30 October 2016

What Went Wrong . . .

Before we end up on the Ark with Noach and his children, there are still some voices to be heard about Parshas Bereshis. Honestly, all our troubles come from this "Yom HaShishi". “HaShishi” itself, refers to the 6th of Sivan, Shavuos, when WE were given the Torah – Heaven’s antidote to the "Yom HaShishi” of Creation.

The following is from Rabbi Pinchas Winston, Shlit”a, Perceptions on Bereshis:

[…] The secular world appears very, very, exciting for an observant Jew for whom Torah seems very, very boring.

Consequently, the Internet and everything associated with it has come under fierce attack in the Torah world. A tremendous amount of energy and resources are being poured into the curtailment of Internet by Torah advocates, because it is an easy and affordable portal to so much that the Torah forbids.

Furthermore, the Internet also allows such dubious activities to transpire anonymously. This removes a hurdle of personal shame that often acted as a last chance gate-locker for someone with still an ounce of fear of God. Smart phones only magnify this problem.

To some, the response seems paranoiac. They probably just haven’t heard the horror stories that have occurred as a direct result of Internet access. It’s not just about children, so many who have been damaged for life, but about adults as well. The Internet or Internet-related activities are the reason for many family break-ups, for reasons that once did not apply to members of the Torah world.

All of a sudden, finding a better way to share the excitement of Torah to stave off intrusion from a very secular and enticing world has become secondary to dealing with the problem of the Internet. It’s like worrying about the ship’s entertainment program when the ship itself has sprung a major leak. All the community’s focus must first, by necessity, be on “plugging the hole.”

The community’s focus may not be on the central problem, but the focus of this week’s Perceptions will be.

To begin with, there may not be a nation-wide solution to the problem, at least until exile ends. Contrary to what it may seem like, we are a nation in exile. Even worse, the Shechinah is in exile, suffering every moment that a mosque squats on its rightful place, and its people are spread throughout the world.

When Pharaoh began to bathe in the blood of Jewish babies, we cried hard enough to end the exile. The problems facing the Jewish people are having a similar impact. It is helping us to realize that we need God to end this exile and solve our spiritual problems through redemption.

Until such time, it is still possible to discuss what it is that is missing from the Torah world to deal with the issue of making Torah come alive for disinterested Jews. It is still relevant to discuss the building of some kind of educational bridge between where we are now and where we ought to be. It is the first step towards actually building such a bridge.

Warning: This is a two-part discussion. It will start this week and finish next week, b”H, in time for Parashas Lech-Lecha. This is because it is not a topic that has become relevant only because of the challenges of modern society. It is because it has been and is the challenge in every society since man first walked the face of the earth, all that way back to the Garden of Eden.

Think about it for a moment. What did the snake offer Chava that tempted her away from God’s way to his way?

The snake said to the woman, “You will surely not die. For God knows that on the day that you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like angels, knowing good and evil.” (Bereishis 3:2-3)

This may cause many to yawn today and say, “That’s it? That’s the best you can offer? You want me to violate the will of God for only THAT?” This was not Chava’s reaction, though. On her very high spiritual level, smart phones and Internet would not have spoken to her. This did, as the Torah reports:

The woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to make one wise. (Bereishis 3:4-5)

Before proceeding, let us recall that Chava, and then Adam, passed up the the Tree of Life, a.k.a., Torah, to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Even though the Tree of Life promised immortality, and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil had a death sentence attached to it, they chose the latter. They risked everything for a “bite” of the Aitz HaDa’as.

The pull was that strong, that blinding, that intoxicating.

What went wrong?

It has to do with inverted realities. Adam and Chava were already living in Paradise. Yet, the snake, which is really the yetzer hara, was able to convince Chava that real Paradise was a bite away. They had the real Paradise, and yet they chose the fake one. How could that happen?

Ayekah—Aleph-Yud-Chof-Heh? Well, how could the Jewish people have a Temple and do that which caused its destruction? Eichah—Aleph-Yud- Chof-Heh?

The Ohr HaChaim provided an important insight that explains all of human history and its spiritually destructive nature. Simply, the fruit of the Tree of Life was the bark itself, something you could not know until eating it. The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was apparent, and attractive, just by looking at it.

This was not a coincidence. It was designed this way. God made the Tree of Knowledge look more attractive than the Tree of Life so that a person would choose it only after checking into it, not from a distance. He wanted, WANTS, a person to come to Torah because it is true, not because it is fun. God wants people to pursue Torah as part of a pursuit of the ultimate pleasure in life, not for a temporal thrill often associated with the pleasures of this world.

Anyone who has truly tasted the “bark” of Torah knows that it is more than worth it. Once “inside,” it is not difficult to stay there, even in a world as materially exciting as the one in which we live. Helping someone enter that level of Torah life is another story, one that Adam HaRishon apparently failed at. It is also one which the Torah world struggles with as more and more religious Jews leave the fold, in part or completely, for the excitement of secular life.

What can be done […]?

To be continued next week.

Some Recent Signs

November to bring 15 days of DARKNESS – 'shock NASA claims'
NEXT month the world will be plunged into darkness for more than two weeks, according to shock claims. (DailyStar)
Rumours are circulating online that American space agency NASA leaked news that between November 15 and 29, the Earth will be pitch black. According to website Dinos Mark, which reported on the far-fetched claims, the apocalyptic event will be caused by an “astronomical event between Venus and Jupiter”. It goes on: “According to the [NASA] report, Venus and Jupiter will engaged in a close parallelism, only being separated by one degree.” BLUE: The Sun will apparently heat up and turn completely blue

[me: we’ll have to wait and see about this prediction]

Focus your eyes on the image near the top center, the RED one with WINGS:


Walmart Hit by Meteor Starts FIRE:


29 October 2016


The Genesis of Israel’s Next Economic and Moral Transformation
By YOSEF I. ABRAMOWITZ JPost 10/27/2016

Next level growth and impact will come from harnessing Israel’s and the Jewish people’s values and scaling companies that can advance the dignity of life for the billions of people.

Israel’s miraculous transformation from an agricultural economy to an industrial and then digital one is poised for another inspired leap forward. The genesis of this impending economic metamorphosis is hidden amid the creation story and can reignite a Jewish sense of mission in the world.

Again we roll back the Torah scroll, and celebrate creation and the creation process. 

Turning back time, we find the blueprint for our future.

The drivers up until now for the Start- Up Nation have been the military, research universities, immigrants, culture of challenging authority, and the smallness of our domestic market that forces new businesses to think globally. Yet Judaism itself rarely gets credit or is tapped, even though it has existed for thousands of years before our Third Commonwealth and the Jewish people has always represented a unique, creative, and entrepreneurial spark.

Mark Twain’s summary in Harper’s of the Jewish people’s curious ability to achieve across a wide spectrum of fields came out 100 years before Waze and Iron Dome and 50 years before Israel’s Independence. The Jews’ “contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of [their] numbers,” wrote the celebrated author.

Just this week, the World Economic Forum released its annual survey of the planet’s most innovative nations and little Israel came in second. Last year, in a similar study on clean-tech, little Israel led the world. Israel once in a while scores a Nobel Prize, but every year Nobels are awarded to Jews – even if Bob Dylan is a no-show at the ceremony.

Imagine if Judaism and the global Jewish community could super-charge the Start-Up Nation – this is the new frontier. 

A Start-Up Nation with a purpose

With a boost from Judaism’s disruptive role in history and our appreciation for Genesis, the 4,000 start-ups in Israel can be seen as acts of creation, with a large number receiving angel funding from Jews around the world. Every Israeli and nearly every Jew knows the story of creation; it is our mythic angel round.

G–d, the single-actor entrepreneur in Genesis, makes things happen, with a series of simple and replicable verbs.

And only after G–d declares at each stage that “it is good,” that G–d taps a team for the most difficult and final act of creation: humanity. “Let us make Man in our image, (Genesis 1:27),” the Ultimate Entrepreneur announces to the team, largely attributed by commentators to be angels.

This process is repeated across the cafes and incubators all over Israel every day. A coffee shop culture of cooking up ideas in discussions, creating ideas out of nothing, creating companies out of seeing the world in a different way; of differentiating our ideas from existing ones; taking the risk and just doing it; and making it through the seed round.

And then, when the groundwork has been prepared to go global, you need to build a team, whose purpose is to replicate and scale (be fruitful and multiply) and conquer the global market.

There are more than a billion people without access to clean water, 2 billion without access to electricity or burning dirty and expensive diesel fuel, and about a billion people suffering from hunger insecurity.

The rabbis debate what is the most important Jewish teaching and there is a battle between the Golden Rule and in whose image we are all made. The Golden Rule loses. 

Note the majesty, and repetition, in Genesis 1:27: 

“And G–d created man in G–d’s image; in G–d’s image G–d created man; male and female G–d created them.”

Water, energy and food – these are the necessary building blocks for human life and therefore for affirming G–d’s image, and these three pillars of life grace this week’s Torah portion. G–d’s spirit hovers over the waters (1:2), light is created (1:3), and all manner of vegetation is provided for humanity to eat (1:29).

I propose that the next phase of Israel’s economic development be in the industries that advance and affirm G–d’s image. In doing so, Israel can become a superpower of goodness in the world.

I had the privilege to accompany Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not only on his historic visit to East Africa, but also recently to the United Nations, where we presented, along with a handful of other companies, what Israel can do to advance development in Africa.

It was enthralling to see Israeli companies produce miracles: pulling water out of thin air, advancing painless male circumcision as an anti-AIDS strategy, growing a garden in a box without soil, and taking the energy from the illumination in the sky from the fourth day of creation and enable it to power a nation, to power development.

Golda Meir said in 1975, “The truth is that we did what we did in Africa not because it was just a policy of enlightened self-interest, but because it was a continuation of our own most valued traditions and an expression of our own deepest historical instincts.”

The exits and IPOs of new Israeli companies will continue because the engines of innovation in Israeli society are strong. But next level growth and impact will come from harnessing Israel’s and the Jewish people’s values and scaling companies that can advance the dignity of life for the billions of people who are hungry, thirsty and seeking God’s renewable light to shine upon them from Zion.

Yosef I. Abramowitz is CEO of 
Energiya Global Capital. 
He can be followed @KaptainSunshine

28 October 2016

Recent Post of Meir Ettinger - ואשר חרב גאוותך

ואשר חרב גאוותך
כ"ה תשרי התשע"ז 27.10.2016 10:28

בעקבות כתבי האישום על החתונה - לצאת ממגננה ולהפנות אצבע מאשימה לאחראיים לרצח 
עשרות היהודים בשנה האחרונה • הבלוג של מאיר אטינגר
בעקבות כתבי האישום על הריקודים בחתונת משפ' אשבל נזכרתי בפסוק שקראנו בחג. העוז והגאווה היהודית הם שיסחפו את העם לחולל מהפכה אמיתית ושמחה.

השבוע התבשרנו ש'סוף סוף' הוגשו כתבי אישום על הריקודים בחתונה המפורסמת במדינה, זו יכולה להיות גם הזדמנות לסגור חשבון עם ההסתה התקשורתית והתמיכה בטרור הפוליטי של השב"כ, להיחלץ מעמדת המגננה שנדמה ונכנסנו אליה, ולהחזיר לדוכן הנאשמים את האשמים במותם של 37 היהודים שנרצחו בשנה האחרונה, מאז ראש השנה אשתקד. (בדיוק שבוע אחרי ששר הביטחון לשעבר הכריז על מיגור "הטרור" – היהודי, מתי יעשו מחקר האם יש קשר בין הדברים?).

כתב האישום הזה מציג בצורה הכי בוטה את עומק השנאה הכבושה והטירוף של אנשי ה"נאורות" כלפי כל יהדות שיוצאת מתחומי בית המדרש ופורצת את גבולות 'תחום המושב' שבו מותר לדת להתגורר.

כידוע, גם לפי החוקים המעוותים והנאלחים של מדינת ישראל אין כל הסתה בתפילה לכך שיישרף המסגד, כמו שגם אין הסתה בתפילה "לעשות בהם משפט כתוב – הדר הוא לכל חסידיו", או "וכל הזדים כרגע יאבדו" הנאמרות כל יום.

> הירשם עכשיו ותקבל את הכותרות החשובות למייל האישי! <

אבל כיאה לחוקי בשר ודם איש במדינת ישראל לא מכבד את החוק ובוודאי שלא נציגי הפרקליטות או התקשורת, כך שהחוק מתעצב כפלסטלינה בידיהם של "אנשי החוק", והכל כדי לטשטש את הזהות היהודית בכל דרך ובכל מחיר.

ממילא, אין מנוס מלהתייצב כנגדם "בגאווה ובוז" דקדושה, שהרי לא עניין של חוק יש כאן אלא מלחמת תרבות שמאיימת על המאוויים ועל התפילות שלנו, על עצם חיינו ועל נקודת יהדותנו.

ב. על גאוותם של ישראל

כשקוראים בתהלים פסוקים כמו "ישמח צדיק כי חזה נקם, פעמיו ירחץ בדם הרשע" או כמו הפסוק החותם את שירת האזינו "הרנינו גויים עמו כי דם עבדיו יקום", אפשר להרים גבה - האם זוהי שמחת הצדיק? האם בכך מתפארים עם ישראל בשמחת הנקמה? לכאורה, גם כאשר אנחנו נאלצים להחזיר מנה אחת אפיים לאויבינו זהו אילוץ ו"ההכרח לא יגונה", אך מדוע הפסוק עושה מזה שמחה ורננה?

השורש נ.ק.מ המופיע בשני הפסוקים הנ"ל קשור למילה תקומה ולזקיפת הקומה שבאה אחרי הנפילה או ההתפלשות בעפר. את תחושת השמחה בעת התקומה יוכל להבין רק מי שהרגיש בליבו את כאב הנפילה והריחוק.

מי שלא מאמין בבחירתו של עם ישראל או מי שלא מבין את גודל התפקיד של העם היהודי ושל המדינה היהודית, לא יבין את הכאב והבכי "על גאוותם של ישראל שניטלה מהם וניתנה לאומות העולם", את גודל תחושת ההשפלה כשהמדינה היהודית מתנהלת ככל הגויים ולעיתים גם למטה מזה, הוא בטח לא יבין את השאיפה והתביעה לזקיפת הקומה, בעיניו מדובר בחילול ה' לכל היותר.

דווקא מי שהלב היהודי שלו חי וער, שמאמין בכוחו של העם הזה להביא את השלום האמיתי לכל העולם, ירגיש את חילול ה' היום יומי בכל תנועה ותנועה של הממסד הכל כך זר. אדם כזה שבליבו בוער בכל רגע הדחף להחזיר את הכבוד היהודי, לזקוף את הקומה של ישראל. בכלל לא מוזרה לו אותה שמחת הצדיק המתוארת בפסוקי התהילים, שמחה על כל רגע של זקיפת קומה, על כל זיק של תקווה יהודית שמבשר שיש תקווה, ושאולי סוף סוף יחזור בן המלך מהשביה.

ומכאן נחזור קצת למעשה. כתב האישום הזה הוא חלק מהמאמץ הבלתי נלאה של אנשי הממסד למגר את ה"קיצוניים" האלו. משל למה הדבר דומה? לאדם שמנסה לעקור משדהו את כל ה"עשבים השוטים" ולא מצליח להבין כיצד הם צומחים בכל פעם מחדש.

ארץ ישראל מצמיחה כל הזמן מחדש את הגעגועים והכיסופים לתקומה כזו שתכסה ותנחם על חרפת הגלות, את השאיפה למדינה יהודית שתהיה כזו שנרגיש בה 'נקמה מתוקה' כזו שהיה שווה לשלם עליה את המחיר של שנות הגלות. גם כשמנסים לגדוע געגועים ושאיפות כאלו הם לא מפסיקים לצמוח.

מעשי הבריונות של הממסד יוכלו כדרכם של בריונים לכל היותר לגדוע לנו את הידיים והרגליים, אבל הלב לא יפסיק לפעום. ולכן גם את תחושת ההשפלה וחילול ה' ומצד שני את התקווה התפילה והשמחה לכל הארה של גאווה יהודית אי אפשר למחוק. ולא יועילו לזה חינוך מחדש, בריונות או טרור תקשורתי.

התקווה בת שנות אלפיים לחידוש עבודת המקדש – כן, כן, כן, במקום המבנה העומד שם כיום, היא לא תקווה שאפשר למחות אותה בין רגע בכתבי אישום ובליצנות תקשורתית, היא תקווה שהולכת ומעמיקה ובכל יום רק מתחדד הצורך במהפכה אמיתית שורשית תקיפה ואמיצה, שתהיה כמה שיותר בגאווה ובזקיפת קומה.

וגם בפועל ממש – ניתן לראות כיצד דווקא לאור הרדיפות, העינויים, המעצרים והטרור התקשורתי רק מעמיקה אצל היהודים הדרישה לזקיפת קומה, החום היהודי גובר והולך ואת האש הזאת גם מים רבים לא יכולים לכבות.

ב. כבוד ארץ ישראל

מכיוון שבהתחלה רציתי לכתוב בעניין עמונה, לנסות לחשוב מה אנחנו יכולים לעשות בתוך כל הפוליטיקה, וכל המעורבים בדבר, אז תכל'ס הסיפור של עמונה הוא בדיוק אותו סיפור.

בכל הפתרונות שהוצעו על ידי כל הנוגעים בדבר, בין אלו שכוונותיהם לטובה ובין אלו שהרבה פחות העיקר חסר מן הספר, כי העיקר הוא לא גורלם של המשפחות (עם על הכאב) ולא עתידה של הגבעה (שכידוע תישאר בידים יהודיות) אלא כבוד ארץ ישראל וכבוד העם, זה מה שהניע אלפים לעלות לעמונה בסוכות למרות שכולם לא מעיזים להגיד שמה שהם רוצים זה דווקא את התעוזה ואת העוז.

כל פיתרון או הסכם בין אם יעתיק את עמונה ובין אם עמונה תישאר על ההר, לא יכסה על הביזיון של עצם הדיון, הביזיון על חילול כבודה של הארץ כשנציגי העם ממרץ ועד הבית היהודי לא מסוגלים להגיד שזו ארצנו.

קשר יציב בין עם ישראל לארץ ישראל הוא קשר של אהבה, לכן הוא משול לקשר בין איש לאשה "כי יבעל בחור בתולה יבעלוך בנייך" (ישעיה סב) אהבה בוערת כרשפי אש שכאשר יש מי הקורא תיגר על קשר זה היא הופכת לרוח קנאה דקדושה.

בלי זה המאבק נתפס כמאבק אינטרסנטי שרק מפריע ומכביד על חיינו, ולאט לאט הציבור מתעייף מהמאבקים החוזרים ונשנים שאינם נושאים איתם בשורה של פריצת דרך והתקדמות. רק מאבק שיהפוך למאבק של התחדשות ובשורה יוכל – ובגדול – לסחוף אלפים ורבבות..

מאבק אמיתי על עמונה צריך להתמקד בהרמת דגל הגאווה היהודית בזכות שלנו על הארץ, בהקמת עוד לפחות שני מאחזים סביבות עמונה. ועוד יותר בהבנה שאחרי כל כך הרבה השפלות, גלות וגלותיות רק מדינה יהודית באמת שתזקוף את הקומה של ישראל תהיה פתרון אמיתי וסביר.

הדרך האמיתית לחולל מהפכה היא רק מתוך עזות דקדושה וגאווה, לא להתפשר ולדרוש הנהגה כזו שתשיב לנו את "גאון עוזנו" או כמו שקראנו בשמחת התורה בפסוק שחותם את דבריו של משה בספר משנה תורה "אשריך ישראל מי כמוך, עם נושע בה', ואשר חרב גאוותך".

27 October 2016

The Abarbanel on Parshas Bereishis

Parshas Bereishis
By Rabbi Dr. Meir Tamari



This Torah scholar, diplomat, financier, mystic and leader of his people, although living some 5 centuries ago, is particularly pertinent to the modern open society and global village in which we live, in a way that no other scholar seems to be. He is probably the last person to combine within his person 4 major and long existent Jewish traditions; philosopher, states-man, torah scholarship and cabbalist. His commentary on the Torah seems particularly suitable to those of us who earn our livelihoods, engage in business or professions and willy-nilly are confronted with the challenges of living globally, for the first time since his period, in free societies.

Faced with the challenges inherent in the cultural and religious free market of his time ­ 15th century Spain, his knowledge of Torah, philosophy, both Jewish and that of classical Greece and European Renaissance, and mystical sources, he presents a commentary suitable to us living in a similar assimilatory prone, open and spiritually free society. As a scion of traumatic Jewish expulsion, persecution and suffering, his ideas of galut, redemption and messianism are extremely relevant to our post holocaust generation.

Adopting a special Socratic style of detailed questions and answers, he produces a commentary on the Chumash and the Nach that is familiar and convenient for us trained as we are, knowingly or unknowingly, in Greek methods of thought and those of science and technology. Furthermore, he constantly refers to the classical commentators who preceded him- Rashi, Rambam, Ibn Ezrah, Ralbag and Ramban, but has a different perspective. 


He was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1437, into a family descended from King David that ranked in the forefront of the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula. They were distinguished by their financial, political and Jewish communal leadership achievements.

In addition they were known as a family that loved scholarship, and piety, and had strong moral convictions. All these as well as their commercial and financial strengths Don Yitzchak inherited. Then in 1483, with the ascension of the anti Semitic king Joao, he was forced to flee to Spain, where he re-established himself till the expulsion of Spanish Jewry in 1492. Ultimately he made his way to Italy, where he lived in Naples and Venice till his death in 1508.

In addition to his commentary on the whole Tanach, he wrote commentaries on Pirkei Avot and the Pesach Haggadah, and a trilogy, Mayanot Hayeshua, Mevaser Hayeshua and Yeshuat Messicho – his great work on Galut and Redemption.
Parshat Bereishit.

It is fascinating to find in this scholar, some 400 years before Darwin, a sort of Darwinism when he discusses the sequence of the creatures created during the 6 days of creation. He too points out the progression from the simple to the most complicated and developed form of life, but in contrast to the Darwinists, he sees this progression not as merely physical and determined by the survival of the fittest but primarily spiritual in nature and importance, decreed by Divine Will.

The inanimate things in G-d’s world are spiritually at the lowest level, having neither life nor ability to act on their own. Fishes and birds, the physically simplest and least developed species of the living world, are at a higher spiritual and religious level than the inanimate yet are spiritually the weakest of that world. Apart from anything else, they can only reproduce by means of the hatching of eggs, a mechanical and disinterested process. In contrast, in the mammals including Adam, the continuation of the species is through the actual body of the female, an indication of a certain nobility flowing from feelings, creativity and relationships.

An indication of the spirituality attached to this ability to reproduce a continuation of the species that is a replica of the species is shown by Abarbanel when he comments on the naming of Adam’s first born. 

The text makes it clear that the naming of Cain was done by Chava who said, ”kaniti” [from the root to acquire or to take possession] a man with the help of the Lord” (Bereishit, 4:1). 

She herself had been formed by G-d from Adam, however, she, together with the Lord, had created this son. Despite this, of all the other parts of Creation the text says, “let the Earth bring forth” whereas regarding Adam the Torah says, “And G-d said, 'Let us make Man’ or 'G-d created Man''”, thus demonstrating a closer and special relationship between him and Hashem, that is radically different qualitatively and spiritually from the rest of creation. Adam alone had elements of the heavenly beings and of divinity. 

So his creation was a special and constructive act rather than something mechanically called forth from the earth and this despite his being taken from the Adamah and his common source with the rest of the creation. Nevertheless, there is no special day set aside for his creation as befits one who is created in G-d’s image, otherwise Adam would have thought that he was a god. So Adam was created on the 6th day together with all the other animals and beasts, who like him, procreate their species. This is further strengthened by the text using the phrase 'kedmuteinu’ 'after our likeness’ but not in our likeness (Bereishit.I: 26).

However, in addition to his earthy source, Adam also had the intelligence, wisdom and understanding that, being of Divinity, is lacking in the other beings. Above all, Mankind alone has the free will to choose between good and evil that is the hallmark of the image of G-d.

The duality that Abarbanel speaks of does not mean the existence of two competitive natures, destined to struggle against each other, but rather a balance whereby the divinity gives Adam free will so that the earthy can be educated and refined; this is the distinguishing mark of Mankind. 

Abarbanel’s answer to 2 questions regarding the Generations of Heaven and Earth (Bereishit 2: 4), can serve as an example to his method of commentary as well as this concept of a balance between the earthy and the heavenly dualism in Mankind.

”And Adam became a '€˜nefesh chaya'” (Ber.2: 7). Abarbanel questions all of the commentators who see in the term; 'nefesh chaya’ a reference to some sublime characteristic of Man, whether having the power of speech (Onkelos), the soul as evidence of his spiritual nature (Ibn Ezra), the sum total of his intellectual-spiritual-rational nature (Guide to the Perplexed) or the superiority of the soul of Man over the soul of the animal who are also referred to as '€˜nefesh chaya’ (Rashi). 

In contrast Abarbanel sees this verse as expressing the common source that Man has with the animals, that guides him unless he is able to use his spiritual wisdom to guide his free choice. This idea is supported by the verse, “Man is glorious but if he does not understand, he is likened to the animals that perish” (Tehilim, 49:21), or “Because of the sons of Man that G-d may sift them that they may see that they are but as beasts” (Koheleth, 3:18). That is why Nefesh Chaya is followed by the creation of Gan Eden.

Abarbanel questions why the Torah tells us that there was no rain before Adam was created on the 6th day, so that there was no growth of plants ad trees, even though we were told that these were created on the 3rd day. He rejects Rashi’s comment that this is because before Adam there was nobody who could thank G-d for the rain. Surely the whole of creation including the trees, shrubs and flowers would have been thankful for the rain so that they could have grown without Adam? 

So he explains that then they could only flourish and grow by the virtue of the nature inherent in them; this would similarly apply to the animal nature of Man. However, Adam was created from the mixture of earth with the rain that came from heaven; a mixture that enables him and through him the rest of creation to grow and develop according to the Divine Will. 

Gan Eden was then created to emphasize for Adam that the penalty for transgressing that Divine Will was a return to the dust from which he was formed – a return to the non-growth that existed before that mixture of earthiness and spirituality from which Adam was created.


Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Torah.orgDr. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics (www.besr.org) in Jerusalem

Bereishit and Allegory – A Third Way Out of the Torah-Science Conflict?
[with commentary by the Abarbanel]

Is it possible that science and Torah do not conflict, for the simple reason that they do not discuss the same issues? Can we say that science addresses only the physical world, while Torah deals with the metaphysical?

[…] Prof. Zvi Mazeh, an astronomer at Tel Aviv University: “What the Torah did in the first chapter of Bereishit is take the cosmogony that was known to people at that time and, by adding its own elements, convey the message that God is one, responsible for the oppositions one finds in nature, and that all men were created equal. According to chapter one in Bereishit, humanity developed from one man, which means that everyone – from the king to the lowliest slave – is substantially the same. These two revolutions, the theological revolution and the social revolution, the Torah could not have written using Einstein’s equations, quantum theory or Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Instead, it wrote it using concepts that were known to every intelligent listener at that time. As a result the messages were absorbed. "

[To read more of this interesting article, go to Bereshit and Allegory

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

19 October 2016

At The Kotel 5777 for the Blessing of the Cohanim

I was at the Kotel today for the Blessing by the Cohanim and was it ever crowded! This is our statement to UNESCO about Har HaBayit and the Kotel, irreversibly belonging to Am Yisrael, Yaakov Avinu’s descendants.

The first photo is from ArutzSheva showing the immense crowd, and the rest are my feeble attempt to take photos while being crushed by the joyous Israelis (with backpacks and strollers too):