Weekly Cycle

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Week 1 (Book 3): Moshe and Deborah, Judgement and Adam, Ramses and Being G-d's Firstborn

Week 1 - Adam: Being Connected to Hashem and All Mankind

SONG OF THE SEA: Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and they spoke, saying, I will sing to the Lord, for very exalted is He;

HAFTORAH: Now Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying.

SOTAH: 11. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 12. Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: Should any man's wife go astray and deal treacherously with him … [The Kohen] shall make her drink the water, and it shall be that, if she had been defiled and was unfaithful to her husband, the curse bearing waters shall enter her to become bitter, and her belly will swell, and her thigh will rupture. The woman will be a curse among her people. 28. But if the woman had not become defiled and she is clean, she shall be exempted and bear seed. (Bamdibar, 6)


JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the day following the Passover sacrifice, the children of Israel left triumphantly before the eyes of all the Egyptians.   And the Egyptians were busy burying because the Lord had struck down their firstborn and had wrought vengeance against their deities.  And the Egyptians were busy burying: occupied with their mourning. (Bamidbar, 33:1-48)

The first week of the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Hashanah.  The verses of the the Song of the Sea and Haftorah are about the leaders of the Jewish people at that time singing in unison. Rosh Hashanah is about connecting with the “head” of the people.

The verse which is the basis of Tractate Sotah is ultimately about judgment. The woman is judged through water.

Adam, the first man, represents all of mankind and is its spiritual and physical source. The same is true for Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is also the day of the creation of Adam.

The first location the Jews find themselves in is Ramses. The personal journey during these days is to fully internalize the concept that we are Hashem’s firstborn, and focus on the concept that Hashem is the Creator. It is to liberate ourselves from Egypt, and of the idea that there can be any god other than Hashem. (“Ramses” means the god of the sun created him/it). 

An important lesson we learn from Adam in our approach to prayer and Divine service is to focus also on the big picture. To pray not just for ourselves, but for all of mankind, especially those that need the most Divine assistance at the time. It is not by chance that our prayers are all in the plural. We are all connected, in more ways than we think.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Week 2 (Book 3): Casting our Ego into Water, Seth and Soulmates, connecting to our Father and preparing for Sukkot.

SONG OF THE SEA: a horse and its rider He cast into the sea. The Eternal's strength and His vengeance were my salvation;
HAFTORAH: When breaches are made in Israel, when the people offer themselves willingly, bless the Lord.
TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 2 - How couples are matched and brought together
JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: The children of Israel journeyed from Rameses and camped in Succoth.
The second week of the Jewish calendar is the week of Yom Kippur. The Song of the Sea’s verses are about Hashem casting “horse and rider” in the sea, and how Hashem is our strength and song, and the source of our salvation. This is the idea of Yom Kippur, we throw ourselves into the mikvah(here represented by the sea) and we are purified. As Rabbi Akiva states, Hashem Himself is our mikvah. He is our strength, song, and salvation – and we only fully realize this on Yom Kippur itself. (The theme of water and being rescued on Yom Kippur is found in Week 2 of Book 2 as well)
The verses of the Haftorah speak of the “breaches made in Israel,” and interestingly enough "breaches" (phra'ot in Hebrew) has the same root as the word for “Pharaoh.” The verses speak of liberation from “Pharaoh,” who represents the idea of an oversized ego as well as of stubbornness. Once we recognize the damage of our ego, and nulify it by giving ourselves willingly to G-d, that is how to truly bless Hashem on Yom Kippur.
Daf Beit (Folio 2) of Sotah, which is in fact the first daf of the tractate, discusses how couples are predetermined at the time souls come down from Heaven. Two is about the concept of a mate. (See Book 1).
Seth served as a consolation to Adam and Eve for losing their son Abel. This theme ties in perfectly with the week of Yom Kippur, in which we do our best to undo past sins, or better yet transform our sins into merits.
In this second week, the Jews journey from Ramses and camped in Succoth. (“Ramses”means the G-d of the sun created him/it). The personal journey is to internalize the concept that Hashem is our Father and Creator, and now focus on the concept of Hashem as our protector. In the calendar year, after Yom Kippur, we literally prepare ourselves for Sukkot.
An important lesson we learn from Seth in our approach to prayer and Divine service is to truly understand that Hashem is the Source of all. Seth, Shet in Hebrew, means foundation and source, like the Even Shetiah, the Foundation Stone, from which the world was created. (This stone was located in the Holy of Holies, which would only be accessed once a year, on Yom Kippur) In prayer and Divine service, we do our utmost to bring down to earth G-d's blessings, bringing the spiritual down into the material.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Week 3 (Book 3): Making a Habitation for G-d and Beautifying Him, "Giving Ear" and Receiving the Divine Spirit, Enosh and Sukkoth

SONG OF THE SEA: this is my G-d, and I will make Him a habitation, the G-d of my father, and I will ascribe to Him exaltation.

Hear, O kings, give ear, O princes;
I, to the Lord I shall sing,

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 3 - Receiving a Divine Spirit.


JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Succoth and camped in Etham, at the edge of the desert.

The third week is that of Sukkot. The verses of the Song of the Sea are about making a home to honor Hashem, and the Sukkah is such a home. Also, the principle of Zeh Keili v’Anvehu is one of the main themes of Sukkot –having a nice Etrog; a nice Lulav.

The Haftorah verses are about hearing. Sukkot is connected to the ear. (See Books 1 and 2) Anochi is repeated twice. This is a reference to the great revelation that takes place under the Sukkah, comparable to receiving the Torah anew. (Rashi on Judges 5:3) (See Book 2, Week 36) We are pardoned from our sins (the Torah was given a second time onYom Kippur) and feel so happy that we sing.

Similarly, Daf Gimmel (Folio 3) of Sotah, discusses how a Divine spirit (“Ruach”) enters a person. Sukkot was known for the time in which people received Ruach HaKodesh.
Enosh is also a term to refer to all mankind, and in Sukkot we pray on behalf of the entire world.

In the third week, the Jews journey from Succoth and camped in Etham, at the edge of the desert. The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of Hashem as our protector, and now focus on being on the “edge of the desert.” We have to make the most of our time engrossed in receiving Hashem’s blessings, so that when we go out into civilization, we can influence it properly. Etham can also denote a fortress (which is similar to a Sukkah):

Etam, in ancient Egyptian, means “seashore.” Some identify Etham with the Egyptian Chetem, which denotes a fortress. After early childhood, when we are completely dependent on parents for sustenance and protection, we begin to emerge from the “fortress” as we start to develop a sense of independence. This stage is comparable to a “seashore,” a boundary between exploring the new world around us and scurrying back for approval and guidance from our parents. At this phase in our lives we are not yet quite thrown into the desert, yet we are its edge, as we become acquainted with an alien and insensitive world. (http://meaningfullife.com/oped/2008/06.13.08$BehaalotchoCOLON_42_Journeys_Part_1.php)

An important lesson we learn from Enosh in our approach to prayer and Divine service is understanding our weaknesses and what requires improvement. The Hayom Yom for the 4th of Elul states as follows:

In describing the unique qualities of humankind, four terms are used:
·        Adam refers to the quality of mind and intellect;
·        Ish to the quality of heart and emotion;
·        Enosh, weakness in either intellect or emotion or both;
·        Gever, who overcomes inner weakness and removes obstacles and hindrances to the attainment of an intellectual or emotional quality.I.e. Gever works upon Enosh to elevate him to the plane of Ish or Adam.
Since it is possible to turn Enosh into Ish or Adam, it is obvious that Enosh already possesses the qualities found in Ish and Adam.

As also alluded to in the Hayom Yom, we must believe with complete faith that we can improve. As Rebbe Nachman would say, if you believe you can break, believe that you can fix.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Week 4 (Book 3): Being Secluded with G-d and Casting the Enemy Aside

Song of the Sea: The Lord is a Master of war; the Lord is His Name. Pharaoh's chariots and his army He cast into the sea,

Haftorah: I shall sing to the Lord, the G-d of Israel.
Lord, when You went forth out of Seir,

Talmud Sotah: Daf 3 – discussion of “Yichud.”


JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Etham and camped in Pi hahiroth, which faces Baal zephon; and they camped in front of Migdol.

The fourth week is that of the end of Sukkot, Hoshanah Rabbah, and Shmini Atzeret. The verses of the Song of the Sea are about how Hashem is a Master of war, and how He defeats Israel’s enemy. This is reminiscent of Week 4 in both Books 1 (the eagle) and 2. 

The Haftorah verses are also related to the enemy, as they refer to Seir, the dwelling place of Eisav.

Daf Dalet (Folio 4) of Sotah, discusses the concept of yichud, secluding oneself with someone else. Shmini Atzeret is known for the time in which Hashem secludes Himself with the Jewish people.

Keinan appears to be a variation in the name Kayin (Cain).[1] Keinan has the extra letter “Nun,” which in other places represents the 50th gate, the power of prayer and teshuvah (repentance). The entire line of Keinan seems to parallel the line of Cain. Keinan and his descendants appear to be a more “kosher” version of Cain and his line. Humanity ultimately follows the line of Keinan, casting Cain's line aside. Nevertheless, it is said that Noach’s wife was Na’amah, the sister of Yuval, Tuval-Cain, and Yaval, from the line of Cain. 

In the fourth week, the Jews journey from Etham to and camped in Pi hahiroth, which faces Baal zephon; and they camped in front of Migdol. The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of being “on the edge,” and now focus on being on the “mouth of rocks,” facing places where there is idolatry. It is our role to elevate the material world, and bring the whole world to worship the one God.

An important lesson we learn from Keinan in our approach to prayer and Divine service is understanding that serving G-d, like the study of Torah, is a kinyan (an acquisition - the root of both the names Keinan and Cain). In order to acquire something, you have to give of yourself, often of the fruit of your hard labor. Often, like the last days of Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah, Divine service is literally a marathon. There is tremendous intensity and perhaps even exhaustion, but what you get is based on what you give. During the year, prayer and Divine service also may not come easy. That why it is so important to remember that it is called an Avodah, which literally means work.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Week 5 (Book 3): the Field and the Flood

SONG OF THE SEA: and the elite of his officers sank in the Red Sea. The depths covered them; they descended into the depths like a stone.
HAFTORAH: when You marched out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the heavens also dripped;
TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 5: Themes – haughtiness and adultery. 
JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT FROM EGYPT TO THE HOLY LAND: They journeyed from Penei hahiroth (“face of rocks”) and crossed in the midst of the sea to the desert. They walked for three days in the desert of Etham and camped in Marah.
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.”[1]  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. 


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