Noach 5781

parashas Noach 5781

“And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the L-RD came unto me, saying: Son of man, I have appointed thee a watchman.”

– Ezekiel 3:17, JPS 1917 Tanach

At the end of seven days, the final seven days, before the door to the ark was closed, the first part of Noah’s mission was completed; the judgment was at hand, for the earth would be consumed by the Mabul (Flood). As mentioned in the Zohar, Noah had warned his generation of the impending doom; all the inhabitants of the earth were given the opportunity for teshuvah. This is also denoted by the Targum, wherein it is written, “if they will be converted, it shall be forgiven them” (Genesis 7:14, Targum Yonaton).

Noah’s role to warn mankind, was given to him at the receiving of the commandment from G-d to build an Ark. Up until that time, as the tzaddik (righteous person) of his generation, he must have been disconsolate, witnessing the vast amount of errant ways upon the earth. He was chosen for a mission that would encompass simultaneously warning others, while building the ark that would become a place of refuge for his family, as well as G-d’s creatures from the animal kingdom, in order to be spared by the Flood.

Ostensibly, anyone who was compelled to take his message to heart would have been forgiven. Yet, the question remains, if that was the case, would forgiveness include being physically spared from the Mabul (Flood)? G-d’s forgiveness pertains to the soul – our condition as humans within the realm of creation, is that our soul is spiritual. Therefore, ultimate forgiveness from G-d’s viewpoint, has to do with the part of us that lives beyond our physical selves. The unrepentant on earth became the rephaim (shades) who descended into gehinnom after perishing in the Flood. “The shades [rephaim] tremble beneath the waters” (Job 26:1). If any of them had repented, would their souls not have descended into gehinnon, even though their bodies perished?

Bereishis 5781

B”H


“And the L-rd G-d took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”

– Genesis 2:15, JPS 1917 Tanach

G-d had the foresight to provide a remedy before the ailment that still plagues man today. The first act of disobedience, on the part of Adam and Chava (Eve). Adam, whose Hebrew name means man, and is similar the word adamah (earth), is synonymous with the first man, created from the various elements of the earth, with one exception, his soul as mentioned in Torah. “Then the L-RD G-d formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Eve, whose name means life, yet, as a result of her and her husband’s disobedience, brought death into the world. “‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17, JPS). Even so, Adam decided to focus on his wife’s role in regard to all of humanity. “And the man called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20, JPS).

Many questions may be asked in regard to the cryptic language of Torah; for example, what is the nature of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? The Targum, a complete rendering of the Five Books as a paraphrase of the original explains well: “But of the tree of whose fruit they who eat (become) wise to know between good and evil, thou shalt not eat” (Sefaria.org).

Sforno notes, that the Tree of Knowledge was placed in close proximity to the Tree of Life in Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden). Sforno relates these trees to the choice given to mankind: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed;” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Sukkot 5781

Sukkot: Inclusivity of the Nations

“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month ye shall have a holy convocation: ye shall do no manner of servile work, and ye shall keep a feast unto H’Shem seven days.”

– Numbers 29:12, JPS 1917 Tanach

The festival of Sukkot, as prescribed in Torah, included offerings for the nations for their protection from affliction. There were a total of seventy bulls offered over a period of seven days. This specifically designated amount of offerings corresponds to the primary nations mentioned in Genesis (Sukkah 55b). In the future, all of the nations will be required to worship in Jerusalem (it is likely to presume that they will send delegates). This is a sign of the Messianic Era, when Moshiach will reign from Jerusalem.

“And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the L-RD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles [Sukkot].”

– Zechariah 14:7, JPS

“And many peoples shall go and say: ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the L-RD, to the house of the G-d of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the L-RD from Jerusalem.” JPS

– Isaiah 2:3, JPS

Shabbat Shuvah 5781

B”H

Shiur for Shabbat Shuvah

(parashas Ha’azinu) 5781

“If thou, O L-rd, wilt mark iniquities: L-rd, how could we stand before you?”
– Psalms 130:3, embellished

“Concealed acts concern the L-RD our G-d.”
– Deuteronomy 29:28, JPS 1985 Tanach

After Adam and Chava ate from the Tree of Knowledge, H’Shem called to Adam, “Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9, JPS, 1917 Tanach). He responded, “I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; so I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10, JPS 1917 Tanach). Adam’s shame compelled him to hide himself. Yet, G-d is all-knowing, as well as omnipresent (everywhere present). He surely knew where Adam was. Why did He ask, “Where are you?” One answer given, is that G-d was, in effect, asking, Where are you in your relationship with me?

We learn in the Book of Isaiah that sin separates us from G-d (Isaiah 59:2). Adam lost the oneness that he had with G-d; as a result of his transgression, he was was expelled from Gan Eden, along with Chava, who also partook from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Up until that point, everything that they experienced in Gan Eden was in one accord with H’Shem, a nondual perspective. Yet, after eating from the tree that was forbidden to eat from, they became aware of good and evil. For this reason, even today, there is not only good and evil in the world; also, there is an admixture of good and bad in everything we do.

Like Adam and Chava, we can not hide from H’Shem. He knows our “concealed acts.” Sin separates us from Him; the path to return is through actually admitting our transgressions, unlike Adam who circumvented G-d’s questions. During the Ten Days of Repentance, between Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur, we are all asked, “Where are you?” G-d is prompting us to reveal our sins to Him. Yet, sometimes, our sins may be hidden from ourselves; in this case, we may ask Him to reveal our sins to us.

“May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”

Seek the Light

B”H

“Towards the face of the menorah shall the seven lamps cast light.”

  • Numbers 8:2, JPS 1917 Tanach

The “seven lamps” shall cast their light towards the face of the menorah. Seven lamps, towards the face (p’nei). Commentary explains that the six lamps, three on either side of the center lamp, had their wicks tilted towards the center lamp. Yet, this begs the question, if the verse mentions that all seven lamps shall cast their light towards the p’nei (face) of the menorah, then the Hebrew word, p’nei must represent something other than the center lamp, since it is only one of the seven. Therefore, what does the Hebrew word p’nei represent in this verse?

An answer may be given by focusing on another verse from Kitvei Kodesh (Holy Scripture), wherein a clue may be found. “In Thy behalf my heart hath said: ‘Seek ye My face’; Thy face, L-RD, will I seek” (Psalms 27:8, JPS 1917 Tanach). Consequently, the verse about the menorah could be rendered as having the light of the seven lamps glowing towards the “face of G-d.” And, what may be learned by this understanding? The light of the lamps can be seen as symbolic of our avodas (service) towards H’Shem, seven days a week. All our efforts in avodas are to culminate in seeking the face of G-d.

parashas Beha’alosecha 5780

poetry: On Board

I imagine that you were conflicted,
when your brother left for America,
leaving behind more than could be understood,
by anyone, who already stood on the shores
of the land of opportunity, and assimilation.

When his family was finally able to join him,
what could be envisioned as their future,
amidst the multitude of countless faces,
indifferent to the truth that binds the lives
of the faithful together over centuries?

Your brother – my great-grandfather –
his decision, the only reason, that I am alive today.
How can I complain? Yet, I am also conflicted,
knowing I should be grateful, to have even been born.
Despite the fact that I still yearn, to live
like my ancestors did in Bolechov.

Tu b’Shevat

B”H

Tu b’Shevat Guide

“It is a good custom for the faithful to eat many fruits on this day and to celebrate them with words of praise.” – from Pri Etz Hadar ch. 1, sefaria.org

Baruch atah H’Shem Elokeinu melech haOlam borei pri haEtz. Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, who creates the fruit of the tree.

Baruch atah H’Shem Elokeinu melech haOlam shehechiyanu, v’kiemanu, v’higianu lazman hazeh. Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, who has granted us life, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

The concept of enacting a tikkun (rectification) through the conscious eating of a variety of fruits on this day is exemplified within the teachings found in the Pri Etz Hadar – Tree of the Goodly Fruit – that serves as a type of manual for Tu b’Shevat. To eat with intention (kavannah), means to acknowledge the spiritual significance of the day, as well as the symbolism from different types of fruits. Especially important are the seven species from Israel mentioned in Torah:

“A land of wheat and barley, and [grape] vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey. – Deuteronomy 8:8, JPS 1917 Tanach

Eliezer’s Prayer

Chayei Sarah 3rd aliyah (Genesis 24:10-26)

November 19, 2019 (21 Chesvan 5780)

by Tzvi Schnee

“And the servant took ten camels, of the camels of his master, and departed; having all goodly things of his master’s in his hand.”

– Genesis 24:10, JPS 1917 Tanach

Eliezar, Abraham’s servant set off with ten camels, laden with the dowry that would be shown to the family of the woman who would marry Abraham’s son, Isaac. As of yet, who that woman would be was only known to G-d. It was Abraham’s will to find a wife for Isaac from amongst his own relatives, so that she would exemplify the character traits worthy of the next matriarch.

“And he made the camels to kneel down without the city by the well of the water at the time of evening, the time that women go out to draw water.”

– Genesis 24:11, JPS 1917 Tanach

Eliezar prayed, a prayer to H’Shem, designed to test the character of the woman who would respond: “Let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say: Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say: Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also; let the same be she that Thou hast appointed for thy servant, even for Isaac; and thereby shall I know that Thou hast shown kindness unto thy master” (Genesis 24:24:14).

It should be emphasized that Eliezar was not requesting a sign from G-d; rather, he wanted proof that Isaac’s wife-to-be would demonstrate kindness, consideration, and selflessness; in effect, that her character be one imbued with chesed. Thus requested, thus done; before he was finished with his request to H’Shem, his prayer had already been answered: “Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nachor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder” (Genesis 24:15).

(reposted from Clear Horizons)