Archive for March 2014

Tehillim 119:17

Sunday, March 23, 2014 · Posted in , , ,

Tehillim 119:17
גְּמֹל עַל-עַבְדְּךָ אֶחְיֶה וְאֶשְׁמְרָה דְבָרֶךָ
gemol al-avdecha echye veeshmera devarecha
Gimel. Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your word.

In these eight verse, each beginning with the letter ג (gimel), David speaks of the obstacles that confront the devout person who desires to keep the mitzvot.  He asks of G-d to remove these obstructions.

He begins with the first obstacle to the attainment of saintliness, namely illness.  He pleads, "Deal bountifully with Your servant that I may live."  Let me always be in good health, so "I will keep Your word."

He asks for life, not in order to indulge in pleasures, but in order to "keep" the mitzvot whereby the human being achieves perfection in the World to Come.  The reward is reaped there; here one works towards the reward.

"Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live." Remove from me the burden of providing my sustenance.  But grant e just enough to sustain me, so "that I may live" without pain "and keep Your word."

The singular form - "word" - refers to the Ten Commandments that were divinely spoken as a single utterance.

David asked further for the removal of those obstructions that beset him as king.  He had to deal with matters of state and engage in wars, so he asked for a long life in order to fully accomplish his purpose.

"Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live."  Grant me life that is a bountiful gift, not life that is punishment.  Let it be a good, upright life that deserves the name "life."  Sometimes, most of one's life is an affliction because it is wasted.  For this person, death would have been the better thing.

Accordingly, David pleads: Let mine be the kind of life where "I will keep Your word."

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 - Tehillim 119:15 - Tehillim 119:16

Tomer Devorah - Emulating G-d: From Days of Old

Wednesday, March 19, 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."




From Days of Old

This is the Attribute which which the Holy One, Blessed is He, conducts Himself towards the people of Yisrael when their merit and all else fail, and they are unworthy.  What, then, does the Holy One, Blessed is He, do?  The verse states, "I recall My kindness towards you in your youth, My love for you on the day of your marriage..." (Yirmeyahu 2:2).  The Holy One, Blessed is He, recalls the days of old and the love He felt towards the people of Yisrael, and His compassion is aroused.  This way, He remembers all the commandments they have fulfilled since their birth and all the good qualities with which the Holy One, Blessed is He, conducts His world.  From all these, the Holy One, Blessed is He, fashions a special treasure with which to show them compassion.  This Attribute includes all the others, as explained in the "Idra."

So, too, should a person improve his conduct towards others.  For even if he cannot find a reason for showing love and compassion to his fellows from among those mentioned previously, he should say, "There was surely a time when they had not yet sinned, and in that time or in former days they were worthy."  For their sake, he should recall the love of "...those just weaned from milk and torn away from the breast" (Yeshayahu 28:9).  This way, he will not find a single person unworthy of kindness, prayers, or compassion.

HitbodedutHaShem, please help me to see something good in every person, their G-dly soul, that I can connect to and respect because they are Your creation.


RaMaK (Rabbi Moshe Cordovero

Tehillim 119:16

Thursday, March 6, 2014 · Posted in , , , ,

Tehillim 119:16
בְּחֻקֹּתֶיךָ אֶשְׁתַּעֲשָׁע לֹא אֶשְׁכַּח דְּבָרֶךָ
bechukoteicha eshtaasha lo eshkach devarecha
I will delight in Your statutes, I will not forget Your word.


I do not know the reasons for "Your statutes."  Yet is their observance a "delight" to me.  "I will not forget Your word" of admonition that "you shall keep My statutes" (VaYikra 19:19).

Another reading says: "I will occupy myself (eshtaasha) with Your statutes."  Similarly, it says, "At that day shall a man look to (yishe) his Maker" (Yeshayahu 17:7).

Some see this verse as expressing a plea.  David says:  Let me "delight in Your statutes" - let me know the reasons for them; so "I will not forget to keep Your word."

"I will delight in Your statutes."  Similarly, when a king hands over an item for safekeeping, the trustee of that item will be delighted.  His joy will keep him from misplacing it.

"I will delight in your statutes."  The mitzvot are meant to bring a person joy, provided he follows the median path in his observance of the Torah.  For "her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace" (Mishlei 3:17).  Therefore, "I will not forget Your word" in all its wisdom.

Usually, when a person is involved in doing something that he does not understand, he derives no pleasure from his task.  But "I will" also "delight in Your statutes" whose reasons are unknown.  "I will not forget Your word," when You said: A statute have I established and a decree have I decreed.  You are not permitted to transgress My decrees!

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 - Tehillim 119:15


-MeAm Lo'ez

Tomer Devorah - Emulating G-d: Which You have Sworn to our Fathers


"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."




Which You have Sworn to our Fathers

Some people are unworthy, yet the Holy One, Blessed is He, has compassion for all.  On the verse " ...I will have mercy and show kindness to whomever I desire" (Shemot 33:19), the Talmud comments: 

The Holy One, Blessed is He, says, "This storehouse is for those who are unworthy."  But there is another storehouse - of grace - from which the Holy One, Blessed is He, bestows grace on the righteous as an unearned gift.  For the Holy One, Blessed is He, said, "Behold, they have the merit of their fathers.  I made an oath to the Patriarchs, so even if they are unworthy, they will merit, because they are the seed of the Patriarchs, to whom I swore.  Therefore, I will lead them and guide them until they are perfected." (Berachot 7a; Shemot Rabbah 45)

This is also how a person should conduct himself.  Even if he meets wicked people, he should not behave cruelly towards them or abuse them and so on.  Rather, he should show them compassion, saying, "Ultimately, they are the children of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.  Although they may not behave properly, their fathers were upright and worthy.  Hence, one who despises the sons despises the fathers, too.  I do not wish their fathers to be despised because of me!"  Thus, he should conceal their disgrace and improve them as much as he can.


Hitbodedut: HaShem please help me to be mevater, to not shame anyone or cause harm.  Please help me to stretch myself in emulating Your Mercy so that I can heal from the harm experienced from their wickedness by serving You and serving as a counter-balance, for we are all Avraham's children and I desire to give nachas ruach to our forefathers and HaShem by loving His children.


RaMaK (Rabbi Moshe Cordovero)

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