26 October 2016

In the Beginning G‑d Created the Heavens and the Earth. . .


In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep; and the spirit of G‑d hovered above the surface of the waters. G‑d said: “Let there be light,” and there was light. G‑d saw the light, that it was good; and G‑d divided the light from the darkness. G‑d called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night; and there was evening and there was morning, one day.

“In the beginning” refers to 
the beginning of time—the first, 
indivisible moment, before which 
time did not exist.

G‑d said: “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide water from water.” G‑d made the firmament, and divided the waters which were below the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. G‑d called the firmament Heaven; and there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

G‑d said: “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear,” and it was so. G‑d called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters he called Seas; and G‑d saw that it was good. G‑d said: “Let the earth sprout grass, herbs yielding seed, and fruit trees yielding fruit after its kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth,” and it was so. The earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and trees yielding fruit whose seed was in itself, after its kind; and G‑d saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

G‑d said: “Let there be luminaries in the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, for seasons, for days and for years. Let them be for luminaries in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth”; and it was so. G‑d made the two great luminaries: the great luminary to rule the day, and the small luminary to rule the night; and the stars also. G‑d set them in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness; and G‑d saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

G‑d said: “Let the waters swarm abundantly with moving creatures that have life, and let birds fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.” G‑d created the great sea-creatures, and every living creature that moves, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and G‑d saw that it was good. G‑d blessed them, saying: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds multiply in the earth.” There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

G‑d said: “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind, cattle, creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind,” and it was so. G‑d made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the earth after its kind; and G‑d saw that it was good.

G‑d said: “Let us make Man in Our image, after Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, all the earth, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

G‑d created Man in His own image, in the image of G‑d He created him; male and female He created them.

G‑d blessed them, and G‑d said to them: “Be fruitful, and multiply, fill the earth and conquer it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air and every living thing that moves on the earth.” G‑d said: “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree on which is the fruit yielding seed; to you it shall be for food. To every beast of the earth and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.

G‑d saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. There was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

The heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. G‑d completed on the seventh day His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. G‑d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it he rested from all his work which G‑d had created, to make.

The Torah begins with the words “Bereishis bara Elokim – In the beginning G-d created.” Rashi explains the word “Bereishis” to indicate “bishvil reishis – for the sake of reishis, G-d created….” He identifies “reishis” as referring to the Torah and to Bnei Yisroel.

The very word “Bereishis,” then, implies that Hashem, who constantly creates the world ex nihilo, is the Author. Hence Torah, known as “reishis darko,” must always be studied with the excitement of one about to begin a journey with G-d. But only the Jewish People are capable of this mission because they alone are called reishis tevuasa – the first crop of grain, whose essence is growth. 

These three – Hashem, Torah and Bnei Yisrael – are intertwined with the eternal message that the Jewish People must immerse themselves in the Creator’s Torah, the Blueprint of Creation, to forever maintain their identity as the Children of Israel, a people who are constantly beginning afresh.

23 October 2016

Simchat Torah

21 October 2016

Hoshana Rabbah – The Final Verdict – Vilna Gaon on Gog U'Magog

The seventh day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, 21st day of Tishrei, is known as Hoshana Rabbah (Aramaic: הוֹשַׁעְנָא רַבָּא, "Great Hoshana/Supplication”).

The seventh day of Sukkot, Hoshana Rabbah, is considered the final day of the divine “Judgment” in which the fate of the new year is determined. It is the day when the verdict that was issued on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is finalized.

The Midrash tells us that G‑d told Abraham: “If atonement is not granted to your children on Rosh Hashanah, I will grant it on Yom Kippur; if they do not attain atonement on Yom Kippur, it will be given on Hoshana Rabbah.”

In consideration of the auspiciousness of the day, it is customary in many communities to remain awake on the night preceding Hoshana Rabbah. We recite the entire book of Deuteronomy, wherein the precepts to love and fear G‑d are expounded at length. 

In certain communities, the entire book of Deuteronomy is read in the synagogue from the Torah scroll. After midnight, the entire book of Psalms is recited. In some congregations it is a custom for the gabbai (synagogue manager) to distribute apples (signifying a “sweet year”) to the congregants. These apples are then taken home, dipped in honey, and eaten in the sukkah.

Ancient Rituals From the Temple Worship

The daytime rituals of the holiday are drawn from the ancient rituals that were practiced in the Jews’ Holy Temple. In synagogue, male congregants make a circuit around the bimah, the central platform upon which the Torah is read, each man holding his the lulav and etrog aloft.

During the holiday of Sukkot, only one circuit of the bimah is completed. In contrast, on Hoshana Rabbah, congregants complete seven circuits. Each time represents one of the Seven Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David.

Following this ritual, it is customary to recite a liturgical poem, and at the conclusion of this, to beat five willow branches hard against the floor. This is to beat away the last vestiges of sin, but there are mystical nuances to the ritual known only to those who are deeply versed in Kabbalah.

Vilna Gaon, Gog and Magog war and Hoshana Rabba (Commentary and Quotes – miyodea Q&A)

"...The Vilna Gaon on the Mechilta (Shmos 14:20) says that the Gog U'Magog war shall begin three hours before "Hanetz Hachama" (crack of dawn) on Hoshana Rabba, and shall last three hours only.”

"It is also a verifiable prediction that according to Rav Yitzchak Kaduri's (zt”l) quotation of the Vilna Gaon that the final battle of Gog and Magog would begin on Hoshanah Rabba, the 7th day of Sukkot, in the first year of a Shmittah (Sabbatical) cycle.”

"Gog (12) and Magog (58) have a gematria (numeric value) of seventy which corresponds to the 70 nations Midrash Tanchuma, Korach 12. This seems to imply that Gog will rule over 70 nations, and all of them will join together against Israel (see Tehillim 118:110 and Zecharyah 14:2).”

"On this great day [of redemption], however, they will be saved from all of their enemies for all times = therefore, it will be called Hoshana Rabba, the great salvation... The Tur Arizal says, "On Hoshanah Rabbah, the war of Gog and Magog will begin." (Paraphrased)

ALSO: "The Tur (Orach Chaim 490) writes in the name of Rav Hai Gaon that the war will break out on Sukkos. See, however, Malbim to Ezek. 39:8 who writes that the timing of that war was never revealed to any prophet."

"There are 3 parts to the war of Gog miGog. This is based upon Midrash Tehillim. The first part coincides with the Holocaust and the detonation of the nuclear weapons over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is alluded to in Tikkuninim Chadashim of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato. It is also following the schedule of the redemption as outlined in Sefer Avkat Rochel of Rabbeinu Makir ben Abba Mori. The 2nd stage corresponds to Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield. The 3rd and final stage called Operation Iraqi Freedom and the War in Afghanistan is what was mentioned by Rav Kaduri”

The writing from the Vilna Gaon are most likely referring to the sealed letter which the Gaon wanted opened 100 years after his passing. It can be found in the Rav Menachem Kasher edition of Sefer Kol HaTor entitled "HaTekufah HaGadolah". It was published in 1972 and is still available in print. This schedule is also discussed in Sefer Kol HaTor. [. . .]

The information is accurate and correct.

This view was not only held by Rav Kaduri. For those who remember, the nascent Sanhedrin produced a scroll that was to be delivered to then President George Bush warning him that he was the one foretold in the Prophets in the Tanach as being Gog mi'Gog. This scroll warned clearly that Bush needed to support Israel or G-d would deal with him severely. (See above link for Sources to this)
 [. . .]

I have been looking through the Vilna Gaon's commentary on the Mechilta and have found nothing that explicitly states what is being asked. The commentary is called "Biyurim v'Haga'ot HaGra". I also checked his commentary "Kol Eliyahu" on Tanach. It is possible there is some larger, more comprehensive commentary.

What I have found is only an explanation of what the Mechilta itself says. Namely that the final redemption will parallel the redemption from Egypt. In this particular case, the splitting of the Red Sea and all the details of this are associated with the final stage of the conflict in the War of Gog miGog. This is explicitly associated with chapter 60 of Isaiah at the beginning. It also relates this to what happened with the judgement of Sodom and Gemorrah.

A little later in the Mechilta it mentions the view of Rabbi Eliezer who says that although the exodus from Egypt was in the month of Nisan, for various reasons, the final redemption will be in Tishrei. The Gra there doesn't say how he holds. He just explains Rabbi Eliezer's reasoning.

The judgement of the nations is sealed and execution begins from Hoshannah Rabbah. That is the explicit teaching of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai as found in the Zohar on parshat Tzav.

So in context, if this judgement with Gog u'Magog parallels the timing of the splitting of the Red Sea, it would seem to be shortly before daybreak.

Looking simply at the timing, the beginning of the bombing in Afghanistan in the 2nd Gulf War started the night of Hoshannah Rabbah. That complies with the plain meaning from the Mechilta as understood by the Vilna Gaon.

[ME: However, we see there is now in 5777 a Build-Up by Russia and other nations seeming to be centered in and around the Mediterranean, involving Syria and the US. (See various websites for this.)]

This is also the explanation of how the final redemption unfolds as discussed in Sefer Avkat Rochel of Rabbi Makir ben Abba Mari, volume 1, Wars of King Moshiach, 8th sign. This is also brought in Targum Yonatan ben Uziel on Devarim 34:3.

20 October 2016

Simchat Beis HaShoeva – "Whoever Never Witnessed the Simchat Beit Hashoeva has Never in his Life seen True Joy."

Simchat Beit Hashoeva at the Yeshiva of Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok in the Meah Shearim

Isaiah 11:3 - “You will say on that day, ‘I thank You, Hashem, for you were angry with me, and now Your wrath has subsided and You have comforted me. Behold, G-d is my salvation; I shall trust and not fear. For G-d is my might and my praise – HaShem! – and He is a salvation for me.’

You can draw water with joy from the spring of salvation. And you will say on that day, ‘Give thanks to Hashem; declare His Name, make His acts known among the peoples; declare that His Name is exalted. Make music for Hashem, for He has acted with grandeur; make this known throughout the world.”

“One of the most joyful celebrations in Israel was the Drawing of the Water during Sukkot. The Sages noted that "Whoever never witnessed the Simchat Beit Hashoeva has never in his life seen true joy." They have left us wonderful descriptions of the scenes that inspire us with longing to witness it once again.

How was the ceremony conducted? A golden container was filled with water drawn from the pools at Siloam in Jerusalem. When the water carriers reached the Water Gate, they blew three notes on the shofar.

On the right side of the ramp leading to the altar, there were two silver bowls, each with a hole shaped like a narrow spout, one wider than the other. One bowl stood to the east and the other to the west. The shapes of the bowls allowed them to be emptied simultaneously. (The wider spouted bowl held wine, which flows more slowly than water.)

As the evenings of the festival approached, the people made their way down to the Court of the Women. There were golden candlesticks, fifty cubits high, with four gold bowls atop them. Four ladders led to the top of each candlestick, and four young kohanim mounted the ladders, holding in their hands large jars of oil which they poured into the golden bowls. Wicks to light the oil were made from worn-out clothing of the kohanim, and when the candlesticks were lit, the light glowed throughout the entire city of Jerusalem.

The greatest Sages and Tzaddikim would participate joyfully in the celebration, performing the most extraordinary feats. Some of them would bear burning torches in their hands while singing Psalms and other praises of G-d. The Levites would play many various musical instruments, including harps, lyres, cymbals, and trumpets as they stood on the fifteen steps which led down from the Court of Women in the Holy Temple.

“Simchat Beit Hashoeva” at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem

Two kohanim were stationed at the Upper Gate of the Temple, holding trumpets in their hands. As the roosters crowed the first light of dawn, they blasted their trumpets, and as they ascended the steps, they blew two additional rounds of tekiah’s.

They continued walking until they reached the gate which led to the east, whereupon they turned to face the west and uttered the words: "We belong to G-d and our eyes are turned to G-d."

The Sages relate that when the great Sage, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel rejoiced at the water festival, he would juggle with eight lighted torches, tossing them into the air, catching one and then throwing another, so that they never touched each other. He would also prostrate himself on the ground, bend down, doing a head-stand, kiss the ground and draw himself up again, a feat which no one else could do.

The Talmud relates many of these displays of prowess which the Sages performed at the Simchat Beit Hashoeva. They record that Reb Levi used to juggle in the presence of Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi with eight knives. Shmuel would do the same with eight glasses of wine, without spilling any of their contents. Rabbi Abaye would juggle before Rabbi Rabba with eight (or some say, four) eggs.

It is written in the name of Rabbi ben Chanania, "When we used to rejoice at the place of the water-drawing, our eyes saw no sleep." It is explained that the entire day was occupied with holy activities, so that the participants in the Simcha were busy from day to night.

In the morning the sacrifice was brought, followed by prayers, and then an additional sacrifice. Then they would study Torah and eat breakfast. Afternoon prayer was following by the evening sacrifice and then the water-drawing festivities commenced. The celebration of the Simchat Beit Hashoeva continued throughout the entire night, lighting up the city so brilliantly that there was no courtyard in Jerusalem which didn't reflect the light of the great candlesticks which illumined the Festival of the Water-Drawing.”

Article and pictures from several sources