Friday, March 30, 2012


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Judaism is quite clear about guarding the sensitivities of people's feelings. Everybody knows that we cover the challah while making Kiddush so as not to hurt the feelings of the challah. For after all, if the wine and the challah are of equal value, the challah would feel quite insulted, and rightly so, to know that the wine was being blessed first. So we cover it up so it shouldn't see (or hear).

Now if we are so concerned about the feelings of bread, al achat kama vekama, how much more so, then, should we be concerned not to insult a fellow human being. We see this principle at work, as well, in this week's parsha Tzav.

Leviticus.6:6: "Ve zot torat hamincha...This is the law of the meal offering..."

Now in the interest of full disclosure I must confess a personal interest in this particular verse, as the name Melman is of kohanic origin, connected to the rites of the meal offering- mel deriving from the yiddish "mehl,"meaning flour. So my ancestors were not only kohanim, priests, but they were also flour-offering specialists.

The next verse (vs. 8) reads: "ve herim mimenu bekumtzo misolet hamincha... And he shall separate from it with his threefingersful some of the fine flour of the meal offering..."

Now why the three fingersful? Why not a whole fistful using all the fingers? Trying this at home, you will find that in so doing you are miming the head of a cow (the thumb and pinky serve as the horns), the horizontal hand and vertical forearm foreshadowing the future shape of the vowel kamatz!

Now the mincha offering was expressly for those who could not afford the more expensive meat-based offerings. If you couldn't afford to bring an actual live cow as an offering, then a symbolic substitute would do the job just as well, the Torah is teaching us.

Synagogues take note: just as God wanted in His Holy Temple that no one should be barred from drawing near to Him or disadvantaged in any way because of money, so too in our synagogues of today we can do no less.

We also use the pinky in yet another substitutive ritual- at the Passover Seder. While saying out loud the ten plagues over a full cup of wine we dip our pinky finger into the wine cup and flick a drop of wine into a plate at the name of each of the ten plagues. Why?

We develop our sensitivity to feel the pain of others, even the pain of our enemies. As a full cup of wine symbolizes happiness and joy, when we diminish the wine from our cup at the naming of the plagues, we learn to diminish our joy even when our enemy suffers. We do not pass out candies and sweets.

The famous story about Kamtza and Bar Kamtza touches on this theme most deliciously. In this story (BT Gittin 55b-56a) a man named Kamtza was invited to a banquet but the host's enemy named Bar Kamtza was sent the invitation by mistake. Showing up at the banquet, Bar Kamtza was quickly thrown out, even after offering to pay the costs of the banquet so as to avoid being humiliated in public. All the great rabbis were at the banquet. But no one said a word. No one spoke out.
When no one protested this humiliation he stirred up trouble for his fellow Jews with the Roman authorities. Consequently, they say that Jerusalem was destroyed on account of our not showing sensitivity to the feelings of others. The embarrassment we inflict on others comes back to us many times over. So when we read of the kohen taking his handful (kamtza) of flour for the mincha offering so as to preserve the feelings of the poor in our midst, let us remember the story of Bar Kamtza as well. Emotional pain hurts too.

Shabbat Shalom.

© 2000-2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua 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 Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.

Friday, March 23, 2012

VAYIKRa: the secret of the small aleph

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

What are the real measures of greatness? How is true character understood? Is leadership defined solely by power, or more importantly, by moral example? The word for general or chieftan in Hebrew is aluf. The elephant is so called on account that he is the aluf (ELEPHant) of the jungle.

While the lion may in fact be the king of the jungle, the elephant, by dint of his huge size, is indisputably the chief. And more than his size accounts for his greatness. His capacity for kindness and concern for the members of his extended family are the real measures of his greatness. If one stumbles or falls, the herd rallies around the wounded comrade and nurses him to health. No one is left behind. Rare is the elephant who is abandoned to fate.

Ironically, goats, sheep, deer, cattle- in short all the kosher animals(!),embody the opposite behavior, fleeing en masse at the first sign of danger. Probably the elephant's massive size allows him the luxury of such overt and conscious compassion. We are what we eat. Perhaps this is why we run from the first sign of danger! But know that this is the galut mentality, the ethos of the exile consciousness. Within the Land of Zion there is a massive shift in consciousness. A new Jewish paradigm.

This is also perhaps a hint for embracing vegetarianism as a goal. Rav Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, was a vegetarian and saw it as an ideal diet for developing moral sensitivity. Do we wish to flee or stand our ground? The fact that all these kosher animals were slaughtered in the Temple is irrelevant. We were even required to light fires even on Shabbat in the Temple precincts - for lighting the menorah each day, and for the daily korban offering as well as the extra (musaf) offering on the Sabbath. But there is one reality and consciousness and holy law for the Holy Temple and for the Kohanim who administer it, and a separate law for all of Israel in the places of their habitation.

In our parsha this week, Vayikra, we are struck by the small letter alef in the opening word of the parsha- VAYIKRa. The parsha so overtly consumed with the details of sacrificial offerings, it is subtly telling us in code that if we are looking to the animal kingdom to search for conduits to connect with divinity, we should really look no further than the beginning, to the letter alef.

Adam, who named all the animals, deeply saw their essential natures when giving them their names. Puk Chazi! Go and see! See how the animals live. While the herd animals are fearful and frightened, the elephant can strongly stand his ground and yet be gentle and caring.

There is a Talmudic concept called sagi nahor by which a thing is suggested by referring to its opposite. Sagi Nahor means "abundant light," a delicate reference to one who is blind. Similarly, the repugnant notion of cursing G*d, CV"S, is only referred to by its opposite. Therefore, in Talmudic literature, cursing G*d is usually referred to as "blessing" Him! So perhaps then, the parsha which is teaching us to reach G*d via affinity with animals is referring to the largest of animals all the while using the small form of the alef to suggest its opposite!

So let us learn from the elephant that true nobility is exemplified in acts of caring, compassion and concern.This is the overarching message of the Prophets of Israel. It is said that the small alef alludes to the necessary quality of humility in leadership. Arrogance only invites repugnance, and is the least admirable quality in a leader.

But the small aleph in the parsha about offerings also hints to the truth that the existence of the Jewish People and the battle for Israel's survival unfortunately entails the loss of our greatest love - our precious, innocent children. Sadly, it is the blood our children's sacrifices spilled by our enemies which water our determination to hold fast to our precious legacy and heritage.

Our enemies, by contrast, use their children as human shields next to rocket launchers to purposely gain the world's sympathy when Israel eventually retaliates. It is this contrast which Heaven sees and of which it takes note. On the Day of Judgment all will make an accounting before the Heavenly Throne. To use children as shields is incomprehensible to the Jewish mind, and yet our enemies see it as a worthy sacrifice to put forward their stated aims of destroying Israel and murdering Jews the world over.

More than G*d seeks sacrifices, He seeks that we follow His Torah and teachings regarding real concern for the children and for the welfare of the poor and the disenfranchised. The haftarah reminds us how G*d actually despises meticulous rituals and sacrifices when they are accompanied by a disregard for His teachings.

Elephants don't travel in flocks. They travel in distinct family units within larger clans. This is the way of Israel, emphasizing the core centrality of the loving family unit within the idea of loyalty to the larger tribe (or people).Just as the elephant radiates love from the inside to the outside, from the family to the clan to the herd, so too may we come to radiate our love for G*d and His Creatures from the inside to the outside.

May we first love and heal ourselves and our families. Only then can we love and heal the whole world.As the great sage Hillel taught,"im eyn ani li mi li, uk'she'ani l'atzmi mah ani, ve'im eyn achshav eymatai?""If I am not for myself, then who will be for me. But if I am only for myself, then what (kind of person) am I? And if not now, then when?"

In other words, perhaps the greatest strength is kindness.
Shabbat Shalom!

© 2000-2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua 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 Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.

Friday, March 16, 2012


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

While humans have short memories, some shorter than others, Jewish survival is based on memory. Memory is identity. We fear losing it. Alzheimers is dreaded for stealing memory. And we are a people of memory. Our memory keeps us inoculated from false promises, treaties and illusions, false messianists and false friends.

You cannot keep a promise if you don't remember it!

G*d keeps his promises. Baruch She'Amar VeHaya HaOlam. He decreed it and fulfilled it. G*d is our role model of integrity- of promises made and fulfilled. Do we have any idea how awesome it is to be alive to witness the ingathering of the exiles and the rebirth of Israel after untold generations of waiting? . Two millenia of remembering both the Promise and the Promised Land. We remembered the promise. And so did G*d.

Our double parsha this week, Vayakhel-Pikudei, borrows its name from the Remembrance Narrative of G*d remembering His promise to Sarah Imeinu (Gen 21:1). Pakad means "remembered" (His promise). "VeHashem PaKaD et Sarah ka'asher amar...""And G*d remembered Sarah AS HE SAID HE WOULD."

G*d said he was going to give a child to Avraham and Sarah, and He did! G*d followed through on His promise. And in the Wilderness, the Midbar, the Promise is again fulfilled. In Vayakhel- Pikudei, G*d has Israel build the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the Vessels and the Vestments just as He said He would have us do back in Terumah/Titzaveh.

What spiritual meaning concerning "pakad" do we learn from this connection between Sarah Imeinu and the Mishkan of this week's parsha? We realize that the creation of the Mishkan/Tabernacle is essentially a recreation of the spiritual energies of Sarah's tent. BeTzalel and Ohaliav are the appointed artisans charged with recreating that "tent." Indeed, the name BeTzalel means "in the shade of G*d," i.e., in G*d's tent, while Ohaliav means "my Father is my tent/shelter."
Sarah's light permeated her tent and granted her family a glimpse of the supernal radiance of Heaven, prefiguring Aaron's role as keeper of the eternal light (Ner Tamid). When she passed on the light went out, but it was restored when Rivqah moved in as Yitzchaq's wife. The stewardship of the supernal light was then passed on to Rivqah, and from her to all the holy mothers of Israel. Every Jewish woman who lights the holy lights for the Sabbath and Festivals in a sense becomes the High Priest(ess) of her home, which we call the Mikdash Mi'at, or the Miniature Sanctuary.

Just as Adam HaRishon was lonely without Chava (Eve), as Yitzchaq was lonely without Rivqah, so too was Israel feeling lonely in the wilderness. Modern man leads an atomized, adamized lonely life. Yet we have the secret of returning to G*d's Home. Anticipating our existential solitude, G*d instructs His Tabernacle be built amongst us, so that He may dwell within us, in our hearts, so as to assuage our loneliness. He will be our "Eve" in the Garden. We need only open our hearts to let Him in.

Just as the barrenness of Sarah could be reversed so as to produce and nurture a child, so too could the barrenness of the wilderness be reversed so as produce and nurture a particular nation's unique G*d consciousness that could enrich the world via the emanation of the Divine Light. So let us as bearers of the G*d consciousness and the sense of the absurd venture out into the world to make it a brighter and lighter place, a place of holy light and of holy laughter. Let us shed light upon the darkness. And bring light, laughter and joy to those who are sad.

Shabbat Shalom

© 2000-2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua 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 Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.

Friday, March 9, 2012


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

In the Golden Calf episode of this week's parsha, Moses descends the mountain in a fit of pique, angrily demanding of his brother Aaron how he could have allowed the people to make for themselves an idol, a Golden Calf. And the Torah describes (EX 32:25) Moses as saying that Aaron let the people loose, or go wild (pharua/phraoh). In other words, he was forced by the unruly and wild, untamed mob to violate one of the central commandments of the decalogue, experienced in the recent theophany, expressed in stone, that Thou Shalt have No Other gods Before Me.

An examination of the word for Paro (Pharaoh) is quite fascinating. The Torah could have merely used the common term for king, which is melekh. But it doesn't. It uses the word Paro, a word which also connects to the episode of the Golden Calf which is a central feature of this week's parsha. It also relates to the narrative of the Bitter Waters, the ordeal of the sota, which features later in the Book of Numbers, chapter 5, in parshat Naso.

And back to Naso, the narrative of the Bitter Waters, or alternately, the Jealous Husband, in NUM 5:18, the priest instructs the woman accused by her husband of infidelity to let loose the hair of her head. The word for "let loose" is Pharah (uFarah et rosh haIsha).

How do all these cognate forms of PhaRO (Fey, Resh, Ayin) relate to each other? What thread connects their inner meanings? How do we create any sense of unity to weave together these seemingly disparate narratives?

Jealousy. The jealous husband suspects his wife of disloyalty in the marriage. G*d suspects (with evidence) the Israelite nation of disloyalty to their mutual covenant forged via the Exodus and Sinai. And G*d accuses Pharaoh of stealing the services of Israel, and even their hearts, when they serve Pharaoh instead of the One True G*d in their physical labors, and yearn to return to the comforts of a structured routine and secure life in Egypt, instead of having the proper emunah, the faith in G*d, to follow Him in returning to their land, Eretz Yisrael.

And lack of self discipline. The unruly mob surrounding Aaron is loose, figuratively speaking. They are said to derive from the eirev rav, the mixed multitude of those on-Israelites living in Egypt who at the last second, witnessing Egypt's ruin, threw their lot in with the Hebrews. But once hardship and challenge emerged, they would question their choice and cause dissension.

The sota's hair is untied, loosened, undisciplined, symbolizing her alleged lack of moral discipline in the marriage. And Pharaoh, the supreme ruler of the world's super power du jour, himself lacks the mental discipline to realize that G*d, and not he himself, is the authentic Deity. Arrogating to himself a supremely Divine status, he cuts himself loose from G*d's mercy and grace.

On the level of mussar for personal growth, it is important to understand the message which speaks to us here in the text. A lack of moral self discipline, a loose sense of moral boundaries, augurs ill for the attainment of one's deepest spiritual longings. Self mastery leads to Divine Grace. You cannot master your outer world unless you first master your inner world.

Lastly, it is fascinating to understand that the same root word, PhaRA, connects both the idea of a mob and an autocratic ruler (Pharaoh). When people act like a wild, unruly mob, they require the firm hand of autocratic suppression to maintain social order and security. And when people have the moral self discipline to resist the mob mentality, to rather assert their individual sense of moral boundaries, are they then deserving of a new type of rule - enlightened self rule. For as they master themselves, so shall their master be.

Shabbat Shalom

© 2000-2012 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 Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Purim has a secret to share. It is a Jewish holiday. But it is really about universal redemption and about our shared humanity's struggle to remake itself in G*d's image and to dwell in peace as we return back to the Garden. In many ways, Purim is the signpost and marker by which to guide humanity, as represented by Israel, back to the Garden of Eden!

Adam and Eve were originally banished from the Garden -not because of sin and disobedience, but rather due to their inability to face and accept their responsibility for their actions. They weren't exiled for eating the "goodly fruit" per se. Rather, they were exiled for denying responsibility. They were caught in their misdeed. But they played the victim. They couldn't own up to what they had done.

Indeed, it is arguable that the idea of a return of mankind to the Garden is not only a boon from humanity's point of view, but is Divinely desired as well. It is arguably G*d's deepest desire for mankind, G*d's children, to become independent, responsible adults. They would be worthy of enjoying the Garden of Delights, but not until they can prove their capability, by having rightfully earned the honor of returning.

While Passover is clearly the epic narrative of G*d's redemption through intervention on an epic scale writ large, the Megillah, the Scroll of Esther, is quite oppositely indicative of the reverse transposition of mankind from being a humble receiver of salvation to an active initiator, whereby Divine intervention is noted only by its seeming absence.

The Haggadah's Passover redemption narrative is replete with Divine credit even as the Megillah, the Purim narrative, while pointedly celebrating the risks and cunning of Esther who heroically saves her people, never once mentions G*d explicitly for His role in the salvation. He is working behind the scenes, teaching us an important lesson: while we may not see an open miracle sealed and stamped with Hashem's name on it, KNOW that every miracle in life is a result of His blessing. All the seemingly small coincidences in life are indeed a part of His plan, working together marvelously in a synchronistic orchestrated whole.

In the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil beckons the curiosities of Eve. The snake, the haughty contender for ultimate authority in the Garden, arrogating to himself the rights of Divine suzerainty, is brought low and humbled, forever to crawl on his belly, much the same way that Haman met his comeuppance for attempting to usurp the royal prerogatives of palace and power.

Upon discovery of the misdeed, the Man blames the Woman who blames the Snake who lives in the Tree (an echo of Chad Gadya), resulting in the expulsion. It therefore makes sense that an atonement and reversal of the judgment would necessarily entail a conscious retracing of the process. The flow in the chain of disavowal of responsibility went from the Man (Adam) to the Woman (Eve- who risked certain death, or so she feared, by "touching" the King's - i.e., G*d's, Tree) to the cunning Snake in his abode in the branches of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Similarly, atonement mandates a reversal of the process. Redemption in the Megillah of Esther follows a vector of newly assumed responsibility from the Man (Mordechai) who lectures the Woman (Esther) as to her responsibilities to her people (who then risks certain death *unless* touched by the golden sceptre), who then points out to the King Haman's true responsibility for her people's imminent misfortune. Haman even falls upon the Queen and her couch, thus in the end making himself responsible for his own downfall. Finally, he himself is hanged upon the branches of "the tree (haEitz)," thus neatly completing the process and chain of responsibility.

What demands our attention as to the text's ultimate universalism is the conscious echoing of the phraseology and the similarity in language between the number of Sarah's years (127) and the number of lands under the Persian Empire (127). Incredibly, in each case it follows the unusual step of placing a conjunctive link ("and") between each of the numbers comprising the ultimate tally. It does not read as "one hundred twenty seven," but rather somewhat awkwardly as "one hundred years and twenty years and seven years (Gen23:1)."

But what is even more fascinating is the reversal in the *order* of the numbers. The Megillah reverses the order of the Genesis narrative, reading now as "seven and twenty and a hundred lands (Esther 1:1)," much as the sin order and blame/responsibility order are reversed (snake to Adam/Adam to snake).

Sarai, upon her name change to Sarah, is told by G*d that she will be the mother of "entire nations" (Gen17:15,16). While she is particularly and immediately the mother of the Hebrew nation, she will ultimately be the mother of entire (read "many") nations (as Chava/Eve is the "mother of life" (Gen 3:20)). This idea is reinforced in the numerical correlation between the years of her life and the provinces under Ahashvuerosh's rule.

The birth of the Nation of Israel points to the ultimate redemption of humanity through the rediscovery of the ethical monotheistic imperative.The Purim narrative functions as a paradigm for mankind's struggle with evil. Ironically the story occurs in Persia, the seat of Zoroastrian faith,which teaches of the dualistic forces of light and darkness in the world.

But the Jewish reading of history is a sense of the ultimate conquest of good over evil. Indeed, evil is ultimately subservient to good, as both are sourced in the Source of all goodness. Moreover, the Purim story is a blueprint not only for the Jews' redemption, but for all humanity who align themselves with goodness.

Its message is one of responsibility for one's own salvation. Inaction in the face of evil is the guarantee for evil to flourish. Perish or flourish. The choice is ours.The Edenic paradigm for mankind's return and redemption must be seen as the backdrop by which to make sense of the Purim story as well as current events.

As the masks fall off, G*d's hidden presence is revealed. Ideologies and belief systems which deny the notion of a G*d who demands personal responsibility take on an aura of untenability. From out of a sense of volition we learn to take responsibility in life to repair the earth and the hearts of its inhabitants. To wait for others or to postpone action is the recipe for continued exile or worse. Yet the opposite holds forth the promise of a renewed encounter with that other tree in the Garden- the Tree of Life!

Good Purim!

© 2000 - 2012 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 Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.

Friday, March 2, 2012


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

The clothes we wear say so much about who we are as people. Are we meticulous, neat, slovenly or pretentious? Does what we wear on the outside reveal much about who we are on the inside?

Do we wear cotton, linen or polyester? or perhaps fig leaves? Or maybe a simple tunic?

As graphologists can discern one's character by the art of handwriting analysis, so too can a trained observer understand people by the clothes they wear. This won't work for teens. They are too busy showing how superficial it is to judge by externals. And how right they are.

And little children obviously are different as well. They usually don't dress themselves. They are held captive by the whims of their parents. Children's clothes often reflect the subconscious choices of the parent and the image the parent wants to project to the world, concerned as parents are with the need to cultivate and imbue the child with a certain set of values.

Similarly, in this week's parsha, Titzaveh, Hashem is giving instructions as to how the kohanim are to dress when on duty in their role as caretakers of the Holy Tabernacle. We, as kohanim ourselves, being that we are "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation- a mamlechet kohanim vegoy qadosh," are G*d's children, keviyachol- as it were, prey to a certain Divine sartorial whimsy. But whimsy is perhaps the wrong word, in that it suggests a lack of purpose or intention.

Every garment serves a symbolic service or function. The text (Ex 28:2) sets the overall tone and standard for this sacred apparel. Above all, the verse says, the garments for Aaron and his sons should be both dignified and beautiful, "le'chavod u'le'tifaret." And to the degree that the priests are exemplars and role models of the sacred, we are meant to look to them for direction concerning all holy things. Being that G*d is a dressing (addressing!) us today, as our Divine parent, we should ask what subconscious desires is He projecting on to us, as it were, by the clothes He chooses for us, Aaronides all, as it were, in the broadest sense?

As much as external clothing is said to reveal internal character, then G*d is showing us that we are beautiful inside. And G*d is also showing us that we are dignified inside. After all, we are made in G*d's image. So we see that how G*d, our true parent, is asking us to dress ourselves, is a reflection of the way that G*d sees Himself! Holy and beautiful!

It is not only a statement that we are making about ourselves. It is even more a statement that we are making about G*d! Whatever era or locale in which we live, the guiding Torah rules in fashion are the twin ideals of both beauty and dignity. Tzniut - Jewish dress of modest sensibility, can reflect both.

One of the most fascinating of the sacred vestments worn by the High Priest is the robe. On the hem of the robe could be found pomegranates made of colored wool alternating with gold bells. Pomegranates symbolically contain within them exactly 613 seeds (yes, I have counted), equal to the number of mitzvot in the Torah.

One thing we learn from this is that plain folk imbued with good deeds, though lacking in material wealth, are precious to G*d. They are as precious to G*d much as as gold and wealth are precious to people. Moreover, the Torah and the multitude of mitzvot found within is G*d's special gift to us- a means of connecting to the Source of Life.

So too, when we encounter another person, one made in the Divine image, we should look out for, be aware of, and show sensitivity to his special gifts, talents and concerns. We do violence to that person's sense of self and well-being by ignoring his individuality and his uniqueness. We acknowledge each person as a unique gift. How revolutionary among religions. What a Divine gift!

As every heart is a sacred Temple, we must knock before we enter. We may steal a glance, but we may never steal a heart. We must ask permission before taking. Knock first. Or ring the doorbell.

History's first door bell is recorded in marvelous detail by the text, as a prerequisite to a Divine encounter. "And Aaron shall wear this robe when he prepares the Divine service. The sound of the bells shall be heard when he enters the sanctuary and when he goes out, so that he not die (Ex 28:35)." So perhaps then, this hints that the "goodly fruit" of the Garden of Eden may also have been the pomegranate, being that both warnings contain similar contraindications.

Now I can see why one should announce one's coming, but why one's going? In the same way that one defines the borders of a neighbor's sense of privacy by announcing one's entering, so too one is defining the borders by announcing one's leaving. The nature of sacred space (maqom qadosh) is defined by its notion of differentiation, much as the mundane is much noted for its quality of sameness.

Moreover, can't G*d see our coming and going? Why would the Kohein Gadol (High Priest) have to announce himself? If we are instructed to show deference and honor to G*d, who is a being devoid of corporeal form, in a reversal of the classic formulaic al achat kamah ve-kamah -"how much more so," certainly mere mortals who lack incorporeality and yet carry a Divine spark within, are deserving of a modicum of respect and honor afforded by dint of their special provenance. As we give honor and deference to G*d, isn't it fitting that we show respect to His creation? This is the secret meaning of the pomegranate. How revolutionary among religions. What a Divine gift!

Lastly, what is the significance of the various colors of these woolen pomegranates? They are made of three colors: crimson, sky blue and burgundy red. To my mind, these colors symbolize the various times of day- dawn (crimson), daytime (sky blue) and sunset (burgundy), the changing colors of the sky - as the sun (the gold bell) moves across the heavens!

What this is saying to us is that G*d is near to us any time of day- whether at dawn, daytime or sunset. Whether in our youth, our midlife, or our dotage! The deepest meaning is that unlike a human king such as Ahasueros, the king of Persia in the upcoming Purim saga, who on a whim could take your life for seeking him without an appointment, G*d will grant us an audience at any time! Any time of day or night is the right time to call out to G*d for help. G*d does not need an appointment to speak with Him!

To speak to G*d directly, unlike Ahasueros, Esther would not have to fast. To call out to G*d for help we do not risk death. Just the opposite! We risk life - eternal life!

The deepest meaning of our parsha is that G*d is our true king, and as sons and daughters of Divine royalty we are worthy to wear garments of blue today- not Hareidi black, much as the High Priest and Mordecai wore blue in their day. The secular Israeli boy and girl scouts of today intrinsically know this and as the flag of Israel has deep blue, so too are their uniforms a manifestation of a symbolic expression of a Divine sense of color.

Black is the color of mourning. But now we have figuratively and
literally returned home back to Zion. Our mourning is now over. The morning of our redemption has just begun!

And similarly, as we are all descended from "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation," we should all know that we are all worthy to wear garments of blue, for blue is the color of the sky, the color of the heavens, the color of the thread of the tallit. May our insides, then, be as heavenly as our outsides. And may we all reflect G*d's (blue or red or crimson) Divine Light wherever we go.

Shabbat Shalom.

© 2000 - 2012 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 Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

What mind is it?

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


"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
"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
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!