Erev Shabbos Parshas VaYeitzei 5781

A gitten erev Shabbos! This week’s parsha is Parshas VaYeitzei.

The Midrash Rabah teaches us something very interesting on the posuk “והיה זרעך כעפר הארץ” (And your descendants shall be like dust of the earth). It says there that Klal Yisroel will be like the dust of the earth is a reference to how we will survive through Torah: just like the earth is nourished through water, so will Yidden be blessed through the Torah. This specific verse comes from the blessing that Hashem gave Yaakov Avinu by the story of the Sulam HaShamaima (Ladder of Heaven). The Midrash doesn’t just say over interesting ideas, there’s more we’re meant to understand than simply what it says.

The Zohar HaKodosh and the Tikkunim teach us that Torah Sh’b’ksav (Written Torah) corresponds with the sefirah of Tiferes; as does Yaakov Avinu. Torah Sh’baal Peh (Oral Torah) corresponds to Malchus, which is Rochel. When Hashem blessed Yaakov with this blessing that his descendants will be nourished by way of Torah, this didn’t only mean Torah Sh’b’ksav, since He obviously knew that Yaakov would come together with Rochel. This is also part of a remez we can see when Yaakov kissed Rochel before they got married: that the Torah Sh’b’ksav loves the Torah Sh’baal Peh, and ultimately requires this for the Tikkun (rectification) of Malchus, however this was improper before the chuppah at Matan Torah. The Sulam HaShamaima also leads to much contemplation, the Malochim climbing up and down the ladder and the general imagery.

Hashem blessed Yaakov, he being the Torah Sh’b’ksav and Tiferes, that his descendants will be like the dust of the earth; earth corresponds to Malchus, the manifest world. Rochel corresponds to Malchus and hence to Torah Sh’baal Peh in nigleh specifically, while Leah corresponds to Binah and Sod, since Binah is removed from the order of manifestation and hidden, as Leah concealed herself. In order for all Tikkunim to be made as is proper, Tiferes has to unify with Malchus, the Torah Sh’b’ksav with the Torah Sh’baal Peh. The goal however is not to simply remain in Malchus, rather we must ascend the Sulam to the world of Binah through understanding the secrets of Torah. We can even see support for the idea that it is crucial to learn chassidus, which is founded in secrets of Torah, even before knowing Torah Sh’baal Peh so well, through Yaakov marrying Leah first, since Leah corresponds to Binah as stated above. Ultimately, our key purpose in life as Yidden must be to strive to ascend the ladder to Shamayim and serve Hashem as best we can, to cleave to Hashem with fiery love and passion fueled by His Torah.

Erev Shabbos Parshas Toldos 5781

A gitten erev Shabbos! This week’s parsha is Parshas Toldos, in which Yitzchok and Rivkah give birth to Yaakov Avinu and Esav, along with Yaakov acquiring the brochos from Yitzhok instead of Esav, and the story of the B’eiros (Wells) as well as many fascinating inyonim.

It is well known that Yitzchok Avinu was forbidden by Hashem to leave Eretz Yisroel. The reasonable question is “Why?” To paraphrase a section from the Zohar HaKodosh on this parsha, it says there that since Yitzchok was the aspect of Yirah v’Fachad (Awe and Fear), he couldn’t leave Eretz Yisroel because the true Yiras Hashem is only there. Rebbe Nachman says in various Toros of his that Eretz Yisroel is the aspect of Emunah, meaning that Emunah is Eretz Yisroel mamesh. To explain, rather than interpreting every single reference to Eretz Yisroel in Rebbe Nachman’s Toros to mean the literal, physical place, we can understand this to refer to existing in the state of Emunah and truly living with it. Learning this way, we can say that the Zohar HaKodosh is saying that the aspect of Yiras Hashem cannot exist outside of Emunah, and that Emunah is the pre-requisite to this aspect of our avodah.

In regards to the B’eiros, it says in the parsha that Yitzchok went and re-dug the wells that Avrohom dug but were covered by the Pilishtim (Phillistines). In says in the Zohar Chodosh says that this is not entirely correct, that the loshon “B’eiros,” which is plural, should be used, since the name of the place is B’er Sheva, meaning “A single well of seven.” What this refers to is that the Pilishtim returned to Avodah Zarah, viewing the “One Well of Seven,” which would be a reference to the מאציל הכל (Emanator of All, Hashem) as seven separate wells, referring to the Shiva Midos (Seven Lower Sefiros, Chesed through Malchus) saying that they are separate deities each one, chas v’sholom. So Yitzchok went and caused them to return to the proper monotheism that Avrohom taught them. Following this thread, we can say that through Yitzchok returning the Pilishtim to the ways of his father, he removed the dirt that was hindering the flow of Hashem’s beneficence to this world through their expressions in the Shiva Midos. The same mechanism occurs for a Yid who becomes trapped in the metaphorical Avodah Zarah of our days, and through removing these things a Yid can merit once again to the various brochos that Hashem wants to shower upon us all and share these with the world.

In relation to Yaakov stealing the brochos from Esav, this entire episode is packed with secrets. The Zohar HaKodosh teaches us that when Yaakov came in to Yitzchok to receive the brochos, Yitzchok smelled the “Field that Hashem blessed,” is a reference to how Yaakov smelled beautiful and sweet like Gan Eden; and on the contrast when Esav came in after Yaakov left, Yitzchok smelled the rancidness of Gehennom on Esav, hence why he trembled and was afraid. The Rebbe Rashab zy’a teaches us in the Maamar Podoh V’Sholom Nafshi from תרס”ח that this is the ikar avodah of a Yid. When we eat and engage in physical activities, we have to deceive the Sitra Achra by taking these things and elevating them to Shomayim through utilizing them in our avodas Hashem. This can be accomplished in differing degrees by people in different levels in their avodah, hence what it says in the gemoro that it is assur for amei haaretz (unlettered Jews) to eat meat and drink wine, whereas it is encouraged to fill the throat of a talmid chochom with wine. This is because talmidei chachomim and Tzaddikim have a greater capacity to elevate the physical through their involvement with Torah and their dedication to avodas Hashem.

The Torah is from even before Gan Eden, so we can say that we only merit the full brochos Yitzchok gave Yaakov, meaning the hashpo’os (Divine influences and bounty) from B’er Sheva, the One who expresses His bounty through seven fountains, through learning Torah and devoting our entire lives to d’veikus and avodas Hashem. The way to learn how to do this is to cleave to the Tzaddik Amiti, to watch such a Tzaddik and learn his ways and implement the secrets conveyed there into your own practice, once you understand the reasons for these practices and can hold to them l’shem Shomayim. If there is a taaruves (mixture) of anything not l’shem Shomayim, it shouldn’t be done, like the Baal Shem is quoted as saying in Keser Shem Tov, that one should not attempt to behave like his friend holding on a higher level in avodas Hashem; and like the gemoro that says many tried to learn all day without working like Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai and failed. The p’shat there on that gemoro, considering the Rambam who writes that everyone who accepts upon oneself to learn and serve Hashem and not to be involved with worldly matters receives the brochos of the Levi’im, is that they didn’t do it l’shem Shomayim – rather they did it in order to seem cool and be like R’ Shimon, the holiest man in existence in the generation! We have to accept upon ourselves to serve Hashem for its own sake, without any expectation of reward or punishment, and work constantly to climb closer to the highest of levels, to be like the Baal Shem Tov.

A git Shabbos! Hashem should bentsh us all with simcha, menuchas hanefesh, yishuv hadaas, we should all merit to attain the same spiritual levels as the holy Baal Shem Tov, as well as to all the influences of the Shiva Midos, and we should merit to see the face of Moshiach swiftly in our days!LikeCommentShare

The Wonders of Learning Nigleh

A common complaint about delving into the study of Gemara and Halacha is that it is dry and at times tedious. Some erroneously believe that someone can be a sincere Jew and minimize study in these areas, even misquoting the Baal Shem Tov and other chassidic sages, rachmana litzlan. Learning Keser Shem Tov, it is said in the name of the Baal Shem quite often that our ultimate goal should be to be learning or involved with active performance of a mitzvah constantly, with only a break in order to regather our energy and focus on gaining d’veikus HaBorei (cleaving to the Creator).

Rebbe Nachman teaches that the study of Gemara along with Halacha and the Poskim is incredibly important, not simply because it shows us how to be Jewish, but because this study accomplishes various things in the higher worlds. When a person learns how to distinguish between Tumah v’Tahor (Impure and Pure), Issur v’Heter (Forbidden and Permitted), and the various other halachic dualities, the Netzotzos HaKedoshim (Holy Sparks) are separated from the Klippah.

One other aspect of learning Nigleh (revealed Torah), particularly in the form of Gemara and Halacha rather than primarily Midrashim, is to create the Kli (vessel) needed to receive various Oros (Lights) and Hashpo’os (influences) from Hashem. The best comparison is to an architect building a castle with a treasury meant to hold valuables for a king. The architect will have a vision in his mind, which while it may be glorious is still only theoretical; after mapping this out in his head he will have to put together blueprints; and after this is done the actual building will be put together and the treasure can be placed into the treasury. The initial mental map of the castle is Midrashim and aspects of Kabbalah Iyunis (Contemplative Kabbalah), because this shows the general image of what will be, the ideal form so to speak; the blueprints which will be followed by him or his workers is the Gemara and various Halacha seforim, since these are the directions as to how to accomplish the ideal form; the construction of the building is the performance of the mitzvos according to Halacha. While the purpose of the blueprints and the building process isn’t the thing itself, it serves a greater purpose of turning an empty plot of land into something magnificent and capable of holding much value within. In this same way we find one purpose of learning Halacha and Gemara, that is to figure out the path which we need to follow in order to merit Hashroas HaShechinah (Dwelling of the Shechinah), and with that all the various Hashpo’os that we can merit for ourselves and others.

Parshas VaYera 5781

A gitten erev Shabbos! This week’s parsha is Parshas VaYera. One of the defining aspects of the parsha is the Akeidas Yitzchok (Binding of Isaac). While this incident may appear quite troubling according to a simple reading, there is far more to be uncovered and understood learning it according to Kabbalah.

In the Zohar HaKodosh there is much attention given to the Akeida, from detailed interactions of the Sefiros, to Avraham Avinu’s vision of Yaakov Avinu and his through process as to how Yaakov could be born without Yitzchok, etc. The essential point to be brought out though is that the Akeidas Yitzchok is the moment in which Din (Harsh Judgement) is bound by Chesed. This shows that Din can be sweetened through Chesed, which improves absolutely everything and is the principle avodah of a Yid. This is shown particularly through the Kavonnos (Kabbalistic prayer meditations) of the Ari, wherein one is directed to focus on the 13 Attributes of Mercy during the prayer after reciting the Akeida in the morning.

What we must first understand is what R’ Shimon bar Yochai and various rabbis have said about the Torah: it is not a storybook nor a history textbook. While the Torah is entirely Emes (Truth), it does not speak only on a simple, literal level. The primary purpose of our Torah is not to simply communicate a cultural history and some ancient customs, rather through the recounting of our history from Creation until crossing the Yarden (Jordan river) it illustrates various spiritual mechanics that occur constantly throughout the universe, on a microcosmic level in our personal lives, and on the macrocosmic level in the world and the supernal realms. Every aspect of Torah is included in this to one degree or another, such as Megillas Esther which is read in the current and future tense in order to show us that it is a constantly occurring process rather than a one-off event in Persia some 2200 years ago.

The Akeida is a perfect expression of this level beyond the p’shat. What we must learn from this is that we have to utilize our traits related to Chesed to bind Din and turn it into something good and useful for ourselves, without killing it. Hashem didn’t create Gevurah and Din in order for us to destroy it, that’s what He will complete when Moshiach comes; our job is simply to sweeten the Dinim through learning Torah and doing mitzvos, which is called doing Tzedakah for Hashem and the Shechinah in the Tikkunei Zohar, hence an aspect of Chesed. When we learn from the Yetzer HaRa, like the Baal Shem Tov says we need to, and commit to completing our task of learning x number of pages Gemara every day or saying a certain number of Tehillim at all costs with no compromise, then we have completed our own personal avodah of the Akeidas Yitzchok through binding the Dinim and sweetening them. We simply must be willing like Avraham Avinu to do what Hashem has asked us to do and pursue it with complete Emunah and Zerizus, as the Ramban learns on the description of his preparing the fire to take to the mountain to sacrifice Yitzchok. Through running to learn and filling ourselves with the fire of Torah and seeking d’veikus with Hashem, and then coming to bind our harsh aspects, we sweeten our personal Dinim and those of the world around us, one mitzvah at a time.

Hashem should bentsh us all with a frailiche lechtige Shabbos, we should merit to bind and sweeten all Dinim, and merit to behold Moshaich swiftly in our days. A git Shabbos!

Parshas Lech-Lecha 5781

A gitten erev Shabbos! This week’s parsha is Parshas Lech-Lecha. The literal meaning of the first two words of the parsha are “Go to you.” In reference to Avrohom Ovinu this refers to his having to leave his land and his father’s house in order to serve Hashem. As the Torah is eternal and meant to teach us various lessons until Hashem decides to end granting His enlivening influence to this world, we can see that what someone who is beginning to grow in spirituality must seek an escape from what they’re used to: from the way their parents taught them, away from the mental attitudes of their peers, and from the general distractions of physical life. This is not to encourage people to experiment with non-Torah forms of spirituality, rather to seek some form of isolation from the influences of their family and peers so as to engage in spiritual contemplations to reach their inner core, where the “Small still voice” of Hashem speaking through our neshomos can be heard.

The doors to avodas Hashem are never closed. It says in Maseches Geirim that this is the reason why Hashem waited to give the mitzva of bris milah to Avrohom Ovinu until he was 99 is in order for us to know that the doors are never closed to geirim, and they can always enter Klal Yisroel. This we can say is relevant even to born Jews. Hashem always wants people to enter avodas Hashem, so the gates are never closed to one who wants to engage deeper in His service. This refers to those who are already holding in learning and davening, we can always improve in various ways of serving Hashem, such as doing more gemilus chasodim (acts of kindness), giving tzedakah, and kosher forms of meditation.

Hashem should bentsh us all with simcha in His avodah, that we should merit to find our pure spiritual core, and that all geirim that are meant to be m’gayer should be converted in order that we can merit to see the face of Moshiach swiftly in our days!

The Power of Waking Up Early

In the Zohar, Parshas Beshalach, we learn how important it is to learn after Chatzos (midnight), before Alos HaShachar (first rays of the sun, still dark). It says there that one who wakes up and joins together the night and day through davening to Hashem accomplishes a huge unification of the Feminine and Masculine aspects of Hashem, since the night corresponds to Din (Judgement) and Malchus which is Feminine, and the day corresponds to Chesed which is Masculine.

In Sefer Shaarei Kedusha from R’ Chaim Vital zy’a he brings this as one of the yesodos of becoming an eved Hashem (servant of God) and attaining Ruach HaKodesh. The reason for this is clear. The entire path of Kabbalah is about attaining balance, just like the Rambam writes that the main thing is to attain the middle path. The place of balance is Tiferes, that is, between the sefiros of Chesed and Gevurah. Through waking up while it is still night-time according to halacha and engaging in Torah study, specifically Torah Sh’Baal’Peh according to R’ Chaim Vital, we bring about harmony in our own personal sphere through unifying our heart and mind with utilizing our will to wake up and serve Hashem, along with the higher unifications which lead to hamtokas hadinim (sweetening judgements) and the geulah yechidis (personal geulah) and the Geulah Shleima.

Personal Torah Secrets

In Tzavaas HaRivash, it is brought in the name of the Baal Shem Tov that there are three main things that bring a person to d’veikus: due to seclusion from people, because of writing secrets of the Torah, and through performing the Yichudim of the Ari z’l; and at the time these Yichudim are done to think at that time of the greatness of Hashem according to your ability.

One thing we can take out from here is that we shouldn’t be afraid of the Yichudim of the Ari z’l, since the Baal Shem intended his Torah for simple people. So long as the names aren’t said, there’s no issur done, nor any other problem so long as one concentrates properly.

The thing that sticks out the most is the idea that d’veikus is accomplished through writing רזי תורה, (Secrets of Torah). We would think naturally that this is a consequence of already attaining d’veikus rather than something that leads to this state. To understand this better, we have to look in the Tanna D’Vei Eliyahu. There are two different shtiklech that are interesting, b’kitzur, we learn there that everyone who learns Torah gains illumination according to how much they learn, with or without much understanding in one part. The other shtikl teaches us that it is an obligation for every בן ישראל to write chiddushim (novel Torah insights) as often as possible. In conjunction with these ideas, there’s also the concept that every Yid has a letter in the Torah. So whenever you come up with a great chiddush in learning and you come to write it down, this can be said to be in the category of secrets of Torah, since it is a revelation of some new aspect of the letter your neshomo is connected to. It’s important to learn as much as possible בבקיאות (swiftly, with goal to gain a breadth of knowledge) in order to draw down great amounts of divine light into your body and soul. When these secrets are written down, this revelation of Divinity on whatever level brings a Yid much closer to Hashem, ultimately leading to true d’veikus.

Elevating our Prayers: Motzei Shabbos Parshas Noach 5781

A gitte voch! There’s another interesting sod we can learn from this week’s parsha that has to do with tefillah (prayer) from Parshas Noach

.It says in the third aliyah that the waters caused the ark to float up. As explained previously, the word for the “ark” is the same as that for “word.” We know from Kabbalah that water corresponds to Chesed, as well as Torah according to Chazal as described in the story about Rebbe Akiva. The way to help our prayers ascend to Hashem and be heard is to surround our tefillah with gemilus chasodim (acts of kindness) and learning Torah. Hashem should hear and answer all of our tefillos and elevate us to merit the coming of Moshiach swiftly in our days.

Parshas Noach 5781

A gitten erev Shabbos! This week’s parsha is Parshas Noach. This is quite the interesting parsha. Between Parshas B’Reishis and this parsha there is so much to unpack, whole seforim could be written about them. Of course every word of the Torah could have a whole set of Tikkunei Zohar on it. For now this medium will suffice for a nice shtikl Torah.

It says in the Tanchuma and Zohar that Noach was born without an orlah (foreskin), which the Zohar learns as a remez (hint) to why Noach was called Tzaddik in his generation; because he was already free from the klippah associated with orlah. In the sifrei chassidus the word for the ark, תבה, is explained to refer to the spoken word, תיבה, that the ark of Noach wasn’t just the p’shat of a big boat, rather it refers to a structure made from words of prayer.

There was another Tzaddik who built a structure out of wood: Moshe Rabeinu. Moshe Rabeinu is described in the Torah as constructing the Mishkan himself, just as Noach built the ark alone. Rebbe Nachman in Likkutei Moharan explains that Moshe Rabeinu in the aspect of the Tzadik HaDor (Tzadik of the Generation) gathered together everyone’s tefillos, and the true Tzaddikim in every generation accomplish this avodah.

So now what could be the purpose of gathering all tefillos into a unified structure?

At the end of Hashem’s command to Noach to gather together the various species of animals into the ark, the phrase concludes “לחיות זרע על-פני כל-הארץ” (to sustain seed upon the face of the earth). Considering birds are most recently mentioned, we could say this is a reference to keeping birds alive so they can eat fruit and distribute whatever seeds across the earth, as is their nature. More in the realm of Sod though we can see what the Aibishter is trying to tell us. The first word can be read as “L’Chayos,” meaning to vivify/sustain, or it can be read as “L’Chiyus” for life-force. Meaning: we need to be close to the aspect of the Tzaddik in order to bring all of our tefillos together that this should lead to a place for life-force to manifest within our world. Without this life-force called Chiyus, which comes from Hashem, nothing would live whatsoever, so the more of this we can draw down from Shomayim the better for the entire world.

The key way to come closer to the aspect of the Tzaddik, if one has a hard time finding a Tzaddik to be close to, is to learn Zohar and Tikkunim. The Tikkunei Zohar is described by the Tzaddikim as having an incredible power to clarify the soul and remove the influence of the Klippah, which is the point of bris milah. Even if you can be close to a Tzaddik, learning these seforim is crucial for self-development towards becoming a Tzaddik yourself.

A git Shabbos! Hashem should hear all of our tefillos and we should merit to have much Divine life-force manifesting in our lives, and we should see Moshiach soon within our days!

Hashem Will Never Abandon Us

In Maseches Kiddushin, wherein we learn about the various laws of getting halachically betrothed and various aspects of marriage, there is a very interesting halacha we learn. Before getting any further into this, keep in mind that this was a very different time, and slavery as a concept was different than it is now. There’s a specific halacha that prohibits a Jewish slave-owner from treating a Jewish slave any worse than himself, and Rambam highly encourages treating gentile slaves with the same kindness.

It says there in a discussion about redeeming slaves and umos (Jewish maidservants) by paying off their remaining years of servitude, that if a girl is already halachically betrothed she cannot be sold into servitude. The way it is stated there is that if she has already been sold into ishus (marriage), then she cannot be sold into shifchus (maidservant status). There is another halacha taught there that once a man has designated her as betrothed to him through placing his garment on her, she can then no longer be sold as a maidservant.

What we can learn from this set of halochos is a great Sod in terms of our relationship with Hashem. Klal Yisroel is always described as being the wife or bride of Hashem. We see all the time though how difficult things have been for Jews throughout history, and how difficult things may become in the future. There is a concept that Hashem follows the Torah and keeps halacha, which means that even a detail like this He keeps also, so to speak. Even if Klal Yisroel is experiencing incredibly difficult times, even subjugation to reshoim, what is important is to remember is that we are still wedded to Hashem and He will never sell us into true slavery. Every day we have a mitzvah to remember that He took us out of Mitzrayim, and from this we have to remember that we are in truth free from the powers of the Klippa, but the Erev Rav and Sitra Achra want us to forget this.

The advice to transcend this to some degree is to place His garment upon yourself, and designate yourself as betrothed to Hashem. You can take this literally and be more careful about wearing tzitzis, which would literally be a garment of Hashem. The better approach is more metaphysical, that is to sit and learn Torah and clothe yourself with Hashem’s mitzvos, by always trying to fulfill various mitzvos throughout the day. When we do this, we can break through the veils the Erev Rav tries to blind us with and come to true d’veikus.