Thursday, November 27, 2008

TOLDOT- HOLY NAMES; HOLY LAUGHTER; HOLY BLISS

This week's commentary is dedicated to the joyous wedding of Marc Garson and his new kallah, Shelli.


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Our name is our essence, the keenest description of our most innate beingness. In Parashat Toldot we experience the birth and the naming of Ya'akov and Esav, the disparate twins of Yitzhak and Rivka. Ya'akov means supplanter, or heel, the ergonomically accessible point by which to pull another back and pass him by in the process, in the very same instant.

The blessings which accrue to Ya'akov give the Divine imprimatur to the Biblical idea of merit over birth order,of moral primacy over primogeniture. Yitzhak's rising over Ishmael was arguably won by dint of the power struggles between Sarah/wife and Hagar/handmaid-concubine, beyond solely the purity of the merit of the children.

But with the ascendancy of the younger Ya'akov over the older Esav, there is no question that they shared the same set of parents; all control factors accounted for; everything else being equal. The name Ya'akov in its deepest essence alludes to the ikvei mashiach, the footsteps of the annointed one, the future redeemer.

The age of redemption will be characterized by the vainquishing of the stronger by the weaker, of the still small voice of quiet prayer over the gluttonous, raucous, brutish impetuosity of strength and power and might. Hakol kol ya'akov ("the voice is the voice of Jacob") will win in the end over hayadayim y'dei esav ("but the hands are the hands of Esau").

Esav means "done," already made, his spiritual growth already completed by the time he left the womb. The name Esav has the rank odor of fermentation on the brink of spoilage, of the psychological security of amassed comforting false remembrances of the glory of things past asserting domination over the hope, aspirations and promise of the emerging moment of a new day that is dawning.

Yitzhak himself achieves fulfillment, by earning in the end his own name. Avimelech is gazing out his window (Gen 26:8) "and saw, and lo and behold, Yitzhak was "enjoying himself" with his wife Rivka ....vayar vehiney Yitzhak mitzahek eyt Rivka ishto."

Well, finally Yitzhak himself is living his name, whatever it may mean. Does anyone remember "laughter" in the Torah? In Lech Lecha, (Gen 17:17) Avraham laughs when G*d tells him that he and the newly named Sarah will have a son in their old age. Further on, in Vayera, Sarah now laughs (Gen 18:12) when she overhears the angel/man saying, "your wife Sarah will have a son." Later, however, in the same parasha, Sarah sees the son of Hagar "mitzachek-ing" with Yitzhak, which our holy commentaries say possibly allude to sex-play or scornful mockery.

Why was Ishmael's behavior seen as unworthy by the text in light of Sarah's insistence that Hagar and son be expelled on account of it, whereas it is seen as valorized and worthy when performed by Avraham, Sarah, and now, by Yitzhak himself? That is because, like the gift of speech, laughter itself is holy and must never be misused.

In all three of the latter cases, the laughter took place in the presence of the holy. Avraham's laughter took place in the presence of G*d, Sarah's likewise was in the presence of the angels, emissaries of the Divine. Finally Yitzhak's holy laughter took place in the presence of Avimelekh's glimpse into a Divinely granted vision of the future. How's that?

It says (Gen 26:8), Vayehi ki archu lo sham hayamim.... customarily translated as "when he had been there a long time." It could also be read deeply and metaphorically as "when "they" made his days long," alluding to a Divinely granted vision of the eschaton, the end of history, a long day, when all will be in a constant state of Shabbat, a yom she kulo Shabbat, a "day" which is entirely like Shabbat.

At the end of time Yitzhak will be Mitzachek, i.e., we, his descendants, will be in a state of holy bliss brought about by the awareness of being in the Presence of the Divine. On Shabbat we experience a temporary vision of the Yom SheKulo Shabbat, of the bliss which awaits the righteous at the end of days.

And "archu" is prefigurative of the psalmist's "orech yamim asbiayhu va'arayhu beyeshuati...(Tehillim 91) "With long life I will satisfy him, and I will show him my salvation." i.e., "he will witness the salvation I will bring about at the advent of the Messianic age." This, on the deepest level, is the meaning of Avimelech's gaze, connecting Yitzchak to the Divine laughter awaiting each of us in the end of days. Here (Gen 26:8), the "hashkafa" of Avimelekh precedes the ultimate Revelation of the end of days.

Divine laughter, holy laughter, is the celebration of all life on earth, that everything occurs according to G*d's plan, following the teleological timeline to cosmogonic bliss.

But Hagar's son's laughter was mocking laughter, not the laughter of the Divine Presence. He had crossed that fine line and Sarah's holy intuition perceived it. He is called here (parshat Vayera) in the text "ben-Hagar" purposely on account that he had learned the art of mockery from his own mother, who had herself scorned and mocked Sarai when she had conceived while Sarai had not.

The three angels gazed (vayishkefu) at Sodom (Gen:18:16), immediately prior to G*d's revelation of His plans for the city to Avraham. There, "hashkafa" (gazing) immediately precedes revelation. Likewise, Avimelekh's gaze prefigures awareness of the ultimate redemption.

May we all, like Yitzchak, live our true essence, becoming the persons we were destined to be, and in our own worthy way, help bring about the vision of Avimelekh and taste the salvation of that long day, when the great light shall shine forth from Zion, and when all darkness shall be banished.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos.

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman
These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me. I was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)Dedications are available.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

CHAYEI SARAH: SOUL ARISING

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Endings are sometimes beginnings, while descents are sometimes the means to new ascents. Avraham purchased a burial plot for Sarah. He purchased a cave, the Cave of Machpela. The word "couple" in English comes from Machpela. Here the many foundational couples were laid to rest.

The word for cave is m'arah. This week's parsha contains the second mention of a m'arah, while last week's parsha, vayera, contains the first time that the word appears.

In GEN 19:25, when Lot is fleeing from S'dom, there is a word pattern that reminds us of m'arah:

"...v'et kawl yoshvei he'arim...

"(and He overthrew the cities and all the plain,) and all the inhabitants of the cities..."

We see the word he'arim, meaning "the cities." And a few verses later in GEN 19:30, we have the actual word m'arah:

"...vayeshev b' m'arah hu ushtei vnotav

"...and and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters."

So we can understand from the juxtaposition of these two usages that the idea of a cave is a refuge from the the turmoil and chaos of the cities.

Now when one's soul departs from its body and returns to its source, in a sense it is seeking refuge from the destruction of its own city, its past refuge from which it was expelled, unto a higher and and safer place of repose.

While the body is placed in the cave (the traditional form of Jewish burial in ancient times through antiquity), and thus finds refuge from the physical turmoil of this world, so too the soul also finds its own refuge.

We see that the letter mem before a word can have two different functions. It can serve as a prefix, meaning "from", an abbreviation of the word min, meaning "from," as in "he escaped from the cities (to the cave).

It can also serve as part of a verb, as a present tense indicator of the causative form. Therefore, when we read "m'arah," we can understand it as "causing something to rise up or ascend."

The soul departs from its body and ascends heavenword. In fact the word "ascend" can be found as well in the same word for cave: uri (spelled with an ayin not an aleph) means "arise."
M'arah also contains the letter ayin. M'arah can be read now as a place of arising. In other words, this idea deeply touches upon the Pharisaic idea of an afterlife, that our soul ascends to its heavenly source upon the severance of its physical sojourn within its vessel of the body.

So now we see that a cave (m'arah) has a double function: it is both a place where the soul arises when it leaves the body, as well as the place which causes the soul to rise. In other words, only upon the actual burial is the soul permitted to rise up. Hence the reason for the bias in Judaism for same day burial. It is a kindness to the soul permitting it to rejoin its heavenly source all the faster.

Lastly, in Isaiah 60:1-3, we read,

"ARISE and shine! For your light has arrived, and the glory of Hashem has shined upon you. For behold! Darkness shall cover the earth and a dense cloud the kingdoms; but upon you Hashem will shine , and His glory shall be seen upon you. Nations will go by your light, and sovereigns by the brightness of your shining."

The light of the Jewish people that would shine forever was first lit by Sarah imenu (our mother). And as she caused her tent to be a refuge from the chaos of the world and the chaos of pagan thought, so too would her descendants in the future be a source of light for all the nations of the world, to follow in G*d's path.

Shabbat Shalom! Good Shabbos!

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me. I was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.
http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

VAYERA: WAITING IN THE WINGS

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

There is a Talmudic expression that salvation can come in the "blink of an eye,""b'heref ayin." That refers to the kind of salvation that is waiting in the wings for the propitious moment. But in our parsha, Va'yera, we learn of another kind of salvation- the salvation that was always right in front of us before our very eyes, but because of depression and sadness we sometimes fail to see it.

The truth is, if we are aware of it, every moment in life is full of salvific potential. Hagar, alone in the wilderness with her son, Ishmael, felt that they were on the verge of death, their water having run out. Their situation looked very bleak. But the angel appears and "opens her eyes," enabling her to see that which was there all along. The veil was lifted and salvation was assured.
Nourished by the waters of their new-found well of water, Ishmael's life was spared, and G*d's promise of continuity of his lineage was assured.

It was a healing vision. An image is but a frequency, a valence or expression of light waves. Light which is visible to us as humans is but a minute fraction of the spectrum of "lightwaves," which include infrared light, ultraviolet light, UHF, VHF, and radio "light," among many other forms of vibrating light frequencies. It is said that prophecy is but an ability to perceive these otherwise hidden forms of reality, which although taking place in the future, being images of light, thus similarly travel at the speed of light.

Divine light and the "light stored for the end of days"- the "or haganooz,"are but different points on the light spectrum waiting to be revealed to humanity.It is therefore no mere coincidence that the symbol for the redemption of humanity at the beginning of time is the rainbow, a refraction, or revelation of the variegated colors hidden within the range of "normal," or visible light.

The redemption of humanity at the end of time, the eschaton, will similarly be heralded by a profusion of newly revealed light, of light which was formerly hidden. The mind is a sophisticated filtering mechanism, limiting our perception to the tiniest fraction of the light spectrum. The olam haba (the world to come) promises us a fantastic array of perception along the entire frequency.

Indeed the word for brain in Hebrew is mo-ach, which means to erase or wipe away (Moses says to G*d: m'cheni na- erase me - from your book). The brain erases all the non-permitted frequencies. Only prophets or those with a genetic mutation or Divine gift to perceive extra frequencies, people whom we call psychics, are able to perceive a reality across time and space while the average mortal cannot.

And what about pain? We often say "time erases the pain." It is not time per se that erases the pain, but rather that the brain allows the passage of time to assuage the pain so that we can function in the world. G*d doesn't forget our pain. And neither does our neshama, our soul. It's all stored in there somewhere.

Perhaps one of the deepest forms of pain is brought about by talebearing and slander, even words which seem true on the surface. But as we learn from the Day of Atonement, repentance and forgiveness have the power to truly erase our pain and feeling of alienation from G*d, and bring a sense of closure and healing.

G*d will wipe away our pain and wipe away our tears. The powerful healing of forgiveness is always there, just waiting in the wings, waiting to reveal itself to us when we respond with love.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos!

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me. I was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua (a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

LECH LECHA: COSMIC BLESSINGS LARGE AND LARGER

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

An ETERNAL cosmic blessing is bestowed upon Avraham by G*d:

"I will bless those that bless you, and he that curses you I shall curse. All the families of the earth shall be blessed through you (Gen 12:3)."

This is a blessing and a prophecy as well. Through the hindsight of history we see the efficacy of these words. But this is on the level of macro blessing. This is the stuff of nations. What can we learn about bringing blessings into our own lives?

One hint is in the seemingly extra letter yud in "mevarchecha," as in (I will bless) "those that bless you."The letter yud alludes to Hashem, being the lead letter in the tetragrammaton, the ineffable name, the "shem havaya." The "yud" of Hashem brings us blessing. This means that when we place G*d's desires above our own desires, we open ourselves up as a conduit to receive Hashem's blessings in our lives.That is the first half of the answer.

When we embark on a journey, especially without a known destination in mind,we need all the blessings we can get. When Hashem asks us to go on a journey to the unknown, then every step we take is an act of faith, even more than when we know from the outset where we will be going.

When one lives alone with few distractions one may hear the still small voice more readily. And then to act on it is easier than when a spouse is involved. G*d spoke to Avraham and asked him to get out of town (lech lecha...).

Fine,but what about his wife, Sarah? The answer is in the words (lech lecha) themselves. The numerical value of"lech" is 50, and the value of "lecha" is also 50. While the traditional explanation is that he "took her" on the journey (vayikach) WITH WORDS, it is crucial to understand that unless Sarah was 100% on board with this mission to spread "the word," this ethical monotheism thing was going nowhere.

This was a 50-50 proposition. They were going to spread the message as equals. The letters in the words Lech Lecha are "50 - 50" in numerology. His agreeing to go with his holy wife was a 50/50 proposition. A complete agreement on her part was necessary. Yes. G*d reveals His truth in math and science.

She would teach the women; he would teach the men. It is crucial to understand that Avraham could not just make a token gesture to get her to agree. Rachmana liba ba'ee. G*d wants the heart. Her heart must be in it completely.

Marriage must entail a complete sharing. Even going beyond sharing, i.e., putting our spouse first. In Gen 12:8 it says " ...vayeyt ohalo...and he (Avraham) set up his tent." But the last letter of ohalo is the letter hey, although it is read as if written with a vav (the vowel cholom). Since our Torah is a Divine document, we must ask why this is so. What message is G*d giving us through His holy book?

The midrash in Breishit Rabbah explains that wherever Avraham went, he set up Sarah's tent first. In fact, he put all her needs above his own. So here is the second half. We must learn from Avraham that to be blessed in marriage (read successful), one must put one's spouse's needs above one's own. So when we put these two encoded ideas together: how to relate to G*d (our Heavenly partner) and how to relate to our spouse (our heavenly partner), we have the complete formula.

And to recap, on the yud level, it is to place Hashem's desires BEFORE our own desires, no matter how hard it seems. And sometimes it is hard. And on the hay level, we are to place our spouse's needs BEFORE our own needs, no matter how hard it seems. And sometimes it is hard. And if we put the letters yud and hay together, it spells G*d's name. We will then be walking on our journey through life with G*d. And that is the greatest of all blessings.

Shabbat Shalom! Good Shabbos!

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me. I was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)Dedications are available.

NEVER GIVE UP!

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Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

moshav band live at mexicali blues

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What mind is it?

"Great minds discuss ideas;
average minds discuss events;
small minds discuss people."
-Eleanor Roosevelt


ON FIXING AND HEALING...

"If you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can fix..... If you believe that you can harm, then believe that you can heal..........." Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Hatiqwa

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A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD

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IVDU ET HASHEM B'SIMCHA- SERVE THE LORD WITH JOY DANCING AND SINGING FROM INSIDE A BOMB SHELTER

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SELICHOT LIVE AT CARLEBACH SHUL 2008

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NAZI RALLIES AND SPEECHES

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JEWISH MEN AND WOMEN GATHER TO CELEBRATE REB SHLOMO'S 14TH YAHRZEIT SINGING AT HIS GRAVE

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Reb Zalman on Jewish Renewal

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Let There Be Peace

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"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."

- anonymous
"Perhaps the greatest force in the entire universe is compounded interest."

- Albert Einstein

the last hoshana rabba with reb shlomo and me playing together the week before he took off in '94

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bob marley - one love 6:13 (6 MINUTES 13 SECONDS) and exodus

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Tisha B'Av 5765 Katif Expulsion

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Children of Sderot - The Daily Terror and Nightmares

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Let Me Sing a New Song

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On Schlomo's magnificent 13th (Bar Mitzvah) yahrzeit in Heaven

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AMAZING INTERVIEW WITH REB SHLOMO top video only

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Larry David wants to Save the Planet

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Havdalah Ceremony on Moshav Meor Modiin in Central Israel

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Alpha blondy from cote d'ivoire sings his love of Jerusalem in Hebrew and French all over the world

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When I was young I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.- Abraham Joshua Heschel
The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the most important thing is to not be afraid.
-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
"The greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor." - Aish Kodesh
"As you want G*d to give you a chance, give everyone else a chance to also begin again." - Shlomo Carlebach

About Me

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United States
I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!