Archive for the ‘Torah Portions’ Category

With Time’s Passing, Satisfaction

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Here is a link to the Hebrew text.

You shall not take from him interest or increase, and you shall fear your God, and let your brother live with you. (Lev 25:36)

(Psalms 91:16) “With the length of days I will satisfy him and I will show him my salvation.

Whether we are a lender or a borrower, as time passes, the loan participant feels differently about the passing of time depending on the role: If we’re the borrower, we want time to slow down because we are reluctant for the payment date to come.  On the other side, if we are the lender, then we want time to speed up to get that extra money.  Therefore, “You shall not take from him interest or increase,” because if you can remove this from your time-baggage then you will be able to better live with a sense of satisfaction.

(Leviticus ibid) “And the ones you are close with are with you,” you are not alone in dealing with a feeling of time-pressure. And you are not alone in wanting to feel satisfied with the passing of time, to feel an alignment between your desire to live a long life, your enjoyment of living and the goal of “With the length of days I will satisfy him,” that their years will be satisfying ones.


For May Day

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Click here for the Hebrew text

If one with whom you are close has become destitute and is now under your control in a hierarchical way  – עמך –  then you, too, must have fallen when he did.  (Leviticus 25:39)

How could it have happened that one with whom you were close has lost dignity, felt desperate, powerless, without resources and is now under your control?

The answer is that something got in the way of the rich person’s feeling like helping.  He didn’t take action.  He could have done something to prevent this from happening.  Had he stepped in with generosity, then the one with whom he is close wouldn’t have plunged to the depths.

And therefore you have fallen.  And therefore, you don’t have a right to put him to work doing something for which he is not suited.

You Shall Count Sefirot For Yourselves

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

The following is based on a Hebrew Text from Reb Zalman’s Sefer, Yishmiru Daat.  Click here for Reb Zalman’s text in Hebrew. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman)

(Leviticus 23: 15):

You shall count Sefirot for  yourselves / וספרתם לכם

i.e., your preoccupation should be one of bringing within qualities of inner light for inner shining,

following the example of Shabbos / ממחרת השבת

i.e. the kind of holiness you have on Pesach should spill forth into the days that follow,

from the day you bring the Omer as a wave offering
/ מיום הביאכם את עומר התנופה

to raise up the cattle food (meaning you’re raising up your Nefesh HaBehamit / animal soul), – whoever does this gives something of a brightness to the inner self.  From the day (Pesach) on which you raise yourselves from the world to Him Yitbarach,

there will be seven weeks with qualities of simple wholeness,
                                                        / שבע שבתות תמימות תהיינה

the weeks will become seven shabbosim which are going to spill over into the other days of the week,

until the day after the seventh week then you’re counting fifty days
                                         / עד ממחרת השבת השביעית תספרו חמישים יום

it’s likely that you will catch a glimpse of the fiftieth gate and then you will have acquired a receptivity for the holy Torah (on Shavuot).

Talk Gently

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

The following is based on a Hebrew Text from Reb Zalman’s Sefer, Yishmiru DaatClick here for Reb Zalman’s text in Hebrew. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman)

(Leviticus 21:1) While the Torah frequently uses language such as DaBeR / speak to the Children of Israel – in this week’s Parashah it says EMoR / talk gently to the priests. (According to the Talmud, if you can talk gently to God the impact you will have on this plane is increased to such an extent that you will accomplish what you said you would Nedarim 29). To a priest, who already comes from a place of chesed / lovingkindness, (for this comes with the territory), you can just say it simply and quietly with a gentle tone, (cf Rashi, Exodus 19:3 where he says that you sometimes need to speak harshly and the implication is perhaps that this is required if the people are not from a place of chesed). But the essential element of saying something is the content of the message you are trying to get across which is not what is emphasized in (Psalms 47:4) “yaDBeR / He is speaking to the nations as though they are below us.” This latter is more about ordering around and dominating those who are stubborn. (But even for the stubborn ones, if you want to cut below their defenses and make a lasting impression, you are better off going to the deeper level, letting them open to change and this will only happen if you are gentle in the way you say your angry or critical message.)

Paying Teshuvah Forward

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

The following is based on a Hebrew Text from Reb Zalman’s Sefer, Yishmiru Daat.  Click here for Reb Zalman’s text in Hebrew.  Rebuking a person can help him onto a path of Teshuvah, which begins to effect repair for the sin.  (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman)

The Torah states: “Be sure to rebuke et amitecha / your fellow group member and don’t bear a sin through him.” (Leviticus 19:17)

When a person does something wrong and we witness it, then the person is to be rebuked.  When we close our eyes to the sins of others and avoid dealing with the anxiety or stress we may feel in taking a stand, then we are being passive to the situation.  The rebuking can be a very important thing to the person, the group and the world. Let’s look more closely at how it can help.


Shamanic Ritual

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

The following is based on a Hebrew Text from Reb Zalman’s Sefer, Yishmiru Daat.  Click here for Reb Zalman’s text in Hebrew.  (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman)

In the ritual for cleansing a leper who has now been healed and, in the ritual for cleansing a house that is no longer with leprous signs, a living creature is released unharmed as a means for purification (cf., Leviticus 14:7).  So, too, with the goat for Azazel, (Leviticus 16:8) the goat is sent forth alive. In these cases, the animal is not killed; it is set free. The release functions in Shamanic fashion with the priest serving in a Shaman-role by releasing the animal back to its source and thereby effecting changes in Spirit World in a way that is similar to the function of chukim, mitzvot for which there is no logical reason according to the predominant way that we have come to think about them.

For the former cases, the priest sends forth into the wild, a living creature that is bearing the impurity of the leprosy of the person or the house. And in the case of the goat which is sent forth, there’s also a similar dynamic of impurity, because the Tabernacle (and later on the holy Temple) was all year long absorbing uncleanness from the sins and the transgressions of those bringing the sacrifices, as it is written (Isaiah 53:5), “it is pierced by our iniquities.”  Through the blemishes caused by the transgressions, there are breaches made to the containers of holiness.  By means of the breaches, some of the holy shefa, the holiness will escape outside.


Bezalel’s Calling

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Here is a teaching for Parashat Vayakhel from Reb Zalman’s Sefer Yishmiru Daat: (Click here to read the text in its original Hebrew, which is translated below by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

In Parashat Vayakhel, (cf., Exodus 35:30), Moshe tells the children of Israel that Hashem has called Bezalel by name.

When we think about this, we might feel disconnected from the experience of being the one who is called.  After all, which of us is a “Bezalel,” i.e., a master craftsman and leading artisan of our generation.  And how can we relate to the text’s stating that it is Hashem who called him to build the Mishkan?

We have an indication in the Aramaic translation of the text as to what constitutes Hashem calling somebody because the Hebrew word used, (קרא), is not translated with an Aramaic verb that means “to call” but rather, it’s translated by a verb  that means “to raise a person up,” (‘חזו דרבי ה) as when a person is promoted in his job.  So when Hashem calls a person the person is raised by it.

When we are young and in school, if we do what we’re asked we progress from grade to grade.  When we do something that causes us to be promoted at work, when we have shown what we can do and someone gives us something new, harder, of greater importance or impact — all of these are tied to the “calling”.

Along with the promotion or advancement comes healthy growth and a feeling of competence and accomplishment.


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.”


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.