Prayer Request:

Yehudsi bas Tzviya (Judith, daughter of Sylvia)

Please, if you feel inspired to do so, pray for my mother, Yehudis bas Tzviya (Judith, daughter of Sylvia). She is 82 years old, and has a heart condition. She is being evaluated at a medical center, and may need to be hospitalized. She had been diagnosed with stage 2 heart failure; at current, further testing is being done.

May G-d bless you for your kindness.

Sukkot 5782 – Hoshannah Rabbah

“And on the second day [of Sukkot] ye shall present twelve young bullocks, two rams, fourteen he-lambs of their first year, without blemish;  and their meal-offering and their drink-offerings for the bullocks, for the the rams, and for the lambs, according to their number, after the ordinance” 

– Numbers 29:17-18, JPS 1917 Tanach

There are subtle hints, that are contained within the passage, whereof the offerings for the days of Sukkot are found. Regarding the phrase, “and their drink-offerings”, the word departs from the singular usage found in other verses. Other variations include v’niskeyhem (v. 31), spelled with an extraneous mem; and un’sacheyha, with an additional yud; also, k’mishpatam (v.33) with an extra mem.  “These variations yield the three superfluous letters mem, yod, and mem, from veniskeiheM, unsakhEha, and kemishpataM, which together spell the Hebrew word for water [MaYiM]” (Taanit 2b:14, Thus, through these clues, the Torah infers the requirement of the water offerings to accompany the other offerings on these days.

The water-offerings are known as Simchat Beis HaShoavah, Celebration of the Place of Water-Drawing. “Whoever did not see the rejoicing of [this water drawing ceremony] never saw rejoicing in his lifetime” (Mishnah: Sukkah 5:1). This refers to the rejoicing that occurred during the water drawing ceremony at the Temple, each and every day of Sukkot. This was the only time that water was poured out upon the mizbeach (altar). The Talmud associates this ceremony with a greater implication of a messianic nature, “Why is the name of it called the Drawing Out of Water? Because of the pouring out of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), according to what is said: ‘With joys shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation’” (Isaiah 12:3). As is written elsewhere, confirming the pouring out of the Ruach: “I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 3:1, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Sukkot 5782 – Simchat Beis HaShoeiva

“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

– Isaiah 12:3

The Simchat Beit HaShoeiva (Rejoicing of the Water-Drawing House), occurred during Chol HaMoed (the Intermediate Days) of Sukkot. Every morning, water was poured out on the mizbeach (altar); in the evening, there would be a celebration. The water was drawn from the Breikhat Shiloah (Pool of Siloam) in Jerusalem; then the water was brought in a joyous procession to the Temple. Sukkot is the only time throughout the year, that water was poured out upon the mizbeach.

What is the significance of the water-drawing, and its being poured out upon the mizbeach? Actually, both wine and water were poured out upon the mizbeach, during the Nusach HaMayim (Pouring of the Water). One rendering on a symbolic level is as follows: the red color of the wine may be said to represent judgment, while the water represents chesed (mercy).

Therefore, in continuation of this analogy, when seeking atonement for our sins on Yom HaDin (the Day of Judgment), and Yom Kippur, we ask the L’RD to show us chesed (mercy). The resultant joy of knowing that our sins are forgiven is expressed during the holiday of Sukkot. This is why the chag is also called Zeman Cheruteinu – the season of our joy.

Purim 5781

hester panim – the hidden face (of G-d)

In the Book of Esther, the narrative that is read on Purim, the name of G-d is not found even once; rather, His divine guidance is hidden within the framework of coincidental events within the narrative. G-d’s providence is already at work, in order to provide for a yeshua (salvation) for the Jewish people, even before the initial threat arises as recorded in the narrative. First of all, Queen Vashti is deposed after she disobeyed her husband, king Ahasueros, who is king of 127 provinces from India to Ethiopa. The sets the stage for a beauty pageant, won by Esther, whose beauty resides within as well as without. The king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight” (Esther 2:17, JPS). Moreover, she remained obedient to her Uncle Mordechai; and, as he instructed her, she did not make “known her kindred nor her people” (2:20).

As recorded at the end of chapter two, Mordechai had overheard a plot against the kind by two of his servants; so, he informed Esther, who told the king in his name; thus, his good deed was recorded in the chronicles of the king (Esther 2:21-23). This preceded a threat that rose up from Haman, who in the next chapter is raised up to a position of power. Therefore, both the position of Esther as Queen, and Mordechai’s deed for which he will be honored later in the narrative, as the ensuing events unfold, are as seeds of redemption waiting to ripen in due time.

It is Haman, whose new position demanded that all bow down to him. Mordechai, a Jew who is a Benjamite will not bow down to him. It is interesting to note that our of the twelve sons of Jacob, Benjamin is the only one who did not bow down to Esau when he approached Jacob and his family. This is because Benjamin was still in the womb of his mother. Therefore, Mordechai exhibits this trait, if you will, by not bowing down to Haman, who is a descendant of King Agag, who was a descendant of Amalek. In turn, Amalek was the son of Eliphaz, the son of Esau. So, Haman’s hatred of Mordechai, went beyond his refusal to bow to him: rather, this was an ancient hatred that manifested in Haman’s ire, and insistence as well as determination to destroy all of Mordechai’s people.

Yet, as mentioned in the Talmud, the remedy precedes the sickness, specifically, “The Holy One, blessed be He, does not smite Israel unless He has created for them a healing beforehand” ( Megillah 13b, Soncino edition). Therefore, when Mordechai learns of Haman’s decree to destroy the Jewish people, he sends word to Esther, requesting that she appeal to the king on behalf of her people. “Who knoweth whether thou art not come to royal estate for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14). Her response is one of mesiras nefesh (self sacrifice). “So will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish” (4:16).

Additionally, on a night that King Ahasueros is not able to sleep, he decides to peruse through the chronicles of the king: here he finds mention of Mordechai’s good deed, whereby a plot against the king was thwarted. In the morning, when Haman happens to be in the King’s court, Ahasueros asks him, what shall be done for the man whom the king would like to honor. Haman, in his self conceit, thinks that king wants to honor him, so he replies:

“Let royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and on whose head a crown royal is set; and let the apparel and the horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man therewith whom the king delighteth to honour, and cause him to ride on horseback through the street of the city.” The king responds, “‘Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew” (Esther 6:8-10). So, there is a reversal of fortune, whereby Mordechai is now honored, while Haman is humiliated.

At Esther’s second banquet for the King, of which Haman is also invited, when reveals the plot to the king:  “We are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish” (Esther 7:4). He asks, “Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?” (Esther 7:5). She responds, An adversary and an enemy, even this wicked Haman” (Ester 7:6). Additionally, the kings servant points out that this Haman had made a gallows “for Mordecai, who spoke good for the king” (Esther 7:9). Thus, Haman’s fate is sealed, and the decree against the destruction of the Jewish people is countermanded by a second decree.

Waiting for Salvation

parashas Vayechi 5781

“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 realising 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;

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).

His 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, as mentioned (above) in Targum Yonaton. Therefore, his vision spanned from the nation of people that would arise from his seventy member family in Egypt, all the way until the “end of days,” whereof the final deliverance of that nation would be at hand. “For Your salvation I wait, O L-RD” (Genesis 49:18).