Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Why do we Need to Know all these Details of the Mishkan (Tabernacle)?

Ask the Rebbetzin - Parashat Teruma
Dearest Rebbetzin,
I’ve been wondering why the Torah goes into such details in describing the Mishkan. It seems a bit tedious to go through all the measurements of each of the Tabernacle and its vessels. Why are these details so important? If you could shed light on their symbolic meaning, it would make Parashat Teruma so much more meaningful to me.
Mini Meir (name changed)

Dear Mini,
It is hard to understand the details of the Mishkan because they are so deeply divine, and beyond human conception. This is why it states after each part of the building of the Mishkan, “As G-d had commanded Moshe” (Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, Kuzari 25:2). Malbim explains that the Mishkan is like a cosmic person with an all-inclusive body, connecting all of existence. Just as the human body – the garment of our soul – has limbs that serve to actualize our spiritual powers, the Tabernacle and Temple has vessels and body parts. The three parts of the Mishkan correspond to the three parts of the human body: 1. The Holy of Holiest corresponds to the head and skull – the abode of the Intellectual Soul (Neshama) 2. The Tent of Meeting corresponds to the upper part of the body from the neck to the chest – the abode of the Vital Soul (Ruach) – the location of the heart. 3. The Courtyard corresponds to the lower part of the body from the navel downwards – the vegetable soul (Nefesh) -manifesting through the stomach, liver and intestines. Just as our body and organs need exact measures in order to function, so does each of the measures of the Mishkan serve a purpose in the cosmic body. Read on to learn some of the symbolic meanings of the Mishkan based on Malbim’s commentary on Parasha Teruma.

The Mishkan Connects the Body of Israel
A person is a microcosmic world. This is because all the worlds were employed in the formation of the human being and implanted within him during the Six Days of Creation. We conduct our small chariot – our body, just as the upper King conducts His great chariot – the world. Hashem is the Soul of the world, through which He imbues it with light and life. He connects the entire macrocosmic body – all the many worlds from beginning to end, to become one complete unified entity, in which the wisdom of the Creator is revealed. If our soul would separate from the body, all our organs would turn into dead dispersed particles. When the Jewish people are not united, our cosmic Soul disconnects from the body. This is why senseless hatred caused the Temple to be destroyed . When we unite through the Mishkan and the Temple, our cosmic Soul will once again infuse the collective body of Israel and of the world with Divine light.

The Ark Corresponds to the Brain
The Ark was placed within the Holy of Holies, corresponding to the Neshama (intellectual soul). The two tablets in the Ark correspond to the brain, which is divided into two sides. In order to receive the Torah, we need the sense of vision to read it. Furthermore, we need ears to hear the tradition of our Fathers as brought down in the Oral Torah. These correspond to the poles that carry the Ark, since both the visual and auditory centers are connected to the brain. The highest parts of the soul are called Chaya and Yechidah. They do not have a designated place in the body. Rather, they hover over and above it. The Cherubs on the lid of the Ark allude to these soul parts. They spread their wings on high, because they dwell in the upper world, in the source of life, from where they send their light to those who merit prophetic Divine visions. It was, therefore, from above the lid of the Ark that Hashem spoke with Moshe.

The Ark Corresponds to Torah
The Ark was made from wood since the Torah is called “A Tree of Life.” Why does it state וְעָשׂוּ/v’asu – “they shall make” in plural regarding the Ark, whereas by the other vessels it states, וְעָשִׂיתָ/v’asita – “you shall make” in singular? Everyone had to be involved in making the Ark, so that all would merit Torah. Moreover, Torah can only be truly fulfilled through the community of Israel. Three of the Tabernacle vessels have crowns: the Altar, the Table and the Ark. The crown of the Altar belongs to Aharon. The crown of the Table belongs to David. Yet, the crown of the Ark is free for anyone who wants to come and take it. The Torah belongs to all of Israel. Both those who learn it and those who support Torah learning share its reward. All the measurements of the Ark consist of halves to teach us that a Torah scholar must always be humble and his heart broken within him.

The Blessings of the Table
The partition between the Holy of Holies and the Tent of Meeting corresponds to the neck that connects the head with the chest. The Tent of Meeting corresponds to the middle part of the body from the neck to the chest where the living Ruach (spirit) resides. It contains the Table and the Menorah. The Table with its showbreads corresponds to the nourishing heart which brings the blessings of the Sanctuary and sustenance to the whole world. . Upon the Table were twelve breads corresponding to the twelve months of the year. Since blessings can only rest on something physical, the bread of Hashem conveyed blessings of satiation to the entire world. It is called Lechem HaPanim (Inner Bread) because it emanates from the innermost place, from Hashem Himself Who sustains every living being.

The Menorah Corresponds to the Understanding Heart
The Menorah alludes to the intellectual heart – the light of knowledge. Whereas the Ark alludes to the wisdom of the Torah and prophesy (Chachmah), which emerges from Divine revelation, the Menorah alludes to that which we can understand through our own (Binah) and is connected to the heart as it states, “The Heart understands…” (Zohar, Part 2:116b). The fact that the Menorah was fashioned from pure gold teaches us that we must strive for “solid gold” in our motives and behavior. Our character traits on the inside should reflect our actions on the outside, and vice versa. In this way, the Menorah teaches us to bring out the Divine light from within our soul to shine externally. The Menorah’s structure, which branches out from a central stem also inspires us to embrace holiness. It teaches us that our demeanor, personality, and actions must branch out and influence others by illuminating the world around us. Finally, the Menorah reminds the people of Israel that we are called to be “A Light unto the nations” (Yesha’yahu 42:6).

The Courtyard
The Copper Altar was for sacrifices and stood in the courtyard of the Tabernacle. It corresponds to the stomach and the digestive system – the vessels of the Nefesh. Just as the digestive system digests the food by means of the heat of the stomach, the Altar consumes the sacrifices and turns them into ashes by means of fire from heaven, breaking everything down to its root element. The measurements of the altar are whole to hint that a person approaching the altar to bring an offering must repent until teshuva sheleima – complete repentance. The curtains of the Tent correspond to the skin that surrounds and protects the body.

The Mishkan Becomes the Resting Place for Our Divine Soul
The Tabernacle and Temple in Jerusalem – the undivided city – unites all the souls of the Jewish nation to become as one person with an all-inclusive soul, emanating the light of Divine brilliance that illuminates the entire world with His glory. Therefore, when we pray, we direct our hearts to face the Temple. From wherever we are in the world, our prayers flow to the Temple Mount. In this way, we fulfill our spiritual goal to illuminate and actualize our souls, as it states, “Make me a Tabernacle and I will dwell within them” (Shemot 25:8). When the individual lights of each soul are fused, they become transformed to illuminate as one great light – the light of the Shechinah that dwells within us. May we merit to once again become unified and make ourselves into one cosmic body – The chariot of the Divine presence!

(Based on The Allusions of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) according to MALBIM, Meir Loeb ben Yechiel Michael, 1809–1879, Volhynia, Ukraine).

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rebbetzin's Torahs by the Parsha

NEW! All Rebbetzin's commentaries for each parsha - in a click!

The Book of Bereshit

Parashat Bereshit
Parsha Meditation: Calling out to G-d for the Hidden Light  
Haftorah Commentary: The Holy Women who Protect Israel
Nature in the Parsha: Life Lessons from the Shemittah (Sabbatical) Year
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Taking Responsibility for our Actions
Ask the Rebbetzin! Why is Eve Created from Adam?

Parashat Noach
Parsha Meditation:  Building Our Personal Sacred Space
Haftorah Commentary:  Parshat Noach and Blessing in Disguise 
Nature in the Parsha: The Dove and the Olive Leaf
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: The Human ‘Group Animals’

Ask the Rebbetzin! Who Was Noach’s Wife?

Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: My Journey Back Home
Ask the Rebbetzin! Why is only Sarah Judged for Laughing?

Parashat Vayera
Parsha Meditation: An Opening for Healing Revelation
Haftorah Commentary: The Power of Women’s Emunah
Nature in the Parsha: Avraham’s Hospitality Tree
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Why Don’t Anyone Laugh Anymore?
Ask the Rebbetzin! Do Women Need to Serve Their Husbands?

Parashat Toldot
Parsha Meditation: Revealing the Well of Living Waters Within
Haftorah Commentary: The “Esavs” and the “Ya’acovs” of Today
Nature in the Parsha: Re-digging the Wells of Tradition
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Can Sibling Rivalry be Repaired?
Ask the Rebbetzin! Is Antoninus a True Convert?

Parashat Vayetze
Parsha Meditation: Stepping Inwards on the Ladder of Ascent
Haftorah Commentary: Ya’acov’s Toil to Deserve His Wives
Nature in the Parsha: The Secret of the Dudaim Deal
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Sister-Heart Protects the People of Israel

Ask the Rebbetzin! How Could Ya’acov Marry Two Sisters?

Parashat Vayishlach
Parsha Meditation: Alone with Your Soul
Haftorah Commentary: The Secret Power of Shema Yisrael
Nature in the Parsha: The Weeping Oak
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Dealing with Death

Ask the Rebbetzin! Did Dinah Fall in Love with the Prince of Shechem?

Parashat Vayeshev
Parsha Meditation: Tuning into our Dreams, Visions & Aspirations
Haftorah Commentary: Sisterly Sensitivity
Nature in the Parsha: The Grapevine Dream
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Does the Torah have clear Parameters for Relationships?

Ask the Rebbetzin! Why Did Ya’acov Give Yosef a Special Coat and What Kind of Coat was It?

Parashat Miketz
Parsha Meditation: Igniting the Darkest Shadow sides of your Soul
Haftorah Commentary: Sing and Rejoice, Daughter of Zion!
Nature in the Parsha: The Menorah Shaped Sheaves
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Do We Need to Make our Dreams Come True?

Ask the Rebbetzin! Can You Help Me Understand My Dream?

Parashat Vayigash
Parsha Meditation: Reaching the Meeting Point of Contention
Haftorah Commentary: The Path to Peace and Redemption
Nature in the Parsha: Shepherding: The Traditional Jewish Vocation
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Do We Need Full-time Learning Yeshiva Boys?

Ask the Rebbetzin! How can I Forgive My Sisters?

Parashat Vayechi
Parsha Meditation: Shema Yisrael – Unifying at Heart
Haftorah Commentary: The Bridge Between Life and Death
Nature in the Parsha: The Deer Sent Forth
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: The Blessings of Rebuke

Ask the Rebbetzin! Why Do We Bless Our Sons to be Like Ephraim and Menashe?

The Book of Shemot
Parashat Shemot
Parsha Meditation: The Five Leaved Bush of Light
Haftorah Commentary: On the Verge of Redemption
Nature in the Parsha: The Burning Bramble Bush
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: How Do We Strengthen our Emunah in the Hope of Fruitfulness?

Ask the Rebbetzin! Why is Our Greatest Prophet Called Moshe?

Parashat Va'era
Parsha Meditation: Unblocking Hashem’s Voice Within
Haftorah Commentary: Our Actions Today Empower the Future
Nature in the Parsha: The Late Blooming Grain
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: The Challenge of Communication

Ask the Rebbetzin!  Why is Listening so Important in the Torah?

Parashat Bo
Parsha Meditation: Eradicating our Deepest Fears
Haftorah Commentary: Hashem’s Feminine In-dwelling Presence
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Is there any Spiritual Difference between Jew and Gentile?

Ask the Rebbetzin! Why Do We Need a Mezuzah?

Parashat Beshalach
Parsha Meditation: Eating in Holiness – A Preparation for Receiving Torah
Haftorah Commentary: Devorah: "A Woman of Flames"
Nature in the Parsha: The Bitter Tree Sweetener
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Miracles, Money Matters, Manna and Emunah
Tu B'Shevat: The Holiday of Redemption

Ask the Rebbetzin! Can a Woman Play Music with Men?

Parashat Yitro
Parsha Meditation: The Tree of Love
Nature in the Parsha: The Mountain – A Window to Heaven
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: How do we Know that the Torah is True?

Ask the Rebbetzin! Why Do Jews Claim to be the Chosen People?

Parashat Mishpatim
Parsha Meditation: Transforming Pain to Become a Source of Joy
Haftorah: Overcoming Negative Patterns and Addiction
Nature in the Parsha: The Sabbatical Year & Blessings of Redemption
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Does the Torah Look at Women as Sex Objects?

Ask the Rebbetzin!  Is it Permitted to Gaze at the Moon?

Parashat Terumah
Parsha Meditation: The Mishkan: A Spiritual Healing Structure
Nature in the Parsha: The Multicolored Unicorn
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: To Give or not to Give?

Ask the Rebbetzin! Why do we Need to Know all these Details of the Mishkan (Tabernacle)?

Parashat Tetzaveh
Parsha Meditation: The Candles of Eternity
Haftorah: The Power of Visualization
Nature in the Parsha: The Mystical Turquoise Colored Snail Fish
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Do We Need to Wear Black Polyester Skirts for Modesty?
Parashat Ki Tisa
Parsha Meditation: Raising our Desires for Life
Nature in the Parsha: The Holy Anointing Oil
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
What is the Difference between Spirituality and Holiness?
Ask the Rebbetzin! Why are only Males Commanded to Appear at the Temple During the Three Pilgrim Holidays?

Parashat Vayakhel

Parashat Pekudei
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Tribal Gemstones
The Book of Vayikra
Parashat Vayikra
Parsha Meditation: “Online” With Hashem
Haftorah: Praising Hashem Through Song
Nature in the Parsha: The Levona Spice 
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
Picking Up Hashem’s Calls even in the Taxi
Ask the Rebbetzin! What will Give me Strength to Deal with all my Hardships?

Parashat Tzav
Parsha Meditation: Pleasure & Will – The Crown of the Soul 
Nature in the Parsha: The Twilight Ram 
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
The Poor Man’s Offering
Ask the Rebbetzin! Why Do We Need All These Animal Sacrifices?

Parashat Shemini
Parsha Meditation: A Vessel for the Fire of Love and Excitement 
Haftorah: The Dance of David
Nature in the Parsha: The Pig of Return 
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
When EmunaHealers and Shamanic Hebrew Priestesses Meet
Ask the Rebbetzin! How Can I Keep Family Purity When the Closest Mikvah is 2000km Away?

Parashat Tazria
Parsha Meditation: Time-out for Self-reflection and Meditation 
Haftorah: Reaching Perfection in Speech
Nature in the Parsha: Plants of Purification
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
Time to Clean Up Our Speech
Ask the Rebbetzin! Our Speech Builds Heaven and Earth

Parashat Metzora
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Spiritual Spring Cleaning

Parashat Acharei Mot 
Haftorah: To Plant and Be Planted
Nature in the Parsha: Ingrained Giving 
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
Pesach – Living by the Law of Covering our Nakedness

Parashat Kedoshim
Parsha Meditation: “Love your Fellow as Yourself” by Reconnecting with the Soul of Souls
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Coming Out of Pesach and Keeping the Flames of Holiness Burning
Ask the Rebbetzin! Honoring Parents

Parashat Emor
Parsha Meditation: Healing Emotions through Speech 
Haftorah: The Power of Challah
Nature in the Parsha: The Problem of Pet Sterilization 
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
The Controversy of Women and Counting the Omer
Ask the Rebbetzin! Why Can’t I Marry a Kohen?

Parashat Behar
Parsha Meditation: Receiving Torah by Tuning into the Soul of the Land 
Haftorah: Redeeming the Land – The Extension of Our Soul
Nature in the Parsha: The Redemptive Secret of the Yovel Year 
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
Why We Deserve This Land
Ask the Rebbetzin! How do I Deal with Reminders of My Non-Jewish Past?

Parashat Bechukotai
Parsha Meditation: Walking Upright with G-d
Haftorah: Hashem's Miracles in Our Time
Nature in the Parsha: The Desolate Land from Desert to Bloom 
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
In Which World Do We Receive Our Ultimate Reward?

Shabbat Pesach
Nature in the Parsha: The Hyssop Paintbrush
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
Pesach – The Holiday for Extended Family Celebration
Ask the Rebbetzin! Why Does Preparing for Pesach have to be such Agonizing Slavery?

The Book of Bamidbar
Parashat Bamidbar
Parsha Meditation: Realigning Ourselves with Ourselves
Haftorah: Hashem's Eternal Bond to Us
Nature in the Parsha: The Whisper of the Wilderness
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: The Brotherhood of Physical and Spiritual Warfare
Ask the Rebbetzin! How can I Celebrate Shabbat Camping out in the Wilderness?

Parashat Naso
Parsha Meditation: The Spiritual Healing Power of the Kohanim Blessing
Haftorah: Hidden Lessons from a Hidden Woman
Nature in the Parsha: The Barley Offering: Mistress or Mastery
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Turning Competition and Jealousy into Unity and Peace
Ask the Rebbetzin! Where does the Torah Mention the Obligation of Hair-Covering for Married Women?

Parashat Beha’alotcha
Parsha Meditation: Prayer for Miriam’s Healing and for the Longing of our Soul
Haftorah: Sing and Rejoice Daughter of Zion!
Nature in the Parsha: The Celestial Cloud Covering
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Turning Our Sparks into Flames that Keeps Burning By Themselves
Ask the Rebbetzin! 
Is Judaism Racist?

Parashat Shlach L’chah
Parsha Meditation: Developing Inner Vision and Exploring the Spiritual Land
Haftorah: The Ability to Completely Turn Life Around
Nature in the Parsha: The Secret of Challah
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Trusting in Hashem’s Protection “Under the Vine and Under the Fig-Tree”
Ask the Rebbetzin! Is it Dangerous to Live in Israel?

Parashat Korach
Parsha Meditation: Eradicating the Energy of Korach from Within
Haftorah: The Feminine Role in Establishing True Kingdom
Nature in the Parsha: The Time-Lapse Blossoming
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Past Life Regression and Korach’s Soul Rectification
Ask the Rebbetzin! 
Why Can I not Be Free and Let My Hair Loose?

Parashat Chukat
Parsha Meditation: Actualizing our Trans-rational Latent Emunah
Haftorah: The Pilegesh in Our Times
Nature in the Parsha: The Perfect Mother Cow
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Does Juice Fasting Help Maintain Health and Alleviate Cravings?
Ask the Rebbetzin! 
Why did My Brother Have to Die so Young?

Parashat Balak
Parsha Meditation: Transforming Curses into Blessings
Haftorah: Walk Modestly with Your G-d
Nature in the Parsha: The Donkey Vision
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Do Our Eyes Have Power to Effect Reality?
Ask the Rebbetzin! 
Should I be Afraid of Ayin Hara (The Evil Eye)?

Parashat Pinchas
Parsha Meditation: How can Killing a Fellow Jew Restore Peace???
Haftorah: Soul Reincarnations
Nature in the Parsha: The Cryptic Caper Bush
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Does Pinchas Serve as a Model for ‘Price-tag’ Activism?
Ask the Rebbetzin! 
Is it Possible to Receive Prophecy Today?

Parashat Matot
Haftorah: Monogamy – Reflecting Hashem’s Relationship with His People
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: The Vows of Vegetarianism and Peace
Ask the Rebbetzin! 
Why can the Father and Husband Nullify her Word?

Parashat Masai
Parsha Meditation: What is the Purpose for Every Stop on our Path?
Haftorah: The Way to Redemption Paved by the Jewish Family
Nature in the Parsha: The Weeping White Broom Bush
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: Appreciating Our Promised Land

The Book of Devarim
Parashat Devarim

Parsha Meditation: Turning our Vision into Reality
Haftorah: The Shabbat of Vision
Nature in the Parsha: The Lyre Shaped Kineret Sea of Galilee
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
The Blessings of Rebuke
Ask the Rebbetzin! Why is the Torah Filled with War?

Parashat Va’etchanan
Parsha Meditation: Connecting with the Unity of the Community of Israel and Hashem
Haftorah: The Inner Lights of Tu b'Av
Nature in the Parsha: Longing for the Land
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
Do We Need to Make a Favorable Impression on the Gentiles?
Ask the Rebbetzin! Does the Torah Allow Smoking?

Parashat Eikev
Parsha Meditation: Listening to the Voice of Hashem with Our Heels
Haftorah: Hashem - “He” or “She” or both?
Nature in the Parsha: The Seven Fruits of the Land of Israel
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
How Does the Torah Require Us to Treat Converts?
Ask the Rebbetzin! 

Parashat Re’eh
Parsha Meditation: Discovering our Personal Mission in Life
Haftorah: The Stones of the Holy Tribes
Nature in the Parsha: The Shoulder of the Land
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
Was Jesus a Kind Spiritual Healer or a False Prophet?
Ask the Rebbetzin! 

Parashat Shoftim
Parsha Meditation: The Gatekeepers of our Soul
Haftorah: Tapping into Hashem’s Comforting Energy
Nature in the Parsha: Does the Torah Permit Tree-Hugging?
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
Fostering Fruit Friendships
Ask the Rebbetzin! 

Parashat Ki Tetze
Parsha Meditation: Going out to Battle our Spiritual Enemies
Haftorah: The Barren Woman Bursts Out in Song
Nature in the Parsha: Is Sending Away the Mother Bird an Act of Compassion?
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
Whom Do we Benefit by Dressing Modestly?
Ask the Rebbetzin! 

Parashat Ki Tavo
Parsha Meditation: Dedicating the First and Best to Hashem
Haftorah: Believe in Your Hidden Powers and Spiritual Grandeur!
Nature in the Parsha: How Can We Relate to the Mitzvah of Bikkurim (First Fruits) Today?
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
Why Do We Need to Tithe the Produce of the Holy Land?
Ask the Rebbetzin! 

Parashat Nitzavim
Parsha Meditation: Standing Upright Today before Hashem
Haftorah: Dancing on the Bridge of Redemption
Nature in the Parsha: Uprooting the Bitter or Making it Sweet?
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
Returning to the Root of Our Existence
Ask the Rebbetzin! 

Parashat Vayelech
Parsha Meditation: Finding Hashem in the Very Darkest Darkness
Haftorah: (at present there is no commentary for this week)
Nature in the Parsha: Why is this Land Flowing with Milk and Honey?
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
What is the Purpose of the Aging Process?
Ask the Rebbetzin! 

Parashat Ha'azinu
Parsha Meditation: Finding Hashem in the Very Darkest Darkness
(after Yom Kippur)"Tuning into the Holiest Shabbat of the Year"
Haftorah: (at present there is no commentary for this week)
Nature in the Parsha: Blessed Droplets of Torah
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
Why Did Our Parents Leave the Path?
Ask the Rebbetzin! 

Parashat V’Zot Ha’Bracha
Parsha Meditation: 
Haftorah: (at present there is no commentary for this week)
Nature in the Parsha: The Land of Paradisiacal Blessings
Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart: 
 The Blessings of Blessing
Ask the Rebbetzin! 

Shabbat Teshuva (the Shabbat between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur) 
Haftorah:  "Repairing the Gaps"

Parsha Meditation: Within the Glorious Clouds of Divine Embrace
Women & Simchat Beit Hashoevah

Is it Permitted to Gaze at the Moon?

Ask the Rebbetzin! - Parashat Mishpatim

Shalom Rebbetzin Chana Bracha,
My husband has told me that according to the Talmud, it is not good to look at the moon. He didn’t know the reason. If you could touch on this, I’d be very interested. Thank you for your understanding.
Wendy Shulman (name changed)

Dear Wendy,
I know the moon is so beautiful and that it is hard not to gaze at its soft glowing light. The rainbow is even more special yet, we are also not allowed to stare at it. It is hard to understand why the Torah prevents us from deriving pleasure from Hashem’s most stunning creations. Judaism teaches the importance of enjoying the beautiful world that Hashem created for us. Could it really be forbidden to look at the moon and at the rainbow? What in the world would be a reason for that?

Who Can Gaze at The Shechinah and Live?
First of all, it is not completely prohibited to look at the moon and the rainbow. If it was, how would one be able to sanctify the new moon or recite the blessing on the rainbow? There is a difference between looking and gazing. The definition of gazing is to consciously focus attention and derive enjoyment or satisfaction from what we see. The Talmud warns us against gazing at the rainbow for our own protection:
תלמוד בבלי מסכת חגיגה דף טז/א
כָּל הַמִּסִתַּכֵּל בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה דְּבָרִים - עֵינָיו כָּהוֹת - בַּקֶשֶׁת, וּבְנָשִׂיא, וּבַכֹּהֲנִים. ,בַּקֶּשֶׁת’ - דִּכְתִיב, (שם א) "כְּמַרְאֶה הַקֶּשֶׁת אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בֶעָנָן וְגוֹ’, בְּנָּשִׂיא’ - דִּכְתִיב, (במדבר כּז) "וְנָתַתָּ מֵהוֹדְךָ עָלָיו". ,בַּכֹּהֲנִים’ - בִּזְמַן שֶׁבֵּית הַמִּקְדָשׁ קָיָּים, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁעוֹלִין לַדּוּכָן וּמְבַרְכִין אֵת הָעַם בַּשֵּׁם הַמְּפוֹרָשׁ.
All who stare at three things, his eyes are dimmed: At the rainbow, at the Nasi (prince) and at the kohanim. At the rainbow, as it is written, “As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain... this was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Hashem.” At the Nasi, as it is written, “You shall put from Your honor upon him (Bamidbar 27:2). One who looks at the kohanim [his eyes would dim], at the time that the Temple was standing, when they would stand on their platform and bless Israel with the Holy Name (Babylonian Talmud, Chagigah 16a).

Maharal explains that these three things embody the likeness and the rays of the Shechinah. There is a tradition that gazing at the likeness or the rays of the Shechinah causes the eyes to be dimmed. If a person gazes at the actual Shechinah, he is unable to live- as it states, “…For a person may not see Me and live” (Shemot 33:20). However, looking only at the likeness or rays of the Shechinah does not cause death, but dims the eyes, which is compared to death (Maharal, Chidushei Aggadot, Chagigah).

Looking at the Moon in Halacha
The Talmud does not record a prohibition of staring at the moon, but some well-respected Kabbalists, write: “Just as it is prohibited to gaze at a rainbow it is prohibited to gaze at the moon” (Sefer Chareidim 45:5; Sefer Shoshan Sodot). According to Kabbalah, it is just as harmful to gaze at the moon as it is to gaze at a rainbow (Sefer Ta’amei haMinhagim, Kuntres Achron to Siman 464:22). “Gazing at the moon” is enumerated in the Vidui version (confession) of Rabbeinu Avraham, father of the Shlah HaKadosh, among the sins that a person needs to do Teshuva.  There are various opinions whether it is permitted to look at the moon during the monthly ritual of Kidush Levana (sanctifying the new moon). The Mishna Berura brings three views. According to the first view, which is what most people do, it is permitted to look at the moon until one completes the entire ritual. However, Sefer Chareidim permits looking at the moon for only the duration of the recital of the first blessing. The Magen Avraham, in the name of the Shelah HaKodesh ,goes even further to permit one to only glance at the moon for a brief moment prior to reciting the blessing (Mishna Berura, Siman 426).

The Diminishment of the Moon Reflects the Exile of the Shechinah
There is an inherent connection between the moon and the kingdom of the house of David. Therefore, we recite “David, Melech Yisrael chai v’kayam” during Kiddush Levana. The Jewish people are compared to the moon, which waxes and wanes. Just as the light of the moon in the future will be renewed to become like the light of the sun, so will Israel return to cleave to Hashem (Shulchan Aruch OC 426:2). The moon was originally the same size as the sun – “G-d made the two great luminaries” (Bereishit 1:16). Due to the moon’s complaint, that two kings cannot share one crown, G-d told the moon to make itself small (Babylonian Talmud, Chulin 60b). The diminishment of the moon reflects the exile of the Shechinah, which resulted in the imperfection of the world and the splitting of the kingdom of David. The dim light of the moon symbolizes that Hashem’s Divine Shechinah is not fully revealed in this world. This is because the world is not yet ready to receive the perpetual light of the Shechinah in all of its brightness. Since the diminishment of the moon, there has been a flaw in creation, and this is why we experience ups and downs in the history of our people as well as in our personal lives. Gazing at the moon could therefore symbolize blatantly looking down at the broken world without being able to rise above this imperfection. This is similar to when Lot’s wife looked at the destruction of Sodom and turned into a pillar of salt, because she didn’t merit to be saved while gazing at the destruction.

Staring at the Divine Reflection within the Physical World
Likewise, the rainbow symbolizes Hashem’s covenant to never make another flood- even should we deserve it. When we see a rainbow, it reminds us that we indeed deserve another flood, but Hashem is faithful to His covenant. To stare at the rainbow would then be chutzpah, as if we don’t care that we may deserve a flood. Staring at the moon would also be considered insolence since the moon is embarrassed that it is still so small, and that we have not yet perfected ourselves to enable its light to grow equal to the sun’s. In addition, both the moon and the rainbow reveal Hashem’s Shechinah, and it is not respectful to Hashem to stare at His reflection Therefore staring at the rainbow is considered as not giving honor to Creator (Babylonian Talmud, Chagiga 16a). The Shechinah is on a very high level, and therefore, we are not on the level to stare at it from within our own mundane reality. Rashi explains in Parashat Mishpatim, that Nadav and Avihu stared at Elokim while eating and drinking.

ספר שמות פרק כד (י) וַיִּרְאוּ אֵת אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְתַחַת רַגְלָיו כְּמַעֲשֵׂה לִבְנַת הַסַּפִּיר וּכְעֶצֶם הַשָּׁמַיִם לָטֹהַר: (יא) וְאֶל אֲצִילֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא שָׁלַח יָדוֹ וַיֶּחֱזוּ אֶת הָאֱלֹהִים וַיֹּאכְלוּ וַיִּשְׁתּוּ:
“They saw the G*d of Israel; and under His feet was like sapphire brickwork and the likeness of the heavens for clearness. He [G*d] did not lay His hand on the nobles of Israel, although they beheld G*d while eating and drinking” (Shemot 24:10-11). 

By stating that G-d did not slay them, the Torah implies that they deserved to be slain, because they gazed at the Shechinah while being involved with physical eating and drinking (Rashi). In our lower world, there is still a discrepancy between the physical and the spiritual. Similarly, the moon also embodies the discrepancy between ‘light’ and ‘vessels’ – the Garden of Eden and this lower world we live in. In the future, the light of the moon will grow big like the sun (Yesha’yahu 30:26). At that time, B”H, we will no longer be prohibited from gazing at the moon. Rather we will have reached a level where we will be able to rejoice and bask in its light!