Calendar

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Monday, 3rd of Shevat, 5777

Sefirot Combination:

Monday is the sixth day of Week 18 and the twenty-seventh day of the cycle of Tiferet (Balance/Beauty), Yesod shebeNetzach shebeTiferet, Foundation within Victory/Endurance within Balance/Beauty.

Alef-Bet/Psalms:

Monday is also the fifteenth day of the sixth 22-day cycle of the year, related to the letters Kaf and Lamed. The following excerpts from Chapters 112 and 119 of the Book of Psalms are connected to the fifteenth letter, the Samech:


Psalm 112:


סָמוּךְ לִבּוֹ לֹא יִירָא

His heart is steadfast, he will not fear


Psalm 119:


סָלִיתָ כָּל שֹׁגִים מֵחֻקֶּיךָ כִּי שֶׁקֶר תַּרְמִיתָם:

You trampled all who stray from Your statutes, for their deceit is false.





Chumash:

15 They obscured the view of all the earth, and the earth became darkened, and they ate all the vegetation of the earth and all the fruits of the trees, which the hail had left over, and no greenery was left in the trees or in the vegetation of the field[s] throughout the entire land of Egypt.


16 Pharaoh hastened to summon Moses and Aaron, and he said, "I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you.

Tehilim:

4. The Lord is in His holy Sanctuary, the Lord's throne is in heaven, [yet] His eyes behold, His pupils probe [the deeds of] mankind.
5. The Lord tests the righteous, but He hates the wicked and the lover of violence.
6. He will rain down upon the wicked fiery coals and brimstone; a scorching wind will be their allotted portion.
7. For the Lord is righteous, He loves [the man of] righteous deeds; the upright will behold His countenance.
Daily Tanya:

Now this is a general principle in the whole realm of holiness: Holiness (קדושה) is only that which derives from Chochmah, called קודש העליון — “supernal holiness.”

Its very existence is nullified in the light of the blessed Ein Sof which is clothed in it, and it is not a thing apart — as explained earlier.

Therefore, this faculty is called Chochmah, which consists of the two words כ׳׳ח מ׳׳ה (the power of humility and abnegation).

This stands in direct contrast to the kelipah and sitra achra...


Rambam

It is a mitzvah to kill minim and apikorsim... When, by contrast, a Jew commits transgressions, but does not maintain his wickedness continually, merely occasionally sinning for his own personal satisfaction - e.g., one who eats non-kosher food for pleasure - it is a mitzvah to save his life, and it is forbidden to stand idly by when his life is threatened.

Hayom Yom

Torah Or was first printed in 5597 (1837) in Kopust (without supplements). The Tzemach Tzedek, in his letter of Sh'vat 3 that year, wrote:
The book Torah Or now printed...contains maamarim, most of them from 5556 (1796) until the end of 5572 (1812). Our Master,1of blessed memory, carefully examined and edited many of these and agreed to have them published. The book is comprised of two parts: The first is on two2 of the Five Books of the Chumash, Chanuka and Purim, with several discourses on Shavuot (time of Giving of the Torah) in parshat Yitro and a few for Pesach included in parshat Vayakheil. The second part (with G‑d's help, will be) on the last three Chumashim, Shir Hashirim, the Festivals, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur...The name of the author is fitting:Schneur, (literally, "two lights"), just as v'ahavta ("you shall love") in numerical value is twice that of the word or,3 "light."
Before the second part could be printed, informers had the government close a number of Hebrew printshops in Russia, including the one in Kopust where the Torah Or was printed. In 5608 (1848) the second part was printed in Zitomir with a different title, Likutei Torah.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tuesday, 26 Tevet 5777

Sefirot Combination:

Tuesday is the seventh day of Week 17 and the twenty-first day of the cycle of Tiferet (Balance/Beauty), Malchut shebeTiferet shebeTiferet, Kingship within Balance/Beauty within Balance/Beauty.

Alef-Bet/Psalms:

Tuesday is also the ninth day of the sixth 22-day cycle of the year, related to the letters Kaf and Lamed. The following excerpts from Chapters 112 and 119 of the Book of Psalms are connected to the ninth letter, the Tet:


Psalm 112:

Good is the man who is gracious and lends


Psalm 119:


Thick like fat is their heart, but I engage in Your Torah.
טוֹב אִישׁ חוֹנֵן וּמַלְוֶה




טָפַשׁ כַּחֵלֶב לִבָּם אֲנִי תּוֹרָתְךָ שִׁעֲשָׁעְתִּי:





Daily Tanya:

For the heart is also corporeal, like the other organs of the body which are the instruments of action.

The heart is, however, internal and is the organs‘ source of vitality.

Therefore, because the heart, in its corporeality, is close to the other organs, and also provides their vitality, it can clothe itself in their actions, to be their “wings”, elevating them.

Tehilim:

110. The wicked laid a snare for me, yet I have not strayed from Your precepts.
111. I have taken Your testimonies as an eternal heritage, for they are the joy of my heart.
112. I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes, forever, to the last.

Hayom Yom

In the b'racha V'lamalshinim (p. 55, "Let thee..." in English), pause slightly between ut'mageir ("crush") and v'tachnia ("and subdue"), in consonance with the kavana that t'akeir ut'shabeir ut'mageir ("uproot, break, crush") refer to the three kelipot that must be completely eradicated. V'tachnia ("subdue") refers to kelipat noga that must be subdued, but can be purified.



Monday, January 23, 2017

Week 18 (Book 2): Achia HaShiloni and "Minimized" World Activity


HAAZINU: You forgot the [Mighty] Rock Who bore you; you forgot the G-d Who delivered you. (Deuteronomy 32:18)

Positive light: Rock [or Creator], they are your children; forget completely [our sins]; G-d delivers you.

HAFTORAH: He delivered me from my mighty enemy; from them that hated me; for they were too powerful for me. (II Samuel 22:18)

QUALITY TO ACQUIRE THE TORAH: Minimized World Activity (Miut Derech Eretz)

PROPHET: Achiah HaShiloni

LEVITICAL CITY: Mishal

On Week Eighteen, Rosh Chodesh Shevat, Haazinu’s verse speaks of how the Jewish people forgot about G-d, who bore and delivered them. Shevat is a month very much connected with nature – it includes the New Year of the Trees. It therefore seems appropriate that the verse speak of G-d’s relationship to us using the “natural” metaphor of giving birth. However, Shevat also represents the idea of being above nature, as well as the Oral Torah; it represents the idea of taanug (pleasure) and emunah (celebrating Tu B’Shvat in the midst of winter).

This week’s verse in Haazinu can also be understood more positively, as a prayer. “Rock [or Creator], they are your children; forget completely [our sins]; G-d delivers you.” The Haftorah’s verse also appears to continue the theme of prayer. The verse describes G-d’s intervention in the world in a way that is above nature.(See below about the Levitical City of Mishal, below, as well as the Grasshopper in Week 18 of Book 1).   

The quality for this week is minimized world activity (miut derech eretz). This seems to be a direct parallel with the Pirkei Avot teaching for this week in Book 1. When all of one’s affairs in this world are in a way of miut (humble and "minimized"), we see much more the Hand of G-d in all of our affairs.

This week’s prophet is Achiah HaShiloni. He, perhaps more than anyone, represents the idea of acting in a way that is above nature. He lived longer than any of the other prophets (as recorded by Maimonides, and taught Eliyahu HaNavi as well as the Ba’al Shem Tov. It was because of both men's minimized world activity that they merited to have Achiah HaShiloni revealed to them.

Achiah also told the Ba’al Shem Tov that he needed to reveal himself to the world. He directed him to be involved in the world, but in a way of miut, "smallness." Additionally, the Baal Shem Tov spoke of the importance of being a genuine and good person and having a simple connection to G-d. This seems related to both the idea of “Derech Eretz” – having good behavior and being a mentch, as well as the idea of taking care of the “Amei Ha’Aretz,” simple folk.


The levitical city for this week is Mishal, which means prayer, request. This is related to the song of the Grasshopper (Week 18, Book 1) , and to the Shmoneh Esreh, which has eighteen blessings. It is also related to ta’anug and to emunah, qualities of the month of Shevat. Mishal also has the same letters as Moshel, to rule. In prayer, we accept the notion that G-d is the ultimate Ruler.

Week 18 (From the Book): To Live in Harmony with Nature in a Manner that is Above Nature

PEREK SHIRAH: The grasshopper is saying, "I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where shall my help come from?" (Psalms 121:1)

PIRKEI AVOT: Rabbi Nechunia the son of Hakanah would say: One who accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah is exempted from the yoke of government duties and the yoke of worldly cares; but one who casts off the yoke of Torah is saddled with the yoke of government duties and the yoke of worldly cares.

SEFIROT: Netzach shebeTiferet (victory and endurance within the context of beauty and balance)

In the eighteenth week, of Rosh Chodesh Shevat, it is the turn of the grasshopper to call out to G-d, stating: “I lift my eyes to the mountains, from whence will my help come?(Psalm 121:1) The song of the grasshopper is one of prayer and faith.

The song of the grasshopper, the eighteenth animal, is so closely tied to the song of the eighth animal, the swift. The swift’s song is the verse that immediately follows the grasshopper’s. It answers the grasshopper’s question, singing: “My help comes from the Lord, Creator of Heaven and Earth.” (Psalm 121:2) As mentioned above, the number eight is connected to that which is extraordinary, beyond nature.
The grasshopper’s song seems to always fall in the weeks in which we read the weekly Torah portions of Vaera or Bo. These portions depict the plagues (including that of locusts) inflicted on the Egyptians, perhaps the ultimate example of help coming directly from G-d, in a manner that is completely beyond nature.
The month of Shevat is marked by Tu B'Shvat, the New Year of the Trees, which occurs on the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat. There is a debate in the Mishnah as to whether the New Year of the Trees should be celebrated on Rosh Chodesh Shevat or on the fifteenth, as is the custom.

The month of Shevat is deeply tied to the concept of faith. We celebrate the Rosh Hashanah of the Trees while still in the midst of winter.

Shevat represents the tribe of Asher, and is related to ta'anug, “pleasure” or “delight.” According to the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, the word asher also means delight, from the word ashruni.[1] Furthermore, Asher receives a blessing from his father Jacob that he will “bring delicacies to the king.” On Tu B’Shvat, we drink wine and eat many different kinds of fruit, all of which is very much tied to the above concepts. However, this month is not only tied to physical delights, but to spiritual and intellectual delights as well. Shevat, and particularly Rosh Chodesh, is also deeply connected to the Oral Torah. It was on this day that Moses began reviewing the teachings he had taught to the Jewish people during their forty years in the desert. This review is what comprises the entire Book of Deuteronomy. So connected is Shevat to the Oral Torah, that the Chidushei HaRim states that all insights one has in developing novel Torah ideas come to a person during the month of Shevat.[2]

The transmission and development of the Oral Torah requires a fundamental character trait: humility. Without humility, one cannot teach in a pure and objective way exactly that which he or she learned from the previous generation. Humility is the hallmark characteristic of Moses, the humblest of men, and the first to transmit the Oral Torah, which he received directly from G-d.

Perhaps this emphasis on humility is the reason why in Perek Shirah, the insects, the humblest of animals, are the ones to sing during each of the four weeks of Shevat. As King David, another great example of humility and an important link in the chain of the Oral Tradition, once said, "Ani Tola'at Velo Ish," "I am a worm and not a man."[3]

It is well known that the number eighteen represents life, which in Hebrew is chai. For this reason, it is customary among Jews to make donations in multiples of chai. Rosh Chodesh Shvat and Tu B’Shvat are, in a way, much more than simply a celebration of trees, but a celebration of life in general, and not just human life. 

The chai of something is not only associated with its life, but also with its essence. The Ba’al Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe were both born on Chai Elul, literally known as the life as well as the essence of Elul. The date that marks the death of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov is the eighteenth of the month, chai of Tishrei. Interestingly, the festival of Lag Ba’Omer is also on the eighteenth, chai of Iyar. Eighteen is also the number of blessings in the Shmoneh Esreh, which is also known as the Amidah, or simply as Tefilah, prayer, because it represents the essence of prayer.

Prayer is also related to the realization that the life of a Jew is anything but natural. Our life, sustenance, and salvation come from G-d, Who is beyond this world, as expressed in the songs of the grasshopper and the swift.

The Pirkei Avot for this week it taught by Rabbi Nechunia son of Hakanah: "whoever takes upon himself the yoke of Torah, the yoke government and the yoke of worldly obligations are withdrawn from him; but whoever casts off the yoke of Torah, the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly obligations are imposed on him.” (III: 5) On Rosh Chodesh Shevat, Rabbi Nechunia is advising us to take upon ourselves the study and devotion to the Torah, the Tree of Life, Etz Chayim, which is above the world. If we do not, we subject ourselves to the world’s obligations. By depicting the Torah as a yoke, Rabbi Nechunia also appears to be making reference to the humility and self-sacrifice necessary for acquiring it. Rabbi Mendel of Kotsk teaches that although we know many examples of sages and Torah scholars that had worldly obligations and were even professionals, they did not feel that such obligations were a yoke or source of concern.[4]

This week, the combination of the sefirot is netzach shebetiferet: victory and persistence within beauty and balance. A tree represents a balance between roots, trunks, branches and leaves – it is only by having such a balance that the tree survives. Without roots, or with too many branches, a tree cannot stand. Without enough branches and leaves, trees cannot create enough energy to fully grow. In Shevat, still in the midst of winter, the tree has to persist and struggle in order to survive. (A similar equilibrium is required when balancing the yoke of Torah with the yoke of government and worldly obligations – the balance is required is often different for each individual person, as well as during different periods in their lives.

We learn from the song of the grasshopper that help will always come from G-d, as long as we are willing to lift our eyes above our limited perspective, and look up, to the mountains. The Midrash teaches us that the mountains are also a reference to our patriarchs, and that it is largely in merit of their deeds that G-d saves us. It is important to try to perceive more than just our current situation. Let us focus instead on the whole of our existence: who we are and where we came from: our parents.






[1] Likutei Diburim, Vol. III, p.137
[2] Ryzman, p. 89
[3] Psalms 22:7; In Chapter 12 of Tzava'at Harivash, the Ba’al Shem Tov further expands on this point:

Do not think that by worshipping with deveikut you are greater than another. You are like any other creature, created for the sake of His worship, blessed be He. G-d gave a mind to the other just as He gave a mind to you.

What makes you superior to a worm? The worm serves the Creator with all its mind and strength! Man, too, is a worm and maggot, as it is written “I am a worm and no man.” (Psalms 22:7) If G-d had not given you intelligence you would not be able to worship Him but like a worm. Thus you are no better than a worm, and certainly [no better] than [other] people.

Bear in mind that you, the worm and all other small creatures are considered as equals in the world. For all were created and have but the ability given to them by the blessed Creator.

Always keep this matter in mind.
[4] Marcus, p. 87

Monday, January 16, 2017

Tuesday, 19th of Teveth

Sefirot Combination:

Tuesday is the seventh day of Week 16 and the fourteenth day of the cycle of Tiferet (Balance/Beauty), Malchut shebeGevurah shebeTiferet, Kingship within Might/Discipline within Balance/Beauty.

Alef-Bet/Psalms:

Tuesday is also the second day of the sixth 22-day cycle of the year, related to the letters Kaf and Lamed. The following excerpts from Chapters 112 and 119 of the Book of Psalms are connected to the second letter, the Beit:


Psalm 112:

who greatly desires His commandments.בְּמִצְו‍ֹתָיו חָפֵץ מְאֹד:





Psalm 119:


With the way of Your testimonies I rejoiced as over all riches.ידבְּדֶרֶךְ עֵדְו‍ֹתֶיךָ שַׂשְׂתִּי כְּעַל כָּל הוֹן:




Daily Chumash:

19They replied, "An Egyptian man rescued us from the hand[s] of the shepherds, and he also drew [water] for us and watered the flocks." יטוַתֹּאמַ֕רְןָ אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י הִצִּילָ֖נוּ מִיַּ֣ד הָֽרֹעִ֑ים וְגַם־דָּלֹ֤ה דָלָה֙ לָ֔נוּ וַיַּ֖שְׁקְ אֶת־הַצֹּֽאן:

20He said to his daughters, "So where is he? Why have you left the man? Invite him, and let him eat bread." כוַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֶל־בְּנֹתָ֖יו וְאַיּ֑וֹ לָ֤מָּה זֶּה֙ עֲזַבְתֶּ֣ן אֶת־הָאִ֔ישׁ קִרְאֶ֥ן ל֖וֹ וְיֹ֥אכַל לָֽחֶם:

Why have you left the man: He recognized him [Moses] as being of the seed of Jacob, for the water rose toward him. [From Exod. Rabbah 1:32, Tanchuma Shemoth 11]
 
למה זה עזבתן: הכיר בו שהוא מזרעו של יעקב, שהמים עולים לקראתו:

and let him eat bread: Perhaps he will marry one of you, as it is said: except the bread that he ate (Gen. 39:6) [alluding to Potiphar’s wife]. [From Exod. Rabbah 1:32, Tanchuma, Shemoth 11]
 
ויאכל לחם: שמא ישא אחת מכם, כמה דאת אמרת (בראשית לט ו) כי אם הלחם אשר הוא אוכל:

21 Moses consented to stay with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses. כאוַיּ֥וֹאֶל משֶׁ֖ה לָשֶׁ֣בֶת אֶת־הָאִ֑ישׁ וַיִּתֵּ֛ן אֶת־צִפֹּרָ֥ה בִתּ֖וֹ לְמשֶֽׁה:

consented: Heb. וַיּוֹאֶל, as the Targum [Onkelos] renders: (וּצְבִי), and similar to this: Accept (הוֹאֶל) now and lodge (Jud. 19:6); Would that we had been content (הוֹאַלְנוּ) (Josh. 7:7); Behold now I have desired (הוֹאַלְךְתִּי) (Gen. 18:31). Its midrashic interpretation is: וַיּוֹאֶל is] an expression of an oath (אלה), he [Moses] swore to him that he would not move from Midian except with his consent. [From Exod. Rabbah 1:33, Tanchuma, Shemoth 12]
 
ויואל: כתרגומו. ודומה לו (שופטים יט ו) הואל נא ולין, ולו הואלנו (יהושע ז ז), הואלתי לדבר (בראשית יח כז), ומדרשו לשון אלה, נשבע לו שלא יזוז ממדין כי אם ברשותו:


Daily Tanya:

ואף מי שבתורת ה׳ חפצו, ויהגה בה יומם ולילה לשמה
Even if one’s entire aspiration is in G‑d’s Torah, which he studies day and night for its own sake...

ולכן היה רבה מחזיק עצמו כבינוני, אף דלא פסיק פומיה מגירסא
For this reason Rabbah considered himself a Beinoni, though his mouth never ceased from Torah study,
ובתורת ה׳ חפצו יומם ולילה בחפיצה וחשיקה ותשוקה
and his desire was in [studying] G‑d’s Torah day and night, with a craving, desire and longing,
ונפש שוקקה לה׳ באהבה רבה, כבשעת קריאת שמע ותפלה
his soul yearning for G‑d with overwhelming love, such as that experienced during the recitation of the Shema and the Amidah.
During prayer, as mentioned above, the Beinoni’s heart is aroused to a love of G‑d so passionate that he does not feel the evil of his animal soul at all. Rabbah, however, experienced this arousal of love not only during prayer but throughout the day. Therefore, his animal soul was always dormant and he never desired mundane matters.
ונדמה בעיניו כבינוני המתפלל כל היום
It was therefore possible for him to consider himself a Beinoni, for he appeared in his own eyes as a Beinoni who prays all day, i.e., a Beinoni who throughout the day retains the level attained during prayer,
וכמאמר רז״ל: הלואי שיתפלל אדם כל היום כלו

Tehilim:

3. to proclaim Your kindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness in the nights,
4. with a ten-stringed instrument and lyre, to the melody of a harp.
5. For You, Lord, have gladdened me with Your deeds; I sing for joy at the works of Your hand.
6. How great are Your works, O Lord; how very profound Your thoughts!

Hayom Yomu

Chabad chassidim have a tradition from generations, instituted by the Alter Rebbe, that every day we study a parsha of Chumash of that week's sedrawith Rashi. This was done by the Rebbe'im, too.


Monday, 18th of Teveth

Sefirot Combination:

Monday is the sixth day of Week 16 and the thirteenth day of the cycle of Tiferet (Balance/Beauty), Yesod shebeGevurah shebeTiferet, Foundation within Might/Discipline within Balance/Beauty.

Alef-Bet/Psalms:

Tuesday is also the first day of the sixth 22-day cycle of the year, related to the letters Kaf and Lamed. The following excerpts from Chapters 112 and 119 of the Book of Psalms are connected to the first letter, the Alef:


Psalm 112:

1Hallelujah. Praiseworthy is the man who fears the Lord...אהַלְלוּיָהּ | אַשְׁרֵי אִישׁ יָרֵא אֶת יְהֹוָה 

Psalm 119:


1. Then I shall not be ashamed when I look at all Your commandments.ואָז לֹא אֵבוֹשׁ בְּהַבִּיטִי אֶל כָּל מִצְו‍ֹתֶיךָ:



Today was also the yahrzeit of the Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov, the Bnei Yissachar

Week 17 (Book 2): Obadiah and Minimized Business Activity


HAAZINU:They sacrificed to demons, which have no power, deities they did not know, new things that only recently came, which your forefathers did not fear. (Deuteronomy 32:17)

Positive Light: Would they sacrifice to demons? No. [Their] power was G-d; they did not know new ones. They came from close by, [and] your forefathers did not fear them.

HAFTARAH: He sent from on high [and] He took me; He drew me out of many waters. (II Samuel 22:17)

QUALITY TO ACQUIRE THE TORAH: Minimized Business Activity (Miut Schorah)

PROPHET: Obadiah

LEVITICAL CITY: Gath-Rimmon

The seventeenth week of the year is the last in the month of Teveth. The verse in Haazinu continues to make reference to idolatry and their abandoning G-d. As mentioned previously, these are themes related to Teveth and the Tribe of Dan.

Again, this week’s verse in Haazinu can also take on a more positive note. It could be read in such a way that would indicate that they rejected idolatry and assimilation. Assimilation’s attraction, in the times of the Greeks as well as today, is that it is depicted as being something new and contemporary, while the values of the Torah are portrayed as being “outdated.” Another attraction of assimilation is that the attraction of other cultures is exactly related to those aspects that are closest to the Torah and to people that are like us. The Greeks and helenized Jews came from close, they championed values, such as wisdom and humanism, that were often quite close to Jewish ideals.

This week’s Haftarah verse is in line with the positive interpretation of the verse in Haazinu. Hashem remained connected to the Jewish people throughout their struggles. In times of many enticements, he drew them “out of many waters.” As mentioned in Book 1, “many waters” is a reference to struggles when making a living.

The quality of this week is minimized business activity, miut schorah. Business activity and the quest for money can easily become “idolatrous.” It can become an end in of itself, and we end up forgetting the whole point of why we sought to have money in the first place – to be able to better serve our Creator and provide for our families. That is why the Torah advises us to conduct our business affairs with “miut,” smallness and humility, remembering that ultimately our study of Torah and our service to G-d is what is most important.

This week’s prophet is Obadiah. Obadiah, like Michaia, prophecized in the times of King Ahab, in which idolatry became rampant. Ahab himself also exemplified the very lack of miut schorah – taking the field of another by force, and killing the owner. It was for this act that Ahab was punished with a Heavenly death sentence.

Obadiah, on the other hand, is perhaps the best example of “business activity” with humility and smallness before G-d. He used his money to keep alive one hundred prophets, and protect them against Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel.  It was this act that earned him prophecy. Obadiah’s name also hints to this quality, as it means the servant/worker of G-d. Obadiah understood that his main work was not for men, but for G-d.

Obadiah’s prophecy, recorded in the Tanach, is about how G-d loves Jacob and hates Esau – the message in the fight against assimilation. Much of what attracted the Jews to Roman culture and its ofshoots are their similarities with Judaism. Esau is Jacob’s brother after all. Like Jacob himself told Esau,

And he said to him, "My master knows that the children are tender, and the flocks and the cattle, which are raising their young, depend upon me, and if they overdrive them one day, all the flocks will die. Now, let my master go ahead before his servant, and I will move [at] my own slow pace, according to the pace of the work that is before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my master, to Seir. (Genesis 33:13, 14)

Jacob did not want to stay with Esau and have him be a bad influence on his family. Perhaps now it is also better understood why Jacob spoke of the flocks as well as of his children. Jacob did not want his possessions to be prey to Esau’s unending ambition.

The levitical city for this week is Gath-rimmon. It means winepress of pomegranites: Here again, when we are out in the world, engaging in business activity and facing its darkness, we have the opportunity to do many mitzvoth, and be full like the pomegranate. The pomegranate’s many seeds is also a reference to the ability to multiply, which is connected with Teveth.

Week 17 (From the Book): To Pay Attention to G-d’s Guidance and to Trust in Our Redemption

PEREK SHIRAH: The bee-eater[1]is saying,"I will whistle to them and gather them, for I have redeemed them, and they shall increase as they have before increased." (Zechariah 10:8)
PIRKEI AVOT: Rabbi Chanina the son of Chachina'i would say: One who stays awake at night, or travels alone on the road, and turns his heart to idleness, has forfeited his life.
SEFIROT: Tiferet shebeTiferet (beauty and balance within the context of beauty and balance)
In the seventeenth week, still in the month of Teveth, in Perek Shirah, the bee-eater sings that, “I will whistle [as a Shepherd to his flock] to gather them, because I have redeemed them, and they shall increase as they increased [in the past]. (Zechariah 10:8) The song of the bee-eater has a clear connection with the tribe of Dan, as it explicitly speaks of the power to be fruitful and multiply.
This week also marks the yahrzeit of the Alter Rebbe, on the 24th day of Teveth. The Alter Rebbe passed away due in great part to the struggles he faced when running away from Napoleon, during the war between Russia and France. The Alter Rebbe supported Russia’s efforts in the war, for fear that Napoleon’s egalitarian principles would cause assimilation. The Alter Rebbe felt that such spiritual persecution (similar to the threat of the Greeks in the times of Chanukah) was more dangerous than the physical oppression of the Russian government.
During the flight from Napoleon, the Alter Rebbe sat in a carriage that was third in line, and his grandson, Rabbi Nachum, would sit in the first carriage. Whenever they would approach a crossroads, the Alter Rebbe would be asked which road to take. In one of the crossroads, Rabbi Nachum mistook the Alter Rebbe’s directions. Much later, when they realized the mistake, “[T]he Alter Rebbe sighed deeply and said: ‘How good is it when a grandson follows in the path of his grandfather – and the opposite is true when a grandfather has to follow the path in which his grandson leads him.’ … The mistake at the crossroads caused all kinds of troublesome detours, and soon after Alter Rebbe passed away in Piena.”[2]
The whistle mentioned in the Song of the bee-eater is a metaphor for the various methods that G-d uses guide us and to help a lost Jew return to Him. As further explained in Week 26, and as is well known from Psalm 23, G-d is our Shepherd and we are His flock. Furthermore, the Zohar teaches that Moses was called Rayah Mehemnah, a faithful shepherd (also a shepherd of faith), and that the leader of every generation is like the Moses of that generation, as was the Alter Rebbe. It is important that we follow their advice in order not to lose our way in the darkness of exile, as unfortunately occurred in the above story.
It is well known that seventeen is the gematria of tov, which means “good.” Yet, it also connected to exile and to the sad events of the seventeenth of Tammuz, which led to the destruction of the Temple. The Alter Rebbe’s premature and apparently preventable passing presents us with same dilemma. How could G-d have permitted such an occurrence? In fact, the Talmud makes an explicit connection between these two kinds of events, stating that the passing of tzadikim is likened to the burning of the Temple.[3]
The Lubavitcher Rebbe specifically addresses this apparent contradiction, both regarding exile as well as regarding the premature passing of a tzadik, in this case, his own father:
This is a descent for the purpose of ascent. Indeed, the ascent to be achieved through the Messianic redemption will be great enough to make the time we spend in exile worthwhile.
There is no other means for us to reach this high rung. Were we able to make this ascent without going through the pains of exile, G-d surely would not have exposed us to them.
The above concept also helps clarify a difficult problem in regard to the death of Tzadikim. (…) The passing of the Tzadik allows us to reach a high level that could not be approached through any other means. Therefore, this ascent compensates for the tremendous loss caused by death.
If the above is true regarding the passing of any Tzadik, it surely applies regarding the passing of a Tzadik who sacrificed his life for the entire people. Indeed, his self-sacrifice caused him to die before his time. Surely, the only reason for such a passing is the ascent achieved through it.
Seventeen is in fact associated with good, although the full extent of that good is hidden for now. Nowadays, seventeen might be associated primarily with the tragedy of destruction and exile, but in the future, when we fully return to Hashem, He will gather us and redeem us through Mashiach, and we will then understand that everything that happened was genuinely good all along. (Seventeen is also the gematriaof cheit, which means sin, which is the only thing that is truly preventing us from entering the messianic era – as we say in our prayers, “mipnei chateinu galinu m’artzeinu” – because of our sins we have been exile from our land. Therefore, if we truly repent from our sins, we will be immediately redeemed.[4]
The Pirkei Avot of this week can be found in the words of Rabbi Chaninah son of Chachina’i, who states: "Whoever stays up at night or travels alone on the road, and turns his heart to idleness, forfeits his life.” (III: 4) Rabbi Chaninah is referring to the night of exile. In exile, we cannot be isolated and concerned only with vain works in our hearts. We have to be assembled and attentive to the whistle of G-d, and occupy ourselves with the study of Torah, so that we do not lose our way and endanger our lives. This lesson is reminiscent of the story of the passing of the Alter Rebbe. There is also a strong connection between this teaching and the month of Teveth, given that it was negligence regarding proper Torah study that caused the destruction of the Temple.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains the words of Rabbi Chaninah in a completely different light. He explains that travelling alone is in fact a reference to someone who forges his own path in prayer and meditation (hitbodedut) and that the Hebrew word for idleness, batalah, is in fact a reference to bitul, nullification of the self. “Forfeits his life” in Hebrew is mitchayev et nafshoh, which Rebbe Nachman interprets as makes his soul worthy that the whole world be obligated (chayav) to exist. This is the condition of the tzadikof the generation, as was the Alter Rebbe.
The combination of the sefirot of the seventeenth week results in tiferet shebetiferet. To survive these cold days and long nights, we have to temper the darkness of exile with the light and inspiration of Chanukah, as well as the Alter Rebbe’s yahrzeit, connecting ourselves with the beauty and balance of the Torah. We must also trust in G-d’s infinite mercy - mercy in Hebrew, Rachamim is another meaning for tiferet– knowing that He will soon bring us out of this exile. The root of the bee-eater’s name in Hebrew, Rachamah, is Rachamim.
Similarly, the lesson in self-improvement we can derive from the words of the bee-eater is to hold strong to the conviction that G-d is always with us, guiding us through adversity, and that He will ultimately raise us up. We must not only believe that His call will come, but must also be attentive to it, so that when it does come we do not miss it.




[1] The Bee-Eater is a type of bird.
[2] Likutei Diburim, Volume I, Chapter 2a, Section 5, pages 34-35
[3] Rosh Hashana 18b
[4] From the Rebbe’s Sichot.

Week 16 (from the Book): To Use Adversity as a Way to Grow, Relying on G-d for Support

PEREK SHIRAH: The ducks are saying: "Trust in G-d forever and ever, for G-d, the Eternal, is the strength of worlds." (Isaiah 26:4)
PIRKEI AVOT: Rabbi Shimon [Bar Yochai] would say: Three who eat at one table and do not speak words of Torah, it is as if they have eaten of idolatrous sacrifices; as is stated, "Indeed, all tables are filled with vomit and filth, devoid of the Omnipresent" (Isaiah 28:8). But three who eat at one table and speak words of Torah, it is as if they have eaten at G-d's table, as is stated, "And he said to me: This is the table that is before G-d." (Ezekiel 41:22)
SEFIROT: Gevurah shebeTiferet (discipline and judgment within the context of beauty and balance)
We now come to the sixteenth week, when the ducks proclaim their everlasting trust in G-d, the Eternal Rock (Isaiah 26:4). The song can also be understood as praise, that G-d is the strength of all worlds. During this week of the month of Teveth, we remain connected with the strength of the tribe of Dan, and to its ability to multiply. The Talmud states that Teveth is the coldest month of the year, “when the body takes pleasure in the body.”[1]
It is no coincidence that Perek Shirah mentions the ducks in the plural. Ducks multiply quickly and have large families; they travel in groups and rely on each other for survival during migration from the cold. After the destruction of the First Temple, the number of Jewish survivors was very small. According to the Book of Jeremiah, 4,600 people were exiled to Babylon in total. [2] And yet, in a relatively short period of time, the Jewish community in Babylon thrived, becoming numerous, influential, and wealthy.
The song of the ducks also appears to be a reference to G-d’s strength as well as to the fact that He grants us the ability to procreate. The name Tzur is a reference to G-d’s strength, but can also be translated as Creator or Craftsman. The word Yotzer, which as the same root as Tzur is used in Tanach specifically as a reference to G-d, who “fashioned you from the womb.”[3]
The song also contains a mixture of both masculine and feminine names of G-d. It contains the name formed by the letters yud and heh, which is feminine, and Tzur, which is masculine. In between, the name Hashem is used, which contains both masculine and feminine aspects.
Similarly, while last week’s number fifteen contained two letters of Hashem’s name, yudand heh, and was feminine, the number sixteen also contains two letters of Hashem’s name, yud and vav, but is masculine in nature. The yud in Hashem’s name represents the sefirah of chochmah (also known as the “father”) while the vav in His name represents the six masculine emotional sefirot from chesed to yesod (known as Ze'er Anpin). These concepts are in line with this week’s theme of procreation, as well as contrasting     G-d’s masculine and feminine qualities.
The number sixteen also contains aspects of strength and support evoked in the song of the ducks. Sixteen is four times four. Just as the number four represents stability, as explained above in the fourth week, so too does the number sixteen express an even higher dimension of such stability.
The teaching of Pirkei Avot for this week is found in the lesson of Rabbi Shimon (Bar Yochai): "Three [people] who ate at the same table and did not speak words of Torah, it is as if they had eaten of sacrifices to the lifeless [idols] ... But three [people] who ate at the same table and spoke words of Torah, it is as if they had eaten from the table of G-d." (III: 3)
Rabbi Shimon speaks of the importance of using words of the Torah, so that we are always connected to Hashem. This teaching of Pirkei Avot is connected to the month of Teveth because, as explained earlier, the disregard for the spiritual importance of Torah study was the cause of the destruction of the First Temple. Rabbi Shimon was the greatest expert of the hidden secrets of the Torah. He understood perfectly how by refraining from words of Torah, one can negatively affect the world.
Furthermore, by teaching us about the importance of infusing our meals with words of Torah, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is teaching us how to serve Hashem with our bodies. That is the deeper meaning behind the above Talmudic statement that in this month, “the body takes pleasure in the body.” The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that by serving Hashem with our bodies, not just with our minds and souls, we bring forth an even deeper impact, affecting Hashem’s “body,” His very essence.[4] In this way, we fulfill G-d’s ultimate desire, which is to build a dwelling place for Him in this lowly realm. If we follow Rabbi Shimon’s advice, our eating a simple meal, becomes as if we were eating from the “table of G-d,” in the Temple. The same can be said for marital relations. It can be the most holy of activities, or the most profane, it all depends on the circumstances and the intentions of the couple.
This week, the combination of the sefirot results in gevurah shebetiferet. We recover from the pain of the destruction of the Temple and use our strength and discipline to connect to the balanced and spiritual beauty of the Torah.
A lesson in self-improvement that we can learn from the ducks’ words is that we must have total confidence in G-d, relying on Him always, just as we would rely on a strong and stable rock for support.



[1] Talmud, Megillah 13a
[2] Chapter 52:28-30
[3] Isaiah 44:2
[4] “Love in the Ice Age,” based on the talks of the Rebbe, ShabatVayeishev 5735 and Shabat Vayigash5750, available at: https://meaningfullife.com/torah/parsha/bereishit/vayigash/Love_in_the_Ice_Age.php

Sixth Set of 22 Days: Kaf & Lamed, Day and Night

11
6th Cycle
Caf
Day
14. The king of Hormah, one;
Eliashib
Proverbs, Chapter 11
Psalm 112
6. In the morning, it blossoms and passes away; in the evening, it is cut off and withers.
1:35 AM
Three weeks from Mid-Tevet to Yud Shvat
12
Lamed
Night
the king of 'Arad, one;
Gamul
Proverbs, Chapter 12
Psalm 119
ו. בַּבֹּקֶר יָצִיץ וְחָלָף לָעֶרֶב יְמוֹלֵל וְיָבֵשׁ:
1:47 AM
The 18th of Teveth began the sixth set of 22 days of the Jewish calendar, which parallels the letters Kaf and Lamed, as well as the Day and the Night in Perek Shirah. This 22-day period begins in Teveth and runs through almost half of Shevat.

Kaf is connected to the Hebrew word Keter, crown, which in Kabbalah is connected to those aspects of the soul that are above intellect: Emunah (faith), Ta'anug (pleasure), and Ratzon (desire). Kaf also means the palm of the hand, or a spoon, both of which are slightly bent in order to serve as a receptacle, a kli (which is also with the letter Kaf).

Lamed is the root of the words Lilmod (to study) and Lelamed (to teach). The Lamed is particularly connected with the Oral Torah, the part of the Torah which was never intended to be written down, but instead was transmitted orally from teacher to student.

In Kabbalah, the Day is connected to intellect, while the Night represents that which is above intellect, particularly Emunah, faith. These concepts can be found in the verses each of the two sing in Perek Shirah:

The Day is saying: "Day to day utters speech, and night to night relates knowledge." (Psalms 19:3)
The Night is saying: "To speak of His kindness in the morning, and of His faithfulness by nights." (Psalm 92:3)

The Hebrew word for knowledge is Da'at, which in Kabbalah is interchangeable with Keter. Faithfulness above, in Hebrew, is Emunah.

Teveth is a time of the year where the nights are particularly long and cold, yet around this time is also when the nights slowly start getting shorter again, and the days start getting longer. Our sages tell us that long nights were given in order to study Torah. Traditionally, the Oral Torah is what is studied by night, while the Written Torah is studied only during the day.

Shevat is particularly connected to all of the above. As explained in Book 1, Shevat is connected to the Tribe of Asher, which stands for Ta'anug (pleasure). Shevat is also very much connected to Emunah, given that we celebrate the New Year of the Trees, Tu B'Shvat, in the middle of the winter. Finally, Shevat is connected to the Oral Torah. Moshe began teaching the Oral Torah to the Jewish People during this month, and the Chidushei HaRim teaches that all insights in the Oral Torah for the entire come to a person during the month of Shevat.
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