Archive for 2014

Asarah b'Tevet (10th of Tevet)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014 · Posted in , ,

Fast begins Thu, 01 January 2015 at dawn and ends at nightfall (full dark).

In 424 BCE, Babylonia King Nebuchadnezzar began his siege of Jerusalem. Actually, there was little damage on that first day and no Jews were killed, yet it began a chain of disasters which ended with the destruction of the Holy Temple. The 10th of Tevet is still observed today by Jews as a public fast day, as mentioned by the prophet Zechariah (8:19). One year after Nebuchadnezzar's siege, on this date in 423 BCE, Jeremiah purchased a field and prophesized that "Houses, fields and vineyards will yet again be bought in this land" (Jeremiah 32:15). This gave hope to generations of Jews for a return to the Holy Land -- a prophecy that we have seen fulfilled in modern times. (Aish)

MIKETZ PARDES - The Ten Martyrs

Monday, December 15, 2014 · Posted in , , , ,

עֲלוּ לְשָׁלוֹם אֶל-אֲבִיכֶם
alu leshalom el-avichem
go in peace to your father.

The fact that this Parshah concludes with the words "go in peace to your father," is a reference to the ten martyrs who were tortured to death by the Romans supposedly because the brothers had never paid the penalty prescribed by Jewish law for kidnapping. The words "in peace to your father" refers to "your father in heaven." Yosef meant that once the brothers had been cleansed of their sin against Yosef they could one more fact the G-d in heaven upon their deaths and take their place in the hereafter.

The entire Yosef tragedy began when his father Ya'akov made a colored coat for him which Yosef wore as a sign of distinction. The fact that the brothers dipped the colored coat of Yosef in the blood of a male goat which they specially slaughtered for that purpose telling their father, "this is what we found," was considered an act of great cruelty on their part. This is why their punishment which involved their bodies commenced immediately after Yosef's death. Eventually, during the the time of the Romans and after the destruction of the second Temple (which was destroyed due to an excess of groundless hatred between Jew and Jew.) the ten martyrs paid the last installment of the penalty with their deaths.

It is important to realize that contrary to a perception that all the ten martyrs listed in our prayers commemorating their death as martyrs occurred at one and the same time, this is simply not so. We find the following text in Pirke Heychalot:

"Rabbi Yishma'el said that the decree to torture these sages to death came out on a Thursday. News came from the capital in Rome that Emperor Lupinos had ordered the execution of four of the outstanding Jewish scholars. They were rabbi Shimon ben Gamli'el, Rabbi Yishma'el ben Elisha, Rabbi Ele'azer ben Dama, and rabbi Yehudah ben Baba. Many thousands of other scholars in Yerushalayim offered to take the place of those condemned. When Rabbi Nechunyah ben Hakanah realized that this decree was irrevocable he inquired about it from Suri'el the Sar Hapanim (of the angels close to the Attribute of Justice). He was told that actually, in the books of G-d (Attribute of Justice, there was a list of ten scholars whose lives had been handed over to Sama'el (the angel of death) the guardian angel of Esav. The instructions which this guardian angel of Esav had received at the time were to destroy among the leaders of Yisra'el every "good cut of meat" and throw it into the cauldron." The purpose of this decree was to complete the expiation needed for the sin of the brothers who had sold Yosef at the time, and who had violated the prohibition in Shemot 21:16 "if someone steals and sells a person and the party concerned is found in his hands, he is to be executed." This decree, i.e. application of this penalty, could be delayed all the time until "In the day, Hashem will punish the host of heaven in heaven and the kings of the earth on earth" (Yeshayahu 24:21). This expiation could occur by means of the goats and sheep on Yom Kippur.

Rabbi Yishma'el said that Sama'el had heard all these threats and conditions and that he had said that he accepted them. As a result he chose 10 f the outstanding scholars of Yisrael to be that unexpired expiation, "scape-goat," for what had been done to Yosef. When G-d heard about these resolutions of Sama'el, i.e. the Romans to kill ten outstanding Jewish scholars, He was so angry that He immediately wrote down decrees which would afflict the entire Roman Empire, each one for six months at a time. As a result of all the afflictions that will strike the Romans at that time, one individual will say to another that if he were offered the entire Roman Empire in exchange for a minor copper coin he would decline to make such a purchase."

One of the amazing statements in in that passage concerns Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyan who supposedly was exchanged for Emperor Lupinos who was burned in his stead. Similar statements appear concerning the other martyrs on that famous list. Concerning such far-out statements, I have heard that they must be understood as analogous to the binding of Yitzchak. Once Avraham was irrevocably committed to slaughtering Yitzchak, and the latter had accepted the decree, he was replaced by the ram Avraham found which had been caught in the thicket (Bereishit 22:13). According to that view something similar occurred with all the ten martyrs. Seeing that they had submitted to G-d's decree it became possible to exchange them for Romans and others. The point is that once the lives of these scholars were spared they were in effect reborn. It is therefore no contradiction to say that they had indeed died a martyr's death. These scholars had all "tasted" death so that the sin for which their lives were meant to expiate had been wiped out once and for all.

When the Torah wrote: "and place each man's money at the mouth of his feeding back," this was an allusion that the Torah treats the life-force נפש (nefesh), of a person as equivalent to minted silver whereas his body is compared to a feeding bag seeing it contains the soul (silver). This allusion can be carried a little further by looking at 43:10 when Yehudah said, "we could have returned already twice."  He may have hinted at something we find in Iyov (based on the concept of a soul's repeated return to life on earth in order to cleanse itself of sins committed in a former life). In Iyov 34:36 and 33:29 the point is made that in order to deal finally with some sin, retribution may have to be spread over several installments. (Rabbi Moshe Alshich makes this point more clearly when explaining why G-d did not wipe out Pharaoh with a single plague. His sins were such that a single act of retribution would not have sufficed to punish him. He had to have relief between one affliction and the next in order to absorb and suffer the next installment).

Iyov 33:29 "two or three times with a man," may be a reference to the need for someone to be reincarnated repeatedly in order to expiate for sins committed in a previous incarnation. The words וישובו העירה (vayashuvu ha'irah) describing the return of the brothers to the capital of Egypt (44:13) may be an allusion to Yehudah's feeling on the matter. All the Torah had needed to write was וישובו מצרימה (vayashuvu mitzraymah), "they returned to Egypt." The use of the word העירה (ha'irah - the city) suggests a meta-physical aspect of the matter. Compare the use of the word עיר (ir - city) as a hyperbole in Kohelet 9:14) This is the reason that the Parshah concludes with the words.

וְאַתֶּם עֲלוּ לְשָׁלוֹם אֶל-אֲבִיכֶם
ve'atem alu leshalom el-avichem

and you return and make your peace with your father (in heaven).

Menashe could simply have said, "go on your way in peace." Seeing that the Torah focuses on the ten brothers and the grievous wrong they had done to their brother Yosef, it is not surprising that the Torah also uses this opportunity to hint at the historical consequences of the brothers' behavior at the time. Chazal in Pesachim 50 go so far as to say that the acceptance of G-d's decree by the ten martyrs who died a cruel death at the hands of the Romans for a crime committed over fifteen hundred years earlier put these people into a class by themselves, one that could not be matched in piety/faith by anyone else previously. We can apply to them the verse in Yeshayahu 64:3: "Such things have never been heard or seen. No eye has seen them O G'd, but You, Who acts for those who trust in Him."

May HASHEM continue to enlighten us with the Light of His Torah.

- Chazal

Parashat Miketz

VAYESHEV PARDES - The Dynasty of King David

Saturday, December 6, 2014 · Posted in , , , ,

Bereishit 38:30
וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ זָרַח
vayikra shemo Zarach
he called his name Zerach.

The name Zerach (shines) symbolized the sun, whereas the name Peretz (interruption) symbolized the moon. The sun shines uninterruptedly,, daily, whereas the moon is ineffective towards the end of the month and at its beginning. The kingdom of David stemmed from Peretz whose dynasty symbolized the moon and its ups and downs. We know that the moon's orbit is completed every 29 days. This is why you will find that there were 29 righteous people descended from him listed in the Scriptures from the time of Peretz until the last king of the Davidic dynasty, Tzidkiyahu. They are:


They were followed by:


These comprise a total of 29 men corresponding to the days in the lunar orbit; the lunar "sun" sets after such a period of time. The dynasty of David underwent a similar decline after Tzidkiyah and this is why the Temple was destroyed during the lifetime of Tzidkiyah who was the twenty-ninth scion counting from Peretz.  The reason we do not count from Yehudah who was promised Royalty by his father may be that Peretz was Royalty already, his mother having been the daughter of King Malki Tzedek, identical with Shem. If you find it strange that our author lists Menashe as a righteous king when Sefer Melachim described him as the worst heretic ever, the reason many be that he became a penitent and G-d restored him to his throne as reported in 2Divrei HaYamim 33 something not mentioned in the Sefer 2Melachim 21.

However, in Shemot Rabbah 15:26 the calculation is described differently, and the month is given as having thirty days during the first half of which the moon is progressively becoming more powerful, whereas after that it declines visibly. According to the author of that list the first 15 days of the month are characterized by the leaders of the Jewish people from Avraham to Shlomo, whereas the last 15 days symbolize the decline of the Kingdom of Yehudah after the division of the country between Rechavam and Yerovam. This is based on Shemot 12:1. G-d is supposed to have told the Jewish people already prior to their departure from Egypt that the kingdom would not last for than thirty generations, hence the words, "this month (moon) is for you..." The Midrash lists verses in the Tanach to back up the contention that the early ancestors of the Jewish people such as Avraham and Yitzchak are already part of these 30 generations. It quotes a verse in which Avraham is described as "shining," such as Yeshayahu 41:2. It similarly is at pains to prove the same for Yitzchak and Ya'akov. Starting with Yehudah, there is no need for such proofs anymore. The author of the Midrash, aware that most of the Kings of Yehudah actually worshiped idols, does not describe them as an unending string of righteous people but lumps them together as part of the decline of the Davidic dynasty, in spite of the exceptions such as Chiskiyah and Yoshiyah to name but two. According to this Midrash, the prayers of the patriarchs on behalf of their errant children helped to persuade G-d to continue to let that Kingdom exist beyond the time it had a legal right to exist. The Midrash continues for several pages and I have decided to condense it in the interest of brevity. One of the more important points of the comparison between the orbit of the moon and the thirty generations of ascending and descending Jewish political power is the fact that King Tzidkiyah had his eyes gouged out by Nevuchadnetzar, King of Bavel. His subsequent blindness is taken by the Midrash as symbolic of the light of the Jewish "moon" having been extinguished.

Kabbalistically, the verse speaks of two births, two new human beings. There is a profound mystical dimension in this, something of great impact on the dynasty of the house of David. I will reveal to you a small part of that mystical dimension and I ask you to concentrate on what I am about to reveal. We know that the name אלו-הים (Elo-him), with which the Torah describes G-d during the report of the Creation of the universe describes Him as the King of the universe. This Name is identified with the concept תשובה (teshuvah), another name for the emanation בינה (Binah). In plain English, the Attribute with which G-d created the universe is that which is active in the emanation בינה (Binah), the third emanation counting from the highest emanation, i.e. כתר (Keter), down. We acknowledge this Attribute especially on Rosh Hashanah, the "birthday" of the universe, (creation of man) and the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when we conclude the third of the blessings in the Amidah prayer by saying, "the Holy KING," or, "the KING who dispenses justice," instead of, "the Holy G-d," or "the King who loves rightesousness and JUSTICE." There is no King without a people or man that He can be King over.

When the Torah reports G-d's directive (Bereishit 1:3) as, "let there be LIGHT and there was LIGHT," this light came into existence by means of the power of the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth which is also known as אלו-הים (Elo-him). The repetition of the word אור (ohr - light) in that directive and the report that it had been carried out, suggests that there were TWO kinds of light. You do not find the subject of the directive repeated when the Torah reports of the directives G-d issued concerning the other days you only find the expression ויהי כן (vayehi-chen - and it was so) to indicate that the universe had responded to G-d's directive.

You should realize that though the Torah appears to speak of two kinds of light, the meaning is not that there were actually two entirely different kinds of light. What is meant is that this light embodied two sources of power, of energy. One of these forces is essentially male, the other essentially female. The creation of the original light, however, was the product of a single source of energy, one which combines within it both male and female elements.  The original light later on enabled the sun, the moon, and the stars to be derived from it and to be concretised.  The original light was independent of any physical matter, sunlight is not. It requires the sun, i.e. a physical body, in order to dispense it. The sun was endowed with the male properties of the original light, whereas the moon was endowed with the female properties of the original light.

Having absorbed this knowledge, we can understand what occurred in the case of Yehudah, Tamar, and these two children born to Tamar and Yehudah respectively.  By means of these two individuals, Peretz and Zerach, we can gain a better understanding of the whole process of Creation.  This is what Chazal had in mind in Berachot 55 when they said, "the kingdom on earth is essentially similar to the kingdom in the celestial regions." Yehudah's name יהודה, gratitude, as we know from Le'ah's feelings of gratitude to G-d meant that by having born more children for Ya'akov than any of his wives he would be appreciative of this. (compare Bereishit 29:35). Seeing that Yehudah was the fourth of the twelve sons who were to make up the Tribes of Yisrael, G-d's Holy Name is part of his name. His Tribe became the leading Tribe in Yisrael and the Kingdom of Yisrael was ruled over by a king from his Tribe, i.e. David and his descendants. It was therefore appropriate that Tamar, herself descended from Royalty, should be married to him. The name Tamar reflects the fact that the original light contained both male and female properties, seeing that תמר (Tamar), a date or date-palm, contains both male and female elements, or rather that the name for both a female palm and a male palm is the same. The לולב (lulav), palm branch, is indicative of the male element in the palm, whereas the fruit, the product of the female palm tree goes by the same name, i.e. תמר (Tamar). It is male on the outside wheres its גרעין (gar'in), its pit, is female. This is something unique, not found in any other kind of tree. It was therefore appropriate that Peretz and Zerach be mothered by Tamar. Zerach corresponded to the element sun, and the male element, the sun which shines without interruption, whereas Peretz corresponded to the element moon, the female element, a light which is uneven, sometimes stronger sometimes waning completely such as the light of the moon. It was therefore almost a historical must that the dynasty of King David be the product of Peretz rather than Zerach, seeing that he, Peretz, as indicated by his name already, represented the type of light we get from the moon, i..e. light which fluctuates constantly in intensity as does the light of the moon.

When the verse is examined intelligently we find that just as the sun is always aligned with the moon just like twins, so Zerach and Peretz were aligned in the womb of their mother, i.e. they were twins. This concept of their being twins was carried so far that even at birth each of them could be taken for the firstborn depending on whether you consider the emergence of the hand or the emergence of the head as determining which one is the firstborn of the two. The Torah describes Zerach as the firstborn seeing that his hand emerged first from Tamar's womb. It says "for he emerged first." On the other hand, the Torah continues with "it was as he was about to pull back his hand (inside the womb)." Note that the Torah did not say that he had actually completed the act of pulling back his hand. Peretz became the firstborn y reason of forcing his way out of the birth canal of his mother past his twin bother Zerach. This is why the Torah writes "after that, his brother, the one who had the red string tied to his hand, emerged." In other words, when we consider the emergence from the womb of the entire baby, as the dominant criterion, Peretz was the firstborn even though Zerach had first put his hand out of his mother's womb. The Torah determined that for halachic purposes emergence of a whole baby from the mother's birth canal first determines who is the true firstborn (Bechorot 46). This is why when the Torah revealed the names of these two twins it first gives us the name of Peretz. You will find an interesting verse in Tehillim 89:28, "I will also appoint him firstborn, highest of the kings of the earth." G-d is on record that He considers David, who biologically was the youngest of his brothers, as a firstborn. Seeing that the kingdom of the house of David is derived from Peretz, and Peretz in turn has been likened to the moon, Chazal formulated the words, David King of Yisrael is alive and endures," when we recite the monthly benedictions welcoming the arrival of the renewal of the light of the moon.

When we look at the plain meaning of that statement it means simply that the moon is equated with David, (in name), seeing David is descended from Peretz who has been compared to the moon. Furthermore, seeing that the moon has been described in the Torah as the "small luminary" (Bereishit 1:16), we find that the adjective "the small one" has also been applied to David (compare 1Shmu'el 17:14). When we say the words חי וקיים (chai vekayam - alive and well), in the recital of יקדוש לבנה (Kiddush Levanah), the sanctification of the new moon, the thought we entertain is that the moon has become visible again this month.

On a more mystical level, these words are a reference to the latent power of the moon which is also known as דוד מלך ישראל (David Melech Yisrael - David, King of Yisrael), in that the word ישראל (Yisrael) is a reference to כנסת ישראל (Knesset Yisrael), the mystical entity called Yisrael in the celestial regions. This is why this entity is described as חי וקיים (alive and well), enduring forever. Dani'el 7:9 alludes to this when he said, "until the thrones were set up." There were two such thrones. In Chagigah 14 Chazal have revealed to us how they understood this verse in Dani'el. "Some hold that one of these thrones was reserved for G-d and the other for David. A second opinion holds that one of these thrones would be used by G-d when He employed the Attribute of Justice, whereas he would use the other throne when employing the Attribute of Charity. A third opinion, that of Rabbi Ele'azar ben Azaryah, contends that one of the 'thrones' was for sitting on, whereas the other served as a footrest." It appears in that folio as if Chazal  of the first view disagreed with the view expressed by those who old that one throne was reserved for David. Actually, Chazal do not disagree with the basic concepts underlying all this. We know this as they derive their opinion from the verse, "and they will seek HASHEM their G-d and David their king." The words "and David their King" are a reference to this concet of K'nesset Yisrael. Concerning the moral/spiritual power represented by K'nesset Yisra'el, Chazal expounded (Zohar Terumah 175) that legally speaking the Benei Yisrael were not slated for exile from their land ever. The decree to exile them was not decided until they had rejected both the Kingdom of Heaven (G-d) and the Kingdom of David. This is based on 2Shmu'el 20:1 "we have no portion in David nor in any inheritance of the son of Yishai. Every man to their tents!" (a proclamation by Sheva ben Bichri, a dissident and heretic, arousing the people to oppose David..

It is important to realize that the word "David" and the words "the son of Yishai" are not a repetition referring to one and the same person as those commentators who concentrate on the plain meaning of the text would have us believe. The meaning of the verse is that Shea ben Bichri and his supporters declared their severance of allegiance to both the kingdom of heaven and the celestial aspect of the kingdom on earth as represented by David in his capacity as the son of Yishai. These people served idols instead. This is why he said, "each one to his god!" Chazal inverted the letters in the word לְאֹהָלָיו (le'ohalav), "to their tents," to read "to their gods," i.e. לאלהיו because the separation of Yisrael from the house of David was regarded as a necessary transition to idolatry; it was looked upon as leaving G-d and the sanctuary for the worship of idolatry in tents. The verses reporting the birth of Zerach mention the word יד (yad) "hand," four times, i.e. וַתִּקְשֹׁר (vatikshor),  עַל-יָדוֹ שָׁנִי (al-yado shani), וַיְהִי כְּמֵשִׁיב יָדוֹ (Vayehi kemeshiv yado), אֲשֶׁר עַל-יָדוֹ הַשָּׁנִי (asher al-yado hashani). These four expressions parallel the four times עכן בן זרח (achan ben zerach), stretched out his hand, i.e committed a trespass against loot captured by the Jewish people in their wars since their departure from Egypt. He hid and retained such loot from the battle against Amalek, against Sichon and Og, from the battle against the Kena'anim and from the capture of Yericho (which was not preceded by a battle in the usual sense of the word) (compare Bereishit Rabbah 85:14).

May HASHEM continue to enlighten us with the Light of His Torah.

- Chazal

Parashat VaYeshev

VAYISHLACH PARDES - Ya'akov Wrestles a Malach

Sunday, November 30, 2014 · Posted in , , , ,

Bereishit 32:23
וַיַּעֲבֹר אֵת מַעֲבַר יַבֹּק
vaya'avor et Ma'avar Yabok
he crossed the ford of the Yabok

He wanted to test if the river bed would rise for him (Ramban) and would enable him to cross on foot. Once he saw that the water level was shallow enough, "he took them and brought them across the river." He then retraced his steps "and he brought his belongings across." He commanded his servants to do this. As a result he himself was the last one left on the wrong side of the river.

וַיִּוָּתֵר יַעֲקֹב לְבַדּוֹ
Vayivater Ya'akov levado
when Ya'akov had remained alone...

Chazal in Bereishit Rabbah 77:3 state that these words should be read as if Ya'akov was trapped there. Read lekado (for his pitcher) instead of levado (alone). This teaches that Ya'akov went back across the river to retrieve small vessels which had been overlooked. This teaches that the tzaddikim (righteous) are very meticulous even with relatively low cost items seeing that when you acquire things by making certain none of them has been tainted by being stolen or otherwise illegally acquired, one does treasure what one has more than do other people who dod not mind to acquire things less honestly. (Rashi).

Another approach is the vessels were used to drink out of and Ya'akov was concerned that the younger children should have a chance to drink from them on the journey.

וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ
vaye'avek ish imo
a man wrestled with him.

The word וַיֵּאָבֵק (vaye'avek) is derived from אבק (avak) "dust." It means that Ya'akov became enveloped by the dust of the person engaging him in a struggle. The "man" was the celestial representation of Esav. It is well known that had it not been for the original sin in Gan Eden there would not be a noticeable difference between man and angel. On the contrary, man would outrank the angel in ever respect. We base this on Sanhedrin 93 "the righteous are greater than the angels." Accordingly, the "angel" came to try and find a sin Ya'akov was guilty of in order to use the sin as a weapon to overpower him. However, he did not succeed. The only "sin" he could find was that Ya'akov had married two sisters during their lifetime, something which had not yet been forbidden. The Torah alludes to this when writing, "he inflicted an injury on Ya'akov's hip joint." This was a euphemism for his sexual organs and the seat of sexual desire. The "punishment," such as it was, was administered near the organ so that Yaakov limped for a while. (Bereishit Rabbah 73:3 and 77:2)

Another allusion included in the words "he struck the socket of his hip," is that the damage inflicted by the celestial representation of Esav would manifest itself in later generations, among descendants of Ya'akov who would suffer under the Romans. When the Torah wrote that the "angel" was unable to harm Ya'akov, i.e. כִּי לֹא יָכֹל לוֹ (ki lo yachol lo), the meaning is that he was unable to harm Ya'akov personally. He did not have permission to do so as Ya'akov was unblemished. Later generations who would not be so unblemished would become victims of Esav, however. This happened in the generation of Rabbi Yehudah ben Bava and his colleagues when that Rabbi became a martyr in order to save his students during the period when the Romans tried to wipe out Jews and Judaism. (Sanhedrin 13). The Talmud tells the following story:

Rabbi Chiyah bar Abba said, "If someone were to tell me to offer my life for the Holy Name of G-d I would be prepared to do so on condition that they would kill me quickly. If I had been asked to do the same during the persecutions of Jews and Judaism under Emperor Hadrianus, I would not be able to do so as I am not able to undergo such tortures." What did they do in that generation? They brought iron bars which had been made white hot. They then placed these bars under the arm pits of the victims and this is the way these people died.

וַיֹּאמֶר שַׁלְּחֵנִי
Vayomer shalcheni
he [the angel] said, "let me go!"

The angel was afraid that if he were to leave without having obtained Ya'akov's permission they would punish him in heaven with having to endure the פולסי דנורא (pulsei denura) "lashes of fire", a physical punishment administered by a fiery rod and mentioned in Chagigah 15 and elsewhere as an instrument for disciplining wayward angels.  There is another reference to this incident in Hoshe'a 12:5, "He strove with an angel and prevailed; the other had to weep and implore him."

כִּי עָלָה הַשָּׁחַר
ki alah hashachar
for dawn as risen.

When the angel asked to leave before daybreak Ya'akov asked him, "are you a thief that you need to fear daylight?" He answered, "I am an angel and ever since I have been created I have not yet had the opportunity to sing a song of praise to HASHEM in the heavenly choir. Today is my opportunity." There is reference to this in Scripture, "When the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy" (Iyov 38:7). The time of dawn is the time when the קדושה (Kedushah) is recited as mentioned by Yeshayahu 6:3, "and one would call to the other: Holy, Holy, Holy." Hearing this, Ya'akov replied, "I will not let you go unless you first bless me." He wanted Esav's angel to acknowledge that the blessing he had received from Yitzchak was acknowledged by Esav as being rightfully his. Thereupon the angel said, "your name will no longer be Ya'akov but Yisrael." He meant that from now on people will no longer say that you obtained the blessing by subterfuge, but they will admit that you are the rightful recipient of them. Alternatively, what the angel meant was that if anyone were to accuse Ya'akov of having swindled Lavan they would be proven wrong as Ya'akov had been accorded the Attribute "Truth", i.e. that he had acted truthfully IN ALL his undertakings. This was confirmed in Michah 7:20, "You have given 'truth' to Ya'akov."

כִּי-שָׂרִיתָ עִם-אלוקים
ki-sarita im-Elokim
for you have contended with Divine forces.

In this instance the word elohim refers to the angel representing Esav with whom Ya'akov had wrestled. The words ve-im anashim, in the same line, refers to Lavan and Esav. According to Bereishit Rabbah 78:3 the words  mean כִּי-שָׂרִיתָ עִם-אלוקים (ki-sarita im-Elokim) mean that Ya'akov's countenance was engraved on the Throne of G-d and the angel had realized this after looking at Ya'akov.

הַגִּידָה-נָּא שְׁמֶךָ
hagida-na shmecha
please tell me your name.

He wanted confirmation of what the "angel" had said by being able to identify him by name. The name would give Ya'akov a clue as to the essence of that spiritual force.

לָמָּה זֶּה תִּשְׁאַל לִשְׁמִי
lamah zeh tishal lishmi
why is this that you ask for my name?

He meant, "we do not have a fixed name; our names always change according to the mission we are sent on." Another meaning of these words, "why do you ASK for a name seeing that we are not in the habit of revealing our nations?" The reason an angel does not like to reveal his name is so as not to appear to crown himself with the success of any mission he has been sent on. He does not want a human being to go around saying, "this and this angel has performed such and such miracle." He is a servant, a mere extension of his Master in Heaven and he is careful not to do something which would create the wrong impression. This was the reason that the angel who had announced to Mano'ach and his wife that they would have a son resented being asked for his name (Shoftim 13:18) saying that his name was פלאי (pil'i) "something concealed." This is the meaning of Yeshayahu 43:7, "everything which bears My Name, I have created it for the sake of MY honor." This is also the thrust of David saying in Tehillim 29:1, "ascribe to HASHEM, O divine beings, ascribe to HASHEM glory and strength."

The "angel" responded that Ya'akov did not need this information as he had already achieved a great deal and had risen to the level of disembodied heavenly spirits.

וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתוֹ שָׁם
vayevarech oto sham
he blessed him there.

He acknowledged that Ya'akov was the rightful owner of the blessings his father had bestowed upon him.

According to a Midrash the blessing the angel bestowed upon Ya'akov at this time was identical with what wold later on become the standard formula of the Kohanim blessing the Jewish people as recorded in BaMidbar 6:24-27.

A logical / investigative approach:

The words, "a man wrestled with him," refer to Gavri'el (on other occasions Gavri'el is referred to as איש (ish) "man." According to the philosophers, Gavri'el is symbolic of the active investigative intelligence. According to Kabbalistic writings this disembodied intelligence supplies the outer form to human beings based on their endowments (genes). This force is the tenth of the emanations (the lowest counting from the top) the one we call מלכות (Malkut) which is just one rung above the physical universe, the עולם העשיה  (Olam Ha'Asiyah). This is the reason that the term איש which is usually only associated with tangible creatures is applied to Gavri'el. Ya'akov wanted to know if it is possible that this "man's" soul while still enclosed in a body would attain or represent a spiritual level equal to disembodied intelligence such as the force with whom he had done battle. In other words, this category of angel might be perceived as the link between the highest intelligence found inside a body and the lowest intelligence able to exist as a disembodied entity. The angel, i.e. Gavri'el, answered him that this was possible only after dawn, i.e. until the various forces which darken the soul have disappeared with the light of the morning. This physical light, though symbolic of spiritual light, is here described as עולם העשיה (Olam Ha'Asiyah).

עַל-כֵּן לֹא-יֹאכְלוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-גִּיד הַנָּשֶׁה אֲשֶׁר עַל
Al-ken lo-yochlu venei-Yisra'el et-gid hanasheh asher al
this is why the Children of Yisrael are not to eat the displaced sinew of the hip-socket.

The Torah goes on with a report of the consequences of this encounter. This means that seeing the נפש השכלית (G-dly intellectual soul) is meant to adjust to the norms of the disembodied intellect, the true Jewish people are not to engage in activities which arouse the libido which is seated near the hip-socket. The meaning of the word "eat" here does not only mean the actual consumption of this part of animalistic tissue but also what it symbolizes, i.e. absorbing the philosophy it represents.

From a purely physical point of view, the sinew is a very tough sinew and comparable to a tough cord. Cords become harder and tougher with use through pulling wagons, etc. Similarly, when one engages in such activities as arousing one's libido, this leaves a progressively deeper imprint on one's personality. The more frequently one engages in such activities the more they become part of one's personality. Hence, the prohibition of "eating" that sinew has also deep physiological significance for the Jewish people. Preoccupation with such concerns gradually estranges one to G-d. The act of "eating' if performed within reason, i.e. in quantities appropriate to the body's need, actually promotes both good physical and spiritual health. Eating to excess results in corruption of the body and health. Eating to excess results in corruption of the body and ultimately the soul. The same is true when one indulges any of the other physical desires.

אֲשֶׁר עַל-כַּף הַיָּרֵךְ
asher al-kaf hayarech
which is on the hip joint.

The importance of this particular sinew is that the entire body relies heavily on it so that if it is damaged one cannot even move. It therefore represents all physical desire.

עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה
ad hayom hazeh
to this very day.

This does not refer to a specific date. The meaning of the words is that as long as the desires of the body assert themselves in man the restriction expressed in this prohibition remains in force. The arrival of the hereafter signifies a new יום (yom) "Day," as documented by many of our Prophets. Hence, the Torah says that as long as man (Yisra'el) is a mortal human being this prohibition will remain in force.

כִּי נָגַע בְּכַף-יֶרֶךְ יַעֲקֹב
ki naga bechaf-yerech Ya'akov
because he struck Ya'akov's hip joint.

The reason the Torah deliberately reverts to naming Yisrael "Ya'akov" at this juncture, is to stress that the influence of physical desire is what "separates the men from the boys," i.e. what is the true impediment of every "Ya'akov" developing into an "Yisra'el." It is within the power and scope of physical desires to drag down the נפש השכלית (G-dly intellectual soul) in man to the level represented by Ya'akov at birth, i.e. a degraded person who hangs on to the heel of this totally physically oriented brother. When G-d said to Yaakov, "You will no longer be called Ya'akov but your name shall remain Yisra'el," the message is not so much a compliment but a moral - ethical imperative to live according to the yardsticks applied to individuals deserving of the distinctive title Yisra'el. This is why Chazal in Berachot 13 stated that Yisra'el was henceforth Ya'akov's major name, the name Ya'akov being used only in a secondary sense. This also explains G-d's instructions to Moshe in Shemot 19:3 prior to the giving of the Torah, "thus you shall say of Yisra'el." The women were referred to as "Ya'akov," as they are adjuncts to the men (in terms of Torah study), the men as "Yisra'el."

וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ אַרְצָה שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים
vayishtachu artzah sheva pe'amim
he bowed earthwards seven times.

The Torah could have written "three times," as we find in connection with David and Yonatan (1Shmu'el 20:41) where we are told, "that David bowed his face to the ground and prostrated himself three times before Yonatan (the crown prince). The reason the Torah here mentions the number seven is to remind us that when a righteous person falls down even seven times, he will rise again and regain his composure (Mishlei 24:16).

May HASHEM continue to enlighten us with the Light of His Torah.

- Chazal

Parashat VaYishlach

Haftarah VaYishlach

VAYETZE PARDES - Ya'akov and Rachel at the Well

Monday, November 24, 2014 · Posted in , , , , ,

[Georgeous artwork by Abel Pann available at Art Fair .com]

Bereishit 29:2
וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה בְאֵר בַּשָּׂדֶה
Vayar vehineh ve'er basadeh
he looked, and behold here there was a well on a field.

Every single one of our Patriarchs had an encounter with a well and in each case the well was an allusion to future happenings. In Yitzchak's case the well he encountered was called  בְּאֵר מַיִם חַיִּים (be'er mayim chayim) "a well of living water." (26:19) Bereishit Rabbah 70:8 explains that to the Jewish people Torah is equivalent to spring water.

וְהִנֵּה-שָׁם שְׁלֹשָׁה עֶדְרֵי-צֹאן
vehineh-sham shloshah edrei-tzon
and here there were three flocks of sheep.

The Torah could have written "here there were three flocks of sheep and there was a well.." The reason the syntax was changed was to allude to a similar sequence in Yechezkel 3:23 "and here the glory of HASHEM was standing." Yisrael is called "the flock of G-d" as we know from Yechezkel 34:31, "and you are My sheep, sheep of My pasture, you are Adam..." The same thought is in Tehillim 79:13 "and we are Your people and the flock of Your pasture." The reason the Torah mentioned three flocks is that the Jewish peple consist of three flocks, i.e. the Kohanim, the Levi'im, and the Benei Yisrael. All of the Benei Yisrael used to make a pilgrimage to the Temple three times a year in order to be in the Presence of G-d.

כִּי מִן-הַבְּאֵר הַהִוא יַשְׁקוּ הָעֲדָרִים וְהָאֶבֶן גְּדֹלָה
ki min-habe'er hahi yashku ha'adarim veha'even gedolah
for from that well the flocks would be watered. And the large stone...

There is an allusion here to the Holy Name of G-d which was engraved in the Holy Temple. The line "for from that well the flocks would be watered," is a clear hint that the Temple would serve as the basic inspiration of the various sections of the Jewish people. The words וְהָאֶבֶן גְּדֹלָה (veha'even gedolah) is a reference to a "golden crown", i.e. the letter ד (dalet) in the Shema - שמע ישראל ה׳ אלוקינו ה׳ אחד (Shema Yisrael HASHEM Elokeinu HASHEM Echad). The last letter  ד which is in larger script in the Torah is equivalent to the final letter in the Ineffable Name, which alludes to G-d's Attribute גדולה (Gedolah).

וְנֶאֶסְפוּ-שָׁמָּה כָל-הָעֲדָרִים
Vene'esfu-shamah chol-ha'adarim
all the flocks would be assembled there [next to the well];

This is an allusion to all the Tribes of Yisrael from the extreme north to the extreme south who would assemble at the Holy Temple. The word וְגָלְלוּ (vegalelu) "would roll [the stone]" may be understood as similar in meaning to Berachot 7 "they will roll over Your Attribute of Mercy to 'exile' Your other Attribute." The Talmud there discusses the effectiveness of prayer. The words וְהִשְׁקוּ אֶת-הַצֹּאן (vehishku et-hatzon) "they watered the flock," describe how the Ruach HaKodesh was drawn down in order to provide the Benei Yisrael with blessing emanating from the Inner Sanctuary (in the Celestial Temple). The words "and they would replace the stone to its place," mean that seeing that they had previously elevated the stone (figure of speech) to lofty spiritual regions, once they had absorbed the proper spiritual imput from that region they descended from such a spiritual "high." There is a parallel comment in Sefer Yetzirah 1:4 "leave a matter in its proper state and restore the Creator to His realm."

A Midrashic approach: rabbi Yochanah interpreted the words וְהִנֵּה בְאֵר בַּשָּׂדֶה (vehineh ve'er basadeh) "behold here there was a well on a field" (v2) as an allusion to the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai. The words בְאֵר בַּשָּׂדֶה (be'er basadeh) are a reference to Mount Sinai. The words שְׁלֹשָׁה עֶדְרֵי-צֹאן (shloshah edrei-tzon) "three flocks of sheep," refer to the Kohanim, the Levi'im, and the Benei Yisrael. The words "for from that well the flocks would be watered," refer to the Ten Commandments whereas the words וְהָאֶבֶן גְּדֹלָה (veha'even gedolah) are a reference to G-d. The words וְנֶאֶסְפוּ-שָׁמָּה (vene'eshfu-shamah) "they were gathered there," refer to the Jewish people whereas the words וְהֵשִׁיבוּ אֶת-הָאֶבֶן עַל-פִּי הַבְּאֵר לִמְקֹמָהּ (veheshivu et-ha'even al-pi habe'er limekomah) "they put the stone back on the mouth of the well, its original place," are a simile for Moshe saying to the people at the end of the revelation (Shemot 20:22) "You have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven."

לָבָן בֶּן-נָחוֹר
Lavan ben-Nachor
Lavan son of Nachor.

The Torah should have described him as "Lavan the son of Betu'el," seeing Betu'el was his father. However, this is another instance where the Torah shows that grandchildren are equal to children (Yevamot 62). We have another such example in 20:12 where Avraham described Sarah as "my sister the daughter of my father," although in effect Sarah was the daughter of Avraham's brother Haran. He had meant "daughter of my father's son (Haran). It also possible that the Torah described Lavan as the son of Nachor, seeing that Avraham's brother Nachor was a well known personality, whereas Betu'el was relatively unknown. When people spoke of Lavan they never referred to him as teh son of Betu'el but as the son of Nachor. The Torah simply described things as they were.

וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר רָאָה יַעֲקֹב
Vayehi ka'asher ra'ah Ya'akov
it happened that as soon as Yaakov looked...

We find that in this verse the Torah repeats the expression אֲחִי אִמּוֹ (achi imo) "brother of his [Yaakov] mother" repeatedly. This is partly in order to explain why Ya'akov was so concerned with helping to water the flocks as he had pity on Rachel, Lavan's daughter. Whatever Ya'akov did, whatever feat of strenght he performed, he did not perform for the sake of Lavan but for the sake of his mother Rivkah. This is why every time the Torah had to mention the name of wicked Lavan, it constrasts him with his sister, Ya'akov's mother. Ya'akov remembered his mother who had advised him to go to Lavan.

There is yet another reason for the repeated mention of the words אֲחִי אִמּוֹ "brother of his mother." Whenever a person hears or sees an object he desires, he is suddenly capable of performing tasks which he cannot perform in order to secure something which his heart does not covet. The reader of this passage could be forgiven if he had thought that seeing Ya'akov was taken with Rachel's beauty he desired her physically and this is what gave him the strength to move the rock single-handedly. The Torah refers time and again to the fact that Lavan was the brother of Ya'akov's mother in order to make us aware that physical passion had nothing to do with Ya'akov's sudden burst of strength in moving the rock. The Torah was so concerned not to create the impression that Ya'akov's sudden burst of strength was inspired by passion that instead of writing, "as soon as Ya'akov set eyes on Rachel he rolled the rock...," the Torah wrote instead (in somewhat clumsy style) "it was when Ya'akov saw Rachel the daughter of Lavan, the brother of his mother, and the flock of Lavan the brother of his mother, Yaakov approached and rolled the rock..."

וַיִּגַּשׁ יַעֲקֹב וַיָּגֶל אֶת-הָאֶבֶן מֵעַל פִּי הַבְּאֵר
vayigash Ya'akov vayagel et-ha'even me'al pi habe'er
Ya'akov approached and rolled the rock from the top of the well.

Ya'akov clearly displayed superior physical strength seeing that at least three shepherds had been unable to move that rock with their combined efforts. When you consider in addition that Ya'akov must have been tired both from the long journey and from Torah study, which traditionally weakens a person physically, his feat was even more remarkable. Yaakov had spent the last 14 years studying in the academy of Ever (even though this detail has not been recorded in the Written Torah).

We find that when Yitzchak his father commanded Ya'akov, "arise and go to padan Aram and take for yourself from there a wife" (28:2), that he understood that the meaning of the word אִשָּׁה (ishah) also included another element, something that Yitzchak had not spelled out to him. The hidden meaning of the word אִשָּׁה was that it referred to Torah. King Shlomo in Mishlei 31:10 already alluded to this meaning of the word אִשָּׁה, when he headlined his last paragraph with the words "who can find a woman of valor?" He described such a "woman" as  עֲטֶרֶת בַּעְלָהּ (ateret balah) "the crown of her husband." (Mishlei 12:4)

Chazal, when commenting on Devarim 33:4 where Moshe described the Torah as "as an inalienable possession handed down from generation to generation," that the word ought not merely be read as  מוֹרָשָׁה (morashah) "inheritance," but as מאורשה (me'orasah) "betrothed," something a Jew is betrothed to. In other words, Torah is to us what a wife is to a husband. Keeping this thought in mind, Ya'akov decided to fulfill the implied command of his father first and instead of proceeding directly to Lavan he stayed at the Yeshivah for 14 years. The number of years he must have stayed there can be arrrived at by comparing the age at which e met Pharaoh (130 - he lived in Egypt for 17 years and died at 147 years of age). When you deduct 22 years during which he had not seen Yosef who had been 17 years of age at the time of his abduction, this made Ya'akov 91 years old at the time Yosef had been born. Yosef was born after Ya'akov had stayed at Lavan's for 14 yaers. This means he was 77 years of age when he came to Charan. Yitzchak dispensed the blessing when he was 123 years of age, i.e. when Ya'akov was 63 years old (compare Rashi wo said that when one approaches within 5 years of the age at which either parent died it is time to make arrangements concerning one's own death. The Talmud Megillah 17 arrives at the same conclusion). All this support the view that the only way to account for an obvious discrepeancy in dates supplied by the Torah is to conclude that Ya'akov studied Torah for 14 years before arriving at Lavan's house.

וַיִּשַּׁק יַעֲקֹב לְרָחֵל
Vayishak Ya'akov le-Rachel
Ya'akov kissed Rachel...

The reason the Torah referred to Rachel as קטנה (ktanah), "small," is that she was still a minor and Ya'akov could not consummate marriage vows with her. This was the reason Lavan was not worried to hand his flocks to her instead of to his already adult daughter Le'ah who was liable to be molested by the male shepherds on account of her age. We should also note that Ya'akov did not kiss Rachel on the mouth but on the head or the shoulder, suggesting that there was no sexual element in that kiss (Ibn Ezra).

וַיִּשָּׂא אֶת-קֹלוֹ וַיֵּבְךְּ
vayisa et-kolo vayevk.
he raised his voice and cried.

This was customary when family memebers met. According to Bereishit Rabbah 70:12 quoted by Rashi, Ya'akov's weeping was prompted by his having a vision of Rachel not being buried with him in the cave of Machpelah. Another Midrash attributes this weeping to Ya'akov's reflecting on his arrival as a potential suitor empty-handed, whereas Eliezer, his father's servant at the time when he met Rivkah was loaded with precious gifts. According to that version, the reason taht Ya'akov was penniless was that Esav's son Elifaz whome his father had dispatched to kill him had settled for leaving him penniless, reasoning that a poor man is like a dead man. (Sefer HaYashar)

May HASHEM continue to enlighten us with the Light of His Torah.

- Chazal

Parashat VaYetze

TOLEDOT PARDES - Ya'akov and Esav

Monday, November 17, 2014 · Posted in , , , , ,

Bereishit 25:22
וַיִּתְרֹצְצוּ הַבָּנִים בְּקִרְבָּהּ
Vayitrotzatzu habanim bekirbah
the children quarreled inside her.

This particular pregnancy was totally different from all the pregnancies experienced by women up until that time. It was quite unknown for women who gave birth to twins to experience turbulence within  their wombs during their pregnancies. The fact that these fetuses had begun to behave in such a manner already while inside the womb made Rivkah very distraught. She had her worst fears confirmed when G-d told her through His prophet Shem (Bereishit Rabbah 63:7) that she was going to give birth to founders of two nations whose outlook on life would be totally different from one another. He assured Rivkah that she personally, had not cause to worry about the physical phenomenon of that tumult within her.

The Midrashic opinion (Avodah Zarah 11) draws attention to the unusual spelling of the word גיים (goyim - nations) (25:23). The correct spelling should have been גוים. This prompted Rabbi Yehudah to see a hint that there would be two individuals belonging to these two nations, i.e. Emperor Antoninus and Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi, whose wealth would be such that all manner of vegetables which were not in season would nonetheless be served on their tables all year. At first glance such a statement is difficult to reconcile with the statement made by the same Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi on his deathbed (Ketuvot 104), that he had never permitted himself to use his wealth to indulge himself or to otherwise enjoy the pleasures of life on earth, but had made do with absolute necessities only. It is understood that the Midrash in Bereishit Rabbah as describing what Rabbi Yehudah served his guest, not what he himself partook of.

Antoninus was a descendant of Esav. He had studied Torah secretly with Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi so that his servants and other members of his Empire would not become aware of this. According to tradition (also in Avodah Zarah 10), Antoninus, while governor in Yisrael, had a subterranean room which was linked by a passage to the home of Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi. He would take two slaves with him every day. He would kill the first one at the entrance to the house of Rabbi Yehudah, and the second one at the entrance to his own palace so that there would not be any surviving witnesses to his visits at the home of Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi. He requested of Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi that at the prearranged times when he would visit, Rabbi Yehudah should not have anyone else present at the house. It happened that on one occasion Rabbi Chanina bar Chama happened to be at the house of Rabbi Yehudah when Antoninus arrived. He became very agitated and complained, "Did I not tell you not to have anyone present when I come?" Rabbi Yehudah replied that the apparition in the guise of Rabbi Chanina was not a human being. Thereupon Antoninus said to Rabbi Yehudah, "Tell this man to get me the slave who stands on guard at the entrance." Rabbi Chanina, aware that this slave was going to be killed, deliberated what to do. When he came to the place from where he was suppose to gt the slave he found that the slave was already dead. He meditated on what to do, saying to himself that if he told Antoninus that the slave was already dead, he would accuse him of having murdered him. At the same time there is a rule that one need not return to the sender in order to bring bad news. On the other hand, he reasoned, if he were simply to leave the dead man and not go back to the house of Rabbi Yehudah at all, this would be a disgrace, and an insult to the Roman Empire. So he decided to pray. As a result of his prayer the dead guard came to life again and he sent him to his master. Thereupon Antoninus said to Rabbi Yehudah, "I am aware that even relatively insignificant Jews possess the power to bring the dead back to life. Nonetheless, I wish that when I come here no other living soul shall be present." Antoninus used to provide Rabbi Yehudah with a variety of personal services as well as feed him if necessary on a daily basis. He even expressed a wish to be able to serve Rabbi Yehudah in the hereafter as his mattress. One day he asked Rabbi Yehudah if he could expect to be granted life in the hereafter. Rabbi Yehudah answered in the affirmative. Antoninus questioned this, quoting Ovadiya 18 "There will not be anyone remaining of the house of Esav." Rabbi Yehudah replied that this verse speaks only of people who live in accordance with the principles of Esav. Thereupon Antoninus quoted another verse, this time from Yechezkel 32:29 "There are Edom, her kings and her princes" (The entire passage deals with the descent to Gehinom of all these Gentile people). Rabbi Yehudah replied that the verse referred to "her kings," but not to "all her kings." He added that Yechezkel had specifically excluded Antoninus as well as a certain Ketiah bar Shalom from his perdiction.

וְהִנֵּה תוֹמִם בְּבִטְנָהּ
vehineh tomim bevitnah
and here there were twins in her womb.

The word תוֹמִם (tomim) "twins," is spelled defectively, with the letters י (yud) and א (alef) missing. The reason for the defective spelling is that one of Rivkah's children was going to be a wicked person. The next time the birth of twins is mentioned in the Torah, i.e. the sons of Tamar and Yehudah, Peretz and Zerach, the word is spelled properly, i.e. תאומים, seeing that both the sons Peretz and Zerach were going to be righteous.

וַיֵּצֵא הָרִאשׁוֹן אַדְמוֹנִי
Vayetze harishon admoni
the first one emerged all reddish looking.

According to Bereishit Rabbah 63:8 the performance of the commandment to take the Lulav and Etrog on the first day of Sukkot (VaYikra 23:40) and to give thanks to G-d for His bounty is the reason taht G-d appeared to the Jewish people first, demands payment (for their sins) "from the first one," "builds for them first," "brings them (to the Holy Land) first". The fact that G-d appeared to the Jewish people first is derived from Yeshayahu 44:6; the fact that G-d enacts payment from the first one, i.e. Esav first, is derived from Bereishit 25:25. "He builds for them first," is a reference to the Holy Temple as we know from Yirmeyahu 17:12 "O Throne of Glory exalted from the first." The fact that G-d brings the redeemer to the Jewish people first, is attested to by Yeshayahu 41:27 "the things predicted to Tziyon originally, behold they are here! And again I send a herald to Yerushalayim."  This Midrash demonstrates that the word rishon "first," does not necessarily imply an advantage, such as when G-d demands an accounting for his sins from Esav first because he emerged first from Rivkah's womb.

כֻּלּוֹ כְּאַדֶּרֶת שֵׂעָר
kulo ke'aderet se'ar
all of him looking like a fur coat.

The meaning is as if the Torah had written, "his entire body covered with hair, just like a mantle." Seeing he was born with this much hair, people called him אִישׁ שָׂעִר (ish sa'ir) "a hairy man" (27:11). The word שעיר is an all encompassing expression which includes the demonic qualities which are attributed to the deities called שעירים, which the Torah enjoins us from offering sacrifices to (VaYikra 17:7).  According to Midrash, the strength of that demonic power is concentrated in the hair which covers its heart. At the time of the Redemption, arrival of Mashiach, G-d will make the demonic power collapse when he blows the Shofar heralding the Redemption, "and HASHEM Elokim will sound the ram's horn, and advance in a stormy tempest" (Zecharya 9:14)

וַיִּגְדְּלוּ הַנְּעָרִים
Vayigdelu hane'arim
the lads grew up

According to Bereishit Rabbah 63:10 after Esav attained the age of 13 he frequented houses of idolatry while Yaakov frequented Torah academies. Chazal in the same Midrash also said that Rivkah had experienced similar experiences during her pregnancy. Whenever she passed either one of the aforementioned institutions one of the fetuses within her seemed anxious to emerge. There is a verse in Yirmeyahu 1:5 "even before I formed you in the womb I already appointed you (as a prophet)." From this verse we see that distinct pre-natal tendencies are not mere figments of Chazal's imagination. Tehillim 58:4 "the wicked are defiant even while in the womb," confirms this piece of psychological insight.

וַיְהִי עֵשָׂו אִישׁ יֹדֵעַ צַיִד אִישׁ שָׂדֶה וְיַעֲקֹב אִישׁ תָּם יֹשֵׁב אֹהָלִים
vayehi Esav ish yode'a tza'id ish sadeh veYa'akov ish tam yoshev ohalim
Esav became a hunter, a man of the field, whereas Yaakov was a straightforward man, a dweller in tents.

This verse conveys the fact that though the brothers were twins they had totally different interests in life. Esav pursued the material pleasures available in life whereas Yaakov was of a philosophical bent. This is why the Torah characterizes the difference in the two phrases that Esav was a man of the field, i.e. a man dedicated to the earth, the physical. This is why later on he is called אדום (Edom), a word closely reminiscent of אדמה (adamah)  "earth." It is a well know fact that if man dedicates himself to the pursuit of the pleasures which life has to offer, this estranges him to G-d and makes it difficult for him to serve Hashem at the same time as he is busy pursuing his major concerns. Making earthiness a priority must result in making godliness a secondary concern. This is reflected when Esav sold the birthright and the Torah (25:34) describes this in a few words, "he ate, he drank, he arose and went of his way; thus Esav demonstrated his disdain for the birthright." Anyone who is characterized by this negative virtue will eventually find himself deceived. In the case of Esav we find him describing himself as deceived twice when he said to his father (27:36) "and he [Yaakov] has tricked me twice, he took my birthright and now he has taken my blessing." Whatever pleasures and satisfactions such people do experience are only temporary and the time will come when they rue their former lifestyle and they cry out bitterly when they realize that "life" has deceived them. This is what Shlomo had in mind when he said in Mishlei 5:3-4 "for the lips of an immoral woman drip honey; her mouth is smoother than oil. But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword." This is precisely the lifestyle of Esav and all those who support him. The philosophy and lifestyle of Yaakov are diametrically opposed to this, for someone characterized as אִישׁ תָּם (ish tam) "simple man" and as יֹשֵׁב אֹהָלִים (yoshev ohalim) "dweller in tents" is the antithesis of someone described as יֹדֵעַ צַיִד אִישׁ שָׂדֶה (yode'a tza'id ish sadeh) "a hunger, a man of the field." Not only this, whatever Esav was willing to give up, i.e. to sell, Yaakov was anxious to buy. When the Torah speaks about the dish of lentils, something round, always returning to is beginning, this merely illustrates the concept of the pursuit of the pleasures of this world. This physical unverse and all the phenomena in it are constantly being recycled, as Shlomo said already at the beginning of Kohelet "there is nothing new under the sun." What is perceived as progress, eventually is seen to be merely a retread of something old. Yaakov who had perceived this was therefore anxious to sell such "merchandise," in return for something which promised enduring progress. The instrument of securing the spiritual progress is the birthright, as it represents the privilege of performing service for Hashem in sacred precincts.

Seeing the Torah had described both Esav and Yaakov already as איש (ish), i.e. adult, mature in years, it is clear that they must have been at least 13 years of age at the time Yaakov bought the birthright from his twin brother. If, as the Midrash says, Avraham died five years early in order not to experience how Esav disdain for spiritual values, this means that the brothers were 15 years old at the time the sale of the birthright took place. Avraham was 160 years old at the time Yaakov and Esav were born. He died at the age of 175, i.e. at a time when his grandchildren were 15 years of age. There is also an allusion in the verse that people such as Esav are slated for Gehinom whereas people such as Yaakov are destined for Gan Eden.

In Bereishit Rabbah (65:22) we read that when Ya'akov entered Yitzchak's room in order to receive the blessing, Gan Eden entered with him. On the other hand, when Esav entered the same room a little later, Gehinom entered with him. Midrash Tanchuma Parshat Tzav 2 expresses a similar sentiment when the author writes that the words היא העולה (hi ha'olah) "it is the burnt-offering" (VaYikra 6:2), are a reference to a nation which is totally wrapped up in earthly concerns, and which eleveates itself as is written in Ovadya 4 "even if you rise as high as the eagle I will bring you down, על מוקדה, on the site of the altar where the fire is burning." The word is a reference to the fires of Gehinom in the hereafter. The words of Daniel 7:11 apply to such people, "and consigned to the fires burning."

וְיַעֲקֹב אִישׁ תָּם
veYa'akov ish tam
and Ya'akov was a straightforward man.

Actually, the Torah should have written "and Ya'akov was a man of truth." His principal characteristic was אמת (emet) "truth." This is what Michah was at pains to point out when he said "Grant truth to Yaakov, kindness to Avraham..." (7:20). Instead the Torah added the word תָּם (tam) to describing Yaakov as "a dweller in tents," a student of Torah, in order to already hint at that quality אמת (emet) by attributing to him two of the three letters in that word.

Continued asap...


Parashat Toledot


Sunday, November 9, 2014 · Posted in , , , , ,

Bereishit 24:16
וַתֵּרֶד הָעַיְנָה וַתְּמַלֵּא כַדָּהּ וַתָּעַל
vatered ha'aynah vatemale chadah vata'al
She descended to the well, filled her jug, and she came up.

The crucial words "she drew water," is missing from this verse. On the second occasion when Rivkah again descended (v20) to provide water for Eliezer's camels the Torah does insert the words, "she ran to the well once more in order to draw water; she drew water..." These fine differences in the text prompted Chazal in Bereishit Rabbah 60:6 to say: "all the women go down to the well to fill (their jugs). This one - as soon as the waters saw her they rose up to meet her." G-d said to her, "Just as the waters have seen fit to rise in your honor so other waters will rise in homor of your children." The reference is to "then the Benei Yisrael broke out in son, 'Rise up, O well, - sing to it...'" (BaMidbar 21:17).

The also explains the unusual verse 17, "the servant ran towards her..." As soon as Eliezer had noticed the strange phenomenon that the waters rose to meet this girl (v16) he hastened to meet her.

Here we encounter for the first time that the 72-lettered version of the 4-lettered Ineffable Name is alluded to.  The first letters in the words כַדָּהּ וַתָּעַל (chadah vata'al) spell 26 in numerical value. The numerical value of the 4-lettered Ineffable Name י-ה-ו-ה when spelled in letters only equals 26. When these four letters are spelled out as words, i.e. יוד הי ויו הי (yod-hei-vav-hei), the result is 72. Such permutations of the Holy Name of G-d exert their influence on water and the waters whch responded to the arrival of Rivkah did so as a result of being sensitive to such considerations. At a later time, when the Benei Yisrael were on the edge of the sea of Reeds the water was able to rise in the form of walls to let the Benei Yisrael pass through in response to Moshe's staff which had this Name of G-d (72 letters) inscribed on it. A similar consideration enabled Moshe to strick the rock and to bring forth water from it (Shemot 17:6). (Targum Yonatan on Shemot 14:21).

וַתֹּאמֶר גַּם לִגְמַלֶּיךָ אֶשְׁאָב
vatomer gam ligmaleicha esh'av 
She said, "I will also draw water for your camels."

The physical strength required for Rivkah to draw water for all of Eliezer's camels could only be explained if she enjoyed divine assistance. This is all the more so if we accept the opinion of Chazal in the Seder Olam that at that time was only three years old. The whole matter can be viewed only as part of the success of which Avraham had assured Eliezer at the outset when he told him, "He will send His angel ahead of you and make your mission successful." (24:7) This is the reason you find an allusion to G-d's great Name in this verse the Name which was discussed in the privious paragraph. The fact that the letter ג (gimel) in the word גמליך has a dagesh is additional evidence of an allusion to the attribute gevurah being involved in what transpired at this well.

וַיִּקַּח הָאִישׁ נֶזֶם זָהָב בֶּקַע מִשְׁקָלוֹ-וּשְׁנֵי צְמִידִים
vayikach ha'ish nezem zahav beka mishkalo usneh tsmidim
the man took a golden nose-ring weighing a beka and two bracelets...

Why did the Torah need to tell us the weight of these pieces of jewelry? We are dealing with an allusion to the fact that eventually Rivkah's descendants, i.e. the generation who would contribute to the building of the Mishkan in terms of shekalim. In Shemot 35:26 the Torah speaks of the weight of these shekalim also in terms of one "beka per person." When the Jewish people received the two Tablets with the Ten Commandments you will find that these comprised 172 words. This corresponds to what we read here וּשְׁנֵי צְמִידִים עַל-יָדֶיהָ עֲשָׂרָה זָהָב מִשְׁקָלָם (usneh tzmidim al-yadeiha asarah zahav mishkalam) "and two bracelets for arms, weighing ten gold shekel." The words עֲשָׂרָה זָהָב (asarah zahav - ten gold) are an allusion to the Ten Commandments. The word שקל (shekel) is seen as an acronym describing קול אש (kol esh - voice of fire), i.e.. the ingredients most prominent during the revelation of G-d at Mount Sinai.. We are told that on that occasion "from the Heavens he let you hear His powerful voice, and on earth He showed you His great fire" (Devarim 4:36). This also leads us to examine the amount of shekels offered by Haman (יש״ו) in order to secure permission from King Achashverosh to do to the Jewish people as he saw fit. He offered 10,000 talents of silver, or 600,000 shekels. (Ester 3:9) It was his plant to neutralize the 600,000 shekels the Benei Yisrael had contributed at the time for the sockets of the Holy Mishkan and to deprive them of any merit they might have accumulated due to that donation. In short, Haman (יש״ו) wanted to neutralize the accumulated merit of the people who had ebraced the Torah at Mount Sinai. He wanted to annul what had been acqquired with fire and sound. This is what has been hinted at here in Eliezer's payer (v27) when he said, "I was on the way when G-d guided me.." He meant that the merit of the אָנֹכִי (anochi - I AM) which the Jewish people would accept in the future was active on his behalf at the time he stood by the well. All the details of what was happening with Rivkah at this time foreshadowed events of the future involvoing her offspring. Similarly, all that happened to the servant of Avraham on this mission foreshadowed events in Jewish history of the future when that people was in the desert.

Just as an angel had been at his side through the efficacy of Avraham's prayer who had said that "G-d will send His angel ahead," so it happened to Avraham's descendants in the desert. Seeing that the angel in question was not a regular natural phenomenon but one of the disembodied spiritual creatures, so the angel who accompanied the Jewish people was such a disembodied spiritual force who had been emanated by the merit of Avraham. This was whom the Torah had in mind when it quoted G-d as telling Moshe in Shemot 23:20 "Here I am about to send an angel ahead of you." Just as Avraham in this chapter referred to this divine force as מַלְאָכוֹ (malacho) "His angel," so G-d referred to the same divine force as מַלְאָכִי (malachi) "My angel," and not just any malach (angel) (Shemot 23:23). Just as the waters had risen towards Rivkah, so the waters rose towards her "children" in the desert as explained before. The servant also alluded to such future developments when presenting her with the jewelry mentioned in this chapter. This mission was carried out by a trusted servant, i.e. Eliezer. The Jewish people in the desert were led by G-d's trusted servant Moshe. When the Torah wrote in this chapter that Eliezer had been equipped with all the "good" of his master Avraham, the Torah, in a parallel reference, tells us that G-d equipped Moshe for his task by equipping him with all "His goodness." This is what is meant by Shemot 33:19 "I will let all My goodness pass before you." Just as Eliezer gave gifts to Rivkah not only at the well but also in her father's house (v53), so the Jewish people who received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai again receied the gift of a covenant shortly before they entered the Holy Land (Devarim 28:69). At that time many commandments were applicalbe in Eretz Yisrael were revealed for the first time in detail. This reflects the statement of Chazal in Gittin 60 that, "the Torah was given to the Jewish people in individual scrolls." Chazal meant that although Moshe had receied all 613 mitzvot while he was on Mount Sinai in the first year of their wanderings, he did not teach all of these commandments to the people at once. Just as the story of Rivkah and Eliezer at the well has been repeated in the Torah and the srvant relates all that happened to him at the well, so Moshe repeated many parts of the events the jewish people experienced during their trek through the desert once more in Sefer Devarim. Also, the Jewish people received both the first and the second set of Tables.

וְיִצְחָק בָּא מִבּוֹא בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי
VeYitzchak ba mibo Be'er Lachai Ro'i
and Yitzchak was in the process of coming from Be'er lachai Ro'i.

The plain meaning of the text is precisely what Chazal wrote in Bereishit Rabbah 60:14 in answer to the rhetorical question where Yitzchak was coming from, that he came to bring Hagar who dwelled near the well mentioned in order for her to become the wife of his father. Hagar had named this well to acknowledge that G-d had seen her disgrace and had helped her regain her dignity.

This verse and the words בָּא מִבּוֹא (ba mibo - coming from) may be a reference to the spiritual equivalent of the Jewish people, i.e Mount Moriah. Yitzchak had only now returned from a three day stay at the holy site. He had been shown by G-d that this was the spiritual well of the Jewish people, the source from which they receive the water, i.e. Torah, which keeps them alive. During all this time when Yitzchak had lived in solitude his whole thinking had concentrated on the concept and eventual realization of what the Jewish people are suppose to stand for in G-d's scheme of things. The words בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי (from Be'er lachai Ro'i) support our interpretation as otherwise the Torah should have written ב-באר לחי רואי "at the well of Lachai Ro'i."

לָשׂוּחַ בַּשָּׂדֶה
lasuach basadeh
to meditate in the field.

According to both Ibn Ezra and David Kimchi these words mean, "to stroll among the shrubs." Yitzchak had gone for a stroll to enjoy nature.

A Midrashic interpretation based on Bereishit Rabbah 60:14. Teh word לָשׂוּחַ (lasuach) which means "to pray" as it does in all instances where it occurs. Well know examples are Tehillim 102:1 "A prayer of the lowly man when he is faint and pours forth his plea before HASHEM." Chazal in Berachot 26 have derived their view that Yitzchak inaugurated the daily Minchah prayer from this verse.

A Kabbalistic approach is that the words לָשׂוּחַ בַּשָּׂדֶה (lasuach basadeh) teach that when someone prays to the One and Only G-d he employs a kinuy "a pronoun" of G-d's Name. In other words, one is not to enunciate the four-lettered Name of G-d י-ה-ו-ה. Having used a substitute Name for G-d, out of reverence for the "real" Name, one will "Find" G-d. This is the mystical dimension of the words לָשׂוּחַ בַּשָּׂדֶה. There is something similar with Yaakov in Bereishit 28:11 where the Torah describes such a prayer as occurring in the evening וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם (vayifga bamakom), the word "bamakom" being the substitute for the real Name of G-d. We employ this substitute in the Haggadah of Pesach when we recite ברוך המקום (Baruch HaMakom), meaning "blessed be HASHEM." Whenever the verb פגע appears it occurs with the preposition ב such as in Yirmeyahu 7:16, or in Iyov 21:15. All the activities of G-d are ascribed to such substitute Names, כנויים (kinuyim), when they are still in the theoretical stage, whereas they are ascribed to the "real" Name of G-d when they have reached the operative stage. We find confirmation of this in Yirmeyahu 8:14 "for HASHEM our G-d has doomed us, He has made us drink a bitter draft, for we have sinned against G-d." Significantly, the verse does not end with "for we have sinned against Him," as we would have expected but the Prophet says "against HASHEM." This means that up until the moment G-d actually executed His judgment on us, a "substitute" Attribute rather than His Essence was involved. It is worth reflecting on this.

וַתִּפֹּל מֵעַל הַגָּמָל
vatipol me'al hagamal
she fell off the camel. 

Rivkah did not "fall" off the camel she was riding on when she saw Yitzchak; rather, she inclined her head as one does prior to falling off an animal. This interpretation is supported by the choice of the word מעל in this verse. Had she really fallen off, the Torah would have written "ותפול מהגמל." This is also why Onkelos translates these words as ואתרכנית, the same expression he used when he translated what Eliezer was going to say to Rivkah at the well, where the Torah wrote "please incline your jug" (24:14). There is a similar example in 2Melachim 5:21 where Yirmeyahu wrote of Naaman, "when Naaman saw him (Gechazi) run after him, 'he fell' from the chariot toward him.." There too the meaning clearly is not that the general Naaman literally fell out of his chariot because he saw Gechazi running. The meaning is that he bent down, inquiring why Gechazi had run after him, etc.

Ibn Ezra interperts וַתִּפֹּל (vaatipol) literaally, adding that she fell down deliberately, i.e. on her face and prostrated herself. It is similar to BaMidbar 16:4 where it says of Moshe "'he fell' on his face." Moshe did not fall against his will but he prostrated himself deliberately. when the Torah here continues with וַתֹּאמֶר אֶל-הָעֶבֶד (vatomer el-ha'eved) "she said to the servant," we must understand this as what she said prior to prostrating herself.

וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק הָאֹהֱלָה שָׂרָה אִמּוֹ
Vayevi'eha Yitzchak ha'ohelah Sarah imo
Yitzchak brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah.

Here the Torah first refers to Rivkah merely with the pronoun "her," whereas when the same verse continues to report that Yitzchak married Rivkah she is mentioned by name. The normal procedure should have been to mention Rivkah by name at the beginning of the verse and to refer to her by pronoun when she becomes the subject again in the same verse. Why did the Torah depart from the norm? Perhaps the underlying consideration was to mention Sarah first as she had been her predecessor in that tent and Rivkah had only been born after Sarah had already died and Betu'el had fathered Rivkah (22:23). At that juncture the Torah had seen fit to report Sarah's death (23:20 which meant that at the time Yitzchak was bound Sarah had already died. Bereishit Rabbah 55:4 said that Yitzchak was 37 years old at that time and that when Sarah heard what was going to happen to him (the Akeidah) her soul departed and she died. The Torah itself testifies that Yitzchak was 40 years old when he married Rivkah (25:20), which makes Rivkah 3 years old when she was married. Keeping all this in mind explains why the Torah first spoke only about Yitzchak bringing Rivkah into the tent of his mother Sarah as at that tender age she was not yet a real soul mate for him. Yitzchak's love for Rivkah was kindled when he observed how perfectly she filled the role of his mother Sarah had fulfilled in her tent. At that point, Yitzchak felt ready to complete the proceedings of marriage, i.e. "Yitzchak married Rivkah and she became a real wife for him."

וַיִּנָּחֵם יִצְחָק אַחֲרֵי אִמּוֹ
vayinachem Yitzchak acharei imo
he comforted himself over the loss of his mother.

Yitzchak did not accept the condolences of his peers for the loss of his mother until he was able to console himself with Rivkah. The words, "Yitzchak brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah," teach that if someone's wife dies and he had grown up children from her he should not remarry until he married off his children first. Having done so, he should remarry. The Midrash derives all this from the sequence of what the Torah tells us here about the conduct of Avraham who waited with remarrying until after Yitzchak had a home of his own.

May HASHEM continue to enlighten us with the Light of His Torah.


VAYERA PARDES - Groves of Mamre

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 · Posted in , , , , ,

Bereishit 18:1
וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו הי בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח-הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם
Vayera elav HASHEM be'Elonei Mamre vehu yoshev petach-ha'ohel kechom hayom
HASHEM appeared to him in terebinths of Mamre and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot.

This portion is a continuation of the previous portion; this is why the Torah writes: "He appeared to him," without identifying to whom G-d appeared. In Chapter 12:7 where it would not have been clear to whom G-d appeared, the Torah added the word "to Avram," although there too the last previously mentioned subject had been Avram. In our situation nothing material had occurred since the circumcision and G-d's manifestation to Avraham. by not spelling out what, if anything, G-d communicated to Avraham at this time it is clear that G-d's manifestation was in the nature of someone visiting a sick friend. He had qualified for this "visit" as a result of circumcising himself (Tanchuma 1, Parashat Vayera).

"at the terebinths of Mamre" (בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא) The Torah informs us of the site where the circumcision took place. This was also the place where he received an immediate sign that G-d appreciated Avraham's deed.

The manifestations of G-d's Presence to the prophets occur by means of either of the four basic raw material the terrestrial earth is made of:

1) fire
2) wind
3) water
4) earth

G-d appeared to Moshe in a burning bush (Shemot 3:2). He also appeared to the entire Jewish nation in an environment of fire (Devarim 4:36: "He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words out of the fire"). In Shemot 24:17 G-d's manifestation is described as "a consuming fire on top of the mountain."

In connection with the ascent to heaven by the prophet Eliyahu we read in 2Melachim 2:1 "when HASHEM was about to take Eliyahu up to heaven in a whirlwind, etc." In 1Melachim 19:11 "there was a great and mighty wind; splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of HASHEM." We also encounter a manifestation of G-d through a mighty wind in Iyov 38:1 "Then HASHEM replied to Iyov out of the tempest and said..."

An instance of G-d manifesting Himself by means of water is found in Yechezkel 1:1 "It was in the thirtieth year... when I was in the community of exiles by the river Kevar..." Another example of G-d manifesting Himself by means of water in Yechezkel 1:24 "I could hear the sound of their wings like the sound of mighty waters, like the sound of Shakkai."

G-d manifested Himself in connection with earth in Yechezkel 43:2 "the whole earth is filled with His glory." We also find a revelation described as "and the earth was lit up by His Presence." In this instance, G-d manifested Himself to Avraham by means of a tree. The Midrash uses the words אלוני ממרא (Elonei Mamre) to emphasize the fact that these were trees (אילנות).  Actually, Mamre was the name of one of Avraham's close associate as we know from 14:13 "Mmre the Emori, the brother of Aner and Eshkol who were allies of Avram." Had the Torah only wated to tell us that Avaham circumcised himself near the place where Mamre lived, it would have been appropriate to describe the area as ערבות אלוני "the fields of Mamre." The emphasis on the word אלוני (elonei) shows that the Torah wanted to draw our attention to the fact that we are talking about a tree of trees. When Avraham told the men who came to visit to rest "under one of the trees," this shows that there was more than one tree.

Why did G-d choose a tree to be the site at which He manifested Himself to Avraham on this occasion? It was because the angel was going to tell him that within a year he and Sarah would have a son. He would experience something similar to that which was experienced by an aged tree which still produced fruit. It is written in Iyov 14:7-9, "There is hope for a tree; if it is cut down it will renew itself; its shoots will not cease. If its shoots are old in the earth and its stumps dies i the ground, at the scent of water it will bud and procude branches like a sapling. There is also a verse comparing the righeous to trees in Tehillim 1:3, "He (the righteous) is like a tree planted beside streams of water which yields its fruit in season." (Rabbeinu Chananel)

וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח-הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם
vehu yoshev petach-ha'ohel kechom hayom
and he was seated at the entrance to the tent as the day grew hot.

The plain meaning of these words is that seeing Avraham was weakened by the circumcision he took advantage of the heat of the sun to act as therapy for his wounds. This is why he was outside at a time when normal healthy people stay inside to take advantage of the shade. The basis for the sun providing therapy is derived from Melachi 3:20, "for the sun brings healing on its wings."

A Midrashic approach views this detail as a reference to the fourth hour in the morning which is the time most people sit down to a meal. Avraham was waiting for visitors to share his meal with him.

A Kabbalistic approach: the words "he was sitting at the entrance of the tent" is an allusion to the spiritual counterpart of the Jewish People in the celestial regions soothing Avraham's mind when he became aware of its existence in those regions at this time.  This is deduced by the wording וירא ה׳ אליו. We have a tradition that the patriarchs were never addressed directly by the four-lettered Name of G-d YKVK (compare Shemot 6:3). If nonetheless, we encounter this Name of G-d here in connection with a vision Avraham was granted, we must conclude that this Name was revealed to him only indirectly. The words "at the entrance of the tent," are a hint he had not yet been able to enter THAT "tent."

וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא
Vayisa einav vayar
He raised his eyes and saw.

At this point he had only a dim vision of someone approaching.

שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים נִצָּבִים עָלָיו
shloshah anashim nitzavim alav
three men already on top of him.

At this point the Torah repeats the word וַיַּרְא (vayar), as only now did Avraham see these people close up. At this point he also realized that they were angels. This is why the Torah writes that Avraham ran towards them and prostrated himself before them on the ground. The angels were Micha'el, Rafa'el, and Gavri'el. Micha'el had been assigned the task of announcing that Sarah would have a child and to save Lot. Both of these assignments were expressions of G-d's love or mercy respectively, and could therefore be described as being of the same category. Rafa'el had the task of healing Avrahma. Gavri'el's task was to turn Sedom upside down. This is why the Torah writes in 19:1, "the two angels arrived at Sedom in the evening." This is a reference to Micha'el and Gavri'el. Since it was Micha'el's task to save Lot we find that when describing the destruction of Sedom the Torah uses the singular when it writes in 19:25, "HE turned these cities upside down," instead of writing "THEY turned these cities upside down." We learn from this that whereas one angel may not carry out two tasks of different categories, such as one that emanates from G-d's Attribute of Justice and another emanating from the Attribute of Mercy, he may carry out two assignments when both originate from the same attribute, in this instance the Attribute of Mercy. This is why we find Michel performing what appear to be two separate tasks. He gave Sarah, who had previously been unable to conceive, a message of love and hope, and he saved Lot who did not have a valid claim to be saved. Why was a special angel needed to heal Avraham? It not healing another aspect of G-d's Attribute of Mercy? Could not Micha'el have performed this task also? The fact is that healing, especially people who deserve to be healed, is not part of the heading of performing an act of loving kindness. If Miacha'el had accepted that assignment he would have trespassed on Rafa'el's territory. This is why G-d assigned to each of these angels only tasks which were within their respective spheres of competence.

It is not permissible in the celestial regions to have overlapping areas of competence; this is what is meant by Iyov 25:2 "He imposes peace in His celestial regions." Looking at this paragraph with an analytical eye we discover that G-d granted Avraham an insight into the workings of the celestial hierarchies. These three angels were the respective heads of three of G-d's "armies." They were part of the four encampments (armies) surrounding the שכינה (Shechinah) the "Divine Presence."

In Shemot Rabbah 2:8 we are told that whenever you encounter the archangel Micha'el you encounter the glory of the Shechinah. When Avraham beheld these three angels and he ran after them he was actually running after the Shechinah, trying to welcome it. As to the fourth "army," G-d employs His forces in accordance with the requirements of the occasion. The fourth "army" had already been revealed to Avraham in Chapter 15 during the episode of the covenant between the pieces.

וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אדני אִם־נָ֨א מָצָ֤אתִי חֵן֙ בְּעֵינֶ֔יךָ
Vayomar אדני im-na matzati chen be'eineicha
He said, "My Master, if I have found favor in your eyes..."

According to the plain meaning of the words, according to Rashi, Avraham included all three men in his address and invitation saying to the senior one among them, "if I have found favor in your eyes" (singular). The assumption then is that the word אדני is secular and does not refer to someone representing the Divine.

The problem with this kind of approach is the vowel kametz in the word אדני.  Whenever we find this word vocalized in this manner it always means "my Master," i.e. someone is addressing G-d and that is the reason the plural is used. The reason for the plural is that celestial beings always appear in the plural such as elohim, malachim, etc. It is possible to argue that Avraham addressed on the archangel Micha'el when he said "adonai." Micha'el, in his capacity as the angel representing the Attribute of love and kindness (Mercy), was the direct superior of Avraham whose outstanding characteristic was this very virtue or attribute חסד (chesed). It was no more than right that he should address him as "my master." This would also account for the fact that Avraham first mentioning wine as part of the meal at all.  Wine is considered as part of the domain and emanation Gevurah, the opposite of the emanation Chesed. "Water," on the other hand, is the epitome of the emanation Chesed, compare Chapter 23 in Pardes Rimonim)

According to the discipline of vocalizations there are seven gradations in the vowels (not including semi-vowels which are not audible but which nonetheless are not part of the consonants). The vowel kametz ranks as highest of these seen levels. It is followed in descending order by petach, tzeire, segol, cholam, shuruk, chirik. The entire Torah is structured around these seven vowels which affect pronunciation of the words. They are also known as "seven syllables, or seven sounds," concerning which David said in Tehillim 29 (which is known as the psalm in honor of the Giving of the Torah), קול ה׳ (Kol HASHEM) "the Voice or the Sound of G-d," occurs seven times. This is also the meaning of Shemot Rabbah 28:4 that the Torah was given with seven קולות (kolot) "sounds." Concerning these seven sounds, Shlomo said in Mishlei 9:1, "she has hewn her seven pillars." These seven sounds are the foundation upon which the whole structure rests.

The difference between the vowel kametz and the vowel patach (otherwise found in the word "adonai") is merely a single "dot," and usually such a dot is perceived as an allusion to the original "dot" of matter which was the beginning of the creative process of this universe. (The "dot" is equated in Kabbalistic terms with the letter י (yud), itself an allusion to the Ten Emanations.) This is the mystical reason why such a dot (in the way we write the vowels) serves seven different purposes. When such a dot is placed on top of a consonant it produces the vowel cholam. When placed in the middle of the consonate ו (vav) the result is the vowel shuruk. If you add the dot to the vowel patach, the result will be the vowel kametz. If the dot is added to the vowel chirik, we get the vowel tzeire. If we add a dot to the vowel tzeire the result is the vowel segol. If we add a dot to the semi-vowel sheva the result is the vowel kubutz. So there is seven different vowels merely by changing a single "dot."

Now to the letters themselves. If you insert a dot inside the letter ה (heh) it turns it into a ח (chet). If you add a dot to the left side top of the letter ו (vav) it becomes a ז (zayin). If you add a dot to make the base of the letter כ (chaf) protrude, it turns into the ב (vet). If the dot is added on the right top of the letter ר (resh) it turns into the letter ד (dalet). We can understand therefore what the Sages mean when they say that an extra dot or a missing dot is liable to destroy the universe. (Sotah 20).

Although, at first glance, it appears that there is only a minute difference between spelling the word adonai or adonoi (and in the Sefardic pronunciation this difference is not even audible), there are profound differences in the meaning of the word as a result of misspelling it and consequently misunderstanding its meaning.

Here are a few examples of where such minor misspellings have a profound effect. Yehoshua 3:6 speaks of the אֲרוֹן בְּרִית (aron haberit) "ark of the covenant." When spelled correctly with the vowel patach (אֲרוֹן), the word ארון (aron) "ark" is a possessive of the word הברית (haberit), "G-d's covenant." If spelled incorrectly with the vowel kametz (אֳרוֹן), this would convert the ark into being the covenant. In Shemot 23:20 is the verse  הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָךְ "here I am going to send an angel." The word מלאך (malach) is vocalized with the vowel kametz as it is not in the possessive clause. Whenever the word is in the possessive clause it must be vocalized with the vowel patach. At the end of a verse or at the cantillation etnachta, the vowel patach is always changed to kametz to indicate that the word is in its own right and is not a possessive clause which would be presumed otherwise. The patach always points to the word which follows it, making the word with that vowel at the end secondary to what follows. (Rabbi Cahvell quoting Mateh Moshe on laws of prayers who quotes our author, and adds that when the word אדני is spelled with the vowel chirik at the end, it means "my 'personal' master," as opposed to acknowledging that "He is the ruler of the whole universe."

The reason that in our verse you do not find the word adonai vocalized with a patach is best understood by remembering that if Avraham had indeed addressed only Micha'el he would have had to say adoni, "my [personal] master." Neither the vowel patach nor the vowel kametz would have been appropriate. It would be incongruous to vocalize the word אדני when used as a reference to G-d with the vowel petach, as this would imply that G-d is in some kind of subordinate relationship to anyone as suggested by the possessive clause represented by that vowel. In short, if someone exchanges the kametz under this word for a patach he cannot escape being guilty of one or two things:

1) He is a heretic
2) or he completely distorts the meaning of the verse in which this word appears.

A Kabbalistic approach sees in the vowel kametz in the word א-דני a combination of two of the Holy Names of G-d both comprising four letters. The one Name symbolizes both G-d's preceding any phenomenon in the universe as well as His Oneness and uniqueness in the world. The second Name of G-d in that expression teaches the nobility of G-d, that He transcends even the highest of the teemanations. This is why the word א-דני commences with the letter א (alef) and concludeswith the letter י (yud). The letters דנ (dalet-nun) in the middle represent the Attribute of Justice. The three Names of G-d which are comprised of four letters each are all alluded to in a single verse in Shemot 35:17 אֵת קַלְעֵי הֶחָצֵר אֶת-עַמֻּדָיו וְאֶת-אֲדָנֶיהָ "the curtains of the Courtyard represent the all encompassing Name of G-d, the Name א-היה which testifies to His being Eternal and unchanging."  The word את עמודיו  represent the Ineffable Name YKVK; finally, the words ואת אדנה are comprised of the letters in the word א-דני and symbolize His relationship as Master of the universe, i.e. the influence of what is above on what is below. Another verse reflecting a similar message is found in Iyov 38:6  עַל-מָה אֲדָנֶיהָ הָטְבָּעוּ אוֹ מִי-יָרָה אֶבֶן פִּנָּתָהּ "Onto what were its bases sunk? Who sets its cornerstone?" The subject of the verse is the Holy Temple (Holy Mishkan) and G-d compares it construction to the creation of the universe which He personally had undertaken. The fourth four-lettered Name of G-d is alluded to in connection with Rivkah's reply (Bereishit 24:19) that she as a three-year old would draw water for the ten (or more) camels of Eliezer, contains an allusion to divine assistance based on another less well known Name of G-d comprising the letters א-ג-ל-א.

May HASHEM continue to enlighten us with the Light of His Torah.


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