Cling Ye, Cling Ye

parasha Va’etchanan 5782

“Ye that did cleave unto H’Shem your G-d are alive every one of you this day.” – Deuteronomy 4:4, JPS 1917 Tanach

During Moshe’s thirty-seven-day speech, he prepared B’nei Yisrael to enter the Promised Land. He cautioned them, admonished them, and reminded them in a tactful way of previous sins. Rather than naming the sins, he would mention the place where the transgression occurred.

One such instance that appears  more direct is when he mentions the matter of Baal-Peor, whereof H’Shem punished “all the men that followed the Baal of Peor,” a Midianite deity (Deuteronomy 4:3). He further mentions that those who cleaved to H’Shem, rather than follow the deity, “are alive every one of you this day” (Deuteronomy 4:4, JPS 1917 Tanach).

This juxtaposition makes it clear that those who did not transgress through idolatry and licentiousness were preserved by H’Shem, because they “cleaved” to Him. The Hebrew word used for “cleave,” in this instance, is “deveykus.” The word connotes a “clinging” to H’Shem in the sense of one who is dependent on Him for his sense of well-being.

Furthermore, deveykus is necessary for hitbodedus (Jewish meditation). Within the practice of hitbodedus, one pours out one’s heart to H’Shem, hoping for an answer to all of his prayers. Yet, in complete deveykus, one lives his life in constant acknowledgement of H’Shem. Furthermore, he is able to speak to H’Shem from within his heart in the quiet moments of the day. May we avoid the secular deities of modern society, so that we can cling to H’Shem in our own lives.

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).

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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Teshuvah – A Return to G-d

weekly Torah reading: parasha Nasso 5782

 “Speak unto the children of Israel: When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to commit a trespass against the L-RD, and that soul be guilty; then shall they confess their sin which they have done.” – Numbers 5:6-7a, JPS 1917 Tanach

According to Rambam (Maimonides), this verse is the basis of vidui (confession), within the context of teshuvah (repentance). “And shall make reparation in full” (Numbers 5:7, OJB). This latter part of the pasuk (verse) denotes reparations made to others, if the aveirah (transgression) is against another person. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for reparation is from the same shoresh (root), shuv (to return) as teshuvah (repentance). Essentially, repentance is a return to H’Shem (the L-RD). “Let us return unto the L-RD” (Hosea 5:15b, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Maimonides offers a basic example of how to approach vidui (confession):  “I beseech Thee, O Great Name! I have sinned; I have been obstinate; I have committed profanity against Thee, particularly in doing thus and such. Now, behold! I have repented and am ashamed of my actions; forever will I not relapse into this thing again.” He further states that whoever takes it upon him or herself to further elaborate, is considered praiseworthy. Nachman of Breslov notes that one measure of having done a complete teshuvah (return to H’Shem, is if in the same situation wherein had previously sinned, this time, avoids sin in the given situation.

Shavuot Renewal 5782

“And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.”

– Ezekiel 36:25, JPS 1917 Tanach

The B’nei Yisrael (Children of Israel) had sunk to the 49th level of impurity in Egypt. Had we descended to the 50th level of impurity, according to chazal, we would have been indistinguishable from the Egyptians. From this perspective, we were not brought out of Egypt, based upon our own merit. This is akin to what is mentioned later in Torah, “Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thy heart” (Deuteronomy 9:5).

Thus, we were taken out of Egypt by way of what is called itaruta dil’eyla, an “awakening from above,” wherein H’Shem brings about an effect from Shomayim. From out of the influence of an idolatrous society, B’nei Yisrael was freed from slavery, in order to serve H’Shem.

The 49 day counting of the Omer, between Pesach and Shavuos is a gradual ascent to the 49th level purity. A time to effect a gradual transition to a positive set of character traits, through an itaruta dil’tata, an awakening from below, i.e., from our own efforts. As B’nei Yisrael spent forty nine days on a journey from Egypt towards Mount Sinai, where the Torah was given, so opportunity given the opportunity to prepare ourselves to receive the Torah anew on Shavuot.

Omer: Day 33 Essential Humility

hod shebbe hod: splendor within splendor

(Otherwise rendered as humility within humility)

What is the essence of humility? At the depths of our humility, the soul is encompassed by splendor. Because hod is sometimes rendered as humility, and other times as splendor, there must be a connection between these two aspects of the middah (character trait). One explanation, in a nutshell, is that by humbling ourselves, we are able to reflect the splendor of G-d.

In the eyes of others, those who are sincerely humble, are often overlooked; yet, their splendor radiates in unseen realms. On the other hand, those who aggrandize themselves, do so to be seen; yet, they may only be great in their own eyes. The splendor that lasts is conferred by G-d, and G-d alone. His glory outshines ours; yet, He may bestow some of His glory upon us, when we humble ourselves before Him.

“For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” – Isaiah 59:7, JPS Tanach

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 29 The Kindness Bridge

Chesed shebbe Hod: Love within Splendor

Otherwise rendered as kindness within humility.

The role of chesed (kindness) within the quality of humility. How does kindness influence the potential for humility? Kindness seems like a key ingredient of humility. Yet, kindness may actually be a result of the quality of humility. To humble ourselves before G-d, and others, downplaying our plusses, and acknowledging our minuses, places us in a position to better appreciate others, by not seeing ourselves as better than them. Therefore, kindness may be a consequence of recognizing our inherent sameness with others. It is easier to be kind to those whom we feel a common connection. Recognizing our own humanity, reflected in the eyes of others, may help us to bridge the gap with personal acts of kindness.

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).

motzei Shabbos: Emor 5782

parasha Emor 5782 – 7th aliyah

“He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the L-RD continually.”

– Leviticus 24:4, JPS 1917 Tanach

The menorah and the showbread table, respectively represent “spiritual growth” and “material prosperity.”  Both of these provisions rest upon the incense mizbeach (altar), so to speak, inasmuch that the smoke of the incense is symbolic of prayer; thus, through our avodah, namely, service of the heart (prayer), we may acquire both spiritual and material blessings.

Additionally, according to the Steinsaltz edition of the Chumash, the menorah represents “purity and radiance” (Steinsaltz commentary on Leviticus 24:4). This makes perfect sense, in consideration of the pure olive oil that was used for the menorah; and, the light emitting from the wicks of the menorah. Thus, an added dimension is brought to the above-mentioned insight, namely, that our spiritual growth is also dependent upon leading a pure life, focused on righteousness.