Archive for the ‘Reb Zalman says’ Category

Tshuvah: Lessons from the Computer

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

What we can learn about Tshuvah from the computer

You work on your computer and you are happy with the computer’s performance but, over time, you begin to notice that the response time has gotten worse. So, you wonder, what can you do to return the computer to its previous performance?

This has happened with its being used: You were constantly using it all year and, over that time, there was “junk” accumulating somewhere behind the desktop. You acquired several “temporary files” and “cookies”. When you were making one-time stops at certain sites, they left these files on your computer and, when you did lookups in Google, you got the answers but, you didn’t count on what else you would be getting; and when you looked at particular advertisements or, you bought something over the web, the company you dealt with also left something and, you don’t need these. Then, there were some spy-ware infestations. Some of what happened was observable; you could see some of it just looking at the sidebars your web browser presented, and perhaps even some content of your e-mail was viewed by someone other than the intended recipient: So, it is time to remove “infestations”.

And not to mention, your hard drive has become fragmented. A single file that stored something you had in your word processor has splintered. It is important to defragment the drive so that the computer will not have to keep looking all over to put your files back together: So another thing you will take care of is the optimization of your disk performance.

And there’s another reason why your computer no longer works as quickly: You’ve started using more programs and you are needing more memory to run them. So the programs have started swapping out memory and using more hard drive.  In addition, there are errors in the registry that have crept in over time.  So you want to correct these problems and defrag the registry. And filenames became corrupted, invalid and unused shortcuts should be removed.


Recalibration on Yom Kippur

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Historically, Yom Kippur is the day when we actually received the Torah, though many of us would think of Shavuot as the time. [NOTE:  cf, Rashi on Exodus 33:11.]

Forty days after the Shavuot of that first year of leaving Egypt, the first time Moshe brought down the tablets, we had already worshipped the golden calf.  So we did not receive the Torah then.  Because of our having worshipped the calf, Moshe had to intercede for forty days so we might be forgiven and then, another forty:  From the first day of Ellul to Yom Kippur, when he brought down the tablets with the words, I have forgiven salachti Kid’varecha.

So the Torah that we actually receive came with a willingness on the part of the divine attribute of justice to be lenient and to forgive.

This understanding is pivotal in our attitude to Torah and her Commandments.  [NOTE: I.e., although we have made mistakes, God will not abandon us.]

When many people think of Torah and mitzvot in terms of an unforgiving strictness here we are saying in our view of history that the Torah comes with forgiveness.

We’re dealing with two obstacles [to connection].  We think that:

  1. We will never be forgiven, [NOTE: Why try to be good because we will fail] or,
  2. we don’t need to do anything in order to be forgiven; Yom Kippur will do it all for us.

In both cases, the fact that we need to do teshuvah in order for forgiveness to work is overlooked.  So when we go this year to celebrate Yom Kippur we have to see in it:

  • The celebration of reconciliation with God.

And that reconciliation is the product of our recalibrating the course of our life to be in greater harmony with the purpose for which we were created as well as the divine willingness to receive our Tshuvah.


The Time Is Now For Rosh Hashanah Preparation

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Think of Rosh Hashanah like the stem cells of the year.  They can become anything organic as they develop and grow. 

[NOTE:  Stem cell:  “A biological cell that can divide and differentiate into diverse specialized cell types.”]

The possibility that we have been given by God in the establishment of Rosh Hashanah to impress upon the substance of time the shape and color that we wish it to have is both an opportunity and a challenge to consciousness.

[NOTE:  Opportunity:  We influence the possibilities.
Challenge:  Self-control, integrity, self-knowledge, beyond blame.]

The High Holiday Prayer Book has us pray for being inscribed in the book of life.

[NOTE: .אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ, כָּתְבֵנוּ בְּסֵפֶר חַיִּים טוֹבִים]

We have an entire shopping list when we say : ” our Father our King – – Avinu Malkenu, we need this, Avinu Malkenu, … that”.

[NOTE:  Take a moment now and jot down yours.] 


The Month Of Ellul

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

This year, we’re dealing with the need for intense preparation for the high holy days.  To overcome the many crises and obstacles to harmonious life on the planet, our Tshuvah and our prayers need to be very effective.

This year:”  As the year 5771 moves toward completion, we begin the annual period for consciousness maintenance (cf. Yom Kippur Katan pamphlet from Aleph.)
Tshuvah and our prayers:” U’Tefilah, U’Teshuvah, U’Tzedaka,(from Unetaneh tokef).
prayers… very effective“:  Kavvanah, to aim the prayer by envisioning what’s needed, or “The only way to get it together is ….  together.”
This year we have dealt with floods, earthquakes, wars, unrest, economy, Fukushima Daiichi contamination, to name a few.]

We have been told that the word Ellul can be read as – –Aniy L’dodiy V’Dodiy Liy / I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.

[NOTE:  Shir HaShirim 6:3.  In Hebrew, Ellul,  אלול Aleph-Lamed-vav-Lamed can be expanded as an acronym for this quote.]

This is the line for this season whereas the line Dodiy Liy VaAniy Lo “my beloved is mine and I am his” is the statement that fits the season of Passover.

[NOTE:  For a discussion on these two lines and seasons, please see:]

What this means is that the task of a reconciliation with the source begins with us and our initiative.


Malaise and Selichot

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

The predominant theme for this time of year, the days of the month of Elul is in the word, S’lichah:  “I’m sorry for the wrongs I did.”  Please read Reb Zalman’s message.  It is a message for everyone, and especially for people who may find this time of year a challenge as the light begins to wane.  [Edited and with Notes by Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor]

It is also important to know that not everybody has to begin with the intellectual side of one’s inner malaise. 

[NOTE:  “Not everybody.”  While some will still begin the process of S’lichot drawing upon their malaise, and going to an intellectual place (i.e. staying in the head), others may begin in another way (i.e. tapping into emotions).]  

S’lihot happens in the Fall season and that means that we see the colorful beauty of the impending ending of the summer and it brings a melancholic sense to one’s physical being.

And then, too, if there are some other reasons and feelings of inferiority, guilt, spiritual dirtiness, it tends toward depression.

There’s an intuitive sense [of malaise] we become aware of — not so much in the emotional thing but an intuition that wanders off the track.

[NOTE:  Perhaps Reb Zalman has in mind a Seasonal Affective Disorder that some of us have at this time of year.] 

All these conspire to create that kind of ambience of sadness at that time.


Ahron Hakohen, Alav HaShalom

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av begins this Sunday night, July 11, 2010 at sunset.  It is also the Yahrzeit of Aaron, older brother of Moses and the first High Priest.  Please read the following thoughts for this time from Reb Zalman.  Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

The Yahrzeit of Ahron The High Priest

I am a kohen, a descendent Ahron.  (This, I was also able to verify through genetic testing.)

Descendents of Ahron have a particular genetic marker regardless of whether they are Ashkenazi or Yemenites.

I’ve given myself over to contemplating the life of my ancestor, the high priest.

Once, when I was at the Kotel, the sacred wall of the Temple, there were five rows across the plaza of Kohanim offering the priestly blessing to the people of Jerusalem and to the whole world, urbi et orbi / to the city and to the world.  It was very impressive.

Ahron, the high priest, is always faulted for having built The Golden Calf.

In my imagination I see my ancestor beleaguered by people who are missing Moses, their leader and their contact with the living God, therefore asking Ahron to make them “a God that shall lead them” (cf., Exodus 32:1, ff).  We read that he made them a Golden calf and that they worshiped it. 

I see, in my mind’s eye, an image in which the statue that he made was draped in a cloth and that the people are standing in front of it in great anticipation.

Now imagine along with me:

We are in the present, and I, Zalman, am as my ancestor, in his role, and people are asking me to make them a God. 

And here it is:  I have produced a statue for them which I’m about to unveil.

Wanting to show them how ridiculous their request is, I’ve chosen Mickey Mouse for the statue. 

I covered it with a cloth and I’m about to unveil it.

With a flourish, I pull down the cloth and say “this is your God O Israel!”

And I expect the people to get the point and then slink away in shame for having made such a foolish request. 

This, too, is the way I see what happened when Ahron unveiled the golden calf.

The trouble is, however, that when it comes to religion, people don’t have a sense of humor or irony and they take it literally. 

Oy! Oy! What a pity!  What problems this attitude creates.

Today, we are not, I believe, any much better when we take a look and consider the idols that we worship in our own day.


Vows and A Gate of Regret

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

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

In Mattot / tribes, the Torah speaks about people who make vows,  (Numbers 30:2, ff):

Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel, saying: This is the thing the Lord has commanded:  If a man makes a vow, etc.

The way in which the Torah has Moses addressing this to the heads of the tribes is unusual, and it makes us wonder why this law alone was to be addressed to the heads rather than directly to the children of Israel. 

Speech is something to be taken seriously and vows are a form of speech. 

(Psalms 33:6) “By the words of God heavens were made.” 

Words are powerful when they are not made hollow. If they are made hollow, there is a sense of desecration. As the Torah says, (Numbers 30:3),

When a person makes a vow let hir not desecrate it: According to all that comes forth from hir lips, s/he shall activate.

Then, the text goes on to say something of the circumstances in which a vow cannot be kept, as when an underage woman is still in the house of her father and her father disagrees and nullifies; or a  married woman with a husband or father who disagrees and nullifies.

So a possible explanation for this law having been addressed to the heads of the tribes is the following: 

In order to release a person who makes a vow from the vow, the head of the tribe helps the person find a “gate of regret.”


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.


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: