Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday, the 27th of Sivan

Sefirot Combination (Cycles of Seven Weeks):

1st day of Week 39 (the "Bear") and the 22nd day (the "Sea Monsters") of the 6th cycle ("Yesod"), Chesed shebeNetzach shebeYesod, Kindness within Victory/Endurance within Foundation.

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

3rd day of the 13th cycle ("Fig Tree and the Pomegranite Tree"), Gimmel within the cycle of Mem Sofit. (Gam means "also/as well")  

Thirteenth Set of 22 Days: Mem Sofit, Fig and Pomegranate (the Priestly Family of Shecaniah)

The 25th of Sivan began the thirteenth set of 22 days of the Jewish calendar, which parallels the end-letter Mem (Mem Sofit), as well as the Fig and the Pomegranate in Perek Shirah. This 22-day period runs from the end of Sivan to the day before the 17th of Tammuz.

As mentioned previously, the Mem is one of the "mother-letters" in Kabbalah and stands for Em (mother) and Mayim (water). While the regular "open" Mem is connected to the revealed aspects of Creation and of the Torah, the Mem Sofit is "sealed," representing that which is hidden and concealed. It is also a reference the final redeemer Mashiach, while the regular Mem is a reference to the first redeemer, Moshe.

The numerical value of the letter Mem is 40. This period appears to be particularly connected to the number 40. It includes the second half of the 40 days in which Moshe was at Har Sinai and the first part of the 40 days in which the spies were in the Land of Israel. The thirteenth cycle includes Week 40 (Mem) and all but the last day of Week 41 (Mem Alef), which spells Em. It also marks a time on the Jewish calendar where Hashem is not longer as revealed (such as on Shavuot).  Instead, Hashem is concealed, and we must battle through these days with great Emunah and strong belief in the coming of the final redeemer.

A similar theme can be found regarding the elements in Perek Shirah.

The Fig is saying: "The one who guards the fig shall eat of her fruits." (Proverbs 27:18)

The Pomegranate is saying, "Your cheeks are like a piece of a pomegranate behind your veil." (Song of Songs 4:3)

The fig is a fruit whose taste lasts a long time in one's mouth. This symbolizes how we must keep the memory of the revelations of Shavuot etched in our hearts. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov writes that the month of Tammuz is connected to the first letters of the verse "Zichru Torat Moshe" (remember the Torah of Moshe). Rabbi Slifkin writes: "... fig trees ripen over a long period. The first ones ripen in late spring, at the time of the Shavuos festival, and the others ripen over the course of the entire summer." The very verse that the Fig sings is about guarding the Torah that one learns.

The pomegranate's song focuses on another point touched upon above: concealment. By looking at the outside of a pomegranate, one would never guess the shear number of seeds it contains - around 613 on average according to tradition, but nobody's counting. :) This is the meaning behind its verse as well.

The sinners of Israel are as full of mitzvot like a pomegranate, as is written, "Your cheeks are like a piece of pomegranate"; do not read "your cheeks" (rakotech) but "your empty ones" (rekanin shebach). (Talmud (Chagigah 27a); Slifkin, p. 180)

This is a time of the year when a lot can be accomplished, not only in the area of study, but also regarding practical mitzvot.

The Temple guard for these 22 days is connected to the priestly family of Shecaniah. The root of this name comes from the word "to dwell," Lishkon, related to the name of the Divine Presence, the Shechinah. It is also related to the word Shachen, neighbor. The name itself appears to  mean, "the neighbor of G-d."

Making a dwelling place for Hashem means revealing His glory even where it seems to be the most hidden and concealed. That is our ultimate purpose, and what we must accomplish in order that the final redemption may come.

Week 39: The Bear Is Saying

Week 39: The Bear is saying,

You, who sit in the gardens 
The friends hearken to your voice; Let me hear.
Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice, 
The village that Kedar inhabits 

And Moses said, "Eat it today, 
For today is a Sabbath to the Lord; 
Today you will not find it in the field." 
Let the inhabitants of the rock sing, 

Let them shout from the peaks of the mountains. 

Flee, my beloved, and liken yourself to a gazelle 
Or to a fawn of the hinds on the spice mountains.
And Elkanah went to Ramah, to his house

Let them give glory to G-d and tell of His praise in the islands.

See now that it is I! I am the One, 
And there is no G-d like Me! 
My vineyard, which is mine, is before me; 

You, O Solomon, shall have the thousand, 

And those who watch its fruit, two hundred.
Six days you shall gather it, 
But on the seventh day, the Sabbath, on it there will be none. 

And the child was serving the Lord before Eli the priest.  
They afflicted his foot with fetters; 
His soul was placed in irons.
You abrogated the covenant of Your servant; 

Why is his chariot late in coming? 
Why tarry the strides of his chariots?
I cause death and grant life. 
I strike, but I heal, 

And no one can rescue from My Hand! 
And I have consumed them, 
And I have crushed them that they cannot rise; 
Yes, they are fallen under my feet. 

You profaned his crown to the ground.
Until His word came, the saying of the Lord purified him.
A king sent and released him, 
A ruler of peoples [sent] and loosed his bonds.

Week 39 (From the Book): To See the World in a Positive Light in Order to Elevate It

The bear is saying, "Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice, the village that Kedar inhabits; let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the peaks of the mountains. Let them give glory to G-d and tell of His praise in the islands." (Isaiah 42:11-12)

Rabbi Meir would say: Engage minimally in business, and occupy yourself with Torah. Be humble before every man. If you neglect the Torah, there will be many more causes for neglect before you; if you toil much in Torah, there is much reward to give to you.

Netzach shebeYesod (victory and endurance within the context of foundation and firmness)

This week marks Rosh Chodesh Tammuz as well as Gimmel Tammuz, the date of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s passing and also the beginning of the liberation of the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe. Tammuz is represented by the tribe of Reuven, Jacob’s firstborn.

The name Reuven comes from the word reiyiah, sight, and the month of Tammuz is related to the tikkun, the fixing, of our sense of sight. Reuven is also connected to teshuvah in general. The Midrash states about Reuven that he was the first to repent out of love, without first being chastised by Hashem.[1]

This month is also connected to the tikkun for the sin of the spies. Moses sent spies that journeyed throughout the Land of Israel during the entire month of Tammuz and, except for Joshua and Caleb, viewed the Land of Israel in a negative light.

Tammuz also is connected to several tragedies that occurred on the 17th day of this month. Among these tragedies is the destruction of the first tablets containing the Ten Commandments, as well as the breach of the walls of Jerusalem. However, Tammuz is also connected with the final redemption. In the future, when we ultimately repent and are redeemed, the 17th of Tammuz will no longer be a day of fasting and mourning, but rather a day of celebration.

The transformation and teshuvah of Tammuz parallels that of Reuven. Jacob took away Reuven’s firstborn rights after a severe mistake he made involving one of his father’s concubines. Reuven spent his entire life doing teshuvah for his sin. The Torah recognizes his repentance, still referring to Reuven as the firstborn son of Jacob long after the unfortunate event took place.

On the thirty-ninth week, the Bear sings in Perek Shirah, asking all to raise their voice: the desert and the cities, the villages, and the wilderness of Kedar; everyone is to chant melodies and cry with joy: those that dwell among the rocks and on the top of the mountains as well as those in the islands. (Isaiah 42: 11-12)

The song of the Bear alludes to the concept of looking at the world with good eyes, in a positive light. The Bear sees that the deserts, the cities, the villages, the mountains and the islands, all have the great potential of praising G-d. This is how we should all see the world – everyone has this potential. We just need to open our eyes to see it.

One of the main accomplishments of the Rebbe, which actually began with the Previous Rebbe, was to always see in each follower and in every Jew their enormous potential for good. That is how the Rebbe was able to form so many leaders and inspire so many people. The Rebbe was able to spread the light of Judaism and of Chassidism to the far corners of the world: cities as well as spiritual deserts, mountains and isolated islands.

Eliyahu HaNavi, who will announce the coming of Mashiach, is also associated with the Bear. As explained in week 12, the Tanach states that before Elijah ascended to heaven, Elisha asked him for a double portion of Elijah’s own strength.[2] Soon afterwards, when Elisha purified the waters of a particular city, he was insulted by a few young men who would make their money transporting clean water from another location. Elisha’s miracle had rendered their services useless. The youngsters starting instigating Elisha, calling him bald, which was meant to strike a contrast between him and Elijah, who had a head full of hair. After the insult, Elisha cursed these youngsters, and two bears (an apparent reference to the double portion he had received from Elijah) came out of the wilderness and killed them.[3]

It is interesting to note that just as the bear’s song makes explicit references to Arabia (Kedar), the Talmud contains various stories of how Elijah would disguise himself as an Arab when he would appear before tzadikim, either as a way to test or help them.

Thirty-nine is the number of the types of work prohibited on Shabbat. These prohibitions parallel the thirty-nine types of work performed in building the Mishkan, a miniature Temple where the Divine Presence resided. The Mishkan represents a microcosm of the world, and just as G-d rested on the seventh day during the creation of the world, the Jewish people rested on the same day when they were building the Mishkan.

The Bear’s song refers to distant and uninhabited places that have the potential of praising Hashem, thus making a home for Hashem in this world. The Midrash Tanchumah teaches that G-d’s primary objective in creating the world was in order to make a home for Him in the lowly realms. That home is the Mishkan.

The letters that form the number thirty-nine, lamed and tet, spell out the word tel, which means mountain. The laws pertaining to Shabbat are known as "mountains on a wire," because a vast number of prohibitions are deduced from just a few explicit verses in the Torah.

The Pirkei Avot of this week is expressed in the teachings of Rabbi Meir.  The Talmud states that whoever saw Rabbi Meir studying, witnessed how he would take mountains and grind them into each other. He was also known for miracles, many of which involved Eliyahu HaNavi.

Rabbi Meir also represents the idea of teshuvah, return to G-d, and ​​seeing the potential in people and in faraway places. He was himself a descendant of Roman converts. When a certain group of people mistreated and insulted him, he followed the advice of his wife Beruria, and instead of praying for their destruction, prayed that they do teshuvah, which they ultimately did.[4]

Rabbi Meir states that we should minimize our commercial activities in order to focus ourselves in Torah study. He advises us to be humble towards everyone. Furthermore, he teaches that if we waste Torah study time, we will find many obstacles against us, but if we toil greatly in its study, we will find abundant reward. Rabbi Meir’s words are also connected to Tammuz, Reuven and the process of teshuvah, demanding that we humbly transform any lack of dedication to the Torah (which caused such obstacles and tragedies for our people), into full dedication and toil, leading ultimately to enormous reward.

This week, the combination of sefirot results in netzach shebeyesod. We must be persistent and determined to maintain our foundation in Torah and mitzvot. We know that Joseph, who represents the sefirah of yesod, had to endure Potiphar’s wife’s constant attempts to seduce him, and yet Joseph was ultimately successful in resisting her. Rashi compares Potiphar's wife to a bear. There will always be bears trying to distract us from our central purpose. We must stand firm and strong like a bear, and not lose sight of our goal.

This week, we learn from the bear that wherever we find ourselves, we must attempt to speak of the Torah and elevate the place we are in as much as possible.

[2] 2 Kings 2:9
[3] 2 Kings 2:23-25
[4] Talmud Brachot 10a

The Lion is saying

The Lion is saying

He shall arouse zeal, He shall cry, 
Even roar, He shall prevail over His enemies.
I have pursued my enemies 
And have destroyed them; 

Those who strive with the Lord will be broken; 
Upon him will He thunder in Heaven; 
G-d shall go out as a mighty man, 
Never turning back until they were consumed. 

He called a famine upon the land; 
He broke every staff of bread.
Who ate the fat of their sacrifices 
And drank the wine of their libations? 

Through the window looked forth, 
The mother of Sisera [peered] through the window;
Let them arise and help you! 
Let them be your shelter! 

Where he sank, there he fell down dead.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth. 
And He will grant strength to His King, 
And raise the horn of His anointed one. 

"Do not touch My anointed ones, 
And do not harm My prophets.”
But You abandoned and You rejected; 
You became wroth with Your anointed.   

He sent a man before them; 
Joseph was sold as a slave.
If she be a wall, 
We will build upon her a silver turret 

Solomon had a vineyard in Baal-Hamon 
He gave the vineyard to the keepers; 
So he said to them
That is what the Lord spoke 

Tomorrow is a rest day 
A holy Sabbath to the Lord 
Each one brought for the fruit thereof 
One thousand pieces of silver

Bake whatever you wish to bake 
And cook whatever you wish to cook
And if she be a door
We will enclose her with cedar boards

And all the rest leave over to keep until morning  
So they left it over until morning
As Moses had commanded 
Then I was in his eyes as one who finds peace

I am a wall
And my breasts are like towers
And it did not become putrid
And not a worm was in it

Week 38 (From the Book): To Be Strong and Courageous in order to Defend the Common Good

The Lion is saying, "G-d shall go out as a mighty man, He shall arouse zeal, He shall cry, even roar, He shall prevail over His enemies." (Isaiah 42:13)

Rabbi Yonatan would say: Whoever fulfills the Torah in poverty, will ultimately fulfill it in wealth; and whoever neglects the Torah in wealth, will ultimately neglect it in poverty.

Tiferet shebeYesod (beauty and balance within the context of foundation and firmness)

And in the thirty-eighth week, at the end of the month of Sivan, comes the opportunity for the lion to declare in Perek Shirah that the Lord will come as a mighty warrior, and shall take revenge as a man of war. Triumphant, Hashem will roar and overcome His enemies. (Isaiah 42:13) This verse is connected with the month of Sivan, where all the people trembled at the voice of G-d presenting the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

The lion’s verse is also related to the tribe of Zevulun, who would go out to sea in search for trade. Our sages make a very interesting link between the idea of "going out to war” and "going out in order make a living," which as we know can be a kind of war. (See Week 20 regarding how the age of twenty is both the age to pursue a livelihood and to enlist for war).

The week of the lion is not only the last week of the month of Sivan, but is also the last week of spring. The next two months of the summer, Tammuz and Av, are quite intense, and are closely linked to the destruction of the Temple. Moreover, these months are also connected to the reconstruction of the Temple and the coming of Mashiach.

In this verse for week thirty-eight, Hashem Himself is referred to as a lion. It should be noted that the Temple is also often referred to as a lion (Ariel, which literally means "lion of G-d"). The lion is also the symbol of the tribe of Judah, from whom comes King David and Mashiach. There is a Midrash that further explores this lion theme: "The lion (Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian emperor) appeared during the lion (the month of Av) and destroyed Ariel (the Temple), so that the Lion (G-d) will appear during the lion (the month of Av) and rebuild Ariel."[1] Similarly, the lion’s verse compares Hashem to a man at war, a roaring lion, who will defeat His enemies and redeem His people.

In the last week of Sivan we prepare spiritually, physically, and psychologically, for the intense period that is to come. The next months of Tammuz and Av can be ones of much pain, but also contain the spirit of redemption - it all depends on how we approach them. In order to succeed, we must connect with the spark of the lion of Judah, of David, and of Mashiach, which each of us carries inside. If we prepare well, taking into account everything we learned from Passover to Lag Ba’Omer, to Shavuot, we will be strong as lions and, with G-d constantly on our side, we will have absolutely nothing to fear.

Thirty-eight is the gematria of the Hebrew word Bul, the Biblical name given to the month of Cheshvan. The Torah states that “in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, the house [of G-d] was finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it, and he [Solomon] built it in seven years.”[2] On week twenty-three, in Adar, we had discussed the significance of the gematria of the word Ziv, the biblical name given to the month of Iyar. We mentioned how on Iyar the construction of Solomon’s Temple began. Having fully experienced the redemption of Adar and Nissan, having worked on ourselves in Iyar, and experienced the revelation of the Torah in Sivan, our internal Temple should now feel completed. It is our duty to properly protect that Temple, and to bring about the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Thirty-eight is composed of the letters chet and lamed, which form the word chol, meaning sand, and reminds us of the blessing Abraham received that his offspring would be as numerous as the sand in the sea. Chol also means profane, connected to the destruction of our Temple, our exile, and the profanation of G-d’s name that took place in the months that follow Sivan. Chet and lamed also form the word lach, which means wet or fresh. We leave Sivan and spring as a whole, fresh and full of water (a metaphor for Torah), and are now ready to face the summer heat.

The Pirkei Avot lesson for this week is from the teaching of Rabbi Yonatan (IV: 9): one who fulfills the Torah in poverty will fulfill it in wealth, but whoever neglects the Torah in wealth will come to neglect it in poverty. During this week we experience a similar concept. If we violate the Torah so close after we experienced its revelation in Sivan, it will be even harder to fulfill it in the potential poverty experienced during the months of Tammuz and Av. However, if we fulfill the Torah during those months of "poverty," we will transform them into months of tremendous spiritual, intellectual, and emotional enrichment, with the coming of Moshiach. In addition, our commitment to the Torah in the "spiritual poverty" of exile will be compensated with the ability to fulfill the Torah in the “spiritual wealth” of the Messianic era.

This week’s Pirkei Avot is also closely linked to the tribe of Zevulun, given its wealth and ability to provide for the tribe of Issachar, who was devoted entirely to the study of Torah. Zevulun itself, although more professionally active than Issachar, also remained faithful to the Torah and devoted to its study.

The sefirot combination for this week results in tiferet shebeyesod: beauty and balance within foundation. During this week, we feel the beauty and balance of the Torah within us, and reinforce our Jewish foundations in order to face the difficult coming months.

A lesson in self-improvement that we draw from the lion is that we must be brave and willing to “go out” beyond our insulated worlds and comfort zones in order to help those around us.

[1] Yalkut Shimoni, Section 259
[2] Kings I, 6:38

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Elephant Is Saying

The Elephant Is Saying

You have enlarged my step[s] beneath me 
And my ankles have not slipped
How great are your works, G-d 
Your thoughts are tremendously deep

Should a man give all the property 
Of his house for love
They would despise him
They gathered it morning by morning 

Each one according to his eating capacity 
And [when] the sun grew hot, it melted
Then He will say, "Where is their deity 
The rock in which they trusted?”

At her feet he sank, fell, lay; 
At her feet he sank (and) fell;
The feet of His pious ones He will guard, 
And the wicked shall be cut off in darkness 

For not by strength will man prevail.
For love is as strong as death, 
Zeal is as strong as the grave; 
Its coals are coals of fire of a great flame!

When they were few in number, hardly dwelling in it.
It came to pass on the sixth day that they gathered 
A double portion of bread, two omers for one, 
And all the princes of the community came and reported to Moses.

Many waters cannot quench the love, 
Nor can rivers flood it 
Like the moon, which is established forever, 
And it is a witness in the sky, eternally true. 

And they walked from nation to nation, 
From one kingdom to another people.
We have a little sister who has no breasts; 
What shall we do for our sister on the day she is spoken for?

Place me like a seal on your heart, 
Like a seal on your arm, 
He let no man oppress them, 
And He reproved kings on their account.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Week 37 (From the Book): To Maintain our Humility and Not Forget the Greatness We Experienced

PEREK SHIRAH: The elephant is saying, "How great are your works, G-d; Your thoughts are tremendously deep." (Psalms 92:6)

PIRKEI AVOT: His son, Rabbi Yishmael would say: One who refrains from serving as a judge avoids hatred, thievery and false oaths. One who frivolously hands down rulings is a fool, wicked and arrogant.

He would also say: Do not judge on your own, for there is none qualified to judge alone, only the One. And do not say, "You must accept my view," for this is their [the majority's] right, not yours.

SEFIROT: Gevurah shebeYesod (discipline and judgment within the context of foundation and firmness)

As we arrive at week thirty-seven, the week after Shavuot, the elephant in Perek Shirah proclaims, "How great are your works, G-d; Your thoughts are tremendously deep." (Psalms 92:6) The Hebrew word for great used by the elephant is gadlu, from the word gadol, big, and the elephant itself is the largest of all the land animals. The verse of the elephant is also from Psalm 92, mentioned in the previous week.

On Shavuot, we were all deeply impressed with the greatness of Hashem and His Torah. After this day of great Divine revelation, we all become higher and greater spiritually. The elephant comes to emphasize to us the greatness of that experience, and that it is important not to let ourselves forget it. Elephants, after all, are renowned for their memory. Physical greatness is also associated with the week after Shavuot because that is when we read the Torah portion of Nasso, the largest one in all of the Five Books of Moses.[1]

The number thirty-seven has the gematria of the root of the word gadol (big). Thirty-seven is also the numerical difference between the name of Moses (345) and Korach (308).[2] The “deep thoughts” mentioned by the elephant may actually be a reference to the rebellion of Korach against Moses and Aaron. 

Korach wanted the leadership position to himself and convinced a susbstantial number of his fellow tribesmen and neighbors to rebel. During his confrontation with Moses and Aaron, Korach and his congregation were miraculously sucked into a deep pit, which Pirkei Avot states was thought of and created by G-d in the very first week of Creation. The Rebbe explains that Korach and his group were brought into the pit while still alive in order that they be granted the opportunity to repent and return to G-d, as did Korach’s sons. This event happened on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the begnning of this current month, and the Torah portion entitled “Korach,” which recounts this story, is often read communally by the Jewish people during the last days of Sivan.

It is appropriate that Moses is also associated with the elephant, the largest of the land animals, because as noted in Week 4 and Week 23, Moses is also related to the eagle, the largest bird, and the Leviathan, the largest sea animal. Moses was, and will always be, the greatest of all prophets.

The lesson from Pirkei Avot for this week is from Rabbi Yishmael, who teaches that one who refrains from making legal ruling removes himself from enmity, theft and unnecessary oaths: but one that frivolously issues legal decisions is a fool, wicked and arrogant. (IV:7) Rabbi Yishmael also states that the only one who can judge on his own is G-d, and that an individual should not say, “Accept my view,” for that is the right of the majority, not the individual’s.

The teaching of Rabbi Yishmael is connected with the emphasis on unity and harmony linked to the month of Sivan, as well as to the humility necessary in order to properly fulfill the commandments of the Torah. We must do all that is in our power not to aggrandize ourselves at the Torah’s expense, always remembering that only G-d is truly great.

Rabbi Yishmael’s words are also a clear reference to the interactions between Moses and Korach. Korach was an enormously rich person, with a deep-seated enlarged view of himself. During his rebellion against Moses and Aaron, Korach’s claim was based on a concept similar to the latter part of Rabbi Yishmael’s words; that Moses and Aaron should follow the majority and not retain key positions for themselves. Moses explained that Korach’s rebellion was ultimately against G-d Himself, who had chosen him and Aaron as the leaders of the Jewish people. As noted above, G-d does, and will, judge alone.

The combination of sefirot for this week results in gevurah shebeyesod. On this week, we must work with strength and discipline to maintain our solid foundation in our study of Torah and our fulfillment of mitzvot. The elephant represents this strong foundation. After all, who can move an elephant against its will?[3]

Finally, a lesson in self-improvement that we learn from the elephant is that even the largest animal realizes the infinite greatness and depth of Hashem.

[1] Nasso has 176 paragraphs; the largest Psalm, 119, has 176 verses; the largest Talmudic tractate, Bava Batra, has 176 folios.
[2]Dr. Akiva G. Belk, “Elazar, Korach, Shuvah, Pride and Depression,” available at;
[3] There also appears to be a connection between the elephant, Pil in Hebrew, and Eliyahu HaNavi. Both have the same gematria, 120; See also Talmud, Brachot 56B, where the description of a dream with an elephant follows the description of a dream with Pinchas, who is Elijah.   

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Week 36 (From the Book): To Have Emunah

The gazelle is saying, "And I shall sing of Your strength, I shall rejoice of Your kindness in the morning, for You were a refuge to me, and a hiding place on the day of my oppression." (Psalms 59:17)

Rabbi Yossi would say: Whoever honors the Torah, is himself honored by the people; whoever degrades the Torah, is himself degraded by the people.

Chesed shebeYesod (kindness within the context of foundation and firmness)

Week thirty-six in the Jewish calendar marks the holiday of Shavuot. The entire week is also known as “Shivah Yemei Miluim,” in which Shavuot sacrifices could still be brought to the Temple. On this week in Perek Shirah, the gazelle praises Hashem’s kindness in the morning, a shelter and refuge in times of trouble. (Psalm 59: 17)

The Hebrew word for gazelle is Tzvi, which has the same gematria as the word emunah, complete faith in Hashem. The word tzvi is composed of three letters, tzadi, beit, yud, and is an acronym for the phrase “tzadik b'emunatoh yichieh,” "a tzadik lives through his faith," a verse from the prophet Habakkuk. The Talmud explains that this verse is actually a summary of the entire Torah that was given to Moses on Mount Sinai on Shavuot.[1]

The song of the gazelle expresses its faith in Hashem, both in the morning and in times of trouble (“night”). A similar concept is found in the beginning of Psalm 92, which states, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing to Your name, O Most High; To declare in the morning Your kindness and Your faith at night.”[2] After the troubles we encountered during the Counting of the Omer, which is associated with the night, on Shavuot, we witness the revelation of Hashem, clear as day.[3]

The horns of the gazelle are like a double crown, and we know that the Jewish people also received a double crown on Shavuot, as a reward for their faith in G-d. The Midrash teaches that while other nations refused to accept the Torah, the Jews did not even first ask what was in it. They simply stated, "Na'aseh veNishmah," "We will do and we will listen." The Jewish people willingly accepted to fulfill the commandments of the Torah even before knowing and understanding what they entailed. Hashem therefore gave each Jew two crowns, one for “Na'aseh” (we will do) and another for “Nishmah” (we will hear/understand). Unfortunately, these crowns were later removed after the sin of the golden calf.

The number thirty-six represents the thirty-six secret tzadikim that sustain the world. The number thirty-six is also ​​the total number of Chanukah candles that are lit during the eight days of the holiday. These two concepts seem connected to the light revealed to us on Shavuot, when, due to our efforts during the Counting of the Omer, we are all closer to being on the level of tzadikim. These thirty-six tzadikim are literally the foundation of the world.

This week’s lesson in Pirkei Avot comes from Rabbi Yossi, who teaches that one who honors the Torah will be honored by others, while one who dishonors the Torah, will be dishonored by others. (IV: 8) This lesson is strongly related to the giving of the Torah, as well as to the unfortunate events that took place shortly thereafter. When we accepted the Torah, we were shown great honor, but when we dishonored the Torah with the sin of the golden calf, that honor was taken away.

On this week, the combination of sefirot is chesed shebeyesod, kindness within foundation. On Shavuot, the Jewish people had to stand firm (by not getting too close to the mountain and not letting their souls expire completely from the tremendous Divine revelation), in order receive from G-d the great good that is the Torah. (As the week of Shavuot and the Shivah Yemei Miluim, this week also represents the “eighth week” of the cycle of Hod)

A lesson in self-improvement we may learn from the gazelle is that we must have faith in Hashem at night (during difficult times), knowing full well that the night will eventually pass and we will be able to thank Hashem in the openly revealed light of day.

[1] Makkot, 24A
[2] Psalm 92: 2,3
[3] Shem M’Shmuel, Lag Ba’omer

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Gazelle Is Saying

The Gazelle Is Saying

His left hand would be under my head, 
And his right hand would embrace me.
And I shall sing of Your strength 
I shall rejoice of Your kindness in the morning

For You were a refuge to me, 
and a hiding place on the day of my oppression.
And You have given me the shield of Your salvation; 
And You have increased Your humility for me. 

He lifts the poor from the dust; 
From the dunghill, He raises the pauper, 
When the Lord will judge His people, 
And will reconsider His servants, 

To seat them with princes, 
And a seat of honor He causes them to inherit, 
When He sees that the power is increasing, 
And none is controlled or strengthened. 

And Moses said to them, 
Let no one leave over [any] of it until morning. 
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, 
And He placed the world upon them.

But [some] men did not obey Moses
And left over [some] of it until morning, 
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem; 
Why should you awaken, 

And why should you arouse 
The love until it is desirous?
And it bred worms and became putrid, 
And Moses became angry with them.     

There your mother was in travail with you; 
There she that bore you was in travail."
She struck Sisera, pierced his head, 
And wounded and penetrated his temple.

Who is this coming up from the desert, 
Embracing her beloved? 
The covenant which He made with Abraham, 
And His oath to Isaac. 

Under the apple tree I aroused you; 
He established it for Jacob as a statute, 
For Israel as an everlasting Covenant, 
Stating, "To you I shall give the land of Canaan”

His seed will endure forever 
And his throne will be 
As the sun before Me
The portion of your inheritance

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