Our Purpose: Love

At times it is easy to forget our purpose in this world. In the work Pardes Rimonim, by Rabbi Moshe Cordevero, we are given a beautiful reminder within his description of the order of the Sefiros. He writes there that before the iniquity of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, the sefirah of Malchus sat directly beneath Tiferes and received vitality therefrom, and granted said life force to Netzach, Hod, and Yesod. Through the clarification of this sefirah, she can be restored to this place again.

When we look at the spiritual practice of Judaism, it seems to be couched in far too many laws and practices. To be fair, this could be said about any spiritual practice that requires some degree of self-control, as well as an investment of time and resources. The key point though of these practices is the refinement of the physical self, and the world around us. The key to performing the Tikkun (Reparation) of Malchus, which is the Tikkun of the Shechina Tata’a (“Lower” Shechina), is wholehearted devotion to God, to long for the Source as two infatuated lovers yearn for one the other. Through this intense love can the personal aspect of the sefirah be elevated, which has the net effect of bringing all aspects of Creation we interact with into this love, hence elevating a world seemingly covered with darkness to a place of Divine light and ecstasy, as it was in the beginning before we lost that experience on a constant basis. Through interacting with the world in a mindful way, remembering the Source of All, with great love and yearning, we can attain the state of mind we lost from before our minds were polluted with illusions of separation from Divinity.

Sukkos: The Joy of Faith

On Sukkos, we say in the nighttime Kiddush that it is זמן שמחתינו, the time of our joy. The Zohar HaKadosh when talking about this special Yom Tov describes the sukkah as צלא דמהימנותא, the shade of emunah/faith. Seeing that the main mitzva of the full seven days of Sukkos is the dwelling in a sukkah, while taking the arba minim (four species of plants waved around) is de’oraisa only a mitzvah for one day, it must be the mitzva of simcha is intrinsically linked to the mitzva to dwell in a sukkah. It’s possible to say from this connection that emunah and simcha have a deep spiritual relationship, showing that the truest simcha is only attainable through complete emunah, that is attaining da’as Hashem (knowledge of God) to the furthest degree we can.

T’shuva: Essence of Repentance

As we prepare for Yom Kippur, the main theme we are confronted with is t’shuva (return, repentance). The word brings to us thoughts of different types of mortifications, such as fasting and other forms of self-denial; or in many circles the acceptance of additional stringencies in halacha to “make-up” for perceived errors. The general feeling is one of fright for what could be in the next world, or even punishment in this world chas v’sholom, pleading before a judgemental and potentially cruel God. These ideas are all essentially incorrect.

The Zohar HaKadosh says that T’shuva shel Yirah, return done due to fear, will atone for many sins, but not all of them and it does not turn them into mitzvos. On the other hand, T’shuva shel Ahavah, return done from love, atones for all sins and even turns them into mitzvos, meaning that it is as if the error was commanded by Hashem and an inextricable part of the Divine plan.

To be short, T’shuva shel Ahava is repentance done due to feeling remorse over the distance we feel from God due to our errors, which is essentially a broken idea since God fills all the worlds and surrounds, as it is explicitly recorded in the Tikunei Zohar and expounded on by the Baal Shem Tov. To realize that our errors cannot possibly remove us from this Divinity in any way, but rather create barriers which prevent us from feeling this, and to repent and seek God anew, asking Him to remove these self-erected walls from our perception and to work to know Him.

The hailige Rizhiner zt”l said once on the opening verse of this last week’s haftorah “״שובה ישראל עד ה׳ אלקיך” (return Yisroel to Hashem your God) that this refers to returning to the indwelling Divine, the chelek Elokah mim’al mamesh (chunk of God from up above, literally), which is referred to as “your God,” in the singular rather than in the plural.

In other words, rather than t’shuva being about reaching upwards towards a distant, judgemental, alien God, t’shuva is instead a process of turning inward towards our personal Divine Spark and revealing that, living life with our minds and hearts directed towards seeing the world-filling God, and living in a state of clinging to Divine life.

גמר חתימה טובה

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