Weekly Cycle

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Introduction to Book 3


Introduction to Book 3: Paths in Avodah

If the first book, like Bereshit, was about Derech Eretz, Creation (Perek Shirah) and the foundations of our people (Pirkei Avot), and the second book, like Shemot, was about receiving the Torah, this third book is like Vayikra. Sefer Vayikra is also called “Torat Kohanim.” Much of it is about the day-to-day functions of the Kohanim in the Temple, which were given this position due to their lineage going back to Aharon. It is a Book about Avodah (“Divine service”), elevating the material world through personal sacrifice, inkeeping with the spiritual above-nature quality of the priestly service and the Temple itself. The sets of 52 studied under Book 3 are as follows:

The Torah portion of Beshalach (from the fifth aliyah to the end), contains the Song of the Sea (Shirat HaYam) followed by the description of the Mannah (Parashat HaMan) and the war against Amalek (Zechirat Ma'aseh Amalek). The Torah reading is then followed by the Haftorah, the Song of Deborah (Shirat Devorah). These texts relate to the above-nature service/prayer, in response to the Divine miracles the Jewish people experienced.

The generations from Adam through David (the 33rd, Lag Ba’Omer generation) until the last king of Judah (52nd) describe the function of the king, who was given this position due to his Davidic lineage. Adam himself was like a king, and his Avodah was to conquer and take care of the Garden of Eden, while avoiding the pitfalls of the evil inclination.

The Talmudic tractate of Sotah is also about a service of G-d that is above nature, above intellect, a concept known as shtut d’kedusha, “folly of holiness.”

The 42 journeys through the desert and the conquest of seven (later ten) Cana’anite nations living the Land of Israel are connected to the supernal also about elevating the material world. It is said that wherever the Jewish people traveled in the desert, that part of the desert would blossom. It was about working on oneself, and elevating the fallen sparks of the world in the process (Tikkun Olam). That is what Diaspora is all about, as well as the ultimate purpose of each soul that is “exiled” from Heaven and comes down to this world.

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.


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