Rosh Chodesh Av 5782

This evening begins the month of Av, as well as the last nine (intensive) days of the three-week period of mourning for the destruction of the Temples, leading up to the ninth of Av – the day when both Temples were destroyed about six hundred years apart from each other in history.

After the breach of the walls of Jerusalem on Tammuz 17 by the Romans, the second Temple was destroyed, about 1,950 years ago. As a result, even though the state of Israel has been reborn (see Isaiah 66:8), we are still in exile until the time that the third Temple is built. May that day arrive soon. Amein.

Prayer & Sincerity

A Few Thoughts on Prayer and Sincerity: Elokai Neshama

“My G-d, the soul you placed within me is pure.”

– from the morning prayers



Too often, I am unable to say the beginning of this prayer “as is.” Was the original soul that G-d placed within me pure when I was born? Yes, as far as I know, I can receive this as a truth.

Is my soul renewed every morning, having spent some time in the upper realms to get a recharge, before being placed back within me before I wake up? No doubt, that my soul is renewed each and every morning, as implied elsewhere, “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23).

Yet, I know myself too well; my conscience is not necessarily renewed to its pristine quality every morning. And, if yesterday’s taint upon the soul is still present in my mind, my soul does not “feel” pure when I awake to the “rise and shine” of the day.

For some time, I have been disconcerted by the apparent incongruity of how I feel, as compared to the literal text; so, I explored various ways to understand this concept of the soul’s purity being restored. One finding is that, only a certain part of the soul is referred to in the prayer; that part is “pure.”

I also seem to recall learning of tzaddikim, who were unable to say certain prayers in sincerity. As far as I can recall, they modified those particular prayers a little bit, for themselves, in the moment, in order to be heartfelt and true to their words. Yet, this is not to be understood as a pretext to actually changing the prayers of chazal (the sages).

Yet, there does appear to be a pretext to solving my own troublesome dilemma, by altering a prayer somewhat, at least, in the moment, to be faithful and true to one’s own words. As such, I usually say, “My G-d, may the soul you placed within me be pure.” I have turned a statement into a request.

Additionally, the prayers may be personalized, to some extent, while reciting them: that is the nature of personal kavannos, best explained as thoughts about the prayers while reciting them. (There are also specially designed kavannos to recall while reciting certain prayers).

parasha Beha’alotecha 5782 – Our Refuge

d’var for parashas Beha’alotecha 5782

parasha Beha’alotecha 5782


“In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, that the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle of the testimony.” – Numbers, 10:11, JPS 1917 Tanach

The first journey made by B’nei Yisrael, after the encampment at the foot of Mount Sinai was on the twentieth of Iyar, ten days shy of one year, from their arrival at Sinai on the first of Sivan. The departure was well organized, ahead of time, for the sake of an orderly procession, tribe by tribe, to the next encampment.

First the tribe of Judah, then, as they began to march, the tabernacle would be disassembled, and placed in the care of the three Levite families. Two of the families followed the tribe of Judah; the third Levite family followed the tribe of Reuben. The rest of the tribes followed in formation, according to the Jerusalem Talmud either in the shape of a diamond, or in a straight line, tribe by tribe.

“And the cloud of the L-RD was over them by day, when they set forward from the camp” (Numbers 10:34, JPS 1917 Tanach). Thus, during their three day journey, H’Shem’s Presence in the form if a tangible cloud, sheltered them from the heat of the day.  “Whenever the cloud was taken up from over the Tent, then after that the children of Israel journeyed; and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel encamped” (Numbers 9:17, JPS).

Consider how G-d’s Presence guided the B’nei Yisrael, during the wandering in the desert. “Thou goest before them, in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night” (Numbers 14:14, JPS). This points toward H’Shem’s role in our lives to guide us in the right direction, to be a compass in an uncertain world, and a light in the darkness, as well as a refuge from the tumults of life.

Tonic for Mind & Body

“My heart and my flesh cry out to the living G-d.”

– Psalm 84:3

It is known to we, who pray to G-d in all sincerity, with heartfelt conviction, that our souls are nourished by Him, because He is the Source of renewal for our troubled selves. Yet, G-d is also a tonic for our body as well, so that both our heart (the seat of emotion, and biblically speaking, akin to the soul), and our body may yearn for His ever-flowing waters of refreshment. Although, at times we may flee like a bird soaring in flight, we will soon return to the place of our refuge, within the confines of our relationship to G-d (Psalm 84:4).

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Omer: Day 31 Kaleidoscopic Splendor

Tiferes shebbe Hod: Beauty within Splendor

(Otherwise rendered as harmony within humility).

As explained elsewhere, only through bowing down in our hearts to the splendor of the L-RD, may we also acquire splendor, by way of reflecting His Splendor. Therefore, we may find through harmonizing ourselves enough to show deference to G-d, we may bear the light bestowed upon us through our reconciliation with Him.

By way of harmonizing ourselves, I mean to bring the soul into alignment with truth, by sifting through the various inconsistencies in character, called from a psychological perspective, “cognitive dissonance.” Ideally, the result would be like viewing the shapes combined into patterns within the kaleidoscope of our soul. Imagine all of the variegated shapes being lit up by light in the background; this effect would be akin to G-d’s splendor being reflected by our souls.

note: The counting of the Omer serves as a spiritual journey. We are called upon to leave our own personal limitations behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of negativity in our lives. This is a forty-nine day journey, a self improvement plan, between Passover and Shavuot. Each of the seven weeks corresponds to one of the seven middos (character traits) that we will have the opportunity to improve upon in our lives.

My personal reflections on each day’s combination of middot are not meant to be comprehensive; they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may my insights be characterized as authoritative, because I am a student, not a teacher. I simply hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

Omer: Day 25 One Life to Live

Netzach shebbe Netzach: Endurance within Endurance:

(The attribute of netzach may also be rendered as “victory” or “eternity”).

The attribute of Netzach carries the weight of eternity on its shoulders, in like manner that Atlas, in the Greek myth, carried the world on his shoulders. In truth, G-d carries both of these burdens for all of mankind. Yet, we may be made privy to them in a manner that is not burdensome: our place in this world, and our time in eternity is sweetened by the victory of life over death, as mentioned in the Book of Isaiah. “He will swallow up death for ever; and the L-RD G-D will wipe away tears from off all faces” (Isaiah 25:8, JPS 1917 Tanach).

The question is not often asked, what is the ultimate purpose of our lives? Nor, is the answer readily inferred from worldly knowledge; nor, deduced from general knowledge. Yet, G-d has placed eternity in our hearts, so that we might have a glimpse of eternity within us. Therefore, we are able to aspire towards that eternity, having sensed a time and place of continual existence in our heart. Otherwise, what reward will we have at the end of a life well-lived? If we endure the challenges of this life for the sake of monetary gain, pleasure, or posterity, then we are being misled by the false promises of this world.

Consider endurance of each and every day, living our lives for the sake of an eternal reward, knowing that this life is a test. “This world is like a vestibule before the world to come; prepare yourself in the vestibule, that you mayest enter into the banquet hall” (Pirkei Avos 4:21). We are to prepare ourselves, through the refinement of our character, and living a morally upright life, according to G-d’s standard, for the sake of obtaining a good place in Olam Haba (the World to Come). This begins upon our admittance into the coronation banquet of the King, at the beginning of the Messianic Era. For the soul lives on for eternity.

Omer: Day 24 Balancing Challenges

Tiferes shebbe Netzach: Beauty within Endurance:

Otherwise rendered as harmony, balance, or compassion within endurance.

Tiferes represents the ability to blend or harmonize opposites; thus, the strong-willed efforts to endure challenges in life, may require tenacity; yet, a measure of compassion for ourselves and others also plays a role. Endurance in regard to forbearance of others, is supported by compassion, mercy, and leniency towards others. Also, we would benefit from some show of compassion to ourselves, when even our best efforts do not immediately amount to success. By acknowledging our mis-tries as stepping stones, we can learn how to do better next time; this does require a certain amount of self-compassion, lest we judge ourselves too harshly for our failures.

The tenacity to endure the nisyanos (challenges) of our lives, especially when we are running low on reserves, may benefit from acknowledging that we are not superhumans; rather, we are beings built to be dependent on the earth, our fellow human beings, and G-d Himself. When we reach the point of ayin (nothingness), when we find ourselves barely able to cope, then we may note a sense of powerlessness. This is exactly the state of mind that we should turn towards others for help; and, primarily, to accept that the only One who may be able to effect a situation from Above for the good, is the One who created the situation in the first place.

While it is true that we may often create the circumstances for our own negative situations; at times, we may find ourselves being tried by G-d. This was the case for Joseph, who was refined in the fires fire in Egypt, before he ascended to a place of sovereign rule. The trials that he endured shaped his character; so, he proved himself to be capable of being placed in a position of leadership, within the overall framework of G-d’s design. G-d has a divine plan for every individual; when we begin to see the challenges in our lives as tests that will bring us to the next level of spiritual improvement, then we may be in harmony with our circumstances, others, and G-d’s blueprint for our lives.

note: The counting of the Omer serves as a spiritual journey. We are called upon to leave our own personal limitations behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of negativity in our lives. This is a forty-nine day journey, a self improvement plan, between Passover and Shavuot. Each of the seven weeks corresponds to one of the seven middos (character traits) that we will have the opportunity to improve upon in our lives.

My personal reflections on each day’s combination of middot are not meant to be comprehensive; they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may my insights be characterized as authoritative, because I am a student, not a teacher. I simply hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

Omer: Day 23 Soul Care

Gevurah shebbe Netzach: Power within Endurance:

(otherwise rendered as discipline within endurance).

The motivating factor for endurance is discipline; in any endeavor, a regimen that is followed with discipline, will lead to endurance in that endeavor. The path to success, may be said to be paved with sweat, especially in regard to an exercise routine. Yet, to neglect the soul, while placing undue emphasis on the body, will lead towards spiritual undernourishment. Both body and soul are important aspects of human beings. While disciplining the body seems to be an endeavor that is well undertaken by many, who are concerned with well being; the discipline of the soul is also necessary, and should be kept in mind, when dividing one’s time.

The two may complement each other; I am not advocating neglect of the body in favor of the soul. However, I imagine that in contemporary society, neglect of the soul may be all too common, and not necessarily due to an overemphasis on the body. Rather, any focus on the soul, is often diminished in favor of other preoccupations, such as entertainment, socialization, and internet use. May all, including myself, who might fall into the category of an undernourished soul, think twice about what is important in life. For the soul is eternal, and, therefore, significantly more important to nourish; whereas, the body will be subject to entropy over time, and return to the dust.

With that in mind, the discipline of the soul might entail the same type of regimen, planned out on a regular basis, akin to a jogging or exercise routine. Spending a few moments of quiet time at the beginning of the day, will lead towards a lasting benefit – a spiritual charge – if you will, that will continue throughout the day. Also, connecting to the soul in a meaningful way, before retiring in the evening, may help to settle the mind, and calm the nerves. Therefore, in this manner, it can be clearly seen that there are practical advantages to soul care.

note: The counting of the Omer serves as a spiritual journey. We are called upon to leave our own personal limitations behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of negativity in our lives. This is a forty-nine day journey, a self improvement plan, between Passover and Shavuot. Each of the seven weeks corresponds to one of the seven middos (character traits) that we will have the opportunity to improve upon in our lives.

My personal reflections on each day’s combination of middot are not meant to be comprehensive; they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may my insights be characterized as authoritative, because I am a student, not a teacher. I simply hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

Omer: Day 22 Chesed shebbe Netzach

Love within Endurance

Being kind to ourselves in respect to the aspect of netzach, rendered as endurance, is tantamount to an everlasting kindness, that we can only approach as an ideal, based on the aspect of chesed, that H’Shem shows to us, not only when we might deserve so; also, when we do not necessarily deserve to be treated with kindness from G-d, He will still show His kindnesses to us, in order to win us over to His love for us. If he loves us, then we may also show love in return towards Him through our obedience.

To endure in right relationship towards Him, is no easy task; rather, we need to keep being drawn back to Him by some reminder, or effort on His part, as well as our own. As long as He sees us trying, he will meet us halfway in our walk towards Him. This ideal may also be applied in our relationship to self and others. If we are kind to ourselves, we are more likely to treat others in the same manner; as is mentioned in Torah, to love your fellow human being as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). To extend love outwards beyond family and friends may seem to amount to the impossible; yet, the idea can at least be kept in mind, the next time, a challenging situation might occur.

Instead of responding to others, whether family friends, or acquaintances in annoyance when something is less than perfect in our lives, remember that any relationship’s endurance is dependent on kindnesses. I.e., the concrete expression of kindness in accordance with what is able to be expressed towards others. A smile, a kind act, or overlooking the other person’s faults. All of these and more will contribute to the endurance of the relationship.

note: The counting of the Omer serves as a spiritual journey. We are called upon to leave our own personal limitations behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of negativity in our lives. This is a forty-nine day journey, a self improvement plan, between Passover and Shavuot. Each of the seven weeks corresponds to one of the seven middos (character traits) that we will have the opportunity to improve upon in our lives.

My personal reflections on each day’s combination of middot are not meant to be comprehensive; they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may my insights be characterized as authoritative, because I am a student, not a teacher. I simply hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

Omer: Day 21 – Balanced Autonomy

Iyar 6, 5782

malchus shebbe tiferes: kingdom within beauty

(Otherwise rendered as sovereignty within harmony). The sovereignty of G-d over His creation is tantamount to keeping order in the world, according to His frame of reference, a perspective that transcends our limited viewpoint. In our own lives, we are granted a certain amount of autonomy over ourselves, that should not be taken for granted. Therefore, we need to be responsible decision makers, while also recognizing that we can not control all the circumstances of our life; even so, we can still choose how to respond in any given situation.

Yet, our sense of autonomy is best taken into consideration with respect towards the greater context of our relationship with G-d, as well as our fellow human beings. With that in mind, reflect upon how important these relationships are to our own sense of well being. No man is an island; we all need some amount of social interaction, to a greater or lesser degree, depending upon the individual. Additionally, as limited beings, we may benefit from turning towards G-d for comfort, guidance, and inspiration, especially through prayer, as well as reading kitvei kodesh (holy scripture).

Lifting ourselves up above our station in life, trying to make ourselves out to be more than who we really are, would be presumptuous. In recognition of our dependency on G-d, we realize that we have limitations, and do not rule the world. Acknowledging the value of others in our lives, helps us to comprehend, that an overall sense of harmony, is promoted by accepting the contributions that other people make to our well being. Moreover, by respecting the autonomy and boundaries of others, we may be interdependent; yet, without treading on another’s toes.

note: The counting of the Omer serves as a spiritual journey. We are called upon to leave our own personal limitations behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of negativity in our lives. This is a forty-nine day journey, a self improvement plan, between Passover and Shavuot. Each of the seven weeks corresponds to one of the seven middos (character traits) that we will have the opportunity to improve upon in our lives.

My personal reflections on each day’s combination of middot are not meant to be comprehensive; they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may my insights be characterized as authoritative, because I am a student, not a teacher. I simply hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).