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The episode of Judah and Tamar that appears in this week’s parashah, what is ed Parashat Vayeishev, troche is one of the most mysterious stories of the Torah.

A literal reading of the Torah’s text reveals that Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law, the widow of his son Er who died because of his misdeeds. After Er’s death,Judah told his second son Onan to marry Tamar in a levirate marriage, as is required when a man has died without offspring. However, Onan acted in an unacceptable fashion and he also died without begetting children, leaving Tamar a widow once again. Upon seeing this, without realizing that his sons had died as punishment for their sins, Judah was reluctant to have his third son, Shelah, marry Tamar, fearing that he too might suffer the same fate as his two older brothers. When Tamar realized that Judah was holding Shelah back from her, she disguised herself as a prostitute and waited for Judah to pass by. Judah was allured towards Tamar without knowing who she was and from their union, Peretz and Zerach were born.

This account ofJudah’s complex relationship with Tamar requires careful examination, especially when we remember that Peretz, their firstborn, was the predecessor of the royal dynasty of Jewish Kings that began with King David, as we find in the book of Ruth, “These are the descendants of Peretz… and Yishai gave birth to David.” Furthermore, it is from this lineage that the Mashiach shall be born.

The Zohar’s profound mystical interpretation of Judah’s and Tamar’s acts begins with an invitation to,

Come and see how precious the words of Torah are, for every single word of Torah contains high and holy mysteries. And this is what it says that when the Almighty gave the Torah to the children of Israel, He gave them all the hidden holy treasures; and all of them are in the Torah.

Although every parashah in the Torah contains the deepest mysteries, the episode of Judah and Tamar contains especially secret mysteries that relate to the revelation of Mashiach. It is here that his soul-root begins to shine, as the sages state that while this episode took place, God was busy creating “Mashiach’s light.”

Sweet in place of bitter

We will turn our focus to Tamar, who actively initiated the episode, by discovering the inner significance of her name. In Hebrew, “Tamar” (???) is a date palm, the seventh and final of the species with which the land of Israel is blessed, but it is also the root of the word “exchange” (?????). Alternately, the name Tamar can be analyzed into two words, “complete” (??) and “bitter” (??), in what is called a notarikon by the sages and alluding to “the completion, or end of bitterness” (??-??). This notarikon reflects the ability of Tamar to exchange the bitter for sweet, just like the date-palm, which can turn an arid wilderness into a flourishing oasis. The date palm is also capable of thriving on salt (bitter) water and turning it into a honey-sweet fruit.

Returning to Tamar’s act, we find that it presents a clear example of turning the bitterness into sweetness. There are a number of events in this story that may be bitter pills to swallow, beginning with Er and Onan’s sins and subsequent deaths and ending with Judah’s own behavior, but it is specifically from this bitterness that the sweetest fruit emerges – Mashiach’s light. Indeed, we are taught that Mashiach’s level of consciousness is one that is capable of turning “darkness into light and the bitter into sweetness.” All this begins in the Torah’s account of Judah and Tamar in this week’s parashah.

Beyond the general reference to Tamar’s act, there are other Chassidic elucidations of how she transformed the bitter into sweetness.

Sweetening a bitter thought

The Magid of Mezeritch, disciple and successor of the Ba’al Shem Tov, whose 240th yartzeit was on 19th of Kislev explains, “The meaning of Tamar (???) is ‘the end of bitterness,’ the foreign thought is bitter, but in truth it is earnest.” He continues to explain that when an individual is troubled by a foreign thought during his prayers (in the lesser case, thoughts of business or family issues, or in the worst case, when he is troubled right then by sinful reflections), he must understand that even this thought has a positive root and source, “…when he notices that this [thought] originates in the holy letters, but it is merely their order that is foolish.” The Magid states that the source of all thoughts is in the holy letters—the building blocks of creation—but, if a specific thought appears to be foolish and sinful, it is because its letters have been wrongly combined, while its root remains pure and holy – like a puzzle of a beautiful work of art that has been put together incorrectly. One example of such a letter-combination that is turned from good into evil is in the verse in this parashah, “Er, [??] Judah’s firstborn was evil [??] in God’s eyes.”

The Magid teaches that when an individual realizes that his improper thoughts are actually a misinterpretation of something good, “he can enter the world of exchanges and from these combinations other words can be formed; from words of folly emerge words of Torah.” A foreign thought is bitter and evil, but recognizing its source brings it to its root, to the “world of exchanges” in which the “puzzle” can be reconstructed and the folly sweetened.

It is important to point out that the Alter Rebbe (the Magid’s youngest and dearest disciple) writes that this particular method of elevating foreign thoughts is the service of the righteous, but the instruction for the general public is to simply ignore or expel the improper thought (as explained in Tanya). Nevertheless, the realization that foreign thoughts are rooted in a positive source is something that we can all relate to, especially in these final generations that precede the coming of Mashiach when the service of the righteous will eventually become part of the public domain.

The Magid’s explanation illuminates the story of Judah and Tamar in a new light. Judah thought the woman he met was a prostitute, but in truth she was his righteous and holy daughter-in-law; Judah thought his daughter-in-law had become pregnant illegitimately, but in truth she was pregnant with his own child. Tamar, who covered her face, was exactly like that improper thought that masks its true source. The moment Judah realized the truth, all the bitterness turned into sweetness. So too, the moment we identify an improper  thought if instead of being overwhelmed by it we realize that it is a misleading interference, at that moment bitterness is exchanged for sweetness.

Nullifying the ego

A second profound interpretation of the mystery of Tamar is that the bitterness (??) alluded to in her name refers to the act of “nullifying the ego” (???? ???). Every individual has a natural and clear sense of “ego,” which begins with the realization that “I exist,” but can easily deteriorate into coarse, crude and arrogant egocentrism and self-aggrandizement. The first steps in the Chassidic way of serving God lead us to refine this sense of self with the realization that our ego is absolutely null and void, because it is God who creates us every moment anew. Properly refining our feelings of selfhood, rectifies our ego by making it clear that we have no reason for being inflated with self-pride, or any other negative egotistic tendency that separates us from our Divine source. The Magid of Mezeritch described this by saying that God created the world “something from nothing” and the service of the righteous is to turn the “something” (i.e., the ego) back into “nothing.” This service of the righteous, in the sense of nullifying the ego before the “nothingness” out of which it was created, is universally relevant since, “Your people are all righteous,” and everyone is capable of achieving this state of mind, especially while praying.

The bitterness in this case is experienced while nullifying the ego. We are required to take all the comfortable feelings the ego’s gives us about ourselves, humble them, and nullify them—a very bitter experience indeed. Yet, anyone who appropriately acts this way and merits tasting something of true selflessness, witnesses how this bitter experience turns into the sweetness of experiencing the Divine “nothingness” from which the world was created. It is then reveled that, objectively speaking, the bitterness was the ego’s hijacking of our true selfhood, making us self-centered and self-aggrandizing. How can we imagine that an egotistic stance could be anything but bitter? True nullification of the ego is the sweetener that refines all bitterness, even though we continue to sense our own existence, it is nullified before its Divine source, and this nullification has a taste sweeter than honey.

In the events surrounding Judah and Tamar,Judah’s act of self-nullification begins with the parashah’s opening verse, “Judah went down from his brothers.”Judah took to heart what he and his brothers had done to Joseph and their father, Jacob, and was the first to lower his ego. He reaches a climactic act of self-nullification when he admits that Tamar, “is more righteous than I.” As the sages relate, it was Judah experience of self-aggrandizement that caused God to send an angel of desire to awaken his base cravings. But, thanks to this fall, he was able to reach a climax of selflessness, acknowledging that he was the father of Tamar’s pregnancy. All the bitterness of his initial egotistic state was transformed into the sweetness of a refined self, thus shining the light of Mashiach into the world.

The spirit of God, from Otniel to Mashiach

Having seen these two interpretations of Judah and Tamar’s act, a third interpretation is due, one that is most fitting for our generation, and that will reconnect us with the episode’s literal reading. We will begin with a numerical analysis. The name Tamar (???) can be divided into two syllables (?-??). The second syllable is made up of two letters, mem and reish (??, which also spell “bitter”). Their numerical value is 240, also the numerical value of the idiom “the spirit of Havayah” (??? ???’), a phrase related to the Mashiach, whom the prophet Isaiah (11:2) tells us, “The spirit of Havayah will rest upon.” Indeed, the very first time the Torah uses the word “spirit” is in its second verse. There it reads, “the spirit of God [Elokim] hovered over the water,” which the sages interpret as alluding to the spirit of Mashiach.

As an aside, this numerical allusion relates perfectly to the current Chassidic year, since on the 19th of Kislev, we commemorated the 240th anniversary of the Magid of Mezertich’s passing. Just before his death in 5533 (1773), the Magid enigmatically told the Alter Rebbe, “Zalman, today is our yomtov (festive day).” Exactly 26 years later on the 19th of Kislev 5559 (1799), 214 years ago, his intention became clear when the Alter Rebbe was released from prison on that very day, a day that has since become the Chassidic “festival of redemption.” This year, 5773 (2012) signifies the singular combination of 214 [the gematria of “spirit” (???)] years since the Alter Rebbe’s release and 26 (the gematria of “Havayah” (?-?-?-?)] more years from the Magid of Mezeritch’s passing, perfectly reflecting the numerical value of the phrase “the spirit of Havayah” (??? ???’).

This means that this year is a very auspicious time for meditating on the phrase “the spirit of Havayah,” in particular with reference to its numerical counterpart “bitterness” (??), which is the second syllable of Tamar’s name (???), as mentioned above.

The first time the phrase “the spirit of Havayah” appears in the Torah is with reference to the judge Otniel ben Knaz, of whom it says, “the spirit of Havayah came upon him and he judged [the people of] Israel.” In his explanation of this verse, Rashi refers to an exceptional midrash,

Rabbi Tanchuma taught: He [Otniel] looked at them [the Jewish people]. Just as God told Moses inEgypt, “I see, I have seen (??? ?????) the poverty of My people.” What do these two instances of seeing mean? God told Moses, “I see” (???) that they are doomed to err with the Golden Calf, nonetheless, “I have seen (?????) the poverty of My people.” From this verse, Otniel taught: whether they are meritorious or guilty, He must redeem them.” This means that the special “spirit of Havayah” that rested upon Otniel is a type of approbation of the Jewish people that sets them high above any regular account of credits or debits, proving from God’s own words that “whether they are meritorious or guilty He must redeem them.”

This type of “spirit of Havayah” is a messianic spirit that is clearly intended in the expression referring to Mashiach “the spirit of Havayah will rest upon him.” The secret of this special spirit begins here with Tamar’s act, in which the light, the spirit of Mashiach is created through an affair that on purpose involves many seemingly guilty individuals, so much so that Kabbalah teaches us that even the souls of Er and Onan were rectified in their reincarnations as Peretz and Zerach (according to the secret of levirate marriage).

God is compassionate and merciful

Continuing our meditation on Tamar’s name and the expression “the spirit of Havayah,” we find that it is also an abbreviation of the Biblical phrase “Havayah is compassionate and merciful” (???? ????? ???’), which has a numerical value of 400 – the value of the letter tav (?,) the first letter of Tamar’s name. This brings us to the full understanding that Tamar’s name equals the two expressions “Havayah is compassionate and merciful” (?) and “the spirit of Havayah” (??), revealing that God is compassionate and merciful as we find in the thirteen attributes of mercy and it is incumbent upon us too to follow this directive, “Just as He is called ‘compassionate’ so you should be compassionate, just as He is called ‘merciful’ so you should be merciful.” This Divine attribute is what allows Him to judge us favorably whether we are meritorious or guilty. It is the “spirit of Havayah” that rests upon the true judges and leaders of the Jewish people from Otniel through the Mashiach. In order to argue our case, that God must redeem us (“He must redeem them”), we must act with compassion and mercy, and then God too will redeem us in a similar manner.

The ability to arouse God’s compassion even upon those who are “guilty” and those who have fallen, is the very sweetening of the terrible bitter taste in the mouths of those sinners, every one of whom will eventually be redeemed and rectified. Then their bitterness will be exchanged for the sweet taste of honey when “the righteous individual will flourish like a date palm.” Indeed, “Your people are all righteous.”

(from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, 19th of Kislev, 5773)

Two hundred and fourteen years ago, see
cialis on the 19th of Kislev 5559, hospital the Alter Rebbe, illness Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, was released from prison in Russia. His arrest was in fact the result of libelous slander spread by opponents to the Chassidic movement. In spite of this revealed fact, the Alter Rebbe realized that his arrest reflected spiritual opposition to his new method of disseminating the Torah’s inner dimension openly. From both perspectives, his release from prison was a victory for Chassidut and a heavenly decree that indeed the light of Chassidic teachings should illuminate the farthest and darkest extremes. From that day on, Chabad Chassidim, and all those who hold dear the light Chassidut spreads around the world, celebrate the 19th of Kislev, the Alter Rebbe’s “festival of redemption,” as a festive day.

The Alter Rebbe wrote a letter to his good friend, Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, announcing his acquittal. He wrote, “Who am I, a lowly person as I am, that God has brought me this far and Heaven’s Name was sanctified through me…. But it was God who gave us this privilege by virtue of the Holy Land and its residents, and may He help us at all times to broaden our borders, and extricate us from dire straits.” It is surprising that of all his myriad accomplishments, teaching Torah to thousands, his Torah learning, his prayer and his charity, the Alter Rebbe saw fit to attribute his release to the merit of the land of Israel in particular (followers enumerated the Alter Rebbe’s ten principal merits, so apparently, the merit of the Holy Land was the greatest of them all).

The merit of the Holy Land and its residents that the Alter Rebbe mentions in his letter, refers to his wholehearted encouragement that his followers send financial support to the Jewish communities residing in the land of Israel at that time, in particular to the community of Chassidim who had settled there some twenty years earlier under the auspices of Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, the Alter Rebbe’s teacher and friend. for whom, the monetary support was vital. In fact, this financial support was the main cause behind the Alter Rebbe’s arrest, as his opponents used it to falsely charge him with assisting the Ottoman Empire, enemies of the Czar. Humorously, we might state that the Alter Rebbe was implying that just as the Holy Land was the source of his arrest, it was also his chief advocate in Heaven ensuring his release.

“The merit of the landof Israel” is a concept often gleaned from Parashat Vayishlach, which is always read with proximity to the 19th of Kislev. Before Jacob met Esau, the verse states, “Jacob was very fearful.” What did the righteous Jacob, an honest and sincere tent-dweller, the choice of the Patriarchs, have to fear from the evil Esau? The sages explain Jacob’s fear in the Midrash, “Yaakov said: All these years Esau has been dwelling in the land of Israel, perhaps he is coming against me with the spiritual merit of living in the land of Israel?”

Before Jacob’s rendezvous with Esau he said, “with Laban I have sojourned” and Rashi interprets, “I have sojourned (????) has a gematria of 613, meaning that I lived with the evil Laban and observed 613 mitzvot.” One can observe all 613 mitzvot, but as long as one remains outside the borders of the land of Israel, something essential is lacking; mitzvah observance outside the land of Israel is metaphorically described as “placing signposts” (see Jeremiah 31:20) relative to mitzvah observance in the Holy Land. So, despite all of Esau’s wicked deeds, he has one merit that stands up to Jacob’s exemplary conduct: his steadfast hold on the Holy land.

Sowing charity

To delve deeper into the nature of the merit of the land of Israel, let’s look at the Alter Rebbe’s open letters in which he encouraged his disciples to give charity to the Jewish community in the land of Israel. In these letters, the Alter Rebbe clarifies in depth the importance of charity in general and charity for the Holy land’s residents in particular.

The Alter Rebbe explains in length the special significance of observing the practical mitzvot. The soul’s descent into this world is meant to rectify it, through the physical body, by clarifying and elevating it. Thus, despite the supernal intentions filling one’s heart through the fear and love of God, intentions, life’s purpose is found in the actions performed with our physical body, by means of physical objects (such as the animal hide from which tefillin are made).

Yet the mitzvah of charity has the most special effect, so much so that whenever the Jerusalem Talmud speaks of a generic mitzvah it is actually referring to charity. This is because what a person gives to charity is literally his lifeblood. representing an investment of time and effort in mundane reality and used to sustain our existence in the physical world (like Jacob who worked with all his might and indeed, he took great care of his acquisitions, even crossing over the Yabok passage at night to retrieve “small vessels”). Thus, charity is not merely another in a long list of mitzvot, but an all inclusive mitzvah, by which the individual gives from his very being. By giving charity, we observe the injunction to “Love God with all your might,” which the sages explain means, “with all your money.”

The act of giving charity is compared to sowing a field. But, this is not an earthly field that we sow with our charity, rather it is the “supernal land,” the source of all Jewish souls. Once the seeds of charity have been sown, they begin to grow and bear fruit in the form of a Divine light of redemption descending from above. It is God who is referred to as, “Sower of charitable deeds and Grower of redemption.” When the fruits of charity ripen they become tangible moments of redemption for the soul and when all of this light descends upon us, we will together experience the true and complete redemption. This is the meaning of the phrase, “charity is great, for it brings redemption.”

All this holds true every time a Jew gives a penny to charity, but charity for the residents of the Holy Land has as an even more outstanding quality. This is because the mundane, earthly land of Israel identifies with and reflects the “supernal land,” mentioned above. Residents of the Holy Land have the privilege of “walking before God in the lands [plural!] of life,” meaning that they live simultaneously both in the land of Israel below and in its supernal counterpart above. Every good deed performed here, is immediately sown in the higher land where it ripens into redemption. Outside the Holy Land, the spirit of all good deeds follows a winding path until it eventually influences reality. But, good deeds performed in the land of Israel, follow a direct path from the “mundane arousal” motivating the individual performing the act to the “supernal arousal” from above, bringing the light of redemption into reality.

The verse states that, “The eyes of Havayah, your God, are constantly upon it [the Holy Land].” God’s Providence over the Holy Land is likened to sight, which operates at the speed of light, and in a straight line. But, God’s Providence over the rest of the world is likened to hearing, which operates at the much slower speed of sound and indirectly. This is the difference between the land of Israel and all other countries.

One most relevant application of charity for the land of Israel today is the support of Jewish labor in Israel. Usually, using Jewish labor appears far more costly than the alternatives. But, in truth, it is far more precious and the difference is certainly the highest form of charity dedicated to the well-being and success of the Jewish residents of the Holy Land.

A ladder between heaven and earth

Now we can better understand the significance of the “merit of the land of Israel” that was so precious in Jacob’s eyes and in the eyes of the Alter Rebbe. The merit of the Holy Land is the great merit of living in a land where every act performed has inherent value, in a land that supports fruitful dialogue between heaven and earth, between body, soul and the source of all souls, and between the Jewish people and the Almighty.

It is the greatest thinkers—those spiritual giants who delve with their intellect into higher worlds to fathom the unknown—who best understand the secret hidden in the lowest, material world. It is they who recognize the special quality of the Land of Life. Though Jacob sees a ladder reaching the heavens above and “God standing over him,” he is also the one to recognize the importance of the ladder’s base, standing with its feet on the ground revealing the importance of possessing the land and settling it. His first act upon returning to the land of Israel from Haran is to purchase a plot of land outside the city of Shechem.

It follows then that the Alter Rebbe, with all his far-reaching intellectual work and in-depth study of the Divine and the depths of the human soul, would be the one to appreciate and emphasize the great significance of mundane action, from the act of giving a single coin to a needy individual to supporting the entire Jewish community in the land of Israel.

Our generation’s task is to complete the connection between heaven and earth, between revealing the inner dimension of the Torah’s mysteries in the era of redemption and reestablishing the Jewish kingdom, here on earth.
Two hundred and fourteen years ago, viagra on the 19th of Kislev 5559, the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, was released from prison in Russia. His arrest was in fact the result of libelous slander spread by opponents to the Chassidic movement. In spite of this revealed fact, the Alter Rebbe realized that his arrest reflected spiritual opposition to his new method of disseminating the Torah’s inner dimension openly. From both perspectives, his release from prison was a victory for Chassidut and a heavenly decree that indeed the light of Chassidic teachings should illuminate the farthest and darkest extremes. From that day on, Chabad Chassidim, and all those who hold dear the light Chassidut spreads around the world, celebrate the 19th of Kislev, the Alter Rebbe’s “festival of redemption,” as a festive day.

The Alter Rebbe wrote a letter to his good friend, Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, announcing his acquittal. He wrote, “Who am I, a lowly person as I am, that God has brought me this far and Heaven’s Name was sanctified through me…. But it was God who gave us this privilege by virtue of the Holy Land and its residents, and may He help us at all times to broaden our borders, and extricate us from dire straits.” It is surprising that of all his myriad accomplishments, teaching Torah to thousands, his Torah learning, his prayer and his charity, the Alter Rebbe saw fit to attribute his release to the merit of the land of Israel in particular (followers enumerated the Alter Rebbe’s ten principal merits, so apparently, the merit of the Holy Land was the greatest of them all).

The merit of the Holy Land and its residents that the Alter Rebbe mentions in his letter, refers to his wholehearted encouragement that his followers send financial support to the Jewish communities residing in the land of Israel at that time, in particular to the community of Chassidim who had settled there some twenty years earlier under the auspices of Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, the Alter Rebbe’s teacher and friend. for whom, the monetary support was vital. In fact, this financial support was the main cause behind the Alter Rebbe’s arrest, as his opponents used it to falsely charge him with assisting theOttoman Empire, enemies of the Czar. Humorously, we might state that the Alter Rebbe was implying that just as theHoly Landwas the source of his arrest, it was also his chief advocate in Heaven ensuring his release.

“The merit of the landof Israel” is a concept often gleaned from Parashat Vayishlach, which is always read with proximity to the 19th of Kislev. Before Jacob met Esau, the verse states, “Jacob was very fearful.” What did the righteous Jacob, an honest and sincere tent-dweller, the choice of the Patriarchs, have to fear from the evil Esau? The sages explain Jacob’s fear in the Midrash, “Yaakov said: All these years Esau has been dwelling in the land of Israel, perhaps he is coming against me with the spiritual merit of living in the land of Israel?”

Before Jacob’s rendezvous with Esau he said, “with Laban I have sojourned” and Rashi interprets, “I have sojourned (????) has a gematria of 613, meaning that I lived with the evil Laban and observed 613 mitzvot.” One can observe all 613 mitzvot, but as long as one remains outside the borders of the land of Israel, something essential is lacking; mitzvah observance outside the land of Israel is metaphorically described as “placing signposts” (see Jeremiah 31:20) relative to mitzvah observance in the Holy Land. So, despite all of Esau’s wicked deeds, he has one merit that stands up to Jacob’s exemplary conduct: his steadfast hold on theHoly land.

Sowing charity

To delve deeper into the nature of the merit of thelandofIsrael, let’s look at the Alter Rebbe’s open letters in which he encouraged his disciples to give charity to the Jewish community in thelandofIsrael. In these letters, the Alter Rebbe clarifies in depth the importance of charity in general and charity for theHoly land’s residents in particular.

The Alter Rebbe explains in length the special significance of observing the practical mitzvot. The soul’s descent into this world is meant to rectify it, through the physical body, by clarifying and elevating it. Thus, despite the supernal intentions filling one’s heart through the fear and love of God, intentions, life’s purpose is found in the actions performed with our physical body, by means of physical objects (such as the animal hide from which tefillin are made).

Yet the mitzvah of charity has the most special effect, so much so that whenever the Jerusalem Talmud speaks of a generic mitzvah it is actually referring to charity. This is because what a person gives to charity is literally his lifeblood. representing an investment of time and effort in mundane reality and used to sustain our existence in the physical world (like Jacob who worked with all his might and indeed, he took great care of his acquisitions, even crossing over the Yabok passage at night to retrieve “small vessels”). Thus, charity is not merely another in a long list of mitzvot, but an all inclusive mitzvah, by which the individual gives from his very being. By giving charity, we observe the injunction to “Love God with all your might,” which the sages explain means, “with all your money.”

The act of giving charity is compared to sowing a field. But, this is not an earthly field that we sow with our charity, rather it is the “supernal land,” the source of all Jewish souls. Once the seeds of charity have been sown, they begin to grow and bear fruit in the form of a Divine light of redemption descending from above. It is God who is referred to as, “Sower of charitable deeds and Grower of redemption.” When the fruits of charity ripen they become tangible moments of redemption for the soul and when all of this light descends upon us, we will together experience the true and complete redemption. This is the meaning of the phrase, “charity is great, for it brings redemption.”

All this holds true every time a Jew gives a penny to charity, but charity for the residents of theHoly Landhas as an even more outstanding quality. This is because the mundane, earthlylandofIsraelidentifies with and reflects the “supernal land,” mentioned above. Residents of theHoly Landhave the privilege of “walking before God in the lands [plural!] of life,” meaning that they live simultaneously both in thelandofIsraelbelow and in its supernal counterpart above. Every good deed performed here, is immediately sown in the higher land where it ripens into redemption. Outside theHoly Land, the spirit of all good deeds follows a winding path until it eventually influences reality. But, good deeds performed in thelandofIsrael, follow a direct path from the “mundane arousal” motivating the individual performing the act to the “supernal arousal” from above, bringing the light of redemption into reality.

The verse states that, “The eyes of Havayah, your God, are constantly upon it [theHoly Land].” God’sProvidenceover theHoly Landis likened to sight, which operates at the speed of light, and in a straight line. But, God’sProvidenceover the rest of the world is likened to hearing, which operates at the much slower speed of sound and indirectly. This is the difference between thelandofIsraeland all other countries.

One most relevant application of charity for thelandofIsraeltoday is the support of Jewish labor inIsrael. Usually, using Jewish labor appears far more costly than the alternatives. But, in truth, it is far more precious and the difference is certainly the highest form of charity dedicated to the well-being and success of the Jewish residents of theHoly Land.

A ladder between heaven and earth

Now we can better understand the significance of the “merit of thelandofIsrael” that was so precious in Jacob’s eyes and in the eyes of the Alter Rebbe. The merit of theHoly Landis the great merit of living in a land where every act performed has inherent value, in a land that supports fruitful dialogue between heaven and earth, between body, soul and the source of all souls, and between the Jewish people and the Almighty.

It is the greatest thinkers—those spiritual giants who delve with their intellect into higher worlds to fathom the unknown—who best understand the secret hidden in the lowest, material world. It is they who recognize the special quality of theLandofLife. Though Jacob sees a ladder reaching the heavens above and “God standing over him,” he is also the one to recognize the importance of the ladder’s base, standing with its feet on the ground revealing the importance of possessing the land and settling it. His first act upon returning to thelandofIsraelfromHaranis to purchase a plot of land outside the city ofShechem.

It follows then that the Alter Rebbe, with all his far-reaching intellectual work and in-depth study of the Divine and the depths of the human soul, would be the one to appreciate and emphasize the great significance of mundane action, from the act of giving a single coin to a needy individual to supporting the entire Jewish community in the land of Israel.

Our generation’s task is to complete the connection between heaven and earth, between revealing the inner dimension of the Torah’s mysteries in the era of redemption and reestablishing the Jewish kingdom, here on earth.

Parashat Miketz lies at the heart of the action-packed suspense story of Joseph and his brothers. The hero of the story, sick the righteous Joseph, case is transformed from a downtrodden slave into the all-powerful ruler of Egypt; his brothers, cialis who in the previous episode sold Joseph into slavery, approach him with great submission but Joseph devises a plot against them, accusing them of espionage.

From hatred to love

In our current situation the sin of hatred and disharmony amongst the Jewish people is our greatest downfall. Like the brothers’ burning hatred of Joseph that almost resulted in bloodshed, which could only be resolved when their hatred turned into love, so too harmony amongst our people can be restored and hatred resolved by fraternal love and true unity among our people. This is the meaning of Ezekiel’s prophecy that “Joseph’s tree” and “Judah’s tree” will become “one tree.”

Joseph took responsibility for rectifying the hatred by means of the complex plot that he enacted. Like a talented producer, he led his brothers step-by-step until they admitted their regret over his sale and took responsibility for Joseph’s brother Benjamin, recognizing that this was atonement for their sin in selling Joseph into slavery. Joseph retained his harsh mask until he sensed that the moment was ripe to reunite the entire family.

In order to resolve hatred it is not enough to make verbal declarations of eternal love. We need to fathom the core-root of hatred in order to transform it into love.

Hatred from incomprehension

Why did his brothers really hate Joseph? Joseph’s brothers were the soul roots of the Divinely ordained tribes of Israel, surely each of them was “compassionate, bashful and a doer of loving-kindnesses,” the positive qualities associated with every Jew? How then was it that they reached such an intense level of hatred for their own brother?

Hatred results from a lack of understanding and true appreciation of another individual. This was the case with Leah, who was “hated” by Jacob because he did not appreciate her hidden, theoretical attitude to life, as opposed to the down-to-earth approach revealed by Rachel, who he loved and understood on the same wave length, as it were. This was also the case with Joseph and his brothers. Joseph was simply an incomprehensible enigma to them. According to the Torah’s literal interpretation, Joseph was Jacob’s favorite youngest son, he kept Jacob updated on what was happening between his brothers, his strange dreams did not match his brothers’ preconceptions about which brother was their leader and he stood out with his distinctive clothing. Joseph’s variance from their own philosophy on life was incomprehensible to them and that itself became their hatred of him, a hatred that amplified and enflamed itself.

But from a deeper perspective, the brothers’ hatred of Joseph was not because of the abovementioned external parameters of variance, all of which are connected to the entirely different and far more crucial question regarding our purpose in life and how we serve God. Chassidut teaches us that there was an inherent difference between Joseph’s level of Divine service and that of his brothers. Joseph was capable of descending anywhere yet remained righteous from beginning to end, absolutely faithful to his source. Even in the depths of despair, Joseph succeeded in bringing down light from above – like Chanukah candles that illuminate the dark night. It seems that the pit that Joseph fell into became ever-deeper: first he was thrown into a pit full of snakes and scorpions, then he descended to Egypt where he was soon thrown into jail (also referred to as “a pit” in the Torah) but the deeper, darker and more frightening that the pit became did not prevent Joseph from standing erect, rekindling his vitality and succeeding in illuminating the darkness of the pit (in contrast to Judah who also “descended” from his brothers but almost lost sight of all light until he reached rock-bottom, when he acknowledged his descent and rose above it). This type of service is far removed from the path of Joseph’s brothers who knew how to pave their way through the physical world by doing their part (such as shepherding their flocks) and still remain connected to God, but they did not serve as representatives of their cause; they did not act as shluchim who go out and influence outsiders in other places.

The key, therefore, to any manifestation of hatred lies in our incomprehension of the other. One hates someone because one does not actually understand him, he is different and it is difficult to communicate with him, so much so that to one extent or another one perceives him as a threat to one’s own existence. This is the source of the alienation between different social factions, which results in poor quality human relations and obviously this is even the source of marital disharmony.

Rectification: true appreciation

Since hatred is the result of misunderstanding, a lack of appreciation and knowledge of the other’s true self, its rectification must come through true knowledge and appreciation of the other. Indeed, Joseph’s first contact with his brothers after twenty-two years of separation is described thus: “Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them but he alienated himself from them and spoke harshly to them… and Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.”

The fact that Joseph recognized his brothers was the beginning of rectification. Even if Joseph had missed the mark when he spoke badly of his brothers to Jacob all those years ago, he now recognized and appreciated them as he should and he gradually educated them to appreciate him too. Indeed, it becomes clear that there is a type of profound appreciation that runs deeper than simple, superficial recognition. This is why at first Joseph could not reveal his true identity to his brothers, because at that stage the knowledge would have been a superficial piece of information that would not have successfully breached the wall of alienation between them. Joseph realized that they would have to reach a true, inner appreciation of him that would lead to mutual understanding and love.

Superficial information

In our meditation on true appreciation, we must first note that in terms of the Torah’s inner dimension, recognition belongs to the sefirah of knowledge, as in the regular use of “knowledge” as knowing/recognizing someone or something.

Anything we turn our minds to can either remain external to our senses or it can reach a more profound dimension. The outermost knowledge is what we refer to as “information.” Indeed, we are in the “age of information” in which we have easy access to an enormous amount of information about any subject under the sun – just “google” the right word for it. But has the information boom made people morally better? Obviously, information is a powerful tool and we can do many good things with it, but this type of knowledge is not essentially good unless it affects the individual who knows it to change for the better. Equating more knowledge with bettering mankind has led some to become addicted to gathering more and more information, paying homage to anyone who knows more than they do on a particular subject (their computer, for example…).

The truth is that obviously, the redemption of mankind will not come as a result of him becoming an all-encompassing database and the vision of the end of days is not that man will be installed with a personal microchip and an internet connection. Quite clearly refined human relations are not a function of such superficial information. I can know many things about someone else, from his hobbies to his medical information but I still do not understand or appreciate him until I begin to interact with him face to face.

Superficial knowledge brings me into contact with the evident external facts about the person or object that I take an interest in and consequently, my soul similarly participates only at its most superficial level, without any true, deep emotional involvement. A relationship constructed solely from this type of “shopping list” information is referred to in Chassidut as “back-to-back.”

Inner knowledge

Indeed, beyond the bare facts of information lies a far more profound knowledge with which the soul itself can interact and through which one can make contact with the more profound levels of another’s soul. When I begin a new acquaintance with a person or with a new realm of knowledge, I need to become familiar with all the facts I can glean, while simultaneously directing myself to absorb the essence that lies beyond the sea of data.

Chassidut refers to inner knowledge as “perception” (????) and teaches us that the ultimate knowledge of the Divine can be aspired to by meditating on the most profound aspects of our knowledge of Him and perceiving it in a way that is inexpressible in words; reaching such a deep level of knowledge results in an authentic connection between the individual who knows and the object of his knowledge. In this way, my knowledge of God is not just another gigabyte of data in my microchip, but a deep and vital connection with God Himself.

In human relations, too, loving someone does not rely on dry-bones information about him but an inner appreciation of him, by which all hatred is dispelled and deep love emerges of its own accord. Whereas with one superficial glance of recognition I can take in all the information I need, I know and sense that your unconscious source of being lies beyond all that I see and only by connecting to you at that level can I truly begin to understand you, so much so that eventually, my knowledge manifests as compassion, meaning a profound sense of identification with you. True love begins from the initial decision not to remain in the realm of information but to truly feel compassion for the other, by power of this one merits to reach an inner knowledge that allows access to the other’s real inner self.

[In Kabbalistic terms: in the structure of the ten sefirot, the sefirah of knowledge is above the sefirah of beauty and in fact comprises its inner soul; the attribute of compassion. The specific goal of relating to reality through compassion allows us to reach the inner quality of knowledge in a process of feedback retrieval of descent, ascent and descent once more. The external aspect of knowledge descends to beauty-compassion, and by power of this descent it is able to return and reach the inner quality of knowledge (“perception”), and from there it continues to rise to the crown, i.e., the super-conscious power of the soul, then it descends once more to the other himself who represents the sefirah of kingdom.]

Essential knowledge, appreciation and marriage

Having understood the difference between informative knowledge and true appreciation we can now rise to an even higher level. Inner appreciation reflects a close interaction between my inner-self and the inner-self of the other, meaning that I can understand them and identify with them with my own “perception” of them, but this still remains a meeting of two different people, albeit face-to-face, which depends on a process of listening to them, internalizing their feelings and deepening my own identification with them. Therefore, as deep as my inner knowledge of the person may penetrate, there remains a distance that cannot be bridged, which manifests if the other is in the depths of despair, totally detached from his relationship with me. When someone loses their will to live a fruitful and productive life, the communication line between us may be lost and I will be unable to find a way to connect with him. In such a case, all the compassion and empathy that I can muster will not suffice to transpass the chasm. Such an individual has lost his own knowledge of his inner self and he can be defined by the saying, “Whoever has no knowledge, it is forbidden to have compassion on him”; my own knowledge of him can no longer access his inner being.

[In Kabbalistic terms, knowledge descends to kingdom as long as it is in the realm of the World of Emanation, the source of all Jewish souls, but it has no knowledge of how to descend to the lost individual who has descended to the lower Worlds.]

Yet, there is another type of knowledge – essential self-knowledge. By becoming aware of my own essence I simply experience myself and the other as one unit, and just as I “understand myself” better than anyone else, so I understand the other, through a sense of total unity. This type of knowledge is capable of bridging any gap that may have been breached between two people. Through such knowledge I become aware not only of your hidden source, your super-conscious, but I reach directly into the innermost root, to touch the infinite where you and I are totally at union. By revealing the essential “non-local” bond between us I am able to reach out to you wherever you are. Even if you have deteriorated to the lowest depths and it seems that all hope is lost, nonetheless, “if I reach the depths, here You are” and even in the depths of despair we can reveal the inherent connection with God that can never be lost.

Here too, the ability to reach this point of essential self-knowledge, knowledge in the deepest sense possible, begins from a clear decision to descend towards the other to the lowest possible common denominator – this was Joseph’s motivation in realizing all of his great dreams. This motivation allows us to interact at the very lowest level, yet also rise from that point to discover the truest, most essential point of knowledge and then descend below once more to succeed in manifesting that unity in practice.

[In Kabbalistic terms, Joseph “drew the bowstring” and descended from knowledge to foundation and its inner quality of truth. By power of this descent he rose and returned not just to the inner point of knowledge but to the essence of knowledge, recognition and appreciation and even higher to the crown and from there to infinity, and by doing so he redescended not only to kingdom as it is in Emanation but also to kingdom that descends into the three lower Worlds of Creation, Formation and Action.]

Joseph’s recognition of his brothers was this type of essential self-knowledge. This is alluded to in Rashi’s interpretation, “When they were handed over to him, he recognized that they were his brothers and felt compassion for them, although when he fell into their hands they did not recognize him to treat him with fraternal love.” From here we learn that true recognition manifests as compassion and love. This level of compassion is able to reach out even to those who have completely estranged themselves from any connection – the brothers did not act lovingly to Joseph but Joseph feels compassion for them. This is a profound level of inner knowledge that even a face-to-face relationship is unable to achieve.

But there is even more to be learnt from Joseph’s attitude. The concept of recognition alludes to a marital bond between husband and wife, as alluded to in Ruth’s words to Boaz, “why have I found favor in your eyes to recognize me, even though I am a stranger?” Indieed, these same three levels of recognition can manifest in a marital relationship:

  • Through superficial knowledge one can have a relatively superficial relationship that includes a list of rights and obligations, what I must do for you and what you must do for me (back-to-back).
  • When inner recognition is present there is true love between the couple and each one understands the other and truly identifies with him/her (face-to-face).
  • An essential knowledge of the other manifests in a sense of absolute unity that reaches out to embrace even a spouse who is still estranged and detached from their partner to connect to them with an essential bond, a bond of marriage. This is a face-to-back relationship that eventually brings the one with their back to the other to turn around and face him in true love.

Joseph’s secret was to aspire to this third level of “essential recognition” to bridge the gap between himself and his brothers by truly understanding them until they also reached a mutual understanding of him. Indeed, the sages explain that Rachel alluded to this talent when she said at Joseph’s birth, “May God add me another son,” this was Joseph’s talent to turn “another” into “a son” by recognizing them while they were still estranged from him.

As mentioned above, the consummate rectification of hatred will be when the process of connecting all the tribes of Israel is complete. When we know and appreciate one another from a point of inner recognition and inherent understanding, then we will merit the ultimate redemption.

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, 27th Kislev 5773

4 Responses to “Getting to know one another”

  1. Christina says:

    Shalom Rabbi Ginsburgh. Remembering today…..Beautiful writing. Brought much joy. Thank you. Much longing…….Not so easy……..

    Blessings to you all!

  2. Michele Francis says:

    B*H. It gives me a desire to look beneath the surface and persevere. Todah Rabah!

  3. Deborah says:

    Thank you Rabbi for all of your beautiful teachings that brings joy, peace, & understanding/wisdom, in the lives of many. You have truly been a blessing to the world! Keep up the wonderful work. Blessings & Peace

  4. Kim says:

    Lovely post, it echoed what I had been feeling about people who live in the same community as me, who have reached ‘rock bottom’ – in a pit of despair – I always thought I could do something for them, help them in some way, but as you say in your post:

    ‘When someone loses their will to live a fruitful and productive life, the communication line between us may be lost and I will be unable to find a way to connect with him. In such a case, all the compassion and empathy that I can muster will not suffice to transpass the chasm. Such an individual has lost his own knowledge of his inner self and he can be defined by the saying, “Whoever has no knowledge, it is forbidden to have compassion on him”; my own knowledge of him can no longer access his inner being.’

    I realise now that I can’t reach them, that only by their own self knowledge can they rise out of the pit, and if they don’t have a relationship with G-d then they are even further lost… Now not only is he in the pit but the pit is filling with water… Mind you, if you learn how to float, the water level can rise up and eventually lift you out of the pit… :)