Monday, October 31, 2022

Father of Many Nations

Source: Chanan Morrison from the writings of Rav Kook

Notarikon in the Torah    -      [Notarikon is a method of deriving a word, by using each of its initial
(ראשי תיבות) or final letters (סופי תיבות) to stand for another, to form a sentence or idea out of the words]

Abbreviations and acronyms are common in rabbinic writings, but they are rare in the text of the Torah itself. Nonetheless, the Sages observed that a few acronyms - notarikon in Aramaic - may be found in the Torah. The first and clearest example is the new name that God gave to Abraham:

“No longer shall you be called ‘Abram.’ Your name will be ‘Abraham,’ for I have made you the father of many nations.” [Lech Lecha 17:5]

God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, explaining that this new name indicates his new identity and mission. The name Avraham is short for “av hamon goyim,” ‘the father of many nations.’

The Talmud [Shabbat 105a], however, was not satisfied with this interpretation of the name. While the Torah explains “Avraham” to be a syllabic abbreviation of the words av hamon, the Sages converted it into a full-blown acronym. They wrote that each of the six Hebrew letters of av hamon (אב המון) indicates a different aspect of Abraham’s standing and influence in the world.

Aleph - I have made you a father [Av] to the nations;

Bet - I have made you chosen [Bachur] among the nations;

Hei - I have made you beloved [Haviv] among the nations;

Mem - I have you a king [Melech] for the nations;

Vav - I have made you exemplary [Vatik] among the nations;

Nun - I have made you faithful (Ne'eman) among the nations.

Of all the names in the Torah, why is Abraham’s name an abbreviation? Why did the Sages further expand this abbreviation, letter by letter?

Abraham’s Dual Influence

It would be a mistake to consider a notarikon as merely a homiletic or mnemonic device. Rather, it reveals deeper levels of meaning in the text. In addition to a literal understanding of the words, there is a wealth of profound ideas contained within the written text. This is similar to the workings of an acronym, where from each letter we extrapolate an entire word.

Of particular interest is the example that the Sages chose for a notarikon in the Torah - the name ‘Abraham.’ Why is this significant?

Abraham’s life-mission was to found the Jewish people. All three patriarchs, the Sages taught, are called ‘Israel’ (Breishit Rabbah 63:3). This is because their primary goal was to establish the people of Israel, a unique people who would serve as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6).

But Abraham also had a powerful impact on all nations. His teachings of monotheism transformed a world of paganism and idolatry.

The Sages analyzed Abraham’s influence, noting that it incorporated six qualities - corresponding to the six letters of אב המון. Thus, like a notarikon, Abraham’s influence was on two levels. His explicit life-goal was to found the Jewish people. But Abraham had an additional level of influence, as he disseminated his ideals of monotheism and morality among all peoples.

Six Aspects of Universal Influence

By examining each letter of the phrase av hamon, we uncover a different aspect of Abraham’s influence. He was an Av - a spiritual father and mentor to many nations, the source for true knowledge of God throughout the world.

His teachings were Bachur - select and distinct from the jumble of confused beliefs and superstitions held by the pagan nations. His faith in one God was pure, free of erroneous influences. Furthermore, his Torah enjoyed a charismatic attraction. Recognizing its inner truth and beauty, many were drawn to it and inspired by it. It was beloved and Haviv.

Due to his sterling character traits and beliefs, Abraham was highly respected. He was regarded as a Melech, a king. The people looked upon him as a “prince of God” [Gen. 23:6]. Like a king in battle, he led the fight for truth in a world shrouded in darkness and ignorance, victorious by virtue of the truth of his vision.

Furthermore, Abraham’s Torah was not just some theoretical philosophy. He was Vatik among the nations - respected for his personal integrity and piety. Abraham sought to refine deeds and character traits through the holiness of his beliefs, and promoted a life of morality and justice.

The final quality of Abraham’s influence was Ne'eman - as a man of steadfast faith. As the Torah testifies, “He believed in God, and God counted it as righteousness” [Lech Lecha 15:6].

Abraham and his radical ideas kindled a nascent spark of faith among the nations. This flame of faith continues to illuminate the paths of many nations - a flame that will be elevated in the future into a pure and refined faith in God.

[Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. IV, p. 264]

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Hakhel Year: 8 things to Ponder

 Rabbi Aaron L Raskin  [28 min video]

After being isolated for two years from the pandemic, COVID-19, the year of Hakhel is like a breath of fresh air. Hakhel is the perfect Mitzvah to bring people back to society; The ancient mitzvah of Hakhel means to “gather” people together. At the time of the holy Temple the Jewish King would gather— once every Seven years —all men women and children in order to inspire them with the awe of A-mighty God. This Hakhel gathering would inspire them to increase in their observance of Torah study and performance of mitzvot. The after effect would last for many, many years to come. 

This year 5783 is a Hakhel year. We now have the privilege, to once again reenact this mitzvah of Hakhel, by uniting our brothers and sisters, and inspiring them with words of faith in God, Torah and to encourage them to increase in random acts of goodness and kindness.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Post-Flood Era

Chassidic thought teaches that before the Flood, G-d sustained the world despite its low spiritual standing, due to His attribute of kindness.  There was a limit, however, to how long G-d was willing to sustain a world without merit - hence the Flood.

The waters of the flood were not merely a punishment.  They purified the world, making physicality in general more refined, and spiritually attuned. [see The Great Flood]

Consequently, in the post flood era, people were more predisposed to repentance.  This ensured that G-d would always sustain the world - not despite of, but - because of its spiritual standing.  For, even if man would become corrupt, people would inevitably repent, ensuring that the world itself would have sufficient merits for its continued existence.

With this in mind, we can explain the following details:

  • Noach was unaware of the above, so he was scared to repopulate the world, fearing it would be destroyed again.  Therefore, G-d had to re-command him to ''be fruitful and multiply''. [Noach 9:1]
  • The inner reason why Noach's generation failed to repent was because, before the Flood, the world was spiritually insensitive.
  • Meat is an extremely coarse food that can lead a person to excessive physicality.  Thus, it was only permitted to the spiritually-attuned post-Flood generation. [Noach 9:3]
  • Before the Flood, people had extremely long lifespans because the world was sustained by G-d's kindness which was bestowed disproportionately to people's merits.
  • Before the Flood, physicality was more coarse.  This was true in a literal sense, to the extent that the clouds were too thick to refract light, so a rainbow never appeared.  After the Flood, physicality become more refined, so the clouds began to refract light.  Thus, the rainbow was not only a ''sign of G-d's promise not to destroy the world, it was also a physical consequence of the refinement of the world that ensured its permanent existence.

Source: Based on Sefer Hasichos 5751, Likutei Sichos vol. 15 - Lubavitcher Rebbe

Rainbow at Bondi Beach Sydney 31.10.2016 - Photo: Glick Photography

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The Purpose of Falsehood

Text by Rabbi Daniel Travis

Two by two the animals came into the Ark to Noach. [Noah 7:9]

The concepts in this verse are illustrated by the following allegory:

Sheker (lies/deceit) approached Noach and requested entry into the Ark. Noach refused sheker on the grounds that it did not have a “mate.” When sheker left Noach, it met pachsa (financial loss and destruction) and proposed that they form a partnership, so that together they could gain entry into the Ark. Pachsa agreed, stipulating that any profit which would be earned through sheker would be handed over to pachsa to be destroyed.

There are many questions to be asked about this allegory. Why did our Sages see fit to single out sheker from all the possible negative character traits? Furthermore, why was it necessary for sheker to find a mate? Surely it would have been better to deny sheker entrance to the ark altogether. On the other hand, if sheker belonged in the world, should it not have been allowed to enter the ark without having to fulfill any conditions?

The decree of the flood was sealed on account of the dishonesty of that generation. Sheker was rampant, and there was no way to stop it short of wiping out the entire world. In the process of reconstructing the world, God wanted to make sure that the sins which had caused it's demise would not be repeated. Therefore sheker could not be allowed to perpetuate in its present form. However, it was important that sheker continue to exist in order for the iniquities of the previous generation to be rectified. This could only come about through recognition of the utter futility of any involvement with sheker.

When pachsa joined forces with sheker, causing the loss of all profits earned through sheker, it made it glaringly evident that any association with sheker is totally counterproductive. The lesson that would be learned from the alliance between sheker and pachsa allowed sheker to continue to exist.

After leaving the ark, sheker came to pachsa and requested all of the profits that it had acquired through under-handed methods. Pachsa reminded sheker of their agreement, and sheker was unable to respond. Although under normal circumstances sheker would have denied ever making such a promise, this case was different. Denying the truth would be tantamount to self destruction, for without its partnership with pachsa, sheker would not be allowed to exist.

At the time of the flood sheker joined with pachsa to teach the following generations the futility of trying to acquire wealth dishonestly. Although this type of destruction is certainly a punishment for one’s crooked behavior, there is a flip side to this relationship. Since pachsa “wed” itself to sheker, it can not affect any money earned one hundred percent honestly.

This concept was vividly demonstrated to the Jewish people after their Exodus from Egypt. For forty years they were sustained every day with manna, a miraculous food that descended from the heavens. Each individual was instructed to take an omer each day – not more, not less. If someone tried to “steal” a little bit more than he was allotted, the extra manna would disappear. The futility of taking more than was Divinely allotted was quite clear. Although we are not privileged to see this principle in action in such a striking fashion, it is still in effect even in our times.

Someone once came to Rav Mordechai Schwab and told him that one of his investments had gone sour, causing him a loss of seventy thousand dollars. Rav Schwab asked him if the money had been earned honestly to which the man replied in the affirmative. Rav Shwab assured him that he would recover the money, for wealth acquired honestly does not get lost. Within a few months the investment turned a profit.

Similarly, when Rav Chaim of Volozhin was hosting a meal in his home, one of his guests inadvertently knocked over the table. All the delicate porcelain on the table came crashing to the floor. The guests were all stunned into silence, in anguish over the tremendous loss which they were certain had occurred. Only Rav Chaim remained calm. He explained to his guests that property loss can occur only if the money used to purchase that property had been acquired corruptly. Since he knew that every penny used to buy the dishes that now lay on the floor had been earned honestly, he was sure that none of the porcelain had broken, so there was nothing to worry about. When they picked up the dishes, they found that not a single one was broken or damaged.

From the above incidents we see that the partnership that sheker established with pachsa still remains in force. As such, we can be sure that any funds acquired without a tinge of corruption are not subject to pachsa, and will be spared from damage.

(c) Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Yanuka


"A soul like his does not descend in every generation, it descends once in many generations" 

Rav Shlomo Yehudah Be'eri, known as "The Yanuka", born in 1988 - knows the entire Torah, Talmud, Zohar by heart.   You can read a lot more about him here.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

What Brings the Mashiach?

 New shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin

Garments of Leather

by Rabbi David Pinto Shlita

It is written “Hashem made for Adam and his wife garments of skin, and He clothed them” [Bereishit 3:21]

Why did G-d choose garments of skin [leather] to clothe Adam and his wife?

The author of Tzafnat Pa’aneach offers us a subtle explanation: When Adam discovered that he was naked and needed to be clothed, he was in a situation that required him to recite the Shecheyanu blessing, for he would be wearing a new garment. However the Halachah forbids a person from reciting a blessing if he is naked.

Adam was therefore faced with a dilemma: Should he recite a blessing for his first garment, and if so, how should he say it?

Hence the verse states, “Hashem G-d made for Adam and his wife garments of skin, and He clothed them.” It specifically mentions garments of skin because Shecheyanu is not recited over leather garments, since “His mercy extends to all His creatures” [Tehillim 145:9]. By fashioning garments of skin for Adam while he was still naked, Hashem exempted him from having to recite Shecheyanu.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Angelic Healing

Image: Dusteramaranth

Every aspect of creation is governed by an angel. Even trees and plants (especially those with healing properties) have angels supervising their growth. As the Sages said [Bereishit Rabbah 10:6] "There is nothing below, not even a common herb, which does not have an angel on high that strikes it and tells it to grow". Each of these angels receives its life force from the particular Utterance which is the source of its creation. It then transmits a measured amount of this life force to its particular charge.

This power of the angels to receive and transmit life force is referred to as the power of the "hands". (The Hebrew word for power is ko'ach, numerically equal to 28, the number of bones contained in the fingers of both hands). With its "right hand" an angel receives life force. With its "left hand", it dispenses the exact amount needed to its charge below. This is the meaning of the Sages' statement: "he strikes it and tells it to grow". "Striking" is done with the angel's left hand (for the left side represents Gevurah, judgment).

The Torah tells us [Proverbs 4:20-22] "My son attend to my words, incline your ear to my utterances.... For they are life to those who find them and healing to all their flesh." We learn from this that all healing flows from G-d, through His Torah. The Torah is the source of the [healing] power of the angels, who in turn transmit it to all the various herbs in their charge. This power is manifest when one accepts the Torah and has faith in the Sages who reveal it, for the Torah was given over to the Sages, and one who deviates from their teachings is called "he who causes a breach in the wall [of faith].

This is the meaning of the injunction [Deut 17:11] "Do not deviate, neither to the right nor to the left, from what they teach you". If you deviate to the right (tending towards unnecessary zealousness), your angel's "right hand" (ability to receive from its corresponding archangel and Utterance) will be hindered. If you deviate to the left (by transgressing the Torah), the angel's "left hand" (ability to transmit) will be hindered.

Of course, the removal of your angel's hands means that you cannot receive your healing, for without an angel to bestow the life force upon it, the herb upon which your healing depends loses its power to heal. Thus, the degree to which a person is attached to Torah determines the degree to which he is able to be healed.

Source: "Anatomy of the Soul" - Chaim Kramer
from the teachings of Rebbe Nachman

Friday, October 14, 2022

Third Rome #2: Russia, Iran, and Gog u'Magog

[If you did not see Part 1 click here to watch]

What will happen in the final war of "Gog and Magog" at the End of Days? Who are "Gog" and "Magog" and do they have any connection to Russia and Iran? Did the ancient prophets predict a nuclear war? And what does it all have to do with the holiday of Sukkot? 

In this class, we explore the events of Gog u'Magog from the perspective of three prophets: Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Bilaam (in the Zohar), together with the surprisingly accurate predictions of the Vilna Gaon. Also discussed are the angelic "Heavenly princes" of the nations, the little-known intertwined histories of Russia and Iran, and the possible connection to 9/11. 

Rabbi Efraim Palvanov

Thursday, October 13, 2022

A Deeper Understanding of Sukkot

 New shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin

18 Tishrei: Yarzheit Rebbe Nachman

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov's histalkus [ascent from the body] took place in Uman, a Ukrainian town in Kiev oblast, on the 18th of Tishrei, which is the second day of Chol HaMo'ed Succos, 5571 [Oct. 16, 1810]. According to his express wish, Rebbe Nachman was buried in the old Jewish cemetery, together with more than 20,000 martyrs of the Haidamack massacres of 5528 [1768]. His surviving family members included his second wife, who built over his grave the original Ohel [a wooden structure to accommodate those who wished to pray nearby]; his daughters Adel, Sarah, Miriam, and Chaya; and several grandchildren. According to one tradition, the Rebbe's father, Rabbi Simcha, survived him, as well. 

It is customary for Breslover Chasidim to gather together on "Chai Tishrei" in order to commemorate the Rebbe's Yahrzeit. As is commonly the case in the Breslov community, there are no special minhagim [customs] associated with this event, other than lighting a Yahrzeit candle, giving Tzedakah [charity] in Rebbe Nachman's memory, and engaging in the study of Rebbe Nachman's writings.

To learn more click here

Sunday, October 9, 2022

The Tikkun of David

David rectified the soul of Adam through the Torah of Moshe

by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

  “Torah tziva lanu Moshe morashah kehillat Yakov – The Torah that Moses commanded us is a legacy for the congregation of Jacob” [Devarim 33:4]

The entire Torah is attributed to Moshe Rabbeinu, as it is stated [Malachi 3:22] “Zichru Torat Moshe avdi – Keep in remembrance the teaching of Moses.” Chazal Add that the parashah of “Vezot Haberachah” is specifically named after Moshe Rabbeinu, a”h, because of the pasuk written in it, “Torah tziva lanu Moshe – The Torah that Moshe commanded us.”

Parashat “Vezot Haberachah,” which is named after Moshe, is read on Simchat Torah, right after Hoshana Rabba, which is attributed to King David.

What is the connection between King David and Moshe Rabbeinu that the festival attributed to King David is followed by the reading of the parashah attributed to Moshe?

We may explain that King David loved the holy Torah immensely, as it is stated in Tehillim [119:97] “How I love Your Torah! All day it is my conversation,” and Moshe Rabbeinu symbolizes the Torah, since he risked his life in order to bring it down from heaven and give it to Bnei Yisrael.

One who delves into the matter will notice that the initials of David and Moshe have the same gematria as “Adam,” (together with the kollel – adding one for the name itself). As we know, Adam HaRishon granted King David 70 years of his 1000 year life-span, after seeing that David was destined to die on the day he was born. Since he took pity on the lofty neshamah, he decided to grant it 70 of his years. It thus follows that King David, who completed Adam’s years, thereby corrected the soul of Adam, who had sinned in the Tree of Knowledge.

How did David succeed in correcting the soul of Adam? By learning the Torah, which is attributed to Moshe Rabbeinu.

We find, therefore, that Moshe Rabbeinu also had a part in correcting the soul of Adam, since without the Torah, which is called by his name, King David would not have been able to correct the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. This, then, is the connection between King David and Moshe Rabbeinu, and in the merit of both of them, the soul of Adam HaRishon received its tikkun and was cured.

It is truly amazing! The seventh day of Sukkot [Hoshana Rabba] is attributed to King David, and on the following day of Simchat Torah, we finish reading the Torah, discussing the death of Moshe Rabbeinu. Then we immediately begin reading Bereishit, in which we read about the creation of the world and about Adam HaRishon. Thus, we see a clear connection between King David, Adam and Moshe.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Who Do You See?

Art: Gustave Caillebotte

''But Yeshurun grew fat and kicked'' [Ha'azinu 32:15]

The maggid R' Yechiel Michel of Zlochev had a chassid who at one time was very poor.  But then he tried his hand at business, and he quickly became a very wealthy man.  However, the more his wealth and standing grew, the further he drifted from Torah and mitzvot.

One day, the maggid paid a visit to his disciple and requested that he make a charitable donation to an important cause.  The chassid, however, evaded the request with several excuses.

The maggid walked over to the window and asked the chassid to join him.  As they gazed out into the streets, the maggid asked him, ''What do you see?''

''I see people walking through the streets'' responded the wealthy chassid.

The maggid then led the chassid to a mirror: ''Now what do you see?'' asked the maggid.

''Now'' answered the chassid, ''I see myself.''

''Do you know what the difference is between a window and a mirror?'' asked the maggid.  ''A window is clear and transparent and therefore, when you look at it, you see others.  A mirror, however, is coated with silver. Therefore, when you look at it, you see only yourself.''

[Written by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein]

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Hurricane Ian and the Revelation of God from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur

 An exciting new shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin

The Kabbalah of Yom Kippur

 Rabbi Efraim Palvanov 

What is the deeper meaning behind the five afflictions of Yom Kippur? How do they serve to purify the five aspects of the soul? 

Also discussed is whether the sons of Jacob actually sold their brother Joseph or not, the Ten Martyrs that are mourned on Yom Kippur, miracles of the Yom Kippur War, and the role of air and water in Creation. 

For a written summary of the class, see here

Monday, October 3, 2022

Complete Teshuva

Art: Maurycy Gottllieb

The focus of the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is teshuvah - return or repentance. We recite the Avinu Malkeinu prayer during this period, requesting: “Our Father our King! Return us in complete teshuvah before You.”

When is teshuvah full and complete?

Healing the Source

We can understand this phrase better in light of the request that immediately follows:

“Our Father our King! Send complete healing to the sick of Your people.”

What is “complete healing”? Often we are only able to alleviate the patient’s external symptoms. The true source of the illness, however, remains unknown or is untreatable. Such a treatment is only a partial healing. When we plead for complete healing, we are praying that we may succeed in discovering the source of the illness and completely cure the patient. Such a comprehensive treatment will result in full restoration of the patient’s health.

The same concept holds true for teshuvah. If we address a particular fault, we are really dealing with a symptom of a much larger problem. Correcting a specific sin is only partial teshuvah. When we ask for God’s help in attaining complete teshuvah, we seek a comprehensive teshuvah that corrects the root source of our various sins and character flaws. Such a complete teshuvah will restore our spiritual wholeness.

Elevated Perception

How does one attain complete teshuvah? In his book Orot HaTeshuvah, Rav Kook explained that this teshuvah is based on an elevated outlook on life and the world:

“The higher level of teshuvah is based on holy enlightenment and a penetrating perception of the beauty of Divine providence. This [elevated teshuvah] is the source and foundation for the lower teshuvah that corrects deeds and refines traits. The basis for elevated teshuvah is none other than the foundation of Torah, in all of its roots and branches.” [15:6]

“Teshuvah that is truly complete requires a lofty perception, an ascent to the rarified world that is replete with truth and holiness. This is only possible by delving into the depths of Torah and Divine wisdom, to the mystical secrets of the universe.... Only the higher [i.e., mystical] Torah can break down the iron barriers that divide the individual and society as a whole from their heavenly Father.” [10:1]

Source: Rav Kook: Silver from the Land of Israel, pp. 72-73. Adapted from Mo'adei HaRe’iyah, p. 66]