Thursday, August 13, 2009

Parshas Re’eih 2

Kosher Slaughter Frees the Spirit

Devarim 12:23 "You shall not eat the soul with the meat"

This is an explanation of the prohibition of eiver min ha’chai (eating the flesh of an animal or bird while it still exhibits signs of life).

Shechitah (the Jewish method of animal slaughter) takes place at the neck for a dual purpose. Firstly, it is to subdue the animal instinct. Secondly, it is to raise the nefesh/life-soul from the level of chai (basic living entity) to that of me’daber (speaking being, i.e. man). The reason for this is as follows.

The windpipe, esophagus and blood vessels that constitute the neck, lie close to the vocal chords. It is specifically through them that the tikkun/rectification of shechitah is achieved, since nefashos/souls leave the body at that place, corresponding to the verse (Shir HaShirim 5:6): “My soul left be’dabro/at His speaking”. Blood converges there at the time of the shechitah because the neshamos exit there, as expressed by the verse “for the blood is the nefesh”. It is there that the departure and ascent of the nefashos occurs.

Since the nefesh is principally at the neck, the life force is located there. Correspondingly, the klippos (incorporation of evil forces) maintain their greatest power there, for the trio of windpipe-esophagus-blood vessels is related to “the three ministers of [the evil] Pharaoh” (Likutei Torah parshah Vayeishev). The klippos remain there to suckle from the speech faculty-nefesh that always departs at that point, corresponding to “my soul left be’dabro”.

The “oppressed neshamos” are the ones that are most associated with the animal. These are the neshamos that fell from the level of me’daber to that of chai. The power of speech was removed from them with their attachment to the non-speaking animal. Therefore, the “three ministers of Pharaoh”, the three klippos mentioned above, reside in force within the animal, since the speech faculty of the neshamos is suppressed there. There the animal spirit, corresponding to the klippos, is most powerful. The klippos subdue the nefesh in its aspect of speech until it falls completely from the level of me’daber to that of chai. That’s why the shechitah is at the neck: To cut the windpipe, esophagus and blood vessels and overcome the “three ministers of Pharaoh”. Hence all the blood, which is the nefashos, swells and exits at the neck. The nefashos leave the animal body and ascend from chai to me’daber through the blessing and the shechitah knife.

Consequently, if the slaughter was not performed at the neck – even if a limb was severed with the knife – the force of the animal instinct is not subdued and the nefesh does not leave that way. The nefesh only leaves through the path of the “three” mentioned above, related to the verse (above) “my soul left…”. The klippos are only subdued there in the neck, in the place where they have their grip, the place containing the main life source of the nefesh.

Therefore, someone that eats eiver min ha’chai, G-d forbid, actually consumes the nefesh with the meat, since the nefesh and life force essentially remains. For while every limb draws life force to itself, yet the life force and nefashos cannot leave through the limbs. They can only leave through the neck, the place that they desire to leave in order to receive their tikkun and ascent from chai to me’daber. Cutting a limb from the animal in a different place causes the opposite to occur. The limb draws to itself life force, while the life force, the nefesh, remains trapped within the limb.

This is why the Torah makes the prohibition “do not eat the nefesh with the meat”. Meat is only fit to eat after the nefesh has left it; it is forbidden to destroy and consume the nefesh. Someone that eats eiver min ha’chai, G-d forbid, is actually a murderer, since he is really killing the nefesh.

Yoreh De’ah Hilchos Eiver Min HaChai 1:1

Monday, August 10, 2009

Parshas Re’eih

The Joy of Eating

Devarim 12:7 "You shall rejoice in all that you put your hand to"

The ruach ha’adam/spirit of Man corresponds to da’as di’kedushah/knowledge of holiness. The ruach ha’beheimah/spirit of the beast corresponds to ko’ach ha’medameh/the imaginative faculty, from which stems all earthly desires. The first sin of eating from the tree of knowledge forced a mixture of these two forces into the creation. The ruach ha’adam and the ruach ha’beheimah are now mingled within everything in the world.

When we sanctify our eating properly, the main tikkun/rectification is to merit extracting the ruach ha’adam from the ruach ha’beheimah – removal of good from the evil of the ko’ach ha’medameh. This is primarily achieved through simchah/joy. We must therefore try to eat in a happy mood, as the verse indicates: “Eat your bread in simchah”. For the main tikkun and clarification of eating takes place through simchah, which extracts the medameh/negative imagination.

And this relates to the sacrificial offerings. When an offering was brought in the Temple, the Levi’im would stand on their designated platform and sing. For extraction of ruach ha’adam is the main purpose of the offerings, separating the good ruach from the animal ruach. And this is achieved through singing and niggun/melody, corresponding to [above] “rejoice in all that you put your hand to”. For this verse speaks about the offerings that are brought on the festivals, as identified with (Pesachim 109a): “Simchah is only achieved through [eating] the meat of the animal offering”. And true simchah arises when eating the offerings, since the main extraction of animalistic urges, the medameh, is through simchah and niggun.

Yoreh De’ah Hilchos Treifos 2:2

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tu B’Av (The Fifteenth of Av)

Forgiveness After The Destruction

“Never were there such days of celebration as Tu B’Av (the fifteenth of Av) and Yom Kippur” [Last Mishnah of the fourth chapter of Ta’anis].

Tu B’Av starts the “sweetening” and tikkun/rectification of the sin of the spies [who had spoken badly about the land of Israel, causing “a wailing for generations” on Tisha B’Av (the ninth of Av].

Death was decreed on the generation of the wilderness, after the sin of the spies. Chazal tell us that every year, many people would expire on the night of Tisha B’Av. However, on Tu B’Av, in the last year, it became clear that the deaths had stopped. This relates to Yom Kippur, in that we request forgiveness at that time for the sin of the spies that caused the destruction of the Temple on Tisha B’Av, around which all sin revolves. Thus the Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur are connected through the tikkun of the sin of the spies and the generation of the wilderness that caused the destruction of the Temple.

The Mishnah above then concludes: “…on the day of his wedding - that is the giving of the Torah, and on the day of his heart’s happiness - that is the building of the Temple”.

For the main anguish of the Temple’s destruction arises from the inability to connect together all the spiritual worlds – the blemish and separation from holiness that results from all sin. But Torah, which relates to “the day of his wedding” and “the building of the Temple”, is a tikkun for this since it forges a link between the upper and lower spiritual worlds. This is the main purpose of Torah: To create for us, with our performance of every single mitzvah in this physical world, the ability to be attached to the higher world and draw down the Divine Presence. Every mitzvah creates this unification. This relates to the Temple – the main place for the Torah, as it states “The Torah emanates from Zion (i.e. the Temple)” [Isaiah 51:4]; the main incorporation of the spiritual worlds existing in the Temple. All this tikkun is drawn from Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur – the start of the tikkun of the sin of the spies that caused the destruction. It is at that time that there begins a start in a certain aspect of “dedication of the Temple”, which is the tikkun.

This also connects to a statement in the Gemara of Ta’anis (31a). There it states that permission was granted to bury the slain of the city of Beitar on Tu B’Av. This prompted Chazal to institute the fourth blessing of ha’tov ve’meitiv that praises G-d, in the birchas ha’mazon/Grace after meals. It is significant that this took place on the Tu B’Av. For this is the day that signaled the halt in the death of the generation of the wilderness that had caused the destruction of the Temple, the subsequent separation of spiritual worlds that impeded the ability to draw on he’aras ha’ratzon/”the illumination of desire” when eating.

Therefore Hashem caused events to transpire on Tu B’Av, when the tikkun of the generation of the wilderness began. On that date permission was granted to bury the slain of Beitar, prompting the institution of the blessing ha’tov ve’meitiv in birchas ha’mazon that corresponds to the drawing of the he’aras ha’ratzon at the time of eating [discussed elsewhere, in 6:72]. For he’aras ha’ratzon is drawn from the unification of the spiritual worlds that occurs through the aspect of dedication of the Temple that started on Tu B’Av, related to Yom Kippur and the tikkun of both the spies and generation of the wilderness that had caused the Temple’s destruction.

Thus, on Tu B’Av – the date when the generation of the wilderness ceased to die – there starts a certain spiritual “flashing” of the dedication of the Temple, effecting a drawing of he’aras ha’ratzon. This corresponds to the blessing of ha’tov ve’meitiv that was instituted when permission was granted to bury the slain of Beitar. Thus, permission was granted specifically on Tu B’Av, since everything is one concept.

If you learn well 6:72 above regarding the connection of ha’tov ve’meitiv to the slain of Beitar, you will more deeply appreciate Hashem’s wonders that for this reason permission was given for burial on Tu B’Av – for that was the starting date for the tikkun of the sin of the spies, through which we merit the dedication of the Temple and the subsequent attainment of he’aras ha’ratzon.

Orach Chaim Hilchos NetilasYadayim 6:83

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Parshas Vo’eschanan

1) Perceiving With Emunah

Devarim 4:6 "…for it is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations…"

Chazal tell us that this verse refers to the calculation of the “seasons and constellations”, i.e. the determination of the start of the Jewish lunar months [when the moon starts to wax again after a two week period of waning]. This is the time when there is “filling of the blemish of the moon so that it exhibit no lack and that its light be as the sun” (prayer of kiddush levanah). This alludes to emunah/faith becoming full and complete with a completion without blemish or lack at all, becoming as the light of the sun.

This means that we must try to be very strong in our emunah – which relates to the moon – in matters that the intellect is unable to comprehend and attain. Emunah should be so powerful within us, and so illuminate the intellect, as if we actually see and understand intellectually. This is the main way of complete emunah: It should appear to us as if we are really looking, with our eyes. This is the concept of the “light of the moon as that of the sun”.

Orach Chaim Hilchos Rosh Chodesh 6:1

2) Doing Mitzvos Simply

Devarim 7:7 “…you are the least of all the nations”

The explanation is that Hashem says: “You behave with self-effacement when I bestow good upon you” (see Rashi). This means that when Hashem shines upon the Jewish people an illumination of flashings of His G-dliness, they do not engage in investigative intellectual quest into the matter. Rather, they become invigorated with emunah/faith and immediately seek Hashem.

This is expressed in Shir HaShirim/The Song of Songs (1:4): “Draw me: We will run after You”, that we run after Hashem right after He starts drawing us towards Him. Thus, Rashi explains: “I heard from Your emissaries that You wish to draw me towards You, and I immediately ran after You”.

But soon after we start to pursue Hashem, so to speak, He appears to flee and conceal Himself, as expressed by (ibid. 8:14): “My Beloved One fled…”, corresponding to (ibid 5:6): “I opened to my Beloved One, but He turned away and left…” At that point we then have to start a measured and orderly pursuit after Him, seeking Him and serving Him with actions and good deeds with simchah/internal happiness, until we merit finding Him with ever increasingly wondrous revelation.

This relates to the verse: “Everything that Hashem has spoken, we will do and understand”. The meaning is: ‘All that Hashem instructed, we will perform immediately, without any question or investigation at all and afterwards we will comprehend’. For it is through doing the mitzvos with emunah, simplicity and simchah that we merit later understanding and attaining great and awesome concepts.

On the other hand, the idol worshippers and heretics wish to precede the “understanding” to the “performing” since they are slaves to their earthly desires and evil character traits. They wish to immediately attain the fruits of philosophical investigative discovery of G-dliness and the reasons behind the holy mitzvos. Only then might they possibly hasten after some mitzvah or other - if they perceive its spiritual light at root that illuminates all the spiritual worlds.

Orach Chaim Hilchos Nefilas Apayim U’Kedushah DeSidrah 4:13, (according to Otzar HaYirah –Emunah 17)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Parshas Devarim

Not Everyone Can Rebuke

Devarim 1:1 "These are the words that Moshe spoke…in the wilderness, in the plain, opposite the Red Sea, between Paran and Tophel and Lavan…"

The start of the book of Devarim contains word of rebuke for the children of Israel by their beloved Rebbe, Moshe Rabbeinu. However, the words of reproof were not overt. Rashi explains that Moshe only mentioned the names of the places where they had angered Hashem, rather than detailing the events that took place there. Moshe employed subtlety in order to preserve the dignity of the Jewish nation. This teaches us that it requires special skill to effectively rebuke a fellow Jew.

Now its true that rebuke is a very great thing. It is incumbent upon us all to admonish our fellow Jew when he does not behave correctly. The Torah has accordingly instructed us (Vayikra 19:17): “You shall surely rebuke your fellow Jew”. However, not everyone is ‘cut out’ for the job. Rabbi Akiva (Arachin 16b) declared “I would be most surprised if there is anyone in this generation that knows how to effectively reprimand his fellow Jew”. It goes without saying that Rabbi Akiva would have held this opinion in our times.

If a person does not possess the skill to admonish, it can cause serious damage. It’s not just that his rebuke will be ineffective. Rather, he causes a stench of the very neshamos/souls of the intended recipients of his reproach. His admonishment awakens the “bad smell” of the other person’s bad deeds and faulty middos/character traits. This is akin to something that possesses a bad smell, but is lying at rest. As long as the item is not moved, one cannot sense the smell. However, a mere shift is enough to cause the stench to be felt.
Similarly, someone unskilled in rebuke ‘moves’ and awakens the bad smell of the other’s bad deeds and faulty middos, causing the people to “stench”. This causes their neshamos to weaken, severing the bounty from all the Heavenly worlds that depend on these very neshamos. For Chazal tell us that the neshamah mainly derives its sustenance from smell. (This transpires from an investigation into the source verse for the blessing over fragrance. They derive the blessing from (Psalms 150) “Every neshamah will praise You”, concluding that smell is the only thing in this world that the neshamah alone, not the body, enjoys). Consequently, when someone rebukes people inappropriately, he causes them to stench, so to speak. This causes a corresponding weakening in the neshamah that is sustained through smell, severing the bounty from all the Heavenly worlds that are dependant on these people.

The opposite is true of someone that has the skill to effectively reprove people. Through appropriate admonishment, he actually gives or adds to the “good fragrance” of the neshamah. For in truth, all rebuke must be related to that of Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe reproved the Jewish People over the incident of the golden calf, giving them a “pleasant fragrance” alluded to in (Song of Songs 1:12): ‘My nard gives fragrance’: It does not say that the fragrance of the Jewish people departed – rather it was given, as Rashi explains there on that verse, from the words of Chazal (Shabbos 88b). Moshe’s rebuke over the golden calf imparted a “pleasant fragrance” to the Jewish people an aspect of mezona denishmata/food for the soul. For, as mentioned, the main sustenance of the neshamah is by way of smell; the voice of one skilled in rebuke imparts a good fragrance to neshamos, related to mezona denishmata.

Likutei Moharan Tinyana 8:1

2) Find Your Good Points!

Devarim 1:1 "These are the words that Moshe spoke…"

The fundamental of rebuke must stem from an aspect of the shir shel chessed/song of loving-kindness. This means that the rebuke must turn towards chessed/loving-kindness in its aspect of “azamrah lei’lokei be’odee” (“I will sing to My G-d as long as I live”), as Rebbe Nachman writes in Likutei Moharan 282.
The intent is that every one of us must find, both in ourselves and in our fellow, some merit and good point, as hinted in the verse (Psalms 37:10): “And in a little while – and there is no wicked one…” This actually puts the person into the merit side of the heavenly scales, meriting repenting.
Even if someone’s intent is just self-reproof, nevertheless he must be very careful how he does it and not get depressed by his own harsh words. Remembering his evil deeds can weaken his mind and cause utter dejection, G-d forbid. Therefore, he must be careful to incline towards loving-kindness and, come what may, search well for his own good points.
He must chide himself with a chessed orientation, fortifying himself regarding Hashem, trusting in His enormous mercy. He must understand that the chessed of Hashem can overturn all his evil deeds into merits, even if he has been a very great sinner for an extended period of time. For the chassadim/kindnesses of Hashem are great: “For His mercies never end or get spent”, and “chessed and great redemption is with Hashem”

The rule is: A person must rebuke in a way that will cause fortification and arousal to Hashem, rather than in a way that weakens a person’s spirit, causing a further downward slide, G-d forbid. We only merit such rebuke through the tzaddikim of the generation, who are an aspect of Moshe Rabbeinu, meriting an aspect of shir shel chessed.

Orach Chaim Hilchos Tzitzis 5:7

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Parshas Mattos -Massay

1) Creating Torah Through Speech

Bemidbar 30:3 "When a man makes a vow"

The parshah of Mattos deals with vows. The mitzvah of vows shows us the great power of speech: Immediately after a person merely verbally expresses something, he must fulfill it.
Actually, the entire subject of vows is a truly lofty pli’ah/wonder, as reflected in the Torah’s language (6:2); “When a man or woman yafli/pronounce a vow…” (Yafli is etymologically related to pli’ah). Vows reflect the plios chochmah/”wonders of wisdom”, as explained by Rebbe Nachman in Likutei Moharan 57. For this area shows us the greatness of man and his free choice: The fact that he has the capability to create for himself new mitzvos with his speech – mitzvos that he had not been commanded to do.
For example, a person can forbid to himself something that is inherently permitted. Merely vocalizing his desire serves to prohibit him under Torah law. Really amazing!
The item is not intrinsically forbidden and yet once he has pronounced his words to proscribe it – even without mentioning one of the holy names of Hashem – full Torah law immediately forbids it to him.
With this we see the great power of man, the possessor of Free Will. At foundation, his free will lies in his mouth and heart: When his heart longs to be sanctified through severance from something physical, and he expresses the passion verbally by mouth, the matter actually transmutes into Torah, since the item has now become forbidden to him by law of the Torah. This mechanism is effected through the fact that the Jewish soul is “a portion of Hashem above” (chelek elokah mi’ma’al), who Himself bears relation to the Torah – for the Holy One, Torah and the Jewish people are all one (Zohar Acharei Mos 73a). Therefore man, with mere utterance, has the power to make a vow and create mitzvos for himself as he desires.

The basis of our making a vow is the desire to separate ourselves from physical desires, as it states (Avos 3): “Vows are a fence for separation”. This sort of vow is truly a mitzvah, as Chazal tell us (Nedarim 8): “One is allowed to make a vow in order to goad his soul”.
Now, the main expression of a vow is with the mouth. This shows how great the power of speech actually is: It has the ability to spur us to separate even from normally permitted things. This takes many forms. Some people undertake to fast for a day. Some vow to abstain from eating a certain animal. Others promise to give tzedakah more than their ability to do so. In any event, an elementary consideration of the matter should astound us. For if we possess the internal resources to overcome our natural tendencies, what do we need to take a vow for? And if we do not have the ability – then taking a vow will not help!
We can ascertain from this the remarkable power lying at the very root of every vow. Articulating a vow elevates us to an aspect of plios chochmah that lies at the root of free will. It is from there that we derive the strength to overcome our earthly desires when we use our power of speech. (Of course, a vow does not negate our free will. The fact is that the power of free will is so mighty that it can still turn us astray. Hence, the Torah emphatically warns us to fulfill our vows and, indeed, everything that we articulate).
And so we find in the Torah the great efficacy of vow taking in the battle against the yetzer hara/bad nature. In the book of Ruth (3) Boaz tells Ruth: “Hashem lives! Lie down until the morning”. Chazal tell us (Midrash Rabbah 5) that this expression indicates that Boaz took an oath, in order to overcome the yetzer hara. The implication is that Boaz thought that his yetzer would overwhelm him if he did not make a vow (as Chazal indicate in Nedarim 8). Through the vow, Boaz was able to withstand the test and quash his yetzer hara.
We similarly find a number of proper and righteous people using this tool in their spiritual work. Rebbe Nachman told me that he was greatly accustomed to take vows to attain greater levels of holiness and separation from earthly desires.

Shivchay Haran 15/Orach Chaim Hilchos Birchas HaShachar 5:90

2) Overcome the Craving for Money and Enter Israel!

Bemidbar 34:17 "These are the names of the people that will share out the land [of Israel] to you"

Chazal tell us (Midrash Rabbah 72:5, 99:9) that Zevulun used to supply his brother, the tzaddik Yissachar, with all his needs. Rebbe Nachman comments (Likutei Moharan 13, 29) that this is the main way to rectify the desire for money, i.e. by giving tzedakah.
It follows from this, that Zevulun is an aspect of the tikkun/rectification of the desire for money. Consequently, Zevulun is buried on the border of Israel, in Sidon, as prophesied by Ya’acov Avinu (Bereishis 49:13): “His border shall be at Sidon”. For through this aspect of Zevulun, meaning the aspect of the tikkun of desire of money, one merits to attain entry to Israel.
Through requesting and seeking out the tzaddik we can be saved from the ‘request and search’ of the sitra achara (incorporation of evil forces), i.e. the search and request for money. And this merits us to enter Israel. For the fundamental of the land of Israel is attained through the tzaddik, as expressed by the verse (Tehillim/Psalms 37:29): “The tzaddikim shall inherit the land”.
It’s actually impossible to attain the land of Israel without true tzaddikim. This relates to the concept of the nesi’im/princes-leaders appointed by Moshe to acquire the land, as it states (ibid): “These are the…people that will share out the land to you”. For only through true tzaddikim do we merit to attain the emunah/belief in chiddush ha’olam/continual renewal of the world, which is an aspect of the land of Israel.
Therefore Zevulun, who was involved in business to supply the needs of his brother Yissachar who toiled in Torah, merited entering Israel. For this is the concept of drawing close to a true tzaddik, attending to all his needs with body, soul and money. Thus, Zevulun lies at the very boundary of Israel, expressing the idea that by closeness to the tzaddik we merit to enter the land of Israel.

Orach Chaim Hilchos Birchas Ha’Rei’ach 4:43

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Parshas Pinchas

Good And Evil Speech

Bemidbar 25:11 "Pinchas…turned away my wrath from the children of Israel…"

Zimri, prince of Shimon, was guilty of p’gam ha’bris/blemishing the Covenant (sexual transgression) when he took Kozbi, the Midianite woman, in full view of all the Jewish people. Pinchas attained the priesthood by merit of his zealousness for Hashem in that incident. He drew to the world the concept of tikkun ha’bris/rectification of sexual misdemeanor, meriting the priesthood, related to the idea of “holy love that dwells next to the point” that is the covenant of peace – as it states “I give him My covenant of peace”.
The entire action of Pinchas against Midianite marriage was a tikkun/rectification to subdue and annul the klippah/evil force of Bilaam, as expressed later (31:16): “These [Midianite women] caused the children of Israel to revolt against Hashem – through the word of Bilaam…” For Bilaam was the very personification of p’gam ha’bris. He was extremely sick, disgusting and abominable in this respect. As Chazal/our Sages tell us (Sanhedrin 106): “He was drawn after this desire his entire life”. He didn’t even attempt to abandon his heart’s desires, as he could have, through Holy Speech.

For Holy Speech is an aspect of “the Three Points” (see Likutei Moharan 34). This is the Holy Speech between a person and his Creator; between a person and his fellow about fear of G-d; between a person and a tzaddik. With Holy Speech, even the most utterly despicable person can exit the very pits of spiritual descent and merit ascending to closeness to Hashem.

The wicked Bilaam and his students have no desire for such Holy Speech. It’s bad enough that they’re so greatly drawn after sexual desire – but not to attempt Holy Speech in the three aspects? And to add insult to injury – they actually sully their power of speech. They defile their G-d given power of speech with levity, gossip and slander, words of futility and bad language. They are especially guilty of bad mouthing true tzaddikim and honest people, through which they for sure place themselves far from “the Three Points”. In consequence, they sink themselves lower and lower into their wicked desires. And it’s not enough that they thereby damage themselves. Rather, they also desire to harm all of the Jewish people. Their evil words, that are an aspect of the wicked Bilaam, distance people from positive self-appraisal. Thank G-d, we have true tzaddikim that illuminate the good points of every Jew through their appropriate, encouraging speech.

Orach Chaim Hilchos Nisias Kappayim 5:12

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Parshas Balak

Speaking To G-d

Possuk 23:9 "…it is a people that will dwell solitarily. It shall not be reckoned amongst the nations"

The Jews are a holy people, characterized by solitude. They fulfill the exhortation of the prophet (Isaiah 26): “Come, My people! Enter your rooms and close the door; hide away for a short time until the anger has past”. When do they do this? When they engage in hisbodedus/ solitary conversation with Hashem, pouring out their innermost thoughts to Him at every opportunity and being ever mindful of life’s true purpose.

Through hisbodedus the Jewish people secure themselves from all troubles, enemies and instigators. They conceal themselves under the wings of Hashem, so to speak, as expressed in the verse (Psalms 32: 7): “You are my hiding place, preserving me from trouble…” This relates to (Devarim 33:28) “Yisrael shall dwell in safety, alone/bedad (etymologically related to hisbodedus)…” and (Psalms 4: 9): “…for You, Hashem – bedad, make me dwell securely” Through being alone in hisbodedus with Hashem, the Jewish people are able to always dwell in safety: By placing their dwelling place and trust in Him, striving to remove their thoughts from the world’s futilities and annul their will to His.

The Targum Yonasan and Yerushalmi explains that “ they shall not be reckoned amongst the nations” means that Jewish people do not get enmeshed in the social conduct of the nations. They do not pursue the social pastimes of the nations, the race to amass material possessions, silver trinkets and jewelry and the like. Rather, they turn their thoughts from all worldly nonsense and practice hisbodedus, pouring out their words to Hashem with intense yearning and desire.

And so it states (verse 10): “ Who can count the dust of Ya’acov?” This means: Who can count and evaluate the holiness of every step that a Jew takes over dust, when he is headed towards a holy matter, to a synagogue, to a study hall, to greet his Rabbi, or to pour out his words in hisbodedus. With every single step that he takes over the dust of the earth, the Jew effects great tikkunim/rectifications and Heavenly delight. They are priceless and beyond all measure.

Orach Chaim Hilchos Birchas HaShachar 5:87

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Parshas Chukas

Tzaddikim Must Descend To The Common Folk

Possuk 19:3 "…and he [Elozor] takes her [the red heifer] outside the camp "

All activity regarding the parah adumah/red heifer is conducted “outside” the camp. This relates to the idea that the tzaddik is required to occasionally break from learning Torah. There are times that he must exit his holy “four walls” and discuss mundane matters with the common folk. It’s through this specifically that he is able to draw people close to Hashem.

Thus, all sacrificial activity is performed inside the Temple, the repository of the revelation of holiness. The exception is the parah adumah, where the service is “outside”, corresponding to bittul Torah/the annulment of Torah study. For the Torah relates to the concept of the bayis/house, corresponding to the first letter beis of Bereishis (the first word in the Torah), which relates to the idea of “head of the house”. Bittul Torah is an aspect of “going outside the house”. When the true tzaddik must do this, to desist from learning, he is nevertheless able to regenerate himself with the Torah Ha’ne’elemess/hidden Torah (see Likutei Moharan II:78).
The fact that the service of the parah is conducted outside, conveys the idea of bittul Torah and the Torah Ha’ne’elemess. For the concepts associated with the parah itself are ne’elemess/hidden from the world. This was expressed by King Solomon: “I said that I would gain wisdom; however it remains far from me” – i.e. hidden, like the Torah Ha’ne’elemess.
Thus we find that the parah is able to purify the deepest of all tumah/spiritual impurity – the tumah arising from a dead body (tumas mes). For this tumah is termed the “father” of them all – avi avos ha’tumah, related to the primary of the nations, Amalek. And the essence of Amalek stems from the pollution of the primordial snake that brought death to the world with the desire of adultery (of Chava). (Death and adultery are connected in the verses that deal with the adulterous woman: “Her final end is the path of death” and “I have found her more bitter than death”). Someone that has fallen to this tumah (i.e.adultery) can only become purified through the true tzaddik. Only the true tzaddik knows how to draw chessed chinam/unrestrained loving-kindness over such a soul from the Supernal otzar matnas chinam/ “storehouse of free gifts”, which the tzaddik taps into when he desists from learning. This is the concept of the Torah Ha’ne’elemess in respect to its relation to the physical world. And this is an aspect of the secret of the parah adumah, whose entire service is conducted outside, related to the Torah Ha’ne’elemess that purifies tumas mes.
This is the explanation of the well-known paradox of the parah adumah, namely, that it purifies spiritually impure people while at the same time imparting impurity to spiritually pure people. For when the tzaddik desists from Torah study he is able to regenerate all the common folk and those distant from religion, and purify them from their great tumah. But in respect to the tzaddik this is termed bittul Torah and is considered a yeridah/spiritual descent for him; it is a measure of tumah in relation to the great value of his holiness that he attains when firmly attached to his Torah (see Likutei Moharan II:38). Lowering himself to deal with mundane matters is a relative descent for him, albeit temporary. Nevertheless, the tzaddik ascends to his previous spiritual level after he has bestowed benefit to the world.

In summary: The bittul Torah of the true tzaddik relates to the parah adumah in the aspect of imparting tumah to the pure while purifying the impure. For in respect to the tzaddik the bittul is considered a temporary tumah somewhat, for afterwards he immediately purifies himself. For the tumah that the parah imparts to those that deal with her is only temporary, lasting until the evening. And the tzaddik, like the parah, eternally cleanses souls from the greatest of impurities, that of death, with the concept of the parah, whose service is “outside”, related to the concept “the bittul of Torah is its existence”.

Choshen Mishpat Hilchos Matanah 3:12

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Parshas Korach

Sweetening Judgment With Loving Kindness

Possuk 16:2 "They rose up before Moshe…250 leaders of the assembly"

How do we understand the dispute of Korach and his assembly? After all, these were very great people, highly perceptive, possessing Holy Spirit. They were “leaders of the assembly, calculators of the appointed times” and heads of the judicial system. In particular, we need to comprehend the mental state of Korach: All our holy books tell us that he was the greatest of all the Levi’im, so how could he fall so far and contend with Moshe and Aharon?

The answer to the enigma of Korach is that the entire episode reflects the idea that even great, awesome, tzaddikim have a yetzer hara/evil inclination. Their yetzer hara is an aspect of “angel of the Holy One” – meaning, upper worldly and spiritually powerful forces and din/judgments, which are supposed to be sweetened by the tzaddik. These tzaddikim need to use their da’as/wisdom in great battle against their formidable yetzer hara - even though it is actually holy and pure! If they don’t – they are in big trouble. If they cause blemish, not sweetening din as they should, they run the risk of making great mistakes and falling foul of tremendous blunders.
The effects of mistakes of this sort differ in degree. Some tzaddikim remained righteous to their dying day, despite the fact that they caused terrible harm. Others, however, did not deal appropriately with their awesome yetzer hara. This caused their yetzer to pursue them, casting them lower and lower until they reached the very lowest spiritual level – to deny the very existence of the Al-mighty.
The classic example of this is the case of “the four [Rabbis] that entered Paradise”. They were obviously very great Rabbis – after all they had merited entering Paradise. Despite this, only Rabbi Akiva exited intact from the experience. Both Ben Azzai and Ben Zoma had injured themselves by “peeking”, until they eventually died from the encounter. This notwithstanding, they remained tzaddikim until their dying day, despite the damage that they had wrought. In contrast, the Rabbi known as Acher kitzeitz be’netios/cut off at the very root of Judaism, completely going off the religious track.
The basis of Acher's mistake lay in his misunderstanding of the concept of the angel. In Paradise he had seen mem tet tet, the “angel of the interior”, to whom had been given permission to write the merits of human beings, etc. The source of Acher's error arose from the power of din that the angel represented. But instead of withstanding the test and jettisoning his own understanding and wisdom, he rather relied on his own contemplation of the matter. This led him to kitzeitz be’netios, Heaven help us. The aspect of din associated with the angel had been intended as a trial for Acher. This is the concept of the “upper worldly” yetzer, corresponding to the “angel of the Holy One” and the aspect of din and powerful forces, mentioned above.

This, then, is the explanation of the entire episode of Korach.

Korach was the greatest of all the Levi’im. And it is well known that the tribe of Levi is an aspect of the root of all awesome, holy din. The Cohen, on the other hand, though being a member of the tribe of Levi, actually corresponds to the concept of chessed/loving kindness. For this reason, Hashem gave the Levi’im as an accompaniment to the Cohanim when performing the sacrifices – in order to subsume the concept of Levi within that of Cohen, thereby sweetening din at its root. This sweetens all dinim/judgments at the root, rectifying all the spiritual worlds, enabling forgiveness and atonement for all sins. For all transgressions, willful or inadvertent, arise from evil urges that arise from the concept of dinim, when the din is not sweetened at its root. This is why the Cohen alone could not achieve the atonement and rectification provided by the Temple service; din needs to be sweetened at the root. Therefore, the Levi must accompany the Cohen, be subordinate and serve him in the Temple service, as it states: "They will accompany you and serve you".
Through the Levi – whose spiritual root is din – being secondary to and serving the Cohen in the Temple, the din-Levi thereby becomes encompassed in the chessed-Cohen. In this way the din of the Levi, the root of din, is sweetened, reflecting the concept of "sweetening the din at its root", which is the principal rectification. This "sweetening" neutralizes the power of the yetzer, which is rooted in din, enabling atonement and forgiveness for sins.
Now, Korach was a Levi – and the greatest one, at that. It follows that tremendous dinim and power gripped at his very essence, corresponding to his very great spiritual level. For all dinim are essentially extremely holy and pure, effecting completion and rectification of the spiritual worlds. None of us must ever forget, however, the need to sweeten the dinim by encompassing them in chessed, for this is our entire spiritual task.
Unfortunately, Korach did forget. Corresponding to the greatness of his spiritual standing and attendant dinim, Korach was required to sweeten them by complete self-annulment to Aharon the Cohen, the very epitome of chessed. However, Korach's pride got the better of him, causing din to entrap him. Failing the test, he came to envy Aharon and thereby miss the opportunity to subsume his din within the chessed. Once his heart caused him to separate from Aharon, tremendous dinim rose within him, causing even greater division between them. In a vicious spiral, the increasing division increased the dinim, exacerbating the division and increasing the dinim ever further.
The great dinim and power at Korach's spiritual root gained the upper hand over him, casting him down completely, causing him to dispute with Hashem and His chosen ones, Moshe and Aharon, and the entire Torah. The power of his dinim that lay grip on his evil desires, gave him the mastery to negatively influence the great tzaddikim, possessors of Holy Spirit, leaders of the judicial system, princes of the assembly and calculators of the appointed times.

The essential yetzer hara of spiritually great people is the concept of power and dinim that they fail to sweeten. Korach, the Levi rooted in din, did not merit sweetening din. This then gave him the power to so negatively influence the leaders of Israel.

Hilchos Shiluach Ha'ken 4:8

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Parshas Sh’lach Le’cha

The Good & Evil of Wine

Possuk 13:20 "… and the time was the period of the first ripe grapes"

We must be careful to avoid drinking wine on a regular weekday. Most of us are not able to attain the level of “wine that gladdens”. Therefore, the opposite takes place “it desolates”. In addition, wine rises blood boiling to the maximum, corresponding to the verse (Mishlei/Proverbs 23:31) “Don’t look at wine when it is red”, which is an aspect of the rise of the klippas Amalek (the thickest crust of evil – Amalek), that has grasp on the blood in the left ventricle of the heart. And this corresponds to the fouling of blood that is an aspect of sadness and blues, from which stems all earthly desires – particularly sexual desire.

Therefore the entire flaw of the spies that were sent at the time of Moshe was through the blemish of grapes – which is the blemish of wine. It was through this that Adam HaRishon (the first man) marred the world, as Chazal (our Sages) teach (Bereishis Rabbah 19:5) “She squeezed the grapes and handed it to him”. Noach also fell in this area when he left the ark after the floodwaters had subsided. And so we find that the majority of the spies were together grasping the large cluster of grapes.

Consequently, the Torah states “the time was the period of the first ripe grapes” to indicate that the entire fall and mistake of the spies stemmed from grapes, the source of wine, causing them to err in their opinion and declare that conquest of Israel would be impossible. And their main mistake was through klippas Amalek. For they were men of great intellect and perceived that Amalek was an extremely powerful evil force. They failed, however, to overcome their personal opinion in favor of Moshe to say that, despite the negative factors, Moshe had the ability to subdue and uproot Amalek. Thus, Chazal tell us (Bereishis Rabbah 16:18) that they frightened all the people specifically with Amalek: “Amalek dwells in the south”. Therefore their fall came about through the cluster of grapes, since klippas Amalek has the greatest grasp on grapes in the aspect of wine. This is the meaning of (Devarim 32:32): “Their grapes are grapes of gall; their clusters are bitter”, relating to the force of the blood.

Joshua, however, was rescued from the bad advice of the spies through the power of Moshe. Joshua subdues and detaches the klippas Amalek. Therefore, he didn’t trip through the grapes which the spies blemished the land of Israel. On the contrary, he actually merited bringing all the Jewish people into the land.

Accordingly, on Purim, the time of the main destruction of Amalek, it is a great mitzvah to drink wine. Then, we are able to subdue Amalek specifically through wine, through which we attain simchah/joy. For Amalek’s main defeat is through simchah.

Orach Chaim Hilchos Shabbos 7:68 (Otzar Ha’yira Shichrus 3)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Parshas Beha’aloscha

Emunah Ensures Eternal Success

Possuk 12:7 "…he [Moshe] is ne’eman (trusted) in all My house"

The continued existence of the world depends on emunah/faith, as it states: “…and all His deeds with emunah”. And the entire Torah rests on emunah, as it states: “…all your mitzvos are emunah”. Similarly, Chazal (our Sages) teach that ‘Habakkuk came and established them [all the mitzvos] on one: “a tzaddik lives with his emunah”. For, thank G-d, we have Moshe Rabbeinu - the truly ‘ish ne’eman’/trusted man, the one fitting to rely upon. He caused us everlasting success and appraised us with what we need to trade in this world of ours – a world that is very far from the upper worlds. For we only come here in order to acquire merchandise for those ‘far off places’. Over there we will succeed and profit greatly from the wares in which we traded specifically in this physical world – a great, wondrous and awesome profit, immeasurable and priceless “unseen by human eye” (see Likutei Moharan II 55).

Only, no one knows with what he is rewarded in that world that is far from our country, where we must return. Therefore, Hashem took pity on us, sending us the “faithful shepherd” – Moshe Rabbeinu – he that is “ne’eman in all My house”. He took pity on us, brought us to prevail, enlightened our eyes and informed us of the entire Torah, transmitting it to us directly from Hashem. He instructed us regarding all the holy merchandise that we need to trade in, in this world: Wearing tzitzis, laying tefillin and all the rest of the awesome, holy mitzvos.

For sure, we don’t have to waste our days, G-d forbid, in investigating whether or not we will actually succeed with our wares. But someone that does probe and question is not only a heretic – he’s also foolish, foolhardy, simple and mad. Can there be anyone so stupid as to desire that evil wisdom - the delving after the ish ne’eman, wanting to know from his own perspective specifically, to understand with his intellect, why one should “prosper” from this merchandise?

Lets explain this by way of analogy. Let’s say that trustworthy people - those possessing true awesome wisdom - write to him from afar. They tell him to speedily trade in specific goods with absolute alacrity and care, for he will make huge, unbounded profit. And yet he willfully slackens, first wanting to check out why these goods are so important in that place. While doing his investigation he fails to do any trade, wasting away his time with vanity and emptiness. He will then arrive in that place in abject embarrassment, completely lacking anything good. All the more so, if he brings articles that are forbidden in that place, where they penalize the transporters of such items with difficult and bitter punishments, unlimited in quantity. Woe to that embarrassment and disgrace!

The message is clear. Moshe Rabbeinu and all the tzaddikim, the early and latter prophets, all the sages of the Mishnah and Gemara – all have written to us, exhorting us to fulfill the Torah of Moshe. They tell us that, through this, we will be successful in the next world. And they are all trustworthy people, wise and intelligent. And they truly love us. Certainly we do not need to investigate them, Heaven forbid. We just need to trust them and walk in their path. In this way, we’ll be able to trade in all the holy goods – the Torah and mitzvos. We don’t need to waste our time on any investigation, scrutinizing their validity, G-d forbid. Rather we have to occupy our lives in gathering and trading in that special merchandise that is ‘dearer than gold and pearls’, without equal in value.

Therefore we find that Shlomo Hamelech in Mishlei/Proverbs praises emunah with the words “Who can find a woman of valor [i.e. emunah]…?” Holy emunah is termed a woman of valor, for Rebbe Nachman teaches that truth and emunah correspond to the man and woman (see Likutei Moharan 7). And Shlomo praises emunah, the ‘woman of valor’, in this entire song, using terms of profit and success. This entire wondrous song, from start to finish, praises her with the goods that she is successful and profitable with. For the main success in our ‘holy merchandise’ is by way of the ‘woman of valor’ – holy emunah. This is as the Arizal writes throughout his works that emunah is an aspect of malchus/sovereignty, corresponding to the ‘G-d fearing woman’, an aspect of the ‘woman of valor’. Therefore, “she is like the merchant ships - from afar she brings her food”. For by way of holy emunah, relying on Moshe Rabbeinu and all the tzaddikim that follow his path, we are able to transport merchandise to far away places and bring our bread and sustenance to eternity from afar. For even if we ourselves are uninformed as to what to bring there, nevertheless, the truly ish ne’eman has informed us of what merchandise to bring in order to be always successful there.

Yoreh De’ah Hilchos Gilu’ach 4:3

Monday, May 25, 2009

Parshas Nasso

Non-Torah Wisdom Can Cause Adultery

Possuk 5:12 "If a man’s wife goes off, being treacherous to him a treachery"

At the spiritual root, the woman is an aspect of chochmah tatta’ah/wisdom of this lower world, corresponding to [the sefirah of] malchus/sovereignty. But the sitra achara and klippos (incorporation of evil forces) – which are an aspect of chochmos chitzonios/ “outside wisdoms” that are related to the “exile by the four kingdoms” – lie close to the malchus. They are continually burrowing and waxing strong to derive nourishment from malchus, to attach themselves there, most. For this reason, we find ourselves in the great spiritual war for good, even when engaged in permissible matters.

How much more is this true for someone that has caused a spiritual blemish through sin, G-d forbid. Through sinning, one gives the evil forces great power to sustain themselves from the malchus. This makes possible the creation of complete heresy, Heaven save us.

Thus Chazal (our Sages) explain that the double terminology “she is treacherous to her man a treachery” signifies a double fold treachery: To the “Man of war” above i.e. Hashem, and to the man i.e. her husband, down here. Her treachery to “the Man above” lies in her having enabled heresy to increase, Heaven save us.

And so Chazal explain “if his wife tisteh/goes off” means that adultery only happens when a spirit of shtoos/folly [related to tisteh] enters the adulterers. For it is certain that p'gam ha’bris (sexual misdemeanor) and adultery only stem from the klippos that are an aspect of chochmos chitzonios – truly complete shtoos in contrast to the true wisdom of holiness.

Even Ha’Ezer Hilchos Gittin 4:5 (according to Otzar Ha’Yirah – Bris 113)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Parshas Bemidbar

Attaining Torah In Impure Places

Possuk 1:1 "Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Sinai wilderness, in the ohel mo’ed…"

The Torah was given in the midbar (wilderness) for good reason.

Yisrael (the Jewish people) wandered in the midbar for forty years. The Mishkan (Tabernacle) accompanied them for that entire period of forty years in the midbar. It was there that Hashem spoke to Moshe and that Yisrael received the Torah from him.

The Torah is telling us the following: Before we can attain some revelation in Torah or avodah (spiritual work) – which is an aspect of our original receiving the Torah – we need to first undergo confusion, doubts, impeding forces, improper desires, disturbances and the like. All this is drawn from an aspect of the places of the chitzonim/impure forces, which receive their vitality from the power of the disappearance of the ma’amar satum/ “closed statement”, corresponding to ayei/ “where” (see Likutei Moharan II 12).

Thus, when the impeding forces and confusion become stronger – and we have no way out of them, to find Hashem’s honor – and we fortify ourselves, and search, request and beseech, even there, “Ayei/where is the place of his honor?”…then the “descent is for the purpose of ascent”. For then we merit to ascend to an aspect of the ma’amar satum at its root, which is the root of all the ma’amros/statements and the entire Torah – and hence merit to draw Torah from there.

This corresponds to the receipt of the Torah right there in the midbar, after the power of the Egyptian exile. For the power of the subjugation of the Egyptian exile, the exile of the body and soul, caused “Yisrael cried out to Hashem”. They had no plan of action how to escape. They just “grabbed on to the art of their forefathers” and cried out to Hashem, yearning and beseeching to find Hashem’s honor. Through this they attained redemption. Then they wandered in the midbar, “a place of snakes, serpents and scorpions and thirst, etc.”, corresponding to the places of the chitzonim, far from Hashem’s honor. It was in that place that they requested and sought Hashem – until they merited receiving the Torah. That is the meaning of “descent for the purpose of ascent”. For it is specifically when we are in the midbar, the places of chitzonim, requesting and seeking after His honor, that we merit to receive there the Torah that is drawn from an aspect of ayei – through that merit of the request and search specifically in the places of chitzonim, that correspond to the midbar.

Choshen Mishpat Hilchos G’vias Chov M’ha’yesomim 3:8 (see also 9-11 according to the Otzar Ha’Yirah – Yirah Ve’avodah 116)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Parshas Behar/Bechukosiye

Seeking Hashem In Business

Possuk 25:14 "When you sell something to your fellow Jew"

It’s known in the mystical writings that extracting the “holy sparks” is the entire purpose of all the worldly occupations, creative activity and business involvement, that are subsumed within the thirty-nine melachos (categories of act involved in the Sanctuary). The main way to effect the extraction is by remembering Hashem when we’re involved in business. And so it states (Devarim 8:18): “You shall remember Hashem, your G-d, for [or when] He is the One that gives you strength to produce wealth”.

This is why we should have business dealings specifically with our fellow Jews. Thus Rashi cites our Sages, that “when you sell something to one of your people” tells us that we ought to sell only to a Jew and that “[when] you buy something from one of your people” tells us that we ought to buy only from a Jew. Therefore it would be appropriate to try, as much as possible, to be in the company of fitting and fair people when traveling or engaging in business at home. Then, we should regularly speak with them in words of Torah and fear of Heaven in a fashion that will remind them – and they will remind us – every day, about the final purpose. Thus, the Zohar mentions that it is forbidden to travel unless one has a companion with whom he can engage in Torah discussion.

Even if we don’t find such people when involved in our business, nevertheless we must be careful with our thoughts, not to forget Hashem at the time of our transactions. We must greatly desire that we and our clients and suppliers will be drawn towards Hashem and His Torah. This was Hashem’s intent in circulating business activity and melachos in the world; everything is for the purpose of extracting the “holy sparks”.

The main thing is that through bargaining and business dealings people join together to the point that, at last, truth will gain sway in the hearts of all Jews and every one will draw his fellow until all will return to Hashem and His Torah.

Orach Chaim Hilchos Beis Ha’Knesses 6:24

Monday, April 27, 2009

Acharei Mos-Kedoshim

Out Of Order: Digression for Progression

Possuk16:24 "He washed his flesh in water in a holy place, and dressed in his clothes.."

It is very difficult to start the spiritual war for Hashem – the extraction of the holy sparks from the depths of the klippos/impure forces – until we first feel some flashing or illumination from the pleasantness of kedushah/holiness and Heavenly avodah/service. Only then does it seem possible to start the ascent, level by level, in avodah. Similarly, it’s only possible to increasingly ascend upwards in levels, once the holiness has been extracted from the klippos and once we first rectify the blemishes that we have wrought.

Really, we don’t know where to start. Therefore we need great wisdom for this, jumping from one matter to another; sometimes engaging in an aspect of one avodah, other times in an aspect of some thing else.

With this we can well understand Abaye’s order of the Temple avodah (Yoma 33a, read every morning). There were a number of stages in the avodah that were not performed completely sequentially, one stage finishing completely before beginning the next. They started with the large arrangement of wood but did not continue with the two logs of wood. Rather they continued with the second arrangement of ketores/incense. There are many wondrous anomalies there. Sometimes the Cohen is busy with the avodah outside and then, before finishing that, he is required to perform the avodah inside. All this is because we need to jump from the wisdom of one avodah to another: From the avodah of the outside to the inside, and from the inside to the outside. For who of us is greater than the Cohen Gadol on Yom Kippur, who had to constantly change from outside to inside and from inside to outside?

However, the battle is more powerful each time: Each avodah has to be conducted with great wisdom, while the sitra achara and klippos strengthen themselves anew with every single avodah. And so, many people fail and fall in their avodah and can’t withstand the battle. This caused the destruction of both Temples and causes all calamities that befall the Jewish nation.

Therefore the main consolation for us now is the holy Torah. Our Sages teach us: “Since the destruction of the Temple, Hashem only has [desire for] the four amos of halachah in his world”. This is so, since the holy Torah encompasses all the aspects of holy avodah in the world. When we truly engage in Torah study, it is as if we are engaged in all the avodas of inside and outside. And, regarding Torah study, there is no requirement to have specific intent of order, jumping from one avodah to another, because Torah includes them all. Through occupation with Torah alone, all rectifications are automatically and completely made, each one in its rightful manner. For this reason our Sages tell us that “it [the Torah] is more precious than pearls/peninim (related to p’nim/inside)”. They mean that the Torah is more precious than the Cohen Gadol - the only person that goes into the innermost/lifni ve’lifnim/the Holy of Holies (in the Temple, on Yom Kippur). For true absorption in Torah study rises above all holy avodas – even above that of the Cohen Gadol on Yom Kippur. It “enters” even further inside/lifnim than the concept of lifni ve’lifnim; it corresponds to “more precious than peninim”. The reason for this is that the Torah is composed of all the tikkunim/rectifications, fixing everything together.

In respect to our need for a certain order in our avodah – the Torah informs and instructs us in the appropriate order. That’s why it’s called “Torah” – for it teaches/morah a path for penitents, for everyone in the world – whichever place he is in. Thus our main comfort and consolation is the Torah. It corresponds to the “four amos of halachah”, which is an aspect of the four amos that every person occupies, whichever place he is in.

Choshen Mishpat Hilchos Chalukas Shutfim 5:11,12 according to the Otzar Ha’Yirah, Yirah Ve’Avodah 126

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Seven: Days of Orlah and Canaanite Nations

Possuk 12:3 "He shall circumcise the flesh of his foreskin on the eighth day"

Torah, the land of Israel and the mitzvah of milah (circumcision) - which is tikkun ha’bris (rectification of the covenant i.e. sexual misdemeanors) - are all bound together. It is only possible to merit the land of Israel through the mitzvah of milah, which is tikkun ha’bris. We see this in the verse: “He cut the bris/covenant with him to give him the Canaanite land”. Similarly, Rashi explains the verse in Joshua “and this is the matter/word that Joshua circumcised them”, to mean that he circumcised them through speech. Joshua said to them: “Do you think to inherit the land uncircumcised?”

This relates to the seven days of orlah/uncircumcised state that pass over the infant before his milah. It corresponds to the seven nations that were in possession of the land of Israel, before being transferred to the Jewish people once they performed circumcision. This is the meaning of the verse: “He cut with him the bris to give him the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite and Emorite”, and reckons all the seven nations that are exiled through tikkun ha’bris, corresponding to milah that is performed on the eighth day. For by the eighth day, all of the seven days of orlah have already passed over the infant, and chessed/loving kindness is revealed through the uncovering of the opening of the amah/reproductive member. This chessed, initially closed and hidden during the seven days of orlah, is revealed through milah. Through this we are able to conquer the land of Israel – for everything is bound together.

Yoreh Deah Hilchos Milah 3:5

Friday, April 24, 2009


Wealth, Contemplation and the Cohen Gadol

Possuk 21:10 "And the Cohen that is greater than his colleagues, upon whose head the oil of anointment has been poured…"

In Likutei Moharan (1:60) it states that there is a level of contemplation in Torah that can only be reached through great wealth. This wealth can only be attained through the rectifications [at the level] of Atik/Ancient One, corresponding to the concept of an elder and "length of days". One merits this concept of elder/length of days through fear of G-d, as in (Mishlei/Proverbs 10:27): "Fear of G-d prolongs [the] days [of one's life]". Through this fear we merit shemiras ha'bris (“guarding the covenant” i.e. guarding from sexual transgression) and thus merit wealth [by being protected from the poverty that results from sexual misdemeanors]. One can merit this level of fear by awakening others from their spiritual slumber through the relating of moralistic stories and parables. Some of these stories are an aspect of "former times", corresponding to hadras panim/beautiful countenance that corresponds to "abundant kindness".

The Cohen embodies the concept of abundant kindness and hadras panim; he merits drawing he'aras panim/illuminating countenance over all Jewry, that "awakens from slumber". Through this, he draws wealth and is thus able to attain profound contemplation. This underlies the special blessing of the Cohen (Bemidbar 6:24): "Hashem bless you" – with money, i.e. wealth; "May Hashem cause His countenance to ya'er/illuminate you", corresponding to he'aras panim, hadras panim, corresponding to parables of former times. For these parables correspond to abundant kindness and hadras panim, through which "countenances of holiness" are returned and drawn over Jewry, an illumination of Hashem's "face" as expressed in "Hashem will cause His countenance to illuminate you". For the Cohen embodies the concept of the "teacher of holiness", occupied in arousing Jews from their spiritual slumber to Hashem.

The Cohen draws fear of G-d to the Jewish people, since he is occupied with the offerings in the Temple, which is identified with fear of G-d. For it specifically states the words "former times" in respect to the Temple service (Malachi 3:4): "And then the offerings of Yehudah and Yerushalayim shall be pleasant to Hashem, as in the days of old and former times". And "former times" relates to hadras panim, corresponding to the tales of "former times" that arouse people from their slumber, causing the attainment of fear, corresponding to the Temple service.

Therefore the Cohen Gadol, the "great" Cohen, obtains "great" wealth. For the Sages explain the above verse: "The Cohen that is greater than his colleagues" - Make him greater than his colleagues. And he merits this "wealth of holiness" by way of the fear that results from hadras panim of the tales of former years, which are an aspect of abundant kindness that corresponds to the Cohen. Through this wealth he attains deep contemplation.

This is the meaning of "the oil of anointment…upon his head". This relates to the contemplation by the intellect, which corresponds to shemen mishchas kodesh (oil of holy anointment). This is why the Torah explains its caution to make the Cohen Gadol great and wealthy. It states "make the Cohen Gadol great, asher (because) the anointment oil is poured on his head". For his head is anointed with the holy oil that corresponds to contemplation and he must constantly draw and illuminate the anointing oil over his head, corresponding to (Koheles 9): "Oil shall not be diminished [from being poured] over your head". Therefore he merits great wealth – in order to merit contemplation.

Now, all of the Cohanim are encapsulated in the Cohen Gadol – whose all-inclusive status derives from them – therefore nearly all the Cohanim merit great holy wealth. Their wealth derived from the fact that “the ketoret/incense offering makes wealthy the one that offers it” and no one was allowed to offer it twice – in order to allow all the Cohanim to become wealthy. All merited the wealth, drawn down through fear of G-d that is an aspect of their service in the Temple. Through this they merited the ability to contemplate, corresponding to the oil of holy anointment.

Therefore, Cohanim are more sanctified in kedushas ha’bris (sanctification of the covenant i.e. sexual relations) than the rest of the Jewish people. They have more mitzvas in kedushas ha’bris, as in (21:6) “They shall be holy” and “They may not marry a prostitute or chalalah [or] a divorcee”. Similarly [when Moshe Rabbeinu blessed the tribe of Levi, containing all Cohanim], we find (Devarim 33:9) “…for they kept Your commandment and they will guard Your covenant”. For they merit fear of G-d, as mentioned above [through the Temple service], thus meriting shemiras ha’bris, (as cited above from Likutei Moharan), and consequently meriting wealth.

Hilchos Pidyon Peter Chamor 2:1,3

Monday, March 9, 2009

Parshas Ki Sissa

Seeking Out the Holiness of One’s Rav

Likutei Halachos on Parshas Ki Sissa

Translated by R. Dov Grant

Possuk 32:1 "The people saw that Moshe delayed in descending the mountain. And the people rose up together against Aharon and said to him: ‘Arise! Make gods for us that will go before us. For this Moshe – the man that brought us up from Egypt – we don’t know what happened to him"

Look carefully at the above incident with penetrating truth. It’s clear that the entire mistake of the Israelites was their failure to adequately seek out the holiness of their rav/ teacher, Moshe. Since they didn't know what had become of Moshe, they spiritually descended so much - by way of the eiruv rav (mixed multitude) – to the point that they wanted to make other gods.

They did not take to heart the truth of the matter. They should have drawn the opposite conclusion. After all, Moshe had done so many good things for them and had revealed Hashem's G-dliness – such an awesome and wonderful revelation at the giving of the Torah. Therefore, if he had currently disappeared from them, it must be for their good – in order that they should increase their attempts to search out and request the holiness of his ruach hakodesh. They just needed to do this until it would become increasingly clear, as in fact was the case, that Moshe had ascended to the heavens in order to receive the other Torah mitzvos – to ever increasingly rectify and purify them in a holistic way. They just needed to hold their positions and hope for Hashem's salvation, seeking, requesting and desiring him - until he would return to them and teach and enlighten them with the entire Torah. This is how Yehoshuah conducted himself. He stood by the mountain, waiting for his teacher, Moshe, as chazal tell us. He would look heavenwards, only hoping that Moshe would appear and return to him.

Unfortunately, they weren't careful with this and caused the calamity that is the source of all destruction and exile, due to our many sins. For with the sin of the golden calf came the return of the primordial snake's poison, from which is drawn all current heresy – the cause of the prolongation of our exile, due to our many sins.

The rectification for all this is through the true tzaddikim in every generation that possess an aspect of ruach hakodesh – even in our days (explained at length in Likutei Moharan II 8). However, we need to greatly search out and request the true tzaddik at all times – even if we already have started to find him.

Likutei Halachos Choshen Mishpat Hilchos Sheluchim 5-10