Archive for 2010

Bnot Zelophehad: The 50th Gate

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

The following comes from Reb Zalman on this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas. [NOTES by Gabbai Seth Fishman]

This week, in addition to determining the initial division of the land among the tribes,

[NOTE: Based upon the count of males in each tribe from the time when they had first entered Egypt and also the count of males in the census taken in this portion (Numbers 26:1 ff)],

a system of inheritance was also set up with the goal of preserving the initial parcels of land as an eternal inheritance for each patriarch’s progeny. 

While the law of the Torah concerning inheritance granted the land to the male heirs, there had been no provision for a person who died with only female offspring.

The five daughters of Zelophehad came to Moses, (Numbers 27:1 ff), and asked him if they could inherit their father’s land.   The Torah tells us, (Numbers 27:5), that Moses brought their just claim to God and the word for “just claim” in Hebrew, MishpataN has a final letter Nun written larger:

וַיַּקְרֵב משֶׁה אֶת־מִשְׁפָּטָן לִפְנֵי יְיָ

[NOTE:  According to tradition, when a Sofer writes this phrase in a Torah, the final Nun is written bigger.  The letter Nun is 50 in Gematria.] 

The Kabbalah tells us of 50 Gates of understanding, called Binah.  It is precisely to that 50th gate that Moses had to appeal for an answer to the claim of the women.  While the first 49 Gates given to us are in reach of our understanding and can be accessed with our awareness in conditions of purity,

[NOTE:  For example, when we consciously count Sefirot and the Omer],

the 50th gate is beyond our understanding. 


Mah Tovu: An Organismic Whole

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

The following comes from Reb Zalman on this week’s Torah portion, Balak.  [NOTES by Gabbai Seth Fishman

When Balak called on Bilaam to come and curse the people, 

Balak, as we get it  from the Torah, was an Aramean, because Pethor, the city where Balaam was, was near the Euphrates and not quite where the Moabite country was.

[NOTE:  Numbers 22:5, “Balak sent messengers to … Pethor, which is by the river of the land of his people.”]

now there are several words being used for curse:

The Zohar has a remarkable thing about how Balak was a magician. 

[NOTE:  Zohar Balak (3:184b) states that Balak was called “ben Tzipor because he would use a bird as a means to perform his magic and he also understood wisdom by way of a bird.]

For Balak, there was something impossible at that point about handling the Jewish people’s presence, and therefore, he wanted to have a kind of curse put on.  Not everybody believes that verbal curses or magic and voodoo can really influence things, but this is exactly what Balak wanted; he really believed that curses work.

The lightest curse is kal, l-kalel, which comes from “making light off,” and just sort of like, “insulting.”

The next one is arur which is really much stronger.  And it was this second kind of curse, arur, that Balak wanted to do. 

Aror is to remove the protection from somebody.  A person under the influence of a curse of Arur will not then be protected.  Then, the karmic power that was to have taken vengeance on a person is able to do so. 


The Red Heifer

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

In this week’s portion, parshat chukat, we read about the Red Heifer.  Reb Zalman writes: 

“The issue about the Red Heifer has puzzled people through the ages.  Many a time, they have come and given a reason to it.  But according to the basic understanding, the red Heifer and its rules are a chok, that is to say, a law that is not up to reason.

[NOTE:  Not up to reason, meaning that whether or not it makes sense is not relevant.  The three kinds of Mitzvot:  Mishpatim, Edut and Chukim, are compared to three kinds of K’tav practiced by scribes.  Each type of mitzvah is engraved inside of us to a greater or lesser degree.    Chok, compared to otiyot chakika / letters of engraving, is the most deeply engraved and the hardest to erase.]

“And I have the sense that it has a certain kind of shamanic element about it.


Tammuz and the Land

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

The following text by Reb Zalman is from this week’s Torah portion, Shabbos Shlach Lecha. (Click here for Hebrew/English version). [Notes by Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor]:

Written for Shabbat preceding new month of Tammuz, 5743 / 1983 in the Holy Land

Send out for yourself men who will scout the land (Numbers 13:2)

The divine name, YHVH, for the month of Tammuz, according to the tradition of permutation of letters, is found in an acronym of last letters from the verse, (Esther 5:13) “zeH (Heh) eynenU (Vav) shoveH (Heh) lI (Yod) / this is worthless to me,” which spells YHVH backwards, i.e. HVHY.

[NOTE:  This is the verse found in Siddurim that show the monthly permutations of the name.  Cf, for all the months and their texts as found in Siddur Ha-Ari.] 

And consider: The sign of Tammuz is Cancer, its quality is water sign and its chief characteristic is the level of wife as center of household and family, the astrological House of the Home. The particular letter for this month is chet and sense, hearing, which goes beyond all the senses.

For this time of year, a theme is the churban / destruction of the Holy Temple

[NOTE:  From the 17th of Tammuz to the 9th of Av is the period of mourning.] 

in the name of ADN”Y

[NOTE:  Each name of God alludes to a different Sefirah, and this one alludes to Malchut.]

and, for this reason, Moshe prayed:  (Numbers 14:17) Now, please, let the strength of ADN”Y be increased, as You spoke, saying

[NOTE:  S/He gave us the thirteen attributes to invoke Hir mercy.]

for at this time,

[NOTE: Of Tammuz; of the destruction.] 

the power of DiBBuR / speaking right is very weakened.

[NOTE: Moshe prayed to the name Adn”y to strengthen the power of speech.]

For, (Exodus 14:3) “Closed in upon them is hamiDaBBeR / the power of speech” and there is no Peh-sach / open mouth (Pri etz chayimShaar Mikra kodesh 80:4).

[NOTE:  Usually read as “Closed in upon them is hamidbar / the desert; and Pesach / Passover.]


Washing of Garments

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

The following text by Reb Zalman is from this week’s Torah portion, Shabbos Behaalotecha. (Click here for Hebrew/English version). [Notes by Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor]:

  • (Numbers 8:7) … then they shall wash their garments and be purified.

[NOTE: This is from instructions for preparing the Levites for their service.  Reb Shneur Zalman has pointed out that this is not just about the clothes they were wearing.]

being that three “garments” of the nefesh / soul: Machshavah / thought, Dibbur / speech and Maaseh / action should be clean.

[NOTE:  Garments are, in general, the visible, external trappings that cover things behind, things not visible to the eyes.  In the analogy here presented, the “garments” represent outward manifestation of realities. Behind them are invisible causes or mysteries. 

Simply put, we must clean up actions, clean up speech, and clean up thoughts.  The deeper we clean, the closer we move, (as the Levites in our text), toward God’s service.  ]

For, there’s the remnant “neshama / soul that You gave me” – from long since – “it was pure.”

[NOTE:  When we enter the world, our Neshama is pure and it remains so despite anything we may do, say or think that is not.  (Neshama and nefesh are both words for “soul” but the former is a part of us that is always close to God.)]

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
from Yishmiru Daat (2009 revision),
Parashat Behaalotecha,” p. 34

The Underpinnings of Spiritual Intimacy

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

The following text by Reb Zalman is from this week’s Torah portion, Shabbos BaMidbar. (Click here for Hebrew/English version). [Notes by Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor]:

(Numbers 4:2) Make a count of the sons of…, etc.

[NOTE:  The Hebrew used,  Naso et rosh / make a count has another meaning of “lift up the head.”]

Lifting up the head. 

In order for the intellect to become a garment for the soul, the intellect has to spread itself and make a lot of wide space as follows:

(Psalms 24:7) Se’u / Raise up she’arim rosheichem / your mind’s imagination–

(Proverbs 31:23), Her husband is known b’she’arim / in the gates–

Read she’arim / gates as ha-hash’arot / the imaginal expansions, (i.e., awakeness as a shafel).

[NOTE:  And read, “her husband” as referring to God.

Reb Zalman tells of a conversation with his daughter Shalvi as a young child:
“Abba, after you sleep, you wake up, right?”
“Yes” he replied.
“Abba, after you are already awake, can you wake up even more?”

I’ve heard Zalman often cite his late teacher, Reb Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch for cultivating the imaginal faculty in his hasidim.]


It Coulda’ Been You and Jewish Stress Mgmt

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

The following text by Reb Zalman is from this week’s Torah portion, Shabbos BeHar. (Click here for Hebrew/English version). [Notes by Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor]:

(Leviticus 25:39) And if your friend becomes destitute – with you – and is sold to you.

[NOTE:  Achicha, (literally, “your brother”), has been translated as “your friend” throughout to keep the language gender neutral.  The words, “with you,” in this text, is understood as one who lives with you, i.e.,  nearby.  Gabbai Seth]

How could this have happened that your friend fell to such a low level that s/he is now being sold to you?

The likelihood is that the rich person was suppressed having fallen too with hir. For if the rich one could have been generous s/he would surely have lent support to hir friend so that the latter wouldn’t have had to become a servant.

And so, you have no right to work hir with low-paid, back-breaking work like an unskilled laborer, because it could have been you.

[NOTE:  The words, “with you,” can also be understood as you being with your friend in destitution.  If you don’t want to be treated that way if it happens to you, then don’t treat your friend that way.]


Tziruf / Permutations

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

In Tikkunei Zohar 9b it states that for each Hebrew month, there is a different permutation (“tziruf“) of the holy name YHVH

There are a total of 12 unique ways that the four letters with two repeated can be arranged (i.e. YHVH, YHHV, YVHH, HVHY, HVYH, HHVY, VHYH, VHHY, VYHH, HYHV, HYVH, HHYV) and each month has its unique combination.

Click here for a table of the months, in Hebrew and English – scroll down -, and their corresponding permutations).

Here’s some more from Reb Zalman on tziruf:


Being Capable to Receive

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

The following text by Reb Zalman is from this week’s Torah portion, Shabbos Emor. (Click here for Hebrew/English version). [Notes by Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor]:

In various places, it is written, DaBeR / Speak to the Children of Israel.  This week’s portion, begins,  (Leviticus 21:1), EMoR / Say to the priests.

 [NOTE:  The two verbs being used in these lines have similar meanings, but are different in the ways they were interpreted by the Rabbis:  DaBer / speak and Emor / say.  God tells Moses to speak to the people and this is traditionally interpreted as rough and censorious.  God tells Moses to say to the priests and this is interpreted as gentle communication.]

(AMiRah / A pledge to God is the equivalent of paying – – cf Nedarim 29)

[NOTE:  If the substance of a declaration is internalized and acted upon, the declaration’s tone is effectively superfluous.  Conversely, one can declare something with great emphasis and then act in a manner inconsistent with what one declared.]

To a priest who is a person of grace, it suffices b’AMiRah / to say it in gentle terms. (cf Rashi, Exodus 19:3).

And the important thing of ha-AMiRah / the saying is the content. On the other hand, with DiBuR / speech, it is like (Psalms 47:4) “yaDBeR Ammim / He directs the nations to be compliant,” more akin to a command and direction for someone with a “stiff neck,” (i.e. giving resistance.)

[NOTE:  Each person works on becoming more capable to receive, i.e. choosing to be hir best and spending time cultivating gifts that are hir particular inheritance.] 


Installing “Ought” In “Is,” Halevay

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

The following text by Reb Zalman is from this week’s Torah portion, Shabbos Acharei Mot-Kedoshim. (Click here for Hebrew/English version). [Notes by Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor]:

You shall surely rebuke your fellow, but you shall not bear a sin on his account.” (Leviticus 19:17).

Show hir how they showed you too of your wrong and they rebuked you when you sinned, for you and s/he are together in this regard.

[NOTE:  The starting point for rebuke is compassion and empathy.  My friend’s transgression is, perhaps, something I have done, or like something I have done.]

“… et amitecha,” i.e., im amitecha / together with  your folk.

[NOTE:  Seeing yourself as not greater than is the ground in which the learning may be planted.]