Sunday, December 3, 2017
The fifth week is that of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. Cheshvan is associated with the Tribe of Menashe. As explained in Book 1, “Menashe, the firstborn son of Joseph, assisted his father in managing the entire Egyptian empire at the time. In Cheshvan, we bring all the holiness that we acquired in Tishrei, and use it in our day-to-day spiritual and physical endeavors to elevate the world.” The Song of the Sea speaks of marching (or stepping) out of the “field of Edom.” While early in life our forefather Jacob was known for being an “Ish Tam Yoshev Ohalim” (a wholesome/straightforward that dwelled in the tents [of study]), his brother Eisav is described as a man of the field (Ish HaSadeh), involved in the affairs of the world. While Efraim, who is connected to Tishrei could be described more in line with Jacob’s original description - in fact, he studied under Jacob during his childhood - Menashe’s role is in the “field” that at one point belonged solely to the realms of Eisav.
Cheshvan is also the month of the Flood, and the verses of the Song of the Sea for this week are also about how the Egyptian officers sank into the Sea of Reeds and how the “depths covered them.” This event has clear parallels with the Flood, when the entire world was covered by the world’s depths. The Haftorah also draws similar parallels, as it states that “the heavens dripped.”
Daf Heh (Folio 5) of Sotah, discusses the concept of haughtiness and adultery, two of the main contributors to the events that led to the Flood. Adultery and immoral sexual behavior in general is specifically described in the Torah as a reason for the Flood:
At the core of the disease of "civilization" in the time of Noah were sexual immorality and violent robbery, both flagrant affronts to the dignity of man, ADAM, created in the image of G-d. "And the land was corrupted and the land was filled with violent robbery. All flesh corrupted his path on the land" (Genesis 6:11-12). The Midrash teaches that the latter sin was that of the spilling of seed -- sexual immorality. When man abuses his sexual urge for self-gratification alone rather than elevating it to breed future generations who will glorify G-d, the entire earth is corrupted. The violation of the proper boundaries of personal moral conduct leads to a mentality in which everything is permitted, including violent robbery -- HAMAS. http://www.azamra.org/Parshah/NOAH.htm
Noah himself also showed a certain amount of lack of humility in not praying for other people and only focusing on himself and his family. We see later in the Torah that Avraham and Moshe did not act in this way.
Mahalalel seems to be a “kosher” version of Mehijael, son of Chanoch, son of Cain. Mahalalel contains the root “Halel” which means “praise,” While Mehijael could be related to Chai – life, but also “Chol,” profane. On Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan we elevate Chol in Hallel, connecting the spirituality of Tishrei (Hallel was said every day of Sukkot), with the month of Cheshvan, which for now lacks any holy days.
The difference in the names also points to an overall difference between the letters Hay and Chet in Judaism. Mehijael is spelled with a Chet while Mahalalel is with a Hay. The Hay is a Chet with an opening. Chet is related to sin, while Hey is related to malchut and to teshuvah. The Hay’s opening is for the repentant person, the Ba’al Teshuvah, to be able to re-enter his relationship with Hashem: “The word teshuvah can be read as tashuv-hey - returning, restoring the Hay.....for when man sins he causes the letter hey to be removed from the Divine Name.” In Cheshvan, we go beyond our boundaries in order to help the entire world do teshuvah.
In the fifth week, the Jews journey from Penei HaHiroth (“face of rocks”) and cross in the midst of the sea to the desert. They walk for three days in the desert of Etham and camp in Marah. The journey for this week is about internalizing the struggle of facing the rocks of the material world we are to elevate - notice the change from Pi (“mouth”) to Pnei (“face,” as well as Pnim, inside). We prepare ourselves to face the bitter world we are meant to sweeten. Cheshvan is known as Mar Cheshvan, bitter Cheshvan, because it has no holidays (yet). This is also exemplified in the fact that we are going from the sea to the desert.
Rabbi Shimon Jacobson describes this journey as follows:
The final stage of human maturation – as we move from our teenage years into full adulthood – is completely crossing over from the pure, inner world of “water” into the dry, arid world of the desert. Indeed, Moses had to coerce the Jews to away from the Red Sea out into the Shur Desert, where they traveled three days without finding water (Exodus 15:22). They didn’t want to leave the insulated “cocoon” of the Red Sea only to be thrown into a harsh and hostile desert, one that leads us into a state of bitterness (Marah). Yet, leave we must. This is the purpose of our existence: To transform the wilderness into a Divine sea (Ohr HaTorah Massei p. 1383).
Because of their bitter waters “the place was called Marah” (marah in Hebrew means bitter). When the Jewish people came to Marah and could not drink the bitter water there, they began to complain. “What shall we drink?” they demanded. When Moses cried out to G-d, He showed him a certain tree. Moses threw it into the water, and the water became drinkable. It was there that G-d taught them survival techniques and methods, and there He tested them. He said, “If you obey G-d and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I am G-d who heals you.”
The journey to Marah refers to the stage in our lives when we encounter a bitter experience – loss, disappointment, pain, sorrow or illness. We then have two choices: Either we will complain, become bitter and overwhelmed with anguish and grief, or we will learn to rise to the occasion and discover the deeper powerful light and sweetness that lays embedded within the dark and bitter.
Therein also lays the power of healing: The ability to sweeten the bitter and to uproot infection in its source.
An important lesson we learn from Mahalalel in our approach to prayer and Divine service is understanding that at the most essential level, prayer is about Hallel veHoda'ah, praise and thanksgiving. The mitzvah of prayer is to "serve Him with all your hearts." It is about getting excited, it is about singing to Him, even dancing to Him if possible. One cannot let oneself get bogged down in routine, in simply reading the words of a book, because there is a good chance one is not fulfilling anything at all. The intention has to be there, and the intention has to involve "knowing before Whom you stand," and doing so with joy.
Posted by Kahane at 11:29 PM
Sunday, November 26, 2017
The sixth week of the year is the second of the month of Cheshvan. The verses of the Song of the Sea speaks of Hashem’s right hand, which exacts punishment and represents the attribute of gevurah. The theme of the week remains related to the Flood, as also demonstrated in theHaftorah’s verses that state that“clouds dripped water,” and “mountains melted.”
Daf Vav (Folio 6) of Sotah discusses forbidden marriages (another one of the main causes of the Flood, as angels were marrying humans, etc.), and also the subject of how the bitter waters of Sotah would punish (or absolve) a woman accused of adultery whose witnesses were not available for testimony. Punishment through “bitter waters” for sexual sins is also a main theme of this month.
Yered (יֶרֶד) seems to be the “kosher” version of Irad (עִירָד), whose name is the same, but without the Ayin. “Ayin” literally means the eye, and part of what got Cain in the situation that he was the jealous way in which he looked at Abel’s sacrifices that had been accepted by Hashem. Sexual sins (as well as many others) begin with the eye.
Ayin also means "nothingness." Ecclesiastes states that the difference between humans and beasts is Ayin, "nothing." The deeper explanation of this verse is that the difference between people and animals is the ability to regard oneself as nothing, as simply part of the Infinite Light. Perhaps the difference in names here can also be attributed to the fact that Yered truly made his Ayin into true nothingness, to the point that it does not even show up anymore in his name.
Interestingly, while the names of Cain’s generations are Enoch, Mehujael, and then Irad, Seth’s generations are the other way around: Mahalalel, Yared, and then Enoch. “Yered” and “Irad” come from the verb “Laredet,” which literally means to go down. While Cain’s generation literally went “downhill,” to greater and greater depravity, the descent in Seth’s generations was a positive one. The difference seems to be as follows: Cain’s three generations stand for “education (of lack thereof)” (Enoch, Chanoch in Hebrew, comes from the word chinuch, education) followed by a “profane existence, (Mehujael, from the word chol, profane)” and then further “descent” (Irad). Seth’s three generations stand for “praise” (Mahalel, from the word Hallel, praise), followed by “lowering oneself” (Yared) in order to “educate” (Enoch) the next generation. The results speak for themselves.
Afterwards, Cain’s descendants are Methushael, Lemech, and then Yuval, Yaval, Tuval-Cain, and Na’amah. Seth’s descendants are Metushelach, Lemech, and then Noah. Cain’s generations found more and more found more ways to be depraved, to the point where Lemech has two wives, one only for pleasure (as was the culture at the time, see Rashi). They also found more and more effective ways of killing people, with weapon’s technology, to the point where Cain himself is killed by it.
On the other hand, Yered taught his son well - Enoch walked with G-d, and was so holy, that Hashem removed him from this earth so as to not be badly influenced by its corruption. Enoch’s son was Metushelach, who merited to be the person to live the longest, and passed away without having to experience the flood. Metushelach’s son was Lamech, who had great hopes that his son, Noah, would bring comfort to the world. Even though Noah was not able to save the world, he did save humanity from being completely destroyed, and was a wholesome and righteous individual, who faithfully followed Hashem’s commands. Yered symbolizes our service for this month, which is to go down from the heights of Tishrei, and elevate this world, to make it a home for Hashem.
In the sixth week, the Jews journey from Marah and camp in Elim. In Elim there are twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. The personal journey for this week involves internalizing the concept of “sweetening the bitter waters,” and preparing ourselves for the revelations of the springs of water (12 Tribes) and the 70 palm trees (nations). The strength of the twelve tribes is used to “water” the palm trees, to purify, give life, and elevate the seventy nations.
Again, here’s Rabbi Shimon Jacobson’s interpretation of this journey:
Elimah (or Elim) is the stage of growth and recognition of the deeper strength that emerges from bitter loss and pain. From Marah– after experiencing bitterness – we become empowered with the resources of Elimah: Elimah consists of the same letters as the name Elokim (which is written with a heh), only that the order of the letters (eli mah) means the hidden dimension of love – twelve water springs and seventy palms (the secret and the hidden, sod in Hebrew, is gematria 70) – that emerges from within the dark and the bitter (The Maggid of Mezritch – Ohr Torah Massei. Explained in Ohr HaTorah Massei pp. 1378. 1393. See Degel Machne Efraim).
Because of the exile, there is a great mix-up both in regards of who is from what nation of the world, as well as which Jew is from which tribe. “Mix-up” in Hebrew is “Bilbul,” the root for the word “Bavel,” Babylonia. Part of our work in exile is to undo this whole mix-up, not only in nations, but also in values, morality, etc., and hence the Talmud we study is known at the Talmud Bavli (the Babylonian Talmud). Through logic and traditional rules of interpretation, we’re able to make sense out of confusion, and place everything in its proper place. The Hebrew word for the Flood, “Mabul” is also related to the word Bilbul, in that the Flood also mixed everything together.
An important lesson we learn from Yered (which means to descend) in our approach to prayer and Divine service is understanding the role of humility. The Chazan (the prayer leader) is called "Yored Lifnei HaTeivah," one who descends in front of the Ark (It is worth noting that early mystics were called Yordei Merkabah, those that descend [to reach] the [Divine] Chariot). The place where the Chazan stands would literally be lower than the rest of the synagogue, and Jewish law forbids praying from a physically elevated place (with certain exceptions). The rationale for all this is because prayer has to come from a place of humility, "MiMa'amakim Karaticha Hashem," one must call out Hashem from the depths, literally. As mentioned last week, it is essential to "Know Before Whom You Stand."
Posted by Kahane at 9:18 PM
Sunday, November 19, 2017
By the seventh week of the year, we are now in the midst of the month of Cheshvan. The verses of the Song of the Sea continue to speak of retribution against Hashem’s enemies related to the Flood.
The Haftorah’s verses contain two different themes, which are in fact related. They describe the presence of G-d at Sinai, and mention Shamgar the son of Anath. This week includes the yahrzeit of our matriarch Rachel, and both of these concepts have significant feminine qualities. The Divine Presence, the Shechinah, is always referred to as feminine, and often specifically in connection with Rachel. The name Anath (lehavdil) is the name of a prominent figure in Canaanite mythology, a warrior goddess. If Anath is in fact a reference to woman, this would be one of the very few places in the Tanach in which a man’s name is stated along with his mother’s name, not his father.
Daf Zayin (Folio 7) of Sotah discusses further the procedure of how a woman suspected of adultery would be taken to be tested with bitter waters. In the process, she would be asked to reconsider whether she wanted to go through with the punishment, and would be reminded of how her forefathers admitted to their sin, repented, and earned a place in the World to Come. This appears related to Rachel’s yahrzeit this year. (See also Book 2 regarding asking “you father” and reflecting upon the deeds of previous generations)
Enoch seems to be the “kosher” version of Cain’s son with the same name. While Cain’s son has a city founded after him, and he becomes immersed in civilization and even more distant from nature and from Hashem. Seth’s descendant, on the other hand, “walks with G-d.” Rabbi Shalom Arush explains that Enoch spent much of his time in seclusion, so as not to be negatively influenced by the world around him. However, he would reappear on a regular basis to teach the people. Ultimately, he was taken by Hashem alive, in a state of purity. As explained in the previous week, the root of the name Enoch, Chanoch in Hebrew, is Chinuch, education, also a parental quality.
In the seventh week, the Jews journey from Elim and camp by the Red Sea. The personal journey for this week is to internalize the revelations related to the 12 tribes and 70 nations, which are both scattered and mixed together in exile (bilbul, like the Tower of Bavel), and getting ready for an even greater revelation, the splitting of the Sea of Reeds. On the week of Rachel Imeinu’s yahrzeit, we feel the exile more deeply, and help elevate it.
An important lesson we learn from Chanoch in our approach to prayer and Divine service is the importance of education. As Pirkei Avot (Chapter 2:5) famously states, "Ein Am Ha'Aretz Chassid," an ignoramus cannot be pious. Even if compared to Hashem we are all complete and total ignoramuses, and even though our connection to Him in prayer is primarily not an intellectual one, there are still basic premises in how we approach the King that require education. Certainly exceptions are made, and everyone, no matter their level of education, has an open and direct line to G-d. Nevertheless, those that have the opportunity to learn how to pray properly should do so. Again, intent in prayer is of key importance, and it becomes much harder to have intent if one does not even understand what he/she is saying.
Posted by Kahane at 11:29 AM
Sunday, November 5, 2017
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Week nine sometimes falls completely within the month of Cheshvan, while at other times it already includes Rosh Chodesh Kislev. (See Book 2, regarding the concept of how this week represents half of the Tribe of Menashe) The verses of the Song of the Sea for this week appear to be split into two different themes. The first half is still related to the Flood, while the second already enters a new theme, related to the “pursuit” of the enemy. The struggle to fight off the spiritual persecution of the Greek enemy is one of the main themes of Chanukah.
The verses of the Haftorah are also split. The first part speaks of how “open cities ceased” (a reference to how civilization ceased during the Flood). The second part speaks of how Devorah arose, “a mother in Israel.” Devorah’s battle against Sisera parallels the Maccabee’s battle in the times of Chanukah. More than that, a fundamental role of the Jewish mother is to preserve the sacred identity of her child. As mentioned in both Book 1 and Book 2, Hannukah also comes from the word chinuch, which means education. The verse also seems to continue the theme of mothers and important women related to the month of Cheshvan. Rachel, Anath, Yael, and now Devorah.
Daf Tet (Folio 9) of Sotah also appears to be split in two major topics. The first is the continuation of the description of how a Sotah would be punished and tested with bitter waters. The second half contains a discussion of Shimshon, Samson. Although Samson and the Tribe of Dan are represented by the next month, Teveth, nevertheless, the theme of Chanukah and Kislev is also apparent also in the description of Samson, since he was supposed to be pure, and that his downfall came from impure actions, including intermarriage. It is worth noting that Teveth also contains several days of Chanukah.
Lamech, the father of Noah, appears to be a “kosher” version of Lamech the descendant of Cain, who ends up killing Cain, along with his own son. While Cain’s descendant kills his ancestor and his progeny, Seth’s descendant, from the moment his son is born, expresses the hope that the entire world will be comforted through him. Through his son, his entire line of ancestors is saved from destruction, and with it, the entire human race.
Similarly, Lamech descendant of Cain represents a key element of moral depravity, and of an unchecked worship of aesthics and pleasure typical of Greek culture at the time of Chanukah. Lamech had two wives. Rashi explains that one wife was used for reproduction purposes, while the other was kept barren so that she could stay pretty and youthful. In contrast, the son of Lamech descendant of Seth saw the whole world be destroyed due to moral depravity.
Interestingly, both the Lamech from Cain and the Lamech from Seth have their statements recorded in the Torah. Lamech from Cain says: “Now Lemech said to his wives, "Adah and Zillah, hearken to my voice; wives of Lemech, incline your ears to my words, for I have slain a man by wounding (him) and a child by bruising (him). If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, then for Lemech it shall be seventy seven fold." (Genesis, Chapter 4, v. 23, 24) The verse related to Lamech descendant of Seth states as follows: “And he named him Noah, saying, "This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands from the ground, which the Lord has cursed." (Genesis, Chapter 5, v. 29)
Lamech descendant of Cain also represents the unchecked use of science and technology, also typical of Greek culture at the time of the Maccabees. Rashi’s commentary on the above verse explains that “Before Noah came, they did not have plowshares, and he prepared [these tools] for them.” While Cain’s line develops technology to improve weapons and ways of killing people (including Cain himself), Seth line uses technology to improve the lives of those around him.
Science and aesthetics can be very positive things, but, as Noah himself states in Chapter 9 of Genesis, these ideals have to be contained within the greater ideals of morality and truth:
26. And he said, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be a slave to them. 27. May God expand Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be a slave to them."
Japheth (ancestor of Yavan, Greece, and whose name comes from the Hebrew word Yoffi, beauty) may increase, but in the house of Shem (ancestor of Abraham, whose name itself means “name,” an indication of his connection to truth).
In the ninth week, the Jews journey from the desert of Zin and camp in Dophkah. The personal journey is to internalize the coming of the new moon, Rosh Chodesh, and feel the “knocking” (from the verb dofek) in our hearts, the call to return to Zion, to the Holy Temple. The verse “Kol Dodi Dofek” (Song of Songs 5:2) represents the idea that “Divine Providence was ready to restore everything as it had been at first [during the first Temple] if they had all willingly consented to return. But only a part was ready to do so, whilst the majority and the aristocracy remained in Babylon, preferring dependence and slavery, and unwilling to leave their houses and their affairs.…” This is the challenge of assimilation, getting too comfortable in exile.
An important lesson we learn from Lamech in our approach to prayer and Divine service is the need to connect to Hashem in ways that are above the reason. There is a well-known teaching by our sages that in Hebrew word king, Melech, the letter Mem represents the Moach (the mind), and the Lamed, the Lev, the heart. When the Mem and the Lamed are inverted, instead of Melech you get Lemech, which means "fool." As is also emphasized in Chabad Chassidic philosophy, the mind must control the heart. However, when it comes to prayer and to our connection to G-d, there is such a concept, also emphasized in Chabad Chassidic philosophy, of Shtus d’Kedusha, “Holy Folly.” Ultimately, prayer is the service of the heart, not the mind, and our connection to G-d is above nature and above all logic.
 A Note on the Title of [Rav Joseph’s Soloveitchik’s work] Kol Dodi Dofek, David Z. Gordon; available at http://www.rabbis.org/news/article.cfm?id=100833
Posted by Kahane at 10:52 AM
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