parasha Vayechi 5783
parasha Vayechi 5783
“For Your salvation I wait, O L-RD.” – Genesis 49:18
During Jacob’s prophetic review of the tribes, encapsulated in the blessings given to his twelve sons, his expectation is to gain a glimpse of the final redemption. He predicts that “Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel” (Genesis 49:16). He foresees that Samson will descend from the tribe of Dan; yet, the victory of Samson is short lived; Samson is given his moment in the history of Israel, raised up to defend Israel against the Philistines. Yet, he is not the redeemer who will appear at the end of the age. Rather, as is written in Pirkei Avot, “every man has his hour.”
Upon realizing this, he cries out, “For Your salvation I wait O L-RD” (Genesis 49:18). Targum Yonaton paraphrases, “When Jakob saw Gideon bar Joash and Shimshon bar Manovach, who were established to be deliverers, he said, I expect not the salvation of Gideon, nor look I for the salvation of Shimshon; for their salvation will be the salvation of an hour; but for Thy salvation have I waited, and will look for, O L-rd; for Thy salvation is the salvation of eternity” (Targum Jonathan on Genesis 49:18; sefaria.org).
Why would Jacob be concerned about the final redemption, when he prophetically knew of the impending descent of his descendants into the abyss of Egypt, and their subsequent slavery? Shouldn’t his immediate concern have been in regard to the first redeemer, who would bring the Children of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land? Yet, he himself said, before blessing his children, “‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the end of days” (Genesis 49:1).
Jacob’s prime concern was not for a limited historical perspective, concerning only the next five hundred years, nor even the next two thousand years. His ultimate concern was for the eternal salvation of Israel; his vision spanned from the nation, that would arise from his seventy-member family in Egypt, all the way until the “end of days,” when the Final deliverance of that nation would be at hand. “For Your salvation I wait, O L-RD” (Genesis 49:18).
“In that day, I will set up again the fallen booth [sukkah] of David: I will mend its breaches and set up its ruins anew. I will build it firm as in the days of old.” – Amos 9:11, JPSN
If our expectations for the future rest, primarily, upon our fears, anxieties, and concerns having to do with the present, then we may expect to transition to something different in our lives as individuals, and part of the greater whole, based upon our discontent of the current status quo. Yet, we should not permit our expectations to lead us astray, into thinking that some better “state of affairs” will come into fruition, as a result of efforts that have more to do with a vision of utopia, based upon a progressive understanding of social justice, in totale, rather than giving credence to the transcendent wisdom of G-d.
Moreover, there is a difference between social justice, bought with the price of losing our freedoms, while condemning those who are not in accord with the pseudo-morality that it proffers, versus a sense of justice that is balanced by chesed (mercy), bringing about a harmonious world view that treats all according to the same standard. G-d’s worldview and divine plan for humankind differs greatly in kind and means to bring his Kingdom into the world, as opposed to mankind’s vision of New Babylon that is already becoming a dystopian reality.
Therefore, let us strive to be in accordance with G-d’s promises for His people, by looking forward to the rebuilding of the Beish HaMikdash in the near future; so that we may not falter while the world around us descends into darkness, let us fully place our trust in G-d, and our expectations in his divine plan.
Rosh Chodesh Tammuz 5782
Today is Rosh Chodesh Tammuz,
the first day of the new month of Tammuz on the Hebrew calendar.
Aside from entering the auspicious month of Tammuz, wherein the 17th of Tammuz commemorates the breach of the walls of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., the three weeks leading up to Tish b’Av begins on that day. On the ninth of Av, both the first Temple in 586 B.C.E., and the second Temple in 70 C.E. were destroyed. Yet, we look forward to the building of the Third Temple, in like manner that light always follows darkness at dawn.
Tammuz is also a month of reckoning, whereof we may focus on ourselves, in terms of our own progress and lack thereof, taking stock of our weaknesses, as well as our strengths. Our “spiritual reserve,” may be running low; perhaps, akin to the sins that lead to the destruction of the Temples amongst those two generations, especially sinas chinam, baseless enmity. Yet, for myself, and K’lal Yisrael (All of Israel), I take hope, for our generation is the generation of return, both in the sense of teshuvah (repentance), and an actual return to Israel:
“And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt bethink thyself among all the nations, whither the L-RD thy G-d hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the L-RD thy G-d, and hearken to His voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul; that then the L-RD thy G-d will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither the L-RD thy G-d hath scattered thee.” – Deuteronomy 30:1-3, JPS 1917 Tanach
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Hope in the Skies
for the hour draws near.
There is hope in the skies,
beyond what is imagined,
by the fear in our hearts.
There is a lasting generation
of humanity that will survive
the death and decay of the earth,
before the arrival of its revival.
The truth will transcend science,
and reason outlast the media’s
implicit portrayal of doomsday,
on the brink of tomorrow.
I shall not seek Hollywood’s
fantastic predictions on the screen;
nor, fear the earth-changes,
while my faith is intact.
I will do my part to hasten
the renewal of the earth;
and prevent the suffocation of sea turtles,
by not accepting plastic bags at the store.
My conscience clean, I will rest in quietude
every night in expectation of a dawn,
that will succeed man’s best efforts
to create harmony within the biosphere,
as G-d enacts a rescue plan.
Simchas Torah 5782
“At His right hand was a fiery law unto them.”
– Deuteronomy 33:2, JPS 1917 Tanach
On Simchas Torah, the entire portion of V’zot HaBeracha is read; this is the last parashas of the Torah. Afterwards, the first part of Bereishis, the first parashas of the Torah is read, in order to make the statement that we begin anew, immediately following an ending. This reminds of the saying, when one door closes, another door opens, meaning that when one endeavor is brought to its conclusion, another opportunity will prevail. The seasons of nature, as well as the seasons of our lives reflect this theme.
Within the framework of the parashas, B’nei Yisrael is poised to enter Eretz Canaan; Moshe is intent on imparting a berachah (blessing) to them. This blessing parallels the blessing that Jacob gave to his twelve sons; inasmuch that Moshe has been the king and prophet over B’nei Yisrael, he is giving a blessing to the twelve tribes.
Moshe begins, “The L-RD came from Sinai,” therefore, emphasizing H’Shem’s presence, of Whom “at His right hand was a fiery law unto them” (Deuteronomy 33:2, JPS). “The voice of the L-RD heweth out flames of fire” (Psalm 29:7, JPS). H’Shem’s voice appeared as fire that engraved the commandments into the two stone tablets. On Simchat Torah, may we rejoice in acknowledgment of H’Shem’s promise through the prophet, to engrave these words on our heart in due time:
“This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the L-RD, I will put My law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their G-d, and they shall be My people.”
– Jeremiah 31:33, JPS 1917 Tanach
shiur for Sukkot 5782
“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month ye shall have a holy convocation: ye shall do no manner of servile work, and ye shall keep a feast unto the L-RD seven days.”
– Numbers 29:12, JPS 1917 Tanach
The festival of Sukkot, as prescribed in Torah, included offerings for the nations for their protection from affliction. There were a total of seventy bulls offered over a period of seven days. This specifically designated amount of offerings corresponds to the primary nations of the world as mentioned in the Torah (Genesis chapter 10). “These seventy bulls, to what do they correspond? They correspond to the seventy nations” (Sukkah 55b; sefaria.org).
In the future, all of the nations will be required to worship in Jerusalem (it is likely to presume that they will send delegates). This is a sign of the Messianic Era, when the Messiah will reign from Jerusalem. “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the L-RD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles [Sukkot]” (Zechariah 14:16, JPS).
“And many peoples shall go and say: ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the L-RD, to the house of the G-d of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the L-RD from Jerusalem.”
– Isaiah 2:3, JPS 1917 Tanach
וְאֶתְכֶם לָקַח יְהֹוָה וַיּוֹצִא אֶתְכֶם מִכּוּר
“You hath the L-RD taken and brought forth out of the iron furnace.”
– Deuteronomy 4:20, JPS 1917 Tanach
Rashi explains, “a כור is a vessel in which one refines gold” (sefaria.org). Moshe’s choice of words, attempts to impress upon the new generation, that the nisyanos (challenges) in Egypt, were meant to serve as a means to refine the people. Consider that when gold is placed in “a refiner’s fire,” the impurities are drawn out; consequently, what remains is pure. On the level of practical application, the soul is also refined, through the challenges of life, in order to be free from taint.
Consider the following as well, Joseph, who went ahead of the children of Israel into Egypt, endured many challenges, “until the time that His word came to pass; the word of the L-rd had tested him” (Psalms 105:19). His character was refined in the refiner’s fire, in preparation for his role as a leader in Egypt, only second to Pharoah. In this manner, he was tested, until his prophetic dreams were fulfilled by H’Shem, through the circumstances of his life.
Moshe continues, “The L-RD shall scatter you among the peoples, and ye shall be left few in number among the nations, whither the L-RD shall lead you away” (Deuteronomy 4:27). “From thence ye will seek the L-RD thy G-d; and thou shalt find Him, if thou search after Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29). These words are addressed to the current generation; this is denoted by the phrase, “the end of days,” wherein we currently are on the Biblical timeline.
בַּצַּר לְךָ וּמְצָאוּךָ כֹּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה בְּאַֽחֲרִית הַיָּמִים וְשַׁבְתָּ עַד־יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְשָֽׁמַעְתָּ בְּקֹלֽוֹ׃
“In thy distress, when all these things are come upon thee in the end of days, thou wilt return to H’Shem thy G-d, and hearken unto His voice; for the L-RD thy G-d is a merciful G-d; He will not fail thee.” – Deuteronomy 4:30-31
“G-d assayed to go and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, and by wonders” (Deuteronomy 4:34). So too, will He lead us out of exile. As the sages note, the time that precedes the Final Redemption, will mirror the plagues that preceded the First Redemption, when B’nei Yisrael was led out of Egypt. “There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1, JPS 1917 Tanach).
Tish b’Av 5781
“And it shall come to pass in the end of days, that the mountain of the L-RD’S house shall be established as the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say: ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the L-RD, to the house of the G-d of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the L-RD from Jerusalem. And He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
– Isaiah 2:2-4, JPS 1917 Tanach
The Purim Code
The Famous “Code” in Megillat Esther
adapted from Keeping Posted with NCSY, Fall 1999 edition
(Also from Torah.org article by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld
In Megillas Esther (the Scroll of Esther), towards the end of the story, King Ahasuerus allows the Jews to avenge themselves of their enemies on the 13th day of Adar. In Shushan, the capital, the Jews kill 500 men and hang Haman’s ten sons on a gallows. Queen Esther then approaches the King with an additional request: “…allow the Jews who are in Shushan to do tomorrow as they did today, and let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows” (Esther 9:13). It’s curious that she would request the hanging of Haman’s already slain sons. Nevertheless, the King complies.
Now, the Hebrew word for “tomorrow” (“machar”) occasionally refers to the distant future. Further, the Sages tell us that whenever the word “king” appears in the Megillah it alludes to the King of kings as well. Thus, the verse could be understand as a request by Esther to G-d to again hang the ten sons of Haman at some point in the distant future. Now, when the Megillah lists the ten sons Haman during their hanging (9:7-9) there are a number of unusually-sized letters. (We have a tradition to write certain letters in the Torah larger or smaller than the standard size.) According to the most accepted tradition, there is a large ‘vuv’ (numerical value = 6) and a small ‘tuv’ (400), ‘shin’ (300) and ‘zayin’ (7). The following suggestion has been made: The large vuv refers to the sixth millennium (of the Hebrew calendar); the small letters refer to year 707 of that millennium. The meaning, then, is that G-d agreed to hang Haman’s ten sons again in the year 5707 = 1946-7.
On October 16, 1946 (21 Tishrei, 5707) ten convicted Nazi war criminals were hanged in Nuremberg. (An eleventh, Hermann Goering, a transvestite, committed suicide in his cell. The Midrash tells us that Haman also had a daughter who committed suicide.) As if the parallel were not obvious enough without further corroboration, Nazi Julius Streicher’s last words were, “Purimfest 1946.” (In case you question the accuracy of Streicher’s last words, they are are well-documented; they appeared in Newsweek, October 28, 1946.)