Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Three Keys

Art: "Key" by Nikoletta Bati
"Engrave on it with signet-ring [type] engraving: "Holy to Hashem" פִּתּוּחֵי חֹתָם קֹדֶשׁ לַי־הֹוָ־ה 
[Tetzaveh 28:36]

In Maseches Ta'anis (2a) R' Yochanan states that there are three maftechos, three keys, in Hashem's possession that He never entrusts to others:

*the key to childbirth
*the key to rain
*and the key to resuscitating the dead.

The Gemara derived this from three verses:

*Hashem does not entrust the key to childbirth to a messenger, as the verse states: "G-d remembered Rachel; G-d hearkened to her and He opened (vayiftach) her womb" [Bereishis 30:22]

*Hashem does not entrust the key of rain to a messenger, as the verse states: "Hashem shall open for you His storehouse of goodness, the heavens, to provide rain for your Land in its time" [Devarim 28:12]

*And Hashem does not entrust the key of resuscitating the dead to a messenger, as the verse states: "Then you will know that I am Hashem, when I open your graves" [Yechezkel 37:13]

These three keys, remarked the Vilna Gaon, are alluded to in the verse: "Pituchei chosam kodesh laHashem" - פִּתּוּחֵי חֹתָם קֹדֶשׁ לַי־הֹוָ־ה -

The acronym of the word  חֹתָם [Ches, taf, mem] which means "seal" hints to the following words:

Ches - Chayah [a woman who has recently given birth]
Taf - Techiyas HaMeisim [the resuscitation of the dead]
Mem - Matar [rain]

The verse can therefore be read as follows:  "The keys of [pituchei] childbirth, resuscitation of the dead, and rain - ChoTaM - are designated for Hashem's use only ["kodesh laHashem"].

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ta'anis Esther 5775

Something to think about 

Once there was a King in Shushan, the most powerful ruler in the world, who had a strong disdain, dislike or perhaps even hatred of Jews. 

Today there is a President in Washington, the most powerful ruler in the world, who has a strong disdain, dislike or perhaps even hatred of Jews. 

Once there was a Persian who wanted to kill all the Jews, but needed the King's authorization to proceed with his plan. 

Today there are Persians who want to kill all the Jews, but need the President's authorization to proceed with their plan. 

The King didn't really care, as long as there was something in it for him - lots of money. 

The President doesn't really care, as long as there is something in it for him - a deal with the Persians.  

The Jewish Queen wanted to tell the King what was really happening, but going in to talk to the King was dangerous. 

The Jewish Prime Minister wants to tell the President and his Congress what is really happening, but going to talk to them is dangerous. 

Some people thought she shouldn't go, it would just anger the King and make things worse. 

Some people think he shouldn't go, it will just anger the President and make things worse. 

She asked the Jews to fast and pray for the success of her mission. They did so, the King accepted her words and the plot to destroy them was thwarted. 

Will we fast and pray for the success of his mission? Will the President and Congress accept his words? Will the plot to destroy us be thwarted? 

We commemorate the fasting prior to the Queen's plea to the King on Taanis Ester. 

The Prime Minister of Israel has been invited to address the United States Congress on March 3. 
This year Taanis Ester begins on March 3.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Meat and Milk: Gevurah and Chesed

With prayers for a Refuah Shelaimah for Shammai ben Sarah.
Please add his name to your tefillos.

"You shall not cook a kid in its mother's milk." [Mishpatim 23:19]

Ramban writes that it is prohibited to eat meat cooked in milk, since it is an act of moral insensitivity.  Rashi points out that not only are we forbidden to eat milk and meat together, but even cooking the mixture is forbidden.  This renders the prohibition of milk and meat unique in that even the preparation of the prohibited mixture is also prohibited by the Torah.

From this we can learn how far we must take care to refrain from being morally insensitive.

According to the Kabbalah, milk and meat may not be mixed as this would cause the negative interaction of opposing spiritual forces.  Meat is a physical manifestation of the Divine power of Gevurah (severity), as suggested by the red color of meat.  Milk has its spiritual roots in the Divine power of Chesed (kindness), indicated by its white color. Being that these two powers have an opposite effect, they must not be mixed.

Bachaye writes that in the Messianic Era, it will become permissible to eat meat that was cooked with milk. This is because, in the spiritual realms, the mixing of Chesed and Gevurah is not counterproductive.  Each Divine power works in harmony with the other, since both powers respect the fact that they emanate from the One God.

In the physical world, this harmony does not persevere, since physical things feel their own existence as paramount, and will not coalesce to a higher purpose.  Therefore, the mixing of meat and milk in the physical world is forbidden for it will result in a "corruption" of the spiritual forces that they embody.

However, in the Messianic Era, we are promised that G-d will be felt tangibly within the physical world.  Therefore, it will become possible to mix Chesed and Gevurah - through cooking milk and meat - even in the physical world.

Source: Based on Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Gutnick Chumash

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Reincarnation and the Afterlife [video]

Rabbi DovBer Pinson

Can we remember past lives? What happens after we die? A glimpse into the journey of the soul on the other side of life's curtain, including insights into near-death experiences, Heaven and Hell, and the Afterlife journey. 

The Bride's Debt

It once happened in Safed, that a disciple of the Holy Ari had to go on a long journey. Before departing, he came to his teacher for a letter of recommendation. The Ari wrote it for him, then blessed him and said "May G-d be with you, and may you go in peace".

The disciple then asked "Master, can you tell me anything about what will happen when I get there?"

"You will marry a beautiful woman" the Ari replied. "And she is your destined soulmate for this life. But after you have been happily married for only six months, she will suddenly die. And here is the reason: In another incarnation, this woman was a man, and you were also a man then. He was your dearest friend, but he also caused you some legal trouble for six months. Finally, he brought a lawsuit against you in the civil courts, which caused you to lose 600 gold coins, even though you were innocent of his charges.

"Now" continued the Ari, "this friend from another life is once again reincarnated - as the woman you will marry on your journey. His soul has come to make atonement for his sins against you. For the six months of trouble that he caused in that life, you will have six months of happiness in this life. The inheritance you will receive when she dies is to repay you for the 600 gold pieces you lost in the past life. But even though you know this, you should be kind and patient to this woman, and grant her forgiveness for the trouble she caused you in the previous life."

And everything happened exactly as the Holy Ari said it would.

[Shivchei Ha-Ari, 16th century]

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Time Has Come

R' Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev lifted his pure eyes to Heaven and said: "Master of the World! You have exhorted us in Your Torah, "You shall not cause any pain to any widow or orphan. [Mishpatim 22:21]

We, Your nation Israel, are orphans, as the Navi laments: "We have become [like] orphans, and there is no father." [Eichah 5:3]

"I turn to You today, O Father in Heaven, and I beseech You to have mercy upon Your nation of orphans who are languishing in a bitter exile.  The time has come for You to take us from darkness into light!"

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Fourth Revolution #2

[click to enlarge]

The page above is from a Sefer called Avoda Brura - a collection of classic commentaries of the tractate of the Talmud Avoda Zora.  Translation by Rabbi David Katz.

The famous Ger Toshav source is Avoda Zora 64b. Everybody comments on that gemora and it is the language taken up notably by the Rambam and generally in this area people are quoting the Rambam Issurai Biah 14: 7 and 8.

The following is the translation from the text in the book Avoda Brura 64b.

Second paragraph on the right:

Ger toshav mahu - what is a ger toshav? That is in regard to the Talmud Avoda Brura 64b which says Aiza hu ger toshav?  meaning what or who is a Ger Toshav. Thus this commentary is going to tell us who a ger toshav is, and the nature of the gemora and the commentary is an eternal status, meaning there is no stopping being a ger toshav because of exile or lack of Jubilee year. That is a different Ger Toshav to which there are many, such as the captives of war etc. 

The commentary says: It is worth understanding the discussion in the Talmud through the words of the Ritvah [a famous Talmudic commentator who is seen as the authority on this discussion, notably quoted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe and others. As it says in the Tractate Matot 9a - and this is what was said: 

Three expressions are spoken of ''goyim'' - nonJews: Ger Toshav, Ben Noach and Goy. Ger Toshav is one who has accepted in a Jewish Court of three [Beth Din] to fulfill the seven laws that were commanded to the sons of Noah - Bnei Noach. And since that date were accepted/ in unison with this Beth Din [this is still able to be done today by all accords - Rabbi Katz] and we call these 7 laws that he accepts and fulfills as a lifestyle, these are now ''mitzvah v'osay'' - he is now commanded and does. And likewise we the Jewish people are commanded to give him sustenance, spiritually and or physically. [Hence the mitzvah to give nevailah - unkosher meat - to the ger. 

A Ben Noach who did not, for whatever reason, go through this Beth Din, rather he has brought the 7 laws onto himself to fulfill, to the point of reward - meaning he is playing by the rules and under Torah guidance and subject to penalty - like one that is not commanded and does. As it says in Bava Kama 38b [a source of the Noahide law/ger toshav, even worldwide outside the Land of Israel]; and behold we are not obligated to give him sustenance and also we are not to throw him away nor are we to cause him trouble or damage because in any case he has fulfilled the ger toshav requirements even though he is not commanded to, and there is to him partial reward. 

And stam goy, the third category is a regular goy [an akum/idolator] - he is not cautious or careful to keep or fulfill the seven laws. It is permitted to throw him to the pit in a place that there is animosity or to cause him to be killed. 

Rabbi Katz: this source proves to us that every functioning Noahide and/or Ger is halachically not a Goy. It is a quasi distinction between Goy and Jew which the Talmud has identified as the Fourth House of Israel. The Talmud on this discussion calls a Noahide a Ger Toshav. The discussion among the commentators are to what measures the Noahide must take to be accepted as a Ger Toshav that would potentially make it obligatory for a Jew to give him sustenance.   For that reason the Ritva has used another source, i.e. Makot, to differentiate between a halachic ger toshav, where a Jew would have to recognise him, and a lesser state - Ben Noach - where the Jew would not have to recognise him. Neither category constitutes a Goy. 

The commentators are all in unison on this idea. The only issue they discuss is that if he is a ger toshav, must the Jews give sustenance while we are not in a Jubilee Year.

The modern Poskin, ie the Brisker Rav and Rav Kook, along with all other commentaries in Avoda Brura, have recognised that the Beth Din requirement is a mere humra [stringency] due to the doubt of the reality of the potential ger toshav in relationship to the question ''Does a Jew have to or not recognise the ger toshav vis a viz sustenance given''. 

The Brisker Rav explains the b''ikhar HaDin [the bottom line]: quoting the Rambam Issurei Biah 14:7 -8:  

The acceptance of ger toshav is made on his own to be a new ger toshav and the statute is applicable also to the aspect of ger toshav he brings on himself. The Torah differenntiates between ger toshav and ben Noach. Here ben Noach is your general human and the Ger Toshav is basically your biblical Noahide. However if he goes back on his acceptance, then absolutely his status is like a regular ben Noach. Essentially no new creation happened, rather all he did was accept upon himself, but all the time that he stands within his personal acceptance of 7 Laws in the name of ger toshav, the Torah has given him dinim [statutes] that are listed in Parshat Mishpatim and those that were given at the waters of Marar - and there is a difference between him and a regular ben Noach. 

Also, according to those who would suggest, as the Rambam appears to imply, that the ger toshav is only applicable to the time of an accustomed Jubilee, also for the matters of statues for the ger toshav, he is separate from bnei Noach. Which in short means that with or without the Jubilee he remains a ger toshav upon self-acceptance. Note an appointment with a Beth Din is not required, but rather is a suggested stringency with other authorities. 

And to the matters of the Rambam which seem to suggest a pre-requisite Jubilee and that would entail him being like a regular ben Noach, look in the laws of Issurei Biah for further investigation. However to the opinion of the Raavid who understands differently in this particular matter and explicitly in the words of the Rambam that only specialized statutes are contingent of a time of Jubilee as listed by the Raavid, which therefore comes to say that the ger toshav exists always and with the Jubilee ascends to a full biblical status.* 

*Please note the Beth Din of Rav Kook, in his creation of the State of Israel, built in the ger toshav to the shmitta requirements of operation that exist to this day predicated on the words of all matters discussed in this article. But the position of the Rambam is practically as simple as this explanation.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Fourth Revolution

What is the fourth revolution? It has to be something that once you change it, there is no turning back. The change is forever and ever.......To teach non-Jews Torah.

What do we do with the Arabs in our lands? A simple thing is that we have to first of all take responsibility for their education. The first thing is to teach them not to hate Jews. But, now we’re saying much more, that we have to actually teach them Torah. The original law is that you can teach them only what is relevant to them. How much does a non-Jew have to know in order to perform his mitzvah of making courts: he has to learn all of Choshen Mishpat. So if you accept this, you have to understand that there is no limit on the 7 laws. A non-Jew has to learn the entire Torah in order that the world be rectified and that they all come to serve Hashem. How can a non-Jew learn about God? Only if they actually learn Torah. The Torah is meant like the Rambam to pull us out of idolatry, and that is what it will do for non-Jews. For all the non-jews to leave their false religions, is only if they learn Torah. Why would a nonJew want to keep the 7 laws if he doesn’t know the Torah and its beauty. The verse says, ברורה שפה עמים אל אהפך אז. Reality goes through a revolution. As we know, the elevation of the worlds transforms non-Jews into mitnagdim and the mitnagdim into chassidim, and chassidim into rebbe’s. And so in Korea, where they are now learning Talmud, they want to learn like in Ponovizh. They should be taught this way. What about someone like Berg? That is all a lie. He didn’t teach them true Torah at all. It is up to us to bring the truth to them.

Also see:  The Fourth Revolution

[click to enlarge]

The photo above is from a page of the Sifre Midrashic Halacha, composed by the Sages of the Talmud.  It is talking about the fourth kahal...of gerim.   The Sifre Midrashic Halacha often parallels the Talmud itself. In otherwords, this is Chazal.

[translation from the Sefer]
"B'Kahal Hashem" - [right paragraph that reads בקהל השם]...Rabbi Yehuda says four congregations exist: Priestly Congregation, Levite Congregation, Israelite Congregation, and Gerim congregation.

[In this context, Gerim must be non-Jews, while Israelite must contain converts, for the discussion involves Gerim not marrying Jews, while converts as Israelites can marry Jews]

The Sages say there are only three Congregations -  [the count is different entirely, leaving the entire system listed as a different concept]. See the Torah Temimah who explains the positions of the Talmud and the outcomes of the Congregations/Houses of "Israel".  It should be noted, that King David, explained by Rashi and especially taken up in later generations by such luminaries as Rebbe Nachman has many times in Psalms spoken of the Four Houses of Israel - Priestly, Levite, Israelite, and the Gerim.

Also see:  The World of the Ger

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

''The End of the World'' 5776

When we speak about ''the end of the world'', we actually mean the end of the concealment.  The Hebrew word ''Olam'' -  ''world'' - stems from the word Olama -  to conceal, or hide.  Because Hashem hides Himself in this world.  When Moshiach will come, the darkness will disappear, and all will be revealed.

Hashem hides Himself in the Creation, to give us the feeling that everything is according to nature.

So the ''end of the world'' does not mean destruction, it means a lifting of the curtain of darkness that conceals Hashem and the Light.