Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Overcoming Anger and Agitation during the Month of Tevet

B'erot stall at the Birthright Fair this week
The month of Tevet gives us the opportunity to deal with anger and transform its power to combat our yetzer hara (evil inclination). According to Sefer Yetzirah, the dominant sense of the month of Tevet is agitation, רוֹגֶז/rogez.[1] This implies that we may encounter challenges specifically with anger during this month. It is a nervous kind of anger as when we have a hard time maintaining the cool of our voice and actions. We may be prone to lose our temper, or we may be provoked specifically during this time. These challenges during the month of Tevet provide the opportunity for working on how to deal with and overcome our tendencies for agitation.

At first glance at Sefer Yetzirah, Tevet looks like a dark month where anger and agitation rule rampantly. Yet, the letter ע/ayin of Tevet, which means ‘eye,’ alludes to the change of perspective necessary for learning to view even that which agitates us to the extreme as a most welcome challenge for self-refinement.

The tribe of the month, Dan, means judgment. During Tevet we have the opportunity to revert negativity, judgment and idol-worship enacted by this tribe. Anger is compared to idol-worship because it has no place when we truly believe in Hashem. When we trust and accept whatever He sends our way, even the darkest negativity has a purpose to help us grow and improve our character. We can utilize the sparks of agitation which challenge us during Tevet as a springboard to uproot anger, and grow deeper roots of faith and trust in Hashem.

Read on to learn about the connection between the liver and anger both in Chinese Medicine and the Talmud, anger and control issues and how to combat the seven-headed snake energy of anger.

Overcome Anger during Tevet and Increase Righteousness in Shevat
The month of Tevet takes its name from “hatavah” – self-betterment and preparation for illumination. This process continues during the month of Shevat whose letter tzadik symbolizes righteousness. Together, the letters of these two months spell the word עֶץ/etz – tree, which we humans are compared to.[2] The work of these months enables us to become like the fruit-bearing tree described in the first Tehillim: “He shall be like a tree planted by streams of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, and whose leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does he shall succeed.[3] Thus, overcoming negativity during Tevet is completed by the increase of righteousness during Shevat.

The Connection between the Liver and Anger
According to the Arizal the months of Tevet and Shevat correspond to the two eyes.[4] In Traditional Chinese Medicine the eyes and the liver are related. Dry, red eyes and other eye conditions as well as irritability, and inappropriate anger are symptoms of liver imbalance.[5] Likewise, our sages teach us that: “The liver gets angry; the gall bladder injects in it a drop and calms it down.”[6]

The function of the liver is to purify the blood, and provide the body with fresh blood. In Kabbalah, the liver corresponds to the primordial snake. Its rectification is personified by Dan, whose flag had a picture of a snake. Rabbi Ginsburgh teaches that the three “rulers” of body and soul are the brain, the heart, and the liver,[7] which correspond to Adam, Eve, and the snake, respectively.[8]

Anger – the Snake Energy
When a person gets angry, he is taken over by a negative energy. The essence of anger derives from the primordial snake. The first word the primordial snake said was ‘אַף /af.’ This word can mean either ‘even,’ or ‘anger.’

וְהַנָּחָשׁ הָיָה עָרוּם מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה הָשֵׁם אֱלֹקִים וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל הָאִשָּׁה אַף כִּי אָמַר אֱלֹקִים לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּן
“The snake was more cunning than all the animals of the field that Hashem had made, and it said to the woman ‘אַף/af – even if G-d said that you cannot eat from the trees of the garden.’”[9]

The Zohar explains, “He said to the woman, אַף /af – even [anger].” The snake began with anger and brought anger into the world.”[10] Therefore, any time we get angry, we have lost it, meaning lost control over ourselves and allowed the external energy of the snake to take possession over us. This is one of the reasons why anger is compared to idol-worship, as the person who is angry is now serving his “snake-god” which is coming between him and Hashem.

Out of Control
When a person gets angry it creates a black cloud of soot, which can become stuck on top of the head, and completely block Hashem’s light. This is why sometimes anger causes headaches. When Hashem’s light is blocked negative forces can enter. When we get angry we therefore allow the negativity of hell to take control over us. We may lose control, scream, and say things we didn’t mean to say. It is no longer our own voice that speaks but the negative forces that took control over us. This is what it means that whoever gets angry is as if he worships idols, because he is becoming like a slave to the negative forces which are like idols.

Rabbi Shemuel bar Nachmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: He who gets angry all kinds of torments of gehenna (hell) controls him, for it is written, “Therefore remove anger from your heart, thus you will put away evil from your flesh.”[11] Now ‘evil’ can only mean gehenna, as it is written, “Hashem has made all things for himself, even the wicked for the day of evil.”[12] [This is understood to mean gehenna.] Moreover, he is made to suffer from hemorrhoids, as it is written, “But Hashem shall give you there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind.”[13] Now what causes failing eyes and a sorrowful mind? Hemorrhoids.[14]

I’m not sure how to explain the connection between hemorrhoids and anger. Possibly when a person is agitated the food he eats is not digested well, and therefore it may impair elimination, which could lead to hemorrhoids. On a spiritual level, perhaps we can say that there is a connection between the upper and lower opening of the body. When a person gets angry his mouth is out of control. Perhaps as a measure for measure his lower opening too becomes out of control and causes him to develop hemorrhoids.

Anger – the Control Issue
People may get angry when they feel that they are losing control. For example, the bus doesn’t stop for you. You have waited more than 20 minutes, and you are going to be really late to spend time with your children before their bed time etc. Finally the bus comes but it doesn’t stop at your bus stop, it drives right by you, ignoring your flapping hand trying to flag it down. What do you do? You are totally at loss, you have no control. Everything is from Hashem. We need to realize in those difficult moments that everything is from Hashem nothing is in my control; it is all in Hashem’s hands. It is appropriate to ask, “What midah (character trait) can I work on now? Which mitzvah can I fulfill? How does Hashem want me to move forward through this test?” Perhaps Hashem wants me to remain 20 minutes in this place, even if I don’t know why, this is Hashem’s will. It becomes so much easier to deal with anger when we understand that control is not in our hands, therefore we have nothing to be angry about. Specifically at this time during Tevet, we have the opportunity to work on the most refined points of removing anger totally. Whenever we get angry at someone, remember it is not that person who is doing whatever he is doing, its Hashem acting through that person, and ultimately its for our good, even if we don’t understand this yet.

Neutralizing Anger through Trans-rational Dedication (Bitul)[15]
Ya’acov’s struggle with Esav gives us a model for how to overcome the snake energy of anger embodied by Esav. After Ya’acov defeated the angel of Esav, he bowed down seven times to Esav. Why did Ya’acov bow down seven times to Esav? The seven powers of impurity which the primordial snake brought into the world were all gathered in Esav.[16] The name of Ya’acov’s father, ‘Yitzchak,’ has the numerical value of 208, which equals (8 x 26 yud-kay-vav-kay – the name of Hashem. Ya’acov’s name equals 182 or (7 x 26). When Yitzchak gave his blessings to Ya’acov, he bequeathed Ya’acov with seven of his yud-kay-vav-kays – seven forces of holiness. The last remaining 26 was given to Esav, whose name equals 376, which is 26 + 350. 350 equals seven x 50, the numerical value of the Hebrew word for טמא/tamé – impure. Each time Ya’acov bowed, he bestowed Esav with one of his forces of holiness, each of which neutralized one of his impure forces. After seven bows, all the impurity in Esav had been neutralized, and all that was left in Esav was one holy, Divine 26. Ya’acov thus succeeded not only in overpowering his brother, but in returning him to ‘goodness.’ In such a state, we feel love.

But how does bowing neutralize impurity? How does it cut off the seven heads of the snake? If we are confronted by an agitated person who has brought a spirit of impurity into his thoughts and speech, we need to help the person draw on his own internal holy sparks. We need to see the 26 inside of that person even as it is surrounded by the heads of the snake. Most important we must not allow his snake to elicit our snake. We can neutralize the negative by repeatedly use our loving 26s to serve the person. In this case putting up with the outrageous behavior and showing support is an expression of true love that helps beat the angry person’s seven headed snake and in this way nullify his anger.

The numerical value of the liver – כָּבֵד/kaved – the seat of anger is also 26. When a person gets agitated it arouses and activates the liver. However, the agitation itself includes its rectification. The spiritual energy of the liver is actually no other than yud-kay-vav-kay= Hashem. Even within the greatest impurity of anger is concealed the oneness of Hashem. When we respond with love while dealing with an angry person, we can neutralize his anger and activate his concealed yud- key-vav-key. Likewise when we give the benefit of the doubt and focus on Hashem while being provoked to anger, we have the greatest ability to overcome our ego and strengthen our connection with Hashem. In this way the fire of anger can be used to better the relationship. The tool for doing so is bitul, shrinking our ego for the moment and nurturing our fellow. That is the primary lesson from this story of Ya’acov’s bowing. There is no satisfying English equivalent of bitul. The closest is “gratuitous passionate trans-rational dedication.”[17]

Transforming Anger
The snake, in Kabbalah, represents the initial state of immaturity of the soul, as characterized by the un-rectified attribute of anger. The venom of the snake is hot like the fire of anger. When converted to good, the fire (and blood of the liver) serves to warm the cold month of Tevet. The sense of holy anger is the ability of the soul to arouse our good inclination to become angry at our evil inclination. This, our sages teach in their commentary on the verse: “Be angry and don’t sin. Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.”[18] How can we use and channel our anger in a positive way? In Chassidut we are taught that one must direct his left (“evil”) eye towards himself (with the holy anger of his innate good against his innate evil), to lower and subdue his ego, while simultaneously directing his right (“good”) eye towards outer reality (by which power he helps reality perfect itself). The character trait of anger is one of the worst emotions possible. Yet, when its energy is channeled towards becoming angry only at evil, it can turn us towards all the good as the name Tevet indicates. Anger, like any of G-d’s creations, can serve a good purpose. When a person is angry at us, we are tempted to respond with our dark side; however, we have a positive alternative. By freeing ourselves from negativity, by finding the strength to do what G-d wants us to do; we use the fire of the conflict to refine both our character and our relationships.

[1] Sefer Yetzirah 5:10.
[2] Devarim 20:19.
[3] Tehillim 1:3.
[4] Arizal, Sha’ar HaKavanot, Drushei Rosh Hashana, Drush 1.
[5] <>.
[6] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 61b.
[7] In Hebrew brain is מוח/moach, heart is לב/lev and liver is כבד/kaved, the acronym of which spells out the word מלך/melech which means king.
[8] .
[9] Bereishit 3:1.
[10] Zohar, Part 1, Page 35b.
[11] Kohelet 9:10.
[12] Mishlei 16:4.
[13] Devarim 28:65.
[14] Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 22a.
[15] This section is adapted from Dr. Yisrael Susskind, Vayiishlach: How to transform anger
Rockland Jewish Reporter, November, 2007, vol.17 (2), p. 2.
[16] Shem m’Shemuel, Parashat Vayislach.
[17] I love Dr. Susskind’s definition of the Hebrew expression bitul used often in Chassidism.
[18] Tehillim 4:5.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Soul Contemplations on a Snowy Day in the Month of Tevet

So it finally came, the rain, and in its wake the blessed snow. Perhaps not exactly a blessing, but I hope at least a blessing in beautiful, lacy, white disguise. I can’t believe that just a little more than a week ago we were almost swimming in the ocean, and sun tanning at the beach. Israel’s weather changes are so drastic, it felt like it was going to be summer forever – and then – winter hit us from behind.

Somehow the snow gives me the feeling that nothing can be taken for granted. I’m thankful I still have electricity, phone, and running water. The snow gives me the opportunity to thank Hashem for my cozy warm home, and for the fact that my husband is snowed in together with me, rather than being snowed out like last year when it snowed and he had to spend the night at work. When it snows in Gush Etzion all the roads are closed, the schools have off and the children excitedly roll snowballs and slide down the driveway. No one can go to work. Happy snow vacation!

Cleaning our Slate White as Snow
Although snow is rare in Israel, in my experience we get about one week of snow every two years, still שָּׁלֶג/sheleg – snow is mentioned 21 times in the Bible. The spiritual ailment of tzara’at, a skin lesion, is compared to snow due to its white color.[1] Yet, snow also represents purity and atonement from sin.[2] Looking out of the window, seeing the pure white color of snow embracing the trees, is an incentive to repent.
אִם יִהְיוּ חֲטָאֵיכֶם כַּשָּׁנִים כַּשֶּׁלֶג יַלְבִּינוּ אִם יַאְדִּימוּ כַתּוֹלָע כַּצֶּמֶר יִהְיוּ
“…though your sins be like שָׁנִי/shani – scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be white as wool”
(Yesha’yahu 1:18).

Even if you are full of sin compared to a reddish scarlet stain which doesn’t come off easily in the wash, Hashem promises to atone for our sins and make our slate white as snow.[3]

Read on to learn about Keeping our Inner Fire Going, Becoming Cold to Sin but Hot to Holiness, Entering the Snowy Palace of Love, and Mastering the Secret of Three embodied in the Hebrew word for snow!

Keeping the Inner Fire Going
Yet, snow also symbolizes the coldness of indifference and apathy, the opposite of warmth, enthusiasm and excitement. It states about our archenemy Amalek that he made Israel cold on the way.[4] The Rebbe of Lubawitz used to bless Jews to be “a warm yid.” The snow outside reminds me to keep my inner fire going, the fire for mitzvot, for my husband and children, for my life and the Torah. The Woman of Valor is called אֶשֶׁת חָיִל/Eishet Chail in Hebrew. This can also translate as “A Woman of Fire” from the word “אֶש/eish” meaning fire. The Eishet Chail is not afraid of a little snow, neither is her household as it states:

לֹא תִירָא לְבֵיתָהּ מִשָּׁלֶג כִּי כָל בֵּיתָהּ לָבֻשׁ שָׁנִים:
“She does not fear of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet.”[1]

Becoming Cold to Sin but Hot to Holiness
The Eishet Chail uses the fiery color of deep red שָׁנִי/shani scarlet to protect her household against the cold of snow. Perhaps we can say that the Eishet Chail has her own and her family’s fire in control. She channels the very same fire which usually causes people to sin, into fire and passion for Hashem’s mitzvoth. The Eishet Chail teaches us to be cold to sin, yet hot for holiness. This is what protects her family from the snow of Gehinum (hell). Besides the fire of hell, there is also the hell of coldness and snow. These two kinds of hells correspond to the two kinds of yetzer hara. Most sins derive from fire – ta’ava, passion, these sins are cleansed by the fire of Gehinum, yet, there is also the opposite kind of yetzer – coldness – indifference and complacence. Not caring, or being involved in what goes on around oneself. This is the cynical coldness of Amalek about whom it states: “אשר קרך בדרך” He cooled down Israel's holy fire and yearning for holiness and Torah that burned within our heart at the time of receiving the Torah.

One of the problems at our time is when a person is able to overcome his passion for sin, he sometimes forgets to remain hot for holiness. It might be even worse to turn off the fire for holiness which requires deed, initiative and warmth, like Torah learning, tefilah, yearning for the Temple and for Mashiach.[6] For a woman it is not enough to keep her own fire for holiness going, she is praised for ensuring that this fire keeps burning within the hearts of her entire household; teaching them the correct balance between warmth and cold. Her house refers to her personal home but also to the whole house of Israel, for every woman is a mother of all Israel as well.

Entering the Snowy Palace of Love
The Torah teaches us also about the counterpart to the Eishet Chail, the Ish Chail – Man of Valor:
וּבְנָיָהוּ בֶן יְהוֹיָדָע בֶּן אִישׁ חַיִ \{חַיִל\} רַב פְּעָלִים מִקַּבְצְאֵל הוּא הִכָּה אֵת שְׁנֵי אֲרִאֵל מוֹאָב וְהוּא יָרַד וְהִכָּה אֶת הָאֲרִיה \{הָאֲרִי\} בְּתוֹךְ הַבֹּאר בְּיוֹם הַשָּׁלֶג:
“Benayahu ben Yehoyada, the son of the valiant man of Kabtze’el who had done mighty deeds …descended and smote the lion in the midst of the pit on the day of the snow” (II Shemuel 23:20).

Benayahu was on the level of such great enthusiasm, that even in the “day of snow” when coldness has dominion, he was able to overcome and smite the “lion,” which refers to the palace of love. Benayahu opened the palace of love and influenced loving flames of excitement to all of Israel.[7]  The heavy layer of snow outside reminds me of my heart-wall inside, which doesn’t allow the light from Above to illuminate my heart with love and enthusiasm. I need great chizuk (strengthening) to arouse my inherent love to be stirred up into a dazzling glow.

The Purity and Discipline of Torah on “the Day of Snow”
The Talmud explains the symbolic meaning of the “day of the snow.” “There are those that say that Benayahu broke an opening in the ice and descended into it to immerse.”[8] Rashi adds that he descended into the hole in the ice to immerse and purify himself in order to be able to study Torah that could only be learned in a state of purity. There are those that say that he learned the Sifra of the House of Rav on a winter’s day. In other words, on a single winter day (when the days are short) he completed the entire book that would later be called the Sifra.[9] The Sifra is the midrash-halachah commentary on the Vayikra. Both Vayikra and the Sifra contain an enormous amount of halachic data, most of it on the Temple sacrifices and laws of purity, which require a tremendous amount of discipline, concentration and knowledge to master. Therefore, “the day of the snow” refers to a very deep level of Torah-study that requires an extraordinary amount of self-discipline and knowledge.[10]

Mastering the Secret of Three
There is more to “the day of the snow” than a mere natural phenomenon or a symbolic expression describing extraordinary depth and breadth of Torah. The Hebrew word for “snow,” is שָּׁלֶג/sheleg. This word consists of three letters: shin, lamed and gimel. The numerical value of gimel is 3, of lamed is 30, and of shin is 300. Thus, all its letters are exponents of the number 3.[11] The number “three” in Hebrew is שלוש/shalosh, related to the word שלשלת/shalshelet, which means chain, and continuation. What is the connection between snow and the chain of continuation? Perhaps we can say that we attain continuation through getting a new white purified start in life. The Hebrew words for fire and snow share the letter shin, perhaps because the coldness of snow illicit our inner fire of passion for holiness. Indeed Maharal explains that the number three is always elevated because it represents the middle between two extremes.[12] The snow teaches us the proper balance between heat and cold. By learning to become cold to sin but hot to holiness, we can master the secret of “three,” embodied by the Hebrew word for snow. The two last letters of the word שָּׁלֶג/sheleg are lamed and gimel, which can be read as גל/gal – roll or reveal. As the children roll snow balls perhaps we can uncover the heavy layer of snow, ignite the inner flame of our lives and reveal the secret of “the day of snow”!

[1] Shemot 4:6; Bamidbar 12:10; II Melachim 5:27.
[2] Yesha’yahu 1:18; Tehillim 51:9.
[3] Metzudat David, ad loc.
[4] Devarim 15:18.
[5] Mishlei 31:21.
[6] Based on Rav Tzaddok, HaCohen of Lublin, P’ri Tzaddik, Parashat Chayei Sarah 1.
[7] Shem M’Shemuel, Parashat Tazria, Shabbat Rosh Chodesh 1871.
[8] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 18a-b.
[9] The Sifra is an ancient text from Talmudic times, written by Tannaim (150- 200 C.E.) It is possible that the Sifra is even from the time of King David in whose time Benayahu ben Yehoyada lived.
[10] Shabtai Teicher z”l, Zohar Sabba D’Mishpatim, The Old Man in the Sea Part1, Appendix 10:5.
[11] Ibid. 10:6.
[12] Maharal, Chidushei Aggadot, Part 4, p. 130, Tractate Bechorot.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Strengthening our Walls and Personal Boundaries

Student trip to Jerusalem- at the Kotel
The Tenth day of the Tenth Month (Tevet) is a fast day, in commemoration of the siege of Jerusalem, the beginning of the destruction of the Temple, but how is this day relevant to us today? It is a day devoted to safeguarding the walls of our identity, repairing its breaches, and making sure its gates are functioning properly – to protect our personal boundaries while filtering and allowing in only what promotes our growth on all levels. Through our personal gates we can also project our energy to the environment – our love and light to everyone crossing our path.

On this date – in the year 425 BCE – the armies of the Babylonian emperor, Nebuchadnezzar, laid siege to the city of Jerusalem. This was the first of a series of events leading to the destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile of the Jewish people from the Land of Israel. Thirty months later, on the ninth of Tammuz, the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and on the ninth of Av of that year, the Holy Temple was destroyed. The Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia for seventy years. Every year, we observe the Tenth of Tevet as a day of fasting and repentance – wherein we mourn the tragic events of the day, contemplate their deeper causes in our own souls and deeds, and work to correct them.

Read on to learn about the special numerical value of the four fast days for the Temple, and its connection to the organ of the month. You will also learn about the balance between your personal walls and boundaries and their opening gates...

The Four Fasts and the Name of Hashem
There are four fast-days that commemorate the destruction of the Temple: The 17th of Tamuz (in the fourth month), the 9th of Av (in the fifth month), the 3rd of Tishrei (in the seventh month), and the 10th of Tevet (in the Tenth month). When our Temple will be rebuilt B”H! each of these days of mourning and fasting will become holidays of celebration and joy:

כֹּה אָמַר הָשַׁם צְבָאוֹת צוֹם הָרְבִיעִי וְצוֹם הַחֲמִישִׁי וְצוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וְצוֹם הָעֲשִׂירִי יִהְיֶה לְבֵית יְהוּדָה לְשָׂשׂוֹן וּלְשִׂמְחָה וּלְמֹעֲדִים טוֹבִים וְהָאֱמֶת וְהַשָּׁלוֹם אֱהָבוּ
“The fast of the fourth [month], and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth shall [in the future] be for the House of Yehuda for joy and happiness and holidays, therefore love the truth and peace.”[1]

All of these special days have the potential to draw down Divine grace from the ultimate source of mercy, G-d’s Name Havayah. The epitome of this process is on the Tenth of Tevet. When we add up the numbers of the months in which these fast days occur we get the numerical value of Hashem (Havayah) (4+5+7+10=26) – The special name which represents kindness, mercy and miracles. On these fast days and especially on the Tenth of Tevet there is an opening to pull down spiritual emanations from Hashem’s holy name and connect with the light of the Temple. We then have the opportunity to connect with this light and build the eternal Temple in our heart. With this soul work we can even manifest the desires of our heart in our physical reality.[2]

Sweetening the Liver
It is interesting to note that the numerical value of the Hebrew word for liver – כָּבֵד/kaved, the organ of the month of Tevet, also adds up to 26 (20+2+4). Havayah. By fasting over the destruction we can access the energy of the special name of Hashem and rectify our liver – the seat of both lusts and anger.[3] By mindfully fasting on the Tenth of Tevet, and curbing our selfish desires and anger, we have the ability to “sweeten” Hashem’s anger at Israel, which caused the destruction of the Temple. Thus our fast and repentance arouses Hashem’s mercy to rebuild our lost Temple.

Liberating the Siege
Without detracting in any way from the need to mourn and rectify the negativity of the events of the Tenth of Tevet, we must also seek the positive aspect of the siege. Although coming under siege is a horrible victimizing experience, with famine, plague and bloodshed, beneath all that negativity, however, lies the liberating and empowering realization: We’re in this together! Despite our differences, despite the animosities and quarrels that drive us apart, we share a common fate, a common identity, a common goal. Being under siege brings to light a truth that was always there but which we had been prevented from seeing – the truth that we are all one. Let us hold on to this truth and possess it, without its negative trappings. Let us rid ourselves of the negativity of the Tenth of Tevet and retain only its positive core.

Walls with Gates
Being under siege is being walled in. Walls enclose, insulate, isolate. Walls cut you off from the world. But a broken wall signifies danger. If it’s holding back a river, water will come pouring in. If the wall is securing a border, enemies may infiltrate its breaches. A broken wall means vulnerability, exposure, loss of identity. What, then, is it that we need? We need walls with gates in them. We need strong walls, with gates that open and close. We need gates that are open during the day and closed at night. We need gates that open to allow people to pass in and out to exchange ideas and energy; gates that also close, to safeguard the our personal boundaries and keep out harmful and destructive forces. How good it is if your city, your community, your family, you own body and your own soul, have strong walls with properly functioning gates, so that you are secure in your own identity, protective of what is best and most precious in yourself, and open to the world to give and receive, learn and teach.

The Importance of Beginnings
The tenth always denotes holiness. The Tenth day of the Tenth month would even supersede Shabbat if it would have been possible for it to fall on Shabbat. We learn this from the words of the prophet:

בֶּן אָדָם כְּתָוב \{כְּתָב\} לְךָ אֶת שֵׁם הַיּוֹם אֶת עֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה סָמַךְ מֶלֶךְ בָּבֶל אֶל יְרוּשָׁלִַם בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה
“Son of man, write for you the name of the day, even of this selfsame day; this selfsame day the king of Babylon had invested Jerusalem.”[4]

The phrase בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה/b’etzem hayom haze is the same expression used in describing Yom Kippur which overrides Shabbat.[5] What is the importance of the Tenth of Tevet that it would override Shabbat? The beginning always sets the tone. The reason we fast on the ninth of Av rather than the tenth when most of the Temple burned down is because we mourn mainly over the beginning of a calamity.[6] This principle teaches us the seriousness of the fast of the Tenth of Tevet, since that day was the very beginning, when the king of Babylon laid a siege on Yerushalayim prior to its destruction.[7] This year we will be fasting on the day that leads to Shabbat – on the Eve on Shabbat – Friday. As we fast and mourn while preparing for Shabbat, let us keep in mind that just as our fast day is a gateway leading towards the holy Shabbat – a glimpse of the world to come, so will the mourning for the Temple, and the selfishness leading to its destruction, lead to its rebuilding, and bring about the renewed reality which will be completely infused with the holiness of Shabbat.[8]

[1] Zechariah 8:19.
[2] This paragraph is based on Rav Ginsburgh, Gal Enai,.
[3] The liver gets angry, the gall bladder injects in it a drop and calms it down (Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 61b).
[4] Yechezkiel 24:2.
[5] Vayikra 23:29.
[6] Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 29a.

[7] B’nei Yissaschar, Article for Kislev and Tevet 14. 
[8] Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 97a.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tevet: Rectifying the Sense of Agitation

The month of Tevet is about taking the light of Kislev and bringing it into the very lowest most physical place of our being. The shape of the letter ע/ayin points toward this concept, for it is a letter that has a strong base below the line. The ayin is leaning backward while simultaneously directed forward. It is as if the upper right of the ע/ayin receives from the past (Kislev), whereas it extends its leg into the opposite direction of the future (Tevet).

The cold winds of Tevet makes me want to retreat inward – inside of my cozy home, and focus more on doing inner work, fixing my midot – character, and making good judgments for the direction of my life. The organ associated with the month of Tevet is the liver, which is known to control the lowest most physical part of our being including digestion and sexuality. The light of Chanukah extended into the cold month of Tevet gives us the opportunity to enlighten even those dark places. At this time of winter, when we feel like eating and sleeping more, we have the ability to transform our bodily enjoyments into holiness. The character trait of anger is one of the worst emotions possible.

Yet, when its energy is channeled towards becoming angry at evil only, it can turn us towards all the good, as the name Tevet indicates, for טבת/Tevet derives from the Hebrew word טוב/tov – good. Becoming good and doing good in the world is only possible through developing a good eye in Hebrew – עין/ayin – the letter of this month. The letter ayin which has the numerical value of seventy also represents the ability to convey the Torah into the seventy languages. Translating the Torah from the holy Hebrew language, moreover, represents infusing the dark places of the languages of the Nations with the light of Chanukah. According to how much we expel evil through rectified anger, can we transform the darkest places to the holiest light.

How do we know the difference between good and bad judgment? What do we allow to influence us? What do we allow to blur our vision? What do we use to clear our eyes, our hearts, and our minds to turn back to the right path? These are the questions we are called to answer during the month of Tevet, associated with the Tribe of Dan.

Read on to learn more about the spiritual attributes of this month, and how the weekly Torah portions fit in to the themes of the month...

The Spiritual Attributes of Tevet
המליך אות ע’ ברוגז וקשר לו כתר וצרפן זה בזה וצר בהם גדי בעולם, וטבת בשנה, ווכבד בנפש זכר ונקבה
“He made the letter ayin king over agitation, and He tied a crown to it and He combined one with another and with them He formed Capricorn in the Universe and Tevet in the year, and the liver in the soul male and female.”[1]

Illuminating the Dark Month of Tevet
Rosh Chodesh is always the nuclear or the seed of the entire month. For the whole month is dependent on its head. Whatever takes place on Rosh Chodesh is connected to and influencing the entire month. Therefore, since Rosh Chodesh Tevet takes place during Chanukah, the light of Chanukah gets dispersed into the entire month of Tevet. It is possible that the thirty-six candles that we light during holiday of Chanukah enlighten the thirty-six days from the beginning of Chanukah until the end of the month of Tevet.

The three months of Tevet, Tamuz and Av are said to be months under evil influence.[2] After Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge, the light of day started becoming shorter and the nights grew longer. Adam then feared he had brought darkness into the world. When he noticed the days stopped getting shorter, Adam rejoiced and feasted for eight days. Since this happened during Tevet – Esav’s month, Adam’s feast was taken over by Brother Esav – Edom’s top man, the Pope in Rome.

The word טבת/Tevet is also from the languages of preparing הטבת/hatavat the candles. Since the days of Tevet are hidden, therefore Hashem preceeded the healing to the wound,[3] by means of the candles we illuminate these days of darkness.[4] It is good to keep in mind when we gaze at the Chanukah candles during the last days of Chanukah that this light will infuse the entire month of Tevet.

When we extend the meaning of the word הטבה/hatava, it means not only ‘making good’ or ‘preparing of the wicks’ of the candles, but it also refers to self-betterment and preparation for illumination. This process continues during the month of Shevat whose letter is tzadik, which also means righteous.

The Weekly Torah Portions During Tevet
Parashat Vayigash – the first parasha we read during the month of Tevet – unites our inner flame ignited from the Chanukah experience with the exterior material including the darkest exile of Egypt. Parashat Vayigash is, moreover, about the unification between Yosef’s and his brothers. The power of Yosef, the righteous, corresponds on the side of Holiness to the power of Esav, and through the power of Yosef we can overcome the evil power of Esav.[5] Yosef “sent his brothers away, and they departed: and he said to them, do not become agitated on the way.”[6] With these words Yosef cautioned his brothers not to get angry at one another on account of selling him into slavery.[7] Thus, in this parasha inner feelings are revealed and expressed in a highly emotional charged way. This fits in with the character of the month רוגז/rogez – agitation.

In the second parasha read during Tevet, Parashat Vayechi, we learn that Yosef didn’t get angry at his brothers for having sold him even after their father had passed away.

Parashat Shemot, about the slavery in Egypt, highlights how Moshe scolded two Jewish men who were fighting. “When he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together, and he said to him that was in the wrong, ‘Why do you smite your fellow?’”[8]

Parashat Va’era is about the first seven plagues of anger, where Hashem judged Pharaoh and Egypt. “But Pharaoh shall not hearken to you, that I may lay my hand upon Mitzrayim, and bring out my armies, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.”[9]

Parashat Shemot and Va’era are the first two parshiot of the series called Shovevim tat,[10] during which the righteous fast every Monday and Thursday. This time is especially suited for correcting sins connected with sexuality and the holy covenant which Yosef kept so meticulously despite strong temptations.

The Growing up of the Constellation of Capricorn (Mountain Goat)
The constellation of this month – the גדי/Gedi – Capricorn is also connected with the word אגד/egged which means to bind. Tevet is binding the light of Chanukah into the whole year. Each of the nations also have a corresponding constellation, the Capricorn is the constellation of the Philistine nation.[11] For this reason Shimshon from the tribe of Dan gave his Philistine wife a goat as a gift. He wanted to purify the evil influence of the Philisite at the root. The power of stern judgment within the Philistines is indicated in the numerical value of their name, פלישתים/Pelishtim, 860, which is ten times the Divine Name Elokim (86), the name that denotes judgment. Corresponding to this stands the tribe of Dan, with Shimshon at its head, who wanted to put an end to their evil influence. Perhaps the problems that Israel has currently with the ‘Palestinians’ are a carryover of the previous problems with the Philistines. (It is interesting to note that the PLO was founded during the month of Tevet).

The constellation of the month of Tevet, Capricorn or mountain goat, relates to the growing-up process, from a state of immaturity to a state of maturity. At the age of ten (an allusion to the tenth month, the level of ten in general) a child jumps like a goat.[12] The playful nature of jumping up and down like a goat reflects an important stage in the growing-up process. The mountain goat has the ability to climb even in extremely difficult terrain; likewise does the month of Tevet stir us to learn how to hang on during difficult times. The numerical value of Capricorn – גדי/Gedi = 17 = טוב/tov
‘good’ One must play (and jump up and down like a goat) in order to rectify and sweeten the anger latent in one’s animal soul.

Letter עין/ayin – Developing a Goodly Eye
The letter עין/ayin associated with the month of Tevet means ‘eye.’ Therefore, the month of Tevet is the month of the rectification and nullification of the evil eye.

This rectification begins with gazing at the Chanukah candles, especially when they are complete on the eighth day. The word Tevet itself comes from tov, "good," referring to עין טובה/ayin tovah – the goodly eye (the source of the power of blessing, as it is said: “the goodly eye shall bless”). “Whoever has a good eye shall be blessed, for he gave from his bread to the poor.”[13]All destructive process begins with the “evil eye” of hatred. From hatred comes anger, the fire of destruction. Therefore, this month is the time to work on overcoming jealousy and evil eye, and work on looking at others with good eyes of love and blessings.

The Tribe of Dan – Turning the Snake of Evil to Good
The tribe of the month, דָּן/Dan, the son of Ya’acov and Rachel, through her maidservant Bilhah, symbolizes the power of severe Judgment (din). Both in the desert encampments, and in his allotment in the Land of Israel, the tribe of Dan was in the north from whence issue darkness and judgment.[14] The north is also associated with the amassing of material wealth.[15] The name Dan embodies the teshuva process that Rachel went through overcoming her jealousy of Leah, mother of many children. When Rachel named Bilhah’s first son Dan, she exclaimed “G-d has judged me, and also listened to my voice.”[16] G-d has judged me – and found me guilty, He judged me again and found me guiltless.[17] First she was found guilty by Hashem and also by herself. Then she rectified herself and was judged favorable by G-d. The tribe of Dan represents the initial state of immaturity in the soul that “grows-up” during the month of Tevet. Initially, Dan judges reality and others critically, with severe judgment (the “evil eye”). This is the nature of one who is spiritually immature. Dan is likened to a snake, who bites with the venom of anger. The “evil eye” is the eye of the snake. The rectification of Dan is his engaging in the battle of holy anger against evil anger. Our sages teach us that only one from the soul-root of Dan can spontaneously jump up and kill the evil snake –“one like him, killed him.” The numerical value of נחש/Nachash – snake = 358 = משיח/Mashiach. In the Zohar we are taught that the commander-in-chief of the army of Mashiach will come from the tribe of Dan.[18]

The Tribe of Dan – Elevating Judgment
How do we know the choices and judgments we make are the right ones and where do we cross the line between right and wrong? There is a fine line between carving golden calves, (one of which was place in the territory of Dan) and crafting vessels for the Jewish Temple including the golden cherubs. What makes the former the gravest sin and the latter the greatest mitzvah? The difference is very simple, the former is forbidden by G-d, whereas the latter is a mitzvah from G-d. The tribe of Dan was repeatedly chosen to fashion holy vessels for the Mikdash,[19] to teach us that trough the power of judgment, which he represents, we can learn to draw the fine line of judgment between the forbidden and the commanded. Rather than being tempted by the evil eye towards anger, we need to see with clear and good eyes accessible for us during the month of Tevet.

In Tevet, Dan challenges us to look at the decisions we make for ourselves that impact both ourselves and others. If we are angry is it because we are immature and don’t really understand, or are we growing to learn to battle “evil anger”? Are we mature enough to know the difference between them?

[1] Sefer Yetzirah 5:10.
[2] Zohar part 2, p. 12a.
[3] Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 13b.
[4] Sfat Emet on Chanukah, Year 5650, 1890.
[5] Ovadia 1:18.
[6] Bereishit 45:24.
[7] Ibn Ezra, ad loc.
[8] Shemot 2:13.
[9] Shemot 7:4
[10] The name Shovevim Tat is constructed from the initials of the following Torah portions:
Shemot, Va’era, Bo, B’shalach, Yitro, Mispatim, Terumah, Tetzaveh.
[11] Rabbeinu Bachaya, Devarim 31:16.
[12] Midrash Rabbah, Kohelet 1:3.
[13] Mishlei 22:9.
[14] Yirmeyahu 1:14.
[15] Yalkut Shimoni, Mislei part 3:534, Zohar part 2, 26b.
[16] Bereishit 30:6.
[17] Rashi ad loc.
[18] Rav Yitzchak Ginsburg, Gal Einai .
[19] See Shemot 31:6-11 And I, behold, I have appointed with him Oholiav, the son of Achisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the ark- cover that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the Tent… and the anointing oil, and the incense of sweet spices for the holy place; according to all that I have commanded you shall they do. See also Divrei HaYamim II 2:12-13, 4:11-22 where Chirum from the tribe of Dan is appointed craftsman of King Shlomo’s Temple.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Secret of the Dreidel, the Four Kingdoms and the Dimensions of the Human Psyche

Playing the dreidel (top) on Chanukah is much more than a children’s game, but where does the minhag (custom) come from, and what does this game have to do with Chanukah? Here is one answer: During the Greek exile when Torah study was outlawed, the Jews would gather in caves to study. When Greek soldiers came, they would spin the dreidle, making believe they were gambling rather than learning.[1]

It is interesting to note that both the Chanukah and Purim customs revolve around a spinning toy. On Chanukah, we play with a dreidel, while on Purim we spin the noisemaking ra’ashan or grogger. While the dreidel is spun from above, we turn the grogger from below. The reason for the different directions of spinning during Chanukah versus Purim is that on Purim G-d saved us “from below” – disguised within Nature, while on Chanukah He saved us “from above” – through the miracles of the victory of a small group of Torah scholars, unskilled in war over the mightiest army, and through the miracle of the jug of oil that burned for eight days. While Purim is about hidden miracles within nature, Chanukah celebrates our connection with Hashem which transcends nature.[2]

The four-sided dreidle has multilayered significance, on each of the sides is a Hebrew letter. Traditionally the letters on the dreidle are: nun, gimel, heh, shin the acronym of נס גדול היה שם/nes gadol haya sham – a great miracle was there. In modern day Israel, this sentence has become “a great miracle was here” by exchanging the shin with the letter pei standing for פא/po – here. Little do most people know that there are deeper reasons for the original letters on the dreidel, which add up to the numerical value of 358 = Mashiach! When you read on you will learn how these letters also correspond to the four animals in Daniel’s dream, the four kingdoms and the four dimensions of our psyche.

The Four Kingdoms of Ya’acov’s Dream
There are four archetypical kingdoms who have exiled the Jewish people from the time of the destruction of the Temple until today. These kingdoms are particularly four, as they reflect the world of separation to the four extremities. The four kingdoms arise through the power of the klipot (spiritual shell) against Israel and desire to prevent Hashem’s oneness and unity from being revealed to the entire world. Because Israel is one nation who is cleaving to the unity of G-d, these kingdoms desire to nullify Israel.[3] Before the formation of Israel, Ya’acov dreamed about the protecting angels of these kingdoms in his well-known ladder dream. Hashem showed him the angel of Babylon ascend the ladder seventy rungs, and descend. The angel of the Empire of Persia and Media then climbed up the ladder fifty-two rungs, followed by the angel of the of Greece, who climbed hundred and eighty rungs. Finally, the protecting angel of the Roman Empire climbed up the ladder, without coming down. At that moment Ya’acov feared that this final exile would never end, until Hashem promised him, Don’t fear Israel, even if you see him dwell with me, from there I will bring him down…[4] We are still in that final exile, in the softly smothering embrace of Rome’s spiritual heirs.

The Four Dimensions of our Psyche
The four Global Kingdoms represent the four dimensions of the human psyche: Ego, bodily desires, intellect and a negative destructive drives. Nefesh, meaning “self” or “identity,” reflects the human ego. Guf – body, represents the bodily desires. Sechel, which means reason, corresponds to the intellect. Finally, Hakol, meaning everything, symbolizes the evil force, which covers itself in anything to reach its ugly destructive goal. Beyond these four, is our ‘higher’ or ‘inner self’ – the spark of G-d within us that reflects Hashem’s goodness and drives us to seek truth and idealism. Through awareness of our Divine essence within, we can utilize our ego, physical desires and intellect for spiritual growth. We can even channel our impulse to destroy to eradicate the evil. However, it can be dangerous if any of these four elements are detached from our higher divine self. A self-serving ego can drive us to destroy all who stand in our way. Our bodily urges and temptations can plunge us into the abyss. Our power of reason may rationalize any type of behavior and breach moral boundaries. Finally, our evil impulse can cause suffering and devastation to innocent human beings.[5]

The Four Kingdoms Come to Destroy the Four Parts of our Being
Each of the four kingdoms tried to nullify Israel in their way. They attempted to detach one of the four aspects of our being from our higher Divine selves. Babylon strove to destroy our nefesh – the connection between body and soul. The Babylonian Kingdom was the first to nullify the worship in the Temple – the sacrifices (mainly including the blood which is the nefesh).[6] The sacrifices are the rectification of the nefesh as it states, וְנֶפֶשׁ כִּי תַקְרִיב.../v’nefesh ki takriv – “a nefesh which will bring an offering…”[7] The Babylonians destroyed the first Temple – our unique pipeline to Hashem. The destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, therefore, severed the connection between the cosmic soul – Hashem, and the cosmic body – the world. The letter nun in the dreidel stands for נפש/nefesh – the vital soul, which represents the kingdom of Babylon who desired to dominate and rule. This corresponds to the ‘Lion’ in Daniel’s dream[8] – the king of the animals.

The exile of Persia and Media represents the threat to the guf – the body of the Jewish People, the physical threat of annihilation. Haman wanted a final solution of the Jewish problem. Therefore, Persia decreed “to destroy, to kill and to annihilate.”[9] The letter gimel in the dreidel stands for גוף/guf – the body, which represents the kingdom of Persia and Media. This corresponds to the ‘Bear’ in Daniel’s dream[10] – as the Persians are compared to the bear in their indulgence in materialistic pleasure – “Persians eat and drink like a bear.”[11]

The exile of Greece worshiped the human mind and beauty. With their exterior philosophical wisdom they desired to destroy the spiritual core of Judaism – the Torah. They weren’t interested in the physical destruction of the Jewish People; rather they wanted to contaminate our sechel – intellect. The letter shin in the dreidel stands for שכל/sechel – the intellect, which represents the Greek kingdom. This corresponds to the ‘Leopard’ in Daniel’s dream[12] – known for its beauty.

The fourth kingdom is worse than any other kingdom on earth because it includes all their powers and connects them. It is opposed to body, nefesh and intellect. In the beginning the Romans, like the Babylonians, stopped the sacrifices in the Temple – the aspect of the nefesh. Then, they destroyed the second Holy Temple and inflicted unthinkable bloodshed on the guf – the body of Jewish People. Afterwards they opposed us through their opposition of the Torah with the exterior wisdom of their sechel – intellect. The letter heh in the dreidel stands for הכל/hakol – all, which represents the Roman kingdom which includes the aspects of all the exiles. This corresponds to the ‘multi-horned animal’ in Daniel’s dream – “which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots; and in the [fourth] horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.”[13]

Goshna – The Meeting Point of Yehuda & Yosef
The mission of Israel is to unify all the four aspect of the human psyche to the Divine. Therefore, the kingdom of Israel stems from Yehuda, whose name includes the letters of Hashem’s name with the addition of the letter dalet. Hence, Israel has the power to reveal the unity of Hashem in the entire world. This unification is enacted by unifying the separation of the world from Hashem caused by the kingdoms that dwell in the four extremities of the earth.[14] For this reason Ya’acov “sent Yehuda before him to Yosef, to show the way before him גשנה/to Goshen.”[15] Immediately at the beginning of our exile to Egypt – the root of the four exiles, “he sent Yehuda before himself to Yosef” – to bring the two Mashiach’s together,[16] specifically in Goshen because this place correspond to the four kingdoms, which Mashiach will overcome. The word גשנה/to Goshen consists of the four letters of the dreidle that correspond to the four kingdoms that are opposed to the four aspects of our psyche: Gufani (Bodily), Sichli (Intellectual), Nafshi (Soul), Hakol (All). משיח/Mashiach who shares the gematria (numerical value) of גשנה/Goshna  – 358 will completely nullify all of them. Thereby, he will accomplish eradicating the impurity of the נחש/snake that also shares the gematria of 358. Only by nullifying the power of the primordial snake, from which the four kingdoms draw their power, can the complete unification of “Hashem is one and His name is one” take place.[17]

The Secret Unification of the Wooden Dreidel
Now we understand why most of gedolei Yisrael continued using dreidels with a shin rather than a pei even while living in Eretz Yisrael. The custom of the Belzer Rebbe was to twirl a wooden dreidel a few times on one of the days of Chanukah, and say in the name of the B’nai Yissascher: “if we twirl the dreidel below – it turns things around up Above.” “The minhag of our fathers is Torah” – the minhag during the days of Chanukah – the chinuch (education) for the future geula – is to play with a four cornered piece of wood, spun on its central point, to show that the four kingdoms alluded to in the word גשנה/Goshna are opposed to holiness by way of separating from the Divine Unity to the four corners. This minhag was always a custom in Israel, particularly using a wooden dreidel, as it states in the haftarah of parashat VaYigash: “You, son of man, take a wooden stick and write upon it, for Yehuda… then take another stick and write upon it for Yosef… and join them together to make one stick of wood…”[18] This is done particularly by means of wood (from a tree) “for a person is compared to the tree of the field,”[19] and because the four lettered name of Hashem is in the gematria of tree – עץ/etz – by multiplying the letters with each other.[20] The four kingdoms who are inherently opposed to the oneness of Hashem, and to His reflection in this world – the Jewish People, all spin around the center – the middle point corresponding to Israel who unifies all directions. When the extremities of the dreidel spin around and become nullified to the center, it alludes to the time when “…the nations will be transformed into [one] pure language to call upon the name of Hashem…”[21] When you spin the dreidel, you will notice that its four corners become blurry and turn into a circle. This circle is the reflection of the small point at its center, representing the unity of Israel within the oneness of Hashem.[22] By spinning the dreidel during Chanukah – the education for the redemption – we get a glimpse of the rectified world when all the kingdoms and dimensions in our psyche become unified with the one and only G-d.

[1] Rabbi Avraham Eliezer Hirskowitz, Otzar Kol Minhagei Yeshurun 19:4.
[2] Based on Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson, A New Twist on the Dreidel.
[3] Based on Rav Tzvi Elimelech of Dubno, B’nei Yissaschar, Kislev/Tevet 2:25.
[4] Yalkut Shimoni, Bereishit 25:121.
[5] Based on Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson, A New Twist on the Dreidel.
[6] Devarim 12:23.
[7] Vayikra 2:1.
[8] Daniel 7:4.
[9] Esther 3:13.
[10] Daniel 7:5.
[11] Babylonian Talmud, Kidushin 72a.
[12] Daniel 7:6.
[13] Daniel 7:7-8.
[14] Based on Rav Tzvi Elimelech of Dubno, B’nei Yissaschar, Kislev/Tevet 2:25.
[15] Bereishit 46:28.
[16] Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David who descends from Yehuda.
[17] Zecharia 14:9; Based on Rav Tzvi Elimelech of Dubno, B’nei Yissaschar, Kislev/Tevet 2:25.
[18] Yechezkiel 37:16-17.
[19] Devarim 20:19.
[20] Yud times Heh=50, Heh times Yud=50, Vav times Heh=30, Heh times Vav= 30, 50+50+30+30 =160. The gematria of Etz עץ (90+70)=160 This is also the gematria of כסף/silver. B’nei Yissaschar, Kislev/Tevet 2:25.
[21] Tzefania 3:9.
[22] Based on Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair, The Secret of the Dreidel.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kislev - The Month of Dreams

Student artwork - Dreams collage
Perhaps you may have experienced intense dreams recently? Sometimes you can get a feeling of what your dream is coming to teach you, while at other times you haven’t gotten a clue? I find myself dreaming much more during the month of Kislev or at least remembering my dreams more. Being in touch with my dreams help me connect with my unconscious feelings and needs. They help me live more in tune with my deeper inner self. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach explains how a dream is much deeper than direct speech or even prophecy because it affects our heart in a much deeper way. There is nothing deeper than when we can’t stop dreaming about something. Moreover, dream-language is intimate. You don’t have to be close to her person for him to tell you something straight. However, there is certain language which is only given when you love somebody very much. On one hand, it’s maybe not so clear. On the other hand, it’s so much deeper!

Dreams implant a message deep within our psyches. When we awaken we may not know it, but we have been “programmed.” We have received a message and that inner knowledge will direct the thoughts in our minds, the feelings in our hearts and the course of the events in our lives.[1] Dreams are sent to us all in order to direct our behavior and help us return to G-d. Everyone dreams regardless of whether we remember our dreams or not. While many dreams are caused by our waking thoughts, desires or fears, nonetheless the message dream is still a living and vibrant part of our psyches. Cultivating awareness of the meaning of our dreams and their inherent meaning enables us to draw closer to our blessed Creator. What greater work than this is there?

Read on to receive some tools from the Torah for understanding the hidden messages of your dreams...

Dreaming Ourselves to Teshuvah (Repentance)
The purpose of a dream is to reveal the thoughts hidden in our heart – in our sub-conscience, in order to arouse us to spiritual growth and repentance (teshuva)… Therefore the dreams constitute heavenly assistance to inform us of our inner thoughts in order that we may receive rebuke to think about good things that will help us grow.[2]In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, in slumbering upon the bed; then He [G-d]opens the ears of men, and by their chastisement seals the decree.[3] It is actually preferable to have a “bad” rather than a good dream as the Talmud teaches: A bad dream is preferable to a good dream... The anxiety of a bad dream cancels it out. Likewise, the joy of a happy dream cancels it out… “G-d made it that they fear him[4] – This is a bad dream by means of which a person is aroused to Tshuvah.[5]

Receiving Messages from Above
A dream is one sixtieth of prophesy.[6] “No occurrence materializes in the world that is not first revealed to one in a dream.”[7] Through dreams our conscious minds communicate with our Neshama (soul), which dwells in the super-conscious realm. The bond between our body and Divine Soul is somewhat loosened while we sleep. Our soul parts from Ruach and above rise from the body, and moves about in the spiritual realm. They can interact and associate with various kinds of angels. The soul can sometimes transmit these higher levels of perception, step by step, until it reaches the Nefesh (animal soul). The imagination is then stimulated to form images, which we call a dream. Dreams are at times greatly confused and intermingled with distorted images arising from the various substances that enter the brain, while at other times their messages are very clear. During a true dream the dreamer will remain calm and reposed, almost unemotional, regardless of what is seen. The dreamer will watch the dream vision like watching a movie, while the image’s inner meanings will somehow be imprinted in his mind. The Vilna Gaon teaches that there are certain boundless levels of Torah that the soul cannot perceive while limited by the physical body. G-d created sleep for the soul to access these levels. Even if we are not aware, sparks of what we have experienced in a dream trickle into our daily state of mind.[8]

Dreaming Mixed Messages
Not all dreams are prophetic. They may be intermingled with the distorted images originating in the imagination itself. Some dreams arise from our experiences while awake. Others may be a result of substances that rise to the brain, either from the body’s own hormones, or from food that eaten. These images are the dreams that all people experience.[9] Our Sages thus teach us, “Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said: just as there is no grain without straw, likewise there is no dream without nonsense. Rav Berchia said, although part of the dream is fulfilled, the whole of it is never fulfilled. We learn this from Yosef as it states: ‘behold the sun and the moon bowed down...’”[10] Yosef’s mother, Rachel, symbolized by the moon, died when Yosef was still a child. His dream, therefore, contained an element of untruth.[11] According to Rabbeinu Bachaya, dreams come from three different sources: 1. They can be caused by what we eat. Such dreams have no value or meaning. 2. They can be caused by our waking thoughts. Such dreams are exclusively psychological in nature. 3. They can be prophetic dreams with messages for us.[12]

Signs of Prophetic Dreams
The indication that a dream is in fact prophetic is if the dream is crystal clear, as if the dreamer were awake. However, false dreams are confusing and exaggerated.[13] “Three dreams are fulfilled, a dream early in the morning, a dream which his friend dreamed about him, a dream which is interpreted within the dream. Some say also a dream which is repeated as it states: “As for the repetition of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it is because the matter is true from G-d…[14] A person is not shown a dream except from the thoughts of his heart.[15]

The Dream Follows its Interpretation
Whenever you have a dream be careful about who you tell it to, because the dream follows its interpretation.[16] Therefore, if someone tells me their dream, my first response is: “It is a very good dream.” I will also never say that I had a bad dream, because even if dreams may be challenging, we don’t want to label them as being bad, and thereby cause them to become bad. We learn from the Torah’s description of Yosef’s dream interpretation that it is the interpretation which determines the outcome of the dream rather than the outcome which determines the interpretation, as it states: “And it came to pass as he interpreted for us, so it came to be.[17] Yet, this is only if the interpretation corresponds to the content of the dream, as it states: “to each man according to his dream he did interpret.[18] Moreover, the interpretation must resonate with the dreamer as it states, “But no-one interprets them to Pharaoh,[19] meaning Pharaoh’s advisors did interpret his dreams, however, their words were not accepted by Pharaoh. Why does the dream follow its interpretation? Rabbi Chisda said a dream not interpreted is like an unread letter…[20] If I never open that wedding invitation, I may not get to go to the wedding. Rav Kook explains that the dream and its interpretation are part of one structure. Hashem has encoded within the dream that its actualization takes place according to its interpretations. This can be compared to the relationship between the Written and Oral Torah. The Written Torah was meant to be joined with the Oral Law, which brings down the lofty teachings of the Written Torah in concrete ways. Likewise, the interpreter actualizes the hidden interpretations of any multilayered matter.[21]

Dreams are Sparks of Light within Darkness.
Before ever learning to speak a word, infants learn about the world through the feelings of pictures. Because we have been programmed to develop our sense of logic connected to our left brain, we have forgotten our innate connection to the feelings associated with pictures, which were much clearer when we were children. Dreams return us to our senses by bringing us back to the primordial language of pictures. Through dreams we can maintain our connection with Hashem even within exile after prophesy is lost. Rav Shlomo Carlebach explains that you need to be broken to receive a true dream. In exile G-d cannot speak to us face-to-face, ‘cause officially he’s angry at us, and officially we’re angry at him. However, when nobody's looking – we are sending love letters to each other, through dreams.

Let us treasure our dreams – the sparks of light within the darkness!

[1] Rav Ariel Bar Tzaddok,
[2] Based on Rav Eliyahu Dessler, Michtav M'Eliyahu p. 164.
[3] Iyov 33:15-16.
[4] Kohelet 3:14.
[5] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 55a.
[6] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 57b.
[7] Zohar 1,183b.
[8] Based on Ramchal, Derech Hashem, Chaper 3, The Soul and its Influence, pp.183-185.
[9] Derech Hashem, Chapter 3, p. 183.
[10] Bereishit 37:9; Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 55a.
[11] Rashi, Bereishit 37:10.
[12] Rabbeinu Bachaya, Bereishit 41:1.
[13] Kli Yakar, Bereishit 37:7.
[14] Bereishit 41:32.
[15] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 55b.
[16] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 55b.
[17] Bereishit 41:13.
[18] Ibid. 41:12; Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 55b
[19] Bereishit 41:8.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Rav Kook Eyin Reayah, Berachot 55a.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Month of Kislev: Illuminated by the Light of Miracles and Divine Inspiration

Rebbetzin with B'erot Alumna Rivka
In this world we are charged with having to do a lot of effort in order to achieve our goals whether physical or spiritual. Through the veil of the hidden world (עולם/olam) we can easily be misled to believe that our success is dependent on our own strength, the power of the doctor, the medicine, the benefactor, even the blessing of the Rabbi and all kinds of segulot (spiritual remedies) etc. We need to remind ourselves constantly that it is Hashem who gives the medicine, segulot, blessing etc. the ability to work. We only need to do our histadlut (effort) in order to create a vessel to receive Hashem’s infinite blessing. The Chanukah miracle, which illuminate the entire month of Kislev, teaches us how effort and miracle go hand in hand. The miracle of the oil burning for eight days didn’t happen until the Maccabees had created a vessel by searching and finding a jug of pure oil which they ignited. The eternal nature of miracles, as expressed through the light of Chanukah, ignites the darkness of exile. For this reason miracles are called נֵס/nes in Hebrew, consisting of the Hebrew letters nun and samech. According to Sefer Yetzirah nun is the letter that forms the month of Cheshvan. This letter begins the Hebrew word נוֹפֶל/nofel – fall. In this month our fall into darkness began through the rebellion against the house of David which caused the splitting of the kingdoms and eventually led to the destruction of the Temple. The Temple is like the plug that turns on our connection with the circuit of the spiritual realm. It is the connecting channel between our world and the Divine. Therefore, with the destruction of the Temple, this channel became blocked causing prophecy to be lost from the world. However Hashem in His great mercy gave us as a Chanukah present in the month of Kislev – the letter samech – which also means support. This letter represents the illumination from the hidden light, the light of Ruach Hakodesh which continues to shine for us even during the darkness of the “prophecy-less” exile.

Read on to understand more about this hidden light and how to tap into it...

Supported during the Darkness of Exile by Ruach Hakodesh
You may have noticed that the Chanukah story is not included in the Tana”ch (Bible), it is only written in the Oral Torah, because Chanukah is not a prophetic holiday, but rather a holiday illuminated from the light within darkness – the Ruach Hakodesh that shines even after prophecy has ceased. It is our light of hope within the darkness of despair, and so was the Oral Torah written after the destruction of the Temple, as it transmits Divine light deep into the darkness of exile.[1] While the letter nun of Cheshvan falls deep into the darkness of exile – as indicated by the long line of the ending nun, the letter samech which forms the month of Kislev means to support – it supports the falling nun. The closed circle of the samech indicates how Hashem surrounds and supports us from all sides with His Divine spirit of Ruach Hakodesh even in the post-prophetic darkness of exile. Yet, no matter how far we have fallen, Hashem is with us in our darkness, and we never lose the potential to connect with His light through Ruach Hakodesh. Usually Ruach Hakodesh is defined as the lowest level of prophecy, but I like to extend this concept to include our ability to find and connect with a spark of Hashem’s light within ourselves. When we unravel our klipot (husks) and blocks and tune inwards, we can connect with our inherent inner voice that knows, and guides us through life. Some people may call it intuition, its available for all of us – its light surrounds us and fills our beings.

The Connection between Miracles and Ruach Hakodesh
אמר רבי יוחנן מפני מה לא נאמר נו"ן באשרי מפני שיש בה מפלתן של שונאי ישראל דכתיב נפלה לא תוסיף קום בתולת ישראל במערבא מתרצי לה הכי נפלה ולא תוסיף לנפול עוד קום בתולת ישראל אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק אפילו הכי חזר דוד וסמכן ברוח הקדש שנאמר סומך ה' לכל הנופלים
Rabbi Yochanan said, why does Ashrei[2] not have [a sentence that starts with] nun? Because [nun] begins the word nofel which means] downfall… Rabbi Nachman son of Yitzchak said, even so, David returned and supported it with Ruach Hakodesh as it states “Hashem supports all those who fall.”[3]

The words “even so” don’t make sense, likewise saying that David supported it with Ruach Hakodesh, don’t we know that all the words of tehillim are written in Ruach Hakodesh? We can now answer these questions by explaining that through the miracle of Chanukah Hashem supports those fallen into exile symbolized by the letter nun of Cheshvan with the letter samech imbuing us with Ruach Hakodesh – reflected by the Chanukah lights, which we ignite specifically during the darkness of night. For this reason a miracle is called נֵס/nes – in this word the letter samech of Kislev supports the falling of the letter nun of Cheshvan. What is the connection between Ruach Hakodesh and miracles? Both are the imprints of Hashem’s eternal light throughout all times. The miracles that we experience in our lives make us feel surrounded by the light of Hashem’s providence – represented by the circle shape of the samech. Likewise Ruach HaKodesh is tapping into Hashem’s light filling us from within, represented by the space that fills the samech. Both are connected like a hand in a glove. Therefore, the miracle of Chanukah could not be written through prophecy, but only through Ruach Hakodesh in the Oral Torah. For the entire gift of the illumination of the light of Chanukah in the month of Kislev formed through the letter samech was for the time when we no longer have prophecy, to bless Israel with the gift of Ruach Hakodesh until the return of prophecy. Rav Shlomo Carlebach teaches that Chanukah is the holiday that even if all the vessels of the holy Temple are defiled, the holiest miracles are happening to us every second – miracles from another world, from the world of deepest holiness where defilement doesn’t reach.

Chanukah – Education for the Future Redemption
Chanukah is the education and practice for the future Final Redemption. Therefore, Chanukah from the word חִינוּךְ/Chinuch means education.[4] When we light the candles of the Chanukiah we are commemorating and connecting with the lights of the menorah in the Temple. In this way Chanukah gives of a glimpse of the light of the Temple, and prepares us for the time when this light will return to us in its full glory. Therefore, the Chanukah miracle took place after the passing of the last prophets Chagai, Zecharia and Malachi.[5] Even after the end of prophecy, Hashem did miracles for us through the oil of Chanukah – illuminated from Ohr Haganuz (the hidden light) with which Adam could see from one end of the world until the other.[6] What an awesome good present from Hashem to all the generations during the lowliness of our longwinded exile. From the illumination of Chanukah we receive the illumination of Ruach Hakodesh within all this darkness until the righteous sprout of David will sprout forth, and dedicate the third Temple in the month of Cheshvan.

Chanukah – the Vessel for Prophetic Soul Connections
The tribe of the month of Kislev is Binyamin. He is the bridge that ties the sons of Rachel with the sons of Leah, therefore the Temple is in Binyamin’s portion, and Binyamin is the tribe of the month which supports and enables the rebuilding of the final Temple. נשמה/neshama – soul consists of the letters of מנשה/Menashe – the tribe of the month of Cheshvan, and גוף/guf (body) is in the gematria (numerical value) of חנוכה/Chanukah.[7] Ruach Hakodesh is like the garment of the kingdom of Heaven, which is called “the holy body,” therefore Chanukah is in the gematria of body – the vessel for the light of the neshama. This light will shine to its fullest at the dedication of the Temple, G-dwilling in the month of Cheshvan when prophecy will return as it states:

וְהָיָה אַחֲרֵי כֵן אֶשְׁפּוֹךְ אֶת רוּחִי עַל כָּל בָּשָׂר וְנִבְּאוּ בְּנֵיכֶם וּבְנֹתֵיכֶם זִקְנֵיכֶם חֲלֹמוֹת יַחֲלֹמוּן בַּחוּרֵיכֶם חֶזְיֹנוֹת יִרְאוּ
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.[8]

[1] Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 29a.
[2] Tehillim 145 written acrostically from alef to taf, and is part of our daily prayer.
[3] Tehillim 145:14; Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 4b.
[4] Rav Tziv Elimelech of Dubno, B’nei Yissascher, Kislev, article 2, part 8.
[5] Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 9b.
[6] Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 60b; Babylonian Talmud, Chagiga 12a.
[7] Both the Hebrew word for body and for Chanukah share the numerical value of 89.
[8] Yoel 3:1, B’nei Yissascher, Cheshvan, article 1.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kislev: Rectifying the Sense of Sleep

Sleepy sunset of Bat Ayin
As we ended daylight savings and entered Kislev – one of the darkest months of the year – we also received renewed light, hope and trust. Actually the name “Kislev” derives from the Hebrew word for “security,” “hope” and “trust” as Iyov exclaims: “If I have made gold my hope (Kisli) and have said to the fine gold You are my security.”[1] This Rosh Chodesh Kislev I really felt the shift of energy and experienced a special light of hope which made me want to plant new flowers. There is a certain “nesting” that takes place at this time of year, a focus on building our personal Temple, including within it our closest family and friends and our deepest values. This is the time to develop and strengthen trusting relationship, and no less to work on our bitachon – trust in Hashem. (It is interesting to note that the English world “castle” is composed of the same phonetics as the Hebrew root of the word Kislev: “Kesel.” This word is also related to the Hebrew word kisuy which means covering and guarding. כסלו/Kislev, thus could mean: “The covering of the thirty-six, if you break it up into כס/kis (from kisui) – covering and לו – the numerical value of 36. This alludes to the Ohr Haganuz – hidden light that was shining in the Garden of Eden for the duration of the thirty six hours when Adam and Eve lived there.[2] This light is reflected in the 36 candles that we light in total during the holiday of Chanukah.[3] The entire month of Kislev is illuminated by its “Festival of Lights.” Even when I’m surrounded by darkness, I’m blessed with light, because Hashem is with me. In Kislev I can feel Hashem taking my hand and leading me to security.

The Spiritual Attributes of Kislev
המליך אות ס' בשינה וקשר לו כתר וצרפן זה בזה וצר בהם קשת בעולם, וכסלו בשנה, וקבה בנפש זכר ונקבה
“He made the letter samech king over sleep and He tied a crown to it and He combined one with another and with them He formed Sagittarius in the Universe, Kislev in the Year, and the belly in the soul, male and female” (Sefer Yetzirah 5:9).

Kislev – The Month of Support
The letter of the month – Samech means “to support.” The experience of feeling supported corresponds to the trust and confidence in Divine providence associated with the month of Kislev, as expressed in Tehillim: “G-d supports (somech) all the fallen, and lifts up all those who are bent over.”[4] The closed circle shape of the samech which represents the all-encompassing omnipresence of Hashem, moreover, symbolizes His providence and protection available to us during the month of Kislev. Hashem is our “security net,” He is there for us when we stumble and feel insecure: “Even when he falls he will not be let to fall to the ground, for G-d supports (somech) his hand.”[5] Whenever you feel you need spiritual protection, imagine yourself inside of the enclosure of the letter samech surrounding you. This is the time for us not only to feel supported but also to extend our support to others who need it.

Fixing Relationships in our Sleep
Although sleep isn’t one of our five senses, Sefer Yetzirah extends the concept of “senses” to include different states of consciousness and energy. The sense of sleep is the tranquility and restfulness that comes with trust and security in Hashem and His Divine providence, as David proclaims in his Tehillim: “I lie me down and sleep, I awake, for Hashem protects me (yismecheni).”[6] Sleep can accomplish that which is impossible to achieve while awake. Much healing takes place during sleep. Shlomo Carlebach teaches that you can do anything in the world outside your house, however, for sleeping, you need a house. During the month of Kislev – when the Temple was rededicated – we are called to rededicate our “G-d temple,” “people of Israel temple,” “husband and wife temple,” “parents and children temple.” Nothing brings parents and children closer, than when parents put their children to sleep. Why do children need their parents to put them to sleep? Because they need to know that there is someone watching who can and will perform miracles for them – someone whose love comes from a world of utmost purity and un-defilement. Chanukah is about fixing all our relationships – to love each other, and especially our family, with the utmost undefiled love.

The Weekly Torah Portions and our Dreams during Kislev
The sense of sleep entails the sense of dreaming. When we trust in G-d completely, we can dream good dreams of the future. According to Rav Tzaddok HaKohen, sleep symbolizes the vision and understanding that we may attain through dreams, just as King Solomon attained his great wisdom through a dream.[7] It is not by coincidence that we find most of the biblical dreams in the Torah portions read during the month of Kislev. Throughout the Five Books of the Torah, there are ten explicit dreams dreamed by seven “dreamers” – all in the Book of Bereishit. The first dream of Avimelech, King of Gerar, appears in the Torah portion of Vayera, read in the month of Cheshvan. The other nine dreams appear in the Torah portions of Vayetze, Vayeshev, and Miketz, all read during the month of Kislev.[8] According to the well-known Torah principle “to live with the times” (of the weekly Torah portion), the matter of dreams is an appropriate meditative subject.[9] This “month of dreams” is, therefore, suitable for examining and clarifying in our soul the deeper meanings of our dreams. Allow yourself to lie in bed just a few extra minutes to remember and decode your dreams, you may even keep a dream journal. Try to actualize some of your dreams of visions at this time.

Rectifying the Portions and Emotions of our Belly
The organ of the month of Kislev is קוה/keiva – belly, it includes the entire region of the abdomen, stomach, (large) intestines, and womb. It helps us to sleep calmly when our belly is satiated. Lacking the trust of Kislev, affects our belly first. Fear, nervousness and agitation can cause ulcers etc. (lo aleinu!) Therefore, Kislev is the time to heal our belly together with the negative emotions that affect the good health of our stomach. The word keiva derives from “kav,” which means “measure.” A tranquil belly knows its proper measure and “is happy with his portion.”[10] Our sages teach us: “a person desires one measure [kav] of his own more than nine of his friend.”[11] In order to rectify our keiva (belly), we need to work on overcoming jealousy of others; this will also help us sleep better.

The Bow of Sagittarius Propelling us out of Darkness and Despair
The astrological sign of Kislev is Sagittarius, in Hebrew: keshet – bow. The time of Sagittarius carries with it the possibility of change, as was revealed during Chanukah, when the spiritual attitude of Israel changed from slumber and negative self-image to renewal and revitalization. After the flood which had wiped out almost the entire world, rays of hope and renewal shot forth in the month of Kislev. It was the rainbow with its shining hope which was given as a sign of G-d’s promise never to destroy the world again. Teshuva (repentance) is compared to being shot upwards like an arrow from the bow. This bow is the constellation of Kislev,[12] it connects darkness and light in a fast leap full of power. Just as the tension on the bow being pulled back makes its arrow sore even higher, so does the darkness bring out the greatness of light. Sagittarius, the bow, also symbolizes the power of prayer that issues from the depths of the heart and pierces the upper heavens.[13] The tighter the arrow presses against the bow, the higher the arrow will travel when it is released. The Greeks oppressed the Jewish nation greatly. This ignited the inner sparks of the souls of the children of Israel to unite under the leadership of Matityahu and his Chasmonean Kingdom. The Greek oppression of the inner soul of Israel aroused the pintele yid – the essence point of our soul, the point of the tzadik – the righteous. The difference between the word ציון/Tzion and the Hebrew word for Greece יון/Yavan is only the letter tzadik. The planet of Sagittarius is Jupiter – tzedek (righteousness). The tzadik rules over Yavan especially during the month influenced by the planet tzedek.

Unifying the Fragments of our People in the Samech
The letter Samech is a circle, which includes all the different points within the space of her circumference. May we learn to reveal the one light that unifies all the fragments of our people, so we can achieve true shalom in the world as well as trust and security! Likewise the constellation Keshet- the bow includes all the colors and haskafot (outlook) of the rainbows; black hats. grey hats, knitted kippot, Chabadniks, Breslav, Rav Kookniks etc. Some are clear colors others are on the boundaries between different colors of the spectrum. All together we bring forth one unified light in all its glory. May this month of Kislev open us up to new possibilities and bring forth renewed hope, light, support and security!

[1] Iyov 31:24.
[2] Talmud Yerushalmi, Berachot 60b.
[3] 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8 = 36. Rav Tzvi Elimelech of Dubno, B’nai Yissaschar on the month of Kislev.
[4] Tehillim 145:14.
[5] Tehillim 37:24.
[6] Tehillim 3:6.
[7] Melachim I 3:5-15.
[8] Vayetze: 1. Ya’acov’s ladder; 2. Ya’acov – Hashem’s angel telling him to leave Lavan; 3. Lavan – warning against harming Ya’acov; Vayeshev 4. Yosef – the sheaves; 5. Yosef – the sun, moon stars; 6. The Baker – baskets of bread; 7. The Butler – the vine; Miketz 8. Pharaoh – seven cows; 9. Pharaoh – seven sheaves.
[9] Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh
[10] Pirkei Avot 4:1.
[11] Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh
[12] Midrash Tanchuma, Ha’azinu, chapter 1.
[13] Shem MiShmuel, Parashat Chayei Sarah.