Weekly Cycle

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Week 40 (Book 6): Reviewing the Second Week of Tammuz - Psalms 118-120; 105:21-23; 89:41

PSALMS (Introductions and Translations from Chabad.org):

Chapter 118

This psalm describes David's immense trust in G-d. It also contains many praises to G-d, Who has fulfilled that which He has promised us.

1. Offer praise to the Lord for He is good, for His kindness is everlasting. 2. Let Israel declare that His kindness is everlasting. 3. Let the House of Aaron declare that His kindness is everlasting. 4. Let those who fear the Lord declare that His kindness is everlasting. 5. From out of distress I called to G-d; with abounding relief, G-d answered me. 6. The Lord is with me, I do not fear-what can man do to me? 7. The Lord is with me among my helpers, and I will see [the downfall of] my enemies. 8. It is better to rely on the Lord than to trust in man. 9. It is better to rely on the Lord than to trust in nobles. 10. All the nations surrounded me, but in the Name of the Lord I will cut them down. 11. They surrounded me, they encompassed me, but in the Name of the Lord I will cut them down. 12. They surrounded me like bees, yet they shall be extinguished like fiery thorns; in the Name of the Lord I will cut them down. 13. You [my foes] repeatedly pushed me to fall, but the Lord helped me. 14. G-d is my strength and song, and He has been a help to me. 15. The sound of rejoicing and deliverance reverberates in the tents of the righteous, "The right hand of the Lord performs deeds of valor. 16. The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord performs deeds of valor!” 17. I shall not die, but I shall live and recount the deeds of G-d. 18. G-d has indeed chastised me, but He did not give me up to death. 19. Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter them and praise G-d. 20. This is the gate of the Lord, the righteous will enter it. 21. I offer thanks to You, for You have answered me, and You have been my deliverance. 22. The stone which the builders scorned has become the chief cornerstone. 23. From the Lord has this come about; it is wondrous in our eyes. 24. This is the day which the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice on it. 25. We implore You, Lord, deliver us. We implore You, Lord, grant us success. 26. Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord; we bless you from the House of the Lord. 27. The Lord is a benevolent G-d and He has given us light; bind the festival offering with cords until [you bring it to] the horns of the altar. 28. You are my G-d and I will praise You, my G-d-and I will exalt You. 29. Praise the Lord for He is good, for His kindness is everlasting.

Chapter 119

David composed this prominent psalm in alphabetical sequence-eight verses for each letter. Every verse contains one of the following words (referring to different aspects of Torah): Way; Torah; Testimony; Precept; Commandment; Statement (translated here as Word or Promise); Word; Judgment (or Laws); Righteousness; Statute. Replete with morals and prayers, this psalm should be recited daily, as a powerful preparation for the service of G-d. (In verses beginning with one of the letters of the mnemonic PeReTZ BeN DaMaH, the word "עדותיך" is pronounced "eidvotecha.")

1. Fortunate are those whose way is artless, who walk with the Torah of the Lord. 2. Fortunate are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with all their hearts. 3. Indeed, they have not done iniquity; they walk in His ways. 4. You have commanded Your precepts to be observed diligently. 5. My wish is that my ways be directed to keep Your statutes. 6. Then I will not be ashamed, when I behold all Your commandments. 7. I will give thanks to You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments. 8. I will keep Your statutes; do not utterly forsake me 9. How can a young man keep his way pure? By observing Your word. 10. With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me stray from Your commandments. 11. I have harbored Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You. 12. Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes. 13. With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth. 14. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as I would with all riches. 15. I will speak of Your precepts, and gaze upon Your ways. 16. I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word. 17. Deal kindly with Your servant, that I may live to keep Your word. 18. Unveil my eyes, that I may behold wonders from Your Torah. 19. I am a sojourner on earth; do not hide Your commandments from me. 20. My soul is crushed with a longing for Your judgments every moment. 21. You have rebuked the accursed scoffers, those who stray from Your commandments. 22. Remove insult and contempt from me, for I have kept Your testimonies. 23. Though princes sat and spoke against me, Your servant speaks of Your statutes. 24. Indeed, Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counsellors. 25. My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me in accordance with Your word. 26. I have spoken of my ways, and You answered me; teach me Your statutes. 27. Make me understand the way of Your precepts, and I will speak of Your wonders. 28. My soul drips away out of grief; sustain me according to Your word. 29. Remove from me the way of falsehood, and graciously endow me with Your Torah. 30. I have chosen the way of faith; Your judgments have I laid before me. 31. I held fast to Your testimonies, O Lord; put me not to shame. 32. I will run on the path of Your commandments, for You will broaden my heart. 33. Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I will keep it to the last. 34. Grant me understanding and I will keep Your Torah; I will observe it with all my heart. 35. Direct me in the path of Your commandments, for that is my desire. 36. Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to greed. 37. Avert my eyes from seeing vanity; by Your ways give me life. 38. Fulfill for Your servant Your promise, which brings to the fear of You. 39. Remove my shame which I fear, for Your judgments are good. 40. Behold, I have longed for Your precepts; give me life in Your righteousness. 41. And let Your kindness come to fruition for me, O Lord, Your salvation as You promised. 42. I will offer a retort to those who taunt me, for I trust in Your word. 43. Do not at all remove the word of truth from my mouth, for I hope [to fulfill] Your judgments. 44. I will keep Your Torah continually, for ever and ever. 45. And I will walk in spacious paths, for I seek Your precepts. 46. I will speak of Your testimonies before kings, and I will not be ashamed. 47. And I will delight in Your commandments, which I love. 48. I will lift up my hands to Your commandments, which I love, and I will speak of Your statutes. 49. Remember the word [promised] to Your servant, by which You gave me hope. 50. This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life. 51. [Though] the wicked ridicule me severely, I have not strayed from Your Torah. 52. When I remember Your judgments of old, O Lord, I take comfort. 53. Trembling seized me because of the wicked, those who forsake Your Torah. 54. Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my wanderings. 55. At night I remembered Your Name, O Lord, and I kept Your Torah. 56. All this came to me because I kept Your precepts. 57. The Lord is my portion; I pledged to keep Your words. 58. I pleaded before You with all my heart: have compassion upon me according to Your word. 59. I contemplated my ways, and returned my feet to Your testimonies. 60. I hurried and did not delay to keep Your commandments. 61. Bands of wicked men plundered me, [but] I did not forget Your Torah. 62. At midnight, I rise to thank You for Your righteous judgments. 63. I am a friend to all who fear You, and to those who keep Your precepts. 64. Your kindness, O Lord, fills the earth; teach me Your statutes. 65. You have dealt goodness to Your servant, O Lord, in accord with Your promise. 66. Teach me the goodness and wisdom of the [Torah's] reasons, for I believe in Your commandments. 67. Before I afflicted myself, I would blunder; but now I observe Your word. 68. You are good and benevolent; teach me Your statutes. 69. The wicked have smeared me with lies, [when in truth] I keep Your precepts with all my heart. 70. Their hearts grew thick as fat; but as for me, Your Torah is my delight. 71. It is for my good that I was afflicted, so that I might learn Your statutes. 72. The Torah of Your mouth is better for me than thousands in gold and silver. 73. Your hands have made me and prepared me; grant me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments. 74. Those who fear You will see me and rejoice, because I hoped in Your word. 75. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are just; righteously have You afflicted me. 76. Let Your kindness be my comfort, as You promised to Your servant. 77. Let Your mercies come upon me, that I may live, for Your Torah is my delight. 78. Let the scoffers be shamed, for they have maligned me with falsehood; but I will meditate upon Your precepts. 79. May those who fear You return to me, and those who know Your testimonies. 80. May my heart be perfect in Your statutes, so that I not be shamed. 81. My soul longs for Your salvation; I hope for Your word. 82. My eyes long for Your promise, saying, "When will You comfort me?” 83. Though I became [dried out] like a wineskin in smoke, I did not forget Your statutes. 84. How many are the days of Your servant? When will You execute judgment upon my pursuers? 85. The wicked have dug pits for me, in violation of Your Torah. 86. All Your commandments teach truth, [yet] they pursue me with lies, help me! 87. They nearly consumed me upon the earth, but I did not forsake Your precepts. 88. As befits Your kindness, grant me life, and I will keep the testimony of Your mouth. 89. Forever, O Lord, Your word stands firm in the heavens. 90. Your faithfulness persists for all generations; You established the earth, and it stands. 91. They stand ready today [to execute] Your judgments, for all are Your servants. 92. Had Your Torah not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. 93. Never will I forget Your precepts, for through them You have sustained me. 94. I am Yours; save me, for I have sought Your precepts. 95. The wicked hope to destroy me, but I meditate upon Your testimonies. 96. To every goal I have seen a limit, but Your commandment is immensely broad. 97. O how I love Your Torah! All day it is my discussion. 98. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. 99. From all my teachers I have gained wisdom, for Your testimonies are my discussion. 100. I will be more perceptive than elders, because I have guarded Your precepts. 101. I have restrained my feet from every evil path, that I might keep Your word. 102. I have not turned away from Your judgments, for You have instructed me. 103. How sweet are Your words to my palate, [sweeter] than honey to my mouth! 104. From Your precepts I gain understanding, therefore I hate every path of falsehood. 105. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. 106. I have sworn-and I will fulfill it-to keep Your righteous judgments. 107. I am afflicted to the extreme; grant me life, O Lord, according to Your promise. 108. Accept with favor, O Lord, the offerings of my lips, and teach me Your laws. 109. My soul is in danger always, yet I have not forgotten Your Torah. 110. The wicked laid a snare for me, yet I have not strayed from Your precepts. 111. I have taken Your testimonies as an eternal heritage, for they are the joy of my heart. 112. I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes, forever, to the last. 113. I despise vain thoughts, but I love Your Torah. 114. You are my refuge and my shield; I place hope in Your promise. 115. Turn away from me, you evildoers, and I will keep the commandments of my G-d. 116. Support me according to Your promise, and I will live; let me not be shamed because of my hope. 117. Sustain me, and I will be saved, and I will be engrossed in Your statutes always. 118. You trample all who stray from Your statutes, for their ploy is a lie. 119. You have purged all the wicked of the earth like dross, therefore I love Your testimonies. 120. My flesh bristles from fear of You, and I am in awe of Your judgments. 121. I practiced justice and righteousness; leave me not to my oppressors. 122. Guarantee Your servant goodness; let not the wicked exploit me. 123. My eyes long for Your salvation, and for the word of Your righteousness. 124. Treat Your servant according to Your kindness, and teach me Your statutes. 125. I am Your servant; grant me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies. 126. It is time to act for the Lord; they have abrogated Your Torah. 127. Therefore I love Your commandments more than gold, even fine gold. 128. Therefore I affirmed all Your precepts; I have hated every path of falsehood. 129. Your testimonies are wondrous, therefore does my soul guard them. 130. Your opening words illuminate, enlightening the simple. 131. I opened my mouth and swallowed, because I craved Your commandments. 132. Turn to me and favor me, as is [Your] law for those who love Your Name. 133. Set my steps in Your word, and let no iniquity rule over me. 134. Deliver me from the oppression of man, and I will keep Your precepts. 135. Let Your face shine upon Your servant, and teach me Your statutes. 136. My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Your Torah. 137. Righteous are you, O Lord, and Your judgments are upright. 138. You commanded Your testimonies in righteousness and great faithfulness. 139. My zeal consumes me, because my enemies have forgotten Your words. 140. Your word is very pure, and Your servant cherishes it. 141. I am young and despised, yet I do not forget Your precepts. 142. Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your Torah is truth. 143. Trouble and anguish have taken hold of me, yet Your commandments are my delight. 144. Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding, that I may live. 145. I call out with all my heart; answer me, O Lord; I will keep Your statutes. 146. I call out to You; save me, and I will observe Your testimonies. 147. I rose before dawn and cried out; my hope is in Your word. 148. My eyes preceded the night watches, that I may discuss Your word. 149. Hear my voice in keeping with Your kindness; O Lord, grant me life as is Your practice. 150. Those who pursue mischief draw near; they are far from Your Torah. 151. You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth. 152. From the beginning I discerned from Your testimonies that You had established them forever. 153. Behold my affliction and deliver me, for I have not forgotten Your Torah. 154. Wage my battle and redeem me; grant me life for the sake of Your word. 155. Salvation is far from the wicked, for they seek not Your statutes. 156. Your mercies are great, O Lord; grant me life as is Your practice. 157. My pursuers and my enemies are many, yet I did not turn away from Your testimonies. 158. I saw traitors and I quarreled with them, because they do not keep Your words. 159. Behold how I love Your precepts; grant me life, O Lord, according to Your kindness. 160. The beginning of Your word is truth, and forever are all Your righteous judgments. 161. Princes have pursued me without cause, but it is Your word my heart fears. 162. I rejoice at Your word, like one who finds abundant spoil. 163. I hate falsehood and abhor it, but Your Torah I love. 164. Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments. 165. There is abundant peace for those who love Your Torah, and there is no stumbling for them. 166. I hoped for Your salvation, O Lord, and I performed Your commandments. 167. My soul has kept Your testimonies, and I love them intensely. 168. I have kept Your precepts and Your testimonies, for all my ways are before You 169. Let my prayer approach Your presence, O Lord; grant me understanding according to Your word. 170. Let my supplication come before You; save me according to Your promise. 171. My lips will utter praise, for You have taught me Your statutes. 172. My tongue will echo Your word, for all Your commandments are just. 173. Let Your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen Your precepts. 174. I long for Your salvation, O Lord, and Your Torah is my delight. 175. Let my soul live, and it will praise You, and let Your judgment help me. 176. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek out Your servant, for I have not forgotten Your commandments.

Chapter 120

This psalm rebukes slanderers, describing how the deadly effect of slander reaches even further than weapons.

1. A song of ascents. I have called out to the Lord in my distress, and He answered me. 2. O Lord, rescue my soul from the lips of falsehood, from a deceitful tongue. 3. What can He give you, and what [further restraint] can He add to you, O deceitful tongue? 4. [You resemble] the sharp arrows of a mighty one, and the coals of broom-wood.1 5. Woe unto me that I sojourned among Meshech, that I dwelt beside the tents of Kedar. 6. Too long has my soul dwelt among those who hate peace. 7. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.


Chapter 105

21. He made him the master of his household and the ruler over all his possessions.
22. To bind up his princes with his soul, and he made his elders wise.
23. Israel came to Egypt, and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.


 41. You breached all his fences; You made his fortifications a ruin.    

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Week 41 (Book 6): Reviewing the Third Week of Tammuz - Psalms 121-123; 105:24-26; 89:42

PSALMS (Introductions and Translations from Chabad.org):

Chapter 121
This psalm alludes to the Lower Paradise, from which one ascends to the Higher Paradise. It also speaks of how G-d watches over us.
1. A song of ascents. I lift my eyes to the mountains-from where will my help come? 2. My help will come from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. 3. He will not let your foot falter; your guardian does not slumber. 4. Indeed, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. 5. The Lord is your guardian; the Lord is your protective shade at your right hand. 6. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7. The Lord will guard you from all evil; He will guard your soul. 8. The Lord will guard your going and your coming from now and for all time.

Chapter 122
The psalmist sings the praises of Jerusalem and tells of the miracles that happened there.
1. A song of ascents by David. I rejoiced when they said to me, "Let us go to the House of the Lord.” 2. Our feet were standing within your gates, O Jerusalem; 3. Jerusalem that is built like a city in which [all Israel] is united together. 4. For there the tribes went up, the tribes of G-d-as enjoined upon Israel-to offer praise to the Name of the Lord. 5. For there stood the seats of justice, the thrones of the house of David. 6. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may those who love you have peace. 7. May there be peace within your walls, serenity within your mansions. 8. For the sake of my brethren and friends, I ask that there be peace within you. 9. For the sake of the House of the Lord our G-d, I seek your well-being.

Chapter 123
The psalmist laments the length of time we have already suffered in exile.
1. A song of ascents. To You have I lifted my eyes, You Who are enthroned in heaven. 2. Indeed, as the eyes of servants are turned to the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so are our eyes turned to the Lord our G-d, until He will be gracious to us. 3. Be gracious to us, Lord, be gracious to us, for we have been surfeited with humiliation. 4. Our soul has been overfilled with the derision of the complacent, with the scorn of the arrogant.


Chapter 105

24. And He made His people very fruitful, and He made it stronger than its adversaries.

25. He turned their heart to hate His people, to plot against His servants.

26. He sent Moses His servant, [and] Aaron whom He chose.


42. All wayfarers have plundered him; he was a disgrace to his neighbors.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Week 42 (Book 6): Reviewing the Last Week of Tammuz - Psalms 124-126; 105:27-29; 89:43

PSALMS (Introductions and Translations from Chabad.org):

Chapter 124

1. A song of ascents by David. Were it not for the Lord Who was with us-let Israel declare- 2. were it not for the Lord Who was with us when men rose up against us, 3. then they would have swallowed us alive in their burning rage against us. 4. Then the waters would have inundated us, the torrent would have swept over our soul; 5. then the raging waters would have surged over our soul. 6. Blessed is the Lord, Who did not permit us to be prey for their teeth. 7. Our soul is like a bird which has escaped from the fowler's snare; the snare broke and we escaped. 8. Our help is in the Name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Chapter 125

1. A song of ascents. Those who trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion which never falters, but abides forever. 2. Mountains surround Jerusalem, and the Lord surrounds His people from this time and forever. 3. For the rod of wickedness will never come to rest upon the lot of the righteous; therefore the righteous need not stretch their hand to iniquity. 4. Be beneficent, O Lord, to the good and to those who are upright in their hearts. 5. But as for those that turn to their perverseness, may the Lord lead them with the workers of iniquity. Peace be upon Israel.

Chapter 126

The psalmist speaks of the future, comparing our Divine service in exile to one who sows arid land, then cries and begs G-d to send rain upon it so that the seed not be wasted. When he merits to reap the crop, he offers thanks to G-d.

1. A song of ascents. When the Lord will return the exiles of Zion, we will have been like dreamers. 2. Then our mouth will be filled with laughter, and our tongue with songs of joy; then will they say among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for these.” 3. The Lord has done great things for us; we were joyful. 4. Lord, return our exiles as streams to arid soil. 5. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. 6. He goes along weeping, carrying the bag of seed; he will surely return with songs of joy, carrying his sheaves.


Chapter 105

27. They placed upon them the words of His signs and His miracles in the land of Ham.
28. He sent darkness and it darkened, and they did not disobey His word.
29. He turned their water into blood, and it killed their fish.


43. You raised the right hand of his adversaries; You caused all his enemies to rejoice.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Week 43 (Book 6): Reviewing the Week of Rosh Chodesh Av - Psalms 127-129; 105:30-32; 89:44

PSALMS (Introductions and Translations from Chabad.org):

Chapter 127

King David instructs his generation, and especially his son Solomon, to be sure that all one's actions be for the sake of Heaven. He also criticizes those who toil day and night in pursuit of a livelihood.

1. A song of ascents for Solomon. If the Lord does not build a house, then its builders labor upon it in vain. If the Lord will not guard a city, the vigilance of its watchman is in vain. 2. It is in vain for you, you who rise early, who sit up late, and who eat the bread of tension, for in fact He gives His loved ones sleep. 3. Behold, the heritage of the Lord is children; the fruit of the womb is a reward. 4. As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are the children of youth. 5. Fortunate is the man who has his quiver full of them; they will not find themselves shamed when they speak with enemies in public places.

Chapter 128

This psalm extols one who enjoys the fruits of his own labor, avoiding theft and deception, even refusing gifts. It also describes behavior appropriate to the G-d-fearing.

1. A song of ascents. Fortunate is every man who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. 2. When you eat of the labor of your hands, you will be happy, and you will have goodness. 3. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine in the inner chambers of your house; your children will be like olive saplings around your table. 4. Behold, so will be blessed the man who fears the Lord. 5. May the Lord bless you out of Zion, and may you see the goodness of Jerusalem all the days of your life. 6. And may you see children [born] to your children; peace upon Israel.

Chapter 129

The psalmist laments the troubles of Israel.

1. A song of ascents. Much have they persecuted me from my youth on. Let Israel declare it now- 2. "Much have they persecuted me from my youth on, [but] they have not prevailed against me.” 3. The plowmen plowed upon my back; they wished to make their furrow long. 4. But the Lord is just; He cut the cords of the lawless. 5. They will be humiliated and will be turned back, all the haters of Zion. 6. They will be as grass upon the rooftops that withers before one plucks it, 7. wherewith the reaper has never filled his hand, nor the sheaf-binder his arm; 8. and of which the passers-by never have said: "The blessing of the Lord be upon you; we bless you in the name of the Lord."

Chapter 105

30. Their land swarmed with frogs in the rooms of their monarchs.
31. He commanded and a mixture of noxious beasts came, lice throughout all their boundary.
32. He made their rains into hail, flaming fire in their land.


44. You even turned back the sharp edge of his sword, and You did not raise him up in battle.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

"In Service:" Vayikra and the Fine (Humble) Line between the Holy and the Unholy

This week we begin a new Book of the Five Books of Moses, Vayikrah, Leviticus. The very first word, Vayikrah, (and [God] called [Moshe]) is written with a small Alef.

Chapter 1

1And He called to Moses, and the Lord spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying, א. וַיִּקְרָא אֶל משֶׁה וַיְדַבֵּר יְהֹוָה אֵלָיו מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר:
And He called to Moses: ... [קְרִיאָה] is an expression of affection, the [same] expression employed by the ministering angels [when addressing each other], as it says, “And one called (וְקָרָא) to the other…” (Isa. 6:3). To the prophets of the nations of the world, however, He revealed Himself through expressions denoting coincidence and impurity, as the verse says, “and God happened to [meet] (וַיִּקָּר) Balaam” (Num. 23:4). - [Bemidbar Rabbah 52:5] [The expression וַיִּקָּר has the meaning of a coincidental happening, and also alludes to impurity. [See Deut. 23:11, regarding the expression מִקְרֵה לַיְלָה.]

Rashi does not explicitly mention the small Alef, but rather simply focuses on the difference between Vayikra and Vayikar, which is how the word would read without the Alef altogether. Much has been said about the fact that the small Alef would represent Moshe's humility, and that by making the Alef small, Moshe would be therefore giving less emphasis to the fact that G-d called out to him.

The fact that Alef is singled out and made smaller, however, suggests that Moshe is not at all trying to make himself appear more like Bilaam. On the contrary, he is emphasizing the difference between himself and Bilaam, which is exactly what Rashi picks up on. What is that difference? Humility.

19. Whoever possesses the following three traits is of the disciples of our father Abraham; and whoever possesses the opposite three traits is of the disciples of the wicked Balaam. The disciples of our father Abraham have a good eye (Ayin), a meek spirit (Ruach) and a humble soul (Nefesh). The disciples of the wicked Balaam have an evil eye, a haughty spirit and a gross soul. (Pirkei Avot, Chapter 5)

In Ecclesiastes (Kohelet), King Solomon states that the difference between a man and an animal is Ayin (nothing). It's not that there is no difference, but that the difference is the ability to be "nothing," a humble vessel.

19For there is a happening for the children of men, and there is a happening for the beasts-and they have one happening-like the death of this one is the death of that one, and all have one spirit, and the superiority of man over beast is nought [Ayin, with an Alef], for all is vanity. יט. כִּי מִקְרֶה בְנֵי הָאָדָם וּמִקְרֶה הַבְּהֵמָה וּמִקְרֶה אֶחָד לָהֶם כְּמוֹת זֶה כֵּן מוֹת זֶה וְרוּחַ אֶחָד לַכֹּל וּמוֹתַר הָאָדָם מִן הַבְּהֵמָה אָיִן כִּי הַכֹּל הָבֶל:

Our sages mention that in the most important prayer in Judaism, the Shemah, the difference between the words Echad (one) and Acher (other), is very slight:

Rav Zeira said: “Even parts of the Torah that seem like little slivers ("Kotzin") are actually tremendous mountains ("Tilei Tilim"). They  can destroy the entire world if they are not preserved.... [For instance,]  in the verse (Devarim 12:4), ‘Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is  *One* (Alef Chet Dalet),’ if the Dalet of Echad is changed into a Reish by  erasing the little sliver that distinguishes between the written form of  the two letters, it can cause the  destruction of the entire world (because  the verse would read, "Hashem is *another*). In the verse (Shemot 34:14):  “Do not bow down to a *another* (Alef Chet Reish) G-d ,” if the Reish of  Acher is changed into a Dalet by adding a little sliver, it can cause the  destruction of the entire world (because the verse would then read, "Do not  serve the *one* G-d"). (Vayikra Rabba, 19:2; "Parsha Page," Rav Kornfeld)

The difference between the Dalet and the Resh is simply a sliver, like the Hebrew letter Yud. The Yud represents spirituality. There is a very fine line between what is holy and unholy. Between truth and falsehood. This is related to the month of Adar:

Rabbi [Sholom] Gold pointed out that we celebrate Haman’s downfall during  the month of Adar (Alef, Dalet, Reish). At this time, we work on  strengthening our perception of Hashem Echad and not bowing down to an El  Acher. The mission of Adar is to learn to differentiate between the Dalet  and the Reish, and through this, to reveal the "Alef," (which, having a  numerical value of one, represents the Creator) whose Oneness will finally  be revealed to all when Amalek is completely destroyed. ("Parsha Page," Rav Kornfeld) 

The letter Alef itself also has a very special humble/spiritual quality, shared in part by the Yud and the Ayin. This humility is also an essential aspect of the Sefirot of Netzach and Hod. The Alef is the first letter of the first word of the first of the Ten Commandments, Anochi Hashem Elokecha, "I am the Lord your G-d." This Alef is said to contain the entire Torah. Yet what is the sound of this letter? It is silent, humble. It serves simply as a vessel for the vowel. That is the true goal of spiritual service: to be a vessel. That is also the goal of the entire book of Vayikra.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Week 44 (Book 6): Reviewing the Week of Tisha B'Av - Psalms 130-132; 105:33-35; 89:45

PSALMS (Introductions and Translations from Chabad.org):

Chapter 130

The psalmist prays for an end to this long exile.

1. A song of ascents. Out of the depths I call to You, O Lord. 2. My Lord, hearken to my voice; let Your ears be attentive to the sound of my pleas. 3. G-d, if You were to preserve iniquities, my Lord, who could survive? 4. But forgiveness is with You, that You may be held in awe. 5. I hope in the Lord; my soul hopes, and I long for His word. 6. My soul yearns for the Lord more than those awaiting the morning wait for the morning. 7. Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is kindness; with Him there is abounding deliverance. 8. And He will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

Chapter 131
In this prayer, David declares that never in the course of his life was he haughty, nor did he pursue greatness or worldly pleasures.

1. A song of ascents, by David. O Lord, my heart was not proud, nor were my eyes haughty; I did not seek matters that were too great and too wondrous for me. 2. Surely I put my soul at peace and soothed it like a weaned child with his mother; my soul was like a weaned child. 3. Let Israel hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.

Chapter 132

David composed this psalm while he and the elders of Israel wore sackcloth, in mourning over the plague that had descended upon the land, and their being distant from the Holy Temple. David therefore offers intense prayers, entreating G-d to remember the hardship and sacrifice he endured for the sake of the Temple.

1. A song of ascents. O Lord, remember unto David all his suffering, 2. how he swore to the Lord, and vowed to the Mighty Power of Jacob: 3. "I will not enter into the tent of my house; I will not go up into the bed that is spread for me; 4. I will not give sleep to my eyes, nor slumber to my eyelids; 5. until I will have found a place for the Lord, a resting place for the Mighty Power of Jacob.” 6. Lo, we heard of it in Ephrath; we found it in the field of the forest. 7. We will come to His resting places; we will prostrate ourselves at His footstool. 8. Ascend, O Lord, to Your resting place, You and the Ark of Your might. 9. May Your priests clothe themselves in righteousness, and may Your pious ones sing joyous songs. 10. For the sake of David Your servant, turn not away the face of Your anointed. 11. For the Lord has sworn to David a truth from which He will never retreat: "From the fruit of your womb will I set for you upon the throne. 12. If your sons will keep My covenant and this testimony of mine which I will teach them, then their sons, too, will sit on the throne for you until the end of time. 13. For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. 14. This is My resting place to the end of time. Here will I dwell, for I have desired it. 15. I will abundantly bless her sustenance; I will satisfy her needy with bread. 16. I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her pious ones will sing joyous songs. 17. There I will cause David's power to flourish; there I have prepared a lamp for My anointed. 18. His enemies will I clothe with shame, but upon him, his crown will blossom."


Chapter 105

33. And it struck their vines and their fig trees, and it broke the trees of their boundary.

34. He spoke and locusts came, and nibbling locusts without number.
35. And they consumed all grass in their land, and they consumed the produce of their soil


45. You have brought an end to his shining, and his throne You have cast down to earth.

Week 45 (Book 6): Reviewing the Week of Tu B'Av - Psalms 133-135; 105:36-38; 89:46

PSALMS (Introductions and Translations from Chabad.org):

Chapter 133

1. A song of ascents, by David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together. 2. Like the precious oil [placed] upon the head, flowing [in abundance] down the beard, the beard of Aaron which rests upon his garments. 3. Like the dew of Hermon which comes down upon the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord has commanded blessing, life unto eternity.

Chapter 134

The psalmist exhorts the scholarly and pious to rise from their beds at night, and go to the House of G-d.

1. A song of ascents. Behold: Bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who stand in the House of the Lord in the nights. 2. Lift up your hands in holiness and bless the Lord. 3. May the Lord, Who makes heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.

Chapter 135

1. Praise the Lord! Praise the Name of the Lord; offer praise, you servants of the Lord- 2. who stand in the House of the Lord, in the courtyards of the House of our G-d. 3. Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing to His Name, for He is pleasant. 4. For G-d has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel as His beloved treasure. 5. For I know that the Lord is great, our Master is greater than all supernal beings. 6. All that the Lord desired He has done, in the heavens and on earth, in the seas and the depths. 7. He causes mists to rise from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings forth the wind from His vaults. 8. It was He who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, of man and beast. 9. He sent signs and wonders into the midst of Egypt, on Pharaoh and on all his servants. 10. It was He who struck down many nations, and slew mighty kings: 11. Sichon, king of the Amorites; Og, king of Bashan; and all the kingdoms of Canaan. 12. And He gave their lands as a heritage, a heritage to His people Israel. 13. Lord, Your Name is forever; Lord, Your remembrance is throughout all generations. 14. Indeed, the Lord will judge on behalf of His people, and have compassion on His servants. 15. The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the product of human hands. 16. They have a mouth, but cannot speak; they have eyes, but cannot see; 17. they have ears, but cannot hear; nor is there breath in their mouth. 18. Like them will their makers become-all who trust in them. 19. House of Israel, bless the Lord; House of Aaron, bless the Lord; 20. House of Levi, bless the Lord; you who fear the Lord, bless the Lord. 21. Blessed is the Lord from Zion, who dwells in Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!


Chapter 105

36. And He smote every firstborn in their land, the first of all their strength.
37. And He took them out with silver and gold, and there was no pauper among their tribes.
38. Egypt rejoiced with their departure for their fear had fallen upon them.


46. You have shortened the days of his youth; You have enwrapped him with shame forever.  


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