Archive for October 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)

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