Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Week 5 (from the Book): To Use All Tools Available in order to Elevate the World

The Crane is saying, "Give thanks to G-d with the lyre; make music for Him with the ten-stringed harp." (Psalms 33:2)

Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi would say: Beautiful is the study of Torah with the way of the world, for the toil of them both causes sin to be forgotten. Ultimately, all Torah study that is not accompanied with work is destined to cease and to cause sin.

Those who work for the community should do so for the sake of Heaven; for then the merit of their ancestors shall aid them, and their righteousness shall endure forever. And you, [says G-d,] I shall credit you with great reward as if you have achieved it.
Be careful with the government, for they befriend a person only for their own needs. They appear to be friends when it is beneficial to them, but they do not stand by a person at the time of his distress.

He would also say: Make that His will should be your will, so that He should make your will to be as His will. Nullify your will before His will, so that He should nullify the will of others before your will.

Hillel would say: Do not separate yourself from the community. Do not believe in yourself until the day you die. Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place. Do not say something that is not readily understood in the belief that it will ultimately be understood [or: Do not say something that ought not to be heard even in the strictest confidence, for ultimately it will be heard]. And do not say "When I free myself of my concerns, I will study,'' for perhaps you will never free yourself.
He would also say: A boor cannot be sin-fearing, an ignoramus cannot be pious, a bashful one cannot learn, a short-tempered person cannot teach, nor does anyone who does much business grow wise. In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.

He also saw a skull floating upon the water. Said he to it: Because you drowned others, you were drowned; and those who drowned you, will themselves be drowned.

He would also say: One who increases flesh, increases worms; one who increases possessions, increases worry; one who increases wives, increases witchcraft; one who increases maidservants, increases promiscuity; one who increases man-servants, increases thievery; one who increases Torah, increases life; one who increases study, increases wisdom; one who increases counsel, increases understanding; one who increases charity, increases peace. One who acquires a good name, acquired it for himself; one who acquires the words of Torah, has acquired life in the World to Come.

Hod shebeChesed (glory and gratefulness within the context of kindness)

On the fifth week of the Jewish calendar, we celebrate Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. The month of Cheshvan is represented by the tribe of Menashe. 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. After the introspection and delving into the treasures of the Torah that took place in Tishrei, we must put our new resolutions into practice in this physical world. In this service, we use all powers, tools, and technologies available to us.  In Perek Shirah, the crane sings to G-d with joy, asking that we use musical instruments such as the lyre and the ten-stringed harp to thank Hashem.[1] With instruments, our music to Him will be even more beautiful.

The number five represents the five books of Moses, the Torah. At Mount Sinai, Moses brought the Torah down from heaven into this physical world, transforming it forever. Five is also one more than the number four, which as mentioned in the previous week, reflects the basic structure of the world(s).

In Pirkei Avot, the words of Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi are also related to the above description of the month of Cheshvan. Rabban Gamliel states that the study of Torah should be combined with making a living. Rabban Gamliel explains that it is specifically through the combination of Torah and work that one is able to stay away from sin. The subsequent sayings of Rabban Gamliel are also related to the concept of being active in the world. He describes how one should go about work on behalf of the community, as well as how to interact with the government. The additional sayings of Rabban Gamliel, as well as the words of Hillel, included in this section, also discuss how to interact with others and how to balance the need to engage with the material world, and yet not lose focus on what is truly important.

Hillel specifically talks about a situation of someone who was drowned in the water, which is very appropriate for the beginning of the month of Cheshvan, the month of the Flood. As will be further explained in week twenty-four, the Flood and its mighty waters are often used as a reference to material concerns, which threaten to drown us.

This week’s sefirah is hod shebechesed, which, as mentioned above, is closely connected with Aaron, and the service of the Kohanim (priests). As also mentioned, Cheshvan will be the month in which the future Third Temple will be inaugurated, and that is where the Kohanim will elevate the material world through their sacrifices.

A lesson in self-improvement that we can learn from the crane is the power of music. After all, music and the sound of instruments is one of the most powerful and ancient forms of fighting sadness. David would play the harp in order to gladden King Saul, who was tormented by depression. The Levites would also sing beautiful songs as the Kohanim performed their tasks.




[1] See Genesis 4:21, on how musical instruments, specifically the lyre is described in the Torah as one of the first technologies developed by human beings.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

From 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. 

Eventually, his time at the school of cubs had to come to an end. He would still teach, but the focus would now be on his own children. He returned to the balance he had found before. 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 it to his children.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Second Set of 22 Days: Gimmel & Dalet, Eden & Gehennom (Purgatory)

Thursday, the 18th of Tishrei, begins the second set of 22 days of the Jewish calendar, which parallel the letters Gimmel and Dalet, as well as the Garden of Eden and Gehennom (Purgatory).

Gimmel and Dalet have an interesting relationship. Together, they stand for the idea of "Gommel Dalim," helping the poor. "Dal" means poor in Hebrew. It is a well known idea tht Gimmel is shaped in such a way that represents its running toward the "Dal," the letter Dalet.

The Garden of Eden and Gehennom have a similar kind of relationship on a spiritual plane. Gehennom is often translated as "hell," but hell and eternal damnation are not really a Jewish ideas. Judaism believes that a soul usually must undergo some form of cleansing before entering Heaven, and this cleansing takes place in Gehennom.

To some extent, the Garden of Eden represents spiritual richness, while Gehennom represents spiritual lacking. This is reflected in the verses that these elements sing:

  • The Garden of Eden is saying, "Arouse yourself, O north [wind], and come, O south! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow out; let my Beloved come to His garden and eat of its precious fruit." (Song of Songs 4:16)
  • Gehinnom is saying: "For He has satisfied the longing soul, and has filled the hungry soul with good." (Psalms 107:9)
These two elements also appear to clearly represent what is about to take place in the next 22 days. We'll still be in the midst of the holiday season, fully cleansed and joyous after Yom Kippur and fully engaged in the mitzvot of Sukkah and Lulav, which are very much linked to the Garden of Eden. The "mitzvah fruit" of these days, the Etrog, is said to have the smell of the Garden of Eden. We also shake the Lulav north and south (as well as in the other directions, East, West, up and down), as in the song above.

Following the holiday and Tishrei, we enter Cheshvan, which is called "Mar Cheshvan," "Bitter" Cheshvan, because it lacks any holidays (for now). We therefore use all our spiritual resources acquired in Tishrei to "enrich" the month of Cheshvan, infusing this month and the physical world as a whole with spirituality. 




Week 4 (From the Book): To Take Responsibility for All, Yet Protecting Oneself from Bad Influences

The Eagle[1] is saying, "And You, G-d, Lord of Hosts, Lord of Israel, awake to punish all the nations; do not be gracious to any wicked traitors, sela!" (Psalms 59:6)
Rabbi [Yehudah HaNassi] would say: Which is the right path for man to choose for himself? Whatever is harmonious for the one who does it, and harmonious for mankind. 

Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one, for you do not know the rewards of the mitzvot. Consider the cost of a mitzvah against its rewards, and the rewards of a transgression against its cost.
Contemplate three things, and you will not come to the hands of transgression: Know what is above from you: a seeing eye, a listening ear, and all your deeds being inscribed in a book.

Netzach shebeChesed (victory and endurance within the context of kindness)

On the fourth week of the year, which encompasses the end of Sukkot (including Hoshanah Rabbah), as well as Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, the eagle sings. During this week, as soon as each community completes the annual reading of the entire Torah, we immediately start our studies anew, just like the eagle renews its feathers from year to year.[2] It is also worth noting that during these days, both for hoshanot and hakafot, we spend a large portion of our service circling the bimah,[3] just like the eagle.

Rebbe Nachman’s yahrzeit, the 18th of Tishrei, often falls on this week of the year, the week of Simchat Torah. Two of Rebbe Nachman’s main teachings are relate to the concept of always being happy and of always starting anew.[4] That is exactly what Simchat Torah is all about.  As Rebbe Nachman said himself, his “main day” is Rosh Hashanah, and as further explained below, Simchat Torah is the culmination of the judgment that took place from Rosh Hashanah to Hoshanah Rabbah.

The eagle is the greatest of birds, flying higher than the rest. It therefore has an extremely broad and potent view and perspective on all Creation. Unlike other birds, which carry their young between their talons, the eagle carries them on their wings because no other animal can reach that high. So is our relationship with God: "You have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I took them on eagles' wings and brought them to Me."[5]

The eagle requests that G-d remember the nations (Psalms 59:6). The word “remember” can have both a positive (remember for good) as well as a negative connotation (remember in order to punish). The continuation of the eagle’s song appears to be more connected to the latter, as it states, “do not be gracious to any wicked traitors, selah.” Throughout Sukkot, the Jewish people have been bringing sacrifices on behalf of all nations. However, on Shemini Atzeret, we stop bringing sacrifices for others, and place them aside for the time being, so that the Jewish people can be alone with G-d.

The number four represents stability and strength more than the number three, just as a table with four legs is firmer than a tripod. The number four also refers to the matriarchs of the Jewish People: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. The Torah itself is quite explicit about how the matriarchs were more firm than the patriarchs when it came to protecting their family and their lineage from bad influences and from veering off to wrong paths. Sarah made sure that Yishmael was sent away in order not to be a bad influence for Isaac. When Abraham became apprehensive about this, G-d told him to listen to Sarah. Similarly, Rivkah made sure that Jacob would receive the proper blessings from Isaac, instead of Esau. She also insisted that Jacob not intermarry with the local tribes.

The stability of the number four is reflected in various aspects of the world itself. There are four basic elements in the world: fire, water, air, and earth. There are also four spiritual worlds, or dimensions, mentioned in the Kabbalah: Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah. There are also four rivers that flow from the Garden of Eden, and four levels of Torah knowledge, also known as Pardes. Pardes literally means “orchard,” and stands for: Peshat (simple/meaning), Remez (implied/hinted), Derush (interpreted), and Sod (secret). All of the above concepts are deeply related.
In Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi discusses how to stay on the right path, and be laudable in their own eyes and in the eyes of his fellow man. The word used by Rabbi Yehudah to describe this state of equilibrium is tiferet, the sefirah connected to Sukkot.

As part of his teaching, he states that different mitzvot should not be compared. Some think that dancing with the Torah on the day of Simchat Torah is somehow less important than the prayers recited on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, or even that this mitzvah is somehow smaller compared with the daily study of the Torah. In fact, in the eyes of G-d, dancing with the Torah is very important.

Continuing the transition from Week Three to Week Four, Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi tells us to reflect upon three things, which are actually four: "(1) Know what is above you: (2) an Eye that sees, (3) an Ear that hears, and (4) all your deeds are recorded in a Book." This lesson describes the four Jewish holidays of the first four weeks: On Rosh Hashanah, we acknowledge that G-d is above us (the Hebrew word is lada'at, “to know,” and Rosh Hashanah is connected with da'at, as explained in Week 52); on Yom Kippur, G-d sees our teshuvah (our repentance), as stated in the Haftorah of Jonah read on Yom Kippur;[6] the festival of Sukkot is connected to the ear; and Hoshanah Rabbah, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah all reflect the idea that our actions are written in a book, the Book of Life, because it is precisely on Hoshanah Rabbah that the judgment is concluded.

On this week, the sefirah combination is netzach shebechesed. In it, we complete the reading of the entire Torah, which ends with Vezot haBrachah, when Moses blesses each one of the twelve tribes of Israel. As explained in the beginning of the book, Moses is associated with the sefirah of netzach. Netzach means victory and endurance, which we feel as we reach the completion of the Torah’s reading. Moses’ blessings are linked to chesed.

As mentioned above, the number four, associated with netzach, is connected to Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. As a leader, Moses displays maternal characteristics, drawing a striking parallel with our matriarchs. In a particularly difficult time of his journey, Moses desperately please with G-d: "Was it I who gave birth to this entire people, that You ask me to carry them in my bosom as one who carries a nursing [baby], to the land You promised their ancestors?"[7]

It is also worth noting that the Rambam, Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, whose known for the phrase, that “from Moshe to Moshe there was no one like Moshe,” was known as the “Great Eagle.” Rebbe Nachman also always said about himself that his sefirah was netzach. Rebbe Nachman also stated, “I have been victorious (nitzachti) and I will be victorious (v’anatzeach); I have finished and I will finish.”

The lesson of self-improvement that can be derived from the song of the eagle is that we should show care and concern for all others, not just ourselves. In fact, caring about others besides oneself is a great way to fight sadness. The eagle shows concern for the community and for all nations, not just for itself.



[1] Rabbi Slifkin translates Nesher as vulture. Other translations have it as an eagle.
[2] Psalm 103:5; Rashi
[3] The bimah is the platform in the middle of the synagogue, which parallels the altar (mizbeach) in the Temple.
[4] Rebbe Nachman stated, “Mitzvah Gedolah Lihyot B’Simchah Tamid! (It is a great mitzvah to be happy always!)" (Likutei Moharan II, 24). He also would say, “Start serving God as if you had never started in your whole life. This is one of the most basic principles of serving God. We must literally begin all over again every day.” (Likutei Moharan I, 261).
[5] Exodus 19:4
[6] The Book of Jonah states, "And G-d saw their actions  ... and G-d reconsidered the evil which He had spoken to perform against them, and He did not perform it." (3:10, emphasis added)
[7] Numbers 11:12

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Week 3 (From the Book): To Be Happy, Balanced, and Secure in G-d

The dove is saying: "Like a swift or crane, so do I chatter; I moan like a dove, my eyes fail with looking upward; O G-d, I am oppressed, be my security." (Isaiah 38:14) The dove says before The Holy One, Blessed be He, "Master of the World! May my sustenance be as bitter as an olive in Your hands, rather than it being sweet as honey through flesh and blood." (Talmud, Eruvin 18b).
Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamliel would say: By three things is the world sustained: law, truth and peace. As is stated (Zachariah 8:16), "Truth, and a judgment of peace, you should administer at your [city] gates.''
Tiferet shebeChesed (beauty and balance within the context of kindness)
In the third week of the Jewish year, when we celebrate Sukkot, the dove is the next animal to sing in Perek Shirah. It calls to G-d to be its source of protection, and states that it prefers that its sustenance be as bitter as an olive branch but come directly from Him, than it be as sweet as honey from the hands of humans. This week also usually marks the yahrzeit of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel, the Rebbe Maharash, on the 13th of Tishrei.
Throughout these days we eat apple and honey and dip our challah in honey, yet we live under the branches of the Sukkah. The dove asks for protection by using the word “Arveni,” which means“be my Guarantor” – but also can be understood as “be sweet to me.” Arveni is also reminiscent of the phrase“Kol Israel Arevim Zeh LaZeh,” which means every Jew is responsible for, mixed together with, and/or sweet to one another, one of the main themes of Sukkot.
On Sukkot, the Jewish people remember how G-d protected them in the desert, and celebrate how that protection continues until today. We live as in an everlasting sukkah, which is fragile and vulnerable to changes in weather conditions. While we must do our part to protect ourselves, we also realize that ultimately we all depend entirely on G-d for our sustenance and safety.
The dove is also characterized by faithfulness and loyalty. The Torah compares the Jewish people to a dove, and Tefillin to its wings: just as the wings protect the dove, so too the mitzvot, the commandments, protect the Jewish people.[2]Just as we are loyal to G-d, He too shows loyalty to us and protects us.
The dove is also considered a bearer of good news and symbolizes peace and tranquility: when Noah wanted to make sure that the flood waters had already receded, he sent the dove, which came back with an olive branch in its mouth, indicating that the Flood had subsided.[3]
In this third week, the dove mentions two birds aside from itself: the crane and the swallow - three animals in total.
The number three is related to the three patriarchs, and also represents balance and stability. While the number two brings tension, three creates harmony. It is well known that on the second day of creation, G-d did not say "it was good." On the third day, however, G-d said "it was good" twice.
The Torah itself is a third and balancing force in the relationship between the Jewish people and G-d. The Talmud states that the Torah, which has three parts (Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim) was given to the three-part Jewish people (Kohanim, Levi'im and Israelim), by the third son (Moses, the younger brother of Aaron and Miriam), on the third day of separation, in the third month (Sivan, counting from the month of Nissan).[4]
One of the first statements in Pirkei Avot is that the world stands on three pillars: Torah, Avodah (Divine service), and Gemilut Chassadim (acts of kindness). These three pillars are also represented by the patriarchs themselves: Abraham represents acts of kindness, Isaac represents Divine service, and Jacob represents the Torah.
As explained in the beginning of this book, Jacob, the third patriarch, represents tiferet, the balance between Abraham’s chesed and Isaac’s gevurah. Jacob is also strongly associated with Sukkot itself. This is a verse in the Torah that explicitly refers to this: after parting from Esau, Jacob goes to [a place called] Sukkot![5]
Jacob is also connected to the concept of truth. In our morning prayers, we recite “Titen Emet L’Ya’akov, Chesed l’Avraham,” give truth to Jacob, mercy to Abraham. In Jewish law, three also represents the concept of chazakah, a legal basis for assuming that statement is true. Furthermore, if a certain occurrence happens three times, there is a chazakah (a legal assumption) that it will happen again.
The number three also plays an important role in the Pirkei Avot lesson for the third week. Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamliel teaches that the world endures because of three things: justice, truth and peace. (I:18) Without these three things there would be no balance and security in the world. This teaching is closely related to the above mentioned teaching in Pirkei Avot, about the three pillars in which the world stands.
The three things mentioned by Rabbi Shimon are directly related to the three holidays in the weeks mentioned so far: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot: Rosh Hashanah is also known as Yom HaDin (Day of Judgment). Din means justice, the exact word used in this teaching. Yom Kippur is the day in which individual Jews are sealed in the Book of Life (our sages explain that “G-d’s seal is truth”). Sukkot is strongly tied to the concept of peace, as can be seen in the bless HaPoress Sukkat Shalom Aleinu (the One who extends a Sukkah of peace over us), which is part of Ma'ariv, the night time prayer.[6]
During this week, the combination of sefirot is tiferet shebechesed. As mentioned above, Jacob represents the sefirahof tiferet. The Rebbe Maharash also represents this sefirah. He was born on the 17th day of the omer,tiferet shebetiferet, and his father would sometimes even refer to him by this combination.[7]The Rebbe Maharash’s yahrzeit falls on or close to the 17th day of the year, which, if one were to attribute a sefirah to each day of the year, would be equivalent to tiferet shebetiferet shebechesed. (See Calendar at the end of the book)
During these days, the Jewish community receives blessings of spiritual and physical assistance, under the fragile construction of their sukkot. Furthermore, during these days we are commandedto be happy, as stated in the verse “veSamachta beChagechah Vehaitem Ach Sameach, you shall rejoice in your festival and you shall be very happy.”[8]
In general, Sukkot are spiritually as well as visually quite beautiful. The actual building, decorating, and preparing meals in the sukkah, are all activities that can be very inspiring. The beauty of the sukkah in the context of the blessings we receive are a great example of tiferet shebechesed.
In this week, we learn from the dove not to be worried or anxious, but instead to have full faith in G-d, Who is All Powerful, and Who provides for all our needs. That said, it is also important to create a vessel to receive G-d’s blessings. It is very important to be grateful for what we have. Furthermore, besides from taking care of the body, it is crucial to be in an environment that is organized, balanced and pleasant, just like a sukkah.


[1] Arveni comes the word Aravah, the “poorest” of the four species used for the mitzvah of shaking the lulav, in that it represents the Jew that has no Torah or mitzvot. Nevertheless this Jew is equally important and essential to this mitzvah.
[2] Talmud, Shabbat 49
[3] Genesis 8:11
[4] Talmud, Shabbat 88a
[5] Genesis 33:17
[6] From the Rebbe’s Sichos
[7] Hayom Yom, 2nd of Iyar, p. 50
[8] Deuteronomy 16: 14. One may ask, “How can a certain emotion be commanded?”The Tanya, the Alter Rebbe’s seminal work, explains that ultimately it must be the mind that controls the heart. By meditating on G-d’s greatness and kindness, we are able to inspire the love for Him in our hearts as well. The same can be said for happiness.

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: http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/vedibarta-bam/005.htm


Week 2 (From the Book): To Relate Well to Others and to Our Own Body

The hen is saying, "He gives bread to all flesh, for His kindness endures forever." (Psalms 136:25)
[Rabban Gamliel’s] son, Shimon, would say: All my life I have been raised among the wise, and I have found nothing better for the body than silence. The essential thing is not study, but deed. And one who speaks excessively brings on sin.
Gevurah shebeChesed (discipline and judgment within the context of kindness)
In the second week of the Jewish year, the week of Yom Kippur[1](the “Day of Atonement”), it is the turn of the hen in Perek Shirah to sing of G-d’s eternal kindness, for providing food for every living being. It is during this time of the year that G-d determines specifically how much sustenance each being will receive, but also who will live and who will not. Many people may not know this, but eating well on the eve of Yom Kippur is considered to be as meritorious as the fast itself.
There is also an important parallel here: It is exactly in this second week, on the eve of Yom Kippur, when we are busy asking each other for forgiveness, that the Jewish people make Kapparot, an ancient custom where each individual symbolically atones for one’s sins before G-d through the means of a hen! After the ritual is performed, each chicken is slaughtered and given to families in need. Nowadays, many have the custom to use charity money in order to fulfill this ritual. Before Yom Kippur, we also have the custom to ask each other for forgiveness.
The number one is somewhat lonely, but once another one is added they make a pair, just like the rooster and the hen. The number two also represents the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments (Luchot HaBrit). While one tablet contains laws regarding our relationship with G-d, the other tablet contains laws regarding relationships between human beings. It was precisely on Yom Kippur that the tablets were given for the second time for the Jewish People. The number two represents the concept of relationship, as well as the idea of giving and receiving.
The Pirkei Avot of this week contains the recommendation of Shimon ben Rabban Gamliel: "All my life I grew up among the Sages, and found nothing better for the person [literally, the body] than silence; it is not to study, but rather action which is of the essence… one who talks too much brings forth sin" (I:17). In order to properly receive and absorb the words of others, one must first be silent.
Furthermore, the "silencing" of the body, appears to be a clear reference to the fasting that takes place on Yom Kippur, as well as other actions such as not wearing leather shoes, anointing ourselves (using perfumes or lotions), having sexual relations – preventing all these things on Yom Kippur is a way to distance ourselves from physicality and be very close to G-d, like angels, even if only for a single day. Yom Kippur is also a day of reflection and introspection, for which silence is an important virtue.
We saw that the Pirkei Avot of week number one focuses on acquiring a single main teacher. In this week, we speak about learning from“sages,” in the plural. While the number one relates to unity, two represents the concept of multiplicity.
These two concepts are not contradictory – they complement each other. One can still have a single main teacher, while still learning from every person. In fact, as we will see in week 30 of Pirkei Avot, that Ben Zoma states that to do so is a sign of true wisdom.[2]
On Yom Kippur, we also focus on fact that the main thing that G-d values is our actions. One of the high points of this holy day is the reading of the Book of Jonah, which in turn has as its climax the following verse: "And G-d saw their actions ... and G-d reconsidered the evil which He had spoken to perform against them, and He did not perform it." [3]
In the second week, the sefirah combination is gevurah shebechesed, discipline and judgment within the context of kindness. During the fast of Yom Kippur, the Jewish people act with discipline, willpower, and self-control. We do so while begging our Creator for mercy and protection, knowing that G-d is just and kind.
This week, a lesson in self-improvement we draw from Perek Shirah is that even the hen recognizes that God nourishes all living beings. After getting out of bed, as we learned from the rooster, the next step in combating sadness is to take proper care of ourselves, eating properly and exercising.


[1] Erev Yom Kippur always falls on the second week of the year, but in certain years, the day of Yom Kippur itself falls on the first day of Week Three. This is the only exception for all dates described in this book.
[2] Chapter IV:1
[3] Chapter 3:10. Jonah in Hebrew means “dove,” the animal in Perek Shirah for Week Three.
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