Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Secret Behind the Vision


Chevlei Moshiach - the birthpangs of Moshiach - from the Holocaust until now.

The vision of the Lubavitcher Rebbe ;  the secrets behind his global mission to bring the Redemption, and why it is taking so long; our obligation to teach the nations.; the millions of ''Noahides'' in the world now.

Rabbi Alon Anava


The Living Waters of Miriam



"The congregation had no water, so they ganged up against Moshe and Aharon..." [Chukat 20:2]

Water assists the digestive system to break down food, and the water within the bloodstream carries those nutrients to all parts of the body.  This represents the mission of all Jewish women: to bring the well of living water - Torah - to nourish all segments of the Jewish people, even those who totally lack knowledge of it.  Thus we find that, while still in Egypt, Miriam devoted herself to small children, and her heroic efforts led to the annulment of Pharoah's decree against children.  Consequently, it was in her merit that the well water came, since water represents the universal dissemination of Torah.

Thus, when a mother, sister or teacher educates a child, we witness the modern-day "living waters of Miriam" sustaining the Jewish people in exile, making it possible to go peacefully throughout our current "sojourn" in the "desert" of exile.

In addition to providing water to drink, Miriam's well also made it possible for the mitzvah of taharas hamishpachah [family purity] to be fulfilled.  There was no other source of water in the desert, so Miriam's well served as a mikvah, enabling children to be born throughout the forty years.

The custom of drawing water on Motzei Shabbat [to draw from the well of Miriam] is cited in the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch.  This appears to suggest that it is applicable today; however, this was not a custom practiced in the House of the Chabad Rebbeim.  In any case, it certainly applies to all of us spiritually: studying this law about Miriam's well influences the whole week, that it may be a healthy week in both spiritual and physical terms.

Source: Gutnick Chumash: Based on various Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Chukat: The Death of a Tzadik

Art Laurence Amelie

Source: Rav Kook Torah

As the Israelites neared the end of their forty-year trek in the wilderness, they lost two great leaders, Miriam and Aaron. While a tremendous loss for the nation, their passing had a hidden spiritual benefit.

The Torah informs us of Miriam's death immediately after enumerating the laws of the Parah Adumah, the red heifer whose ashes were used for purification. The Talmudic sages already wondered what connection there might be between Miriam's death and the Parah Adumah :

"Why is the death of Miriam juxtaposed to the laws of the Parah Adumah? This teaches that just as the Parah Adumah brings atonement, so too, the death of the righteous brings atonement." [Mo'ed Katan 28a]

While this connection between Miriam and the Parah Adumah is well-known, the continuation of the same Talmudic statement, concerning the death of Aaron, is less so.

"And why is the death of Aaron juxtaposed to [the mention of] the priestly clothes? This teaches that just as the priestly clothes bring atonement, so too, the death of the righteous brings atonement."

In what way does the death of tzaddikim atone for the people? And why does the Talmud infer this lesson from both the Parah Adumah and the priestly clothes?

Larger Than Life
The principal benefit that comes from the death of tzaddikim is the spiritual and moral awakening that takes place after they pass away. When a tzaddik is alive, his acts of kindness and generosity are not always public knowledge. True tzaddikim do not promote themselves. On the contrary, they often take great pains to conceal their virtues and charitable deeds. It is not uncommon that we become aware of their true greatness and nobility of spirit only after they are no longer with us. Only then do we hear reports of their selfless deeds and extraordinary sensitivity, and we are inspired to emulate their ways. In this way, the positive impact of the righteous as inspiring role models increases after their death.

While stories of their fine traits and good deeds stir us to follow in their path, certain aspects of great tzaddikim — extraordinary erudition and scholarship, for example — are beyond the capabilities of most people to emulate. In such matters, the best we can do is to take upon ourselves to promote these qualities in our spiritual leadership, such as supporting the Torah study of young, promising scholars.

Two Forms of Emulation
In short, the death of tzaddikim inspires us to imitate their personal conduct — if possible, in our own actions, and if not, by ensuring that there will be others who will fill this spiritual void.

These two methods of emulation parallel the different forms of atonement through the Parah Adumah and the priestly clothes. Ritual purification using Parah Adumah ashes was only effective when they were sprinkled on the body of the impure person; no one else could be purified in his place. This is comparable to those aspects of the tzaddik that are accessible to, and incumbent upon, all to emulate.

The priestly garments, on the other hand, were only worn by the kohanim. It was through the service of these holy emissaries that the entire nation was forgiven. This is like those extraordinary traits of the tzaddik that are beyond the capabilities of most people. These qualities can be carried on only by a select few, with the support of the entire nation.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Gimmel Tammuz



Art: Robert Kremnizer

The 3rd of Tammuz this year begins tonight [Monday] and on the day of Tuesday 27 June. Throughout Chabad this date is simply known as ''Gimmel Tammuz'' - the day of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe  in 5754 [June 12 1994].

Chabad has a mass of information on the Rebbe and Gimmel Tammuz which can be found here.

Vision of Geula has an interesting post about Gimmel Tammuz and the date of Moshiach.  Click here to read.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Understanding Moshiach


Rabbi Tovia Singer on the signs of the Moshiach, and the mystery of the 12th Principle of the Jewish Faith: Ani Ma'amin 



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Way of Strife





"Why do you elevate yourselves over Hashem's congregation?" [Korach 16:3]

Such is the nature of a dispute that is not for the sake of Heaven, noted R' Simchah Bunim of P'shischa. It blinds the eyes and closes the hearts of the quarrelers, so that they lose their common sense.

For the Torah testifies about Moshe Rabbeinu: "Now the man Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth." How could anyone possibly accuse him of possessing the contemptible trait of arrogance? Yet this is exactly what Korach and his assembly did, as the verse states: "Why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem?"

Rather, this is the way of strife, the power of impurity that accompanies it totally corrupts an individual's intellect.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Sunday, June 18, 2017

For the Sake of Heaven



Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi took [himself to one side] along with Dathan and Abiram..... [Korach 16:1]

Chazal state in Pirkei Avos [5:20] : ''Any dispute that is for the sake of Heaven will have a constructive outcome, but one that is not for the sake of Heaven will not have a constructive outcome.''

What sort of dispute was for the sake of Heaven? - the dispute between Hillel and Shammai. And which was not for the sake of Heaven? - the dispute between Korach and his entire company.

Why, asked R'Yonason Eybeschutz, does the Mishnah state: ''The dispute between Korach and his entire company''?  Wasn't the dispute between Korach and Moshe?

From here we learn, said R'Eybeschutz, that the dispute was not between Korach and Moshe at all; rather, it was really between Korach and his assembly, as each one of them was vying for leadership and power!  Moshe Rabbeinu, however, did not take up their quarrel; on the contrary, he tried his utmost to appease them so as not to carry on a dispute that would eventually lead to disastrous results.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Transparency



"It was the season when the first grapes ripen..." [Shelach 13:20 ]

Moses did not command the spies to bring back grapes in particular, but just "fruit", and we find that they brought back various fruits - grapes, pomegranates and figs [v.23]

So why does the Torah stress that "It was the season when the first grapes ripen" and not simply, the time when fruit was ripening?

The process of spying out the Land to conquer it represents our daily mission of evaluating how to advance the "conquering" of this physical world for G-d, through the most effective use of time and resources for Torah.  Verse 20 concludes that the goal of this process is represented by grapes: grapes are unique in that their seeds are visible through their skins, and this teaches us that the goal of our observance is to make the physical "skin" of this world transparent to its higher, spiritual purpose.

Source: Based on Sicha of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbos Parshas Shelach 5750

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Seven Keys to Shamayim



Written by HaRav Moshe Wolfson shlita [Rav of Beis Medrash Emunas Yisroel and Mashgiach of Yeshivah Torah Vodaas]

Adapted from a shiur that was delivered under the auspices of Irgun Shiurai Torah and prepared for publication by Rabbi Yochonon Donn


Wordless Power
There are two types of song: one has words (this category would include the art of poetry) in which words are joined together to create a rhythmic pattern and a sense of uniformity. In this type, the feeling of enjoyment and relaxation that comes from hearing music results from the whole song including the words.

In the second type of song, the reason for the enjoyment it gives us is more obscure: it comes when notes are put together to create a wordless song. It is not logical that notes thrown together should elicit a sense of enjoyment in people, that wordless tunes can be enjoyed is a gift from Hashem.

Sefer Pe'as Hashulchan by Harav Yisrael of Shklov zt'l, cites the Vilna Gaon in saying that most of the secrets of Torah are hidden in the art of music and that without understanding music it is impossible to comprehend the Torah. This knowledge of music was given over to Moshe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai along with the rest of the Torah.

The Zohar even says that there is a heichal - an entranceway - in Shamayim that can be opened only with neginah (song). The Zohar relates that Dovid HaMelech approached that entrance only with the neginah of his Sefer Tehillim.

Keys to the Heichal
The seven major musical notes are called keys. Each of the seven keys opens a different door in Shamayim, and it is only through music that these entryways can be opened. Musicologists do not know why the term "key" is used, but it is quite possible that it is a tradition handed down from Yuval, whom the Torah identifies as the father of music.

When the Baal Ha'Tanya came to Shklov, the residents bombarded him with questions. Chabad sources say that he responded with only a niggun, which answered all their questions. As the Vilna Gaon explained, music opens the doors of Torah in Shamayim.

A Gemara in Arachin says that the kinor (stringed instrument) in the Beis Hamikdash had seven strings, but in the times of Moshiach it will have eight strings. There are seven major notes on a musical scale, and the seventh note corresponds to Shabbos, for Shabbos completes the kinor, so that even today one can sing. The seven days of the week are actually the seven tunes of Creation. When Shabbos - the seventh tune - arrives, the harp is complete. This is the reason why we usher in the Shabbos with kapitel 29 of Tehillim, which describes the seven kolos - since then we can proceed with song.

This is the reason for the minhag among Klal Yisrael of singing zemiros on Shabbos. HaRav Mordechai of Lechovich zt"l reportedly said that he would be able to believe that all the seven seas had dried up, but not that a Jew does not sing zemiros on Shabbos.

The reason people so enjoy songs is that the tones that form them have been combined ever since the six days of Creation. Some songs, however, only confuse a person, such as some modern-day songs that are based on, for example, the pounding of a drum, or on words that have no correlation to each other, such as many non-Jewish songs. While they have a tune, it is different than the accepted process of music.

This latter type of song leads to immorality, just as the tones of these songs have no relation to each other but are merely thrown together, immorality involves the relations of two people who are not meant for each other. Neither these songs nor illicit unions were predestined from Creation.

Seven Keys of Chesed
There is a fundamental difference between the seven ushpizin (the holy guests on Succot) and the twelve shvatim - the 12 tribes of Israel. Every Jew has a direct connection with the Ushpizin, whereas each shevet is a separate and unique entity, the shvatim are thus a symbol of disunity.

For every seven white keys, representing the major notes on the piano, there are five black keys, representing the minor notes, each of which is a half-tone higher or lower than the white key next to it. The black keys complement and harmonize with the white keys.

In general, someone who would play using just the white keys on the piano would be able to play only a lively song, while playing just the black keys would result in a sorrowful song of sadness.

It is likely then that another tradition handed down from Yuval is for the keys that play major notes to be white, for happy songs, while the black keys, which play the minor notes, are black, for mournful music.

White is a source of chessed (kindness) for Klal Yisrael (this may be one reason doctors wear white), on the Yamim Nora'im we wear white kittels. Black, on the other hand, represents the trait of gevurah (severity) and is a source and an expression of melancholy.

A song that is played using a combination of black and white keys mixes chessed and gevurah. Together the seven white keys and five black keys of an octave equal twelve, the number of tribes of Israel, which as mentoned above, can symbolize disunity. Such a song is appropriate only for galus. When Moshiach arrives, however, everything will be white, for there will be no atzvus (sadness).

Chazal tell us that when Moshiach comes, an eighth key will be added to music; this key will be a 'roundup' of the previous seven (similar to the all-inclusive kollel used in gematriyos).

In Sefer Tehillim (68:7) when Dovid HaMelech relates the events of our redemption from Mitzrayim, he says motzi asirim bakosharos - "(Hashem) releases those who are bound in chains". The Gemara explains that the word "bakosharos" is a combination of bechi and shiros - simultaneous crying and laughter. This is a song played with both the white and black keys. When Moshiach comes, however, there will only be shirah - a joyous song played with the white keys.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Beha'alotecha: Great Dreams


Written by Chanan Morrison - Rav Kook Torah

In contrast to the unique level and clarity of Moses' prophecy, ordinary prophecy is bestowed through the medium of visions and dreams:

"If someone among you experiences divine prophecy, I will make Myself known to him in a vision; I will speak to him in a dream." [Num. 12:6]

Why Dreams?
Dreams, Rav Kook wrote, serve an important function in the world. Great dreams are the very foundation of the universe. Dreams exist on many levels. There are the prescient dreams of prophets, and the conscious dreaming of poets. There are the idealistic dreams of great visionaries for a better world; and there are our national dreams of redemption — "When God will return the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers" [Psalms 126:1].

Of course, not every dream falls under the category of a great dream. Some dreams are inconsequential, as it says, "Dreams speak falsely" [Zechariah 10:2]. What determines whether a dream is prophetic or meaningless?

True and False Dreams
True servants of God concentrate their aspirations and efforts on rectifying the entire world. When one's thoughts and actions are devoted exclusively to perfecting all of creation, then one's imagination will only be stimulated by matters that relate to the universal reality. The dreams of such individuals will naturally be of great significance. Their dreams are tied to the inner truth of reality, to its past, present, and future.

But for those people who are preoccupied with private concerns, their imaginative faculties will be limited — like their waking thoughts and actions — to personal issues. What truth could be revealed in imaginings that never succeeded in rising above the thoughts and wishes of a self-centered individual?

The Sages expressed this idea with the following allegorical imagery: prophetic dreams are brought by angels, while false dreams are brought by demons [Berachot 55b]. What does this mean? Angels are constant forces in the universe, pre-arranged to perfect the world. True dreams relate to these underlying positive forces. Demons, on the other hand, are non-holy forces based on specific objectives which are inconsistent with the overall universal order. False dreams are the resultant fantasies of such private desires.

The True Reality of Dreams
What would the world be like without dreams? Life immersed solely in its material aspects is coarse and bleak. It lacks the inspiring splendor of wide horizons; like a bird with clipped wings, it is unable to transcend the bitter harshness of the current reality. The ability to free ourselves from these shackles is only through the power of dreams.

Some foolishly take pride in being 'realists.' They insist on only considering the material world in its present state — a partial and fragmented view of reality. In fact, it is our dreams that liberate us from the limitations of the current reality. It is our dreams that accurately reveal the inner truth of the universe.

As that future reality is steadily revealed, we merit an increasing clarity of vision. Our perception approaches the aspaklaria me'irah of Moses, with whom God spoke "face to face, in a vision not containing allegory, so that he could see a true picture of God" [Num. 12:8].

[Adapted from Orot HaKodesh vol. I, p. 226; Ein Eyah vol. II, p. 279]

Source: RavKookTorah.org

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tamar Yonah with Rabbi Mendel Kessin




Tamar's latest show recorded yesterday, with our favourite Rabbi Mendel Kessin.

What is Donald Trump’s role in the Messianic era? Is he speeding the process along in a good way, or a harmful way? Why is he so hated by so many people? What will be with the North Korean threat, will there be a nuclear war? And what role do Jared Kushner and Ivanka play in the White House?

Click here to listen.

Protection


from the writings of the Ben Ish Hai

"Hashem safeguards the faithful, and repays the one who goes beyond to make arrogance" [Psalms 31:24]

It is bad enough to give in to negative traits that are part of our nature. Much worse is to arouse or cultivate negative traits, as did the Erev Rav in the desert.
Ben Ish Chai
They "desired a desire" - they desired to have desire - and they said "Would that we were given meat to eat!" [Numbers 11:4]

Another example is a poor man who is haughty. Wealth naturally pushes people toward arrogance, but if a poor man is haughty, he has brought it on himself.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who overcome their nature to serve G-d faithfully. An example is sharp Torah scholars who could find grounds to permit the forbidden but do not [see Eruvin 13b].

G-d punishes or protects most people through angels. But He "repays the one who goes beyond to make arrogance" - G-d personally punishes anyone who goes beyond his nature to make himself arrogant. And "Hashem safeguards the faithful" - He personally protects those who go beyond their nature to serve Him faithfully.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

All Coming to an End


There has been no new Rabbi Kessin shiur uploaded so far this week.... I am still hopeful there will be one but until then, here is a short video summing up the ''Messianic Process - Coming to an End'' - where he talks about the time-line that bloggers call the ''cosmic clock''.   Personally, I need to hear Rabbi Kessin at least once a week, as he gives me hope, in a world where there is seemingly not much hope to be found.


Mysticism: Manna For All

But the multitude among them began to have strong cravings. Then even the children of Israel once again began to cry, and they said, "Who will feed us meat?  [Beha'alotecha 11:4]





Ordinary bread [''bread from the earth''] which is the product of hard physical labor, is a metaphor for the ''revealed'' interpretations of the Torah [nigleh] found in the Talmud, which require arduous analysis, questioning etc.

On the other hand, manna [''bread from Heaven''] represents the mystical teachings of the Torah, which are of such a ''heavenly'' nature that there is no disagreement or argument.

Logically speaking, a person might think that it is necessary to have a firm grounding in classic texts, and achieve a certain degree of spiritual greatness before one can progress to the study of mysticism.  However, the Torah teaches here that even the wicked individuals who complained to Moshe ate manna.

From this we can learn that it is appropriate for people from all walks of life to study the mystical teachings of the Torah - particularly as they are formulated clearly and methodically in the teachings of Chassidus.

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Full Force of the Noahide



For all my non-Jewish readers, and I know there are a lot of you, Rabbi Tovia Singer has some very interesting things to say about Noahides, and those who believe they are really Jewish but can't prove it, and the role of Elijah before Moshiach.  The first 10 minutes of this video is taken up with ''thank yous'' so if you're in a hurry, fast forward.


Monday, May 29, 2017

The Mysterious Aura Around Rav Berland



This is a video of Rav Eliezer Berland praying.  At around the 17:20 minute mark, you can see someone's finger in front of the camera and the light suddenly changing.  Rav Berland is now bathed in pure white light from the waist upwards, the floor and other areas of the room remain unchanged. Don't know what to think about this.  Any tech experts out there who would like to comment? These days .... everything is so confusing lately.

Original article can be seen here.


President Trump and the Beginning of the Messianic Process



With a title like that, it can only be the latest Rabbi Kessin video.  


Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Shavuot Departure of the Baal Shem Tov


[Shavuot is the Yarzheit of the Baal Shem Tov]

Biographical note: Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer [18 Elul 1698-6 Sivan 1760] - the Baal Shem Tov ["master of the good Name"] - a unique and seminal figure in Jewish history, revealed the Chassidic movement and his own identity as an exceptionally holy person, on his 36th birthday, 18 Elul 1734. He wrote no books, although many claim to contain his teachings. One available in English is the excellent annotated translation of Tzava'at Harivash, published by Kehot.

* * *

Following the revelation of Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov, on 18 Elul 1734, as a great Jewish leader and mystic, many of the Jewish community, especially in Poland, became followers of the Chassidic path of Judaism. Twenty-six years later, the time arrived all too soon for the Baal Shem Tov to pass on to the next world.

For Passover 1760, Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, came to visit his Master, the Baal Shem Tov. On the afternoon preceding the festival, Seventh Day of Passover, Rabbi Pinchas was feeling weak and decided not to go to the mikveh, as was his custom.

The next day during his morning prayers, he had a premonition that the Baal Shem Tov would soon pass away. Rabbi Pinchas began to pray more intensely, begging that the Heavenly decree against the Baal Shem Tov be lifted. But he felt that he was unable to affect the decree and started to deeply regret that he had not gone to the mikveh before the holiday.

Interestingly, after morning prayers, the Baal Shem Tov asked Rabbi Pinchas if he had gone to the mikveh on the previous afternoon. When he answered he had not, the Baal Shem Tov replied, "It's too late to correct that now."

* * *

After Passover, the Baal Shem Tov fell ill. However, he did not tell his followers and continued to pray before the ark. Whoever among his close followers might have been able to effect changes with their prayers, he sent on missions to other communities. Rabbi Pinchas, knowing of the Heavenly decree against the Baal Shem Tov, did not return to his home but stayed on in Medzibuz.

Previously, on the eve of Shabbat Hagadol, the Sabbath preceding Passover, the Baal Shem Tov had sat down to write a last will and testament addressed to his disciples. He concluded it with the words, "I write this today because last night my [heavenly] master and teacher [Ahiya of Shilo-a biblical prophet,] revealed to me that this is my last eve of Shabbat Hagadol…."

Seven and one half weeks later, on the eve of Shavuot, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov called his personal scribe, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh, and dictated to him some final revisions and amendments to an earlier, detailed will, ordering among other things that all his books and manuscripts be given unto "my disciple and peer, the Prince of Torah, Rabbi Dov Ber [the Magid of Mezritch,] son of Rabbi Abraham, except for all the books in Yiddish which belong to my G-d fearing daughter Adele."

He reaffirmed article 18 of his original will to the effect that his copies of "the commentaries of Gersonides on the bible, and the book Neveh Shalom [a 15th century philosophical-homiletical work, with Kabbalistic overtones composed by Rabbi Abraham Shalom] both with my marginal notes and annotations, are to be given unto my disciple, dear to me like a son, the Pillar of fire, Rabbi Jacob Joseph Hacohen [of Polnoy]."

* * *

On Tuesday evening, the [first] night of Shavuot, all of the followers of the Baal Shem Tov gathered with him to spend the night in Torah study, as is the custom. The Baal Shem Tov expounded on the Torah portion of the week and the meaning of Shavuot.

In the morning, he sent for his closest followers to gather in his room. He told Rabbi Leib Kessler and several others to arrange for his burial. Because they were members of the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) and were knowledgeable in signs of illness, he showed them the signs on his body and explained how the soul emanates from each part. Then, he told them to gather a minyan to pray with him. Before they began, he said, "Soon I shall be with the Holy One, blessed be He."

After the prayers, Rabbi Nachman of Horodenka went to the Study Hall to pray for his Master. Later, the Baal Shem Tov said, "He petitions in vain. Maybe if he could have entered in the Heavenly gate where I was accustomed to enter, his prayers would have helped."

When the shammesh (attendant) of the Baal Shem Tov entered his master's room, he heard the Baal Shem Tov saying, "I grant you these two hours. Do not torture me."

The asked, "Rebbe, who are you talking to?"

The Baal Shem Tov answered, "Don't you see the Angel of Death? Before, he always ran from me. Now that he has been given control over me, he stands straighter and laughs at me."

Later, during the festival day meal, he asked his attendant to put mead in a large glass. Instead, the shammesh put it in a small glass. The Baal Shem Tov remarked wryly, "'Man has no power on the day of death,' even my attendant does not obey me."

After the meal, many of the town's people, who did not know of the Baal Shem Tov's condition, came to see him. As always, he delivered a discourse of Torah to them.

All of his close disciples were sitting in the room of the Baal Shem Tov while he lay in his bed. He gave them a sign. "My friends, when I leave this world, both clocks in this room will stop."

He asked for a large cup of water and a basin to be brought to him. While he was washing his hands, His followers saw the hands of the big clock stop. They stood in front of it so that the Baal Shem wouldn't see that it had stopped.

He said to them, "My friends, I am not concerned for myself because l know that when I leave through the door of this world, I'll immediately enter into the door of the next world."

The Baal Shem Tov then sat up in his bed and told them to gather around him. He spoke words of Torah, explaining about the column upon which one ascends from Lower Paradise to Upper Paradise, and how this was so in each of the Four Worlds. Then he described the World of Souls, and expounded the order of worship. He instructed them to say with him, "Let the pleasantness of the L-rd our G-d be upon us" [Psalms 90:17].

He lay down and sat up several times. Meanwhile he concentrated on mystical kavanot (intentions) until they could not distinguish the syllables of his speech.

Finally he lay down and told them to cover him with a sheet. Then he began to tremble as when he said the nineteen blessings of the Amida prayer. Slowly he became quiet.

They saw that the small clock had stopped. They waited for a long time but he didn't move. Then they put a feather under his nose to detect his breathing, whereupon they finally had to accept that he had passed away.

A Rabbi Jacob of Medzibuz, reported that Rabbi Leib Kessler of the Burial Society saw the departure of his soul as a blue flame rising.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the rendition of Tzvi Meir HaCohane (Howard M. Cohn. Patent Attorney) on //besht.com, and supplemented from other written and oral sources, mainly "The Great Maggid" by J. I. Schochet (Kehot).  Ascent of Safed


Friday, May 26, 2017

Eliyahu's Gift: Forgiveness


The Presence of Eliyahu Ha'navi at a Brit Mila by Rabbi Eli Mansour

Tradition teaches that Eliyahu Ha'navi is present – in one form or another – at every Brit Mila, and for this reason a chair must be designated for him. One should expressly designate the chair by saying, "Zeh Kisei Shel Eliyahu Ha'navi Zachur Latov" - ["This is the chair of Eliyahu Ha'navi"]

Why does Eliyahu attend every Brit? The Gemara tells that Eliyahu, who lived during the reign of the idolatrous king Achav when many Jews abandoned the Torah, came to God and complained that Bnei Yisrael were not observing the Mitzva of circumcision. God reprimanded Eliyahu, saying that He does not need a prophet to prosecute against His people, to accuse them of disloyalty. The prophet's job is to pray on their behalf and show them compassion even if they sin. God therefore decreed upon Eliyahu that for all time he must attend every circumcision ritual performed by Bnei Yisrael, and then return to God and report that the Jewish people faithfully observe this Mitzva.

It is further told that Eliyahu then told God that he would be unable to tolerate attending a Brit Mila if the child's father is a sinner. After all, Eliyahu was a zealot, who could not tolerate any sin or infringement upon the Almighty's honor. [The Sages teach that Eliyahu was Pinchas, who, as we know from the Torah, was a zealot when it came to God's honor.]  God replied that He will forgive all the father's sins. Eliyahu then noted that the Mohel, or perhaps one of the guests, might have a sinful record, and God again responded that He will forgive the sins committed by the Mohel and all the attendees. [See Taamei HaMinhagim]

For this reason, attending a Brit Mila is considered an effective means of achieving atonement. It should be noted that according to the Bnei Yissaschar [work by the Chassidic sage Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov, 1783-1841], attending a Brit earns one atonement only if he stands near Eliyahu's seat. Given Eliyahu's zealotry, those near him at the Brit Mila require atonement lest he react angrily to their sins. One should therefore endeavor to stand near Eliyahu's chair at a Brit Mila.

Additionally, some Rabbis write that one earns atonement at a Brit Mila only if he performs Teshuva. Attending a Brit does not obviate the need for repentance, but rather allows a person to repent and earn atonement more easily. It is therefore appropriate when attending a Brit Mila to contemplate sincere thoughts of remorse and repentance.

Eliyahu Hanavi appears at a baby naming for a girl just as he appears at a bris [Rabbi Sholom of Belz]. This is hinted in the verse [Bereishis 2:19] vchol asher yikro lo haadam - the acrostic forming the word Eliyahu. [Divrei Naftali Berishis ibid]. in the name of the Yismach Moshe, it is reported that he also attends a pidyon haben, as alluded to in the words which follow the injunction of pidyon haben [Bo 13:2] "lee hu". These words can be rearranged to read Eliyahu [ibid].

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The 50th Gate



The Kabbalah speaks of "50 gates of spiritual understanding", 49 of which can be achieved by a person as a result of his own initiative.  The final 50th gate is then granted by G-d from Above.

When Avraham had circumcised himself, he had reached the greatest degree of spiritual perfection that he could possibly achieve as a human being - the 49th gate - and he became "sick" yearning for the 50th gate.  This is alluded to by the fact that choleh חולה [the Hebrew term for "sick person"] has the numerical value [gematria] of 49.  Then "God appeared to him", revealing to him the 50th gate of spiritual understanding, which cured his spiritual sickness.

And, being that his physical sickness was a reflection of his spiritual dissatisfaction, the Divine revelation healed him physically too.

Based on Sichat Shabbos Parshas Vayeira 5750 - Lubavitcher Rebbe

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Why Learning Torah Is So Great - The Pnimiyus of Torah


Rabbi Mendel Kessin - Ramchal's Yahrtzeit 5777/2017

Don't know where to start with all the wonders of this shiur..... you really need to just listen to it. Some incredibly fascinating insights into angels and white magic [!] aka practical kabbalah.  Rabbi Kessin has a unique way of explaining everything and you need to hear this one.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Souls and Names

Art by Sharon Tomlinson


The Talmud [Berachot 7b] teaches that a Hebrew name has an influence on its bearer. Therefore, it is extremely important to name children after individuals with positive character traits who led fortunate lives and helped bring goodness to the world.

The Arizal writes that the nature and behavior of a person, whether good or bad, can be discovered by analyzing his or her name. For example, a child named Yehudah could possibly be destined for leadership, for Yehudah, the fourth son of Jacob, symbolized monarchy and most Jewish kings descended from the tribe of Yehudah.

It is said that parents are actually blessed with prophesy when naming their newborn babies.

According to the Arizal, even the numerical value of the Hebrew letters in one's name can be indicative of an individual's character. For example the gematria of the name Elisheva is equivalent to the numerical value of the Hebrew words yemei simcha, meaning "days of happiness," perhaps portending a joyous life for a baby girl named Elisheva.

It is precisely because the fortunes and misfortunes of mankind are concealed in the secrets of the letters, vowels and meanings of Hebrew names that a seriously ill person is given an additional name like Chaim, meaning "life," or Rafael, meaning "God heals," in order to influence his destiny. We hope and pray that the new name will herald a new mazel, or fortune, for the stricken individual.

Rabbi Elimelech of Lyzhansk, writes in his classic work on Torah "Noam Elimelech" [Bamidbar] that there is a profound connection between the soul of an infant and the soul of the person for whom he or she is named.

When a child is named after the deceased, the latter's soul is elevated to a higher realm in heaven and a spiritual affinity is created between the soul of the departed and the soul of the newborn child. That deep spiritual bond between these two souls can have a profound impact on the child.

Zocher HaBris 24:4, who also quotes Noam Elimelech on Bamidbar: “If they give him the name of a tzaddik who has already lived in this world, this will cause him also to become a tzaddik, because it has aroused the soul of the departed tzaddik in the Supernal World.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Good Advice




“In material things, look to those who have less than you and thank G-d for His kindness to you. In spiritual matters, look at those above you and ask G-d to give you the wisdom to learn from them.” 

 - Hayom Yom

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Sign from The Angel Micha'el ...?



This is a photo of the final resting place of the car that ploughed through pedestrians at Times Square NY earlier today.  As you can see it is underneath a sign that says 1515 Broadway.  There was some speculation on a conspiracy site that this sign weirdly suggested ''ISIS" - but a quick search on the internet for the gematria of 1515 came up with the following:


From Rabbi Ginsburgh:

1515 = 15 x מיכאל  [Micha’el]. We have previously noted that Micha’el [מיכאל ], whose numerical value is equal to 101, is considered the angelic minister of the Jewish people, Israel. The numerical value of Israel- ישראל is 541. Amazingly, the 101st prime number is 541!

Let us examine the names of the angels in context of their mission: Micha’el came to give Sarah the news of Isaac’s upcoming birth; Gavri’el came to destroy Sodom; and, Repha’el came to heal Abraham. Taking the sum of the angels’ names with the objects of their mission, we get that:


מיכאל שרה ┴ גבריאל סדם ┴ רפאל אברהם = 1515 = שרה שרה שרה


Now, the numerical value of Sarah [שרה] is 505, which is 5 times the numerical value of Micha’el [מיכאל]:

שרה = 5 · מיכאל , or 5 · 101

Therefore, it follows that 1515 = 15 · מיכאל , or 15 times Micha’el.

Click here to see Rabbi Ginsburgh's original article, with a lot more info.

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. Daniel 12:1 

Also see Revered Rabbi's Deathbed Message Invokes Angel Michael Bringing End of Days

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Prophetic Letters


Diagram above shows how the Sefer Yetzirah relates the relationships of the Seven Double Letters to the Seven Days of Creation, the seven visible Planets and their corresponding physical/spiritual gates, and the relationships of the Twelve Simple Letters to the Constellations and corresponding Hebrew Months and vital organs. [L. Kude]


The following text is by Rabbi Chanan Morrison

Five Double Letters
Of the 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, five are called 'double letters,' as they take on a different form when appearing at the end of a word. The five letters are Mem, Nun, Tzadi, Pay, and Chaf. When placed together as one word, they spell M-N-Tz-P-Ch.

According to Talmudic tradition [Shabbat 104a], the dual form of these letters goes back to the prophets. The abbreviation M-N-Tz-P-Ch can be read as Min Tzophim — 'from the prophets.'

From the Prophets
This claim — that the special form of these letters originated with the prophets — needs clarification. The Torah of Moses is complete and whole in itself. Even a prophet is not allowed to add or invent a new mitzvah. The Torah explicitly states:

"These are the decrees, laws and codes that God set between Himself and Israel at Mount Sinai, through the hand of Moses" [Lev. 26:46]

The phrase ' These are the decrees' indicates that only the decrees that Moses set down in the Torah are in fact between God and Israel. How could the prophets change the Torah by adding new shapes of letters?

The Talmud explains that the prophets did not actually introduce anything new. There always existed two ways to write these five letters. With the passage of time, however, it was forgotten which shape belongs at the end of the word, and which at the beginning and middle. The prophets did not devise the two forms; they merely recovered the lost knowledge of which letterform belongs at the end of the word.

Why Two Forms?
Still, we need to understand: why do these letters have dual forms? What is the significance of their relative position in the word? And why were the prophets (and not the sages or the grammarians) the ones who restored this knowledge?

Letters are more than just elements of speech. They are the building blocks of creation. The Sages taught, "The universe was created with ten utterances" [Avot 5:1]. Each letter in the alphabet represents a fundamental force in the world.

Rav Kook explained that the 'final forms' — the shape that these letters take at the end of words — are the holiest. The final forms most accurately portray the sublime essence of each letter, fully expressing its ultimate purpose. To better understand this statement, we must analyze the morphological differences between the two forms of these letters.

With four of the letters — Nun, Tzadi, Pay, Chaf — the regular form is smaller and more cramped. The 'leg' of the letter is constrained and bent upwards. The form appearing at the end of the word, on the other hand, allows the 'leg' to stretch and extend itself fully. It is the final form that truly expresses the full content and power of these letters.

The two shapes of the letter Mem are distinguished in a different fashion. The regular Mem has a small opening at the bottom. It is called the Mem Petuchah, the Open Mem. It is open and revealed to all.

The final Mem is closed off on all sides. It is called the Mem Setumah, the Sealed Mem. Or perhaps — the Esoteric Mem. This form of Mem is more sublime than the regular Open Mem. Thus, the holiest written object, the stone tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments, contained only Sealed Mems, with the center part of the Mem hanging miraculously in place. The final Mem is closed off and concealed. It guards its inner secret, which due to its profound holiness may not be revealed to all.

Why is the more elevated form used at the end of the word? A hidden light appears at the ultimate vision of every noble matter. The hidden light of the M-N-Tz-P-Ch letters belongs to the end. The beginning and middle appearances of these letters are open and revealed. Their light steadily increases, until it brings us to the final, sublime conclusion.

The prophets are called tzofim, visionaries, as they were blessed with prophetic vision. Their greatness was that they could perceive the final outcome while still living in a flawed present. Understandably, it was these tzofim who sensed that the more elevated letterforms belong at the end.

Source: Rav Kook Torah

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Confusion Before Moshiach

For those who are not aware, there were a few rabbis who recently visited the pope, amid much controversy from within the Jewish community.  At least one of these rabbis then issued a written apology for certain things which were made public, and which he thought were private.  Without getting into the nitty gritty, I thought this was very interesting....


Seen on FB: HT Avrohom Alter


From the Sefer Plaos Yisroel. One time The Riziner Rebbe became very inspired and said  "In the period heralding the Moshiach there will be an exceedingly great thirst for spirituality. So much so that some Jews [in their confusion Ed.] will travel to the pope in Rome to receive his guidance. This will cause a great storming in Heaven, which will result in the fall of many world leaders and kings.… AND THEN WILL COME MOSHIACH OUR RIGHTEOUS!!

Guarding The Eyes

Art: "Forgotten Sunglasses" by Vladimir Kush


Written by Yosef Peretz, Mirrer Yeshiva Kollel, Jerusalem

The Talmud (beginning of Tractate Berachos) compares a person's soul to G-d himself; just like G-d sees but is not seen, so too the soul of a person sees but is not seen and just like G-d fills the entire world, so too the soul of a person fills his entire body, etc.. What does this mean and from where does the soul "see"? The Kabbalah answers that the soul of a person "sees" through his eyes.

If you look into someone's eyes, you're not just looking at a biological camera. You are accessing the deepest recesses of the person.

"The candle of G-d is the soul of man".

"A mitzva is a candle and Torah is light".

The Talmud teaches, "sin extinguishes a mitzva but sin doesn't extinguish Torah".

The Zohar explains: sin extinguishes a mitzva and mitzva is a candle. So sin extinguishes a candle. But which candle? The candle of G-d - which is the soul of man. So, when a person sins, he extinguishes his own soul. He then walks through life in darkness (until he repents). Conversely a righteous person who has reached a high level of purity, has eyes that literally glow with a tangible spiritual light. I know from experience that looking into the eyes of such a person can have a life-long effect.

Having said that, a person should be very careful what he exposes his eyes to. Whatever you expose your eyes to, know that you are exposing your deepest essence - your soul. If you look at the wrong things, you literally extinguish some of the spiritual light in your eyes. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler taught (Michtav m'Eliyahu) that if a person does not sense holiness inside himself, it's a sign that his soul has left him.

This is why, according to the Talmud, it is forbidden to look at the face of a wicked person. When you look at his (or her) face, your soul absorbs some of the ruach (spiritual energy) of this person. Your soul which is beyond the physical, senses all the deeds and all the twisted drives and views of this person through his eyes and you become a little bit like him.

This is why children inherit the character traits of their parents. By constantly looking into their eyes, they absorb all of their parents' deepest spiritual traits.

The Torah forbids accepting a convert from the nations of Moab and Amon for all generations. Why? Because these nations demonstrated a lack of hakaras hatov (gratitude) to the Jewish nation when they were about to enter Israel. But why are their descendants excluded for all time to convert? Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian z''l explains (beginning of Lev Eliyahu) since their parents did not have proper gratitude, they will transmit this evil trait to their offspring and their offspring to their offsprings, and so forth forever and ever. By constantly looking into their parents' eyes, the children will inherit completely all of their spiritual traits.

Conversely, looking in the eyes of a Tzaddik (righteous person) elevates you. A person who has reached a high spiritual level has eyes that shine forth with a spiritual light. This is why it is so important to learn Torah from a great Rebbi and not just from books. The Talmud says, if your Rebbi does not look like an Angel of G-d, do not learn Torah from him. Only if you sense "Sinai" in this person should you learn Torah from him. Such a person will transmit to you the non-verbal, "internal" part of the Torah and the proper character traits which can only be transmitted through eye contact. No amount of learning in books can help you here.

I heard from Rabbi Simcha Wasserman zt''l that "when you review your lesson, picture your Rebbi's face while he was giving over the lesson. This way, you will review not only the verbal part of the lesson but also the non-verbal messages in the lesson".

The Steipler wrote (beginning of Kareina D'Igarta) every interaction with a person leaves a spiritual mark on you. The Chafetz Chaim said, the first time he saw a Jew willfully transgressing the Shabbat, he cried for an hour. The second time it lasted only 20 minutes. Why the change? He had exposed his eyes and therefore his soul, and was now no longer on the same level of purity as before.

One who is constantly surrounded by people with no faith is in great danger of becoming like them. This is not because of sharing their ideas. No! During every interaction, your soul absorbs some of the "ruach" (spiritual essence) of the person. If you don't strengthen yourself continuously, you will slowly become more and more like him. This is why it is so important to live in an area with a strong Jewish community. The Rambam wrote, if you can't find a community of righteous people to live in, you should move to the desert.

On a deeper level, everything you come across contains the "ruach" (spiritual essence) of it's source. I heard from Rabbi Shmuel Nussbaum of Gateshead (who is now a Rosh Kollel in Israel) that every book you read, contains part of the soul of the author. If you read the book of a tzadik, you are not only receiving the information he wrote. The soul of the tzadik also has a hashpa (a spiritual influence) on you.

Conversely, when you read the news from CNN or some novel, you should know that you are not just reading innocent information. You are putting your mind into the mind of the author, absorbing the spiritual energy and the drives and mentality of this person and you will tend to become like him (or her). Watch out! They didn't tell you that in the fine print!

Rav Kook zt''l

The same is with the holy Torah. When a person learns, his soul is absorbing the spiritual energy of the Almighty himself! (Although in this case, the Almighty provided two conditions in order for the Torah to transmit the spiritual light (see Derech Hashem Vol.4:Ch.2). The first is proper Yira (reverence) and tikun hamaase at all times - striving to fulfill what you are learning. Without that, learning Torah is like reading a science book.)

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter says a person can learn the laws of an ox that gores a cow, and it will help him in controlling his mouth from saying lashon hara (slander). Why? The light in the Torah, elevates his soul and gives him the spiritual strength needed to fight off the evil inclination to slander.

Think before you look as it says by Avraham in the Akeida - "And Avraham lifted his eyes". Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm zt''l says that from here, we learn that even lifting your eyes should be a calculated and weighed decision. Watch your eyes. Be careful what you read and what you look at. Try to attach yourself to a righteous person and you will become like him. Look at the picture above and in the eyes of the holy Tzadik - Rav Kook zt''l and you will taste greatness.



Monday, May 15, 2017

Rabbi Kessin: The Secret of Lag B'Omer



The most recent shiur


Yehai


Source: Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Yaakov Avinu was the first to say “Amen, yehai Shmay Rabbah mevorach l’olam ilelomai olmaya – Amen, May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.”

Chazal say [Pesachim 56a], that when Yaakov Avinu felt that his days were numbered, he gathered his sons and attempted to reveal to them the End of days, as it is said: “Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the End of Days.” Since Hashem did not want him to reveal it, the Shechinah withdrew from him.

Yaakov Avinu was shaken and feared: Perhaps, Heaven forbid, one of my sons are not worthy, as happened to Avraham, who had Yishmael, and like his father Yitzchak, who had Eisav. Thus, his sons, the holy Tribes, declared: “Hear, O Israel: The L-rd is our G-d; the L-rd is one.” “Just as there is only One in your heart, so too is there only One in our hearts.”

At that moment, Yaakov Avinu said: “Baruch Shem kevod Malchuto l’olam va’ed – Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity.”

This also appears in the Yerushalmi with a slight change: After the declaration of the Tribes, Yaakov Avinu said: “Yehai Shmay Rabbah mevorach l’olam ilelomai olmaya – May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.”

Then, what did Yaakov Avinu actually say; “Baruch Shem kevod Malchuto l’olam va’ed – Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity,” or “Yehai Shmay Rabbah mevorach l’olam ilelomai olmaya – May His great Name be blessed forever and ever?”

A closer look at the two verses reveals that both have the same meaning:

“Baruch Shem kevod Malchuto l’olam va’ed – Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity” means “Yehai Shmay Rabbah mevorach l’olam ilelomai olmaya – May His great Name be blessed forever and ever” in Aramaic. Then, during Kaddish, why do we not recite the verse in Hebrew, but rather in Aramaic?

The Midrash [Devarim Rabbah 2:35] states that when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended to heaven to receive the Torah, he heard the angels say, “Baruch Shem kevod Malchuto l’olam va’ed – Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity.” Moshe took those wonderful words of praise and revealed them to Bnei Yisrael. But, in order not to arouse the jealousy of the angels, they are recited in Aramaic, and when we say them in Hebrew following the declaration of “Shema,” they are said in a whisper.

Rav Assi likens this with a parable to a man who stole diamonds from the king’s palace. When he gave them to his wife, he warned her not to display them in public, but wear them only inside her home.

The analogy: Once, and only once a year, on the most holy day of Yom Kippur, when Am Yisrael are like the angels, they say this verse out loud.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Moshiach's Rainbow and Lag B'Omer


Lag B'Omer occurs on the 18th day of Iyar: this year Sunday 14 May.

Why is Lag b’Omer celebrated with bonfires and bows and arrows?
by Rabbi Yossi Marcus

The bonfires celebrate the immense light that was brought into the world by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai [who passed away on Lag b’Omer], especially on the day of his passing.

The bow commemorates the fact that during Rabbi Shimon’s lifetime no rainbow was ever seen. [Bereishit Rabbah 35:2] Note: This was a good thing because the rainbow appears when the earth deserves punishment. The first time a rainbow appeared was after Noah’s flood, when G-d said that He will no longer destroy the world, rather He would send a sign: the rainbow. During Rabbi Shimon’s lifetime, the world was filled with merit because of him and therefore never saw a rainbow. [Genesis 9:8-17 and Rashi there]

There is a Kabbalistic tradition that on Lag b’Omer a rainbow will appear in a different color, which will symbolize the arrival of the Messianic age [Bnei Yissaschar]

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sweetening Judgments

Art OceanXGoddess



from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

When the messengers who bring suffering are despatched, they are made to take an oath: that they will neither set out nor return except on such and such a day, at such and such a time, and only [carry out their mission] by using the designated means. However, repentance, prayer and charity have the power to nullify [the enactment of] this oath.

Reciting the Torah chapters concerning the Choshen, the Breastplate [Exodus 28:15-30; 39:8-21] is a tikkun [rectification] for harsh judgments.

A person who suffers affliction should give charity. This charity will be considered as if it were a fee paid to a judge for his services, which when accepted, nullifies the verdict's validity. And through this his suffering will be alleviated.

When a person rebukes his friend for the right motives, he has a thread of loving-kindness drawn over him.

A person who does not accept rebuke will experience suffering.

To sweeten harsh judgments, recite Psalm 39 and Psalm 77.

When the nations have issued an evil decree against the Jews, Psalm 62 should be said.

A person can determine and understand his sins from the suffering which he experiences.

There are four things which abolish harsh decrees: Tzedakah [charity], crying out to G-d, changing one's name and improving one's conduct.

Crying out to G-d helps the individual only prior to the final decree.

A person's accusers are beaten off by the study of Torah.

A final decree accompanied by an oath cannot be abolished, even for the sake of an entire community.

The effects of a decree against a person apply only in a specific place. He can save himself by changing his location.

A person should tell others of his anguish so that they will pray for mercy on his behalf.

Accepting suffering with love is like bringing a sacrifice.

A person who falls down while walking should see this as a sign of a downfall on a spiritual level. Falling down while walking sometimes serves to nullify a pronouncement of death which has been issued against the person.

A person who finds himself suffering from harsh judgment should make it a habit to gaze at the Heavens.

The Holy One exonerates the person who teaches righteousness to the wicked.

A man of truth receives G-d's lovingkindness undisguised by judgments.

Trust in G-d sweetens judgment and draws down loving-kindness.

Through faith [emunah] it is possible to convince G-d to follow your will.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Monday, May 8, 2017

''Sons of Aharon'' and ''Kohanim''

Birkhat Kohanim by Alex Levin

The son of a Kohen's forbidden marriage may not serve in the Temple, yet he can still make a Korban, and it will be accepted.

by Chanan Morrison

Emor: Agents of Holiness
The Talmud in Nedarim 32b describes the kohanim as sheluchei didan. The kohanim act as our agents or emissaries as they perform the Temple service.

Yet this idea — that the kohanim act as agents for the Jewish people - appears to violate the legal definition of the powers of a shaliach. An agent acts on behalf of the one sending him [the principal], executing his wishes. The agent cannot do that which the principal himself is incapable of doing. So how can the kohanim perform the Temple service on our behalf, when non-kohanim are not permitted to serve in the Beit HaMikdash?

Potential vs. Actual
The parashah opens with special directives for kohanim: "God spoke to Moses: Tell the kohanim, the sons of Aaron..." [Lev. 21:1]. Yet the text appears repetitive — "the kohanim, the sons of Aaron." Do we not know that the kohanim are descended from Aaron?

These two terms — 'kohanim' and 'sons of Aaron' — indicate two different aspects of the special sanctity of kohanim. The first is an intrinsic holiness, passed down from father to son. The phrase "sons of Aaron" refers to this inherent sanctity.

The second aspect is an additional layer of holiness, one's actual functioning as a kohen. This aspect is designated by the term 'kohanim.' [The verb lechahein means 'to serve,' so the word 'kohanim' indicates their actual service.] Thus the term "sons of Aaron" refers to their inherited potential, while 'kohanim' refers to their realized state of priestly service.

The Chalal
Usually a kohen will have both potential and actual kohanic-holiness. Yet there are certain situations that allow us to distinguish between the two.

A kohen is forbidden to marry a divorced woman. Should he nonetheless marry a divorcee, his son falls under a special category. He is called a chalal, from the word chilul, 'to defile holiness.' Despite his lineage, a chalal may not serve in the Temple.

Yet if a chalal went ahead and offered a korban, his offerings are accepted after the fact [Maimonides, Hilchot Bi'at Mikdash 6:10]. This is quite surprising. In general, a chalal has the legal status of a non-kohen. If a non-kohen brought an offering, his service would be disqualified. Yet the offerings of a chalal are accepted after the fact. Why is this?

The distinction between potential and actual kohanic status, between "sons of Aaron" and 'kohanim,' allows us to understand the unusual status of a chalal. Due to the fact that he is the son of a divorcee, he has lost the realized sanctity of a functioning kohen. But he still retains the inherited sanctity of "sons of Aaron." This intrinsic sanctity cannot be revoked. Therefore, while a chalal is not allowed to serve in the Temple, after the fact his offerings are accepted.

The Sages derived this ruling from Moses' blessing of the tribe of Levi: "May God bless his strength ['cheilo'], and favor the works of his hands" [Deut. 33:11]. Even the works of those who are chulin, who have lost part of their kohanic-sanctity, are still acceptable to God [Kiddushin 66b].

[That a chalal falls under the category of "the sons of Aaron" but not 'kohanim' is seen in the Midrash Halachah quoted by Rashi. "One might think that chalalim are included? Therefore it says, 'the kohanim'" - excluding chalalim from the special laws of kohanim.]

Continue reading at: Rav Kook Torah