Archive for February 2014

Tomer Devorah - Emulating G-d: Kindness to Avraham

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 · Posted in , , ,


"The righteous will flourish like the date palm..." (Tehillim 92:13)

Tomer Devorah [Palm Tree of Devorah] - an ethical treatise devoted to a Kabbalistic understanding of the commandment to imitate G-d based on the Torah verse "...you shall go in His ways" (Devarim 28:9) and "to go in all His ways" (11:22).  

The Sifri ("Eikev") explains: just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Compassionate,' you should be compassionate; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Gracious,' you should be gracious; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Righteous,' you should be righteous; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Pious,' you should be pious."  

Expounding the verse "Follow HaShem, your G-d..." (Devarim 13:5), the Gemara derives the practical implications of this concept:  "Emulate the attributes of the Holy One, Blessed Be He.  Just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, clothes the naked...so should you; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, visits the sick..so should you; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, consoles the bereaved, so should you..." (Sotah 14a)

In Tomer Devorah, the Thirteen Supernal Attributes of Mercy mentioned in Michah 7:18-20 are analyzed in detail.

The following are the words of the holy Sanzer Rebbi, the Divrei Chaim זצ"ל, as heard by his grandson, Rav Moshe Halberstam זצ"ל   from the Satmar Rebbi זצ"ל:

“…the learning from the Sefer Tomer Devorah is a segulah against the terrible sickness…”

It is recommended to learn from the sefer Tomer Devorah once a week or at least once a month, even though this sefer is not easy to understand. This segulah follows the principle of  middah keneged middah (measure for measure). If we emulate G-d’s Attributes and act like He does with patience, compassion, forgiveness, etc, HaShem will act towards us in the manner of middah keneged middah  and be patient, compassionate and forgiving with us.

To be privileged to channel G-d's blessing and benefit into the world, man must emulate his Creator.  It is insufficient that man is created in the Divine likeness - he must constantly, consciously, and willingly cleave to G-d by emulating Him in every way. 

"Who is G-d like You, Who pardons iniquity and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He does not maintain His anger forever, for He delights in kindness.  He will again show us compassion, He will vanquish our iniquities, and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.  Show faithfulness to Yaakov, kindness to Avraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from days of old" (Michah 7:18-20)

Consequently, it is proper that these Thirteen Attributes should also be found in man.


Hitbodedut:  "HaShem, I realize that I have no separate existence from you and therefore I yearn to be more like You.  Please help me to rise above my nature and lead me in the path that I wish to go, which is to think, say and do only what is pleasing to You.  May I merit to bring love and mercy to my interactions."





Kindness to Avraham

This Attribute applies to those who conduct goes beyond the requirements of the Law, like Avraham our Patriarch.  Thus, the Holy One, Blessed is He, also conducts Himself towards them in a way that goes beyond the requirements of the Law.  That is, He does not demand the strict execution of justice, not even regarding correctness.  Rather, He goes beyond the letter of the Law, just as they do.  This is the aspect of "kindness to Avraham" - the Holy One, Blessed is He, displays the Attribute of kindness towards those whose conduct is like Avraham's.

So, too, with man.  Although he conducts himself properly and correctly, with justness towards all men, towards those who are particularly righteous and pious, his conduct should go beyond the strict requirements of the Law.  Wherever he displays patience towards all men, with the righteous and pious he should have much more patience, showing them compassion beyond what the Law requires in his dealings with others.  They should be exceedingly important to him and especially beloved, and they should be among his friends.


HitbodedutHaShem, please help me to understand kindness and piousness and to conduct myself with mercy and kindness.  Please help me to stretch myself when in a position to offer kindness, charity or assistance to a pious person.  Help me to establish care and friendship.


RaMaK (Rabbi Moshe Cordovero)

Tehillim 119:15

Tehillim 119:15
בְּפִקּוּדֶיךָ אָשִׂיחָה וְאַבִּיטָה אֹרְחֹתֶיךָ
befikudeicha asicha veabita orchoteicha
I will meditate in Your precepts, and look at Your paths.


Here, "precepts" are the conceptions derived from the Torah.  "I will meditate in Your precepts, and look at Your paths" of conduct.  Then I will endeavor to walk in your ways.  Even as G-d is merciful, I will endeavor to be merciful (cf. Shemot 33:19, 34:6).

A related reading of asicha is "I will speak," and the corresponding interpretation says: When I speak the precepts of the Torah, I "look at" them with the eye of the intellect in order truly to know them.  I shall not be as one who prattles with his mouth and his heart is not with him (cf. Mishlei 23:7).

The Midrash expounds: "I will meditate in Your precepts."  It is possible to be instructed by the Torah in worldly matters as well.  For instance, from Noach's ark we can infer the (balanced) dimensions of a ship (Bereishit 6).

Tehillim 119:1 - Tehillim 119:2 - Tehillim 119:3 - Tehillim 119:4 - Tehillim 119:5 - Tehillim 119:6 - Tehillim 119:7 - Tehillim 119:8 - Tehillim 119:9 - Tehillim 119:10 - Tehillim 119:11 - Tehillim 119:12 - Tehillim 119:13 - Tehillim 119:14


-MeAm Lo'ez

Tehillim 119:14

Sunday, February 16, 2014 · Posted in , , , , ,

Tehillim 119:14
בְּדֶרֶךְ עֵדְו‍ֹתֶיךָ שַׂשְׂתִּי כְּעַל כָּל-הוֹן
bederech edvoteicha sasti keal kol-hon
I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches.


Even when I am only "in the way" towards observing the mitzvot, I rejoice.  I am as one who is on his way to earn a great fortune; this man does not feel the weariness of the journey.

I rejoice and am glad in the observance of "Your testimonies," like a man who rejoices every time he finds treasure.  I do not rejoice at bodily pleasures, but at having in my possession the treasures of the King.

In this world there is no reward for the observance of a mitzvah, since no material reward is equal to the value of any mitzvah.  But there is reward in this world for the preparation to perform a mitzvah, preparations being the tools for the performance of any mitzvah.  Thus David says here: "In the way of Your testimonies I have rejoiced."

When I studied Torah, David says, I despised all wealth and possessions, for I saw Torah as superior to "all riches."  Similarly, our Sages teach:  A man has silver but he has no gold; he has gold but he has no silver, nor fields, nor vineyards.  But in the Torah there is silver and gold, as it says, "The ordinances of HaShem... More to be desired are they than gold, than fine gold" (v19:10, 11).  There are fields and vineyards, as it says, "Your offshoots are an orchard of pomegranates with luscious friuts" (Shir HaShirim 4:13).

That is to say, it is clear to the student of Torah that he has everything.  For the Torah is superior in value to all possessions in the world.


Tehillim 119:1 - Tehillim 119:2 - Tehillim 119:3 - Tehillim 119:4 - Tehillim 119:5 - Tehillim 119:6 - Tehillim 119:7 - Tehillim 119:8 - Tehillim 119:9 - Tehillim 119:10 - Tehillim 119:11 - Tehillim 119:12 - Tehillim 119:13

-MeAm Lo'ez

Tomer Devorah - Emulating G-d: Show Faithfulness to Yaakov


"The righteous will flourish like the date palm..." (Tehillim 92:13)

Tomer Devorah [Palm Tree of Devorah] - an ethical treatise devoted to a Kabbalistic understanding of the commandment to imitate G-d based on the Torah verse "...you shall go in His ways" (Devarim 28:9) and "to go in all His ways" (11:22).  

The Sifri ("Eikev") explains: just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Compassionate,' you should be compassionate; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Gracious,' you should be gracious; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Righteous,' you should be righteous; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Pious,' you should be pious."  

Expounding the verse "Follow HaShem, your G-d..." (Devarim 13:5), the Gemara derives the practical implications of this concept:  "Emulate the attributes of the Holy One, Blessed Be He.  Just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, clothes the naked...so should you; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, visits the sick..so should you; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, consoles the bereaved, so should you..." (Sotah 14a)

In Tomer Devorah, the Thirteen Supernal Attributes of Mercy mentioned in Michah 7:18-20 are analyzed in detail.

The following are the words of the holy Sanzer Rebbi, the Divrei Chaim זצ"ל, as heard by his grandson, Rav Moshe Halberstam זצ"ל   from the Satmar Rebbi זצ"ל:

“…the learning from the Sefer Tomer Devorah is a segulah against the terrible sickness…”

It is recommended to learn from the sefer Tomer Devorah once a week or at least once a month, even though this sefer is not easy to understand. This segulah follows the principle of  middah keneged middah (measure for measure). If we emulate G-d’s Attributes and act like He does with patience, compassion, forgiveness, etc, HaShem will act towards us in the manner of middah keneged middah  and be patient, compassionate and forgiving with us.

To be privileged to channel G-d's blessing and benefit into the world, man must emulate his Creator.  It is insufficient that man is created in the Divine likeness - he must constantly, consciously, and willingly cleave to G-d by emulating Him in every way. 

"Who is G-d like You, Who pardons iniquity and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He does not maintain His anger forever, for He delights in kindness.  He will again show us compassion, He will vanquish our iniquities, and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.  Show faithfulness to Yaakov, kindness to Avraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from days of old" (Michah 7:18-20)

Consequently, it is proper that these Thirteen Attributes should also be found in man.


Hitbodedut:  "HaShem, I realize that I have no separate existence from you and therefore I yearn to be more like You.  Please help me to rise above my nature and lead me in the path that I wish to go, which is to think, say and do only what is pleasing to You.  May I merit to bring love and mercy to my interactions."



Show Faithfulness to Yaakov

The name Yisrael refers to a higher level than the name Yaakov.  This Attribute, "show faithfulness to Yaakov," applies to those individuals of average spiritual stature, who do not know how to go beyond what the Torah requires. They are called 'Yaakov,' for they adhere faithfully only to the strict requirements of the Torah.  The Holy One, Blessed is He, also has this aspect of faithfulness regarding correctness in judgment.  Towards those whose conduct in this world is correct, the Holy One, Blessed is He, also conducts Himself with this quality of faithfulness, having compassion for them in executing justice and fairness.

So, too, a person should act towards his fellow with fairness and faithfulness, and he should not pervert the justice due his friend.  He should have compassion for his fellow and be faithful, just as the Holy One, Blessed is He, shows compassion for His creatures of average stature, according to this quality of faithfulness, in order to perfect them.


Hitbodedut:  "HaShem, please help me to understand truth and to conduct myself in truthful ways.  Please help me to see the humanity of each person and not utilize anyone for my personal gain but rather act with true love and concern for others."



Tomer Devorah - Emulating G-d: And You Will Cast all Their Sins into the Depths of the Sea


"The righteous will flourish like the date palm..." (Tehillim 92:13)

Tomer Devorah [Palm Tree of Devorah] - an ethical treatise devoted to a Kabbalistic understanding of the commandment to imitate G-d based on the Torah verse "...you shall go in His ways" (Devarim 28:9) and "to go in all His ways" (11:22).  

The Sifri ("Eikev") explains: just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Compassionate,' you should be compassionate; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Gracious,' you should be gracious; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Righteous,' you should be righteous; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Pious,' you should be pious."  

Expounding the verse "Follow HaShem, your G-d..." (Devarim 13:5), the Gemara derives the practical implications of this concept:  "Emulate the attributes of the Holy One, Blessed Be He.  Just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, clothes the naked...so should you; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, visits the sick..so should you; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, consoles the bereaved, so should you..." (Sotah 14a)

In Tomer Devorah, the Thirteen Supernal Attributes of Mercy mentioned in Michah 7:18-20 are analyzed in detail.

The following are the words of the holy Sanzer Rebbi, the Divrei Chaim זצ"ל, as heard by his grandson, Rav Moshe Halberstam זצ"ל   from the Satmar Rebbi זצ"ל:

“…the learning from the Sefer Tomer Devorah is a segulah against the terrible sickness…”

It is recommended to learn from the sefer Tomer Devorah once a week or at least once a month, even though this sefer is not easy to understand. This segulah follows the principle of  middah keneged middah (measure for measure). If we emulate G-d’s Attributes and act like He does with patience, compassion, forgiveness, etc, HaShem will act towards us in the manner of middah keneged middah  and be patient, compassionate and forgiving with us.

To be privileged to channel G-d's blessing and benefit into the world, man must emulate his Creator.  It is insufficient that man is created in the Divine likeness - he must constantly, consciously, and willingly cleave to G-d by emulating Him in every way. 

"Who is G-d like You, Who pardons iniquity and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He does not maintain His anger forever, for He delights in kindness.  He will again show us compassion, He will vanquish our iniquities, and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.  Show faithfulness to Yaakov, kindness to Avraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from days of old" (Michah 7:18-20)

Consequently, it is proper that these Thirteen Attributes should also be found in man.


Hitbodedut:  "HaShem, I realize that I have no separate existence from you and therefore I yearn to be more like You.  Please help me to rise above my nature and lead me in the path that I wish to go, which is to think, say and do only what is pleasing to You.  May I merit to bring love and mercy to my interactions."




And You Will Cast all Their Sins into the Depths of the Sea

This Attribute is the goodness of the Holy One, Blessed is He.  For when Yisrael sinned, He delivered them into the hands of Pharoah.  But when they repented, why should H have punished Pharoah, or Sancheriv, or Haman and others like them?  Yet the Holy One, Blessed is He, is not content with saying to Yisrael, "Repent!" and then no further evil will befall them, for Haman, Pharoah, or Sancheriv will be removed from them.  This is not enough; instead, the iniquity of Haman reverts onto his own head, and so, too, with Pharoah and Sancheriv.

The reason the Holy One, Blessed is He, conducts Himself in this manner is to be found in the secret contained int he verse "The goat will bear all the sins of Yisrael upon it to the land of Gezerah.." (VaYikra 16:22).  The explanation is that the goat itself bears the punishment for their sins!  Now this is very hard to understand, for if Yisrael sinned, why should the goat be responsible?

This is understood as follows:

When a person confesses with the intention of accepting upon himself the cleansing of his sin, as King David states, "Cleanse me thoroughly of my wrongdoing.." (Tehillim 51:4), and as we pray, "Erase my sin in your great compassion" - he hopes his punishment will be light in order that it not interfere with his Torah study.  As we say in our prayers "...but not by way of severe suffering."  This was also King David's intentions when he stated, "You are just with regard to all that befalls me," expressing a willingness to accept suffering upon himself for those sins that can be purged only by means of severe affliction or death.  And so it is - when a person confesses his wrongdoing in *viddui, the Holy One, Blessed is He, immediately decrees severe suffering upon him for his sins.  Then Samae-l appears to claim his due, for this is the portion allotted him, as the Zohar on "Pikudei" explains.  But all the person's sins ultimately devolve upon his head.  This way, Yisrael is purified.  This is just like the goat that bore the sins of Yisrael to its death in Gezerah.

The reason for this is that the Holy One, Blessed is He, decreed upon His world that all who punish Yisrael will be annihilated.  That's why any animal that is party to a transgression bust be killed.  Similarly, the stones used to carry out the sentence of those condemned to death by stoning, and the sword used to carry out the sentence of those condemned to decapitation, must be buried in order to nullify their existence and power after they have carried out the judgment.

This is the attribute of "and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea," implying that the Holy One, Blessed is He, will send forth the attribute of judgment to cast down those who are called "the depths of the sea," as the verse states: "The wicked are like the troubled sea, for it cannot rest, and its waters cast up mud and mire" (Yeshayahu 57:20).  This refers to those who execute judgement on Yisrael:  He will return their recompense upon their own heads, for after the people of Yisrael receive their judgment, the Holy One, Blessed is He, regrets His original demand that they be shamed.  And this is not all, for "...I was only a little angry, and [the nations of the world] helped make it worse" (Zechariya 1:15).

A person also ought to behave this way with his fellow.  Even if the latter is wicked and crushed through suffering, he should not despise him, for "having been whipped, he is like your brother."   On the contrary, he should draw close the downcast and those who are punished, have compassion for them, and save them from their enemies.


Hitbodedut: "HaShem, please help me emulate Your ways by praying for mercy for others and may that mercy extend to all Klal Yisrael as well." 


*viddui - The public confessions of one's sins on Yom Kippur.




Tehillim 119:13

Tehillim 119:13
בִּשְׂפָתַי סִפַּרְתִּי כֹּל מִשְׁפְּטֵי-פִיךָ
Bisfatai siparti kol mishpetei-ficha
With my lips have I told all the ordinances of Your mouth.

David explains why he pleaded, "teach me Your statutes" (v119:12).  Whereas "with my lips have I told all the ordinances of Your mouth" - I spoke of those mitzvot, the ordinances, whose reasons I knew - now I ask about the "statutes" whose reasons are unknown.

At the outset, David said, "With my whole heart have I sought You" (v119:10).  Here he says that he did not remain content with contemplation alone.  Rather: "With my lips have I told all the ordinances of Your mouth."  He then goes on to speak of his endeavor to understand, as well, the inner substance of the mitzvot.

Another interpretation is based on the meaning of "siparti" as counting.  "With my lips have I counted all the ordinances of Your mouth."  I would count all the words of the Torah and all the mitzvot, to make certain that I missed nothing that required implementation.

Although "I stored" Your ordinances "in my heart" (v119:11), not to forget them (v119:16), "with my lips have I told all the ordinances of Your mouth."  Verbal articulation of what one studies is an aid against forgetfulness.

Tehillim 119:12
Tehillim 119:11
Tehillim 119:10
Tehillim 119:9
Tehillim 119:8
Tehillim 119:7
Tehillim 119:6
Tehillim 119:5
Tehillim 119:4
Tehillim 119:3
Tehillim 119:2
Tehillim 119:1

-MeAm Lo'ez

Tehillim 119:12

Tehillim 119:12
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהוָה לַמְּדֵנִי חֻקֶּיךָ
Baruch atah HASHEM lamdeni chukeicha
Blessed are You, HASHEM; teach me Your statutes.

"Blessed are You, HaShem," You who are the source of blessings, influences and wisdoms.  "Teach me Your statutes." For these statutes are hidden from our intellect and it is not within our own power to know them completely.

Thus, on the one hand, David pleads for an abundant flow from G-d.  On the other hand he acclaims G-d as the source of blessing.

Chazal (our Sages) infer from here that a blessing must be recited before and after every reading in the Torah.  The need for a prefatory blessing is conveyed by, "Blessed are You, HaShem; teach me Your statutes."  The need for a concluding blessing is conveyed by "And this is th blessing by which Moshe the man of G-d blessed" (Devarim 33:1).  After he recited the Haazinu hymn (ibid. 32), he recited a blessing.


BRACHA LEVATALAH -  (a blessing made in vain)

The Rosh (Berakhot 6:20; see also Shulchan Aruch) writes that if one began unnecessarily saying a blessing, but stopped before saying “Elokeinu Melech Ha-Olam” (our G-d, King of the Universe), he should continue “lamdeini chukekha” (teach me Your statutes), thus completing a verse (Tehillim 119:12). He is then considered to have merely read a Biblical verse.

Furthermore, if one realizes that he has begun reciting an unnecessary blessing before completing the word “Elokeinu” (our G-d), he may continue the verse “Elokei Yisrael avinu mei-olam ve-ad olam” (G-d of Yisrael, our Father, forever and ever) (Tzelach, Berakhot 39b; Kitzur Shulchan Arukh 6:4), thus completing a Biblical verse (Divrei HaYamim Alef 29:10). The Chayei Adam (5:1) adds that in this case, one should still conclude with “baruch shem kavod.


For clarification:

If you just said "Baruch" or "Baruch Atah" (Blessed or Blessed are You) - just stop there.

If you said "Baruch Atah HaShem" - then you finish with the words "Lamdeini Chukeicha." (Teach me Your statutes. - Tehillim 119:12)

If you started to say  "Elokei" and didn't finish the entire words (Elokeinu) - then you finish with "Elokei Yisrael Avinu me-olam ve-ad olam." (G-d  of Yisrael, our Father, forever and ever. - Divrei HaYamim Alef 29:10)

If you said the word "Elokeinu" - then finish with "Atah anitam, Kel nose' hayitah lahem ve-nokem al alilotam" (You answered them; a forgiving G-d were You to them; but an avenger of their misdeeds. - Tehillim 99:8)

If you said beyond the word "Elokeinu" - then say, "Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuto L'Olam Va'ed" (Blessed is the Name of His glorious Kingdom for all eternity. - based on Nechemya 9:5)  This is also said any time the Name of G-d is said in vain. (Yerushalmi Brachot 43b; Orach Chayim 206:6)

Tehillim 119:11
Tehillim 119:10
Tehillim 119:9
Tehillim 119:8
Tehillim 119:7
Tehillim 119:6
Tehillim 119:5
Tehillim 119:4
Tehillim 119:3
Tehillim 119:2
Tehillim 119:1


- MeAm Lo'ez

Tehillim 119:11

Tehillim 119:11                                                            
בְּלִבִּי צָפַנְתִּי אִמְרָתֶךָ לְמַעַן לֹא אֶחֱטָא לָךְ
belibi tzafanti imratecha lemaan lo echeta lach
Your word have I stored in my heart, so that I would not sin against You.

So great was my love for Your commandments (v119:10), that "I stored them in my heart, so that I would not sin against You" by forgetting to observe them.

The Torah conveys that forgetting the mitzvot results in their abrogation; as it says, "Beware that you do not forget HaShem your G-d" (Devarim 8:11).

When I studied, "Your word I stored in my heart."  I also tried to remember the ruling of halachah, "so that I would not sin against You."  If I remembered only the arguments of the discourse, I might come to commit a sin.

A subtle explanation is based on the teaching of the Sefer Charedim that the mitzvah of circumcision also includes a mitzvah pertaining to the heart.  As it says, "And you will circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it will be a sing of the covenant between Me and you" (Bereishit 17:11).  A person should recall (bring up in his heart) every day that he is a bonded servant to the King of the world, and he will not rebel against Him.  That is what David says here, "Your word have I stored in my heart."  This pertains to the commandment of circumcision, as our Sages expound concerning the verse, "I rejoice at Your word" (v119:162).  Hence "I would not sin against You."

A subtle interpretation associates these verse with a different matter.  Our Sages teach: How do we know that when a disciple who sits before his teacher discerns an argument in favor of a poor litigant, he must not keep silent? For it says, "Do not be afraid before any man" (Devarim 1:17).  It also says, however, that one who makes a ruling in Torah law in the presence of his teacher is deserving of death.  Accordingly, the Scripture on the one hand asks, "How shall a youth keep his path pure by observing Your word?" (v119:9).  On the other hand it answers: At times "with my whole heart have I sought You" (v119:10), and at times "your word have I stored in my heart, so that I would not sin."

This also teaches that certain of the hidden things of the world should be kept hidden underneath one's garments.

David attests: Whenever I found something perplexing in any Torah text, due to lack of knowledge on my part, I did not utter what could be construed as startling. Rather, "Your word I stored in my heart."  And I entreated the Almighty for help to clarify His secrets, "so that I would not sin against You" by speaking out.

The Gemara interprets King David's statement as, "I did not rule when doing so would have constituted a sin."

"I have stored."  Mere knowledge of Torah is not enough.  Its words must be meditated upon and kept in the forefront of one's mind.  Only in this way will they produce the salutary effect of refining one's character and conduct, and bringing him closer to G-d.


Tehillim 119:10
Tehillim 119:9
Tehillim 119:8
Tehillim 119:7
Tehillim 119:6
Tehillim 119:5
Tehillim 119:4
Tehillim 119:3
Tehillim 119:2
Tehillim 119:1


MeAm Lo'ez
Sefer Tehillim - The Schottenstein Edition

Tomer Devorah - Emulating G-d: He Will Vanquish our Iniquities

Monday, February 3, 2014 · Posted in , , ,


"The righteous will flourish like the date palm..." (Tehillim 92:13)

Tomer Devorah [Palm Tree of Devorah] - an ethical treatise devoted to a Kabbalistic understanding of the commandment to imitate G-d based on the Torah verse "...you shall go in His ways" (Devarim 28:9) and "to go in all His ways" (11:22).  

The Sifri ("Eikev") explains: just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Compassionate,' you should be compassionate; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Gracious,' you should be gracious; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Righteous,' you should be righteous; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is called 'Pious,' you should be pious."  

Expounding the verse "Follow HaShem, your G-d..." (Devarim 13:5), the Gemara derives the practical implications of this concept:  "Emulate the attributes of the Holy One, Blessed Be He.  Just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, clothes the naked...so should you; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, visits the sick..so should you; just as the Holy One, Blessed Be He, consoles the bereaved, so should you..." (Sotah 14a)

In Tomer Devorah, the Thirteen Supernal Attributes of Mercy mentioned in Michah 7:18-20 are analyzed in detail.

The following are the words of the holy Sanzer Rebbi, the Divrei Chaim זצ"ל, as heard by his grandson, Rav Moshe Halberstam זצ"ל   from the Satmar Rebbi זצ"ל:

“…the learning from the Sefer Tomer Devorah is a segulah against the terrible sickness…”

It is recommended to learn from the sefer Tomer Devorah once a week or at least once a month, even though this sefer is not easy to understand. This segulah follows the principle of  middah keneged middah (measure for measure). If we emulate G-d’s Attributes and act like He does with patience, compassion, forgiveness, etc, HaShem will act towards us in the manner of middah keneged middah  and be patient, compassionate and forgiving with us.

To be privileged to channel G-d's blessing and benefit into the world, man must emulate his Creator.  It is insufficient that man is created in the Divine likeness - he must constantly, consciously, and willingly cleave to G-d by emulating Him in every way. 

"Who is G-d like You, Who pardons iniquity and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He does not maintain His anger forever, for He delights in kindness.  He will again show us compassion, He will vanquish our iniquities, and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.  Show faithfulness to Yaakov, kindness to Avraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from days of old" (Michah 7:18-20)

Consequently, it is proper that these Thirteen Attributes should also be found in man.


Hitbodedut:  "HaShem, I realize that I have no separate existence from you and therefore I yearn to be more like You.  Please help me to rise above my nature and lead me in the path that I wish to go, which is to think, say and do only what is pleasing to You.  May I merit to bring love and mercy to my interactions."




He Will Vanquish our Iniquities

The relationship of the Holy One, Blessed is He, to Yisrael is according to this Attribute, namely, the secret of vanquishing iniquity.  For the precepts are compared to a grapevine that's "budding, its blossoms bursting forth" (Bereishit 40:10) - it shoots upwards without limit, entering His blessed Presence.  However, sins have no entrance there, G-d forbid.  Rather, He suppresses them, denying them entry, as it is written, "...no harm will befall you (Tehillim 5:5), which our Sages interpret as implying that "no harm will befall man in Your dwelling place."  Thus, sin has no entry into the Inner Sanctum.

Since the precepts reside in His blessed Presence, they have no reward in this world.  For how could G-d grant spiritual reward in the material world?  Behold, the entire world is unworthy of a single precept and the spiritual bliss of His Presence.

For the same reason, G-d does not take the precepts as bribes.  For instance, the Holy One, Blessed is He, does not say, G-d forbid, "He has fulfilled forty commandments and committed ten transgressions; thus, thirty commandments remain, for ten are deducted in repayment for the ten transgressions!"  Rather, if even a perfectly righteous individual commits a sing sin, it as if he has burnt the Torah.  But when he pays his debt, he receives reward for all the precepts he has fulfilled.  This is a great kindness that the Holy One, Blessed is He, does for the righteous - He does not deduct from the precepts they fulfill, for these are very precious to Him and ascend directly to His blessed Presence.  Indeed, how could transgressions, whose punishment is a portion of that which is most despicable - Gehinnom- detract from precepts, whose reward is the radiance of the Shechinah, which is so highly valued?  How could one be exchanged for the other?  Instead, the Holy One, Blessed is He, collects the debt due for transgressions, and then He bestows the reward for all the precepts a person has fulfilled.

This is the Attribute of "vanquishing iniquity" - that is, transgressions do not prevail before G-d as the commandments do.  Rather, He suppresses transgressions, preventing them from ascending and entering His Presence.  And although He watches all the ways of man, both bad and good, He does not suppress the good.  Rather, it rises up, ascending to the very heights where all precepts merge to build an edifice and form a precious garment.  Transgressions, however, lack this special quality - instead, He vanquishes them, so they'll have no success and no entry into the Inner Sanctum.

A person should also conduct himself according to this Attribute.  He should not suppress his fellow's virtues but remember the evil he has done.  On the contrary, he should vanquish the evil, erasing it from memory and abandoning it, so that he will find no evil in his fellow, and his good qualities will be spread out before him.  And he should turn a blind eye to his faults as much as possible, just as the Holy One, Blessed is He, does in vanquishing our iniquities.

Hitbodedut:  "HaShem please help me to be more like You, to see the good and to erase the past."


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