "You shall not cross this Jordan. Hashem, your G-d, He will cross before you..."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Week 52 (From the Book): To Crown G-d as Our King

The dogs are saying: "Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before G-d our Maker." (Psalms 95:6)

Rabbi Elazar HaKapar would say: Envy, lust and honor drive a man from the world.
He would also say: Those who are born will die, and the dead will live. The living will be judged, to learn, to teach and to comprehend that He is G-d, He is the former, He is the creator, He is the comprehender, He is the judge, He is the witness, He is the plaintiff, and He will judge. Blessed is He, for before Him there is no wrong, no forgetting, no favoritism, and no taking of bribes; know, that everything is according to the reckoning. Let not your heart convince you that the grave is your escape; for against your will you are formed, against your will you are born, against your will you live, against your will you die, and against your will you are destined to give a judgment and accounting before the king, king of all kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

Daat/Keter (knowledge/crown)

Finally, we come to week fifty-two, when the dogs cry out for all to worship and prostrate themselves before G-d our Maker. (Psalm 95:6) This week coincides with Rosh Hashanah of the following year. On Rosh Hashanah, man was created. The question then arises why do we celebrate Rosh Hashanah on this date, and not on the 25th of Elul?

The Midrash also relates that when Adam was created even his heel (the lowest and least sensitive part of his body), outshone the sun, so holy was he. In fact, he was so full of light that all of the animals came and bowed down to him, believing that he was their creator. But Adam told them, “Come let us bow down together and worship the One Who created us all.” This was his function and purpose — to bring all of the world to the service of Hashem.[1]

The words of the dogs in Perek Shirah are Adam’s exact words on the day of Rosh Hashanah, recalling the desire for all of Creation to bow before G-d and worship Him. It also describes the main purpose of Rosh Hashanah: crowning Hashem, our Creator, as our King. What a remarkable conclusion for this awe-inspiring text.

The song of the dogs echoes that of the rooster, as we start the yearly cycle over again. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the two times of year when Jews kneel and completely bow before G-d during prayers. By lowering our heads all the way to the ground, we submit our intellect to the Divine King, who is infinitely greater than us and beyond our comprehension. The dog has this same characteristic, as the word for dog in Hebrew, kelev, means kuloh lev, it is “all heart” - its heart completely dominates its intellect. In our daily lives, it is a basic principle in Chabad Chassidism that the intellect must always rule over the heart. However, when we stand before Hashem, our Father, King and Judge, we know that our intellect is nothing compared to Him.

In Kabbalah, the dog also represents the concept of kelipah, impurity. The very image of Satan, also known as the Angel of Death, is that of a dog with many eyes. The dog is all heart, and it is specifically by way of our emotions that the evil inclination attacks. The conclusion of Perek Shirah contains an explanation given by an angel to Rabbi Yeshaya, a student of Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa, as to the reason for the inclusion of the dog in Perek Shirah. The angel explains that the dogs behaved very well and remained silent during the Jewish people’s departure from Egypt. The angel also mentions how the dog’s feces are used in tanning leather for tefillin and other holy writings. As with the redemption from Egypt, in the final redemption and the messianic era, even the deepest impurities will be nullified, and will be elevated for the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvot.

The number fifty-two has the gematria of the Hebrew word kelev (dog) and also the word Behemah (animal), which also represents a form of kelipah. Moreover, the number fifty-two is the number of one of the names of G-d, B"N, which is connected to the kabbalistic concept of raising the divine sparks that are stuck in the kelippot. When we finished raising all these sparks, G-d finally send our Mashiach. Fifty-two is also the gematria of Eliyahu (Elijah), the name of the prophet who will announce Mashiach’s arrival.

Week 52 represents the total transformation of the dog, from being associated with impurity to holiness, marking the time of the coming of Mashiach, announced by Eliyahu HaNavi. The Talmud on Bava Kama 60b states that, “When dogs ‘cry’ the Angel of Death has come to town.  When they ‘laugh’ Elijah the Prophet has come.” 
We already see today, just how much dogs themselves have changed. They are no longer usually associated with impurity. Instead, they are man’s loyal companions, and demonstrate enormous positive, healing behaviors.

The letters nun and beit together form the word ben, which means son. There is a verse from the Book of the Prophets saying that before the great final day, G-d will send Elijah, who will bring back the hearts of parents through their children.

Rosh Hashanah is a day of judgment, and we relate to G-d as our King. However, it is also a day in which we relate to Hashem as His children. Children are an important theme in the Torah readings of Rosh Hashanah. We read of how Sarah was barren for 90 years until she gave birth to Isaac. We also read of a similar story regarding Chanah.[2] Both of these events took place on Rosh Hashanah. The story we read about Hagar, Abraham’s maidservant, is also about saving the life of her son, Yishmael. On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, we read about the sacrifice of Isaac, and the Haftorah is about Rachel weeping for her children, and of Ephraim, described as Hashem’s dear and beloved son. Moreover, perhaps the story most associated with the blowing of the shofar is about a lost prince who after many years even forgets his mother tongue, yet when he sees his father the King, he calls out in a deep and loud cry.

Fifty-two is also the gematria of the word “bakol,” which means “in everything.” The Torah states that by the end of Abraham’s life he had been blessed with “bakol.” There are many interpretations of what bakol means (especially given the fact that Isaac was blessed with “mikol” (“from everything”) and Jacob with “kol” (everything)). 

Nevertheless, one of the main interpretations of this verse is that Abraham was blessed with a daughter. This is also appropriate for this last week, as we complete “everything” in the year, and begin again.[3]

When the letters of the word “bakol” are spelled out, their numerical value is the same as the gematria of the word “shofar.”[4] This appears to be another connection between Week 52 and Week 1.

This week in Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Elazar HaKapar teaches that envy, lust and the pursuit of honor take a man out of the world. (IV:21) Rabbi Elazar’s statement captures the idea that we must be in control of our emotions. Ultimately, feelings of envy, lust and pursuit of honor are irrational, given that it is Hashem who runs the world and that everything He does and commands is for our own good.

There is also a more positive way to understand this teaching. If we direct these desires toward G-d, in “holy” envy (also known as the envy of scholars), desire to be close to G-d, and to honor Him, our relationship with G-d will be so strong that it will take us out of the concealment and illusion that is this world. As mentioned previously, the Hebrew word for world is olam, which comes from the word ehelem, which means illusion and concealment.

He also states as follows:

Those who are born are destined to die, those who are dead are destined to live again (in another version to be resurrected), and those who live (again) are destined to be judged. To know, to make it known and to have knowledge that He is G-d, He is the Maker, He is the Creator, He is the Comprehender, He is the Judge, He is the Witness, He is the Litigant, and He will judge. Blessed be He, before whom there is no iniquity, no forgetfulness, no favoritism or bribery, and know that everything is done according to the reckoning. Let not your evil inclination convince you that the tomb is a place of refuge for you, for you were created against your will, against your will you were given birth, against your will you live, against your will you will die, and against your will you are destined to provide accounts before the Supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He." (IV:22)
This second part of Rabbi Elazar’s teaching is a perfect description of what Rosh Hashanah is all about. With these words, we recommence the yearly cycle, as well as life’s cycle in general.

Rabbi Elazar HaKapar’s lesson is closely connected with the judgment of Rosh Hashanah, as well as with the sefirah of da'at, the application of knowledge to the reality of everyday living. Notice how the word da'at (knowledge) appears repeatedly in Rabbi Elazar’s words: "to know, to make known and to have knowledge" in Hebrew are written as leidah, lehodiah, le'ivadah, all verbs that have the da'at as their root.
This week is connected to Shavuot and the sefirah of da'at, also referred to as keter, crown. As mentioned previously, during the week of Rosh Hashanah, we crown G-d as our King. We must understand that we are nothing compared to Him. He alone decides, judges and creates. He is   G-d, King of Kings, Blessed and One. There is nothing besides Him.

A lesson we can derive from the dogs is that it is our duty to reach out to those who are suffering and distant from Judaism, to raise them so that they too can praise their Creator.

[2] The very last day of this week, the last day of the entire cycle, is the 6th of Tishrei, yahrzeit of Rebbetzin Chanah Schneerson, the mother of the Rebbe.

[3] Noam Elimelech; Rabbi Ginsberg

[4] Vedibarta Bam - And You Shall Speak of Them, Volume I - Bereishit; Chayei Sarah, available at: