One answer to all these questions:
Our sages describe in the Talmud (Chagiga 12b) that there are 7 types of Rakia (seven skies). Another opinion there is that there are only two skies – Shamayim and Shmey Hashamyim. As usual (and this is especially true regarding Agada – homiletic parts of the Talmud) the two opinions do not contradict each other. The GR”A (Vilna Gaon) writes that the seven skies are divided into two groups – the lower two skies are called Shamayim, while the higher five are called Shmey Hashayim. The word Shamayim comes from the word “Sham” – “over there” since they are always at a distance. The higher five skies are even further away, that’s why they are called Shmey Hashamayim. (This answers the second question.)
In truth, the lower two skies correspond to the lower two Sefiros – Yesod and Malchus, while the Shmey Hashayim correspond to the five Sefiros above them<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Discussing the concept of Sefiros in detail goes beyond the purpose of this short article, but we will need to say a few words about them, especially since this concept will be essential throughout our commentary on the following parshios as well. In general, Sefiros can be viewed as parts of Divine will or as ways of Hanhaga – Hashem’s rule over the universe. There are ten such ways. Everything in the spiritual and physical realms is a result and projection of some combination of the ten Sefiros. Just as all physical materials, with their great variety, are composed of just a little more that one hundred elements, so too, everything spiritual is a combination of these ten general spiritual roots. The names of the Sefiros are:
Keser – Crown, Chochma – Wisdom, Bina – Understanding, Chesed – Kindness, Gevurah – Strength, Tiferes – Harmony, Netzach – Perseverance, Hod – Splendor, Yesod – Foundation, Malchus – Royalty.
Sefiros are divided into two general groups – the first three have to do with
thought, while the lower seven have to do with action. Similarly, in their projection
to human body, the higher three Sefiros correspond to the head, while the lower
seven correspond to the body. The lower Sefiros are themselves divided into two
subgroups – the five Sefiros from Chesed to Hod a viewed separately, while the
lowest two – separately. As we mentioned the seven skies are divided into 2
groups: the last two, corresponding to “Yesod” and “Malhus” and the first five,
corresponding to higher Sefiros. Similarly, the GR”A writes (in his commentary
on Agada, Brochos), that the seven species, for which the
Now, the GR”A explains (in his commentary to Bereishis) that the word Shamayim mentioned in the first verse in the Torah is hinting to all the spiritual worlds, while the word Aretz (Earth) hints to the entire physical universe. Later in the tenth verse, the word Eretz (spelled with a different vowel – segol) means just the land, that we call earth. Similarly, the shamayim mentioned in the eight verse means the physical sky, and in general the Torah does not dwell on the spiritual Shamayim from now on. Only the first verse of the Torah talks about the spiritual creation, from now on, the Torah will discuss the physical world while the spiritual can only be deduced. (This also relates to a known question of why the Torah nowhere openly talks about the Olam Haba – the World to Come. It certainly hints many times that there is reward after death, even wicked Bilaam prayed that after death he should have a portion with the righteous, but the Torah does not discuss it openly. It rather mentions as a punishment that certain sinners will have the soul cut off, from which we can learn that everyone else will have a portion in the eternity, see Ramban on Vayikra 18:29. However the rewards in this world are mentioned many times but they apply only when our entire nation deserves it collectively. In the end of days our nation is also promised a tremendous closeness to Hashem, which is of course the biggest reward there could be.) We not got answers to questions 1, 3 and 4.
According to the description the Talmud gives to the “seven skies”, the two lowest skies seem to be physical, while the other five are described as completely spiritual, thus belonging to a separate group. The lowest sky is called “Vilon” (curtain). It has nothing of its’ own. It only comes out during the day and gathers in at night (this is the translation of Tosafos, Rashi translates the opposite way). According to the description, it seems that Vilon is the Earth’s atmosphere. It is known, that we see the blue sky due to the refraction of sun’s rays. (The exact nature of this phenomenon has been studied until recently and the scientists changed their mind a few times regarding the precise cause why the sky looks blue). It is thus proper to say that “it has nothing of its’ own”, since the air is really transparent. Similarly its’ corresponding Sefira: Malchus is described in Kaballah as having nothing of its’ own (Zohar 2:233b, see also Etz Chaim 43:2).
The next Rakia is described as having all the planets, stars and galaxies, and thus includes the rest of our physical universe. The description of the other five skies is completely spiritual, and they therefore belong to a separate group. This answers the last question. Note also that the GR”A mentions in his commentary to the prayer “Yaale Veyavo”, that the eight synonyms in the beginning of this prayer correspond to the seven skies, (the last two relating to Aravos – the seventh level). We are beseeching Hashem to let our prayers come close and reach Him and be accepted!
Additional sources: GR”A on Sefer Yetzirah 4:15. GR”A on Chumash Bereishis. GR”A on Zohar (Yahel Ohr) – likut printed after the book of Shemos. GR”A on Yaale Veyavo, printed in the beginning of the third volume of Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim. GR”A on Agados Brochos 57a, GR”A on Sifra Detzniousa – Perek 1.
After the Great Flood, new life started. The Torah carefully describes the descendants on the one surviving family – Noach and his three children – Shem, Cham and Yafes. Our sages received a tradition that core seventy nations came out from Noach and thus all of the people of the Earth are descendants of these families. Do we know where the various families settled and can we know what contemporary nation belongs to which of these families?
The GR”A has a very interesting explanation regarding the various nations that came out of Noach and it will be interesting to publicize it here. He writes in a similar vein in at least two different places – in his commentary to Divrey Hayamim (the book of Chronicles – the last book of the Bible, 1:1:4), in his commentary to the Mishna (tractate Negaim 2:1). We will start by quoting some of his words on the Mishna. Negaim is a tractate which deals with the laws of Tzaraas (a variation of leprosy). If a person had white discolorations on his skin, he had to show them to a kohen (a priest, descendant of Aharon) and depending on the conditions sometimes had to live outside the walled Jewish cities until the mark disappears. In general, these laws were designed at the time the Hashgacha (Divine Rule) was much more open, and this particular sickness was a punishment for gossipers and other sinners, so that they will spend some time alone and repent before being admitted back to the camp (Talmud, Arachim 16a). One of the conditions required in order to check the whiteness of discoloration is that the rest of the skin is normal (average) color. The Mishna mentions that by a “Germoni” the leprous mark seems not as white since his skin is very white, while by a “Kushi” (a black man, an Ethiopian), the opposite is true. The Aruch (a very early medieval commentator quoted by Rashi and other Rishonim) writes that the word “Germani” means a German, whose skin is very white. The Rambam and other commentators also point out that the word “Germani” comes from the word “GAREM” – a bone which is very white.
GR”A goes further explaining that the Germans (as well as the rest of Northern
Europeans) are descendants of the first son of Yafes – Gomer. We thus find that
Gomer’s own first son is called Ashkenaz which is the Hebrew name for
we mentioned, one of the proofs is that the first son and the first grandson of
Yafes (Gomer and Ashkenaz) were ancestors of the Northern European nations. The
fourth son of Yafes is named Yavan which means
the sons of Cham, we can easily identify three out of four. Kush – the first
son is Hebrew for
last, regarding the descendants of Shem, his first son – Eilam is generally
we wrote so far applied during the original settlement of the seventy nations.
Obviously, after more than four thousand years, there was a lot of migration;
some of them are mentioned by the Torah itself (see Devarim 2:19-23). Our sages
describe that at a later time the kings of
there is one other important principle regarding the descendants of seventy
nations we would like to discuss. A verse in Parshas Haazinu (Devarim 32:8)
states: “He (Hashem) set up the borders of nations to parallel the number of
It is known that with passage of centuries, Eisav’s descendants accepted Christianity, while Ishmael’s – Islam. Both religions learned from ours and based themselves on the revelations our nation witnessed (after all they could not claim that their entire nations witnessed Divine revelation, for such a claim would be impossible and moreover the Torah predicts that nobody else will be able to make such a claim, see Devarim 4:33). The two religions spread far and wide conquering multitudes of nations who threw away their old convictions and accepted the new beliefs. The Rambam writes (uncensored edition of the laws of kings 11:7) that in truth these religions were a step forward, a kind of preparation of the world to accept the ultimate truth when Moshiach comes. And this is what we are waiting for, when Hashem will turn all the nations to a purer language, that they may all call upon Him and serve him with one consent (Tzefania 3:9)!
Parshas Lech Lecha.
In this weekly portion we read about the “covenant between the pieces”. Avraham was told that his descendants will be suffering in an exile in a foreign land for 400 hundred years. The Torah also mentions that the fourth generation will come back. Later, the Torah will state (Shemos 12:40) that the Jewish people spent 430 years in exile. The Rashi in his commentary to this verse mentions the words of our sages that our nation was in Egyptian exile for only 210 years, while the 400 years are counted from the birth of Yitzchak. How are all these numbers reconciled? If indeed the Torah meant to count 400 years from an earlier date, why did it not say so and left the prediction so ambiguous? Why are there two predictions – regarding the number of years as well as the number of generations?
have to understand that in general many prophesies are revealed in such a
manner, that their fulfillment depends on the future actions of people. For
example, Yona was told that the city of
principle is especially true in regards to prophesies regarding the length of
our exile and the date of our redemption (see the GR”A to Pesach Hagadah,
starting with words “Chishav Es Haketz”). Two statements were made to Avraham
regarding our first exile: we will be subjugated for 400 years, and that the
fourth generation will return to the
As we know now (Seder Olam, chapter 3), the actual exile to Egypt was 210 years (as is Gematria – numerical value of the word “Rdu” – go down), the other 190 years were years of wanderings of Yitzchak, Yakov and his family. The total of four hundred years is thus counted from the birth of Yitzchak. The 430 years mentioned in the Torah (Shemos 12:41) is either counted from the beginning of Avraham’s wanderings (GR”A to the 1st chapter of Seder Olam) or from the Bris Bein Habesarim (covenant of pieces).
The Pesach Hagadah mentions that Hashem “Chishav Es Haketz” calculated the end of exile. The Gematria of the word Ketz – end is 190, hinting to the 190 years skipped from the actual Egyptian bondage. (The book Avodas Hagershuni by the Vilna Gaon’s nephew – Rav Gershon, describes that the 190 “skipped” years are in fact hinted by the Gematria of the word “Pakod” in the phrase “Pakod Yifkod Elokim Es-chem” (Hashem will surely redeem you). This wording was a password given away by Yosef before dying, which was later used to identify the true redeemer Moshe Rabeynu, see Pirkey DeRabbi Eliezer, 47. The word “Yifkod” can mean reckoning and the phrase would then be translated “190 Hashem will calculate”. The word “Elokim” in the verse hints to the 86 years of the bitter part of exile as we will later discuss.)
of the 210 years of exile, only a part included prosecutions. Our sages mention
(Talmud, Sotah 11a) that after Yosef died, Pharaoh, who was afraid of the rapid
increase in Jewish numbers, invited his three wisest counselors: Bilaam, Iyov
and Yisro. Bilaam suggested to oppress the Jewish people, Iyov kept quiet,
while Yisro ran away<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
Each one was paid accordingly. Yisro’s daughter ultimately married Moshe, and
he himself later converted together with his family. Iyov who kept quiet<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
was punished by the suffering described in the book of Iyov (this book was
written down prophetically by Moshe Rabeynu, see the Talmud, Bava Basra 14b).
Bilaam was later killed by the Jewish people. According to this opinion, Iyov
was born when our people entered
Our sages teach us that the position of the Jewish people did not change instantly from honored citizens to slaves (see Shemos Raba 1:10-14, Ramban, Shemos 1:10-11). It took time until the exile turned from sweet to bitter. (For this reason, the preferred maror – bitter herb that we eat on Pesach is romaine lettuce, since it is first sweet, but as it stays longer in the earth, it turns bitter.) The first years of discrimination are described as “BEFE RACH” – with soft mouth. Than the true bitterness of exile started “BEFARECH” – with hard labor (see Talmud, Sotah 11b). Miriam was named after the same word “maror” – bitter, since when she was born, the exile became very bitter. Since Miriam was 86 during the time of the Exodus, we can thus know that final 86 years of exile were very bitter, while the previous 117-86=31 years were soft. The GR”A (on Zohar in likutim at the end of Yahel Ohr) mentions that the two periods of 31 years and 86 years correspond to two Divine names “Alef Lamed”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> – Gematria 31, and “ELOKIM” – Gematria 86. It is known in the writings of Kabala that the first name corresponds to the attribute of kindness (Chesed), while the second – to judgment (Gevurah).
The Raavad (in his commentary to Mishan Ediyos, 2:9) and Ohr Hachaim Hakodesh on Bereishis 15:16) write that the reason the redemption is promised according to the number of years as well as the number of generations is because the fourth generation is the one to actually enter the Holy Land. After all, a period of time passed between the redemption and the coming into the land. The Raavad continues that so too in the end of days there will pass a time between the end of exile and the full redemption.
regarding the other two exiles of our nation, a similar uncertainty existed
regarding their ending. It is known (Ramban, Vayikra 26:16; Zohar Chadash,
beginning of Parshas Ki Savo; GR”A on Tikuney Zohar Chadash 84c) that our exile
the prophesies of Yermiyahu (25:11, 29:10), the exact duration of this exile is
predicted to be seventy years. However, it does not clearly state how to count
these years. In fact, Daniel (9:2-27) thought that the years already passed and
was praying to understand why the redemption is not coming. According to the
Talmud (Megillah 11b), two other people (non-Jewish kings) who were aware of
the “Jewish” prophesy miscalculated the seventy years and thought that
therefore the Jewish people will never be redeemed. In the end, it turned out
that the two prophesies in Yermiyahu were predicting two different seventy year
periods. One was the period between the Babylonian conquest of
was shown the time of the coming redemption (just a year later than his
as well as the 420 years that the Second Temple will be standing and what will
happen afterwards (see further Talmud, Nazir 32b, see Ramban, Sefer Hageula,
Shaar Hashlishi. See also Malbim on Daniel 9:24 for an interesting explanation
that the entire
sages (Talmud, Brochos 26b) learn from this Parsha, that Avraham established
the Morning Prayer – Shacharis, as it says: (Bereishis 19:27) “And Avraham came
in the early morning to the place where he [had] stood before Hashem”.
According to the Talmud (ibid) the word “stood” here refers to prayer. There
are similar statements in the Talmud (ibid) regarding the afternoon and evening
prayers (Mincha and Aravis). Mincha was instituted by Yitzchak and is hinted to
in the verse: (Bereishis 24:63) “And Yitzchak went out to walk<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
(Lasuach) in the field towards evening time”. The evening prayer was instituted
by Yakov as it says: (Bereishis 28:11) “And [Yakov] came upon the place [of the
It is known that there were three special people, who stood at the root of our nation: Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov. They are the only ones, called “forefathers” (Talmud, Brochos 16b). Each of them had a special mission, and our nation had to come out of all of them. According to the Zohar (Tikuney Zohar, 69th Tikun, 105a, in GR”A’s edition 118b), their souls had to do with the soul of Adam and they actually rectified different parts of Adam’s sin. It took three generations, till the purification finished, and Yakov’s family fully belonged to the Jewish people<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. We learn that the three forefathers instituted the three main prayers, and we will later discuss how each one corresponds to the prayer he founded, and what rectification this prayer accomplishes.
There is however another individual, whose soul was also collective and whose rectification was unique – King Dovid<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. In fact the Talmud tells us (Sanhedrin 107a), that Dovid prayed that just as Hashem is called G-d of Avraham, G-d of Yitzchak, and G-d of Yakov, He should associate His name with Dovid as well. Dovid also instituted a prayer (Talmud, Brochos 3b), though it is not obligatory. It is called Tikun Chatzos (rectification of midnight) and can be pronounced after midnight till early dawn and it is recited while sitting.
We thus have a correspondence between four people, four prayers, four times and four actions, from which these prayers are learned (see the GR”A in Imrey Noam to the Talmud, Brochos, 8a and 26b, and in his commentary to Agada on the same pages, GR”A to Mishley 3:23 and 6:22, GR”A to the Zohar, Yahel Ohr 3:156b)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>:
first half of the day
second half of the day
first half of the night
second half of the night
Let us first discuss the spiritual root of the forefathers and Dovid, so we can better understand these parallels. As we discussed on Parsahas Bereishis, the Divine rule over the universe includes ten different channels. However, even more generally, the 10 Sefiros can be divided into just four groups. They are the so called “right” side of Hanhaga (Divine rule), consisting of three Sefiros; the “left” side, that also includes three Sefiros; the “middle” with another three Sefiros; and Malchus – Kingship. The last Sefira shows our readiness to receive the Good coming from Hashem. The collective combination of all Jewish souls is rooted in this Sefira. In general, the right side of Hanhaga has to do with kindness, the left – with judgment, and the middle – is a harmony between the two, a type of balance that includes both previous sides<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. To summarize, even though there are ten particular types of Hanhaga, the four general ones include the entire spectrum (see our article in appendix 2 where we further discuss these concepts).
Our forefathers and Dovid in fact represented these four types of Hanhaga. Avraham’s soul was rooted in Chesed (kindness). The Torah describes how he would try to help everyone, his house was always open to visitors and even the lowest travelers were served by Avraham himself. The only thing he asked in return was recognition of the rule of Hashem. In Avraham’s time, many people joined his household and accepted monotheism. Yitzchak’s soul was rooted in Gevurah (strength, judgment). He was ready to give up his own life during the Akeyda; he would spend long times meditating alone. Yakov included the qualities of his fathers and clung to Tiferes. At last, King Dovid was attached to Malchus (kingship). The four forefathers thus included a full rectification<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
Now we can better understand what should be accomplished by the four prayers. The first half of the day is the time of kindness. The fact that the sunlight is increasing throughout this time is also an indication of the time of Chesed. When the Hanhaga is through Chesed, the people’s deeds are less important; during this Hanhaga, even the unworthy may receive the Divine Good. The longest of all prayers, Shacharis was instituted to rectify at this time, when many great rectifications are possible. Each day, we start serving Hashem anew, (sleeping is considered 1/60 of death, and we are recreated each morning, see Mishna Berura 4:3). Therefore the greatest rectification is need during this prayer (see Ramchal, Derech Hashem, 4:6; Kisvey Arizal in Shaar Hakavonos also discusses the great difference between the Tikun of Shacharis versus the other prayers).
After midday the time of judgment is starting, while the world experiences diminishing of sun light. Two types of light are discussed in Kabala: Ohr Yashar (direct light) and Ohr Chozer (reflected light). The reflected light in this case is the readiness of people to receive the Divine Good. During the time of judgment, one can still receive from Above, but only if he is worthy. This is one of the reasons why the Talmud (Brochos 6b) tells us to be especially careful regarding Mincha prayer.
Aravis is instituted at night time. This prayer is less obligatory than the others (see Talmud, Brochos 27b; in fact, according to the Mishna Berura, 106:4, women are exempt from this prayer, see however Aruch Hashulchan 106:7). Since the main active Hanhaga is during the day, the Shacharis and Mincha make active rectifications, while Aravis is instituted during a more passive time of absorbing the day’s changes. At last, Tikun Chatzos is a totally nonobligatory prayer, but midnight is in general “Es Ratzon” (time of Divine favor, see Talmud, Evamos 72a), when the light of Chesed gets aroused before daybreak.
that the three main prayers instituted by the forefathers, are preferably
recited in a synagogue, while Tikun Chatzos was instituted primarily for home.
There are also four articles that were prepared for the prophet Elisha as it
says (Melachim 2:4:9): “… let us put there a bed, a table, a chair and a lamp”.
The GR”A (in his commentary Imrey Noam to the Talmud, Brochos, 8a) writes that
these four articles also correspond to the four prayers. The lamp has to do
with the right side, just as it stood in the Holy Temple; the table – to the
left just as it stood in the Temple; the chair is in the middle (like the
mizbeach in the Temple), and the bed has to do with Malchus. The first letters
of the above four articles (Mita, Shulchan, Kise and Ner) for the word “M-SH-K-N”
spelling Mishkan – sanctuary. The last three letters of this word
(corresponding to the three prayers instituted by the forefathers) spell
shochen – neighbor. This is how the GR”A explains the statement of the Talmud
(Brochos, 8a) that the one who does not visit the synagogue in his city is
called a bad neighbor. Since he does not come to pray the three main
prayers in the Shul, he is missing the rectification of these three letters!
May we soon merit that our prayers will be accepted in the “Miniature Temples”
– our synagogues, and that we see the coming of Moshiach, when all Kosher
Synagogues will be moved to the
Parshas Chayei Sara.
From the earliest times, it was customary that the bride was blessed before marriage, as we learn in this week’s Parsha (Bereishis 24:60) “… and they blesses Rivka …” In fact the Talmud (beginning of Maseches Kala) mentions that the blessings of the bride are hinted in this verse, (see Tosafos and other Rishonim to Kesuvos 7b, as to why the Talmud also learns these blessing from a different verse in the book of Rus). What is the significance of the seven blessings that we say on our weddings?
Our sages established seven special blessings for newlyweds. These blessings are said during the wedding (under the chuppah), and after benching (Birkas Hamazon) of each meal during the following seven days, if there is a minyan, and some of the present have not heard the blessing for this couple yet.
According to the Zohar and another Kabbalistic books, the general meaning of these blessings is that each woman, when she marries, is a projection of all the Jewish people and their spiritual root. This is another reason why the bride is referred to as a "kallah" – from a word “Kol” – all. Thus, she is blessed with the blessings that correspond to the seven Sefiros used by the Creator to rule the world. In general, Sefiros can be viewed as parts of Divine will or as ways of Hanhaga – Hashem’s rule over the universe, see our words on Parshas Bereishis for further explanation.
According to the Zohar, (Terumah, page 169) the Seven Brochos correspond to the following Seven Sefiros:
Who Creates the fruit of the Vine
Who Created everything for His glory
Who Created Adam
Who Created the first couple
Who makes the groom and bride happy
Who makes the groom happy with the bride
The bride herself is a projection of Malchus – Royalty. Thus, in the upper worlds, the Malchus receives the spiritual flow from the Sefiros above, and in our world the bride is blessed with the seven blessings. In this small article we will try to explain a little bit the order of blessings and their correspondence to the Sefiros. Certainly, our comments should be regarded only as a drop in the sea, in comparison with the vast depth of each word of these Brochos.
Some the general words about the order of blessings:
It is easy to notice, that seven blessings correspond to only seven Sefiros. Why were no blessings established corresponding to the other three Sefiros?
the last Sefirah – Malchus – it receives the blessings and consequently no
Brocha is needed to correspond to it. This Sefirah is considered passive – it
shows our readiness to accept Hashem’s rule and His blessings. Our nation is
compared to the wife, and the Creator – to its husband. The giving of the Torah
was the marriage union and when our people made the Golden Calf Moshe had to
break the Tablets and this union was terminated. Later, the Creator accepted
the entreaty of Moshe and restored our union through the second Tablets. In
general, many elements of the Jewish wedding are similar to the giving of the
souls of people come from different spiritual roots and also correspond to
various Sefiros. The main soul corresponding Malchus is the soul of Dovid
Hamelech. Dovid managed to rule justly over our people and during his time we
have properly acccepted the Divine Malchus. His descendant – Moshiach will
cause all people to accept the yoke of the Creator. (It is interesting, that
Dovid's dynasty is also compared to the period of the moon. Dovid was in the
fourteenth generation after Avraham, as is the Gematria (numerical value) of
the name Dovid, just as the visible part of the moon continues to increase for
fourteen days. Then, for the fifteenth day the moon shines it’s brightest, but
by the end of day it starts to decrease. So too during the rule of Shlomo, the
son Dovid, the peak was reached.
However, by the end of his life he sinned, and the prophets began to
criticize him. Later, after another fourteen generations, the
there are no blessings corresponding first two Sefiros, the matter is that
Binah includes also the two Sefiros above it. We find similarly, that there are
seven spiritual heavens, and the seventh "sky" – Aravos corresponds
to Bina and includes also two Sefiros above it. There are also seven levels of
the land, seven deserts which our people passed after Exodus from
It is possible to ask one more general question: why does Gevurah precede Chesed in the order of these blessings?
The matter is that the union between the man and the woman begins with the left side (the side of power and judgment). This is hinted by a verse in the Song of Songs: “His left hand is under my head, and the right one embraces me”. Similarly in the Mishkan (a portable temple in desert) gold corresponding to Gevurah is mentioned before silver which corresponds to Chesed.
After these general comments, we have brief specific comments on the seven blessings.
1... G-d created the fruit of the grapevine. Wine is used in many Jewish precepts, such as Kiddush on Shabbos and holidays, in Havdalah after their end, during circumcision etc. According to the simple meaning, our sages compare the position of the soul and the body with a lame man sitting on the shoulders of a deaf person. When the lame heared pleasant music, and he wanted to dance, he gave the deaf person some wine and he started to hop. Thus, a little drink gives enjoyment to the body and then it takes pleasure together with the soul. It is interesting to note that among people, Gevurah corresponds to Yitzchak. The Torah describes how before blessing his son, he asks to have a drink of wine. In general, wine, is connected with the left side of judgment, and can be used both positively and negatively. The Torah describes the negative effect of wine on the righteous Noach ... Only wine of all drinks demands extra care – if it was touched by a non-Jew, it is forbidden to use it.
2... Created all in the glory. This blessing is connected with Chesed – kindness of the Creator. He Himself does not require anything; the creation of the world was totally altruistic. Among people, Chesed corresponds to Avraham. He was the first who has openly declared, that only the Creator of the world rules over everything and began to spread the knowledge of Hashem everywhere.
3:...Formed Adam. This blessing corresponds to Tiferes – harmony. Both this and following blessings end in the same way, but there is a great difference – this brocha speaks about the general formation of Man, one – in two persons. The following blessing mentions the split of the first person into two – the formation of the man and the woman. According to Kaballah, if we start with Netzach, the remaining Sefiros are directly connected to the last Sefirah – Malchus. Therefore, the first three blessings are general, and starting with the fourth, the bride is mentioned openly. Among people, Tiferes corresponds to Yakov who rectified the failures of Adam– the first man. In fact, according to many Kabbalistic sources, Yakov actually was a gilgul (rebirth) of Adam.
4... Formed the first couple. This blessing corresponds to Netzach – eternity. It is interesting that "eternity" is mentioned openly in this blessing. According to many Kabbalistic sources Dovid became attached to this Sefirah. (Even though Dovid's dynasty is connected to Malchus as we have already mentioned, nevertheless it receives its main energy from Netzach, see Zohar 1:21, 3:243; GR”A to the first chapter of Sifra Detzniusa. It is also mentioned in Kabbalistic literature that Dovid also continued the rectification that was not completed by Adam, and that he too was a gilgul of Adam. It is interesting to note that our sages tell us that after his sin, Adam should have lived for one thousand years, but he give 70 of them to Dovid.)
Making happy the groom and the bride. This blessing is connected with Yesod:
foundation. Rashi explains that this blessing, unlike the following, is not on
the union of the groom and the bride. Rather here they receive their blessings
separately. Therefore, it also ends with words "Who makes happy the groom
and the bride". In the following brocha they are blessed together, the
blessing thus ends: "Who makes happy the groom with the bride!" In
general, Yesod combines the light of Sefiros above and brings it down to
Malchus. For example, among people Yoseph corresponds to Yesod, and he
Who makes happy the groom with the bride. This blessing is connected with Bina
– understanding. In Kaballah, Bina is often referred to as mother – this
Sefirah is considered to be giving birth to the Sefiros below it. There are 50
words in this blessing, just as there are 50 Shaarey Bina – gates of
understanding (see the Talmud, Nedarim, 38). Often this Sefirah is associated
with the soul of Moshe. It is thus mentioned in the Talmud that 49 of 50 gates
of wisdom were opened to him. Only after the bride has received blessings from
the lower six Sefiros, does the influence of Bina come down, for in fact this
blessing includes the others. In this blessing 10 different words are used to
describe happiness, peace, and friendship. These words are almost synonyms, for
all of them lead to joy. These ten words correspond to all ten Sefiros, and
also to the ten sayings with which the world was created and to the Ten
Commandments given at
Sosson and Simcha – two kinds of happiness. The GR”A explains, that Sosson is gladness in the heart when the desired good has already been reached, while Simcha is the delight of aspiration to achieve the good. This joy is noticeable to the outsiders as well (GR”A to Megillas Ester, 8:17).
Gil – This is constant happiness, unlike Simcha – spontaneous joy (GR”A to Mishley 2:14, 23:24, and to Divrei Hayamim, 1:16:31).
Rina – literally – song. This word can have negative connotation (see for example Eichah 2:19, and Ibn Ezra there). We mention during the Mincha prayer on Shabbos "Avraham Yagel (from the word “Gil”), Yitzchak Yeranain (from the word “Rina”). The matter is that Gil it is connected with Chesed, and Rina – with Gevurah. Therefore the word Rina is used also in relation to happiness when evildoers are destroyed (Mishley 11:10).
Ditza – this word is mentioned in Tanach only once, in the book of Iyov 41:14. According to the commentators, this word is used when even frustration turns to fun and dancing.
– Spiritual pleasure (see the Malbim’s commentary to the book of Nechemia 8:9).
Thus, for example, this word is used for the description of pleasure after the
construction of the
and Achva, Shalom and
Note that the voices of happiness are mentioned five
times in this blessing, corresponding to the five voices heard by our nation at
In this week’s Parsha we learn how Yitzchak wanted to give his blessings to the wicked Eisav. Rivka advises Yakov how to trick Yitzchak in order that he (Yakov) should receive the blessings. Yakov successfully pretends to be his brother and Yitzchak blesses him, but later discovers the trick. In the end Yitzchak gives a different blessing to Eisav as well. There are a few obvious questions usually asked regarding this entire episode. Why was it necessary for Yakov to pretend to be his brother? If Eisav was so wicked, why did Yitzchak want to bless him in the first place? Why was Yakov permitted to lie? How did the blessing take effect if it was given to the wrong person? Why did not Yitzchak curse the “usurper” as soon as he found out about the trick? Last but not least: what’s the difference between the two blessing anyway? Was not the beginning of Eisav’s blessing actually quite similar to Yakov’s<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>? So why then did he then hate his brother so much for tricking him?
better understand this obscure passage in the Torah we have to go back and
remember two important pieces of information: the prediction Rivka received
when she was still pregnant with the two brothers, and the selling of the
birthright, described in this week’s Parsha. Our sages tell us that in many
ways our matriachs had a greater understanding and even deeper prophetic vision
than their husbands (see Midrash Tanchuma, Shemos 1:1, Rashi on Bereishis
21:12). For instance, Sarah discerned the danger of leaving Yishmael in the
household, while Avraham was biased and did not want to send away his son. In
the case of our Parsha, Rivka understood the nature of Eisav better than
Yitzchak did. Moreover, since she was already prophetically told, that her two
children will be the different from one another, with the older serving the
younger, she realized that Eisav is a wicked son<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
Rivka received this prophesy when she went to the
known in the writings of Kabala (and we discussed this in our commentary to
Parshas Noach and Parshas Vayera) that Yitzchak’s soul had to do with the
Sefirah of “Gevurah” (strength and judgment). Eisav inherited this
characteristic from his father, and this is one of the reasons why Yitzchak
always felt a special closeness to his firstborn son. In general, from
Yitzchak’s point of view, Eisav’s qualities could have been used for good,
there would a division of responsibility: Yakov – learning the Torah, while
Eisav (and his descendants) – protecting them from the nations as well as
serving in the future
In general, Hashem tells His prophets about what He is planning to do (see Amos 3:7), but at times, when the need arises, some information is hidden from them. Normally, a person of Yitzchak’s caliber, deserving of having the Divine Presence constantly in his home, should have known that Eisav was wicked. However, for the time being even Yitzchak did not perceive the true nature of his firstborn son<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. In this case the whole rectification was prepared in the manner that Yakov should get his blessings in a roundabout way<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. One of the reasons for this was that Yakov was rectifying the sin of Adam (see or commentary to Parshas Vayera). Eisav, however, got attached to the spiritual root of the original serpent (and Satan himself – Eisav’s guardian angel). To reverse the effects of Adam’s sin, the tikun had to be that just as the serpent deceived Adam, now “Adam” had to deceive the “serpent”. Yakov had to act in this awkward manner, posing as Eisav<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Another reason for this is the famous concept “Maasey Avos Siman Lebonim<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>” – the deeds of the forefathers are a harbinger of what will happen to their descendants. (Ramban, in his Torah commentary brings many examples of the events that happened to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov and how they correspond to the future history of the Jewish people.) In the future our nation would frequently have to resort to all sorts of tricks in order to survive in the hostile environment among the nations of the world, the descendants of Eisav.
Even though we can now understand the underlying factors behind Yakov’s trickery, we still have to comprehend why it was permitted? For one thing, Rivka received a prophecy, that Yakov should get this blessing even using such tricky methods (see Targum Onkelus Bereishis 27:13); so the permission to lie was based on a general principle, that a prophet can temporarily permit any prohibition except idol worship (see Talmud, Yevamos 90b; Sanhedrin 89b).
understand Yakov’s behavior even better if we will remind ourselves of the
second piece of information: Eisav had already sold the birthright to Yakov.
According to Rashi, this birthright primarily consisted of the right to serve
in the future
Once Yitzchak blessed Yakov, he prophetically felt that the blessing took effect and was successful for the one for whom it was intended. This is why, even after Yitzchak’s beloved son came back, he did not curse Yakov “the usurper” but on the contrary said: “let him be blessed” (Ramban 27:33). Moreover, our sages teach us (Bereishis Raba 65:22) that Yitzchak felt the Gehinom open before him as soon as Eisav entered. From now on, there was no longer any reason for Hashem to continue hiding the true nature of Eisav from his father. The prophet could now tell the wickedness of his son right away. He did not even want to give him any blessings at all. In the end he did give him a brocha.
At fist glance, the blessings of Eisav seem to be so similar to Yakov’s brochos. However, there are major distinctions between them (see Zohar 1:143b, and the GR”A’s commentary there). The blessing of Yakov starts with the name of Hashem, while Eisav’s blessings plainly states what he will get without any Divine Name mentioned. The blessings of Yakov start with the dew of Heaven, and then the fatness of the earth is mentioned, for Yakov receives everything from Above. However, Eisav’s blessing first mentions the fatness of the earth and then the dew of Heaven. After all, Eisav is “attached” just below, and it is only through his guardian angel’s “accusations” (of our nation not keeping the commandments) that Eisav can rise higher and receive any dominion (see below).
The blessings of Yakov are ten in number, they correspond to ten Sefiros, and they rectify the ten curses of Adam (Zohar ibid). Eisav, however, got a total of three blessings. The GR”A (on the Zohar ibid) explains that they correspond to the three types of Satan: Yetzer Hara (evil inclination), angel of death and the Satan himself (see Talmud, Bava Basra 16a). These three correspond in our bodies to the liver, spleen and the gallbladder<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
is supposed to be subordinate to Yakov. However, Eisav is promised that if the
descendants of Yakov misbehave, he will have a possibility to break off Yakov’s
yoke and have his own dominion. For the time our nation was righteous,
so we have been in the Roman exile for almost 2000 years, and because of our
In this Parsha we read a detailed account of how Yakov worked for Lavan in return for a payment of certain kinds of sheep and goats. The exact types of animals are described (31:10) as Akudim, Nekudim and Berudim (ringed, spotted and flecked)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, as well as the ways Yakov used to prepare some of the flocks for himself. It even mentions Yakov’s vision of an angel (31:11) in which the separation of the flocks is seen. What is the need for the Torah to spend so much time on these descriptions, while many important laws are often only hinted to with just one extra letter?
It is known in the Zohar and other Kabalistic writings that often the most unassuming passages of Torah actually contain the deepest hints. In fact, the more simple and uninformative the passage seems to be, the more likely it is to contain profound Sodos - secrets of Kabala<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. The Zohar states (3:149b) “Woe is to the one who thinks that the Torah is just telling us stories … Even for an earthly king it’s not honorable to tell meaningless stories, how much more so to write them down. Certainly even more so, when the King of kings, Hashem would just collect various tales like the account of Hagar, of Lavan with Yakov, of the Bilaam’s donkey, of Bilaam and Balak and of Zimri. If this is what Torah is why is it called the Torah of Truth, whose words are more desirable than precious gold? Rather the Holy Torah is infinitely deep, all of its stories contain hints, allusions, and profound inner meaning …<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>”
of the most known examples is the description (in the next Parsha) of the
“eight kings of
Similarly, in this Parsha, the details of Yakov’s pasturing of Lavan’s sheep form the nucleus of many Kabalistic writings. For example, in the main work based on Arizal – “Etz Chaim”, one of 50 Shaarim (gates) is devoted to the world of “Akudim” (ringed)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Describing the details of what is involved in this episode goes far beyond the scope of this work. However, we will give a brief explanation of one of the aspects of Yakov’s pasturing and separating certain animals from Lavan’s flock (for further details, see Rav Yitzchak Aizek Chaver in Pischei Shaarim, Netiv Partzufei Leah VeRachel, 6; Beis Olamim commentary to Idra Raba to pages 129 and 134-136)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
It is known in Kabalistic writings<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> that Adam’s soul in a way included all the souls of people, and after his sin, many different souls descended into Klipos (unclean spiritual worlds). For the time being<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Hashem made a system of spiritual equilibrium between the “Good” and the “Evil”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. This is generally compared to a strong warrior fighting against a weak one, while using only a part of his strength, in order for the battle to be fair. The key element in this war is the human being. This is the creature that can tip the scales in either direction<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Meanwhile, the “Evil” is allowed to act as a prosecutor, to “demand” retribution<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, or to claim “lack of fairness”. In particular, each time a great soul is released from the worlds of “Sitra Achara”, the Satan is given permission to “speak up” and make demands.
Obviously, the greatest rectification in history started when the soul of Avraham<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> was sent to this world. Indeed, the Satan claimed that such a person will throw the scales off balance. As such, he demanded that this soul will only be released to a family of idol manufacturer – Terach. Moreover, only when Terach was having relations with his wife (Amtelai Bas Karnevo) during her menstrual period, did the Satan agree to let go the soul of Avraham. He was hoping that being born under such conditions and in such a family, Avraham will fail his task, and indeed his soul will descend even lower, thus giving the spiritual energy to Klipos. However, the Satan was wrong. Avraham not only rose above his predisposition, but even rectified his father<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Terach’s third gilgul was Iyov, who was now suffering for his sins from before<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> (all of this is taken from Kisvei Arizal, Shaar Hapsukim, beginning of Sefer Iyov).
Once Avraham started changing the world, his unique family had to select the other souls trapped in the Klipos. This was the Sod of pasturing the flocks. Lavan represented the unclean worlds and Yakov was trying to choose out the good souls trapped there. First Yakov took out Leah and Rachel and then he started working on the future Jewish souls. All the details described in our Parsha are hinting both to the rectifications of the Olamos (worlds) and that of Neshamos (souls), (see Rav Yitzchak Aizek Chaver in Pischai Shaarim, Netiv Partzufei Leah VeRachel, 6; Beis Olamim to pages 129 and 134-136). This also explains the reasons why Yakov had to act slyly again, (see our commentary to Parshas Toldos). The only way to be successful against the Sitra Achara is to use its’ own methods of cunning (see Rav Yitzchak Aizek Chaver in Beis Olamim, page 129), as it says (Shmuel 2:22:27): “… with the perverse, you should be cunning”.
As we mentioned above, it would be far too complicated to describe the details of these hints; we just tried to give the reader an idea of what is involved. We will just finish by quoting the end of the words of Rav Yitzchak Aizek Chaver in Beis Olamim, page 129): “You now see the depth of our Holy Torah and the wonderful things hinted here regarding the sheep and the rods. At first glance they look as unimportant things but in truth they hint the depth of the war between the Kedusha and the Sitra Achara.” May we soon merit that all the needed rectifications will be finished, all the souls that need to come down<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> will finish their work, and we will then merit the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days!
This weekly parsha begins with Yakov's meeting with
Eisav. Yakov, on his way back to eretz Yisroel (the
It is necessary to ask a few questions. First, why was Yakov
so frightened? In fact he was an extremely strong man, as we saw in the
previous chapter. He was able to move alone a stone which was heavy enough to
require the combined efforts of all the shepherds together to push it. His sons
also possessed enormous power. Later in this parsha we learn that just two of
them alone (Shimon and Levi) were successful in fighting against the entire
It is known that "Maasei Avos – Siman Lebanim" – what occurred to the patriarchs is a sign to their descendents. There are many parallels between the lives of our forefathers and the events that later happened to our people. (Ramban in the commentary on Bereishis brings many examples of this, see for example Ramban on Bereishis 12:6; the GR”A on Tikuney Zohar Chadash, 80c). One of the reasons for this is that our forefathers were like roots of a tree, while we are like branches of this same tree<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Another reason is so that the future events will become firmly fixed. Even though some prophesies are conditional, those prophesies that had a sign given will definitely be fulfilled<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Similarly, the lives of our fathers were a sign for their children, and they firmly established what will happen to the later generations<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Similarly the beginning of this week’s parsha serves as a guide for the behavior of a Jew in Golus (exile)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Our sages used to study this Parsha before they went to meet with representatives of the Roman government (see Ramban 33:15, Bereishis Raba 78:15).
At first glance, Yakov's reaction to Eisav’s threat seems exaggerated. The Maggid of Dubno explains what had occurred by means of the following parable. A king had a close friend in a remote city. In this city there was no doctor but if the king’s friend fell ill, the king would send to him the court doctor. Once, many people became very ill in that city. Though the close friend only sneezed a little, but did not really feel bad, he began to groan, as though he had strong pain. His family who knew, that he is not sick were surprised. He told them: "Do you think that I suffer strongly? I suffer for others, so that a doctor is sent who will cure the other patients."
Similarly, writes the Maggid of Dubno, Yakov knew that his meeting with Eisav will set a precedent in history for the meetings of our people with the descendants Eisav. He knew that in the subsequent history, our people will not always deserve help from Hashem. Therefore he prepared the salvation back then, through his prayers and his merits. Moreover, during our journey thru history we will not always deserve open miracles, but there is a reliable way to be rescued from the anger of the nations - bribes. As we see, Yakov did not even send Eisav so much<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. However, he made a big pomp, with many envoys, one after another, at a distance from each other. This is a part of human nature - many small actions have a greater effect than one big one<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
In reality, Yakov did not wish to give the wicked Eisav too much. Righteous people value their property, which they earn honestly. All their possessions are sanctified and very dear to them<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. For this reason, Yakov sent Eisav only the minimum gift needed to flatter him.
Initially, when Yakov sent his message, he hoped that Eisav would leave him alone, when he saw how Hashem had blessed him. The Maggid of Dubno explains this by the following parable. A poor man once went to other country to earn some money. His business was not going too well, and he already decided to go back home with empty hands. Then, all of the sudden a huge opportunity suddenly turned up, and he earned a million dollars! When he returned everybody thought that he is an ingenious businessman. But when he told them how he made this money, they all recognized that the Creator has made a miracle for him! Similarly Yakov did not earn even a penny during the first 14 years of work. Only in the last years he suddenly grew fabulously rich. According to the Maggid, Yakov was telling Eisav: "Do not be angry at me. I have earned nothing. Only in the end, the Creator has suddenly sent me his blessing."
Rashi (32:5) writes another very interesting explanation regarding the message that Yakov sent to Eisav. He said: “Even though I lived (garti) with the wicked Lavan, I kept 613 commandments<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. I did not learn from Lavan’s evil ways.” Rav Elchonan Wasserman quotes the Chofetz Chaim that Yakov was actually admitting his lack of accomplishment: “I did not learn how to serve Hashem with the same diligence as Lavan commits his sins!” We should learn from the sinners! We should imitate their tremendous industriousness when they conduct dishonest businesses. Look at how much energy they put into seeking entertainment; in pursuing the forbidden? They often give up on their sleep for the sake of night pleasures! How far could we progress if we would only try to imitate them in their energetic ways, if we put as much vigor and strength into serving Hashem? We would then certainly deserve a speedy redemption and the coming of Moshiach!
In this Parsha we read the account of Yehuda and Tamar. At first glance, this story is quite peculiar and begs some questions. Why did Yehuda tell his second son to marry Tamar? When his second son died, what were Yehuda’s plans now? Why did Yehuda have relations with Tamar if she appeared to be a prostitute? What was the reason Tamar was judged to be killed? What is the significance of the two children born to her?
As we already mentioned in parshas Vayetze, the most obscure passages of Torah usually contain the most fundamental information. This is especially true in regards to the development of the Jewish souls, and in particular the primary souls, whose rectification comprises a Tikun for the entire nation. One of the main souls, that is a composite of all of our people, is that of King Dovid. The Moshiach, his descendant will finish the rectification started by him. Special care had to be taken to prepare the appearance of King Dovid in this world<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, starting many generations before his birth.
we discussed in parshas Vayetze, the great souls are not released so easily.
The more unobtrusive their appearance will be, the greater is their chance of
succeeding. Back in the times of Yehuda<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>,
the events, guided by the Divine hand, were already taking place to make way
for Dovid. The continuation of King Dovid’s ancestral chain is further
described in the book of Rus<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
During the years of famine, in the era of the Shoftim, a family from Yehuda
goes to sojourn in the
It would seem that the stories of Tamar, Rus, and Dovid’s mother are just shameful episodes in our history. Indeed they were an object of laughter among many jesters<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> who would say: “Look at the founders of the Jewish royalty! Their forefather (Yehuda) impregnated their foremother thinking she is a prostitute. What good can come out from such a union? Another one of their foremothers (Rus) came from the despised nation of Moav, who are specifically forbidden to mix in with our people. At last, Dovid’s own father Yishai claims that this is not his son!” In truth, only through such an unattractive family tree<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> could the great soul of Dovid originate. We can now get into the depth of what is hinted here.
It is known that when a man dies without children, his wife is subject to the law of Yibum, i.e. she gets married to a brother of the deceased. If none of the brothers want to marry her, the procedure of Chalitza is performed. The main reason behind this is that in most cases, a person who did not have children needs to come back to this world. Since a married man leaves some of his spirit in his wife, she has the potential to bring him back, especially if her new husband is a close relative of the deceased<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. In the case of a Yibum, the new couple can restore the entire structure of the soul (Neshama, Ruach and Nefesh) of the departed brother exactly the way it was in this world. The Torah hints this by saying that the child born will be named after the dead. This passage is not taken literally<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, but rather is a hint that the child born will have the souls of the deceased. If however none of the brothers want to do Yibum, the Chalitza severs any remaining connection between the deceased and the widow, and the soul of the departed will need other rectifications. That is why the main part of Chalitza is the removal of the shoe from the foot of the brother, symbolizing the release of the spiritual from the physical<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. The widow also spits out to symbolize her release of any spiritual connection to her late husband. In the ancient times, our people practiced a procedure similar to Yibum and Chalitza even with other relatives, not just the brother. This is exactly what happened in the cases of Yehuda with Tamar, as well as Boaz with Rus.
When the first husband of Tamar died, Yehuda told his second son to do Yibum. Even though the Torah was not given yet, we see from here that our ancestors understood the great tikunim that can be done by fulfilling the commandments and practiced them voluntarily. The second son did not try to fulfill the command of Yibum, but rather did everything to prevent Tamar from getting pregnant. He also died in his young age. This event was quite unusual for Yakov’s family that generally enjoyed special blessings of longevity. Yehuda was afraid to give Tamar to his third son<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> and meanwhile Tamar was quite eager to have a child from this special family. Since her intentions were pure<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, Hashem made “special arrangements” that she should be successful. She sat on the road pretending to be a prostitute. Obviously, Yehuda was not a man to go to these kinds of women<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> but in this case Tamar’s prayers were answered and a special miracle was performed. Yehuda all of a sudden had tremendous sexual desire<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> (Bereishis Raba 85:8). He approached the woman, verified that she is not married and that she practices monotheism<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> and then had relations with her<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Another miracle occurred and she got pregnant right away. In her womb, she was carrying the gilgulim of her two late husbands. The tremendous tikun that was waiting to be produced by these people caused a very strong reaction from the forces of evil (see our commentary to parshas Vayetze). Everything on the unclean side (Sitra Achara) was aroused to stop this pregnancy<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> but the end result ultimately depended on Yehuda’s freedom of choice. Indeed, he passed the test and admitted to what happened. The next generations of King Dovid’s ancestors came to this world!
few hundred years later, a new ingredient in the lineage of King Dovid was
being prepared. Moav – the nation of exceptional cruelty<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
and moral degradation possessed certain sparks of holiness carried all the way
Boaz’s grandson Yishai was one of the leaders of the generation. At the end of his life he started doubting the halachic decision of his grandfather. What if Boaz was wrong? Then the entire family would be considered “Psulei Kahal” – those unfit to marry regular Jewish people. There is one way to purify such families (Talmud, Kidushin 69a). The man can take a servant woman and her children are halachically like herself. If they are freed, they can marry anyone! But what if Boaz was right? Then Yishai is regular Jew and can’t have relations with a servant woman. So Yishai came up with an ingenious solution<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. He separated from his wife, and freed his servant woman on condition that he is a kosher Jew. This way, if Yishai is kosher, his relations with the servant woman are permitted since she was freed, and has become Jewish. But if Yishai is not kosher, then he is having relations with a servant woman, whose children will not bear a stigma of “Psulei Kahal”. This way Yishai could purify his seed and have kosher descendants no matter what.
When Yishai’s wife found out about this, she did not accept such a decision. She was confident that Boaz, the leader of his generation, could not be mistaken. Her husband was a kosher Jew. She therefore pretended to be the servant woman, and went to her husband in the dark<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. When his wife was noticeably pregnant, Yishai, of course, assumed that this is an illegitimate child<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Later, when Shmuel came to anoint one of Yishai’s children, it did not even occur to Yishai to bring Dovid. It was only when Shmuel received a message from Hashem that neither of the men standing before him is the chosen one, was Dovid called in. And here the TRUTH came out at last<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. The man that was most despised is the true anointed of Hashem. It’s the broken heart that Hashem desires (Tehilim 51:19).
was the in fourteenth generation after Avraham, so is the Gematria of the word
Dovid. His kingdom is compared to the moon<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
The moon shines its’ brightest on the fifteenth day of the lunar month, but by
the end of the day its’ light to us begins to wane. So too Shlomo, Dovid’s son,
reached the highest point of the dynasty, but at the end of his life things
started to deteriorate (see Melachim 1:11:4). In another fifteen generations
In this parsha we read about the encounter of Yosef and his brothers. A few questions are asked about it. First of all, why did Yosef not reveal who he is right away? Even if he wanted to punish his brothers for selling him, why did his father have to suffer? In truth there seems to be no reason why Yosef did not send a message to his father right after he became second to the king, and spare Yakov the anguish of nine extra years. Why did Yosef accuse his brothers of being spies? He had to at least have some pretext for this. Why did Yosef demand that the brothers bring Binyamin? Why did Yosef choose Shimon to be taken as a hostage while the brothers are absent? Why did not Yosef’s brothers recognize him, especially during the second visit, when he turned out to know so much about them?
we start answering the questions, let’s discuss a very important principle
regarding prophesy<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
The prophetic message was usually given not just as a prediction for the
future. In truth, it was a kind of “road map” for what is recipients are
supposed to do. It gave us guidelines regarding the future history of our
people, and it was certainly expected that the prophet himself would follow
these guiding principles. An example
could be brought from the coronation of Shlomo, son of Dovid. The prophet Noson
foretold that Shlomo will be the next king of
One could think that all of this was unnecessary. After all, if Hashem wants Shlomo to be the next king, He will certainly find ways to bring this about. However, as we mentioned, Noson knew that this prophesy was revealed to him for a reason, not just to foretell the future. He therefore did everything in his power to bring about the fulfillment of his own prophesy<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
our parsha, the Ramban (42:9) and the GR”A (in Aderes Eliyahu 42:9) explain
that Yosef also behaved according to his own prophesy<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
He certainly knew that Yakov’s family is supposed to be in exile in a foreign
When he was sold to
to Yosef’s own prophetic dreams, the sequence of events was supposed to be:
that first the eleven brothers come and bow down before him, and then the
entire family of Yakov will come. When Yosef recognized his brothers he
realized that even the first prophesy was not yet fulfilled,<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
since Benyamin was not with them. Yosef started looking for an excuse in order
to get the brothers to bring Benyamin. Our sages (Bereishis Raba, 91:6) teach
us that the ten brothers had entered
Yosef, acting according to his prophetic dreams, now had an excuse to demand the bringing of Benyamin. This way their words could be verified. To make sure this happens quickly, he kept Shimon with him. He had other reasons for detaining Shimon. According to our sages (Bereishis Raba 84, 16) Shimon was the one who pushed him into the pit before he was sold. Moreover, Shimon and Levi were the two brothers who were very strong and cunning when acting in concert, and Yosef was afraid to let them stay together<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Throughout all this time and even after the brothers came back, it did not occur to them that the viceroy they spoke to is Yosef. The reason was that they he changed over time, and he also grew a beard<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. The brothers also changed but some of them had beards before they parted from Yosef. Besides, Yosef expected them to come, and so he had no problems recognizing them, while they did not even think that their brother, sold into slavery, could become the second to the king<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
Once the brothers brought Binyamin, Yosef had just one last test in store for them<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Do they hate Binyamin the same way they hated Yosef, or are they going to protect him? The dialogue between Yosef and Yehuda, described in the beginning of the next parsha, proved that the brothers loved Binyamin and were ready to protect him. Yehuda was willing to become a slave to enable Binyamin to return to Yakov! Now that the time has come to reveal himself, Yosef could not hold on any longer, and told them who he is<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
Ultimately, the whole story of Yosef and his brothers was also a sign to the later generations<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. The separation of Yosef, the verbal fight between Yosef and Yehuda, and the unification that followed were a prelude to the future split between the kingdoms of Yehuda and Yosef and their reuniting in the end of days. In the future the Jewish people will again be united with their lost brother Yosef – the ten tribes. Two Moshiachs will come to redeem our nation, Moshiach ben Ephraim from Yosef and Moshiach ben Dovid from Yehuda. The two nations will combine into one and “Ephraim will not envy Yehuda and Yehuda will not fight Ephraim” (Yeshiyahu 11:13). “And I will make them into one nation and one king will rule over them” (Yehezkel 37:22)!
In the beginning of this parsha, the Torah describes a long monologue where Yehuda is persuading the viceroy (Yosef) to accept himself as a slave instead of Binyamin. The Ramban (44:19) questions the purpose of all this long speech<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>; what Yehuda said was already known. Moreover, if Binyamin’s deserves the punishment what’s Yehuda’s whole appeal? Yosef had treated them very kindly until Binyamin stole his goblet, and even now Yosef extended his kindness as far as not punishing the entire group and not sentencing Binyamin to death.
This meeting of Yehuda and Yosef is a continuation of events described at the end of the last parsha. When pursued, the brothers declared themselves to be innocent and said that if the goblet is found in their possession, they will all be slaves and the one in whose bag it is found will die. The answer they received was that it will be like they said, only the one in whose bag the goblet is found will be a slave. The Ramban (44:10) explains their conversation as follows: according to their words, the only one who stole is the one in whose possession the goblet is found. The others however did not know of what happened, otherwise the judgment they passed on themselves should be the same, either they all should die or all become slaves. This is why they were told: “it will be like you said”. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that only one of you is at fault. However I will soften the judgment as compared to what you yourselves offered. The thief will be a slave while you will not be punished.
Later, when the goblet was found and the brothers came to Yosef, they said they will all be slaves. Yosef again stated that only Binyamin will be his slave and they should all go home in peace. After Yosef soften the judgment considerably, Yehuda prepared to beseech for even further mitigation of the verdict.
The Malbim (44:18) writes that in general, there are two types of judgments. A regular judge has to follow the rules and laws that were set up. There is however a second way of judging, where the judge may act with extra compassion or take into account the factors that are usually not considered<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. For example, if the one being judged is a father of a poor family and they have no other means of support, locking him in prison will affect those who are not at fault. A kind judge may take this factor into account and replace the imprisonment by a lighter punishment<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. This second kind of judgment can not be used by just anybody. Only a king or a very important official is granted special powers to use his own discretion and include various considerations and feelings in his judgment.
Yehuda realized that he won’t be able to win the argument if he asked to be judged according to the letter of the law. Since such circumstantial evidence as finding the goblet in Binyamin’s sack was considered overwhelming, the judges assembled with Yosef would consider the only proper punishment to be applied to Binyamin. Yehuda therefore approached Yosef alone, trying to persuade him to use the second type of judgment. He started by saying that he is speaking only to Yosef (not to the other judges) for Yosef is like Pharaoh himself, i.e. he has the authority to judge not according to the letter of the law. He asked Yosef not to get angry, for his request is not to twist judgment but rather to exercise the unique privilege of judging according to principles of kindness.
The Malbim now quotes sefer Akeidas Yitzchak (30:23) that Yehuda was asking Yosef to pass a lenient sentence for three reasons. First of all, according to the principles of kindness, a weaker person should not be judged the same way as a strong one. For example, if the penalty for a certain violation is 20 lashes, a weak person might simply die if the punishment is administered. Secondly, if the punishment of the transgressor can cause somebody else’s death, the principles of kindness dictate that the sentence should be altered. At last, if the one who was affected by the crime is the judge himself, it’s in his power to partially forgive and change the punishment.
Thus Yehuda started by saying that Binyamin is a weak child, the youngest one, who is accustomed to special love and care. He is the only child left to his mother, for his maternal brother died, and his father loves especially him. He is not a kind of child that can bear the yoke of slavery and can easily die under such conditions! Yehuda mentioned that Binyamin’s father will die if he finds out what happened to his favorite son. According to the principles of mercy, their father does not deserve such a cruel punishment for he did not do anything wrong.
Yehuda was explaining how Binyamin was only brought to
it is through Yosef that Binyamin was brought to
At last, Yehuda asked Yosef to change the verdict since the crime committed only affected himself. Moreover, he would not even loose anything. Since Yehuda is stronger and better equipped to handle slavery, he will be a better replacement for Binyamin. And if Yosef asks why he is volunteering for this, Yehuda explained that he is the guarantor for Binyamin’s safety. Had the guarantee been given to Binyamin himself, Yosef could claim that he had forfeited his rights when he committed theft. However the guarantee was to their father and therefore it still holds true. Rather than being a sinner before his father forever, Yehuda would prefer to be Yosef’s slave.
this point time came for Yosef to reveal himself. After explaining who he is,
he immediately jumped into action. He prepared sent his brothers to bring his father
and the rest of the family to
knew that a difficult exile lies ahead of his children. He realized that by
coming to Egypt he will be preparing a path for successive exiles, (this is why
he sent Yehuda ahead to prepare the first Yeshiva, see Rashi 46:28 in the name
of Midrash Tanchuma, Vayigash, 11). The Ramban and Rabeinu Bachye (47:28) write
that Yakov’s exile to
this parsha, the blessings of Yakov to his children are described. Judging from
the long commentaries to these verses, these prophetic blessings were quite
obscure, but still a lot of information can be drawn from them. In the blessing
to Dan, Yakov said: “Dan will judge his people<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
like one of the tribes of
to our sages<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, the
prophesy of Yakov applied to Shimshon, a judge of
The most important condition in Shimshon’s struggle had to be that the Plishtim will not think that he is fighting for the Jewish people. After all, they could kill ten Jews for every one of their men killed. Had they suspected that Shimshon loves the Jewish people and cares for them, they could tie his hands by keeping some Jews hostage as “collateral”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. The only solution to the problem was to severe all ties with the Jewish people and to become a close friend of the Plishtim themselves. Shimshon had to show in the most obvious way that he had broken any connection to the Jewish nation. Then any fighting that he will do will become a personal matter rather than the Jewish revenge.
The clearest way for Shimshon to show that he has nothing to do with the Jews was to marry one of the Plishti women! According to our sages<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Shimshon actually got his first wife converted. However, under normal circumstances a conversion for the sake of marriage is forbidden. Shimshon was following a very dangerous path: a sin Leshem Shamayim (for the sake of Heaven). Under certain circumstances, as such a sin is deemed by our sages to be even greater than a mitzvah<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. However, one of the conditions is that the person acting is not trying to derive any enjoyment from this act. This way, his act is considered to be under duress<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
In general, our sages (Talmud, Sotah 9b) criticize Shimshon for going after his eyes. The reason<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> is that Shimshon’s acts were not just dedicated for the sake of delivering the Jewish people but had an element of personal pleasure<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. In the end he got so accustomed to forming relationships with non-Jewish women that he even gave himself away to one of them<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. He told her the secret of his strength: that his hair is never cut. As soon as she shaved of his hair, Shimshon’s tremendous strength vanished and he became an ordinary individual.
Plishtim captured Shimshon, put out his eyes and brought him into their
Bachye (49:17) and Bereishis Raba (98:14) explain some of the hints of Yakov’s
prophesy that were fulfilled by Shimshon. Shimshon waged guerilla warfare alone
against the Plishtim, just as a snake coming quietly and unexpectedly and
fighting against larger enemies. Just as a snake can be pacified using a charm,
so too Shimshon was pacified by a charming woman. Just as a snake’s poisonous
bite burns inside, so too Shimshon burned the fields of the Plishtim. Just as a
snake has its whole strength in its head, so too Shimshon’s strength came from
the hair of his head. Just as a snake’s poison can continue killing even after
its death, so to Shimshon killed thousands as he died. Just as a snake bites at
the very bottom but affects the entire body, so too Shimshon pulled the beams
The last point to discuss regarding this story is that of freedom of choice. This is a very old question asked by many thinkers: if everything is predicted, where is our freedom of choice? Moreover, since Hashem knows the future, how could he punish the sinners and reward the righteous? This ancient question is discussed in the Mishna in Pirkey Avos 3:15<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> (see Tosafos Yom Tov there); in Tikuney Zohar Chadash 89c, in the GR”A’s edition it’s on page 49, see GR”A’s commentary there; in Rambam (Laws of Repentance 5:5, see also Raavad and Ohr Sameach there)<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. We will only slightly begin to understand this, if we consider that Hashem’s knowledge is not similar to the knowledge of a human being. Hashem is outside of, or above time. He created time, and for Him the future already happened. Even though the future to a large extent depends on our actions based on free choices, Hashem can look at the end of history and then predict the historical events to those at the beginning of history<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. The prophecies are stated in such a manner that they can be fulfilled in different ways<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. In general, the opposite of freedom of choice is not “knowledge” but “coercion”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Hashem’s own knowledge does not force the future; the sinner is not forced to sin, nor is the righteous to do the commandments<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
In the case of Shimshon, he was supposed to lead partisan warfare, but he did not have to sin. If he needed to marry a Plishti woman, he could have found one that was interested in Judaism and willing to convert “Leshem Shamayim”. Even if this was impossible, and he was forced to do a sin “Leshem Shamayim”, he had to work very hard not to be tempted and to realize all his life that this type of living is a “horaas shaa” – a special permission given for the time being<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. The danger of sins “Leshem Shamayim” is that one gets accustomed to living not according to the law, which can usually lead to sins for their own sake<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. As we mentioned, the first wife of Shimshon converted to Judaism. Later however he took non-Jewish women without even converting them<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. In the end, he got so attached to his non-Jewish wife that he gave over his most treasured secret, she betrayed him and he lost his life. Our sages teach<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> that when Yakov foresaw Shimshon, he thought that he is the Moshiach. However when he realized his mistake, he prayed for Divine salvation: “For your deliverance I hoped, O Hashem”, just as we are still waiting for the true Moshiach!
This booklet is based on one statement of the Vilna Gaon in which he wrote that the last ten Parshiyos of the Torah hint to what would happen throughout the last one thousand years of history. This way, the last book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) predicts the history of the sixth millennia and every century is hinted to by one parsha. We will try to evaluate this statement of the Gaon and understand the history accordingly. We certainly do not assume the knowledge of all of the hints. Everybody who studied the Talmud knows full well that we sometimes don’t know answers to even much simpler questions. Even the great sages often end their commentaries with the words “Tzarich Iyun” – this needs further examination. Still, after analyzing the recent history, we found a wonderful correspondence between the years and the Torah portions and hence we decided to publish this article. We would like to thank Mr. Shlomo Simon, Mrs. Chaya Bartel and Mrs. Chana Ziegelheim for their help in editing this work. If you will have questions or comments, please call +1-347-645-2274.
The Vilna Gaon also explains that the spiritual root of the ten Torah portions of Devarim is in ten Sefiros of the world of Asya. This is the lowest of the spiritual worlds and it is a projection of the worlds above it, just as the fifth book of Torah is a projection of the books before. Thus, to better understand the history of the ten centuries, we need to have some understanding of Sefiros as well. In general, Sefiros can be viewed as parts of Divine will or as ways of Hanhaga – Hashem’s rule over the universe. There are ten such ways. Everything in the spiritual and physical realms is a result and projection of some combination of the ten Sefiros. Just as all physical materials with their great variety are composed of just a little more that one hundred elements, so too, is everything spiritual, a combination of these ten general spiritual roots. The names of the Sefiros are:
Keser – Crown, Chochma – Wisdom, Bina – Understanding, Chesed – Kindness, Gevurah – Strength, Tiferes – Harmony, Netzach – Perseverance, Hod – Splendor, Yesod – Foundation, Malchus – Royalty.
The projections of these Sefiros are in everything including the human body. Even though some knowledge of Kabala will enhance the understanding of this booklet, such knowledge is not required. One can learn a lot from this article even without it. Let us study the history starting with year 5000, i.e. 1240 by the secular calendar. According to the Gaon’s arrangement we have the following correspondence:
Note, that Nitzavim and Vayelech count as one Parsha. When there are two Shabbosim between Rosh Hashanah and Sukkos, we split them; however they are generally considered one Parsha. Thus, there are 53 Parshiyos in the Torah, like the gematria of the word “Gan” – garden. If we were to consider Nitzavim and Vayelech separately, we would have a total of 54 Parshiyos.
The written Torah as well as the Talmud and the book of Zohar predict many elements of our history. However, the statement of the Gaon shines additional light on it.
A short summary of the book of Devarim.
In general, the book of Devarim covers the last month and seven days of Moshe’s life. During this time, he chastised our people, he reviewed the Torah’s commandments with them, he predicted their future and, at the end he blessed them. Thus, the book can naturally be divided into four parts. The first three weekly readings have to do with the past. Moshe was reprimanding our nation for its sins. The next three Parshiyos are completely dedicated to mitzvos. The following three weekly portions deal with predictions of the future. The last Parsha is Moshe’s blessing of the twelve tribes, each according to its spiritual root. This general division fits perfectly into the teachings of Kabala. According to Kabalistic works, the general division of the Sefiros is also into groups of three. These groups also correspond to the three levels of the soul – Neshama, Ruach and Nefesh, as well as to the three times – past, present and future, and to the three levels of the body. Thus, the first three Sefiros correspond to the Neshama, to the past tense and to the head. In general, all Neshamos were created in the beginning, and one can’t change them or damage them. Our actions only affect the levels below Neshama. The Neshama itself simply leaves a person at the time of sin. This is also the explanation of Kares – the spiritual incision. The lower levels of the soul are cut off from Neshama. The next level – Ruach – corresponds to present tense and to the middle level of the body. We breathe through our lungs, and indeed the meaning of the word Ruach is wind. The lowest level – Nefesh – corresponds to the lowest part of the body, below the diaphragm. Our qualities come from this part of the soul. It has to do with the future tense and we have to work on it all our lives. It is thus taught that Ruach is riding on top of the Nefesh, like a rider on a horse. Some people have a hard time taming their “horse,” for they are born with many bad qualities, but if they succeed in the end, their reward is very great. Similarly, our
After this introduction, the general order of the book of Devarim becomes clear. The first three chapters have to do with the first three Sefiros, and they are mostly dedicated to our past history. Even though there are some mitzvos in VaEschanan and Ekev, these mitzvos mostly have to do with strengthening our Emuna – faith. The next three portions are completely dedicated to describing the detailed commandments of the Torah and correspond to the Sefiros that have to do with the present. We will later see that a tremendous rise of Torah learning happened in the period of time corresponding to these chapters. The following three Parshiyos describe the predictions of the future and correspond to the Sefiros that have to do with the future. In these chapters, our deviation from Torah is predicted, as well as our punishment and the return to Judaism – the Baaley Tshuva movement. At last, the blessings of the tribes correspond to Malchus – for this Sefira shows our readiness to receive the Divine blessing, and it is also the source of the Jewish souls. Let us delve a bit further into each Parsha separately.
This chapter is an introduction to the whole book. Just as Kabala teaches us, Keser is the Sefira that connects each world with the world above it. It is thus taught that the Malchus of the higher world becomes the Keser of the world below. Thus, this Parsha summarizes everything that happened until now and introduces us to what will be discussed in the book.
From a historical point of view, two fundamental books saw light in this century – the Tur and the Zohar. The author of the Tur, Rabbi Yakov ben Asher, summarized all the works of the Rishonim before him, producing a unique compendium which describes all the laws that apply to us. Centuries later, Rabbi Yosef Karo used this work as the basis for his Shulchan Aruch. Therefore, most of the halachic works we have today are completely based on the Shulchan Aruch and the Tur. Certainly, the Tur can be considered the root of all other works of halacha, corresponding perfectly to Sefiras Keser.
The Zohar was also rediscovered during this century. After being hidden for generations, it became the root of all subsequent writings of Kabala. Interestingly, the other principal Kabalistic writings of Ramban and his students were also composed in this century.
In general, the sages of the past one thousand years are divided into Rishonim (early ones) and Acharonim (the last ones). Usually, the exile of Spanish Jewry is considered the splitting point. According to this, the Rishonim continued their activity in the time corresponding to the first three Sefiros. In general, all of the first three Sefiros are hidden and so is the activity of most sages of the time. Some of the known writings of this Parsha’s period include the Maharil’s compilation of our customs and his answers to halachic inquiries.
This is the last of the Torah portions in the first group of three. In many ways, it is similar to the previous one just as Chochma is similar to Bina. It is known, that in every group of three Sefiros there is right, left and middle. The right side is that of kindness, while the left is of judgment. Thus, in this group, Bina is from the left side. Even so, the judgment that comes from this Sefira is not as severe as from Gevura and Hod, because this Sefira is included the first three, where in general there is much mercy.
This Parsha warns us that when we build nice houses and multiply our possessions we should not forget Hashem. If we forget about the Creator, we will be destroyed.
The most important historic event in this Parsha is the exile of Spanish Jews. The rabbis of the time wrote that this punishment came about due to the comfort in which our people lived. As opposed to German and French Jews who were accustomed to anti-Semitism, the Spanish Jews lived in a golden country. Their beautiful houses and their wealth caused the envy of their gentile neighbors, which encouraged their hostility. Interestingly, once faced with the choice of exile or conversion, the majority of Spanish Jews chose the latter. With the Spanish exile a whole chapter in Jewish history as well as the Divine rule through the first three Sefiros ended.
is the first chapter dealing with practical commandments. It corresponds to
Sefiras Chesed – the kindness of Hashem. In this period of time, both the
teaching of open Torah as well as the teaching of Kabala flourished. During
this century, Rabbi Yosef Karo wrote the main code of Jewish law and Rabbi
Moshe Isserles added a gloss to it. Also, at this time lived the greatest
Kabalist – the Arizal. All later writings of Kabala and Chassidus are based on
his teachings. It is worth noting that this weekly portion also deals with the
laws applicable to the
Another interesting observation is that this weekly portion warns us not to listen to an idolatrous false prophet. Other laws of false prophets are discussed in the next Parsha as well. The false prophet mentioned here may be Nostradamus. This man, a descendent of Jewish converts to Christianity, still fascinates many Non-Jews by his “predictions”.
Here, the Torah continues discussing many commandments. This portion corresponds to Gevurah – the Sefira of Divine judgment. Thus, the name of this Parsha is Shoftim – judges. Regarding the study of the Torah, many major commentators on the Shulchan Aruch lived in this century. Concerning the books on Kabala, the most famous ones written in this period are from Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto. His own life however was quite sad; he spent a long time in exile and died at young age. The tribulations of his life fully correspond to the attribute of this century.
Regarding the general history of our people, terrible tragedies happened in this time period, for whole Jewish communities were destroyed during the Chmelnitzky massacres.
Our weekly portion also discusses the false prophets. Indeed, one of the most famous false Messiahs in our history, Shabbatai Tzvi, lived during this time. The damage this man brought was certainly enormous. Most of our nation was fooled by him, and when he converted to Islam, many followed suit. Some of his followers continued to believe he is Moshiach even after his conversion. These people plagued our nation for a long time afterwards.
Another infamous person who lived during this century was Baruch Spinoza. At first glance, one might find it too far fetched to call this man a false prophet, however after some analysis this becomes quite plausible. It is known, that for centuries most of our people were religiously observant. Those who did not want to keep the commandments usually converted to other faiths, but the people who called themselves Jews always followed the Torah. Baruch Spinoza became a representative of a new phenomenon – that of the irreligious Jew. On the one hand, he did not formally convert to another faith. On the other hand, he abandoned the ancient traditions our nation faithfully preserved and invented his own “principles of faith”. Later, there would be many such people, but he was the first and therefore his blame is greater.
Parshas Ki Setze.
More commandments are described in this Parsha than in any other, for this is the main portion of the Torah, corresponding to the Sefira of Tiferes. It is impossible to overestimate the development of Torah learning in this century. We will describe only a few of the leading sages.
The Vilna Gaon lived in this period. Interestingly, he found a hint to his name in this Parsha, in the words “Even Shleima”. He and his students wrote hundreds of books on all topics of open and hidden aspects of Torah. Afterwards, many more books were based on the Gaon’s writings. Thus, for example, the Chofetz Chaim based his main halachic decisions in Sefer Mishna Berura on the opinion of the Vilna Gaon.
Chassidus developed in this century. Most of the main leaders that put down the foundations of this movement lived in the one hundred years corresponding to this Parsha. Thus, the founder of Chassidus, the Baal Shem Tov, died 40 years into this century. Some of the major Rebbis that lived at this time include Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Lyadi (the founder of Chabad), Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (founder of Satmar and other dynasties) and Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.
Rabbi Yechezkel Landau (the Node BeYehuda), Rabbi Akiva Eiger and Rabbi Moshe Sofer (the Chasam Sofer) also lived in this century. The Chasam Sofer was able to establish a world famous yeshivah, where most of the prominent Hungarian rabbis learned.
Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, the greatest student of the Vilna Gaon established the world famous Volozhin Yeshiva. This yeshivah served as a model for all subsequent Lithuanian yeshivas.
the great Sefardi rabbis, two of the most famous ones lived during this century
– the Chida and the Rashash. The Chida (Rabbi Chaim Yosef
Parshas Ki Savo.
It is important to mention here, that in the realm of Divine rule, the two Sefiros, Netzach and Hod, work together. Thus, for example, in the human body they correspond to the two legs. As opposed to the hands, each of which can function independently, the legs of a person are used jointly. Thus, the two weekly readings: Ki Savo and Nitzavim with Vayelech are joined into one complete whole, for Nitzavim is simply a continuation of Ki Savo, as we will see later.
Interestingly, the book of Zohar predicts tremendous scientific progress starting with the beginning of Ki Savo (year 5600, 1840 by the secular calendar). The Zohar claims this progress will prepare the world for the coming of Moshiach. Note, that according to Kabala, the Sefiros starting with Netzach are all connected directly to Malchus, thus, from the century of Netzach starts the preparation for Melech Hamoshiach – the kingship of Messiah. Interestingly, according to the writings of Arizal, the top of Malchus actually reaches up to the previous Sefira – Tiferes. This agrees with the traditions of the GR”A (in his commentary to Sifra Detzniusa) and of Chasam Sofer (in his tshuva 62 in the second volume of Choshen Mishpat), that the preparations for the coming of Moshiach already began in year 5500.
Even though Netzach is related to the right side, while Hod – to the left, the influence of the two Sefiros is mixed as we mentioned. Thus, it is taught that the end of Netzach is connected to Hod and judgment flows from it. While the beginning of Ki Savo is quite happy, it ends with curses and punishments. Nitzavim continues with more curses and then speaks about our coming back to the observance of the commandments.
the beginning of Ki Savo discusses the new fruits that we will gather from the
land given to us as eternal inheritance. Interestingly, at this time period
some settlements were founded in the
Towards the middle of the Parsha, the Torah describes eleven curses for those who do not keep various commandments. The curses are concluded by the words: “Cursed is the man that will not uphold the words of this Torah”. The entire second half of the Parsha is devoted to the terrible curses that will befall our nation if we don’t observe the commandments. This portion of the Torah is read quietly – for these are the sad words of rebuke.
from historic perspective, it is well known that the majority of the Jewish
people abandoned the observance of the commandments during this century. By the
time of World War II, most of our nation did not keep the mitzvahs. The fast
momentum at which the Jewish people were going astray was astonishing. Together
with the going away, the punishments started befalling us. On the saddest day
of our year – the Ninth of Av, World War I started. The Russian revolution,
Parshas Nitzavim and Vayelech.
curses continue being described in the beginning of this Parsha. Such
expressions as “Sulfur and salt burned all the soil … like the destruction of
After the terrible curses are described, the Torah predicts our return to Hashem and renewal of the observance of the commandments. This passage is speaking to our generation. In the previous generations some people left traditional Judaism, and their descendants continued the downhill slide and assimilated even further. The concept of return to Torah observance was virtually unknown. In our day this is quite common. People who were born into families with completely irreligious backgrounds have come back to Orthodox Judaism and they often succeed in bringing their parents along with them.
This Parsha is called a small Torah, so as Yesod is the projection of the other Sefiros. Indeed the very commandment to write the Sefer Torah is learned from this Parsha. Based on the verses in this short Parsha, we can judge that the events will greatly speed up once we reach the next century. This weekly portion also contains a severe warning should we not listen to Hashem.
Parshas VeZos HaBracha.
blessings of the twelve Jewish tribes contained in the Parsha correspond to
Malchus, for this Sefira shows our readiness to receive Divine blessing. It is
this Sefira from which the Jewish souls descend. It certainly seems that this
weekly portion hints to the times of Moshiach, corresponding perfectly to the
kingship that this Sefira represents. However, it is our belief that Moshiach
could come in any generation if we deserve. According to the Vilna Gaon (in his
commentary to Sifra Detzniusa), Moshiach ben Yosef will come earlier if we are
worthy. Just as Shaul ruled over our people before
A short commentary to the beginning of Shulchan Aruch.
It’s known that the first paragraph of every book is generally an introduction and a summary of the whole book. At times even the first sentence or just the first word summarizes the entire book, as for example the first sentence of Torah is the Klal (general summary) of the entire Torah and the first word “Bereishis” is Klal of Klalim (GR”A on the fifth chapter of Sifra Detzniuta, see appendix.)
Apparently our sages also followed this rule. They usually tried to make the first Mishna of a tractate to be the fundamental principal of the entire tractate. This tradition continued so that even the books written by Acharonim (the latest sages) usually start with the summary of the entire book. The most fundamental book of Jewish law is, without doubt, the Shulchan Aruch. Thus, by understanding the first law of the Shulchan Aruch, we can in a way understand the entire foundation of keeping the commandments.
The two authors of the Shulchan Aruch describe to us in the very beginning the most desired character traits needed in order to serve the Creator! Interestingly enough, they start with character traits rather than the practical Halachos. The reason is known in the writings of other sages, (GR”A on Mishley 22:5, R. Chaim Vital, see appendix) that the qualities are even more important than the rest of the mitzvos. Without good character traits, one is not able to keep the mitzvos.
The two qualities that are stated as essential by the authors of the Shulchan Aruch are taken from the four qualities declared fundamental by the Tur, based on a mishna in Pirkey Avos (Ethics from Fathers) [5:24]: Yehudah Ben Teyma said: "Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer and strong as a lion to do the will of your Father in Heaven." The Shulchan Aruch mentions the importance of starting the day with zerizus: “One has to get up from bed with the strength of a lion”. The REM”A adds the importance of being bold when it comes to serving the Creator in front of those who make fun of us. Let us first discuss the general order of the four qualities in Tur and then we will say a few words about two of these four qualities that the Shulchan Aruch mentioned.
The GR”A writes in his commentary to Mishley 18:10 that these four qualities are hinted in this verse: מִגְדַּל עׂז שֵׁם יי בּוֹ יָרוּץ צַדִּיק וְנִשְּׂגָּב – “migdal oz shem Hashem bo yarutz tzadik venisgav” – Tower of might of the name of Hashem, in it will run the righteous and be strengthened. Migdal (high tower) corresponds to being as light as an eagle, Oz – to be bold as a leopard (the word עז bold comes from the same root), Yarutz (will run) corresponds to being as swift as a deer and Nisgav (strong) corresponds to being as strong as a lion. All four qualities are actually hinted by the four letters of Divine Name, that is why the verse states that “shem Hashem”, the name of Hashem, hints to these four qualities. The first letter of the Divine name corresponds to the positive commandments – the actions the Torah commands as to do, the second letter corresponds to the negative commands – what the Torah tells us to abstain from doing. This is called the left side – the side of judgment. The third letter corresponds to learning Torah, and the fourth to Tefillah – prayer. There is also another amazing correspondence: The four books of the Tur and of the Shulchan Aruch seem to also correspond to these four character traits. We thus have the following correlation<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>:
Word in the posuk:
Letter of the Name:
swift as a deer
strong as a lion
bold as a leopard
light as an eagle
Note how perfect this correspondence is: Orach Chaim (the way of life) is the first part of the Shulchan Aruch. It contains the laws that are most applicable to our every day actions. Most of it is full of positive commands! Choshen Mishpat is the portion that deals with financial laws and avoiding damages. This has to do with the left side, hence the word Mishpat – judgment.) Yore Deah includes most diverse laws; this is the part studied by those who want to receive Smicha and become rabbis, hence the word Deah – understanding. This part certainly corresponds to Torah learning. At last, Even Haezer – the laws relating to marriage. It is known that the last letter of the Divine name corresponds to the Sefirah of Malchus which relates to the feminine aspect. Note also, that the woman has always been a symbol of spontaneous prayer.
We would like to end now by noting why (in our opinion) the authors of the Shulchan Aruch chose the second and the third qualities as the main ones to be mentioned in the first law. It is known our actions at the start of the day determine how well the day goes. The yetzer hara (evil inclination) in the morning tempts us to stay in bed just a little longer. Often, the one who does not get up on time misses the proper time to read the morning Shema, thus losing an opportunity to fulfill a fundamental Torah commandment. He may also miss the opportunity to pray all of the morning prayers with the congregation. A day with such a start usually has little accomplishment. Thus, the one who will be strong as a lion to get up in the morning has a good chance of serving the Creator for the rest of the day in the best possible manner.
The REM”A mentions the third quality since this is the quality needed to overcome peer pressure. One always gets influenced by his surroundings (RAMBA”M: Deos 6:1). In many instances the people that surround us make fun of our wish to serve the Creator. To overcome this, we need the quality of boldness. In general, boldness is considered to not be a positive quality and it is not to be desired, as the same mishna in Pirkey Avos continues: a bold person will be sent to Gehinom. However, when standing up against the multitudes and overcoming peer pressure, we do need to use the quality of boldness, like a leopard – a small animal with enormous audacity.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> To be more exact, the highest of the skies corresponds to Bina (which includes all lower seven Sefiros) while Netzach and Hod are counted together, (just as two legs to which they correspond) can’t work one without the other, see also Afikey Yam - the commentary on Agada from Rav Yitzchak Aizek Chaver, Chagiga 12b). See further our words on parshas Chaye Sara and in appendix 1.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Some say Yisro first tried to dissuade Pharaoh from harming the Jews. When he saw that this may cost him his life he ran away (Etz Yosef on Sanhedrin 106a). Others explain that Yisro avoided giving any advice since he did not think he will be heeded to but ran away in order not to take part in the evil that’s being perpetrated (see Daas Zkenim Mibaaley Tosafos, Shemos 1:10, see also Iun Yakov on Sotah 11a). See also Etz Hadaas Tov, parshas Yisro and Yafes Toar on Shemos Raba, Yisro 27:3 for a third explanation.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> According to the Zohar (2:33a), Iyov actually advised Pharaoh not to kill the Jews but to take away their property and subjugate them. His punishment therefore was measure for measure.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The
entire calculation is brought from Seder Olam, second chapter. The Torah states
that Yosef was thirty when becoming second to the king. After seven years of
plenty and two years of hunger, Yakov descended to
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The first 11 children of Yakov were born one after another during a period of 7 years. Yosef was born in the end of the period, while Levi, the third son, was therefore born after two years, and was thus 5 years older than Yosef.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Usually pronounced “KEL” in conversations, since we don’t pronounce any of the Divine names as written, except during prayer or Torah reading, while the main Divine name (YHVH) is not pronounced as written even during prayer.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> We are hoping to still discuss this in detail when we get to the chapters of the Tochecha.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Cyrus actually made an official statement that the God of Heaven gave the entire [civilized] world to him and he therefore lets the Jewish people go back to their land. (see Ezra 1:1-3, Divrey Hayamim 2:36:22-23). In fact, Cyrus was predicted more than a century ago by prophet Isaiah (45:1) and this prophesy was so well known in our nation that it was even familiar to non-Jews, and so when Cyrus came to power, he had no doubt that this prediction was about him, and that he has to let the Jewish people go (see also Malbim, Ezra 1:1-2).
The reason for the mistake was that Daniel counted the seventy years from the
beginning of Babylonian rule, while it should have been counted from the time
of their conquest of
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> According to Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, Haksav Vehakabala the word “Lasuach” means walking between trees (Sichim), or even plating trees. Our sages say that the word hints to prayer, and so it comes from the word “Sicha” – conversation. At any rate, the word “prayer” is not openly mentioned in this verse.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In general, our sages had a tradition that these specific words of these verses refer to prayer, based on a method called “Gezeira Shava” i.e. the meaning of these words is learned from other verses that use the same expression. However, as usual, these teachings have a much greater significance, as we will discuss.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Interestingly, this had to do with the mistake of Yakov’s children in selling Yosef. They thought that Yosef wants to be the only true descendant of Yakov. Just as Avraham had Yishmoel and other children who were not included in the Jewish people; just as Yitzchak had Eisav who was rejected from the covenant; so too, they thought, Yosef was planning to take over, and reject them from the chosen family. The dreams of Yosef only supported this hypothesis, so they judged him as a usurper who was after their very existence, and as such they thought they had a right to act first and get rid of him.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The soul of Moshe is even more exceptional and his prophesy was greater and clearer than of any other prophet, as the Torah testifies (Devarim, 34:10, see also Yevamos 49b, GR”A on Zohar, Yahel Ohr 2:248a). However, since he was on a different level, his rectification is not discussed here.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> There are other “fours” that parallel this correspondence: four Shabbos meals (as printed in the Siddurim) – three Shabbos meals associated with the three forefathers, and one after Shabbos, corresponding to Dovid; four cups of wine on Pesach Seder (Zohar Chadash, Ki Sisa), etc. However, we will only be discussing the above correlations for now, (for further discussion, see GR”A on Shir Hashirim, Derech Sod 1:1 , GR”A to Agados Brochos, 54b, GR”A in Aderes Eliyahu, Bemidbar, 23:24, 5th version).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This is one of the reasons that the Torah was given on the “third” month, whose sign is “twins” – it includes the month of Nisan (kindness) and Iyar (judgment). Similarly, the words “Ki Tov” – it was good, are repeated twice on the “third” day of creation.
Note also, that the four organs of senses in our heads (eyes, ears, nose and
mouth) are rooted in these four types of Hanhaga. For this reason, after
Shabbos is over, we need to rectify all four of them, to keep some of the
holiness for the coming week. We make 4 brochos during Havdalah – on tasting,
on smelling, on seeing, and the Havdala itself (on hearing) since this is the
main brocha to hear. Whoever did not hear this brocha did not fulfill the
obligation. Note, also that the first four sons of Yakov also included this
general rectification. The name Reuben comes from seeing; Shimon – from
hearing; Levi would in the future bring
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Both were promised the fatness of the land and the dew of Heaven.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> A famous question is then asked regarding the freedom of choice of Eisav. As we mentioned in Parshas Lech Lecha, in many cases the prophecies are revealed in an obscure way, so as not to interfere with the freedom of choice. Here too, if Eisav would choose to be good, he could actually “serve” Yakov by helping him learn the Torah, providing for him and protecting him. In fact, Eisav would then stay as part of the chosen nation (Ramchal in the second part of Kinas Hashem Tzeva-os explains this in depth starting with Maamar: Inyan Eisav, in the standard edition of Ginzey Ramchal it’s on page 111). Eisav would marry Leah, Yakov would marry Rochel, and each one would do his rectification. The prophecy of Rivka would be fulfilled with “the sons going in different directions” – i.e. one working on the material world, protecting the other, who learns Torah (like the later partnership of Yissachar and Zevulun, see Talmud Sotah 21a; Bereishis Raba 99:8). However, once Eisav did not fulfill his potential, Yakov had to work on both fronts, he married both Leah and Rochel and also got an additional name – Yisroel.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The
service in the
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> We similarly find that Yakov did not know that his sons sold Yosef, as we will discuss when we get to Parshas Vayeishev.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> At a later time Yakov will get more experience in deceit when he will have to deal with Lavan the swindler, (see also Talmud, Megillah 13b).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Shlucho Shel Adam Kamoso – a messenger of a person is like himself (Talmud Chagiga 10b and in many other places). According to Rashi (27:36), as soon as Yitzchak found out that Yakov bought the birthright from Eisav, he was no longer worried and understood that the blessing came to the one that was supposed to receive it.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In the body of a tzadik, even these organs are holy and purified, for the righteous serve Hashem even with their Yetzer Hara. However, by average people, some internal organs are projections from the worlds of holiness, while these three are projections of the Sitra Achara – the impure worlds given to Satan’s domain and there is a constant “battle” between the different organs of the body (see for instance Midrash Haneelam in Zohar 1:138b).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Measure for Measure – the Divine standard of reward and retribution.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In a different verse (30:39) they are described as Akudim, Nekudim and Teluim (ringed, spotted and streaked).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Like in the famous parable of the Chida: the king wanted to bring precious diamonds from one place to another and hid them under mud and dirt, so as not to attract robbers. So too, the Creator hid the deep secrets under the most uninteresting stories, this way hiding the secrets from the undeserving, (see the GR”A on Zohar 254b)
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> With the recent discovery of Torah codes, based on the findings of Rabbeinu Weissmandel, we can see at least one way in which the Torah predicts and accounts for all lives for all generations, (see GR”A on fifth chapter of Sifra Detzniusa).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> see also Rav Yitzchak Aizek Chaver in Pischai Shaarim, Netiv Shbiras Hakeilim, 7.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See also Harav Menachem Mendel of Shklov, Biurim to Mishnas Chasidim, page 108; Aravey Nachal, Parshas Nitzavim; Agra Dekola, pages 138a and 141a; Meor Einaim, Parshas Vaetze; Kol Mevaser on this Parsha; Ohr Hachaim Hakodesh 28:5.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See for instance Arizal, Shaar Hagilgulim, the third introduction and Shaar Hapesukim, Bereishis, based on Midrash (Shemos Raba 40:3 and Tanchuma Ki Sisa 12).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> i.e. for six thousand years prepared for our choices and rectifications.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Our sages (Bereishis Raba 12:9) teach (Bereishis 2:4) “Behibaram” (when created) is the same letters as “Beavraham” – for the sake of Avraham, the world was created.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Rashi on Bereishis 15:15 quoting Midrashim of our sages.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See also Ramban on Iyov 33:19. Note, that in Parshas Lech Lecha we described the cause of Iyov’s suffering for he kept quite when Bilaam suggested oppressing the Jewish people. However, for that alone he would not have gotten such a terrible punishment. This is one of the ways of Divine Hanhaga – for minor sins in this gilgul, one brings a punishment which then includes the retribution for the major sins in the previous gilgulim. This is hinted in the verse (Daniel 9:16) “For [we are suffering] because of our chataeinu (minor sins) and the avonos (major sins) of our fathers (meaning ourselves in the previous gilgulim”.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This is why the Torah often seems to be describing so many details about the exact lives of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Using this principle, many obscure passages in Tanach can be explained.
We will bring just a few examples. Avraham's first stop as he entered the
Since there was famine in
the land, Avraham descended to
During Yakov’s sojourn with Lavan, many other hints regarding the Egyptian exile were revealed. Yakov came with nothing but left very rich, while Lavan became impoverished. Yakov’s wealth was due to working with sticks to influence the birth patterns of the flock (regarding the hints of the sticks look in our commentary to the previous parsha). Similarly, the Jewish people descended during the famine, and came out rich, taking away all Egyptian wealth, as mandated by Hashem. The wealth the Jewish people acquired was due to the stick used by Moshe to punish the Egyptians. Lavan only found out about Yakov’s leaving three days later, and he reached him on the seventh day, but was prevented by Hashem from harming Yakov. So too, Pharaoh decided to pursue the Jewish people on the third day, reached them on the seventh day, but his army was drowned in the see after Moshe used his staff.
The four kingdoms that Avraham
had to fight against (see Bereishis, chapter 14) are a hint to the four
kingdoms that would oppress Jewish people:
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See also letters of Rabbeinu Weismandel printed in “Toras Chemed”, 65th letter.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Similarly, during World War II, the only successful way of dealing with the Nazis was through bribery. Thousands of people were saved by Rabbeinu Weismandel in this manner. The bribes were not even that large, only tens of thousands of dollars. If the Jewish people in free countries had supplied him with more money, he would have been able to save many more Jewish lives (see Sefer Min Hametzar).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This principle can be used in developing one’s good qualities. For example, giving a dollar 100 times to tzedaka is better than giving $100 once. Constant giving accustoms the person to generosity.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Our sages learn this principle from this week’s parsha. It is described that Yakov remained alone at night. The Talmud (Chulin 91a) teaches, that he returned to pick up some utensils, which were forgotten during the crossing of a small river. Losing even inexpensive things would be a loss to him.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The word “garti” has the same letters as “Tar’yag” – 613.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See also Rashi on Divrei Hayomim, 1:1.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Who was the leader among the brothers. Note also, that the name Yehuda also includes in it the main Divine name.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> We read this nook on the Shavuos holiday, and various reasons were offered for this custom (see Mishna Berura 490:17; Eliyahu Raba 494:10). According to our words there may be one other reason: since the main purpose of this book is to explain the ancestry of King Dovid, it’s read on Dovid’s yahrzeit. Dovid died (and was born) on Shavuos, (see also Ben Ish Chai, 1st year, parshas Bemidbar, 6). After writing this I found that this idea is already written in Sefer Agra Dekala, page 141b.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See also Megila 25b: “the story of Tamar is read and translated (we are not afraid that the common people will misunderstand what happened and make fun of Yehuda).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See also the Talmud , Yoma 22b, “a leader of the people is only chosen from those with problematic lineage”.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This is discussed in many places, see for example Ramban, Bereishis 38:8, Kisvey Arizal, in Shaar Hapesukim and in Shaar Hamitzvos on Parshas Ki Setze, also in Shaar Hagilgulim in many places, Zohar, Mishpatim starting with page 99b).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> A shoe symbolizes physical; this is why Moshe was told to take off his shoes when he first encountered the Divine Presence at the burning bush.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See the commentators on these verses. Some say he was just letting time pass till the boy grows mature enough to fulfill Yibum properly. Others propose that Yehuda was afraid that anybody living with Tamar had a high risk of dying. This can be a result of sexually transmitted diseases of for other reasons (see Talmud, Yevamos 64b). According to this he did not really want to give Tamar to his third son.
Logically speaking, nothing prevented Yehuda from marrying anybody he desired.
He was rich, powerful, coming from a very respected family who were treated
like princes in the
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> To be sure, Tamar was not forbidden to Yehuda according to the letter of the law. Since Yakov’s family was not yet bound by the laws of Torah, they only had to keep the Seven Noachite Laws. Having relations with a non-married woman is not forbidden for a non-Jew, (even though holding a special house for prostitution is forbidden, see questions and answers “Mishne Halachos “ based on Yerushalmi, Taanis 5a).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Even in this world of idolaters, some of Shem’s descendants were monotheists. In addition, Avraham was able to bring close to Hashem quite a number of people, and many of their descendents observed the Seven Noachide Laws. The Talmud (Sota 10a) thus tells us that Yehuda did not touch Tamar until he found out that she was not married and not a “Nochris” (stranger, a term later used for non-Jews but at that time meant not being a monotheist).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> One could also explain Yehuda’s behavior as follows: since he had a tremendous desire, he may have been afraid that if he does not have relations now, his sperm may come out in vain. Since having relations without marriage was not forbidden before the giving of the Torah he therefore chose this rather than risk causing a much greater damage of vain emission (which was the sin for which two of his sons died).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Regarding the exact reason why Tamar was initially judged for death, there is a controversy among the commentators. As it often happens, the Torah is too short to know what happened. According to some, this was a general measure to prevent immorality in Yakov’s family circle. In this case, Yehuda together with other judges took the privilege of punishing more than the letter of the law states, when the need arises (see Talmud, Yevamos 90b, see Ramban and Ohr Hachaim Hakodesh to 38:24). Another possibility is that since Tamar was waiting for Yibum, her status was somewhat similar to an engaged woman (see Chizkuni and Rashbam to 38:24). She would only be permitted to either Shela (Yehuda’s third son) or to Yehuda himself, since before the giving of the Torah Yibum could be performed by the father of the deceased as well. Note also that the very fact that Tamar got a death sentence is subject to dispute. According to some commentators, Yehuda only pronounced that branding should be done on her forehead, so that everybody knows that she is a prostitute (see Tur to 38:24).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The GR”A explains that the quality of cruelty was also needed for a Jewish king and is used when appropriate. The first king Shaul in fact lost his kingdom because he lacked this quality.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Our
sages (Talmud, Nazir 23b) teach that the daughters of
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> A procedure similar to Chalitza was performed with this relative, since he was closer then Boaz.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Look in questions and answers Minchas Yitzchak, 5:47, letter “Yod”, where a similar proposition is discussed as applicable to today.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> About this Dovid would later say: (Tehilim 51:7) “because in sin I was conceived”.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This is why Dovid was spending most of his time alone rejected by his family, see Tehilim 69:9 “I was considered a stranger by my brothers”. In practice however, this caused Dovid to reach the closeness to Hashem that he could not have reached if he lived among other people.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The whole story is brought in Esre Maamros from Rav Menachem Azariah, Maamar Chikur Din 3:10. The Chida brings this in many places in particular in his commentaries to Psalms, see for example Yosef Tehilos, 51.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In fact, the two children of Yehuda were named after the sun and the moon. The one named after the moon became ancestor of King Dovid.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Using this principle, one can understand a number of obscure passages in the Torah.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Note, however, that when a prophesy involves an evil decree we are not supposed to help this happen. On the contrary, we should do everything in our power to avert it by repentance and good deeds. Generally, predictions of bad are conditional and can be changed, see Yirmiyahu chapter 28, Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 56b, Rambam, Yesodey HaTorah, 10:4. This also explains why our sages tried their best to prevent the destruction of the Second Temple, even though it was already foretold and they even knew the exact year when this was supposed to happen, (see Nazir 32b, see further our commentary to parshas Lech Lecha).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Kli Yakar (Bereishis 42:7), who questions this explanation. However, his questions can be answered according to what we wrote before.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> He also made sure all those who enter sign their names, (see Bereishis Raba 91:4).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See also the GR”A on Sifra Detzniusa, 4th perek, regarding the deep secrets involved in this “partnership”.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Kli Yakar (42:7) describes that all the tests were used by Yosef to partially compensate and atone for their sins. He claimed they are spies just as they thought he was spying on them to deliver gossip to their father. He imprisoned them for three days and later retained Shimon to atone for their putting him into a pit. Now he wanted them to experience the anguish of possibly slaves, just as they sold him into slavery.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Our sages teach us an important lesson: we always must check out actions to ensure we don’t sin, thinking that we are doing mitzvohs. After all, the brothers thought that they di a mitzvah when they sold Yosef, yet, when faced with the truth, they could not answer! Similarly, we often do what we think is right, but only after death will we know if our judgment was correct (see Bereishis Raba, 93:11, Yitzchak Aizek Chaver in Siach Yitzchak, Drosh leShabbos Teshuva, 56).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Rav Yitzchak Aizek Chaver in Siach Yitzchak, Drosh leparshas Beshalach, 49.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Rashi on these verses follows the Midrashim (Bereishis Raba 93:6; Tanchuma, Vayigash, 5) and explains that certain words of Yehuda were actually warnings and even hidden threats. However, according to the level of peshat (simple meaning) most commentators (Rashbam, Ramban, Sforno, Ohr Hachaim Hakodesh, Haemek Davar) agree that Yehuda was appealing for mercy.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This is a known concept, see for example the GR”A to Megilas Ester, 1:13. Achashveirosh asks his counselors, “who know the times” to give him advice as to how to judge queen Vashti. The GR”A explains the expression “who know the times” to mean that they judge according to the need of the time, not according to the letter of the law. In this case, since the judgment pertained to the royal queen, it was important to take that into consideration!
Our sages mention in particular that all the judgments of the “
See Talmud, Sanhedrin 95a. Even though Dovid was not at all at fault that the
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The word egla (young cow) is spelled the same way as the word carriage, possibly because a carriage is usually pulled by oxen.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In
fact, according to Ramban, the three forefathers prepared the exiles to the
three countries their children were sent to. Avraham’s decent to
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Doros Harishonim, Vol 1, the end of the days of Chashmonaim; Vol 2, the return of Sadducees to power.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The word “Dan” itself comes from judgment. Rachel named him this way, when she gave her maid to Yakov and the first child that was not Leah’s was born (Bereishis 30:6). In the context of this verse, some explain the brocha of Yakov as “Dan will fight for his people” (see Rashi and Ramban 49:16).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This
can also be translated as “like the special tribe of
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Targum Onkelos 49:18; Targum attributed to Yonasan 49:18; Talmud, Sota 9b; Bereishis Raba 98:13; Midrash Tanchuma , Vayechi, 12; Rashi, Ramban, Rabeynu Bachye, Ohr Hachaim Hakodesh on Bereishis 49:16; Radak on Shoftim 13:25. However Rashbam (Bereishis 49:16) holds that Yakov’s prophesy applied to the tribe in general, not to Shimshon in particular. It could be however that even Rashbam will agree that on the level of Remez (hint) the Torah is predicting Shimshon.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The
Plishti territory including their five cities (
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Malbim to Shoftim 14:4, Ralbag Shoftim 14:2. See also “Samson's Struggle” by Rav Arye Kaplan and Rav Gershon Weiss.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Talmud, Sota 9b, Yerushalmi Sota 7a, Ralbag, Metzudos Dovid to Shoftim 14:2, Rambam, Isurey Bia 13:16.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Talmud, Nazir 23b. See also Hanhagos Tzadikim, advices of Rav Asher Hakohen, the ways of repentance, 3, in the name of Rabbi Chaim from Volozhin, a similar idea is printed at the end of Nefesh Hachaim, in his sayings, 84, also see below.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> As a possible example one may consider a rabbinical court that is faced with an issue of a wife that may have betrayed her husband and possibly became forbidden to him. In order to issue correct judgment, the judges are presented with indecent photographs of the wife and her possible lover. The sages have to look at the pictures in order to make the decision of whether the husband has to divorce his wife. If however, a judge decides that he might as well enjoy staring at this, he will be considered a sinner rather than doing a mitzvah.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> To
be sure, his only sin was going after the non-Jewish women. In all other ways
he was totally righteous. The book of Shoftim states that he judged the Jewish
people for 20 years. In order to be a Jewish judge, one has to be extremely
knowledgeable in Torah and very righteous (see Rambam, laws of Sanhedrin,
second chapter). Regarding Shimshon in particular, the Talmud says (Sotah 10a)
that he judged the Jewish people like their Heavenly Father! One may question
how Shimshon could “judge” the Jewish people when he tried to show the Plishtim
he is no longer with the Jews. The answer is that he was not spied upon day and
night. After getting into fights with Plishtim, he was living on the Jewish
territory. The important goal was accomplished: Plishtim were trying to kill
him but not the rest of the Jews. Note, for example, that when Rambam lived in
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Talmud, (Sotah 9b) “she used to pull herself from under Shimshon during the intimate relations [and this is why he gave himself away]”.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See also Shoftim 15:15.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Everything is foreseen but free choice is given, see Rambam’s commentary there.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See also Rav Yitzchak Aizek Chaver, Pischey Shaarim, Netiv Seder Partzufim, 12 based on a posuk in Chana’s prayer (Shmuel 1:2:3) “Lo Niskenu Alilos” – “by Him all actions are NOT prepared” This is one of the places in the Torah, where the written word and the pronounced word are not the same. The word “Lo” is written “Lamed”-“Aleph” meaning “Not” but pronounced “Lamed” “Vav”- meaning “to Him”. It is thus read as “To Him all actions are known (or weighted)”.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> To an extent this can be compared to a movie recorded on a film. For the one watching the movie, the events will happen in order, but the one holding the entire film can scroll to any point in time and see what happens there.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See also Rambam Laws of Repentance 6:5 and Raavad there; Ramban, Bereishis 15:14, see our commentary to parshas Lech Lecha).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See however Kisvei Arizal, (Shaar Hagilgulim, the 16th preface) that if in one Gilgul a person was righteous he may sometimes be promised not to sin in the next Gilgul. See also Vayoel Moshe 2:18-19 regarding how a minor sin can be sent to a person and in a way that it includes a mitzvah. Many obscure Midrashim can be explained based on this fundamental principle.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Rabbi Chaim from Volozhin, Nefesh Hachaim 3:7; see also Ramchal, Kinas Hashem Tzvakos, second part.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Pirkey Avos 4:2: “Run after a Mitzvah and away from sin. A mitzvah leads to another mitzvah and a sin leads to another sin”. This applies even to a sin leshem shamayim, and this is one of the reasons why this path is so dangerous, see Kol Eliyahu on Pirkey Avos.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See
Yerushalmi, Sotah 7a. This is why he was later taken captive to
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See however Aruch Hashulchan 1:16, where he apparently relates the four qualities to the four natural elements in a different order. See also the GR”A on Agados Brochos, 6b (1:21) for a slightly different arrangement.