Friday, July 27, 2012

DEVARIM: SECRET OF THE ASHTEI ASAR


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Seven - eleven. Seven is the holy number marking the dawn of creation. Eleven is the number heralding the final redemption, when we will see in each other our deepest connection. The number eleven is the number of brotherly unity, the same brothers who begged Yosef for forgiveness in unity as one heart. The Great Shabbos is coming soon when the heart of all Israel and all the world shall beat as one.

The modern day scourge of terror debuted most strikingly with the murder of the eleven Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich. And it reached its most recent crescendo with the terror attacks of September the eleventh. The number eleven is thus forever linked to the challenge facing redemption.

Even Yosef found himself challenged by the number eleven in his dreams. He found himself stuffed in a pit and sold into slavery over the number eleven! But not only is the number eleven telling. Most striking is its special spelling: Ayin, Shin, Taf and Yud- AShTeY(eleven in Hebrew is usually either echad asar or achat esreh, not ashtei asar). How strange. And how compelling.

This conceivably is a metaphorical time capsule, alluding to the territorial challenge which Israel faces today, especially in view of the territorially themed context of the parsha. Mirroring the lexicon of modern Israel's alphabet politics, Ayin stands for Aza (Gaza). Shin stands for Shomron (Samaria). Yud stands for Yehudah (Judaea). "Okay. I get it."

But what does the Taf stand for? The letter Taf stands for Tel-Aviv! It represents the entirety of Israel in symbolic puzzle-board fashion. Israel's fate is thus seemingly tied inextricably to the number eleven. But Tel Aviv is a modern 21st century city! All the others go back over 3,000 years! The others are our ancient roots. Tel Aviv is our modern latter day fruit, the fruit of our return.

Israel futilely offers piece by piece for the sake of peace yet another part of herself, only to be spurned, mocked and humiliated by her enemies sworn to her destruction. Every act of compromise is viewed as a sign of weakness and strengthens the hands of the radicals.

But why Tel Aviv? Why would the holy Torah in its compulsive yearning for eternal relevance deem it worthy to foreshadow seemingly UNholy Tel Aviv? Fun city. The UNJerusalem. It didn't even yet exist until the 20th century! No matter. The Divine Mind has infinite time horizons.

So why Tel Aviv? Because our enemies tell us that locale makes no difference in their goal to eradicate the Jewish presence from ALL of the Land of Israel, that there is no difference whether a Jew is living in Gaza or in Tel Aviv or in Judaea or in Samaria. To our enemies it is all the same. We are all settlers in their collective mind's eye.

It's all or nothing! No matter how much or how often we offer land for peace, their answer is always the same. All or nothing. How much we yearn for peace. We cut off our collective arm for peace. It makes no difference whether the Jews are in Tel Aviv or in Jerusalem. "They ALL must go," say their poets and leaders (in Arabic), "and take their dead with them." Not a trace should remain. All or nothing.

LiKhToF means to cut off (in order to carry the pole of fruit on one's shoulder -katef). We withdrew from Katif for the sake of peace. But to carry the pole properly you need a partner to carry the yearning for peace on HIS shoulders too. You can cut the load, but where is the partner to help you carry it? Neither you nor he can carry it alone. Each must grab an end.


What is compromise in the Arab mind but a decadent western import, a sign of weakness, of shame and humiliation. Ashtey Asar. Even Tel Aviv. All or nothing. Us or them, apparently. We have always been willing to seek peace, but whenever push comes to shove, peace is shoved back down the ladder.

The more they say no, the deeper our roots spread in the earth. Had the Arab world accepted Israel as a Jewish state at her birth, she would possibly still be but a narrow coastal strip and a patchwork of Galilean dunams. The more they deny Israel the more Israel grows. The more Pharaoh oppressed us the stronger Israel became.

We, the Jewish People, are like the Cherokee Nation, forced from our ancestral home to march on the Trail of Tears. But we are coming back home to Georgia, to the land of our fathers. We have left the reservations. But we are finally coming home, even if they don't want us to return. Oklahoma is not Georgia. Arkansas is not Tennessee. Our tears of sorrow will one day be tears of joy. He who sows in tears will one day reap in joy.

One day, at the dawn of the eschaton, all the nations of the world will come up to the Land of Israel and ascend His holy mountain, holy Mount Zion, and sing His praises. The world which now resists and pillories Israel will one day open up her eyes and embrace her.

But that will not happen until the other meaning of Ashtei becomes manifest in reality. Not merely that the Arab world's goal remains the entire patrimony of Israel, but rather that only the unity of Israel will be the trigger for our final redemption.

Just as sinat chinam - causeless hatred, divided us and exiled us, so too its opposite, ahavat chinam- causeless love, will be the key to our redemption. For only when all our hearts will beat as one and when we see each other and all people as true brothers of the same father in heaven will we be really worthy of salvation.

The secular resident of Tel Aviv and the religious resident of Yerushalayim will see each other as brothers and not as enemies. The heart has two ventricles. The heart of Israel also has two ventricles: the secular ventricle and the religious ventricle. One says I can bring redemption without G*d's help. The other says no matter how hard it seems, if I at least do my share to start the process, I know G*d will finish it for me.

Until we each see each other as brothers, and even see our enemies as children of the same father in Heaven, true redemption will always elude us. But they must also see us as their brothers. It takes two to carry the pole for peace. Short pole. Short peace. The longer the pole the longer the peace.

Seven - eleven. Seven is the holy number marking the dawn of creation. Eleven is the number heralding the final redemption, when we will see in each other our deepest connection. The number eleven is the number of brotherly unity, the same brothers who begged Yosef for forgiveness in unity as one heart. When we protest the IOC's spurning of our just request to remember the 11 slain athletes at Munich, we are showing our love for our brothers, thus fixing the sin of Yosef's brothers.

The Great Shabbos is coming soon when the heart of all Israel and all the world shall beat as one. When the towers fell on nine eleven it was in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day. They will only be finally rebuilt in their truest sense when see all humanity as one unified spark of the Divine emanation.


Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!


© 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.


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

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

MASSEI: A PLACE IN SPACE; A PLACE IN TIME


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


This d'var Torah is dedicated to the aliyah of the neshama of my blessed father, Israel J. Melman, Yisrael Yehoshua ben HaRavYaakov Hakohen Melman, z"l. This past week, the 27th of Tammuz was the anniversary of his tenth yahrzeit. My father was a great physicist and inventor who saw the awesomeness of G*d in the details of science. He was a pioneer on the cutting edge of 20th century technology, whose work was influential in the field of color television, telecommunications, satellite infrared technology and computer infomatics. Most important of all he was a great father and a great and kind human being - a mentsch.

What connection is there between the listing of the resting places in the beginning of Parshat Massei and the directive that the Levites should apportion themselves 48 Levitical cities, six of which would be dedicated as special cities of refuge, to seek asylum for an accidental homicide?

If you subtract the six cities of refuge from the total of 48 Levitical cities, you get the number 42, which also corresponds to the number of resting places for the Children of Israel in their forty years of wandering. This was mentioned by the commentator the Kli Yakar. Below is an expansion on the concept.

The function of the Levitical cities was to provide numerous centers of Torah learning spread out throughout the entire Land of Israel. The tribe of Levi was to function as the teachers of Torah and spirituality for the People of Israel.

Furthermore, the layout of the Levitical cities was such that wide bands of greenery and open spaces surrounded the cities on all sides. In other words, they were ecologically and psychologically sound, in that nature and human nature were best served. Human needs require ready access to nature. Nature's needs require ready protection from humanity's abusive tendencies.

Just as the Levites provided a place in space to learn Torah, so too did the 42 resting places provide a place in time. By definition they were not places of permanence. Nevertheless they functioned as oases of the spirit, identical in function as the later Levitical cities. Hence their linkage in the same sedrah.

But what about the other six cities, the cities of refuge? What do they represent? Let us examine the nature of those cities. They served as a place of asylum for one who accidentally took a life, to protect him from the blood avenger. No such protection was afforded to one found guilty of premeditated murder.

There were seven year cycles. The seventh year was devoted solely to learning Torah and spiritual growth. It was a sabbatical- but for farmers, not professors.

But what about the other six years? The hard life of the farmer consisted of endless chores. Time set aside for learning could hardly be planned consistently. The Sabbath was the sole respite to give sanctuary to the soul. Just as the six cities served as a shelter for crimes of carelessness and unplanned killing, so too the six pre-Sabbatical years symbolize the unfortunate lack of care and planning in the realm of Torah study and spiritual development inherent to those nonSabbatical years in the agrarian life.

The Levites of the Levitical cities were devoted 42/7 to the dissemination of Torah throughout Israel. Especially In all 42 non-asylum Levitical cities and especially in the seventh year, the Shemitah year.

We who live today, who are blessed with the possibility of infinite free time owing to the liberating advanced technology all around us should manage to devote ourselves at least 24/7 to Torah!

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!


© 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.


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

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

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

Friday, July 13, 2012

PINCHAS: DAUGHTERS AND FESTIVALS


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman



Judaism has been responsive to women's concerns since its inception. Any alleged signs of discrimination had more to do with combating the cultural mores and social norms and customs of the general culture which the earliest Hebrews absorbed. But Judaism itself had always ascribed a high premium and an esteemed sense of worth to its women and their role as complementary and equal partners in creating a holy and wholly new kind of society.

Sandwiched in between the new census of Israel and the overview of the festivals along with the descriptions of their relevant sacrificial offerings is the fascinating narrative of the Daughters of Zelafchad - a petition over inheritance issues. Seemingly irrelevant contextually to the balance of the parsha, its placement nevertheless has a deeper meaning altogether above and beyond its inherent meaning.

Remarkably, up until the generation of the Exodus Israel's holy day was exclusively the Sabbath. The particulars of her observance emerged only after the revelation at Sinai. Heretofore its general observance adhered in pupa form, as our tradition teaches that our Matriarchs, the founding mothers of Israel, themselves kindled the Sabbath lights.

It was the members of the generation of the Exodus who were given a new history, marked by new festivals. Passover marked their liberation, Shavuot marked their mission, while Succoth recorded their Divine Protection and looked to a future time beyond history. It would be a time of eschatalogical redemption.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur would function as barometers, measuring the nation's fealty to its Divine Mission and enabling her to purge herself from sin, barriers to fulfilling her destiny. Men and women, as equal partners, would together serve Hashem and observe His festivals upon now re-entering the Land, just as they together had observed the Sabbath all along.

The daughters of Zelafchad are actually named. Twice. This is remarkable considering that the Torah explicitly leaves unmentioned the names of Mrs. Noah (we know her name is Na'amah thanks to the Midrash) as well as the daughters of Lot and Mrs. Lot their mother. Of course not every male in the Torah is explicitly mentioned by name either.

By actually naming the daughters- Machlah, Noa, Chaglah, Milkah and Tirtzah, the Torah is not only giving them honor and prominence, but is also connecting all Jewish women to our festivals and traditions. In essence, it is a constitutional amendment of sorts to guarantee the rights of all the women of Israel for all generations, not just the specific daughters of Zelafchad.

While the American legal system was not inherently discriminatory against Jews, Jews still had to fight to assert their inherent rights in the new society in order to overcome the prejudices of those who held the reins of power. Likewise, Judaism did not inherently discriminate against women. But it was up to the women themselves to assert their rights.

The episode of Zelafchad and his daughters is but a microcosm of the larger struggle of the women of Israel to stand alongside their men as equal partners before G*d. The new era of entering the Land of Israel under Joshua's leadership would not be tarnished by reducing the value and worth of the Jewish woman. It might have been intuitive to blame all women and adopt a generalized misogyny, even towards Israelite women, on account of the seductions of the Moabite/Midianite alliance and the attendant plague. Thus their worth was explicitly affirmed.

The names of the daughters themselves are each intimately tied to the festivals themselves, as if to underscore their inherent connection:

Machlah is tied to Passover. Machlah means forgiveness, and only Hashem's mercy permitted His taking Israel up from out of Egypt in spite of Israel's degradation, self or otherwise.

Noa is tied to Shavuoth. It means pleasant or distinguished. The Torah's ways are pleasant. Israel is distinguished by her observance of the spirit and laws of the Torah.

Chaglah is connected to Succoth. Chaglah means "to encircle." We are encircled in our festival booths by the or hamakif, the encircling light, symbolic of G*d's Divine protection. The shorter word within the word, Chag, means festival. Indeed, when tradition mentions HeChag - the festival, she means Succoth, festival par excellence.

Milkah is connected to Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashana is the coronation of Hashem as sole ruler of the universe. Milkah is related to malchut, meaning kingdom.

Lastly, Tirtzah is connected to Yom Kippur. It is related to the word ratzon, which means "will" or "acceptable." On Yom Kippur, Israel's sins having been forgiven, her will and the Divine Will are now as one. Her atonement was accepted.

The new moon offerings are self-understood to be related to the Jewish woman. No elaboration was necessary.Walking figuratively hand in hand into their new land to create a new society under Torah, the Jewish man and Jewish woman would be partners working in harmony to fulfill the new Jewish mission of creating one nation, under G*d Who is invisible and indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!



© 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.




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



Friday, July 6, 2012

BALAK: WHAT COLOR IS YOUR RAINBOW?


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


This week's commentary is dedicated to my beloved late mother, Esther Melman, z"l, (Esther bat Baruch) whose second yahrzeit fell out this week, on 11 Tammuz. May her memory be for a blessing!

Bilaam the Sorcerer, sent by the Moabite king Balak to curse Israel, ascends three hilltops in all, building seven altars on each, seven spiritual vantage points from which to better observe the Camp of Israel. After all, a curse must be attached to a kernel of reality so as to be effective, much as a lie always has an element of truth in it so as to be believable.

The seven altars by which Bilaam judged Israel as a nation represent the seven ascending heavens before which each of us as individuals must be judged before earning entrance. Each level of heaven corresponds to a color vibration band of the rainbow.

The three hilltops represent prophetically the three worlds, which, in Yiddish, have permeated new world Jewish consciousness: Dis velt (this world), yennem velt (the other/next world) and Roose velt (the world of roses, the universal symbol of love and marriage/FDR).

Red, the symbolic color of sin, corresponds to the slowest vibration of the spectrum, while violet/purple, the color of the High Priest's garments, corresponds to the highest vibration of the color spectrum. (Roses are reddish, violets are blueish...)

This material world in which we live, in contrast to our destiny to inhabit the spiritual world, has the unique quality of allowing all people of whatever vibrational level to interact with one another. One can lower or raise one's level by raising or lowering one's thought patterns, which in turn determine one's behaviors and character.

People who live by love, faith, forgiveness and trust vibrate at a much higher frequency than those ruled by fear, hatred, grudges and distrust. Like at a cocktail party, in this world we have the ability to mix and mingle in the same room with others who inhabit a completely different vibrational level of the soul.

By contrast, in the other/next, spiritual world (yennem velt) one's assigned world is inhabited by those at one's own vibration level exclusively. To merit elevation to the higher ascendant realms, one requires the good deeds, Kaddish prayers and meritorious intentions of those remaining behind in the material world over whom one had prior influence, such as children and/or students.

Failing that, reincarnation, scientifically referred to as metempsychosis, and kabbalistically known as gilgul neshamot, a reimmersion back to the materialistic (gashmiut) war zone, is required to have another opportunity to achieve a precious soul ascent. Good and evil fight over each and every soul, alluring it with endearing blandishments. One chooses each and every day whether to follow the Evil Inclination (yetzer hara) or the Good Inclination (yetzer hatov). Each day and within each day we are creating and recreating our vibration level.

Bilaam saw the holy purity and sanctity of the Camp of Israel. Indeed, guarding this purity was the key to Israel's holiness, sanctity and survival. The Midianite women seduced the princes of Israel with their sexually drenched pagan rituals. This was Israel's Achille's Heel, so to speak. It was to undermine Israel's sanctity and raison d'etre, which is to elevate the nations of the world to ever higher spiritual vibration levels.

Bilaam from on high witnesses the modesty and purity within the camp of Israel. The privacy of each tent was guarded carefully, as no entrances faced into the entrances of another.

Bilaam blesses Israel, "Ma tovu ohalecha yaakov, mishkenotecha yisrael,

How goodly are thy tents O Jacob, thy dwelling places O Israel."

Indeed, the roshei teyvot, the first letters of each word add up to 110, the years of Joseph's life. This is an allusion to the holiness and purity of Yosef HaTzaddik, who merited special appellation as the Righteous One by dint of his resistance to the salacious adulterous propositions of Zuleika, wife of Potiphera.

We begin each day of prayer with these famous words of Bilaam to remind ourselves that like Bilaam, Israel's first observer, we too must observe and judge ourselves. LeHitPalel, the word for prayer, literally means to judge oneself, hence assuming the hitpael grammatical form.

Bilaam was our first judge in the material realm. We ourselves, as members of the Jewish people who inhabit both the material and spiritual realms simultaneously must judge ourselves by both worldly standards as well as by heavenly standards, much as Israel among the unholy nations of the world finds herself unfairly judged by a perpetual seemingly unfair double standard. Finally we are all to be judged by the Supreme Judge of all the worlds.

Black is the color which absorbs all colors, all vibrations along the color spectrum. This world is the world which challenges us to rise above the blandishments of negative thinking, of selfish thinking, of ego driven thinking. When we project to the universe our ego driven thoughts we invite a world of ego and selfishness in return. It is a Black/Balak world indeed!

To the degree we are self-centered we expect self-centeredness in others. We are wary of others at every turn. But when we project and affirm to the universe a devotion to G*d and a commitment to helping others, we invite in return an ocean of love and a sea abundant in riches.

The rainbow in the sky is a reminder of the seven levels of heaven. The choices we make how we live here on earth determine which color we will inherit in the end. We may not have a choice in the color of our hair, skin, or eyes, but we indeed choose the color of our fate.


Shabbat Shalom!

Good Shabbos!




© 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.




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


NEVER GIVE UP!

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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

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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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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!