Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beshalach - Understanding relationships

Why does the Torah refer to the Jewish people as being sent out by Paroh? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that Hashem sent them out? If he indeed sent them out, why does he change his mind so fast? What is the proper Torah perspective on relationships between ourselves and Hashem, ourselves and others, and between ourselves and ourselves?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Clothing of Geulah and Cosmic Friday's Mincha Gedolah

In the parsha podcast a few weeks ago, I mentioned the interesting point that when Yosef comes out of jail, he immediately receives a change of clothing, which is referred to as שמלות. Similarly, when Yosef finally reveals himself to his brothers, he gives them each a change of clothing - חליפות שמלות. This reference to clothes as שמלות comes in contrast to previous references to clothing as בגדים (e.g. when Potiphar's wife grabs Yosef's clothes). The chiddush that I said then was that the difference between a בגד (beged) and שמלות (Semalos) is that the root of the first comes from the word 'to rebel' - an indication of the clothing's function after the sin of Adam Harishon, to cover up his rebellion. After Yosef and his brothers achieved their complete rectification, they each earned their שמלות. Since the first letter is the letter 'sin' and it is interchangeable with the letter 'samach,' it could be explained that the concept of שמלות represents the concept of a סמל - something that represents. Whereas the בגד betrays who the person is, the שמלה represents properly who the person is. Thus, they received a change of clothing - now that they rectified their previous blemishes - clothing that reflected their true greatness.

As the ba'al korei read the parsha this past week, I had to smile as I saw that when the Jews left Mitzrayim, they 'borrowed' gold and silver - as well as שמלות! At the very moment which represented the final rectification of the Galus of Mitzrayim, just as at the first moment of the tikkun, the Jews got new clothes - שמלות.

What I didn't mention in the podcast was something else I noticed about the word שמלות. In the Torah, it is actually spelled חסר, without the ו"ו. Thus it is written שמלת. The Gematria of the word is תש"ע - the year we currently stand in. Thus, the very word which represents the completion of the rectification has the same value as this year.

What is also interesting is that when the Jews leave Egypt, the passuk says that they borrowed gold, silver and clothing. There the word is with the extra ו"ו which means 'and.' This brings the gematria of the word to be the same as the year תשע"ו which is in six years from now.

Thus, if there is any significance to this observation, it could be said that there is a significant rectification that might be accomplished by the leaders of the Jewish people in our current year (5770). Perhaps the rectification of the entire Jewish people is hinted to as being set to occur in the year 5776. It must be noted that the year 5776 is a yovel year, and the last one was in 5727 (1967) when the six-day war occurred. It is worth checking out Keitz Meguleh's post, entitled "Geulat Mitzraim to Yemot Hamashiach" which speaks at length about the significance of these dates. Also, see his online book on Yovel and the year 5776, which is fascinating.

It is also significant to note that in this year we also reach an important point in time on the sixth day. What I am referring to here is that each thousand years of history corresponds to a day. The period of 6000-7000 is Shabbos. Thus, we are in the second half of Friday. 1990 marked חצות - midday - of Friday. There is no question (and I have seen this in completely secular books) that the year 1990 marked a new chapter in the annals of mankind. Russia and Communism fell, and we began a new age of computers and internet. (Stephen Covey refers to this age as the 'knowledge-worker age.') The world today is vastly different from the world of the 1980s.

The sefer Kol Hator notes that if we divide 1000 years into 24 (hours of the day), each hour corresponds to 41 2/3 years. This would mean that the year 5500 was daybreak of the sixth day, and 5750 was חצות (as we saw). This year (5770/2010), we hit 12:30, which is 20 5/6 years (half an hour) since 5750. This occurs on Rosh Chodesh Av. The time 12:30 is referred to as Mincha Gedolah - the first time you can daven Mincha. It is also the time that the daily afternoon Tomid offering was brought. This time is also known as the time when the walls begin to darken as the sun is no longer directly overhead. It is also the time that the sun begins to lean towards the west. Interestingly, this time is referred to as בין הערביים - between the eves. This is because the word ערב (normally translated as eve) means 'to set.' This is the first time the sun sets, as it has passed its peak and it begins to head downward. The second time the sun sets is at shkiah - sundown. Thus, Rosh Chodesh Av is the beginning of the suns descent on erev Shabbos.

Now, as in the past, I am reluctant to make any predictions, but I think it is safe to say that when we look back at this year, we will be able to note a very significant point in history, just as we do when we look back at the year 5750 (1990).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bo - Gathering sparks, understanding exile

What is the purpose of the Jewish people undergoing exile? What do our sages mean when they say that part of the reason is to bring lost Jewish souls back through conversion? Why was Paroh so scared of dying if midnight had already passed? What did the Egyptians mean when they said "we are all dying?" How could R' Shimon bar Yochai cause a person's death by looking at him?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Call

My good friend Yehuda (Judah) David, of Rockiah fame, shared the following song, the lyrics of which were written by his wife, and melody and music by Yehuda.

Click here to hear the song: The Call

Scattered throughout the world our temple was destroyed
Our land lay barren and fallow in our hearts we felt the void
But we held on to the promise to the message of the Lord
One day we would return our dignity restored

Do you hear the whisper of a faint and gentle call?
G-d is beckoning his children to come home once and for all
For the land of our past is where our future lies as well
Joined together as one people in the land of Yisrael

Thousands of years we've waited in our prayers we've always yearned
To be brought close once again for our souls to be returned
Only once her sons came back to her did the land begin to bloom
A dead language came back to life again now the bride awaits her groom.

Chorus repeats

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Va'era - Power of change

What is the concept of the name of Havaya that is being revealed through the Exodus? Why is the lineage of only the first three tribes given? Why is it placed here? What is the concept of Moshe's staff, and why is it necessary as part of the plagues?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Chofetz Chaim on living in Israel part 2

Before we continue with some thoughts and stories from the Chofetz Chaim about Eretz Yisrael , it is important that we understand that there are two things going on in these stories, that at first may seem to be a contradiction. The first is that the Chofetz Chaim had a tremendous love for Eretz Yisrael and a desire to live there. On the other hand, he clearly despised the spiritual destitution that was to be the legacy of those who wanted to create a 'new Judaism' on the foundation of the country of Israel and the language of Hebrew. Thus, he loved Eretz Yisrael, but strongly opposed the separation of the land from the Torah. As we saw previously, he said that the land of Eretz Yisrael is like the body of the Jewish people, and the Torah is like the soul. This recognition of Eretz Yisrael's greatness also means that there is a great responsibility, as well, for those who live in its holy borders. We must bear all these thoughts in mind as we read the following.

One time, they read him an article from a newspaper, in which one of the 'maskilim' expressed his hope that in the end Eretz Yisrael would be an independant country like Bulgaria, which was established on the ruins of Turkey. The Chofetz Chaim burst out crying and said, "Does this matter make sense? We are suffering for one thousand eight hundred years, our blood flows like water, we increase our prayers and supplications for a respite from the difficulties of the exile, and here they satisfy themselves with only a small amount? They have completely forgotten about the roles our prophets set out for us, and the promises of our holy Torah."

On the Chofetz Chaim's love for Eretz Yisrael:

The following story reveals how great was the Chofetz Chaim's longing to go up to live in Eretz Yisrael. In the year 5640 (1880), in the tna'im (prenuptial agreement) with his son-in-law Harav Hagaon R' Aharon Cohen Zt'l, the Chofetz Chaim accepted responsibility to support him for a number of years, as was the custom then. He explicitly stipulated that his son-in-law would not have the right to prevent him from going up to live in Eretz Yisrael during that time period. Furthermore, in the year 5864 (1894), when he married his second wife, the daughter of Harav hagaon R' Hillel z'l from the city of Lapi, he stipulated that if he decides to go up to live in Eretz Yisrael, his wife must do so as well. In his final years, in the year 5687 (1927), he had already prepared himself to move to Eretz Yisrael, and he had packed all of his belongings and sent them to Warsaw, when his wife suddenly became ill, and he was forced to push off his passage until she became well. It was ordained from heaven that he was held back, and in the end he was buried in Radin, the city in which he had spread Torah all of his life, and from which his Torah and halachic direction had gone out to all of the Jewish people through his great books - Chofetz Chaim, Mishna Brura on Orach Chaim, Lekutei Halachos on Seder Kodshim, Ahavas Chesed, and more.

One time he told those close to him, while speaking of the greatness of Eretz Yisrael, that if someone would be sitting in a remote place and would say something negative about the king, albeit not in his presence, if the king would find out about it, he would be severely punished. But when someone enters the courtyard of the king and has such audacity right in front of him, this is a sin that can not be atoned for...

See the Ramban (Beraishis 19:5) in regards to the story with Sodom, and these are his words, "And know that the judgment on Sodom was because of the greatness of Eretz Yisrael, since it is included in the inheritance of Hashem, and it can not stand abominations. When it spits out an entire nation [i.e. the seven nations of Canaan] because of their abominations, as a prelude, it spit out this nation [of Sodom] who were evil in their relationship with heaven and with man. This led to a destruction of heaven and earth, to the point where the earth would never be relieved of its desolation there. They had become prideful as a result of the great good they had received [as Sodom was an extremely fertile area, comparable to the Nile area in Egypt], and Hashem saw fit that it should be a sign for the rebellious ones of the Jewish people that would inherit it in the end. This was contained in the warning to them - [if they would veer from the proper path, the land would be destroyed with] sulfur and salt that would consume the land, like the destruction of Sodom and Amorah etc. This is important to understand, for there were other nations who did great evil at that time, and they did not receive such punishment [as the inhabitants of Sodom], because it was the greatness of this land that led to this, for it is the palace of Hashem."

Who is wise and will understand this, how much it is necessary to be careful in one's actions of Mitzvos in the Holy Land, the palace of the king. This is what it says in Tehillim (105), "And he gave them of the land of nations [i.e. Eretz Yisrael]... in order that they keep his laws and protect his commands." The great Torah personages in the Holy land, who protect those who learn Torah and keep the mitzvos with all of their strength, they are the mighty ones who sustain the Yishuv.

One time we heard how the Chofetz Chaim expressed his anguish about the leftists in Eretz Yisrael, "Could it be that something good will come out of the left, that the Divine Presence will rest on their actions?"

The Chofetz Chaim was once shown a newspaper article that had been written by a certain writer. It contained the idea that one could be a good Jew even without the Torah. The Chofetz Chaim then distributed an important piece in which he proved that the continuation of the Jewish people is only dependent upon the Torah and Jewish commitment to it, and not on connection to a country or language. If we do not keep the Torah, the country and language will not save us. Our forefathers lived in the land, and they were exiled because of their sins, as the prophet says (Yechezkel 39), "And the nations knew that the Jewish exile was the result of their sins, for they rebelled against Me, and I hid my face from them and gave them into the hands of their enemies."

It is a grave mistake that these people make, to think that the Torah and mitzvos are secondary matters and are unconnected to the building of the land. Remember the words of the Torah (Vayikra 18:21), "That the land not vomit you out when you contaminate it, as it vomited out the nations before you." Eretz Yisrael is the palace of the king, one who sins there sins a great sin, and the danger [that results from sin] is much greater there!

The son of the Chofetz Chaim, Harav R' Leib zt'l, would tell over that when the British announced the Balfour declaration in regards to Eretz Yisrael, the Chofetz Chaim saw in this a type of אתערותא דלעילא (awakening from above) in regards to the redemption, and he spoke then of the Ohr Hachaim on the verse "וקם שבט בישראל" - "and a rod shall rise in Israel." [There the Ohr Hachaim speaks about the two possibilities in regards to the redemption. It can come miraculously, if the Jewish people merit it, or it can come in a natural way, if they do not. This part of the passuk refers to the redemption coming in a natural way in the merit of the tzaddikim of the Jewish people, who are referred to as Yisrael.] He said, however, that he was worried that the 'frei' would destroy it [as a result of their bad deeds], heaven forbid. He would also say that were many times in the past that had been opportunities lost for the redemption as a result of the destructive deeds of the generation.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Chofetz Chaim on living in Israel

I came across a very interesting piece in the sefer חפץ חיים על התורה, which is a collection of the teachings of the Chofetz Chaim on the parsha. It was put together by Rabbi Shmuel Greineman, who clearly knew the Chofetz Chaim personally. At the beginning of the book, he printed the following letter from the Chofetz Chaim:

To my esteemed friend, the great rav Shmuel Greineman,
I am quite surprised that I was not informed any further as regards our previous correspondance, which I recall fondly, whether the project we discussed had been distributed far and wide. Certainly there would be at least some benefit for all. I am of a similar mind to you, as we both worked on this mitzvah, and it is like a person who who planted a vineyard, which Baruch Hashem was successful and produced fruit, and yet he is lazy in regards to collecting it. Therefore, my friend, find the addresses and send it out to all. In this merit, we will both be mentioned as part of the assembly of Israel on the holy festival for good and blessings. If there are any costs, I will pay.
Your friend who blesses you with all the best,
Yisrael Meir Hacohen (The Chofetz Chaim)

The following is a piece the Chofetz Chaim wrote on next week's parsha, Parshas Bo, concerning the proper Torah Hashkafa on the concept of living in Eretz Yisrael

ארץ זבת חלב ודבש שמות" י״ג:ה׳" "A land of milk and honey"

The Torah and Eretz Yisrael are two things Hashem acquired in His world. Their connection to each other is like the soul to the body. The soul is the Torah, while the body is Eretz Yisrael.

The soul can not exist on its own - it needs a body. The body itself is just a clump of dirt, dust of the earth, and is in need of a soul.

The soul of the Jewish people is the Torah, and its body is the land of Israel. The soul certainly can not survive without a body, and all the commandments that are dependant on The Land can not be fulfilled without Eretz Yisrael. Our nation can not last in exile, and it is forbidden for us to remain here, nor to go elsewhere to be involved in business. Here they attempt to catch us and accuse us, nevertheless we live and survive, if but in difficulty.

But Eretz Yisrael without Torah is nothing but a clump of earth, a body without a soul. Only the two of them together are good, like the statement of the prophet Yeshaya (42), "He spreads out the land and its offspring, and gives a soul to the nation upon it."

Rav Shmuel Greineman, in the footnotes on this vort, brings down a number of stories of the Chofetz Chaim, in regards to his thoughts on Eretz Yisrael. These stories are very interesting, and I hope to post more over the next few days. For now, here is the first one.

The Chofetz Chaim never let his mind wander from the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisrael.

I remember, in the winter of 5678 (1918), when the Chofetz Chaim was told about the tremendous joy that spread throughout Jewish homes in reponse to the Balfour declaration. The Chofetz Chaim burst out crying, and said, "What does joy accomplish? Hashem promised us that we would 'burst forth westward, eastward, northward, and southward.' This is a guaranteed document that Hashem will pay up in its appointed time.
"Now people have come and only admit to a small part of Hashem's document, and everyone is getting excited as if the redemption has almost arrived!
"People are ready to be satisfied with a small amount... They don't expect more... Woe unto us!" And he continued to cry.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Moshe Dov and Ari Goldwag sing Vehi She'amda

This was performed at a family simcha recently in the US, with backing by the Neshoma Orchestra. Song composed by Yonatan Razel, originally sung by him with Yaakov Shwekey, and here performed by Sheves Chaverim's star, Moshe Dov Goldwag.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dina and Shechem revisited (again)

I have had some interesting responses to the podcast/post on Dina and Shechem, and I wanted to share some of my further thoughts on the matter. Much of the following thoughts came as a result of discussions I had with my wife as well as my sister. I also thank TQ for bringing up this question again.

On my facebook page, Odelia posted the following:

Why would Dina need to be punished (raped) to atone for Ya'akov's possible sin? How does that resonate with the Jewish concepts of Individual Responsibility and subsequent Reward and Punishment? Dina seems to be related to as a pawn, rather than an individual with her own responsiblities, past, present and future. Note, that in the Parsha, there are no comments or reactions stated as being initiated by Dina herself and even in the commentaries (excluding the Ramban) no mention is made of her individual experience. There are many strong female figures in the Tanach that are directly qouted and discussed. Why is Dina so marginalized?
(Odelia - living in NY - got your podcast from friend in Israel)

Here are my thoughts:

In order to understand what happened, we need to look to chazal to try to make sense of it, and find the missing pieces of the puzzle.

The first question we need to ask is if Yakov's prevention of Dina marrying Esav was the only cause of this story. It seems clear from the commentaries that there was more to it than just that. The Torah starts out the story by saying "ותצא דינה בת לאה אשר ילדה ליעקב לראות בבנות הארץ" - Dina the daughter of Leah, who was born to Yakov, went out to see the girls of the land. Since the Torah could have left out the fact that she was the daughter of Leah, the commentaries understand that there is significance to the Torah's making such a mention. They say that just as Leah was a "יצאנית" - someone who went out clothed provocatively, so too Dina went out this way, because she inherited this aspect of Leah's personality. Interestingly, when Leah went out in this way, it was to greet Yakov in order to tell him that she had 'bought' the right to be with him from Rochel in exchange for the duda'im. Dina, however, used this mida in the wrong place, in order to look good to meet other girls. It seems that this was part of the reason that she was abducted by Shechem.

At this point I think it wise to keep in mind that we are moving from ideas with solid basis in the meforshim into thoughts that are a little bit more 'out of the box.'

It is significant that the Torah also describes Dina as the one 'who was born to Yakov.' I think it is safe to say that just as the Torah mentions Leah here in order to teach us that there is a connection between Dina and Leah that was a prelude to the story, there is also a connection between Dina and Yakov that is a prelude to the story.

When trying to think what connection there is between Dina and Yakov that would have led to the story, I think we can look to the very question we started off with, which was, Why should Dina be punished for the fact that Yakov didn't let her marry Esav? The way the meforshim describe this (based on the medrash) is that Yakov placed Dina in a box so that Esav would not see her. I think that in order for Yakov to put Dina into a box, it would not be possible without her acquiescence. Furthermore, Rashi points out that when the brothers came to release Dina from Shechem, she refused to leave until Shimon promised to marry her. Dina could just as easily have said that she would not leave until she married Esav, which was the whole reason for the story in the first place. It is clear that Dina was of the same mind as Yakov in regards to not wishing to marry Esav.

This point can be strengthened further by noticing that there was someone else who did not want to marry Esav. Dina's mother, Leah, had cried many tears in order that she be able to marry Yakov instead of the evil Esav. This antipathy toward Esav would seem to have been imbued in Dina from both sides - her mother and her father. This could also be hinted to in the very connection that we mentioned before between Dina and Leah. The יצאנית (going out) aspect of Leah was specifically used to come into a relationship with Yakov, the pinnacle of her desire not to marry Esav. Dina inherited the יצאנית aspect which also was combined with a desire to stay away from the clutches of Esav. In the end, she asks to marry Shimon, not Esav.

Another point that we can address is, Do we ever find that children are punished for the sins of their parents? On the surface, it would certainly seem that the answer should be that children are not punished in this way. But actually, the Torah says the exact opposite - there can be a punishment for children up to three or four generations. If so, the question is then, Why? Why should a child be punished for no sin of his own? The answer is that a child is only punished for a parent's sin, as our chazal say, if the child continues to commit that sin himself!

It's important to realize that when a person is punished for a sin, it is not a retribution from Hashem, as if Hashem is angrily responding to a misdeed. In reality, what happens is that the sin creates a stain on a person's soul, a certain darkness that envelops him and needs to be removed. The difficulty that a person undergoes as a result of his sin effectively removes the stain and brings back the light of Hashem that was taken away as a result of the sin.

On a deeper level, what this really means is that the child is an extension of the parent, and in a certain sense they share an aspect of their souls. The result of this is that there is another opportunity for the child to rectify the stain that was brought about by the parent, preferably through the child's Teshuva - returning to the proper path and removing the stain that way. If the child does not do so, then the stain will be removed through other means - יסורין, difficulties.

Bringing it back to Yakov and Dina, we saw that Dina had certain aspects that she inherited from her parents that needed to be rectified in herself, and thus, while we say that there was fault in Yakov that resulted in the story, in truth, that very lack was to be found in Dina herself, and it was incumbent upon her to rectify the matter herself.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Shemos - Pride, self destruction, and redemption

Why is it necessary to ask Paroh to free the Jews? Why not just leave? Furthermore, why ask if he will just say no? Why is it that Paroh never heard of Hashem? Wasn't he an expert in all the gods that existed? Why does Paroh punish the Jews by making them find their own straw and having them make their own bricks? How could Paroh say that he created the Nile and even himself?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Kayin and Hevel, twin Moshiachs

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have had the zechus to be able to listen to my Rosh Yeshiva's vaadim. They are just a pleasure to hear, as they deliver such a sharp message, albeit guised in the form of stories that bring across the point. Recently, I was listening to a piece where he is reading from the sefer Madregas Ha'adam, which was written by the Alter of Novhardok. There, the concept of Kayin and Hevel (Cain and Abel) is discussed, specifically in the context of Hashem's admonition to Kayin, before he killed Hevel, to be aware of the sin that is crouching in wait for him at the doorway. He explains that the Yetzer Hara's job is to get us through the doorway of sin. Once we have passed a certain threshold, human nature is to say, "It's too late for me." Thus, despite the fact that the person may not have sinned, a person feels that the sin is already inevitable. Thus, the job of the Evil Inclination is accomplished even before the sin - just by getting one past this threshold. This is an amazing insight into how our minds are programmed.

In reading this piece, my Rosh Yeshiva explained the story of Kayin and Hevel in a very interesting light, which started the gears rolling in my mind.

The Torah describes how Kayin brings an offering to Hashem. Hevel sees this, and then offers his own sacrifice. The difference between the two, however, was that Kayin did not bring the highest quality of his produce, whereas Hevel did. Hashem acknowledged the offering of Hevel, and Kayin became upset that his own was rejected. Eventually, this anger fueled his murderous act on his brother.

Rabbi Perr explained that if we look at the story carefully, we see a remarkable thing. Imagine you come home one day, and your mother had prepared a wonderful meal for you. You sit down to eat, and you think to yourself, "My mother spent so much time preparing this meal. I want to show her appreciation. I think I will give her some of my food to show her how thankful I am." Your mother made food for herself as well, so she does not need the piece you are giving back. Nevertheless, you want to express your gratitude.

I think we can safely say that most of us have never done such a thing. This was Kayin's chiddush - even though Hashem does not need the offering, He wanted to express his gratitude for all Hashem did for him. The concept was there, but it was marred by Kayin's one provision. He said to himself, "Hashem does not actually need this offering for Himself, it is just a token of my appreciation, so it is not necessary for me to give Him the best."

Hevel saw the great concept that Kayin had introduced, but he took it one step further. He realized that if the entire purpose of the offering was to show gratitude, it needed to be done with something that was precious to the one showing his thanks. It is natural for one to feel that he has accomplished on his own, especially when he experiences the thrill of the first of his crops, or the first of whatever he has produced. It was specifically this item which Hevel realized must be dedicated to Hashem, to recognize that all is from Him.

When Kayin saw that Hevel had imitated his own initiative, and only Hevel's sacrifice was accepted, this angered him and led to his heinous act of murder.

End quote of my Rosh Yeshiva.

If we follow the story here, a very interesting theme becomes apparent. In essence, Kayin was the one who introduced the novel concept of this offering to Hashem. Hevel was the one who perfected it and brought the concept to its completion. It could be said that when Hashem accepted Hevel's offering, in truth he was accepting Kayin's offering as well. Hevel's sacrifice represented the completion and perfection of Kayin's new concept, and the acceptance of the second sacrifice meant that the concept that Kayin had introduced was a pleasing one to Hashem. What Kayin failed to see was that although his own personal sacrifice had not been accepted, the reception of Hevel's offering actually represented a greater acceptance - the acceptance of the combination between Kayin's concept and Hevel's addition.

Here we see a clear parallel to the concepts of Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben Dovid. Moshiach ben Yosef corresponds to the idea of the chiddush - the novel concept - the almost infinite and incompletely defined mode of service of Hashem. This is also represented by the fact that Yosef corresponds to the Bris, which is the infinite potential of the creative force of Man. Moshiach ben Dovid corresponds to the Female force that defines and constricts, refining the infinite force into a single child. In this case, Kayin was working in the mode of Moshiach ben Yosef, bringing down the concept of the service of Hashem through this show of gratitude. Hevel, acting in the role of Moshiach ben Dovid, refined and perfected this concept, completing it by bringing the greatest tribute possible.

Kayin's failure was the classic failure of a Moshiach ben Yosef, as we have seen in regards to Esav, Shaul, and Yeravam ben Nevat. Each one fails to see that his role is to facilitate the completion of the tikkun that is necessary, to act as the first step in the service of Hashem. They fail to realize that the second stage can only be completed by Moshiach ben Dovid (Yakov, Dovid, and Rechavam), but the second stage is, in reality, a true completion of their own efforts, representing a greater achievement than either could have accomplished alone. As a result of this failure, there is a psychological separation that takes place, where Moshiach ben Yosef sees his counterpart, Moshiach ben Dovid, as a threat to himself, instead of seeing him as a completion and complement to his role, as he is in reality. The result is the desire on the part of Moshiach ben Yosef to murder Moshiach ben Dovid. In the story of Kayin and Hevel, the murder is indeed achieved. In the successive stories of Esav and Shaul, there was only the attempt to do so, which did not meet with success.

I would like to take this concept one step further and share an insight with you that I had recently. I received an email from a good friend which expressed a difficulty with something he had understood from the deeper wisdom of our tradition. It is ironic, but whereas the non-Orthodox Jewish world superficially sees Halacha and Torah as looking down on women, in truth, as one learns the deeper sources, it would seem that women are on a much greater level than men in many different areas. Thus, the woman's lack of obligation in certain areas represents her more perfect nature. A man needs greater rectification, thus he must have more mitzvos to accomplish that. A woman has a more refined sense of spirituality, as opposed to the man whose spiritual nature seems to be more coarse and hidden. Even in the physical sense, man seems to merely be there to facilitate the woman in her ability to bring a human being into the world. My friend therefore asked, Are we men just second-rate citizens here?

The truth is that this question is really predicated on the mistake of the fallen Moshiach ben Yosefs, because the question assumes that in order to accomplish, one must do so alone. This is a classic male mode of thinking, and indeed if one looks around, very generally speaking, men usually accomplish as solo acts, whereas women are known to be better team players.

The truth, however, is that Hashem's intent with creation was that man and woman act in tandem, realizing that each one can not accomplish to the fullest without the other. The male force is the force of conception, of infinite potential. The female force is one of definition and bringing the potential to its realization. This is ultimately the lesson of the balance between Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben Dovid. It is truly the balance between the male and female forces.

It is our obligation to understand that ultimately we must work together, whether we represent the male force of Moshiach ben Yosef or the female force of Moshiach ben Dovid. The final result will not be the product of any individual force by itself, it can only be the beautiful synthesis of the two forces coming together into a perfect whole, which is the perfection that Hashem will ultimately accept, just as he accepted the perfect sacrifice of Hevel.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Vayechi - Efraim, Yosef and fruitfulness

What is the significance of Efraim's priority over Menashe? What is the meaning of his name, and what does it have to do with fruitfulness? What is the parallel between this and Yosef's name?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.