Erev Shabbos Tetzaveh/Purim 5781

A gitten erev Shabbos and a frailichen Purim! This week’s parsha is Parshas Tetzaveh, in which we are instructed in the various garments the Kohanim were to wear, and the construction of the Mizbeach HaZohov (Golden Altar of incense).

Interestingly enough, in the sixth aliyah which corresponds to the sixth day, which this year just so happens to be Purim, Hashem reminds us of the yetzias Mitzrayim (leaving Egypt). He explicitly tells us in this parsha that He removed us from Mitzrayim in order that He should dwell among us and be our God. The interesting thing is the word used to refer to Hashem as God is the shem Elokim, which is associated with teva (nature). What Hashem wants from us, and the entire reason he freed us from the world of tumah and klippah that is Mitzrayim, is to regard Him as an integral part of our lives. Not just that Hashem is in shul or when we’re learning a nice blatt gemoro, but that every part of physicality we interact with is filled with Divinity.

A lechtigen Purim, a frailichen Shabbos Shushan Purim!

Holy Purim Customs

The B’Nei Yissoschor says that the custom to dress up and wear masks on Purim is a holy Jewish custom. As proof he brings a long piece from the Zohar explaining how Esther putting on the “sovereign garments” (בגדי מלכות) is a reference to Hashem’s concealed Light being clothed within the Sefira of Malchus, that is being clothed in physicality.

Through the mitzvos of Purim our goal is to break all klippos tied with doubt or the idea that we are at all separate from Hashem. Even when the salvation is not as obvious as on Pesach and happens through what appears to be natural means, Hashem is always here with us, clothed within the physical world.

A frailichen Purim! We should all merit to accomplish the yeshuos we need, to perceive Hashem’s constant presence in our lives, and to see the face of Moshiach swiftly in our days!

Wiping Out Amalek Through Purim Wine

It is a reasonable question to ask as to how we perform the mitzva of wiping out Amalek on Purim. The Arizal teaches, as is brought by R’ Tzadok HaKohen m’Lublin and many other Tzaddikim, that through drinking and reversing the phrase “Blessed is Mordechai, Cursed is Haman,” meaning to say “Blessed is Haman (ch’vsh),” without kavana, destroys the klippah (harmful vessel) of Amalek through drawing down the lights of brocho (blessing). Brocho is sourced in the sefirah of Binah, which is crucial to remember.

The Rashash teaches that the proper kavana to have while eating on Purim is to focus on connecting with the sefira of Chochma, while the drinking of wine should be focusing on connecting with Binah.

The specific mitzva to drink on Purim is said “ad d’lo yada,” the point that one doesn’t know. One way of understanding this is to explain that we are to transcend even Daas through drinking wine, which is related to Binah on one level, on Purim. Through eating on Purim and drinking wine with this kavana, we connect with the parents of Daas: Chochma and Binah. Through transcending the sefirah of Daas, we connect with Emunah which is higher than all things. While Emunah corresponds to Malchus, we also know that Malchus is naught but a reflection of Keser in truth. Hence the mitzvos to eat a celebratory seudah and drink wine on Purim are really connected to the great truths of Emunah, and through attaining Emunah do we erase Amalek from the world.

Nature of Amalek

Seeing as this Shabbos was also Shabbos Zochor, in which we recount the mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to Klal Yisroel on our way out of Mitzrayim, and that Purim is this week, it’s good to understand the nature of Amalek and the avodah of Purim.

Amalek, outside of just being a nation in the Torah, is a spiritual construct as well. As many have pointed out, Amalek is the same gematria as the word Safeik, meaning doubt. It says in that parsha Amalek “happened upon you on the path…”, the word used for “happen,” קר, is also the same word for “cold.” The nature of Amalek is to bring you to coldness in avodas Hashem through making things appear to be happenstance, rather than hashgocha protis (Divine supervision and interference). One of the best ways to prevent Amalek from having power over you, chas v’sholom, is through remembering that this spiritual force exists, and to actively seek to remove it from within you. When you break the mindset that things occur through chance and randomness, you warm up in avodas Hashem, seeing that everything really is organized from Above.

Erev Shabbos Parshas Terumah 5781

A gitten erev Shabbos! This week’s parsha is Parshas Terumah. We receive here the measurements and directions for building the Mishkan and all the vessels used therein, including the altar, the Mizbeach HaNechoshes (The Copper Altar), as well as the original Menorah.

At the very beginning of the parsha, we receive the mitzvah to give Terumah. Terumah is a gift-offering to the Kohanim that in the Dor HaMidbar (Desert Generation) was used to construct and maintain the Mishkan. In later times, after the Beis HaMikdash was built, these gifts were used for Bedek HaBayis (Upkeep of the Temple). The word תרומה is in itself an interesting word, for it has naught to do with charity, rather the apparent root has to do with exaltation. Our rabbis teach us that this is meant to show us that giving charity to individuals and Torah organizations doesn’t remove from our finances, rather it brings more brocho (blessing) upon us which then leads to greater prosperity and the cycle continues henceforth.

One interesting aspect of the mitzva of Terumah is that it is to be given with a willing heart, according to what each individual desires to give, unlike Maaser, which is specifically a tenth of your produce or money. The Zohar HaKodosh on this parsha has a whole section through many dafim explaining the various permutations “Terumah” has, including the above that it leads to exaltation rather than loss. The greatest lesson there, especially applying to our generation, is that all our avodas Hashem must be with desire and love for God. The Zohar explains the difference between Kishuf (sorcery) and works of Kedusha (holiness) are as such:

Sorcery is easy and brings about quick results, as well as not requiring any real love or desire for much of anything to accomplish. To be an eved Hashem (servant of God) though, and receive the same benefits with lasting power, requires pushing through difficulty, having real love and desire to serve Hashem and cleave with Him, and maintaining the proper lifestyle according to the Torah.

What we should take from this is that through pushing through all difficulties, between the external troubles and internal, we can eventually cleave to Hashem completely and exalt our nature to that of complete Kedusha. Even though at the beginning everything is difficult, as Rebbe Nachman brings in one of his Torahs from Chazal, the troubles eventually turn sweet and bring forth the rewards of d’veikus and the sholom that can only come from serving Hashem with love and desire.

Importance of Fulfilling Mitzvos in Their Time

Hashem loves when Yidden do mitzvos in their proper time. Chazal teach us this in Maseches Pesachim in relation to giving the korban Pesach in its proper time on Pesach rather than waiting until Pesach Sheni. Over there is a wonderful discussion as to when we push off giving korban Pesach until Pesach Sheni with myriad details. In short, it would seem Pesach Sheni was mostly never observed, with the t’mei’im (impure) giving the sacrifice in the way it was meant to be in the proper time just in a separate place from the tehorim (pure). Whether they could eat it or not is a separate aspect to the mitzva relying on those people’s exact status at the time of being able to eat korban Pesach, some of whom would have been able to eat it and others unfortunately not able to, but at least fulfilling the mitzva to sacrifice the Pesach.

When we take this idea and think about it, seeing that it is presented as a k’lal (principle), rather than just something specifically in relation to the korban Pesach, this should lead us to a greater appreciation for doing mitzvos in the time they are meant to be fulfilled. There is a very popular moshol (parable) in chassidish circles relating to davening tefillah b’zmanoh (prayer in its time) vs not:

There was a man and wife, and the wife was very prompt with bringing the man his dinner of plain beans. She was timely every night but the husband got bored of his plain beans. One time, she ran very late. The husband started to wonder what was going on, hoping all was fine. Though she was quite late, she brought out some amazing dish with meat and shmaltz and all the tasty things that people like, and the man was very happy with this food.

So the nimshal (meaning of parable) is that the wife represents Jews, the food is the prayers, and the husband is Hashem. What we’re meant to take out from this is that through davening with extra kavana and making the davening awesome it doesn’t matter if we’re late and miss zmanim.

The truth of the matter is that the sifrei Sod have always been very medakdek (particular) about zmanei tefillah (times of prayer). True, the Rambam does pasken that without kavana one has not fulfilled the obligation to daven, but in order to hold like this the one davening must be certain that the tefillah is one that could not have possibly been with the same kavana earlier. To make sof z’man Krias Shma with the brochos every day is a huge deal, through doing it this way one really fulfills the mitzva of Krias Shma k’hilchoseiah (according to the laws), which as it says in the very beginning of Keser Shem Tov the Baal Shem directed all his chassidim to be incredibly careful to do.

Through davening on time and fulfilling all the mitzvos in their proper time, we can bring great joy to Hashem. If we run on time, bezras Hashem Moshiach will also come on time.

Erev Shabbos Parshas Mishpatim 5781

A gitten erev Shabbos and a git choidesh! This week’s parsha is Parshas Mishpatim, and it is also Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Adar. This is the first parsha in which the focus changes from describing events to Hashem giving us mitzvos.

In the beginning of the parsha we learn the mitzvos related to the eved Ivri (Hebrew slave). One mitzva is that if such a slave decides to stay with his master because he loves his master, his slave-wife, and his children he had with his slave-wife, he is to be taken before the Elo-him, which according to Onkelos means judges, and have his ear bored through with a nail to the doorpost of the masters house.

In the Gemoro in Maseches Chagigah, first perek, we learn that a slave is not obligated to come to the Beis HaMikdash to bring the korban re’iah, which is the sacrifice brought when visiting the Beis HaMikdash on the Yomim Tovim. It says there that the slave is exempt because Hashem only accepts those who have one master, and a slave has a human master above him, rather than only being a servant of Hashem. This applies to a normal slave who doesn’t willingly stay a slave, so clearly this is true even more in regards to one who with love accepts being a slave until the next Yovel (Jubilee).

The fact that the title “Elo-him” is used in regards to the judges carries much import. This title when used as a name for Hashem refers to nature, Din (judgement), and according to the Zohar in B’reishis this name is that which is associated with the space Hashem vacated Himself from in tzimtzum in order to fill with the world. On a spiritual level, what this then refers to is someone who chooses to embrace this world with all it’s pain and trouble over accepting the Ohl Malchus Shomayim (Yoke of the Heavenly Kingship). The ear is a crucial aspect of this, because it shows that a person has turned away from the aspect of “Naaseh v’Nishma” (We shall do and we shall hear), instead of listening to the voice of God they submit to the worldly authorities. Such a person is unfortunately trapped in slavery to this world and cannot experience the true ziv haShechina (glory of the Shechina) until they become freed through attaining Binah (Understanding), which is the aspect of Yovel according to the Zohar. The path to attaining this comes with t’shuva, since t’shuva and Binah are directly linked one with the other.

Seeing that Parshas Mishpatim also falls out on Rosh Chodesh Adar, there’s a little more we can learn here. Mishpatim is full of various laws, as stated above. Adar is the month of joy. This year what we can learn from this occurrence is that we must rejoice in Hashem’s mitzvos and His Torah. Corporeal reality is meant to assist us in serving Hashem, not be the thing we pursue and become enslaved thereto. Through learning Torah properly, and fulfilling the mitzvos with joy, we exist in a way that allows us to eventually merit to see the face of Hashem, meaning, that we can see how Hashem Himself is the only true Master of all things, and through this we can rejoice even more than before.

A git Shabbos, a git Choidesh! Hashem should bentsh us all with a happy Adar, hatzlocho in all things, and that we should merit to the Geulah shleimah swiftly in our days.LikeCommentShare

Rosh Chodesh Adar 5781: The Joy of Blessing

A git choidesh! From tonight until Motzei Shabbos it is Rosh Chodesh Adar! There is a well-known statement from Chazal “Mi shenichnas Adar marbin b’simcha” (Who that enters Adar grows in joy). It is reasonable to ask how it is that we grow in joy in Adar? After all in sifrei Nigleh (works of exoteric Judaism), the main example given, other than the Purim miracle, is that we should engage in required legal disputes now since we’ll have better luck. For a greater understanding of the mechanics of why there is such an inyan of joy in Adar, we turn to Nistar (secrets of Torah).

The B’Nei Yissoschor brings from the Sefer Yetzirah that Hashem crowned the letter ק and created the month of Adar and laughter therewith. From here it is already clear that in the very spiritual nature of Adar it is full of laughter, being that it is ruled by the letter with which laughter was created.

He also brings from the Sodei Razaya, as brought by the Megaleh Amukos, that the holy Malach (Angel) who rules over Adar is named אברכיא”ל (lit: blessing of God), and beneath this Malach are 25 servant angels who all have names that allude to goodness and blessing. B’Nei Yissoschor writes that the gematria of this specific angel’s name is Seder (Order), which alludes to how in Adar the concealed miracles begin occurring as they did in Megilas Esther; and from here we prepare for the open and revealed miracles of Pesach which Hashem performs for Klal Yisroel to show His great love for us.

What we can see from these sources is that we should take the month of Adar as a wonderful time to grow closer to Hashem, and receive His blessings. Purim itself is referred to as being similar to Yom HaKipurim in many sifrei Chassidus, an interesting reflection thereof is the minhag in certain communities such as Nikolsburg to sing the Nusach of the Yomim Noraim by the seudah. Giving Mishloach Manos (food presents) alludes to how we need to offer others blessings. Hashem told Avrohom Avinu that whoever blesses Avrohom and his descendants will also be blessed; so certainly throughout Adar it is a crucial avodah (service) to bless our fellows and hence receive greater blessings, with which we can bless others even more. In such an auspicious time we could potentially tip the scales to the side of good and im yirtzeh Hashem merit the coming of Moshiach swiftly in our days.

Impact of Our Actions

The Zohar HaKodosh speaks very often of t’shuva and how important it is, along with the great power this carries to affect change for the one who returns to Hashem and the sweetening of judgments that occurs. In Parshas Mishpatim, Raya Mehemna, the Raya Mehemna speaks of how each part of one’s t’shuva process impacts different Sefiros through the mitzvos they do and the tefillos they say. With the hands putting on tefillin and giving tzedakah the sefiros of Chesed and Gevurah are rectified, through praising Hashem and speaking with Him the lips, representing Netzach and Hod (explained there) are fixed, and far more than can be fully expressed here.

In Sefer Keser Shem Tov it is brought in the name of the Baal Shem Tov that if every Yid understood the great impact their actions have in the Higher Worlds, then the Geulah (redemption) would come. The piece of Zohar mentioned above ties very nicely into this. So we should contemplate a little, why exactly should it be that if a Yid is conscious of their actions that we should all experience the Geulah?

People are often compared to trees, as is popular to speak of on Tu B’Shvat. The Etz Chaim represents the flow of Shefa (Divine Influence) to this world. Seeing that the Etz Chaim is mapped out on the human body, we can see that each part of our body corresponds to a sefirah on this symbolic diagram. There are different meditations as well that focus on this idea, such as brought by the Arizal in relation to giving tzedakah to focus on making the Shem Havayah through the exchange of money through the hands of the giver and receiver. What we can see from this is that a person is effectively a small world, in a sense. It’s not just that above the Sefiros are arranged in this particular pattern, but rather below as well, the great schema of the world is exhibited. As we all know, kavanna (intent) is a crucial aspect of every single thing we do in life; in fulfilling mitzvos, in Torah, and simply interacting with the world around us we have to conduct ourselves with purpose. So when one understands this concept properly, and contemplates how Hashem Himself, through our Chelek Elokah Mima’al (Piece of God from Above) that is within the neshama, expresses His might through our actions, then we can merit to the Geulah through every single thing we do.

Sweet Geirim

Rebbe Nachman teaches that there are 24 batei dinim that are rendering judgement upon the world. When a pidyon is given, a Tzaddik is able to sweeten all the judgments that come out from these batei dinim. However, sometimes, it may not be possible to sweeten these dinim (judgements). The key way all the dinim are sweetened is through bringing in geirim, which renders the one who is misgayer (converting) people to be in the aspect of Moshe Rabeinu, who changed people from Shmad (Baptism) to Ratzon (Delight). This is shown through the Gematrios of those words, Moshe being in the middle at 345, Shmad 344, and Ratzon 346. He teaches that through making geirim we nullify the power of avodah zarah (idol worship) throughout the world, which lessens Hashem’s anger with us.

From this we can see the preciousness of bringing in geirim. Though it does say in the gemoro in Kiddushin “Geirim koshin l’Yisroel k’sapachas,” (Converts are hard on Yisroel like a skin problem), we have to consider each of the approaches Tosfos and Rashi bring. One side is that converts revert often, rachmono litzlon, to their old ways; the second aspect is that they often don’t know how to learn and thus come to great errors; and the third is that the geirim do so well in learning and serving Hashem that they make all the other Yidden look bad.

So in relation to what Reb Nachman teaches here and in other places, along with general principles taught in sifrei Chassidus, we can see that bringing in geirim accomplishes a huge Tikkun. However, it cannot simply stop at the mikvah. To make sure a convert doesn’t switch back to their old ways, they must be not only accepted but also educated properly in the ways of Torah and Yiddishkait. By this, I do not mean simple indoctrination, but rather how to sit and pore over a masechta Gemoro and come to love the Torah and know Hashem through it. Though the work can be discouraging at first, as teaching anyone something new, one must keep to it and this is the true fulfillment of the mitzvos to love geirim, and effectively the elimination of Hashem’s anger upon the world caused by avodah zarah. When new people are brought to serving Hashem properly, with true love and devotion, especially through the d’veikus that is possible only through learning Torah, this certainly fulfills the Tikkun Reb Nachman speaks of in Likutei Moharan.