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Life is worthless without peace

In the Torah portion of Behar, pharmacy we read that as a consequence of observing the sabbatical and jubilee years, God’s promises us, “…You shall settle the land securely… and you shall settle securely upon it.” This twice repeated promise recurs a third time at the beginning of the next Torah portion, Bechukotai, which is often read in conjunction with the portion of Behar: “And you shall settle securely in your land,” and is immediately followed by the blessing of peace, “And I will grant peace in the land.” Rashi asks, “If you were to say, ‘We have food and we have drink, but if there is no peace then they are worthless!’ for this reason the Torah continues, ‘I will grant peace in the land.’” From here we learn that peace is as important as the sum of all other blessings.” Another blessing that concludes with “peace” is the Priestly Blessing. The Amidah, the main prayer repeated three times a day, also concludes with a blessing for peace. Peace is the link that connects all the prophetic visions of the ultimate redemption and it is the universal catchword and today, everyone wants peace…

Let’s take a look at the concept of peace as it appears in the Hebrew text of the Bible. The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom (???????). Its shoresh (three-letter root) is shin-lamed-mem (?-?-?), which is also the shoresh of the word shelemut (?????????), which means “wholeness.” The initial idea that we glean from this is that true peace is an expression of wholeness and is dependent upon it, a fact that starkly contradicts with the phonetic similarity between “peace” and “piece” in English. In addition, there is another word, shalvah (????????), meaning “contentment” whose sha’ar (two-letter root), shin-lamed, is the same as that of “peace.” The two words, “contentment” and “peace” often appear together.

Illusions of peace

The shoresh of shalvah is shin-lamed-hei, which also has another, different connotation, as in the word, “illusion” (??????????). There is true peace and contentment and there is contentment that is no more than a tempting, but dangerous, illusion. The peace treaties that we are so familiar with today are not only far from expressing wholeness (somehow they always come at our expense), but they also do not accommodate contentment because they scatter naive illusions in the public mind, which eventually explode in our faces, as the prophet said, “They healed My people’s wounds offhandedly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

Peace and pleasure

Peace is also related to spiritual pleasure, which is why, on Shabbat which is intrinsically a day of pleasure, we wish one another “Shabbat shalom.” In order to illustrate the pleasure that is inherent in peace, let’s begin by considering the peace that is attainable by every individual within himself. King David says, “There is no peace in my bones because of my sin” (Psalms 38:4). According to the literal explanation, this refers to physical wholeness and good health, but, in addition, the very presence of sin contradicts peace. There must be peace between the soul and the body, and sin violates that connection.

In contrast, a proper connection between soul and body is described as, “peace in my bones [essence].” It is clear that this type of peace cannot merely be “a ceasefire;” rather it is a sense of contentment and pleasure that results from inner harmony.

Now, having seen what peace means for us, as individuals, let’s take a look at peace in the family. True family harmony is more than family members not yelling at one another, or knowing how to maneuver around one other, or even having respect for one another. Rather, family peace is a pleasant feeling and sense of how good it is to simply live together. In particular this pleasant appeal manifests in the commandment to light Shabbat candles on Friday evening, which is intended to induce a sense of family harmony and pleasure on Shabbat. The light of the candles reflects the beauty and joy of family harmony, as family members look at one another with glowing faces, enveloped in a canopy of light.

Three circles of peace

Family harmony and peace extends beyond the close core of immediate family members. The entire Jewish people, “the house ofIsrael,” are one big happy family and we expect that all Jews, wherever they live, should all live together in peace. This type of peace is indeed a messianic goal (because, unfortunately we are still far from achieving it). Still, if we, for a moment, imagine peace and unity between all Jews—Jews and more Jews, from all tribes, factions and opinions, living in peace “All of us, as one in the light of Your countenance”—we certainly feel that this connection between all Jewish souls is steeped in a wonderful sense of pleasure.

Obviously, the messianic goal doesn’t end with peace amongst Jews alone, but aims even higher, to achieve universal peace. The Mashiach will teach the entire world how to make true peace: peace between the soul and the body, family harmony, fraternal peace, peace between Jews and the nations, and peace between all of humanity. As the prophet Zechariah said of the Mashiach, “And he shall speak peace to the nations, and his rule shall be from the sea to the west and from the river to the ends of the earth.” [The word “peace” (???????) appears explicitly in this verse, and in the initial letters of the words, “peace to the nations, and his rule shall be from the sea” (??????? ????????? ?????????? ??????).] World peace does not marginalize the unique light of the Jewish nation. On the contrary, the peace that spreads out so far, “to the ends of the earth,” is the perfect setting from the special qualities of the Jewish nation to be revealed, for in the end, peace between Jewish souls comes from the most exalted source of all.

Peace between Jewish souls is a non-local phenomenon that does not depend upon us being together in one place. Nonetheless, in parashat Bechukotai the Torah emphasizes that, “I will grant peace in the land,” referring of course to the land of Israel. The peace that will be achieved when the land of Israel is whole and the Jewish people are whole will reveal an even greater level of light and pleasure, because the land of Israel is where the Shechinah (the Divine Presence) resides (the land of Israel itself is considered a reflection of the Shechinah). Indeed, this is the culmination of the blessings in parashat Bechukotai, “I will place My dwelling place amongst you… and I will walk amongst you and I will be a God to you and you will be My people.”

These three circles of peace can help us understand Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s words in the Zohar  regarding the Mashiach, who is called, “the minister of peace” – “The minister of peace is a righteous person who is at peace with the world, at peace in the home [peace among Jews] and at peace with the Divine Presence.” These three circles of peace form a progression, with each higher than the previous one. We hope to see all three revealed speedily in our days by the minister of peace, the Mashiach.

Life is worthless without peace

In the Torah portion of Behar, adiposity we read that as a consequence of observing the sabbatical and jubilee years, shop God’s promises us, “…You shall settle the land securely… and you shall settle securely upon it.” This twice repeated promise recurs a third time at the beginning of the next Torah portion, Bechukotai, which is often read in conjunction with the portion of Behar: “And you shall settle securely in your land,” and is immediately followed by the blessing of peace, “And I will grant peace in the land.” Rashi asks, “If you were to say, ‘We have food and we have drink, but if there is no peace then they are worthless!’ for this reason the Torah continues, ‘I will grant peace in the land.’” From here we learn that peace is as important as the sum of all other blessings.” Another blessing that concludes with “peace” is the Priestly Blessing. The Amidah, the main prayer repeated three times a day, also concludes with a blessing for peace. Peace is the link that connects all the prophetic visions of the ultimate redemption and it is the universal catchword and today, everyone wants peace…

Let’s take a look at the concept of peace as it appears in the Hebrew text of the Bible. The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom (???????). Its shoresh (three-letter root) is shin-lamed-mem (?-?-?), which is also the shoresh of the word shelemut (?????????), which means “wholeness.” The initial idea that we glean from this is that true peace is an expression of wholeness and is dependent upon it, a fact that starkly contradicts with the phonetic similarity between “peace” and “piece” in English. In addition, there is another word, shalvah (????????), meaning “contentment” whose sha’ar (two-letter root), shin-lamed, is the same as that of “peace.” The two words, “contentment” and “peace” often appear together.

Illusions of peace

The shoresh of shalvah is shin-lamed-hei, which also has another, different connotation, as in the word, “illusion” (??????????). There is true peace and contentment and there is contentment that is no more than a tempting, but dangerous, illusion. The peace treaties that we are so familiar with today are not only far from expressing wholeness (somehow they always come at our expense), but they also do not accommodate contentment because they scatter naive illusions in the public mind, which eventually explode in our faces, as the prophet said, “They healed My people’s wounds offhandedly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

Peace and pleasure

Peace is also related to spiritual pleasure, which is why, on Shabbat which is intrinsically a day of pleasure, we wish one another “Shabbat shalom.” In order to illustrate the pleasure that is inherent in peace, let’s begin by considering the peace that is attainable by every individual within himself. King David says, “There is no peace in my bones because of my sin” (Psalms 38:4). According to the literal explanation, this refers to physical wholeness and good health, but, in addition, the very presence of sin contradicts peace. There must be peace between the soul and the body, and sin violates that connection.

In contrast, a proper connection between soul and body is described as, “peace in my bones [essence].” It is clear that this type of peace cannot merely be “a ceasefire;” rather it is a sense of contentment and pleasure that results from inner harmony.

Now, having seen what peace means for us, as individuals, let’s take a look at peace in the family. True family harmony is more than family members not yelling at one another, or knowing how to maneuver around one other, or even having respect for one another. Rather, family peace is a pleasant feeling and sense of how good it is to simply live together. In particular this pleasant appeal manifests in the commandment to light Shabbat candles on Friday evening, which is intended to induce a sense of family harmony and pleasure on Shabbat. The light of the candles reflects the beauty and joy of family harmony, as family members look at one another with glowing faces, enveloped in a canopy of light.

Three circles of peace

Family harmony and peace extends beyond the close core of immediate family members. The entire Jewish people, “the house ofIsrael,” are one big happy family and we expect that all Jews, wherever they live, should all live together in peace. This type of peace is indeed a messianic goal (because, unfortunately we are still far from achieving it). Still, if we, for a moment, imagine peace and unity between all Jews—Jews and more Jews, from all tribes, factions and opinions, living in peace “All of us, as one in the light of Your countenance”—we certainly feel that this connection between all Jewish souls is steeped in a wonderful sense of pleasure.

Obviously, the messianic goal doesn’t end with peace amongst Jews alone, but aims even higher, to achieve universal peace. The Mashiach will teach the entire world how to make true peace: peace between the soul and the body, family harmony, fraternal peace, peace between Jews and the nations, and peace between all of humanity. As the prophet Zechariah said of the Mashiach, “And he shall speak peace to the nations, and his rule shall be from the sea to the west and from the river to the ends of the earth.” [The word “peace” (???????) appears explicitly in this verse, and in the initial letters of the words, “peace to the nations, and his rule shall be from the sea” (??????? ????????? ?????????? ??????).] World peace does not marginalize the unique light of the Jewish nation. On the contrary, the peace that spreads out so far, “to the ends of the earth,” is the perfect setting from the special qualities of the Jewish nation to be revealed, for in the end, peace between Jewish souls comes from the most exalted source of all.

Peace between Jewish souls is a non-local phenomenon that does not depend upon us being together in one place. Nonetheless, in parashat Bechukotai the Torah emphasizes that, “I will grant peace in the land,” referring of course to the land of Israel. The peace that will be achieved when the land of Israel is whole and the Jewish people are whole will reveal an even greater level of light and pleasure, because the land of Israel is where the Shechinah (the Divine Presence) resides (the land of Israel itself is considered a reflection of the Shechinah). Indeed, this is the culmination of the blessings in parashat Bechukotai, “I will place My dwelling place amongst you… and I will walk amongst you and I will be a God to you and you will be My people.”

These three circles of peace can help us understand Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s words in the Zohar  regarding the Mashiach, who is called, “the minister of peace” – “The minister of peace is a righteous person who is at peace with the world, at peace in the home [peace among Jews] and at peace with the Divine Presence.” These three circles of peace form a progression, with each higher than the previous one. We hope to see all three revealed speedily in our days by the minister of peace, the Mashiach.

(From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Iyar 15 5772)


Life is worthless without peace

In the Torah portion of Behar, cure we read that as a consequence of observing the sabbatical and jubilee years, drugs God’s promises us, website “…You shall settle the land securely… and you shall settle securely upon it.” This twice repeated promise recurs a third time at the beginning of the next Torah portion, Bechukotai, which is often read in conjunction with the portion of Behar: “And you shall settle securely in your land,” and is immediately followed by the blessing of peace, “And I will grant peace in the land.” Rashi asks, “If you were to say, ‘We have food and we have drink, but if there is no peace then they are worthless!’ for this reason the Torah continues, ‘I will grant peace in the land.’” From here we learn that peace is as important as the sum of all other blessings.” Another blessing that concludes with “peace” is the Priestly Blessing. The Amidah, the main prayer repeated three times a day, also concludes with a blessing for peace. Peace is the link that connects all the prophetic visions of the ultimate redemption and it is the universal catchword and today, everyone wants peace…

Let’s take a look at the concept of peace as it appears in the Hebrew text of the Bible. The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom (???????). Its shoresh (three-letter root) is shin-lamed-mem (?-?-?), which is also the shoresh of the word shelemut (?????????), which means “wholeness.” The initial idea that we glean from this is that true peace is an expression of wholeness and is dependent upon it, a fact that starkly contradicts with the phonetic similarity between “peace” and “piece” in English. In addition, there is another word, shalvah (????????), meaning “contentment” whose sha’ar (two-letter root), shin-lamed, is the same as that of “peace.” The two words, “contentment” and “peace” often appear together.

Illusions of peace

The shoresh of shalvah is shin-lamed-hei, which also has another, different connotation, as in the word, “illusion” (??????????). There is true peace and contentment and there is contentment that is no more than a tempting, but dangerous, illusion. The peace treaties that we are so familiar with today are not only far from expressing wholeness (somehow they always come at our expense), but they also do not accommodate contentment because they scatter naive illusions in the public mind, which eventually explode in our faces, as the prophet said, “They healed My people’s wounds offhandedly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

Peace and pleasure

Peace is also related to spiritual pleasure, which is why, on Shabbat which is intrinsically a day of pleasure, we wish one another “Shabbat shalom.” In order to illustrate the pleasure that is inherent in peace, let’s begin by considering the peace that is attainable by every individual within himself. King David says, “There is no peace in my bones because of my sin” (Psalms 38:4). According to the literal explanation, this refers to physical wholeness and good health, but, in addition, the very presence of sin contradicts peace. There must be peace between the soul and the body, and sin violates that connection.

In contrast, a proper connection between soul and body is described as, “peace in my bones [essence].” It is clear that this type of peace cannot merely be “a ceasefire;” rather it is a sense of contentment and pleasure that results from inner harmony.

Now, having seen what peace means for us, as individuals, let’s take a look at peace in the family. True family harmony is more than family members not yelling at one another, or knowing how to maneuver around one other, or even having respect for one another. Rather, family peace is a pleasant feeling and sense of how good it is to simply live together. In particular this pleasant appeal manifests in the commandment to light Shabbat candles on Friday evening, which is intended to induce a sense of family harmony and pleasure on Shabbat. The light of the candles reflects the beauty and joy of family harmony, as family members look at one another with glowing faces, enveloped in a canopy of light.

Three circles of peace

Family harmony and peace extends beyond the close core of immediate family members. The entire Jewish people, “the house ofIsrael,” are one big happy family and we expect that all Jews, wherever they live, should all live together in peace. This type of peace is indeed a messianic goal (because, unfortunately we are still far from achieving it). Still, if we, for a moment, imagine peace and unity between all Jews—Jews and more Jews, from all tribes, factions and opinions, living in peace “All of us, as one in the light of Your countenance”—we certainly feel that this connection between all Jewish souls is steeped in a wonderful sense of pleasure.

Obviously, the messianic goal doesn’t end with peace amongst Jews alone, but aims even higher, to achieve universal peace. The Mashiach will teach the entire world how to make true peace: peace between the soul and the body, family harmony, fraternal peace, peace between Jews and the nations, and peace between all of humanity. As the prophet Zechariah said of the Mashiach, “And he shall speak peace to the nations, and his rule shall be from the sea to the west and from the river to the ends of the earth.” [The word “peace” (???????) appears explicitly in this verse, and in the initial letters of the words, “peace to the nations, and his rule shall be from the sea” (??????? ????????? ?????????? ??????).] World peace does not marginalize the unique light of the Jewish nation. On the contrary, the peace that spreads out so far, “to the ends of the earth,” is the perfect setting from the special qualities of the Jewish nation to be revealed, for in the end, peace between Jewish souls comes from the most exalted source of all.

Peace between Jewish souls is a non-local phenomenon that does not depend upon us being together in one place. Nonetheless, in parashat Bechukotai the Torah emphasizes that, “I will grant peace in the land,” referring of course to the land of Israel. The peace that will be achieved when the land of Israel is whole and the Jewish people are whole will reveal an even greater level of light and pleasure, because the land of Israel is where the Shechinah (the Divine Presence) resides (the land of Israel itself is considered a reflection of the Shechinah). Indeed, this is the culmination of the blessings in parashat Bechukotai, “I will place My dwelling place amongst you… and I will walk amongst you and I will be a God to you and you will be My people.”

These three circles of peace can help us understand Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s words in the Zohar  regarding the Mashiach, who is called, “the minister of peace” – “The minister of peace is a righteous person who is at peace with the world, at peace in the home [peace among Jews] and at peace with the Divine Presence.” These three circles of peace form a progression, with each higher than the previous one. We hope to see all three revealed speedily in our days by the minister of peace, the Mashiach.

(From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Iyar 15 5772)


Life is worthless without peace

In the Torah portion of Behar, we read that as a consequence of observing the sabbatical and jubilee years, and God’s promises us, “…You shall settle the land securely… and you shall settle securely upon it.” This twice repeated promise recurs a third time at the beginning of the next Torah portion, Bechukotai, which is often read in conjunction with the portion of Behar: “And you shall settle securely in your land,” and is immediately followed by the blessing of peace, “And I will grant peace in the land.” Rashi asks, “If you were to say, ‘We have food and we have drink, but if there is no peace then they are worthless!’ for this reason the Torah continues, ‘I will grant peace in the land.’” From here we learn that peace is as important as the sum of all other blessings.” Another blessing that concludes with “peace” is the Priestly Blessing. The Amidah, the main prayer repeated three times a day, also concludes with a blessing for peace. Peace is the link that connects all the prophetic visions of the ultimate redemption and it is the universal catchword and today, everyone wants peace…

Let’s take a look at the concept of peace as it appears in the Hebrew text of the Bible. The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom (???????). Its shoresh (three-letter root) is shin-lamed-mem (?-?-?), which is also the shoresh of the word shelemut (?????????), which means “wholeness.” The initial idea that we glean from this is that true peace is an expression of wholeness and is dependent upon it, a fact that starkly contradicts with the phonetic similarity between “peace” and “piece” in English. In addition, there is another word, shalvah (????????), meaning “contentment” whose sha'ar (two-letter root), shin-lamed, is the same as that of “peace.” The two words, “contentment” and “peace” often appear together.

Illusions of peace

The shoresh of shalvah is shin-lamed-hei, which also has another, different connotation, as in the word, “illusion” (??????????). There is true peace and contentment and there is contentment that is no more than a tempting, but dangerous, illusion. The peace treaties that we are so familiar with today are not only far from expressing wholeness (somehow they always come at our expense), but they also do not accommodate contentment because they scatter naive illusions in the public mind, which eventually explode in our faces, as the prophet said, “They healed My people’s wounds offhandedly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

Peace and pleasure

Peace is also related to spiritual pleasure, which is why, on Shabbat which is intrinsically a day of pleasure, we wish one another “Shabbat shalom.” In order to illustrate the pleasure that is inherent in peace, let’s begin by considering the peace that is attainable by every individual within himself. King David says, “There is no peace in my bones because of my sin” (Psalms 38:4). According to the literal explanation, this refers to physical wholeness and good health, but, in addition, the very presence of sin contradicts peace. There must be peace between the soul and the body, and sin violates that connection.

In contrast, a proper connection between soul and body is described as, “peace in my bones [essence].” It is clear that this type of peace cannot merely be “a ceasefire;” rather it is a sense of contentment and pleasure that results from inner harmony.

Now, having seen what peace means for us, as individuals, let’s take a look at peace in the family. True family harmony is more than family members not yelling at one another, or knowing how to maneuver around one other, or even having respect for one another. Rather, family peace is a pleasant feeling and sense of how good it is to simply live together. In particular this pleasant appeal manifests in the commandment to light Shabbat candles on Friday evening, which is intended to induce a sense of family harmony and pleasure on Shabbat. The light of the candles reflects the beauty and joy of family harmony, as family members look at one another with glowing faces, enveloped in a canopy of light.

Three circles of peace

Family harmony and peace extends beyond the close core of immediate family members. The entire Jewish people, “the house ofIsrael,” are one big happy family and we expect that all Jews, wherever they live, should all live together in peace. This type of peace is indeed a messianic goal (because, unfortunately we are still far from achieving it). Still, if we, for a moment, imagine peace and unity between all Jews—Jews and more Jews, from all tribes, factions and opinions, living in peace “All of us, as one in the light of Your countenance”—we certainly feel that this connection between all Jewish souls is steeped in a wonderful sense of pleasure.

Obviously, the messianic goal doesn’t end with peace amongst Jews alone, but aims even higher, to achieve universal peace. The Mashiach will teach the entire world how to make true peace: peace between the soul and the body, family harmony, fraternal peace, peace between Jews and the nations, and peace between all of humanity. As the prophet Zechariah said of the Mashiach, “And he shall speak peace to the nations, and his rule shall be from the sea to the west and from the river to the ends of the earth.” [The word “peace” (???????) appears explicitly in this verse, and in the initial letters of the words, “peace to the nations, and his rule shall be from the sea” (??????? ????????? ?????????? ??????).] World peace does not marginalize the unique light of the Jewish nation. On the contrary, the peace that spreads out so far, “to the ends of the earth,” is the perfect setting from the special qualities of the Jewish nation to be revealed, for in the end, peace between Jewish souls comes from the most exalted source of all.

Peace between Jewish souls is a non-local phenomenon that does not depend upon us being together in one place. Nonetheless, in parashat Bechukotai the Torah emphasizes that, “I will grant peace in the land,” referring of course to the land of Israel. The peace that will be achieved when the land of Israel is whole and the Jewish people are whole will reveal an even greater level of light and pleasure, because the land of Israel is where the Shechinah (the Divine Presence) resides (the land of Israel itself is considered a reflection of the Shechinah). Indeed, this is the culmination of the blessings in parashat Bechukotai, “I will place My dwelling place amongst you… and I will walk amongst you and I will be a God to you and you will be My people.”

These three circles of peace can help us understand Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s words in the Zohar  regarding the Mashiach, who is called, “the minister of peace” – “The minister of peace is a righteous person who is at peace with the world, at peace in the home [peace among Jews] and at peace with the Divine Presence.” These three circles of peace form a progression, with each higher than the previous one. We hope to see all three revealed speedily in our days by the minister of peace, the Mashiach.

(From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Iyar 15 5772)


The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, cialis 40mg “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and structure (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, cialis 40mg “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and structure (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

Four Types of Eggs in the Talmud

Four different types of egg are mentioned in the Talmud,
and they each have a different status in Jewish law. The four types belong to two different groups: 1) eggs that were laid by a hen and 2) eggs that were found inside a slaughtered chicken. The Talmud explains that no chicks will hatch from the latter type of egg, seek and if by mistake someone paid for the eggs with the intention of hatching them, for sale
he is entitled to a full refund. But if someone asked for eggs that had been laid by a live hen, but was given eggs from a slaughtered chicken, if his intention was to eat the eggs and not to hatch them, then he is not entitled to a full refund but can only claim the difference in price between the two types of egg, because laid eggs are also of superior quality for eating. The second classification depends on whether the eggs were fertilized by a rooster (the Talmud calls such eggs, “eggs of the male”) or whether they were produced by the hens without the presence of a male, merely by the hen warming its body against the earth. Obviously, no chicks will hatch from an unfertilized egg, which means that there are two conditions necessary for an egg to hatch: it must be from a fertilized egg and must also be laid by a live hen. The law in the case of fertilized or unfertilized eggs is the same as the abovementioned law regarding eggs laid by a live hen and eggs found in a slaughtered chicken, and like eggs laid by a live hen, fertilized eggs are considered to be better for eating.

The Talmud continues to explain that fertilized eggs are only laid by day, because chickens only procreate by day and there is a rule that “any creature that propagates by day is born by day.” Nonetheless, unfertilized eggs may be laid by night, although they too are usually laid by day.[1] When there is a rooster present, the rule is that the hen’s eggs are considered fertilized, as long as the rooster is no more than sixty houses away and no river separates between them (unless there is a bridge across it, even a flimsy one).

This Talmudic discussion is all relevant to the law of an egg that was laid on Yom Tov, a festival, which in general, may not be eaten or moved until the festival is over. However, if the egg was discovered while it was still dark, and there is a rooster in the vicinity, then one is allowed to eat it because it was obviously laid the previous day, before nightfall when the festival began.

Another relevant factor that is deduced from the classification of eggs in this way regards the law concerning an egg in which a blood-spot is found. If a blood-spot is found in an unfertilized egg, the egg may be eaten once the blood has been discarded, because the blood is obviously not a sign that a chick is being formed. This is true of eggs produced on modern egg farms where the hens are enclosed in coops where no roosters at all are present; consequentially, they are all unfertilized.[2]

Four Types of Egg in Kabbalah

God’s Essential Name, Havayah, and its four letters (yud-hei-vav-hei) provide us with one of the most basic structures for contemplating ideas. Given a classification system like the one of the four different types of eggs discussed in Jewish law, we can deepen our understanding of it and the relationship between its elements, if we are able to correctly identify and build a correspondence between them and the letters of Havayah. This same correspondence can also shed new light on our understanding of God’s Name.

In Kabbalah, the four letters of Havayah are first and foremost related to the sefirot. The correspondence between the four letters and the sefirot provides us with an essential base upon which to base our new correspondence.

In this case, the letter yud of God’s Name, which represents the sefirah of wisdom, the Father Principle (Aba), corresponds to an egg laid by a live hen. Wisdom is the source of vitality, as the verse states, “wisdom vitalizes its possessors,” and “they will die, but not in wisdom.”

An egg discovered in a slaughtered chicken corresponds to the upper hei of God’s Name, representing the sefirah of understanding, the Mother Principle (Ima). Finding the egg inside its mother is clearly representative of this level, but the act of slaughtering also corresponds to understanding.[3]

A fertilized egg corresponds to the vav of God’s Name, which represents the 6 sefirot from chesed (loving-kindness) to yesod (foundation), associated with the Small Countenance (Zeir Anpin), the male aspect that is born of the union between the father and the mother, just as this type of egg is an “egg of the male.” Another reason why this type of egg corresponds to the vav, which has a numerical value of 6, is because the hen follows the rooster a distance of 60 houses, which relates to each of the six emotive powers that are represented by the vav of God’s Name, when they all mature to include ten sefirot of their own.[4]

Unfertilized eggs correspond to the lower hei of God’s Name and to the sefirah of kingdom. The sefirah of kingdom is the feminine persona (Nukva of Zeir Anpin) and also corresponds to the earth. In this case, the hen (corresponding to the feminine persona) was warmed by the earth and therefore this egg corresponds in particular to the sefirah of kingdom.

As mentioned above, in order for chicks to hatch from the eggs, the eggs must be both fertilized and laid by a live hen. This indicates the connection between wisdom (the yud of God’s Name) and Zeir Anpin (the vav of God’s Name), the two male persona as in the Kabbalistic conundrum, “What is his name [referring to wisdom, the Father Principle] and what is his son’s name [referring to Zeir Anpin].” As we saw, the contribution of the males is not only in regard to the eggs fertilization but also in regard to its quality as food. In contrast, the feminine persona, the eggs of the slaughtered chicken and the unfertilized eggs that were warmed by the earth, have no ability to hatch chicks at all and even though the eggs are edible, they are not of such a good quality as those that correspond to the male persona.

To summarize:

?

yud

wisdom

egg laid by a live hen

?

hei

understanding

egg found in slaughtered chicken

?

vav

zeir anpin; the six emotive powers

egg fertilized by male bird within a distance of sixty houses

?

hei

kingdom

unfertilized egg produced by the hen when she is warmed by the earth

A Political Egg

In Hebrew, hakbalah, from the same root as Kabbalah, means “a parallel” and studying Kabbalah is indeed based on drawing parallels. We can learn much about the world by recognizing the parallel structures in reality and drawing analogies between them. For instance, from the above correspondence concerning different types of eggs, we can learn something important about… politics. In fact, modern egg farms reflect the current political trends, as we shall see.

First, let’s take note of the unique quality of an egg in general. The egg is an intermediary stage in the procreation process that is not apparent in mammals. Yet it can either herald the termination of the process if it is an unfertilized egg, or, if the egg is fertilized, it could be a transition stage that continues to develop until the chick forms and hatches. A fertilized egg can only be produced when there is interaction between a rooster and a hen and the Talmud refers to them as, “eggs of the male.” Without the rooster, the hen, by warming herself against the earth, is only capable of producing unfertilized eggs that although edible, will never hatch. From this perspective, one could define unfertilized eggs as “artificial eggs” as reflected by the fact that they are considered inferior to fertilized eggs for eating purposes. As mentioned, in the modern egg-farming industry, eggs meant for consumption are all unfertilized eggs.

Now let’s take a look at the current state of politics. In Hebrew, the Holy Tongue, the word “state” (?????) is of feminine gender, as is the word “kingdom” (?????) the feminine sefirah of the ten sefirot. In general, politics is associated with the sefirah of kingdom and is thus considered to have a feminine nature. As for modern democratic politics, the feminine gender is most appropriate, because democracy means that the ruling party is no more than the sum total of its voters. The leaders are expected to take the entire population into consideration and reflect all their varying self-interests and differing opinions while merely offering a stable framework in which everyone can live relatively peacefully with everyone else. Under such circumstances, however strong and stable the ruling power may be, and however controlling and enterprising it may be, by definition, a democratic state remains in a feminine condition and merely sets the borders in which the population can survive.

In general, the rectification of this minimalistic situation can be achieved by appointing a king. A king is a true leader who has the power and the initiative to set goals and achieve them, uniting with his kingdom to bring about dynamic, fertile results. In Kabbalistic terminology, this refers to the union between the feminine sefirah of kingdom and the male aspect of Zeir Anpin. Practically speaking, the king reflects not only what there is in reality but he also takes a firm stand, planning a well-defined strategy by which to achieve his goals. This type of royal leadership is a tool that is able to implement the Torah in practice, and allows us to realize our covenant with God, who commands reality and elevates it. This is the task of the righteous king who leads reality to its consummation. In contrast, as long as the kingdom is entirely feminine and receiving, with no male energy to invigorate it, like an egg, it will remain sterile and static, unable to bring new life into the world.

The main teaching of the Zohar is that the feminine sefirah of kingdom will eventually be fertilized by her husband, the persona of Zeir Anpin, thereby uniting the Almighty (referred to as, Kedsha Brich Hu) with the Divine Presence. Separating the sefirah of kingdom from her rightful spouse, and thus promoting her husbandless state is considered a fundamental sin and a flaw referred to as, “cutting down the sprouts.” The ultimate goal is to achieve a union between the King and His kingdom.

Our association between the current state of politics and a chicken coop should now be obvious: a hen without a rooster can indeed lay many eggs when she is warmed by the earth or by her fellow hens in a hot and crowded coop, but these eggs are always sterile and no chick will ever hatch from them. They are even of inferior quality for edible purposes. This is the condition of politics today, in which the only vital energy available is that of the lowest aspect of reality or by the friction created between the various political factions. In this way, democracy is able to lay many eggs that can be eaten but this is actually a sterile state of existence that can never cultivate new life. Like much of modern reality, eggs produced under such conditions are “virtual” eggs that are born but can never give birth. Even if there is a blood-spot in the egg, it is not life-giving blood. When you taste such an egg, you feel that something vital is missing.

Rectified reality is the produce of the union of the male and female aspects, as in any healthy family. Any woman who lives alone, with only herself and her girl-friends for companionship is not only missing something vitally important in her life but is actually in a very detrimental moral state of affairs, similar to that of the ancient Egyptian lifestyle, which the Torah has forbidden us to duplicate.[5]

This is one of the important differences between sanctity and kelipot (the shells of impurity that surround reality): in sanctity, fruition is always the result of a union between male and female, whereas in the kelipot there is a state of “virtual” self-pollination, that does not bear true fruit.

This idea is explained in Chassidut with reference to the verse, “The wrapped [sheep] are for Laban [representing the kelipot] and the connected [sheep] are for Jacob [representing sanctity].” In sanctity there is a state of connection and communication, whereas in the impure shells there is a tendency to curl up in one’s own wool to warm up.

Finding the Lost Gardener

In his story, “The Seven Beggars,” Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes, “There is a country where there is a garden and in that garden there were fruit that had all the different flavors in the world and all sorts of aromas in the world and all the different colors and flowers in the world – all in the same garden. There was a gardener who was responsible for the garden and all the people of the country lived a good life because of the garden. But the gardener went missing and everything in the garden should have certainly been ruined, because there was no gardener responsible for the garden any longer. Nonetheless, the people were still able to survive from the natural growth of the garden.”

In our case, the garden is a parable for the current state of politics, which desperately needs a gardener to tend to its needs. As a garden needs a devoted gardener, so too a kingdom needs a dedicated king so that the people of the country can indeed live “a good life.” Without a gardener the garden is unable to revitalize itself and bear fertile fruit and its becomes inevitable. Like an unfertilized egg, even if the natural growth of fruit is able to sustain the population, the dynamic vitality of real, fertile fruit is lacking.

Yet Rabbi Nachman’s story continues to describe how the missing gardener is actually wandering around amongst us, although people think that he is just a crazy lunatic. Then they finally recognize him and identify him, “Suddenly a commotion arose, could it be that this crazy man wandering around is actually the gardener?! They went and brought him… and I said, ‘This is certainly the true gardener.”

As long as people surrender to the state of politics as it is, without understanding that it needs rectification, the gardener can never be recognized, even if he is wandering around among us, we just think that he is crazy…. The way to find the gardener is by never despairing of rectification. We need to be aware of the disadvantages of the current situation, while remembering all the while that the situation demands rectification.

We have seen that if there is a rooster in the vicinity of the hen, even sixty houses away, even if she needs to cross a flimsy bridge over a river, she prefers the attention of a male bird to warming herself on the ground. In addition, even when no male is present forcing the hen to warm itself on the earth, the hen retains its natural instinct to lay eggs during the day and continues to behave as if her eggs are fertile. Returning to our use of the egg as a metaphor for kingdom, this means that the reality of the lower worlds that manifests in politics still nurtures an inner expectancy that the male redeemer will soon come, even when there is currently no male energy available.

Even though today’s eggs are unfertilized, most authorities are still of the opinion that an egg with a blood spot should be discarded. If we contemplate this notion from a more profound perspective we can explain that this means that we never despair of finding a real, fertilized egg.

In a whimsical mood, we could say that the rectification of the “chicken coop” (???) can be found in the phrase, “Were it not for Your Torah being my amusement, I would be lost in my poverty” (???? ????? ?????? ?? ????? ?????). In the words of King David, this verse expresses the fact that even in the poverty of exile, we are not prepared to substitute our the feeling of wondrous joy we get from God’s Torah for anything less and our only hope is in “Your Torah.” The hen is not prepared to separate from her mate, nor is she prepared to be satisfied by the superficial achievement of laying infertile eggs and brooding on them without them ever hatching.

This fact infuses us with hope that the current political state, which we have likened to an modern, artificial chicken coop, can be rectified. Just as the hen instinctively knows her origin and continues to prefer fertilization by a rooster, so it is too with the public today. Even though the current democratic trend turns its back on the idea of a royal redeemer and makes believe that it can be warmed by its own energy, nonetheless, we still retain a point that has never given up on the hope that we can escape from the closed coop in which not even one male is present, and eventually meet a real rooster.

The Hebrew word for “rooster” (??????) has a numerical value of 689, which is equal to the phrase, “the Eternal one of Israel [will neither deceive nor revoke His decision]” (??? ?????). The equality suggests that just as King Saul’s reign was replaced by that of King David’s when the former betrayed his duty to observe God’s commandment to wipe out the nation of Amalek, so too, if democracy, the current ruling power, cannot fulfill its purpose, in its place will rise a true king from the dynasty of King David.

Bringing all these different metaphors together, this means that when the gardener returns to the garden, and the kingdom connects to the king, then the “hen” will no longer be warmed by the earth but will warm the earth herself. The appointed king will bring all of reality back to God, by giving birth to a generation of righteous offspring – fertilized eggs that will hatch into winged chicks, the warmhearted Jews who the Ba’al Shem Tov wished to see; Jews who are devoted to God and draw their energies only from Him.

A Chicken Marriage

Regarding the best time for marital relations, the Talmud states,

The sages taught, “Any creature that procreates by day is born by day; any creature that procreates at night is born at night; any creature that procreates by day and by night, is born by day or by night.’ ‘Any creature that procreates by day is born by day’ refers to a chicken. ‘Every creature that procreates by night is born at night’ refers to a bat. ‘Any creature that procreates by day and by night’ refers to humans and others like them.”

Although humans procreate by day and by night, in general, the most modest time is actually at night. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and his wife were naked yet felt no shame, marital union during the day was permissible. After their sin, when the evil inclination took hold and infused man with sexual desire, marital union in sanctity should only be in a dark, closed room. In this case, we see that the chicken’s propagation during the day indicates the rectification of Adam and Eve’s sin.

We have already mentioned that the connection between God and the Jewish people is like a marital relationship, however, under the current circumstances, their union is not overtly visible, conducted as it is in the darkness of exile’s night. Yet, when the daylight of redemption arrives, the loving relationship between God and the Jewish people will be open for all to see.

According to the sages, the rooster, who placates the hen before procreation, bears an example from which men should learn proper marital conduct.[6] In Hebrew, a rooster is also called gever, one of four synonyms for “man.” We should all learn from the rooster who wakes up at day break and announces that the time for procreation has arrived, and as we see the dawn, announce the same, for all to hear clearly, that the rectification of the current chicken-coop politics lies in the Jewish people’s uniting with God in marital union in broad daylight, without any misgivings. “And God will be for you a light forever,” when the Jewish nation becomes “a light unto the nations.”

On the night of Passover, as we celebrate our redemption from the straits of Egypt, there are two symbols of redemption on the Seder plate: a chicken wing, to commemorate how God redeemed us with an outstretched arm, and an egg, which is called a beiya (????) in Aramaic and is conjugate to the word ba’a (???), meaning “desire”. Together, the chicken wing and the egg symbolize God’s desire to redeem us with an outstretched arm.

May we soon merit the ultimate state of redemption and a rectified state of God’s kingdom on earth, as represented by a fertile chicken egg.

Notes

[1] In modern egg farms, there are lights on all day and all night, to encourage the hens to lay more frequently.

[2]  In organic egg farms, the hens roam around freely and there are usually a few roosters present.

[3] Every Jewish town must have a Rabbi, corresponding to wisdom, and a shochet, a ritual slaughterer, corresponding to understanding.

[4] Within the persona of zeir anpin there are two other relatively male sefirot, beauty and foundation, both of which lie on the central line. These two sefirot can unite with the female aspect of kingdom and each of them is represented in the Talmud by the expression that corresponds to one of the applications of buying eggs: one said, “Who has eggs laid by a live hen to sell?” and one said, “Who has fertilized eggs? Who has fertilized eggs?” When referring to fertilized eggs the request is repeated, indicating that there are two different possible types of fertilized eggs within zeir anpin, those that are fertilized by the sefirah of beauty and those that are fertilized by the sefirah of foundation.

[5] See Maimonides, Issurei Biyah, 21:8.

[6] Eiruvin, 100b.

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, cialis 40mg “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and structure (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

Four Types of Eggs in the Talmud

Four different types of egg are mentioned in the Talmud,
and they each have a different status in Jewish law. The four types belong to two different groups: 1) eggs that were laid by a hen and 2) eggs that were found inside a slaughtered chicken. The Talmud explains that no chicks will hatch from the latter type of egg, seek and if by mistake someone paid for the eggs with the intention of hatching them, for sale
he is entitled to a full refund. But if someone asked for eggs that had been laid by a live hen, but was given eggs from a slaughtered chicken, if his intention was to eat the eggs and not to hatch them, then he is not entitled to a full refund but can only claim the difference in price between the two types of egg, because laid eggs are also of superior quality for eating. The second classification depends on whether the eggs were fertilized by a rooster (the Talmud calls such eggs, “eggs of the male”) or whether they were produced by the hens without the presence of a male, merely by the hen warming its body against the earth. Obviously, no chicks will hatch from an unfertilized egg, which means that there are two conditions necessary for an egg to hatch: it must be from a fertilized egg and must also be laid by a live hen. The law in the case of fertilized or unfertilized eggs is the same as the abovementioned law regarding eggs laid by a live hen and eggs found in a slaughtered chicken, and like eggs laid by a live hen, fertilized eggs are considered to be better for eating.

The Talmud continues to explain that fertilized eggs are only laid by day, because chickens only procreate by day and there is a rule that “any creature that propagates by day is born by day.” Nonetheless, unfertilized eggs may be laid by night, although they too are usually laid by day.[1] When there is a rooster present, the rule is that the hen’s eggs are considered fertilized, as long as the rooster is no more than sixty houses away and no river separates between them (unless there is a bridge across it, even a flimsy one).

This Talmudic discussion is all relevant to the law of an egg that was laid on Yom Tov, a festival, which in general, may not be eaten or moved until the festival is over. However, if the egg was discovered while it was still dark, and there is a rooster in the vicinity, then one is allowed to eat it because it was obviously laid the previous day, before nightfall when the festival began.

Another relevant factor that is deduced from the classification of eggs in this way regards the law concerning an egg in which a blood-spot is found. If a blood-spot is found in an unfertilized egg, the egg may be eaten once the blood has been discarded, because the blood is obviously not a sign that a chick is being formed. This is true of eggs produced on modern egg farms where the hens are enclosed in coops where no roosters at all are present; consequentially, they are all unfertilized.[2]

Four Types of Egg in Kabbalah

God’s Essential Name, Havayah, and its four letters (yud-hei-vav-hei) provide us with one of the most basic structures for contemplating ideas. Given a classification system like the one of the four different types of eggs discussed in Jewish law, we can deepen our understanding of it and the relationship between its elements, if we are able to correctly identify and build a correspondence between them and the letters of Havayah. This same correspondence can also shed new light on our understanding of God’s Name.

In Kabbalah, the four letters of Havayah are first and foremost related to the sefirot. The correspondence between the four letters and the sefirot provides us with an essential base upon which to base our new correspondence.

In this case, the letter yud of God’s Name, which represents the sefirah of wisdom, the Father Principle (Aba), corresponds to an egg laid by a live hen. Wisdom is the source of vitality, as the verse states, “wisdom vitalizes its possessors,” and “they will die, but not in wisdom.”

An egg discovered in a slaughtered chicken corresponds to the upper hei of God’s Name, representing the sefirah of understanding, the Mother Principle (Ima). Finding the egg inside its mother is clearly representative of this level, but the act of slaughtering also corresponds to understanding.[3]

A fertilized egg corresponds to the vav of God’s Name, which represents the 6 sefirot from chesed (loving-kindness) to yesod (foundation), associated with the Small Countenance (Zeir Anpin), the male aspect that is born of the union between the father and the mother, just as this type of egg is an “egg of the male.” Another reason why this type of egg corresponds to the vav, which has a numerical value of 6, is because the hen follows the rooster a distance of 60 houses, which relates to each of the six emotive powers that are represented by the vav of God’s Name, when they all mature to include ten sefirot of their own.[4]

Unfertilized eggs correspond to the lower hei of God’s Name and to the sefirah of kingdom. The sefirah of kingdom is the feminine persona (Nukva of Zeir Anpin) and also corresponds to the earth. In this case, the hen (corresponding to the feminine persona) was warmed by the earth and therefore this egg corresponds in particular to the sefirah of kingdom.

As mentioned above, in order for chicks to hatch from the eggs, the eggs must be both fertilized and laid by a live hen. This indicates the connection between wisdom (the yud of God’s Name) and Zeir Anpin (the vav of God’s Name), the two male persona as in the Kabbalistic conundrum, “What is his name [referring to wisdom, the Father Principle] and what is his son’s name [referring to Zeir Anpin].” As we saw, the contribution of the males is not only in regard to the eggs fertilization but also in regard to its quality as food. In contrast, the feminine persona, the eggs of the slaughtered chicken and the unfertilized eggs that were warmed by the earth, have no ability to hatch chicks at all and even though the eggs are edible, they are not of such a good quality as those that correspond to the male persona.

To summarize:

?

yud

wisdom

egg laid by a live hen

?

hei

understanding

egg found in slaughtered chicken

?

vav

zeir anpin; the six emotive powers

egg fertilized by male bird within a distance of sixty houses

?

hei

kingdom

unfertilized egg produced by the hen when she is warmed by the earth

A Political Egg

In Hebrew, hakbalah, from the same root as Kabbalah, means “a parallel” and studying Kabbalah is indeed based on drawing parallels. We can learn much about the world by recognizing the parallel structures in reality and drawing analogies between them. For instance, from the above correspondence concerning different types of eggs, we can learn something important about… politics. In fact, modern egg farms reflect the current political trends, as we shall see.

First, let’s take note of the unique quality of an egg in general. The egg is an intermediary stage in the procreation process that is not apparent in mammals. Yet it can either herald the termination of the process if it is an unfertilized egg, or, if the egg is fertilized, it could be a transition stage that continues to develop until the chick forms and hatches. A fertilized egg can only be produced when there is interaction between a rooster and a hen and the Talmud refers to them as, “eggs of the male.” Without the rooster, the hen, by warming herself against the earth, is only capable of producing unfertilized eggs that although edible, will never hatch. From this perspective, one could define unfertilized eggs as “artificial eggs” as reflected by the fact that they are considered inferior to fertilized eggs for eating purposes. As mentioned, in the modern egg-farming industry, eggs meant for consumption are all unfertilized eggs.

Now let’s take a look at the current state of politics. In Hebrew, the Holy Tongue, the word “state” (?????) is of feminine gender, as is the word “kingdom” (?????) the feminine sefirah of the ten sefirot. In general, politics is associated with the sefirah of kingdom and is thus considered to have a feminine nature. As for modern democratic politics, the feminine gender is most appropriate, because democracy means that the ruling party is no more than the sum total of its voters. The leaders are expected to take the entire population into consideration and reflect all their varying self-interests and differing opinions while merely offering a stable framework in which everyone can live relatively peacefully with everyone else. Under such circumstances, however strong and stable the ruling power may be, and however controlling and enterprising it may be, by definition, a democratic state remains in a feminine condition and merely sets the borders in which the population can survive.

In general, the rectification of this minimalistic situation can be achieved by appointing a king. A king is a true leader who has the power and the initiative to set goals and achieve them, uniting with his kingdom to bring about dynamic, fertile results. In Kabbalistic terminology, this refers to the union between the feminine sefirah of kingdom and the male aspect of Zeir Anpin. Practically speaking, the king reflects not only what there is in reality but he also takes a firm stand, planning a well-defined strategy by which to achieve his goals. This type of royal leadership is a tool that is able to implement the Torah in practice, and allows us to realize our covenant with God, who commands reality and elevates it. This is the task of the righteous king who leads reality to its consummation. In contrast, as long as the kingdom is entirely feminine and receiving, with no male energy to invigorate it, like an egg, it will remain sterile and static, unable to bring new life into the world.

The main teaching of the Zohar is that the feminine sefirah of kingdom will eventually be fertilized by her husband, the persona of Zeir Anpin, thereby uniting the Almighty (referred to as, Kedsha Brich Hu) with the Divine Presence. Separating the sefirah of kingdom from her rightful spouse, and thus promoting her husbandless state is considered a fundamental sin and a flaw referred to as, “cutting down the sprouts.” The ultimate goal is to achieve a union between the King and His kingdom.

Our association between the current state of politics and a chicken coop should now be obvious: a hen without a rooster can indeed lay many eggs when she is warmed by the earth or by her fellow hens in a hot and crowded coop, but these eggs are always sterile and no chick will ever hatch from them. They are even of inferior quality for edible purposes. This is the condition of politics today, in which the only vital energy available is that of the lowest aspect of reality or by the friction created between the various political factions. In this way, democracy is able to lay many eggs that can be eaten but this is actually a sterile state of existence that can never cultivate new life. Like much of modern reality, eggs produced under such conditions are “virtual” eggs that are born but can never give birth. Even if there is a blood-spot in the egg, it is not life-giving blood. When you taste such an egg, you feel that something vital is missing.

Rectified reality is the produce of the union of the male and female aspects, as in any healthy family. Any woman who lives alone, with only herself and her girl-friends for companionship is not only missing something vitally important in her life but is actually in a very detrimental moral state of affairs, similar to that of the ancient Egyptian lifestyle, which the Torah has forbidden us to duplicate.[5]

This is one of the important differences between sanctity and kelipot (the shells of impurity that surround reality): in sanctity, fruition is always the result of a union between male and female, whereas in the kelipot there is a state of “virtual” self-pollination, that does not bear true fruit.

This idea is explained in Chassidut with reference to the verse, “The wrapped [sheep] are for Laban [representing the kelipot] and the connected [sheep] are for Jacob [representing sanctity].” In sanctity there is a state of connection and communication, whereas in the impure shells there is a tendency to curl up in one’s own wool to warm up.

Finding the Lost Gardener

In his story, “The Seven Beggars,” Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes, “There is a country where there is a garden and in that garden there were fruit that had all the different flavors in the world and all sorts of aromas in the world and all the different colors and flowers in the world – all in the same garden. There was a gardener who was responsible for the garden and all the people of the country lived a good life because of the garden. But the gardener went missing and everything in the garden should have certainly been ruined, because there was no gardener responsible for the garden any longer. Nonetheless, the people were still able to survive from the natural growth of the garden.”

In our case, the garden is a parable for the current state of politics, which desperately needs a gardener to tend to its needs. As a garden needs a devoted gardener, so too a kingdom needs a dedicated king so that the people of the country can indeed live “a good life.” Without a gardener the garden is unable to revitalize itself and bear fertile fruit and its becomes inevitable. Like an unfertilized egg, even if the natural growth of fruit is able to sustain the population, the dynamic vitality of real, fertile fruit is lacking.

Yet Rabbi Nachman’s story continues to describe how the missing gardener is actually wandering around amongst us, although people think that he is just a crazy lunatic. Then they finally recognize him and identify him, “Suddenly a commotion arose, could it be that this crazy man wandering around is actually the gardener?! They went and brought him… and I said, ‘This is certainly the true gardener.”

As long as people surrender to the state of politics as it is, without understanding that it needs rectification, the gardener can never be recognized, even if he is wandering around among us, we just think that he is crazy…. The way to find the gardener is by never despairing of rectification. We need to be aware of the disadvantages of the current situation, while remembering all the while that the situation demands rectification.

We have seen that if there is a rooster in the vicinity of the hen, even sixty houses away, even if she needs to cross a flimsy bridge over a river, she prefers the attention of a male bird to warming herself on the ground. In addition, even when no male is present forcing the hen to warm itself on the earth, the hen retains its natural instinct to lay eggs during the day and continues to behave as if her eggs are fertile. Returning to our use of the egg as a metaphor for kingdom, this means that the reality of the lower worlds that manifests in politics still nurtures an inner expectancy that the male redeemer will soon come, even when there is currently no male energy available.

Even though today’s eggs are unfertilized, most authorities are still of the opinion that an egg with a blood spot should be discarded. If we contemplate this notion from a more profound perspective we can explain that this means that we never despair of finding a real, fertilized egg.

In a whimsical mood, we could say that the rectification of the “chicken coop” (???) can be found in the phrase, “Were it not for Your Torah being my amusement, I would be lost in my poverty” (???? ????? ?????? ?? ????? ?????). In the words of King David, this verse expresses the fact that even in the poverty of exile, we are not prepared to substitute our the feeling of wondrous joy we get from God’s Torah for anything less and our only hope is in “Your Torah.” The hen is not prepared to separate from her mate, nor is she prepared to be satisfied by the superficial achievement of laying infertile eggs and brooding on them without them ever hatching.

This fact infuses us with hope that the current political state, which we have likened to an modern, artificial chicken coop, can be rectified. Just as the hen instinctively knows her origin and continues to prefer fertilization by a rooster, so it is too with the public today. Even though the current democratic trend turns its back on the idea of a royal redeemer and makes believe that it can be warmed by its own energy, nonetheless, we still retain a point that has never given up on the hope that we can escape from the closed coop in which not even one male is present, and eventually meet a real rooster.

The Hebrew word for “rooster” (??????) has a numerical value of 689, which is equal to the phrase, “the Eternal one of Israel [will neither deceive nor revoke His decision]” (??? ?????). The equality suggests that just as King Saul’s reign was replaced by that of King David’s when the former betrayed his duty to observe God’s commandment to wipe out the nation of Amalek, so too, if democracy, the current ruling power, cannot fulfill its purpose, in its place will rise a true king from the dynasty of King David.

Bringing all these different metaphors together, this means that when the gardener returns to the garden, and the kingdom connects to the king, then the “hen” will no longer be warmed by the earth but will warm the earth herself. The appointed king will bring all of reality back to God, by giving birth to a generation of righteous offspring – fertilized eggs that will hatch into winged chicks, the warmhearted Jews who the Ba’al Shem Tov wished to see; Jews who are devoted to God and draw their energies only from Him.

A Chicken Marriage

Regarding the best time for marital relations, the Talmud states,

The sages taught, “Any creature that procreates by day is born by day; any creature that procreates at night is born at night; any creature that procreates by day and by night, is born by day or by night.’ ‘Any creature that procreates by day is born by day’ refers to a chicken. ‘Every creature that procreates by night is born at night’ refers to a bat. ‘Any creature that procreates by day and by night’ refers to humans and others like them.”

Although humans procreate by day and by night, in general, the most modest time is actually at night. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and his wife were naked yet felt no shame, marital union during the day was permissible. After their sin, when the evil inclination took hold and infused man with sexual desire, marital union in sanctity should only be in a dark, closed room. In this case, we see that the chicken’s propagation during the day indicates the rectification of Adam and Eve’s sin.

We have already mentioned that the connection between God and the Jewish people is like a marital relationship, however, under the current circumstances, their union is not overtly visible, conducted as it is in the darkness of exile’s night. Yet, when the daylight of redemption arrives, the loving relationship between God and the Jewish people will be open for all to see.

According to the sages, the rooster, who placates the hen before procreation, bears an example from which men should learn proper marital conduct.[6] In Hebrew, a rooster is also called gever, one of four synonyms for “man.” We should all learn from the rooster who wakes up at day break and announces that the time for procreation has arrived, and as we see the dawn, announce the same, for all to hear clearly, that the rectification of the current chicken-coop politics lies in the Jewish people’s uniting with God in marital union in broad daylight, without any misgivings. “And God will be for you a light forever,” when the Jewish nation becomes “a light unto the nations.”

On the night of Passover, as we celebrate our redemption from the straits of Egypt, there are two symbols of redemption on the Seder plate: a chicken wing, to commemorate how God redeemed us with an outstretched arm, and an egg, which is called a beiya (????) in Aramaic and is conjugate to the word ba’a (???), meaning “desire”. Together, the chicken wing and the egg symbolize God’s desire to redeem us with an outstretched arm.

May we soon merit the ultimate state of redemption and a rectified state of God’s kingdom on earth, as represented by a fertile chicken egg.

Notes

[1] In modern egg farms, there are lights on all day and all night, to encourage the hens to lay more frequently.

[2]  In organic egg farms, the hens roam around freely and there are usually a few roosters present.

[3] Every Jewish town must have a Rabbi, corresponding to wisdom, and a shochet, a ritual slaughterer, corresponding to understanding.

[4] Within the persona of zeir anpin there are two other relatively male sefirot, beauty and foundation, both of which lie on the central line. These two sefirot can unite with the female aspect of kingdom and each of them is represented in the Talmud by the expression that corresponds to one of the applications of buying eggs: one said, “Who has eggs laid by a live hen to sell?” and one said, “Who has fertilized eggs? Who has fertilized eggs?” When referring to fertilized eggs the request is repeated, indicating that there are two different possible types of fertilized eggs within zeir anpin, those that are fertilized by the sefirah of beauty and those that are fertilized by the sefirah of foundation.

[5] See Maimonides, Issurei Biyah, 21:8.

[6] Eiruvin, 100b.

Four Types of Eggs in the Talmud

Four different types of egg are mentioned in the Talmud, viagra and they each have a different status in Jewish law. The four types belong to two different groups: 1) eggs that were laid by a hen and 2) eggs that were found inside a slaughtered chicken. The Talmud explains that no chicks will hatch from the latter type of egg, and if by mistake someone paid for the eggs with the intention of hatching them, he is entitled to a full refund. But if someone asked for eggs that had been laid by a live hen, but was given eggs from a slaughtered chicken, if his intention was to eat the eggs and not to hatch them, then he is not entitled to a full refund but can only claim the difference in price between the two types of egg, because laid eggs are also of superior quality for eating. The second classification depends on whether the eggs were fertilized by a rooster (the Talmud calls such eggs, “eggs of the male”) or whether they were produced by the hens without the presence of a male, merely by the hen warming its body against the earth. Obviously, no chicks will hatch from an unfertilized egg, which means that there are two conditions necessary for an egg to hatch: it must be from a fertilized egg and must also be laid by a live hen. The law in the case of fertilized or unfertilized eggs is the same as the abovementioned law regarding eggs laid by a live hen and eggs found in a slaughtered chicken, and like eggs laid by a live hen, fertilized eggs are considered to be better for eating.

The Talmud continues to explain that fertilized eggs are only laid by day, because chickens only procreate by day and there is a rule that “any creature that propagates by day is born by day.” Nonetheless, unfertilized eggs may be laid by night, although they too are usually laid by day.[1] When there is a rooster present, the rule is that the hen’s eggs are considered fertilized, as long as the rooster is no more than sixty houses away and no river separates between them (unless there is a bridge across it, even a flimsy one).

This Talmudic discussion is all relevant to the law of an egg that was laid on Yom Tov, a festival, which in general, may not be eaten or moved until the festival is over. However, if the egg was discovered while it was still dark, and there is a rooster in the vicinity, then one is allowed to eat it because it was obviously laid the previous day, before nightfall when the festival began.

Another relevant factor that is deduced from the classification of eggs in this way regards the law concerning an egg in which a blood-spot is found. If a blood-spot is found in an unfertilized egg, the egg may be eaten once the blood has been discarded, because the blood is obviously not a sign that a chick is being formed. This is true of eggs produced on modern egg farms where the hens are enclosed in coops where no roosters at all are present; consequentially, they are all unfertilized.[2]

Four Types of Egg in Kabbalah

God’s Essential Name, Havayah, and its four letters (yud-hei-vav-hei) provide us with one of the most basic structures for contemplating ideas. Given a classification system like the one of the four different types of eggs discussed in Jewish law, we can deepen our understanding of it and the relationship between its elements, if we are able to correctly identify and build a correspondence between them and the letters of Havayah. This same correspondence can also shed new light on our understanding of God’s Name.

In Kabbalah, the four letters of Havayah are first and foremost related to the sefirot. The correspondence between the four letters and the sefirot provides us with an essential base upon which to base our new correspondence.

In this case, the letter yud of God’s Name, which represents the sefirah of wisdom, the Father Principle (Aba), corresponds to an egg laid by a live hen. Wisdom is the source of vitality, as the verse states, “wisdom vitalizes its possessors,” and “they will die, but not in wisdom.”

An egg discovered in a slaughtered chicken corresponds to the upper hei of God’s Name, representing the sefirah of understanding, the Mother Principle (Ima). Finding the egg inside its mother is clearly representative of this level, but the act of slaughtering also corresponds to understanding.[3]

A fertilized egg corresponds to the vav of God’s Name, which represents the 6 sefirot from chesed (loving-kindness) to yesod (foundation), associated with the Small Countenance (Zeir Anpin), the male aspect that is born of the union between the father and the mother, just as this type of egg is an “egg of the male.” Another reason why this type of egg corresponds to the vav, which has a numerical value of 6, is because the hen follows the rooster a distance of 60 houses, which relates to each of the six emotive powers that are represented by the vav of God’s Name, when they all mature to include ten sefirot of their own.[4]

Unfertilized eggs correspond to the lower hei of God’s Name and to the sefirah of kingdom. The sefirah of kingdom is the feminine persona (Nukva of Zeir Anpin) and also corresponds to the earth. In this case, the hen (corresponding to the feminine persona) was warmed by the earth and therefore this egg corresponds in particular to the sefirah of kingdom.

As mentioned above, in order for chicks to hatch from the eggs, the eggs must be both fertilized and laid by a live hen. This indicates the connection between wisdom (the yud of God’s Name) and Zeir Anpin (the vav of God’s Name), the two male persona as in the Kabbalistic conundrum, “What is his name [referring to wisdom, the Father Principle] and what is his son’s name [referring to Zeir Anpin].” As we saw, the contribution of the males is not only in regard to the eggs fertilization but also in regard to its quality as food. In contrast, the feminine persona, the eggs of the slaughtered chicken and the unfertilized eggs that were warmed by the earth, have no ability to hatch chicks at all and even though the eggs are edible, they are not of such a good quality as those that correspond to the male persona.

To summarize:

?

yud

wisdom

egg laid by a live hen

?

hei

understanding

egg found in slaughtered chicken

?

vav

zeir anpin; the six emotive powers

egg fertilized by male bird within a distance of sixty houses

?

hei

kingdom

unfertilized egg produced by the hen when she is warmed by the earth

A Political Egg

In Hebrew, hakbalah, from the same root as Kabbalah, means “a parallel” and studying Kabbalah is indeed based on drawing parallels. We can learn much about the world by recognizing the parallel structures in reality and drawing analogies between them. For instance, from the above correspondence concerning different types of eggs, we can learn something important about… politics. In fact, modern egg farms reflect the current political trends, as we shall see.

First, let’s take note of the unique quality of an egg in general. The egg is an intermediary stage in the procreation process that is not apparent in mammals. Yet it can either herald the termination of the process if it is an unfertilized egg, or, if the egg is fertilized, it could be a transition stage that continues to develop until the chick forms and hatches. A fertilized egg can only be produced when there is interaction between a rooster and a hen and the Talmud refers to them as, “eggs of the male.” Without the rooster, the hen, by warming herself against the earth, is only capable of producing unfertilized eggs that although edible, will never hatch. From this perspective, one could define unfertilized eggs as “artificial eggs” as reflected by the fact that they are considered inferior to fertilized eggs for eating purposes. As mentioned, in the modern egg-farming industry, eggs meant for consumption are all unfertilized eggs.

Now let’s take a look at the current state of politics. In Hebrew, the Holy Tongue, the word “state” (?????) is of feminine gender, as is the word “kingdom” (?????) the feminine sefirah of the ten sefirot. In general, politics is associated with the sefirah of kingdom and is thus considered to have a feminine nature. As for modern democratic politics, the feminine gender is most appropriate, because democracy means that the ruling party is no more than the sum total of its voters. The leaders are expected to take the entire population into consideration and reflect all their varying self-interests and differing opinions while merely offering a stable framework in which everyone can live relatively peacefully with everyone else. Under such circumstances, however strong and stable the ruling power may be, and however controlling and enterprising it may be, by definition, a democratic state remains in a feminine condition and merely sets the borders in which the population can survive.

In general, the rectification of this minimalistic situation can be achieved by appointing a king. A king is a true leader who has the power and the initiative to set goals and achieve them, uniting with his kingdom to bring about dynamic, fertile results. In Kabbalistic terminology, this refers to the union between the feminine sefirah of kingdom and the male aspect of Zeir Anpin. Practically speaking, the king reflects not only what there is in reality but he also takes a firm stand, planning a well-defined strategy by which to achieve his goals. This type of royal leadership is a tool that is able to implement the Torah in practice, and allows us to realize our covenant with God, who commands reality and elevates it. This is the task of the righteous king who leads reality to its consummation. In contrast, as long as the kingdom is entirely feminine and receiving, with no male energy to invigorate it, like an egg, it will remain sterile and static, unable to bring new life into the world.

The main teaching of the Zohar is that the feminine sefirah of kingdom will eventually be fertilized by her husband, the persona of Zeir Anpin, thereby uniting the Almighty (referred to as, Kedsha Brich Hu) with the Divine Presence. Separating the sefirah of kingdom from her rightful spouse, and thus promoting her husbandless state is considered a fundamental sin and a flaw referred to as, “cutting down the sprouts.” The ultimate goal is to achieve a union between the King and His kingdom.

Our association between the current state of politics and a chicken coop should now be obvious: a hen without a rooster can indeed lay many eggs when she is warmed by the earth or by her fellow hens in a hot and crowded coop, but these eggs are always sterile and no chick will ever hatch from them. They are even of inferior quality for edible purposes. This is the condition of politics today, in which the only vital energy available is that of the lowest aspect of reality or by the friction created between the various political factions. In this way, democracy is able to lay many eggs that can be eaten but this is actually a sterile state of existence that can never cultivate new life. Like much of modern reality, eggs produced under such conditions are “virtual” eggs that are born but can never give birth. Even if there is a blood-spot in the egg, it is not life-giving blood. When you taste such an egg, you feel that something vital is missing.

Rectified reality is the produce of the union of the male and female aspects, as in any healthy family. Any woman who lives alone, with only herself and her girl-friends for companionship is not only missing something vitally important in her life but is actually in a very detrimental moral state of affairs, similar to that of the ancient Egyptian lifestyle, which the Torah has forbidden us to duplicate.[5]

This is one of the important differences between sanctity and kelipot (the shells of impurity that surround reality): in sanctity, fruition is always the result of a union between male and female, whereas in the kelipot there is a state of “virtual” self-pollination, that does not bear true fruit.

This idea is explained in Chassidut with reference to the verse, “The wrapped [sheep] are for Laban [representing the kelipot] and the connected [sheep] are for Jacob [representing sanctity].” In sanctity there is a state of connection and communication, whereas in the impure shells there is a tendency to curl up in one’s own wool to warm up.

Finding the Lost Gardener

In his story, “The Seven Beggars,” Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes, “There is a country where there is a garden and in that garden there were fruit that had all the different flavors in the world and all sorts of aromas in the world and all the different colors and flowers in the world – all in the same garden. There was a gardener who was responsible for the garden and all the people of the country lived a good life because of the garden. But the gardener went missing and everything in the garden should have certainly been ruined, because there was no gardener responsible for the garden any longer. Nonetheless, the people were still able to survive from the natural growth of the garden.”

In our case, the garden is a parable for the current state of politics, which desperately needs a gardener to tend to its needs. As a garden needs a devoted gardener, so too a kingdom needs a dedicated king so that the people of the country can indeed live “a good life.” Without a gardener the garden is unable to revitalize itself and bear fertile fruit and its becomes inevitable. Like an unfertilized egg, even if the natural growth of fruit is able to sustain the population, the dynamic vitality of real, fertile fruit is lacking.

Yet Rabbi Nachman’s story continues to describe how the missing gardener is actually wandering around amongst us, although people think that he is just a crazy lunatic. Then they finally recognize him and identify him, “Suddenly a commotion arose, could it be that this crazy man wandering around is actually the gardener?! They went and brought him… and I said, ‘This is certainly the true gardener.”

As long as people surrender to the state of politics as it is, without understanding that it needs rectification, the gardener can never be recognized, even if he is wandering around among us, we just think that he is crazy…. The way to find the gardener is by never despairing of rectification. We need to be aware of the disadvantages of the current situation, while remembering all the while that the situation demands rectification.

We have seen that if there is a rooster in the vicinity of the hen, even sixty houses away, even if she needs to cross a flimsy bridge over a river, she prefers the attention of a male bird to warming herself on the ground. In addition, even when no male is present forcing the hen to warm itself on the earth, the hen retains its natural instinct to lay eggs during the day and continues to behave as if her eggs are fertile. Returning to our use of the egg as a metaphor for kingdom, this means that the reality of the lower worlds that manifests in politics still nurtures an inner expectancy that the male redeemer will soon come, even when there is currently no male energy available.

Even though today’s eggs are unfertilized, most authorities are still of the opinion that an egg with a blood spot should be discarded. If we contemplate this notion from a more profound perspective we can explain that this means that we never despair of finding a real, fertilized egg.

In a whimsical mood, we could say that the rectification of the “chicken coop” (???) can be found in the phrase, “Were it not for Your Torah being my amusement, I would be lost in my poverty” (???? ????? ?????? ?? ????? ?????). In the words of King David, this verse expresses the fact that even in the poverty of exile, we are not prepared to substitute our the feeling of wondrous joy we get from God’s Torah for anything less and our only hope is in “Your Torah.” The hen is not prepared to separate from her mate, nor is she prepared to be satisfied by the superficial achievement of laying infertile eggs and brooding on them without them ever hatching.

This fact infuses us with hope that the current political state, which we have likened to an modern, artificial chicken coop, can be rectified. Just as the hen instinctively knows her origin and continues to prefer fertilization by a rooster, so it is too with the public today. Even though the current democratic trend turns its back on the idea of a royal redeemer and makes believe that it can be warmed by its own energy, nonetheless, we still retain a point that has never given up on the hope that we can escape from the closed coop in which not even one male is present, and eventually meet a real rooster.

The Hebrew word for “rooster” (??????) has a numerical value of 689, which is equal to the phrase, “the Eternal one of Israel [will neither deceive nor revoke His decision]” (??? ?????). The equality suggests that just as King Saul’s reign was replaced by that of King David’s when the former betrayed his duty to observe God’s commandment to wipe out the nation of Amalek, so too, if democracy, the current ruling power, cannot fulfill its purpose, in its place will rise a true king from the dynasty of King David.

Bringing all these different metaphors together, this means that when the gardener returns to the garden, and the kingdom connects to the king, then the “hen” will no longer be warmed by the earth but will warm the earth herself. The appointed king will bring all of reality back to God, by giving birth to a generation of righteous offspring – fertilized eggs that will hatch into winged chicks, the warmhearted Jews who the Ba’al Shem Tov wished to see; Jews who are devoted to God and draw their energies only from Him.

A Chicken Marriage

Regarding the best time for marital relations, the Talmud states,

The sages taught, “Any creature that procreates by day is born by day; any creature that procreates at night is born at night; any creature that procreates by day and by night, is born by day or by night.’ ‘Any creature that procreates by day is born by day’ refers to a chicken. ‘Every creature that procreates by night is born at night’ refers to a bat. ‘Any creature that procreates by day and by night’ refers to humans and others like them.”

Although humans procreate by day and by night, in general, the most modest time is actually at night. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and his wife were naked yet felt no shame, marital union during the day was permissible. After their sin, when the evil inclination took hold and infused man with sexual desire, marital union in sanctity should only be in a dark, closed room. In this case, we see that the chicken’s propagation during the day indicates the rectification of Adam and Eve’s sin.

We have already mentioned that the connection between God and the Jewish people is like a marital relationship, however, under the current circumstances, their union is not overtly visible, conducted as it is in the darkness of exile’s night. Yet, when the daylight of redemption arrives, the loving relationship between God and the Jewish people will be open for all to see.

According to the sages, the rooster, who placates the hen before procreation, bears an example from which men should learn proper marital conduct.[6] In Hebrew, a rooster is also called gever, one of four synonyms for “man.” We should all learn from the rooster who wakes up at day break and announces that the time for procreation has arrived, and as we see the dawn, announce the same, for all to hear clearly, that the rectification of the current chicken-coop politics lies in the Jewish people’s uniting with God in marital union in broad daylight, without any misgivings. “And God will be for you a light forever,” when the Jewish nation becomes “a light unto the nations.”

On the night of Passover, as we celebrate our redemption from the straits of Egypt, there are two symbols of redemption on the Seder plate: a chicken wing, to commemorate how God redeemed us with an outstretched arm, and an egg, which is called a beiya (????) in Aramaic and is conjugate to the word ba’a (???), meaning “desire”. Together, the chicken wing and the egg symbolize God’s desire to redeem us with an outstretched arm.

May we soon merit the ultimate state of redemption and a rectified state of God’s kingdom on earth, as represented by a fertile chicken egg.

Notes

[1] In modern egg farms, there are lights on all day and all night, to encourage the hens to lay more frequently.

[2]  In organic egg farms, the hens roam around freely and there are usually a few roosters present.

[3] Every Jewish town must have a Rabbi, corresponding to wisdom, and a shochet, a ritual slaughterer, corresponding to understanding.

[4] Within the persona of zeir anpin there are two other relatively male sefirot, beauty and foundation, both of which lie on the central line. These two sefirot can unite with the female aspect of kingdom and each of them is represented in the Talmud by the expression that corresponds to one of the applications of buying eggs: one said, “Who has eggs laid by a live hen to sell?” and one said, “Who has fertilized eggs? Who has fertilized eggs?” When referring to fertilized eggs the request is repeated, indicating that there are two different possible types of fertilized eggs within zeir anpin, those that are fertilized by the sefirah of beauty and those that are fertilized by the sefirah of foundation.

[5] See Maimonides, Issurei Biyah, 21:8.

[6] Eiruvin, 100b.

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, cialis 40mg “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and structure (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

Four Types of Eggs in the Talmud

Four different types of egg are mentioned in the Talmud,
and they each have a different status in Jewish law. The four types belong to two different groups: 1) eggs that were laid by a hen and 2) eggs that were found inside a slaughtered chicken. The Talmud explains that no chicks will hatch from the latter type of egg, seek and if by mistake someone paid for the eggs with the intention of hatching them, for sale
he is entitled to a full refund. But if someone asked for eggs that had been laid by a live hen, but was given eggs from a slaughtered chicken, if his intention was to eat the eggs and not to hatch them, then he is not entitled to a full refund but can only claim the difference in price between the two types of egg, because laid eggs are also of superior quality for eating. The second classification depends on whether the eggs were fertilized by a rooster (the Talmud calls such eggs, “eggs of the male”) or whether they were produced by the hens without the presence of a male, merely by the hen warming its body against the earth. Obviously, no chicks will hatch from an unfertilized egg, which means that there are two conditions necessary for an egg to hatch: it must be from a fertilized egg and must also be laid by a live hen. The law in the case of fertilized or unfertilized eggs is the same as the abovementioned law regarding eggs laid by a live hen and eggs found in a slaughtered chicken, and like eggs laid by a live hen, fertilized eggs are considered to be better for eating.

The Talmud continues to explain that fertilized eggs are only laid by day, because chickens only procreate by day and there is a rule that “any creature that propagates by day is born by day.” Nonetheless, unfertilized eggs may be laid by night, although they too are usually laid by day.[1] When there is a rooster present, the rule is that the hen’s eggs are considered fertilized, as long as the rooster is no more than sixty houses away and no river separates between them (unless there is a bridge across it, even a flimsy one).

This Talmudic discussion is all relevant to the law of an egg that was laid on Yom Tov, a festival, which in general, may not be eaten or moved until the festival is over. However, if the egg was discovered while it was still dark, and there is a rooster in the vicinity, then one is allowed to eat it because it was obviously laid the previous day, before nightfall when the festival began.

Another relevant factor that is deduced from the classification of eggs in this way regards the law concerning an egg in which a blood-spot is found. If a blood-spot is found in an unfertilized egg, the egg may be eaten once the blood has been discarded, because the blood is obviously not a sign that a chick is being formed. This is true of eggs produced on modern egg farms where the hens are enclosed in coops where no roosters at all are present; consequentially, they are all unfertilized.[2]

Four Types of Egg in Kabbalah

God’s Essential Name, Havayah, and its four letters (yud-hei-vav-hei) provide us with one of the most basic structures for contemplating ideas. Given a classification system like the one of the four different types of eggs discussed in Jewish law, we can deepen our understanding of it and the relationship between its elements, if we are able to correctly identify and build a correspondence between them and the letters of Havayah. This same correspondence can also shed new light on our understanding of God’s Name.

In Kabbalah, the four letters of Havayah are first and foremost related to the sefirot. The correspondence between the four letters and the sefirot provides us with an essential base upon which to base our new correspondence.

In this case, the letter yud of God’s Name, which represents the sefirah of wisdom, the Father Principle (Aba), corresponds to an egg laid by a live hen. Wisdom is the source of vitality, as the verse states, “wisdom vitalizes its possessors,” and “they will die, but not in wisdom.”

An egg discovered in a slaughtered chicken corresponds to the upper hei of God’s Name, representing the sefirah of understanding, the Mother Principle (Ima). Finding the egg inside its mother is clearly representative of this level, but the act of slaughtering also corresponds to understanding.[3]

A fertilized egg corresponds to the vav of God’s Name, which represents the 6 sefirot from chesed (loving-kindness) to yesod (foundation), associated with the Small Countenance (Zeir Anpin), the male aspect that is born of the union between the father and the mother, just as this type of egg is an “egg of the male.” Another reason why this type of egg corresponds to the vav, which has a numerical value of 6, is because the hen follows the rooster a distance of 60 houses, which relates to each of the six emotive powers that are represented by the vav of God’s Name, when they all mature to include ten sefirot of their own.[4]

Unfertilized eggs correspond to the lower hei of God’s Name and to the sefirah of kingdom. The sefirah of kingdom is the feminine persona (Nukva of Zeir Anpin) and also corresponds to the earth. In this case, the hen (corresponding to the feminine persona) was warmed by the earth and therefore this egg corresponds in particular to the sefirah of kingdom.

As mentioned above, in order for chicks to hatch from the eggs, the eggs must be both fertilized and laid by a live hen. This indicates the connection between wisdom (the yud of God’s Name) and Zeir Anpin (the vav of God’s Name), the two male persona as in the Kabbalistic conundrum, “What is his name [referring to wisdom, the Father Principle] and what is his son’s name [referring to Zeir Anpin].” As we saw, the contribution of the males is not only in regard to the eggs fertilization but also in regard to its quality as food. In contrast, the feminine persona, the eggs of the slaughtered chicken and the unfertilized eggs that were warmed by the earth, have no ability to hatch chicks at all and even though the eggs are edible, they are not of such a good quality as those that correspond to the male persona.

To summarize:

?

yud

wisdom

egg laid by a live hen

?

hei

understanding

egg found in slaughtered chicken

?

vav

zeir anpin; the six emotive powers

egg fertilized by male bird within a distance of sixty houses

?

hei

kingdom

unfertilized egg produced by the hen when she is warmed by the earth

A Political Egg

In Hebrew, hakbalah, from the same root as Kabbalah, means “a parallel” and studying Kabbalah is indeed based on drawing parallels. We can learn much about the world by recognizing the parallel structures in reality and drawing analogies between them. For instance, from the above correspondence concerning different types of eggs, we can learn something important about… politics. In fact, modern egg farms reflect the current political trends, as we shall see.

First, let’s take note of the unique quality of an egg in general. The egg is an intermediary stage in the procreation process that is not apparent in mammals. Yet it can either herald the termination of the process if it is an unfertilized egg, or, if the egg is fertilized, it could be a transition stage that continues to develop until the chick forms and hatches. A fertilized egg can only be produced when there is interaction between a rooster and a hen and the Talmud refers to them as, “eggs of the male.” Without the rooster, the hen, by warming herself against the earth, is only capable of producing unfertilized eggs that although edible, will never hatch. From this perspective, one could define unfertilized eggs as “artificial eggs” as reflected by the fact that they are considered inferior to fertilized eggs for eating purposes. As mentioned, in the modern egg-farming industry, eggs meant for consumption are all unfertilized eggs.

Now let’s take a look at the current state of politics. In Hebrew, the Holy Tongue, the word “state” (?????) is of feminine gender, as is the word “kingdom” (?????) the feminine sefirah of the ten sefirot. In general, politics is associated with the sefirah of kingdom and is thus considered to have a feminine nature. As for modern democratic politics, the feminine gender is most appropriate, because democracy means that the ruling party is no more than the sum total of its voters. The leaders are expected to take the entire population into consideration and reflect all their varying self-interests and differing opinions while merely offering a stable framework in which everyone can live relatively peacefully with everyone else. Under such circumstances, however strong and stable the ruling power may be, and however controlling and enterprising it may be, by definition, a democratic state remains in a feminine condition and merely sets the borders in which the population can survive.

In general, the rectification of this minimalistic situation can be achieved by appointing a king. A king is a true leader who has the power and the initiative to set goals and achieve them, uniting with his kingdom to bring about dynamic, fertile results. In Kabbalistic terminology, this refers to the union between the feminine sefirah of kingdom and the male aspect of Zeir Anpin. Practically speaking, the king reflects not only what there is in reality but he also takes a firm stand, planning a well-defined strategy by which to achieve his goals. This type of royal leadership is a tool that is able to implement the Torah in practice, and allows us to realize our covenant with God, who commands reality and elevates it. This is the task of the righteous king who leads reality to its consummation. In contrast, as long as the kingdom is entirely feminine and receiving, with no male energy to invigorate it, like an egg, it will remain sterile and static, unable to bring new life into the world.

The main teaching of the Zohar is that the feminine sefirah of kingdom will eventually be fertilized by her husband, the persona of Zeir Anpin, thereby uniting the Almighty (referred to as, Kedsha Brich Hu) with the Divine Presence. Separating the sefirah of kingdom from her rightful spouse, and thus promoting her husbandless state is considered a fundamental sin and a flaw referred to as, “cutting down the sprouts.” The ultimate goal is to achieve a union between the King and His kingdom.

Our association between the current state of politics and a chicken coop should now be obvious: a hen without a rooster can indeed lay many eggs when she is warmed by the earth or by her fellow hens in a hot and crowded coop, but these eggs are always sterile and no chick will ever hatch from them. They are even of inferior quality for edible purposes. This is the condition of politics today, in which the only vital energy available is that of the lowest aspect of reality or by the friction created between the various political factions. In this way, democracy is able to lay many eggs that can be eaten but this is actually a sterile state of existence that can never cultivate new life. Like much of modern reality, eggs produced under such conditions are “virtual” eggs that are born but can never give birth. Even if there is a blood-spot in the egg, it is not life-giving blood. When you taste such an egg, you feel that something vital is missing.

Rectified reality is the produce of the union of the male and female aspects, as in any healthy family. Any woman who lives alone, with only herself and her girl-friends for companionship is not only missing something vitally important in her life but is actually in a very detrimental moral state of affairs, similar to that of the ancient Egyptian lifestyle, which the Torah has forbidden us to duplicate.[5]

This is one of the important differences between sanctity and kelipot (the shells of impurity that surround reality): in sanctity, fruition is always the result of a union between male and female, whereas in the kelipot there is a state of “virtual” self-pollination, that does not bear true fruit.

This idea is explained in Chassidut with reference to the verse, “The wrapped [sheep] are for Laban [representing the kelipot] and the connected [sheep] are for Jacob [representing sanctity].” In sanctity there is a state of connection and communication, whereas in the impure shells there is a tendency to curl up in one’s own wool to warm up.

Finding the Lost Gardener

In his story, “The Seven Beggars,” Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes, “There is a country where there is a garden and in that garden there were fruit that had all the different flavors in the world and all sorts of aromas in the world and all the different colors and flowers in the world – all in the same garden. There was a gardener who was responsible for the garden and all the people of the country lived a good life because of the garden. But the gardener went missing and everything in the garden should have certainly been ruined, because there was no gardener responsible for the garden any longer. Nonetheless, the people were still able to survive from the natural growth of the garden.”

In our case, the garden is a parable for the current state of politics, which desperately needs a gardener to tend to its needs. As a garden needs a devoted gardener, so too a kingdom needs a dedicated king so that the people of the country can indeed live “a good life.” Without a gardener the garden is unable to revitalize itself and bear fertile fruit and its becomes inevitable. Like an unfertilized egg, even if the natural growth of fruit is able to sustain the population, the dynamic vitality of real, fertile fruit is lacking.

Yet Rabbi Nachman’s story continues to describe how the missing gardener is actually wandering around amongst us, although people think that he is just a crazy lunatic. Then they finally recognize him and identify him, “Suddenly a commotion arose, could it be that this crazy man wandering around is actually the gardener?! They went and brought him… and I said, ‘This is certainly the true gardener.”

As long as people surrender to the state of politics as it is, without understanding that it needs rectification, the gardener can never be recognized, even if he is wandering around among us, we just think that he is crazy…. The way to find the gardener is by never despairing of rectification. We need to be aware of the disadvantages of the current situation, while remembering all the while that the situation demands rectification.

We have seen that if there is a rooster in the vicinity of the hen, even sixty houses away, even if she needs to cross a flimsy bridge over a river, she prefers the attention of a male bird to warming herself on the ground. In addition, even when no male is present forcing the hen to warm itself on the earth, the hen retains its natural instinct to lay eggs during the day and continues to behave as if her eggs are fertile. Returning to our use of the egg as a metaphor for kingdom, this means that the reality of the lower worlds that manifests in politics still nurtures an inner expectancy that the male redeemer will soon come, even when there is currently no male energy available.

Even though today’s eggs are unfertilized, most authorities are still of the opinion that an egg with a blood spot should be discarded. If we contemplate this notion from a more profound perspective we can explain that this means that we never despair of finding a real, fertilized egg.

In a whimsical mood, we could say that the rectification of the “chicken coop” (???) can be found in the phrase, “Were it not for Your Torah being my amusement, I would be lost in my poverty” (???? ????? ?????? ?? ????? ?????). In the words of King David, this verse expresses the fact that even in the poverty of exile, we are not prepared to substitute our the feeling of wondrous joy we get from God’s Torah for anything less and our only hope is in “Your Torah.” The hen is not prepared to separate from her mate, nor is she prepared to be satisfied by the superficial achievement of laying infertile eggs and brooding on them without them ever hatching.

This fact infuses us with hope that the current political state, which we have likened to an modern, artificial chicken coop, can be rectified. Just as the hen instinctively knows her origin and continues to prefer fertilization by a rooster, so it is too with the public today. Even though the current democratic trend turns its back on the idea of a royal redeemer and makes believe that it can be warmed by its own energy, nonetheless, we still retain a point that has never given up on the hope that we can escape from the closed coop in which not even one male is present, and eventually meet a real rooster.

The Hebrew word for “rooster” (??????) has a numerical value of 689, which is equal to the phrase, “the Eternal one of Israel [will neither deceive nor revoke His decision]” (??? ?????). The equality suggests that just as King Saul’s reign was replaced by that of King David’s when the former betrayed his duty to observe God’s commandment to wipe out the nation of Amalek, so too, if democracy, the current ruling power, cannot fulfill its purpose, in its place will rise a true king from the dynasty of King David.

Bringing all these different metaphors together, this means that when the gardener returns to the garden, and the kingdom connects to the king, then the “hen” will no longer be warmed by the earth but will warm the earth herself. The appointed king will bring all of reality back to God, by giving birth to a generation of righteous offspring – fertilized eggs that will hatch into winged chicks, the warmhearted Jews who the Ba’al Shem Tov wished to see; Jews who are devoted to God and draw their energies only from Him.

A Chicken Marriage

Regarding the best time for marital relations, the Talmud states,

The sages taught, “Any creature that procreates by day is born by day; any creature that procreates at night is born at night; any creature that procreates by day and by night, is born by day or by night.’ ‘Any creature that procreates by day is born by day’ refers to a chicken. ‘Every creature that procreates by night is born at night’ refers to a bat. ‘Any creature that procreates by day and by night’ refers to humans and others like them.”

Although humans procreate by day and by night, in general, the most modest time is actually at night. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and his wife were naked yet felt no shame, marital union during the day was permissible. After their sin, when the evil inclination took hold and infused man with sexual desire, marital union in sanctity should only be in a dark, closed room. In this case, we see that the chicken’s propagation during the day indicates the rectification of Adam and Eve’s sin.

We have already mentioned that the connection between God and the Jewish people is like a marital relationship, however, under the current circumstances, their union is not overtly visible, conducted as it is in the darkness of exile’s night. Yet, when the daylight of redemption arrives, the loving relationship between God and the Jewish people will be open for all to see.

According to the sages, the rooster, who placates the hen before procreation, bears an example from which men should learn proper marital conduct.[6] In Hebrew, a rooster is also called gever, one of four synonyms for “man.” We should all learn from the rooster who wakes up at day break and announces that the time for procreation has arrived, and as we see the dawn, announce the same, for all to hear clearly, that the rectification of the current chicken-coop politics lies in the Jewish people’s uniting with God in marital union in broad daylight, without any misgivings. “And God will be for you a light forever,” when the Jewish nation becomes “a light unto the nations.”

On the night of Passover, as we celebrate our redemption from the straits of Egypt, there are two symbols of redemption on the Seder plate: a chicken wing, to commemorate how God redeemed us with an outstretched arm, and an egg, which is called a beiya (????) in Aramaic and is conjugate to the word ba’a (???), meaning “desire”. Together, the chicken wing and the egg symbolize God’s desire to redeem us with an outstretched arm.

May we soon merit the ultimate state of redemption and a rectified state of God’s kingdom on earth, as represented by a fertile chicken egg.

Notes

[1] In modern egg farms, there are lights on all day and all night, to encourage the hens to lay more frequently.

[2]  In organic egg farms, the hens roam around freely and there are usually a few roosters present.

[3] Every Jewish town must have a Rabbi, corresponding to wisdom, and a shochet, a ritual slaughterer, corresponding to understanding.

[4] Within the persona of zeir anpin there are two other relatively male sefirot, beauty and foundation, both of which lie on the central line. These two sefirot can unite with the female aspect of kingdom and each of them is represented in the Talmud by the expression that corresponds to one of the applications of buying eggs: one said, “Who has eggs laid by a live hen to sell?” and one said, “Who has fertilized eggs? Who has fertilized eggs?” When referring to fertilized eggs the request is repeated, indicating that there are two different possible types of fertilized eggs within zeir anpin, those that are fertilized by the sefirah of beauty and those that are fertilized by the sefirah of foundation.

[5] See Maimonides, Issurei Biyah, 21:8.

[6] Eiruvin, 100b.

Four Types of Eggs in the Talmud

Four different types of egg are mentioned in the Talmud, viagra and they each have a different status in Jewish law. The four types belong to two different groups: 1) eggs that were laid by a hen and 2) eggs that were found inside a slaughtered chicken. The Talmud explains that no chicks will hatch from the latter type of egg, and if by mistake someone paid for the eggs with the intention of hatching them, he is entitled to a full refund. But if someone asked for eggs that had been laid by a live hen, but was given eggs from a slaughtered chicken, if his intention was to eat the eggs and not to hatch them, then he is not entitled to a full refund but can only claim the difference in price between the two types of egg, because laid eggs are also of superior quality for eating. The second classification depends on whether the eggs were fertilized by a rooster (the Talmud calls such eggs, “eggs of the male”) or whether they were produced by the hens without the presence of a male, merely by the hen warming its body against the earth. Obviously, no chicks will hatch from an unfertilized egg, which means that there are two conditions necessary for an egg to hatch: it must be from a fertilized egg and must also be laid by a live hen. The law in the case of fertilized or unfertilized eggs is the same as the abovementioned law regarding eggs laid by a live hen and eggs found in a slaughtered chicken, and like eggs laid by a live hen, fertilized eggs are considered to be better for eating.

The Talmud continues to explain that fertilized eggs are only laid by day, because chickens only procreate by day and there is a rule that “any creature that propagates by day is born by day.” Nonetheless, unfertilized eggs may be laid by night, although they too are usually laid by day.[1] When there is a rooster present, the rule is that the hen’s eggs are considered fertilized, as long as the rooster is no more than sixty houses away and no river separates between them (unless there is a bridge across it, even a flimsy one).

This Talmudic discussion is all relevant to the law of an egg that was laid on Yom Tov, a festival, which in general, may not be eaten or moved until the festival is over. However, if the egg was discovered while it was still dark, and there is a rooster in the vicinity, then one is allowed to eat it because it was obviously laid the previous day, before nightfall when the festival began.

Another relevant factor that is deduced from the classification of eggs in this way regards the law concerning an egg in which a blood-spot is found. If a blood-spot is found in an unfertilized egg, the egg may be eaten once the blood has been discarded, because the blood is obviously not a sign that a chick is being formed. This is true of eggs produced on modern egg farms where the hens are enclosed in coops where no roosters at all are present; consequentially, they are all unfertilized.[2]

Four Types of Egg in Kabbalah

God’s Essential Name, Havayah, and its four letters (yud-hei-vav-hei) provide us with one of the most basic structures for contemplating ideas. Given a classification system like the one of the four different types of eggs discussed in Jewish law, we can deepen our understanding of it and the relationship between its elements, if we are able to correctly identify and build a correspondence between them and the letters of Havayah. This same correspondence can also shed new light on our understanding of God’s Name.

In Kabbalah, the four letters of Havayah are first and foremost related to the sefirot. The correspondence between the four letters and the sefirot provides us with an essential base upon which to base our new correspondence.

In this case, the letter yud of God’s Name, which represents the sefirah of wisdom, the Father Principle (Aba), corresponds to an egg laid by a live hen. Wisdom is the source of vitality, as the verse states, “wisdom vitalizes its possessors,” and “they will die, but not in wisdom.”

An egg discovered in a slaughtered chicken corresponds to the upper hei of God’s Name, representing the sefirah of understanding, the Mother Principle (Ima). Finding the egg inside its mother is clearly representative of this level, but the act of slaughtering also corresponds to understanding.[3]

A fertilized egg corresponds to the vav of God’s Name, which represents the 6 sefirot from chesed (loving-kindness) to yesod (foundation), associated with the Small Countenance (Zeir Anpin), the male aspect that is born of the union between the father and the mother, just as this type of egg is an “egg of the male.” Another reason why this type of egg corresponds to the vav, which has a numerical value of 6, is because the hen follows the rooster a distance of 60 houses, which relates to each of the six emotive powers that are represented by the vav of God’s Name, when they all mature to include ten sefirot of their own.[4]

Unfertilized eggs correspond to the lower hei of God’s Name and to the sefirah of kingdom. The sefirah of kingdom is the feminine persona (Nukva of Zeir Anpin) and also corresponds to the earth. In this case, the hen (corresponding to the feminine persona) was warmed by the earth and therefore this egg corresponds in particular to the sefirah of kingdom.

As mentioned above, in order for chicks to hatch from the eggs, the eggs must be both fertilized and laid by a live hen. This indicates the connection between wisdom (the yud of God’s Name) and Zeir Anpin (the vav of God’s Name), the two male persona as in the Kabbalistic conundrum, “What is his name [referring to wisdom, the Father Principle] and what is his son’s name [referring to Zeir Anpin].” As we saw, the contribution of the males is not only in regard to the eggs fertilization but also in regard to its quality as food. In contrast, the feminine persona, the eggs of the slaughtered chicken and the unfertilized eggs that were warmed by the earth, have no ability to hatch chicks at all and even though the eggs are edible, they are not of such a good quality as those that correspond to the male persona.

To summarize:

?

yud

wisdom

egg laid by a live hen

?

hei

understanding

egg found in slaughtered chicken

?

vav

zeir anpin; the six emotive powers

egg fertilized by male bird within a distance of sixty houses

?

hei

kingdom

unfertilized egg produced by the hen when she is warmed by the earth

A Political Egg

In Hebrew, hakbalah, from the same root as Kabbalah, means “a parallel” and studying Kabbalah is indeed based on drawing parallels. We can learn much about the world by recognizing the parallel structures in reality and drawing analogies between them. For instance, from the above correspondence concerning different types of eggs, we can learn something important about… politics. In fact, modern egg farms reflect the current political trends, as we shall see.

First, let’s take note of the unique quality of an egg in general. The egg is an intermediary stage in the procreation process that is not apparent in mammals. Yet it can either herald the termination of the process if it is an unfertilized egg, or, if the egg is fertilized, it could be a transition stage that continues to develop until the chick forms and hatches. A fertilized egg can only be produced when there is interaction between a rooster and a hen and the Talmud refers to them as, “eggs of the male.” Without the rooster, the hen, by warming herself against the earth, is only capable of producing unfertilized eggs that although edible, will never hatch. From this perspective, one could define unfertilized eggs as “artificial eggs” as reflected by the fact that they are considered inferior to fertilized eggs for eating purposes. As mentioned, in the modern egg-farming industry, eggs meant for consumption are all unfertilized eggs.

Now let’s take a look at the current state of politics. In Hebrew, the Holy Tongue, the word “state” (?????) is of feminine gender, as is the word “kingdom” (?????) the feminine sefirah of the ten sefirot. In general, politics is associated with the sefirah of kingdom and is thus considered to have a feminine nature. As for modern democratic politics, the feminine gender is most appropriate, because democracy means that the ruling party is no more than the sum total of its voters. The leaders are expected to take the entire population into consideration and reflect all their varying self-interests and differing opinions while merely offering a stable framework in which everyone can live relatively peacefully with everyone else. Under such circumstances, however strong and stable the ruling power may be, and however controlling and enterprising it may be, by definition, a democratic state remains in a feminine condition and merely sets the borders in which the population can survive.

In general, the rectification of this minimalistic situation can be achieved by appointing a king. A king is a true leader who has the power and the initiative to set goals and achieve them, uniting with his kingdom to bring about dynamic, fertile results. In Kabbalistic terminology, this refers to the union between the feminine sefirah of kingdom and the male aspect of Zeir Anpin. Practically speaking, the king reflects not only what there is in reality but he also takes a firm stand, planning a well-defined strategy by which to achieve his goals. This type of royal leadership is a tool that is able to implement the Torah in practice, and allows us to realize our covenant with God, who commands reality and elevates it. This is the task of the righteous king who leads reality to its consummation. In contrast, as long as the kingdom is entirely feminine and receiving, with no male energy to invigorate it, like an egg, it will remain sterile and static, unable to bring new life into the world.

The main teaching of the Zohar is that the feminine sefirah of kingdom will eventually be fertilized by her husband, the persona of Zeir Anpin, thereby uniting the Almighty (referred to as, Kedsha Brich Hu) with the Divine Presence. Separating the sefirah of kingdom from her rightful spouse, and thus promoting her husbandless state is considered a fundamental sin and a flaw referred to as, “cutting down the sprouts.” The ultimate goal is to achieve a union between the King and His kingdom.

Our association between the current state of politics and a chicken coop should now be obvious: a hen without a rooster can indeed lay many eggs when she is warmed by the earth or by her fellow hens in a hot and crowded coop, but these eggs are always sterile and no chick will ever hatch from them. They are even of inferior quality for edible purposes. This is the condition of politics today, in which the only vital energy available is that of the lowest aspect of reality or by the friction created between the various political factions. In this way, democracy is able to lay many eggs that can be eaten but this is actually a sterile state of existence that can never cultivate new life. Like much of modern reality, eggs produced under such conditions are “virtual” eggs that are born but can never give birth. Even if there is a blood-spot in the egg, it is not life-giving blood. When you taste such an egg, you feel that something vital is missing.

Rectified reality is the produce of the union of the male and female aspects, as in any healthy family. Any woman who lives alone, with only herself and her girl-friends for companionship is not only missing something vitally important in her life but is actually in a very detrimental moral state of affairs, similar to that of the ancient Egyptian lifestyle, which the Torah has forbidden us to duplicate.[5]

This is one of the important differences between sanctity and kelipot (the shells of impurity that surround reality): in sanctity, fruition is always the result of a union between male and female, whereas in the kelipot there is a state of “virtual” self-pollination, that does not bear true fruit.

This idea is explained in Chassidut with reference to the verse, “The wrapped [sheep] are for Laban [representing the kelipot] and the connected [sheep] are for Jacob [representing sanctity].” In sanctity there is a state of connection and communication, whereas in the impure shells there is a tendency to curl up in one’s own wool to warm up.

Finding the Lost Gardener

In his story, “The Seven Beggars,” Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes, “There is a country where there is a garden and in that garden there were fruit that had all the different flavors in the world and all sorts of aromas in the world and all the different colors and flowers in the world – all in the same garden. There was a gardener who was responsible for the garden and all the people of the country lived a good life because of the garden. But the gardener went missing and everything in the garden should have certainly been ruined, because there was no gardener responsible for the garden any longer. Nonetheless, the people were still able to survive from the natural growth of the garden.”

In our case, the garden is a parable for the current state of politics, which desperately needs a gardener to tend to its needs. As a garden needs a devoted gardener, so too a kingdom needs a dedicated king so that the people of the country can indeed live “a good life.” Without a gardener the garden is unable to revitalize itself and bear fertile fruit and its becomes inevitable. Like an unfertilized egg, even if the natural growth of fruit is able to sustain the population, the dynamic vitality of real, fertile fruit is lacking.

Yet Rabbi Nachman’s story continues to describe how the missing gardener is actually wandering around amongst us, although people think that he is just a crazy lunatic. Then they finally recognize him and identify him, “Suddenly a commotion arose, could it be that this crazy man wandering around is actually the gardener?! They went and brought him… and I said, ‘This is certainly the true gardener.”

As long as people surrender to the state of politics as it is, without understanding that it needs rectification, the gardener can never be recognized, even if he is wandering around among us, we just think that he is crazy…. The way to find the gardener is by never despairing of rectification. We need to be aware of the disadvantages of the current situation, while remembering all the while that the situation demands rectification.

We have seen that if there is a rooster in the vicinity of the hen, even sixty houses away, even if she needs to cross a flimsy bridge over a river, she prefers the attention of a male bird to warming herself on the ground. In addition, even when no male is present forcing the hen to warm itself on the earth, the hen retains its natural instinct to lay eggs during the day and continues to behave as if her eggs are fertile. Returning to our use of the egg as a metaphor for kingdom, this means that the reality of the lower worlds that manifests in politics still nurtures an inner expectancy that the male redeemer will soon come, even when there is currently no male energy available.

Even though today’s eggs are unfertilized, most authorities are still of the opinion that an egg with a blood spot should be discarded. If we contemplate this notion from a more profound perspective we can explain that this means that we never despair of finding a real, fertilized egg.

In a whimsical mood, we could say that the rectification of the “chicken coop” (???) can be found in the phrase, “Were it not for Your Torah being my amusement, I would be lost in my poverty” (???? ????? ?????? ?? ????? ?????). In the words of King David, this verse expresses the fact that even in the poverty of exile, we are not prepared to substitute our the feeling of wondrous joy we get from God’s Torah for anything less and our only hope is in “Your Torah.” The hen is not prepared to separate from her mate, nor is she prepared to be satisfied by the superficial achievement of laying infertile eggs and brooding on them without them ever hatching.

This fact infuses us with hope that the current political state, which we have likened to an modern, artificial chicken coop, can be rectified. Just as the hen instinctively knows her origin and continues to prefer fertilization by a rooster, so it is too with the public today. Even though the current democratic trend turns its back on the idea of a royal redeemer and makes believe that it can be warmed by its own energy, nonetheless, we still retain a point that has never given up on the hope that we can escape from the closed coop in which not even one male is present, and eventually meet a real rooster.

The Hebrew word for “rooster” (??????) has a numerical value of 689, which is equal to the phrase, “the Eternal one of Israel [will neither deceive nor revoke His decision]” (??? ?????). The equality suggests that just as King Saul’s reign was replaced by that of King David’s when the former betrayed his duty to observe God’s commandment to wipe out the nation of Amalek, so too, if democracy, the current ruling power, cannot fulfill its purpose, in its place will rise a true king from the dynasty of King David.

Bringing all these different metaphors together, this means that when the gardener returns to the garden, and the kingdom connects to the king, then the “hen” will no longer be warmed by the earth but will warm the earth herself. The appointed king will bring all of reality back to God, by giving birth to a generation of righteous offspring – fertilized eggs that will hatch into winged chicks, the warmhearted Jews who the Ba’al Shem Tov wished to see; Jews who are devoted to God and draw their energies only from Him.

A Chicken Marriage

Regarding the best time for marital relations, the Talmud states,

The sages taught, “Any creature that procreates by day is born by day; any creature that procreates at night is born at night; any creature that procreates by day and by night, is born by day or by night.’ ‘Any creature that procreates by day is born by day’ refers to a chicken. ‘Every creature that procreates by night is born at night’ refers to a bat. ‘Any creature that procreates by day and by night’ refers to humans and others like them.”

Although humans procreate by day and by night, in general, the most modest time is actually at night. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and his wife were naked yet felt no shame, marital union during the day was permissible. After their sin, when the evil inclination took hold and infused man with sexual desire, marital union in sanctity should only be in a dark, closed room. In this case, we see that the chicken’s propagation during the day indicates the rectification of Adam and Eve’s sin.

We have already mentioned that the connection between God and the Jewish people is like a marital relationship, however, under the current circumstances, their union is not overtly visible, conducted as it is in the darkness of exile’s night. Yet, when the daylight of redemption arrives, the loving relationship between God and the Jewish people will be open for all to see.

According to the sages, the rooster, who placates the hen before procreation, bears an example from which men should learn proper marital conduct.[6] In Hebrew, a rooster is also called gever, one of four synonyms for “man.” We should all learn from the rooster who wakes up at day break and announces that the time for procreation has arrived, and as we see the dawn, announce the same, for all to hear clearly, that the rectification of the current chicken-coop politics lies in the Jewish people’s uniting with God in marital union in broad daylight, without any misgivings. “And God will be for you a light forever,” when the Jewish nation becomes “a light unto the nations.”

On the night of Passover, as we celebrate our redemption from the straits of Egypt, there are two symbols of redemption on the Seder plate: a chicken wing, to commemorate how God redeemed us with an outstretched arm, and an egg, which is called a beiya (????) in Aramaic and is conjugate to the word ba’a (???), meaning “desire”. Together, the chicken wing and the egg symbolize God’s desire to redeem us with an outstretched arm.

May we soon merit the ultimate state of redemption and a rectified state of God’s kingdom on earth, as represented by a fertile chicken egg.

Notes

[1] In modern egg farms, there are lights on all day and all night, to encourage the hens to lay more frequently.

[2]  In organic egg farms, the hens roam around freely and there are usually a few roosters present.

[3] Every Jewish town must have a Rabbi, corresponding to wisdom, and a shochet, a ritual slaughterer, corresponding to understanding.

[4] Within the persona of zeir anpin there are two other relatively male sefirot, beauty and foundation, both of which lie on the central line. These two sefirot can unite with the female aspect of kingdom and each of them is represented in the Talmud by the expression that corresponds to one of the applications of buying eggs: one said, “Who has eggs laid by a live hen to sell?” and one said, “Who has fertilized eggs? Who has fertilized eggs?” When referring to fertilized eggs the request is repeated, indicating that there are two different possible types of fertilized eggs within zeir anpin, those that are fertilized by the sefirah of beauty and those that are fertilized by the sefirah of foundation.

[5] See Maimonides, Issurei Biyah, 21:8.

[6] Eiruvin, 100b.

Four Types of Eggs in the Talmud

Four different types of egg are mentioned in the Talmud, hospital and they each have a different status in Jewish law. The four types belong to two different groups: 1) eggs that were laid by a hen and 2) eggs that were found inside a slaughtered chicken. The Talmud explains that no chicks will hatch from the latter type of egg, cure and if by mistake someone paid for the eggs with the intention of hatching them, nurse he is entitled to a full refund. But if someone asked for eggs that had been laid by a live hen, but was given eggs from a slaughtered chicken, if his intention was to eat the eggs and not to hatch them, then he is not entitled to a full refund but can only claim the difference in price between the two types of egg, because laid eggs are also of superior quality for eating. The second classification depends on whether the eggs were fertilized by a rooster (the Talmud calls such eggs, “eggs of the male”) or whether they were produced by the hens without the presence of a male, merely by the hen warming its body against the earth. Obviously, no chicks will hatch from an unfertilized egg, which means that there are two conditions necessary for an egg to hatch: it must be from a fertilized egg and must also be laid by a live hen. The law in the case of fertilized or unfertilized eggs is the same as the abovementioned law regarding eggs laid by a live hen and eggs found in a slaughtered chicken, and like eggs laid by a live hen, fertilized eggs are considered to be better for eating.

The Talmud continues to explain that fertilized eggs are only laid by day, because chickens only procreate by day and there is a rule that “any creature that propagates by day is born by day.” Nonetheless, unfertilized eggs may be laid by night, although they too are usually laid by day.[1] When there is a rooster present, the rule is that the hen’s eggs are considered fertilized, as long as the rooster is no more than sixty houses away and no river separates between them (unless there is a bridge across it, even a flimsy one).

This Talmudic discussion is all relevant to the law of an egg that was laid on Yom Tov, a festival, which in general, may not be eaten or moved until the festival is over. However, if the egg was discovered while it was still dark, and there is a rooster in the vicinity, then one is allowed to eat it because it was obviously laid the previous day, before nightfall when the festival began.

Another relevant factor that is deduced from the classification of eggs in this way regards the law concerning an egg in which a blood-spot is found. If a blood-spot is found in an unfertilized egg, the egg may be eaten once the blood has been discarded, because the blood is obviously not a sign that a chick is being formed. This is true of eggs produced on modern egg farms where the hens are enclosed in coops where no roosters at all are present; consequentially, they are all unfertilized.[2]

Four Types of Egg in Kabbalah

God’s Essential Name, Havayah, and its four letters (yud-hei-vav-hei) provide us with one of the most basic structures for contemplating ideas. Given a classification system like the one of the four different types of eggs discussed in Jewish law, we can deepen our understanding of it and the relationship between its elements, if we are able to correctly identify and build a correspondence between them and the letters of Havayah. This same correspondence can also shed new light on our understanding of God’s Name.

In Kabbalah, the four letters of Havayah are first and foremost related to the sefirot. The correspondence between the four letters and the sefirot provides us with an essential base upon which to base our new correspondence.

In this case, the letter yud of God’s Name, which represents the sefirah of wisdom, the Father Principle (Aba), corresponds to an egg laid by a live hen. Wisdom is the source of vitality, as the verse states, “wisdom vitalizes its possessors,” and “they will die, but not in wisdom.”

An egg discovered in a slaughtered chicken corresponds to the upper hei of God’s Name, representing the sefirah of understanding, the Mother Principle (Ima). Finding the egg inside its mother is clearly representative of this level, but the act of slaughtering also corresponds to understanding.[3]

A fertilized egg corresponds to the vav of God’s Name, which represents the 6 sefirot from chesed (loving-kindness) to yesod (foundation), associated with the Small Countenance (Zeir Anpin), the male aspect that is born of the union between the father and the mother, just as this type of egg is an “egg of the male.” Another reason why this type of egg corresponds to the vav, which has a numerical value of 6, is because the hen follows the rooster a distance of 60 houses, which relates to each of the six emotive powers that are represented by the vav of God’s Name, when they all mature to include ten sefirot of their own.[4]

Unfertilized eggs correspond to the lower hei of God’s Name and to the sefirah of kingdom. The sefirah of kingdom is the feminine persona (Nukva of Zeir Anpin) and also corresponds to the earth. In this case, the hen (corresponding to the feminine persona) was warmed by the earth and therefore this egg corresponds in particular to the sefirah of kingdom.

As mentioned above, in order for chicks to hatch from the eggs, the eggs must be both fertilized and laid by a live hen. This indicates the connection between wisdom (the yud of God’s Name) and Zeir Anpin (the vav of God’s Name), the two male persona as in the Kabbalistic conundrum, “What is his name [referring to wisdom, the Father Principle] and what is his son’s name [referring to Zeir Anpin].” As we saw, the contribution of the males is not only in regard to the eggs fertilization but also in regard to its quality as food. In contrast, the feminine persona, the eggs of the slaughtered chicken and the unfertilized eggs that were warmed by the earth, have no ability to hatch chicks at all and even though the eggs are edible, they are not of such a good quality as those that correspond to the male persona.

To summarize:

?

yud

wisdom

egg laid by a live hen

?

hei

understanding

egg found in slaughtered chicken

?

vav

zeir anpin; the six emotive powers

egg fertilized by male bird within a distance of sixty houses

?

hei

kingdom

unfertilized egg produced by the hen when she is warmed by the earth

A Political Egg

In Hebrew, hakbalah, from the same root as Kabbalah, means “a parallel” and studying Kabbalah is indeed based on drawing parallels. We can learn much about the world by recognizing the parallel structures in reality and drawing analogies between them. For instance, from the above correspondence concerning different types of eggs, we can learn something important about… politics. In fact, modern egg farms reflect the current political trends, as we shall see.

First, let’s take note of the unique quality of an egg in general. The egg is an intermediary stage in the procreation process that is not apparent in mammals. Yet it can either herald the termination of the process if it is an unfertilized egg, or, if the egg is fertilized, it could be a transition stage that continues to develop until the chick forms and hatches. A fertilized egg can only be produced when there is interaction between a rooster and a hen and the Talmud refers to them as, “eggs of the male.” Without the rooster, the hen, by warming herself against the earth, is only capable of producing unfertilized eggs that although edible, will never hatch. From this perspective, one could define unfertilized eggs as “artificial eggs” as reflected by the fact that they are considered inferior to fertilized eggs for eating purposes. As mentioned, in the modern egg-farming industry, eggs meant for consumption are all unfertilized eggs.

Now let’s take a look at the current state of politics. In Hebrew, the Holy Tongue, the word “state” (?????) is of feminine gender, as is the word “kingdom” (?????) the feminine sefirah of the ten sefirot. In general, politics is associated with the sefirah of kingdom and is thus considered to have a feminine nature. As for modern democratic politics, the feminine gender is most appropriate, because democracy means that the ruling party is no more than the sum total of its voters. The leaders are expected to take the entire population into consideration and reflect all their varying self-interests and differing opinions while merely offering a stable framework in which everyone can live relatively peacefully with everyone else. Under such circumstances, however strong and stable the ruling power may be, and however controlling and enterprising it may be, by definition, a democratic state remains in a feminine condition and merely sets the borders in which the population can survive.

In general, the rectification of this minimalistic situation can be achieved by appointing a king. A king is a true leader who has the power and the initiative to set goals and achieve them, uniting with his kingdom to bring about dynamic, fertile results. In Kabbalistic terminology, this refers to the union between the feminine sefirah of kingdom and the male aspect of Zeir Anpin. Practically speaking, the king reflects not only what there is in reality but he also takes a firm stand, planning a well-defined strategy by which to achieve his goals. This type of royal leadership is a tool that is able to implement the Torah in practice, and allows us to realize our covenant with God, who commands reality and elevates it. This is the task of the righteous king who leads reality to its consummation. In contrast, as long as the kingdom is entirely feminine and receiving, with no male energy to invigorate it, like an egg, it will remain sterile and static, unable to bring new life into the world.

The main teaching of the Zohar is that the feminine sefirah of kingdom will eventually be fertilized by her husband, the persona of Zeir Anpin, thereby uniting the Almighty (referred to as, Kedsha Brich Hu) with the Divine Presence. Separating the sefirah of kingdom from her rightful spouse, and thus promoting her husbandless state is considered a fundamental sin and a flaw referred to as, “cutting down the sprouts.” The ultimate goal is to achieve a union between the King and His kingdom.

Our association between the current state of politics and a chicken coop should now be obvious: a hen without a rooster can indeed lay many eggs when she is warmed by the earth or by her fellow hens in a hot and crowded coop, but these eggs are always sterile and no chick will ever hatch from them. They are even of inferior quality for edible purposes. This is the condition of politics today, in which the only vital energy available is that of the lowest aspect of reality or by the friction created between the various political factions. In this way, democracy is able to lay many eggs that can be eaten but this is actually a sterile state of existence that can never cultivate new life. Like much of modern reality, eggs produced under such conditions are “virtual” eggs that are born but can never give birth. Even if there is a blood-spot in the egg, it is not life-giving blood. When you taste such an egg, you feel that something vital is missing.

Rectified reality is the produce of the union of the male and female aspects, as in any healthy family. Any woman who lives alone, with only herself and her girl-friends for companionship is not only missing something vitally important in her life but is actually in a very detrimental moral state of affairs, similar to that of the ancient Egyptian lifestyle, which the Torah has forbidden us to duplicate.[5]

This is one of the important differences between sanctity and kelipot (the shells of impurity that surround reality): in sanctity, fruition is always the result of a union between male and female, whereas in the kelipot there is a state of “virtual” self-pollination, that does not bear true fruit.

This idea is explained in Chassidut with reference to the verse, “The wrapped [sheep] are for Laban [representing the kelipot] and the connected [sheep] are for Jacob [representing sanctity].” In sanctity there is a state of connection and communication, whereas in the impure shells there is a tendency to curl up in one’s own wool to warm up.

Finding the Lost Gardener

In his story, “The Seven Beggars,” Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes, “There is a country where there is a garden and in that garden there were fruit that had all the different flavors in the world and all sorts of aromas in the world and all the different colors and flowers in the world – all in the same garden. There was a gardener who was responsible for the garden and all the people of the country lived a good life because of the garden. But the gardener went missing and everything in the garden should have certainly been ruined, because there was no gardener responsible for the garden any longer. Nonetheless, the people were still able to survive from the natural growth of the garden.”

In our case, the garden is a parable for the current state of politics, which desperately needs a gardener to tend to its needs. As a garden needs a devoted gardener, so too a kingdom needs a dedicated king so that the people of the country can indeed live “a good life.” Without a gardener the garden is unable to revitalize itself and bear fertile fruit and its becomes inevitable. Like an unfertilized egg, even if the natural growth of fruit is able to sustain the population, the dynamic vitality of real, fertile fruit is lacking.

Yet Rabbi Nachman’s story continues to describe how the missing gardener is actually wandering around amongst us, although people think that he is just a crazy lunatic. Then they finally recognize him and identify him, “Suddenly a commotion arose, could it be that this crazy man wandering around is actually the gardener?! They went and brought him… and I said, ‘This is certainly the true gardener.”

As long as people surrender to the state of politics as it is, without understanding that it needs rectification, the gardener can never be recognized, even if he is wandering around among us, we just think that he is crazy…. The way to find the gardener is by never despairing of rectification. We need to be aware of the disadvantages of the current situation, while remembering all the while that the situation demands rectification.

We have seen that if there is a rooster in the vicinity of the hen, even sixty houses away, even if she needs to cross a flimsy bridge over a river, she prefers the attention of a male bird to warming herself on the ground. In addition, even when no male is present forcing the hen to warm itself on the earth, the hen retains its natural instinct to lay eggs during the day and continues to behave as if her eggs are fertile. Returning to our use of the egg as a metaphor for kingdom, this means that the reality of the lower worlds that manifests in politics still nurtures an inner expectancy that the male redeemer will soon come, even when there is currently no male energy available.

Even though today’s eggs are unfertilized, most authorities are still of the opinion that an egg with a blood spot should be discarded. If we contemplate this notion from a more profound perspective we can explain that this means that we never despair of finding a real, fertilized egg.

In a whimsical mood, we could say that the rectification of the “chicken coop” (???) can be found in the phrase, “Were it not for Your Torah being my amusement, I would be lost in my poverty” (???? ????? ?????? ?? ????? ?????). In the words of King David, this verse expresses the fact that even in the poverty of exile, we are not prepared to substitute our the feeling of wondrous joy we get from God’s Torah for anything less and our only hope is in “Your Torah.” The hen is not prepared to separate from her mate, nor is she prepared to be satisfied by the superficial achievement of laying infertile eggs and brooding on them without them ever hatching.

This fact infuses us with hope that the current political state, which we have likened to an modern, artificial chicken coop, can be rectified. Just as the hen instinctively knows her origin and continues to prefer fertilization by a rooster, so it is too with the public today. Even though the current democratic trend turns its back on the idea of a royal redeemer and makes believe that it can be warmed by its own energy, nonetheless, we still retain a point that has never given up on the hope that we can escape from the closed coop in which not even one male is present, and eventually meet a real rooster.

The Hebrew word for “rooster” (??????) has a numerical value of 689, which is equal to the phrase, “the Eternal one of Israel [will neither deceive nor revoke His decision]” (??? ?????). The equality suggests that just as King Saul’s reign was replaced by that of King David’s when the former betrayed his duty to observe God’s commandment to wipe out the nation of Amalek, so too, if democracy, the current ruling power, cannot fulfill its purpose, in its place will rise a true king from the dynasty of King David.

Bringing all these different metaphors together, this means that when the gardener returns to the garden, and the kingdom connects to the king, then the “hen” will no longer be warmed by the earth but will warm the earth herself. The appointed king will bring all of reality back to God, by giving birth to a generation of righteous offspring – fertilized eggs that will hatch into winged chicks, the warmhearted Jews who the Ba’al Shem Tov wished to see; Jews who are devoted to God and draw their energies only from Him.

A Chicken Marriage

Regarding the best time for marital relations, the Talmud states,

The sages taught, “Any creature that procreates by day is born by day; any creature that procreates at night is born at night; any creature that procreates by day and by night, is born by day or by night.’ ‘Any creature that procreates by day is born by day’ refers to a chicken. ‘Every creature that procreates by night is born at night’ refers to a bat. ‘Any creature that procreates by day and by night’ refers to humans and others like them.”

Although humans procreate by day and by night, in general, the most modest time is actually at night. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and his wife were naked yet felt no shame, marital union during the day was permissible. After their sin, when the evil inclination took hold and infused man with sexual desire, marital union in sanctity should only be in a dark, closed room. In this case, we see that the chicken’s propagation during the day indicates the rectification of Adam and Eve’s sin.

We have already mentioned that the connection between God and the Jewish people is like a marital relationship, however, under the current circumstances, their union is not overtly visible, conducted as it is in the darkness of exile’s night. Yet, when the daylight of redemption arrives, the loving relationship between God and the Jewish people will be open for all to see.

According to the sages, the rooster, who placates the hen before procreation, bears an example from which men should learn proper marital conduct.[6] In Hebrew, a rooster is also called gever, one of four synonyms for “man.” We should all learn from the rooster who wakes up at day break and announces that the time for procreation has arrived, and as we see the dawn, announce the same, for all to hear clearly, that the rectification of the current chicken-coop politics lies in the Jewish people’s uniting with God in marital union in broad daylight, without any misgivings. “And God will be for you a light forever,” when the Jewish nation becomes “a light unto the nations.”

On the night of Passover, as we celebrate our redemption from the straits of Egypt, there are two symbols of redemption on the Seder plate: a chicken wing, to commemorate how God redeemed us with an outstretched arm, and an egg, which is called a beiya (????) in Aramaic and is conjugate to the word ba’a (???), meaning “desire”. Together, the chicken wing and the egg symbolize God’s desire to redeem us with an outstretched arm.

May we soon merit the ultimate state of redemption and a rectified state of God’s kingdom on earth, as represented by a fertile chicken egg.

Notes

[1] In modern egg farms, there are lights on all day and all night, to encourage the hens to lay more frequently.

[2]  In organic egg farms, the hens roam around freely and there are usually a few roosters present.

[3] Every Jewish town must have a Rabbi, corresponding to wisdom, and a shochet, a ritual slaughterer, corresponding to understanding.

[4] Within the persona of zeir anpin there are two other relatively male sefirot, beauty and foundation, both of which lie on the central line. These two sefirot can unite with the female aspect of kingdom and each of them is represented in the Talmud by the expression that corresponds to one of the applications of buying eggs: one said, “Who has eggs laid by a live hen to sell?” and one said, “Who has fertilized eggs? Who has fertilized eggs?” When referring to fertilized eggs the request is repeated, indicating that there are two different possible types of fertilized eggs within zeir anpin, those that are fertilized by the sefirah of beauty and those that are fertilized by the sefirah of foundation.

[5] See Maimonides, Issurei Biyah, 21:8.

[6] Eiruvin, 100b.

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, cialis 40mg “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and structure (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

Four Types of Eggs in the Talmud

Four different types of egg are mentioned in the Talmud,
and they each have a different status in Jewish law. The four types belong to two different groups: 1) eggs that were laid by a hen and 2) eggs that were found inside a slaughtered chicken. The Talmud explains that no chicks will hatch from the latter type of egg, seek and if by mistake someone paid for the eggs with the intention of hatching them, for sale
he is entitled to a full refund. But if someone asked for eggs that had been laid by a live hen, but was given eggs from a slaughtered chicken, if his intention was to eat the eggs and not to hatch them, then he is not entitled to a full refund but can only claim the difference in price between the two types of egg, because laid eggs are also of superior quality for eating. The second classification depends on whether the eggs were fertilized by a rooster (the Talmud calls such eggs, “eggs of the male”) or whether they were produced by the hens without the presence of a male, merely by the hen warming its body against the earth. Obviously, no chicks will hatch from an unfertilized egg, which means that there are two conditions necessary for an egg to hatch: it must be from a fertilized egg and must also be laid by a live hen. The law in the case of fertilized or unfertilized eggs is the same as the abovementioned law regarding eggs laid by a live hen and eggs found in a slaughtered chicken, and like eggs laid by a live hen, fertilized eggs are considered to be better for eating.

The Talmud continues to explain that fertilized eggs are only laid by day, because chickens only procreate by day and there is a rule that “any creature that propagates by day is born by day.” Nonetheless, unfertilized eggs may be laid by night, although they too are usually laid by day.[1] When there is a rooster present, the rule is that the hen’s eggs are considered fertilized, as long as the rooster is no more than sixty houses away and no river separates between them (unless there is a bridge across it, even a flimsy one).

This Talmudic discussion is all relevant to the law of an egg that was laid on Yom Tov, a festival, which in general, may not be eaten or moved until the festival is over. However, if the egg was discovered while it was still dark, and there is a rooster in the vicinity, then one is allowed to eat it because it was obviously laid the previous day, before nightfall when the festival began.

Another relevant factor that is deduced from the classification of eggs in this way regards the law concerning an egg in which a blood-spot is found. If a blood-spot is found in an unfertilized egg, the egg may be eaten once the blood has been discarded, because the blood is obviously not a sign that a chick is being formed. This is true of eggs produced on modern egg farms where the hens are enclosed in coops where no roosters at all are present; consequentially, they are all unfertilized.[2]

Four Types of Egg in Kabbalah

God’s Essential Name, Havayah, and its four letters (yud-hei-vav-hei) provide us with one of the most basic structures for contemplating ideas. Given a classification system like the one of the four different types of eggs discussed in Jewish law, we can deepen our understanding of it and the relationship between its elements, if we are able to correctly identify and build a correspondence between them and the letters of Havayah. This same correspondence can also shed new light on our understanding of God’s Name.

In Kabbalah, the four letters of Havayah are first and foremost related to the sefirot. The correspondence between the four letters and the sefirot provides us with an essential base upon which to base our new correspondence.

In this case, the letter yud of God’s Name, which represents the sefirah of wisdom, the Father Principle (Aba), corresponds to an egg laid by a live hen. Wisdom is the source of vitality, as the verse states, “wisdom vitalizes its possessors,” and “they will die, but not in wisdom.”

An egg discovered in a slaughtered chicken corresponds to the upper hei of God’s Name, representing the sefirah of understanding, the Mother Principle (Ima). Finding the egg inside its mother is clearly representative of this level, but the act of slaughtering also corresponds to understanding.[3]

A fertilized egg corresponds to the vav of God’s Name, which represents the 6 sefirot from chesed (loving-kindness) to yesod (foundation), associated with the Small Countenance (Zeir Anpin), the male aspect that is born of the union between the father and the mother, just as this type of egg is an “egg of the male.” Another reason why this type of egg corresponds to the vav, which has a numerical value of 6, is because the hen follows the rooster a distance of 60 houses, which relates to each of the six emotive powers that are represented by the vav of God’s Name, when they all mature to include ten sefirot of their own.[4]

Unfertilized eggs correspond to the lower hei of God’s Name and to the sefirah of kingdom. The sefirah of kingdom is the feminine persona (Nukva of Zeir Anpin) and also corresponds to the earth. In this case, the hen (corresponding to the feminine persona) was warmed by the earth and therefore this egg corresponds in particular to the sefirah of kingdom.

As mentioned above, in order for chicks to hatch from the eggs, the eggs must be both fertilized and laid by a live hen. This indicates the connection between wisdom (the yud of God’s Name) and Zeir Anpin (the vav of God’s Name), the two male persona as in the Kabbalistic conundrum, “What is his name [referring to wisdom, the Father Principle] and what is his son’s name [referring to Zeir Anpin].” As we saw, the contribution of the males is not only in regard to the eggs fertilization but also in regard to its quality as food. In contrast, the feminine persona, the eggs of the slaughtered chicken and the unfertilized eggs that were warmed by the earth, have no ability to hatch chicks at all and even though the eggs are edible, they are not of such a good quality as those that correspond to the male persona.

To summarize:

?

yud

wisdom

egg laid by a live hen

?

hei

understanding

egg found in slaughtered chicken

?

vav

zeir anpin; the six emotive powers

egg fertilized by male bird within a distance of sixty houses

?

hei

kingdom

unfertilized egg produced by the hen when she is warmed by the earth

A Political Egg

In Hebrew, hakbalah, from the same root as Kabbalah, means “a parallel” and studying Kabbalah is indeed based on drawing parallels. We can learn much about the world by recognizing the parallel structures in reality and drawing analogies between them. For instance, from the above correspondence concerning different types of eggs, we can learn something important about… politics. In fact, modern egg farms reflect the current political trends, as we shall see.

First, let’s take note of the unique quality of an egg in general. The egg is an intermediary stage in the procreation process that is not apparent in mammals. Yet it can either herald the termination of the process if it is an unfertilized egg, or, if the egg is fertilized, it could be a transition stage that continues to develop until the chick forms and hatches. A fertilized egg can only be produced when there is interaction between a rooster and a hen and the Talmud refers to them as, “eggs of the male.” Without the rooster, the hen, by warming herself against the earth, is only capable of producing unfertilized eggs that although edible, will never hatch. From this perspective, one could define unfertilized eggs as “artificial eggs” as reflected by the fact that they are considered inferior to fertilized eggs for eating purposes. As mentioned, in the modern egg-farming industry, eggs meant for consumption are all unfertilized eggs.

Now let’s take a look at the current state of politics. In Hebrew, the Holy Tongue, the word “state” (?????) is of feminine gender, as is the word “kingdom” (?????) the feminine sefirah of the ten sefirot. In general, politics is associated with the sefirah of kingdom and is thus considered to have a feminine nature. As for modern democratic politics, the feminine gender is most appropriate, because democracy means that the ruling party is no more than the sum total of its voters. The leaders are expected to take the entire population into consideration and reflect all their varying self-interests and differing opinions while merely offering a stable framework in which everyone can live relatively peacefully with everyone else. Under such circumstances, however strong and stable the ruling power may be, and however controlling and enterprising it may be, by definition, a democratic state remains in a feminine condition and merely sets the borders in which the population can survive.

In general, the rectification of this minimalistic situation can be achieved by appointing a king. A king is a true leader who has the power and the initiative to set goals and achieve them, uniting with his kingdom to bring about dynamic, fertile results. In Kabbalistic terminology, this refers to the union between the feminine sefirah of kingdom and the male aspect of Zeir Anpin. Practically speaking, the king reflects not only what there is in reality but he also takes a firm stand, planning a well-defined strategy by which to achieve his goals. This type of royal leadership is a tool that is able to implement the Torah in practice, and allows us to realize our covenant with God, who commands reality and elevates it. This is the task of the righteous king who leads reality to its consummation. In contrast, as long as the kingdom is entirely feminine and receiving, with no male energy to invigorate it, like an egg, it will remain sterile and static, unable to bring new life into the world.

The main teaching of the Zohar is that the feminine sefirah of kingdom will eventually be fertilized by her husband, the persona of Zeir Anpin, thereby uniting the Almighty (referred to as, Kedsha Brich Hu) with the Divine Presence. Separating the sefirah of kingdom from her rightful spouse, and thus promoting her husbandless state is considered a fundamental sin and a flaw referred to as, “cutting down the sprouts.” The ultimate goal is to achieve a union between the King and His kingdom.

Our association between the current state of politics and a chicken coop should now be obvious: a hen without a rooster can indeed lay many eggs when she is warmed by the earth or by her fellow hens in a hot and crowded coop, but these eggs are always sterile and no chick will ever hatch from them. They are even of inferior quality for edible purposes. This is the condition of politics today, in which the only vital energy available is that of the lowest aspect of reality or by the friction created between the various political factions. In this way, democracy is able to lay many eggs that can be eaten but this is actually a sterile state of existence that can never cultivate new life. Like much of modern reality, eggs produced under such conditions are “virtual” eggs that are born but can never give birth. Even if there is a blood-spot in the egg, it is not life-giving blood. When you taste such an egg, you feel that something vital is missing.

Rectified reality is the produce of the union of the male and female aspects, as in any healthy family. Any woman who lives alone, with only herself and her girl-friends for companionship is not only missing something vitally important in her life but is actually in a very detrimental moral state of affairs, similar to that of the ancient Egyptian lifestyle, which the Torah has forbidden us to duplicate.[5]

This is one of the important differences between sanctity and kelipot (the shells of impurity that surround reality): in sanctity, fruition is always the result of a union between male and female, whereas in the kelipot there is a state of “virtual” self-pollination, that does not bear true fruit.

This idea is explained in Chassidut with reference to the verse, “The wrapped [sheep] are for Laban [representing the kelipot] and the connected [sheep] are for Jacob [representing sanctity].” In sanctity there is a state of connection and communication, whereas in the impure shells there is a tendency to curl up in one’s own wool to warm up.

Finding the Lost Gardener

In his story, “The Seven Beggars,” Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes, “There is a country where there is a garden and in that garden there were fruit that had all the different flavors in the world and all sorts of aromas in the world and all the different colors and flowers in the world – all in the same garden. There was a gardener who was responsible for the garden and all the people of the country lived a good life because of the garden. But the gardener went missing and everything in the garden should have certainly been ruined, because there was no gardener responsible for the garden any longer. Nonetheless, the people were still able to survive from the natural growth of the garden.”

In our case, the garden is a parable for the current state of politics, which desperately needs a gardener to tend to its needs. As a garden needs a devoted gardener, so too a kingdom needs a dedicated king so that the people of the country can indeed live “a good life.” Without a gardener the garden is unable to revitalize itself and bear fertile fruit and its becomes inevitable. Like an unfertilized egg, even if the natural growth of fruit is able to sustain the population, the dynamic vitality of real, fertile fruit is lacking.

Yet Rabbi Nachman’s story continues to describe how the missing gardener is actually wandering around amongst us, although people think that he is just a crazy lunatic. Then they finally recognize him and identify him, “Suddenly a commotion arose, could it be that this crazy man wandering around is actually the gardener?! They went and brought him… and I said, ‘This is certainly the true gardener.”

As long as people surrender to the state of politics as it is, without understanding that it needs rectification, the gardener can never be recognized, even if he is wandering around among us, we just think that he is crazy…. The way to find the gardener is by never despairing of rectification. We need to be aware of the disadvantages of the current situation, while remembering all the while that the situation demands rectification.

We have seen that if there is a rooster in the vicinity of the hen, even sixty houses away, even if she needs to cross a flimsy bridge over a river, she prefers the attention of a male bird to warming herself on the ground. In addition, even when no male is present forcing the hen to warm itself on the earth, the hen retains its natural instinct to lay eggs during the day and continues to behave as if her eggs are fertile. Returning to our use of the egg as a metaphor for kingdom, this means that the reality of the lower worlds that manifests in politics still nurtures an inner expectancy that the male redeemer will soon come, even when there is currently no male energy available.

Even though today’s eggs are unfertilized, most authorities are still of the opinion that an egg with a blood spot should be discarded. If we contemplate this notion from a more profound perspective we can explain that this means that we never despair of finding a real, fertilized egg.

In a whimsical mood, we could say that the rectification of the “chicken coop” (???) can be found in the phrase, “Were it not for Your Torah being my amusement, I would be lost in my poverty” (???? ????? ?????? ?? ????? ?????). In the words of King David, this verse expresses the fact that even in the poverty of exile, we are not prepared to substitute our the feeling of wondrous joy we get from God’s Torah for anything less and our only hope is in “Your Torah.” The hen is not prepared to separate from her mate, nor is she prepared to be satisfied by the superficial achievement of laying infertile eggs and brooding on them without them ever hatching.

This fact infuses us with hope that the current political state, which we have likened to an modern, artificial chicken coop, can be rectified. Just as the hen instinctively knows her origin and continues to prefer fertilization by a rooster, so it is too with the public today. Even though the current democratic trend turns its back on the idea of a royal redeemer and makes believe that it can be warmed by its own energy, nonetheless, we still retain a point that has never given up on the hope that we can escape from the closed coop in which not even one male is present, and eventually meet a real rooster.

The Hebrew word for “rooster” (??????) has a numerical value of 689, which is equal to the phrase, “the Eternal one of Israel [will neither deceive nor revoke His decision]” (??? ?????). The equality suggests that just as King Saul’s reign was replaced by that of King David’s when the former betrayed his duty to observe God’s commandment to wipe out the nation of Amalek, so too, if democracy, the current ruling power, cannot fulfill its purpose, in its place will rise a true king from the dynasty of King David.

Bringing all these different metaphors together, this means that when the gardener returns to the garden, and the kingdom connects to the king, then the “hen” will no longer be warmed by the earth but will warm the earth herself. The appointed king will bring all of reality back to God, by giving birth to a generation of righteous offspring – fertilized eggs that will hatch into winged chicks, the warmhearted Jews who the Ba’al Shem Tov wished to see; Jews who are devoted to God and draw their energies only from Him.

A Chicken Marriage

Regarding the best time for marital relations, the Talmud states,

The sages taught, “Any creature that procreates by day is born by day; any creature that procreates at night is born at night; any creature that procreates by day and by night, is born by day or by night.’ ‘Any creature that procreates by day is born by day’ refers to a chicken. ‘Every creature that procreates by night is born at night’ refers to a bat. ‘Any creature that procreates by day and by night’ refers to humans and others like them.”

Although humans procreate by day and by night, in general, the most modest time is actually at night. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and his wife were naked yet felt no shame, marital union during the day was permissible. After their sin, when the evil inclination took hold and infused man with sexual desire, marital union in sanctity should only be in a dark, closed room. In this case, we see that the chicken’s propagation during the day indicates the rectification of Adam and Eve’s sin.

We have already mentioned that the connection between God and the Jewish people is like a marital relationship, however, under the current circumstances, their union is not overtly visible, conducted as it is in the darkness of exile’s night. Yet, when the daylight of redemption arrives, the loving relationship between God and the Jewish people will be open for all to see.

According to the sages, the rooster, who placates the hen before procreation, bears an example from which men should learn proper marital conduct.[6] In Hebrew, a rooster is also called gever, one of four synonyms for “man.” We should all learn from the rooster who wakes up at day break and announces that the time for procreation has arrived, and as we see the dawn, announce the same, for all to hear clearly, that the rectification of the current chicken-coop politics lies in the Jewish people’s uniting with God in marital union in broad daylight, without any misgivings. “And God will be for you a light forever,” when the Jewish nation becomes “a light unto the nations.”

On the night of Passover, as we celebrate our redemption from the straits of Egypt, there are two symbols of redemption on the Seder plate: a chicken wing, to commemorate how God redeemed us with an outstretched arm, and an egg, which is called a beiya (????) in Aramaic and is conjugate to the word ba’a (???), meaning “desire”. Together, the chicken wing and the egg symbolize God’s desire to redeem us with an outstretched arm.

May we soon merit the ultimate state of redemption and a rectified state of God’s kingdom on earth, as represented by a fertile chicken egg.

Notes

[1] In modern egg farms, there are lights on all day and all night, to encourage the hens to lay more frequently.

[2]  In organic egg farms, the hens roam around freely and there are usually a few roosters present.

[3] Every Jewish town must have a Rabbi, corresponding to wisdom, and a shochet, a ritual slaughterer, corresponding to understanding.

[4] Within the persona of zeir anpin there are two other relatively male sefirot, beauty and foundation, both of which lie on the central line. These two sefirot can unite with the female aspect of kingdom and each of them is represented in the Talmud by the expression that corresponds to one of the applications of buying eggs: one said, “Who has eggs laid by a live hen to sell?” and one said, “Who has fertilized eggs? Who has fertilized eggs?” When referring to fertilized eggs the request is repeated, indicating that there are two different possible types of fertilized eggs within zeir anpin, those that are fertilized by the sefirah of beauty and those that are fertilized by the sefirah of foundation.

[5] See Maimonides, Issurei Biyah, 21:8.

[6] Eiruvin, 100b.

Four Types of Eggs in the Talmud

Four different types of egg are mentioned in the Talmud, viagra and they each have a different status in Jewish law. The four types belong to two different groups: 1) eggs that were laid by a hen and 2) eggs that were found inside a slaughtered chicken. The Talmud explains that no chicks will hatch from the latter type of egg, and if by mistake someone paid for the eggs with the intention of hatching them, he is entitled to a full refund. But if someone asked for eggs that had been laid by a live hen, but was given eggs from a slaughtered chicken, if his intention was to eat the eggs and not to hatch them, then he is not entitled to a full refund but can only claim the difference in price between the two types of egg, because laid eggs are also of superior quality for eating. The second classification depends on whether the eggs were fertilized by a rooster (the Talmud calls such eggs, “eggs of the male”) or whether they were produced by the hens without the presence of a male, merely by the hen warming its body against the earth. Obviously, no chicks will hatch from an unfertilized egg, which means that there are two conditions necessary for an egg to hatch: it must be from a fertilized egg and must also be laid by a live hen. The law in the case of fertilized or unfertilized eggs is the same as the abovementioned law regarding eggs laid by a live hen and eggs found in a slaughtered chicken, and like eggs laid by a live hen, fertilized eggs are considered to be better for eating.

The Talmud continues to explain that fertilized eggs are only laid by day, because chickens only procreate by day and there is a rule that “any creature that propagates by day is born by day.” Nonetheless, unfertilized eggs may be laid by night, although they too are usually laid by day.[1] When there is a rooster present, the rule is that the hen’s eggs are considered fertilized, as long as the rooster is no more than sixty houses away and no river separates between them (unless there is a bridge across it, even a flimsy one).

This Talmudic discussion is all relevant to the law of an egg that was laid on Yom Tov, a festival, which in general, may not be eaten or moved until the festival is over. However, if the egg was discovered while it was still dark, and there is a rooster in the vicinity, then one is allowed to eat it because it was obviously laid the previous day, before nightfall when the festival began.

Another relevant factor that is deduced from the classification of eggs in this way regards the law concerning an egg in which a blood-spot is found. If a blood-spot is found in an unfertilized egg, the egg may be eaten once the blood has been discarded, because the blood is obviously not a sign that a chick is being formed. This is true of eggs produced on modern egg farms where the hens are enclosed in coops where no roosters at all are present; consequentially, they are all unfertilized.[2]

Four Types of Egg in Kabbalah

God’s Essential Name, Havayah, and its four letters (yud-hei-vav-hei) provide us with one of the most basic structures for contemplating ideas. Given a classification system like the one of the four different types of eggs discussed in Jewish law, we can deepen our understanding of it and the relationship between its elements, if we are able to correctly identify and build a correspondence between them and the letters of Havayah. This same correspondence can also shed new light on our understanding of God’s Name.

In Kabbalah, the four letters of Havayah are first and foremost related to the sefirot. The correspondence between the four letters and the sefirot provides us with an essential base upon which to base our new correspondence.

In this case, the letter yud of God’s Name, which represents the sefirah of wisdom, the Father Principle (Aba), corresponds to an egg laid by a live hen. Wisdom is the source of vitality, as the verse states, “wisdom vitalizes its possessors,” and “they will die, but not in wisdom.”

An egg discovered in a slaughtered chicken corresponds to the upper hei of God’s Name, representing the sefirah of understanding, the Mother Principle (Ima). Finding the egg inside its mother is clearly representative of this level, but the act of slaughtering also corresponds to understanding.[3]

A fertilized egg corresponds to the vav of God’s Name, which represents the 6 sefirot from chesed (loving-kindness) to yesod (foundation), associated with the Small Countenance (Zeir Anpin), the male aspect that is born of the union between the father and the mother, just as this type of egg is an “egg of the male.” Another reason why this type of egg corresponds to the vav, which has a numerical value of 6, is because the hen follows the rooster a distance of 60 houses, which relates to each of the six emotive powers that are represented by the vav of God’s Name, when they all mature to include ten sefirot of their own.[4]

Unfertilized eggs correspond to the lower hei of God’s Name and to the sefirah of kingdom. The sefirah of kingdom is the feminine persona (Nukva of Zeir Anpin) and also corresponds to the earth. In this case, the hen (corresponding to the feminine persona) was warmed by the earth and therefore this egg corresponds in particular to the sefirah of kingdom.

As mentioned above, in order for chicks to hatch from the eggs, the eggs must be both fertilized and laid by a live hen. This indicates the connection between wisdom (the yud of God’s Name) and Zeir Anpin (the vav of God’s Name), the two male persona as in the Kabbalistic conundrum, “What is his name [referring to wisdom, the Father Principle] and what is his son’s name [referring to Zeir Anpin].” As we saw, the contribution of the males is not only in regard to the eggs fertilization but also in regard to its quality as food. In contrast, the feminine persona, the eggs of the slaughtered chicken and the unfertilized eggs that were warmed by the earth, have no ability to hatch chicks at all and even though the eggs are edible, they are not of such a good quality as those that correspond to the male persona.

To summarize:

?

yud

wisdom

egg laid by a live hen

?

hei

understanding

egg found in slaughtered chicken

?

vav

zeir anpin; the six emotive powers

egg fertilized by male bird within a distance of sixty houses

?

hei

kingdom

unfertilized egg produced by the hen when she is warmed by the earth

A Political Egg

In Hebrew, hakbalah, from the same root as Kabbalah, means “a parallel” and studying Kabbalah is indeed based on drawing parallels. We can learn much about the world by recognizing the parallel structures in reality and drawing analogies between them. For instance, from the above correspondence concerning different types of eggs, we can learn something important about… politics. In fact, modern egg farms reflect the current political trends, as we shall see.

First, let’s take note of the unique quality of an egg in general. The egg is an intermediary stage in the procreation process that is not apparent in mammals. Yet it can either herald the termination of the process if it is an unfertilized egg, or, if the egg is fertilized, it could be a transition stage that continues to develop until the chick forms and hatches. A fertilized egg can only be produced when there is interaction between a rooster and a hen and the Talmud refers to them as, “eggs of the male.” Without the rooster, the hen, by warming herself against the earth, is only capable of producing unfertilized eggs that although edible, will never hatch. From this perspective, one could define unfertilized eggs as “artificial eggs” as reflected by the fact that they are considered inferior to fertilized eggs for eating purposes. As mentioned, in the modern egg-farming industry, eggs meant for consumption are all unfertilized eggs.

Now let’s take a look at the current state of politics. In Hebrew, the Holy Tongue, the word “state” (?????) is of feminine gender, as is the word “kingdom” (?????) the feminine sefirah of the ten sefirot. In general, politics is associated with the sefirah of kingdom and is thus considered to have a feminine nature. As for modern democratic politics, the feminine gender is most appropriate, because democracy means that the ruling party is no more than the sum total of its voters. The leaders are expected to take the entire population into consideration and reflect all their varying self-interests and differing opinions while merely offering a stable framework in which everyone can live relatively peacefully with everyone else. Under such circumstances, however strong and stable the ruling power may be, and however controlling and enterprising it may be, by definition, a democratic state remains in a feminine condition and merely sets the borders in which the population can survive.

In general, the rectification of this minimalistic situation can be achieved by appointing a king. A king is a true leader who has the power and the initiative to set goals and achieve them, uniting with his kingdom to bring about dynamic, fertile results. In Kabbalistic terminology, this refers to the union between the feminine sefirah of kingdom and the male aspect of Zeir Anpin. Practically speaking, the king reflects not only what there is in reality but he also takes a firm stand, planning a well-defined strategy by which to achieve his goals. This type of royal leadership is a tool that is able to implement the Torah in practice, and allows us to realize our covenant with God, who commands reality and elevates it. This is the task of the righteous king who leads reality to its consummation. In contrast, as long as the kingdom is entirely feminine and receiving, with no male energy to invigorate it, like an egg, it will remain sterile and static, unable to bring new life into the world.

The main teaching of the Zohar is that the feminine sefirah of kingdom will eventually be fertilized by her husband, the persona of Zeir Anpin, thereby uniting the Almighty (referred to as, Kedsha Brich Hu) with the Divine Presence. Separating the sefirah of kingdom from her rightful spouse, and thus promoting her husbandless state is considered a fundamental sin and a flaw referred to as, “cutting down the sprouts.” The ultimate goal is to achieve a union between the King and His kingdom.

Our association between the current state of politics and a chicken coop should now be obvious: a hen without a rooster can indeed lay many eggs when she is warmed by the earth or by her fellow hens in a hot and crowded coop, but these eggs are always sterile and no chick will ever hatch from them. They are even of inferior quality for edible purposes. This is the condition of politics today, in which the only vital energy available is that of the lowest aspect of reality or by the friction created between the various political factions. In this way, democracy is able to lay many eggs that can be eaten but this is actually a sterile state of existence that can never cultivate new life. Like much of modern reality, eggs produced under such conditions are “virtual” eggs that are born but can never give birth. Even if there is a blood-spot in the egg, it is not life-giving blood. When you taste such an egg, you feel that something vital is missing.

Rectified reality is the produce of the union of the male and female aspects, as in any healthy family. Any woman who lives alone, with only herself and her girl-friends for companionship is not only missing something vitally important in her life but is actually in a very detrimental moral state of affairs, similar to that of the ancient Egyptian lifestyle, which the Torah has forbidden us to duplicate.[5]

This is one of the important differences between sanctity and kelipot (the shells of impurity that surround reality): in sanctity, fruition is always the result of a union between male and female, whereas in the kelipot there is a state of “virtual” self-pollination, that does not bear true fruit.

This idea is explained in Chassidut with reference to the verse, “The wrapped [sheep] are for Laban [representing the kelipot] and the connected [sheep] are for Jacob [representing sanctity].” In sanctity there is a state of connection and communication, whereas in the impure shells there is a tendency to curl up in one’s own wool to warm up.

Finding the Lost Gardener

In his story, “The Seven Beggars,” Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes, “There is a country where there is a garden and in that garden there were fruit that had all the different flavors in the world and all sorts of aromas in the world and all the different colors and flowers in the world – all in the same garden. There was a gardener who was responsible for the garden and all the people of the country lived a good life because of the garden. But the gardener went missing and everything in the garden should have certainly been ruined, because there was no gardener responsible for the garden any longer. Nonetheless, the people were still able to survive from the natural growth of the garden.”

In our case, the garden is a parable for the current state of politics, which desperately needs a gardener to tend to its needs. As a garden needs a devoted gardener, so too a kingdom needs a dedicated king so that the people of the country can indeed live “a good life.” Without a gardener the garden is unable to revitalize itself and bear fertile fruit and its becomes inevitable. Like an unfertilized egg, even if the natural growth of fruit is able to sustain the population, the dynamic vitality of real, fertile fruit is lacking.

Yet Rabbi Nachman’s story continues to describe how the missing gardener is actually wandering around amongst us, although people think that he is just a crazy lunatic. Then they finally recognize him and identify him, “Suddenly a commotion arose, could it be that this crazy man wandering around is actually the gardener?! They went and brought him… and I said, ‘This is certainly the true gardener.”

As long as people surrender to the state of politics as it is, without understanding that it needs rectification, the gardener can never be recognized, even if he is wandering around among us, we just think that he is crazy…. The way to find the gardener is by never despairing of rectification. We need to be aware of the disadvantages of the current situation, while remembering all the while that the situation demands rectification.

We have seen that if there is a rooster in the vicinity of the hen, even sixty houses away, even if she needs to cross a flimsy bridge over a river, she prefers the attention of a male bird to warming herself on the ground. In addition, even when no male is present forcing the hen to warm itself on the earth, the hen retains its natural instinct to lay eggs during the day and continues to behave as if her eggs are fertile. Returning to our use of the egg as a metaphor for kingdom, this means that the reality of the lower worlds that manifests in politics still nurtures an inner expectancy that the male redeemer will soon come, even when there is currently no male energy available.

Even though today’s eggs are unfertilized, most authorities are still of the opinion that an egg with a blood spot should be discarded. If we contemplate this notion from a more profound perspective we can explain that this means that we never despair of finding a real, fertilized egg.

In a whimsical mood, we could say that the rectification of the “chicken coop” (???) can be found in the phrase, “Were it not for Your Torah being my amusement, I would be lost in my poverty” (???? ????? ?????? ?? ????? ?????). In the words of King David, this verse expresses the fact that even in the poverty of exile, we are not prepared to substitute our the feeling of wondrous joy we get from God’s Torah for anything less and our only hope is in “Your Torah.” The hen is not prepared to separate from her mate, nor is she prepared to be satisfied by the superficial achievement of laying infertile eggs and brooding on them without them ever hatching.

This fact infuses us with hope that the current political state, which we have likened to an modern, artificial chicken coop, can be rectified. Just as the hen instinctively knows her origin and continues to prefer fertilization by a rooster, so it is too with the public today. Even though the current democratic trend turns its back on the idea of a royal redeemer and makes believe that it can be warmed by its own energy, nonetheless, we still retain a point that has never given up on the hope that we can escape from the closed coop in which not even one male is present, and eventually meet a real rooster.

The Hebrew word for “rooster” (??????) has a numerical value of 689, which is equal to the phrase, “the Eternal one of Israel [will neither deceive nor revoke His decision]” (??? ?????). The equality suggests that just as King Saul’s reign was replaced by that of King David’s when the former betrayed his duty to observe God’s commandment to wipe out the nation of Amalek, so too, if democracy, the current ruling power, cannot fulfill its purpose, in its place will rise a true king from the dynasty of King David.

Bringing all these different metaphors together, this means that when the gardener returns to the garden, and the kingdom connects to the king, then the “hen” will no longer be warmed by the earth but will warm the earth herself. The appointed king will bring all of reality back to God, by giving birth to a generation of righteous offspring – fertilized eggs that will hatch into winged chicks, the warmhearted Jews who the Ba’al Shem Tov wished to see; Jews who are devoted to God and draw their energies only from Him.

A Chicken Marriage

Regarding the best time for marital relations, the Talmud states,

The sages taught, “Any creature that procreates by day is born by day; any creature that procreates at night is born at night; any creature that procreates by day and by night, is born by day or by night.’ ‘Any creature that procreates by day is born by day’ refers to a chicken. ‘Every creature that procreates by night is born at night’ refers to a bat. ‘Any creature that procreates by day and by night’ refers to humans and others like them.”

Although humans procreate by day and by night, in general, the most modest time is actually at night. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and his wife were naked yet felt no shame, marital union during the day was permissible. After their sin, when the evil inclination took hold and infused man with sexual desire, marital union in sanctity should only be in a dark, closed room. In this case, we see that the chicken’s propagation during the day indicates the rectification of Adam and Eve’s sin.

We have already mentioned that the connection between God and the Jewish people is like a marital relationship, however, under the current circumstances, their union is not overtly visible, conducted as it is in the darkness of exile’s night. Yet, when the daylight of redemption arrives, the loving relationship between God and the Jewish people will be open for all to see.

According to the sages, the rooster, who placates the hen before procreation, bears an example from which men should learn proper marital conduct.[6] In Hebrew, a rooster is also called gever, one of four synonyms for “man.” We should all learn from the rooster who wakes up at day break and announces that the time for procreation has arrived, and as we see the dawn, announce the same, for all to hear clearly, that the rectification of the current chicken-coop politics lies in the Jewish people’s uniting with God in marital union in broad daylight, without any misgivings. “And God will be for you a light forever,” when the Jewish nation becomes “a light unto the nations.”

On the night of Passover, as we celebrate our redemption from the straits of Egypt, there are two symbols of redemption on the Seder plate: a chicken wing, to commemorate how God redeemed us with an outstretched arm, and an egg, which is called a beiya (????) in Aramaic and is conjugate to the word ba’a (???), meaning “desire”. Together, the chicken wing and the egg symbolize God’s desire to redeem us with an outstretched arm.

May we soon merit the ultimate state of redemption and a rectified state of God’s kingdom on earth, as represented by a fertile chicken egg.

Notes

[1] In modern egg farms, there are lights on all day and all night, to encourage the hens to lay more frequently.

[2]  In organic egg farms, the hens roam around freely and there are usually a few roosters present.

[3] Every Jewish town must have a Rabbi, corresponding to wisdom, and a shochet, a ritual slaughterer, corresponding to understanding.

[4] Within the persona of zeir anpin there are two other relatively male sefirot, beauty and foundation, both of which lie on the central line. These two sefirot can unite with the female aspect of kingdom and each of them is represented in the Talmud by the expression that corresponds to one of the applications of buying eggs: one said, “Who has eggs laid by a live hen to sell?” and one said, “Who has fertilized eggs? Who has fertilized eggs?” When referring to fertilized eggs the request is repeated, indicating that there are two different possible types of fertilized eggs within zeir anpin, those that are fertilized by the sefirah of beauty and those that are fertilized by the sefirah of foundation.

[5] See Maimonides, Issurei Biyah, 21:8.

[6] Eiruvin, 100b.

Four Types of Eggs in the Talmud

Four different types of egg are mentioned in the Talmud, hospital and they each have a different status in Jewish law. The four types belong to two different groups: 1) eggs that were laid by a hen and 2) eggs that were found inside a slaughtered chicken. The Talmud explains that no chicks will hatch from the latter type of egg, cure and if by mistake someone paid for the eggs with the intention of hatching them, nurse he is entitled to a full refund. But if someone asked for eggs that had been laid by a live hen, but was given eggs from a slaughtered chicken, if his intention was to eat the eggs and not to hatch them, then he is not entitled to a full refund but can only claim the difference in price between the two types of egg, because laid eggs are also of superior quality for eating. The second classification depends on whether the eggs were fertilized by a rooster (the Talmud calls such eggs, “eggs of the male”) or whether they were produced by the hens without the presence of a male, merely by the hen warming its body against the earth. Obviously, no chicks will hatch from an unfertilized egg, which means that there are two conditions necessary for an egg to hatch: it must be from a fertilized egg and must also be laid by a live hen. The law in the case of fertilized or unfertilized eggs is the same as the abovementioned law regarding eggs laid by a live hen and eggs found in a slaughtered chicken, and like eggs laid by a live hen, fertilized eggs are considered to be better for eating.

The Talmud continues to explain that fertilized eggs are only laid by day, because chickens only procreate by day and there is a rule that “any creature that propagates by day is born by day.” Nonetheless, unfertilized eggs may be laid by night, although they too are usually laid by day.[1] When there is a rooster present, the rule is that the hen’s eggs are considered fertilized, as long as the rooster is no more than sixty houses away and no river separates between them (unless there is a bridge across it, even a flimsy one).

This Talmudic discussion is all relevant to the law of an egg that was laid on Yom Tov, a festival, which in general, may not be eaten or moved until the festival is over. However, if the egg was discovered while it was still dark, and there is a rooster in the vicinity, then one is allowed to eat it because it was obviously laid the previous day, before nightfall when the festival began.

Another relevant factor that is deduced from the classification of eggs in this way regards the law concerning an egg in which a blood-spot is found. If a blood-spot is found in an unfertilized egg, the egg may be eaten once the blood has been discarded, because the blood is obviously not a sign that a chick is being formed. This is true of eggs produced on modern egg farms where the hens are enclosed in coops where no roosters at all are present; consequentially, they are all unfertilized.[2]

Four Types of Egg in Kabbalah

God’s Essential Name, Havayah, and its four letters (yud-hei-vav-hei) provide us with one of the most basic structures for contemplating ideas. Given a classification system like the one of the four different types of eggs discussed in Jewish law, we can deepen our understanding of it and the relationship between its elements, if we are able to correctly identify and build a correspondence between them and the letters of Havayah. This same correspondence can also shed new light on our understanding of God’s Name.

In Kabbalah, the four letters of Havayah are first and foremost related to the sefirot. The correspondence between the four letters and the sefirot provides us with an essential base upon which to base our new correspondence.

In this case, the letter yud of God’s Name, which represents the sefirah of wisdom, the Father Principle (Aba), corresponds to an egg laid by a live hen. Wisdom is the source of vitality, as the verse states, “wisdom vitalizes its possessors,” and “they will die, but not in wisdom.”

An egg discovered in a slaughtered chicken corresponds to the upper hei of God’s Name, representing the sefirah of understanding, the Mother Principle (Ima). Finding the egg inside its mother is clearly representative of this level, but the act of slaughtering also corresponds to understanding.[3]

A fertilized egg corresponds to the vav of God’s Name, which represents the 6 sefirot from chesed (loving-kindness) to yesod (foundation), associated with the Small Countenance (Zeir Anpin), the male aspect that is born of the union between the father and the mother, just as this type of egg is an “egg of the male.” Another reason why this type of egg corresponds to the vav, which has a numerical value of 6, is because the hen follows the rooster a distance of 60 houses, which relates to each of the six emotive powers that are represented by the vav of God’s Name, when they all mature to include ten sefirot of their own.[4]

Unfertilized eggs correspond to the lower hei of God’s Name and to the sefirah of kingdom. The sefirah of kingdom is the feminine persona (Nukva of Zeir Anpin) and also corresponds to the earth. In this case, the hen (corresponding to the feminine persona) was warmed by the earth and therefore this egg corresponds in particular to the sefirah of kingdom.

As mentioned above, in order for chicks to hatch from the eggs, the eggs must be both fertilized and laid by a live hen. This indicates the connection between wisdom (the yud of God’s Name) and Zeir Anpin (the vav of God’s Name), the two male persona as in the Kabbalistic conundrum, “What is his name [referring to wisdom, the Father Principle] and what is his son’s name [referring to Zeir Anpin].” As we saw, the contribution of the males is not only in regard to the eggs fertilization but also in regard to its quality as food. In contrast, the feminine persona, the eggs of the slaughtered chicken and the unfertilized eggs that were warmed by the earth, have no ability to hatch chicks at all and even though the eggs are edible, they are not of such a good quality as those that correspond to the male persona.

To summarize:

?

yud

wisdom

egg laid by a live hen

?

hei

understanding

egg found in slaughtered chicken

?

vav

zeir anpin; the six emotive powers

egg fertilized by male bird within a distance of sixty houses

?

hei

kingdom

unfertilized egg produced by the hen when she is warmed by the earth

A Political Egg

In Hebrew, hakbalah, from the same root as Kabbalah, means “a parallel” and studying Kabbalah is indeed based on drawing parallels. We can learn much about the world by recognizing the parallel structures in reality and drawing analogies between them. For instance, from the above correspondence concerning different types of eggs, we can learn something important about… politics. In fact, modern egg farms reflect the current political trends, as we shall see.

First, let’s take note of the unique quality of an egg in general. The egg is an intermediary stage in the procreation process that is not apparent in mammals. Yet it can either herald the termination of the process if it is an unfertilized egg, or, if the egg is fertilized, it could be a transition stage that continues to develop until the chick forms and hatches. A fertilized egg can only be produced when there is interaction between a rooster and a hen and the Talmud refers to them as, “eggs of the male.” Without the rooster, the hen, by warming herself against the earth, is only capable of producing unfertilized eggs that although edible, will never hatch. From this perspective, one could define unfertilized eggs as “artificial eggs” as reflected by the fact that they are considered inferior to fertilized eggs for eating purposes. As mentioned, in the modern egg-farming industry, eggs meant for consumption are all unfertilized eggs.

Now let’s take a look at the current state of politics. In Hebrew, the Holy Tongue, the word “state” (?????) is of feminine gender, as is the word “kingdom” (?????) the feminine sefirah of the ten sefirot. In general, politics is associated with the sefirah of kingdom and is thus considered to have a feminine nature. As for modern democratic politics, the feminine gender is most appropriate, because democracy means that the ruling party is no more than the sum total of its voters. The leaders are expected to take the entire population into consideration and reflect all their varying self-interests and differing opinions while merely offering a stable framework in which everyone can live relatively peacefully with everyone else. Under such circumstances, however strong and stable the ruling power may be, and however controlling and enterprising it may be, by definition, a democratic state remains in a feminine condition and merely sets the borders in which the population can survive.

In general, the rectification of this minimalistic situation can be achieved by appointing a king. A king is a true leader who has the power and the initiative to set goals and achieve them, uniting with his kingdom to bring about dynamic, fertile results. In Kabbalistic terminology, this refers to the union between the feminine sefirah of kingdom and the male aspect of Zeir Anpin. Practically speaking, the king reflects not only what there is in reality but he also takes a firm stand, planning a well-defined strategy by which to achieve his goals. This type of royal leadership is a tool that is able to implement the Torah in practice, and allows us to realize our covenant with God, who commands reality and elevates it. This is the task of the righteous king who leads reality to its consummation. In contrast, as long as the kingdom is entirely feminine and receiving, with no male energy to invigorate it, like an egg, it will remain sterile and static, unable to bring new life into the world.

The main teaching of the Zohar is that the feminine sefirah of kingdom will eventually be fertilized by her husband, the persona of Zeir Anpin, thereby uniting the Almighty (referred to as, Kedsha Brich Hu) with the Divine Presence. Separating the sefirah of kingdom from her rightful spouse, and thus promoting her husbandless state is considered a fundamental sin and a flaw referred to as, “cutting down the sprouts.” The ultimate goal is to achieve a union between the King and His kingdom.

Our association between the current state of politics and a chicken coop should now be obvious: a hen without a rooster can indeed lay many eggs when she is warmed by the earth or by her fellow hens in a hot and crowded coop, but these eggs are always sterile and no chick will ever hatch from them. They are even of inferior quality for edible purposes. This is the condition of politics today, in which the only vital energy available is that of the lowest aspect of reality or by the friction created between the various political factions. In this way, democracy is able to lay many eggs that can be eaten but this is actually a sterile state of existence that can never cultivate new life. Like much of modern reality, eggs produced under such conditions are “virtual” eggs that are born but can never give birth. Even if there is a blood-spot in the egg, it is not life-giving blood. When you taste such an egg, you feel that something vital is missing.

Rectified reality is the produce of the union of the male and female aspects, as in any healthy family. Any woman who lives alone, with only herself and her girl-friends for companionship is not only missing something vitally important in her life but is actually in a very detrimental moral state of affairs, similar to that of the ancient Egyptian lifestyle, which the Torah has forbidden us to duplicate.[5]

This is one of the important differences between sanctity and kelipot (the shells of impurity that surround reality): in sanctity, fruition is always the result of a union between male and female, whereas in the kelipot there is a state of “virtual” self-pollination, that does not bear true fruit.

This idea is explained in Chassidut with reference to the verse, “The wrapped [sheep] are for Laban [representing the kelipot] and the connected [sheep] are for Jacob [representing sanctity].” In sanctity there is a state of connection and communication, whereas in the impure shells there is a tendency to curl up in one’s own wool to warm up.

Finding the Lost Gardener

In his story, “The Seven Beggars,” Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes, “There is a country where there is a garden and in that garden there were fruit that had all the different flavors in the world and all sorts of aromas in the world and all the different colors and flowers in the world – all in the same garden. There was a gardener who was responsible for the garden and all the people of the country lived a good life because of the garden. But the gardener went missing and everything in the garden should have certainly been ruined, because there was no gardener responsible for the garden any longer. Nonetheless, the people were still able to survive from the natural growth of the garden.”

In our case, the garden is a parable for the current state of politics, which desperately needs a gardener to tend to its needs. As a garden needs a devoted gardener, so too a kingdom needs a dedicated king so that the people of the country can indeed live “a good life.” Without a gardener the garden is unable to revitalize itself and bear fertile fruit and its becomes inevitable. Like an unfertilized egg, even if the natural growth of fruit is able to sustain the population, the dynamic vitality of real, fertile fruit is lacking.

Yet Rabbi Nachman’s story continues to describe how the missing gardener is actually wandering around amongst us, although people think that he is just a crazy lunatic. Then they finally recognize him and identify him, “Suddenly a commotion arose, could it be that this crazy man wandering around is actually the gardener?! They went and brought him… and I said, ‘This is certainly the true gardener.”

As long as people surrender to the state of politics as it is, without understanding that it needs rectification, the gardener can never be recognized, even if he is wandering around among us, we just think that he is crazy…. The way to find the gardener is by never despairing of rectification. We need to be aware of the disadvantages of the current situation, while remembering all the while that the situation demands rectification.

We have seen that if there is a rooster in the vicinity of the hen, even sixty houses away, even if she needs to cross a flimsy bridge over a river, she prefers the attention of a male bird to warming herself on the ground. In addition, even when no male is present forcing the hen to warm itself on the earth, the hen retains its natural instinct to lay eggs during the day and continues to behave as if her eggs are fertile. Returning to our use of the egg as a metaphor for kingdom, this means that the reality of the lower worlds that manifests in politics still nurtures an inner expectancy that the male redeemer will soon come, even when there is currently no male energy available.

Even though today’s eggs are unfertilized, most authorities are still of the opinion that an egg with a blood spot should be discarded. If we contemplate this notion from a more profound perspective we can explain that this means that we never despair of finding a real, fertilized egg.

In a whimsical mood, we could say that the rectification of the “chicken coop” (???) can be found in the phrase, “Were it not for Your Torah being my amusement, I would be lost in my poverty” (???? ????? ?????? ?? ????? ?????). In the words of King David, this verse expresses the fact that even in the poverty of exile, we are not prepared to substitute our the feeling of wondrous joy we get from God’s Torah for anything less and our only hope is in “Your Torah.” The hen is not prepared to separate from her mate, nor is she prepared to be satisfied by the superficial achievement of laying infertile eggs and brooding on them without them ever hatching.

This fact infuses us with hope that the current political state, which we have likened to an modern, artificial chicken coop, can be rectified. Just as the hen instinctively knows her origin and continues to prefer fertilization by a rooster, so it is too with the public today. Even though the current democratic trend turns its back on the idea of a royal redeemer and makes believe that it can be warmed by its own energy, nonetheless, we still retain a point that has never given up on the hope that we can escape from the closed coop in which not even one male is present, and eventually meet a real rooster.

The Hebrew word for “rooster” (??????) has a numerical value of 689, which is equal to the phrase, “the Eternal one of Israel [will neither deceive nor revoke His decision]” (??? ?????). The equality suggests that just as King Saul’s reign was replaced by that of King David’s when the former betrayed his duty to observe God’s commandment to wipe out the nation of Amalek, so too, if democracy, the current ruling power, cannot fulfill its purpose, in its place will rise a true king from the dynasty of King David.

Bringing all these different metaphors together, this means that when the gardener returns to the garden, and the kingdom connects to the king, then the “hen” will no longer be warmed by the earth but will warm the earth herself. The appointed king will bring all of reality back to God, by giving birth to a generation of righteous offspring – fertilized eggs that will hatch into winged chicks, the warmhearted Jews who the Ba’al Shem Tov wished to see; Jews who are devoted to God and draw their energies only from Him.

A Chicken Marriage

Regarding the best time for marital relations, the Talmud states,

The sages taught, “Any creature that procreates by day is born by day; any creature that procreates at night is born at night; any creature that procreates by day and by night, is born by day or by night.’ ‘Any creature that procreates by day is born by day’ refers to a chicken. ‘Every creature that procreates by night is born at night’ refers to a bat. ‘Any creature that procreates by day and by night’ refers to humans and others like them.”

Although humans procreate by day and by night, in general, the most modest time is actually at night. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and his wife were naked yet felt no shame, marital union during the day was permissible. After their sin, when the evil inclination took hold and infused man with sexual desire, marital union in sanctity should only be in a dark, closed room. In this case, we see that the chicken’s propagation during the day indicates the rectification of Adam and Eve’s sin.

We have already mentioned that the connection between God and the Jewish people is like a marital relationship, however, under the current circumstances, their union is not overtly visible, conducted as it is in the darkness of exile’s night. Yet, when the daylight of redemption arrives, the loving relationship between God and the Jewish people will be open for all to see.

According to the sages, the rooster, who placates the hen before procreation, bears an example from which men should learn proper marital conduct.[6] In Hebrew, a rooster is also called gever, one of four synonyms for “man.” We should all learn from the rooster who wakes up at day break and announces that the time for procreation has arrived, and as we see the dawn, announce the same, for all to hear clearly, that the rectification of the current chicken-coop politics lies in the Jewish people’s uniting with God in marital union in broad daylight, without any misgivings. “And God will be for you a light forever,” when the Jewish nation becomes “a light unto the nations.”

On the night of Passover, as we celebrate our redemption from the straits of Egypt, there are two symbols of redemption on the Seder plate: a chicken wing, to commemorate how God redeemed us with an outstretched arm, and an egg, which is called a beiya (????) in Aramaic and is conjugate to the word ba’a (???), meaning “desire”. Together, the chicken wing and the egg symbolize God’s desire to redeem us with an outstretched arm.

May we soon merit the ultimate state of redemption and a rectified state of God’s kingdom on earth, as represented by a fertile chicken egg.

Notes

[1] In modern egg farms, there are lights on all day and all night, to encourage the hens to lay more frequently.

[2]  In organic egg farms, the hens roam around freely and there are usually a few roosters present.

[3] Every Jewish town must have a Rabbi, corresponding to wisdom, and a shochet, a ritual slaughterer, corresponding to understanding.

[4] Within the persona of zeir anpin there are two other relatively male sefirot, beauty and foundation, both of which lie on the central line. These two sefirot can unite with the female aspect of kingdom and each of them is represented in the Talmud by the expression that corresponds to one of the applications of buying eggs: one said, “Who has eggs laid by a live hen to sell?” and one said, “Who has fertilized eggs? Who has fertilized eggs?” When referring to fertilized eggs the request is repeated, indicating that there are two different possible types of fertilized eggs within zeir anpin, those that are fertilized by the sefirah of beauty and those that are fertilized by the sefirah of foundation.

[5] See Maimonides, Issurei Biyah, 21:8.

[6] Eiruvin, 100b.

Four Types of Eggs in the Talmud

Four different types of egg are mentioned in the Talmud, physician and they each have a different status in Jewish law. The four types belong to two different groups: 1) eggs that were laid by a hen and 2) eggs that were found inside a slaughtered chicken. The Talmud explains that no chicks will hatch from the latter type of egg, ask and if by mistake someone paid for the eggs with the intention of hatching them, there he is entitled to a full refund. But if someone asked for eggs that had been laid by a live hen, but was given eggs from a slaughtered chicken, if his intention was to eat the eggs and not to hatch them, then he is not entitled to a full refund but can only claim the difference in price between the two types of egg, because laid eggs are also of superior quality for eating. The second classification depends on whether the eggs were fertilized by a rooster (the Talmud calls such eggs, “eggs of the male”) or whether they were produced by the hens without the presence of a male, merely by the hen warming its body against the earth. Obviously, no chicks will hatch from an unfertilized egg, which means that there are two conditions necessary for an egg to hatch: it must be from a fertilized egg and must also be laid by a live hen. The law in the case of fertilized or unfertilized eggs is the same as the abovementioned law regarding eggs laid by a live hen and eggs found in a slaughtered chicken, and like eggs laid by a live hen, fertilized eggs are considered to be better for eating.

The Talmud continues to explain that fertilized eggs are only laid by day, because chickens only procreate by day and there is a rule that “any creature that propagates by day is born by day.” Nonetheless, unfertilized eggs may be laid by night, although they too are usually laid by day.[1] When there is a rooster present, the rule is that the hen’s eggs are considered fertilized, as long as the rooster is no more than sixty houses away and no river separates between them (unless there is a bridge across it, even a flimsy one).

This Talmudic discussion is all relevant to the law of an egg that was laid on Yom Tov, a festival, which in general, may not be eaten or moved until the festival is over. However, if the egg was discovered while it was still dark, and there is a rooster in the vicinity, then one is allowed to eat it because it was obviously laid the previous day, before nightfall when the festival began.

Another relevant factor that is deduced from the classification of eggs in this way regards the law concerning an egg in which a blood-spot is found. If a blood-spot is found in an unfertilized egg, the egg may be eaten once the blood has been discarded, because the blood is obviously not a sign that a chick is being formed. This is true of eggs produced on modern egg farms where the hens are enclosed in coops where no roosters at all are present; consequentially, they are all unfertilized.[2]

Four Types of Egg in Kabbalah

God’s Essential Name, Havayah, and its four letters (yud-hei-vav-hei) provide us with one of the most basic structures for contemplating ideas. Given a classification system like the one of the four different types of eggs discussed in Jewish law, we can deepen our understanding of it and the relationship between its elements, if we are able to correctly identify and build a correspondence between them and the letters of Havayah. This same correspondence can also shed new light on our understanding of God’s Name.

In Kabbalah, the four letters of Havayah are first and foremost related to the sefirot. The correspondence between the four letters and the sefirot provides us with an essential base upon which to base our new correspondence.

In this case, the letter yud of God’s Name, which represents the sefirah of wisdom, the Father Principle (Aba), corresponds to an egg laid by a live hen. Wisdom is the source of vitality, as the verse states, “wisdom vitalizes its possessors,” and “they will die, but not in wisdom.”

An egg discovered in a slaughtered chicken corresponds to the upper hei of God’s Name, representing the sefirah of understanding, the Mother Principle (Ima). Finding the egg inside its mother is clearly representative of this level, but the act of slaughtering also corresponds to understanding.[3]

A fertilized egg corresponds to the vav of God’s Name, which represents the 6 sefirot from chesed (loving-kindness) to yesod (foundation), associated with the Small Countenance (Zeir Anpin), the male aspect that is born of the union between the father and the mother, just as this type of egg is an “egg of the male.” Another reason why this type of egg corresponds to the vav, which has a numerical value of 6, is because the hen follows the rooster a distance of 60 houses, which relates to each of the six emotive powers that are represented by the vav of God’s Name, when they all mature to include ten sefirot of their own.[4]

Unfertilized eggs correspond to the lower hei of God’s Name and to the sefirah of kingdom. The sefirah of kingdom is the feminine persona (Nukva of Zeir Anpin) and also corresponds to the earth. In this case, the hen (corresponding to the feminine persona) was warmed by the earth and therefore this egg corresponds in particular to the sefirah of kingdom.

As mentioned above, in order for chicks to hatch from the eggs, the eggs must be both fertilized and laid by a live hen. This indicates the connection between wisdom (the yud of God’s Name) and Zeir Anpin (the vav of God’s Name), the two male persona as in the Kabbalistic conundrum, “What is his name [referring to wisdom, the Father Principle] and what is his son’s name [referring to Zeir Anpin].” As we saw, the contribution of the males is not only in regard to the eggs fertilization but also in regard to its quality as food. In contrast, the feminine persona, the eggs of the slaughtered chicken and the unfertilized eggs that were warmed by the earth, have no ability to hatch chicks at all and even though the eggs are edible, they are not of such a good quality as those that correspond to the male persona.

To summarize:

?

yud

wisdom

egg laid by a live hen

?

hei

understanding

egg found in slaughtered chicken

?

vav

zeir anpin; the six emotive powers

egg fertilized by male bird within a distance of sixty houses

?

hei

kingdom

unfertilized egg produced by the hen when she is warmed by the earth

A Political Egg

In Hebrew, hakbalah, from the same root as Kabbalah, means “a parallel” and studying Kabbalah is indeed based on drawing parallels. We can learn much about the world by recognizing the parallel structures in reality and drawing analogies between them. For instance, from the above correspondence concerning different types of eggs, we can learn something important about… politics. In fact, modern egg farms reflect the current political trends, as we shall see.

First, let’s take note of the unique quality of an egg in general. The egg is an intermediary stage in the procreation process that is not apparent in mammals. Yet it can either herald the termination of the process if it is an unfertilized egg, or, if the egg is fertilized, it could be a transition stage that continues to develop until the chick forms and hatches. A fertilized egg can only be produced when there is interaction between a rooster and a hen and the Talmud refers to them as, “eggs of the male.” Without the rooster, the hen, by warming herself against the earth, is only capable of producing unfertilized eggs that although edible, will never hatch. From this perspective, one could define unfertilized eggs as “artificial eggs” as reflected by the fact that they are considered inferior to fertilized eggs for eating purposes. As mentioned, in the modern egg-farming industry, eggs meant for consumption are all unfertilized eggs.

Now let’s take a look at the current state of politics. In Hebrew, the Holy Tongue, the word “state” (?????) is of feminine gender, as is the word “kingdom” (?????) the feminine sefirah of the ten sefirot. In general, politics is associated with the sefirah of kingdom and is thus considered to have a feminine nature. As for modern democratic politics, the feminine gender is most appropriate, because democracy means that the ruling party is no more than the sum total of its voters. The leaders are expected to take the entire population into consideration and reflect all their varying self-interests and differing opinions while merely offering a stable framework in which everyone can live relatively peacefully with everyone else. Under such circumstances, however strong and stable the ruling power may be, and however controlling and enterprising it may be, by definition, a democratic state remains in a feminine condition and merely sets the borders in which the population can survive.

In general, the rectification of this minimalistic situation can be achieved by appointing a king. A king is a true leader who has the power and the initiative to set goals and achieve them, uniting with his kingdom to bring about dynamic, fertile results. In Kabbalistic terminology, this refers to the union between the feminine sefirah of kingdom and the male aspect of Zeir Anpin. Practically speaking, the king reflects not only what there is in reality but he also takes a firm stand, planning a well-defined strategy by which to achieve his goals. This type of royal leadership is a tool that is able to implement the Torah in practice, and allows us to realize our covenant with God, who commands reality and elevates it. This is the task of the righteous king who leads reality to its consummation. In contrast, as long as the kingdom is entirely feminine and receiving, with no male energy to invigorate it, like an egg, it will remain sterile and static, unable to bring new life into the world.

The main teaching of the Zohar is that the feminine sefirah of kingdom will eventually be fertilized by her husband, the persona of Zeir Anpin, thereby uniting the Almighty (referred to as, Kedsha Brich Hu) with the Divine Presence. Separating the sefirah of kingdom from her rightful spouse, and thus promoting her husbandless state is considered a fundamental sin and a flaw referred to as, “cutting down the sprouts.” The ultimate goal is to achieve a union between the King and His kingdom.

Our association between the current state of politics and a chicken coop should now be obvious: a hen without a rooster can indeed lay many eggs when she is warmed by the earth or by her fellow hens in a hot and crowded coop, but these eggs are always sterile and no chick will ever hatch from them. They are even of inferior quality for edible purposes. This is the condition of politics today, in which the only vital energy available is that of the lowest aspect of reality or by the friction created between the various political factions. In this way, democracy is able to lay many eggs that can be eaten but this is actually a sterile state of existence that can never cultivate new life. Like much of modern reality, eggs produced under such conditions are “virtual” eggs that are born but can never give birth. Even if there is a blood-spot in the egg, it is not life-giving blood. When you taste such an egg, you feel that something vital is missing.

Rectified reality is the produce of the union of the male and female aspects, as in any healthy family. Any woman who lives alone, with only herself and her girl-friends for companionship is not only missing something vitally important in her life but is actually in a very detrimental moral state of affairs, similar to that of the ancient Egyptian lifestyle, which the Torah has forbidden us to duplicate.[5]

This is one of the important differences between sanctity and kelipot (the shells of impurity that surround reality): in sanctity, fruition is always the result of a union between male and female, whereas in the kelipot there is a state of “virtual” self-pollination, that does not bear true fruit.

This idea is explained in Chassidut with reference to the verse, “The wrapped [sheep] are for Laban [representing the kelipot] and the connected [sheep] are for Jacob [representing sanctity].” In sanctity there is a state of connection and communication, whereas in the impure shells there is a tendency to curl up in one’s own wool to warm up.

Finding the Lost Gardener

In his story, “The Seven Beggars,” Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes, “There is a country where there is a garden and in that garden there were fruit that had all the different flavors in the world and all sorts of aromas in the world and all the different colors and flowers in the world – all in the same garden. There was a gardener who was responsible for the garden and all the people of the country lived a good life because of the garden. But the gardener went missing and everything in the garden should have certainly been ruined, because there was no gardener responsible for the garden any longer. Nonetheless, the people were still able to survive from the natural growth of the garden.”

In our case, the garden is a parable for the current state of politics, which desperately needs a gardener to tend to its needs. As a garden needs a devoted gardener, so too a kingdom needs a dedicated king so that the people of the country can indeed live “a good life.” Without a gardener the garden is unable to revitalize itself and bear fertile fruit and its becomes inevitable. Like an unfertilized egg, even if the natural growth of fruit is able to sustain the population, the dynamic vitality of real, fertile fruit is lacking.

Yet Rabbi Nachman’s story continues to describe how the missing gardener is actually wandering around amongst us, although people think that he is just a crazy lunatic. Then they finally recognize him and identify him, “Suddenly a commotion arose, could it be that this crazy man wandering around is actually the gardener?! They went and brought him… and I said, ‘This is certainly the true gardener.”

As long as people surrender to the state of politics as it is, without understanding that it needs rectification, the gardener can never be recognized, even if he is wandering around among us, we just think that he is crazy…. The way to find the gardener is by never despairing of rectification. We need to be aware of the disadvantages of the current situation, while remembering all the while that the situation demands rectification.

We have seen that if there is a rooster in the vicinity of the hen, even sixty houses away, even if she needs to cross a flimsy bridge over a river, she prefers the attention of a male bird to warming herself on the ground. In addition, even when no male is present forcing the hen to warm itself on the earth, the hen retains its natural instinct to lay eggs during the day and continues to behave as if her eggs are fertile. Returning to our use of the egg as a metaphor for kingdom, this means that the reality of the lower worlds that manifests in politics still nurtures an inner expectancy that the male redeemer will soon come, even when there is currently no male energy available.

Even though today’s eggs are unfertilized, most authorities are still of the opinion that an egg with a blood spot should be discarded. If we contemplate this notion from a more profound perspective we can explain that this means that we never despair of finding a real, fertilized egg.

In a whimsical mood, we could say that the rectification of the “chicken coop” (???) can be found in the phrase, “Were it not for Your Torah being my amusement, I would be lost in my poverty” (???? ????? ?????? ?? ????? ?????). In the words of King David, this verse expresses the fact that even in the poverty of exile, we are not prepared to substitute our the feeling of wondrous joy we get from God’s Torah for anything less and our only hope is in “Your Torah.” The hen is not prepared to separate from her mate, nor is she prepared to be satisfied by the superficial achievement of laying infertile eggs and brooding on them without them ever hatching.

This fact infuses us with hope that the current political state, which we have likened to an modern, artificial chicken coop, can be rectified. Just as the hen instinctively knows her origin and continues to prefer fertilization by a rooster, so it is too with the public today. Even though the current democratic trend turns its back on the idea of a royal redeemer and makes believe that it can be warmed by its own energy, nonetheless, we still retain a point that has never given up on the hope that we can escape from the closed coop in which not even one male is present, and eventually meet a real rooster.

The Hebrew word for “rooster” (??????) has a numerical value of 689, which is equal to the phrase, “the Eternal one of Israel [will neither deceive nor revoke His decision]” (??? ?????). The equality suggests that just as King Saul’s reign was replaced by that of King David’s when the former betrayed his duty to observe God’s commandment to wipe out the nation of Amalek, so too, if democracy, the current ruling power, cannot fulfill its purpose, in its place will rise a true king from the dynasty of King David.

Bringing all these different metaphors together, this means that when the gardener returns to the garden, and the kingdom connects to the king, then the “hen” will no longer be warmed by the earth but will warm the earth herself. The appointed king will bring all of reality back to God, by giving birth to a generation of righteous offspring – fertilized eggs that will hatch into winged chicks, the warmhearted Jews who the Ba’al Shem Tov wished to see; Jews who are devoted to God and draw their energies only from Him.

A Chicken Marriage

Regarding the best time for marital relations, the Talmud states,

The sages taught, “Any creature that procreates by day is born by day; any creature that procreates at night is born at night; any creature that procreates by day and by night, is born by day or by night.’ ‘Any creature that procreates by day is born by day’ refers to a chicken. ‘Every creature that procreates by night is born at night’ refers to a bat. ‘Any creature that procreates by day and by night’ refers to humans and others like them.”

Although humans procreate by day and by night, in general, the most modest time is actually at night. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and his wife were naked yet felt no shame, marital union during the day was permissible. After their sin, when the evil inclination took hold and infused man with sexual desire, marital union in sanctity should only be in a dark, closed room. In this case, we see that the chicken’s propagation during the day indicates the rectification of Adam and Eve’s sin.

We have already mentioned that the connection between God and the Jewish people is like a marital relationship, however, under the current circumstances, their union is not overtly visible, conducted as it is in the darkness of exile’s night. Yet, when the daylight of redemption arrives, the loving relationship between God and the Jewish people will be open for all to see.

According to the sages, the rooster, who placates the hen before procreation, bears an example from which men should learn proper marital conduct.[6] In Hebrew, a rooster is also called gever, one of four synonyms for “man.” We should all learn from the rooster who wakes up at day break and announces that the time for procreation has arrived, and as we see the dawn, announce the same, for all to hear clearly, that the rectification of the current chicken-coop politics lies in the Jewish people’s uniting with God in marital union in broad daylight, without any misgivings. “And God will be for you a light forever,” when the Jewish nation becomes “a light unto the nations.”

On the night of Passover, as we celebrate our redemption from the straits of Egypt, there are two symbols of redemption on the Seder plate: a chicken wing, to commemorate how God redeemed us with an outstretched arm, and an egg, which is called a beiya (????) in Aramaic and is conjugate to the word ba’a (???), meaning “desire”. Together, the chicken wing and the egg symbolize God’s desire to redeem us with an outstretched arm.

May we soon merit the ultimate state of redemption and a rectified state of God’s kingdom on earth, as represented by a fertile chicken egg.

Notes

[1] In modern egg farms, there are lights on all day and all night, to encourage the hens to lay more frequently.

[2]  In organic egg farms, the hens roam around freely and there are usually a few roosters present.

[3] Every Jewish town must have a Rabbi, corresponding to wisdom, and a shochet, a ritual slaughterer, corresponding to understanding.

[4] Within the persona of zeir anpin there are two other relatively male sefirot, beauty and foundation, both of which lie on the central line. These two sefirot can unite with the female aspect of kingdom and each of them is represented in the Talmud by the expression that corresponds to one of the applications of buying eggs: one said, “Who has eggs laid by a live hen to sell?” and one said, “Who has fertilized eggs? Who has fertilized eggs?” When referring to fertilized eggs the request is repeated, indicating that there are two different possible types of fertilized eggs within zeir anpin, those that are fertilized by the sefirah of beauty and those that are fertilized by the sefirah of foundation.

[5] See Maimonides, Issurei Biyah, 21:8.

[6] Eiruvin, 100b.

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, cure “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and strcuture (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, physician “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, viagra facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, capsule with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and strcuture (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, approved “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, more about facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, buy information pills with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and structure (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, medications “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, purchase facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, shop with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and strcuture (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, medications “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, purchase facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, shop with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and strcuture (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

In this week’s Torah portion we read how Balak, online King of Moab, no rx hired Balaam, viagra an expert sorcerer, to curse the Jewish people, in an attempt to divestMoabof the threat that he felt they imposed upon them. On three attempts Balaam had Balak sacrifice seven oxen and seven rams, a total of 42 sacrifices, but every time, instead of Balaam receiving a prophecy that would curse the Jewish people, the prophecy was one of blessing. God had turned Balaam into an instrument to bless His people.

The Talmud[1] teaches us that even though Balak had ulterior motives for sacrificing the 42 animals to God, his reward was his descendant Ruth, the Moabite princess who converted and married Boaz out of whom came King Solomon who offered 1,000 sacrifices – a precursor to Mashiach. On the other hand, Balak’s 42 sacrifices were the spiritual source of a tragedy in which 42 children who had scorned the prophet Elishah and whom he had cursed were devoured by two bears from a forest (2 Kings, ch. 2).

After Elijah’s death, his disciple Elishah, dwelt in Jericho where the local water was bitter and unfit for drinking. A band of children earned their livelihood by bringing fresh water from afar but when Elishah miraculously sweetened the waters there these children followed Elishah and scorned him, nicknaming him “baldy.” Elishah cursed them and then two bears came out of the forest and devoured 42 of the children. Even though Elishah was the most righteous of prophets, he became the instrument for actualizing the curse that Balak wanted to bring on the Jewish people. In fact, the Arizal explains that the two bears that devoured the children harbored the incarnated souls of Balak and Balaam.

From this terrible story we learn that indeed there was some power in the sacrifices brought by Balak, and as great a prophet that Elishah was, he was only successful in directing that power to those, who according to the letter of the law, deserved it. Elishah lashed out harsh, chaotic judgments alluded to by the fact that Elishah’s name (?????) has a numerical value of 411, which is also the numerical value of “chaos” (???). Theoretically, Elishah’s curse was justified, because these children were delinquent, wicked, and deserving of punishment, as the Talmud[2] explains. Yet, Elishah’s approach was not the best educational route to take and he was later afflicted with illness as punishment for this act.

The Wonder Child

In the Zohar on this week’s Torah portion, we find a story that if contemplated correctly has the power to rectify these 42 children and all the children of the world, each of whom has the potential to become Mashiach.[3] The story begins when two of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s students visit the home of Rabbi Himnuna Saba, who was on the same exalted level of spirituality as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) himself, like a spiritual brother. Rabbi Himnuna Saba had already passed away, and the two visitors were in fact unaware that this was his home. His widow invited them in and her young son came home from school early that day. Realizing that these were holy men, the mother told her son to approach them and ask for their blessing. However, on approaching them, the child recoiled and told his mother that he could not come near them because they had not yet read the Shema that day in its time. The two men overheard his words and were astounded because indeed they had been involved in another great mitzvah (of providing for a groom and bride) from early that morning and had thus been exempt from reading the Shema in its time. They asked the child how he knew this and he replied that he had smelled it from their clothing.

Jacob’s Blessing to the Children

Now, the sense of smell is the most messianic sense because we are taught that the Mashiach will be able to confirm the truth just by using his sense of smell.[4] So we see that this child certainly had a spark of Mashiach in him, and he continued to astonish the men with his knowledge of Torah and his esoteric innovations. Unable to reply to his profound Torah knowledge, the men asked him his father’s name. The child consulted with his mother and then told them that had they been worthy of it, his father’s soul would have accompanied them as an Arab traveler; therefore he would not tell them who he was. The child then proceeded to explain Jacob’s blessing to Ephraim and Menasheh, his grandsons from Joseph, “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.”[5]

The two men returned to Rashbi and told him about this special child and Rashbi revealed to them that he was Rav Hamnuna’s son.

On hearing of this child prodigy, Rabbi Shimon’s own son, Rabbi Elazar, decided that he too must meet him. In his commentary on the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s father, explains that since Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is like a brother to Rav Hamnuna Saba, Rabbi Elazar sensed that his son must be his own spiritual partner. So, once, when Rabbi Elazar was on his way to visit his father-in-law, accompanied by Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Yosi, they took a detour and went to visit the child. While walking, they discussed the difference between the two nations of Amon andMoab. Incredibly, when they arrived, the child greeted them by telling them that he smelled from their clothing that Amon andMoabhad been “aggravating” them and he taught them how to overcome the impure influence of these two enemies. After discussing much Torah together and eating a meal with the child, the three men left.

Revealing the Mother’s Secret

Upon returning to Rashbi, he revealed that this child prodigy was not destined to live a long life, but he prayed that he should outlive his mother so that she would not suffer seeing her child pass away, and his prayers were answered.

Although the hero of this story is Rabbi Himnuna’s son, it is actually the boy’s mother who holds the secret of the number 42, a fact that is alluded to in the numerical value of “mother” (???), 42. In fact, in his commentary on this passage of the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak explains that on the day that the first visit occurred, the fact that the boy returned home to his mother early represents the rising of his spiritual consciousness to the level of the “Supernal Mother.”

One of the opinions in the Talmud why Elishah considered the 42 children worthy of his curse is that their mothers had conceived them on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, which also corresponds to this level of Mother, when marital relations are strictly forbidden.

So we see that Rabbi Himnuna’s wife and their son hold the key to rectifying Elishah’s curse on the 42 children.

Balak and Mashiach

Above, we saw that every child has the potential to be Mashiach and that Rabbi Himnuna’s young son in particular, mentioned in the Zohar on the Torah portion of Balak, revealed that potential. We also saw that Balak’s sacrifices were rewarded in that Ruth, and eventually Mashiach, would be his descendants. In fact, Maimonides[6] states that there is one section in Balaam’s last prophecy that relates explicitly to Mashiach:[7]

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not soon. A star has stepped forth from Jacob, and a tribe has arisen fromIsraelwho will crush the princes ofMoaband uproot all the sons of Seth.Edomshall be possessed, and Seir shall become the possession of his enemies, andIsraelshall triumph. A ruler shall come out of Jacob, and destroy the remnant of the city.”

The eleven different phrases in these three verses all relate to a different spiritual aspect of the Mashiach, beginning with the initial aspect of self-sacrifice, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught.[8]May we soon merit the revelation of Mashiach to all ofIsraeland to the entire world.



[1] Sotah, 47a.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Shabbat, 119b.

[4] Sanhedrin, 93b.

[5] Genesis, 48:16.

[6] Hilchot Melachim, 11:4.

[7] Numbers, 24:17-19.

[8] Torat Menachem, Vol. 24, Part II, 1Tamuz, 5726.

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, medications “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, purchase facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, shop with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and strcuture (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

In this week’s Torah portion we read how Balak, online King of Moab, no rx hired Balaam, viagra an expert sorcerer, to curse the Jewish people, in an attempt to divestMoabof the threat that he felt they imposed upon them. On three attempts Balaam had Balak sacrifice seven oxen and seven rams, a total of 42 sacrifices, but every time, instead of Balaam receiving a prophecy that would curse the Jewish people, the prophecy was one of blessing. God had turned Balaam into an instrument to bless His people.

The Talmud[1] teaches us that even though Balak had ulterior motives for sacrificing the 42 animals to God, his reward was his descendant Ruth, the Moabite princess who converted and married Boaz out of whom came King Solomon who offered 1,000 sacrifices – a precursor to Mashiach. On the other hand, Balak’s 42 sacrifices were the spiritual source of a tragedy in which 42 children who had scorned the prophet Elishah and whom he had cursed were devoured by two bears from a forest (2 Kings, ch. 2).

After Elijah’s death, his disciple Elishah, dwelt in Jericho where the local water was bitter and unfit for drinking. A band of children earned their livelihood by bringing fresh water from afar but when Elishah miraculously sweetened the waters there these children followed Elishah and scorned him, nicknaming him “baldy.” Elishah cursed them and then two bears came out of the forest and devoured 42 of the children. Even though Elishah was the most righteous of prophets, he became the instrument for actualizing the curse that Balak wanted to bring on the Jewish people. In fact, the Arizal explains that the two bears that devoured the children harbored the incarnated souls of Balak and Balaam.

From this terrible story we learn that indeed there was some power in the sacrifices brought by Balak, and as great a prophet that Elishah was, he was only successful in directing that power to those, who according to the letter of the law, deserved it. Elishah lashed out harsh, chaotic judgments alluded to by the fact that Elishah’s name (?????) has a numerical value of 411, which is also the numerical value of “chaos” (???). Theoretically, Elishah’s curse was justified, because these children were delinquent, wicked, and deserving of punishment, as the Talmud[2] explains. Yet, Elishah’s approach was not the best educational route to take and he was later afflicted with illness as punishment for this act.

The Wonder Child

In the Zohar on this week’s Torah portion, we find a story that if contemplated correctly has the power to rectify these 42 children and all the children of the world, each of whom has the potential to become Mashiach.[3] The story begins when two of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s students visit the home of Rabbi Himnuna Saba, who was on the same exalted level of spirituality as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) himself, like a spiritual brother. Rabbi Himnuna Saba had already passed away, and the two visitors were in fact unaware that this was his home. His widow invited them in and her young son came home from school early that day. Realizing that these were holy men, the mother told her son to approach them and ask for their blessing. However, on approaching them, the child recoiled and told his mother that he could not come near them because they had not yet read the Shema that day in its time. The two men overheard his words and were astounded because indeed they had been involved in another great mitzvah (of providing for a groom and bride) from early that morning and had thus been exempt from reading the Shema in its time. They asked the child how he knew this and he replied that he had smelled it from their clothing.

Jacob’s Blessing to the Children

Now, the sense of smell is the most messianic sense because we are taught that the Mashiach will be able to confirm the truth just by using his sense of smell.[4] So we see that this child certainly had a spark of Mashiach in him, and he continued to astonish the men with his knowledge of Torah and his esoteric innovations. Unable to reply to his profound Torah knowledge, the men asked him his father’s name. The child consulted with his mother and then told them that had they been worthy of it, his father’s soul would have accompanied them as an Arab traveler; therefore he would not tell them who he was. The child then proceeded to explain Jacob’s blessing to Ephraim and Menasheh, his grandsons from Joseph, “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.”[5]

The two men returned to Rashbi and told him about this special child and Rashbi revealed to them that he was Rav Hamnuna’s son.

On hearing of this child prodigy, Rabbi Shimon’s own son, Rabbi Elazar, decided that he too must meet him. In his commentary on the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s father, explains that since Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is like a brother to Rav Hamnuna Saba, Rabbi Elazar sensed that his son must be his own spiritual partner. So, once, when Rabbi Elazar was on his way to visit his father-in-law, accompanied by Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Yosi, they took a detour and went to visit the child. While walking, they discussed the difference between the two nations of Amon andMoab. Incredibly, when they arrived, the child greeted them by telling them that he smelled from their clothing that Amon andMoabhad been “aggravating” them and he taught them how to overcome the impure influence of these two enemies. After discussing much Torah together and eating a meal with the child, the three men left.

Revealing the Mother’s Secret

Upon returning to Rashbi, he revealed that this child prodigy was not destined to live a long life, but he prayed that he should outlive his mother so that she would not suffer seeing her child pass away, and his prayers were answered.

Although the hero of this story is Rabbi Himnuna’s son, it is actually the boy’s mother who holds the secret of the number 42, a fact that is alluded to in the numerical value of “mother” (???), 42. In fact, in his commentary on this passage of the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak explains that on the day that the first visit occurred, the fact that the boy returned home to his mother early represents the rising of his spiritual consciousness to the level of the “Supernal Mother.”

One of the opinions in the Talmud why Elishah considered the 42 children worthy of his curse is that their mothers had conceived them on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, which also corresponds to this level of Mother, when marital relations are strictly forbidden.

So we see that Rabbi Himnuna’s wife and their son hold the key to rectifying Elishah’s curse on the 42 children.

Balak and Mashiach

Above, we saw that every child has the potential to be Mashiach and that Rabbi Himnuna’s young son in particular, mentioned in the Zohar on the Torah portion of Balak, revealed that potential. We also saw that Balak’s sacrifices were rewarded in that Ruth, and eventually Mashiach, would be his descendants. In fact, Maimonides[6] states that there is one section in Balaam’s last prophecy that relates explicitly to Mashiach:[7]

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not soon. A star has stepped forth from Jacob, and a tribe has arisen fromIsraelwho will crush the princes ofMoaband uproot all the sons of Seth.Edomshall be possessed, and Seir shall become the possession of his enemies, andIsraelshall triumph. A ruler shall come out of Jacob, and destroy the remnant of the city.”

The eleven different phrases in these three verses all relate to a different spiritual aspect of the Mashiach, beginning with the initial aspect of self-sacrifice, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught.[8]May we soon merit the revelation of Mashiach to all ofIsraeland to the entire world.



[1] Sotah, 47a.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Shabbat, 119b.

[4] Sanhedrin, 93b.

[5] Genesis, 48:16.

[6] Hilchot Melachim, 11:4.

[7] Numbers, 24:17-19.

[8] Torat Menachem, Vol. 24, Part II, 1Tamuz, 5726.

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, physician order “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, health “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, medications “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, purchase facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, shop with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and strcuture (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

In this week’s Torah portion we read how Balak, online King of Moab, no rx hired Balaam, viagra an expert sorcerer, to curse the Jewish people, in an attempt to divestMoabof the threat that he felt they imposed upon them. On three attempts Balaam had Balak sacrifice seven oxen and seven rams, a total of 42 sacrifices, but every time, instead of Balaam receiving a prophecy that would curse the Jewish people, the prophecy was one of blessing. God had turned Balaam into an instrument to bless His people.

The Talmud[1] teaches us that even though Balak had ulterior motives for sacrificing the 42 animals to God, his reward was his descendant Ruth, the Moabite princess who converted and married Boaz out of whom came King Solomon who offered 1,000 sacrifices – a precursor to Mashiach. On the other hand, Balak’s 42 sacrifices were the spiritual source of a tragedy in which 42 children who had scorned the prophet Elishah and whom he had cursed were devoured by two bears from a forest (2 Kings, ch. 2).

After Elijah’s death, his disciple Elishah, dwelt in Jericho where the local water was bitter and unfit for drinking. A band of children earned their livelihood by bringing fresh water from afar but when Elishah miraculously sweetened the waters there these children followed Elishah and scorned him, nicknaming him “baldy.” Elishah cursed them and then two bears came out of the forest and devoured 42 of the children. Even though Elishah was the most righteous of prophets, he became the instrument for actualizing the curse that Balak wanted to bring on the Jewish people. In fact, the Arizal explains that the two bears that devoured the children harbored the incarnated souls of Balak and Balaam.

From this terrible story we learn that indeed there was some power in the sacrifices brought by Balak, and as great a prophet that Elishah was, he was only successful in directing that power to those, who according to the letter of the law, deserved it. Elishah lashed out harsh, chaotic judgments alluded to by the fact that Elishah’s name (?????) has a numerical value of 411, which is also the numerical value of “chaos” (???). Theoretically, Elishah’s curse was justified, because these children were delinquent, wicked, and deserving of punishment, as the Talmud[2] explains. Yet, Elishah’s approach was not the best educational route to take and he was later afflicted with illness as punishment for this act.

The Wonder Child

In the Zohar on this week’s Torah portion, we find a story that if contemplated correctly has the power to rectify these 42 children and all the children of the world, each of whom has the potential to become Mashiach.[3] The story begins when two of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s students visit the home of Rabbi Himnuna Saba, who was on the same exalted level of spirituality as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) himself, like a spiritual brother. Rabbi Himnuna Saba had already passed away, and the two visitors were in fact unaware that this was his home. His widow invited them in and her young son came home from school early that day. Realizing that these were holy men, the mother told her son to approach them and ask for their blessing. However, on approaching them, the child recoiled and told his mother that he could not come near them because they had not yet read the Shema that day in its time. The two men overheard his words and were astounded because indeed they had been involved in another great mitzvah (of providing for a groom and bride) from early that morning and had thus been exempt from reading the Shema in its time. They asked the child how he knew this and he replied that he had smelled it from their clothing.

Jacob’s Blessing to the Children

Now, the sense of smell is the most messianic sense because we are taught that the Mashiach will be able to confirm the truth just by using his sense of smell.[4] So we see that this child certainly had a spark of Mashiach in him, and he continued to astonish the men with his knowledge of Torah and his esoteric innovations. Unable to reply to his profound Torah knowledge, the men asked him his father’s name. The child consulted with his mother and then told them that had they been worthy of it, his father’s soul would have accompanied them as an Arab traveler; therefore he would not tell them who he was. The child then proceeded to explain Jacob’s blessing to Ephraim and Menasheh, his grandsons from Joseph, “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.”[5]

The two men returned to Rashbi and told him about this special child and Rashbi revealed to them that he was Rav Hamnuna’s son.

On hearing of this child prodigy, Rabbi Shimon’s own son, Rabbi Elazar, decided that he too must meet him. In his commentary on the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s father, explains that since Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is like a brother to Rav Hamnuna Saba, Rabbi Elazar sensed that his son must be his own spiritual partner. So, once, when Rabbi Elazar was on his way to visit his father-in-law, accompanied by Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Yosi, they took a detour and went to visit the child. While walking, they discussed the difference between the two nations of Amon andMoab. Incredibly, when they arrived, the child greeted them by telling them that he smelled from their clothing that Amon andMoabhad been “aggravating” them and he taught them how to overcome the impure influence of these two enemies. After discussing much Torah together and eating a meal with the child, the three men left.

Revealing the Mother’s Secret

Upon returning to Rashbi, he revealed that this child prodigy was not destined to live a long life, but he prayed that he should outlive his mother so that she would not suffer seeing her child pass away, and his prayers were answered.

Although the hero of this story is Rabbi Himnuna’s son, it is actually the boy’s mother who holds the secret of the number 42, a fact that is alluded to in the numerical value of “mother” (???), 42. In fact, in his commentary on this passage of the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak explains that on the day that the first visit occurred, the fact that the boy returned home to his mother early represents the rising of his spiritual consciousness to the level of the “Supernal Mother.”

One of the opinions in the Talmud why Elishah considered the 42 children worthy of his curse is that their mothers had conceived them on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, which also corresponds to this level of Mother, when marital relations are strictly forbidden.

So we see that Rabbi Himnuna’s wife and their son hold the key to rectifying Elishah’s curse on the 42 children.

Balak and Mashiach

Above, we saw that every child has the potential to be Mashiach and that Rabbi Himnuna’s young son in particular, mentioned in the Zohar on the Torah portion of Balak, revealed that potential. We also saw that Balak’s sacrifices were rewarded in that Ruth, and eventually Mashiach, would be his descendants. In fact, Maimonides[6] states that there is one section in Balaam’s last prophecy that relates explicitly to Mashiach:[7]

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not soon. A star has stepped forth from Jacob, and a tribe has arisen fromIsraelwho will crush the princes ofMoaband uproot all the sons of Seth.Edomshall be possessed, and Seir shall become the possession of his enemies, andIsraelshall triumph. A ruler shall come out of Jacob, and destroy the remnant of the city.”

The eleven different phrases in these three verses all relate to a different spiritual aspect of the Mashiach, beginning with the initial aspect of self-sacrifice, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught.[8]May we soon merit the revelation of Mashiach to all ofIsraeland to the entire world.



[1] Sotah, 47a.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Shabbat, 119b.

[4] Sanhedrin, 93b.

[5] Genesis, 48:16.

[6] Hilchot Melachim, 11:4.

[7] Numbers, 24:17-19.

[8] Torat Menachem, Vol. 24, Part II, 1Tamuz, 5726.

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, physician order “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, health “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, viagra “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, viagra “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, medications “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, purchase facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, shop with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and strcuture (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

In this week’s Torah portion we read how Balak, online King of Moab, no rx hired Balaam, viagra an expert sorcerer, to curse the Jewish people, in an attempt to divestMoabof the threat that he felt they imposed upon them. On three attempts Balaam had Balak sacrifice seven oxen and seven rams, a total of 42 sacrifices, but every time, instead of Balaam receiving a prophecy that would curse the Jewish people, the prophecy was one of blessing. God had turned Balaam into an instrument to bless His people.

The Talmud[1] teaches us that even though Balak had ulterior motives for sacrificing the 42 animals to God, his reward was his descendant Ruth, the Moabite princess who converted and married Boaz out of whom came King Solomon who offered 1,000 sacrifices – a precursor to Mashiach. On the other hand, Balak’s 42 sacrifices were the spiritual source of a tragedy in which 42 children who had scorned the prophet Elishah and whom he had cursed were devoured by two bears from a forest (2 Kings, ch. 2).

After Elijah’s death, his disciple Elishah, dwelt in Jericho where the local water was bitter and unfit for drinking. A band of children earned their livelihood by bringing fresh water from afar but when Elishah miraculously sweetened the waters there these children followed Elishah and scorned him, nicknaming him “baldy.” Elishah cursed them and then two bears came out of the forest and devoured 42 of the children. Even though Elishah was the most righteous of prophets, he became the instrument for actualizing the curse that Balak wanted to bring on the Jewish people. In fact, the Arizal explains that the two bears that devoured the children harbored the incarnated souls of Balak and Balaam.

From this terrible story we learn that indeed there was some power in the sacrifices brought by Balak, and as great a prophet that Elishah was, he was only successful in directing that power to those, who according to the letter of the law, deserved it. Elishah lashed out harsh, chaotic judgments alluded to by the fact that Elishah’s name (?????) has a numerical value of 411, which is also the numerical value of “chaos” (???). Theoretically, Elishah’s curse was justified, because these children were delinquent, wicked, and deserving of punishment, as the Talmud[2] explains. Yet, Elishah’s approach was not the best educational route to take and he was later afflicted with illness as punishment for this act.

The Wonder Child

In the Zohar on this week’s Torah portion, we find a story that if contemplated correctly has the power to rectify these 42 children and all the children of the world, each of whom has the potential to become Mashiach.[3] The story begins when two of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s students visit the home of Rabbi Himnuna Saba, who was on the same exalted level of spirituality as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) himself, like a spiritual brother. Rabbi Himnuna Saba had already passed away, and the two visitors were in fact unaware that this was his home. His widow invited them in and her young son came home from school early that day. Realizing that these were holy men, the mother told her son to approach them and ask for their blessing. However, on approaching them, the child recoiled and told his mother that he could not come near them because they had not yet read the Shema that day in its time. The two men overheard his words and were astounded because indeed they had been involved in another great mitzvah (of providing for a groom and bride) from early that morning and had thus been exempt from reading the Shema in its time. They asked the child how he knew this and he replied that he had smelled it from their clothing.

Jacob’s Blessing to the Children

Now, the sense of smell is the most messianic sense because we are taught that the Mashiach will be able to confirm the truth just by using his sense of smell.[4] So we see that this child certainly had a spark of Mashiach in him, and he continued to astonish the men with his knowledge of Torah and his esoteric innovations. Unable to reply to his profound Torah knowledge, the men asked him his father’s name. The child consulted with his mother and then told them that had they been worthy of it, his father’s soul would have accompanied them as an Arab traveler; therefore he would not tell them who he was. The child then proceeded to explain Jacob’s blessing to Ephraim and Menasheh, his grandsons from Joseph, “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.”[5]

The two men returned to Rashbi and told him about this special child and Rashbi revealed to them that he was Rav Hamnuna’s son.

On hearing of this child prodigy, Rabbi Shimon’s own son, Rabbi Elazar, decided that he too must meet him. In his commentary on the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s father, explains that since Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is like a brother to Rav Hamnuna Saba, Rabbi Elazar sensed that his son must be his own spiritual partner. So, once, when Rabbi Elazar was on his way to visit his father-in-law, accompanied by Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Yosi, they took a detour and went to visit the child. While walking, they discussed the difference between the two nations of Amon andMoab. Incredibly, when they arrived, the child greeted them by telling them that he smelled from their clothing that Amon andMoabhad been “aggravating” them and he taught them how to overcome the impure influence of these two enemies. After discussing much Torah together and eating a meal with the child, the three men left.

Revealing the Mother’s Secret

Upon returning to Rashbi, he revealed that this child prodigy was not destined to live a long life, but he prayed that he should outlive his mother so that she would not suffer seeing her child pass away, and his prayers were answered.

Although the hero of this story is Rabbi Himnuna’s son, it is actually the boy’s mother who holds the secret of the number 42, a fact that is alluded to in the numerical value of “mother” (???), 42. In fact, in his commentary on this passage of the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak explains that on the day that the first visit occurred, the fact that the boy returned home to his mother early represents the rising of his spiritual consciousness to the level of the “Supernal Mother.”

One of the opinions in the Talmud why Elishah considered the 42 children worthy of his curse is that their mothers had conceived them on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, which also corresponds to this level of Mother, when marital relations are strictly forbidden.

So we see that Rabbi Himnuna’s wife and their son hold the key to rectifying Elishah’s curse on the 42 children.

Balak and Mashiach

Above, we saw that every child has the potential to be Mashiach and that Rabbi Himnuna’s young son in particular, mentioned in the Zohar on the Torah portion of Balak, revealed that potential. We also saw that Balak’s sacrifices were rewarded in that Ruth, and eventually Mashiach, would be his descendants. In fact, Maimonides[6] states that there is one section in Balaam’s last prophecy that relates explicitly to Mashiach:[7]

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not soon. A star has stepped forth from Jacob, and a tribe has arisen fromIsraelwho will crush the princes ofMoaband uproot all the sons of Seth.Edomshall be possessed, and Seir shall become the possession of his enemies, andIsraelshall triumph. A ruler shall come out of Jacob, and destroy the remnant of the city.”

The eleven different phrases in these three verses all relate to a different spiritual aspect of the Mashiach, beginning with the initial aspect of self-sacrifice, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught.[8]May we soon merit the revelation of Mashiach to all ofIsraeland to the entire world.



[1] Sotah, 47a.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Shabbat, 119b.

[4] Sanhedrin, 93b.

[5] Genesis, 48:16.

[6] Hilchot Melachim, 11:4.

[7] Numbers, 24:17-19.

[8] Torat Menachem, Vol. 24, Part II, 1Tamuz, 5726.

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, physician order “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, health “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, viagra “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, viagra “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, online “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, medications “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, purchase facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, shop with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and strcuture (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

In this week’s Torah portion we read how Balak, online King of Moab, no rx hired Balaam, viagra an expert sorcerer, to curse the Jewish people, in an attempt to divestMoabof the threat that he felt they imposed upon them. On three attempts Balaam had Balak sacrifice seven oxen and seven rams, a total of 42 sacrifices, but every time, instead of Balaam receiving a prophecy that would curse the Jewish people, the prophecy was one of blessing. God had turned Balaam into an instrument to bless His people.

The Talmud[1] teaches us that even though Balak had ulterior motives for sacrificing the 42 animals to God, his reward was his descendant Ruth, the Moabite princess who converted and married Boaz out of whom came King Solomon who offered 1,000 sacrifices – a precursor to Mashiach. On the other hand, Balak’s 42 sacrifices were the spiritual source of a tragedy in which 42 children who had scorned the prophet Elishah and whom he had cursed were devoured by two bears from a forest (2 Kings, ch. 2).

After Elijah’s death, his disciple Elishah, dwelt in Jericho where the local water was bitter and unfit for drinking. A band of children earned their livelihood by bringing fresh water from afar but when Elishah miraculously sweetened the waters there these children followed Elishah and scorned him, nicknaming him “baldy.” Elishah cursed them and then two bears came out of the forest and devoured 42 of the children. Even though Elishah was the most righteous of prophets, he became the instrument for actualizing the curse that Balak wanted to bring on the Jewish people. In fact, the Arizal explains that the two bears that devoured the children harbored the incarnated souls of Balak and Balaam.

From this terrible story we learn that indeed there was some power in the sacrifices brought by Balak, and as great a prophet that Elishah was, he was only successful in directing that power to those, who according to the letter of the law, deserved it. Elishah lashed out harsh, chaotic judgments alluded to by the fact that Elishah’s name (?????) has a numerical value of 411, which is also the numerical value of “chaos” (???). Theoretically, Elishah’s curse was justified, because these children were delinquent, wicked, and deserving of punishment, as the Talmud[2] explains. Yet, Elishah’s approach was not the best educational route to take and he was later afflicted with illness as punishment for this act.

The Wonder Child

In the Zohar on this week’s Torah portion, we find a story that if contemplated correctly has the power to rectify these 42 children and all the children of the world, each of whom has the potential to become Mashiach.[3] The story begins when two of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s students visit the home of Rabbi Himnuna Saba, who was on the same exalted level of spirituality as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) himself, like a spiritual brother. Rabbi Himnuna Saba had already passed away, and the two visitors were in fact unaware that this was his home. His widow invited them in and her young son came home from school early that day. Realizing that these were holy men, the mother told her son to approach them and ask for their blessing. However, on approaching them, the child recoiled and told his mother that he could not come near them because they had not yet read the Shema that day in its time. The two men overheard his words and were astounded because indeed they had been involved in another great mitzvah (of providing for a groom and bride) from early that morning and had thus been exempt from reading the Shema in its time. They asked the child how he knew this and he replied that he had smelled it from their clothing.

Jacob’s Blessing to the Children

Now, the sense of smell is the most messianic sense because we are taught that the Mashiach will be able to confirm the truth just by using his sense of smell.[4] So we see that this child certainly had a spark of Mashiach in him, and he continued to astonish the men with his knowledge of Torah and his esoteric innovations. Unable to reply to his profound Torah knowledge, the men asked him his father’s name. The child consulted with his mother and then told them that had they been worthy of it, his father’s soul would have accompanied them as an Arab traveler; therefore he would not tell them who he was. The child then proceeded to explain Jacob’s blessing to Ephraim and Menasheh, his grandsons from Joseph, “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.”[5]

The two men returned to Rashbi and told him about this special child and Rashbi revealed to them that he was Rav Hamnuna’s son.

On hearing of this child prodigy, Rabbi Shimon’s own son, Rabbi Elazar, decided that he too must meet him. In his commentary on the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s father, explains that since Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is like a brother to Rav Hamnuna Saba, Rabbi Elazar sensed that his son must be his own spiritual partner. So, once, when Rabbi Elazar was on his way to visit his father-in-law, accompanied by Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Yosi, they took a detour and went to visit the child. While walking, they discussed the difference between the two nations of Amon andMoab. Incredibly, when they arrived, the child greeted them by telling them that he smelled from their clothing that Amon andMoabhad been “aggravating” them and he taught them how to overcome the impure influence of these two enemies. After discussing much Torah together and eating a meal with the child, the three men left.

Revealing the Mother’s Secret

Upon returning to Rashbi, he revealed that this child prodigy was not destined to live a long life, but he prayed that he should outlive his mother so that she would not suffer seeing her child pass away, and his prayers were answered.

Although the hero of this story is Rabbi Himnuna’s son, it is actually the boy’s mother who holds the secret of the number 42, a fact that is alluded to in the numerical value of “mother” (???), 42. In fact, in his commentary on this passage of the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak explains that on the day that the first visit occurred, the fact that the boy returned home to his mother early represents the rising of his spiritual consciousness to the level of the “Supernal Mother.”

One of the opinions in the Talmud why Elishah considered the 42 children worthy of his curse is that their mothers had conceived them on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, which also corresponds to this level of Mother, when marital relations are strictly forbidden.

So we see that Rabbi Himnuna’s wife and their son hold the key to rectifying Elishah’s curse on the 42 children.

Balak and Mashiach

Above, we saw that every child has the potential to be Mashiach and that Rabbi Himnuna’s young son in particular, mentioned in the Zohar on the Torah portion of Balak, revealed that potential. We also saw that Balak’s sacrifices were rewarded in that Ruth, and eventually Mashiach, would be his descendants. In fact, Maimonides[6] states that there is one section in Balaam’s last prophecy that relates explicitly to Mashiach:[7]

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not soon. A star has stepped forth from Jacob, and a tribe has arisen fromIsraelwho will crush the princes ofMoaband uproot all the sons of Seth.Edomshall be possessed, and Seir shall become the possession of his enemies, andIsraelshall triumph. A ruler shall come out of Jacob, and destroy the remnant of the city.”

The eleven different phrases in these three verses all relate to a different spiritual aspect of the Mashiach, beginning with the initial aspect of self-sacrifice, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught.[8]May we soon merit the revelation of Mashiach to all ofIsraeland to the entire world.



[1] Sotah, 47a.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Shabbat, 119b.

[4] Sanhedrin, 93b.

[5] Genesis, 48:16.

[6] Hilchot Melachim, 11:4.

[7] Numbers, 24:17-19.

[8] Torat Menachem, Vol. 24, Part II, 1Tamuz, 5726.

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, physician order “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, health “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, viagra “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, viagra “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, online “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, and “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, medications “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, purchase facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, shop with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and strcuture (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

In this week’s Torah portion we read how Balak, online King of Moab, no rx hired Balaam, viagra an expert sorcerer, to curse the Jewish people, in an attempt to divestMoabof the threat that he felt they imposed upon them. On three attempts Balaam had Balak sacrifice seven oxen and seven rams, a total of 42 sacrifices, but every time, instead of Balaam receiving a prophecy that would curse the Jewish people, the prophecy was one of blessing. God had turned Balaam into an instrument to bless His people.

The Talmud[1] teaches us that even though Balak had ulterior motives for sacrificing the 42 animals to God, his reward was his descendant Ruth, the Moabite princess who converted and married Boaz out of whom came King Solomon who offered 1,000 sacrifices – a precursor to Mashiach. On the other hand, Balak’s 42 sacrifices were the spiritual source of a tragedy in which 42 children who had scorned the prophet Elishah and whom he had cursed were devoured by two bears from a forest (2 Kings, ch. 2).

After Elijah’s death, his disciple Elishah, dwelt in Jericho where the local water was bitter and unfit for drinking. A band of children earned their livelihood by bringing fresh water from afar but when Elishah miraculously sweetened the waters there these children followed Elishah and scorned him, nicknaming him “baldy.” Elishah cursed them and then two bears came out of the forest and devoured 42 of the children. Even though Elishah was the most righteous of prophets, he became the instrument for actualizing the curse that Balak wanted to bring on the Jewish people. In fact, the Arizal explains that the two bears that devoured the children harbored the incarnated souls of Balak and Balaam.

From this terrible story we learn that indeed there was some power in the sacrifices brought by Balak, and as great a prophet that Elishah was, he was only successful in directing that power to those, who according to the letter of the law, deserved it. Elishah lashed out harsh, chaotic judgments alluded to by the fact that Elishah’s name (?????) has a numerical value of 411, which is also the numerical value of “chaos” (???). Theoretically, Elishah’s curse was justified, because these children were delinquent, wicked, and deserving of punishment, as the Talmud[2] explains. Yet, Elishah’s approach was not the best educational route to take and he was later afflicted with illness as punishment for this act.

The Wonder Child

In the Zohar on this week’s Torah portion, we find a story that if contemplated correctly has the power to rectify these 42 children and all the children of the world, each of whom has the potential to become Mashiach.[3] The story begins when two of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s students visit the home of Rabbi Himnuna Saba, who was on the same exalted level of spirituality as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) himself, like a spiritual brother. Rabbi Himnuna Saba had already passed away, and the two visitors were in fact unaware that this was his home. His widow invited them in and her young son came home from school early that day. Realizing that these were holy men, the mother told her son to approach them and ask for their blessing. However, on approaching them, the child recoiled and told his mother that he could not come near them because they had not yet read the Shema that day in its time. The two men overheard his words and were astounded because indeed they had been involved in another great mitzvah (of providing for a groom and bride) from early that morning and had thus been exempt from reading the Shema in its time. They asked the child how he knew this and he replied that he had smelled it from their clothing.

Jacob’s Blessing to the Children

Now, the sense of smell is the most messianic sense because we are taught that the Mashiach will be able to confirm the truth just by using his sense of smell.[4] So we see that this child certainly had a spark of Mashiach in him, and he continued to astonish the men with his knowledge of Torah and his esoteric innovations. Unable to reply to his profound Torah knowledge, the men asked him his father’s name. The child consulted with his mother and then told them that had they been worthy of it, his father’s soul would have accompanied them as an Arab traveler; therefore he would not tell them who he was. The child then proceeded to explain Jacob’s blessing to Ephraim and Menasheh, his grandsons from Joseph, “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.”[5]

The two men returned to Rashbi and told him about this special child and Rashbi revealed to them that he was Rav Hamnuna’s son.

On hearing of this child prodigy, Rabbi Shimon’s own son, Rabbi Elazar, decided that he too must meet him. In his commentary on the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s father, explains that since Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is like a brother to Rav Hamnuna Saba, Rabbi Elazar sensed that his son must be his own spiritual partner. So, once, when Rabbi Elazar was on his way to visit his father-in-law, accompanied by Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Yosi, they took a detour and went to visit the child. While walking, they discussed the difference between the two nations of Amon andMoab. Incredibly, when they arrived, the child greeted them by telling them that he smelled from their clothing that Amon andMoabhad been “aggravating” them and he taught them how to overcome the impure influence of these two enemies. After discussing much Torah together and eating a meal with the child, the three men left.

Revealing the Mother’s Secret

Upon returning to Rashbi, he revealed that this child prodigy was not destined to live a long life, but he prayed that he should outlive his mother so that she would not suffer seeing her child pass away, and his prayers were answered.

Although the hero of this story is Rabbi Himnuna’s son, it is actually the boy’s mother who holds the secret of the number 42, a fact that is alluded to in the numerical value of “mother” (???), 42. In fact, in his commentary on this passage of the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak explains that on the day that the first visit occurred, the fact that the boy returned home to his mother early represents the rising of his spiritual consciousness to the level of the “Supernal Mother.”

One of the opinions in the Talmud why Elishah considered the 42 children worthy of his curse is that their mothers had conceived them on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, which also corresponds to this level of Mother, when marital relations are strictly forbidden.

So we see that Rabbi Himnuna’s wife and their son hold the key to rectifying Elishah’s curse on the 42 children.

Balak and Mashiach

Above, we saw that every child has the potential to be Mashiach and that Rabbi Himnuna’s young son in particular, mentioned in the Zohar on the Torah portion of Balak, revealed that potential. We also saw that Balak’s sacrifices were rewarded in that Ruth, and eventually Mashiach, would be his descendants. In fact, Maimonides[6] states that there is one section in Balaam’s last prophecy that relates explicitly to Mashiach:[7]

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not soon. A star has stepped forth from Jacob, and a tribe has arisen fromIsraelwho will crush the princes ofMoaband uproot all the sons of Seth.Edomshall be possessed, and Seir shall become the possession of his enemies, andIsraelshall triumph. A ruler shall come out of Jacob, and destroy the remnant of the city.”

The eleven different phrases in these three verses all relate to a different spiritual aspect of the Mashiach, beginning with the initial aspect of self-sacrifice, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught.[8]May we soon merit the revelation of Mashiach to all ofIsraeland to the entire world.



[1] Sotah, 47a.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Shabbat, 119b.

[4] Sanhedrin, 93b.

[5] Genesis, 48:16.

[6] Hilchot Melachim, 11:4.

[7] Numbers, 24:17-19.

[8] Torat Menachem, Vol. 24, Part II, 1Tamuz, 5726.

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, physician order “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, health “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, viagra “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, viagra “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, online “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, and “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, physician “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, medications “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, purchase facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, shop with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and strcuture (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

In this week’s Torah portion we read how Balak, online King of Moab, no rx hired Balaam, viagra an expert sorcerer, to curse the Jewish people, in an attempt to divestMoabof the threat that he felt they imposed upon them. On three attempts Balaam had Balak sacrifice seven oxen and seven rams, a total of 42 sacrifices, but every time, instead of Balaam receiving a prophecy that would curse the Jewish people, the prophecy was one of blessing. God had turned Balaam into an instrument to bless His people.

The Talmud[1] teaches us that even though Balak had ulterior motives for sacrificing the 42 animals to God, his reward was his descendant Ruth, the Moabite princess who converted and married Boaz out of whom came King Solomon who offered 1,000 sacrifices – a precursor to Mashiach. On the other hand, Balak’s 42 sacrifices were the spiritual source of a tragedy in which 42 children who had scorned the prophet Elishah and whom he had cursed were devoured by two bears from a forest (2 Kings, ch. 2).

After Elijah’s death, his disciple Elishah, dwelt in Jericho where the local water was bitter and unfit for drinking. A band of children earned their livelihood by bringing fresh water from afar but when Elishah miraculously sweetened the waters there these children followed Elishah and scorned him, nicknaming him “baldy.” Elishah cursed them and then two bears came out of the forest and devoured 42 of the children. Even though Elishah was the most righteous of prophets, he became the instrument for actualizing the curse that Balak wanted to bring on the Jewish people. In fact, the Arizal explains that the two bears that devoured the children harbored the incarnated souls of Balak and Balaam.

From this terrible story we learn that indeed there was some power in the sacrifices brought by Balak, and as great a prophet that Elishah was, he was only successful in directing that power to those, who according to the letter of the law, deserved it. Elishah lashed out harsh, chaotic judgments alluded to by the fact that Elishah’s name (?????) has a numerical value of 411, which is also the numerical value of “chaos” (???). Theoretically, Elishah’s curse was justified, because these children were delinquent, wicked, and deserving of punishment, as the Talmud[2] explains. Yet, Elishah’s approach was not the best educational route to take and he was later afflicted with illness as punishment for this act.

The Wonder Child

In the Zohar on this week’s Torah portion, we find a story that if contemplated correctly has the power to rectify these 42 children and all the children of the world, each of whom has the potential to become Mashiach.[3] The story begins when two of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s students visit the home of Rabbi Himnuna Saba, who was on the same exalted level of spirituality as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) himself, like a spiritual brother. Rabbi Himnuna Saba had already passed away, and the two visitors were in fact unaware that this was his home. His widow invited them in and her young son came home from school early that day. Realizing that these were holy men, the mother told her son to approach them and ask for their blessing. However, on approaching them, the child recoiled and told his mother that he could not come near them because they had not yet read the Shema that day in its time. The two men overheard his words and were astounded because indeed they had been involved in another great mitzvah (of providing for a groom and bride) from early that morning and had thus been exempt from reading the Shema in its time. They asked the child how he knew this and he replied that he had smelled it from their clothing.

Jacob’s Blessing to the Children

Now, the sense of smell is the most messianic sense because we are taught that the Mashiach will be able to confirm the truth just by using his sense of smell.[4] So we see that this child certainly had a spark of Mashiach in him, and he continued to astonish the men with his knowledge of Torah and his esoteric innovations. Unable to reply to his profound Torah knowledge, the men asked him his father’s name. The child consulted with his mother and then told them that had they been worthy of it, his father’s soul would have accompanied them as an Arab traveler; therefore he would not tell them who he was. The child then proceeded to explain Jacob’s blessing to Ephraim and Menasheh, his grandsons from Joseph, “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.”[5]

The two men returned to Rashbi and told him about this special child and Rashbi revealed to them that he was Rav Hamnuna’s son.

On hearing of this child prodigy, Rabbi Shimon’s own son, Rabbi Elazar, decided that he too must meet him. In his commentary on the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s father, explains that since Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is like a brother to Rav Hamnuna Saba, Rabbi Elazar sensed that his son must be his own spiritual partner. So, once, when Rabbi Elazar was on his way to visit his father-in-law, accompanied by Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Yosi, they took a detour and went to visit the child. While walking, they discussed the difference between the two nations of Amon andMoab. Incredibly, when they arrived, the child greeted them by telling them that he smelled from their clothing that Amon andMoabhad been “aggravating” them and he taught them how to overcome the impure influence of these two enemies. After discussing much Torah together and eating a meal with the child, the three men left.

Revealing the Mother’s Secret

Upon returning to Rashbi, he revealed that this child prodigy was not destined to live a long life, but he prayed that he should outlive his mother so that she would not suffer seeing her child pass away, and his prayers were answered.

Although the hero of this story is Rabbi Himnuna’s son, it is actually the boy’s mother who holds the secret of the number 42, a fact that is alluded to in the numerical value of “mother” (???), 42. In fact, in his commentary on this passage of the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak explains that on the day that the first visit occurred, the fact that the boy returned home to his mother early represents the rising of his spiritual consciousness to the level of the “Supernal Mother.”

One of the opinions in the Talmud why Elishah considered the 42 children worthy of his curse is that their mothers had conceived them on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, which also corresponds to this level of Mother, when marital relations are strictly forbidden.

So we see that Rabbi Himnuna’s wife and their son hold the key to rectifying Elishah’s curse on the 42 children.

Balak and Mashiach

Above, we saw that every child has the potential to be Mashiach and that Rabbi Himnuna’s young son in particular, mentioned in the Zohar on the Torah portion of Balak, revealed that potential. We also saw that Balak’s sacrifices were rewarded in that Ruth, and eventually Mashiach, would be his descendants. In fact, Maimonides[6] states that there is one section in Balaam’s last prophecy that relates explicitly to Mashiach:[7]

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not soon. A star has stepped forth from Jacob, and a tribe has arisen fromIsraelwho will crush the princes ofMoaband uproot all the sons of Seth.Edomshall be possessed, and Seir shall become the possession of his enemies, andIsraelshall triumph. A ruler shall come out of Jacob, and destroy the remnant of the city.”

The eleven different phrases in these three verses all relate to a different spiritual aspect of the Mashiach, beginning with the initial aspect of self-sacrifice, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught.[8]May we soon merit the revelation of Mashiach to all ofIsraeland to the entire world.



[1] Sotah, 47a.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Shabbat, 119b.

[4] Sanhedrin, 93b.

[5] Genesis, 48:16.

[6] Hilchot Melachim, 11:4.

[7] Numbers, 24:17-19.

[8] Torat Menachem, Vol. 24, Part II, 1Tamuz, 5726.

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, physician order “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, health “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, viagra “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, viagra “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, online “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, and “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, physician “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, ampoule “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, buy “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, help “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, medications “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, purchase facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, shop with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and strcuture (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

In this week’s Torah portion we read how Balak, online King of Moab, no rx hired Balaam, viagra an expert sorcerer, to curse the Jewish people, in an attempt to divestMoabof the threat that he felt they imposed upon them. On three attempts Balaam had Balak sacrifice seven oxen and seven rams, a total of 42 sacrifices, but every time, instead of Balaam receiving a prophecy that would curse the Jewish people, the prophecy was one of blessing. God had turned Balaam into an instrument to bless His people.

The Talmud[1] teaches us that even though Balak had ulterior motives for sacrificing the 42 animals to God, his reward was his descendant Ruth, the Moabite princess who converted and married Boaz out of whom came King Solomon who offered 1,000 sacrifices – a precursor to Mashiach. On the other hand, Balak’s 42 sacrifices were the spiritual source of a tragedy in which 42 children who had scorned the prophet Elishah and whom he had cursed were devoured by two bears from a forest (2 Kings, ch. 2).

After Elijah’s death, his disciple Elishah, dwelt in Jericho where the local water was bitter and unfit for drinking. A band of children earned their livelihood by bringing fresh water from afar but when Elishah miraculously sweetened the waters there these children followed Elishah and scorned him, nicknaming him “baldy.” Elishah cursed them and then two bears came out of the forest and devoured 42 of the children. Even though Elishah was the most righteous of prophets, he became the instrument for actualizing the curse that Balak wanted to bring on the Jewish people. In fact, the Arizal explains that the two bears that devoured the children harbored the incarnated souls of Balak and Balaam.

From this terrible story we learn that indeed there was some power in the sacrifices brought by Balak, and as great a prophet that Elishah was, he was only successful in directing that power to those, who according to the letter of the law, deserved it. Elishah lashed out harsh, chaotic judgments alluded to by the fact that Elishah’s name (?????) has a numerical value of 411, which is also the numerical value of “chaos” (???). Theoretically, Elishah’s curse was justified, because these children were delinquent, wicked, and deserving of punishment, as the Talmud[2] explains. Yet, Elishah’s approach was not the best educational route to take and he was later afflicted with illness as punishment for this act.

The Wonder Child

In the Zohar on this week’s Torah portion, we find a story that if contemplated correctly has the power to rectify these 42 children and all the children of the world, each of whom has the potential to become Mashiach.[3] The story begins when two of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s students visit the home of Rabbi Himnuna Saba, who was on the same exalted level of spirituality as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) himself, like a spiritual brother. Rabbi Himnuna Saba had already passed away, and the two visitors were in fact unaware that this was his home. His widow invited them in and her young son came home from school early that day. Realizing that these were holy men, the mother told her son to approach them and ask for their blessing. However, on approaching them, the child recoiled and told his mother that he could not come near them because they had not yet read the Shema that day in its time. The two men overheard his words and were astounded because indeed they had been involved in another great mitzvah (of providing for a groom and bride) from early that morning and had thus been exempt from reading the Shema in its time. They asked the child how he knew this and he replied that he had smelled it from their clothing.

Jacob’s Blessing to the Children

Now, the sense of smell is the most messianic sense because we are taught that the Mashiach will be able to confirm the truth just by using his sense of smell.[4] So we see that this child certainly had a spark of Mashiach in him, and he continued to astonish the men with his knowledge of Torah and his esoteric innovations. Unable to reply to his profound Torah knowledge, the men asked him his father’s name. The child consulted with his mother and then told them that had they been worthy of it, his father’s soul would have accompanied them as an Arab traveler; therefore he would not tell them who he was. The child then proceeded to explain Jacob’s blessing to Ephraim and Menasheh, his grandsons from Joseph, “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.”[5]

The two men returned to Rashbi and told him about this special child and Rashbi revealed to them that he was Rav Hamnuna’s son.

On hearing of this child prodigy, Rabbi Shimon’s own son, Rabbi Elazar, decided that he too must meet him. In his commentary on the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s father, explains that since Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is like a brother to Rav Hamnuna Saba, Rabbi Elazar sensed that his son must be his own spiritual partner. So, once, when Rabbi Elazar was on his way to visit his father-in-law, accompanied by Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Yosi, they took a detour and went to visit the child. While walking, they discussed the difference between the two nations of Amon andMoab. Incredibly, when they arrived, the child greeted them by telling them that he smelled from their clothing that Amon andMoabhad been “aggravating” them and he taught them how to overcome the impure influence of these two enemies. After discussing much Torah together and eating a meal with the child, the three men left.

Revealing the Mother’s Secret

Upon returning to Rashbi, he revealed that this child prodigy was not destined to live a long life, but he prayed that he should outlive his mother so that she would not suffer seeing her child pass away, and his prayers were answered.

Although the hero of this story is Rabbi Himnuna’s son, it is actually the boy’s mother who holds the secret of the number 42, a fact that is alluded to in the numerical value of “mother” (???), 42. In fact, in his commentary on this passage of the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak explains that on the day that the first visit occurred, the fact that the boy returned home to his mother early represents the rising of his spiritual consciousness to the level of the “Supernal Mother.”

One of the opinions in the Talmud why Elishah considered the 42 children worthy of his curse is that their mothers had conceived them on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, which also corresponds to this level of Mother, when marital relations are strictly forbidden.

So we see that Rabbi Himnuna’s wife and their son hold the key to rectifying Elishah’s curse on the 42 children.

Balak and Mashiach

Above, we saw that every child has the potential to be Mashiach and that Rabbi Himnuna’s young son in particular, mentioned in the Zohar on the Torah portion of Balak, revealed that potential. We also saw that Balak’s sacrifices were rewarded in that Ruth, and eventually Mashiach, would be his descendants. In fact, Maimonides[6] states that there is one section in Balaam’s last prophecy that relates explicitly to Mashiach:[7]

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not soon. A star has stepped forth from Jacob, and a tribe has arisen fromIsraelwho will crush the princes ofMoaband uproot all the sons of Seth.Edomshall be possessed, and Seir shall become the possession of his enemies, andIsraelshall triumph. A ruler shall come out of Jacob, and destroy the remnant of the city.”

The eleven different phrases in these three verses all relate to a different spiritual aspect of the Mashiach, beginning with the initial aspect of self-sacrifice, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught.[8]May we soon merit the revelation of Mashiach to all ofIsraeland to the entire world.



[1] Sotah, 47a.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Shabbat, 119b.

[4] Sanhedrin, 93b.

[5] Genesis, 48:16.

[6] Hilchot Melachim, 11:4.

[7] Numbers, 24:17-19.

[8] Torat Menachem, Vol. 24, Part II, 1Tamuz, 5726.

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, physician order “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, health “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, viagra “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, viagra “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, online “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, and “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, physician “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, ampoule “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, buy “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, help “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, ampoule “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, medications “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, purchase facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, shop with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and strcuture (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

In this week’s Torah portion we read how Balak, online King of Moab, no rx hired Balaam, viagra an expert sorcerer, to curse the Jewish people, in an attempt to divestMoabof the threat that he felt they imposed upon them. On three attempts Balaam had Balak sacrifice seven oxen and seven rams, a total of 42 sacrifices, but every time, instead of Balaam receiving a prophecy that would curse the Jewish people, the prophecy was one of blessing. God had turned Balaam into an instrument to bless His people.

The Talmud[1] teaches us that even though Balak had ulterior motives for sacrificing the 42 animals to God, his reward was his descendant Ruth, the Moabite princess who converted and married Boaz out of whom came King Solomon who offered 1,000 sacrifices – a precursor to Mashiach. On the other hand, Balak’s 42 sacrifices were the spiritual source of a tragedy in which 42 children who had scorned the prophet Elishah and whom he had cursed were devoured by two bears from a forest (2 Kings, ch. 2).

After Elijah’s death, his disciple Elishah, dwelt in Jericho where the local water was bitter and unfit for drinking. A band of children earned their livelihood by bringing fresh water from afar but when Elishah miraculously sweetened the waters there these children followed Elishah and scorned him, nicknaming him “baldy.” Elishah cursed them and then two bears came out of the forest and devoured 42 of the children. Even though Elishah was the most righteous of prophets, he became the instrument for actualizing the curse that Balak wanted to bring on the Jewish people. In fact, the Arizal explains that the two bears that devoured the children harbored the incarnated souls of Balak and Balaam.

From this terrible story we learn that indeed there was some power in the sacrifices brought by Balak, and as great a prophet that Elishah was, he was only successful in directing that power to those, who according to the letter of the law, deserved it. Elishah lashed out harsh, chaotic judgments alluded to by the fact that Elishah’s name (?????) has a numerical value of 411, which is also the numerical value of “chaos” (???). Theoretically, Elishah’s curse was justified, because these children were delinquent, wicked, and deserving of punishment, as the Talmud[2] explains. Yet, Elishah’s approach was not the best educational route to take and he was later afflicted with illness as punishment for this act.

The Wonder Child

In the Zohar on this week’s Torah portion, we find a story that if contemplated correctly has the power to rectify these 42 children and all the children of the world, each of whom has the potential to become Mashiach.[3] The story begins when two of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s students visit the home of Rabbi Himnuna Saba, who was on the same exalted level of spirituality as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) himself, like a spiritual brother. Rabbi Himnuna Saba had already passed away, and the two visitors were in fact unaware that this was his home. His widow invited them in and her young son came home from school early that day. Realizing that these were holy men, the mother told her son to approach them and ask for their blessing. However, on approaching them, the child recoiled and told his mother that he could not come near them because they had not yet read the Shema that day in its time. The two men overheard his words and were astounded because indeed they had been involved in another great mitzvah (of providing for a groom and bride) from early that morning and had thus been exempt from reading the Shema in its time. They asked the child how he knew this and he replied that he had smelled it from their clothing.

Jacob’s Blessing to the Children

Now, the sense of smell is the most messianic sense because we are taught that the Mashiach will be able to confirm the truth just by using his sense of smell.[4] So we see that this child certainly had a spark of Mashiach in him, and he continued to astonish the men with his knowledge of Torah and his esoteric innovations. Unable to reply to his profound Torah knowledge, the men asked him his father’s name. The child consulted with his mother and then told them that had they been worthy of it, his father’s soul would have accompanied them as an Arab traveler; therefore he would not tell them who he was. The child then proceeded to explain Jacob’s blessing to Ephraim and Menasheh, his grandsons from Joseph, “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.”[5]

The two men returned to Rashbi and told him about this special child and Rashbi revealed to them that he was Rav Hamnuna’s son.

On hearing of this child prodigy, Rabbi Shimon’s own son, Rabbi Elazar, decided that he too must meet him. In his commentary on the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s father, explains that since Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is like a brother to Rav Hamnuna Saba, Rabbi Elazar sensed that his son must be his own spiritual partner. So, once, when Rabbi Elazar was on his way to visit his father-in-law, accompanied by Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Yosi, they took a detour and went to visit the child. While walking, they discussed the difference between the two nations of Amon andMoab. Incredibly, when they arrived, the child greeted them by telling them that he smelled from their clothing that Amon andMoabhad been “aggravating” them and he taught them how to overcome the impure influence of these two enemies. After discussing much Torah together and eating a meal with the child, the three men left.

Revealing the Mother’s Secret

Upon returning to Rashbi, he revealed that this child prodigy was not destined to live a long life, but he prayed that he should outlive his mother so that she would not suffer seeing her child pass away, and his prayers were answered.

Although the hero of this story is Rabbi Himnuna’s son, it is actually the boy’s mother who holds the secret of the number 42, a fact that is alluded to in the numerical value of “mother” (???), 42. In fact, in his commentary on this passage of the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak explains that on the day that the first visit occurred, the fact that the boy returned home to his mother early represents the rising of his spiritual consciousness to the level of the “Supernal Mother.”

One of the opinions in the Talmud why Elishah considered the 42 children worthy of his curse is that their mothers had conceived them on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, which also corresponds to this level of Mother, when marital relations are strictly forbidden.

So we see that Rabbi Himnuna’s wife and their son hold the key to rectifying Elishah’s curse on the 42 children.

Balak and Mashiach

Above, we saw that every child has the potential to be Mashiach and that Rabbi Himnuna’s young son in particular, mentioned in the Zohar on the Torah portion of Balak, revealed that potential. We also saw that Balak’s sacrifices were rewarded in that Ruth, and eventually Mashiach, would be his descendants. In fact, Maimonides[6] states that there is one section in Balaam’s last prophecy that relates explicitly to Mashiach:[7]

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not soon. A star has stepped forth from Jacob, and a tribe has arisen fromIsraelwho will crush the princes ofMoaband uproot all the sons of Seth.Edomshall be possessed, and Seir shall become the possession of his enemies, andIsraelshall triumph. A ruler shall come out of Jacob, and destroy the remnant of the city.”

The eleven different phrases in these three verses all relate to a different spiritual aspect of the Mashiach, beginning with the initial aspect of self-sacrifice, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught.[8]May we soon merit the revelation of Mashiach to all ofIsraeland to the entire world.



[1] Sotah, 47a.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Shabbat, 119b.

[4] Sanhedrin, 93b.

[5] Genesis, 48:16.

[6] Hilchot Melachim, 11:4.

[7] Numbers, 24:17-19.

[8] Torat Menachem, Vol. 24, Part II, 1Tamuz, 5726.

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, physician order “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, health “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, viagra “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, viagra “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, online “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, and “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, physician “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, ampoule “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, buy “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, help “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, ampoule “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

Moses sent twelve spies to spy out the land of Israel prior to the expected entry of the Jewish nation into the land. Instead of praising thelandofIsraeland instilling hope and ready anticipation for their entry into the land, information pills
ten of the twelve spies brought back a disheartening report of what they saw and relayed their conclusion that entering thelandofIsraelwas an impossible feat. Their report totally disrupted the morale of the people, prostate causing them to fall into despair and weep as if some disastrous calamity had befallen them. The spies were punished for their sin and the fallen morale of the people was also considered a sin.

When Moses prayed that God forgive the sin of the spies, prostate he said, “And now, may the strength of God please increase, as You spoke.” The Name of God used in this verse is Adni (???-?), whose literal meaning is “my Master.” The Name Adni is rare in the Torah. Whereas the Name Havayah appears 1820 times, the Name Adni appears only 14 times in the Pentateuch. The use of this specific Name in this verse arouses our attention to the fact that to bring about God’s forgiveness for the spies’ deed, it is necessary to increase, or reinforce, the strength of the Name Adni in particular.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe, explains in his Likutei Torah that the sin of the spies blemished the emanation of the Name Adni. In contrast, the sin of the Golden Calf blemished the emanation of God’s Essential Name, Havayah. In Kabbalah, the Name Havayah corresponds to the sefirah of beauty, which is associated with the Torah and Moses (the giver of the Torah), whereas the Name Adni corresponds to the sefirah of kingdom which is related to theLand ofIsrael.

This is clearly illustrated by even the literal meaning of the Name Adni, from adon, master, often associated in the Torah with the land, as in the phrase “Master of all the land.” It is now clear that since sinning against theland ofIsrael blemishes this Name in particular, it subsequently needs to be reinforced in order to rectify the sin.

Reinforcement through letter filling

The way we reinforce a word in Hebrew is by revealing its complete potential. This is achieved by filling its letters. The first filling of the Name Adni (???-?) is ??? ??? ??? ???. In comparison to the Name Havayah, which when filled has no more than 10 letters, we see that the Name Adni, when filled, has a total of 12 letters. To find the second filling, we fill each of these 12 letters with their spelling giving us, ??? ??? ?? ??? ??? ?? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ???, which has a total of 34 letters.

The total number of letters of the root word (4), plus its filling (12) plus the filling of its filling (34) is now 50, which is a very nice round number that also corresponds to the fifty gates of understanding. However, the Arizal teaches us that in order for the Name Adni (relating to the sefirah of kingdom, as above) to be complete it needs to be rectified by bringing down into it the light of the supernal crown, the highest sefirah. This achieves the ultimate union of “the crown of kingdom,” when the super-conscious light of the crown shines upon the head of the appointed king. Bringing down the light of the crown is symbolized by including another letter in the second filling – the optional yud that is added to the filling of the letter tav (???) that appears in the second filling of the letter dalet (?) in Adni. The yud symbolizes the supernal wisdom in the crown (the super-conscious source of intellect) that enters from above, bringing the total number of letters in the second filling to 35 and the total number of letters of all three stages to 51.[1]

The Arizal pointed out that in fact, this is also the numerical value of the word ??, meaning, “may,” which appears in the abovementioned verse, “And now, may the strength of God increase, as You spoke.” The two letters of the word ??, are also two of the letters in the Name Adni (???-?) itself.

So, the Arizal explains that ?? alludes to the root, the filling and the second filling of Adni, when the yud (?) is added to the tav (?) of the letter ???. However, the light of the supernal crown in this letter is so intense that although the yud itself is in the second filling, in fact it combines with the 12 letters of the first filling, bringing the number of letters to 13.

Now, let’s contemplate the word ???? in the verse, meaning “increase.” The first two letters of the word are ??, which have a numerical value of 13, which we now consider to be the number of letters in the first filling. The remaining letters, ??, have a numerical value of 34, which is the number of letters in the second filling.[2]

In this way, we see that the words ???? and ?? that appear in the verse, both allude to the rectification of the spies’ sin by filling the Name Adni with its filling and the filling of its filling letters.

Now that we realize that the light of the crown must be introduced into the Name Adni in order to rectify it, we need to aspire to the source of the crown in the Name Havayah.

Just as the letter tav (?) can either be filled simply with a vav (??) or more completely with a yud and a vav (???), so too, there are other letters that have alternative spellings. In the Name Havayah (spelled ?-?-?-?) in which the vav (?) and the two letters hei (?) both have a variety of possible fillings, this produces numerous options for spelling the filled Name. In fact there are 27 different possible fillings of the Name Havayah,[3] four of which are identified as the most central as they themselves correspond to the four letters of Havayah (corresponding to wisdom, understanding, the emotive attributes of the soul, and the sefirah of kingdom). These fillings are referred to by their numerical values, Ab (72), Sag (63), Mah (45) and Ban (52), respectively. Since as mentioned above, the Name Adni itself corresponds to kingdom, represented here by Ban, the way we draw the three higher levels down into kingdom is by filling (a second time) each of the first three fillings of Havayah (Ab, Sag and Mah), each of which contains ten letters.

The second fillings of Ab, Sag, and Mah, contain 28 letters each, which clearly represents the ??, “power,” of Adni, which we are intending to reinforce, since ?? has a numerical value of 28.  The entire array of these three spellings, i.e., the root (4 letters), plus the filling (10 letters), plus the filling of the filling (28 letters) thus totals 42 letters each. Multiplying this by 3 to include each of the different spellings, we arrive at a grand total of 126 letters.

Let’s now see how this corresponds to the Name Adni:

One of the ways of contemplating a Hebrew word is by constructing it, letter by letter, first taking the first letter then the first letter with the second letter and then the first three letters and so on. In Kabbalah, this method is called “the backside,” or achorayim of a word. Developing the Name Adni by this process yields ? ?? ??? ?-???, which has a numerical value of 126. This, says the Arizal, was Moses’ intention when he prayed, ???? ???? ?? ?? ?-???, “And now, may the strength of God please increase.” He took the 126 letters of the root, filling and second filling of Ab, Sag and Mah and brought them down into the Name Adni from the “back.” In this way, he reconstructed the Name Adni that had been blemished by the sin of “rejecting the charming land” (Psalms, 106:24).

Although Rabbi Chaim Vital, who authored the teachings of the Arizal, does not mention it, there is a very beautiful allusion to this idea in the phrase ???? ?? ??, “may the strength [of God] please increase”, which has a numerical value of 126!

So, from the above meditation on the phrase, ???? ?? ?? ?-???, “may the strength of God please increase,” we see how Moses “reincarnated” the Name Adni that had been blemished (to the extent of disappearance) by introducing the paternal attribute (of wisdom, the secret of the filling Ab) and returning it to a fetal stage (in understanding, the secret of the filling Sag) until it was “born” once again (in the emotive attributes of the soul, the secret of the filling Mah) as a complete reflection (in malchut, kingdom, the secret of the Name Adni) of God’s Essential Name, Havayah.

 


[1] Both 35 and 51 are in the series of chashmal (pentagonal) numbers. For more on chashmal numbers, see here: http://www.innerpedia.org/index.php?title=Chashmal_(pentagonal)_number.

[2] The Arizal usually explains that the number 13 is 12 plus the kolel, the additional unit, which symbolizes the all-inclusive “one.” One example of this explanation is that there are 12 months in a Jewish year, but in a leap year, a second Adar is added, bringing the total to 13. Indeed, 13 is the numerical value of the word ???, meaning “one.”

[3] See our book, What you Need to Know About Kabbalah, pp. 141-143.

The Book of Numbers is so called because it deals principally with the census of the Jewish nation and their organization around the Tabernacle according to their tribes. The entire census—including accounts of both the number of men in each tribe and an account of the total number of men in the entire nation—first appears in chapter 1. The order of encampment around the Tabernacle appears in chapter 2, medications “Each individual unto his flag with the banner of their patriarchal house shall the Children of Israel encamp, purchase facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Surprisingly, shop with the order of encampment, the Torah once more repeats the census numbers appearing in chapter 1. This second enumeration seems redundant. Why did the Torah first relate the census independently of the camp structure (in chapter 1) and then repeat it a second time when laying out the structure of the camps surrounding the Tabernacle (in chapter 2)?

General Census and Inclusive Structure

One idea that can be gleaned from this apparent redundancy is that number and strcuture (or quantity and form) are independently important.

The census—counting the number of Jews—expresses the importance of every single Jew and God’s fondness for each and every one of us. As Rashi states, “Because of His fondness for them, He [God] counts them at every opportunity.” Every Jew is God’s favorite and every Jewish soul is an entire world.

The census is divided by tribes and each individual is related to his own patriarchal house, “And they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers' houses” (Numbers 1:18) and as Rashi explains, “Each one of them brought their family trees and their birth certificates to prove their relationship to their tribes.”

Once the quantity of Jewish souls is known, once each person has been attended to as an individual, the people, as a nation of 12 tribes, are treated as a whole with a particular structure that joins them together. Concentrating on them as a nation, the twelve tribes are ordered and organized into four camps in a particular manner around the Tabernacle, with one camp (of 3 tribes) lying in each direction. Each tribe has its own flag in a specific color with a particular banner, and the full structure reveals the manifold relationship between them all. The number of each tribe is mentioned once more, while describing the structure, but this time it is an intrinsic part of a complete tapestry.

Given this differentiation between quantity and form, the census can be compared to the “Act of Creation” – facilitating the essential existence of each and every person in the Jewish nation, each one and his birthright. In contrast, the form, the camp structure around the Tabernacle can be compared to “the Act of the Chariot” (which literally translates as, “The act of construction”), revealing the complexity of the myriad relationships between the individuals and between their tribes.

Counting letters and drawing figurate numbers

This two stage process—from quantity to form—is reflected in our method of contemplating the Torah. The earliest Torah scholars were called ??????, usually translated as “scribes,” but also meaning, “counters.” They were described in this manner because they counted the letters of the Torah. Today, we too first carefully count the letters in a given verse or section of the Torah. The act of careful counting gives us a chance to treat each letter as an individual point of revelation, like a precious stone (in fact, the letters of the Torah are designated as “stones” in Sefer Yetzirah).

Once we know the number of letters, we continue our study by contemplating what particular form, what particular figure, that particular number of letters can be arranged in. The forms we consider are known as “figurate numbers.” These geometric figures with symmetry that have a particular number of components. We then arrange the letters of the text we are studying into the particular figurate number found.

For example, when we count them, we find that the Torah’s first verse (??????????? ?????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????? ???????) has 28 letters. The form that suits 28 letters is that of a triangle, particularly what is called the triangle of 7. We then proceed to arrange the 28 letters of the Torah’s first verse into the structure of the triangle of 7. Once the letters have been ordered in this form, the structure itself can be studied, thereby revealing many new insights into the meaning of the verse.

The Gift of the Camp at Mt. Sinai

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is read on a Shabbat that is close to the festival of Shavu’ot, when we celebrate God’s giving us the Torah. Indeed, the sages associate the organization of the Jewish camp in the wilderness to the revelation atMt.Sinai, which took place almost a year beforehand,

When God revealed Himself at Mt.Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him…. The angels were ordered under different flags…. When the Jewish people saw the angels ordered under their different flags, they began to desire flags for themselves, saying, “We wish we could have flags like them.” God said to them, ‘Since you desire to be under flags, I swear that I will fulfill your wish… then God informed the Jewish nation and told Moses, “Go and make them flags as they desire” (Bamidbar Rabbah).

God’s giving us the Torah generated the correct structure within the nation. While at Mt. Sinai the mountain was in the center and all the nation was around it, once the Tabernacle was constructed and the Divine Presence that was revealed at Mt. Sinai was drawn into it, the whole camp organized itself around the Tabernacle, “Each individual unto his flag…, facing and surrounding the Tent of Meeting shall they camp.” Mt.Sinaiand the Tabernacle were the two central points around which the camp was organized.

From Sons to Builders

There is a well known phrase by the sages that,

Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states, “All your children shall be God’s students, and abundant shall be your children’s peace.” The sages say: Do not read this as, “banayich” – your children, rather read it as “bonayich” – your builders.

AtMt.Sinaievery Jew became “God’s student,” a Torah scholar who learns Torah from God’s own mouth; they therefore also became builders. From this perspective, it now became fitting that they should be assembled together in an orderly structure like the angels and perhaps even more so than angels, since Jewish souls have a higher root even than angels.

At the exodus fromEgypt, our status as God’s children became manifest, and God called us, “My firstborn son,Israel.” As God’s beloved children, He counts us at every opportunity and each one of us is like an only son. But from the moment that God gave us the Torah, we are no longer simply children, having become a nation of Torah scholars, we are now also builders who, in addition to being beloved children, each of whom is singled out, we are also given the privilege of a specially ordered structure. The central point of that structure is the Tabernacle, which is the manifestation of Divine revelation and also of the Torah (the two tablets of the covenant were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle) and around it the Jewish nation was ordered according to their flags and camps.

Another version of the abovementioned saying regarding the angels seen during the giving of the Torah appears as an interpretation of the verse in Song of Songs, “He brought me to the winery and his flag upon me was love”

Rabbi Yehoshuah of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, “The nation of Israel said: God brought me to a large wine cellar, which is Sinai, where I saw the angel Michael and his flag and the angel Gabriel and his flag and my eyes saw the ceremonies of above and I loved them. At that moment, God said to Moses, ‘Since My children desire to camp under flags, they shall camp under flags.’ This is what it means when it says, ‘Each individual unto his flag with the banner....’” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah).

Referring to this verse, the Zohar states, “Rabbi Elazar began, ‘Rejoice withJerusalemand exult in her all those who love her, etc.’ Since joy is only available at times when the Jewish nation is in theHoly land.” This interpretation of the verse in the Torah portion of Bamidbar indicates that the camp ofIsraelin the wilderness, the rectified structure of the Jewish nation “around the Tent of Meeting,” had the sanctity of theLandofIsrael,Jerusalemand theHolyTemple, all of which are places of joy.

Consequently we can learn from this that today, in the Land of Israel, in order to merit the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, we must reconstruct the camps of the wilderness. This can be achieved by recreating proper order amongst Jews, including ceremonies and flags that express our uniqueness as God’s nation and our desire to be similar to the Divine Chariot , thereby meriting the return of the Divine Presence amongst us, “as comely asJerusalem, as awesome as the bannered regions.”

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 1, 5772

In this week’s Torah portion we read how Balak, online King of Moab, no rx hired Balaam, viagra an expert sorcerer, to curse the Jewish people, in an attempt to divestMoabof the threat that he felt they imposed upon them. On three attempts Balaam had Balak sacrifice seven oxen and seven rams, a total of 42 sacrifices, but every time, instead of Balaam receiving a prophecy that would curse the Jewish people, the prophecy was one of blessing. God had turned Balaam into an instrument to bless His people.

The Talmud[1] teaches us that even though Balak had ulterior motives for sacrificing the 42 animals to God, his reward was his descendant Ruth, the Moabite princess who converted and married Boaz out of whom came King Solomon who offered 1,000 sacrifices – a precursor to Mashiach. On the other hand, Balak’s 42 sacrifices were the spiritual source of a tragedy in which 42 children who had scorned the prophet Elishah and whom he had cursed were devoured by two bears from a forest (2 Kings, ch. 2).

After Elijah’s death, his disciple Elishah, dwelt in Jericho where the local water was bitter and unfit for drinking. A band of children earned their livelihood by bringing fresh water from afar but when Elishah miraculously sweetened the waters there these children followed Elishah and scorned him, nicknaming him “baldy.” Elishah cursed them and then two bears came out of the forest and devoured 42 of the children. Even though Elishah was the most righteous of prophets, he became the instrument for actualizing the curse that Balak wanted to bring on the Jewish people. In fact, the Arizal explains that the two bears that devoured the children harbored the incarnated souls of Balak and Balaam.

From this terrible story we learn that indeed there was some power in the sacrifices brought by Balak, and as great a prophet that Elishah was, he was only successful in directing that power to those, who according to the letter of the law, deserved it. Elishah lashed out harsh, chaotic judgments alluded to by the fact that Elishah’s name (?????) has a numerical value of 411, which is also the numerical value of “chaos” (???). Theoretically, Elishah’s curse was justified, because these children were delinquent, wicked, and deserving of punishment, as the Talmud[2] explains. Yet, Elishah’s approach was not the best educational route to take and he was later afflicted with illness as punishment for this act.

The Wonder Child

In the Zohar on this week’s Torah portion, we find a story that if contemplated correctly has the power to rectify these 42 children and all the children of the world, each of whom has the potential to become Mashiach.[3] The story begins when two of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s students visit the home of Rabbi Himnuna Saba, who was on the same exalted level of spirituality as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) himself, like a spiritual brother. Rabbi Himnuna Saba had already passed away, and the two visitors were in fact unaware that this was his home. His widow invited them in and her young son came home from school early that day. Realizing that these were holy men, the mother told her son to approach them and ask for their blessing. However, on approaching them, the child recoiled and told his mother that he could not come near them because they had not yet read the Shema that day in its time. The two men overheard his words and were astounded because indeed they had been involved in another great mitzvah (of providing for a groom and bride) from early that morning and had thus been exempt from reading the Shema in its time. They asked the child how he knew this and he replied that he had smelled it from their clothing.

Jacob’s Blessing to the Children

Now, the sense of smell is the most messianic sense because we are taught that the Mashiach will be able to confirm the truth just by using his sense of smell.[4] So we see that this child certainly had a spark of Mashiach in him, and he continued to astonish the men with his knowledge of Torah and his esoteric innovations. Unable to reply to his profound Torah knowledge, the men asked him his father’s name. The child consulted with his mother and then told them that had they been worthy of it, his father’s soul would have accompanied them as an Arab traveler; therefore he would not tell them who he was. The child then proceeded to explain Jacob’s blessing to Ephraim and Menasheh, his grandsons from Joseph, “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.”[5]

The two men returned to Rashbi and told him about this special child and Rashbi revealed to them that he was Rav Hamnuna’s son.

On hearing of this child prodigy, Rabbi Shimon’s own son, Rabbi Elazar, decided that he too must meet him. In his commentary on the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s father, explains that since Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is like a brother to Rav Hamnuna Saba, Rabbi Elazar sensed that his son must be his own spiritual partner. So, once, when Rabbi Elazar was on his way to visit his father-in-law, accompanied by Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Yosi, they took a detour and went to visit the child. While walking, they discussed the difference between the two nations of Amon andMoab. Incredibly, when they arrived, the child greeted them by telling them that he smelled from their clothing that Amon andMoabhad been “aggravating” them and he taught them how to overcome the impure influence of these two enemies. After discussing much Torah together and eating a meal with the child, the three men left.

Revealing the Mother’s Secret

Upon returning to Rashbi, he revealed that this child prodigy was not destined to live a long life, but he prayed that he should outlive his mother so that she would not suffer seeing her child pass away, and his prayers were answered.

Although the hero of this story is Rabbi Himnuna’s son, it is actually the boy’s mother who holds the secret of the number 42, a fact that is alluded to in the numerical value of “mother” (???), 42. In fact, in his commentary on this passage of the Zohar, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak explains that on the day that the first visit occurred, the fact that the boy returned home to his mother early represents the rising of his spiritual consciousness to the level of the “Supernal Mother.”

One of the opinions in the Talmud why Elishah considered the 42 children worthy of his curse is that their mothers had conceived them on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, which also corresponds to this level of Mother, when marital relations are strictly forbidden.

So we see that Rabbi Himnuna’s wife and their son hold the key to rectifying Elishah’s curse on the 42 children.

Balak and Mashiach

Above, we saw that every child has the potential to be Mashiach and that Rabbi Himnuna’s young son in particular, mentioned in the Zohar on the Torah portion of Balak, revealed that potential. We also saw that Balak’s sacrifices were rewarded in that Ruth, and eventually Mashiach, would be his descendants. In fact, Maimonides[6] states that there is one section in Balaam’s last prophecy that relates explicitly to Mashiach:[7]

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not soon. A star has stepped forth from Jacob, and a tribe has arisen fromIsraelwho will crush the princes ofMoaband uproot all the sons of Seth.Edomshall be possessed, and Seir shall become the possession of his enemies, andIsraelshall triumph. A ruler shall come out of Jacob, and destroy the remnant of the city.”

The eleven different phrases in these three verses all relate to a different spiritual aspect of the Mashiach, beginning with the initial aspect of self-sacrifice, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught.[8]May we soon merit the revelation of Mashiach to all ofIsraeland to the entire world.



[1] Sotah, 47a.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Shabbat, 119b.

[4] Sanhedrin, 93b.

[5] Genesis, 48:16.

[6] Hilchot Melachim, 11:4.

[7] Numbers, 24:17-19.

[8] Torat Menachem, Vol. 24, Part II, 1Tamuz, 5726.

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, physician order “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, health “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” Rashi explains that the meaning of this additional verse is, “I will bless them – i.e. the nation of Israel—and I will consent with the kohanim (priests). Another meaning is, I will bless the kohanim.” These two interpretations that Rashi mentions appear in the Talmud as two differing opinions,

Rabbi Ishma’el said, “We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that there is a blessing for the kohanim themselves. But, when the verse states, “I will bless them,” it means that the kohanim bless the Jewish people and God blesses the kohanim.

Rabbi Akiva says, ‘We have learned that the Jewish people be blessed by the kohanim, but we have not learned that they [the Jewish people] are blessed by God Himself. But, when the verse states, “And I will bless them” it is to say that the kohanim bless the nation of Israel and God consents to their blessing. (Chulin, 49a).

Although in the Talmud Rabbi Ishma’el’s opinion is mentioned first, Rashi in his commentary first mentions Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, that the words, “And I will bless them” refer to the Jewish people.” We can learn from this that Rashi considers this opinion the more literal interpretation, more than that of Rabbi Ishmael, whom Rashi quotes second.

However, the Zohar emphasizes the opinion that “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim” (in the Zohar this interpretation is stated in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, not Rabbi Yishma’el), implying that this is the more mystical interpretation of the verse. In fact, this explanation is alluded to by the numerical equality between the Hebrew words for, “And I will bless them” (???? ?????) and the often repeated phrase, “Aaron and his sons” (???? ?????), who are of course the kohanim!

In the Talmud, the question is asked, where do we learn that the kohanim are also blessed, and the answer is given that we learn this from the promise God gave Abraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” meaning that whomever blesses a Jew will be blessed himself. The Talmud then asks further, if so, then when Rabbi Ishmael explains that God blesses the kohanim, what is he adding? And the reply is that this phrase sets the kohanim in the same context as the Jewish nation so that they are blessed together with them. So, everyone agrees that the kohanim do receive a blessing, but Rabbi Ishmael adds that this is not merely by virtue of their having blessed the Jewish people (and then God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people sets in), but that they also receive their own blessing from God.

A similar explanation is offered for the second interpretation, referring to the blessing with which God blesses the Jewish nation. According to Rabbi Ishmael this is the literal explanation of the verse so it does not need to be stated, because if God commands the kohanim to bless the Jewish nation, then it is obvious that He consents to the blessing and blesses the Jewish nation. Yet Rabbi Akiva assumes that there is an additional blessing and that the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel,” refers to the blessing that the kohanim bless the Jewish nation, while “And I will bless them” – means that God will add even more blessing.

A Blessing to Kohanim to Bless Jews

In order to see how these two interpretations complement one another, let’s return to Rabbi Ishmael’s statement in the Talmud, which in the Zohar appears as Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion: “And I will bless them” refers to the kohanim. If we contemplate this special addition, it is quite clear that this blessing is not just for the benefit of the kohanim but to add even more blessing to the Jewish people. The task of the kohanim, sons of Aharon who “loves peace and pursues peace,” is to bring blessing and peace upon the Jewish nation, both as God’s messengers and as envoys of the nation. So, we cannot reasonably explain that mixed into their blessing of the Jewish people is an egotistic interest in bringing blessing upon themselves. The whole point of the blessing of the kohanim is to “bless His people of Israel with love.” This idea is especially emphasized in the Zohar, which states immediately following this explanation, “Any kohen who is not loved by the people, should not bless them.” To illustrate this statement, an anecdote follows, which relates of a kohen who “did not bless with love” and was gravely punished for doing so. Indeed, this is even the legal ruling. This explanation of the additional blessing of “And I will bless them,” therefore comes to teach us that the blessing that the kohanim receive in order to bless the Jewish nation is from a much higher source than the blessing that any other person receives as a result of blessing a Jew, because they receive their blessing from God in the context of the entire Jewish people, thereby augmenting enormously the impact of the blessing.

Unconditional Blessing and a Bonus Blessing from the Righteous

Explaining this further, we may observe that there are two levels of blessing within the Priestly Blessing:

The first level is a direct blessing from God to the Jews that stems from the phrase, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” What is special about this particular blessing is that it does not depend on the deeds of the Jewish nation. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the blessing of the kohanim has an advantage over all the other blessings that appear in the Torah portion of Bechukotai (such as, “I will grant you rain… I will grant you peace… I will grant My dwelling… etc”), because they are all conditional upon, “If you walk in My statutes.” But, the blessing of the kohanim is absolutely unconditional. In fact, not only is the Priestly Blessing not affected by the state of the Jewish people being blessed, it is also independent of the deeds or spiritual level of the kohanim who confer the blessing, and it does not demand any special intention on their part. Even kohanim who are sinners are permitted to bless the people (except under certain circumstances). As Maimonides explains (Hilchot tefilah venesi’at kapayim, 106):

Even though he [the kohen] is not a sage and is not meticulous in his observance of the mitzvot, or even if people complain about him, or even if his business profile is not clean, he can still raise his hands [in blessing] and may not be prevented from doing so. Because this is a positive commandment for every single kohen that it is fitting for him to raise his hands… Also, you should not question to what use this simpleton’s blessing might be?’ because receiving the blessing does not depend upon the kohanim, but upon God, as it says, ‘And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.’ The kohanim do as they are commanded by God in His compassion to bless the Jewish people as He pleases.”

So, the first level of blessing found in the Priestly Blessing is dependent only on God, and independent of both those blessing (the kohanim) and those being blessed (the Jewish people).

But, above and beyond this first level of blessing lies a second level, which is dependent on the kohanim, who act in this case not just out of God’s command that they bless the people, but out of a willingness to assume the role of figurative heads of the Jewish people. This same role is assumed by the righteous individuals, tzadikim, through whom blessing is transmitted to the Jewish nation. Tzadikim are like a clear conduit through whom abundance flows. Apparently, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yehudah (who interpreted the words, “And I will bless them” as referring to God blessing the kohanim themselves) were aiming at this second level of blessing flowing through the kohanim. At this level, the blessing increases in proportion to the spiritual level of the kohen conferring the blessing. The closer the kohen is to the level of Aharon, who loves peace and pursues peace, the more the blessing of abundance will flow through him. So, we can interpret the words of Rabbi Ishmael in the Talmud by saying that in fact, the blessing that the kohanim receive from God is on behalf of the Jewish nation, meaning that the kohanim are blessed from a higher source in order to bring down additional blessing to the Jewish nation.

The distinction between these two levels of blessing is hinted at in the difference between the two references to God, “My Name” and “I” found in the verse, “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” “My Name” is the level to which the entire nation ofIsrael belongs, for God calls His Name upon us all, whereas “I” is the level that is above, “My Name” and indicates God’s essence, above all names and connotations. The truth is that even this level belongs to every Jew, whoever and wherever he may be, because we are all God’s children and we all have a Divine soul that is, “An actual part of God above,” but this level only manifests in the righteous, so much so that one can look at a righteous person and actually see the Divine Presence (as the sages teach us that the phrase “before the Lord God” refers to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai). In fact, combining the letters of “My Name” (???) and “I” (???) forms the word ??????, referring to the leaders ofIsrael mentioned in the Torah immediately following the Priestly Blessing.

“The lips of the kohen will guard knowledge… for he is an angel of the God of Hosts.” When we have the privilege of kohanim who are at the spiritual level of righteous tzadikim, full of the grace and sanctity of angels, then they receive their blessing from the highest source of blessing and we receive unlimited blessing through them. Through kohanim such as these, the entire Jewish nation receives great light, “God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you… and grant you peace.”

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, Sivan 8, 5772

One of the central points in the Torah portion of Naso is the Priestly Blessing, viagra “God shall bless you and keep you. God shall shine His countenance towards you and grace you. God shall raise His countenance towards you and grant you peace.” The verse that follows these three verses is, viagra “And they shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I will bless them.”