Friday, November 26, 2010

Vayeshev - Shimon and Yosef

Why was it specifically Shimon that wanted to kill Yosef? What was the difference between the roles of Shimon and Levi? How was that reflected in Zimri and Pinchos? Why did Dina want to specifically marry Shimon? Why was it specifically Shimon that was incarcerated when Yosef accused his brothers of being spies? What is the significance of the fact that the tribe of Shimon provided the teachers of children for the Jewish people?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 14:58

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ramchal on MBY, MBD and Binyomin

What follows is a beautiful piece from the Ramchal, which I 'happened' across last week while flipping through the fourth volume of Otzros Ramchal. This is the fourth of the Igros which can be found toward the back of the book. The main text is the Ramchal, and my own thoughts are separated by asterisks and different looking text.

Behold, all of the concepts that we find in the root need to be revealed below in the branches. This is the people of Israel, for whom the world was created. Behold, the Shechinah (Divine presence) itself is the root of Israel, and it has two aspects. These, themselves, are the secret depth of the concept of the inner aspect (pnimiyus) and outer aspect (chitzoniyus). These two are Leah and Rachel, and the secret depth is heh-heh, for Bilhah and Zilpah are just the backs of Rachel and Leah. Behold, from there come the tribes, whose secret depth is vav-vav, which are the twelve permutations of the Tetragrammaton, six on the right, and six on the left.

Behold, this is the secret depth of the concept of the two Moshiachs, for they are the perfection of rectification. This is a very great secret depth. For all of Israel are branches of the Shechinah, however the king is the revelation of the root itself. Since there is a dual aspect in the root (inner and outer), correspondingly there must be a dual aspect to the Moshiachs (Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben Dovid). The rectification is the secret depth of the verse, "And they will be one in your hand," for there were numerous times that the rectification was almost accomplished and was, so far, unsuccessful until the end of the matter in the days of Moshiach. We thus find that the king is the revelation of the root itself, and he therefore includes all the branches. This is the concept of the verse, "And a king was in Jeshurun with the gathering..." This indicates that the king gathers them and they are all included within himself. At the beginning, however, the people of Israel did not merit to have a king, for they had not accomplished the appropriate rectification. Rather, they had judges who arose for them from the aspect of Yesod, for this was necessary for their leadership. Afterwards, the kingship began, in the days of Sha'ul, who was from the tribe of Binyamin.

And the concept is that Yosef was fitting to receive kingship from the aspect of Rachel, and Yehuda from the aspect of Leah. And I already stated that the rectification is accomplished when these two aspects unite. Now I tell you who connects them - it is Binyamin who serves this function. Yosef is from the aspect of Yesod, and Yehuda is the aspect of Malchus. Binyomin, however, is the secret depth of 'the spirit left in her by her husband.' He is the one who connects the male and female aspects. It was for this reason that the first kingship was taken [by the tribe of Binyamin], for this would serve to connect the two of them [Yosef and Yehuda]. Then the kingship would be given to Dovid, who is the secret depth of the female concept, for it is this concept that rules over the lower realms, and it also includes within it the male concept, which is the kingship of Yosef. This was to be the rectification at that time, however, since Shaul himself, who was the one who was responsible for this rectification, did not accomplish it as he was meant to, this caused Dovid to stumble, when he said, "You and Tziva should apportion the field." This ultimately caused the kingship to be split between Yeravam and Rechavam, who represent Yosef and Yehuda, respectively. This was from Sha'ul, for the matter devolved through his son.

The final rectification will occur when these two aspects reconnect at the time of the two Moshiachs, as the verse says, "And they will be one in your hand." Moshiach ben Dovid will be the main one, in the secret depth of the statement, "Who is the main one? The son of Yishai is the main one." It comes out that this all extends from the root, which is the connection between the male and female aspects. This is "I am" - Malchus, "Kel Shakai" - Yesod, "Be fruitful and multiply" {*} - to bring about a result/offspring through this secret depth, which is Binyomin who connects the two branches, in the secret depth of Efraim and Yehudah through the two kings, in the secret depth of the two Moshiachs. This is the concept of "A nation and a congregation of nations," as well as "kings."

{*} This is the verse that contains the promise of Hashem that Binyomin is about to be born. This was concurrent with Yakov receiving the name Yisrael, and coincided with his return to Israel. Binyomin was the only one of the tribes that was born in Israel, and was the only one that did not bow down to Esav. This represents his superior status - his job as the one who accomplishes the final rectification.

Behold, we have a great, deep secret here, for after this, in the time of Achashverosh, our sages tell us that "they reaccepted it [the Torah] in the days of Achashverosh" - through Mordechai. The concept is that the original destruction was in this secret depth, which is the sin of Adam Harishon with the tree of knowledge, in which he separated between the two trees [the tree of knowledge and the tree of life], and caused the darkness of the outer [evil] forces, upon which the klipos (encrustments) take hold. Then the body was darkened in the secret depth of "leather clothes." At the giving of the Torah, the matter had reached its rectification, which is the depth of the verse, "Hashem came from Sinai..." For all the klipos are included in two, which are Yishmael and Esav, the inner and outer aspects, both of which are [together] the outer aspect of the outer aspect of Holiness, which is the Left side. Behold, at that time, the rectification began from below to above, and the Good of Esav, which is the outer aspect, was included in Yishmael {*}, which is the inner aspect of the Other Side [i.e. the forces of evil]. For this reason, the verse says, "...shined from Se'ir [which is a reference to Esav], appeared from the mountain of Paran [which seems to be a reference to Yishmael]." The two became the outer aspect of Holiness. Then, "And it came from the ten-thousands of Holiness," at which point the Holiness itself found the Left to be included in the Right. Afterwards, from this Right side, which now contains the Left - the Torah was given to the people of Israel, in order that they complete this rectification as one, and the secret depth of the verse, "From His Right, a Law of fire to them." This is what [Rabba bar bar Channa] saw [in reference to Sinai], "A scorpion with a white mule." And this is... [There is something difficult to read here in the original manuscript] ...around the mountain of Sinai.

{*} This idea gives new meaning to the midrash that talks about Hashem going to the nations and offering them the Torah, which they rejected. The midrash speaks of Him going to Edom and Yishmael and asking them each, to which they respond, "What is in the Torah." When Hashem answers, they reject it. This would seem to be a birur process, where Hashem removes the dross of the evil parts of Esav and Yishmael, which leaves only the Good of each, which are then brought to be contained within the other's aspect. Subsequently, they are then contained within the Right side of Holiness, allowing for the revelation of the Torah, as the Ramchal says. It would not be a far stretch to say that we are currently seeing an identical birur taking place in preparation for the revelation of the Torah of Moshiach's times, as the dross of Esav and Yishmael is slowly but surely removed, leaving only the the Good of each, which will then be contained within the side of Holiness.

And behold, if the people of Israel could have withstood the entire length of the exile of Egypt [instead of leaving after 210 years, leaving after a full 400], all would have been rectified. However, since they did not complete it in its entirety, the Erev Rav came out without being rectified. It was for them that there was an aspect of force in the giving of the Torah, as a result of which, the evil came out of them. However, since this matter was done with force, it did not last long, as a result of the deterioration of the Erev Rav. This brought the deterioration of Adam back into its place and resulted in the shattering of the tablets, which is the separation of these levels [the tree of knowledge and the tree of life], and the result was that the concept of death returned. This matter continued until the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, for the rectifications that were intended in the interim did not take effect. Then, when they wanted to build the second Beis Hamikdash, which is the secret depth of the lower letter heh [which represents Malchus and Shechinah], the Outer aspect, an accusation was aroused in the secret depth of the original blemish. This was with Haman, in the secret depth of "המן העץ" - [when Adam sinned and Hashem asked Him,] "Was it from the tree..." This was because he was drawn from the tree of knowledge. Mordechai, however, who was from the tribe of Binyomin, returned the rectification of the connection of Yehuda and Yosef {**}. The truth is that Binyomin comes through the power of Yosef, which is the secret depth of the verse, "Let Hashem add on (יוסף) another child for me." {***} Mordechai was referred to as "Mordechai the Jew [Yehudi]" in reference to the fact that he was involved in the rectification of connecting Yehuda to himself {****}. The truth is that this concept began long before, for Binyomin was given into the hands of Yehuda to be brought to Yosef. I can not speak about this at length now. Mordechai, however, certainly rectified this connection, and Haman was hanged on the gallows (עץ), which is the tree of knowledge, which he wished to overcome, but ended up humbled by it {*****}. The tree was fifty (נ) cubits high, in the secret depth of the lower letter heh that we mentioned. Then, "they accepted it [the Torah] again," for the original rectification which had been accomplished at the original giving of the Torah - had already been weakened, and now was strengthened again. In truth, however, the second Beis Hamikdash did not complete this rectification. Rather, at the end of days, the matter will reach its true rectification with the two Moshiachs. This is all the secret depth of the verse, "A nation and a congregation of nations," which we mentioned.

{**} Yosef would seem to correspond to the tree of knowledge (דעת) , as this is the connecting Male aspect, which is also the concept of Yosef as the Tzaddik Yesod Olam. Yehuda would then correspond to the tree of life, which would then be the female aspect (Malchus). Their reconnection through the liaison of Binyomin would serve (and will serve in the future) as a rectification of the sin of Adam Harishon. As is generally the case in Kabbalistic thought, it could also be thought of from another perspective, where the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil corresponds to the female aspect, which is the aspect of separation and judgment, the Left side. This would still seem to correspond to Yosef and Moshiach ben Yosef, who are the aspect of dealing with the physical world, a more natural Moshiach process, one that seems separate from Hashem, as it were. The tree of life would be the Male aspect, the Right side, which is the greater unifying concept, corresponding to Yehuda and Moshiach ben Dovid, whose advent is typified by a more miraculous, all encompassing and overarching characteristic.

{***} This was the prayer of Rochel when Yosef was born, where she used Yosef's name as part of the prayer, and asked for another child, who was to be Binyomin.

{****} Here it seems that Mordechai, who is from Binyomin, actually includes Yosef, and therefore connects all three aspects - Yosef, the Left; Yehuda, the Right; via Binyomin, the center.

{*****} Mordechai is the tree of knowledge, or Da'as, because he represents Binyomin who is the center column, the connector between the Left and Right. Haman tried to overcome Mordechai, but instead, ended up falling to him, and was hanged on the tree which corresponds to Mordechai.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Vayishlach - Yakov, Rochel and Binyomin

Why is Yakov given another name? What is the significance of the name Yisrael? Why is it given immediately before Binyomin's birth? Why does Rochel die as Binyomin is born? What is the secret spiritual power of Binyomin?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 24:12

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rochel, MBY and MBD

Guest post by R' Daniel Krentzman

"ותהר ותלד בן ותאמר: אסף א-לקים את חרפתי,

ותקרא את שמו יוסף לאמר: יסף ה' לי בן אחר"

The birth and naming of Yosef is a very significant event in the Torah. In the Torah, it is a general concept that the beginning of something usually includes within it everything that it will come to manifest. Because Yosef is the spiritual head-runner of Mashiach ben Yosef and all his associative qualities, this verse, hints at various aspects of the qualities of Mashiach ben Yosef and his mission in this world.

Firstly, Kabbalah teaches us that Rachel, the mother of Yosef, symbolizes the collective soul and destiny of the Jewish people. In this verse, Rachel’s conception and birth of Yosef is described, wherein she names Yosef and predicts the birth of another, un-named, son.

“Rachel”, the soul of the nation, “conceives and gives birth”; which represents the realization of the light of Mashiach and the Redemption. The first son, “Yosef”, is Mashiach ben Yosef, who will achieve the initial stages of the Redemption process. The future “son” who will be born, in addition to “Yosef”, represents the subsequent arrival of Mashiach ben David and the full Redemption.

Let us explore some more of the concepts in this verse which relate to this process of Redemption:

Rachel declares: "אסף א-לקים את חרפתי", literally: “G-d (Elokim) has brought in (or gathered in) my disgrace”. First, the name "א-לקים", is used; then, when she names Yosef she says: "יסף ה' לי בן אחר", “May Hashem (י-ה-ו-ה) add on another son for me”. What is the significance of the progression from Elokim to Hashem, a verse later?

Part of the deeper meaning behind this is that Elokim represents G-d’s attribute of “Din”, “Strict Judgment”, while Hashem represents G-d as He manifests His attribute of “Chesed” and “Rachamim”, “Kindness” and “Mercy”.

“Din” is related to Mashiach ben Yosef because his contribution to the Redemption process is dictated by “Strict Judgment”; the natural law and order which demands human effort and worthiness in order to achieve the Redemption.

“Rachamim” is related to Mashiach ben David because he ushers in the era of miracles and transcendence of nature, where we receive the bestowal of Hashem’s reciprocal spiritual and material kindness; in return for our human efforts and self sacrifice, which have made us worthy of it.

We also see that: "חרפתי" (which follows the name “Elokim”) is made up of the letters which form the words: "פרת" and "חי" , both of which relate to Yosef, and by extension, qualities related to Mashiach ben Yosef; as it says (Bereishis 49:22): "בן פרת יוסף בן פרת עלי עין", and (Bereishis 45:28):

"עוד יוסף חי".

"אסף", which means “gather” is also used in relation to Yosef and Mashiach ben Yosef because of their relationship to the sefirah of “Yesod”, which is the sefirah that “gathers together” as it were, the light of the five upper sefiros before channeling them into Malchus. This also expresses the relationship between the two Mashichim, where Mashiach ben Yosef prepares the world for the realization of the Redemption and Hashem’s revelation, achieved fully through Mashiach ben David.

Mashiach ben Yosef’s mission also includes the “ingathering of the exiles” to Eretz Yisrael, which is also hinted at by the usage of: "אסף", “gather in”, here in this verse.

"אסף", also denotes “concealment”, which is its meaning in this verse’s usage of it (Rashi to Bereishis 30:23). This also relates to the quality of Mashiach ben Yosef’s efforts being “hidden” and “concealed” in order to avoid opposition against the spiritual and physical forces who work to prevent the Redemption (see Kol HaTor 1:14).

Regarding the words: "יסף ה' לי בן אחר", which, in reality, refers to the subsequent son of Binyamin also supports its deeper implied reference to Mashiach ben David; for Mashiach ben David is from the tribe of Yehudah and many times throughout the books of the prophets we find that when the tribe of “Yehudah” is described, in implies both the tribes of Yehudah and Binyamin. They not only bordered each other and shared the area of the Beis HaMikdash, but were also spiritually rooted together; which is why the initial kingship of Shaul, which preceded that of David from Yehudah, could be from the tribe of Binyamin. Thus the "בן אחר", which refers to Binyamin, can appropriately allude to Mashiach descended from David and Yehudah, as well.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vayetzei - Catalyst for Good

Why do we find that Esav's anger is the catalyst for Yakov being sent to Charan to begin his family? Why is there so much emotional difficulty surrounding the relationships of Leah, Rochel and Yakov? Why does Yakov face the challenges of Lavan? Why does Yakov decide to return when Yosef is born?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 18:40

Friday, November 5, 2010

Toldos - Beginnings and Ends

How do we understand the unusual fact that Yakov is named for the heel (ekev)? What is the significance of the fact that Yakov was holding Esav's heel as they were being born? Why is Yakov so intent on purchasing the first-born rights and getting the blessings of the firstborn? Why does the Torah interrupt the story of Yakov and Esav with the story of Yitzchok digging the wells in Gerar?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 17:38