Thursday, June 24, 2010

Balak - The mystery of Bilam

How could Bilam, an evil lowlife, be able to merit such a lofty level of prophecy? Why does his donkey speak? Why is he able to speak about the end of days, which only Yakov and Moshe speak of in the Torah itself? What is the deeper connection between the story of Bilaam and the story of Pinchas?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chukas - The death of Miriam

Why did Miriam die just as the Jews were about to enter Israel at the end of the forty years? Why is the matter of her death not discussed by any commentaries? What is the connection between her death and the Red Heifer? Why was her special death, which was similar to the death of Moshe and Aharon, not mentioned explicitly? Why did the Jews merit to have a special well of water as long as she was alive? What was Moshe's sin in striking the rock instead of speaking to it?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Please help II

Sincere thanks to those who have donated already. Anyone who wishes to donate and needs a tax-deductible receipt, please contact me at and I will tell you what can be done.

Thanks so much.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tamuz, Av and Yosef

Once a week, the Yated Ne'eman is in my mailbox, as it is distributed for free to everyone. Sometimes it goes straight into the trash, other times, like today, I will peruse through it a bit. It was striking to me that the front page news all had to do with the secular courts of Israel trying to subjugate the Charedi world to its whims, whether in areas of chinuch or others. The inside of the paper was filled with the world trying to subjugate Israel to their whims, whether in the areas of the Gaza blockade (EU demands that Israel lift the blockade), or another set of flotilla ships, or the Israeli government giving up its better judgment and creating a committee to evaluate the previous flotilla incident. The first thought that went through my mind was that it is interesting that all the headlines in this charedi paper have to do with charedi issues, which is rather unusual. My second thought was that it is such a remarkable parallel between the way the Erev Rav of Israel (read: government/media/secular courts) is treating the religious world and the way the world at large is treating Israel. The cogs in my mind started turning and I thought about the fact that it is not a coincidence that these two things are occurring simultaneously, and that they are reaching a crescendo right now, as we begin the month of Tamuz and head into Av.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Yosef was born on Rosh Chodesh Tamuz. As I thought about this more, I realized that what this really means is that the concept of Yosef is conceived on Rosh Hashana and incubates for nine months and is delivered on Rosh Chodesh Tamuz. What does this mean as far as the connection between Tishrei and Tamuz? Tishrei is the beginning of the winter, when the world goes into hibernation, and the rain begins to fall, sending all of the world's growth underground. It is all about the potential that is dormant in creation, that will be revealed in Nissan with the coming of the spring. When we get to Tamuz, there is another revelation of that same capacity. The world is sent back into a state of dormancy, although this time, it is within the revealed half of the year. This means that although the fruit is being harvested and the world is in full bloom, we enter into a place of concealed revelation.

This is analogous to another idea that we discussed in regards to Nissan and Iyar. Nissan is the open revelation of Geulah, whereas Iyar is a concealed version of that very same revelation, albeit in a form that must be revealed by human effort. In a similar way, the three month chain of Nissan-Iyar-Sivan constitutes an open revelation of Geulah, and a development of that open revelation, whereas the following three months of Tamuz-Av-Elul constitute the concealed version of that same revelation that needs to be unlocked through our concerted efforts.

If we take this to its logical conclusion, this means that Nissan parallels Tamuz. Nissan is the open revelation, and Tamuz is the concealed-open revelation. This, as we saw, is the month of the harvesting of the grapes, and the time that the spies were walking through Israel, potentially preparing for the Jewish people to enter Israel. Iyar, then, parallels Av. This means that just as Iyar is the concealed revelation within the revealed, Av is the concealed revelation within the concealed. Av is the month that has gone the deepest into concealment.

It is important to understand that the greater the concealment, however, the greater the potential light. This is because the light that one experiences is always a study in contrast. Our generation, which is the lowest generation that has ever existed, in spritual terms, is specifically the generation that will experience the light of Moshiach, because the revelation is meant to be as powerful as possible, and here we will have the greatest contrast. This is the secret of Av, and why world events always seem to peak during this time of year. This is the time of the greatest concealment, and ultimately will be the time of greatest revelation. This precisely parallels the phenomenon we see occurring now, where the nations of the world are at Israel's throat, and the Erev Rav is at the throat of the Charedi world. This is the greatest darkness and lack of relationship, which really reflects the deeper truth that the Jewish people are meant to be in a truly wonderful relationship with the nations of the world, as are the Charedim meant to be in a relationship with the secular part of the Jewish people, where we radiate light out to them. Since we are still in the fallen state of concealment, however, everything looks like the opposite, and specifically takes on this characteristic in these months of Tamuz and Av.

Now, what is interesting is that the month of Sivan parallels the month of Elul. Sivan is the month of completion of the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people, when we received the Torah after our invested efforts through the month of Iyar. Elul, it would seem, will be the month of the celebration of the relationship between the Jewish people and the nations of the world, in the future.

This gives us a great depth in understanding why Yosef was born in Tamuz. Tamuz is the time of potential for a cementing of the relationships that seem to be broken, in their current state. Yosef is all about relationship, as he is the one who is the master over his sexual passion, and he also is the one who consistently understood that the hatred of his brothers - the lack of relationship - was truly for the ultimate good, and was the plan of Hashem, in order to bring about a tremendous salvation. The Maharsha in Sanhedrin (12a) brings down that Moshiach ben Yosef works in the month of Av to accomplish his goals. Yosef is all about concealment - the brothers do not recognize him, but he recognizes them. Yosef does not have open revelations like Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov. His revelations come to him in a dream, which is a much more concealed method of communing with the spiritual worlds. Nevertheless, through all the dreams, Yosef is able to discern that the Hand of Hashem is constantly guiding him. He is always able to see the Divine Providence, even within the evil itself!

When we look around and try to disperse the darkness of all that goes on, we can take chizzuk from the fact that Hashem reveals His plan and His actions to us in this way, even from within the darkness of exile. We must look at the hatred of the world for the Jew, and the hatred of the secular for the religious, and understand that somehow, just as Hashem used the hatred of the brothers to bring about a salvation through Yosef, so too, Hashem is creating a scenario, through the very hatred that so insidiously surrounds us, all in order to bring about the ultimate salvation of the Jewish people.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Please help

It is not my way to overtly ask for tzedakah, however, the case I am about to present is one that I know intimately, and involves very close friends of mine. I am changing all names and any identifying information for the sake of the family's privacy.

About four years ago, Mrs. Goldberg called me to tell me that her son, who was then about 15, was in need of some tefilos, as he had some kind of issues with his back. It became clear that these were not minor issues, but rather, her son had weakness in his arm that was a result of a tumor in his spine. The removal of the tumor required that they fly to Belgium and their son underwent a seven to eight hour surgery that was both complicated and extremely dangerous. The expense was also incredible, but through much hashgacha pratis, their difficulty was passed and their son returned to normal life for the last few years. The situation has been constantly monitored, and MRI's recently showed that the tumor has unfortunately returned. This young man, who is also a budding young Torah scholar, must now return to Belgium to face the surgery again, and the price for the operation has risen to $46,000. This is a sum that is not covered by the family's insurance, and is well beyond their means. I am, bl'n, donating as much as I can to this cause, and I ask you to do the same. The money you donate will help to save this young man's life and his future, as well, be'H. What follows is a letter from R' Zev Leff, the rav of Moshav Matityahu, and a close friend of the 'Goldberg' family.

Rabbi Zev Leff
Rabbi of Moshav Matityahu
Rosh Hayeshiva-Yeshiva Gedola Matityahu

D.N. Modiin 71917 08-976-1138

כ סיון תש"ע
June 2, '10

Dear Friends,

Our friends the Goldbergs have need of your help. As you know, four years ago, their son was flown to Belgium for emergency surgery to remove a large benign tumor in his spine. B'chasdei Hashem the surgery was a success and his follow up of MRI's since then had shown everything to be in order. The latest MRI has shown that the tumor has regrown and has begun affecting his arm strength indicating that it needs to be removed. Since this is an extremely complex and dangerous surgery, it needs to be performed again in Belgium and is scheduled for June 24, 12 Tammuz.

The cost of the surgery is $46,000 and is not covered by their Israel health insurance. Due to the sensitivities involved I advised them that the information be shared only with close friends and family and those already familiar with the situtation. This, of essence, limits the direct collecting of the money needed and the surgery cannot be done until payment is made. I am therefore, turning to you to share the burden with them using you ma'aser money and your contacts.

This is a quality mitzvah and I commend you in advance for you involvement.

With Torah Blessings
Rabbi Zev Leff

If you can, please donate generously. Any and all donations will be appreciated, no matter the sum.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Yosef's Yahrtzeit

Today, the first day of Tammuz is the birthday and yahrzeit of Yosef Hatzadik. The Gemara in Rosh Hashana (11A) says that Rachel conceived for the first time on Rosh Hashana. This conception was Yosef, who was born exactly nine months later, on the first of Tammuz. Tammuz, as we noted in the Parsha Podcast, is the time of the harvest of the grapes in Eretz Yisrael. This was the time of the spies entry into Eretz Yisrael, and their opportunity for the tikkun of the sin of the brothers in selling Yosef. Yosef understood the concept of the grapes - that the Jewish people are a single cluster, composed of many different types and styles, each person with his or her own unique talents to donate for the betterment of the Jewish people. He typified one who could see his special role in the Jewish people, and he brought about the tikkun of Yehuda, who was ready to give up his own freedom to save his brother Binyomin. Tammuz was to be the time of tikkun for the entire Jewish people, via the spies, one from each tribe, and this was to be the final rectification before the days of Moshiach which would have began, had Moshe brought the Jewish people into the land of Israel and built the Beis Hamikdash. The light of the redemptions of Nissan, Iyar and Sivan would have paled in comparison to the greater revelations of Tammuz, Av and Elul. Indeed, in the future, these months will be months of joy, as the prophet tells us that the fast days will become holidays in the future. This is due to the inherent light that is contained within these days, the light that fell and has been hidden away for the future. Despite the fact that it is hidden, this is the very aspect of Yosef, who was born on the first of Tammuz. He represents the concept of the hidden process of Geulah, a process that is covered by seemingly natural events. Just as the brothers did not recognize Yosef, although he recognized them, we also do not recognize the Moshiach ben Yosef process, unless we try to see beneath the facade. The key to seeing the truth is by looking at points in reality that seem to make no sense. Just as the brothers could not make sense of the strange behavior of the Egyptian ruler that seemed to know so much about them, so too, we can see Yosef's process in the events that occur to the Jewish people that do not seem to make sense. When a president is elected to head the Western world, who so virulently disdains the Jewish people and her homeland, and it is against all odds that such a person should wield such power, we can see Yosef. When the Jewish people seek to defend themselves and are condemned by the countries of the world and portrayed in a malicious light in the media, we can see Yosef. When the media within Israel tears apart the religious world and ignores the positive aspects of their system that can so clearly be learned from, we can see Yosef. He hides from his brothers, but his goal is to bring out their best. Wherever the Jewish people are, Jerusalem can not be forgotten, nor can the name of their homeland, Israel. If they are honest seekers of truth, they have no choice but to stand up to defend the injustices that are rained down upon her. They must be like Yehuda, standing up for a Binyomin who is wrongfully accused of a crime he could not have committed. Soon, very soon, Yosef will reveal himself, and he will take off the mask and declare, "I am Yosef, is my father still alive?" Some will stand in shock, for they will see the folly of not having seen him all along. Others will have recognized him long before, and will have a deep sense of satisfaction in having known the truth all along. יהי זכרו ברוך

Friday, June 11, 2010

Korach - Understanding the female aspect

What is at the root of Korach's rebellion? Why does Korach come with the argument that a garment which is completely Techeles (blue wool) need not have the tzitzis hung on its corners? What is the significance of the fact that Korach's name means baldness? What is the significance of the Gemara's assertion of the importance of the wife of Korach and Oan ben Peles? What is the deeper concept of hair? Why are married women obligated to cover their hair? Why is the hair of the metzora as well, as the Levi'im at their appointment, removed?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Shelach - Transcendent Jewish Unity

Why does the Torah seem to imply that Hashem initiated the sending of the spies, if in fact, as Rashi says, it was initiated by the Jewish people themselves? What were the spies expected to accomplish, and what was their fundamental failure? How did the spies know they would lose their positions of significance when the Jewish people entered Israel? What is the significance of the fact that their mission spanned months of Sivan, Tamuz and Av? Why does Moshe finish off his instruction by telling the spies to 'be strong and take from the fruit of land?' Why does the Torah stress that this occurred during the time of the harvest of grapes? Why does the Torah stress that their forty days of spying culminated with their taking of the אשכול, the cluster of grapes?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Again, as I mentioned in regards to last week's podcast, there are deep ideas here that touch on the core of some Geulah concepts, including the significance of Tamuz and Av, which are now upon us. I invite you to download the .doc file which contains more than I could say in twenty or so minutes on the podcast.