Friday, November 27, 2009

Vayetzei - Moshiach ben Yosef and כיבוד אב ואם

Why did Yakov need to lay the foundations for the Jewish people in the house of Lavan? Why does he seem to get punished for not honoring his parents during these twenty two years by Yosef not being to honor him for a corresponding amount of time? What is the significance of the fact that Esav excelled at this very mitzvah of honoring his parents? What is the significance of this point of time in Yakov's life? Why does Yosef also have to enter into the evil of Egypt, which seems to parallel Yakov's stay with Lavan?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

You can also download a .doc file on my website on the parsha page.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Moshiach's crown and Yakov's path

In a previous post, we discussed the Gemara in Sotah that talks about Yosef and his brothers going up to Eretz Yisroel to bury Yakov Avinu. The gemara describes how the children of Yishmael, Esav, and Keturah all come out to battle the children of Yakov. When they saw Yosef's crown which he had placed on the casket of Yakov, they immediately took off their own crowns, and also hung them from Yakov's casket. We explained that the crown represents the Torah of Moshiach, the transcendental aspect that Moshiach brings down into the world. The children of Yishmael, Esav, and Keturah come with their own ideologies, their own versions of spirituality, but in the end take off their crowns and acknowledge that Yosef's crown is the highest.

One of the questions I left unanswered was, What is the significance of Yakov's casket? Why is it specifically on his casket that all these crowns were hung?

As I was reading a piece from R' Chaim Friedlander on this week's parsha, the words of our Chazal came into clear focus.

In speaking of the story of the rocks that gathered under Yakov Avinu's head, Rav Friedlander searches for a deeper understanding of the hidden depths of meaning contained within it. What are Chazal coming to teach us when they said that the rocks wanted Yakov to rest his head on them? Why specifically the head of Yakov? What is it coming to teach us when it says that all the rocks were formed into a single rock?

Rav Friedlander explains that the concept that Chazal are trying to bring out is that Yakov Avinu's main role in the world was one of יחוד - bringing about unity. What this really means is that Yakov was able to find opportunities to serve Hashem in every circumstance he found himself. The entire world was at his disposal for his avodas Hashem. Thus, all the world was unified in this concept.

The rocks wanted to be placed under his head because they would then be used by the tzaddik in his service of Hashem (as he brings from the Ramchal). They joined into one rock, representing the fact that ultimately everthing is joined in unity in this concept of serving Hashem.

He brings the story that when Yakov was on his deathbed, he was about to reveal the קץ, when his Ruach Hakodesh left him suddenly. He looked up and questioned his sons if there was someone who was not on the level to receive this information. They responded and said שמע ישראל ה' אלוקינו ה' אחד - Hear us, Yisroel, Hashem our Elokim, Hashem is One. He was questioning if they were completely dedicated in every aspect of their lives to their service of Hashem. Their response was that they indeed were.

End quote of Rav Friedlander.

We see some very interesting things here. First point - Why is it that this whole story happens right when Yakov is about to reveal the keitz? Why does he specifically question their complete dedication to avodas Hashem when he can't reveal it?

It seems clear that Chazal are hinting to the fact that the entire purpose of the keitz - the times of Moshiach - is to completely involve ourselves in the service of Hashem. Not only that, but it will be clear that every single thing in creation is for that purpose. Thus, when Yakov was unable to reveal the keitz, he naturally assumed that perhaps one of his children was not completely dedicated to the concept of the times of Moshiach, and this was preventing him from giving over that information. To this they responded that indeed they were in tune with that concept.

What comes out of this is that the core concept that describes Yakov is the concept of the keitz itself and the times of Moshiach - the unity of all in the service of Hashem. Now we understand why Yosef's crown was hung upon Yakov's casket. Yakov's casket represents the perfection that he achieved when his life was complete, a perfection of the concept of unity. Yosef, who represents Moshiach ben Yosef, is the one who users in the age of this perfect understanding of the unity of creation in the service of Hashem. This is his crown - his spiritual path - which is hung upon the casket of Yakov. As long as the nations of the world retain their crowns upon their heads - retain their own spiritual paths - there is a lack of unity in the service of Hashem. When they remove their crowns in deference to Moshiach ben Yosef and place them upon the casket of Yakov, they show that ultimately there is only one way to serve Hashem, and that is by recognizing that every single thing in creation is in existence solely for this purpose.

Monday, November 23, 2009

R' Chaim Friedlander's introduction to Kol Hator

The following is my translation of R' Chaim Friedlander's introduction to the book "Kol Hator." R' Chaim Friedlander was the Mashgiach in Ponevizh yeshiva in B'nei Brak, and was the publisher of many seforim, including many of the seforim of the Ramchal. R' Friedlander also had a number of volumes of his own published posthumously by his children, and they are seeped with the Torah of the Ramchal, the Maharal, and his rebbe, R' Elya Lopian.

Kol Hator, as you will soon see, is the book that describes the Geulah process in depth, and also focuses on the concept of Moshiach ben Yosef, which we have discussed many times here at length. It is important to understand the root of these teachings, and the quality of their validity, based on those who were the bearers of the traditions themselves. Keep in mind that this introduction was written a number of years ago by R' Friedlander, who passed away in the mid-eighties. It is extremely interesting, and contains much biographical information that is probably not available anywhere else. It specifically speaks about the early history of the current Jewish settlement of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, which dates back to the early eighteen hundreds.


The book "Kol Hator" was originally released by Harav Shlomo Zalman Rivlin z'l twenty years ago in Jerusalem. The specific date is hard to figure out because the book was released in stages over a number of years for lack of funds. From the original version, it seems that only a few lone pieces remained in the possession of Rav Rivlin's son as well as a few of his relatives. All of these are missing pieces at the end, because of the lack of funding and inability to complete their publication. The introduction of the original publisher was not included in the first printing. I found it in manuscript form in the hands of Mr. Shmuel Rivlin. I extend my gratitude to him, as well as the other sons of the publisher who gave us permission to include it in the new edition. In this introduction, no mention is made of the biography of its author, the Gaon Rebbi Hillel, son of Rebbi Binyomin of Shklov. Perhaps this was done because the book "Chazon Tzion" was specifically written about the life and times of the Rivlin family, and the Aliyah of the students of the Gr"a to the land of Israel. In any event, it would be a great lack in this exalted book if one will read it without knowing the greatness of its author. Therefore we decided to fill in this lack, and we have put together a short synopsis based on the material found in the book "Chazon Tzion," which will give us an idea of his lifetime and the path he chose, lit by the light of his Torah.

The Gaon R' Hillel of Shklov, author of the book "Kol Hator," was born in the year 5518 (1758). His father, the Gaon Rebbi Binyomin Rivlin was a cousin of our teacher the Gr"a, and one of his primary students. Rebbi Binyomin was a spiritual individual and extremely active in causes for Torah and chessed. He donated his money to establish a great Yeshiva in Shklov, whose learning was patterned after the approach of the Gr"a, with the Gr"a's approbation. Through Rebbe Binyomin's influence, many of his wealthy friends moved themselves and their businesses to Shklov. His intent was to form a group of people to support the great center of Torah that he had established. During his lifetime the city merited to be called "Yavneh Dreizen" and Rebbi Binyomin was referred to as the "builder of the city Shlov and its wise ones."

It is told that when Rebbi Binyomin was fifty two years old, he became extremely wealthy. At that time, he had a dream in which he saw a wonderful vision of Yerushalayim. Still strongly affected by this dream, he traveled to see his teacher the Gr"a, and told him the dream and about his great wealth. The Gr"a explained to him that the dream conveyed a mission from heaven that was given to him, and also to his son R' Hillel. It was incumbent upon them to go up and live in Eretz Yisroel, and to begin broad-ranging activities to awaken the hearts of the Jewish people to return to Tzion. Rebbi Binyomin was very inspired by the Gr"a's interpretation, which explained the dream as well as his wealth being for one purpose. When he returned to Shklov, he immediately began to work towards materializing his mission. We still have one of his sermons preserved from that time period, in which he speaks about the idea of the ingathering of the exiles, based on the verse in Yirmyah 31, "הנני מביא אותם מארץ צפון" - I am bringing them from a Northern land. According to Rebbi Binyomin, this verse teaches that from a Northern land - from Russia which is to the extreme North of Jerusalem, and more specifically from the city of Shklov - the inspiration will begin to return to Tzion and to rebuild Jerusalem. Through Rebbi Binyomin's efforts, a movement began in Shklov to return to Tzion, a movement that the Gr"a called "Chazon Tzion." Shklov merited that most of the first Olim to Eretz Yisroel came from it, and that it became an example in the eyes of the Jews dispersed in exile. Rebbi Binyomin himself left Shklov in 5572 (1812) headed for Eretz Yisroel, however, he did not reach his desired destination, as he passed away en route.

The author of the book "Kol Hator," Rebbi Hillel, son of Rebbi Binyomin, also merited to be counted amongst the main students of our teacher the Gr"a. He studied under the Gr"a for seventeen years. In the year 5543 (1783), when the Gr"a saw that it was not Hashem's intent for he himself to enter into Eretz Yisroel, he decided to give this heavenly mission into the hands of his student, Rebbi Hillel. This mission included activism toward the goal of the ingathering of exiles and inhabiting Eretz Yisroel. Thus, Rebbi Hillel was the person chosen by the Gr"a to be placed at the helm of the great "Chazon Tzion" movement. The Gr"a also taught him all the secrets of the beginnings of the Redemption process, and all the specific actions that would be necessary on the part of the Jewish people to bring about the complete redemption process. This Torah of the beginning of the Geulah that Rebbi Hillel received from the mouth of the Gr"a is one that is both broad and deep. This Torah was collated by Rebbi Hillel into a great and deep book, and the essence of that book is the book "Kol Hator" which we have in front of us.

Our teacher the Gr"a passed on to the next world in the year 5558 (1798). He died, but his Torah, the Torah of the beginnings of the Redemption, remained alive and well amongst his students. This Torah is what gave them the audacity to place themselves, at the very onset, squarely into the face of all the difficulties that awaited them on the long journey, and into the many dangers that might ambush them when they came to settle in what was then a completely desolate country. In the year 5569 (1808), the first wagons left Russia, headed for Eretz Yisroel. Eleven months of difficult journeying later, the first wagon reached Tzfat on the fifth of Elul, 5569 (1809). Fourteen of the students of the Gr"a stood at the forefront of the first wagons. In Cheshvan of the year 5572 (1811), seven of the Gr"a's students, headed by Rebbi Hillel, came to set up residence in Jerusalem. When they arrived, they only found twenty Sefardic Jews, and nine Ashkenazic Jews. As soon as they arrived in Jerusalem, Rebbi Hillel and his friends set about the task of setting up the vital institutions that would form the basis of the Jewish settlement. They established institutions of Torah and chessed, improved on the standards of medicine, and set up a group that was responsible for protection. It was called the "Gavradia," and without it, the settlement would not have lasted for even one moment. A supernatural sacrifice was required of Rebbi Hillel and his friends in handling the settlement under the adverse conditions of that period. Plagues, attackers, false accusations, lack of food and water, and difficulty of communication with the outside world were only the beginning of the issues these original settlers faced. If not for their unbelievable belief in their heavenly mission that was solely dependent on them, and the light of the Torah of the beginning of the redemption process that they had received from the mouth of the Gr"a, they would not have continued to subsist under their grueling conditions. When word of the success of Rebbi Hillel and some of the Olim to settle in Jerusalem made its way back to Russia, it was an inspiration to the Jews of Russia, and many decided to go up to Jerusalem.

Rebbi Moshe, the son of Rebbi Hillel, became known as an excellent orator when he was just fifteen years old. One time, his father brought him to Vilna to display his talents for the Gr"a. The Gaon praised the young Moshe and told him, "You should know that you should use this God-given talent in order to inspire people to return to Tzion. As our sages say about the verse 'ציון היא דורש אין לה' - it is Tzion, no one speaks of her - from the fact that the prophet laments that none speak of her, this implies that we must indeed do so." He also added a hint, that the gematria of the words "דורש ציון" is the same as "משה בן הלל בן בנימין." The words of the Gr"a left a deep impression on his young heart. With a fiery spirit, he followed the request of the Gr"a, and spent much time speaking about the desire for Tzion, to the point where he became known as "Rebbi Moshe the Doresh Tzion."

The grandson of Rebbi Moshe the "Doresh Tzion" was Rebbi Yosef, who was nicknamed Rebbi Yosha Rivlin. Until his days, the activities in Jerusalem centered around settlement inside the walls, and improving the quality of life there. Rebbi Yosef was the first to begin building outside of the walls of Jerusalem. With a bold spirit, Rebbi Yosef girded himself to fulfill the command of the prophecy, "widen the place of your tents etc." in the spirit of our teacher the Gr"a. The first thirteen communities outside the walls of Jerusalem were all built by Rebbi Yosef. He was involved in this commandment with great sacrifice. The first house he built was the foundation house of the 'Nachlas Shiva' community. in the month of Tammuz, 5629 (1869), this historic house was completed. In those days, the entire surrounding area of the old city of Jerusalem was completely desolate and barren, and the gates of the city were closed at nightfall. For two years and eight months, Rebbi Yosef lived alone in this house, paying no heed to the desolation that surrounded him. His intent was to inspire those who lived inside the old city walls to spread out and settle the surrounding area, to fulfill the desire of the Gr"a and his students to rebuild Jerusalem and widen its borders. Thus, in the year 5632 (1872), Rebbi Yosef's efforts bore fruit, and in that year forty five houses were built next to his home, and over fifty families moved in. This was Rebbi Yosef's way throughout his life. Every community he built, he was the 'Nachshon' who lived there first, until the community was established and others followed after him. Besides for the thirteen communities he established, which are an eternal testament to his memory, he also left behind many poems and essays. All his poems are based on the torah of the קץ המגולה - the revealed end that is included in the book "Kol Hator" whose main ideas are included both in his poems as well as his essays, many of which were published in the different pamphlets that came out in his time, like "Hamagid," "Hatzefirah" and "Halevanon."

Rebbi Yosef's son, Harav Rebbi Shlomo Zalman Rivlin, was the original publisher of the book "Kol Hator," as we mentioned, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude for making sure that the wonderful Torah of the revealed קץ, of our teacher the Gr"a, was not lost.


If you are interested in reading an authentic English translation of the book Kol Hator, Click here. The translation was done by Rav Yechiel Bar Lev, who was a student of R' Chaim Friedlander. He has approbations from Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, The Badatz Eidah Chareidis, Rav Avraham Shapiro, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, and Rav Mordechai Gross, which you can see on his website

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Toldos - Esav and Moshiach ben Yosef

What is the significance of Esav's name? Why was he so involved in the physical world? Was he intrinsically evil? Why did Yakov deem it so important to buy his firstborn rights? Why did he need to steal the blessings? How could Yakov lie and claim he was Esav? Why did he Yakov these blessings that were all physical if he was so spiritual?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Yonah as Moshiach ben Yosef

I invite you to read another wonderful piece by R' Daniel Krentzman on the topic of Moshiach ben Yosef. This essay explores the role of Yonah Hanavi as Moshiach ben Yosef.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Important message

Last week, there was a horribly tragic story where R' Shmuel Borger's son Motty, who had just gotten married, died two days after his wedding. R' Shmuel Borger is someone who has been involved in chizzuk for Klal Yisrael for many years, and specifically recently with the production of the Tisha B'av chizzuk videos on behalf of Chofetz Chaim heritage foundation. In the middle of Shiva, this amazing person recorded a small request from us. Please listen and take the inspiration, putting it into action, then pass it on.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fall of Yishmael

At the end of this week's parsha, the Torah goes through the lineage of Yishmael, and ends off (in perek כה passuk יח) by saying "על פני כל אחיו נפל" - which literally translates as 'He fell on the face of all of his brothers.'

The Ba'al Haturim points out the significance of the fact that this verse directly precedes the following verse, which says, "ואלה תולדות יצחק" - which translates as 'these are the offspring of Yitzchak.'

He explains that this teaches us that in the end of days, when Yishmael falls, Moshiach ben Dovid, the offspring of Yitzchak, will then sprout.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chayei Sarah - Lifting the physical

Why does the Torah place Yitzchak's name before Yishmael? Why does it specifically teach us that he repented in the context of Avraham's burial? What is the significance of the cave of Machpela? Why did Avraham and Yakov find it necessary to spend exorbitant amounts to procure this burial spot?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Moshiach ben Yosef and Amalek

For the past few weeks, even though I have been out of the blogging mode of Moshiach ben Yosef, I have not been completely inactive. I started to tell my son a very long night time story. We call it the Torah story. I started from the beginning with Adam Harishon and spoke through a lot of the Moshiach podcasts. I also told him a lot of the material from Rav Shimon Kessin's tapes on Pesach and Yetzias mitzrayim which, by the way, are amazing.

Some interesting thoughts that we discussed tonight were as follows.

We were speaking about how Sha'ul Hamelech was to be the precursor to Dovid Hemelech. This meant that Sha'ul was an aspect of Moshiach ben Yosef to Dovid as Moshiach ben Dovid. It is very interesting that in a number of the stories where we see someone playing the role of Moshiach ben Yosef, that character many times teeters on the edge of destruction. In some cases, as is the case of Sha'ul, he falls in. This was also the case with Yeravam ben Nevat.

As we were talking I realized that this is because of the fact that Moshiach ben Yosef's job is to release the sparks from the side of Evil. The only way to release these sparks, however, is to actually enter into the Evil itself. We see a great example of this with the Jewish people entering into Egypt in order to free the sparks that were trapped there. It could only be done correctly while in the physical proximity of the Evil that was holding the sparks. Thus, in Moshiach ben Yosef's case, he must enter into the forces of darkness, and release the light. The danger is that he will fall into the darkness.

My son asked me why Sha'ul then did not dress up as an Egyptian. At first I didn't understand what he meant. Then, I realized that he was asking that if the sparks were trapped in Egypt, why didn't Shaul, who was Moshiach ben Yosef, descend to Egypt in order to release the sparks from there.

I explained to him (based on Rav Kessin's shiurim) that after the Jews left Mitzrayim, as they were about to enter into the Yam Suf, Moshe turns to the Jewish people and tells them they will never see Egypt or the Egyptians again. This in essence means that the sparks of kedusha would never be trapped in Egypt again. Instead, they would be placed in another nation, from which the Jewish people would need to release them. The nation of Amalek.

Thus, one of the essential jobs of Moshiach ben Yosef will be to utterly destroy Amalek. This explains why Sha'ul was entrusted with the job to destroy Amalek. Since he was Moshiach ben Yosef, it naturally follows. This also explains why Sha'ul lost his kingship when he failed in that task. This was his essential task as the precursor to Dovid, who was to be Moshiach ben Dovid. When he failed, his whole purpose was lost, and the opportunity for the coupling of Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben Dovid was lost at that point.

It is interesting that once he fails in his task, Sha'ul begins to run after Dovid to kill him. He perceives that Dovid is trying to steal his throne. The irony is that he destroyed his own throne, and that his throne and his significance would not have been usurped by Dovid at all had he not failed in his job.

It is also interesting to note that Dovid had a very strong relationship with Yonasan, Sha'ul's son, and even married Sha'ul's daughter Michal. Clearly Dovid and Sha'ul were meant to have a deep bond. Nevertheless, Sha'ul's failure in his task destroyed the very bond that was to be created. When the goal of unity is lost, the opposite occurs - a desire for destruction. Sadly, Sha'ul was bent on Dovid's destruction, but in the end it was this very quest that caused his own demise. When Shaul saw that the Kohanim of the city of Nov had helped Dovid, he killed them all. As a result of this, it was decreed that Sha'ul and his sons would be killed in battle.

In a nutshell, when Moshiach ben Yosef fails, he falls into the abyss. This abyss is actually the very concept of Amalek itself. Amalek's essence is self destruction to prevent unity. The prime example of this is when the Jewish people leave Egypt on the way to receive the Torah of Moshiach, and they are intercepted by a suicidal nation of Amalek, who are willing to take on Hashem Himself - with no chance of survival - just to prevent the unity of the Jewish people with Hashem. It was this very act that caused them to be the new container for the forces of evil after Egypt. Sha'ul fell into this very concept.

We see a parallel to this at the very root of the conception of Amalek. The grandfather of Amalek was Esav. Esav, as we have mentioned, was meant to be Moshiach ben Yosef. His very failure meant a few of the things we have spoken about in regards to Shaul. First, Esav became bent on the destruction of Yakov, who was Moshiach ben Dovid. Secondly, the result was the ultimate disconnection - Yakov was forced to flee from Esav, just as Dovid was forced to flee from Sha'ul. Sha'ul's story ended in death for himself and his family. Esav's story ended with the birth of Amalek, who would end up representing the force of Evil, separation, and death in the world.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Avraham and Moshiach

I got the following email from Daniel

In the second aliyah.

"Vayakam sde Efron"
"It had an ascension in that it left the possession of a commoner for the possession of a king."

And the thought came to me:
"Sde Efron ascended when Avraham avinu, a melech, acquired it. So too the entire world will ascend b'yadei melech haMoshiach, bb"a."

anything to add?


To which I responded:

At first I did not. Then, after davening mariv, I thought of this פירוש הדברים.

Why is it that when the property enters the tzaddik's domain it ascends? It is because the tzaddik uses all of his possessions in service of Hashem. The greatest elevation of the world is when it is put into use for the purpose of a mitzvah. Now that the land entered into Avraham's domain, it would be used for one of the greatest mitzvahs - חסד של אמת. This was its ascension.

Similarly, when Moshiach comes, the world will have the most unbelievable ascension, because his entire purpose will be to show us how everything in creation - every last molecule and atom - can be used in the service of Hashem. We will see the incredible unity that is brought about through our service of Hashem and how all can be raised in this most worthy of goals.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Sheves Chaverim sampler

So, you may have noticed that I have been somewhat absent over the last few weeks. Baruch Hashem, I have been working hard to complete the new music album that I have produced, entitled Sheves Chaverim. It is an album that continues where Sheves Achim left off. (Look out for Sheves Achim volume 2 in the future!) The album features six child vocalists - Moshe Bell, Yair Frohlich, Moshe Dov Goldwag, Shlomo Lipman, Zev and Baruch Sheff. It contains twelve songs, two in English. It is the culmination of a production that stretched for over a year. I composed 11 out of the 12 songs, with the twelfth song being a classic Shlomo Carlebach song. It is my hope that you will find inspiration in the music, and that it will bring you to heightened levels of closeness to Hashem. Be'H, the album should be in stores before Chanukah.

If you click on the link, it should play in your browser. If you right click (or apple click on a mac), you will have the option to download the sampler.

Please share the link!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vayera - Binding of Yitzchak

How is Avraham able to accept the challenge of sacrificing Yitzchak with such equanimity? Why does he challenge Hashem in regards to Sodom, but not in regards to the sacrifice of Yitzchak? What is the significance of the ram whose horns were caught in the thicket? Why was there now a blessing for the children of Avraham as well?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.