In last week’s Parsha, the purpose of the plagues had a distinct quality to it. It was a harsh education for Egypt. But the plagues weren’t just there to have devastating physical effects upon Egypt, they were also there to teach them something; that there was a one God, a Creator, Master of all these various different forces in nature. It all came down to one God. The plagues, in short, were for the phrase, “v’yad’u Mitzraim ki-ani HaShem,” ‘and Egypt shall know that I am God’ and, vicariously, through Egypt, the World. All of that changes in this week’s Parsha. – See more at: www.alephbeta.org Short summary: Rabbi Fohrman discusses deep Torah insights about the ten plagues in Egypt (Mitzrayim)…Were that really so necessary? He explores the 7th plague, the transitional one, and argues that God played off of Pharaoh’s ego to show Pharaoh, the people of Egypt and the people of Israel, that only God is all-powerful.
Genesis 18 – 22
My life has been a journey of unknowns. Always moving toward a place that seems to always move. I have questioned where I am, and where am I going, and what does it mean to find something that can not be seen.
One thing I know is that my heart and eyes cannot be trusted to guide along the way. But only by holding on to what my forefathers have to say. Where do they speak to me you might ask?
Well, they are words that have come from a long history pasted. Traditions that no other people have had. This is what has lead me to the future… and has connected me to the covenant that shall never past.
Choose to be chosen. Be Jewish.
Parashat Tezaveh “AND YOU”
Exodus 27 – 30
כ וְאַתָּ֞ה תְּצַוֶּ֣ה ׀ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל וְיִקְח֨וּ אֵלֶ֜יךָ שֶׁ֣מֶן זַ֥יִת זָ֛ךְ כָּתִ֖ית לַמָּא֑וֹר לְהַעֲלֹ֥ת נֵ֖ר תָּמִֽיד׃
The words of Moshe Rabbenu still speaks to us today. “And you”. What kind of light and what kind of holiness can I bring to this world?
I once had a dream of changing the world, I could see myself, so clearly, accomplishing so many great things and making such a difference in this world. I could feel the greatest and the taste of joy from the many things that would be. The flash of lightning that lit up the road before me was so overwhelming. I could see every pitfall and turn in the way. My vision was so clear and there was nothing to detour me is what I would always say.
But then, life began to restrain me and restrict my way. I felt as if the road became narrower and confined my way. I could no longer even see a road. My life had grown overcast and gray. The light that once shined and lit the way before me had gone just like the day. What had happened? Why is life filled with dismay? Why is life so wasted and filled with decay?
“And You”, Moshe commanded us to take the pure olive oil. The oil that was meant for holiness and to burn in the menorah in the holy place.
Why does Hashem the light of the world need a menorah in the Temple or the Mishkan?
Shemot 25:8(8) וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם׃ And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
Here we find two words “מִקְדָּ֑שׁ” and “שָׁכַנְ” that are the clues to life.
Rabbi Akiva Tatz in his lecture on Journey to the Self – Inspiration & Disappointment. speaks of two lights. A greater light and a lesser light. Rabbi Tatz says that this is the secret to happiness and the secret of life. If one does not understand these two lights and how they work in our lives then we are destined to find ourselves in the story above. Restained and restricted and never able to find our way.
The first light is free and it is given to us by Hashem. There is nothing we do, it is a gift. The second light we must shine. That is where the work begins!
The first commandment given to us was to sanctify time and to create this world a new. And then we were to make a space in this world for Hashem to dwell.
How are you doing?
More to come on this subject…
Exodus 25 – 27
א וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃
ב דַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְיִקְחוּ־לִ֖י תְּרוּמָ֑ה מֵאֵ֤ת כָּל־אִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ לִבּ֔וֹ תִּקְח֖וּ אֶת־תְּרוּמָתִֽי׃
ג וְזֹאת֙ הַתְּרוּמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר תִּקְח֖וּ מֵאִתָּ֑ם זָהָ֥ב וָכֶ֖סֶף וּנְחֹֽשֶׁת׃
ד וּתְכֵ֧לֶת וְאַרְגָּמָ֛ן וְתוֹלַ֥עַת שָׁנִ֖י וְשֵׁ֥שׁ וְעִזִּֽים׃
דַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְיִקְחוּ־לִ֖י תְּרוּמָ֑ה מֵאֵ֤ת כָּל־אִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ לִבּ֔וֹ תִּקְח֖וּ אֶת־תְּרוּמָתִֽי
Whos Heart Motivates Him
In the above pasuk the word for “motivate” is the Hebrew word יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ “נָדַב” As you can see from the word יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ the nun is missing.
Just like the NUN from Psalm 145, it is also missing the letter Nun. In Hebrew grammar sometimes the nun will drop from a word. Nun is the symbol of life and the word “Neshama” begins with the letter Nun. The Neshama is one of the five levels of our soul.
Neshama: The World of Creation
The word neshama has the same root in Hebrew (NShM) as the word for breath. This soul level is associated with higher awareness and angelic realms, it is a defining quality of human consciousness.
The Zohar describes the neshama as follows: “The nefesh and the ruach intertwine together, while the neshama resides in a person’s character. This is an abode which cannot be discovered or located. Should a person strive towards purity in life, he or she is aided by a holy neshama. But should the person not strive for righteousness and purity of life, this person is animated only by two grades: nefesh and ruach.”1
Whereas we all have the power to develop the neshama aspect of our souls, there is no assurance that we will do so. In some ways, this is analogous to a potter’s kiln. Some glazes require a specific temperature for a fixed length of time. If this temperature is not reached, the glaze will not set.
From a spiritual perspective, our life is fired by conscious action (fuel) and clean living (oxygen). We need a good mix of the two to get the temperature high enough to vitalize our higher soul potential. Once this is accomplished we have access to expanded realms of awareness.
Even though our power to nurture our highest soul level is not guaranteed, it is assumed that the purpose of human existence is to parent this lofty objective. The Zohar says: “At first a person has a nefesh. Then she or he is crowned by the grade that rests upon the nefesh, which is the ruach. After this, a superior grade that dominates the others, the neshama, takes up its abode, and the person becomes worthy of the world to come. Nefesh cannot exist without the help of ruach, and ruachin turn is sustained by neshama. The three form a unity.”1
Simply said, human life is not complete without the neshama.
The neshama emanates from an elevated source, while the ruach emanates from a somewhat lower origin. When these two sources unite, they shine with a celestial light and are called: “lamp.” This is found in Proverbs, where it says that “the lamp of God is the neshama of humankind.”1
In many ways, the neshama is an essential aspect of creation. As the neshama is an aspect of soul that is directly connected with the divine source of life, it is via the neshama, and the higher levels of soul, that we co-partner with God in the continuous unfolding of creation.
The neshama is pure in its essence. It cannot be blemished. When we die, it immediately returns to its source. (Rabbi David Cooper)
Who defines Hashem’s Words?
I was speaking with a friend of mine who is an attorney and he was doing some research on a Jewish subject and noticed that he had to literally go through hundreds of Christian sites to find a Jewish source on the subject. How could it be that if you want to know something Jewish today on the web you have Christians defining what Jewishness means? Our culture, our laws, our stories all have been changed to fit a narrative that our fathers did not know.
In this weeks Torah portion I find much hope and comfort as our Hakham, Chazal, Sages and Rabbi’s have kept all our Temple services alive and well for us to know and do. Over fifty chapters of the Torah is dedicated to the Mishkan and as a Jew, I can still participate in all its functions.
The Torah is not something one just studies but it is something that one does. When one reads about tefillin, and kosher, and prayers and sacrifices and tzitzit and all the commandments of Torah we do them and not just study about them. As a Jew, I am proud to know that you can search the web and find thousands of websites that tell you about Judaism but in this weeks Torah portion I find a promise that moves me and motivates me to be Jewish.
Bring A Gift
All the chapters on the Mishkan are not about learning how they really are speaking about “someone to come” as you will find on the web. (Just look it up and you will see what I mean. Everything is defined by those who are not Jewish.)
But it is about how I can keep the religion of my forefathers and pass this knowledge down to my children. How they can read about the Mishkan and live every word of it each day of there lives. Our sages in their great wisdom incorporated all the rituals of the fifty chapters on the tabernacle in our Synogagues and our prayers and our homes and our daily lives so that I might live the Torah and keep Hashem’s covenant and His promise to us.
Hashem’s lives inside every Jew and every Human being
Okay, if Hashem lives inside of every human being, what tasks do the Jewish people have?
To live the Torah.
Shemot 25:8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in them.
Here we see the wisdom and beauty of Judaism. Every part of our lives is fixed in time to be a sanctuary for Hashem.
No other people in the world can make this claim. No other people have ever experienced what the Jewish people have experienced.
Just ask Hashem and He will tell you.
Devarim 4:32For ask now of the days past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and from the one end of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it? 33Did ever a people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? 34Or hath God assayed to go and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before thine eyes? 35Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightiest know that the LORD, He is God; there is none else beside Him. 36Out of heaven He made thee to hear His voice, that He might instruct thee; and upon earth He made thee to see His great fire; and thou didst hear His words out of the midst of the fire. 37And because He loved thy fathers, and chose their seed after them, and brought thee out with His presence, with His great power, out of Egypt, 38to drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day; 39know this day, and lay it to thy heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else. 40And thou shalt keep His statutes, and His commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.
Exodus 21 – 24
א וְאֵ֙לֶּה֙ הַמִּשְׁפָּטִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר תָּשִׂ֖ים לִפְנֵיהֶֽם׃
ב כִּ֤י תִקְנֶה֙ עֶ֣בֶד עִבְרִ֔י שֵׁ֥שׁ שָׁנִ֖ים יַעֲבֹ֑ד וּבַ֨שְּׁבִעִ֔ת יֵצֵ֥א לַֽחָפְשִׁ֖י חִנָּֽם׃
ג אִם־בְּגַפּ֥וֹ יָבֹ֖א בְּגַפּ֣וֹ יֵצֵ֑א אִם־בַּ֤עַל אִשָּׁה֙ ה֔וּא וְיָצְאָ֥ה אִשְׁתּ֖וֹ עִמּֽוֹ׃
If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself.
Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; Often in this life, there seem to be no answers for things that come our way or are there answers?
The Hebrew word for answer “עָנָה” means, to respond; make dependent.
How could I walk if I never fell? How would I know joy if heartache could not sometimes prevail? What would a perfect life be like? Only good and only me. Like a doctor who was created to heal, but never was there any ill. Like a craftsman with nothing to build. I chose to go forward even though He seems to be missing and evil seems to avail.
Hashem appointed each of us to be apart of Himself in this world and you would never see His hand unless you had seen someone made to stand. The reason for you and I is so that we might be the metaphor for His eyes and His hands and His legs and His feet in this world. For His miracles are with us evening, morning, and afternoon.
Midrash Tanhuma Tazria 5
The wicked Turnus Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva: Whose deeds are better – God’s or human beings’?
Rabbi Akiva replied: Human beings!
Turnus Rufus asked: Behold heaven and earth! Can a human being create such as these?
Rabbi Akiva replied: Don’t talk to me about things which are beyond a mortal creation’s ability and that we have no control of; rather ask about things that are found in humans.
Turnus Rufus asked him: Why are you circumcised?
Rabbi Akiva replied: I knew you were going to ask me that, therefore I pre-empted you and said that humans’ deeds are more pleasing than God’s.
Rabbi Akiva brought him sheaves of wheat and fresh-baked rolls, and said: These are God’s works and these are humans’ – are not these better than the sheaves?
Rabbi Akiva brought him raw flax and clothes from Bet She’an (known throughout the ancient world for their fine, delicate fabric and exquisite workmanship) and said: These are God’s works and these are humans’ – are not these better than the flax?
Turnus Rufus replied to him: If God desires circumcision, why doesn’t the baby leave the womb already circumcised?
Rabbi Akiva answered: And why is he also born still attached to the umbilical cord – doesn’t the mother cut the cord? And why isn’t the baby born circumcised? Because God gave Israel the Torah in order to shape them through fulfillment of the mitzvot.
More this week to come:
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
9On the left hand, when He doth work, but I cannot behold Him,
He turneth Himself to the right hand, but I cannot see Him.
10For He knoweth the way that I take;
When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
11My foot hath held fast to His steps,
His way have I kept, and turned not aside.
12I have not gone back from the commandment of His lips;
I have treasured up the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.
13But He is at one with Himself, and who can turn Him?
And what His soul desireth, even that He doeth.
14For He will perform that which is appointed for me;
And many such things are with Him.
15Therefore am I affrighted at His presence;
When I consider, I am afraid of Him.
16Yea, God hath made my heart faint,
And the Almighty hath affrighted me;
17Because I was not cut off before the darkness,
Neither did He cover the thick darkness from my face.
Exodus 18 – 20
א וַיִּשְׁמַ֞ע יִתְר֨וֹ כֹהֵ֤ן מִדְיָן֙ חֹתֵ֣ן מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֵת֩ כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר עָשָׂ֤ה אֱלֹהִים֙ לְמֹשֶׁ֔ה וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַמּ֑וֹ כִּֽי־הוֹצִ֧יא יְהוָ֛ה אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃
ב וַיִּקַּ֗ח יִתְרוֹ֙ חֹתֵ֣ן מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֶת־צִפֹּרָ֖ה אֵ֣שֶׁת מֹשֶׁ֑ה אַחַ֖ר שִׁלּוּחֶֽיהָ׃
Judaism has a long way that leads us to the short way to understanding the Torah. Everyone else takes our Torah using scripture only and makes it something it is not. The wrong way.
Said Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananiah: “Once a child got the better of me.”
“I was traveling, and I met with a child at a crossroads. I asked him, ‘which way to the city?’ and he answered: ‘This way is short and long, and this way is long and short.’
“I took the ‘short and long’ way. I soon reached the city but found my approach obstructed by gardens and orchards. So I retraced my steps and said to the child: ‘My son, did you not tell me that this is the short way?’ Answered the child: ‘Did I not tell you that it is also long?'”
(Talmud, Eruvin 53b)
With life being so short why do we always take the long way?
Proverbs 15: 24 The path of life goeth upward for the wise,
that he may depart from the nether-world beneath. (JPS) King
Shlomo writes in Mishlei (15:24), “A path of life above for the intelligent one, so that his soul will turn away from the grave below.” Rabbeinu Bachya ben Asher z”l (Spain; early 14th century) writes: King Shlomo a”h informs us here than an intelligent person who recognizes the transitory nature of this world is the one who knows that the real “path of life” is above. Therefore, he distances himself from the pleasures of this world and does not make them permanent fixtures in his life. To what may this be compared? To a person who plans to live in a certain city for a short time; he will not invest in property or a lot of furniture. Similarly, an intelligent person does not invest in his body more than is necessary for his health and to enable him to serve G-d, for he knows that his true home is above. Moreover, R’ Bachya adds, the soul actually longs to return home. This is why King Shlomo writes (Kohelet 7:1) that the day of death is greater than the day of birth.
Ten saying from King Shlomo
1A soft answer turneth away wrath;
But a grievous word stirreth up anger.
2The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright;
But the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.
3The eyes of the LORD are in every place,
Keeping watch upon the evil and the good.
4A soothing tongue is a tree of life;
But perverseness therein is a wound to the spirit.
5A fool despiseth his father’s correction;
But he that regardeth reproof is prudent.
6In the house of the righteous is much treasure;
But in the revenues of the wicked is trouble.
7The lips of the wise disperse knowledge;
But the heart of the foolish is not stedfast.
8The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD;
But the prayer of the upright is His delight.
9The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD;
But He loveth him that followeth after righteousness.
10There is grievous correction for him that forsaketh the way;
And he that hateth reproof shall die.
Why does it take us so long to learn to temper our words?
Every day I hear stories of peoples lives and I too am involved every day with my wife in conversations, and our conversations never end the way I wish they would end.
Imagine, you do not have time to tell your wife what she wants to hear, “every juicy detail of what happened” but you do not feel like telling her every detail because it will take to long, so you tell her “nothing happened” or you try to find some other subject to talk about. Well, I will tell you from experience that telling her “every juicy detail” is the short way home and the long way home is the short way.
Judaism has a long way that leads us to the short way to understanding the Torah. Everyone else takes our Torah using scripture only and makes it something it is not. The wrong way.
In this weeks Torah portion we cover the Seat Of Moses and we are introduced to the oral Torah and written Torah. And as always the oral Torah comes to explain the written Torah.
Shemot 18 (13) And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood about Moses from the morning unto the evening(15) And Moses said unto his father-in-law: ‘Because the people come unto me to inquire of God; (16) when they have a matter, it cometh unto me; and I judge between a man and his neighbour, and I make them know the statutes of God, and His laws.’
What is Moses using to judge the people? (Oral Torah)
The Torah had not yet been given to Israel. So what judgments can Moses make? What statutes and laws are Moses using? (Oral Torah)
more to follow:
Golden Calf – Torah Myths by Rabbi Dr. Dovid Gottlieb
Do you really think we were worshiping a golden calf? Boy, are you in for a surprise. Rabbi Dr. Dovid Gottleib explains what is really going on in this story.
Exodus 13 – 17
יז וַיְהִ֗י בְּשַׁלַּ֣ח פַּרְעֹה֮ אֶת־הָעָם֒ וְלֹא־נָחָ֣ם אֱלֹהִ֗ים דֶּ֚רֶךְ אֶ֣רֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים כִּ֥י קָר֖וֹב ה֑וּא כִּ֣י ׀ אָמַ֣ר אֱלֹהִ֗ים פֶּֽן־יִנָּחֵ֥ם הָעָ֛ם בִּרְאֹתָ֥ם מִלְחָמָ֖ה וְשָׁ֥בוּ מִצְרָֽיְמָה׃
יח וַיַּסֵּ֨ב אֱלֹהִ֧ים ׀ אֶת־הָעָ֛ם דֶּ֥רֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּ֖ר יַם־ס֑וּף וַחֲמֻשִׁ֛ים עָל֥וּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃
(17) And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said: ‘Lest the people regret when they see war, and they return to Egypt.’
The word “let” in Hebrew has more of a meaning to be sent.
In this weeks Torah portion we see that Pharoah had to send the children of Israel out. With all the troubles and challenges that faced us in Egypt, we had to be sent out? How could one endure the heartaches and hardships? How could one endure the disappointments and the ridicule of all the harsh words? Why did we have to be sent out after all this?
In our lives today we are faced with many of the same challenges and yet we refuse to grow and overcome these obstacles. We hold on to a false hope of how things could be if we just hold on.
Well, Einstien said, “to continue to do the same thing and expect a different result is called insanity”. How do you define yourself?
More on this to come: Why the long way?
Exodus 10 – 13
א וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה כִּֽי־אֲנִ֞י הִכְבַּ֤דְתִּי אֶת־לִבּוֹ֙ וְאֶת־לֵ֣ב עֲבָדָ֔יו לְמַ֗עַן שִׁתִ֛י אֹתֹתַ֥י אֵ֖לֶּה בְּקִרְבּֽוֹ׃
ב וּלְמַ֡עַן תְּסַפֵּר֩ בְּאָזְנֵ֨י בִנְךָ֜ וּבֶן־בִּנְךָ֗ אֵ֣ת אֲשֶׁ֤ר הִתְעַלַּ֙לְתִּי֙ בְּמִצְרַ֔יִם וְאֶת־אֹתֹתַ֖י אֲשֶׁר־שַׂ֣מְתִּי בָ֑ם וִֽידַעְתֶּ֖ם כִּי־אֲנִ֥י יְהוָֽה׃
Many times in our lives our problems do not come to us but we must “Come” to them.
Our Sages tell us that the most difficult things in your life are the most rewarding. When we run from our problems they always seem to more difficult and complex. (Beresheit 32:23 And he(Yaacov) rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two handmaids, and his eleven children, and passed over the ford of the Jabbok. 24And he took them, and sent them over the stream, and sent over that which he had. 25And Jacob was left alone).
Our problems should not leave us alone.
There is never a time in our lives when we solve anything by ignoring someone or something or running from a challenge. Most often the case is we are left alone. (and there wrestled a MAN with him(Yaacov) until the breaking of the day). The “man’ we wrestle with is ourselves and in this, we are made to confront who we are.
Our character is chiseled and molded in the coming to the place we thought we could never be. One must lose himself or herself to the man in which we are wrestling to be. One must love Hashem with all your hearts. Yaacov and Esau must work together to conquer the “self”.
The most difficult challenges in our lives are the things we should be diligent to do. Moshe in this week Torah portion is told to come to the source of our, “problems” Pharoah. This Pharoah is greater in every way it seems and unless Pharoah agrees to let us go we are helpless it seems.
But only if you are looking at your own abilities and powers. When we only see ourselves we can not see that Hashem is with us. This, by the way, is the meaning of, “וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה” this is misquoted in every English Bible. Hashem is telling us and reminding us that “He is with us” so come to your challenges for “I (Hashem) am with you”.