Back to this week's Parsha| Previous Issues
by Daneal Weiner
May the hesorerus of this d’var Torah mehapech the Din and bring refua and yeshua to all cholei Yisrael.
Lev Tov- a good heart. Lev has the gematria 32 and Tov = 17. There were ‘lev’ days before Lag b’Omer and now we’re into the final ‘tov’ days. So Omer Tov everybody!
The holy writings of the disciples of the Ba'al Shem Tov, having drawn upon the Zohar, tell us that within each of the series of curses listed in the Tochacha- admonition of this weeks
lies buried all blessings. If we’ll merit it Hashem will peel off the veneer of curses and reveal the true essence of the verses. It’s most fitting that just after Lag b’Omer, the yahrtseit of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai, we read the Tochacha. His Zohar gave us the ability to see what was once hidden and with this new strength we read the Tochacha and attempt to reveal that which is hidden.
There was an incident involving Rav Dov Be’er of Lubavitch, the son of the Ba’al Hatanya, who spent his first Shabbos, Parshas Bechukosai, away from home. Shabbos morning he was listening to the reading and when he heard the Tochacha he fainted! He was asked what happened? Hadn’t he heard this parsha read every year? Rav Dov Be’er answered, “Till now I only ever my holy father read the parsha and from him lips I only heard blessings.”
The Tochacha is divided into 7 series and each series contains 7 curses, according to Rashi who follows the Sifra. That’s 49 in all. A prominent number this Omer time of the year. Corresponding to the 49 day count of the Omer are 7 character traits and each trait lies within each and every other trait. Another 7 times 7. Each day of the Omer is for refining another trait. Ridding ourselves of bad elements and making them good. Like the revealing of the blessing that lies within the curse. The Tochacha is introduced with the words (26:13), “va’eshbore motos ulichem”- I broke the staves of your yoke. Motos is spelled mem-tes-sav which stands for Mem-Tes Tochachos – 49 admonitions! Hashem is promising from the start, “I will break the 49 curses and I will reveal them to be blessings.”
The Tochacha concludes with Hashem saying, “I will remember for them the covenant I made with the first ones, those whom I have taken out of Egypt, before the eyes of the nations, to be G-d unto them.” The Zohar says 50 times the Torah mentions the exodus from Egypt, one mention per each extrication from a level of impurity. Even though we only sank to the 49th level of impurity the Exodus from Egypt represents redemption on all 50 levels. An early Kabbalist, the Ramak, accounted for the 50 times the Exodus is mention and says this one is the last one! Having not even gotten into the book of Bamidbar we know the Exodus is mentioned many more times. Why does the Ramak consider this one to be the last one?
Also, of all the times we’ve seen the Exodus mentioned, suddenly the Torah decides to throw in, “Before the eyes of the nations.” What is the relevance of that now?
We are climbing the ladder of refinement and growth as we count the 49 character traits to get from Egypt to Matan Torah/Kabbalas haTorah/Shavuos, in other words, day 50. 50 immediately reminds us of the Yovel, the Jubillee year, when all Israel returns to their roots. The Sha’arei Orah says another name for Yovel is Olam Habah- the World to Come! During the 6 Shabboses between Pesach and Shavuos we have the custom of reading one of the 6 chapters of Pirkai Avos- Ethics of the Fathers. Every chapter we introduce with the mishnah, “Every Jew has a share in World to Come.” Yovel is every Jew returning to his/her share. The concepts of Yovel, 50, and Olam Habah are very much the same.
That makes this time ripe for our working on our character traits. Almost sounds like a done deal! This greater the shower of goodness from on high, the more the Yetser Horah works against us. ‘Cause when we achieve perfection, he’s history! So along with intensifying his efforts he brings accusations against us. At the splitting of the sea, which would have been the 6th day of the Omer, the Yetser complained before Hashem, “Why save them and drown them? They are idolaters and they are idolaters?” Providence arranged for these days of the Omer to become synonymous with the mourning of the disciples of Rebbe Akivah. When the Yetser sees us mourning it’s pacified and remains quiet. This gives Divine Providence a cloud covering to shower down the goodness without being notice, exactly like the blessings of Behaloscha which have been cloaked in under a veneer of curses.
It’s brought down in the Gemorah Moed Koton that the son of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai received a blessing from some Sages that he should sow and never reap. He asked his father if that was really a blessing!? Rebbe Shimon explained to him the Sages who blessed him were referring to children. He should give birth to them and never see them perish. The Yismach Moshe explained the Sages cloaked their blessing in a curse as not to awaken accusations against him from the Yetser Horah.
This is another angle into a Gemorah we’ve mentioned a couple times before. The angels around the Throne of Glory prevented the once wicked king Menashe from doing tshuva. Hashem dug for him a tunnel under His Throne. In other words, when Menashe tried using proper channels for tshuva the accusations against him were too great for his tshuva to be accepted. Hashem therefore concealed his intent for tshuva to get past the prosecution.
The reason for only 49 curses cloaking 49 blessings is because on the 50th level there can be no accusation against Israel. As it says in Psalms 5:5, “You are not a G-d Who desires wickedness, no evil sojourns with You.” The 50th level is evil-free. (Evil proof?) One way this spiritual reality is manifest in our world is as the Kodesh Kodoshim- Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest was allowed to enter it and only on Yom Kippur, to atone for Israel. As we read earlier in Vayikra regarding the Yom Kippur service, “Not any man shall be in the Tent of Meeting when he [the high priest] comes to provide atonement.” The Jerusalem Talmud expounds on “not any man” saying, “Even angels whose faces are like the faces of men are not allowed in at that time.”
Now we can understand what might be behind the reasoning of the Ramak. After the 49 blessings cloaked in curses, corresponding to the 49 levels were the prosecuting angels can be found, we then read the words, “I will remember for them the covenant I made with the first ones, those whom I have taken out of Egypt before the eyes of the nations, to be G-d unto them.” This is 50, say the Ramak. This is when and where the prosecuting angels can’t do Israel harm. And furthermore, we can now receive our blessings, “before the eyes of the nations” because we are not threatened by their accusations either. On the 50th level, when we reach the Yovel, every Jew returns to their roots. Every Jew is equal at the source. “Every Jew has a share in the World to Come…” and that Mishnah continues “…as it says ‘And Your nation they are all righteous, they will inherit the land forever.’ [Isaiah 60:21)]”
The first Rashi in Breishis says the nations will look at our inhabiting the land of Israel and call us thieves. When we live by their standards we will be accused by their standards. But when we hit the 50th level, when we are all righteous, all living by Hashem’s standards, then even “before the eyes of the nations” we can inherit the land forever. May it be soon!
Following the Tochacha is the Torah begins a new topic, “neder b’airk’cha n’fashos l’Hashem”- a vow [to contribute the amount of] the value of a living being to Hashem [i.e. to the Temple]. Shortly thereafter it discusses a neder of the worth of ones field at the time of the Yovel! Their’s our50! Again following the 49 levels of the Tochacha we’ve reached a 50! And more than this, the Zohar says neder can be read nun dar- the 50th dwelling!
The sefer Likutai Torah says this is an insight into the somewhat unusual start to our Yom Kippur service, “Kol Nedrai”- All our vows. With all we need to ask forgiveness for, the first thing we’re concerned with are our vows? Now we see that the neder is the power of nun-dar, the 50th level where all of Israel is equally righteous and no accusations are allowed.
The “neder b’airkicha n’fashos”- vow to contribute the value of a Jew is not dependant the Jew’s bank account of mitsvos, amount of wisdom nor level of observance. One flat rate. Kol Nedrai is a call upon the power of the neder on Yom Kippur day, the counterpart to the Holy of Holies in the realm of time, to bring atonement for Israel. They are all righteous- kulom tsaddikim = 350 = erechin- values.
Some holy writings say that the joy and influence of the 50th level already begins to show itself with the celebration of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai on Lag B’Omer! We can then end the mourning period because at the 50th level there can be no accusation against Israel. There is no longer a need to pacify the Yetser Horah.
The Zohar says that when Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai felt his final moments were at hand he said the verse from Psalms 133:3, “…for there Hashem has commanded the blessing, may there be life forever” and his soul departed on the word ‘life’. He said that verse because on that Lag B’Omer day he already began to feel the 50th level. Hashem would therefore be able to command the blessing without having to hide it within a curse. On the spiritual ladder of refinement, as we climb towards Shavuos, the trait which corresponds to the Lag B’Omer rung, is Hode sh’b’Hode- Glory within Glory. The traits of Glory- “Midos haHode” = 474 = “V’amecha kulom tsaddikim”- Your nation they are all righteous. We’re already tapping into 50. And therefore a vow the value of a living being to Hashem- “Neder b’airkicha n’fashos l’Hashem” = 1198 = “ki sham tsivah Hashem es abracha chaim”- for there Hashem has commanded the blessing, may there be life. Gevaldik!
Rashi on the word b’airkecha- the value of (in verse 27:3) says, bearing in mind the suffix chaf is for 2nd person which can’t apply in this 3rd person verse, “ I don’t know what it means.” Why did Rashi feel the need to confess ignorance on this point?
Because another aspect of the Yovel, the World to Come, the 50th level, is that it is yet beyond our comprehension. When the daughters of Tselafchad bring their claim to Moshe the Torah uses a large letter nun to allude to the nun-dar, the 50th level which even Moshe couldn’t fully grasp. Moshe had to bring their claim before Hashem Who told him the daughter’s were right. In the Gemorah Megillah it is asked (re: Megillas Esther 8:10), “What are the ‘ha’achashtaranim bnei haramachim’?” The Gemorah answers, “Don’t know!” This is to show us that the source of Megillas Esther is from that loftiest place which is beyond our comprehension. Rashi wanted us to know that the subject at hand is a great one! The loftiest one! Just because we understand the words, don’t think we know all that is going on!
King Solomon wrote in his Song of Songs (4:3), “kifelach ha’remone rakaseich”- as many as the pomegranate’s seeds are the merits of your unworthiest. Even the lowliest people of Israel have an abundance of merits like the pomegranate is full of seed! The order in which the fruits of the land of Israel appear in a verse establishes their ‘importance’. The closer the fruit is to the word erets- land, the more ‘important’ the fruit. The significance is when we have 2 or more fruits of Israel before us and we want to know on which to make the blessing first. The blessing is made on the most ‘important’ fruit. The pomegranate is fruit farthest away. The least important. Yet those Jews it symbolizes are still connected to the land. They still are full of merits! And so the hem of the robe which the Kohen Gadol wore on Yom Kippur was decorated with bells and pomegranates!
The merits of a person are referred to, allegorically, as the garment one will wear in the World to Come. More sins mean a stained garb. More mitsvos mean a crisp clean look. The Kohen Gadol’s robe symbolized the merits of all of Israel and on it’s edges dangled the fringe elements of Israel. Hanging on by just threads but chock full of good deeds! The resting place of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai, where the fringiest elements of Israel are attracted to every Lag b’Omer, is on the mountain of Merone, the same letters as Remone- pomegranate!
Reb Shloimke of Zvhil used to say how Lag B’Omer reminded him of the Shalosh Regalim- Three Pilgrimages. All the tents of the travelers reminded him of Sukkos. The animals they brought to slaughter for food reminded him of Pesach. And Mt. Merone reminded him of Mt. Sinai. By Mt. Sinai the Torah says all Israel encamped using the singular verb form. Rashi says it’s singular because we were like one man with one heart. Maybe in the days of Reb Shloimke Israel was not as diversified. Now days it’s a phenomena, the tens of thousands of Jews, from almost as many walks of life, who converge on Merone. A social phenomena maybe but spiritually it wouldn’t be any other way because all Israel encamped there- “vayachein sham Yisrael” = 955 = Rabban Shimon bar Yochai!
In these days of refinement of character and “vayachein sham Yisrael” we need point out another common denominator. Bending our will till those of our friends and of our Torah leaders. Humility. When Israel was encamped together it was at the foot of the mountain. A mountain symbolizes haughtiness. Remaining at it’s foot shows submission. The Ma’or Ainayim writes that the whole key to tapping into the Shavuos is having a lowly demeanor and nullifying our egos. Our tradition tells us straight out, the greater ones humility the great the vessel for Torah.
The Zohar says anyone who has missed one day of counting the Omer will not be able to merit receiving the Torah on Shavuos! Pretty rough. No second chance? Rav Wolfson says surely there is at least one way to make amends. Surely one who unites him/her self with Israel, who makes him/herself like one man with one heart, who is willing to place him/herself at the foot of the mountain, surely such a person can tap into the strength of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai and will merit the gift of Shavuos. We even see it in the parsha.
Verse 27:8 say, “But if he is too poor for the valuation then he should be stood before the Kohen…the Kohen should evaluate him according to what the one making the vow can afford.” Remember, valuation is airkecha with the suffix chaf and we don’t know why. “Airkecha” is the allusion to the incomprehensible 50th level. Read it, “If he is too poor for Airkecha, for the Yovel… If he is too poor to connect to the Shavuos experience… Then stand him before the Kohen. Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai is the Kohen! Rav Wolfson says he explained that elsewhere and I must have missed it. He does give us this gematria, though; If he is too poor- “v’im much hu m’airkecha” = 469 = Midas Hode- the trait of Glory! A direct link to Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai! We’ll go with Rav Wolfson on this one. B’H! We’re already humbling ourselves before or Torah leaders!
Last week we mention how Shabbos introduces that which follows in the week to come. Like Shabbos mincha reading a portion of the following week’s parsha. This Shabbos we welcome the final week of the Omer, the 7th week of 7 days which corresponds to the trait of Malchus- Kingship. What greater introduction is their to Malchus then the Ma’ore Ainayim’s lesson of humilty and nullifying our will to the King of kings and to unite ourselves with every other servant of the King. And the culmination, the 7th 7 is Malchus sh’b’malchus- Kingship within Kingship.
From the very beginning we had been preparing for that day. Let’s compare. Pesach night we had our seders in our homes. Sukkos, we all bring our lulav to shul. Some made the bracha in the sukkah. Some make it before Hallel starts. Chanukah, a blessing is made shul but everyone really lights their own at home. The counting of the Omer, however, everyone says it in shul together. While we climbed up the 49 rungs of 49 different refinements of character, every step of the way we simultaneous were working on our unity and humilty. Any one leads the congregation in prayer. For the blessing we look for a Torah leader to lead us. Always working towards that final goal of Malchus sh’b’Malchus. (My two cents- don’t blame the Rav.)
Soon we will relive the revelation. We, who know what it is, will stand at the foot of the mountain, united and humbled before our Creator. G-d willing we’ll hear the trumpets blast as we did 3312 years ago. May the Mashiach come and gather in our lost brothers and sisters. Malchus sh’b’Malchus = 1294 = “Yitaka b’shofar gadol uva’u ha’ovdim”- He will blast the great Shofar and the lost ones will come.”
May we all be gathered there, anxious to receive our Torah with joy, for only it is our life and our length of days.
This Shabbos pile on the guests, the more walks of life the better, and no talking politics or religion. Just connect. And have a humble and loveable Shabbot Shalom.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Back to this week's Parsha| Previous Issues