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

Ascending

Ascending

Beyond
A lone
Human 
Being


I voice
Millions
Of shared
Feelings

And sing
Among 
The dead 
And living

New songs
Created
In the
Beginning.

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 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

סְתָם
(colloquial) purposelessly ; (colloquial) simply, just

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

סֵתֶר
hideaway, secret hiding place ; secret, mystery, unknown

סָתַר
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

שָׁעָה
hour ; specific time

עָשָׂה
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

Week 25 (From the Book): To Have Self-Sacrifice in order to Fulfill Our Mission in Life

The frog is saying, "Blessed is the Name of the honor of His Kingdom for all eternity." (Talmud, Pesachim 56a)

Rabbi Elazar of Modi'in would say: One who profanes the kodashim ("holy things" consecrated for the service of G-d in the Holy Temple), degrades the Festivals, humiliates his friend in public, abrogates the covenant of our father Abraham (i.e., circumcision), or who interprets the Torah contrary to its true intent---although he may possess Torah knowledge and good deeds, he has no share in the World to Come.

Netzach shebeNetzach (victory and endurance within the context of victory and endurance)

And we come to the twenty-fifth week, still in the month of Adar, when the frog in Perek Shirah blesses His name and His reign for all eternity, Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuto L’Olam Va’ed (Talmud, Pesachim 56A). The frog also appears in the introduction to Perek Shirah, in a story of great personal self-sacrifice. The frog's song is said every day, at least twice a day, since it is an essential part of the prayer of the Shemah. The Shemah expresses our ​​complete acceptance of the kingship of G-d, and of His commandments, with great self-sacrifice.

It also worth noting that this week marks the yahrzeit of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk. Rebbe Elimelech completely exemplified self-sacrifice. One of his main meditative techniques was to imagine throwing himself into a great pillar of fire in order to sanctify G-d’s name. The technique would ensure that any other task he would perform during the day would be on this same level of self-sacrifice.

The story of the frog in Perek Shirah’s introduction is a great example of how to be an emissary with true self-sacrifice. G-d’s second plague upon Egypt was that of frogs. The frogs would jump inside the ovens of the Egyptians, giving up their lives without hesitation. Their self-sacrifice was later a source of inspiration for Chananya, Misha’el and Azariah, who sanctified G-d’s name by refusing to bow down to an idol, knowing full well they would be thrown into a burning furnace. Miraculously, they emerged from the furnace unscathed.[1]

The second plague was in response to the fact that the Egyptian taskmasters worked the Jewish people so hard in the open sun that they had no time to eat or drink and felt completely dehydrated. Frogs are water creatures and their bodies absorb moisture in order to survive. The Midrash teaches that during the plague, a large number of frogs would search out and absorb all the moisture in Egypt, making the Egyptians feel dehydrated as well. It is well known that water is a metaphor for Torah.  It is the job of the sheliach is to find Torah and the holy sparks of the Diaspora in order to absorb them and elevate them, searching even in the driest of places. The reality is that we are all emissaries.[2]

Perek Shirah explains that the frog, as an amphibian, does what no other animal can. It voluntarily serves as food for a land animal which feed itself only from water animals. Again, using water as a metaphor for Torah, the frog is willing to sacrifice its own life in order to bring Torah to those animals on dry land. The frog tells King David that because of this self-sacrifice, Hashem will make it whole, will complement it. Here again we see the idea that each Jew complements the other, like the half-shekel giving during this month.

Interestingly, in Perek Shirah itself, the frog again plays the role of bringing together land and sea. The frog comes after the fish and before the sheep and goat, literally making the link between the water animals of the month of Adar and the land animals of the month of Nissan and beyond.

The week of the frog always falls after the week of Purim and close to the special Torah reading of Parah (the animal of the second week of Nissan), which is primarily about how to purify a person from the greatest source of impurity (contact with the dead). Interestingly, the kohen that performs the purification also sacrifices himself by becoming impure in the process, although only temporarily. A similar self-sacrifice is performed by Queen Esther, who makes herself impure by marrying King Achashverosh in order to save the entire Jewish people. It is also no coincidence that Purim and Parah have such similar roots.

This dual role, superficially negative, yet extremely positive, is found in the verse Baruch Shem Kevod itself. The Talmud in Pessachim suggests that this verse is somehow embarrassing to be said out loud, and that is why we say it quietly. Some authorities state that this verse represents a lower form of declaring G-d’s unity. However, many other famous commentaries teach us that this saying was actually much higher, and said by the angels themselves. We say it quietly only because it is too lofty for this world. The only day that we say it openly is on Yom Kippur, when we are all on the level of angels.[3] As mentioned previously, angels are emissaries of G-d.

There are many other sources that connect the frog to the idea of being a sheliach with total self-sacrifice. There’s also a famous Midrash that teaches that in fact the plague of frogs started out as only a single giant frog. When the Egyptians would try to strike this single frog it would multiply into many more mini-frogs, who in turn would also split into more, like emissaries of the giant frog.

Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk is known as a “Rebbe of Rebbes,” because the most prominent Polish Rebbes were all his disciples, or disciples of his disciples. They were all like emissaries, continuing his legacy. Among these giants are the Chozeh of Lublin (who would thank G-d an hour a day for bringing down the soul of his Rebbe), the Ohev Yisrael (the Apter Rov), the Rimanover, the Maggid of Kozhnitz, and many others. Rebbe Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov, the Bnei Issachar, was his nephew.

This concept of shlichut is found again in the words that the frog says to King David in the introduction of Perek Shirah: “Every song I say contains three thousand parables.” A parable represents the concept of taking an idea and bringing down, so that it is more accessible to others. The frog has three thousand other “emissaries” linked to its song. It is worth noting that at the time of his passing, the Lubavitcher Rebbe had roughly three thousand emissaries, and that today there are roughly three thousand Chabad centers worldwide.

The three thousand parables are also comparable to the three thousand men that "fell" by the hand of the Levites, who served as Moses’ emissaries after the incident of the golden calf:

26. So Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said: "Whoever is for the Lord, [let him come] to me!" And all the sons of Levi gathered around him.  
27. He said to them: "So said the Lord, the G-d of Israel: 'Let every man place his sword upon his thigh and pass back and forth from one gate to the other in the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his friend, every man his kinsman.'
28. The sons of Levi did according to Moses' word; on that day some three thousand men fell from among the people.
Perhaps the phrased “roughly three thousand men” is a reference to the men of Levi, who followed the word of Moses, falling upon those that needed to be punished.

In fulfilling Moses’ word, the Levites acted with extreme self-sacrifice and did not consider brother and friend. This was an extremely positive behavior at the time, but perhaps still required a sort of tikkun, correction. In contrast, the Chabad shluchim consider everyone to be their brother and friend, and treat them as such. Chabad shluchim also “fall” from their pure and holy lifestyle in order to reach out to those that need guidance.

Similarly, three thousand halachot were forgotten at the time of the mourning for Moses. Perhaps the three thousand shluchim, who methodically study the Rebbe’s words, are a tikkun for this as well.
The term “roughly three thousand men” also appears in the story of Samson, which he also showed extreme self-sacrifice, to the point of giving up his life.

27. Now the house was full of men and women, and all the lords of the Philistines were there. And upon the roof (there were) about three thousand men and women, the spectators of Samson's sport.
(...)
30. And Samson said, "Let my soul die with the Philistines," and he bent with (his) might, and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. And the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his lifetime.[4]
Like the kohen that performs the purification through the red heifer, and Queen Esther in the Purim story, Samson was willing to sacrifice himself, both spiritually and physically, in order to bring redemption to the Jewish people. The verses above also appear to make a slight reference to Purim. Verse 27 states that there were about three thousand men and women “upon the roof.” In the original Hebrew, this part is written, “Al haGag.” In Aramaic, it would be “Agag.” Haman was a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites. At the end of the Purim story, not only are Haman and his sons killed, but also 75,000 (25 x 3,000) Amalekites.[5]

The number twenty-five is connected to the Jewish festival of Chanukah, since this festival, as well as the dedication of the Temple that is celebrated on this day took place on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev. The word “Chanukah” itself means “Chanu” (they rested) - “Kah” (twenty-five), a reference to the twenty-fifth of Kislev. The twenty-fifth letter in the Torah is “or,” a reference to the light of Chanukah.

The Chashmonaim played a dual role of both the kohanim and the kings. Rebbe Elimelech (whose name means “G-d is my King”) also had a strong complementary relationship with his saintly brother, the Tzadik Reb Zusya of Anipoli.

This week in Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Elazar of Modi’in teaches that he who profanes holy objects/animals, degrades the festivals, publicly humiliates his neighbor, repeals the covenant of our father Abraham (circumcision) and interprets the Torah in a way that is opposed to its true meaning - even if they have Torah and good deeds, they have no part in the World to Come.

During this week, just after Purim, we begin preparing for Passover. The Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, explains that one should prepare for Passover thirty days before the festival. During these days it is customary to give money to the poor (Maot Chitim) so that they too can properly celebrate Passover. And see the tremendous connection with Pirkei Avot, namely:

1)      “Profaning the holy" appears to be a reference to the times of the Temple, when everyone had to bring the Passover sacrifice. The animal and subsequently the meat of the sacrifice were sacred and had to be treated properly.

2)      "Degrading the festivals" is a more direct reference to the importance to the festival of Passover, both in its physical preparations (destroying the physical chametz, yeast and other leavened breads) and spiritual preparations (eliminating the inner spiritual chametz, our egotism and inflated self-importance).

3)   "Publicly humiliating his neighbor" relates to the charity given in advance of the holiday, so no one should feel ashamed of having to beg for money in order to celebrate Passover.

4)   "Revoking the covenant of Abraham our father" is related to circumcision. Passover is linked to Abraham, because it was on Passover that angels came to visit him and Sarah, and Abraham gave them matzot to eat. Also, just before the first Passover in Egypt, all the men of the people underwent circumcision. Again, 40 years later, before entering Israel, Joshua made all men undergo circumcision. During the 40 years in the desert no men were circumcised. In the days of the Temple, those who were not circumcised they could not eat the Passover sacrifice.

5)   "Interpreting the Torah in a way that is opposed to its true meaning" relates to the various legal rulings that are made during Passover cleaning. Cleaning the house for Passover and preparing for the Seder involves a lot of work. It is therefore easy to find excuses not to have to clean so much: "After all, by Torah law is it not enough simply to verbally nullify the chametz?" Hence the importance of this teaching: we have to do everything possible to strictly adhere to the letter and the spirit of the Law, each one at his or her own spiritual level.

The list of wrongdoings mentioned by Rabbi Elazar also relates to problems that occurred during the time period of Chanukah. The Greeks defiled the sacred objects of the Temple; they were against celebrating sacred dates, such as Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh. The Hellenistic Jews had no shame and fought naked in gymnasiums, many even reversed their circumcision. Hellenistic Jews, Saducees, and other cults also sought to corrupt the true interpretations of the Torah, and the Greeks tried to misrepresent the sacred nature of the Torah, and forced it to be translated into Greek.

This week, the sefirot combination results in netzach shebenetzach, victory within victory. This week represents the midpoint and link between the victory and redemption of Adar (Purim), with the victory and redemption of Nissan (Passover). Twenty-five is also exactly midway through the Counting of the Omer, linking the two different modes of divine service related to the first and second halves of the year. (See Appendix I)

The lesson we learn from the frog is that we must serve G-d with great self-sacrifice, remembering how temporary our stay is on this Earth, and how we are infinitely small and limited when compared to G-d.




[1] “Chananya, Mishael, and Azarya,” Nissan Mindel, Kehot Publication Society. Available at: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/112288/jewish/Chananya-Mishael-and-Azarya.htm
[2] “There is not the vaguest shadow of doubt that, wherever our feet tread, it is all in order to cleanse and purify the world with words of Torah and tefilla (prayer). We, all of Israel, are emissaries of G-d, each of us as Divine Providence has decreed for us. None of us is free from this sacred task placed on our shoulders.” Hayom Yom, 5th of Adar I.
[4] Judges 16: 27-30
[5] Esther 9:16
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