Thursday, May 30, 2013

Canfei Nesharim and Jewcology: Food Waste Action #2

Food Waste Action #2: Save the Perishables!
You can save money and reduce food waste by simply opening the door of your refrigerator and checking the expiration dates! 

How often do you find that the "use by" date on a package has passed, and you end up throwing it away? Get in the habit of checking the perishable items in your fridge to eat them on time. Move them into the freezer if you don't think you'll have time to eat them.

Approximate Annual Savings (per person taking this action): 11,614 Food Calories
Take this action now and see the results of the entire community! (Please note: You will need to log in to Jewcology to access this page.)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

“What’s In a Name?”

Sichos HaRan 95
Translated and annotated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom (Breslov Research Institute), pp. 219-221, with minor modifications.

A man’s destiny and mission in life are determined by the name he is given.[1]

Sometimes a man completes his mission before his destined time to die. He must then be given a new name.

A man’s name is the garment of his soul after death.

A name is a garment.

It is written (Isaiah 42:8), “ I am G-d [YHVH]; it is My name and My glory.”

Glory is a garment. Thus, Rabbi Yochanan would call his clothing “my glory.”[2]

G-d is called by the Tetragramaton — Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh.

This name comes from a root meaning “existence.”

It is this Name that gives existence to all creation.[3]

Above all worlds there is a place where G-d has no name. This is a realm where He cannot be grasped at all.

It is written (Psalms 138:2), “ For greater than Your Name is Your word.”

G-d’s action is the saying with which He created the world.[4]

“Your word” is therefore G-d’s action.

G-d has actions that are above all worlds. These are greater than all his names.

There is a realm above all worlds where there is absolutely no concept of name.

Regarding G-d’s word in such realms the verse says, “ For greater than Your Name is Your word.”

It is written that in the Future World (Isaiah 62:2), “And nations will see your righteousness... and they will call you by a new name.”

The nations will then perceive the true mission of the Jews and will therefore give them a new name.

There are people who complete the mission assodated with their name in the middle of their lifetime. They are then given a new mission, and hence, a new name. This concept contains many deep and awesome secrets.

It is customary to give a new name to a dangerously sick person.”[5]

The sick person has already fulfilled his destiny according to his original name, and is therefore ready to die. We then give him a new name, thereby also giving him a new mission. The sick person can now continue to live and complete the mission associated with his new name.

Our Rabbis teach us that our teacher Moses had many names.[6]

Moses had many missions in life. He therefore required a different name for each one of his great tasks.

[1] Berakhos 7b; Sefer HaMidos, Banim 68.
[2] Shabbos 113b.
[3] The Tetragrammaton comes from the root HaYah—to be—and its present tense, HoVeH. See Orach Chaim 5:1, Rashbam on Exodus 3:14; Rabbi Gedaliah Kenig, Chayey Nefesh, 56.
[4] Avos 5:1.
[5] Yoreh Deah 335:10, in Hagahah; Even HaEzer 129:18.
[6] In Sanhedrin 19b, the verse in I Chronicles 4:18 is interpreted to refer to the names of Moses, giving us Yered, Avigdor, Chever, Avi Socho, Yekusiel and Avi Zenuach as his names. Cf. Targum, Radak, ad loc. In Sotah 12a the name Toviah is also given. In VaYikra Rabbah 1:3 all these names are mentioned, as well as Shemayah ben Nesanel, from I Chronicles 24:6; cf. Targum, ad loc. See also Yalkut Shimoni on Exodus 2:10 (#166); Seder HaDoros, year 2368.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Art and Watermelon

The Zoom Gallery of Fleischmanns, NY, will host an exhibit of the photographs and paintings of Dovid Sears, who spends his summers in nearby Denver.

The opening, replete with live klezmer music and watermelon, will be on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, May 26th, from noon-5:00. But the show will run until the end of June. 

There will be a number of paintings and illustrations, both representational and abstract, and over 40 photos in the show. The photos were picked from this group:

The gallery's website is:

Andy Statman On Tour: Three Boroughs in Three Nights!

The Andy Statman Trio 
(Andy on clarinet & mandolin, Jim Whitney on bass and Larry Eagle on drums & percussion)

Manhattan: Tuesday 21May @ 9PM
The Charles Street Synagogue
53 Charles Street NYC NY

Queens: Wednesday 22 May @ 7PM
(Andy on clarinet & mandolin, Jim Whitney on bass and guest drummer Jordan Perlson)
Queens College - Free Concert!
Lefrak Concert Hall
Reeves Avenue Queens, NY 11367

Brooklyn: Thursday 23May @ 8PM
376 9th St. (corner of 6th Ave.) Park Slope
(followed at 10 PM by our friend Frank London's Songs of Zebulon)

the whole schedule's right here

Monday, May 13, 2013

Holy Eating

From Breslov Eikh Shehu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present, compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears (work-in-progress). We are grateful to Rabbi Dovid Shapiro for his ongoing contribution to this project.

“Let us eat only to sustain our souls and diminish our natural desires and cravings” – Rebbe Nachman, “Shir Na’im (A Song of Delight)”

Note that this includes a number of personal customs of Rabbi Gedaliah Kenig, zatzal, which we have indicated as such. They are generally followed by his family members and some of his talmidim, but not necessarily by other Breslover Chassidim, even in the Tsfat kehillah he founded. Aside from the customs specifically mentioned by the Rebbe and Reb Noson, there is much diversity within the Breslov community when it comes to such things.
Holy Eating

The Rebbe cautioned that one should eat slowly and mindfully, with great derekh eretz.
(Chayey Moharan 515; Likutey Moharan I, 17:3, et al.)


He also cautioned that one should never eat to excess, which can bring on various maladies.
(Likutey Moharan I, 257, 263)


He taught that at the time of eating, one may experience an illumination of the deepest will of the soul for Hashem (he'aras ha-ratzon).
(Likutey Moharan II, 7:10; also cf. Likutey Halakhos, Arev 3:3; as this he’aras ha-ratzon is related to the sense of smell and intuition, see ibid., Pidyon Bekhor 5:10-11; or as experienced through fasting, see ibid., K’riyas HaTorah 4:5)


When a person breaks his desire for food, G-d will work wonders through him.
(Likutey Moharan I, 47)


Reb Noson taught that by speaking words of Torah, one infuses the very act of eating with G-dliness. Therefore, one should do so at every meal.
(Likutey Halakhos, Netilas Yadayim liSe’udah 1:3; cf. Ner Mitzvah 8:2, in the name of the Baal Shem Tov; et al.)


After washing for "ha-motzi," prior to reciting the blessing "al netilas yadayim," Reb Elazar Kenig raises his hands to the level of his eyes. Prior to the berakhah, he recites the verses: "S'u yedeikhem kodesh u-vorekhu es HaShem” (Tehillim 134:2) and “Ve-esa khapai el mitzvosekha asher ahavti vi-asichah bi-chukekha” (Ibid. 119:48). This is a common custom.
(See Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 162:1. Re. elevating the hands, also see Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha’ar HaMitzvos, Eikev [39a]; Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Partzuf Zu”N 2:2; Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, Ben Ish Chai: Halakhos II, Vayeira 13-14, according to the kabbalistic practice)


Reb Gedaliah Kenig would recite Psalm 23 (“Mizmor leDovid”) at every meal.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro, who heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig. Cf. Rabbi Chaim Vital, Pri Eitz Chayim, Sha’ar K’riyas Shema she-al ha-Mitah, chap. 11 [80d], who states that it should be recited before one begins to eat the meal. The Magen Avraham states that one should recite it between washing the hands and reciting “ha-motzi,” while the Elya Rabbah states in the name of the SheLaH that one should say it after reciting “hamotzi” and eating the bread. This psalm has 57 words, corresponding to the word “zan,” meaning “to sustain” or “to feed.”)


Reb Gedaliah used to read both Psalm 67 ("Lamenatze'ach be-neginos") in the form of a Menorah and the Prayer of Rabbi Nechuniah ben HaKanah ("Ana bi-Ko'ach") at some point during each meal with bread, in order to facilitate the elevation of the "holy sparks" in the food.
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig. Re. reciting Psalm 67 in the form of a Menorah, see Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, Imrey Pinchas, Shaar HaKedushah #83 [Vol. I, 297a])


Reb Gedaliah used to wear a hat and a robe or another outer garment when he sat down to eat a meal, even during the week.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro. Cf. Berakhos 51a; similarly,  Zohar: Raya Mehemna, Pinchas [245b]; one should wear a hat particularly while reciting Birkhas Hamazon, according to Rabbi Chaim Vital, Taamey HaMitzvos (Arizal), Eikev [99c]; Rabbi Yaakov Tzemach, Nagid U-Metzaveh, p. 94.)


He also gave a small coin to tzedakah at every meal in order to subjugate ta’avas achilah.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)


The Rebbe mentioned that the skins of many vegetables are edible; therefore one should not remove them completely, but leave at least a small amount of the peel. These outer skins are an aspect of the klippas nogah, the "glowing husk" that is a mixture of good and evil, and by eating some of the peel one has the kavanah of extricating the good.
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Avaneha Barzel, in the revised version printed in Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh, Vol. I, 534. However, today one must be careful about eating the peels of fruits and vegetables which may have been sprayed or treated with harmful and even non-kosher substances.)


The Rebbe also cautioned that one should not eat unripe fruit, because this can cause spiritual harm.
(Likutey Moharan II, 88)


The Rebbe cited the Baal Shem Tov's instruction not to eat raw onions, even when mixed with oil and eggs, etc., whether on weekdays or the holy Shabbos. Onions should only be eaten when cooked, or according to the practice of most Breslover Chassidim, when prepared in brine.
(Sichos HaRan 265; cf. Eruvin 29a; Tosefos, ad loc., and 29b, s.v. mi-pnei; Ta'anis 30a)


Rabbi Moshe Grinberger recalled that Reb Gedaliah did not consider raw scallions to be a problem, and in practice many Breslovers will eat them. However, Rabbi Dovid Shapiro once heard him say that one who “really wants to follow the Rebbe” should refrain from eating raw scallions, as well.


Rabbi Chaim Vital states that great carefulness concerning kashrus leads to kedushah, and goes on to quote the beraisa of Rabbi Pinchos ben Ya'ir, which states that kedushah leads to ru'ach ha-kodesh (Sotah 5:19, end). Needless to say, one should be scrupulous about kashrus beyond the minimal requirements. Like all Chassidim and anshei ma'aseh, Breslover Chassidim are strict about chalav Yisrael, pas Yisrael, bishul Yisrael, glatt kosher, and other aspects of kashrus in keeping with the basic standards of the majority of devout Jews today. Such things are not in the category of what the Rebbe meant by chumros yeseiros (unnecessary stringencies).
(See Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha'arey Kedushah II, 6, et al. Rabbi Yaakov Tzemach mentions that the Arizal was machmir even to refrain from drinking coffee prepared by a non-Jew, Nagid U-Metzaveh, p. 93. Reb Noson darshans on pas Yisrael in Likutey Halakhos, Makhaley AKU”M 1:13, and on bishul Yisrael in Likutey Halakhos, Basar be-Chalav 5:11; Makhaley AKU”M 2:1, 2, 3 and 3:1, 2.)


Reb Gedaliah would recite “Borei nefashos” after drinking hot tea.
(Heard from Rabbi Aharon Waxler. The more common psak is that one should not recite a berakhah acharonah because the minimal revi’is [between 3.3 and 4.4 oz.] of tea is sipped over too long a period of time for this to be deemed one act of drinking. See Orach Chaim 204:7, with Ba’er Heitiv [12] and Shaarey Teshuvah [12], which also present dissenting opinions. However, one may avoid uncertainty either by drinking a full revi’is when the hot drink cools off or by consuming a kezayis [volume of an olive] of another food that requires the berakhah acharonah of “borei nefashos.”)


Reb Gedaliah was particular not to leave unpeeled eggs and onions overnight, without leaving at least a small piece of peel on them, or adding salt, etc.
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer, in the name of his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer. See Nidah 17a, in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai; this stringency is cited in Shulchan Arukh HaRav, Kaf HaChayim, et al.)


He would also bentch over a cup of wine whenever possible, even if he ate his meal alone.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro. See Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 182:2. Shaar HaRatzon cites this as the view of the Vilna Gaon. Mishnah Berurah [ad loc.] explains that this reflects the fact that Chazal usually required that such groups of berakhos be recited over a cup of wine, as a form of praising Hashem.)

Shabbos and Yom Tov Meals

Reb Noson’s daughter Chanah Tzirel said that her father once entered their little kitchen on Friday, while the women were preparing food for Shabbos. He told them: “You should know that the cooking you do in honor of the Shabbos is comparable to the work that the Kohanim performed to prepare the korbonos in the Beis ha-Mikdosh!”
(Heard from Rabbi Moshe Bienenstock, who heard this story from Reb Noson son of Reb Avraham Sternhartz. Chanah Tzirel was his great-grandmother.)


The Rebbe declared: “Eating on Shabbos is entirely holy, entirely godly (kulo kodesh, kulo elokus). The forces of the ‘Other Side’ have no share in the Shabbos food at all.”
(Likutey Moharan I, 57 – unlike the food eaten during the weekdays; see Rabbi Yaakov Tzemach, Nagid U-Metzaveh, s.v. vi-nakhzor li-taam [p. 86])


Reb Gedaliah would make “ha-motzi” on four challos at each of the Shabbos meals, stacked two on two. Thus he would use twelve challos in the course of Shabbos, corresponding to the twelve challohs symbolic of the lechem ha-panim in the Beis HaMikdash. This is a variation of the custom to recite "ha-motzi" over twelve challos at each seu’dah, which is mentioned in the Zohar and kisvei Arizal.
(See Zohar III, Raya Mehemna, 245a; also the Tcheriner Rov’s Yekara de-Shabbata, 31. The four challos represent the holy Name YHVH; the challah on the top right corresponds to the letter “yud,” the challah on the top left corresponds to the letter “vav,” while the two challos below corresponds to the two letters “heh.”)


Reb Gedaliah would not remove the dekel (cloth cover) over the challos until after reciting “ha-motzi.” Then he would hold the top two challos in a vertical position (end-to-end) and back-to-back (zekher le-lechem ha-panim), and cut the loaf that had been in the upper right position—unlike those who use two challos at each meal and cut the bottom loaf on Friday night and the top loaf on Shabbos day.
(Cf. Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, Ben Ish Chai: Halakhos II, Vayera 15, citing the Arizal)


Then Reb Gedaliah would cut the rest of the slices on the challah board, dip a slice in salt three times, and eat some of it. Then he would immediately cut another slice, dip it in salt three times, and give it to his wife; followed by slices for guests and other family members. Thus, no one would inadvertently violate the rule of derekh eretz that a guest should not eat before the ba’al ha-bayis (as stated in Orach Chaim 274:4).


Rabbi Dovid Shapiro once asked Reb Gedaliah if it is necessary to remove and discard the end of the challah, and he said, “Yes, but only a mashehu (small amount).”
(According to oral tradition, eating both ends of the challah is “kasha le-shik’cha.”)


It was customary in Reb Gedaliah’s home that each child quietly recited his or her own berakhah over the slice of challah he or she received. 


Reb Gedaliah was particular to wash mayim emtzayim after the fish course, as stated in Shulchan Arukh. This is the practice of the Tsfat Breslov community today.
(See Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 173:2)


Reb Gedaliah also drank a small glass of shnapps before and after the fish. (The reason is that the nature of fish is to cool off the body, so one should drink something warming. The siman is that the word “fish” shares the same letters as the initials of pa’amayim yayin saraf,” meaning “two shots of liquor.”)
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro. Darkei Chayim ve-Shalom [Munkatch] 396 mentions that “pa’amayim yayin saraf” is roshei teivos “fish.” The Hebrew word for “fish” is “dagim.” Hence the initials of “dagim” (dalet) and “yayin saraf” (yud-shin) spell the holy Name “shin-dalet-yud.”)


However, he did not drink liquor during the meal. (As a rule, Breslover Chassidim do not drink more than a “l’chayim” or two except on Purim, when it is a mitzvah to drink to the point of intoxication, or at least more than usual.)
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)


He would not drink water immediately after eating fish.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro. This is based on the view of Tosefos, Moed Katan 11a, s.v. kavra, for health reasons.)


During the Shabbos or Yom Tov meals, Reb Gedaliah would recite the blessing "Hatov vi-Hameitiv" when served different wine from a second bottle, if it were brought to the table after Kiddush. (However, if one wishes to recite the berakhah, the second wine should not be inferior to the first.)
(Heard from Rabbi Aharon Waxler. See RaMA on Orach Chaim 175:1-2; Rabbi Chaim Vital, Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Shabbos, 24 [105d]. Presumably Reb Gedaliah did not drink wine during the week, since it is associated with days of simchah; see Nagid U-Metzaveh, s.v. tzarikh lifrosh atzmo [p. 91].)


Before reciting birkhas ha-mazon, Reb Gedaliah would remove the knives from the table, both during the week and on Shabbos and Yom Tov.
(See Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha'ar Ru'ach ha-Kodesh, 10b, 12a. This stringency applies only to those whose neshamos are from shoresh kayin; however, Reb Gedaliah once remarked that today everyone has mixed shoroshim.)


Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender stated that Breslover Chassidim of previous generations would leave a few remnants of challah on the table after the Friday night meal, covered with a cloth. This is a minhag of the Arizal.
(Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh, Vol. IV, 464. Cf. Rabbi Chaim Vital, Shaar Hakavanos, “inyan ha-shulchan” [72d], which also mentions that the cup used for Kiddush and/or for Birkhas Ha-Mazon should be left on the table with a few drops remaining in it, in order to leave behind blessing on the Shabbos table.)


Reb Nachman Tulchiner, who was the mainstay of the Breslov community in Uman after Reb Noson's passing, disapproved of those who make Kiddush on whiskey or other liquor on Shabbos morning in the synagogue after davenning. “Either way, it’s a problem,” he observed. “Either the one who recites Kiddush is a shikor (drunk) or an am-ha’aretz (ignoramus). If he drinks an entire revi’is (a little over 4 oz.), he’s a shikor; if he drinks less, he’s an am-ha’aretz for not drinking a revi’is, as the Shulchan Arukh requires. Therefore, it would be better for everyone to go home instead and make Kiddush over wine.”
(Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh III, 308. However, those who do so rely upon the TAZ, Orach Chaim 210, who rules that even a small shiur of liquor is sufficient for Kiddush de-rabbanan because it is a davar choshuv. This story also reflects the fact that wine was not plentiful in Reb Nachman Tulchiner’s time and place.)


Reb Gedaliah’s talmidim and chaveirim used to visit him on Motza’ei Shabbos (except on Shabbos Mevorchim, which was reserved for the family Melaveh Malkah). Everyone sang the zemiros together, and Reb Gedaliah distributed candies; however, the chaveirim did not eat the Melaveh Malkah meal with him. Reb Gedaliah said that his teacher, Reb Avraham Sternhartz, always told a ma'aseh about the Baal Shem Tov on Motza’ei Shabbos, but he used to learn the Rebbe’s Sippurei Ma’asiyos instead. He would read the entire ma’aseh in Yiddish without interruption, and only then offer some explanations.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)


We have collected a substantial amount of additional material related to Shabbos and Yom Tov, as well as numerous other topics, which we hope to annotate and post in the future, im yirtza Hashem.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Shavuot, Chanukah, and a War Plan

Received via Nachal Novea Mekor Chochma:

Every Jew is a letter in the Torah... If you don't speak against any Jew, you will also find the Torah perfect and beautiful. You will deeply love the Torah, since when the bride is beautiful, love is perfect. Sichot HaRan 91

The 7-candle menorah of Rebbe Nachman represents one of the highest spiritual levels one can attain. The structure of this "menorah" corresponds to the human face and its seven apertures. The head, or mind, is the menorah itself. The 7 candles are the mouth, two nostrils, eyes, and ears. These 7 apertures are gateways into the mind. By controlling what comes through them, the mind can ascend to the highest levels of holiness, even ruach hakodesh! See Likutey Moharan 21

Five years ago on Shavuot morning, Rabbanit Esther Yehudit Kenig, z"l, returned her pure soul to heaven. Wife of Reb Gedaliah, z"l, she was known to have been a living paradigm of Rebbe Nachman's special menorah which serves to inspire us all.
Download a beautiful tribute to her life and accomplishments here as a PDF (1.8 MB).

consider this war tactic
You really have nothing in the world but the present moment. The past is gone and the future doesn't yet exist. It is our job to ensure that we don't lose the present so it will be completely ours. We can easily attain it, since it is only the blink of an eye--but only on the condition that we don't think about the past or future.

The strength of the yetzer hara is very weak in the present. You can easily conquer him here since his whole trick is to make you worry about the past and fear the future. Choose good in the present moment. This advice can lighten the difficulty of any test. Adapted from "Shaarey Tzaddik" by Reb Gedaliah Kenig, Letter #41

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Eizer L'Shabbos Shavuos Appeal

Received from Rabbi Binyamin Rosenberg of Tsat
As we near Chag HaShavuos, we remember the great gifts that Hashem grants, and has granted, to us and our ancestors. The very idea that He took us out of slavery in Mitzrayim and give us the Torah, must certainly be the greatest gift ever known to man -- and it has sustained us and guided us for thousands of years. 

Chazal teach us the the fundamental principle of the Torah that we received on Shavuos is to "Love our fellow Jew as ourselves." This simple truth motivates so many Jews across the world and across generations to lend a hand to those in need, especially at this time of Matan Torah, and help them just as we would wish to be helped. 

Please consider all the families that Eizer L'Shabbos assists and may the merit of your tzedakah, and the tzedakah of Jews across the globe, bring redemption and joy to the world!

And may you have a truly wonderful Yom tov!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

“Every day a Heavenly voice goes out from Mount Horeb”

From the Breslov Pirkey Avot (Breslov Research Institute), Chapter 6, Mishnah 2

אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי, בְּכָל יוֹם וָיוֹם בַּת קוֹל יוֹצֵאת מֵהַר חוֹרֵב וּמַכְרֶזֶת וְאוֹמֶרֶת אוֹי לָהֶם לַבְּרִיּוֹת מֵעֶלְבּוֹנָהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה שֶׁכָּל מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ עוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה נִקְרָא נָזוּף, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר נֶזֶם זָהָב בְּאַף חֲזִיר אִשָּׁה יָפָה וְסָרַת טָעַם.
וְאוֹמֵר וְהַלֻּחֹת מַעֲשֵׂה אֱלֹהִים הֵמָּה וְהַמִּכְתָּב מִכְתַּב אֱלֹהִים הוּא חָרוּת עַל הַלֻּחֹת, אַל תִּקְרָא חָרוּת אֶלָּא חֵרוּת, שֶׁאֵין לְךָ בֶּן חוֹרִין אֶלָּא מִי שֶׁעוֹסֵק בְּתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה.
וְכָל מִי שֶׁעוֹסֵק בְּתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה הֲרֵי זֶה מִתְעַלֶּה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וּמִמַּתָּנָה נַחֲלִיאֵל וּמִנַּחֲלִיאֵל בָּמוֹת:

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, “Every day a Heavenly voice goes out from Mount Horeb proclaiming and saying, ‘Woe to humanity for disdaining the Torah!’ For anyone who does not occupy himself with the Torah is called ‘rebuked,’ as it is written, ‘As a golden ring in a swine’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion’ (Proverbs 1:22).

“And it is written, ‘The Tablets are the work of God, and the writing is the writing of God engraved on the Tablets’ (Exodus 32:16). Do not read charut (‘engraved’), but cherut (‘freedom’), for no one is free except he who engages in Torah study.

 “Anyone who occupies himself with Torah study will be spiritually elevated, as it is written, 'From Matanah to Nachliel, and from Nachliel to Bamot’” (Numbers 21:19).

Digest of Commentaries:

Every day a Heavenly voice goes out from Mount Horeb. Mount Horeb (Har Chorev) is another name for Mount Sinai. When the Jewish nation does not occupy itself with the Torah, Mount Sinai becomes ChaReV (“desolate" or "ruined”). This may explain why the term ChoReV is used here, since this teaching speaks of the neglect of the Torah (Midrash Shmuel).

For anyone who does not occupy himself with the Torah is called "rebuked," as it is written, "As a golden ring in a swine's snout ... .” This applies to a scholar who lacks intellectual discretion and restraint. One who uses the intellect for inferior purposes is compared to a pig that burrows in a dung heap and in filth (Tiferet Yisrael). Why Pirkey Avot cites this verse as a proof-text for such a scholar being called “rebuked” is somewhat unclear; however, the letters of the word NaZuF (“rebuked”) can be found in the Hebrew words of the verse, Nezem Zahav be’aF (“a gold ring in a snout”) (Midrash Shmuel, quoting Rabbi Ephraim).

Do not read charut ("engraved"), but cherut ("‘freedom"), for no one is free” from domination by the evil inclination and the passions of the heart, except he who engages in Torah study which, we learned in the previous teaching (6:1), "distances him from sin and draws him near to virtue … [and] magnifies and elevates him above all things."

Anyone who occupies himself with Torah study will be spiritually elevated, as it is written, "From Matanah  to Nachliel, and from Nachliel to Bamot.” These are names of places to which the Israelites traveled during their wanderings in the desert. Matanah literally means “gift” (as in, "the gift of the Torah"). Nachliel literally means “inheritance of God.” Bamot literally means “heights.” On this verse, the Sages expound, “If one makes himself like the desert upon which everyone treads, he will retain his learning, and the Torah will be given to him as a gift (matanah). ... And since God (El) is his inheritance (nachalah), he will rise to spiritual heights (bamot)” (Eruvin 54a).


The Heavenly Voice

Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Rosen used to ask, “But who hears this voice? Who is listening for it?”


“Woe to humanity for disdaining the Torah!”

Rebbe Nachman: It is impossible to guide and correct others properly unless we engage in Torah study. Through the Torah we can help everyone to improve themselves, including those who are very far away — even if we do not know what they need. The Torah study in which we engage enables even those who are extremely distant to hear the call of the Torah, which constantly cries out imploringly, “How long, O fools, shall you love folly?” (Proverbs 1:22). This cry of the Torah will bring everyone back to God (Likutey Etzot, Tokhachah 8).


No one is free except he who engages in Torah study

Reb Noson: In truth, time does not exist. We can grasp this fact even with our limited perception. Although we may be unable to understand the concept of that which is “beyond time,” we can plainly see that time races and rushes and disappears, nothing stays the same, and every second we move closer toward death.

Therefore we should take pity on ourselves and consider this truth carefully. Then we will not invest any worldly endeavor with the illusion of permanence, or worry from one day to the next at all, as the adage states, “Do not suffer tomorrow’s travail.”[i]

Even the work in which we must engage to earn our livelihood should be done without investing it with permanence. As our Sages state, “Make your Torah study fixed, and your livelihood transitory” (Avot de-Rabbi Nathan 13:2). Do not exchange the world that endures for the world that passes.

Thus Pirkey Avot teaches, “No one is free except he who engages in Torah study.” By doing so, we heighten our powers of perception until we nullify the illusion of time and go out from slavery to freedom (Likutey Halakhot, Milah 4:12, abridged).


Reb Noson: The Ten Commandments – which represent the entire Torah[ii] – begin with the declaration, “I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2). This teaches us that the purpose of receiving the Torah was to overcome servitude, which came into the world as a result of the impurity of the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:16-19) and the impurity of Ham, father of Canaan, who was cursed to be a “slave of slaves” (ibid., 9:25).

Therefore it was not possible to receive the Torah until after the Exodus from Egypt, the “house of bondage.” [The ancient Egyptians were descendants of Ham.] Then the Children of Israel were privileged to receive the Torah, which epitomizes freedom, as Pirkey Avot states, “Do not read charut (‘engraved’), but cherut (‘freedom’), for no one is free except he who engages in Torah study.”

When the Israelites received the Torah, the impurity of the serpent was removed from them.[iii] Then they were liberated completely from the mentality of Egyptian servitude by virtue of the Torah’s 248 positive commandments, which correspond to the 248 limbs of the body (Zohar I, 170b). As a result of the mitzvah related to it, each limb goes forth from slavery to freedom. That is, the spirit of impurity – which is an aspect of servitude – departs from it and it attains freedom, which is an aspect of the Torah (Likutey Halakhot, Chovel BeChavero 2).


Spiritual Elevation

Rebbe Nachman: All knowledge of the Torah’s laws – be it the mitzvot that apply to man’s relationship with his fellow man or those that apply to his relationship with God — intrinsically ennobles the soul (The Aleph-Bet Book, Torah Study A:10).

[i] Yebamot 63b, citing Ben Sira. The full adage reads, “Do not suffer tomorrow’s travail, for you never know what the day will bring. By the time tomorrow arrives, you may not be here anymore, and you will have worried over a world that was not yours.”
[ii] Bamidbar Rabbah 13:15; Rashi on Exodus 24:12; Zohar II, 93b; ibid., 85b.
[iii] Shabbat 146a; Zohar II, 188b.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Book Discount: Bnei Avraham Ahuvecha: Gerim in Chassidic Thought

In honor of Shavuous, the book "Bnei Avraham Ahuvecha: Gerim in Chassidic Thought" is being offered for only $9.95 (normally listed on Amazon for $14.95) from May 7 through May 19. To take advantage of this deal, enter the discount code 
RK2EW768 when ordering the book from the following link.