Weekly Cycle

Monday, February 28, 2011

Leaving Egypt: Humbly Focusing on Actions (not their Amazing Results) and the Torah Portion of Pikudei

This week, we complete the second Book of the Torah, Shemot (Exodus). The very last verse of the Book, contains a part which is particularly reminiscent of the last verse in Deutoronomy, the last verse in the entire Torah. Both verses contain the phrase, "before the eyes of all" of Israel, although the verse in Exodus contains the word Beit, house, before the eyes of all the house of Israel..

The verse in Exodus speaks about the Hashem resting in the newly constructed Tabernacle (the Mishkan). Rashi focuses on how each place of encampment is called a journey.

It is curious that when Rashi interprets the last verse in Deutoronomy, he does not make any reference to the Mishkan or to the cloud of Hashem's presence. Rashi, instead focuses on the giving of the Torah and generally to the "miracles and mighty deeds" in the desert. Specifically, regarding the meaning of "before the eyes of Israel," Rashi focuses on the breaking of the Tablets, and how this was a laudable action by Moshe, of which Hashem approved.

38. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the Mishkan by day, and there was fire within it at night, before the eyes of the entire house of Israel in all their journeys.

לח. כִּי עֲנַן יְהֹוָה עַל הַמִּשְׁכָּן יוֹמָם וְאֵשׁ תִּהְיֶה לַיְלָה בּוֹ לְעֵינֵי כָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכָל מַסְעֵיהֶם:
before the eyes of the entire house of Israel in all their journeys: On every journey (מַסָּע) that they were traveling, the cloud would rest in that place where they encamped. The place of their encampment is also called a journey (מַסָּע). Likewise, “And he went to his stations (לְמַסָּעָיו) ” (Gen. 13:3) [i.e., to the stops along his journey], and likewise, “These are the journeys (מַסְעֵי) ” (Num. 33:1). Since from the place of their encampment they resumed their journeys, they are all called “journeys” (מַסָעוֹת).

לעיני כל בית ישראל בכל מסעיהם: בכל מסע שהיו נוסעים היה הענן שוכן במקום אשר יחנו שם. מקום חנייתן אף הוא קרוי מסע, וכן (בראשית יג ג) וילך למסעיו, וכן (במדבר לג א) אלה מסעי לפי שממקום החנייה חזרו ונסעו, לכך נקראו כולן מסעות: 

12. and all the strong hand, and all the great awe, which Moses performed before the eyes of all Israel.

יב. וּלְכֹל הַיָּד הַחֲזָקָה וּלְכֹל הַמּוֹרָא הַגָּדוֹל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה משֶׁה לְעֵינֵי כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל:
and all the strong hand: [This refers to] his receiving the Torah on the Tablets with his hands.

ולכל היד החזקה: שקבל את התורה בלוחות בידיו:
And all the great awe: [This refers to the] miracles and mighty deeds [that were performed for Israel] in the great and awesome wilderness. — [Sifrei 33:41]

ולכל המורא הגדול: נסים וגבורות שבמדבר הגדול והנורא:
before the eyes of all Israel: [This expression alludes to the incident where] his heart stirred him up to smash the tablets before their eyes, as it is said, “and I shattered them before your eyes” (Deut. 9:17). - [Sifrei 33:41] And [regarding Moses shattering the Tablets,] the Holy One Blessed is He gave His approval, as Scripture states, “[the first Tablets] which you shattered” (Exod. 34:1); [God said to Moses:] “Well done for shattering them!” - [Shab.   87a]

לעיני כל ישראל: שנשאו לבו לשבור הלוחות לעיניהם, שנאמר (לעיל ט, יז) ואשברם לעיניכם, והסכימה דעת הקב"ה לדעתו, שנאמר (שמות לד, א) אשר שברת, יישר כחך ששברת:

 Perhaps Rashi chooses not to mention the Mishkan and Hashem's Presence specifically, because the breaking of the Tablets (and Moshe's extensive prayers of repentance that followed), is in fact what ultimately permitted Hashem's presence to return to Israel's camp, "before the eyes of all of Israel." Rashi focuses on Moshe's actions, not on their consequences. This reminiscent of Moshe's own humility, related to the Sefirah of Netzach, who always focused on the job that needed to be done, and not on his own importance or the great results that followed from his actions. All greatness, and the credit for all the positive consequences of our choices ultimately belong to G-d Alone.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Leaving Egypt: Shabat, Leadership and Community, and the Torah Portion of Vayakhel (TO BE CONTINUED)

What follows is an abridged version for this week's description of Netzach, Moshe's leadership qualities that unify [the other Sefirot] and leave an enduring impact. This week's Torah portion begins as follows:

1. Moses called the whole community of the children of Israel to assemble, and he said to them: "These are the things that the Lord commanded to make.

Moses called… to assemble: [He assembled them] on the day after Yom Kippur, when he came down from the mountain. This [word] is a [causative] expression [i.e., causing someone to do something], because one does not assemble people with [one’s] hands [i.e., directly], but they are assembled through one’s speech. 

Rashi teaches us that a community is brought together through the words of its leader. He does not directly assemble them [with one's hands]. That's impossible. The people have to be assembled by themselves. Moshe's words is what causes them to be assembled.

It is very interesting that this idea of assembly is contrasted with the idea of Shabat. Historically, Shabat is also what has given the Jewish people a sense of community.  It also brings Jews closer together physically, since Shabat observant do not have cars and must walk to shul. 

This idea of unity and lack of divisiveness is reflected in the continuing verse:  

3. You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwelling places on the Sabbath day."

The same is true for a leader. He is supposed to bring the people together in peace. Lehavdil, this is reflected in the words of American president Dwight Eisenhower: “Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Leaving Egypt (Ki Tissah): the Right Way and the Wrong Way to Connect to the Tzadik

In this series, we set aside studying about Tiferet for the time being, and now focus on the attribute of Netzach. This week's Torah portion describes a people in crisis. At first glance, the crisis seems to come about because of too close of a connection between the people and their leader, Moshe, to the extent that when Moshe is perceived to be late in descending from the mountain, the people (or at least a portion of the people) become so utterly despaired that they ask Aharon to make a god for them to worship: 

1. When the people saw that Moses was late in coming down from the mountain, the people gathered against Aaron, and they said to him: "Come on! Make us gods that will go before us, because this man Moses, who brought us up from the land of Egypt we don't know what has become of him."

In a moment of weakness and vulnerability, on which Rashi says the Satan capitalized by showing the people an image of Moshe actually being dead, the people violate one of the fundamental principles of the Torah, the second of the Ten Commandments, which had just been given to it.

Implied above is an obvious contradiction. If the people were in fact so connected to Moshe, why did they not follow the commandments he transmitted to them? Even further, we see later that when Moshe does come down from the mountain, the same people that so desperately needed him do not come to his aid:

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.

We see here that there is a correct way to connect to the leader, Moshe, and an incorrect way. The incorrect way appears to involve a reliance on the physical presence of Moshe. If Moshe is not there physically, then there is tremendous insecurity, and in order to restore a sense of security nothing is sacred or out-of-bounds.

The correct way to connect to Moshe appears to have much less to do with the leader's physical existence, but instead it focuses on what Moshe represents, as Moshe himself states, "Who is for the Lord, [let him come] to me." The focus is on Hashem, and what Moshe teaches us about how to connect to Hashem. The Tribe of Levi maintained that connection, as Rashi comments on the above:

all the sons of Levi: From here [we learn] that the entire tribe was righteous. -[from Yoma 66b]

This difference in how to connect to the Tzadik is at the very essence of the prohibition against idolatry. It is part of human nature to try to grab on to something you can see, that you can touch. However, these things are fleeting, and are a major obstacle in one's relationship with G-d.

The above is reflected in what Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote about the idea of Hiskashrus, the bond between Rebbe and Chassid: 

So, too, my late revered father-in-law the Rebbe [Rayatz] explained in a letter that [a chassid] "is able to satisfy his strong desire for a bond [with his Rebbe] only by studying the maamarim [discourses] of Chassidus which the Rebbe delivers or writes; merely beholding his face is not enough." (emphasis added; http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/proceeding-together-1/05.htm)

Moshe represents Netzach, victory, but also endurance, eternality. It is not a physical endurance, but a spiritual one. It is in this sense that the Talmud states (Sotah 13b), that Moshe Rabbeinu Lo Met, that he did not die. 

The Rebbe continues the abovementioned letter and concludes as follows:  

Another letter states explicitly: "You ask, what does your bond with me consist of, since I do not know you by face.... True hiskashrus is attained by the study of the Torah. If you study my maamarim of Chassidus, read the sichos, associate with my friends (the members of the chassidic brotherhood and the temimim) in their studies and in their farbrengens, and fulfill my request concerning the daily recital of Tehillim and the observance of fixed times for Torah study, -- in this lies hiskashrus."

When we will study the Torah teachings and the sichos [of the Rebbe Rayatz], and will walk in this "straight path which he has shown us," then " 'as in water, face [answers to face: so is the heart of man to man'], and 'spirit rouses spirit and brings forth spirit.' For his Ruach [spirit] remains truly in our midst...; that is, even in this world of action -- [of which it is written], 'This day: to do them' -- [the departed tzaddik] is found more [than in his lifetime]." And just as here he stood and dutifully served, there too he stands and dutifully serves.... (Ibid.)

We just came from reading a Torah portion (Tetzaveh) in which Moshe's name is not explicitly mentioned. A few days ago, the 7th of Adar, was Moshe's yahrzeit, the anniversary of his physical passing (as well as his birthday). For Moshe, and for the Moshe found in every generation, the physical passing is itself like a birthday. The leader's spiritual impact on the world is not diminished. It is actually increased. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Leaving Egypt: Glory, Humility, Tiferet, and the Torah Portion of Tetzaveh

This week we will explore what will likely be the last in a series of posts about Tiferet (Beauty/Balance). This week's Torah portion continues to describe the ornaments of the Tabernacle (Mishkan), as well as the holy garments of Aharon, the High Priest (Kohen Gadol). The opening verse regarding Aharon's clothes is as follows:

2You shall make holy garments for your brother Aaron, for honor and glory.ב. וְעָשִׂיתָ בִגְדֵי קֹדֶשׁ לְאַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ לְכָבוֹד וּלְתִפְאָרֶת:

The word for glory here, Tiferet, is usually translated as beauty, balance. Clothes represent the quintessential aspect of Tiferet. They literally beautify the person, and yet they also do so much more. They affect a person's state of mind, and bring dignity and honor (Kavod), as mentioned above. The Talmud states that Rabbi Yochanan would refer to his clothes as "those that honor me" (Mechabduti).

Clothes also represent the idea of Tiferet in the sense of balance, moderation. The Talmud (Chullin 84b) states: "A person should always eat and drink less than his means allow, clothe and cover himself according to his means, and honor his wife and children with more than his means allow."

In the beginning of his magnum opus, the Mishnah Torah, the Rambam (Maimonides) explains that in life, we should always seek moderation, the "golden mean."Yet, the Rambam mentions two qualities regarding which moderation does not apply: humility and anger. Anger is always bad, and one should have zero of it. Humility is always good, and the more humility the better. Moshe Rabbeinu, who's birthday and yahrzeit (anniversary of passing) is today, was not praised for his wisdom, might and beauty. Instead, he is described as the "humblest of men."

The question then arises, if we seek ultimate humility, why is the High Priest honored with such beautiful clothing? Shouldn't he wear the simplest possible clothing instead? Similarly, why does the Talmud state above that we should dress according to our means. Why don't we dress below our means, as to encourage greater humility?

Along the same lines, seeking honor is something strongly discouraged by our sages. Pirkei Avot states that honor, along with jealousy and lust, "take a person out of this world." (4:21) The Talmud (Eruvim 31B) states that "One who runs after honor will have it run away from him; one who runs from honor will have it pursue him."

Perhaps the answer to our question lies on the verse from this week's Torah portion that follows the one quoted above:

3And you shall speak to all the wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, and they shall make Aaron's garments to sanctify him, [so] that he serve Me [as a kohen].ג. וְאַתָּה תְּדַבֵּר אֶל כָּל חַכְמֵי לֵב אֲשֶׁר מִלֵּאתִיו רוּחַ חָכְמָה וְעָשׂוּ אֶת בִּגְדֵי אַהֲרֹן לְקַדְּשׁוֹ לְכַהֲנוֹ לִי:
RASHI - to sanctify him, [so] that he serve Me [as a kohen]: Heb. לְקַדְּשׁוֹ לְכַהִנוֹ-לִי, to sanctify him, to initiate him into the kehunah through these garments [so] that he would be a kohen to Me. The expression of kehunah means service, serjanterie [or serventrie] in Old French.

The beautiful and honorable clothes are actually what make Aharon into a Kohen! The clothes are what make him Kodesh, which means holy, but also distinguished. The clothes are not for Aharon's personal glory. They are for G-d's glory. They uplift Aharon only to the extent they they bring him closer to his role as a servant of G-d.

The same goes for our own clothes. We must be true to our positions, our roles as servants, but also children of G-d. We are, after all, a reflection of Him, and the whole purpose of the entire world is to bring Him glory, as stated in the very last verse of Pirkei Avot: "Everything that G-d created in His world, He did not create but for His glory. As is stated (Isaiah 43:7): "All that is called by My name and for My glory, I created it, formed it, also I made it." And it says (Exodus 15:1): "G-d shall reign forever and ever."

G-d's glory does not impact His humility. It was the same Rabbi Yochanan, mentioned above, who states:

Wherever you find the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He, there you find His humility. This is written in the Torah, repeated in the Prophets, and stated a third time in the Writings. It is written in the Torah: “For the L‑rd your G‑d is G‑d of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty and awe-inspiring G‑d, who shows no favoritism and accepts no bribe.” Immediately afterwards it is written, “He upholds the cause of the orphan and widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing…” (Talmud, Megillah 31a)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

הקבלה של הזמנים

הקבלה של הזמנים

 לוח השנה העברי כמקור האור הגנוז


לכל זמן ועת לכל־חפץ תחת השמים

חלק ניכר מחיינו, אנו מבלים באפלה רוחנית. לעתים קרובות, חיינו חולפים באי וודאות רבה, ללא סיוע, עצה טובה או הדרכה. אף על פי כן, אנו פשוט ממשיכים, אגב הזדהות עם ערכים המבלבלים את ליבנו ומוחינו, תוך התעלמות מהצרכים והרצונות האמיתיים של נשמתנו


שעה שאנו שקועים כל כך בעניינינו האישיים ובמטלות היום יום, אנו מוצפים  במבול של מידע מיותר וחסר חשיבות  המופץ אלינו, עד שאנו מתעוורים ואיננו רואים  את הסימנים, ההוֹראות והאזהרות שהקב''ה מניח בפנינו בכל רגע ורגע נתון

ברם, אירועים מסוימים מעירים אותנו מאפלה זו. באותם רגעים, שהם כמו הבזקי ברק בהירים, אנו מבינים שיש משהו גדול יותר, משהו במישור רוחני מעבר לדאגות הגשמיות שלנו.

האמת היא שהנשמה מבקשת לשיר! אך כיצד נעשה זאת אם איננו מכירים את המילים ואת המנגינה ? הבעל שם טוב, מייסד תנועת החסידות, מסביר כי זהו המסר של התקיעת בשופר בראש השנה. השופר הוא הביטוי הבסיסי של הנפש, ונשמתו של העם היהודי מתעוררת לשמע קריאתו בתחילתה של כל שנה

מטרת הספר הזה, כדברי הרב קוק, היא לקרב אותנו לשירנו. שירת הנפש: שירת היחיד, שירת האומה, שירת האנושות כולה והטבע. השיר המרובע הזה מכוון אל הקב’’ה, ולוח השנה היהודי משמש כספר התווים שלו

בשאיפתנו לחיים הרמוניים יותר, נלמד טכניקות וערכים יהודיים לשיפור רוחני, בהתאמה לאנרגיות של כל שבוע במהלך השנה. שיעורים אלה יקדמו שינויים חיוביים, ויהוו ערוץ לשיח עם הקב”ה. הספר יאפשר גישה לאמצעים ניסתרים, שיאפשרו ערוץ תקשורת פתוח ליושב במרומים. טכניקות אלו אינן חדשות, וניתן למצא אותן כבר בתורה. הן נמצאות בהישג יד של כל אחד מאיתנו בפינו ובליבנו.


מאמץ מתמיד, של המחוייבים, יכול להביא לשינוי ברמה האישית והכללית. במשפחה, בקהילה, בעיר ומעבר לה. כדברי הנביא ישעיהו – העולם לא נברא כדי להשאר בתוהו ובוהו (מ”ה: י”ח

אנו זקוקים נואשות לחיות בעולם טוב יותר, ולהבטיח שלום ושלווה לדורות הבאים

"האדמו"ר הזקן", הרב שניאור זלמן מלאדי, מלמד שצריכים "לחיות עם הזמנים". באמצעות יצירת הקשר בין  לימודי היהדות למועדים  הקבועים בלוח השנה היהודי, הספר נועד לשמש אמצעי להתבוננות ולהתפתחות רוחנית דרך שירת בעלי החיים ב"פרק שירה", הוראת הרבנים ב"פרקי אבות", וגם המשמעות הקבלית מאחורי ה"ספירות" - האצלת המידות  האלוקיות, "ספירות" הקשורות לכל יום של ספירת העומר

ספירת העומר

ספירת העומר, היא מצווה מן התורה, לספור את השבועות והימים מהקרבת קרבן העומר בבית המקדש. הקורבן היה עשוי משעורה, שהיתה באותם ימים בעיקר מזון לבעלי חיים , והיתה נמדדת לפי אמות המידה התנכית של עומר אחד. הספירה מתבצעת מדי שנה במהלך 49 הימים בין פסח לשבועות

מאז ומתמיד שימשה ספירת העומר את עם ישראל, כמסד להתפתחותו הרוחנית. במצרים, עם ישראל הגיע לדרגה ה-49 של טומאה. במהלך ארבעים ותשעת הימים, לאחר צאת ישראל ממצרים, העם טיהר עצמו בהדרגה, עד שהגיעו לדרגה ה -49 של טוהר. תוך שבעה שבועות, עם הגעתם להר סיני, הם כבר היו כה מעודנים מבחינה רוחנית ורגשית, עד כי יכלו לחנות שם בהרמוניה,בשלום ובאחדות מוחלטת: "כאיש אחד בלב אחד”. רק אז היה עם ישראל ראוי לקבלת התורה

מידי שנה ובכל יום  בעת ספירת העומר, נהוג  להגות, בצרוף המיוחד של הספירות, של אותו היום. ספירות, כפי שיוסבר בהמשך, הן תכונות  אלוהיות הנמצאות גם בכל אדם. הגיה בספירות מאפשרת להגיע לרמה של שיפור רוחני ורגשי בדומה לשיפור שהורגש על ידי עם ישראל לאחר יציאתו ממצרים.

עיקר ספירת העומר מתרחשת על פי  לוח השנה העברי  בחודש אייר. חודש, הידוע בסגולותיו הרפואיות. רמז לקשר של אייר לסגולות אלו נמצא באותיות שמו: אלף, יוד, יוד וריש, ראשי תיבות הפסוק המקראי "אני ה’ רופאך 

מלבד היותו זמן של התרוממות רוחנית וריפוי גדול, ספירת העומר היא גם תזכורת לתקופה עצובה בתולדות העם היהודי. עשרים וארבעה אלף תלמידיו של רבי עקיבא נפטרו בימים ההם. הם סבלו ממגיפה שנגרמה בשל חוסר האחדות והעדר הכבוד האחד לשני, בדיוק ההפך מהתנהגותם של בני ישראל בחנותם בהר סיני.

המגפה הסתיימה ביום ה -33 של העומר, המכונה ל"ג בעומר וזו אחת הסיבות לכך שמועד זה הוא כל כך חגיגי. סיבה נוספת לחגיגת ל"ג בעומר היא ציון יום השנה לפטירתו של הצדיק הגדול רבי שמעון בר יוחאי, שנפטר שנים רבות לאחר המגפה. רבי שמעון בר יוחאי, תלמידו של רבי עקיבא, הוא מקור שיעורי ספר הזוהר, הכתב הבסיסי והחשוב ביותר של הקבלה.

(תודה למורי עמוס על עזרתו בתרגום)


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