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Omer Day 12 – Something Greater

hod shebbe gevurah (humility within strength)

The humility of discipline, requires an acknowledgment of something greater than ourselves, so that we do not misuse our sense of power. There is only one authority in the world that is not of this world: the authority from Above. All other authorities must submit to Him. The more that we may try to act as an independent entity, without keeping G-d in mind, the less efficacy we will have in our endeavors. Even if G-d permits us to go our own way, the result will not be sanctioned by him, unless we realize through our misguided efforts, that something is amiss. By leaving G-d out of the equation in our lives, nothing will add up. Only through His splendor can we act in all humility, in recognition of His greater glory.

shiur Shemini 5781 – Serving with Reverence


shiur for parashas Shemini 5781

“This is it that H’Shem spoke, saying: Through them that are nigh unto Me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.”

– Leviticus 10:3, JPS 1917 Tanach

According to chazal, Nadav and Avihu are portrayed as righteous individuals who overstepped the boundaries in place for them as kohanim; as they tried to draw closer to H’Shem, in an unauthorized manner, they were consumed by “fire from before H’Shem” (Leviticus 10:2, JPS). According to the Talmud, Aaron’s two sons died, only for the sake of sanctifying H’Shem’s name (Zevachim 115b). Within the same Talmudic passage, another view expresses their deaths in a more nuanced way, specifically, alluding to their transgression, by making the point that they had previously been cautioned against drawing too close to H’Shem.

Rashi comments that through the execution of judgment upon righteous individuals, yiras HShem (fear of G-d) is brought upon the people. This is an important principle; with respect to Nadav and Avihu, their deaths caused the people to witness how precarious serving G-d may be, if a righteous person is not careful in respect to his avodah (service towards H’Shem). The deaths of Nadav and Avihu show, by way of an example with a deadly consequence, that H’Shem needs to be approached with great reverence, awe, and respect.

A harsher condemnation of Nadav and Avihu may be rendered by a perspective that is even more critical of their transgression. They brought “alien fire” from a source other than the fire on the mizbeach. The fire on the mizbeach had its origin from Shomayim (Leviticus 9:24); according to Sifre, fire descended in the shape of a pillar between heaven and earth. Yet, Nadav and Avihu flouted the implicit directive, to draw fire from the outer mizbeach for all of the offerings (the original fire from H’Shem).

What could have motivated Nadav and Avihu to take alien fire for their incense offering, instead of the fire that H’Shem had provided? One view critiques them as desiring to usurp the authority of Moshe and Aaron. Furthermore, because the authority of Moshe and Aaron was given to them from H’Shem, then flouting that authority would be akin to disregarding the authority of H’Shem. Therefore, it could be inferred that their taking of alien fire constitutes a betrayal of their motives to disregard the sovereignty of H’Shem.

Consider that towards the end of the first Temple period, the people were admonished, “they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13, JPS). The people had sought out other gods – alien gods – to worship, according to their own intentions; they had forsaken H’Shem.

Today, when we approach H’Shem in prayer, our avodah (service), equal to prayer of the heart, should be performed in reverence. Serving H’Shem, through the observance of the mitzvot, as well as through prayer, may also require a rigorous examination of conscience, for the sake of bringing to light ulterior motives, faults, and character defects. Who shall ascend into the mountain of H’Shem? And who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart [lev tahor]; who hath not taken My name in vain, and hath not sworn deceitfully” (Psalm 24:4, JPS 1917 Tanach).

dvar Shemini 5781 – Inner Shame


dvar for parashas Shemini 5781

“And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and came out, and blessed the people; and the glory of the L-RD appeared unto all the people.  And there came forth fire from the L-RD.”

– Leviticus 9:23, JPS 1917 Tanach

“The fire came down like a pillar from heaven to earth.” – Sifra

The people had grown expectant, to the point of concern, over the previous seven days, in which Moses daily performed the inauguration service on his own. On the eighth day, corresponding to the first of Nissan, one year after leaving Egypt, everything was in place; yet, still there was no fire from Shomayim (Heaven).

The offerings of that day included a calf as a sin-offering, of which commentary mentions atoned for Aaron’s role in the making of the golden calf.  Also, a goat as a sin-offering to atone for the people. Additionally, an olah, and the people’s shelamin – peace offering – as well as the daily morning Tamid offering.

It was at this point, that “Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting.” According commentary, one possible explanation, offered by Rashi, who refers to Sifre, is that when Aaron perceived that the offerings had been made, yet, the heavenly fire had not descended, he thought that H’Shem was still angry with him, because of his role in the sin of the golden calf. He pleaded to Moshe, in the midst of his “inner shame,” whereupon they both entered the sanctuary to pray.

Even upon beginning his role as Kohein Gadol (High Priest) upon making the first offerings, Aaron recalled his sin, and through his prayers, may have sought further atonement for his transgression. Surely, this must have been a humbling experience for him; elsewhere, commentary explains that even though he felt ashamed, this was precisely why he had been chosen, because he remained humble, as a result of recalling his sin. The principle is encapsulated in the pasuk (verse), “my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:5). If we keep our past sins in mind, this will help us to keep our ego in check.

Omer: Day 11 Netzach of Gevurah – endurance of strength

Netzach of Gevurah

The combination of attributes, netzach within gevurah represents the endurance of strength through maintaining discipline over oneself, and unruly emotions as noted in Proverbs. Scripture, especially the insights found in Proverbs, may serve as a reflection on human behavior, as well as a prescription for right conduct. Thus to paraphrase Solomon, he who rules over his passions is greater than he who is able to conquer a city (Proverbs 16:32). For “he that ruleth his spirit,” through subduing negative emotions may succeed in understanding (Proverbs 16:32, 14:29). Otherwise, one might become like “a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).

Keeping this in mind, it is interesting to note that netzach is also characterized as “victory.” The man Ghandi said, “Be the change that you want to be.” Sometimes it is better to focus on our inner battles, than to seek to be victorious over external circumstances that are beyond our control. I can work on changing myself for the better; hopefully, as a result, I will be in a position to positively effect others in a limited sphere of influence. Beyond that amount of impact, I recognize that I have very little sway over what occurs in the world at large. Netzach, further associated with the idea of “conducting” or “orchestrating” helps to keep me focused on my own sense of place, in relationship to the bigger picture, while recognizing that only G-d has the omnipotence to be all powerful.

Yom HaShoah 5781


Holocaust Memorial Day

Bolechov Martyrs:

(ancestry on my father’s side of the family)

  • Hirsch Ber Tzvi Dov ben Yehoshua Modechai
  • Moshe ben Yehoshua Mordechai
  • Chana bas Zeev
  • Yaakov ben Moshe
  • Celina bas Moshe
  • Tzila bas Moshe
  • Basia bas Yehoshua Mordechai
  • Gotshalk ben Basia

Omer: Day 10 Tiferes of Gevurah – Balance of Strength

Finding the right balance within the framework of discipline is important. In regard to self-discipline, for example, within the regimen of an excercise routine, there should be a certain amount of time and effort spent in order to achieve an overall goal. Too much too soon might not be of benefit, and could even be detrimental to one’s own sense of well-being. The same is true in other arenas of life. Whether the social sphere, one’s vocation, or even a hobby, there should be a balance kept in mind. Overall, coordinating mind, body, and spirit endeavors is necessary as well, to stay in balance.

Omer: Day 9 gevurah of gevurah – restraint of might

The strength of gevurah relies on the ability to restrain oneself. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Proverbs 16:32). Yet, restraint of ourselves is key, not only for the benefit of our soul, also for the sake of being in a position to offer diplomatic relations to those who enter into conflict with us. Another effective saying to keep in mind is that “he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife” (Proverbs 15:18). We would do well to learn from the wise words of King Solomon, for our hearts are heavy with the burdens we face; yet, too often, we are tempted to respond to others in a reactive way, rather in a manner of restraint.

If I may further explain, by way of a concrete example too rampant today. We might have fallen prey to the divisiveness that permeates society, dividing people into subgroups of us and them; the bitterness that festers as a result of demonizing the other, will only further the perpetuation of the lack of harmony in our lives, especially when our thoughts and rhetoric approaches the vitriolic. Being critical of others, through an excessive expression of gevurah, has the potential to devolve into the creation of newly marginalized classes of people in society, that may be increasingly demonized through generalizations. In this manner, tyranny rules the heart (G-d forbid).

Omer: Day 8 (Chesed of Gevurah) The Love Aspect of Discipline

loving-kindness within discipline

The aspect of chesed, having to do with love, denotes the gentle persuasion of discipline towards those whom we love; hence, correction from a place of love does not appear to be stern; yet, firm enough to make the point clear. If we truly love another person, then we are cautious in any attempt to rebuke – only for the sake of that person’s benefit to increase in understanding of the path that H’Shem desires us to walk upon. Therefore, the end result is from a place of love, not only from the one who institutes the admonition; rather, also from the One Who would only like the best for us.

Omer: Day 7 (Malchus of Chesed) The Sovereignty of Loving-kindness


April 4, 2021

Omer Day 7
Malchus shebbe Chesed

(Kingdom within Love)

The corresponding emotional attributes, sovereignty (autonomy, dignity, etc.) within loving-kindness are key qualities in healthy relationships. To be “there for the other person,” in essence, requires a strong sense of inner fortitude, knowing who you are, in order to relate to others from a centered awareness of one’s own identity. Maintaining healthy boundaries, by recognizing the other’s autonomy is also integral to being able to express love in an appropriate manner. Acts of kindness, done in a way that respects the other person’s dignity is important.

Our own inner worth, the value we place on ourselves in regard to personal dignity, reflects the One whose sovereignty rules over our hearts, if we permit Him to do so. Yet, if we see ourselves as separate from G-d, then we risk narcissistic pride, that creates an illusion of ourselves as being more important than our abilities and accomplishments would indicate. The expression of love to another person from a place of self aggrandizement may only result in posturing ourselves above the other.

Yet, in not overstepping the boundaries of the other, by accepting the other as a unique individual, two people in relationship to each other can coexist. This holds true for our interactions with all human beings, inasmuch that we endeavor to respect and appreciate others for who they are. Recognizing the inherent value of our fellow human beings, can be done without diminishing ourselves; nor, on the other hand, by thinking that we are better than the other. G-d, Who is sovereign over all is the Ultimate Judge.

[These are my personal reflections on the implications of today’s combination of middot (character traits). These reflections are not meant to be comprehensive, inasmuch that they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may these ideas be characterized as authoritative, because I profess to being a student, not a teacher. I hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul)].

Omer Count: Day 6 – Foundation of Love

April 3, 2021

Day 6 Yesod shebbe Chesed (Foundation within Love)

The foundation of love rests upon our ability to bond to others. Therefore, the strength of our love towards others is empowered by how we bond. Conversely, it could be said that the intensity of our love is strengthened by our bonds to others. An everflowing pattern develops, akin, by way of analogy, to the way water circulates on the earth.

“All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again” (Ecclesiastes 1:7). Moreover, when water evaporates, the droplets ascend to rakia (sky), from where they are condensed within rainclouds; then, the water droplets fall back to the earth in a continous cycle. I hope that this analogy may benefit your understanding of my reflections on hod shebbe chesed.

[These are my personal reflections on the implications of today’s combination of middot (character traits). These reflections are not meant to be comprehensive, inasmuch that they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may these ideas be characterized as authoritative, because I profess to being a student, not a teacher. I hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul)].