Friday, December 30, 2011

Vayigash - deep tikkun

What is the root of the problem that caused Yosef to go down to Egypt? What is the deep tikkun that is accomplished through the entire story?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 16:23

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kever Yosef visit last night

Teves - month of Nesirah

Whenever one wishes to understand the character of a month, the first thing to examine is the holiday schedule of that month. Since each month represents a spiritual force coming into play, that force is most clearly expressed through the days of note that are present in that month.

If we look at the structure of the month of Teves, we note that there are two outstanding aspects. The first is that we have the tail end of the holiday of Chanukah, which straddles the end of Kislev and the beginning of Teves. The month of Teves thus begins with the climax of Chanukah - the seventh and eighth days of the holiday. The final day of Chanukah is referred to as 'Zot Chanukah,' which means, 'This is Chanukah.' This reference indicates that the final day of Chanukah is when we fully recognize the miracle of the oil of the Temple menorah which burned for eight days. It is this culmination of the spiritual influx of the holiday which starts off the month of Teves.

When we look a little further in the month, however, we discover an expression of the exact opposite spiritual energy. Whereas the completion of Chanukah represents the rededication of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, and a renewed commitment to the Jewish people's relationship with Hashem, the tenth day of Teves is the date that marks the beginning of the downfall of Jerusalem, and the seeming loss of that relationship. This was the day that the city was surrounded and the siege was laid that would ultimately result in the destruction of the second Temple.

It is remarkable that this month contains two significant dates that represent such opposite extremes in the Jewish people's relationship with Hashem.

In order to understand this on a deeper level, we must again recall that all of the structures of time are composed of multiples of six. When we understand this well, we can find parallels between different places where we see this pattern repeating itself. Just as we find that the winter and summer months are series of six, respectively, so are the days of the week a series of six, followed by a seventh, which is Shabbat. Thus, if we look at the day of the week that corresponds to the month of Teves, we can discover something deeper about the character of the month under discussion.

In the series of six which composes the winter months, Teves is the fourth month. It therefore parallels the fourth day of the week, which is Wednesday. If we wish to understand the character of any concept, we must always look for the root of that concept as it appears in the Torah. The Torah is the spiritual blueprint of reality, and thus, we can find the core of any idea in the Torah, most specifically, in the first place where that concept appears.

The first mention we find of a Wednesday in the Torah is the fourth day of creation. The verses in Genesis (1:14-18) describe the creation of the celestial bodies of the Sun and Moon which took place on that day. Significantly, the Torah at first refers to them as 'the two great luminaries.' Subsequently, however, they are referred to as 'the great luminary that rules in the day,' and the 'minor luminary that rules at night.'

The Talmud in tractate Chullin (60b) makes note of the two distinct references to the Sun and Moon. Whereas the first reference seems to equate the two, implying that they were of equal size and importance, the second reference seems to indicate that they were different, the Sun being larger and greater than the Moon.

Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi explains that this seeming contradiction indicates that something was happening beneath the surface on the fourth day of creation. He illustrates it with a homiletical story, which on the surface seems quaint, but actually contains a profound lesson.

He expounds and says that the first reference to 'the two great luminaries' actually implies that the Sun and Moon were originally created of equal size and stature. Upon seeing this, the Moon complained to Hashem, as it were, and said that 'two kings can not use the same crown.' The implication of the Moon's complaint was that there could not be 'two great luminaries,' or two rulers over the heavens, but rather, only one of the two could truly be significant.

Hashem responded to the Moon and said, "Diminish yourself."

The indication was that the Moon was correct in saying that they could not both be significant, and therefore, it was told to diminish itself.

The Moon, however, complained to Hashem, and asked, "Why must I diminish myself if my claim was indeed well founded?"

To this, Hashem responded with a consolation, saying that although it will remain diminished, at least it will appear alongside the Sun in the daytime, at certain points in the month. This would indicate its primacy, as the Sun never appears while the Moon rules at night.

The Moon was not consoled, and asked, "What value is my light during the day, when the Sun shines brightly?"

Hashem again tried to comfort it by saying that it will have its own unique significance, as the Jewish people will count their calendar based on the lunar months.

Again, however, the Moon complained that it is not the sole factor in the calculation of the Jewish calendar, as the lunar calendar is aligned with the solar calendar through the addition of a thirteenth month, seven times every nineteen years. Thus, the Moon does not have absolute significance in this context, as well.

The conversation continued until finally Hashem acknowledged the Moon and said that a special sin offering would be brought on His behalf, as it were, every Rosh Chodesh. This is the first of the month, the very day that the Moon is diminished. This sin offering would atone for Hashem, as it were, for diminishing the Moon.

Like many homiletic stories of the Sages, this story seems fantastic on the surface. On greater investigation, however, it conceals a most profound concept that is embedded into the very fabric of reality at every level.

In order to understand this, we must examine the concept of the Moon and what it represents, and we can then unlock the message of this Talmudic narrative.

When we analyze the nature of the Moon, we find that it is a celestial form that has no light of its own. All of its light is purely a reflection of the Sun's luminance. It is thus no coincidence that the calendar of the Jewish people is based on the cycles of the Moon. It is also not a coincidence that the Jewish people are given the commandment to base their calendar on the Moon at the very moment that they are on the threshold of the Exodus from Egypt, being forged as a nation.

This brings to the fore the fact that just as the Moon has no light of its own and only reflects the light of the Sun, so too, the Jewish people as a nation have no light of their own, as it were, and only reflect the light of Hashem and His Torah. Just as the Moon cycles, sometimes reflecting more, sometimes reflecting less, so too, the Jewish nation also experiences cycles throughout history, sometimes reflecting more of Hashem's light, sometimes reflecting less.

With this understanding, we can see that the conversation that occurred on that first Wednesday of creation between the Moon and Hashem is also a conversation between between the Jewish people and Hashem, concerning their relationship.

The dialogue between the Moon and Hashem took place on the fourth day of the week, and correspondingly, their is a similar exchange that takes place on the fourth month of the year, the month of Teves.

The month begins with the Sun shining on the Moon, so to speak, as we reflect the light of Hashem in the world through the lighting of the Chanukah candles, which serve as a reminder of the miracles He performed for us.

Even though the Jewish people are pleased to be shining Hashem's light into the world by recounting this miracle, there is an implicit complaint, which corresponds to the complaint of the Moon. The objection is that as long as one can see an obvious miracle from Hashem, we are not truly reflecting His light, because the source of the light is too overpowering. When Hashem reveals Himself in the world, it limits our free choice, and thus, instead of our relationship with Him being something we have chosen, there is an aspect of coercion, in a certain sense.

The paradox is that in order for our relationship with Hashem to be completely actualized, there must be a complete eclipse of that relationship. Hashem must hide Himself, as it were, in order to remove the compulsion that exists when His presence is apparent. Only then can we truly choose to enter into a relationship with Him.

In the account quoted earlier from the Talmud, the Moon is instructed to stop reflecting the light of the Sun, to 'diminish itself.' The fast of the tenth of Teves represents the beginning of the destruction of the Temple, and our seeming loss of relationship with Hashem. This precisely corresponds to Hashem's intstruction to the Moon to 'diminish itself,' as both represent an apparent decline in the relationship between the giver (Hashem and the Sun) and the receiver (the Jewish people and the Moon).

Incredibly, at the very moment that the relationship seems lost, when the Jewish people seem to be abandoned by Hashem, heaven forbid, and the destruction of the Temple is imminent, that is the time when they are no longer forced to shine His light, and instead have a chance to choose to reflect His radiance.

This concept is the root of the reason for the exile of the Jewish people into the diaspora, and the possible loss of faith that is the inherent danger as they are dispersed amongst many peoples and many foreign faiths. Although this is a great challenge, ultimately, it paves the way for the possibility for the Jewish people as a nation to actually choose their relationship with Hashem, to choose to reflect His light.

With this idea, we can understand why these two dates are commemorated in Teves, centering around the very middle of the six month series of the winter months. It is in the very depths of darkness that we have the greatest opportunity to choose the light.

Ultimately, we find that the Moon will return to its full state, as we say in the monthly prayer, Kiddush Levana, the sanctifying of the Moon. There we say, "May it be Your will, my Hashem, and the Hashem of my fathers, to fill the diminishment of the Moon, returning it to its unblemished state. May the light of the Moon be like the light of the Sun, and like the light of the seven days of creation, as it was before."

Similarly, in the service of Kiddush Levana, we pray for the day when the Jewish people will be renewed, like the Moon, and they will glorify their Creator, completely reflecting His light. This will occur in the time of the Messiah, which we await each day. That time will be one where each and every human being will choose to reflect the light of Hashem, entering into the most sublime relationship possible with his or her Creator.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Miketz - Pawn of Hashem

Why does Yosef treat his brothers so harshly? Does he still bear resentment toward them? Why is he so intent on bringing Binyomin down to Egypt with them? Why does he seem to be playing God?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 19:20

Sunday, December 18, 2011

22 Kislev

Today is the 22nd of Kislev. It begins what we could call the 'shloshes yemei hagbala' - the three days before Chanukah begins. As we noted in previous posts, Chanukah is the end of the buildup from Succos, and each day of Chanukah is exactly seventy days after each day of Succos. The last day of Chanukah ("Zos Chanukah") corresponds to Shmini Atzeres. As we have seen before, the concept of seventy is ten sets of seven, or ten weeks. The first in the set of ten is Keser, the transcendental realm, and it is embedded in the last of the ten, which is Malchus. Thus, the light of Shmini Atzeres is reflected in the completion of Chanukah.

Besides for this, there is also another significant series of time that is being completed, which also involves the 22nd of Kislev. The 25th of Kislev, which is the first day of Chanukah, is also precisely nine months after the 25th of Adar. The 25th of Adar was the day the world was created according to the opinion that the world was created in Nissan (see Maharsha Moed Katan 28). The nine months from the 25th of Adar until the 25th of Kislev are a period of 'fetal development,' or a full stage in the processes of time. On the 25th of Kislev, there is a realization of the potential that was inherent in the 25th of Adar. In the context of Chanukah, the world was created (as represented by 25th Adar) in order to reveal Hashem in the world, even in the darkest places and moments in history. That hidden aspect was revealed on Chanukah, nine months later. Because this aspect has been programmed into the calendar, we have access to a special light that is revealed each year, the light of Hashem being revealed in the darkness.

The first of the seven days of creation was the 25th of Adar, but, as we have seen, the series of seven is always the revealed aspect of a fuller series of ten. Thus, the 'hidden brains' of creation began on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of Adar. Today's date, the 22nd of Kislev, is precisely nine months after the 22nd of Adar, and therefore it is the culmination of the gestation period of that first hidden aspect (Keser).

It is also significant to note that just as in the ten weeks, the last of the weeks (Malchus) reflects the first of the weeks (Keser), this is the same with the nine months. The tenth month of gestation (Malchus), which is after the 'baby' is born, is the fruition of the first month (Keser). It is important to realize that although a child takes nine months to be born, the child is not called a 'ben kayama' - a viable entity - until it has completed the thirty days of its first month of life (or its tenth month since conception). This is the reason why we wait until the 30th day to perform a pidyon haben. In any event, the concept is that the tenth month is the completion of the series, and thus Teves, which Chanukah rolls into, constitutes the month where we see the full reflection (and remember we are just seeeing a reflection) of the creative aspect of Nissan of the previous year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Vayeshev - Making of a leader

Why does the Torah stress that Yosef brought a negative report of his brothers to his father? Why does the midrash stress that all of his travails were a result of specifically this negative report? What is the meaning of the brothers' statement to Yosef, 'Will you be king over us?' Why is Yosef held to such a high standard when he asks Pharaoh's winebearer to remember him?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 21:44

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Vayishlach - Keep the fire burning

How does one hold onto spiritual inspiration? How can one face the resistance of others, and oneself, when one is seeking that inspiration? What is the lesson of Yakov in his interaction with Esav?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 18:44

Monday, December 5, 2011

Keep the fire burning

One of my earliest memories as a child is awakening suddenly in the middle of the night, being brought by my parents out of the house, waiting in the car, and watching as the fire engines pulled up to our home. The scare was short-lived as the firemen discovered the source of the smoke in our home. The chimney of our fireplace, which was in use at the time, had been somewhat blocked by birds' nests, unbeknownst to us. The result was that the smoke had nowhere to go, and began to filter into our home, creating a potentially dangerous situation. The nests were summarily cleared, and our home once again returned to being its usual warm and smoke-free environment.

Recently, in pondering this event, I realized that it holds a powerful lesson for a healthy approach to ruchniyus.

Many of us are searching for something that will inspire us in our service of Hashem, something that we and our children can latch onto. In the face of the challenges that we as a community are confronting, the imperative to discover that inspiration becomes all the more pressing. We are looking for that fire that will warm our homes, filling up our lives and the lives of our families.

There are times when we believe we may have discovered that source of spiritual energy. Whether it is an inspiring Torah idea we have heard in a shiur, or it is a moving story that has caused us to stop and think, our new discovery can sometimes propel us forward and become a potential theme in our lives. We may often wish to share this idea with our spouse, with our children, and with others, and we sincerely attempt to live with the newfound knowledge we have acquired.

Suddenly, though, we can find ourselves encountering resistance. Here we are, trying to grow, trying to maintain the fire we have discovered, trying to hold on to that inspiration we have found, and others may not be as excited as we. We may even find our own fire starting to burn out, as we watch the smoke start to fill our lives. What is it exactly that serves as the birds' nests in the nimshal, and how do we clear them out so our inspiration can continue to burn brightly, remaining uncompromised?

To learn the secret to maintaining inspiration, we need to look to our avos hakedoshim for their personal example.

Yakov Avinu had been commanded by Hashem to gather his family and all of his possessions in order to return to Eretz Yisrael and begin the destiny of the Jewish people there. The promises Hashem had made to him years before, as he ran from his home toward Charan, would now begin to be fulfilled. He could also already see the beginning of the fulfillment of the brachos his father had given him, with the family he now had and the wealth he had amassed.

Yakov's return was a time of intense inspiration, as Rashi tells us (Bereshis 31:3), Hashem had promised that He would rest His Shechina on Yakov at this time. And at that very moment of his return, he was faced with powerful resistance in the form of Esav, who came out to greet his homecoming with four hundred armed men.

It is remarkably instructive to follow Yakov Avinu's approach to his brother's opposition. Firstly, if we look carefully at his tefillah at this perilous moment, we discover the surprising fact that he does not try to bypass nor deny his feelings, but rather, he is quite open and honest with Hashem about the emotions he is experiencing. He is not ashamed to admit that he is afraid of Esav, despite Hashem's promise of protection (See Rashi, Bereshis 28:15).

It is also important to note that based on Hashem's promise, Yakov could easily have decided to fight Esav and could have expected a miraculous victory. Yet, he completely gives himself over to the hand of Hashem, not even relying on any merits of his own to save himself. Furthermore,it seems that Yakov completely surrenders to Esav, giving him a lavish gift, and bowing to him seven times. Paradoxically, Yakov's seeming surrender earns him a complete victory to the point that not only does Esav no longer wish to fight, he even offers to accompany him and protect him.

Yakov's approach is a profound lesson in addressing the resistance we often encounter when we are in the process of spiritual growth. The fire of our inspiration is burning within us, yet there is something blocking the airflow, creating threatening smoke and opposition.

The first step is to use Yakov's strategy and acknowledge the resistance, which sometimes can manifest as a fear similar to Yakov's. We must be honest with ourselves and Hashem, even as we are aware that He is only interested in our best spiritual welfare. This could be comparable to the recognition that there is a bird's nest preventing proper air circulation.

The second step is to completely surrender ourselves to Hashem, not depending on ourselves in any way - whether it is our spiritual merits or our own hishtadlus. We turn to Him and ask Him for guidance. This could be comparable to calling the fire department, as the resistance we have encountered is too challenging to manage on our own.

At this point, the resistance that we have faced is released. Counterintuitively, this occurs through our seeming submission, and we find ourselves watching as Hashem transforms the conflict into peace, much as Yakov's submission to Esav transformed the latter's anger into love. Our willingness to acknowledge the resistance and to surrender to it takes the air out of the balloon, giving us the emotional space to redouble our spiritual efforts. The bird's nest is removed, and the airflow is once again restored, as the flame of inspiration again receives the life-giving oxygen it needs to continue to burn inside of us.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Gut Yontiff!

Today is the sixth of Kislev, which corresponds to the sixth of Sivan - Shavuos. It is exactly fifty days since the second day of Succos. As per the midrash, it would have been a holiday today, but Hashem instead placed Shmini Atzeres at the end of Succos.

Gut Yontiff!

Two articles on Kislev

I again wrote two different articles with the same theme that appeared in two different places, be'H. The first appeared on, and the second will be appearing in the Beltway Buzz magazine of DC.
You will notice that they both start and end the same (basically).

Here is the version:

The Autumn Triad
How the High Holiday season actually culminates with Chanukah.

When we think of the month of Kislev, we naturally think of the holiday of Chanukah that begins on the 25th day of the month. Looking on a deeper level, we can discern a thread that ties together the three-month period that consists of the months of Tishrei, Cheshvan and Kislev. We will also uncover a hidden connection between Sukkot and Chanukah.

If we carefully examine the structure of the year, we discern that the year consists of two sets of six months. One set begins with Tishrei, the month when we celebrate Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, and continues until the sixth month of the set, which is Adar and the holiday of Purim. The other set of six months begins with the month of Nissan, when we celebrate Passover, and continues through the summer, culminating with Elul, the preparatory month for the High Holidays.

All the structures of time are multiples of six.

It is significant to note that all the structures of time are multiples of six. The day consists of 24 hours, which is four sets of six hours. Each hour consists of 60 minutes, and each minute consists of 60 seconds, both 10 sets of six. Likewise, the year itself is two sets of six months.

These sets of six can be broken down further into two groups of three. Generally, sets of three can be described as being a manifestation of the concepts of thesis, antithesis and synthesis (See Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's expansion of this concept in Sefer Yetzirah, p. 82). This means that the first aspect of a set of three is the initial concept. The second aspect is its polar opposite. The third aspect is the perfect synthesis, or balance, between the first two.

To understand this better, we can observe this pattern in many different contexts – for example, a debate between two individuals who maintain opposite opinions about a subject. The first person presents his opinion, and the second presents his opposing opinion. Generally, there is a certain truth that each side can agree to. While a kernel of truth is found in each of the respective views, one can find a higher truth which is a synthesis of the two opposing opinions.

Spiritual Synthesis

We can likewise discern this pattern in the months of the year. The months we have just passed through – Tishrei and Cheshvan, as well as the current month of Kislev – constitute a triad that functions in precisely the way we have been discussing. In Tishrei, we experience an intense opportunity for connection to God, as we ride the successive waves of the holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. As Tishrei draws to a close, the inspiration of those festive days becomes a memory as we enter into the month of Cheshvan, which is the polar opposite of Tishrei.

As discussed previously, Cheshvan is a month which is devoid of holidays, and is described as “the bitter month.” It is a time when the natural state of the world is one of distance from spiritual light. It is a time when we are to search within the darkness for the light of spirituality that seems to have been extinguished.

With the advent of Kislev, we begin to see the synthesis between the polar opposites of Tishrei and Cheshvan. The spiritual light for which we have been searching is now discernible, shining deep within the darkness. There is a balance between the inspiration of Tishrei, and the deeper personal work that is necessary in Cheshvan when there is no outside inspiration.

By contrast, the Second Temple was devoid of open miracles and prophecy.

This synthesis is aptly expressed in the holiday of Chanukah which begins on the 25th of Kislev. It is then that we celebrate and relive the experience of the Jewish people during the time of the Second Temple. That period was characterized by a lower level of spiritual light. Whereas the First Temple period was characterized by daily open miracles, as well as direct communication from God through the prophets, the Second Temple period was devoid of miracles and clear spiritual messages. The Hellenistic way of life disdained the spiritual and glorified the physical, and many Jews fell prey at that time to a hedonistic view of life. It was at that very moment of spiritual darkness that a small group of Jews were able to see past the darkness and find a spiritual light that shone deep within, to be expressed in the miracles of Chanukah.

Here we see two extremes: the open miracles of the First Temple, and the apparent spiritual darkness of the Second Temple. They are brought into synthesis with the subtle miracles of Chanukah – the many who fell in the hand of the few; a miraculous light that would shine for eight days instead of only one. These accomplishments paled in comparison to the miracles of the First Temple, but they represented the synthesis between human efforts and the aid God would provide to animate those efforts. Within the darkness, there was a vehicle we as humans could create for God to reveal Himself subtly in the world.

Clouds of Glory

With this idea we can understand a deeper connection between the holidays of Sukkot and Chanukah. Sukkot occurs in the month of Tishrei, the month of inspiration in this three-month set. It is the holiday when we sit in the sukkah, which helps us relive the experience of the Jewish people as they wandered through the wilderness for 40 years, completely surrounded by the spiritual clouds of God's glory. This revelatory experience was one that we could compare to a gift that the Jewish people received at that time.

We experience the polar opposite in the month of Cheshvan that follows, when our connection to spirituality is hidden. This darkness, however, creates the opportunity for us to create that vehicle for God's transcendent light to appear through our own efforts. The light of spirituality which was originally given as a gift, after the Exodus from Egypt, is finally revealed through human efforts with the advent of the story of Chanukah. Although the revelation is more subtle, it is one that represents the synthesis between God's spiritual gifts and our efforts in being able to reveal and receive those gifts.

We can now see that the three months of Tishrei, Cheshvan and Kislev is a period of time which is about developing our relationship with God, starting with the moment of inspiration, continuing through a more difficult period which depends on our investment, then culminating with the fruits of that determination being revealed as the eight nights of Chanukah light that shine forth through the darkness of winter.

The Beltway Buzz version:

When we think of the month of Kislev, we naturally think of the holiday of Chanukah that begins on the twenty fifth day of the month. If we turn back to our discussion from last month's column, we will note that there is another aspect that is intrinsic to Kislev. Looking at it on a deeper level, we will also be able to discern a thread that ties together the three month period that consists of the months of Tishrei, Chesvan and Kislev. We will also uncover a hidden connection between Succos and Chanukah.

We previously saw that just as there is a fifty day period connecting the holiday of Pesach and Shavuos, so too there was to have been a fifty day period connecting Succos to Shmini Atzeres. Hashem decided, however, to place the holiday of Shmini Atzeres in closer proximity to Succos because of the difficulty it would entail for the Jewish people to return fifty days later, as the winter season would already be upon them. Thus we see that Shmini Atzeres should have been on the sixth day of Kislev, just as Shavuos is on the sixth day of Sivan.

Once we have established the parallel between these two periods of time, we can draw a conclusion as to the similarity between them. Just as there is a buildup from Pesach, when the Jewish people experienced the Exodus, until Shavuos when the Jewish people received the Torah, there is a similar buildup from Succos until Kislev. On the surface, there does not seem to be a significant event that occurs during this time. However, if we follow the chronology of the Torah, an interesting picture starts to emerge, that is clearly and intimately connected to the Exodus and the receiving of the Torah.

The Jewish people experienced the revelation at Sinai on the sixth of Sivan of the year 2448 from creation. Forty days later, on the 17th of Tammuz, Moshe was to come down with the luchos, however, the sin of the Golden Calf occurred on that day, destroying their chances of receiving that which represented their covenant with Hashem. A few days later, Moshe returned to Sinai for another forty days, pleading for the Jewish people's forgiveness, until the first of Elul. He again went up for a third set of forty days until Yom Kippur, the tenth of Tishrei, when he came down with the second set of luchos, and complete forgiveness for the Jewish people's grievous sin.

At that point, Moshe gave the Jewish people the command to bring their donations for the Mishkan, the place that would become a central location for their service of Hashem. The Divine Presence could reside, once again, on the Jewish people, because of Hashem's forgiveness for their sin, and their efforts to create a sanctuary for their relationship. The raw materials were gathered by the fifteenth of Tishrei, the first day of Succos, and all the work to create the parts of the mishkan was started on that day and was completed almost two months later, on the twenty fifth of Kislev. Although all was ready, the actual dedication of the Mishkan was delayed until three months later, the end of Adar and the beginning of Nissan. The twenty fifth day of Kislev would have to wait for its moment in the sun until many centuries later with the miracle of Chanukah.

With this chronology in mind, we see that just as there was a time of development for the Jewish people from Nissan to Sivan, as they left Egypt and prepared to receive the Torah, there was a corresponding buildup that occurred from Tishrei to Kislev, as they invested their time in preparing the materials for the physical structure of the Mishkan. If we compare the two time periods, however, we can note that there is a very stark contrast between them. Whereas the springtime period which characterized the time of the Exodus was one of spectacular miracles, the wintertime period was one of strong involvement and concerted effort on the part of the Jewish people. Both time periods witnessed Hashem's Divine Presence resting upon His beloved people, which symbolized His relationship with them. At first, however, the relationship was given as a miraculous gift. After their fall from the relationship, it was necessary for that very connection to be earned through their own efforts.

If we take a deeper look at the holiday of Chanukah, we can now see how it corresponds to this idea and fits beautifully into the period on the calendar we are discussing. The story of Chanukah took place during the time of the second Beis Hamikdash. Whereas the time period of the first Beis Hamikdash was characterized by daily open miracles and Hashem's Presence clearly seen, the second Beis Hamikdash lacked any open miracles, and even the Aron Habris was absent from the Kodesh Hakadashim. During the first temple, the relationship between Am Yisrael and Hashem was clear and apparent. During the second, it was difficult to discern. The first temple period clearly parallels the time immediately after the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt, when miracles were the norm. The second temple period clearly parallels the time when they fell from grace and lost their relationship, and had to earn that relationship again, through their concerted efforts.

If we focus on the three months of Tishrei, Cheshvan, and Kislev, we can see that this very pattern exists here as well. Tishrei is the month that we celebrate Hashem's Divine presence returning to the Jewish people, as the Succos remind us of the Clouds of Glory that protected us and returned to us as Hashem forgave us at this time. Cheshvan arrives, and we experience a type of estrangement in the relationship, as there is a certain distance, as represented by the lack of holidays and occasions to develop our relationship with Hashem. This is the period when it is up to us to spend our time building a place for Hashem to reside, as it were, the time when we are constructing the components of His dwelling here on Earth. Thus we have the first inspirational period of Tishrei, followed by dark period, Cheshvan, which is the time of our work and effort. Finally, Kislev is the month where we find the balance between these two extremes, where the work is completed, and ultimately, the miracle of Chanukah takes place, which represents the balanced relationship between our efforts and Hashem's involvement.

We thus see that Succos represents the inspiration for Hashem's Presence to dwell upon His people, and the months that follow represent our work to create a place for His presence, culminating in Chanukah when the work is complete, and the relationship has been formed as an interdependent reality. It is remarkable that each of the days of Chanukah is exactly seventy days after each of the days of Succos. The Maharsha in Moed Katan (28) points out that the 25th day of Adar, the day the world was created, is exactly seventy days before the sixth of Sivan, when the Torah was given. This teaches us that there is an intimate connection between two points on the calendar that are exactly ten weeks (seventy days) apart.

In light of our discussion, we can now see that this seventy day period which spans the three months of Tishrei, Cheshvan and Kislev, is a period of time which is about developing our relationship with Hashem, starting with the moment of inspiration, continuing through a more difficult period where there is a need for our investment into the relationship. This finally culminates with the fruits of that determination being revealed as the relationship begins to subtly shine forth with the eight nights of Chanukah light that shine through the darkness of the winter.

Vayetzei - Thanks and surrender

What can we learn from the names Leah gave her children? What is the progression we observe? Why does she thank Hashem with Yehuda's birth? What is the connection between thanks and admission (surrender)? How does one surrender when the ego is strong?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 24:02

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Toldos - Space for defiance

What is the connection between Isaac's passivity in the face of the king of Gerar, and Yaakov's running away from Esav after stealing the blessings? What is the concept of the 'time of defiance?' When is one to be passive in the face of judgments? What is the concept of 'giving space for defiance?'

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 22:24

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chayei Sarah - Neshama, the lit candle

What is the connection between the story of Avraham and the angels to his discovery of the cave of Machpela? What is the concept of the 'lit candle' he finds there? What is the connection between Adam's burial there and Avraham? What is the concept of a kever, which means womb as well as grave? What is the concept of Chevron, the city of the patriarchs?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 21:46

Friday, November 11, 2011

Vayera - Revealing God's plan

Why does Avraham's meeting with the angels occur in conjunction with Pesach? Why does the destruction of Sodom occur concurrently? Why is Yitzchak born on Pesach? Why does the binding of Isaac occur on Pesach? Why does Lot's conception with his daughters occur then, as well?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 23:08

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lech Lecha - Avraham and Canaan

Why do the people of Canaan inhabit the holy land? Why does Hashem seem to send Avraham to specifically do his outreach with the Canaanites? What is Sodom's connection to Avraham? What is the king of Sodom's connection to MalkiTzedek? Why was Canaan cursed by Noach to be a slave to Shem?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 22:48

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

two articles and audio on Cheshvan

I recently wrote two different articles with the same theme that appeared in two different places, be'H. The first appeared on, and the second will be appearing in the Beltway Buzz magazine of DC. Much of the BB version is found in the podcast on Parshas Noach.

You will notice that they both start and end the same (basically).

Click here for an audio version of this, with many added pieces of information not included in either of the written versions, nor in the podcast on Parshas Noach.

Here is the version:

The Bitter Month
Cheshvan is when darkness reigns, yet growth begins deep beneath the surface.

The current Hebrew month, Cheshvan, is classically referred to as Marcheshvan, the prefix of which is the word mar. In Hebrew, this word means “bitter,” which our Sages connect to the fact that there are no special occasions that occur in this month. Even Av, the month when we mourn the destruction of the two Holy Temples, is not referred to as “bitter,” because the sad days of the year offer us an opportunity for introspection, to contemplate where we have gone wrong. Thus, both the festive days and the negative days can be used to connect to spirituality. A month that is bereft of any significant days, even sad days, is more bitter than anything, because there are no moments that arise to give us pause.

It is significant to note that the original name of this month was not Marcheshvan. This Babylonian name was adopted when the Jews went through the 70-year exile between the first and second temples. The original Hebrew name for the month was Bul, which denotes the idea of “drying up,” as the leaves begin to decay with the approach of Autumn.

Clearly, the month of Marcheshvan, or Bul, as its name suggests, is a month of darkness and decay. Indeed, the biblical Book of Kings cites Bul as the month when King Solomon completed the construction of the first Temple – though the dedication did not take place until a year later, in the Hebrew month of Tishrei. What is the deeper significance of this, and what can we learn from it?

Two Key Events

If we search further, we find two other events that occurred in the month of Cheshvan. The first was the flood in the times of Noah. The flood began on the 17th of Cheshvan, and the waters receded by the following year on the 27th of Cheshvan, allowing Noah and the other inhabitants of the ark to disembark. Interestingly, one explanation of the name Bul is that it stems from this month as the beginning of the rainy season in Israel; it is thus connected to the word mabul, flood – an overabundance of rain.

It is significant to note that the flood was originally intended to begin on the 11th of Cheshvan. However, Methuselah passed away, and thus the flood was delayed in deference to the seven-day period of mourning that followed his death.

The second important event that occurred in Cheshvan seems unrelated at first glance. This was the death of Jacob's wife Rachel, as well as the birth of Benjamin, which occurred on the 11th of Cheshvan. It was precisely the same day as Methusaleh's death, the very day that flood had originally been slated to begin. As there are no coincidences in the Torah, we must ask: What is the connection between these two events, and what do they reveal about the essence of the month of Cheshvan?

In thinking about what the matriarch Rachel and her son Benjamin stand for, respectively, we can see that Rachel represents the Jewish people in exile, and Benjamin represents the completed state of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. Rachel spent her entire life outside of Israel, and passed away just as Jacob and his family entered the holy land. As our Sages tell us, her spirit accompanied the Jewish people as they went into Babylonian exile, and it is she who cries for her children in exile until the final redemption comes.

In contrast, Benjamin is the last son of Jacob, the twelfth of the tribes, whose birth marks the completion of the people of Israel. He is also the only son of Jacob that is born in Israel, and thus represents the Jewish people's perfected state in the land of Israel. This is further underscored, as the Ramchal explains, by the fact that Saul, the first king of the Jewish people, came from the tribe of Benjamin. Furthermore, the miracle of Purim, which immediately preceded the return of the Jews to Israel and the building of the Second Temple, was brought about through the vehicle of Mordechai and Esther, who came from the tribe of Benjamin.

Deep Hibernation

Exploring further, we see that the very death of Rachel resulted in the birth of Benjamin. This would correspond to the idea that the exile itself is that which births the redemption. The descent into darkness creates the potential for the future light.

This theme can be seen in the flood, as well. Although the world in its previous state came to an end, at the same time, there was a new beginning which was being sown in the person of Noah. The very passing of Methusaleh opened the curtain for Noah to assume leadership of the next generation. The death of the previous order gave rise to a new potential for growth.

Now we can explain the essence of the month of Cheshvan, as brought to light by the events that occurred in this month. Cheshvan is a time that is “bitter,” for there seems to be no opportunities for growth and spiritual connection. It is a time of deterioration, as the leaves wither and the world enters a state of deep hibernation. And yet, it is also a time when the rains begin, when the potential for future growth is being sown. It is a time when spiritual darkness reigns, yet when spiritual growth begins deep beneath the surface. It is the moment when Rachel passes on, when all seems bleak, when the darkness of exile closes in; and it is the moment of the birth of Benjamin, the seed of the Jewish people's perfected state, which is sown in that very darkness.

Cheshvan begins the extended time span between the last festival, Sukkot, and the next, Passover. In the meantime, the spiritual seeds planted during the Jewish month of Tishrei begin to take root – to be watered and to grow, finally appearing and bearing fruit in Nissan of next year.

The message of Cheshvan is that despite the darkness, and even because of the darkness, there is future growth that awaits us. We have the opportunity to nurture that right at this moment. It is now that we gather the seeds from the holidays of the month of Tishrei, plant them, and carefully water them through the winter months. With God's help, we will soon marvel at the beautiful spring bounty that we merit to cultivate.

The Beltway Buzz version:

The current month, Cheshvan, is often referred to as Marcheshvan. In Hebrew, the prefix mar means bitter, and our sages teach us that it is called bitter because no special occasions occur this month. Even Av, the month when we mourn the destruction of the two temples, is not referred to as bitter, because the sad days of the year offer us an opportunity for introspection--to contemplate where we have gone wrong in our relationship with Hashem. Thus, both the festive days and the negative days can be used to connect to spirituality. A month that lacks any significant days--even sad days--is especially bitter, because there are no occasions that give us pause.

One could ask, “Why would Hashem give us a month that seems to be so spiritually desolate, with no opportunities for connection? Is there any merit to be found for this month? What is the proper spiritual approach to Cheshvan?”

To answer this question, let us turn to a midrash in פיסקא דרב כהנא פיסקא ל, which does not seem to be related to our discussion. The Torah commands us to observe the three festivals--Pesach, Shavuos and Succos. The second day of Pesach is the start of a 50-day count leading up to Shavuos, thus connecting these two holidays. Similarly, the midrash points out, there is a separate holiday that is connected to Succos. It is Shmini Atzeres, which might be considered the eighth day of Succos, but is actually a separate holiday

The midrash goes on to explain that just as Shavuos is 50 days after Pesach, Shmini Atzeres should have been 50 days after Succos. However, because the rainy and cold season in Israel begins immediately after Succos, Hashem saw fit to have the Jewish people celebrate Shmini Atzeres immediately after Succos, instead of bothering them to return 50 days later during the cold winter months.

The midrash explains this with an analogy: There was once a king whose children lived in many different locations--some of them, near his palace; others, in very distant lands. After the children visited him, when it came time to leave, the king had two distinct approaches, depending on the child. Those who lived nearby were allowed to leave without further ado, as they would surely return soon, because the journey was not difficult. But those who lived far away were asked to stay an additional day, for their distance would discourage them from returning quickly.

During the spring, when Pesach occurs, we are like the children who live nearby. Hashem lets us return home right after Pesach, for He knows it will be an easy to return to the Beis Hamikdash for Shavuos. However, during the winter, we are like the children who live far away and whose journey is more difficult. Thus, Shmini Atzeres is not delayed; rather, it immediately follows Succos.

In order to understand this midrash on a deeper level, we need to focus on how the calendar works. We generally think of the year as a span of 12 (and sometimes 13) months. However, a year is also two units of 6 months each that parallel each other. We have the 6 months from Nissan through Elul, and then we have the 6 months from Tishrei through Adar. We find a clear connection between Pesach and Succos, which occur on the 15 of Nissan and Tishrei, respectively. The Gemara notesin Succah 27A that the Torah uses the phrase ”חמשה עשר”--the 15th day of the month—in referring to both Pesach and Succos. This common phraseology is used to create a parallel between those two holidays. The deeper sources also speak of a connection between Tu b'Av and Tu b'Shvat, which occur on the 15th day of the fifth month of each set of 6 months.

If we examine the character of the 6 months that begin with Nissan, and contrast that with the character of the 6 months that begin with Tishrei, we see a cyclic pattern. The months from Nissan to Elul may be seen as a time of spiritual growth and natural closeness to Hashem. This is reflected in the warm and pleasant weather, as well as in the longer days, which are naturally conducive to that spiritual level. In contrast, the months from Tishrei to Adar represent the opposite expression of the spiritual cycle, when the challenges in spirituality are greater and when there is a natural distance from Hashem. This is reflected, as well, by the cold, rainy, and shorter days, which make it more challenging to connect spiritually.

If we were to consider which part of the year is greater, we might be inclined to say that it is the spring and summer period, which is a time of more obvious growth. In truth, however, the deeper growth occurs when that very growth is challenged. To be positive and upbeat when one is in a good mood is natural. To maintain a positive outlook when the going gets rough is much harder. It is a greater testament to one's emotional strength.

In light of this, we can explain the essence of the month of Cheshvan. It is, indeed, a bitter time, for there seem to be no opportunities for growth and connection to Hashem. It is a time of deterioration, as the leaves wither and the world enters a state of deep hibernation. And yet, it is also a time when the rains begin, when the potential for future growth is being sown. It is a time when spiritual darkness reigns, and when spiritual growth begins deep beneath the surface.

Cheshvan begins the extended time span between the last regel, Succos, and the next one, Pesach. In the meantime, the spiritual seed that we planted in Tishrei begins to take root, to be watered, and to grow--finally appearing and bearing fruit in Nissan of the following year.

The message of Cheshvan is that, despite the darkness, and even because of the darkness, future growth awaits us and we have the opportunity to begin to nurture it right at this moment. We now have the opportunity to gather the seeds we received from the holidays of the month of Tishrei, to plant them and carefully water them through the winter months. With Hashem's help, we will certainly marvel at the beautiful spring bounty that we have merited to cultivate.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Noach - Spiritual hibernation

Why does the flood occur in the month of Cheshvan? Why does the 'atzeres' of Pesach occur fifty days later, whereas the 'atzeres' of Succos immediately follows the holiday? What is the contrast between Nissan/Spring and Tishrei/Winter? What is the spiritual approach for the coming months?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 21:09

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bereshis - Creation's resistance

Why does the Alef complain that the Torah began with a Beis? What is Hashem's consolation? Why does the moon complain? Why do the trees complain? Why does there seem to be so much resistance in Creation?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 21:09

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Why do we shake the lulav and esrog during hallel? Why do we only shake it at certain verses? Why do we stop shaking at Hashem's name? Why does the Torah stay in the center without moving during Hoshanos? Why don't we move at all on Shabbos? Why does the Torah enter into our circle on Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 23:09

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yosef & Binyomin

Binyomin was the only tribe of the Jewish people that was born in Eretz Yisrael. He represented the completion of the Jewish people, as he was the twelfth of the twelve tribes. The number twelve always represent the completion, in the physical realm, as there are twelve edges to a three dimensional cube. As the Ramchal explains, Binyomin was the one who would serve to connect the aspect of Yosef and Yehudah, as we see in the story of the brothers, as well as in the persons of Mordechai and Esther.

It is interesting to note that while Binyomin was the only tribe to be born in Eretz Yisroel, Yosef's birth was the impetus for Yacov to return to Eretz Yisrael, as there was no longer a need to fear Esav (as per Rashi on the verse of Yosef's birth). The Ramchal says that Yosef includes Binyomin, as it says "יוסף לי בן אחר" - Rochel's name for Yosef included a prayer for another son, which was Binyomin. Thus, we could say that an aspect of Yosef was included in Binyomin, and vice versa. This would explain Yosef's special love for Eretz Yisroel that earned him the merit of being buried in Shechem, as well as the title עברי, Hebrew (as opposed to Moshe who was referred to as מצרי, Egyptian, and was not buried in Israel).

Yosef classically represents the aspect of Yesod, and it could be said that Binyomin, as the completion of the twelve tribes, also represents the aspect of malchus. These two aspects are always intertwined. This could also explain why the first king of the Jewish people was specifically chosen from the tribe of Binyomin. Binyomin is the aspect of malchus, and he is also the tribe born in Eretz Yisroel. The purpose of the king is to solidify the Jewish people's claim to the land of Israel, and to rid the world of the forces of evil, embodied in the nation of Amalek.

Book of Life

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

8 Tishrei

Thursday, 8 Tishrei, is the 70th yahrtzeit of one of the first massacres in the Holocaust. It occurred in Kiev, Ukraine, in a location called the Babi Yar ravine, where 33,771 Jews were slaughtered on the 8th and 9th of Tishrei in 1941 (5702). It is important to remember this tragedy which heralded the beginning of the 'Final Solution' of the Nazis ימח שמם. Wikipedia says that "the massacre would be the largest single mass killing for which the Nazi regime and its collaborators were responsible during its campaign against the Soviet Union and is considered to be 'the largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust.'"

You can read more about this tragedy at the following link:

The 10th of Tishrei of that year was also significant, as it was the date of the opening of the first of the death camps, Majdanek.

May we see the avenging of the blood of those martyrs soon.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Haazinu & Yom Kippur - Transitions

Why is Moshe not buried in Eretz Yisrael? Why are his siblings Aharon and Miriam also not allowed to be buried in Israel? What is the concept of forty in this context? Why is Moshe Rabenu's grave impossible to access?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 23:16

Return Again

I would like to share a podcast that I made about four years ago, called 'the gates of return.' It was a one episode podcast for no reason other than the fact it was a bit challenging to make. I recently had more than one request for another episode for the aseres yemei teshuva, so I offer a second episode here as well. It runs a little under fifteen minutes, and is a mix of music and inspiration.

I hope you enjoy.

Episode 1

Episode 2

Monday, October 3, 2011


Spirituality is not a "thing," not an object that can be identified as something one possesses. It is a process, a growth experience. Ironically, when someone thinks he has achieved spirituality, he has probably lost it. One has it only as long as one is striving for it. Because we can never quite achieve perfection, we are always capable of improving ourselves. As long as we continue to improve ourselves along the lines we have discussed, we are spiritual. If we lose the momentum for growth and become stagnant, baser human inclinations toward gratification and comfort are certain to arise and work against the spiritual life. In spirituality, the searching is the finding, and the pursuit is the achievement.

- Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski

Friday, September 23, 2011

Nitsavim-Vayelech - Today

Why does Moshe keep repeating the word 'today?' What is the concept of today? How is it related to Moshe Rabenu's death? How is it connected to Rosh Hashana? What was Haman's mistake about Moshe's date of death?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 22:11

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

22 Elul

The world was created on the 25th of Elul, and Rosh Hashana was Friday, the sixth day of creation, when Man was created. The second day of Rosh Hashana corresponds to the seventh day of Creation, Shabbos. It is interesting to note that these seven days of creation correspond to the lower seven sefiros. It would seem logical that the three days prior correspond to the three upper sefiros. Thus, the 22nd of Elul (today) would correspond to Keser, which is the hidden root of all of the sefiros, the 23rd would correspond to Chochmah, and the 24th would correspond to Binah.

The Torah begins with the word "Beraishis," which starts with the letter 'Beis.' The letter Beis corresponds to the concept of Chochmah, and thus it could be said that it refers to the 23rd of Elul. The Torah does not begin with Alef, to denote the fact that the aspect of Keser, which is the Alef, (אלף = פלא) is beyond our understanding, nothing that we can relate to. Thus, today, the 22nd of Elul, is the day of Keser, beyond understanding. This corresponds to the idea that the initial statement of Beraishis, which is a non-statement, is the concept of Keser. Whereas each of the following acts of creation are prefaced with the words, "And Hashem said..." the initial act of creation was not prefaced by a statement. "In the beginning Hashem created..." implies a statement, albeit a hidden one. Thus, implied in the concept of Beraishis contained in the first word of the Torah is the hidden statement of Keser, which corresponds to today, the 22nd of Elul. Interestingly, the concept of 'Briah' - creation, and the name 'Elokim' both correspond to the sefirah of Binah, which we said parallels the 24th of Elul. Thus, in the words בראשית ברא אלקים (In the beginning, Elokim created), we have a reference to the three days preceding creation on the 25th of Elul.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ki Savo - Blessings from Alef to Tav

Why are blessings only found when the item to be blessed is hidden from the eye? Why are the ways we are to emulate Hashem all involving patience with the wicked? What is it that the nations truly fear about the Jewish people? Why are there seemingly more curses than blessings?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 24:54

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ki Seitzei - War of the Soul

What is the analogy between the Evil Inclination's general approach and the beautiful gentile woman captive? How does this connect to the concept of Shmitah? How does one develop a sense of abundance? What is the lesson of the diminished moon?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 22:52

Friday, September 2, 2011

Shoftim - The judge's example

What is the 'strength' that the Judge must show? How does one develop the humility that others will be drawn to? What is the difference between the 'honor of kings' and 'the honor of Hashem?' What is the secret of the 'pause' that is the first step in the process of teshuva?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 22:04

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Re'eh - Cessation at seven

Why are the festivals all connected to the number seven? What is their connection to the seven of Shabbos? What is the special idea of simcha, joy, in this context? What is the connection to Elul, the loving relationship of the Jewish people with Hashem and the lead up to this joy? How does one access this joy in his life, his service of Hashem and prayer?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 18:52

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The missing malchus (female aspect)

I wanted to share a deep thought that struck me early today. When one has a good grasp of the core concepts underlying Hashem's world, the ideas laid down in the deeper sources, one can see applications of those ideas in a very broad range of places. Perhaps the most essential concept is the balance between the male and female aspects of creation. These two aspects are in a constant state of disrepair, needing our actions to create the proper balance between them. The actions that do this are the mitzvos we do. This is indicated in the kabbalistic prayer many say before the performance of a mitzvah, "l'shem yichud kudsha brich hu u'sh'chintei" - "For the sake of the unity of the Male aspect of divinity and its female." This is a necessity as a result of the imbalance created through the sin of Adam and Chava, where the male and female aspects lost their perfect state of balance.

Generally, the male aspect is represented by the number six, and the female aspect is represented by the number seven. We see this in the six days of creation, which are the days of 'work' - the male aspect, and Shabbos, which is the seventh, the female dimension, of reflection, of malchus. Malchus means kingship, and it corresponds to the moon, which reflects the light of the sun. The sun is the male aspect, it is the keser, the crown, which the kingship of malchus reflects.

There is something that has long puzzled me, that I was thinking about this morning, and Hashem lit up my eyes with a deep insight I would like to share. We find that there are certain places where we only seem to have the six, without the seventh aspect. For instance, we find that there were twelve tribes of the Jewish people. This twelve corresponds to the twelve months of the year. The twelve months can be broken down into two parallel sets of six - from Nissan to Elul and from Tishrei to Adar. The day is split into twenty four hours - twelve hours for the day and twelve for the night. This can further be split into four sets of six hours. We seem to see that in the dimension of time there is a very strong male aspect, as indicated by the multiples of six. Where is the female aspect? And even if one would answer that Shabbos is the female aspect in time, where is the female aspect in each day?

In discussing a different topic with my chevrusa this morning, we spoke about the idea that the sefiros are what make up all of reality. Our physical bodies are made of the sefiros. The entire world is made of sefiros. Our souls are made of the sefiros. Even the dimension of time is made of sefiros. We see this indicated, for example, in the fact that we count through seven sets of sefiros from Pesach to Shavuos. We see this, also, in that which we mentioned that the week is made of seven days.

One of the places where this is brought to the fore, both in the temporal dimension, as well as the spatial dimension, is in the holiday of Succos. The first seven days of Succos correspond to the seven. (As an aside, the eighth day corresponds to the transcendant aspect of Binah, one of the first three sefiros. We are here discussing the lower seven.) This is the dimension of time. We find that the Succah, as well as the movements of the lulav, represent the aspect of space. The Succah surrounds us in all six directions - East, West, North and South, as well as above and below. The lulav is waved in six directions, as well. Where is the missing seventh aspect - the female dimension of malchus here?

The answer is, as R' Aryeh Kaplan Z'l explains, that the center is the female aspect. The idea of the lulav is that there is a back and forth between the male and female aspects. Each time we wave the lulav, we bring together the six components of the lulav (1 lulav, 3 hadasim, 2 aravos) with the seventh component, the esrog (which represents malchus, the female). We wave this bundle in each of the six directions, each time bringing the bundle back to the center, which is the seventh - the point in the center. In the succah, we are surrounded on all six sides, and we are in the center, the seventh point.

If we extend this idea from the spatial dimension into the temporal dimension, we see something remarkable. In the aspect of time, we seem to only see the male aspect of sixes, as they keep recurring, with no evidence of the seventh aspect. The secret is that just like in space the seventh dimension is the center - where the person stands; so too in the dimension of time, the present moment is the female dimension. The fact that the female dimension is represented by the present moment is evidenced in the exemption that women have from positive commandments that are time bound. Women are not affected by the movement of time - their strength is in living in the present. They are, however, commanded in the time bound mitzvos of Shabbos, because Shabbos is the seventh aspect itself, that time of no movement, where everything is previously prepared - there is only to live in the present.

When Adam and Chava sinned, it created a powerful imbalance in the fabric of the spiritual realms, as well as the physical realms of space and time. This imbalance is reflected in every aspect of reality as a discord between the male and female aspects. The way it manifests is expressed by Hashem in His statement to Chava, "והוא ימשול בך" - "And he shall rule over you." As long as the world is in disrepair, the male aspect forcibly rules over the female aspect. Through the proper fulfillment of the Torah and its commandments, we bring the male and female aspects into their proper balance, where man and his wife are equal partners in reality. This is clearly expressed in the mitzvah of lulav, where we have the joining of the male and female aspects, which are waved back and forth between the male spatial dimension, and the female spatial dimension. This corresponds to the joining power of da'as. Da'as ('knowledge') is the glue that binds together the male and female dimensions, and it works through the back and forth between these opposite polarities of reality. This consistent back and forth motion yields a state akin to the androgynous dimension which Adam and Chava inhabited before they were separated from each other through the Nesirah process. This perfect balance was their state prior to their eating of the forbidden fruit, and will be our state when Moshiach comes and we return to that absolute balance.

In the meantime, we live in a state of disrepair, where the male dimension 'rules over' the female dimension at every level of reality. Our job in this world is to return these dimensions to their proper state of balance through the correct use of da'as - giving significance to each of the opposing aspects, bringing the seemingly paradoxical elements of male and female into a state of harmony. This is the back and forth motion of the lulav.

If we take this idea and apply it to the temporal dimension, we discover something remarkable. As we saw, the present moment is the female aspect of time, while the past and future can be said to be the male aspects of time. The current state of reality is that the male aspect 'rules over' the female. Thus, it is our natural state to be overwhelmingly aware of the events of our past and our projected future. This has the effect of robbing us of our present moment, of completely subduing the female aspect of time. The Torah, however, wants us to achieve the proper balance between the past and future (the male aspect) and the present (the female aspect). This means that we need to have a true and proper perspective on the value of each of these dimensions of time. When the past and the future are so powerful in our minds that we can not live in the present, we are living in a state that is the result of Adam and Chava's sin. When we give proper focus to the present, without allowing the past and (projected!) future to overly affect our present, then we are living in the desired state, which is akin to the state we will be in with the advent of Moshiach. This does not mean we should disregard our past or that we should not plan for the future. It means that we must have the right balance such that none of the aspects of time overtake the other.

When we develop this state of harmony between the male and female aspects of our lives, it brings more elements of the world into resonance with that future time, actively bringing us closer to the time period of Moshiach, when all of reality will be in a state of perfect harmony between its male and female aspects.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ekev - 120 days

How do we understand the concept of the one hundred and twenty days Moshe was on Har Sinai? What is the difference between the first and second set of luchos (tablets)? What is the concept of Chasadim and Gevuros?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 16:16

Friday, August 12, 2011

Va'eschanan - true love

What is the concept of the Shema? Why does Rashi say that the Unity of Hashem that we are speaking of is in the future? How does one love Hashem? What are the two types of fear and love of Hashem? How does one serve Hashem with one's evil inclination?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 19:20

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nine days video (youtube)

If you didn't see it yet, here is the video that was made in conjunction with the RBS tzedaka fund (

Friday, August 5, 2011

Devarim - Where are you?

What is the meaning of the word 'Eicha?' What is the theme that runs through the word as we find it in Lamentations and in our parsha? What is the connection to the story of Adam in the Garden of Eden? How can we apply it for oursleves?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 22:05

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Special nine days video - Jerusalem, How long will we cry

Ari Goldwag and the RBS Kupa Shel Tzedaka have come together to produce an amazing video appropriate for the 9 Days, hoping that thousands, if not tens of thousands of people will become partners with local residents in helping the needy of our community. Please watch and forward to your email lists, encouraging friends and family to forward it to their lists.

Thanks for the support

Friday, July 29, 2011

Masei - Coverings and Contrasts

What is the concept of the Succah? How does it remind us of the Divine Presence? Why does the same force of protection of the Jordan river have the potential to destroy us? Why must we remove the nations of Canaan? What is the root of the word and concept of idolatry? How does that contrast with the concept of the Shechinah?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 21:17

Friday, July 22, 2011

Matos - humility and redemption

Why does Moshe forget a law? Why does he give Elazar Hakohen the chance to say the law? Why is it necessary for Elazar to quote Moshe by name? What is the concept of bringing redemption by quoting in someone's name? Why did Esther wait until the second party to cause Haman's downfall? Why was the point of redemption when Mordechai was honored? What is the connection between these two stories?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 22:15

Monday, July 18, 2011

An explanation

There is a lot going on in my life that led up to my decision to take down the blog. I can not share everything, but I would like to explain and respond to the numerous comments. First, I want to thank all those who gave their well wishes. I know that there are a lot of people who read the blog and find inspiration in it. I hope by the end of this post you will understand, and appreciate the greater lesson of removing the blog. I also want to say that all of the blog is archived in a blog called, but it is only accessible with permission. If there as an important reason to look at it, you can feel free to contact me at

There is a post that I wrote in August of 2008 in which I actually discussed the reason I am stopping the blog. Only now have I taken my own words to heart. In that post, I quoted the statement of Chazal that one of the things that come with a היסח הדעת, a 'pause in knowledge,' is Moshiach. What is this 'pause in knowledge?'

In the deeper sources, there is the concept of the ten sefiros. The highest of the ten is called Keser, the crown, which is the transcendental realm. We can not access Keser in our lower level of reality. We can only access it by transcending into that higher realm. But there is a lower aspect of Keser, and it is called Da'as - knowledge. Whenever there is Da'as, there is not Keser. Whenever there is Keser, you do not have da'as. What this really means is that keser represents the myriad of possibilities. When one is in this state, he experiences many different contradictory aspects - as they have not been brought down into reality, and can coexist. Da'as represents the bringing down and limitation of possibility, a flattening of the higher reality, of a three dimensional world into a two dimensional world.

The problem is that as long as we live with evaluation and limitation - with da'as - we limit ourselves and preclude access to keser.

Understand this - in the world of Moshiach, opposites coexist. Both good and bad live in harmony. The lion lies with the lamb. Swords are beaten into plowshares. The evil inclination joins with the good inclination. Jew and Gentile serve Hashem together - "For my house shall be a house of prayer for all of the nations." This is the aspect of Keser.

When we evaluate events and say that they are Moshiach's advent - we are limiting the events and preventing Moshiach from coming! When I look at the calendar dates and I point out all of that which is going on - I am limiting - entering into a world of da'as. Da'as is synonymous with evil and separation - it is the loss of the greater holistic world of Keser where everything - even opposites - lives in harmony. The Moshiach blogs actually serve to prevent Moshiach from coming. My discussions of Moshiach prevent him from coming.

The truth is that there is validity to the concepts that I have been discussing - da'as is, in fact, a flattened version of keser - there is truth in da'as. But it is a limitation - it is two dimensional. In order for the picture to take on three dimensions, we need to stop flattening it. We need to stop saying that we understand. We need a היסח הדעת - a pause in knowledge.

For me, even from the beginning, the Moshiach obsession has worked to my detriment. Instead of spurring forward movement, it dragged me down and kept me from being who I need to be. In general, my podcasts served to act as an excuse for me to not pursue serious learning outside of them. I realized that most of Parsha podcasts just were a reflection of whatever ideas I was thinking of at the moment. Instead of looking for what the Torah was trying to teach me, instead of living in Keser - I was fitting my own da'as into the Torah. I was living in limitation.

We can not enter into a world of expansion as long as we hold onto limitation. I can not be who I need to be as long as I think I know how I am supposed to be. Yes, I can have a goal and a vision, but I can not allow that goal and vision to stunt my growth, and I can not be limited by that vision - I need to be open to a greater possibility. We can not look at events going on the world and even faintly believe that we understand them. This limits them. Our limitation affects the advent of Moshiach. This is clear from the statement of Chazal that Moshiach can only come when we pause our knowledge.

Thinking about the future is what the Alter of Novahardok calls דאגת מחר - worry about tomorrow. This is what prevents a person from the level of bitachon where Hashem acts with miracles. The thoughts and predictions define and limit, creating a reality that is only what we think, with our limited minds. It is essential that we stop evaluating in order to get to the time of Moshiach. We can't evaluate that time. We can't think about the future. עין לא ראתה אלוקים זולתיך - No eye has beholden it, Elokim, except for You. It is beyond our dimension. When we quantify it, we can't get to it.

Our job is to live in the present. When we bring the past into the present, we are limiting the present. When we bring a belief about the future into the present, we are also limiting the present. Our job is to realize that there is no other moment except for the current moment. The Leshem writes that Hashem's name י-ה-ו-ה means something more than the classic translation. Classically, we understand it to mean that Hashem was, Hashem is, and Hashem will be. He says a higher understanding. The name means that for Hashem, all times are present. All times are now. When we live in the present, we are emulating Hashem. When we live with a future time or a past time, we are disconnecting from Hashem, because for Him, all times are present. This is a deep idea, and I know that it is something that can easily be misunderstood to mean the opposite of what I am saying. But think about it well.

The bottom line of it all is that Hashem wants us to live in the present - to live in the moment - now. If we are constantly evaluating, than we are like the tourist in Israel who is taking videos the entire time, and not actually experiencing anything. He saves his video for some later time, so that at that point he can live in the past. He never lives in the present. And that is what we are doing here.

I think it is important that the blog be erased, to bring home the message that we can not live in the future, and we can not live in the past. We can not live with predictions, and we can not live - even understanding the structure of the months and the year. I personally have found this evaluation to be extremely destructive, and my conscience does not permit me to do it to others. I can not tell you what you should do personally. I can offer advice. If you have come here before, and were consistently reading, you may respect my opinion.

I advise you to live your life and try your best to serve Hashem with all of your heart. Ask Hashem to guide you. Let Him into your life. Let go of your version of reality, and allow His version of reality to take over. His version is so much grander than my version.

May we all merit to greet Moshiach together very soon.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

End of Geulah Perspectives

I have decided to erase this blog. It has taken up too much of my time and emotion. I realized that we need to live in the present and stop thinking about the future. It does not truly do us too much good. Personally, it has distracted me from my life and has caused me to be less effective as a human being. I would like to move past this, and I encourage others to do so as well.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pinchas - Shmini Atzeres and Pinchas

What is the connection between Pinchas and Shmini Atzeres? What is the connection between Shmini atzeres and Shavuos? What is the connection between Shmini atzeres and Chanukah?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 19:53

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Moshiach 9 podcast document

Here is a text document of the Moshiach 9 podcast.

Click here to download.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Something Different

Here is a song that I wrote today, called Something Different.

Please don't distribute beyond this blog and/or my facebook page.


There's something different in the air
Things are changing everywhere
All the walls are crumbling down
Emptiness is all around

Angry voices serenade
tauntingly their music plays
Somewhere in the raucous din
A quiet voice is there within

Peel away the layers of anger and sorrow
Open up your heart to the gift of tomorrow
Find the love, accept what you're given with gladness
Open up the door and escape from your sadness

The darkness that surrounds us now
Is a chance, I'll show you how
to uncover endless light
Lift your wings, begin your flight

In the darkest depths of night
When it seems no hope's in sight
It's that very place you'll find
The still, fine voice of peace of mind

The secret hidden in your heart
Hashem has been there from the start
Waiting for you patiently
to open up your destiny

All you need to see His hand
to begin to understand
Move beyond the selfish drive
Reveal the love you have inside

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Moshiach podcast 9 - 9 Av, Shmini Atzeres, Zos Chanukah

We discuss two more sets of seventy days - from the 9th of Av until Shmini Atzeres, and from Shmini Atzeres until the last day of Chanukah. We discuss the ramification of these days, their connection, and what it means for us.

You can download the Moshiach podcast 9 here.

Running time: 46:00

Here is a typed version of Moshiach podcast 8.5.

I hope to have a typed version of this podcast by tomorrow, be'H.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Balak - Uncovering the still, fine voice

What is Bilam's underlying intention? Does Hashem want him to go with Balak's men or not? What is the understanding of Hashem's approach? What is the concept of the Yetzer Hara before and after? How does one access the still, fine voice that Hashem speaks about with Eliyahu?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 16:27

Monday, July 4, 2011

Lev Tahor

Sometimes Hashem blesses us with a chance to touch a moment of spirituality and purity. King David asked that that pure heart be created within him, and that spirit be renewed within him. "Don't send me away from You, and do not take away Your holy spirit from me." (Tehillim/Psalms 51)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Thoughts on Yosef on his birthday

Yosef was born and died on the first day of Tamuz. It was exactly nine months after he was conceived, which was on Rosh Hashana, as per the Gemara in Rosh Hashana, which explicitly states that Sarah, Rochel and Chana all conceived on Rosh Hashana. Rosh Hashana was the day that the first man was created, and it was the day he sinned, creating the need for a Moshiach ben Yosef to come to rectify that sin. Rosh Hashana is a day of potential for Moshiach ben Yosef, and it was that day that not only was Yosef conceived, but he also completed his difficult trials and was miraculously raised to the post of second in command to Paroh on this day. But that day was only the beginning for him. It was a point in time of completion of his potential, and a point in time of the beginning of the seed starting to strike root. It would take time for that potential to become actualized. At first, only the Egyptian people knew of his greatness and humility. He ruled over them with great wisdom and concern for their welfare. This care became apparent as he continued to rule in his humble manner. It would be a significant amount of time until he would rule over his family, the children of Israel, and reveal himself to them. Only in the end would he finally reveal himself to his father. Similarly, it can be surmised that Rosh Hashana is a significant day for Moshiach ben Yosef. It is a day of potential being actualized, and it is a day that is the beginning of a greater revelation.

It is significant to note that Yosef's conception both for his birth and for beginning his role as leader occurred outside of the land of Israel. The trials that would lead him to Egypt began in Israel with his brothers selling him, but the main bulk of his trials and rise to greatness were outside of Israel. This would seem to coincide with the idea that Moshiach sits at the gates of Rome - this means that since Moshiach ben Yosef's purpose is to rectify the fall of Adam, so he enters into the physical realm, the darkest places, the depths of physicality and distance from Hashem, in order to bring everything back to its former state of perfection and equality. Interestingly, Yosef's first interaction with Esav was when Yakov and his family were returning from Lavan's house, on their way to Israel. It would be interesting to explore where that interaction took place, whether it was in Israel itself, or not.

It is interesting to note that Yosef Hatzadik was not born in a leap year. This is clear from the fact that he was born on the first of Tamuz, which is nine months after Rosh Hashana - without the leap month of a second Adar. This would seem to indicate the concept that when Yosef is in potential mode, he comes into the crass world we exist within - but in a very inconspicuous way. He is not born in a leap year where his presence is clear, where the idea of the 'ibbur' - the bringing down of the higher dimension - is apparent. Just as the Maharsha says that Yosef does his work in Av - in the month that Esav/Satan believes he has control, so too, Yosef enters the world in this secretive manner, with no show of glitter or glamor. His entire essence is pure humility. His brothers are even unaware that Yosef is leading them to their tikkun. He accomplishes his goal with the cover of darkness. His goal is never greatness or grandeur. His leadership is only a means to a pure end - to connect the people of Israel, and all of mankind, to their Creator. When that is the goal, there is no room for ego. Yosef excelled in this area, and was a paragon of egolessness, of pure recognition that everything is from Hashem, and his talent was given to him to serve mankind.

יהי זכרו ברוך

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chukas - Sweetening judgments

Why does the mitzvah of the red heifer immediately follow the accusation against Aharon of being unworthy? why must it be completely red? What does the color red represent? Why is it specifically a cow? What is the significance of the involvement of the Kohen in this process? Why does he become impure as the person who is impure becomes purified? Why does the process take seven days? Why is it completely burnt? What is the concept of impurity from coming in contact with the dead? What is the connection to the concept of learning Torah? What does it mean that a person can only acquire Torah if he 'kills himself' over the Torah? What is the connection to Yosef?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 20:37


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bouncing back

I am currently involved in studying the twelve steps of the anonymous programs, which I believe is the tool of Moshiach ben Yosef, something that Hashem has brought down in order to get us into the age of Moshiach, when ego becomes a thing of the past. My chevrusa, who has been in the program for over ten years, is doing a wonderful job of guiding me through the steps, patiently teaching me. It is a wonderful, rigorous project, which I believe anyone can do, and everyone should explore to see how it can benefit them. There are programs for people with challenges in relationships, for emotional issues, debting issues, lack of vision and direction, porn addiction, sex addiction, and of course, alcoholism, amongst many others. It is interesting that one can be addicted to thoughts of avoiding all of these issues - if there is emotional energy around something, it is a sign of addiction. There is a wonderful aspect of community and acceptance that comes along with a true goal for pure egolessness. It is extremely powerful and the concept of pure lishmah is magnetic for me.

In any event, I am sharing this because I wanted to share something with you that my chevrusa shared with me. I have been talking about the difficult times we are going through now, and the potential for rectification that will follow the down. In order to get through the down, it is important to have the right attitude about the down, to understand that everything that happens to us is from Hashem. This means that sometimes we will even experience a test or challenge, and we will fall in that challenge - but it won't be because we were meant to pass the challenge. It will be because we get upset at ourselves for having failed in that challenge. This guilt is a most destructive force that can literally ruin our lives. The following is a link to an incredible shiur on the topic, given by R' Yisroel Reisman, based on the works of the Steipler Gaon. It is all about realizing the reality of our nisyonos (tests), and realizing that there are many areas where we may fail, and that we must be realistic about what is within our free will ability, and what is outside of it.

I highly recommend this wonderful shiur:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Malchus sheb'chesed, yesod sheb'yesod

So if you have been following the progression we have been seeing so far, there is an incredible correspondence between three sets of days:

25 Adar -> 16 Nissan (Pesach) -> 6 Sivan (Shavuos)
1 Sivan -> 20 Sivan -> 9 Av
17 Tammuz -> 9 Av -> 1 Tishrei (Rosh Hashana)

The first day on each column is 70 days before the last day, and the second day is 50 days before the last.

There is a sefirah count that we see happening as we count the fifty revealed days in each of these counts. And the counts line up, as we discussed.

The first count leads up to receiving the Torah, and is thus a count 'upward' into holiness. The second count is a descent into the klipah, or forces of evil, and the third count is the climb back out - the rectification count.

I was struck with what is happening right now, and what we can look out for in the future, if these counts really do line up, as I am theorizing.

The first is what is happening today. Tuesday, 28 June 2011 is the 26th of Sivan, the seventh day of this fifty day count. It corresponds to the seventh day of Pesach, which is Malchus sheb'chesed. Thus, just as the last day of Pesach was a day of open miracles and power to the Jewish people, this day is just that - for the side of evil. This is why we are watching Iran playing their war games, and this is why we have lost a great Torah sage, R' Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz Z'l. On the upside, this day - in the third count of rectification - corresponds to the 15th of Av, which is a day of celebration for the Jewish people, a day of marriage and coming together of the male and female aspects.

Another thing that I noticed which is interesting is that Rosh Chodesh Av is the day that corresponds to Yesod sheb'yesod. Thus, it fits very interestingly into the theories we have presented about Rosh Chodesh Av being a significant time for Moshiach ben Yosef, in light of the Maharsha in Sanhedrin. I was a little awestruck by the fact that my wedding anniversary is 'coincidentally' on the 21st of Elul (this year will be ten years!) which is also yesod sheb'yesod on the third (tikkun) count.

It should be interesting to see what happens on other corresponding days that are significant. Lag b'omer is hod sheb'hod on the first count. On the second count, hod sheb'hod falls out on 21 Tammuz, which is a Shabbos, July 23; and it falls out on 13th of Elul on the third count, which is Monday, September 12th.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

20 Sivan, 17 Tammuz, Rosh Hashana

When it rains, it pours. Hashem keeps showing me more patterns in time, and leading me to interesting places. This past Tuesday, I put out the eighth Moshiach podcast. I didn't know why, but I had this sense of foreboding that something dark was going to happen on Wednesday. My intuition has been very strong and on the mark of late. Wednesday was the 20th of Sivan. The day came and went, and my intuition served me correctly, as it was a day of emotional intensity for numerous reasons. It resulted in the update on the eighth podcast, which I put out on Wednesday night. Thursday followed with some more difficult ups and downs for me. I ended up doing something I haven't done in a long time - dancing through the streets of Jerusalem. I started in the old city, danced and sang through the 'rova,' continued through Me'ah She'arim and up Malchei Yisrael. I stopped twice to sing 'Tanya,' once for a group of Chassidishe children (about thirty of them - they told me to come back and sing the next day), and once for an elderly woman who was sitting in front of her old age home (she told me to come back and sing for the residents). Thursday night saw my best friend end up in the hospital, and I got to bond with his kids, especially his baby, who I comforted in the middle of the night. Friday and Shabbos were challenging, as well, and Hashem finally helped me out of the darkness on Motza'ei Shabbos, re-employing the unconditional love techniques that He has given me.

This morning, I woke up in a good mood, and after davening and my chevrusa, I sat down to learn a bit. I found myself noting that the 17th of Tammuz, which is the beginning of the three week mourning period for the destruction of the Temple, is exactly seventy days before Rosh Hashana. Clearly, there is a connection between the two days, as we have noted with the 25th of Adar vs. Shavuos, as well as 28th of Iyar (Yom Yerushalayim) and the 9th of Av. So I opened up my siddur to look at the selichos of the 17th of Tammuz, to remind myself of what happened then. It was strange, because I found something I don't remember noticing before. There is actually a fast day on the 20th of Sivan, and a special group of selichos on that day. Last Wednesday, which I had felt a negative gut feeling about, was that day. I looked around for a siddur with some explanation on the day, and I found that it commemorates the massacres of "Tach V'Tat." Although those occurred over a period of two years, or so, they are commemorated on the 20th of Sivan because of another tragedy that occurred on that day almost two hundred years earlier. The siddur also mentioned two more seemingly unrelated facts. One was that the 20th of Sivan was chosen because it never falls out on Shabbos, and the other was that the 20th of Sivan is a day that the fruits fully blossom. Interesting contrast.

As I continued to think about it, Hashem helped me realize that the 20th of Sivan is the beginning of the seven weeks leading up to Tisha B'av. If we were to line up this group of seventy days with the first group of seventy days (from 25th Adar to Shavuos), the 20th of Sivan corresponds to the first day of Chol Hamoed Pesach, which is the first day of the Omer (Chesed She'b'chesed). My intuition tells me that this counting of seventy corresponds precisely to that counting, only this counting is heading into the 'other side' - the sitra achra, the klipos. Thus, the 20th of Sivan represents the beginning of the power of the side of Evil, just as the first day of Chol Hamoed represents the beginning of the buildup to Shavuos - the giving of the Torah. (For more on the connection between the second day of Pesach and Shavuos, please listen to the podcast on Parshas Emor of this year.) What Shavuos is on the side of Good, Tisha B'av is on the side of Evil. Ultimately, the Evil itself will be redeemed and we will see the intense Goodness there as well, which is why the 9th of Av will be a holiday. In any event, as we noted previously, the 9th of Av, and therefore, the 20th of Sivan, as well, represent a time of Nesirah, of eclipse of reflective light. Ultimately, it is this eclipse that brings about the greatest light, when ultimately, the moon will shine its own light, instead of only reflecting the light of the Sun. This contrast within this last idea is reflected in the fact that the 20th of Sivan is a day that can not fall out on Shabbos. Shabbos is the seventh day, the aspect of Malchus, the female and reflection. And yet, at the same time, it is the day when the fruits are producing fully - it is a lack of reflection for the sake of an ultimate reflection.

My thoughts then went to the 17th of Tammuz, and I wondered what the connection is between that day and Rosh Hashana. Rosh Hashana is a very important day for Moshiach ben Yosef, as it is the day that Yosef Hatzaddik was released from jail and raised up to be the second only to Paroh. I realized, with Hashem's help, that Rosh Hashana is the day that the very concept of Moshiach ben Yosef was born. The first day of Tishrei is when Adam Harishon was created and it was also the day that he sinned by eating from the Eitz Hada'as. This act was what created the need for a Moshiach ben Yosef to rectify that sin. The seventeenth of Tammuz shares this distinction as well, because Moshe Rabbenu had succeeded in returning the Jewish people to a state of Adam before the sin. The period of time from Pesach until Shavuos represents that reinstatement. The Jewish people repeated Adam's sin on the seventeenth of Tammuz with their creation of the Golden Calf, resulting in the breaking of the Luchos containing the ten commandments. The return to Adamic consciousness was held off for another 3000 years. Thus, both of these days represent the fall creating the necessity for Moshiach ben Yosef, and thus they also contain the seed for the birth of Moshiach ben Yosef (as per R' Akiva's laughter).

In pondering Yosef's rise to power, it is significant to note that Yosef is recalled by the wine-bearer of Paroh. As we mentioned in the seventh Moshiach podcast, the sin of Adam (according to one opinion) was with grapes, and thus the rectification comes through grapes/wine. It is remarkable that Yosef is called out of jail specifically by the wine-bearer, and it is through the vehicle of Yosef's interpretation of his dream that involved these baskets of grapes. It is worth pondering the implications of this for Moshiach ben Yosef himself.

In thinking about the period of time from the 17th of Tammuz until Rosh Hashana, we again note a distinct pattern. There are the three weeks of mourning, which are the hidden brains (Keser-Chochma-Binah). These are followed by the 'shiva d'nechemta' - seven weeks of consolation, leading up to Rosh Hashana, which correspond to the lower seven Sefiros (Chesed-Gevurah-Tiferes Netsach-Hod-Yesod and Malchus). Through this next group of ten weeks - which overlap with the group of ten we are currently in - we begin to see the rise of Yosef, culminating with Rosh Hashana, when he is freed in a state of rectification.