Archive for 2016

Barchi Nafshi

Saturday, October 29, 2016 · Posted in , , ,

Bless Hashem, O my soul. Hashem, my G-d, You are very great; You have donned majesty and splendor; cloaked in light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a curtain. He Who roofs His upper chambers with water; He Who makes clouds His chariot; He Who walks on winged wind; He makes the winds His messengers, the flaming fire His attendants; He established the earth upon its foundations, that it falter not forever and ever.

The watery deep, as with a garment You covered it; upon the mountains, water would stand. From Your rebuke they flee, from the sound of Your thunder they rush away. They ascend mountains, they descend to valleys, to the special place You founded for them. You set a boundary they cannot overstep, they cannot return to cover the earth.

He sends the springs into the streams, they flow between the mountains. They water every beast of the field, they quench the wild creatures' thirst. Near them dwell the heaven's birds, from among the branches they give forth son. He waters the mountains from His upper chambers, from teh fruit of Your works the earth is sated.

He causes vegetation to sprout for the cattle, and plants through man's labor, to bring forth bread from the earth; and wine that gladdens man's heart, to make the face glow from oil, and bread that sustains the heart of man. The trees of Hashem are sated, the cedars of Levanon that He has planted; there where the birds nest, the chassidah with its home among cypresses; high mountains for the wild goats, rocks as refuge for the gophers.

He made the moon for festivals, the sun knows its destination. you make darkness and it is night, in which every forest beast stirs. The young lions roar after their prey, and to seek their food from G-d. The sun rises and they are gathered in, and in their dens they crouch. Man goes forth to his work, and to his labor until evening.

How abundant are Your works, Hashem; with wisdom You made them all, the earth is full of Your possessions. Behold this sea - great and of broad measure; there are creeping things without number, small creatures and great ones. There ships travel, this Leviatan You fashioned to sport with. You give to them, they gather it in; You open Your hand, they are sated with good. When You hide your face, they are dismayed; when You retrieve their spirit, they perish and to their dust they return. When You send forth Your breath, they are created, and You renew the surface of the earth.

May the glory of Hashem endure forever, let Hashem rejoice in His works. He peers toward the earth and it trembles, he touches the mountains and they smoke. I will sing to Hashem while I live, I will sing praises to my G-d while I endure. May my words be sweet to Him - I will rejoice in Hashem. Sinners will cease from the earth, and the wicked will be no more - Bless Hashem, O my soul. Hallelukah!

- Barchi Nafshi, Tehillim 104

(Beginning with the Shabbat after Sukkot, when Bereishit, describing the creation of the world, is read, we recite Tehillim 104 [along with the 15 Song of Accents - Tehillim 120-134], the lyrical song of tribute to the Creator and His universe.)

VeZot HaBerachah - And This is the Blessing

Sunday, October 23, 2016 · Posted in , , , ,

A king hired two workers to fill up a pit. The first looked into it and said, "I will never be able to fill it up!" And so he departed.

The other said, "It does not matter whether or not I finish the job. The king pays me for my labor. Let me rejoice that I found employment!"

Thus Hashem says, "The Torah is infinitely wide and deep, but that is not your concern. You are a day-laborer, hired by Me. Accomplish your daily task!"

The Torah of Hashem is perfect.  It restores the soul.

The testimony of Hashem is trustworthy.  It makes the foolish wise.

The statues of Hashem are just.  They make the heart rejoice.

The mitzvah of Hashem is clear.  It brightens the eyes.

The fear of Hashem is pure.  It endures forever.

The judgments of Hashem are true.  The are righteous altogether.

(Tehillim 19:18)

These verses hint that both the Written and the Oral Torah are perfect, and that they restore the soul from death to life.

The "Oral Torah," which consists of the Six Books of the Mishnah, is suggested by the stanza of six lines.

The "Written Torah," which contains Five Books, is recalled by the use of five words in each verse.

Devarim 33:1 AND THIS IS THE BLESSING. The gematria of this phrase is 646, equivalent to that of "This is the Torah." For he blessed them through the Torah.

- The Midrash Says; Baal HaTurim


Thursday, October 13, 2016 · Posted in , , ,

Thursday, 11 Tishrei 5777 / October 13, 2016

Parshat Ha'azinu, 5th Portion (Devarim 32:29-32:39)

רְא֣וּ עַתָּ֗ה כִּ֣י אֲנִ֤י אֲנִי֙ ה֔וּא וְאֵ֥ין אֱלֹהִ֖ים עִמָּדִ֑י אֲנִ֧י אָמִ֣ית וַֽאֲחַיֶּ֗ה מָחַ֨צְתִּי֙ וַֽאֲנִ֣י אֶרְפָּ֔א וְאֵ֥ין מִיָּדִ֖י מַצִּֽיל

32:39 See, now! Behold, it is I! I am the One! There are no other gods with me. I kill and I give life. though I wounded, I will heal. No one can be delivered from My hand.

According to Rabbi Yehudah, this verse is addressed to the Jewish people.  G-d tells them: See, I brought retribution against you and I delivered you. I am the only power.

This theme is echoed by the prophet Yirmeyahu / Jer. 30:12-17:

"Your bruise is incurable... No one can bind your wound... I have wounded you like an enemy... I have done this to you because of the multitude of your sins... but, I will restore health to you and heal your wounds."

According to Rabbi Nechemia, the verse promises that G-d will reveal His salvation and redeem His people from their oppressors.

Sanhedrin 91b explains the apparent redundancy in the clauses, "Behold, it is I! I am the One!" as follows: "I am the One Who redeemed you from Egypt, and I will redeem you in the Messianic redemption." The commentaries not that the word אֲנִי "I" is mentioned four times in the verse, alluding to the redemption from the four exiles in which Yisrael has suffered.

Mechiltah also indicates that this verse refers to future prophecies: The phrase, "Behold, it is I! I am the One!" alludes to Yeshayahu's prophecy (40:5): "And the glory of G-d will be revealed, and all flesh will witness how the mouth of G-d has spoken."

Similarly, "I kill and I give life" alludes to the prophecy (Yeshayahu / Isa. 25:8) "He will swallow up death forever. Hashem, the G-d, wipes away tears from every face."

Pesachim 68a interprets "I kill and I give life. Though I crushed I will heal," as alluding to the resurrection of the dead, as follows:

"Can it be implied that the verse refers to two different people; one who G-d kills, and another, to whom He grants life..? To negate that thesis, the verse continues 'Though I wounded, I will heal.' The second clause implies that He will heal the same person whom He crushed, the same person who died will again be granted life."

That Talmudic passage continues, explaining that from a different standpoint, "Though I wounded I will heal" can be interpreted as a second stage that will follow after "I kill and I give life." First, G-d will resurrect the dead. Afterwards, any people who were afflicted with physical blemishes will be healed.

Rabbeinu Bachya notes that the sequence of these allusions in the verse follows the order of events in the future. The Messianic redemption and the in gathering of exiles will precede the resurrection of the dead.

- Me'am Lo'ez


[View of Gush Chalav, northern region of Yisrael]

Tuesday, 9 Tishrei 5777 / October 11, 2016

Parshat Ha'Azinu, 3rd Portion (Deuteronomy 32:13-32:18)

יַרְכִּבֵ֨הוּ֙ עַל־בָּ֣מֳתֵי (כתיב על־במותי) אָ֔רֶץ וַיֹּאכַ֖ל תְּנוּבֹ֣ת שָׂדָ֑י וַיֵּֽנִקֵ֤הוּ דְבַשׁ֙ מִסֶּ֔לַע וְשֶׁ֖מֶן מֵֽחַלְמִ֥ישׁ צֽוּר

32:13 He let them ride high on the peaks of the earth  and feast on the crops of the field. He let them suckle honey from the bedrock, and oil from the flintstone.

Targum Onkelos renders this verse as follows:

He gave them dominion over the powers of the earth and allowed them to eat the spoils of their foes. He granted them the booty of the rulers of cities and the possesions of powerful capitals.

The peaks of the earth: refer to Eretz Yisrael. Eretz Yisrael is "the highest place on earth" (Rashi, Sifri). Reference is made in various placed of the Torah (Bereishit 13:1, 46:4, Bamidbar 13:21, 30) to "going up" to Eretz Yisrael.

In contrast, Ibn Ezra renders the phrase במותי אָ֔רֶץ "the center of the earth." This interpretation, quoted also by Rabbeinu Bachya, is developed at length by Zohar (II: 222a, b) which explains that Eretz Yisrael was first to appear above the world-ocean which covered all the earth.

The crops of the field: also refers to Eretz Yisrael, whose produce ripens before that of other lands (Rashi). Her land is so fertile that even "bedrock" and "flintstone" yield "honey" and "oil."

Generally, the "honey" mentioned in Torah refers to honey produced from dates. However, in this instance, it may refer to bees' honey. It is far more likely for a beehive to be situated between rocks than for a date palm to grow there.

There is no such difficulty in the verse's concluding phrase. I particular, the oil mentioned in this verse refers to the olive groves of Gush Chalav, a large town in the northern region of Eretz Yisrael (Rashi).

This verse also refers to the Temple service:

He let them ride high on the peaks of the earth: refers to the Temple, the highest place on the earth, as in Yeshayahu / Isa. 2:2-3):  "The mountain of Hashem's house will be established on top of the mountains... and many nations shall say: 'Let us go up to the mountain of Hashem.'"

and feast on the crops of the field: - refers to the baskets of first fruits [brought to the Temple].

oil from the flintstone: - refers to the oil libations (Yalkut Shimoni).

- Me'am Lo'ez


Monday, October 10, 2016 · Posted in , ,

(Eagle hovering over its fledglings)

Monday, 8 Tishrei 5777 / October 10, 2016

Parshat Ha'azinu, 2nd Portion (Devarim 32:7-32:12)

 כְּנֶ֨שֶׁר֙ יָעִ֣יר קִנּ֔וֹ עַל־גּֽוֹזָלָ֖יו יְרַחֵ֑ף יִפְרֹ֤שׂ כְּנָפָיו֙ יִקָּחֵ֔הוּ יִשָּׂאֵ֖הוּ עַל־אֶבְרָתֽוֹ

Devarim 32:11 As an eagle rousing its nest[lings], hovering over its fledglings. He spreads His wings and took them, carrying them on His pinions.

The eagle is used as a metaphor for G-d because it is the "king" of the bird kingdom (Rabbeinu Bachya).

Alternately, that metaphor is employed because of the merciful way in which the eagle rouses it nestlings. Rather than enter its nest suddenly, it stirs its wings and rustles the branches to wake up its young, hovering over them until they are ready for it to enter.

When G-d revealed Himself to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, He also roused them gently, approaching from all four sides of the mountain, and prepared them for the revelation (Yalkut Shimoni).

All other birds protect their young from the eagles by carrying them with their legs, lest an eagle swoop down upon them and take away their offspring.

Eagles do not fear other birds. They are afraid of man and his hunting arrows alone. Therefore, "they spread their wings and take them, carrying them on ... pinions." They carry their young on their wings, declaring: "If an arrow is shot, it will pierce me, rather than my child" (Midrash Tanchumah, Ekev 2).

Similarly, G-d took the Jews out of Egypt "on eagles' wings" (Shemot 19:4). He caused the shafts and stones which the Egyptians hurled to be absorbed by His protective cloud, rather than fall on the Jewish people.

Zohar (II:80b) explains that the eagle shows great mercy to its offspring, but to others, it is a fierce bird of prey. Thus, when G-d took Yisrael "on eagles' wings," He revealed both qualities. To Yisrael, He was merciful. However, He unleased fierce judgments against the Egyptians.

Nevertheless, for the Jewish people, the eagle is a symbol of mercy. Zohar (III:333a) states that they very appearance of an eagle is a sign of Divine favor.

- Me'am Lo'ez


Sunday, October 9, 2016 · Posted in , , ,

(Torah dropping like rain)

Ha'azinu for Sunday, 7 Tishrei 5777 / October 9, 2016

Devarim (Deut.) Chapter 32

יַֽעֲרֹ֤ף כַּמָּטָר֙ לִקְחִ֔י תִּזַּ֥ל כַּטַּ֖ל אִמְרָתִ֑י כִּשְׂעִירִ֣ם עֲלֵי־דֶ֔שֶׁא וְכִרְבִיבִ֖ים עֲלֵי־עֵֽשֶׂב

Devarim 32:2 My teaching shall drop like rain; my word will flow like dew; like storm winds on vegetation and like raindrops on grass

My teaching shall drop like rain: This is the testimony that you shall testify, that in your presence, I declare, "The Torah (לִקְחִי), which I gave to Israel, which provides life to the world, is just like this rain, which provides life to the world, [i.e.,] when the heavens drip down dew and rain." — [Sifrei 32:2]

like storm winds: Heb. כִּשְׂעִירִם. This is an expression similar to “storm (סְעָרָה) wind” [since ס and שׂ are interchangeable. Accordingly,] the Targum renders [כִּשְׂעִירִם as]: כְּרוּחֵי מִטְרָא, “like winds [that bring] rain.” [The metaphor is explained as follows:] Just as these [stormy, rainy] winds maintain the plants and promote their growth, so too, the words of the Torah cause those who study them to grow.

(Chabad, Rashi, Me'am Lo'ez)

Parashat Ekev - Kol HaMitzvah

Thursday, August 25, 2016 · Posted in , ,

[Dead Sea Sunrise]

Devarim 8:1 You shall faithfully observe all the Instructions that I enjoin upon you today, that you may thrive and increase and be able to occupy the land which Hashem promised on oath to your fathers.

This verse follows immediately after the discussion of idolatry in order to teach us that whoever denies pagan worship is regarded as having upheld the whole Torah.

The verse uses the words Kol haMitzvah (כל המצוה - all the Instruction) instead of the plural form Kol haMitzvot (כל המצות - all the Instructions). A number of possible explanations are offered. The first reason is to signify that the entire body of laws in the Torah constitutes a single entity. One is not permitted to state that since he observes most of the, he can afford to omit others. One is not permitted to pick and choose among the Mitzvot since they all represent one unit.

Another reason offered is that the singular terminology does not refer to the mitzvah itself but to the performer of the mitzvah. That is to say, if one person begins a mitzvah but for some reason is unable to complete it, the mitzvah accrues only to the account of the person completing it. It is not considered a joint venture but is exclusively to the credit of the latter.

The singular use can also be understood as signaling that if any mitzvah is performed, it is to be observed with the totality and devotion as if it were the only mitzvah in the Torah. This is why pious people prepare themselves intently before performing a mitzvah - meditating upon the mitzvah and reciting the biblical texts which refer to the mitzvah they are embarking upon.

Finally, a singular usage signals that all mitzvot of the Torah constitute a single organic whole. Therefore, one who is unable to perform various mitzvot because of circumstances (such as an ordinary Jew who is unable to perform the mitzvot that involve only Kohanim), but nevertheless performs all the mitzvot that are required of him faithfully, and studies those mitzvot which are not applicable to him, receives the reward for even those mitzvot which he cannot perform.

Support for this last interpretation is found in the usage of the word Hayom (היום - this day) in the verse. Since it is evident that in the desert there were many mitzvot which the Benei Yisrael were not able to perform, particularly those dealing with the Land of Yisrael, nonetheless, they were adjured to heed all the mitzvot, even those which fell into this category.

- Me'am Lo'ez, Devarim, Parashat Ekev

17th of Tammuz: The Burning of the Torah Scroll by Apustamus & The Placing of an Idol in the Sanctuary

Sunday, July 24, 2016 · Posted in , , ,

The Burning of the Torah Scroll by Apustamus

The Gemara tells us that we know this event happened on the seventeenth of Tamuz as a tradition from our forefathers. The Gemara does not tell us who Apustamus was, or what the significance of the Torah scroll was.

The R"av writes that Apustamus was a Greek officer at the time of the second Temple. The Tiferet Yisroel offers two possible explanations as to the significance of the scroll. One is that this scroll was the one written by Ezra HaSofer, Ezra the Scribe. The text was the most authoritative, and all other Torah scrolls that were written were checked against this one for accuracy and errors. Another understanding is that he burnt every Torah scroll he could find.

No matter the explanation, the intent behind Apostamus’ actions remain the same: to eradicate Torah from the nation of Yisrael.

The Placing of an Idol in the Sanctuary 

The Gemara tells us that we know from the verse in Daniel 12:11 that this event occurred on the 17th of Tamuz, as the verse says that "on the day the Tamid offering ceased to be brought, an idolatrous image was placed in the Temple."  Although the Gemara here does not mention who placed the idol in the Temple, the Gemara in the Talmud Yerushalmi mentions that there is debate as to who did it. Some say that Apustamus placed the idol in the Temple as well as burning the Torah scroll. Others say it was placed by Menashe, an evil Jewish king, in the time of the first Temple. (

[Since the 17th of Tammuz fell on Shabbat, the fast was postponed until today, Sunday July 24th.]

17th of Tammuz: Breaking of the Luchot

17th of Tammuz: The Discontinuance of the Tamid

17th of Tammuz: The Breaching of the Wall Around Yerushalayim

17th of Tammuz: The Breaching of the Wall Around Yerushalayim

The Gemara then discusses the tragedy of the wall of Jerusalem being breached, the event which led to the overrunning of Jerusalem by our oppressors and the eventual destruction of the Temples.

The Gemara notes that there is an inconsistency between our Mishnah and the verse in Yermiyahu 52:6, which implies that the wall was breached on the ninth of Tammuz, not the seventeenth as the Mishnah says.

The Gemara resolves this inconsistency by explaining that the verse in Yirmiyahu is referring to the time of the first Temple, while our Mishnah is referring to the time of the second Temple. If that is the case, why do we fast only on the 17th of Tammuz, and not on the ninth as well?

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Talmud) explains that in reality, the breach of the walls occurred on the 17th during both eras. However, in the time of the first Temple, because of the stress and upheaval of the time, the people became confused and miscalculated the days in the calendar. Therefore, they thought the breach occurred on the ninth. Yirmiyahu, when recording the event, wrote it down according to the erroneous calculation of the people, which was the prevalent belief as to the date of occurrence.

The Tur in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 549 writes that the breaches did occur on different dates. However, because having two fasts in such close proximity would be a burden on the community, only one fast day was established. The fast day was established on the day the wall was breached at the time of the second Temple because the tragedy was greater regarding its impact on us: the exile that began at that time is the exile we currently live in. (

[Since the 17th of Tammuz fell on Shabbat, the fast was postponed until today, Sunday July 24th.]

17th of Tammuz: The Discontinuance of the Tamid

The next tragedy the Gemara discusses is the discontinuation of the Tamid offering (daily burnt offering). The Gemara tells us that we know this happened on this day because we have a tradition from our forefathers that this is so. Rashi explains that the reason why the sacrifice was no longer brought was because the government at the time forbade it.

The Tiferet Yisrael, a commentator on the Mishnah, gives another possible explanation. We see from the Gemara in Baba Kama (82b) that there were two brothers who were members of the Hashmonean family (of Chanukah fame). These brothers, Aristablus and Hyrkanus, fought each other for the throne of Judea. Aristoblus laid siege to Yerushalayim, where Hyrkanus was headquartered.  As lambs were needed for the daily sacrifice and there were none in Jerusalem, the inhabitants worked out a deal with the lamb-sellers outside of the city. Everyday, the Jerusalemites would lower a basket full of gold coins over the wall. In return, the lamb-sellers would supply a lamb, which was then hoisted up. One day, an elderly man outside of the wall advised the sellers to supply a pig instead of a lamb. As the pig was unknowingly being hoisted up, the pig stuck its claws into the wall, and all of Yisrael quaked. From this day until the end of the siege, the daily offering was not brought.

The R"av, also a commentator on the Mishnah, gives another explanation. He explains that the Tamid was discontinued during the period of time when Jerusalem was under siege prior to the destruction of the Temple. The Tiferet Yisrael elaborates on this and says that the R"av is referring to the three year siege of Jerusalem by Nevuchadnezzar, at the time of the destruction of the first Temple. (

[Since the 17th of Tammuz fell on Shabbat, the fast was postponed until today, Sunday July 24th.]

17th of Tammuz: Breaking of the Luchot

17th of Tammuz: The breaking of the Luchot

The Gemara tells us that we know the Luchot, containing the Ten Commandments, were broken on this day by means of a simple mathematical calculation. Although there is disagreement as to when the Ten Commandments were given to the nation of Yisrael, all agree that Moshe went up to Mount Sinai to get the Luchot on the seventh day of the month of Sivan. 

As proof of this, the Gemara brings the verse in Shemot 24:16 which says that Moshe  "was called (to the mountain) on the seventh day." 

We also know from a verse (Shemot 24: 18) that Moshe "was on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights." As Sivan that year was 30 days long, Moshe was on the mountain for 24 days in Sivan, and the first 16 days of the next month, Tammuz. 

On the seventeenth day of Tammuz, Moshe descended from the mountain. Seeing what the nation was doing with the Golden Calf, he broke the Luchot. (

[Since the 17th of Tammuz fell on Shabbat, the fast was postponed until today, Sunday July 24th.]

Parashat Chukat: Laws of the Parah Adumah - Summed Up

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 · Posted in , , ,

On the first of Nissan, 2,449, the Mishkan's last Inauguration Day, Hashem revealed to Moshe the laws regarding impure people who are expelled from the Camp and the purity laws of the Kohanim.

Hashem taught him how purification from the different types of impurities is achieved (either by immersion in a mikvah or in a live spring, and so on), as well as the sacrifices that consummate the purification procedure.

When Hashem taught Moshe that a Jew becomes tamei by touching a dead body, Moshe questioned, "How does he purify himself of this tum'ah?"

Hashem did not answer his question, and Moshe's face darkened in grief and shame.* (There can be no greater pain for a talmid chacham, whose life goal is to perfect himself in Torah knowledge and performance, than to be denied the knowledge he seeks.)

* According to Alshich, Moshe was ashamed for Aharon's sake when Hashem did not reply. He thought that by participating in the chet ha'egel (sin of the calf - golden calf), Aharon had brought back the Angel of Death to the Jewish people and he would be eternally stigmatized unless Hashem prescribed a way of purifying oneself from the tum'ah caused by death. In truth, Hashem delayed His answer as a kindness to Aharon. The first time He addressed Msohe, Aharon was not present. Hashem therefore waited until Aharon, too, was present and then addressed the parsha of parah adumah to both of them (Bamidbar 19:1). This publicized the fact that He had forgiven Aharon for having participated in the Sin of the Gold Calf.

Later that day Hashem resumed the subject, explaining to Moshe and Aharon, "If someone became defiled by contact with a corpse, he is to be sprinkled with a special mixture of water and ashes from a red heifer."

The Almighty instructed them in the laws of the parah adumah:

  • The parah adumah is purchased from the treasury of the Beit Hamikdash, from a fund containing the yearly half-shekel donations of individual Jews.
  • To qualify as a parah adumah, a cow must be at least three years old (old enough to bear young).
  • Its color must be completely red; even two hairs of another color disqualify it.
  • The animal is also disqualified if it was once harnessed to a yoke, even if it did not perform labor.
  • The kohen slaughters the cow "outside the Camp." During the years int he wilderness it was slaughtered outside all three Camps, and in the time of the Beit Hamikdash on the Mount of Olives, since this mountain is considered "outside Yerushalayim."
  • He gathers some of the heifer's blood in his left hand, dips his right index finger into it, and sprinkles it in the direction of the entrance of the Heichal (Temple), which he can see from the mountain.
  • A fire is lit, and the kohen supervises the cow's burining.
  • With a red woolen string he ties together a cedar stick and some hyssop.
  • While the cow is burning, the bundle containing the cedar stick and hyssop is cast into its carcass.
  • The heifer's ashes are divided into three parts: one is placed in a certain section of the courtyard of the Beit Hamikdash, where it is preserved in order to fulfill the mitzvah that the ashes of the parah adumah must be kept for all generations. A second part is divided among the groups of kohanim who become tamei. the third part is placed in a spot on the Mount of Olives for the purification of Benei Yisrael.
  • Whoever was involved in the preparation of the ashes - for example, the person who burned the cow, who cast the bundle into the fire, who gathered wood, who touched or carried the ashes - becomes tamei.
  • In a utensil the heifer's ashes are mixed with fresh spring water.
  • the waters of the parah adumah are sprinkled by someone who is himself pure from tumat hamet (the impurity of death) onto the Jew who purifies himself. He sprinkles him on the third and seventh day of the individual's purification. Moreover, during the seventh day the person being purified must immerse himself in a mikvah to consummate his purification.

To this day, nine Parah Adumah have been burnt. The first was prepared by Elazar ben Aharon under Moshe's supervision on the second of Nissan, 2,449. (Moshe directed the proper thoughts toward it, because Elazar did not understand its reasons.)

A blessing rested upon the portion of Moshe's ashes set aside for purification; they lasted until Ezra's time. Under Ezra's supervision, a second parah adumah was burned; a third and a fourth under Shimon HaTzaddik's guidance, and two more in the time of Yochanan Kohen Gadol. From then until the destruction of the Second Beit Hamikdash three further parot adumot were burnt. 

The tenth one will be prepared by Mashiach, may he come soon!

- Midrash Says, Bamidbar

Parashat Chukat: All Torah Laws are Beyond our Understanding

Monday, July 11, 2016 · Posted in , , , ,

Generally, the mitzvot of the Torah belong in one of three categories:

  1. Eduyot / Testimonies: If a mitzvah testifies to a historical event or to some aspect of our emunah (faith), it is termed edut - testimony. Examples are the mitzvah to observe Shabbat, which attests to our belief that the Almighty created the world in sinx days; to observe the yamim tovim, because they commemorate Yetziat Mitzrayim (Exodus from Egypt); the mitzvot of tzitzit and tefillin, which demonstrate our belief in Hashem's Rulership.
  2. Mishpatim / Civil Laws: Mishpatim are Divine laws that promulgate the safety and survival of human society. They include, for example, the prohibition against theft and murder.
  3. Chukim / Divine Ordinances: In the category of chok (plural "chukim") fall those mitzvot whose purposes or meanings are not necessarily understood by human intelligence.  There are numerous examples of chukim, but the Midrash lists four about which the Torah explicitly states, "It is a chok." Since they contain apparently contradictory elements, they are liable to be ridiculed by the rational thinker. The Torah therefore advises the Jew to tell himself, "It is a chok; I have no right to question it."
The four are:

Yibum: A Jew who marries his brother's wife during his brother's lifetime or even after the latter's death, incurs the karet penalty, provided his brother had children. But if his brother's widow is childless, it is a mitzvah to marry her (yibum). Since logic may find this turnabout difficult to accept, the verse emphasizes, "And you shall guard My chukim" (Vayikra / Lev. 18:26).

Sha'atnez: The Torah forbids the wearing of a garment that contains a mixture of wool and linen. However, it is permissible to wear a linen garment to which woolen tzitzit are attached. Lest we question this exception, the Torah declares concerning the mitzvah of sha'atnez, "You shall keep My chukim" (Vayikra 19:19).

Sa'ir LaAzazel / The he-goat to Azazel: The he-goat, sent to its death as part of the Yom Kippur Service, purified K'lal Yisrael of its sins while defiling the agent who took it away. This law is therefore called "an eternal chok" (Vayikra 16:29).

Parah Adumah / Red Heifer: The ashes of the parah adumah purify a Jew who is tamei, while rendering tamei anyone involved in preparing them (1). Since this also defies logic, the Torah introduces the subject with the words, "This is the chok of the Torah" (19:2); we must accept the mitzvah as a Divine ordinance. Nevertheless, chukim are not "laws without reasons"; rather, their logic is Divine. The greatest among our people were able to understand some of them. Thus, the rationale behind the laws of the parah adumah were Divinely revealed to Moshe. On the other hand, King Shlomo, who researched the reasons behind the mitzvot and found explanations for all the others, professed that this mitzvah was incomprehensible. Shlomo discovered why for beasts the shochet must cut both the windpipe and esophagus, while for birds cutting only one of these organs suffices, and fish need not be ritually slaughtered at all. However, he confessed, "I thought I would get wisdom, but it (the understanding of the mitzvah of parah adumah) is far from me" (Kohelet / Eccl. 7:23).

  1) However, while the parah adumah purified a person from the severest kind of impurity, avi avot hatum'a, it made the person who prepared it merely an av hatum'a (a carrier of a minor degree of impurity).

Shlomo's Torah wisdom was immense. It surpassed that of the entire generation of the wilderness, known as "the Generation of Knowledge." He knew details of Torah that even Moshe did not know.

Shlomo's greatness in Torah is apparent from the three wonderful and holy Books he authored with rauch hakodesh - Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), Mishlei (Proverbs), and Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) - which were included in Tanach. (He also composed some of the psalms in Tehillim.)

He endeared the Torah to the people, for he was able to illustrate the meaning of each halachah with as many as 3000 parables, and cite 1005 different reasons for any Rabbinic ordinance.

How profound, then, is the mitzvah of parah adumah, if Shlomo, the wisest of all men, declared, "I studied it and toiled to understand it, but it is far beyond my grasp."

In truth, even those mitzvot of the Torah which seem understandable are "chukim." Their true meaning and significance is far beyond man's intellect.

- The Midrash Says, Bamidbar

Three Crowns

Three crowns were bestowed upon the Jewish people:

1) The Crown of Royalty; it was given to David and his descendants forever.

2) The Crown of Kehunah (Priesthood); it was awarded to Aharon and his sons forever.

3) The Crown of Torah; It is accessible to all. If a Jew claims, "If only I had descended from royalty or priesthood, I would exert myself to achieve greatness," he is answered, "The Crown of Torah is available to all. Have you exerted yourself to become a talmid chacham (Torah scholar)? The Crown of Torah is the greatest crown of all.

- The Midrash Says

Parashat Korach: The Sounds Of The Earthquake Or The Voice Of The Earth?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016 · Posted in , , , ,

"V'Chol Yisra'el Asher Sevivoteihem Nasu L'Kolam",
all of Benei Yisrael that were around them ran from the voice (Korach 16:34).

Which voices were they running from?

The Mizrachi says it could not have been from the screaming of the people falling in the open earth or else all the people would run towards the voices to see this strange event, and not away from it. Instead he says it was from the booming noise of the earth opening up.

The Tosafot Yom Tov says that the voice was that of the earth speaking and announcing that the sinners were swallowed alive and still living inside the bowels of the earth. He brings proof from the pasuk that says (Korach 16:30),

"U'Patzitah HaAdamah Et Piha"
the earth opened its mouth.

The word Patzitah implies that it opened its mouth to speak because the word that is used in this parsha to describe the opening of the ground is "VaTiftach HaAretz Et Piha".

Maybe this would explain the mishnah in Pirkei Avot (5:8) that says that one of the ten things created Erev Shabbat Bein HaShmashot was "Pi HaAretz" the mouth of the earth that swallowed Korach.

If it meant the crack in the earth then why would this be a special creation?

The earth splitting was not a one time event and happens from time to time. Moreover, a crack is not a creation. Maybe it means the mouth of the earth that spoke, similar to another creation in this mishnah, the mouth of the donkey of Bilam who spoke.


A Thought of Torah

Tuesday, July 5, 2016 · Posted in ,

The most brilliant human philosophies behave like butterflies slipping through reality’s net, like birds drawn upward in flight, ever-evading the practicalities of real life.

A thought of Torah, however, sits above your head like a reservoir of living waters. As ethereal as it may be, it needs only a small opening to burst its dam and pour down into your life.

Whatever Torah you learn, whatever you know, do something with it. Make it real
— From the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt’l

Tehillim 119:21

Friday, June 24, 2016 · Posted in , , , , ,

Tehillim 119:21
גערת זדים ארורים השגים ממצותיך
ga'arta zedim arurim hashogim mimitzvoteicha
You have rebuked the accursed insolent ones who stray (err) from Your commandments.

The fifth obstruction is the antagonism of the nations. They believe that they adhere to the commandments of the Torah, when actually they err and distort, and so are perpectually cursed. That is what it says here, "You have rebuked the accursed insolent ones who err from Your commandments."

Some explain the verse as referring to the future rather than the past. You will curse "the accursed insolent ones who err from Your commandments." They willfully distort what they study of the Torah, and so err at keeping the mitzvot.

The "insolent ones... err." Their insolence causes them to err.

Some say: They "err away from Your commandments." There are "accursed insolent ones" who expound the Torah superficially, contrary to Halachah. That is, they bring halachically-invalid proofs for their false doctrines. For this reason were the Tablets of the Law written front and back, to convey that if one comes to be purified (to be the same inside and out), he is helped. But if one comes to be defiled - he wants to "stray from Your commandments" - he is abandoned ot his choice.

- Me'am Lo'ez


Thursday, May 19, 2016 · Posted in , ,

A king once told his son to take a huge stone up to the first floor of the palace. The stone was enormous; neither men, nor horses, nor machines could have moved it. The prince was very perplexed. After trying in vain, he became discouraged and gave up.

When the King came and asked for an explanation, the prince sheepishly admitted his failure.

"It was impossible!" he apologized.

"Do you really think that I would have asked you to do something impossible?" exclaimed the King. "You should have thought about it! Did I ask you to take the stone up in one piece? If you had taken a hammer and started hitting it, you could have lifted up the small pieces and accomplished your work little by little!"

This rock, this enormous stone, is our heart. Isn't it sometimes so hard and so cold? Our King has asked us to elevate it. We tried, the task seemed beyond our forces, how could we soften such a hard rock.

Let us take a hammer - a moment each day

Let us strike it - let us talk to G-d

The stone - our heart

Will break - little by little

Piece by piece we will be able to elevate it.

(Rebbe Nachman)

Perek Shirah - CHAPTER THREE: Trees of the Field Say

Monday, April 18, 2016 · Posted in ,

Chapter Three

Song of Plant Life

 אִילָנוֹת שֶׁבַּשָׂרֶה אוֺמְרִים - Trees of the Field Say:

[Olive Trees in Yisrael]

Divrei HaYamim Alef 16:33
 אָז יְרַנְּנוּ, עֲצֵי הַיָּעַר: מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה כִּי-בָא, לִשְׁפּוֹט אֶת-הָאָרֶץ
Az yerannu atzei haya'ar milifnei HASHEM ki-va lishpot et-ha'aretz
Then all the trees of the forest will sing with joy, before Hashem - 
for He will have come to judge the earth.

All of nature – including the sea, the fields, and the trees of the forest – will rejoice in the messianic age, for Hashem will dispense justice to the earth which has been oppressed by human beings who imagined that they were the sovereigns of the earth. Through the universal recognition of the Divine sovereignty, the earth will no longer be exploited for the selfish gratification of human beings. Instead, all human beings will rededicate themselves to the original Divine mandate regarding the earth: “to serve it and to guard it” (Bereishit 2:15). In such an age, “the earth will rejoice, the sea and its fullness will roar; the field and everything in it will exult; then all the trees of the forest will sing with joy.” (Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen)

Rav Acha says: 'the forest and the trees of the forest' – the forest refers to the trees which bear fruits, while the trees of the forest refer to trees which do not bear fruit. Before whom will they sing with joy? Before Hashem. Why?  '… For He will have arrived' - on Rosh Hashana and Yom HaKippurim. What will He do?  '… He will have arrived to judge the earth, He will judge the world with righteousness and peoples with his truth'" 

Rabbi Nosson Scherman, in the ArtScroll edition of Perek Shirah, offers the following commentary on this song of the trees:

"Where there has been disarray, a judge must restore order and replace chaos with justice. When the world is in turmoil, and justice is perverted, even the trees of the wild suffer, for the earth’s resources are abused and depleted. When the rule of the Ultimate Judge is acknowledged and accepted, even the trees will express their joy by waving their branches ecstatically, because the health of nature will be restored."

An older fellow once explained to me that newspapers are probably here to stay. They are a wonderful medium to publicize news and certainly in the times of Mashiach there will be important information to disseminate. The main difference between today's newspapers and those in the days of Mashiach's is that in the days of Mashiach newspapers will be much thinner. Why? When you take out of the newspaper the Lashon Hara, the lies, and the Shtuyot (nonsense) there isn't much left to it. Since under Mashiach's watchful eye none of these things will make past the editor we will have very small newspapers.

Who will be the big winner from this drastic downsizing of the daily paper? The trees of course. 250 million trees are cut every year just to print newspapers in the United States. One leading newspaper uses an astounding 75,000 trees a week for its Sunday paper alone.

Ilanos ShebaSadeh Oimrim "Az Yerannu Kol Atzei Hayar Milifnei Hashem Ki Va Lishpot Ha'Aretz"; Then (in the time of Mashiach) the trees of the forest will sing before Hashem who will come to judge the land... and you thought that only you wanted Mashiach now! (Revach)

Perek Shirah - Rain Says

Saturday, February 13, 2016 · Posted in ,

גְּשָׁמִים אוֹמְרִים - Rain Says:
Tehillim 68:10
גֶּשֶׁם נְדָבוֹת תָּנִיף אלוקים נַחֲלָתְךָ וְנִלְאָה אַתָּה כוֹנַנְתָּהּ
geshem nedavot tanif Elokim nachalatcha venila atah chonanta

A generous rain did You pour down, O G-d; when Your inheritance was weary, You did establish it strongly.
Some explain that the entire verse pertains to Matan Torah. At Sinai, when the Benei Yisra'el grew faint in the Presence of G-d, "a generous rain did You pour down, O G-d." Like one spraying water on a person who has fainted, it was if You had poured down a generous rain upon them to revive them.

"When Your inheritance" - Your people Yisra'el - "was weary" to exhaustion from the bondage of the Egyptian exile; when they were fainting in terror at the trembling and shaking of the earth and the thunderous sounds at Sinai; "You did establish it strongly" and revived their souls.

Rashi explains: This, too, You did for us. Whenever we needed rain, You would always send us rains of generosity and blessing. When the Land of Your inheritance was weary with thirsting for water, You established it firmly.

Perek Shirah - Dew Says

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טַל אוֹמֵר - Dew Says:
Hoshe'a 14:6
אֶהְיֶה כַטַּל לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, יִפְרַח כַּשּׁוֹשַׁנָּה; וְיַךְ שָׁרָשָׁיו, כַּלְּבָנוֹן
ehyeh chatal leYisra'el yifrach kashoshana veyach sharashav kaLvanon
I will be to Yisra'el like the dew; he will flower (blossom) like the lily, 
and strike his roots like the (as) Levanon.

Because the Jewish people, collectively and individually, will have repented, their source will not become dry and their spring will not be dried up. On the contrary, "I will be to Yisrael as dew."

Even as the dew does not cease coming down every morning, so My benevolence towards the Jewish people will not cease. As a result, "he will blossom like the lily." The lily blossoms, not during a fierce rain, but when moistened by the dew at night. Yisrael is likened to a lilly, and it will merit the "dew" of G-d's blessing.

Yisra'el is likened to the lily, as it says, "a lily among thorns" (Shir HaShirim 2:2). The comparison is not fully adequate. The lily has no roots, but Yisra'el's roots are "like the Levanon." The cedars of Levanon have extensive roots below ground. Rain tends to destroy the lily, but the dew causes it to blossom. Nor does it harm its fragrance.  The lily opens upward, and even so the little moisture provided by dew is helpful. Regarding the Jewish people, similarly, the Sages teach that whoever gazes upward will in the end come to the path of life. As it says, "They looked to Him, and are radiant" (Tehillim 34:6).

The Jewish people have no roots in exile. Eventually, however, they who are now rootless will strike roots, and "his roots" will be "as Levanon." Future generations of the Jewish people - "his branches" - will be living in the Land of Yisra'el, and these branches "will spread out far." Then "his beauty will be as the olive tree, and his gragrance as Levanon" (v14:7).

This will take place in the End of Days. Even as the olive tree gives rise to olive oil, which then provides light, their fruit will also give light. At that time, the Holy Spirit and the spirit of purity will rest upon Yisra'el in the Land of Yisra'el - place of purity and holiness.

Perek Shirah - Lightning Says

בְּרָקִים אוֹמְרִים - Lightning Says:
Tehillim 135:7
בְּרָקִים לַמָּטָר עָשָׂה מוֹצֵא-רוּחַ מֵאוֹצְרוֹתָיו
berakim lamatar asa motze-uach me'otzrotav
He makes lightnings for the rain; He brings forth wind from His treasuries.

King David depicts the wonders of rain. "He raises the vapor-clouds" from the sea at "the ends of the earth; He makes lightnings for the rain." After G-d has caused the clouds to ascend on high, "He brings forth wind from His Treasuries." He draws the winds from their place of confinement, and they move the clouds over the surface of the earth.

King David also depicts here the redemption of Yisrael, which he likens to rainfall. At first the clouds obscure the light, and at times there is wind and storm. But after the rain has fallen, the skies clear and everyone benefits from the rain. The redemption comes in a similar fashion. At first there is the darkness of bondage, but then there is a great light. That is what King David says: "He raises the vapor-clouds from the ends of the earth; He makes lightnings for the rain:; He also "brings forth wind from His treasuries." But in the end everything brightens.

G-d's might is evident when He does two opposite things at once. Fire and water are opposites, and yet "He makes lightning for the rain." The water does not extinguish the fire.

"He brings forth wind from His treasuries" to scatter the clouds, or else to drive them to the designated location, everything in accordance with His will. To scatter and to bring to a designated location, are also opposites.

Rains are a sign of Divine supervision. This it says "For I know that Hashem is great, and that our G-d is above al gods. Whatsoever Hashem wants, He has done, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in all depths. He raises the vapor-clouds from the ends of the earth; He makes lightnings for the rain; He brings forth wind from His treasuries."

Perek Shirah - Wind Says

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רוּחַ אוֹמֵר - Wind Says:
Yeshayahu 43:6
 אֹמַר לַצָּפוֹן תֵּנִי וּלְתֵימָן אַל-תִּכְלָאִי הָבִיאִי בָנַי מֵרָחוֹק וּבְנוֹתַי מִקְצֵה הָאָרֶץ
omar latzafon teni uleteiman al-tichlai havii vanai merachok uvenotai miktze haaretz
I shall say to the North, "Give forth!" and to the South, "Hold not back!" 
Bring back My children from afar, My daughters from the ends of the earth!

Fear not that you may lose your status due to the exile, for I shall gather you from all over the earth.  I shall bring back the lost Ten Tribes exiled to the East, and the Judeans exiled to the West.

I will bring back not only those who are distant geographically, at the "ends of the earth," but also those who are distant spiritually, "from afar."  Those who were forced to abandon Jewish practice but kept it secretly in their homes, and even those who had only kept the faith in their hearts.

When G-d spoke to the prophet about the return of the exiles, He said: “…bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth” (Yeshayahu 43:6). According to our Sages (Menachot 110a), “My sons” refers to the exiles in Babylonia, who were like sons, since their minds were settled and composed, while “My daughters” refers to the exiles in other countries, who were like daughters, since their minds were not settled and composed. 

Perek Shirah - Clouds of Glory Say

עַנְנֵי כָבוֹר אוֹמְרִים - Clouds of Glory Say:
Iyov 37:11
אַף-בְּרִי יַטְרִיחַ עָב יָפִיץ עֲנַן אוֹרוֹ
af-beri yatriach av yafitz anan oro
Af Beri burdens the cloud; he scatters His rain cloud

(Af Beri is the name of the angel who is appointed over the clouds, 
and he scatters the Omnipresent’s rain cloud)

Also translated as...

Also He burdens the thick cloud with an overflow; the thin cloud scatters its light

The "clouds of glory" refers to thin clouds that do not rain but instead have only the effect of scattering the sun's light, thereby forming beautiful and glorious patterns in the sky. Even if they only absorb a tiny amount of sunlight, scattering it evenly and thereby appearing to be white, they present a spectacular contrast to the blue skies; when they refract the light unevenly and produce striking shades of red and orange, they are all the more magnificent.

The commentaries on Perek Shirah explain that the lesson contained therein is as follows. The rain contained by the thick clouds, albeit a blessing, blocks out the sunlight. Rain is called geshem in the Torah, the source of the word gashmiyus, physicality. Rain represents the material blessings of this world. Immersion in the material pleasures of this world can obscure the light of the heavens. One can forget about the ultimate source of life and light -- Hashem. (Rabbi Nosson Slifkin)

“And the night will be dark about me” Heb. אור, literally "light." And the night will darken before me. This אוֹר is an expression of darkness, like (Iyov 37:11) “he spreads his clouds of darkness (אור) ” 

During the forty years in the wilderness, Yisrael  was protected and given light by the Clouds of Glory.  The Talmud teaches that they had no need for sunlight because the holiness of the clouds gave them all the light they needed.  Also, when the earth needs rain, G-d thickens the clouds with moisture and gladdens the dry earth. (Tanach; Rabbi Scherman)

Perek Shirah - Thick Clouds Say

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עָבִים אוֹמְרִים - Thick Clouds Say:
Tehillim 18:12
יָשֶׁת חֹשֶׁךְ | סִתְרוֹ סְבִיבוֹתָיו סֻכָּתוֹ חֶשְׁכַת מַיִם עָבֵי שְׁחָקִים
yashet choshech sitro sevivotav sukato cheshchat-mayim avei shechakim
He made darkness His hiding place, His pavillion round about Him; 
darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies.

Now David describes the fifth form of divine retribution, by water and torrential rain, as happened to the Flood Generation.

"He made darkness... thick clouds of the skies."  G-d put darkness round about His pavilion, to be at hand for use against His enemies.  "Darkness of waters" (cheshchat-mayim) means an accumulation of clouds; "thick clouds of the skies" (avei shechakim) means clouds that cover the sky.

Some explain that the verse refers to David himself.  G-d "made darkness" - placed upon him a cover of darkness - as "his hiding place," that is, to conceal him from his enemies.

Some commentaries emphasize the link between the present verse and what came before.  Because G-d's wrath flamed forth against His enemies, and out of His mouth came burning coals and hailstones that devoured (v18:9), they pierced through the thick clouds.  The "darkness of waters" did not extinguish the coals and lightning bolts that flamed from His mouth.

Here cheshchat is appropriately translated as "darkness."  Elsewhere we find the expression chashrat mayim, which means a gathering of waters.  That is to say, waters gathered from everywhere in the form of vapors to form clouds.  Darkness ensued as a result of the clouds - cheshchat-mayim.

Then again, "He made darkness His Place" alludes to the profound difficulty of knowing G-d, just as it is impossible to know what is inside a dark place.  For our material aspect keeps us separated from knowledge of the Almighty.

The "darkness of waters" that are in the thick clouds of the skies are the darkness that is about Him. Lest you say that within the darkness there is no light, Scripture tells us: From the brightness before Him, and from within His partition, His thick clouds that are about Him are split, and hail and coals of fire pass through them. (Rashi)

"He made darkness His hiding place", referring to the spiritual source of darkness which in truth is loftier even than the revealed light and is therefore (called darkness, for it is) too intense to be perceived by any mortal, seeing creature (Likutei Sichot vol. 11.p.132) 

Concerning this it is stated, “He reveals deep things from the darkness” (Iyov 12:22) The “darkness” is the essential hiddenness of the Ein Sof which is known as “His hidden darkness” (Tehillim 18:12) the level at which He is “hidden from all the hidden.” And out of this darkness is the above point revealed. After the contraction and concealment referred to as “the deep things” of “His hidden darkness” there is a revelation of light; yet this revelation is only a point, and is still concealed in relation to the hishtalshelut of [the development of] the worlds. For even though at this stage the point which remains of the light is still considered concealed in relation to the hishtalshelut of the worlds, its ultimate revelation for the sake of this hishtalshelut can take place only after the point’s expansion. As a “point” it is still beyond revelation. It is called ayin (“nothingness”) relative to both G-d’s essential Being and to the worlds; to Atzmut (Essence) because it is insignificant in comparison, and to the worlds because it is not yet revealed.

The attribute of Netzach is the inner dimension of Keter which is referred to by the phrase: “He made darkness His hidding place [concealment]," [i.e., it is a quality] above revelation.

Perek Shirah - Stars say

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כּוֹכָבִים אוֹוֹמְרִים - Stars say:
Nechemiya 9:6
אַתָּה הוּא יְהֹוָה לְבַדֶּךָ אַתָּה עָשִׂיתָ אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם וְכָל צְבָאָם הָאָרֶץ וְכָל אֲשֶׁר עָלֶיהָ הַיַּמִּים וְכָל אֲשֶׁר בָּהֶם וְאַתָּה מְחַיֶּה אֶת כֻּלָּם וּצְבָא הַשָּׁמַיִם לְךָ מִשְׁתַּחֲוִים
atah-hu HASHEM levadecha atah asita et-hashamayim shemei hashamayim vechol-tzevaam haaretz vechol-asher aleiha hayamim vechol-asher bahem veata mechayeh et-kulam utzeva hashamayim lecha mishtachavim
You alone are HASHEM; You made the heavens, the heavens of the heavens and all their host, 
the earth and all that is upon it, the seas and all that is in them, 
and You give life to them all, and the heavenly host bow down before You.

"The heavenly host bow down before You" – the Gemara sees the rising of the celestial bodies in the east and their movement toward the west as daily worship of G-d. The celestial bodies, of course, lack free choice, and in this sense, a person who serves in the Temple is sort of a prayer leader on behalf of all of creation; as if every day he bears the sun, the moon, and the stars, and prostrates himself westward, toward the Shechinah in the Holy of Holies.

The idea that man in his daily service of G-d gives expression to all of creation's yearning for the Divine follows also from the Gemara in Berachot 9b, which proposes as an asmachta (support) for the custom of the prayer of vatikin (ideal time, which was the time that the meticulous men of old would recite the Shema, is just before sunrise so that their silent Amida prayer would commence with the rising sun) the verse, "May they fear You with the sun" (Tehillim 72:5).

Every star and sphere has a soul and is endowed with knowledge and intellect. (Rambam, Laws of Fundamental Principles 3:9)

So why does the sun race across the heavens?

The explanation expounded in those Chassidic discourses present the movement of the sun as a form of terribly self-nullifying genuflection and prostration. The sun has matter and form, body and soul. The body — the sun orb — circles the heavens in bowed reverence, because its spiritual soul is in a state of spiritual prostration.

Scripture describes this phenomenon in the following manner, on the one hand:

"The host of the heavens bow before You" (Nehemiah 9:6)

This is the physical state. On the other hand:

“When the morning stars sing together.” (Iyov 38:7)

This is the Spiritual bowing (singing).

"You give life to them all", G-d's energy in every created being not only gives it life and vivifies it, but continuously brings it into existence ex nihilo. The verse is thus interpreted, for the phrase "to give life" does not necessary imply "to create" -- as, for example, the soul which gives life to and vivifies the body, yet does not bring it into being. Whereas in Creation the energy not only vivifies but also creates and must continuously flow into the created being, for without it, it would revert to nothingness; by giving life, He actually creates it ex nihilo. Hence, He constantly renews the existence of the world and all the creatures, creating them anew from nothing at every moment, just as in the beginning of Creation. So, in reality, "to give life" and to "bring into being" are identical.

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