Sunday, July 31, 2011

This Week's Torah Portion's Name

This week's Torah portion, "Devarim" (דברים), means "potent words"; It characterizes the contents of this portion, as well as that of the entire 5th book, which also goes by the same name.

Yet the word at the beginning of our portion is actually הדברים, with the leading ה, and not דברים; So why did they drop the ה when they named this portion and that of the entire book?

The reason is because the word הדברים appears also just before God began to speak the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1). The words that comprise the ten commandments are thus referred to as הדברים. And in order to differentiate between those words and ours of this portion, or book, they dropped the ה of the word - to yield, simply, דברים.
(Source: Aug. 1941 הקריאה והקדושה p.172)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hashem's Strange Messenger

For decades we hear the same monotonous chorus coming from "enlightened" Israelis when asked why they so ingratiate themselves for American support, and therefore sacrifice so much land, resources and risk to life for the sake of "peace" and "peace talks". Most religious thinkers, except those supporting the Shas party, believe Israel can do without America's backing because, when push comes to shove, Israel can extricate herself from whatever dilemma she faces using her own resources - with the help of Hashem.

As usual, nursing on American milk continued unabated. Finally, to break this reliance on America, which is akin to idol worship because it precludes faith in Hashem's providence, Hashem's patience broke. "If you want to continue suckling, and you won't change your mind," says God - "then I'll change it for you!" and He installed Hussein Barak Obama to run America, thereby grinding to a halt Israel's servile, idolatrous attitude.

Everything in the world happens for a reason, and important political events happen for the sake of Israel. The Gentile leader or spokesperson has very little free choice in what he decides. Through him God finds a way of "talking" to Jews; We only have to "open our eyes" to see with our mind's eye that which we are being "told".

Every war we won was our queue to lay claim to our Holy Land based on the Torah. But we have yet to take that firm stand, and say it just that way.

Take the recent event of a PA activist who spoke up to say the Bible is irrelevant when it comes to deciding the borders of Israel (link). This again is our queue! It is Hashem's way to tell us to go out and argue the opposite. He wants us to say, "Yes it is relevant, we hold by it, and stand by it - and it constitutes our claim to the land." How can we be sure we must say this? Simply by reading about it in the first Rashi on the first verse in the Torah, nay, on the very first word in Torah! There Rashi clearly spells out what we must tell the Gentiles. And if we tell them just that, namely, "that Israel is a land given to us by God" (to paraphrase briefly), then the nations of the world will accept it! Most nations believe in the Bible, giving it significant sanction, so that using this argument, namely, that "it says so in the Bible", will finally take the political load off Israel's back.

Israel never yet has come out staking claim to the rights of the land based on Torah, when this is exactly what they should be premising their claims on; And nothing else! It implies that God rules the world and manipulates the victories of the Jewish people. We Jews, in turn, have only to share our faith and show our gratitude.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Wile of Women Produces Moshiach

At practically every juncture along the trail of sexual encounters that contributed seed to form the required genome from which the dynasty of Moshiach would propagate, man succumbed to manipulation by a woman. In most these conjugations, the man was duped or had no clear picture of what was happening, whereas the woman knew exactly what she was doing.

Another striking feature of these encounters is that despite the specter of their unholy alliances, the holiest of all men will have been thereby brought to fruition. This is discussed elsewhere.

The union between Yehuda and Tamar yielded Peretz, a forebear of Moshiach. Tamar, frustrated by Yehuda's empty promise, takes the matter into her own hands. She dresses promiscuously and beguiles Yehuda, who does not recognize his daughter-in-law. Thereafter she prepares to sacrifice her life, and that of the child in her womb, to prevent insult to Yehuda. Yehuda then openly admits his shortfall and saves her life.

Boaz was the most respected, righteous elder of the House of Yehuda. He was 400 years old. He had the Sanhedrin sit in judgement to decide if he can marry Rut. They ruled on whether a Moabite can convert to Judaism. They declared: "A Moabite man - NO; A Moabite woman - Yes". On the given night, Boaz was sleeping in the shed of his field. Rut sneaked in and laid down next to his feet. He awoke in unexpected dread, but consummated his marriage there. (Boaz passed away the day after, leaving the Sanhedrin in consternation, on whether or not they issued the correct verdict in the Boaz case. This kernel of doubt will later play havoc in Yishai's mind.)

Yishai, the grandson of Boaz, was also recognized as a most righteous elder in the House of Yehuda. He fathered 7 sons, when suddenly a "screw came loose" in his mind. In concern for his righteous wife, he suddenly felt he might be doing her a disservice by remaining married to her because maybe, in fact, he wasn't even Jewish. Maybe the Sanhedrin erred when they made the ruling in his grandfather's case. So he separated from his wife. Then, in another quirk of psychology, he desired his Gentile maidservant. This maidservant, however, loyal to Yishai's wife, alerted her to their rendezvous. Then the two women pulled off what Rachel and Leah pulled off the night Leah married Yakov. That night Yishai laid with his wife, and not with his maidservant, of which he was totally unaware.

The unions between Lot and his two daughters also were orchestrated by the girls, leaving their father totally oblivious to what had happened. They figured the overturning of Sodom and Gemorah they just witnessed, with the resulting inferno, was a repetition of what G-d did to the world 10 generations earlier, when the entire world was obliterated by the Great Flood; Only this time G-d chose a fiery end, they thought. They figured they were the world's only survivors, so they desired to reproduce from the seed of their father.

Even before the seed of Peretz was created, the Jewish lineage also involved crucial encounters between husband and wife, where the man was manipulated or overruled by his wife. In the case of Yakov, he was duped by Leah and Rachel into thinking he was marrying Rachel, when, in fact, he slept with Leah (who will become the mother of Yehuda).

In the case of Isaac, his wife Rivkah fooled him by dressing her son to resemble Esav, so Yakov should receive Isaac's blessings rather than Esav.

Sarah, the first Jewess, the wife of Abraham, the first Jew, despised Abraham's son, Yishmael. She told Abraham to chase him away because she wanted her son, Isaac, to be heir to Abraham's legacy. This did not sit well with Abraham who loved Yishmael, but then came the command of G-d to Abraham, "Everything your wife Sarah tells you to do - obey her!" (Gen. 21:12)

In fact, the very first couple on earth, Adam and Eve, also featured a grand act of deception. Eve, knowing they mustn't eat from the Tree of Good and Bad, gave Adam to eat despite the prohibition by G-d. She fell prey to the snake's guile. This couple may not be considered "Jewish" in the formal sense but because they had all-inclusive, collective souls, they certainly contained the Jewish element as well. The snake had been their downfall, and the snake's deed will have had to be rectified throughout the following generations by producing the seed of Moshiach - by the wile of women - as a countermeasure to the snake who overwhelmed Eve. ("Moshiach" has the same gematria as "snake")

Not only are these critical junctures moments that define future outcomes by female dominance, it may well define the very fabric built into Judaism, casting its destiny to rectify the original sin. This pattern will boldly stand out during the times of Moshiach, when, as Jeremiah depicts, "the woman will spin the man" (Jer. 31:21). King Moshiach will be the most humble of men, in part because he will know full well he wears his crown in ancestral tribute to the women who outmaneuvered their men at decisive junctures.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Torah Possession Includes its Handoff

The "Ethics of Our Fathers" starts out saying,
"Moses accepted the Torah from Sinai and transferred it to Yehoshua"
"משה קבל תורה מסיני ומסרה ליהושע"

A previous post explained this verse regarding the decline in Torah intellect over the generations, from that of Moses to ours, from the "brain" generation to our "heel" generation. We learned this from the Maharal's explanation of the different verbs used in this verse, to "accept" and to "transfer", when either verb on its own would have sufficed.

The Rebbe sheds a different light on why this verse invokes both verbs. It says, "Moses accepted the Torah ... and transferred it ...." Says the Rebbe, this verse teaches us that in order to acquire Torah, the way to do it right and effectively requires that the person first assume an accepting attitude, as in "Moses accepted", when he was in totally receptive mode vis a vis G-d.

One cannot learn Torah unless he lays aside his ego to totally accept everything Torah has to offer, without the interference of any pre-conceived notions or hidden biases. The Hebrew term for this conceptual attitude is "Bitul" (ביטול), self-cancellation.

It's like the need to empty out any dirt from a cup before pouring clean water into it, otherwise the clean water too will become dirty. It is like the planted seed in the ground that first must undergo a deterioration before it can sprout and become a plant. It is like the steps backward taken by a highjumper before he makes his jump, so he can clear a higher altitude. In other words, it is a descent that must be taken for the sake of a yet greater ascent.

This preparatory self-abnegation requires a slight exertion, but is well worth it because of the greater space it provides for Torah knowledge. One final analogy from organic chemistry: It's like the extra energy input required by a chemical reaction, to achieve its "activation energy" level, so that it yields a much greater energy discharge than was available in its previous state.

But even with a good attitude upon entry for studying Torah, says the Rebbe, there is still another important facet before its effective conclusion. Studying Torah well, on its own, cannot constitute its completion, until the next stage too is practiced, namely, transferring to someone else what you learned. Learning for oneself is not the ideal. It's best if what you learn you can then pass on to someone else. That's when you will have completed your learning properly and that's also when you'll know best you actually "got it".

First you must be in "receptive mode"; But afterwards, you must also be in "transmit mode". To keep Torah for yourself is not the ideal way to learn Torah.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Think Good, and It Will Be Good!"

Shmuel and his bride, soon after their wedding, packed their bags and headed to South Florida, where they became emmissaries of the Rebbe, doing outreach to Jews and Gentiles alike, teaching Jews about Torah and mitzvot, and Gentiles about the 7 Noahide Laws. They went without a dime, but thinking positively seems enough to fuel their spirits, even their upkeep. There are very few who can turn away from Shmuel's vibrant, exuberant personality. Here are a few pictures that speak for themselves:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Casting the Jewish Royal Lineage

When Lot's oldest daughter persuaded her sister they sleep with their father, she said, " ... so we can give life to seed from our father." (Gen. 19:32) She didn't say, "so we can have children." This seed of Lot will, thereafter, worm its way through successive generations to take its final, eminent status of being integrated into the genetic constitution that will produce the last Jewish King, Moshiach.

Lot's seed passed into the womb of his oldest daughter, which created the nation of Moav, from whence, it traversed after many generations, via Ruth, to be grafted onto the Jewish seed of Boaz, the great-grandfather of King David, to become part of the Jewish Royal genome.

The younger daughter also took her father's seed and this too wormed its way through the generations, dwelling temporarily in the nation of Ammon until it was grafted onto the Jewish Royal genome, when Naama, a princess of Ammon, married King Solomon. Their child, Rechavam, then passed forward this new Jewish genetic mosaic, now genetically complete with contributions from Moav and Ammon, to propagate a dynasty from which King Moshiach will rise forth in the future.

As these genetic contributions from Lot were making their way forward, the main Jewish genome, to which they will graft onto, originated with Jacob's son, Yehuda. But not from the combination made by Yehuda and his first wife, but rather via the seed generated together with his daughter-in-law, Tamar. Their child, Peretz, carried forward the Jewish Royal genome. Along its trail, it arrived at Boaz, where the uptake was made by the contribution of Moav. Four generations later the Ammon contribution was taken up. At this point, the Jewish Royal genome was complete, insofar as all the necessary grafting had taken place, and now flowed through purely Jewish channels. The final possessor of this sovereign genome will be King Moshiach.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Transformation Soon to Happen

"I see the stick from an almond tree," so says Jeremiah the prophet at the outset of this week's Haftarah. Our sages explain the connection between the almond prophecy and the Temple's destruction. The almond develops from a blossom into a ripe fruit in 21 days. Similarly, we have 21 days between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B'Av, "the three weeks".

Is this temporal commonality the only connection between the almond and the 3 weeks, or is there a deeper significance?

The Torah is remarkably accurate. Sometimes we see this clearly, other times with a little effort. The Talmud says there are two types of almonds, large and small. The small ones start out tasty, but, when ripe, they turn bitter. In contrast, the large ones start out bitter, but, when mature, they taste sweet.

The implication is clear. These 3 weeks represent days of bitterness for Jews, yet their purpose is to transform bitterness into sweetness, darkness into true light.

If this was what we were meant to understand, why did Jeremiah have to make mention of "a stick"? He could have spoken of the almond alone?

Perhaps it's to hint at the beatings and suffering Jews will have to tolerate during the exile. More likely, however, the hard branch comes to depict hardness or stiffness, suggesting that particularly during hard times, the stiffness of the Jew under duress can evoke his ability to transform what's bad into good.

The Holy Shlah says that all events that transpire during the week, can be found in the corresponding Torah portion. The name of our Torah portion is Matot - hard branches, like that of which a stick is derived. It says, Moses spoke to the heads of the Matot - tribes. (Mateh can mean a "tribe" and it can mean also a "hard branch".)

Why then didn't scripture refer to the heads of the tribes using the more common word for tribes, Shevatim? (Shevet means a "tribe" also it also means a "young, supple branch".)

Both the hard branch and soft branch come from the same tree. The soft Shevet, however, still shows signs of life: It bends easily and still reflects its dependency to be united with the tree. The hard Mateh, on the other hand, shows no sign of life, it's completely dry. Nevertheless, of the two, it's the Mateh that depicts toughness.

As long as Jews lived during an enlightened period, when the Temple stood erect on its mount and Godliness was apparent, they were connected with their source in an obvious bond, like a Shevet, the soft branch of a tree that gives it life.

Precisely when conditions are dark and bad, when no source for life-force is apparent, can the spark of Jewishness, the inner essence of the Jew, be identified and felt intimately bonded to God. The Mateh might still give indication that at last some connection remains with it life-source. The stick, once off the tree, has no apparent connection at all. Precisely then the strength, or toughness, needed to transform the diaspora mentality to one of redemptive reality becomes apparent. The surplus potential inherent in the individual then becomes exposed, revealing his awesome power that can transform the darkness of exile into the light of redemption.

We see this theme expressed in the 3 topics of our Torah portion: Vows; The war against Midian and the distribution of booty; And the request made by the tribes Reuven and Gad.

Vows, as such, are deemed unacceptable. But if a person finds himself in a rut, a vow may help him avert a further slump. But more importantly, the father or husband who holds the power to annul a vow, also holds the power to raise the person to a higher level, to obviate the impetus to make a vow.

The Midianite war was waged against those culpable for the lives of thousands of Jews who couldn't withstand seduction. After their victory, the Jews took a good portion of the booty and sanctified it. Taking property from the lowly Midianites and consecrating it to God is tantamount to transforming darkness into light.

The request of Reuven and Gad seemed heretic at first, as if they refused to fight the Canaanites and settle the Holy Land. However their kept to their promise to fight. In fact, they charged to the front of each battle as the juggernaut against the enemy. Moreover, they conquered many cities East of the Jordan River, cities soaked in idolatry, and gave these cities sacred names, thus transforming darkness into light.

So shall it be for all Jews in the very near future, transforming the painful, dark exile into a bright redemption. After all, the almond or almond tree, in Hebrew, also means "in a hurry".

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Modernity in Torah

Those who underrate Torah, because it can't be relevant in "modern" times (usually the bane of Reformists), also underrate its divine authorship. It's as if to say God is blind to future developments.

King David wrote (Psalms (94), "He who formed the eye, will he not see?" To think Torah cannot incorporate modernity stems from poor Torah knowledge or lack of faith in God; Probably both.

This week's Torah portion (Mattos) illustrates such an example. Upon their return from defeating the Midianites, Moses orders some warriors to remain beyond the inner camp's borders for 7 days, to undergo purification. Who requires this purification? Anyone who, "killed a person or touched a dead body." (Deut 31:19)

Suppose some warriors killed the enemy using their bows and arrows, where others used their swords - would that make a difference?

Indeed it would! Our sages explain that the Torah's juxtaposing the phrases "killed a person" and "touched a dead body" comes to teach that only killing by way of touching, namely, by use of a weapon as an extension of the hand, such as a sword, qualifies for being rendered impure, because that's "like touching" - via an instrument.

So, had a Jewish archer killed a Midianite with his arrow, he could thereafter go straightaway to the inner camp and need not be delayed by the 7-day purification process. Not so the soldier who used his sword for the kill.

Today, in "modern" times, the same differential of law would apply, for example, were someone killed with a bullet - or with a bayonet.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Orthodoxy - I'll Take Mine Plain, Thank You

I am a member of a mislabeled group, the "Ultra-Orthodox". Chances are high we got this name, and why the name persists, because of derision or condescension. In truth, however, it should be labeled "Orthodox".

Another circle of Jews call themselves orthodox - these are your so-called "Modern Orthodox". It seems, however, that a better name for this "modern" element would be "Shaven Orthodox", for mostly this feature alone distinguishes them from the Ultra crowd.

Which brings me to my point. We ought simply to be called "Orthodox", without the Ultra prefix, because the only feature suggested by Ultra is already indicated by removal of the Modern prefix. There ought to be only two streams of Orthodox, the Modern variety and the Plain variety. So thank you very much for dropping and avoiding the Ultra adjective because it implies, quite inappropriately, that we are "too much" orthodox - which is laughable! That's like saying someone is "too-pregnant"!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Father Dons Tefillin

The Tanya teaches us the Jew possesses two souls, an "Animal soul" and a "Godly soul". Both are constantly at war with each other to prevail over the actions of the body. Those that know about this war usually have an easier time of it to provide the advantage to the Godly soul. Those who do not know about it more often side with the demands of the Animal soul. The trick is to get the Animal soul to go along with the Godly soul so it recognizes that it's for its own benefit.

Here's a story where the Godly soul wins out, from external pressure, but the next time the Godly soul will encounter less resistance to do its will.

(Told by Gutman Locks, at the Western Wall, who reaches us to Jews to inspire them to walk in God's ways.)

The Boy Did It

The man refused to put on tefillin. Israelis can be very tough, and once they say “No”, they do not want to appear weak by giving in and changing their minds. So, first I try to soften them up.

“Okay then, instead of putting on tefillin, give your son a blessing.”

This is my first move in such cases. They are almost always very attached to their children, and they usually agree to give them a blessing. I had him put his right hand on the boy’s head and read the blessing of the kohanim (priests). This is the traditional blessing fathers give their children on Friday night after coming home from the synagogue.

After the blessing, I told him to pray for what he wanted G-d to give the boy. The fathers always reach into their hearts for the best that they could possibly wish for their sons.

He did all this, but still, when I tried again to have him put on tefillin, he refused. Okay, so his refusal was a tiny bit softer than when I first asked, but his “No” still meant “No!” So I pulled out my biggest tool.

I turned to the little boy and said, “Tell your father to put on tefillin.”

The little boy picked up on it right away. He looked up at his father and said, “Aba, put on tefillin.”

The father looked down at his son and said, “Do you want me to put on tefillin?”

The boy said, “Yes.”

The father smiled, and we walked over to the tefillin stand and put on tefillin.

I told the boy, “This is your mitzvah. It is only because of you your father is putting on tefillin.” He beamed.

From the picture above, you see they had a good time with the tefillin. They always do. It’s just the animal inclination that we all have that refuses to do a mitzvah. Our holy inclination loves to do mitzvahs, but you have to get the animal one to agree.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gender Gap for Bridging

Some gender differences, most of which we discover after marriage, usually hit us by surprise:

1) If a woman finds herself in company of others, say at a wedding, and sees another woman wearing the same dress as she has on, she becomes distressed! Even some anger can well up from her stress. She wants badly to project uniqueness, and that other lady's outfit renders her's a forgery!

Just the opposite for men! If a man finds himself standing out in the crowd, say because he's wearing a yellow suit, when other men are wearing dark suits, he'd be mighty embarrassed. He'd much rather meld in than stand out.

2) The amount of clothes to have - as a bare necessity, varies with gender. A man needs two or three pairs of shoes, a few shirts, a few of this and a few of that, and that's it.

A woman, on the other hand, if she doesn't have a pair of shoes of some particular color, or a blouse of some style, may well feel herself justified when she proclaims, "I have nothing to wear". At this pont, her man may well not understand and point out she has a closet overstuffed with clothes, but he does not understand that, all those clothes notwithstanding, she simply has nothing to wear if she's missing that one item of some particular feature. She actually "needs" it! This need will always remain a mystery to the man.

These "needs" begins quite early in a woman's life. From about 12 years old!

3) A woman feels that every aspect of her home is her responsibility. Every room has to look just right, according to her taste. Now if she wants to take a break, she has to leave the house to feel relaxed, to get away from it all. She cannot just retire to a given room and there feel relaxation because every room reminds her of work, every room registers with her as a burden to care for. When she needs a break, she must remove herself from every place for which she bears responsibility. Only by leaving the whole house behind can she relax.

A man, on the other hand, can easily relax at home. He simply goes to some room or desk and there relaxes. For him, leaving the work premises and coming home offers him his leisure. The "entire" house does not weigh him down psychologically, as it does his wife.

4) To listen to a woman, a man must know he's not "listening" as long as he does not look her in the eye. Were he to say, "I'm listening", and in fact he is, but as long as he does not look at her, she feels she's talking to a wall, and could become depressed by this.

A man, on the other hand, can separate his ears for listening, irrespective of where his eyes are focused.

- But of course, these vast differences notwithstanding, the gender gap can be bridged to make for a more solid relationship. To practice medicine, accounting or plumbing, we need either a degree or apprenticeship; To be a mate, we're thrown into the test without any of these. A positive attitude, however, takes us over the humps.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Retribution for Miscarriage of Justice in Iowa

The perversion of justice for Shlomo Rubashkin by Iowa's court may not be connected to the severe flooding in the state in the estimation of those apathetic to or pleased with his incarceration. The defendant now awaits a ruling on an appeal in the appellate court.

If they keep up this judicial misconduct, I bet Hashem has worse scenarios for them in the offing.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

How to Achieve Love

Hillel had declared, "Whatever you wouldn't want done to you, don't do onto others," and he added, "This motto constitutes the core of all Torah".

Twelve generations later Rabbi Akiva said, "Love your friend as you would yourself." After Hillel's declaration, and given that the Torah itseld commands us to do so explicitly (Lev. 19:18), what was so grand or so novel about Rabbi Akiva's pronouncement; And wasn't it just another way of saying the same thing Hillel said?

In fact, Rabbi Akiva's ancillary statement carries for us the main lesson. Regarding the Torah's exhortation, he added, "This is a great generality of Torah!" (זה כלל גדול בתורה)

But first, let's understand: How can Torah command us to love our fellow man, expecting us to evoke an emotion? The emotion is either there, or it's not; Since when can we be masters over emotion?

In fact, we can sway the mind to exert control over the heart. Our very anatomy suggests it, for man's brain is perched at a higher altitude than his heart. It may involve a learning process to master this feat, but it's feasible. An animal, in contrast, whose brain and heart are at the same level, cannot exert control over its emotions. (Don't ask me about the giraffe!?)

This is what Rabbi Akiva comes to add, after telling us to love our fellow Jew. He provides a formula how to achieve this love.

By saying, "This is a great generality of Torah", Rabbi Akiva tells us we can accomplish this emotional feat in two steps. First, know it's a generality (כלל); And second, know it's a great generality (כלל גדול).

If you remember, we defined love earlier; Its meaning is "to give‫"‬ or "to want to give". In terms of love, "generality", which mean a grouping of specifics, implies having to give many things. And a "great generality" implies having to give ‫-‬ very many things. We did speak before of paying attention to small details to make for a good relationship (either to God or to a wife).

To achieve love in marriage, for example, it is important to respect the wishes of the mate, whether or not they seem trivial. Add up these little niceties and you begin to create love. Add up very many of these - and, presto, you achieve love!

In contrast, imagine how deficient would be the marriage if either mate were simply self-consumed, self-oriented all the time?
This כלל גדול explanation I think I heard attributed to the Previous Rebbe.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

A People of Miracles

Years ago someone asked the Rebbe, "Is it proper to educate children to believe in miracles?".

You wonder what planet some people live on, with the questions they raise. After all, from the moment of its inception, the Jewish nation was fostered on miracles and super miracles. It started with our very first forefather, when Abraham was safeguarded from Nimrod's inferno. Isaac, our second forefather, was born to Sarah who, a barren woman, first gave birth at the age of 90. What about the splitting of the Reed Sea, the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, or the wars Joshua fought to conquer the Land of Israel?

What about the miracles after destruction of the Temple, namely, the miracles of Purim and Chanukah? And what about the very existence of the Jewish people until now, remaining pure-bred over 3,700 years, surviving as a lamb among 70 wolves?

The Rebbe responded thus (roughly translated), "Firstly, I must say, and hope you'll excuse me for it, it does not cross my mind that you do not believe in miracles! ... For in our time, if a Jew were to say he doesn't believe in the supernatural, it's self-deception ... Were he simply to open his eyes and lay aside superstitions, he'll not have to 'believe' in miracles, because he'll see them with his fleshy eyes!"

The Rebbe wrote this letter some 50 years ago, in 1962!

Today, after the Six-day War; After the Yom Kippur War; After the downfall of the mighty Soviet Union that fought so hard to extinguish worship of God; After the Gulf War, when 39 Scud missiles landed on Israel, only causing some scratches; After the Israeli government offered the so-called "Palestinians" 97% of their land requests and Arafat obstinately refused; And so many others times - why, miracles have become commonplace!

We the Jewish People always have been an ongoing miracle; And shall be, forever. If anything, these miracles are becoming more obvious, collectively and individually. We only need to open our eyes to see them for what they are.

Everything and all of life is a miracle; It's just that with Jews it's more obvious!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Nuggets from 770

Nothing happens in the world without some hint of it in Torah.

Let's take the date the Rebbe disappeared from Nature's landscape: Gimmel Tammuz, 5754.

The gematria of Gimmel Tammuz 5754 is found in Tanach one time - where the entire verse is taken into account: Beraishis 35, 21; "And Yisrael travelled, and pitched his tent (אהל) beyond Tower Eder."

One of the greatest sages ever, Yonatan Ben Uziel, wrote a commentary on Torah and the Prophets, revealing therein many secrets. Here is his rendition of this verse: "And Yakov moved, and pitched his tent beyond the Tower of Eder, a place wherefrom in the future King Moshiach will be revealed in the end of days."

Does this verse not capture the essence of the Rebbe?

[And if you'll allow me to splurge on a private interpretation: The Jewish leader of his flock (עדר) has moved (מסתלק) "beyond the אהל", where he'll again be revealed.]

Sunday, July 03, 2011

In Honor of the Owner

Yishai had a son Dovid. Dovid had a son Natan. All three names have 3 letters that read the same way forwards and backwards.


Here's an improvised reason, albeit inadequate, but at least provides food for thought:

The Song of Songs (1,9), in describing the profound love G-d has for the Jewish people, refers to the beloved Israel in the eyes of Hashem, as, "My horse among the chariots of Pharoah." Not much of a complement - unless you understand the verse correctly.

Horses were the military pride of Egypt. They hauled the chariots that comprised Egypt's "tanks". Horses were probably the sole property of the army.

We know from the Midrash Egyptian soldiers would elaborately decorate their steeds with expensive jewelry, as when the Jews enriched themselves with this booty when the dead Egyptians, together with their horses, were disgorged onto the shore where the Jews had crossed the Reed Sea.

The horse, despite all the wealth it toted, remained a horse, of course. Similarly, Jews, although they too were adorned with the most valuable of all possessions, the Torah, and with the most valuable mores, the mitzvot of the Torah, thereby earning a closeness to The Creator, they remained a humble people.

In other words, all that Jews had and all that they did, served them only to offer praise to G-d, who gave them these presents. The adornments they prided themselves in were for the sole purpose of bringing honor to the owner of the universe. It did not make them arrogant.

You will recall how King David would dance, whistle and flip about all along the route to Jerusalem, when transporting the Holy Ark to its rightful place. In fact, his wife Michal, the daughter of King Saul, upon seeing this, chastised him for behavior she thought was beneath his dignity. This did not faze him, however, because David loved G-d thoroughly and everything he did, he did for G-d's glory.

David externally reflected his inner convictions. Inside or outside, there was no difference. Most probably he learned this attitude and love of G-d from his father Yishai, And most probably his son Natan copied this attitude from his father.

They all behaved like that beloved horse that, no matter his possessions and no matter his esteemed status - he remained a horse, behaving steadfastly for the sake of his boss, without letting things "get to his head".

Horse, in Hebrew,
is also a 3-letter word that reads the same forwards and backwards, probably because it behaves with the same devotion to its rider, any way you dress it up.