Category Archives: Archives 5763


Adar I 5763 – Springing Towards Adar

1 Adar Aleph 5763

From the Desk of: Rabbi Eli Meisels

Springing Towards Adar

The Gemara in Megilla (13b) tells us an interesting thing.

When Haman, of cursed memory, resolved to destroy the Jews, he drew lots to help him determine the optimum time for their destruction. These lots pointed to the month of Adar as the most propitious time for his scheme.

The Gemara tells us that Haman was overjoyed at this result. Why was he so happy?

Haman, we know, was not just flipping coins because he couldn’t make a decision – he was operating within the mystical worlds of mazal and tevah, and he knew that Adar was, in terms of mazal – not a good time for the Jews. It was a time of weakness for them as a nation.

The clearest indication of this was the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu passed away on 7 Adar – what could be a clearer sign of the decline of the Jews than the death of their greatest leader.

So Haman was happy, seeing in the fall of the lottery a presaging of his ultimate success.

But… the Gemara adds, “Haman did not know that Adar is also the month of the birth of Moshe.”

The Gemara seems to be saying, “You think that Adar is a bad time for the Jews, as Moshe Rabbeinu died then, but it’s also a good time for them, as he was also born then, so the things cancel each other out, and Adar is really just a neutral month.” This would appear to be the intent of the Gemara.

But this presents several problems. First of all, why would Haman know the date of Moshe’s death, and not his birth? Was this merely chance?

The simple answer to this is that the death of a great man is important and thus recorded and remembered, while his birth is less impactful, and is not as likely to be recalled. After all, while he’s a baby, nobody yet knows that he is destined for greatness.

For example, everyone knows, or can easily find out, the Yahrzeit of Harav Schach, zt’l, because it was an event felt by all of Jewry. But as to his birthdate, well, good luck tracking that down. There is actually a disparity of several years between the various accounts of his birthdate. Why? Because when he was born, nobody knew he would be Harav Schach.

Secondly, the Gemara’s Teretz is kind of odd. Haman had one adverse indication, we have one positive sign, so everything is all right, we’re safe – Adar is neutral, neither good nor bad.

Shouldn’t Chazal give us something that completely negates Haman’s good luck – something that turns his happiness into our Marbim B’Simcha. Isn’t that the overriding theme of Purim, V’Nehapechu? Why are Chazal satisfied with merely achieving a tie?

Finally, and this harks back to our earlier point – if Chazal are only trying to even the scales by countering Haman’s favorable omen, Moshe’s death, with one of our own, his birth, then it’s hard to see that they are successful.

After all, one cannot truly equate the birth of a future Tzaddik with the passing of an accomplished Tzaddik. At birth it is not at all clear what will become of this baby, and even in the case of Moshe Rabbeinu, who was certainly an exceptional infant, one cannot compare his stature as a newborn to that of his final day on earth, after 120 years of unceasing character development and improvement.

Let us examine the month of Adar a bit more closely, and perhaps we will get a hint of what the Gemara is trying to tell us – and draw a measure of inspiration we can relate to our own lives.

To do so, let us move forward a month and take a quick look at Nisan, the first month of the year.

Ah Nisan, what a glorious month; a time of rebirth, spring in the year, birds chirping, sun shining.

And not only in the physical realm, but in a spiritual sense as well. Nisan is the month of birth, the birth of our nation, the time when time began.

A time truly deserving of the cheerful title ‘spring’.

But Adar?

Cold, dreary, rainy. No flowers, not much sun, a time of weariness, both physical and spiritual – No Jewish holidays (before Purim) – our great leader, Moshe died then; it is a time, to paraphrase the Medrash, when “we are exhausted, out of strength.”

All in all, a pretty miserable month. Certainly nothing to compare with Nisan.

But wait a second. Where do those cheerful little springtime flowers come from? All those blades of grass, poking their tiny tips out of the ground. They don’t just materialize out of thin air, do they?

Of course not.

During Adar they’re right there, just below the frozen surface, getting ready to poke their heads up and restart the process of birth and rejuvenation.

Without Adar there would be no Nisan; without the cold, wet months in which the seeds rot under the ground, there could be no new growth, no new beginnings.

Adar may look bleak, may look like death, but it contains the potential for the continuation of life. And not just the potential, but the very groundwork of the future is contained in the seeming harshness of the present.

Now we may understand our puzzling Gemara. When Haman looked at Adar, all he saw was the darkness – the death of Moshe Rabbeinu – what appeared to be the end of our strength; what he did not see was the aspect of renewal that is contained in Adar – signified by the birth of Moshe.

The birth of a future Tzadik indeed does not weigh against the passing of an accomplished Tzadik, but it does symbolize for us the perfect cycle of Jewish existence – and embodies the potential which, with time, will come to be realized, and which is of itself an implicit promise that we will continue to thrive, so as to realize that potential.

This is why Chazal tell us that a great Tzadik never dies without a new one being born; not because this newborn can replace the lost giant, but to remind us that Jewish existence is an eternal cycle, with, in the words of the Zohar, “the end tucked into the beginning”, Nisan as a natural outgrowth of Adar.

Haman looked at Adar and saw Death and Finality; We look at Adar and see Birth and Continuity.

Thus Chazal indeed trump Haman’s bad omen. He saw the death of Moshe Rabbeinu. We see the birth and the death, not only not a bad omen, but the proof that our existence is a well-planned cycle, and that where things seem to be ending is really the augury of a bright new beginning. If one were to ask any thinking person the following question: “At which point in your life did you experience the greatest personal growth?” the answer would be, almost inevitably, “When times were hard and I had almost given up, when all seemed hopeless and lost.”

“And where did you find the strength to continue?”

“It was right there, right below the surface. I just had to dig down to bring it out.”

This is the pattern of the world – when things appear most bleak, therein lies the greatest potential for achievement – for life. (At the moment of greatest trauma, a baby is born – new life!)

An interesting Remez to this is that the words “Marah shechorah”, Hebrew for ‘Black Depression’, contain the same letters as “Hirhur Sameach”, which means ‘Happy Thought’.

But it doesn’t happen through a heroic rescuer riding in and saving the day, rather within the trial itself lies the promise.

This is the message of Adar – that things were indeed bleak – the Jews were at the end of their spiritual strength – and from the very trauma – they found the strength to turn the Death into new Life – the lottery of Haman into our lottery.
May we all find the strength to identify our own potential, and to turn our bleak moments, our periods of disillusion, into times of growth and our own personal Purims.

Ah Freilichen Purim!
Rabbi Eli Meisels


Teves 5763 – The Ultimate Inspiration

1 Teves 5763
From the Desk of: Rav Hadar Margolin

The Ultimate Inspiration

The title of this article sounds ambitious – if not downright pretentious. Does such a thing exist? Is there anything that can be an “ultimate” inspiration?

I mean, people are so different. Everyone has their own unique problems, their special perspective, their individual outlook. Different folks have different strokes, and how do you offer something that would be found meaningful across the board?

The problem is not only that people are different. Additionally – and perhaps even more significantly – is the array of problems that have to be dealt with. A host of situations plague us all, with myriad intricacies interwoven amongst them – how do we offer words of advice and comfort and inspiration to deal with everything?

As daunting as this task may seem, it is in this context that I offer the following thought. I will strive to offer a perspective which may hopefully be meaningful to everyone. Something that can deal with any situation, and empower us to approach it with a new enthusiasm.

Please read on, and see if my next paragraph does the trick.


At times it seems that life is full of problems, problems, problems. And more problems yet.

And such is human nature that this causes us to become angry, frustrated and depressed.

I would like to suggest a small thought that can make a huge difference. For indeed, it is “small” in quantity, but great is it’s capability to make a significant impact. It introduces a new perspective which can calm frazzled nerves, turn frustration into inspiration, and promote peace and tranquility as replacements for sadness and worry.

All this – by changing one word. By erasing the word “problems”, and replacing it with the word “challenges”.

These are truly different concepts. They may both apply to the same situations, but they represent such radically different approaches!

A “problem” indicates something negative, better had it not been formed, ashamed that it ever came about.

A “challenge” on the other hand, is positive. It tests your capabilities in overcoming difficulties. It will spur growth, create innovativeness, and sharpen your skills. Challenges are absolutely essential for our growth. They are the spice of life. They are unparalleled in preventing boredom and atrophy!

The word “problems” puts a frown upon your face. But the term “challenges” forces a smile upon your lips. It prods you to roll up your sleeves and attack all your problems with vigor and determination. While a problem is depressing, a challenge is empowering.

Lets illustrate with a small example. Imagine someone who finds himself being bugged and pestered. He will be quick to anger, perhaps even rightfully so. But, if we inform this individual ahead of time that he is about to be pestered, and that this is part of a trial which is testing his patience; his ability to postpone losing his temper is being investigated with this pestering… this person’s patience will be extended significantly. He will simply do his best to succeed in this test, and will not get angry.

So, truly, most of life’s problems contain challenges. They are “mini-tests” which can make us grow from dealing with the hardships that they present. Getting angry, on the other hand, will do nothing positive for you.

So, let’s learn to have the proper perspective.

Never problems. Only challenges. As someone jokingly expressed: I want patience… and I want it NOW!

“Challenges” – from Jewish perspective:

The previous paragraphs are one that can relate to anyone. It is sound psychological advice to people of all walks of life, regardless of world faith or view. Nevertheless, for a believing Jew it should be even more meaningful and should contain a stronger impact.

We view G-d not just as creator of the world; we see our closeness to Him as the ultimate goal, the purpose of life. But more so, we also realize that everything happens in the world by His decree. Hashgacha Pratis is what dictates all circumstances. Any occurrence, weather large or small, is orchestrated by G-d’s direct Providence. Hence, good and “bad” also come from Him. The word “bad” is in quotations- for we surely realize that G-d does nothing bad per say, and even what we perceive as negative is for the ultimate good – even when our limited human eyes can not fathom the truth of that statement.

So, here’s where the believer is far ahead of the game. The concept of “challenges” is not a psychological trip. It isn’t an artificial invention to ease out a difficulty. It’s as real a perception as possible. It’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but.

For, if G-d gave it to us, it is for us to grow from the experience. It is unquestionably the purpose of all our tough situations. [see Ramban on Genesis 22,1. G-d gives a “nisayon”, a difficult “trial”, for a person’s good, in order to develop his potential.

Truly, a strong belief and trust in G-d is a key to happiness, one that can weather all the trial and tribulations that we pass in life. It is the ultimate perspective that will transform all of our problems into… challenges!

Rav Hadar Margolin


Kislev 5763 – It’s The Real Thing

1 Kislev 5763

From the Desk of: Rabbi Pinchas Kantrowitz

“It’s The Real Thing”

“It’s the real thing – Coke!” A human tooth placed in a vessel containing Coca Cola for an extended period allegedly disintegrates, utterly disappears! (Some say that this is apocryphal – not to be taken as scientific fact – rather to illustrate the point metaphorically). Regardless, the point remains, place a lot of sugar in water, put in a special secret admixture of chemicals and, voila! – the “real thing!” But the world has bought this slogan, as well as cans and bottles by the billions. How did the Coca Cola Company manage to convince the world that their product is the “real thing?” Perhaps we can blame the ancient Greeks. The Greeks? Please allow us to explain.

What remains from Ancient Greece? What are the legacies of the Greek Empire to the Modern World? One can’t stroll far into a great art museum without bumping into a colossal marble or bronze statue (minus the nose perhaps) dating to the Greek Empire. Greek sculpture is today omnipresent throughout modern Greece, to be found in Athens, Crete, Rhodes, and scattered amongst other sightseeing spots. It is also ubiquitous in the great art museums worldwide: The British Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris, and the Metropolitan in New York City to name but a few.

The basis of this legacy is the ancient Greek reverence for the human form. The ancient Greeks idolized the human body; they saw it as perfect and beautiful. So enamored were they with the natural form that during their occupation of the land of Israel they prohibited bris mila, circumcision. To tamper with the human form was presumptuous, they argued, as if one could improve upon Divine Creation.

The Olympic Games certainly rank among the more popular legacies of the ancient Greeks, so popular worldwide that the Winter and Summer Games were recently split, enabling aficionados to enjoy this entertainment every two years instead of every four. The Olympic Games are the world’s symbol of sports, the epitome of athletic competition. “Sound body, sound mind:” to be of sound mind one must develop a sound body, there’s no other way.

However, sports today has become more than a means to a sound body, it has become one of the world’s largest industries with top athletes earning millions annually. The Greek adoration of the human form has become a worship of the athlete, the individual of great physical prowess who has trained the body to attain its maximal physical capacities. To illustrate the point, compare salaries of top athletes with those of top university professors, the best professors are making peanuts relative to the best athletes. Think about this! What is this saying about the values of the Western World? Who is contributing more to civilization, an Einstein with his brilliant discovery of the theory of relativity, Watson and Crick with their crucial discovery of the structure of the DNA helix, or Michael Jordan with his discovery of how many different ways a man can put a ball through a hoop? Not only is the physical form to be admired through sculpture, but the master of the physical is to be idolized through sport!

The Greeks left us an intellectual legacy as well. They made contributions to, and in many ways set the framework for, our understanding of mathematics, and the natural sciences. The great dramas written by Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripedes, as well as the renowned epic poems of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, were more than mere entertainment meant to pass the time, they were the beginning of literature and drama, the blossoming of an art form. Shakespeare one of the greatest of their disciples put into the mouth of one of his most famous characters Hamlet, “the play’s the thing \ Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” (Hamlet. Act II, Sc.2, Line 641). Indeed, literature, drama, and more recently, the cinema and television, have become “the thing” capturing the conscience not only of “the king,” but also of the great masses of the Western World. The art form has grown to be an “escape,” a reality to many more real than that in which they live. It has gone so far that when a soap opera character passes away, flowers are sent!

Perhaps their greatest intellectual legacy, however, was in the field of philosophy. “Philosophy,” said 20th century Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce, “removes from religion all reason for existing … As the science of the spirit, it looks upon religion as a phenomenon, a transitory historical fact, a psychic condition that can be surpassed” (Esthetic Ch. 8). Here, Croce expresses the modern intellectual legacy of the Greeks. According to Croce “ideas do not represent but are reality. Art is the expression of a Creative Mind outside of which nothing exists; thus reality is history and all knowledge historical knowledge” (The U n i v e r s i t y Encyclopedia, pg.106).

If ideas not only “represent” reality but “are reality,” then history can easily be perceived as the only true discipline dealing with events and occurrences of the “real world.” Religion then can be seen as “a transitory historical fact,” a “psychic condition” to be surpassed and replaced by philosophy, “the science of the spirit.”

The “sound mind” is one that believes only in the concrete, and experiences a “reality” of the five senses. Even the esoteric idea, even the lofty ideal, must be understood as concrete expressions of a concrete world. Thus, the “sound body” is celebrated only as a tool to experience the concrete, the “sound mind” to understand the concrete.

“It is also necessary to know that G-d must be absolutely one. It is impossible that there exist more than one being whose existence is intrinsically imperative. Only one Being can possibly exist with this necessarily perfect Essence, and therefore the only reason all other things have the possibility of existence is that G-d wills them to exist. All other things therefore depend on Him, and do not have intrinsic existence.” (The Way of G-d, 1:1:6)

Hashem, the intangible, unknowable, and indescribable is the only “intrinsically imperative” existence; all else depends entirely on Hashem’s will; as long as Hashem wills it, it exists. Art, philosophy, history, even the human body are not “real,” as they are only temporal expressions of the Will of the True Existence, Hashem. The concrete world is ephemeral, transitory, fleeting. Only the world of the intangible, indescribable, unknowable Creator is eternal — “real!”

Yet, of all of the empires that challenged Israel throughout history, the empire of Greece came the closest to an appreciation of the remarkable wisdom of the Torah. Whereas the Romans brutally murdered Rabbi Akiva and other great sages for the terrible civil transgression of teaching Torah, the Greeks, aware of its brilliant insights, had it translated it into their native tongue in the Septuagint. How could Greece be at one and the same time “so close, yet so far?”

Greece, as we have noted, turns to its philosophy to explain the place of the human mind and spirit in the context of the historical framework of the physical world: “Art is the expression of the Creative Mind outside of which nothing exists; thus, reality is history and all knowledge historical knowledge.” All knowledge is limited to this world, as this world is for the Greek philosopher all that exists.

Israel, on the other hand, recognizes Torah as its main source of illumination in its journey through the dark and dangerous byways of this world to reach a spiritual world beyond. Torah comes from the root word hora’ah, which means “instruction.” Torah is not abstract theoretical knowledge, but a pragmatic step-by-step owner’s manual to the immensely complicated operation of the human mind and body in all of the myriad circumstances of this world.

“Chochma b’goyim ta’amin, Torah b’goyim al ta’amin” (“{If you find} Wisdom among the nations, believe it; Torah among the nations, don’t believe it”). Greece, focused exclusively on this world, perceived the Torah as remarkable wisdom to be incorporated into their understanding of the universe; this, however, was their failing, they perceived it merely as remarkable wisdom to be incorporated into their understanding of the world, and no more! The Greeks turned Torah, the instruction manual of the universe, into mundane wisdom, a theoretical mindgame.

The struggle with Ancient Greece began after the last of the great prophets of Israel, Malachi, ceased to prophesize after the destruction of the first Temple. The challenge faced by Israel passed to the disciple of the Prophet – the Sage – who must now joust intellectually with the Philosopher of Greece. This was a battle over the concept of “Toras Chaim,” “the Living Torah.” The Jew has always recognized this idea that the Torah not only is life-sustaining, but can actually be seen as alive: “Atz Chaim he l’machazikim bah,” “It is a tree of life to those who grasp onto it.” The will of “Elokim Chaim,” “the Living G-d,” was given by the Creator in the form of “a tree of life,” an entity that perpetually grows.

Does the Torah truly grow? Is it not immutable, as Principle #8 of the 13 Principles of Faith of the Rambam reads: “I believe with complete faith that the entire Torah now in our hands is the same one that was given to Moses, our teacher, peace be upon him?” Yes, it is immutable, but, yes, it grows. “According to the teaching that they will say to you, shall you do; you shall not deviate from the word that they will tell you, right or left” (Devarim 17:11). The Torah continues to grow, as it is interpreted by the Sages of each generation, yet it is immutable in that every valid interpretation of the Sages is rooted in the Law that Moses received at Sinai. The new branches are merely extensions of the old tree.

Thus, the battle with Greece was essentially over the validity of the Oral Law. The Jew holds that the Written Law is impossible without the Oral Law, absolutely incomprehensible. The Oral Law is the flesh that gives body to the skeleton of the Written Law, what makes it a “Toras Chaim.” The decrees of Greece did not threaten the Torah as theory, as much as Torah in practice. They too wanted to appreciate the wisdom of the Torah as it fit into life in this physical world; what they couldn’t tolerate was a living Torah that continually instructs the nation of Israel to find the eternity of the next world through the mundane actions of this world.

The decrees against the observance of shabbos, rosh chodesh, and bris milah were specifically designed to force the Jew to renounce his unique on-going relationship with the Creator. Shabbos is the testimonial that Hashem is the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, rosh chodesh enables the Jewish people to become “partners in time,” and bris milah establishes a covenant throughout the generations while pronouncing that the physical is imperfect in itself without being directed toward the spiritual.

The Midrash illustrates this concept when it tells us that the four exiles are hinted at in the second verse of the Torah: “when the earth was astonishingly empty, with darkness upon the surface of the deep, and the Divine Presence hovered upon the surface of the waters” (Braishis 1:2). What hint does the Torah give of the exile of Greece? “’Hoshech’ zoo yavan” “’Darkness’ this is Greece, as the forced Israel to write on the horn of the Ox, ‘we have no portion in the G-d of Israel.’” The attempt to sever the bonds between Heaven and earth, to declare that Wisdom is temporal and historical, is the darkness that obscures the Eternal Light of the Creator, until darkness is mistaken for light. This is proven within their own domain of history again and again over the millennia of time, as Wisdom rationalizes corruption and brutality darkening the Eternal Light of this world.

It is the Light of the Sages, a Light kindled by man, albeit from the Eternal Flame of Torah, that banishes the manmade obscuring darkness of Greece. This was the miracle of Chanukah: the misurus nefesh of the Rabbis to find one pure canister of oil with which they could light the menora and fulfill the Temple Service properly, leads to a miracle in which Hashem enables this oil to burn for eight days until more can be naturally obtained. The Light of the Sages whom recognize that only Hashem is “the Real Thing,” banishes the darkness of the Greeks and their temporal philosophy. “A little (manmade but Divinely inspired ) Light banishes a lot of (manmade) darkness!”

So it’s all the Greeks fault! They convinced the world that the human body should be worshiped for its own sake (sculpture), that one who maximizes the utilization of the human body becomes the idol of society (Olympics), and that the idea is reality (philosophy). They turned Coke into the “real thing.”

One nation isn’t “sold.” The Jewish people. We say the “Real Thing” is Hashem! Hashem adds life! Therefore, we as a nation must “teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” the song of Hashem.

Wishing you a happy, truly enlightened, and “real” Chanukah! May we merit to celebrate the “Real Thing” with the rekindling of the menora of the bais hamikdash and the coming of the moshiach soon in our days!

Kol tuv,

Rabbi Pinchas Kantrowitz


Cheshvan 5763 – HaMakom

15 Cheshvan 5763

From the Desk of: Rabbi Zave Rudman


One of the names of HaShem is “HaMakom” – “The Place”. This appellation is itself difficult to understand. We also find that in two different prayers, Chazal chose to use this specific name of Hashem. These are:

1) In the blessing for comforting mourners – “May Hashem (HaMakom) comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem”.
2) In the prayer for the deliverance of the Jewish people – the tefillah “acheinu” – “May Hashem (HaMakom) have mercy on them…”

What is the meaning of this name, and why is it used in these two specific areas?

Says the Midrash: [Beraishis Rabbah 68:9] “And he (Avrohom) arrived at the place (the mount of Moriah where the Akeida was to take place). Says Rav Huna in the name of Rav Ami why is Hashem described as Makom? Because He is the place of the world, and not that the world is his place. This is what is says, “Behold there is a place with me” (when Hashem told Moshe to come to him at the revelation of the thirteen attributes of mercy). We see that the place is with Hashem, and not that He is in the place.”

The deeper understanding of this is as follows: In order to create something you must be above that situation. The carpenter who shapes the wood is outside the wood and able to control it and shape it. In order to create the concept of place, Hashem is by definition above space, and therefore can control it. Thus the concept of space is defined by Him, rather than He existing in space. In the order of creation there must be a place that is the beginning of space. That place is the “Even Shesiah”, the original stone of creation. The actual meaning of the word “Shesiah” is that from there the world is unfolded. This place is the source of space. That is why the Aron which is the embodiment of the Even Shesiah is above place.

Chazal teach us that the place of the Aron is not bound by dimensions: [Tractate Megilla 10b] “Rabbi Levi said: This idea is a tradition received from our forefathers: The place of the Aron is not bound by dimensions. We learn also that the Aron that Moshe made was 10 amos on each side, (yet) it is written (when the Torah describes the Kodesh Hakodoshim) that the length of the Kodesh Hakodoshim was 20 amos lengthwise. But we also find that it is written that the length of the wing of one of the keruvim was 10 amos and the the wing of the other keruv was also 10 amos, (if so..) where was the aron (if the length of only the keruvim on top of the aron took up all the physical space in the Kodesh Hakodoshim)? Therefore we learn that the Aron stood there through a miracle.”

In the holy books this place is called the “starting point” of Tzion. This is the place of the Bais Hamikdash which is the source of the place of the world.

We find in two places that this place is called Makom: 1) [Beraishis 12:9] “On the third day, Avraham lifted up his eyes and he saw “the place” from afar… And they came to “the place” of which Hashem had told him and Avraham built there an alter and he arranged the firewood and he tied up Yitzchak his son and put him on the alter on top of the firewood.” 2) [Beraishis 28″10] “And Yaakov left Beer Sheva and he went to Charan. And he came upon “the place” and he lodged there because the sun had gone down and he took from the stones of “the place” and put it by his head and he laid down in that place.”

Both of these events are where the forefathers interacted with the place of the Bais Hamikdash and established our connection with it.

There is one other place that is called “place” (as already mentioned in the Midrash cited at the beginning). At the end of the third set of forty days after the sin of the golden calf, Hashem calls Moshe to give the Luchos a second time. These Luchos came with the the thirteen attributes of mercy. There Hashem says:

[Shemos 33:18] “And (Moshe) said, “Show me Your glory”. And Hashem said, I will pass all of My goodness before you and I will call out in the name of Hashem before you and I will be gracious to those that I will be gracious to and I will have mercy to those that I will have mercy on. And Hashem said, You will not be able to see My face because man cannot see Me and live. And Hashem said, Behold there is a place with Me and you will stand on the rock. And it will be when My glory passes, that I will put you in the crevice of the rock and I will put My hand over you until I pass. Then I will remove My hand and you will see My back, but My face cannot be seen.”

The place that Moshe received the thirteen attributes of mercy is also called Makom.

In order to understand this we need to return to the original “place”. In Beraishis the place where the waters are gathered together and the ocean is created is called Makom:

[Beraishis 1:9] “And Hashem said, Let all the water under the heavens gather to one place and the dry land will be seen, and it was so. Hashem called the dry land “land” and to the body of water He called “ocean” and Hashem saw that it was good.”

In Chazal the ocean is described as a place of repentance: [Midrash Rabbah 2:12] “He said to him: The gates of prayer, sometimes they are open and sometimes they are locked. But the gates of repentance are always open. He replied, from where do you know this? He answered with a pasuk from Tehillim. “Awesome One, answer us with righteousness, the G-d of our salvation. The support of the ends of the earth and faraway seas.” Just like a place is sometimes open and sometimes locked, so too the gates of prayer are sometimes open and sometimes locked. But the ocean is always open. So too, the hand of Hashem is always open to receive those who return to Him.”

Thus the idea of Makom is connected to Teshuva. When Hashem reveals the idea of Teshuva to the Jews it is in a place called Makom.

There is one more “makom” – the place (makom) where the repentants stand that is above where the tzadikim stand. When a person sins there is no place left for him to stand. Hashem has to create a new place where the baal teshuvah can exist. This is the place of the thirteen attributes of mercy, and the place of the Mikdash. This is a recreation of the original concept of “place” to allow a place for the baal teshuvah.

When a person is sitting shivah they do not see the plan of Hashem. In order to comfort a person who is suffering, we need to say that there is a plan. Even if we do not see it, Hashem is creating a place which includes the events that are overtaking us, and they have a place; and that place also comes from the place of Hashem. Thus we comfort someone by saying that even the events that you are suffering through come from that “place” of tzion – which is the source of place (makom) – and when we see the grand plan of Hashem, these will also be explained.

This is also the meaning of the tefillah of “acheinu” where we mention “hamakom”. This is to remind us that all the suffering of the Jewish people will ultimately be revealed as part of the plan of Hashem.

Rabbi Zave Rudman

[JemSem would like to thank Bracha Bienenfeld for translating the Hebrew sections of the dvar torah]


Tishrei 5763 – The Sounds of Silence

1 Cheshvan 5763

From the Desk of: Rabbi Zave Rudman

The Sounds of Silence

We find that Chazal prohibited the performance of a number of Mitzvoth on Shabbat. In addition there are certain Mitzvoth that the Torah itself released us from on Shabbat. The Sefas Emes in many places explains the implication behind these Halachot. We would like to examine the specific Mitzvah of Shofar when Rosh Hashanah comes out on Shabbat.

We first need to understand the implications of blowing Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. When a person is on trial, he tries to get the best attorney possible. A second best lawyer will get you a second best judgment, and in court that means that you lose. If we really perceived that we were on trial for our lives on Rosh Hashanah we would do whatever we could to bring all the available merits and defense attorneys to our trial. The Shofar trumps all the prosecution’s devices. It closes the trial and changes the venue from sitting in front of a judge to sitting with our father, when Hashem rises from the Throne of Judgment and moves to the Seat of Mercy. Thus the Shofar is the main component of our defense on Rosh Hashanah.

Why do we not blow Shofar on Rosh Hashanah which comes out on Shabbat? It is a Rabbinic decree. Since people do not often blow Shofar we might come to carry the Shofar in a forbidden area, so therefore we cancel the blowing of Shofar. Given the importance of the Shofar, how can the Rabbis do that? I would rather make a rule that the Shofar needs to be chained to the Shul, so you do not come to carry it! The explanation must lie in some way in the manner in which Shabbat overrides the need for Shofar. This is what we need to clarify.

How does the Shofar change the judgment for mercy? When Hashem created the world, the basic force of creation was mercy; the world was created for Chesed. Thus the internal reason for any part of creation is good. The aspect of Din in the world, of judgment; in its internal aspect is really Chesed- Hashem’s loving kindness. On Rosh Hashanah we blow two sounds, the Tekiah and the Teruah. The word Teruah has two meanings. On the one hand it is tied to the word Ra-bad. This represents the aspect of Din in the world. The other aspect is tied to the word that means Ratzon- Will. The Pasuk says-“Established are those who know the Teruah.” This means that when you know (from the word Daat which means connection) the Teruah you realize that even though the outer aspect seems to be judgment, it is really the Will of Hashem and that it is completely Chesed. When we blow Shofar we are recognizing that what seems to be “bad”, is actually Hashem’s judgment, and it is really Chesed. [In this world we still say Dayan HaEmet, and classify it as “bad”. Only in the World to Come will we say “Gam Zu LaTovah”.] When we realize that the internal construction of the judgment is Chesed, Hashem moves from the Throne of Justice to the Throne of Mercy.

On Shabbat we say, “Rejoice in His Reign those who rest on Shabbat.” This is the joining together of the Malchus of Hashem with our happiness to accept that Malchus. On Shabbat the internal desire for which Hashem created the world is revealed. The Sefarim say that the Shofar reveals that level of Hashem’s connection to the world which is called “Atika”, where all the Chesed is revealed. This also takes place every Shabbat (as is mentioned in the Zemirah of Askina Seudasa). Therefore, we do not need the Shofar to reveal this, and the Shabbat itself reveals it.

There is a second aspect of Rosh Hashanah. Since it is the day that man was created we try to return to our original state. When man was created, it was by Hashem wafting a breath from Himself into man. This breath was the power of speech and it was a part of Hashem. That placed the Neshama into man. On Rosh Hashanah when we blow the Shofar we are blowing back that breath to Hashem. It is a pure Tefilla untouched by the more sophisticated organs. All the other Tefillot begin from the breath of the Neshama, but are formed by the organs of speech. On Rosh Hashanah we are given the opportunity to purify ourselves to the point, that all we are offering up to Hashem is our pure Neshama.

On every Shabbat the Jewish people reach a similar level. We do not put on Tefillin during Shabbat. This is because Tefillin are meant to inscribe the name of Hashem on the physical body of the Jewish people. Tefillin have the three letters of the name of Hashem: Shin, Dalet, and Yud. However, unless you write them on one piece of paper they are not the name of Hashem but three disparate letters. When the Tefillin are put on, the body becomes the parchment upon which the name of Hashem is written.

On Shabbat, our bodies are on that level even without the Tefillin. The Neshama Yeteirah raises our bodies to the level of Neshama. That is why physical pleasures are a Mitzvah on Shabbat. It is because on Shabbat our physical bodies become spiritual, and our pleasures are spiritual. That is why we say that on Shabbat a person’s face shines with a special light. This is a transformation of our Guf to a Neshama and our Neshama to a Neshama Yeteirah.

On Rosh Hashanah we are trying to form one breath of Neshama, but on Shabbat our entire body is raised to the level of Neshama and we become the Shofar. Therefore, we do not need to blow the Shofar, but to experience this level of Shabbat and to become the Shofar.

May we be Zoche this year, to make ourselves into a vessel for Ruchniyos, and completely accept Malchus Shamayim.

Rabbi Zave Rudman