Friday, November 13, 2015

Chayei Sarah - Dew is 39

When the first man, Adam, made a mistake of eating a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, he caused that there should be 39 curses, ten were for himself, ten for Eve, ten for the snake, and nine for the earth.

The number 39 in Hebrew is represented by the word "Tal", which means dew. To correct the curses, light that comes from the highest of spiritual levels, called "Arich Anpin," and which shines down like dew, is needed.

The forefathers tried to draw down this light. Abraham did not completely succeed, as evidenced but his imperfect son, Ishmael. Isaac, too, had a son Esau. Jacob was the first pure one who could begin the rectification (Tikkun). The word "dew" is mentioned in the blessing that Isaac gave him, "God should give you from the dew of the heavens...", and that is why he needed this blessing so much.

However, even that blessing he got from Isaac through deception, by pretending to be Esau. Rebecca took the risk on herself, by saying that if it is discovered, "the curses should be on me". Rebecca was the reincarnation of Eve. Her words can be understood as if Eve was talking: "It's because of me that there are curses. Now I am taking the risk and fixing what I did wrong." Previously, Adam was punished "because he listened to the voice of his wife." Now Rebecca is saying, "Listen to my voice, but this time for good."

Also note that the first time Adam's mistake came through food. Now Jacob, Adam's reincarnation, is fixing his mistake, again through food - by bringing Isaac a meal.

If one continues, one can find many more parallels between what Adam did then and what Jacob did this time.

With gratitude to Rabbi Menachem Sholom Krantz, who provided the initial content.

Art: Esau and Jacob by Michel I Corneille

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Zois chukas ha Toirah

My good friend Rabbi Naphtali Buchwald of the Houston Kollel shares a one-minute dvar Torah every Friday afternoon. Last week, he started like this: "Zois chukas ha Toirah," (quoted in his pronunciation). The Torah seems to promise us an earth-shattering lesson, but continues with the specific laws of purifying oneself from the impurity of the dead.

So it seems we don't get the promised earth-shattering lesson. But actually we do. Look in the Zohar, the beginning of the same Torah portion Chukat.

Rabbi Yose starts by praising the words of the Torah, which are sweeter than honey to those who study it. Then he asks, why here it says "Zot chukat ha Torah" but elsewhere it starts with a vav, "V'zot ha Torah asher sam Moshe..."

Vav is the hint to Zeir Anpin, and of it being connected inseparably to the Malchut (zot), or Knesset Israel. What is needed to make this happen? - Go and learn the Sulam or Metok Midvash commentary.

Subscribe to the one-minute Torah every Friday here.

Art: Woman Milking a Red Cow by Karel Dujardin

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Balak – The son of a bird

And Balak saw all that Israel had done...” – what did he see? Balak was a wizard, who saw things, just as Avimelech was able to see what happened inside the house of Isaac. The fact that Abimelech looked “through the window” is impossible – did Isaac “enjoy with his wife” during the day? And with open windows?” – Rather, this “window” is a name of wizardry. Balak used the same.

Balak is called the son of a bird, because he had this magic bird with iron wings who would fly around the world and tell him the news. It got these news from Aza, one of the two fallen angels. This time, however, the bird was late in coming back, and when it did come, it had its tail singed with fire. It also argued with Balak. He would say “a certain people came out of Egypt,” and it corrected, “They are called Israel, which means “Isra El,” prince of God. He said "big," and the bird corrected him, "great." That is what made Balak and his nation very much afraid.

Art: Open Window Lilacs Study by Valentin Aleksandrovich Serov

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Chukat – What does the letter “vav” mean

And (“vav”) this is the law of the Torah – to burn the red heifer.

To explain this, Rabbi Yose started by praising the words of the Torah and those who study them. Moses said, “Today you are becoming a nation, since you have the Torah.” But really, the Torah was given forty years ago, what did Moses mean? – Rather, this teaches that the Torah is beloved to those who learn it, every day just as the first time.

Now he could continue: the letter “vav,” which means “and,” joins subjects together: the Torah, which is symbolic of the community of Israel, and the Holy One Blessed be He, which usually denotes the Zeir Anpin, the “Supreme Man,” or the communication between God and this world. These are all united with the letter “vav.”

Those who read the daily prayers remember one of the phrases in the beginning, “All and some detail and then all again – the last 'all' includes only those things that were mentioned in the detail.” That is a rule of the understanding the Torah, but it is also a means of connecting the Knesset Israel and God – since Malchut (or Shekhinah, God's presence) is called “All,” and Beauty is called “detail,” since it “details” the six directions of Zeir Anpin. Thus one does not exist without the other, and the other does not exist without the first one.

Art: Rabbinical Students In A Classroom by Edouard Brandon

Monday, May 26, 2014

Naso – What happens at night

"God spoke to Moses, saying: 'Also take a census (raise their heads) of Gershon's descendants by families...'"

To explain this, Rabbi Abba quoted, “Happy is the man for whom God does not account his wrongdoings, and whose soul is pure” - and said that it does not make sense. If God does not count his wrongdoings, then they must exist. If so, why is his soul pure?

However, he explained, in the afternoon the world experiences judgment, which continues into the evening. The man's souls goes up and, free from the restrictions of the body, testifies about his actions during that day. At midnight the righteous praise God and study Torah, and cause joy to the spiritual beings. Meanwhile, the soul that testifies retells man's words spoken during that day, and if they were only good and if he said nothing bad about his fellows that he was not permitted to say, then his soul is pure. So now we understand that when is it that “God does not account his wrongdoings?” – When his soul is pure because he does not recount the wrongdoings of others.

Now here is what God said to Moses: Raise the righteous in the spiritual world where they cause joy, called 'head', for the service that they do in Dispersion (Gershon is a hint to this, since that word means 'I am a stranger here.')

Art: Procession of Souls By Louis Welden Hawkins

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bamidbar – Why count the community of Israel?

God spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert, in the Communion Tent...saying 'Take a census of the entire community of Israel'.

In order to explain this, the Zohar goes all the way back to God creating a man and a woman, the man violating the first commandment, and how the rectification of his act was started with Adam's son, then continuing with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and still not being completed until the descendants of the twelve tribes accepted the Torah. Even so it was not completed until the building of the Communion Tent, with its most important part – the Ark, containing the Tablets.

The actual means of correction was God's love to Israel, exhibited through counting the community three times. This counting served to bind their souls to the spiritual worlds above, and to correct both the souls and the worlds. Thus the words “in the Sinai Desert" and "in the Communion Tent,” which seem to be redundant, in reality denote different worlds – giving Israel connection to both the theory and the practice of the Divine love.

Art: Adam and Eve Mourning for Abel By Johann Liss

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ki Tisa – the rich and the poor

"Everyone included in the census must give a half shekel. This shall be by the sanctuary standard, where a shekel is 20 gerahs. It is half of such a shekel that must be given as an offering to God."

A man's body is a hint to this shekel. The word “shekel” is closely related to “mishkal,” meaning “weight” and to the weighing scales. Man's two hands are the two cups of the scales, and his arms are the scales' beam. Since a hand has five fingers, it is represented by the letter hey (ה). We thus have two letters hey, the letter vav (ו) as the beam, and the letter yud(י) as the ideal holy shekel. All together they create the name of God yud-hei-vav-hei (יהוה).

The first hey in the name of God is the “rich hey”, and its numerical value is five, but each of these units is ten (since this is “Ima Ilaa,” or “Supernal Mother”, one of the highest spiritual entities in the four spiritual worlds), and thus the value of this first hey is 10 * 5 = 50. The second hey, the completion of God's name, is represented by the Jewish people. Since this physical world is spiritually impoverished in comparison to the the upper worlds and to its true potential, this letter hey is called the “poor hey.”

Therefore the “rich should not give more than half a shekel.” The rich is the righteous, his intention is to unify the name of God, and he wants to connect the lower and the upper hey. And yet, he cannot bring more than ten Sefirot, because (as Sefer Yetzirah points out), there are ten ways of God's interaction with the world, and not more. The poor (one who is poor in spiritual knowledge and who acts within the confines of the physical world), cannot bring less than half a shekel: his “ten” are for the poor, worldly hey, yet he brings them all.

That is why at the Passover Seder we talk about “This is the bread for the poor.” The poor usually asks at the door, and the letter hey has the shape of a door (ה). “All who need should come and eat” - because it is the spiritually poor who come to the “rich table” of the Seder.

Art: Balancing the scales (after) Gabriel Metsu