Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Blessing Hashem for the Freedom of Spring

Blossom in Bat Ayin
I love spring in Israel, especially in the Judean hills. At this time Hashem shows his love for me by presenting me with a new bouquet of live flowers every day. I thank Him by doing the best I can to take care of the precious flowery land that He has entrusted in my hands. As I sit in my office and write, my neighbor’s rosebush stretches out its beautiful pink heads to wish me good morning! I nod my head back in appreciation of their loveliness. Over the last two months I have watched the fruits trees flower one by one. First the diligent almond trees, followed by the nectarines, then the apples, plums, apricots and cherries. Since this year is a leap year we have to wait longer to the month of Nissan when we have a special mitzvah to recite a blessing over the flowering fruit trees. As I have watched the flowers turn into tiny shiny fruits on the trees, I was concerned that no flowers would be left for the month of Nissan. Yet, I just went out in my garden to check, and thank G-d the pear and cherry trees are still blossoming, patiently waiting for the month of Nissan to receive their hard earned blessing!

A The Flowering Fruit Tree – A Sign of Redemption

This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevarchim Chodesh, as we celebrate Rosh Chodesh Nissan Monday night, March 31 and Tuesday, April 1. The name Nissan is related to the Hebrew word Nitzan (bud), since this is the month in which everything buds. The month of Nissan carries the promise that redemption is on its way. Rosh Chodesh Nissan marks the beginning of the season for Birkat ha-Ilanot – the blessing we recite upon seeing fruit trees in bloom. We have the opportunity to recite this blessing, which praises Hashem’s ongoing renewal of creation, only once a year, during the month of Nissan.[1]  Women too have the special Mitzvah to say a bracha (blessing) on a flowering fruit tree, since it is not considered a “time-related mitzvah” from which women are exempt.[2] We need to recite the blessing when seeing the actual flowering of the tree. The growth of leaves alone is not sufficient to recite the blessing.[3]  We praise G‑d for the flowers that herald the promise of the fruits sanctified as bikurim (the first fruit sacrifice) on Shavuot. Just as the redemption from Egypt leads to the giving of the Torah, the flowering tree testifies that the fruits are yet to come.

The Words of the Blessing for the Flowering Fruit Tree

The different blessings that we say when we witness various phenomena of creation help us to draw closer to Hashem by deepening our appreciation for the wonders of His creation. Upon seeing the blossoms of fruit trees in the month of Nissan – the first month of spring – we recite the following annual blessing of thanksgiving to Hashem: 
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה הָשֵׁם אֱלקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁלֹּא חִסַּר בְּעוֹלָמוֹ כּלוּם (דָבָר), וּבָרָא בוֹ בְּרִיוֹת טוֹבוֹת וְאִילָנוֹת טוֹבִים לְהַנּוֹת בָּהֶם בְּנֵי אָדָם: (סדור תפלה - נוסח ספרד - סדר תפילת הדרך)
Baruch ata Hashem Elokeinu melech haolam shelo chisar baolamo klum, uvara vo beriyot tovot v’ilanot tovim lehanot bahem benei adam. 
Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, Sovereign of the universe, Whose world lacks nothing, and Who created within it good creatures and good trees to bring pleasure to human beings.

A Tikun (Rectification) for Reincarnated Souls
According to kabbalah, the blessing on the flowering fruit trees has special significance. It is important to be very careful to have a strong kavanah (intention) when reciting the blessing as it is a tikun (rectification) for the souls that are reincarnated in the trees and herbs at this time. We need to bear in mind to request mercy for them. The following verse applies to each of us when we are careful to recite this blessing, “See, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which Hashem has blessed: Therefore may Hashem give you of the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine.”[4] Before reciting the blessing it is good to recite Vayehi Noam – Tehillim 90, followed by Tehillim 148. It is good to say this blessing in a group, and afterwards collect tzedakka (donations to a worthy cause) from everyone. A minimum of three perutot (the smallest amount of currency – such as a penny or a 5 agurot coin) is recommended corresponding to the three levels of the soul, (nefesh, ruach, neshama). If ten men are present they may recite kaddish at the end of the blossoming tree-blessing ceremony, as this is a great tikun for the souls who are reincarnated in the rocks, plants, trees, birds and other living beings.[5]

When is the Optimal Time to Recite Birkat Ha-Ilanot?
The preferred time to recite the blessing on the flowering fruit tree is immediately when we first see a fruit tree blossom during the month of Nissan. It is recommended to make a special effort to look for flowering fruit trees to recite the blessing on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, unless it falls on Shabbat or it is raining. It is the minhag (custom) especially among Sephardim to visit the country on Rosh Chodesh Nissan in order to recite this blessing. Although the fruit trees in our garden began to flower more than a month ago, Rav Daniel of Bat Ayin holds that we still need to wait until the month of Nissan – the month of our redemption – to recite this special blessing. During the month of Adar we watch the blooming trees and look forward to Nissan when we finally can praise Hashem for these flowers that reflect our own yearning for redemption, which flowers during this same month of Nissan. 

When May We Still Recite this Blessing?
If you don’t live in an area with fruit trees, and only saw the flowers on the tree after the month of Nissan had passed, you may still recite the blessing the first time you see the flowering tree, as long as the fruit of the tree has not yet ripened. Once the fruit has ripened, it is too late to recite this blessing.[6] If you saw the trees in bloom during Nissan, but forgot to recite the blessing, you may still say the blessing later, but only until the time that the fruit of the tree has begun to grow.[7] It is important, however, to be careful with reciting the blessing at our first opportunity, since several poskim (halachic authorities) maintain that the blessing may not be recited if we failed to say it at our first opportunity. For this reason it is important to know the text of the blessing by heart so that we can say the blessing as soon as we see the blossoms. There is a difference of opinion whether we can say the blessing on Shabbat and holidays. According to Kabbalah, this blessing may not be said on Shabbat and Yom Tov. In addition, the blessing may lead to shaking or breaking a branch off the tree.[8]

Which Trees Require the Blessing Birkat HaIlanot?
We do not recite the blessing on trees that are orlah. (A tree is considered orlah for the first three years after it is planted). The poskim debate whether one is allowed to say the blessing on a tree which has been grafted from two species, since the halacha does not permit such grafting. It is therefore preferable not to make the blessing on such a tree.[9] According to some Rabbis, we are required to say the blessing near more than one flowering fruit tree.[10] It is a hidur mitzvah (beatification of the mitzvah) to recite the blessing on as many trees as possible. The more trees the better.[11] Indeed, it is preferred to recite the blessing on trees in an orchard that is planted outside the city limits.[12] In the city you will sometimes find a single fruit tree, but never an orchard. In this way the mitzvah of reciting the blessing on the flowering fruit tree insures that people from the city come out to the country during the month of Nissan, in order to experience the processes of renewal of nature that is reflected in our own souls during the month of our redemption. Being in touch with nature especially during the month of our redemption thus helps prepare us for our ultimate renewal and freedom during Pesach.

A Spring Blessing and Story
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz - known as the ‘Bostoner Rebbe’ tells a story from his childhood regarding the annual blessing for blossoming fruit trees. His father was a Chassidic Rebbe living in Boston; however, there were no fruit trees in his neighborhood. Each year, his father sent out messengers to search for the ideal place where he, his family, and his Chassidim could make the annual blessing upon seeing the blossoms of the fruit trees.

One year, we went to Allston, which was then quite new and green. We drove up in front of a house that had a large plot of land, with what seemed to be fruit trees inside a tall surrounding fence. One of the drivers, Mr. Israel Sachs, of blessed memory, went in to ask permission for us to enter and say our blessing over the trees. The man of the house wasn't in, but his wife, a good Italian Catholic, was quite gracious, and she said, “Of course, by all means!” Father got out of the car, and followed by a procession of his Chassidim, entered the gate. We said our bracha (blessing), and prepared to leave, happy to have done our mitzvah. When Mr. Sachs went over to thank our hostess, she asked him: “Could you please ask the Grand Rabbi for a special favor?” “What is it?” “Well, do you see that tree in the corner of the yard over there? It used to have very good apples, but for the last few years, it hasn't produced any at all. Since the Rabbi gave a blessing to all the other trees, perhaps he could give that tree a blessing too.” Mr. Sachs translated her request to Father in Yiddish, and Father agreed. He turned around and said in Hebrew, “May this tree bring forth good fruits.” That fall, Father's new gabbai (sexton), came upstairs to tell him that a woman had come by and left him a large basket full of bright red apples. With the apples, she left this message: “Please tell the Grand Rabbi that all these apples are from that barren apple tree he blessed!” (And the Angels Laughed, pages 29-32, Mesorah Publications).

[1] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 226:1.
[2] Har Tzvi Orech Chaim 118.
[3] Mishnah Berurah 226:2.
[4] Bereishit 27:27.
[5] Kaf HaChaim, Orach Chaim 226:6-7.
[6] Mishnah Berurah 226:4.
[7] Ibid.5.
[8] Kaf HaChaim 226:4.
[9] Like for example a nectarine tree which was grafted from a peach and plum tree.
[10] Chida Moreh b'Etzba 198, Chazon  Ovadiyah, p. 9-10.
[11] Teshuvot Halachot Ketanot 2:28.
[12]  Teshuvot Lev Chaim 45 quoted in Kaf  HaChaim 226:3 and in Chazon Ovadiyah, p. 8.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Clothes Creates Folks"

The Pink Purim Rebbetzin!
I’m the proud owner of a synthetic pink wig; I bought it near the central bus station for NIS 20! When I made my entry to the Central Synagogue Megillah reading it was pleasant to see the heads of the little girls turn in delight, something I hadn’t expected. Coming out of Shabbat I didn’t really feel like dressing up for Purim at all, but it was easy to just stick on the wig, easier than making a tichel (headscarf) look good. When I returned home from the Megillah reading I discovered that my mood had greatly lifted!

The following anecdote serves as an example of how our mood and spirit can be expressed through the choice of our garments. It also illustrates the effect our choice of clothes has on how we are perceived by others: The wife of a certain Rabbi had a tendency to become depressed. She explained her husband that whenever she got depressed she would wear her clothing inside out. This would be a sign to leave her alone and not demand anything from her. One morning when her husband noticed that she was wearing her clothes inside out, he went upstairs and changed his clothing to wear them inside out as well. When he came down, his wife asked him bewildered, “What’s this??” He answered, “Please leave me alone, I am depressed today.” The wife then went upstairs changed her clothing back to normal. When the husband asked, “What’s this??” She exclaimed, “Well, one of us needs to function in the house!”

Wearing My Mink with My Pink
I often use clothes as a mood-lifter. I have personally experienced how staying in your house-robe all day reinforces sadness and negativity, whereas getting dressed up in festive colorful clothes makes you happy. Knowing you have something special to wear even helps you get out of bed in the morning. The styles, textures and colors of what we wear not only affect our mood, but moreover, project our image to the world. I recall as a child in Denmark an exhibition in the national museum called ‘Clothes shapes Folks.’ Indeed different types of people are characterized by their garments. I once asked a Vishnitzer Rebbetzin about the difference between the Chasiddut of Vishnitz and that of Belz. I can’t remember exactly whabourgeois upper class which I don’t identify with. Yet, on Purim anything goes, and I delight in wearing my mink with my pink!
t she answered but it had to do with the difference about their style of garment. I think one of them wears long white socks while the other doesn’t! I have a really nice fur perhaps it’s even a mink coat which I inherited from an older student. It’s warm, comfortable and I love its light brown color. Nevertheless, I haven’t barely worn it, because it kinds of ‘pass nisht’ in Bat Ayin to wear a mink coat. It has a connotation of

Detaching from Our Self Image Ad Incognito
Talking about color, my granddaughters play a game where they take turns describing a certain person while the others have to guess who. The description of me was, “she always wears blue!” In general I wear turquoise, indigo blues and purples expressing the spirituality of the higher energy centers. However, on Purim when everything is וְנַהֲפוֹךְ הוּא/v’nahafoch hu (upside down)[1] I decided to wear all opposite pinkish colors to go with my wig. On Purim we dress up to extend ourselves beyond the boundaries of our self-perception, and the image we project into the world. It was so liberating to detach from the ‘turquoise Rebbetzin’ image. The Talmud instructs us to “enter a state of higher consciousness (literally to be perfumed) to the extent that we won’t know – (דעת/da’at) the difference between the curse of Haman and the blessing of Mordechai.” [2] Some people get so dressed up on Purim that they become totally incognito.

A Garment for the Soul
The need for garments is the direct consequence of eating from the Tree of Knowledge – (דעת/da’at).[3] Before the sin, “they were both naked, man and his wife, but they were not embarrassed.”[4] The soul then was not so attached to the body. It was able to detach itself at any time, and it therefore, did not need a garment to cover it, since the body itself was only like a garment. Our body was so refined and transparent that it reflected the light of our soul. However, in our ‘after-eating-from-the-Tree’ state, our body is no longer an opaque garment for the soul, rather it has become a mask concealing our true inner being, covering and darkening the light of our soul. The coarseness of our body separates it from Hashem. It is the separation that causes our embarrassment which needs to be covered. The purpose of garments is to conceal the mask of our body and through the choice of texture, style and color, express our inner essence and bring forth the hidden sparks of our soul.

Clothes Conceal yet Reveal
The Hebrew word for clothes לבוש/levush literally means, ‘for embarrassment.’ Our bodies have become our lower selves which we need to hide by our dress, the covering of our naked embarrassment. The Hebrew word for garments – בגד/beged is connected to the word for traitor – בוגד/bogged, and מעיל/m’eil –robe is likewise connected with מעילה/meilah –treachery. Our clothes comprise an outer shell, which hide our inner essence. With our clothes we play a certain role.

The way we dress reveals something very deep about our personalities. Sometimes consciously, other times unconsciously, we chose the kinds of clothing which represent what we identify with. Our style of dress represents the way we like to be perceived in the world. Whether our clothing is true to our inner essence or a disguise trying to project an artificial image of ourselves that is the dilemma and challenge we need to solve within our own consciousness.

Bodies of Light
Before eating from the Tree, Adam and Eve’s had pure light-bodies. Their eating caused their אור/ohr – light to be transformed to עור/or – skin. Since then we wear garments to cover the covering of the skin and become closer to the original light of the soul. Yet, the external clothing that we wear in this world mustn’t make us forget about the original spiritual garments that we also need to clothe ourselves in the next world. Just as a soldier or fireman needs certain garments to be able to do his task, so too, do we need spiritual garments to appreciate the glory and splendor of G-d as revealed in the next world. We can recreate these garments from our Torah and Mitzvoth. כִּי נֵר מִצְוָה וְתוֹרָה אוֹר – “For a mitzvah is a candle, and Torah is light.”[5] These spiritual garments will enable us to return to our original state when our bodies exuded pure light.

The Blinding Nakedness of the Snakeskin
In order to reclaim our spiritual garments we need to first remove the snakeskin –עור/or. It is interesting that the Hebrew word for ‘skin’ – עור/or is spelled the exact same way as the Hebrew word for ‘blind – עור/iver. This same word is related to the Hebrew word for naked ערום –/arum. Perhaps we can explain the connection between skin, blindness and nakedness as follows. Our nakedness became apparent when our light was transformed to skin. This nakedness, induced by the snake blinded us to the light of Hashem. This is the deeper meaning of the verse: וְהַנָּחָשׁ הָיָה עָרוּם /v’hanachash haya arum – “The snake was naked/skin/blinding …”[6] The primordial snake caused our blindness to Divine light transforming it to the nakedness of the skin. This snake energy is perpetrated in the personality of Vashti, who also wanted to strip the Jewish girls of their Divine image when she made them work on Shabbat naked.[7] This way she intended to prove that their souls were lacking the splendid spiritual garments.[8]

Defying Amalek by Dressing up in the Supreme Spiritual Garments
Amalek only has power over us when Israel lacks their spiritual garments of glory. Likewise Amalek had no power over the Jews who were protected by the clouds of glory in the wilderness, since these clouds were akin to our original spiritual garments. Amalek was only able to overcome those who fell away from the cloud and remained without spiritual clothing. When Israel lusted for the meal of Achasverus’ party, they were stripped off their glorious spiritual garments. This is the underlying reason for Haman’s evil decree. According to the Zohar, when Esther dressed up in מַלְכוּת/Malchut – (Royalty),[9] she dressed up in the supreme spiritual garments of Adam and Eve before the sin. She caused Israel to repent, and once again get dressed up in glory and cleave to the Most High. Esther’s dressing up in Malchut is what nullified Haman’s decree, and enabled Mordechai to “go out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white and with a great crown of gold, and with a wrap of fine linen and purple.”[10] This was a sign that Hashem had accepted the repentance of the Jewish people.

Expressing our Individual Uniqueness while Accepting the Contribution of Others
The original eating from the Tree of Knowledge brought about the awareness and embarrassment of our own separate existence which in turn caused insecurity, jealousy and hatred throughout our generations. The need for conformity in clothes is an outcome of this insecurity. In contrast, Aharon, the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) wore the names of all the children of Israel upon the breastplate on his heart with twelve unique precious stones representing each of the tribes. This was his reward for being happy in his heart for the achievements or others. Aharon was happy and not jealous when his younger brother Moshe was chosen to be the leader of Israel.[11] This kind of happiness and acceptance of the other’s true unique qualities returns the Shechina to Israel. Our fragmentation into groups of streimels, black hats, knitted kipot etc. wouldn’t have to cause so much tension and sinat chinam (senseless hatred) if we only would understand how our personal choice of identification doesn’t negate the choices of others. If only we would realize the impact of expressing the unique spiritual garments of our soul, while simultaneously accepting and embracing someone else’s individual contribution. This way we have the opportunity to gather in the dispersed sparks of the light of Adam and Eve’s original spiritual garments and rebuild the holy Temple in Jerusalem!

[1] Megillat Esther 9:1.
[2] Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 7b.
[3] See Bereishit 3:7.
[4] Bereishit 2:25.
[5] Mishlei 6:23.
[6] Bereishit 3:1.
[7] Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 12b.
[8] Maharal, Ohr Chadash, p. 96.
[9] Megillat Esther 5:1.
[10] Megillat Esther 8:15.
[11] “Is not Aharon the Levite your brother? … and also behold he comes to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart” (Shemot 4:14).

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Esther – The Inner Mystery of Glowing in the Dark

"Yeah Team- Purim is coming!"
As Purim is upon us once again and we celebrate with laughter, a festive Purim party, (mishteh) and lots of goodies we remember Esther and listen to her story, both at night and during the day.

We must remember Esther in our deepest darkness as well as in the times of our greatest light.

The word Esther means hidden. Esther hides inside of the English word “mystery.” If you remove the first and the last letter you get Yster/Esther.

We are all intrigued by the mysterious depth rather than the superficial which is outwardly flaunted. This is the secret of true femininity. Just as our soul is hidden within our body, so is modesty the spiritual quality of womanhood. Getting dressed up as someone/something else is a way to celebrate our mystical hidden essence.

The more we hide the external side of ourselves the more we allow our true internal qualities to shine forth. It is only the ego which craves external gratification, yet the highest way to give is without getting outwardly credit. Performing a hidden good deed without anyone knowing recharges the light of our soul. This is true healing, to contain and recharge our inner light.

Many people get sick because they disperse their light to those undeserving, who lustfully eat up the energy streaming out of their uncovered bodies. Beautiful layers of velvet, silk and cotton, colorful artistically crafted wrappings are the armors of the feminine souls.

Everyone is looking for protection in this unpredictable terrifying world of today. They escape into the horrid darkness of the color of black, not realizing that there are ways to glow in the dark.

Glowing in the Dark
Esther is the name of a Persian Jewish princess who glowed in the dark period of the Persian exile almost 2500 years ago. Her name is connected with the Persian word for "star," ستاره setareh, because Esther was as beautiful as the Morning Star. Esther’s star shone when the sky was darkest, just before the dawn of redemption from the constraining exile. Her character of mysterious hiddenness – not telling anyone who she was – allowed all of her light to be contained inside. This is the secret of her mysterious power, bringing light and healing into the world.

Burning Away the Thorns of Evil
Esther was the last of the modest Biblical heroines whose power to concentrate their light inwardly allowed them to glow in the dark. This hidden power can be compared to the concentration of the rays of the sun under a magnifying glass which produces fire. Women’s mysterious coverings allow us to focus – focus our inner light to have the power to glow and burn when needed. Esther burned away the evil thorns of Haman the villain who threatened to generate the most gruesome holocaust.

In Touch with the Creator of Her Inner Light
What was the spiritual makeup of Esther’s tremendous power? In her mysterious hidden self, beyond the external trappings of ego, she was in touch with the place within every person that interfaces with our Higher Power. From the depths of this space she was able to call out from the outer darkness of exile to the creator of her inner light.

Revealing the Light of Her Sparkling Soul
Esther’s soulful cries of intensified prayer broke through all barriers that blocked the Feminine In-dwelling Divine Presence from revealing herself in the world. After having reached inward first and revealed this Higher Power within herself, she was able to draw out the light of her sparkling soul into the world.

Accessing the Inner Star of our Heart
Every woman has a shining star of spiritual wealth within her heart. When our lives are dark and we feel low, the unbearable pain draws us out of our comfort zone to reach beyond the barriers of our challenge. This way, our darkness helps us to break through spiritual blocks, which hides the inner star of our heart, giving us the strength to go on.

Leaving the Comfort of the Darkness Behind
Esther empowers every woman to see the light at the end of the tunnel grow, and choose to move towards it, leaving the darkness of the well-known and the comfortable behind. When we have courage to ignore the outer glittering temptations, and turn inwards to face our true selves, our hearts will open and the radiance of our inner star will softly glow to engender light and healing to the world.

May we learn from Esther to focus our light transforming our darkened world to the most exquisite colorful sunrise! Purim Sameach!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Moshe's Other Half: The Feminine Aspect of Zayin Adar

Like Moshe was Molded by Women, Women Mold the Mashiach
On Zayin Adar, we celebrate the birthday and the day of Moshe Rabbeinu’s passing. At this time, Moshe’s mazal (spiritual influence) shines most powerfully, and as the leader of Israel, he draws down Hashem’s blessings to all of us. Since seven represents a complete cycle, the seventh of Adar inspires us to serve Hashem in a complete manner. The Chatam Sofer compares Moshe, the first redeemer, to the final redeemer. We learn from Michah 7:15: “As in the days of your Exodus from the Land of Egypt, I will show you wonders,” that the redemption from Egypt is the prototype of the Final Redemption. Moshe, who was the leader of the Jewish people during the Exodus, is the prototype of Mashiach. The midrash gives an example of how Mashiach parallels Moshe. Just as Moshe took his wife and children and made them ride on the donkey, so too, will Mashiach ride on a donkey.[1] Just as it was the women in his life (Miriam, Yocheved, Bitya and Tziporah) who made Moshe into the leader of Israel, so is it the women who will bring about and mold the final redeemer. Tziporah’s role in molding Moshe is highlighted through the gematria (numerical value) of her name which equals למשה (for Moshe).[2] Moshe had an additional name, Tzipor. These same letters also spell צף אור/Tzaf Or – “The light floated” – as Moshe Rabbeinu saw Tziporah’s light float.

By the Well על הבאר
“An Egyptian man delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew and drew water for us, and watered the flock.”[3] Ba’alei Tosfot learn from the repetition of the word “drew” that Moshe drew Yitro’s daughter out of the water and also drew water for them and their flock. Moshe is drawn from the water. His entire essence and everything about him is connected with the drawing out of water. It was Moshe’s meeting Tziporah at the well that gave him the supernatural powers to save her and her sisters from the big group of hostile sheepherders. Moshe’s name means not only, “I drew him out of the water,”[4] in which case it should have been “Nimshe.” It also means drawing water for others, and drawing others out of the water. The Torah is called Torah from Heaven. In Hebrew heaven is שמים/shamayim which can be broken up to שם מים/sham mayim – there is water. Moshe had to draw the Torah out/down from the upper water, and draw the people out/up from the lower water. With Tziporah’s help, he was also able to come back down and pull the people up. The giving of water symbolizes giving of Torah. Moshe gave Tziporah Torah. In this messianic time, it is the role of the men to give Torah to the women and allow them to develop their spiritual side. The geulah will come when all the men have learned to give the women this spiritual space. Water symbolizes a new dimension. There is a whole different world of life under the water. Moshe is able to access the upper dimension where there is no eating and drinking (He stayed at the mountain for forty days without eating and drinking.) When Moshe met Tziporah he became completely connected with his essence of water. (Moshe is also a Pisces which is a water sign). When you meet your soul-mate, you become connected with your own essence and access your inherent hidden powers; you become who you really are. This is how you will know if the person who you have met is the right one. Rather than focusing only on who he is, tune into who he makes you become.

To be a Sheep-herder לרעות בצאן
“Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock.”[5] Tziporah was a sheepherder before Moshe. Moshe learned the vocation of shepherding from her. Through Tziporah Moshe became a sheepherder too, which prepared him for being the leader of the Jewish people. Seeing G-d in nature, being connected to Israel through the sheep, and having mercy on even one sheep is what makes Moshe worthy of revela­tion. It is thus through Tziporah that Moshe becomes ready for the revela­tion of the burning bush. Maharal explains that the priest of Midian had seven daughters, because the seventh is holier than the rest. Likewise the seventh is sanctified among the days, months and years. Because Tziporah was the seventh daughter, she was special and fitting to cleave to a body as holy as Moshe's. In this way both Tziporah and Moshe are connected with the level of seven, as Moshe is born and passes away on the 7th of Adar.

Swift as a Bird קל כציפור
The name Tziporah means to peer into the future and see (צופה ורואה/Tzofa veroah). She had the ability to foresee the future, anticipate the redemption, and to see the potential in others and develop it. Anticipating people’s needs is a very archetypical feminine trait that we need to nurture and develop. Pour the cup without asking; when you notice that your husband/child/guest is thirsty. Tziporah discovered Moshe and saw his true nature. She was willing to marry Moshe although he was a stranger, an Egyptian who had nothing. She understood his true self just like Michal perceived David before he became King David. Tziporah knew who Moshe was before anyone else. She revealed him. She raised and strengthened him in shepherding until he reached the revelation of the burning bush. It’s interesting that both Tziporah and Moshe shared this ability of seeing, as it is known that there never was, is, or will be another prophet on the level of Moshe who could see Hashem in the deepest, closest humanly possible way. Tziporah’s ability of seeing was more practical. She brought Moshe’s loftiness down to earth. The word Tziporah means bird. Maharal explains that the bird is associated with life because of its swift movements which are completely alive. This is the opposite of death which has no movements. Moreover, the substance of the bird is refined and good. Therefore, she was called Tziporah because of her good and refined substance, similar to a bird that soars in the sky. The midrash teaches that she ran after Moshe like a bird, since there never existed a body as holy and refined as Moshe’s. Due to her refinement Tziporah was his perfect match.

Women’s Connection to the Bread of Perfection -נשים ושלימות הלחם
Yitro, whose house was full of daughters, was concerned about how to find marriage partners for them all. Therefore he exclaimed: “Why did you leave the man, call him that he may eat bread.”[6] Rashi explains that “eating bread” refers to the woman. A similar usage is found in “Except for the bread which he eats.”[7] Immediately, Tziporah ran after Moshe like a bird and brought him back.[8] Bread is the rectification for eating from the Tree of knowledge. “With the sweat of your evil” Bread brings unification; this is why we sacrifice two chametz breads on Shavuot when a rectification for eating from the Tree took place. Even the strands of our braided challah symbolize unification. Marrying is the highest human unification reflecting our unity with Hashem. This is why marrying a woman is compared to eating bread.

Upon the Ass -מעל החומר
“Moshe took his wife and his sons, and set them upon the ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt.”[9] Tziporah was behind Moshe when he went to redeem his people. She was the first one to believe in him. Her encouragement convinced Moshe to fulfill his mission. Despite the danger for herself and her two babies, Tziporah was willing to follow Moshe into a strange land, in order to be part of the redemption process. In the end, she did not enter Egypt, because Aharon dissuaded Moshe from endanger­ing her life and that of their children. Yet, Tziporah’s willing­ness to stand by her husband and follow him in this perilous mission shows her greatness. G-d wants our hearts, our willingness. As long as we’re ready to sacrifice our comforts in our willingness to follow G-d, then we often don’t need to suffer the actual difficul­ties.

The Donkey of Mashiach- החמור של משיח
Rashi explains that the ass upon which Moshe placed Tziporah was a special donkey, designated for this purpose. This was the same ass which Avraham had saddled for the purpose of traveling to bind Yitzchak on Mount Moriah, and this, too, is the ass upon which King Mashiach will be revealed, as it states, “A poor person riding on a donkey.[10] It is not by chance that Tziporah is placed upon the same donkey which Mashiach will ride. It is suitable that Tziporah, being so refined and alive – detached from the material – should ride the donkey, “chamor” which also means “material” in Hebrew. “Sitting on top of the donkey” means that she was above the material. She was a spiritual being – a bird that could fly. It is Moshe who placed her on that donkey, indicating that the redemption takes place when the men will place the women on top of the material. One the way to redemption, men must allow women to rise to the top. They must give women their spiritual space. Moshe’s placing Tziporah on the donkey at the verge of the redemption from Egypt, moreover, alludes to the important role women play in the redemption process.

Saving her Husband on the Spot להציל בעלה במקום
“And it came to pass by the way in the lodging place, that Hashem met him, and sought to put him to death. Then Tziporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet and said, Surely a bridegroom of blood you are to me. So he loosened his hold of him…”[11] Tziporah saved Moshe’s life through her Divine inspiration to circumcise her son with a rock. It is interesting to note that the word for rock צר/tzur is written without the vav and has exactly the same numerical value as the name מרים/Miriam (290). Perhaps we can say that Tziporah took the merit of Miriam in order to save Moshe’s life. Miriam’s role all along was to protect Moshe. Before he was born she brought her parents back together to conceive him. She watched over him while he was floating in the Nile and she brought him his mother as a “nursemaid.” Even when she was not directly involved in saving Moshe, the spiritual energy of the numerology of her name was present to save his life. Tziporah, thus worked in a team with the spiritual energy of her sister-in-law, Miriam, the same way that all redemptions take place by means of team work of holy women.[12] It is Tziporah’s swiftness in performing the brith mila that rectified Moshe’s hesitation, debating, and deliberating which mitzvah to perform first: Redeeming Israel or circumcising his son.[13] Tziporah had to apply her own sense and judgment in order to clearly discern what had to be done. There was no time to ask a Rabbi, and surely no time to send for a mohel. The fact that Tziporah – a woman – performs the brit mila, possibly alludes to the important role women play in guarding and rectifying sexuality during the time of redemption. Women have a tremendous influence in the world, particularly on men, since men’s ability to keep tikun habrit (rectification of sexuality) depends to a high degree on women. Therefore, excelling in tzniut and modesty is an important element in bringing about the redemption. The world has to rectify yesod (foundation) before it can achieve malchut (royalty).

Mashiach’s Wife אשת משיח
Then Yitro Moshe’s father- in-law took Tziporah Moshe’s wife, after he had sent her away and her two sons of whom the name of one was Gershom for he said I was a stranger in a strange land.”[14] The Torah emphasizes that Tziporah was reunited with Moshe prior to receiving the Torah. Esther Kitov explains that in order for Moshe to give the Torah to Israel, he needed his faithful Tziporah at his side. Only both of them together as a team were able to bring down Torah to Israel. This is similar to the Halachic requirement that the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) must be married in order to perform the Temple service.[15] All of the Torah that Moshe brought down from Heaven for all eternity was therefore dependant on Tziporah – his other half. Likewise, when we pray for Mashiach, we are also praying for Mashiach’s wife, who will empower the Mashiach to redeem Israel.

[1] Kohelet Rabbah 1:28.
[2] צפרה and למשה share the numerical value of 375.
[3] Shemot 2:18-19.
[4] Shemot 2:10.
[5] Shemot 2:16.
[6] Shemot 2:20.
[7] Bereishit 39:6.
[8] Shemot Rabbah 1:32.
[9] Shemot 4:20.
[10] Zecharia 9:9.
[11] Shemot 4:24-26.
[12] For example Shifra and Puah the midwifes in Egypt, as well as the team of Ruth and Naomi.
[13] See Rashi, Shemot 4:25.
[14] Shemot 18:2-3.
[15] Mishna Yoma 1:1.