Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Week 27 (From the Book): To Purify Ourselves in order to Change

The cow is saying, "Rejoice to the Lord over our strength, trumpet to the Lord of Jacob!" (Psalms 81:2)

Rabbi Akiva would say: Jesting and frivolity accustom a person to promiscuity. Tradition is a safety fence to Torah, tithing a safety fence to wealth, vows a safety fence for abstinence; a safety fence for wisdom is silence.

He would also say: Beloved is man, for he was created in the image [of G-d]; it is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to him that he was created in the image, as it is says, "For in the image of G-d, He made man" (Genesis 9:6). Beloved are Israel, for they are called children of G-d; it is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to them that they are called children of G-d, as it is stated: "You are children of the L-rd your G-d" (Deuteronomy 14:1). Beloved are Israel, for they were given a precious article; it is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to them that they were given a precious article, as it is stated: "I have given you a good purchase; My Torah, do not forsake it" (Proverbs 4:2).

All is foreseen, and freedom of choice is granted. The world is judged with goodness, but in accordance with the amount of man's positive deeds.

He would also say: Everything is placed in pledge, and a net is spread over all the living. The store is open, the storekeeper extends credit, the account-book lies open, the hand writes, and all who wish to borrow may come and borrow. The collection-officers make their rounds every day and exact payment from man, with his knowledge and without his knowledge. Their case is well founded, the judgment is a judgment of truth, and ultimately, all is prepared for the feast.

Yesod shebeNetzach (foundation and firmness within the context of victory and endurance)

As we arrive at week twenty-seven, even closer to Passover, it is the turn of the large pure (kosher) domestic animal to proclaim that we rejoice to the G-d of Jacob, the source of our strength. (Psalm 81:2) The large pure domestic animal is seen as a reference to the cow. The Jewish people are called by the names Israel and Jacob. Jacob is usually the name used when we are in a more fragile, humble state. When we are feeling weak, we must rely even more on Hashem as the source of our strength. This is also the week of the yahrzeit of the Rebbe Rashab, on the 2nd of Nissan. The Rebbe Rashab’s leadership took place during a tumultuous time in Jewish history, when the Jewish people were in a particularly fragile state (like the song of the cow), and faced the harsh anti-religious oppression of the Bolsheviks in Russia.

The cow also represents the spiritual exile and impurity of Egypt, embodied by the golden calf. Conversely, the cow also represents the purification through the Parah Adumah, the Red Heifer. The Red Heifer had to be completely red, pure and complete/whole (tamim).[1] The Red Heifer's ashes were used for purification of the highest form of impurity - contact with the dead. This purification process had to be performed by every Jew that found himself in a state of impurity in order to bring the Passover offering during this month.  It is for this reason that we read a special Torah portion about the Red Heifer, known as Parashat Parah, in a few weeks before this holiday. The Rebbe Rashab also is a tremendous example of purity. He established Tomchei Tmimim yeshiva system – its students were known as tmimim, the pure, wholesome ones. The Rebbe Rashab’s last ma’amar was about the ultimate destruction of Amalek and the husks of impurity (kelipah).

The number twenty-seven is formed by the Hebrew letters kaf and zayin, which form the word zach, “pure.” In preparation for Passover, we must purify ourselves physically and spiritually, returning to G-d, and eagerly awaiting his redemption.

The Pirkei Avot for week twenty-seven is found in the lessons of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva is known for his many popular sayings, one of which is directly related to the purification of the people of Israel. Rabbi Akiva states how praiseworthy are the Jewish people, whose purification comes directly from our Father in Heaven.[2]  In the Pirkei Avot for this week, Rabbi Akiva first describes how to maintain one’s purity, by not engaging in jest. He also describes how dear is man, since he was created in the image of G-d, and how beloved are the People of Israel, who are called G-d’s children and were given the Torah. Rabbi Akiva’s section in Pirkei Avot includes several other fundamental and profound teachings that serve as the intellectual foundation of the Jewish religion. Similarly, the teachings of the Rebbe Rashab serve as intellectual foundation of Chabad philosophy.

Rabbi Akiva ends his words in Pirkei Avot stating that everything is prepared for the feast. In Nissan, too, everything is prepared for the feast of Passover. There is no one better than Rabbi Akiva to be sharing his lessons during the month of Nissan, given that he is one of the greatest examples of complete humility and self-sacrifice (qualities related to this month and to Passover). This sage began to study Torah at the age of 40, sitting silently and humbly alongside small children... and the result? Rabbi Akiva became one of the greatest Torah scholars of all time. Rabbi Akiva’s name also has the same root as the name Jacob. Both names come from the word eikev, which means heel. This is in contrast to the name Israel, which contains the same letters as Li Rosh, “mine is the head.” While the head is the highest part of the body, the heel is the lowest.

This week’s sefirot combination results in yesod shebenetzach, that is, foundation within determination, victory and redemption. This is perhaps the most prominent feature of Jewish education during our long exile. Nissan is when we were liberated from Egypt, physically and spiritually, and when we will be liberated from the current exile as well.

The lesson learned from the cow is that in the journey to make our tikkun - our spiritual correction, the very reason why we came into the world - G-d is the source of our strength. The cow sings about Jacob, who worked hard all his life to overcome the obstacles laid out before him along the way. Only after much perseverance and determination did Jacob manage to overcome these difficulties and become Israel. Each of us also undergoes changes and progress, even if we do not realize it. In this process, G-d is always by our side.

[1] The word tamim is related to the word tam, simple/pure, which is also connected to Jacob. In his early years, Jacob is called an “Ish Tam Yoshev Ohalim,” a pure/simple man who dwells in the tents (of study). (Genesis 25:27)
[2] Mishnah, Yoma 8:9

Friday, March 24, 2017



A lone

I voice
Of shared

And sing
The dead 
And living

New songs
In the

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ninth Set of 22 Days: Peh and Tzaddik, Thick and Light Clouds

The 25th of Adar begins the ninth set of 22 days of the Jewish calendar, which parallels the letters Peh and Tzadik, as well as the Thick and Thin Clouds in Perek Shirah. This 22-day period begins during the time of Passover preparations, and runs through the first days of Passover.

Peh stands for Pedut, redemption. Peh literally means "mouth," which is one of the primary symbols of Passover itself. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev states that Pesach stands for Peh - Sach, a mouth converses, as it is a special mitzvah to recount the miracles of our liberation during the Passover Seder. The Megaleh Amukos states that Pharaoh stands for Peh Rah (evil mouth). (Raskin) 

The shape of the letter Peh is a combination of the Kaf and a YudThe Yud stands for G-dliness, and therefore the Peh symbolizes the revelation of G-dliness. Also, the Yud is like a tooth inside the mouth. In the Haggadah of Passover, we learn that the we must "break the teeth" of the evil son, so that he may become a Tzadik, revealing his potential. 

The next letter, the Tzadik, stands for righteousness. The Tzadik is also a combination of letters: a bent Nun and a Yud. The bent Nun symbolizes humility, the trait most associated with Moshe, of whom the Torah testifies that he was the most humble of men. Humility, destroying one's spiritual Chametz (leavened bread, ego) is certainly one of the main themes of this time as well. It is also through humility that we reveal the Yud, G-dliness.

A similar theme can be found in the Perek Shirah verses of the Thick and Thin Clouds:

The Thick Clouds are saying, “He made darkness His secret place; His pavilion around Him was dark with waters and thick clouds of the skies.” (Psalms 18:12)

The Light Clouds are saying, “Also He burdens the thick cloud with overflow; the [light] cloud scatters its light. (Job 37:11)

The thick, usually dark, clouds symbolize the potential for tremendous rain. This overflow of water (which is always a metaphor for the Torah itself) is very much connected to extensive recounting of the Passover story, as well as the potential the evil son has to bring tremendous good and blessing to the world.

The light clouds also spread the knowledge of G-d, "scattering His light." The clouds' lightness also appears to symbolize humility. It is their very lightness that allows them to have such strong reflective powers. The same is true for all Tzadikim and the Jewish people as a whole. They are a reflection of G-d's light.

In Hebrew, light clouds are called Ananei HaKavod, "Clouds of Glory," the term used for the clouds that protected the Jewish people during the the time of the Exodus from Egypt and the Passover story. The clouds were given to the Jewish people in the merit of Aharon's righteousness. After Aharon passed away, the clouds disappeared. They were later reinstated in the merit of another Tzadik, Moshe Rabbeinu. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Week 26 (From the Book): To Be Humble and Let G-d Guide Us

The sheep [and goat] is saying:[1] "Who is like You among the might ones, G-d, who is like You, mighty in holiness, awesome in praise, worker of wonders." (Exodus 15:11)

Rabbi Yishmael would say: Be yielding to a leader, affable to the black-haired, and receive every man with joy.

Hod shebeNetzach (glory and gratefulness within the context of victory and endurance)

In the twenty-sixth week, that of Rosh Chodesh Nissan, in Perek Shirah, the small pure (kosher) domestic animal proclaims that no one is as strong, awesome and miraculous as Hashem (Exodus 15:11). The small pure domestic animal is a reference to the sheep (the month of Nissan corresponds to the zodiac sign of Aries), as well as to the goat. Rosh Chodesh Nissan marks the inauguration of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, in which sacrifices of pure kosher animals, such as the sheep and goat, were brought.
Nissan is the month of redemption and miracles. The relationship of shepherd and flock is one of the most important metaphors for the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people. G-d is far above our comprehension, just as the shepherd is also completely beyond the understanding of his flock. At the same time, like sheep, we have total humility and faith that our Shepherd will lead us in the right path, despite perhaps having to face foxes and lions along the way.

The goat is also used a symbol for the Jewish People in the famous song that is sung by many Jews on Passover night, Chad Gadya. The song’s name means “One Goat,” and also appears to be phonetically similar to the word Haggadah, the text that is read during the Passover Seder. Chad Gadya is similar to Perek Shirah, in that it also includes many animals and natural elements. The animals in Chad Gadya function primarily as symbols for various exiles we have endured and the different nations that conquered the Land of Israel. The cat that eats the goat is a reference to Assyrians; the dog that eats the cat is a reference to Babylon; the stick is Persia; the fire is Macedonia; the water, Rome; the ox, the Saracens; the slaughterer, the crusaders; the Angel of Death, the Turks. At the end, G-d saves us from all these enemies and returns us to our Land.[2] The two zuzim, the coins used to purchase the goat are said to be a reference to the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments given to Moses at Mount Sinai,[3] but also appear to be a reference to the two Temples that were destroyed, and its people exiled. Zuz means to move, to change places. The Third Temple, however, will not move, it will be everlasting.

Similarly, each animal in Perek Shirah that sings during Nissan represents a different exile, as well as a redemption from it. Sheep were G-ds to the Egyptians, our first exile, and the goat, Seir in Hebrew, is a reference to Esau, our last. It was in this month that we were redeemed from Egypt, and it is in this month that we will be redeemed in the future.

The Torah states unequivocally that Nissan is the head of all months, Rosh Chodashim. It is therefore represented by the Tribe of Judah, who was the leader of his brothers, and from whom King David descends. All legitimate kings of the Jewish people - including Mashiach – are descendants of King David and therefore of Judah. The word for Judah in Hebrew, Yehudah, comes from the word hoda’ah, which means acknowledgement. This is the same root of the word Modeh, as in the prayer we make when we first get up in the morning, the Modeh Ani, in which we acknowledge G-d as our King and thank Him for returning our soul. The tribe of Judah is characterized by self-sacrifice, acknowledgement, and thankfulness.

Because the Egyptians idolized sheep, it is extremely appropriate that it be the one to proclaim the absolute greatness of Hashem. The Sheep is the animal used in the Passover sacrifice, showing the Egyptians that G-d is far greater than any other god. On Shabat HaGadol (the “Great Shabbat,” which takes place right before Passover), we celebrate the miracle of how the Egyptians did not react negatively toward the Jewish people, when they tied sheep to their bedposts, and told the Egyptians that they were about to sacrifice their gods in the coming days.

Nissan is the month of Passover, and it is therefore appropriate that this week’s song be from the Song of the Sea, which was sung after the miracle of the splitting of the Sea of Reeds.[4]

The number twenty-six is the gematria of G-d’s name, “Hashem.” Twenty-six also equals two times the number thirteen, the gematria of the word echad, one, as well as ahavah, love.

Rabbi Yishmael in Pirkei Avot teaches us this week that we must submit to a superior (literally “the head”), and be courteous to a younger person, greeting every person with joy (III:12). Among the kohanim, Rabbi Yishmael was the head, the Kohen Gadol. In addition to his close connection with Hashem, Rabbi Yishmael, as Aaron before him, had a great love for each member of the Jewish people, independent of his or her status or stature. This verse also has a clear connection with Nissan, the head of the months.

The sefirot combination for this week results in hod shebenetzach. With humility and gratitude, self-sacrifice and acknowledgement, we achieve the miraculous victory and redemption that takes place during this month.

We learn from the sheep and the goat that our work of improving ourselves physically and spiritually must be based on our strong belief that only Hashem can truly redeem us.

[1] While Rabbi Slifkin translates this animal only as sheep, Rabbi Lazer Brody includes goats as well. The Hebrew term can be translated literally as “small/thin pure animal.”
[3]  Ibid.
[4] Exodus 13:16

Wednesday, 24th of Adar, 5777

In Memory of My Grandmother, Chanah Miriam bat Pinchas

Sefirot Combination (Cycles of Seven Weeks):

1st day of Week 26 and the 29th day of the cycle of Netzach (Victory/Endurance), Chesed shebeHod shebeNetzach, Kindness within Glory/Acknowledgement within Victory/Endurance.

Alef-Bet/Psalms (Cycles of 22 days):

22nd day of the 8th cycle. Tav within the cycle of Samech and AyinTav-Samech, Samech-Tav

(colloquial) purposelessly ; (colloquial) simply, just

to seal, to fill, to plug, to stop up ; to block

hideaway, secret hiding place ; secret, mystery, unknown

to contradict; to refute ; (chemistry) to neutralize, to counteract ; (literary, talmudic) to muss, to make untidy (hair)

Proverbs 31:

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and her deeds will praise her in the gates.

תְּנוּ לָהּ מִפְּרִי יָדֶיהָ וִיהַלְלוּהָ בַשְּׁעָרִים מַעֲשֶֹיהָ:

Psalm 119:

I went astray like a lost lamb; seek Your servant, for I did not forget Your commandments.

תָּעִיתִי כְּשֶׂה אֹבֵד בַּקֵּשׁ עַבְדֶּךָ כִּי מִצְו‍ֹתֶיךָ לֹא שָׁכָחְתִּי:

Comments/Perspectives: Tav means a "sign" and Samech, "support." What is a sign and support that a woman (or a man) is just? You look at her fruit (children, students, those she influenced) and you look at their deeds. Similarly, what is a sign or support that a person is lost and needs redirection? G-d's commandments.

Hayom Yom:

To R. Hillel Paritcher's question whether to review Chassidus even in towns where the people have no conception of Chassidus, the Mitteler Rebbe responded: "The soul hears words of Chassidus." It is written, "Flowing from Lebanon." Lebanon is spelled (in Hebrew) l'b nu'n. "Lebanon" thus represents chochma and bina of the soul. When the soul hears, from there issues a "flow", a "stream of droplets" into that "radiance" or ha'ara of the soul which vitalizes the body; this results in a strengthening of "do good" expressed in the 248 positive mitzvot, and of "turn from evil" expressed in the 365 prohibitions.


When saying Ana b'choach, look at - or picture in thought - the sheimot (Divine Names) formed by the acronyms of the words, but do not pronounce them.

Comments/Perspectives: Rabbi Hillel Paritcher's question arises from times in which a person is not given any sign that their actions are having the desired effect (kind of like this blog :) ), and the Miteller Rebbe comes to tell him that "the soul hears," and that there is a strengthening to do good and to turn from evil (Sur M'Rah - connected to the Samech-Reish combination from two days ago). Similarly, the Ana B'choach has Divine Names that are not to be pronounced, yet they still have their desired effect.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Tuesday, 23rd of Adar, 5777

In Memory of My Grandmother, Chanah Miriam bat Pinchas

Sefirot Combination (Cycles of Seven Weeks):

7th day of Week 25 and the 28th day of the cycle of Netzach (Victory/Endurance), Malchut shebeNetzach shebeNetzach, Kingship within Victory/Endurance within Victory/Endurance.

Alef-Bet/Psalms (Cycles of 22 days):

21st day of the 8th cycle. Shin within the cycle of Samech and AyinShin-Ayin, Ayin-Shin

hour ; specific time

to do ; to make ; to produce, to create

Proverbs 31:

Charm is false and beauty is futile; a God-fearing woman is to be praised.

שֶׁקֶר הַחֵן וְהֶבֶל הַיֹּפִי אִשָּׁה יִרְאַת יְהוָה הִיא תִתְהַלָּל:

Psalm 119:

I kept Your precepts and Your testimonies, for all my ways are before You.

שָׁמַרְתִּי פִקּוּדֶיךָ וְעֵדֹתֶיךָ כִּי כָל דְּרָכַי נֶגְדֶּךָ:

Comments/Perspectives: The verses for today have much to do with appearances. Superficial qualities fade away with time, but moral and spiritual qualities are what G-d desires most, and those are always apparent to Him, and are what will ultimately be praised by others as well.

Ayin literally means "eye" and Shin means "tooth." The eye is used for seeing, but is also a "window" into the soul, while teeth are more superficial, used for biting and chewing, but also for smiling.

[As an aside, th verse from the Torah, famously mistranslated as "an eye for an eye," "tooth for a tooth," which in truth is about monetary compensation for losing an eye or a tooth.]

Hayom Yom:

Rabbis and scholars are called the "eyes of the community" and "heads of the thousands of Israel," and when the head is healthy, the body is then also healthy.


My father once said to a Rav, who labored in avoda and was an especially diligent scholar: A Rav must remember at all times and at every moment that he always stands on the threshold between being one of those who bring merit to the public and, G‑d forbid, one of those who cause the public to sin - the threshold between the loftiest of heights and the most abysmal depth. All issues must touch him at the innermost core of his soul, literally, because his very soul is at stake.

Comments/Perspectives: The Hayom Yom fits the same theme as above. It is about appearances. Actions that rabbis and scholars must take in order to "see" (and judge) things from the right perspective, and also appear to others in the same light as well, so as to be a sanctification of G-d's name, and not, G-d forbid, the opposite.

It's also worth noting that that the Hayom Yom includes "Ayin" (eye) and "Reish" (head/Rosh)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Monday, 22nd of Adar, 5777

In Memory of My Grandmother, Chanah Miriam bat Pinchas

Sefirot Combination (Cycles of Seven Weeks):

6th day of Week 25 and the 27th day of the cycle of Netzach (Victory/Endurance), Yesod shebeNetzach shebeNetzach, Foundation within Victory/Endurance within Victory/Endurance.

Alef-Bet/Psalms (Cycles of 22 days):

20th day of the 8th cycle. Reish within the cycle of Samech and AyinReish-Samech, Samech-Reish

רְסִיס: shard, sliver ; shred, trace; drops

סָר: (literary) to turn aside, to deviate (from a path) ; to leave, to move away from ; (formal) to enter, to approach, to go to ; (flowery) to depart, to withdraw, to take leave of

סַר: (flowery) angry, sad, despondent

Proverbs 31:

"Many women have acquired wealth, but you surpass them all."

רַבּוֹת בָּנוֹת עָשׂוּ חָיִל וְאַתְּ עָלִית עַל כֻּלָּנָה

Psalm 119:

The beginning of Your word is true, and each of Your righteous judgments is eternal.

רֹאשׁ דְּבָרְךָ אֱמֶת וּלְעוֹלָם כָּל מִשְׁפַּט צִדְקֶךָ

Comments/Perspectives: The verses above point to a very important quality, which is the power to join and elevate the Klal (the "collective"). We are always building on those that came before us, and the service of a Jew is to unite the present, past, and future, all that has been acquired, and take it higher. 

Hayom Yom:

My father writes in one of his maamarim: "Regarding s'uda shlishit (the third Shabbat meal): The allusion to the verse, today you will not find it (the manna, i.e., Shabbat bread) etc., means only that bread is not required at that meal, but we must partake of some food. R. Yosi did say, may my lot be with those who partake of three Shabbat meals.

Comments/Perpsectives: R. Yosi did not say "may I have the merit to partake of three Shabbat meals," rather "may my lot be with those who partake..."

* * *

The Alter Rebbe taught, shortly after he came to Lyozna: One must always (l'olam) be scrupulous (zahir) about the Mincha davening.

The special quality of Mincha over Shacharit and Maariv is that it comes in the middle of the day, when people are occupied and busy with their personal affairs, yet they interrupt to daven Mincha. Therefore,

l'olam ("always," or more literally: "for the world"), man's avoda in This World is...

...y'hei adam (lit. "man must be," but the Hebrew words also imply "be a man" i.e. that) his intellect illuminate and affect his emotions.

...zahir (lit. "scrupulous," but also:) "luminous," i.e., that form (the spiritual) "illuminate" or have dominance over the material. This becomes evident through the Mincha davening.


Birkat Kohanim elicits Divine Intellect. The "raising of the hands" (by the kohanim) is the elevation of the emotive attributes (midot). Their blessing of Israel, "children of kings," signifies malchut. Thus we have the full configuration of the Ten Sefirot.

Comments/Perspectives: the Kohanim bless "the collective," and it is only by doing so that the configuration of the collective Ten Sefirot is complete.

Sunday, 21st of Adar, 5777

In Memory of My Grandmother, Chanah Miriam bat Pinchas

Sefirot Combination (Cycles of Seven Weeks):

5th day of Week 25 and the 26th day of the cycle of Netzach (Victory/Endurance), Hod shebeNetzach shebeNetzach, Glory/Acknowledgement within Victory/Endurance within Victory/Endurance.

Alef-Bet/Psalms (Cycles of 22 days):

19th day of the 8th cycle. Kuf within the cycle of Samech and AyinKuf-Ayin, Ayin-Kuf

קִעקֵעַ: to destroy, to ruin, to undermine

Proverbs 31:

Her children rise and call her fortunate; [also] her husband, and praises her.

קָמוּ בָנֶיהָ וַיְאַשְּׁרוּהָ בַּעְלָהּ וַיְהַלְלָהּ:

Psalm 119:

From before, I knew from Your testimonies, for You established them to [the end of] the world.

קֶדֶם יָדַעְתִּי מֵעֵדֹתֶיךָ כִּי לְעוֹלָם יְסַדְתָּם:

Hayom Yom:

The term "chassid" is an ancient one that the Sages had even applied to Adam. It describes perfection and excellence in intellect or in emotive character-traits, or in both. However, in Chabad Chassidic doctrine the appellation "Chassid" refers to one who recognizes his own essence-character and his standing in the knowledge and study of Torah, as well as his situation in observing mitzvot. He knows what he lacks and he is concerned and takes pains to fill that void. He is diligent in obedience in the manner of "accepting the yoke."


The Tzemach Tzedek said at the conclusion of the preceding narrative (20 Adar II): "My grandfather, the Alter Rebbe, is the Moshe Rabeinu of Chassidus Chabad. Our sages say that the Torah was given to Moshe but he acted generously (sharing it with Israel). The G‑dly "constant fire" related to the teachings of Chabad Chassidus was given by the Maggid to my grandfather; my grandfather acted generously and gave it to anyone who occupies himself with the study of Chassidus. I am absolutely certain that whoever teaches another and arouses in him that G‑dly "constant fire" is assured of his reward, that this merit of his will never be extinguished.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Shabat, 20th of Adar, 5777

In Memory of My Grandmother, Chanah Miriam bat Pinchas

Sefirot Combination (Cycles of Seven Weeks):

4th day of Week 25 and the 25th day of the cycle of Netzach (Victory/Endurance), Netzach shebeNetzach shebeNetzach, Victory/Endurance within Victory/Endurance within Victory/Endurance.

Alef-Bet/Psalms (Cycles of 22 days):

18th day of the 8th cycle. Tzadi within the cycle of Samech and AyinTzadi-Samech, Samech-Tzadi

Proverbs 31:

She supervises the ways of her household and does not eat bread of idleness.

צוֹפִיָּה הֲלִיכוֹת בֵּיתָהּ וְלֶחֶם עַצְלוּת לֹא תֹאכֵל:

Psalm 119:

The righteousness of Your testimonies is eternal; enable me to understand and I shall live.

צֶדֶק עֵדְו‍ֹתֶיךָ לְעוֹלָם הֲבִינֵנִי וְאֶחְיֶה:

Hayom Yom:

Avoda (translated as "service" and "striving") is not the striving that avoda (service) itself be true; rather, truth itself is an avoda, that the "fingernails" be true. Why does that surprise you? "He saw the attribute of Truth," the Talmud declares, "and he prostrated himself."


The Alter Rebbe related: Among the teachings my Rebbe (the Maggid) told me at yechidus, there was one on the verse, "A constant fire shall be kept burning on the altar; it shall not be extinguished."

The Maggid taught: Though fire descends from Above, spontaneously, it is a mitzva to bring from the 'ordinary,' by man. (Man's action is) an awakening from below which engenders an awakening Above. (For the nature of spirit is that) 'spirit elicits (another, responding) spirit and in turn calls forth another, yet higher spirit.' The spirit from below elicits the spirit from Above, calling forth spirit from higher and still higher.

It is a positive mitzva to kindle fire on the altar. 'Altar' refers to the 'man who offers of you.'4 The offering itself is insufficient. Man must kindle a fire on the offering that is 'of you.' This fire, lo tichbeh (literally, 'it shall not be extinguished'), shall extinguish (tichbeh) the lo (the 'no,' the negative).

My Master told me this teaching ten times to engrave it in the ten powers of my soul. "You, my pupil," he said to me, "are in need of this constant fire, for yours is the duty of extinguishing the great lo (of the opponents of Chassidus). You shall extinguish the lo, and G‑d will transform the lo to hein ('yes'; assent, the positive).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Friday, 19th of Adar, 5777

In Memory of My Grandmother, Chanah Miriam bat Pinchas

Sefirot Combination (Cycles of Seven Weeks):

3rd day of Week 25 and the 24th day of the cycle of Netzach (Victory/Endurance), Tiferet shebeNetzach shebeNetzach, Balance/Beauty within Victory/Endurance within Victory/Endurance.

Alef-Bet/Psalms (Cycles of 22 days):

17th day of the 8th cycle. Peh within the cycle of Samech and AyinPeh-Ayin, Ayin-Peh

פעל - to work
פָּעַר - to open wide (mouth)
עף - to fly
עָפָר - dust, earth.

Proverbs 31:

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and instruction of kindness is on her tongue.

פִּיהָ פָּתְחָה בְחָכְמָה וְתוֹרַת חֶסֶד עַל לְשׁוֹנָהּ:

Psalm 119:

Rivulets of water ran down from my eyes because they did not keep Your Torah.

פַּלְגֵי מַיִם יָרְדוּ עֵינָי עַל לֹא שָׁמְרוּ תוֹרָתֶךָ

Hayom Yom:

Even ordinary Chassidim were lucid in their knowledge of Tanach. They had a customary procedure: After davening Shacharit they studied Mishna; then while folding tallit and tefillin they would recite a certain set portion of Tanach, so apportioned that they concluded Tanach every three months.


R. Moshe Meisels related: The (Alter) Rebbe taught us that the alef of Chassidus is to use our natural traits and instincts in avoda. The beginning of avoda is to employ the natural characteristics of man's powers, for example the natural dominion of mind over heart.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Thursday, 18th of Adar, 5777

Sefirot Combination (Cycles of Seven Weeks):

2nd day of Week 25 and the 23rd day of the cycle of Netzach (Victory/Endurance), Gevurah shebeNetzach shebeNetzach, Might/Discipline within Victory/Endurance within Victory/Endurance.

Alef-Bet/Psalms (Cycles of 22 days):

16th day of the 8th cycle. Ayin within the cycle of Samech and Ayin, Ayin-Samech

עסק - business dealing; involvement

Proverbs 31:

Strength and beauty are her raiment, and she laughs at the last day.

עֹז וְהָדָר לְבוּשָׁהּ וַתִּשְׂחַק לְיוֹם אַחֲרוֹן:

Psalm 119:

Because I considered all precepts of all things upright; [and] every false way I hated.

עַל כֵּן | כָּל פִּקּוּדֵי כֹל יִשָּׁרְתִּי כָּל אֹרַח שֶׁקֶר שָׂנֵאתִי:

Hayom Yom:

After drinking wine and eating one of the seven fruits, the concluding b'racha ends: v'al pri hagafen v'al hapeirot, baruch...al pri hagafen v'hapeirot (not v'al hapeirot).
My grandfather wrote in one of his maamarim: It is necessary to study some of the Written Torah daily with Rashi, for his commentaries are the t'rumot - the select - of the interpretations of our Sages.
...and at the very least everyone must study a tractate of Talmud each year.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Wednesday, 17th of Adar, 5777

Sefirot Combination (Cycles of Seven Weeks):

1st day of Week 25 and the 22nd day of the cycle of Netzach (Victory/Endurance), Chesed shebeNetzach shebeNetzach, Kindness within Victory/Endurance within Victory/Endurance.

Alef-Bet/Psalms (Cycles of 22 days):

15th day of the 8th cycle. Samech within the cycle of Samech and Ayin, Samech-Ayin
נָסַע - travelled

Proverbs 31:

She makes a cloak and sells it, and she gives a belt to the trafficker.

סָדִין עָשְׂתָּה וַתִּמְכֹּר וַחֲגוֹר נָתְנָה לַכְּנַעֲנִי:

Psalm 119:

My flesh bristles from fear of You, and I dread Your judgments.

סָמַר מִפַּחְדְּךָ בְשָׂרִי וּמִמִּשְׁפָּטֶיךָ יָרֵאתִי:

Hayom Yom:

Many years before the Alter Rebbe's imprisonment in Petersburg in 5559 (1798), he once came out of his private quarters to where the Chassidim were gathered and said: "In gan eden1 they sense the preciousness of this lowly world. Not only the Ministering Angels, but even the earliest Emanations2 would forego everything for one amein y'hei sh'mei raba said by a Jew 'with all his power,' meaning with full concentration, i.e., being totally immersed and involved with these words."

This was all he said. The effect was that he kindled such a flame and such a burning enthusiasm in all who heard, that for a full year their amein y'hei sh'mei raba was fiery.
In the Tehillim of this day (87:7), say kol maayanei boch (kol with a kamatz). In Birkat hamazon, say kol (in the same verse) with a cholam.

Tuesday, 16th of Adar, 5777

Sefirot Combination (Cycles of Seven Weeks):

7th day of Week 24 and the 21st day of the cycle of Netzach (Victory/Endurance), Malchut shebeTiferet shebeNetzach, Kingship within Balance/Beauty within Victory/Endurance.

Alef-Bet/Psalms (Cycles of 22 days):

14th day of the 8th cycle. Nun within the cycle of Samech and Ayin, Nun-Ayin / Ayin-Nun.  
נָע - wandering, moving; עני - poor

Proverbs 31:

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits with the elders of the land.

נוֹדָע בַּשְּׁעָרִים בַּעְלָהּ בְּשִׁבְתּוֹ עִם זִקְנֵי אָרֶץ:

Psalm 119:

I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever on their paths.

נָטִיתִי לִבִּי לַעֲשׂוֹת חֻקֶּיךָ לְעוֹלָם עֵקֶב:

Hayom Yom:

The Alter Rebbe said: The offerings for the Sanctuary included gold, silver and copper, but nothing sparkled except for the mirrors presented by the women. From these mirrors were fashioned the washbasin and its base. These were the last of the Sanctuary articles to be made, but were used at the start of every Sanctuary service (for laving by the kohanim) - for their beginning is implanted in their end.

Comments: Sefirah for today is Malchut shebeTiferet. The basins were given by the women (who are connected to the sefirah of Malchut). Beauty is connected to Tiferet.
Avoda for the businessman includes arousing within himself the faith and perfect trust in the One Who feeds and sustains all flesh, that He will provide him with an ample livelihood. He must be truly happy and cheerful, as though all his livelihood were already in hand.

Comments: the businessman must wander and move about (נָע) in order to provide for himself and his family. Yet he remains like a poor person (עני) who relies completely on Hashem to provide for him. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Monday, 15th of Adar, 5777 (Shushan Purim)

Sefirot Combination (Cycles of Seven Weeks):

6th day of Week 24 and the 20th day of the cycle of Netzach (Victory/Endurance), Yesod shebeTiferet shebeNetzach, Foundation within Balance/Beauty within Victory/Endurance.

Alef-Bet/Psalms (Cycles of 22 days):

13th day of the 8th cycle. Mem within the cycle of Samech and Ayin, Mem-Samech / Samech-Mem. 

Proverbs 31:

She makes a cloak and sells it, and she gives a belt to the trafficker.

סָדִין עָשְׂתָּה וַתִּמְכֹּר וַחֲגוֹר נָתְנָה לַכְּנַעֲנִי:

Psalm 119:

From Your precepts I shall gain understanding; therefore, I hate all ways of falsehood.

קדמִפִּקּוּדֶיךָ אֶתְבּוֹנָן עַל כֵּן שָׂנֵאתִי | כָּל אֹרַח שָׁקֶר:

Hayom Yom:

Before pronouncing the b'racha hamotzi, a scratch is made on the bread with the knife, but we are careful not to cut into it.

Even when saying kiddush over bread, we still say savri maranan.

It is said of the Time To Come: "A stone in the wall will cry out and a beam from the tree will respond." At present, inert creations are mute; though trodden upon, they remain silent. But there will come a time when the revelation of the Future becomes a reality, that the inert will begin to speak, relate and demand: "If a man was walking along without thinking or speaking words of Torah, why did he trample upon me?"

The earth trodden upon has been waiting for millenia, ever since the Six Days of Creation. All kinds of living creatures have been treading upon it all this time, but it is waiting for a Jew (or two Jews) to walk on it while discussing Torah. But if they do not say words of Torah, the earth will protest: "You too are just like an animal!"

My grandfather said that the Mitteler Rebbe wrote specific maamarim and a special book for every different kind of maskil and oveid in the Chassidic community. Shaar Hayichud and Shaarei Ora, however, are general, written for all chassidim. Shaar Hayichud is the key to the teachings of Chassidus; Shaarei Ora is the alef-beit of Chassidus.

This is the aliyah of the Golden Calf. The Samech Mem plays a big role in this event.

Sunday, 14th of Adar, 5777

Sefirot Combination (Cycles of Seven Weeks):

5th day of Week 24 and the 19th day of the cycle of Netzach (Victory/Endurance), Hod shebeTiferet shebeNetzach, Glory/Acknowledgement within Balance/Beauty within Victory/Endurance.

Alef-Bet/Psalms (Cycles of 22 days):

12th day of the 8th cycle. Lamed within the cycle of Samech and Ayin, Lamed-Ayin / Ayin-Lamed. 

Proverbs 31:

She fears not for her household for snow, for all her household are dressed in crimson.

לֹא תִירָא לְבֵיתָהּ מִשָּׁלֶג כִּי כָל בֵּיתָהּ לָבֻשׁ שָׁנִים:

Psalm 119:

Of every finite thing I have seen the end; Your commandments are very broad.

לְכָל תִּכְלָה רָאִיתִי קֵץ רְחָבָה מִצְוָתְךָ מְאֹד:

Hayom Yom:

My grandfather told my father: "My father (the Tzemach Tzedek) selected the maamarim printed in Likutei Torah from among 2,000 maamarim.
In the Megilla my grandfather wrote, he did not place the ten sons of Haman in a separate column-page, nor did he begin each column-page with the word hamelech ("the king").
(In the Hebrew text at this point, there appear textual emendations in Torah Or, meaningful only in Hebrew. Translator).

Monday, March 6, 2017

Tuesday, 9th of Adar, 5777

Sefirot Combination (Cycles of Seven Weeks):

7th day of Week 23 and the 14th day of the cycle of Netzach (Victory/Endurance), Malchut shebeGevurah shebeNetzach, Kingship within Might/Discipline within Victory/Endurance.

Alef-Bet/Psalms (Cycles of 22 days):

7th day of the 8th cycle. Zayin within the cycle of Samech and Ayin, Zayin-Samech / Samech-Zayin. (Sample word: זס"ג initials of Zeh Sod Gadol = this is a big secret).

Proverbs 31:

She contemplates a field and purchases it; from the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

זָמְמָה שָׂדֶה וַתִּקָּחֵהוּ מִפְּרִי כַפֶּיהָ נָטְעָ נָטְעָה כָּרֶם:

Psalm 119:

This came to me because I kept Your precepts.

זֹאת הָיְתָה לִּי כִּי פִקֻּדֶיךָ נָצָרְתִּי:

Hayom Yom:

When someone walks the street and thinks words of Mishna or Tanya, or sits in his store with a Chumash or Tehillim - that is more valued today than it was when the streets were bright with the light of Torah. We must not go about in the street with a vacant heart. We must have some Torah memorized, to take with us into the street.
The intense longing to be bound closely (to a Rebbe) can be satisfied only by learning maamarim of Chassidus which the Rebbe delivers as oral discourses and writes down; simply seeing him is not enough.

A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, on the bottom hem of the robe, all around.
פַּֽעֲמֹ֤ן זָהָב֙ וְרִמּ֔וֹן פַּֽעֲמֹ֥ן זָהָ֖ב וְרִמּ֑וֹן עַל־שׁוּלֵ֥י הַמְּעִ֖יל סָבִֽיב:
It shall be on Aaron when he performs the service, and its sound shall be heard when he enters the Holy before the Lord and when he leaves, so that he will not die.
וְהָיָ֥ה עַל־אַֽהֲרֹ֖ן לְשָׁרֵ֑ת וְנִשְׁמַ֣ע ק֠וֹל֠וֹ בְּבֹא֨וֹ אֶל־הַקֹּ֜דֶשׁ לִפְנֵ֧י יְהֹוָ֛ה וּבְצֵאת֖וֹ וְלֹ֥א יָמֽוּת:

14. Restore to me the joy of Your deliverance, and uphold me with a spirit of magnanimity.
15. I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will return to You.
16. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, God of my deliverance; my tongue will sing Your righteousness.
17. My Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Your praise.
18. For You do not desire that I bring sacrifices, nor do You wish burnt offerings.

19. The offering [desirable] to God is a contrite spirit; a contrite and broken heart, God, You do not disdain.

וזהו שאמר הלל הזקן על קיום מצוה זו: זהו כל התורה כולה, ואידך פירושא הוא וכו׳
This explains Hillel the Elder’s statement concerning the fulfillment of this mitzvah:4 “This is the entire Torah, the rest is but commentary.”
כי יסוד ושורש כל התורה הוא להגביה ולהעלות הנפש על הגוף מעלה מעלה עד עיקרא ושרשא דכל עלמין
For the basis and root purpose of the entire Torah is to elevate and exalt the soul high above the body, to [G‑d], the root and source of all worlds,
וגם להמשיך אור אין סוף ברוך הוא בכנסת ישראל, כמו שכתוב לקמן, דהיינו, במקור נשמות כל ישראל, למהוי אחד באחד דוקא

and also to draw down the infinite light of Ein Sof into the Community of Israel — as will be explained further, 5 meaning into the fountainhead of the souls of all Israel, so that “the One [G‑d] will reside within [Israel — but only insofar as they are] one,” i.e., united.

Monday, 8th of Adar, 5777

6th day of Week 23 and the 13th day of the cycle of Netzach (Victory/Endurance), Yesod shebeGevurah shebeNetzach, Foundation within Might/Discipline within Victory/Endurance.

Alef-Bet/Psalms (Cycles of 22 days):

6th day of the 8th cycle. Vav within the cycle of Samech and Ayin, Vav-Ayin / Ayin-Vav. (Sample words: וַעַד (committee); עוֹד (more), עול (yoke).

Proverbs 31:

She rises when it is still night; she gives food to her household and an allotted share to her maidens.

וַתָּקָם בְּעוֹד לַיְלָה וַתִּתֵּן טֶרֶף לְבֵיתָהּ וְחֹק לְנַעֲרֹתֶיהָ:

Psalm 119:

And I shall lift up my palms to Your commandments, which I love, and I shall converse about Your statutes.

וְאֶשָּׂא כַפַּי אֶל מִצְו‍ֹתֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר אָהָבְתִּי וְאָשִׂיחָה בְחֻקֶּיךָ:

Hayom Yom

The Alter Rebbe once summoned a young disciple of the Maggid and said to him in his customary chant: I have the mitzva of "teach them to your children." You have the mitzva of sustaining and providing for your family. Let us make an exchange. I will give you what you need to fulfill your mitzva and you will teach my son (who was later the Mitteler Rebbe).
Then the Rebbe explained the method of instruction: The first thing is to teach the letters, alef, beit and so on. What is an alef? A dot above, a dot below, and a line between this is an alef. A child must know that the alef of Torah is a yud above, a yud below, and a line of faith that joins them.
Another version: yud above - this is the soul; a yid (Jew) below - this is the body; a line of yir'at Shamayim (fear of Heaven) in the center.
My father writes in one of his letters: A single act is better than a thousand groans. Our G‑d lives, and Torah and mitzvot are eternal; quit the groaning and work hard in actual avoda, and G‑d will be gracious to you.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sunday, Adar 7, 5777

Sefirot Combination (Cycles of Seven Weeks):

5th day of Week 23 and the 12th day of the cycle of Netzach (Victory/Endurance), Hod shebeGevurah shebeNetzach, Glory/Acknowledgement within Might/Discipline within Victory/Endurance.

Alef-Bet/Psalms (Cycles of 22 days):

5th day of the 8th cycle. Heh within the cycle of Samech and Ayin, Heh-Samech / Samech-Heh. (Sample words: הַס (quiet, hush!); סֹהַר (prison)

Proverbs 31:

She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar.

הָיְתָה כָּאֳנִיּוֹת סוֹחֵר מִמֶּרְחָק תָּבִיא לַחְמָהּ:

Psalm 119:

Behold, I longed for Your precepts; with Your righteousness sustain me.

הִנֵּה תָּאַבְתִּי לְפִקֻּדֶיךָ בְּצִדְקָתְךָ חַיֵּנִי:

Hayom Yom:

It is imperative that every Jew know that he is an emissary of the Master of all, charged with the mission - wherever he may be of bringing into reality G‑d's will and intention in creating the universe, namely, to illuminate the world with the light of Torah and avoda. This is done through performing practical mitzvot and implanting in oneself fine character traits.

Walking in the street one must think words of Torah. Whether to actually pronounce the words depends on the place, if one is permitted - according to Torah law - to utter words of Torah there. But when someone goes about not occupied with Torah words, then the stone he treads on exclaims: "Bulach! ('clod', in Russian) How dare you trample me! How are you any higher than I am?"

And you shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle the lamps continually.

וְאַתָּ֞ה תְּצַוֶּ֣ה | אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל וְיִקְח֨וּ אֵלֶ֜יךָ שֶׁ֣מֶן זַ֥יִת זָ֛ךְ כָּתִ֖ית לַמָּא֑וֹר לְהַֽעֲלֹ֥ת נֵ֖ר תָּמִֽיד:

8. Then I said, "Behold, I come with a Scroll of the Book written for me."
9. I desire to fulfill Your will, my God; and Your Torah is in my innards.
10. I proclaimed [Your] righteousness in a vast congregation; behold I will not restrain my lips-O Lord, You know!
11. I did not conceal Your righteousness within my heart; I declared Your faithfulness and deliverance; I did not hide Your kindness and truth from the vast congregation.

This, then, should be one’s lifelong aim in the service of G‑d with great joy — the joy of the soul upon leaving the loathsome body, and returning, during one’s study of the Torah and service of G‑d through prayer, to “her father’s house as in her youth,”

וזאת תהיה עבודתו כל ימיו בשמחה רבה, היא שמחת הנפש בצאתה מהגוף המתועב, ושבה אל בית אביה כנעוריה בשעת התורה והעבודה

Mishnah Torah:
This is a fundamental principle: With regard to all matters of commerce and trade, we follow the commonly accepted meanings of the terms used by people of that place, and the local business customs. When, however, there are no local business customs or commonly accepted meanings of terms, and instead, one person will have this intent and another, another intent, we follow the guidelines explained by the Sages in these chapters.

Daf Yomi

MISHNA: Craftsmen who are in possession of items that they are repairing, and partners, and sharecroppers, and stewards [veha’apotropin] do not have the ability to establish the presumption of ownership with regard to property in their possession, as their possession is not indicative of ownership. Similarly, a man does not have the ability to establish the presumption of ownership with regard to his wife’s property, and a wife does not have the ability to establish the presumption of ownership with regard to her husband’s property. And a father similarly does not have the ability to establish the presumption of ownership with regard to a son’s property, and a son does not have the ability to establish the presumption of ownership with regard to a father’s property. A husband and wife, or son and father, use each other’s property freely. Possession is therefore not indicative of ownership.


Blog Archive