Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Month of Tammuz

According to Sefer Yetzirah, each month of the Jewish year has a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a zodiac sign, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, a sense, and a controlling limb of the body that correspond to it.

Tamuz is the fourth of the twelve months of the Jewish calendar. The month of Tamuz begins the "season" (tekufah) of the summer. The three months of this season, Tamuz, Av and Elul, correspond to the three tribes of the camp of Reuben--Reuben, Simeon and Gad--who were situated to the south).

Tamuz is the month of the sin of the golden calf, which resulted in the breaking of the Tablets. On that very day, the 17th of Tamuz, begins the three week period (ending on the 9th of Av) which commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

This is the month that the spies sent by Moses traveled through the land of Israel to see it and report to the people. (They returned on the eve of the 9th of Av).

Letter: chet. The form of the letter chet is composed of the two previous letters of the Hebrew alef-beit, the vav and the zayin (corresponding to the two previous months of Iyar and Sivan) connected from above by a thin "bridge."

In relation to the sense of sight, the form of the chet represents the dynamic of spiritual light being emitted from the eyes (the vav) and physical light returning from the object observed, to the eyes (the zayin).

The word Tamuz reads in Hebrew: "tam"--"connect together," "consummate"--vav zayin--the two letters that together form the chet.

Mazal: sartan (Cancer-crab)

One of the meanings of the root of sartan, seret, is a visual "strip," in general, or (as in modern Hebrew) a "film" strip in particular. The spiritual sense of sight of Tamuz is the ability to "see through" physical reality to behold its Divine source. In accordance with this thought, the word sartan is understood as being composed of two words--sar tan--which literally reads: "remove the body" (in order to reveal the soul), i.e. remove the outer "shell" of reality (by means of the power of concentrated sight) in order to reveal reality's inner "fruit" and lifeforce.

Tribe: Reuben. The name Reuben comes from the root "to see," the sense of Tamuz. The precious stone of Reuben in the breast-plate of the high priest is the odem, the ruby (from Reuben), which due to its brilliant red color (odem means red) is the most sensually visible of the stones. Red is the most seductive of all colors, implying either the fall of man (in Hebrew odem [red] has the same spelling as adam [man]), as in the sin of the golden calf, or the ultimate rise and rectification of man, with the coming of Mashiach.Sense: sight. The summer (the period of Tamuz) is the "holiday" of the eyes. It is the time that one must "guard" his eyes to see only that which is good (in the world in general and in his fellow man in particular) and modest. The ability to guard and focus one's eyesight correctly is the rectified "sense" of sight.

At the end of Moses' blessing Israel he said (Deuteronomy 33:28): "betach badad ein Yaacov--sure, alone, is the eye of Jacob." The word betach, "sure," is an acronym for three words: bracha tov chayim, blessing good and life. These are the three focus-points of rectified eyesight, as is said (Deuteronomy 11:26): "See, I give before you today blessing and curse. The blessing...," and subsequently (Deuteronomy 30:15-19): "See, I have given before you today life and good, and death and evil...and you shall chose life." In relation to these three one must train one's eyes (both spiritual and physical) to see only the inner positive dimension of reality and not to focus upon reality's outer, negative "shell." This is the meaning of "sure, alone, is the eye of Jacob." The sense of the Jewish eye ("the eye of Jacob") is to only ("alone") see that which is "sure"--G-d's blessing, good and life.

Controller: right hand
The right hand, in general, and its index finger, in particular, serves to direct and focus one's eyesight. When reading the Torah scroll, it is a custom to point at every word with a silver "finger." It is also a custom to use the right hand to make signs to indicate the cantillation nuances for the reader of the Torah. The wedding ring is placed by the groom on the index finger of the bride's right hand. This elevates the couple to the level of "my dove" (Song of Songs 5:2), the intense expression of love transmitted by the never ceasing gaze of the eyes one to the other (turning the eyes as red as a ruby)--"your eyes are as doves," (Song of Songs 5:12)

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Friday, June 19, 2009

The First Ray of Redemption

Daniel 7(23) speaks about the 4th beast of exile (the exile of Edom and Yishmael). Whereas the majority of this exile dealt with the power and control of Edom, the final stage has shifted to Yishmael's might and their lack of concern for the lives of others. Verse 24 states that this beast of exile will have 10 horns (meaning 10 kings), and then an 11th one will arise different from the former ones.
Notice that the number 11 is once again involved. As we have mentioned in several writings, the number 11 represents the current exile of Yishmael. Verse 25 continues to speak about the 11th horn or king (the final one). He will speak words against G-d, will exhaust the strength of the Jewish People, and will try to "change" השׁניה the times and the laws.
The Jewish People will, G-d forbid, be under his rule for a certain period of time, known only to Hashem. When you study the description of this "final king" with your eyes opened, you realize that King Obama is the one that is being referred to. He is the king who will "change everything" in his kingdom, especially as it affects the Jewish People. To doubt this and say instead, "Let's give him a chance. Let's see how he does. He really means well," is to repeat the same mistakes the Jewish People made 70 years ago in Germany. But all is not bleak and grave. In fact, Obama and the darkness he has brought to the world through his arrogant mouth, has actually let in a dim light of hope. He can't see it, or understand it.
When Avrohom took his son Yitzchok to offer him up on the altar according to G-d's command, they saw the location that G-d had shown them. They were escorted by Eliezer and Yishmael, and asked them, "have you also seen what we have seen on that distant mountain?" They replied, "we do not see anything, only a mountain." Avrohom knew then that they could not go any further and told them to stay behind with the donkey.
Obama too cannot see the first ray of redemption. He can only see the darkness that he has created. How appropriate it is that the 44th word in Torah corresponding to the 44th President is ולחשׁך, (and to the darkness). The word that he has made famous השׁניה meaning "change" has the same gematria as "speedily in our days" בּמהרה בימינו. This very term which has been used by Jewish men, women, and children for thousands of years as a wish that our redemption would come suddenly, and during our lives, is a term that is connected to the "change" that Obama has brought to the world. But like Yishmael who was left behind to stay with the donkey, Obama cannot see the holy mountain that Avrohom saw. He can only see the darkness caused by his changes while the Jewish People see the first ray of redemption. <<<< source
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Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Sin of the Spies

We were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes. [Shelach 13:33]Rashi comments, "We heard them (the Canaanites) say, 'There are ants crawling in our vineyards.'"

Horav Ovadiah m'Bartenura wonders why Rashi adds the word "ants" when, in fact, the spies said, "We were like grasshoppers." He explains that when one views himself as a grasshopper, others will view him as something even smaller, such as an ant. A number of psychological insights may be derived from the spies' misconception of themselves and what the Canaanites thought of them, especially in light of the Bartenura's observation.

First, as noted by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, in all likelihood, the spies did not understand the Canaanite language. Yet, they were certain what they were talking about. This teaches us that when one feels inadequate, he is likely to conclude that others have a similar feeling about him, that they are discussing his ineptitude and are probably expanding upon it.

Second, there is a descending progression concerning feelings of low self-esteem. The spies initially felt like grasshoppers, but this feeling soon had them shrinking to the size of ants.
Last, what one feels about himself will invariably be reflected in a less positive form by others. In other words, people think less of you than what you think of yourself, because you project the perception of your own insufficiency.

Having said this, we examine the sin of the meraglim, spies, and the tragic effect it had on the entrance of the Jewish people into Eretz Yisrael, from the perspective that their low self-esteem catalyzed the problem. Indeed, the Kotzker Rebbe, zl, comments that the spies' remark was at the root of their sin. They had no right to take to heart what the Canaanites had said about them. As Jews, we are emissaries of the Almighty with a positive mission in this world. That is all that matters to us - not public opinion.

As mentioned earlier, however, it is quite possible the Jews misconceived and misconstrued the Canaanites opinion of them. In their negativity, they conjured up an opinion of themselves that was quite removed from the truth. The spies, regrettably, saw demons at every juncture in their lives. They had become victims of their own low self esteem.

How did this occur? This was the nation that had experienced the exodus from Egypt with its accompanying miracles. They had stood at Har Sinai and received the Torah amidst the greatest wonders and miracles. How could they think negatively of themselves?

We suggest that in order to affect a solution to a problem, one must first be aware that the problem exists. In other words, the solution to low self-esteem is to live a Torah life totally committed to observing all 613 mitzvos and various Rabbinic enactments and safeguards. This lifestyle rallies a person to a status of kedushah, holiness, in which every action in his life is performed to fulfill the Divine will.

While that may be a possible solution, it can correct a self esteem problem only once it has been firmly acknowledged. Most of us are either clueless in diagnosing the problem, or blind-either purposely or unknowingly-to its existence. Correcting the self-image distortion can only occur once this malady has been acknowledged.

There are two forms of low self-esteem: first, the one in which the individual has an appropriately low opinion of himself, and the second, in which the feeling of negativity is unwarranted and unsupported. Some people feel that their inadequacies are real - and they are. Others, however, have an incorrect self-perception, thus creating a low sense of self-esteem that is unjustified.

Many people see themselves as less than they really are. Some of the most successful people see themselves as failures, refusing to accept their success and finding ways to mitigate the situation. Rabbi Twerski explains that, paradoxically some of the most gifted and competent individuals develop a negative self-image as if they are looking through a trick lens in such a manner that what they perceive is actually the opposite of reality.

Let us take the example of the physician who spends his every waking moment either in his office or in the hospital attending to patients. This goes on for 365 days a year. No rest, no vacation - utter devotion to his work. Admired by his patients, revered by his colleagues, those around him think that his wife must be a shrew. Why else would a man so consistently avoid being home?

Years later, when his wife consults a therapist for severe depression, she explains that while her husband has been a wonderful person and a great material provider, he has never been home. The children have never had a father, and she has never had a husband. The emotional relationship and support that a husband and parent should provide had been non-existent. This woman is otherwise a very gentle, intelligent and compassionate person, quite unlike the perception that her husband's behavior has implied. Wherein lay the problem?

After subsequently meeting with the physician/husband, the therapist comes to understand that although the physician knows himself to be competent as a doctor, he perceives himself to be inefficacious as a person. As a human being, he has no identity, no self-worth - a total zero! He has not felt capable of providing his family with the emotional support that they have needed. He, therefore, has gravitated away from home to the hospital, the office, or wherever it has been more "comfortable" than "facing the music" at home. He has deluded himself and, thus, has been suffering the serious detrimental side effects of his self-imposed negativity.

People can convince themselves that they are unworthy. Klal Yisrael experienced an unparalleled Divine Revelation filled with wonders and miracles. This should have elevated anyone. Alas, there are those who feel that they are unworthy of Hashem's favor, of His Revelation, of His miracles. They feel their spiritual position is not exalted. Rather than allow Hashem to make the decision, they continue on with their feelings of rejection and unworthiness.
Distorted self-perception results in unwarranted loss of self-esteem, which leads to a variety of emotional distresses and behavioral maladjustments. The spies were great people with tremendous strengths, skills and capabilities, which they should have used in the service of Hashem. Had they not been, they would not have been chosen to represent the nation in scouting out the land. Regrettably, they were not cognizant of their own exalted status; thus, they allowed their own misconceptions to prevail.

It has been called the "grasshopper syndrome." In essence, it is much more than that because the Canaanites never called them grasshoppers. It was the spies who wrongly perceived this. It was, instead, a case of misperceived self-identity. They had no clue to who they actually were.
In conclusion, perhaps the following vignette sums up the spies sin and places it and its catalysts in their proper perspective. The Kotzker Rebbe, zl, once approached a chasid who had come to his court, asking, "Why have you come here?" "I have come to find G-d," the chasid replied."It is unfortunate that you came so far and spent so much to waste your time," the Rebbe countered. "G-d is everywhere. You could have found Him just as well had you stayed at home.""If so, for what purpose should I have come?" the chasid asked."To find yourself," the Rebbe answered. "You should have come to find yourself!"

Many of us are seeking and looking for something that is right in front of us. Our problem is that we - not the object which we are seeking - are lost.More at Pure Torah

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Living in the Promised Land - Video

Song sung by Willie Nelson. Beautiful.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Seafaring Converts Who Came to Zion:

My Search for the Soul of Zion – 75

The Seafaring Converts Who Came to Zion:


In the previous letter, we discussed a prayer on behalf of the gerei tzedek which appears in the weekday Shemoneh Esrei. According to an ancient midrashic work known as Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, the sages who composed this prayer were inspired by the story of the sailors in the Book of Jonah, as our tradition teaches that these sailors went up to Jerusalem and became gerei tzedek. In this letter, we will discuss this fascinating story and some of the various commentaries, including the commentary which appears in Chapter Ten of Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer:

Dear Friends,

Within our Sacred Scriptures, we find the Book of Jonah. It tells a haunting and moving story about Jonah, the Prophet, and his encounter with a group of sailors who later become “gerei tzedek” – converts who are committed to the Torah’s path of tzedek. Jonah received a Divine call to go to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, which was known for its corruption and theft. Assyria was also an enemy of Israel; nevertheless, Jonah was commanded by Hashem, the Compassionate and Life-giving One, to go the capital city of the enemy, as it is written:

“And the word of Hashem came to Jonah son of Amittai saying, ‘Arise! Go to Nineveh, the great city, and call out against her, for their wickedness has ascended before Me.’ ” (Jonah 1:1,2)

As the Book of Jonah later reveals, the purpose of Jonah’s journey was to inspire them to abandon their corrupt ways and return to Hashem; moreover, the Book of Jonah records that they did repent, and Hashem therefore spared them (Jonah 3:10).

What was Jonah’s initial reaction to the Divine call to go to Nineveh? Jonah tried to flee from his mission, as it is written:

“But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from before Hashem’s Presence. He went down to Jaffa and found a ship bound for Tarshish; he paid its fare and boarded it to travel with them to Tarshish from before Hashem’s Presence.” (1:3)

It seems strange that he would attempt to flee from his mission; moreover, the Jerusalem Talmud (Succah 5:1) states that the Divine call came to him in Jerusalem during the Festival of Succos, when Israel brings seventy offerings of atonement on behalf of the seventy primary nations of the world. Through these seventy offerings of atonement, the nations would merit life and sustenance during the coming year. Since this is a season when Israel seeks the atonement of all the nations, why did Jonah refuse to obey a Divine mandate to call upon one of these nations to atone for its corrupt ways?

According to one answer given by our sages and cited by the commentator, Radak, in his commentary on Jonah 1:1, the prophet was concerned that the people of Nineveh might actually heed his call; in other words, he was afraid that his mission would succeed! Jonah did not want his mission to succeed, for if the people of Nineveh did repent, it would point an accusing finger at those in Israel who refused to heed the many warnings of the prophets to correct their ethical and spiritual shortcomings. Jonah therefore chose to protect the honor of Israel by fleeing from his mission. As the next passage reveals, Hashem did not allow the prophet to escape his mission:

“Then Hashem cast a mighty wind toward the sea; there was a great tempest in the sea, and the ship threatened to split. The sailors became frightened and they cried out, each to his god; they cast the wares that were on the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah descended to the ship’s holds, and he lay down and fell fast asleep.” (1:4,5)

Rashi, in his commentary on the words, “they cried out, each to his god,” cites the following teaching from Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer: There were representatives of each of the seventy nations on Jonah’s ship. Jonah did not wish to accept a Divine mission which served as a reminder of Hashem’s concern for the seventy nations; yet, on the ship that was to help him escape, Jonah is confronted with representatives of the seventy nations! The Book of Jonah then describes the reaction of the captain and all the sailors on the ship:

“The ship’s captain approached him and said to him, ‘How can you sleep so soundly? Arise! Call to your God! Perhaps God will think of us and we will not perish.’ Then they said one to another, ‘Come let us cast lots that we may determine on whose account this misfortune is upon us.’
So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. They said to him, ‘Tell us now, because of whom has this evil befallen us? What is your trade? And from where do you come? What is your land? And of what people are you?’

He said to them, ‘I am a Hebrew, and I revere Hashem, the God of the Heavens, Who made the sea and the dry land.’

The men were frightened with great fear and they said to him, ‘What is this that you have done?’ – For the men knew that it was from before Hashem that he was fleeing, for he had told them. They said to him, ‘What must we do to you so that the sea will subside from upon us? For the sea grows stormier!’

He said to them, ‘Pick me up and heave me into the sea and the sea will calm down from upon you; for I know that it is because of me that this great tempest is upon you.’ ” (1:6-12)

As the next passage indicates, the sailors were initially reluctant to fulfill his request:

“The men rowed hard to return to the shore, but they could not, because the sea was growing stormier upon them. They called out to Hashem, and said, ‘Please Hashem, let us not perish now on account of this man’s soul and do not reckon it against us as innocent blood, for You, Hashem, as You wished, so have you done.’ So they lifted Jonah and heaved him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging.” (1:13-15)

The Boo k of Jonah adds: “Then the men felt a great awe of Hashem; they offered a sacrifice to Hashem and took vows.” (1:16)

The commentators interpret the above verse to mean that the sailors took upon themselves to bring offerings to Hashem in Jerusalem. What were the vows that they took? Rashi explains that they vowed to become converts. Rashi’s explanation is based on the commentary of Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer. According to this midrashic work, the sailors on the ship witnessed the miracles which happened to the prophet, as described in the Book of Jonah. A very large fish swallowed Jonah, and he remained alive in the fish’s innards for three days and three nights. From within the fish, he prayed to Hashem for deliverance and he was answered, as it states: “Then Hashem addressed the fish, and it spewed out Jonah onto dry land” (2:11). Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer teaches that after the sailors witnessed these miraculous events, they threw their idols into the sea, and they returned to the port of Jaffa. They then went up to Jerusalem, where they became gerei tzedek; moreover, they vowed to also bring their families to the service of the One God. According to Pirkei D’ Rabbi Eliezer, the sages who composed the prayer for gerei tzedek in the Shemoneh Esrei were inspired by the story of the sailors from the seventy nations who became gerei tzedek and others like them..

Rabbi David Luria was a leading 19th century sage who wrote a noted commentary on Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, and he cites the tradition that Jonah was from the Tribe of Zevulun (Jerusalem Talmud, Succah 5:1). According to Rabbi David Luria, the story of Jonah and the sailors from the seventy nations who came up to Jerusalem is alluded to in the following blessing given by Moshe Rebbeinu to the seafaring Tribe of Zevulun:

“They shall call peoples to the mountain; there they shall sacrifice offerings of tzedek” (Deuteronomy 33:19).

The commentator, Rashi, in his second explanation of the above blessing, explains that Zevulun – a tribe engaged in maritime commerce – would attract merchants from other peoples to visit the Land of Israel. These merchants will then say to each other: “Since we have already taken the trouble to come this far, let us continue to Jerusalem and see what divinity is worshiped by this nation and what are the deeds of this nation.” When they come to Jerusalem, they will notice how all the diverse tribes of Israel are united through their belief in one God and through their devotion to one path; as a result, they will be inspired to convert, and they will bring offerings of tzedek on the Mountain of Hashem in Jerusalem. (Based on the midrashic commentary, Sifri)

According to the above explanation of Rashi, the seafaring Tribe of Zevulun is to attract merchants from the peoples of the earth to the Land of Israel. In this way, they will go up to Jerusalem, where they will be inspired by the spiritual example of Israel and convert. The Prophet Jonah was from the Tribe of Zevulun, and in his own way, he inspired a group of sailors from the peoples to come to Jerusalem and convert. Jonah therefore helped to fulfill the universal role of his tribe: “They shall call peoples to the mountain!”

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

Most of the letters in this series appear in the archive on our website.
Hazon – Our Universal Vision:
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