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Pesach: Seventh Day 5781

“And the L-RD said unto Moses: ‘Wherefore criest thou unto Me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.'” – Exodus 14:15, JPS 1917 Tanach

The seventh day of Pesach, Nissan 21 corresponds to the day on the Hebrew calendar when the Sea parted: The Children of Israel hesitated. Moshe cried out to G-d. H’Shem told him to “Speak to the Children of Israel, that they go forward.” Having already prayed for deliverance, the time was at hand; there was no further need for prayer, despite the imminent threat of the Egyptian army, poised opposite the encampment of B’nei Yisrael at the Sea of Reeds.

An east wind from H’Shem caused the sea to part, and dried the floor of the sea for the safe passage of the Children Israel. Of this miracle, Melchita notes, as commentary to the Children of Israels words in the song of Moshe, “this is my G-d, and I will exalt Him” (Exodus 15:2), that even the lowliest handmaid saw in terms of HShem’s revelation through the forces of nature, what the prophets, later in Jewish history did not see.

Additionally, the level of kedushah (holiness) that they received after crossing through the Sea, and the sublime experience at Sinai, when H’Shem revealed Himself to them, brought them to a level, where as a cleansed vessel, the Shechinah could dwell within them. The sea served as a mikveh (receptacle); and, tevillah (immersion) in the waters of the sea signified the beginning of a new start, a renewal of mind, body, and spirit; in essence, a rebirth, through purification in a mikveh, and the indwelling of the Shechinah, as mentioned in Exodus Rabbah 23:12.

shiur: Pesach 5781 – the Seventh Day

B”H

Shiur for the Seventh Day of Pesach 5781

“And Moses said unto the people: Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the L-RD, which He will work for you to-day; for whereas ye have seen the Egyptians to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.”

– Exodus 14:13, JPS 1917 Tanach

As the Egyptian army approached, Torah records that B’nei Yisrael, encamped near the Sea of Reeds, cried out to H’Shem in great fear (14:10). Commentary notes that the people were divided in their response: 1). Some cried out to H’Shem in prayer, akin to the later writing of the psalmist, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will make mention of the name of the L-RD our G-d” (Psalm 20:8, JPS). 2). Another group of the people, having great trepidation about their circumstances, took the exact opposite approach, expressing their regret for having left Egypt, and complaining to Moshe (see Exodus 14:10-12).

When Moshe responded to the consternation of B’nei Yisrael, in light of their present circumstances, despite the seemingly near danger that was imminent, he said to them, “Fear ye not, stand still and see” (see above). Or HaChayim comments, that the words “stand still” convey the essence of prayer, a reliance on H’Shem, turning to Him in the midst of nisyanos (trials). H notes that the same Hebrew phrase is used in the Tanach, in regard to the prayer of Hannah, Samuel’s mother, who prayed in all sincerity to H’Shem. The picture derived from this understanding is one of a people’s reliance on H’Shem, in hope of seeing His salvation at a time of great need, when Pharaoh’s army was bearing down upon them.

That night, an angel of H’Shem protected the people from the Egyptians, a cloud darkened the Egyptian camp, while a pillar of light shined upon the B’nei Yisrael. Moshe stretched his hand over the sea; and, H’Shem caused the sea to part by way of a strong east wind. The Children of Israel passed through the sea; however, when the Egyptians pursued them, Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the sea. Our own expectations of H’Shem for deliverance in our lives, regardless of our circumstances, when made through the prayer of sincerity, may bring results greater than our expectations. Especially, when there is no other recourse to be made, it is then that we may see the grandeur of His salvation.

dvar: Pesach – the Seventh Day

B”H

d’var for the Seventh Day of Pesach 5781

While in bondage in Mitzraim , the B’nei Yisrael had sunk to a low level of impurity, having neglected to distance themselves from the surrounding environment of idolatry. The Midrash records that when about to cross through the Sea of Reeds, the angels questioned their merit, saying both these and those – the Children of Israel and the Egyptians – were both idol worshippers. Why should these be spared, and the others not? Yet, H’Shem honored the covenant that he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in order to bring His newly acquired nation out of bondage, and into covenant relationship with Him through Torah.

H’Shem brought us out of Egypt, to Mount Sinai, where He gave us the Torah. He had said to Moses, “This shall be the token unto thee, that I have sent thee: when thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve G-d upon this mountain” (Exodus 3: 12, JPS 1917 Tanach). The revelation of Mount Sinai was the pinnacle of the redemption. Why? “The tables were the work of G-d, and the writing was the writing of G-d, graven upon the tables” (Exodus 32: 16, JPS). The Hebrew word for engrave is charut. The Sages note that the word cherut, “freedom” is from the same shoresh (root word). This implies that our true freedom is derived through Torah.

B’nei Yisrael was enslaved to sin in Egypt, having assimilated, to some degree, to the immorality of Egypt at that time. Although freed from slavery in Egypt , we were still slaves to sin; so, H’Shem gave us the Torah to free us from bondage to the yetzer harah (the evil inclination). May we all break through the limitations of our own personal Mitzraim (Egypt), so that we may also pass through the Yam Suf (Dividing of the Sea), into the freedom of responsibility – the ability to follow our yetzer tov (good inclination), for the sake of choosing a righteous path on a daily basis in all of our endeavors.

Omer Count: Day 5 – Splendor of Love

April 2, 2021

Omer 5781 Day 5 – the splendor of love
hod shebbe chesed splendor within love)

The attribute of hod has to do with the character trait of humility. In this respect, when we humble ourselves before G-d, then His splendor may shine through us. Also, hod is likened to the quality of sincerity in our lives. A certain amount of sincerity is required to be humble. For example, when we are sincere about our abilities , without exagerating our talents, nor our accomplishments, this will pave the way towards an honest assessment of ourselves.

From this point of humility within, we may act with sincerity towards others. Furthermore, it is possible to recognize that only when we humble ourselves, can we truly allow H’Shem’s splendor to inspire us to give to others. Therefore, in expressing kindness to others, we are actually reflecting the Image of G-d, whose splendor flows to all who observe His commandments. This is explained in chassidus, as the mitzvah (good deed) drawing down His light through the presence of the Shechinah (Practical Tanya, ch. 41, section 9).

[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 4 – The Endurance of Love

netzach shebbe chesed (endurance within love)
The emotional attribute of Netzach (Endurance) translates as well into perseverence, resilience, and forebearness. A committment to the other is necessary in any relationship of a personal nature. That bond to the other needs to be sustained through forebearness of the other’s faults. A strong emotional tie is not enough unless the commitment to be loving also incorporates the tenacity to endure the challenges between two people in a relationship.

Therefore, love without a common acceptance of the necessary grit of commitment, may not in and of itself result in being enduring. For a love to endure, the endurance of both parties is tantamount to promote a lasting endeavor. Through the persistence of kindness to the other, love will endure, as well as the relationship itself. By way of strengthening one’s endurance through netzach, victory over the challenges that daily present themselves will be achieved.

In terms of a relationship with G-d, His expectations are made clear within the framework of His commandments. Therefore, our commitment to Him is not only out of love; rather, also out of a reverence towards Him that includes observing His commandments even when challenging to do so, for this reason or the other reason. Moreover, a certain measure of resilience is necessary, in order to recover from any downfalls in observance. Tenacity will prevail, even on the more challenging days of life. Therefore, we can continue to show love towards Him by fulfilling His commandments, despite the barriers that might appear, in attempting to enact a mitzvah (good deed).

[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 3 – the Harmony of Kindness

18 Nissan 5781

March 31, 2021

Omer Day 3 – 5781
tiferes within chesed (beauty within love)

The nature of tiferes, in terms of its expression as a middah (character trait), can best be designated as “harmony.” Therefore, one question for today could be construed as whether or not one’s acts of loving-kindness are performed in a way that denotes a harmonious balance to all concerned in the endeavor. Moreover, in our own personality makeup, where is the harmony within that can promote feelings of kindness to others? For, is it not so that sincere kindness should ideally flow from a peaceful, harmonious place within our very selves?

Tiferes also represents balance; by contrast an imbalance in the personality could be rectified through tiferes. Are you able to envision your heartfelt acts of kindness bringing harmony to the lives of others? Or do you think of your kindnesses only as a small drop in the bucket? If so, consider that the ripple effect may be greater than you can imagine. Otherwise, further reflect upon the realization that your answer as to how potent an act of kindness may be, reflects your own perspective on self worth, and how efficacious your efforts may be for the sake of others.

Tiferes also has to do with “centeredness;” therefore, if we are not in harmony with ourselves, we may not feel inclined to show kindness towards others. Sometimes, moving past any hesitancy to give of ourselves to others, will help to transcend our egos, our personal limited selves, thereby surpassing any need in the moment to remain constricted. An act of kindness in and of itself may lift our hearts up in joy as the resultant feeling of performing that act. This can be understood in the adage, “change the behavior and the feelings will follow.”

Furthermore, consider the commandment to love G-d with all of our heart, soul, and might. Being commanded to love may seem like a conundrum, if we only perceive love as a natural felt feeling that we either have or do not have. However, the Hebrew word for love is “ahavah,” and has the connotation of giving. To give of ourselves to G-d, based upon the commandment of our responsiblities to do so, will increase our love towards Him over time.

The same is true in our relationships with others. For example, as youth, everyone remembers being asked to take out the garbage or do some other chore that our parents asked of us. To perform that chore is to willingly accede to the requirement of “love,” that is to “be giving.” Although, unwillingness to give may precede an act of giving, the feelings may follow, whereas one will feel better for doing so. This may also be seen in the adage that “it is better to give than to receive,” because the giver actually does receive the positive feelings that result from giving.

[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 2 – the Boundary of Kindness

17 Nissan 5781

March 30, 2021

gevurah within chesed

What follows consists of 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).

The middah (character trait) of gevurah may be expressed as a measure of strictness. Therefore, one way of conceiving of gevurah within chesed could have to do with applying a measure of strictness to the quality of kindness. Placing a limit on our kindness, in response to the awareness that not every situation is best suited to respond in kindness involves a dash of wisdom. Therefore, chesed may require the use of discernment, in order to ascertain how much kindness would best benefit the recipient. Too much kindness might appear as ingratiating. Elsewise, being overly kind in order to please others could result in our resentment, when we give in to others demands. Placing a boundaried response on others requests, gives us a sense of acting from our center being, keeping our needs in mind, without overextending ourselves.

Consider how G-d’s chesed, His sense of kindness may be purposely limited at times for a specific reason, actually for the sake of the recipient. He is known to test the faith of those who have a certain level of trust in Him, by delaying a response to one’s tefillah (prayer) requests. This would be enacted on His part to test the strength of our faith. Also, He may not respond in the manner that one expects, because the specific request if answered in the way that the prayer was framed, would not best benefit that individual. In like manner, we should also be cautious, and excercise discernment in regard to how we respond to others who may seek our time, attention, or help.

Additionally, it might seem counterintuitive at the time; yet, a withholding attitude may be required at times, for the sake of another person’s personal growth. Refraining from helping someone too much may serve to encourage that person to do more for him or herself. So, often there needs to be a balance between chesed and gevurah in our responses to others; so, that the demands of the situation may be met in the most beneficial way to all concerned. An extreme version of applying a strong measure of gevurah to chesed would be the case in certain rare circumstances, to apply the notion of “tough love.” In this case, an act perceived as severe by the intended recipient might actually be more of an expression of sincere love, than giving in to another person, thereby enabling the other to perpetuate an undesirable behavior.

Utlimately, finding the right balance in any situation is not easy. Often our response depends upon our own personality; for example, whether or not we are a chesed person, naturally demonstrating loving-kindness or whether we are more of a gevurah person, who is inclined to be more reserved and circumspect in responding to others. This example may best serve as a segue towards tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul), the precise purpose of the forty-nine day spiritual journey. To take an honest look at ourselves includes evaluating our character. If we withold kindness from others when we should be kind, this may denote an imbalance in the personality. Conversely, if we routinely find that being too nice to others has negative consequences for ourselves, then there may also be an imbalance of these qualities in our personality.

The task at hand is to reflect upon ourselves, in a manner that will bring the greatest level of shalom (peace) to our souls, as well as the lives of others on this journey. Moreover, in like manner that the Children of Israel had the opportunity to prepare themselves along the way to Sinai for receiving the Torah, so may we refine ourselves for the sake of our relationship to G-d. The first five commandments have to do with our connection to G-d, while the second set of five commandments are in regard to our relationship with others. Both are necessary on the journey of life; so, to shape our personalities in accordance with G-d’s will has the potential to bring the greatest overall benefit to our self and others.

Omer Count: Day One – Overview

The Road to Spiritual Improvement


overview, weekly synopsis, day one

16 Nissan 5781
March 29, 2021

The Omer Count – counting of the Omer – may serve as a spiritual journey of sorts from Egypt to Sinai. We are called upon to leave our own personal mitzraim (Egypt; from metzeir, meaning “limitations”) behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of the yetzer hara (evil inclination). This is a forty-nine day journey, aka self improvement plan, that begins on the eve of the second day of Passover. Each of the seven weeks corresponds to one of the seven middos (character traits) that we will have the opportunity to improve upon in our lives.

The first week is devoted to the middah of Chesed: primarily love, expressed as kindness, mercy, and compassion. The expansiveness of chesed is opposite the constrictive quality of gevurah. Chesed has to do with an openness of personality, as well as a friendly attitude towards others. From a psychological perspective, chesed would be akin to a high rating on the The Big Five personality traits to agreeableness. When we give from the heart to others we are giving with chesed.

Day 1 – chesed within chesed

What follows consists of 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).

The amount of kindness that we show to others, despite other traits that might be less conducive to friendliness, is dependent on how we view and treat ourselves. Genuine kindness is from a place of empathic consideration for the other. The mercy that we show to others, in times of weakness, when we might otherwise respond in a harsh manner, is a way of transcending the egotistical drives that fashion us as human beings, instincts that are mostly focused on ourselves. Yet, being truly human means to go beyond our comfort zone, by not giving in to our lesser inclinations and selfishness.

motzei Shabbos: erev Pesach 5781

The redemption of B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) began on Shabbos, specifically, the tenth of Nissan. That Shabbos, later, became known as Shabbat HaGadol. What was so special about the Tenth of Nissan? That day was when the Children of Israel were commanded to bring a lamb into each and every one of their homes. “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying: In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household” (Exodus 12:3, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Why was this the beginning of the Redemption for B’nei Yisrael? Because the lamb was to be the first national offering, made by each and every family, for the sake of using the blood of the lamb as a sign, placed upon the doorposts and lintels of their homes. The blood would serve as a sign, whereby, “the L-RD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side-posts, the L-RD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you” (Exodus 12:23).

And, so, the tenth plague, the slaying of the first born, was not enacted upon the Children of Israel. They were spared, because of their emunah (faith) in H’Shem, that compelled them to carry out the commandment, regarding the Pesach lamb. They had been further commanded, “none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning” (Exodus 12:23).

“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”
– Isaiah 26:20, JPS 1917 Tanach

drash: Shabbat HaGadol 5781

Shabbos HaGadol, the Sabbath before Pesach (Passover) commemorates the tenth of Nissan: “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying: In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their father’s houses, a lamb for a household” (Exodus 12:3, JPS 1917 Tanach). This lamb was to be without blemish (Exodus 12:4). And ye shall keep it unto the fourteenth day of the same month” (Exodus 12:6).

The sages explain that this Passover lamb was tied to the bedposts in the homes of the B’nei Yisrael in Egypt. The lamb was inspected for four days for blemishes. On the afternoon of the fourteenth of Nissan at dusk the lamb was slaughtered; its blood was placed upon the doorposts and lintels as a sign. “The blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 12:13).

What is the significance of Shabbos HaGadol today? In other words, why do we commemorate this day in particular? The tenth of Nissan was on a Shabbos, preceding the redemption. Therefore, its commemoration is always on the Shabbos that precedes Pesach, irrespective of the actual date on the Hebrew calendar. For example, the tenth of Nissan was on Tuesday, whereas this Shabbos will be the fourteenth of Nissan.

Because the lamb was a deity to the Egyptians, they were none to happy about being told, when they asked their Jewish neighbors about the lambs each family obtained, that the lambs would be slaughtered. Yet, despite their angst, we proceeded, with H’Shems protection on the Great Sabbath. The redemption was put into motion, in its final stage. Those four days that passed served as a countdown to the Exodus. The blood of the lamb protected the Jewish homes from the plague of death; and, procured our redemption through the demonstration of our emunah (faith) towards HShem.