Friday, December 4, 2020

The Tree of Knowledge and Kiddush

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Adam and Chava were in the Garden of Eden, and they were totally naked, but they were not embarrassed. After they ate from the tree of knowledge, they recognized that they were naked, and they were ashamed. 

What was the difference between before they ate from the tree and after? In other words, why weren't they embarrassed before they ate from the tree? 

Before they ate from the tree, their awareness was of Hashem, and their thought process was, if Hashem wants it, it is good, if He doesn't want it, it is bad. 

Eating from the tree was doing what they wanted, all of a sudden it was about them and not about Hashem. So they became aware of themselves, and they were ashamed, because now they recognized that they were naked. 

The more you think about yourself, the more selfish you are. Naked is the word for thinking about yourself and the more one thinks about oneself, the more Hashem is out of the picture, and the more naked he is. 

The Torah calls the snake, who in the story of Adam and Chava, was the evil inclination, "the most naked," because he was the most selfish. It was only about him, Hashem wasn't in the picture, at all. 
Adam and Chava were created on the sixth day and the seventh was Shabbos. The prohibition to eat from the tree was only on the sixth day, once Shabbat came they were allowed to eat from the tree. In other words, self awareness isn't bad in and of itself. It is just that it has to be within Hashem's framework. There is Hashem, and I am part of his world, and we are here for His purpose. And that is not selfish. 

The main thing is to make Hashem first in your life, that is the cure for the blemish caused by the first sin. 

What kind of tree was the Tree of Knowledge? 

There are many opinions. One is that it was a grapevine, and the fruit were grapes. Adam was supposed to make wine from the grapes and say kiddush over it. 

What is kiddush? We are meant to sanctify Shabbat as it comes in and as it goes out. What does it mean to sanctify? It means to separate between holy and mundane, as Shabbat comes in we make kiddush, and as it goes out we make havdala. And we do this over a cup of wine. 

The best wine to use is red sweet wine, if you can't make it on sweet wine, the next best thing is red wine, then white wine, if you are not allowed to have alcohol then you can make it on grape juice. What if you don't have wine or grape juice? Then you can make it over challah. 

What do we say in kiddush? 

"That He sanctified us with His mitzvot," that He separated us to do His mission, the reason that He created this world. 

"And He wanted us," literally, "He willed us," His will is the essence of Hashem that comes into the world on Shabbat. Which means that He chose our neshamot, true choice that comes from the will of Hashem, He wants us. This is revealed on Shabbat, we are truly one with His essence. 

"And His holy Shabbat with love and will He gave us as an inheritance," meaning that we alone were given the Shabbat, it comes from His love and will. 

"A remembrance to the creation of the world," meaning that it is the reason that the world was created. So we could be united with Him, which is the ultimate goal of the world, to bring Mashiach, which Shabbat is a taste of, a reminder of our goal. 

It was the "first to be called holy," meaning that it is so important to Hashem, after all, it is the reason He created the world. 

"A remembrance to the exodus from Egypt," that is the reason that He took us out of Egypt, to take on His mission, to turn this world into a home for Hashem, that by definition is the time of Mashiach, which Shabbat is a taste of. 

"For You chose us and You made us holy from all of the nations, and Your holy Shabbat with love and will You gave us as an inheritance," now this is said in the first person, because it is personal and we have a close relationship with Him. 

Now we can understand why Shabbat is so important to us, because it is the essence of who we are, our relationship with Hashem, and our mission. 

May we keep the Shabbat, and in this merit, may we merit the coming of Mashiach. The time has come. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Shalom Aleichem & Aishet Chayil

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On Friday night, upon returning home from the synagogue, we say or sing Shalom Aleichem. We say it to the angels who accompany us on the way home from synagogue. The order of the hymn is...

Shalom Aleichem - peace on to you. 

Boachem lishalom - come in peace. 

Borchuni lishalom - bless me with peace. 

Tzeitchem lishalom - go in peace. 

1) If the second stanza, "come in peace," is talking to the Shabbat angels. Who is the first stanza referring to, when it says, "peace on to you?" 

Answer: During the week, we have angels as well, and on Friday night there is a changing of the guards. The weekday angels depart, and we bid them, "peace on to you." And the Shabbat angels that remain with us, we welcome with, "come in peace." 

This is similar to the story of Yaakov's (Jacob's) ladder, there were angels going up and down the Ladder. If the angels come from the heavens, shouldn't it say that they were going down and up? Rashi explains that there was a changing of the guards, the angels from the Holy Land that were escorting Yaakov, they can't go out of the Holy Land, therefore they were going up the ladder, up to heaven and the angels of outside the Holy Land were coming down the ladder to accompany him the rest of the way. 

Shabbat is a holy place in time and those angels are designated and accompany us only on Shabbat. 

2) In the final stanza, we send the angels away, "go in peace." Why do we send them away? 

Answer: The Friday night meal is private time between Hashem and the Jewish people, like the intimate time between a husband and wife, Hashem is the husband and the Jewish people are the wife. Being that it is private between us and Hashem, we send the angels away. 

Kabbalistic teaching teaches all about this private moment, and how the angels want to see it, because it is a level of holiness that they are never privy to. 

To explain. We have a Neshama that is truly a part of Hashem, not the part of Him that is in the world, not even in the spiritual realms, but the essence of Hashem. On Shabbat His essence comes into the world, and spends time with us. On Shabbat we are given an extra Neshama, but it's not really an extra Neshama, but more Neshama the essence of our Neshama is revealed, the part that is one with Hashem's essence. And this is what happens on Shabbat, the essence of our Neshamas, and Hashem's essence are seen for what they are, truly one, and the angels are just aching to see that, but it is private, so we send them away. 

As with any special time between a husband and a wife, the more thought and preparation you put into it, the more meaningful it will be. Now we can understand why preparing for Shabbat is so important, and why we dress in our finest and have a candle light dinner with the most delicious foods.

This is also one of the reasons we chant Eishet Chayil, A Woman of Valor - aside for singing it to our wonderful wives - because on one level, it refers to the "wife," the Jewish people. 

Shabbat is a taste of the time of Mashiach, which is called, "The day that is totally Shabbat." May he come already. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Time and Other Tidbits

Dear friends, 

I'm working on a series that gives you tidbits of Torah. I am working on an article on Yaakov, but it is not ready yet. Please enjoy this article on Time and Other Tidbits. 

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print        Toldos

Time and Other Tidbits 

1. Is G-d spiritual or physical? 

Neither. G-d created both the spiritual and the physical, as it says, "In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1. 

2. The sun is not what makes days, rather it what lets us know when it's day, as there were three days of creation before the celestial bodies were created, they were created on the fourth day. Days existed before the sun. 

What marked evening and morning on the first three days? (Avi Haberfeld) 

In the spiritual realms, there are 24 shifts of angels, each one praises Hashem a different hour. There are 12 that are for the 12 configurations you can make out of the 4 letters of the name Adnai (pronounced Ado-nai, in Hebrew it has 4 letters), and 12 that are for the 12 configurations you can make out of the 4 letters of the name Havaya (the Tetragrammaton, the 4 letter name of Hashem that we don't pronounce, made up of the Hebrew letters yud, hay, vov and hay). One of the 12 configurations represents evening, and the other morning. 

It is interesting to note, that long before the clock was invented, the Jewish people divided their day into 24 hours, 12 for evening and 12 for morning. Of course depending on the time of year, the evening hours get longer in the winter and shorter in the summer, and the opposite for morning hours. This is the way we calculate halachic times. The spiritual reason for this is the 24 shifts of the angels. 

If you remember the Torah story, where Jacob was wrestling with the angel, he asked Jacob to allow him to go. Why did he want to go? Because it was his shift to praise Hashem. 

So Hashem set the sun to the same schedule as he did the angels. 

According to the Ohr Hachaim, everything was created on the first day, and the angels were created on the second day so that no one would say that the angels had a part in the creation. How did the 24 hours work before the angels had their shifts? 

The system of 24 hours, 12 evening and 12 morning,  could have begun on the first day before the angels were created, and after they were created, they were put on that schedule. In other words, there was already a system of evening and morning in the spiritual realms. And even though everything was created on the first day, the sun and the other celestial bodies didn't go into effect until the fourth day. 

3. What was the first thing to against G-d's will? 

It was the earth. On the third day of creation, G-d said, " let the earth sprout... Fruity trees bearing fruit..." Genesis 1:11. But when the earth brought forth trees, it says, " The earth gave forth... Trees bearing fruit..." Genesis 1:12. The wood of the trees were also supposed to taste like fruit, but the earth went against G-d's will and didn't make the actual trees fruity. Later, the first man, Adam, was created from the earth and that is where humanity got the nature to go against Hashem's will. 

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I hope you enjoy these Torah tidbits, next week I will start a series explaining the Shabbat dinner and the symbolism it holds. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

Yitzchak and The Akeida

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Our forefather Yitzchak was born when Avraham was 100 years old, and Sarah was 90. Yitzchak was the first to have a bris at eight days old. When Yitzchak was going to be weaned, Avraham made a big party, being that Avraham was so famous, many important people came to the event. 

To prove that he was their son, Hashem did two things. First, He made Yitzchak look exactly like his father Avraham. Second, He gave Sarah the ability to nurse Yitzchak, while the other women that attended the party lost their ability to nurse their babies, and Sarah nursed them as well. This was a clear indication that Yitzchak was in fact their child, and it was not a hoax. 

How old was Yitzchak at the Akeida (the binding of Yitzchak on the altar as a sacrifice)?         

Many picture a young boy, but in fact he was 37 years old. How do we know this? Because when Sarah heard that Avraham was sacrificing Yitzchak, it was too much for her to bear, and she passed away. She died at the age of 127, and Yitzchak was born when she was 90. 127 - 90 = 37, he was 37 years old. This means that he was in fact a willing participant. 

This was the ultimate test for Avraham. Everything was hanging on this one child, everything that Avraham worked for, everything was going to continue, because of Yitzchak, it would be passed down through him. The Jewish people would come to be because of Yitzchak, and now Hashem was asking him to do the unthinkable, to do what goes against every fiber of his being, to sacrifice his beloved son. 

He went to do what Hashem asked of him and Yitzchak knowing that it was from Hashem, went along. 

To make sure that Avraham wasn't doing it out of a moment of passion, Hashem made it take him three days to get there, which gave him enough time to think about what he was going to do. 

After three days he saw the location, Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. At that time, it was called Salem (Shalem) named so by Shem son of Noah, AKA Malkitzedek (righteous king) king of Shalem. After the Akeida when Hashem showed Avraham a ram to offer instead of Yitzchak, Avraham named the place Hashem Yireh (Jereh), a prayer meaning, "Hashem should see" to it that this place will become the place of the Temple. When you put both names together, you get Yerushalem, Jerusalem. We call it Yrrushalayim. Another meaning of Yerushalem, Shalom is one of the names of Hashem, it is a name that we are allowed to say, and yirah  means fear, together they make, "fear of Hashem," that we should be G-d fearing. 

In the end Yitzchak was not killed and we, his children, the Jewish people are here to continue the work of Avraham and Yitzchak in the world. 

What is that work? To transform this physical world into a home for Hashem, a place where He will feel at home. 

How do we do it? Through the study of Torah we transform the air and atmosphere around us and through the performance of mitzvos which are mostly done with our physical body, we transform our bodies, the object that we are doing the mitzvah with and the place where you are doing the mitzvah. 

The preparation you do for a mitzvah also transforms the world into a home for Hashem. The money, work, effort and toil. The objects and the place you use in the preparation for a mitzvah also transform this world into a home for Hashem. 

Even more. Everyday mundane activities could transform. For example, If you work to support your family to bring them up in the Torah way, if you shop and cook meals to feed your family to bring them up in the way of Torah or if you eat, sleep, exercise and even vacation in order to maintain a healthy body to be able to serve Hashem, the activity and all that is connected to it is transformed, and they also become holy endeavors. This way your whole life can be meaningful and impactful. 

And when our work is done transforming this world into a home for Hashem, Moshiach will come. In fact that is the definition of Moshiach, when Hashem will fill the whole world openly. May it happen soon. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Avraham and Sarah

Dear friends, 

this year I would like to do something different. I am going to write interesting tidbits on the parsha of the week. This week, I will be sending out three blog posts, because I missed Bereishis and Noah, and I want them to be in order. 

Enjoy. 

Yitzi     

Print         Lech Lecha 

Avraham was born 300 years after the flood, he was the 10th generation from Noah. Noah lived 350 years  after the flood, so it is certain that Avraham saw him. He actually studied at his yeshiva (Torah Academy), later known as the yeshiva of Shem and Ever, the son and great grandson of Noah. 

When Avraham was born, it was a time of Idol worship. The city he was born in, was ruled by Nimrod, the ruler of most of civilization. Nimrod was the first ruler of people after the flood, he was a very powerful leader and he was black. Idol worship was a way of controlling the minds of the people, only free thinkers believed in Hashem and they were scoffed at and persecuted. Nimrod saw believers of Hashem as a threat to his power and he would deal with them harshly. 

Avraham's father was Terach, an important man, and he had an Idol business. 

When Avraham was born, Nimrod's astrologers advised him to have the baby killed, because he was going to be a threat to his rule. Terach switched another baby in place of Avraham and his mother hid him in a cave. 

When Avraham was 3 years old, he recognized that Idol worship was silly, and he went on a search for G-d and came to the conclusion that He couldn't be anything in the world, He had to be greater than the world. 

When he got older, he went to study in the yeshiva of Noah, Shem and Ever. When he was forty he returned to Babel and started to teach about Hashem. He was treading a dangerous path. Everything came to a head with one story. 

Avraham's father, Terach, asked him to watch his business, the Idols. When his father left, he took an ax and smashed all the Idols except for the largest one and he placed the ax in the largest one's hand. When his father returned, he asked Avraham, "what happened?" Avraham told him that he brought some food for the Idols and they started to fight over the food. The big one took the ax, smashed all of the other Idols and took the food for himself. 

His father was fuming, "You know that Idols can't do anything, you did this." Avraham replied, "if Idols can't do anything, why do you serve them?" It was a clear demonstration of the fallacy of Idol worship. Word spread quickly and Nimrod had Avraham thrown into a blazing furnace. Hashem made a miracle and the inside of the furnace turned into a garden for him. When he was taken out of the furnace, his brother Haran proclaimed his belief in Hashem, and Nimrod had Haran thrown into the furnace, and he burned to death. 

Haran had two daughters Milka and Yiska. Avraham married Yiska, who was also called Sarai, and Hashem later changed her name to Sarah. 

Sarah or Sarai, means a minister, Yiska, or in English, Jessica, comes from the word nesicha, which means a princess. Sarah was extremely beautiful, graceful and dignified, like a minister and a princess. (interesting to note that Sarah Jessica is a common name) 

She kept the laws of purity, mikva, and because of that, there was always a cloud of Hashem's presence hovering above her tent. She kept the mitzvah of challah, and her bread was blessed because of it. Only a little bit of it filled you up and satisfied you (like lembas). And she kept the mitzvah of lighting Shabbat candles and a miracle would occur, they would continue to burn all week, until it was time to light them again. 

These Mitzvos are really special to Jewish women, who are all daughters of Sarah, our mother. 

Noah

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Why was Noah called Noah? 

Noah's father had a prophecy that Noah would make life easier for people. One of the translations of Noah is easy. How did Noah make life easier for people? Until the time of Noah working a field was very difficult, because there weren't many tools. Noah invented the plow, making a field easier to work. 

How big was Noah's Ark? 

The Torah tells us that it was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. 

How big is a cubit? 

The normal cubit is 5 hands (a hand is approximately 4 inches) so it is approximately 20 inches (50 cm). 

In the Temple in Jerusalem, a cubit was 6 hands, approximately 2 feet (60 cm).

We are told that on the Ark the light of Moshiach shined, it was a holy and miraculous place like the Temple. So perhaps the cubits were Temple cubits. 

If so the Ark was approximately 600 feet (180 m) long, 100 feet (30 m) wide, and 60 feet (18 m) high. It was about as long as two football fields. It was very big. 

The Ark had three floors. On the top floor lived Noah's family. On the middle floor were the animals. And on the bottom floor was food storage and waste. There was enough room for every floor to be almost 20 feet (6 m) high, tall enough for a giraffe. 

On the Ark, Hashem commanded Noah, his family and the animals not to have reproductive relations, so no animals or people were born on the Ark. The raven disobeyed the command, that is why Noah sent the raven out of the Ark first, he banished the raven from the Ark because of his sin. Being that the female raven was already expecting, Noah didn't fear for the species. However, Hashem commanded Noah to continue taking care of the raven, because the raven would prove its usefulness in the future. In fact, when Elijah the prophet was hiding from the wicked king Ahab and Queen jezebel, who wanted to kill him, in the cave on Mount Sinai, ravens would bring him food. 

On the Ark the light of Moshiach shined bright, therefore the animals got along. The animals of prey didn't attack other animals, as it says about the time of Moshiach, "The wolf will dwell with the lamb." 

Rashi tells us that one time, Noah was late to feed the lion, and it took a swipe at him, and hurt him. 

Lighting on the Ark 

The Ark had a stone called a tzoar, which gave off a bright light. Maybe the Arkenstone from the Hobbit, I find it amusing that he called it the ARKenstone. 

Question. tongue in cheek: Why didn't Noah allow the unicorns onto the Ark? 

Funny you ask. When the Jewish people were in the desert, they built the Mishkan (Tabernacle). One of the coverings of the Mishkan were made of tachash skin which was colorful. The animal is now extinct, some people say that it was a unicorn. So maybe he did let them on the Ark.  

Life on the Ark 

There is a conversation recorded in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 108b) between Eliezer the servant of Avraham and Shem son of Noah, where he asked Shem about life on the Ark. 

Eliezer asked him, "Where were you and what did you do to care for them while they were in the ark?” 

Shem said to him, "We experienced great suffering in the ark caring for the animals. Where there was a creature that one typically feeds during the day, we fed it during the day, and where there was a creature that one typically feeds at night, we fed it at night. 

"With regard to that chameleon, my father did not know what it eats. One day, my father was sitting and peeling a pomegranate. A worm fell from it and the chameleon ate it. From that point forward my father would knead bran with water, and when it became overrun with worms, the chameleon would eat it.” 

How about the Phoenix? 

Eliezer asked him, "Where were you and what did you do to care for them while they were in the ark?” 

Shem said to him, "We experienced great suffering in the ark caring for the animals. Where there was a creature that one typically feeds during the day, we fed it during the day, and where there was a creature that one typically feeds at night, we fed it at night. 

"With regard to that chameleon, my father did not know what it eats. One day, my father was sitting and peeling a pomegranate. A worm fell from it and the chameleon ate it. From that point forward my father would knead bran with water, and when it became overrun with worms, the chameleon would eat it.” 

How about the Phoenix? 

"Shem continued: With regard to the phoenix, my father found it lying in its compartment on the side of the ark. He said to the bird: Do you not want food? The bird said to him: I saw that you were busy, and I said I would not trouble you by requesting food. Noah said to the bird: May it be God’s will that you shall not die, and through that bird the verse was fulfilled, as it is stated: “And I said, I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the phoenix” (Job 29:18 )." 

In Iyov (Job ad loc) the commentaries explain that when Chava ate from the tree of knowledge she had all the animals eat from it too. However, the phoenix was the only creature that refused to eat from the tree of knowledge. Therefore it lives forever. It also explains how it lives for a thousand years and the process of how it's reborn from its ashes. 

Adam And Chava, The Holy Image Of Hashem

Dear friends, 

this year I would like to do something different. I am going to write interesting tidbits on the parsha of the week. This week, I will be sending out three blog posts, because I missed Bereishis and Noah, and I want them to be in order. 

Enjoy.  

Yitzi 

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Was the original man that Hashem created male or female? 

At first he was both, as the verse says, "And Hashem created the Adam, in the image of Hashem He created him, male and female He created them." And Rashi brings the Midrash, that at first he was both male and female together. Then Hashem split the Adam (pun intended), and they became two, a male and a female. The word for rib in Hebrew is tzela which also means a side. So when the Torah says that Hashem took a tzela from Adam and made Chava, it means that He separated the female side from the male side. 

If he was both, why does it say, "him?" Because in Hebrew there is no gender neutral, everything is either male or female, there is no word for "it," so it says, "him." 

You may ask, what does this have to do with the marriage of this new beautiful couple? 

To explain this, I will ask another question. The original Adam was created in the image of Hashem, and he was both male and female. So the true image of Hashem is female and male together. How are we then in the image of Hashem, if we are each only half? 

The answer. There are two levels of the image of Hashem. There is the individual, who is in the image of Hashem, either male or female. And then there is the holy image of Hashem, which is represented by a married couple together in harmony. That is perhaps why, in the blessings of the Sheva Brachos, we talk about the creation of Adam. It is the two halves of the Adam coming together. 

And this is a message to every bride and groom on their wedding day. 

Now you are finally whole, now is when your mission truly begins. And when you are in harmony, you are in the original image of Hashem, the holy image of Hashem, and you have a greater impact on this world. 

May your marriage always be in harmony, and may your home be a home for Hashem, with the light of Yiddishkeit and Chassidishkeit and may your togetherness be strong and impactful, and may it bring Moshiach closer. May he come soon.