Category Archives: Torah Portion

Vayakhel-Pekudei: The Missing Kahal

The Hebrew language does not lack synonyms, and there are several other verbs which could have been chosen to begin the verse: “And Moshe gathered together the children of Israel.” The word employed, vayakhel, is significant, for it implies the fusion of the people into a kahal or communal entity, far more than a collection of individuals.

A group which gathers together can also move apart, and even while together, the union is not complete. A kahal, by contrast, represents an eternal entity that unites individuals in a new framework, highlighting the fundamental bond that joins them.

-Rabbi Eli Touger
“More than Gathering Together”
Commentary on Vayakhel; Exodus 35:1-38:20
Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, p. 250ff;
Sefer HaSichos 5749, p. 292ff;
Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel, 5752
Chabad.org

This commentary should speak to those people who believe that the Jewish people no longer are a people before God. It should speak to those who believe that God divorced Israel and married the Christian church. It should speak to those who believe that God abandoned His people Israel and transferred His eternal covenants to the church as the “new Israel.” It probably won’t, but it should. Look at what Rabbi Touger is saying. He’s saying that the Jewish people are uniquely a people, a unity, a kahal. They were at Sinai and they remain so today.

But what about the church?

I’m sure I’ve written about this before (but the problem with writing so many “meditations” is that I can’t be sure when or where), but is Christianity “a people?” In the strictest sense of the term, the answer is “no.” One is only a Jew if you have a Jewish mother (though having two Jewish parents would be really great) or if you converted to Judaism using a formalized process in a recognized branch of Judaism (this last part is problematic, since Orthodox Jews don’t recognize converts who went through Conservative or Reform synagogues). On the other hand, anyone can be a Christian. All you have to do is profess faith in Jesus Christ. You can come from any language, nation, or tongue, and God will not withhold the grace of Christ from you. You will belong (actually, I’m still working on that “belong” part).

But will you be a “kahal?” Will you be an “eternal entity that unites individuals in a new framework, highlighting the fundamental bond that joins them?”

How many Christian denominations exist today? I can’t find any one statistic that is authoritative or definitive, but it seems to be in the tens of thousands. Tens of thousands of individual and unique Christian denominations.

That’s a lot. Are they all a unity together; an eternal entity together?

That’s hard to say.

I’m not just commenting on this week’s torah portion (which is a double portion that includes Vayakhel and Pekudei). I’m performing a minor comparison of Judaism and Christianity. This is extremely oversimplified and open to tons of criticism, but hear me out.

My friend Gene Shlomovich has written a couple of blog posts recently. One is 50 signs you may subscribe to Replacement Theology which, as you might imagine, highlights a series of factors that contribute to elevating the Christian church at the expense of Jews, both in society and supposedly in the eyes of God. The more recent blog that caught my attention though is Test of a true convert to Judaism. The test is an easy one. If you want to convert to Judaism but you find out that the next Holocaust is just around the corner, would you still convert?

This is one of the reasons that Jews do not evangelize and are very hesitant to accept converts. When the going gets tough, the converts may not see themselves as integrated with the Jewish kahal. If you are born a Jew, it doesn’t matter how you see yourself. Hitler’s Nazis took all Jews to the camps, religious or secular. It didn’t matter if they saw themselves as part of the kahal of Israel, they still suffered and died. A Jew is bound the the community body and soul.

But is a Christian?

I admit, the church probably has to work harder at it, since we come from such a diverse set of backgrounds, but it’s not impossible to become a unified entity under Christ. The problem is how we see the rest of the world. Unlike Judaism, Christianity has a mandate to speak to the rest of the world. We are directed by Christ to make converts of all nations (see Matthew 28:18-20). No man must be our enemy because he has the potential to be our brother in the Messiah, regardless of his former life.

I had a discussion on another Christian blog recently regarding the Coexist Bumper Sticker phenomenon. The writer of that blog (no, I won’t provide links) was generally against the bumper sticker campaign as he felt it was directing Christians to simply get along with those of different faiths or or no faith at all, denying our mandate to evangelize to those groups. He also felt the coexist bumper stickers denied this:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. –John 14:6 (ESV)

The blog writer separated the world into two camps…us and them. Those who are not part of us (Christianity) are against us. But if that’s true in an absolute sense, how will we ever be able to share the “good news” to people we hold in disdain? To be fair, he wasn’t really rejecting secular humanity, just resisting the “dumbing down” of Christian convictions for the sake of political correctness. But it reminded me of how many other churches erect extremely rigid barriers against the “unsaved,” and those of us who came to Christ late in life and with “a past.”

I’ve always been bothered by the arrogance and even apparent cruelty of these type of churches. This is particularly poignant for me, as I’ve mentioned, since I didn’t become a believer until my early 40s. If any of these folks had encountered me in those days, what would they have thought of me? Would they have thought I against them? Would they have thought I was their enemy? But weren’t we all enemies of Christ at one time?

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. –Romans 5:10 (ESV)

No one is born God’s “friend.” As we grow and develop and become aware of God, we each negotiate our relationship with Him. It may be different from a Jewish point of view, I don’t know. I suspect that although God has promised that all of Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26), that doesn’t give each and every individual Jew a free pass to ignore God or the Torah without certain consequences.

I don’t have all the answers, so don’t ask me to provide them.

But I do know that we, as Christians, cannot simply dismiss the Jewish people or Judaism just because it suits our “superiority” theology, and we certainly can’t spit on those who have not accepted Christ as Lord and Savior because we can only feel better about our salvation in comparison to other people’s state of being without God. There are plenty of people I don’t really like and maybe a few really bad people I’m absolutely against, but how can I be an enemy to someone who was once just like me? How can I refuse to speak to anyone who desires to hear the good news just because they aren’t already just like me?

For me, coexisting isn’t surrendering my convictions in order to get along with the political correctness of the world. It’s the willingness to walk and talk and live in the world around me in all of its diversity, to illustrate that a life lived as a disciple of the Master is not one lived in vain (no matter how many secular and religious people tell me otherwise). How can anyone come to a knowledge of the Messiah if we refuse to share that knowledge, in love and forbearance, with others?

Returning to Rabbi Touger’s commentary, we can’t forget that what God has promised His people Israel was long ago said and done, and we in the church (though I attend no church) cannot undo the will of God toward His kahal.

The most complete expression of this oneness will come in the Era of the Redemption, when “a great congregation (kahal gadol) will return there.”Jews from all over the world will stream together to Eretz Yisrael. This ingathering will be more than geographic in nature. G-d will “bring us together from the four corners of the earth.”But more importantly, there will be unity and harmony among us, and this unity will embrace all existence. “The world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed.”

These are not merely promises for the future, but potentials that can be anticipated today. The massive waves of immigration that have reached Eretz Yisrael in recent years are obvious harbingers of the ultimate ingathering of our nation. And even as the physical reality of the Redemption is coming to pass, so too we can have a foretaste of its spiritual elements. We have the potential to establish a new harmony within ourselves, and to spread that harmony among others. And by these efforts to anticipate the Redemption, we will help make it a reality.

We cannot live in arrogance, taking the place of the groom at the wedding feast (Luke 14:7-11) when we have been commanded to sit down at the lowest place. Not if we expect to be a part of the harmony of which Rabbi Touger speaks. If God wants to honor us, He will move us to a more distinguished seat. It is not up to us to automatically occupy the head of the table.

If Christianity wants to be a kahal of God, unified under our Master and Savior, we must emulate him in being loving to others, as he was to the woman at the well (John 4:7-26). He was not dishonest with her, nor did he “soft pedal” his message to her, but he did not send her summarily away, either.

AbyssI tried to explain my point of view on the aforementioned blog, but the blog owner and I continued to talk at cross purposes (forgive the small pun). Eventually, I was inspired to write today’s Torah commentary, such as it is, not speaking to the blog writer as such, but to all Christians in the hope that someone will listen with a softened heart.

Lately, I’ve been writing about my own spiritual journey, which admittedly has become interrupted “at the bottom of a well.” I’m focusing on prayer as the means by which to respond to being “stalled in traffic” so to speak. I understand that a great many things I object to today, I’ll eventually have to accept and let them be. One of them is the idea that I can always have fellowship with other Christians. I want not to be hostile or anxious or upset with those people who are different than I am. Unfortunately, if the church, or some of its members, are circling the wagons and defending themselves against anyone who is even slightly different, then what fellowship do I have with them?

I should say at this point that we are all doing our best to understand and obey God, so I can’t really be upset or angry at the blog writer I’ve been referencing. I know he’s sincere and really does want to help others, but where he may see enemies such as Stalin, Haman, Hu Jintao and Ahmedinijad, I see my next door neighbor, my co-workers, and my family.

I may have to accept that the church is not my kahal and that such a unity will never exist for me. My closeness and unity to God may be found, not within the walls of a church or synagogue, but in the slender pages of the Bible and in solitary prayer. But then, not every Christian blog has the same response to the “coexist” bumper stickers, so who knows what the future may bring?

Good Shabbos.

Waiting for Hope in the Abyss

AbyssRav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa, zt”l, taught great inspiration from a statement on today’s daf.

“A person who has sinned and fallen to the lowest place, banished from God’s presence, should also never despair. A sacrifice that was fitting but then lost its status is no longer accepted even if afterward it regained its original status. But Rav holds that if the animal is still alive, it is not rejected absolutely. This fallen soul is no different. As long as he has some chiyus, some vitality, it is always possible to start again and attain forgiveness. This is the deeper meaning of the words, ‘Forgive our sins for they are many.’ This can be also be read, ‘Forgive our sins, because the halachah follows Rav—that ba’alei chaim are not rejected.'”

The Lechivitcher, zt”l, offered a parable to help understand this better. “A Jew is like a valuable coin. Even if it rusts and has mud crusted over it, it still retains its original value. The owner must clean the coin by removing the rust and the caked mud, but once he does so it shines just the same as it did when it was new.”

Rav Moshe of Kovrin, zt”l, was once encouraging some young chassidim who were struggling in spiritual matters. “Even if one falls again and again—even one hundred times—he must strengthen himself again and again. It is incumbent upon us to always find a way to encourage ourselves again and again, until we climb out of our spiritual rut!”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Ba’alei Chaim”
Temurah 23

I always have to be careful when I generalize a Jewish commentary and try to apply it to Christianity. After all, the Rabbis didn’t produce these Dafs with Christians in mind and sometimes, the judgments and insights they generate are specifically not to be applied to non-Jews. However, when reading Derek Leman’s book review of Daniel Boyarin’s book The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ, I found something interesting.

So, it might surprise you to know that Boyarin thinks Judaism and Christianity are compatible. His goal, stated on pages 6-7 is to help Christians and Jews to stop vilifying each other. He doesn’t follow Jesus and isn’t asking fellow Jews to do so. But he demolishes all ideas that Christian devotion to Jesus is contrary to Judaism or that Christianity is anything other than a Judaism to which mostly non-Jews have been drawn. Jews in the time of Jesus were looking, he says, for a divine messiah. And Jesus’ earliest followers were kosher Jews. The sad separation and enmity of Judaism and Christianity is something to get beyond, not something to perpetuate.

According to how I’m reading Leman (I haven’t read Boyarin’s book yet), Boyarin doesn’t see a severe “disconnect” between first century Jewish and Gentile worship of God through the “path” of “the Way”. But, as Boyarin declares, if Christianity is not directly contrary to Judaism, can I say the reverse, that Judaism is not directly contrary to Christianity? Further, can I stretch my metaphor to say that Jewish teachings are not directly contrary to Christianity?

You probably think I’m grasping at straws. On the other hand, let’s look at our “story off the Daf” again. What is the theme? That even the person who is most distanced from God because of their sin should not dispair and give up all hope of reconciliation. Doesn’t that sound like it could be a Christian theme as well?

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. –Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. –2 Timothy 4:6-8 (ESV)

I believe we who are Christians can take the same hope that, no matter how far we have fallen away from God, we can rise back up to Him, even as Rav Simcha Bunim teaches.

Yesterday, the Jewish world celebrated Purim, the commemoration of the victory of the Jewish people in ancient Persia over Haman’s plan of genocide. If you read the Book of Esther on Purim, you realized how desperate it was for the Jews and how hopeless everything seemed. Even after Esther revealed the evil Haman’s plot to King Achashverosh, it was not in his power to reverse his decree. The destruction of the Jews seemed inevitable. And yet, through the courage of Esther and Mordechai and the love of God for His people, the King granted the Jews the ability to fight back and to defend themselves.

Hopelessness was turned into hope and defeat was transformed into victory; a victory that is still commemorated many thousands of years later, for with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Although God is not explicitly mentioned in Esther, we know that He was there with Israel, defending them and encouraging them. It was a miracle that the Jews survived the enormous threat against them. It is always a miracle when the Jews survive, since often it is only God who is for them, and an entire world who desires that they perish. Remember this too, as you study the sin of the Golden Calf for this Shabbat’s Torah Reading. There is no failing or sin so great that you become irredeemable.

Yet most of God’s miracles are not in the realm of the supernatural. It was (seemingly) through very natural processes that the Jews were saved from the plan of Haman. Seas did not part. The earth did not stop rotating on its axis, Fire and destruction did not rain down from heaven upon the enemies of the Jews. So it is in our lives today, even in the most dire and hopeless of circumstances. You may not feel the hand of God touching you or see His finger writing in the dust, but He is there and while you live, there is hope, but only if you hope in Him.

The philosopher, when he sees a miracle, looks for a natural explanation. The Jew, when he sees nature, looks for the miracle.

-Rabbi Tsvi Freeman
“Unnatural Response”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Blessings and hope.

Ki Tisa: Pursuing Tranquility

Inner lightThe Torah portion of Sisa contains an entire section (Shmos 31:13-18.) relating to Shabbos. It begins by stating that Shabbos is “a sign between Me and you for all generations, so that you know that I, G-d, am making you holy.” The section concludes: “And the children of Israel shall observe the Shabbos … as an everlasting covenant … for in six days G-d made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased working and rested.”

Why is Shabbos and its laws discussed here at such length, when it was already covered in detail (.Ibid., 20:8-11.) as part of the Ten Commandments?

Our Sages derive (Taanis 27b; Beitza 16a.) from the words “He ceased working and rested,” that “An additional [measure of] soul is granted [the Jew] on the arrival of Shabbos.

What exactly is meant by the statement that “an additional [measure of] soul is granted [the Jew] on the arrival of Shabbos”? According to the Zohar, this literally refers to an additional measure of spirituality that is granted from above as a gift on Shabbos.

“Shabbos and the Additional Soul”
Commentary on Torah Portion Ki Tisa
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

I sometimes have difficulty with the rather esoteric teachings of the Chasidic sages, and certainly imagining that an “extra soul” comes upon a Jewish person with the arrival of the Shabbat is a bit of a stretch for me. On the other hand, part of what is being communicated is that, for the Jew, Shabbat brings a special kind of peace and tranquility that cannot be found on the other days of the week. This could be more than simply choosing to refrain from normal work and focusing more on God, and contain a supernatural or even mystical component. After all, where God is involved, anything is possible.

Starting with my “morning meditation” Learning Acceptance, I have been attempting to “pursue peace” in a different manner or fashion than I have previously, making adjustments to my behavior and even my thoughts as I attempt to approach this goal. The arcane imagery of receiving an “additional Shabbat soul” is rather appealing, but the Chasidic teachings on Ki Tisa remind me of the demarcation line that is set between the Jew and the Gentile. According to the Chasidim, this “additional soul” of peace arrives on the Shabbat for the Jew and not for the Gentile, because only the Jew is set apart as holy (Exodus 31:13).

I suppose I could complain about this not being fair, but then I’m sure someone would remind me that life, and even God (although He is always just) are not always fair. But then, the Rebbe and the Chabad Rabbis are hardly taking the teachings of Jesus into consideration. Could there be a kind of peace we Christians can access as well?

Sometimes Christians don’t realize that Jesus, when he walked among men, observed the mitzvot of first century Judaism in the same manner as the other Jews in Israel, as did their fathers and their father’s fathers. The Shabbat was no stranger to Jesus, in spite of the fact that most Christians and Jews believe that Jesus actually taught breaking the Shabbat (which is untrue). His Jewish disciples would also have observed the Shabbat with their Master, and continued to do so in the manner of the Jews after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, and James, brother of the Master and leader of the Messianic council in Jerusalem, were also devout, Shabbat keeping Jews.

Although the exact form of the teaching from which I quoted above may not have been known to them, certainly the peace of the Shabbat would be all too familiar to the Jewish followers of the Way. In what manner, if any, would this special type of peace have been transmitted to the non-Jewish disciples, both in Roman occupied Judea and in the Greek diaspora?

There’s no way to know for sure, but it is likely that the Gentile disciples would have worshiped on Shabbat, if for no other reason, than because their Jewish mentors did so. It’s in the realm of the historians and the New Testament scholars as to whether or not the Gentile disciples attempted a form of Shabbat rest along with their Jewish counterparts, but usually, when someone is trying to learn a new type of worship, they do so by imitating an original model. This may be the reason the rather mysterious words of Acts 15:21 were recorded:

For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

The Gentiles were assumed to learn the intricate details of the God of the Hebrews from hearing the readings of the Torah and the Prophets during Shabbat services, but that would presuppose that even a few Gentiles were in the synagogue for worship on Shabbat. Leaping forward twenty centuries, I know from my own experience, the beauty of witnessing the lighting of the Shabbos candles, and the sublime grace of welcoming the Queen into my home. I must admit that my family doesn’t keep the Shabbat as we’d like, but it remains an ideal and a goal toward which we strive.

Tranquility is also an ideal and a goal toward which I strive, even in a troubled world and in struggling with a troubled soul. I guess that’s what makes the idea of receiving an “additional soul” so appealing. But is receiving this “Shabbat soul” something the original non-Jewish disciples would have understood let alone attempted?

I don’t know. Maybe not.

I only know as an outsider looking in, the glow and warmth of Shabbat peace is attractive to me as well.

There are two aspects of Shabbat observance: outwardly, it is a day of rest, but inwardly, it is a time of soul-union with our Maker; in the same way the additional soul has an inner and outer purpose. This outer purpose is, as Rashi explains, an expanded heart, or in other words a sharpening of our sense perceptions comparable to the effect of mind-altering drugs which heighten the ability to see colors, taste food, appreciate sound, and the like. This outer purpose helps us fulfill the commandment of delighting in Shabbat.

From Rafael Moshe Luria; translated by Simcha H. Benyosef
“The Additional Shabbat Soul”
Kabbalah Online
Chabad.org

When Rabbi Eli Touger discusses the dynamics of the sin of the Golden Calf in his Ki Tisa commentary, he says:

Similarly, all the punishments suffered by the Jewish people throughout the centuries are connected to this sin (Sanhedrin 102b; Rashi, Exodus 32:35.). What place can such an event have in a portion whose name points to the Jews’ ascent?

To answer this question, we must expand our conceptual framework, for the state to which G-d desires to bring mankind is above ordinary human conception. This is indicated by the very expression: “When you lift up the heads”; “the heads,” human intellect, must be elevated.

Rabbi Touger shifts his focus from “the Jews’ ascent” to “G-d desires to bring mankind is above ordinary human conception.” That is, the focus shifts from Jews to everyone. Of course, it could just be assumed, given his context, that everything he presents is directed to Jews and that the nations are not to be considered, but how can we reconcile this with the concept that the Jews were to be a light to the nations, and that God so loved even the nations (John 3:16), who were also created in His own image (Genesis 1:27)?

Whatever the understanding of the Chasidim may be in relation to Gentiles, God, and peace, the emissary to the Gentiles had this to say:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

While this doesn’t address a Shabbat peace, it is an encouragement from our ancient Jewish mentor for the Gentile disciples to also seek peace through “prayer and supplication” and that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your (our) hearts and your (our) minds in Christ Jesus.” Tranquility for the non-Jewish disciple then, is not considered unattainable nor forbidden.

But what about this “extra soul?”

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” –Acts 10:34, 44-47 (ESV)

I know. I’m stretching the metaphor completely out of shape, but when we among the nations accept the Spirit of God as disciples of the Jewish Messiah, do we not also inherit the ability to seek the peace Paul describes in Philippians? I mentioned previously that peace was as much a matter of practice as it is a thing of the spirit, but I think the two need to go together.

This brings up a curious discussion I had in a series of private messages on a Christian forum not too long ago. A person suggested that not all Christians possess the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” His evidence (or at least part of it) was that not all (and maybe not most) Christians experience speaking in tongues and the (temporary) gift of prophesy, as we see described in Acts 2 and Acts 10, when they declare Christ as Lord and Savior (that is, convert to Christianity). We also see (Matthew 7:23, Luke 13:27) that not everyone who believes they belong to Christ really have that relationship, and will be rejected by Jesus when he returns. Is it possible for me to “believe” and yet not “belong?” After all, there is a precedence illustrating that people can “confess Christ” and yet experience a delay between that confession and the actual receiving of the spirit. What if a person declares Jesus as Lord but never receives the Holy Spirit? Would there be no peace? Would there be no salvation? Is that person’s faith in vain?

On the other hand, the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized in water and rejoiced without any outward evidence of receiving the Spirit.

And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. –Acts 8:34-39 (ESV)

Or am I making this harder than it really is?

In spite of Jewish exclusivity in relation to the Shabbat in general and a special peace with God in specific, perhaps pursuing tranquility is as simple as setting the rules and commentaries aside and simply opening up the heart and accepting God. Faith is knowing God exists. Trust is knowing that when you open the door and invite Him in, He enters. His Word is a “lamp unto my feet” (Psalm 119:105) not only on Shabbat, but always. Or it’s supposed to be.

True happiness is the highest form of self-sacrifice.
There, in that state, there is no sense of self
—not even awareness that you are happy.

True happiness is somewhere beyond “knowing.”
Beyond self.

All the more so when you bring joy to others.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“The Highest Happiness”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Good Shabbos.

Tetzavah: The Eternal Light Under the Throne

Leadership involves self-sacrifice. Everyone understands that to receive you have to give, but true leadership is above this type of barter. A genuine leader rises above self-concern entirely. He identifies totally with his people and their purpose, and is willing to give up everything for them.

Moshe Rabbeinu epitomized this type of leadership. When G-d told him that He would destroy the Jewish people because of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe responded: “If You would, forgive their sin. And if not, please obliterate me from the book You have written.”

By making this statement, Moshe offered to sacrifice more than his life; he was willing to give up even his soul. “The book You have written” refers to the entire Torah. Although Moshe is identified with the Torah, “he dedicated his soul for it,” he was, nevertheless, willing to sacrifice his connection with the Torah for the sake of Jewish people.

Why? Because Moshe is one with the Jewish people. “Moshe is Israel, and Israel is Moshe.” However deep his connection with the Torah, Moshe’s connection with the Jewish people was deeper.

-Rabbi Eli Touger
“A Paradigm Of Leadership”
Commentary on Torah Portion Tetzavah
Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, p. 34ff;
Vol. XVI p. 204ff; Vol. XXI, p. 173ff;
Sefer Maamarim Melukat, Vol. VI, p. 129ff
Chabad.org

I have heard it said that the Messiah, in being called the “Son of God,” is considered to be intimately associated with Israel. This is to the point that Messiah, for all intents and purposes, is Israel. He is the living embodiment of his people, even as Moses was, but much more so. Moses speaks about him thus:

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. –Deuteronomy 18:15-18 (ESV)

Rabbi Touger speaks of Moses and how much he identified with his people Israel and how, as their leader, he was willing to surrender his life and even his soul for the sake of the Sons of Jacob. We know that he was a “good shepherd” of his people, which was a lesson learned during the many years he was a shepherd of his father-in-law’s flocks in Midian. But “the prophet” that has been raised up from among Israel is also a good shepherd.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. –John 10:14-15 (ESV)

The Master’s words are more than just words. Like Moses, he was willing to lay down his life in order to save Israel. Indeed, he did lay down his life, not because of his own will, but because of the will of the Father.

And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. –Luke 22:41-44 (ESV)

This is a very simple “morning meditation” and Torah commentary, but for me, it says something powerful that we often take for granted. Jesus loved his people and he loves them still. He came for the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24)  and because “salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22) he also comes for us. Last night, I overheard my wife having a phone conversation with a friend from synagogue, and in the small part I understood, I heard my wife say that God chose the Jewish people and that they are to be a light to the nations. Jesus is the King of the Jews, and he is so much more. He is a light for Israel and as that light, he illuminates the rest of the world.

“The assembly of Israel said before the Holy One, blessed be he: ‘Master of the world, in the future I will be delighted in your light because of the Torah that you gave me, which is called “fountain of life” (Psalm 36:10). What is the meaning of “in your light we see light”? For what light is Israel waiting?’ This is the light of Messiah as it says, ‘And God saw the light that it was good.’ This teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be he, observed Messiah and his deeds before the creation of the world and concealed his Messiah under his throne until his generation” (Peskikta Rabbati 36).

-Tsvi Raban
from his forthcoming book (March 2012)
“The Concealed Light: Names of Messiah in Jewish Sources”

Messiah is a “concealed light” who will be revealed to his people in the last days. Blessed are those who have beheld his light in the current age and who have recognized him. Blessed is the Messiah, who will one day return for his people Israel, and by the grace of God, for we among the nations as well. As we continue to wait for him, Jew and Gentile, let us stand with each other and not against each other, for as he commanded, we are to love each other and in this, everyone will know we are his (John 13:34-35). This is how we are to show that his light is eternal.

When one speaks crushing words of rebuke, it must be with the sole purpose of enlightening, illuminating, and uplifting one’s fellow; never, G-d forbid, to humiliate and break him.

Rabbi Yechiel, Rebbe of Alexander

And from Rabbi Touger’s commentary:

This is reflected in the continuation of the charge to Moshe: “And they shall bring you clear olive oil, crushed for the lamp.” One might ask: why should the oil be brought to Moshe? It was Aharon who kindled the menorah.

The answer is found in the continuation of the verse, “to raise an eternal light.” Aharon has the potential to kindle Divine service and inspire people with light and warmth, but for the flame to burn as “an eternal light,” “from evening until morning,” Moshe’s influence is necessary. For it is Moshe that enables every Jew to tap his innermost spiritual resources and maintain a constant commitment.

If the influence of Moses kindled an eternal light by which every Jew was able to connect to his innermost spiritual resources, how much more so does the eternal light of Messiah allow every Jew and every Gentile to find the spark of the Divine within ourselves and send that light up to God.

Good Shabbos.

Terumah: Waiting for God On Earth

When dedicating the Beis HaMikdash, King Shlomo exclaimed in wonderment: “Will G-d indeed dwell on this earth? The heavens and the celestial heights cannot contain You, how much less this house!” For the Beis HaMikdash was not merely a centralized location for man’s worship of G-d, it was a place where G-d’s Presence was and is manifest. Although “the entire earth is full of His glory,” G-d’s Presence is not tangibly felt. He permeates all existence, but in a hidden way. The Beis HaMikdash, by contrast, was “the place where He chose to cause His name to dwell.” There was no concealment; His Presence was openly manifest.

Why was man’s activity necessary? Because G-d’s intent is that the revelation of His Presence be internalized within the world, becoming part of the fabric of its existence. Were the revelation to come only from above, it would merely nullify worldliness. To cite a parallel: when G-d revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, the world ground to a standstill. “No bird chirped… nor did an ox bellow, nor the sea roar.” Although G-dliness was revealed within the world, material existence did not play a contributory role.

When, by contrast, the dwelling for G-d is built by man himself part of the material world the nature of the materials used is elevated. This enables G-d’s Presence to be revealed within these entities while they continue to exist within their own context.

-Rabbi Eli Touger
“A Dwelling Among Mortals”
from the In the Garden of the Torah series
Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 902;
Vol. XVI, p. 286ff; Vol. XXI, p. 146ff
Chabad.org

The building of a Mishkan foreshadows the transformation of the entire world into a dwelling place for G-d. This is accomplished through Torah, Divine service, and deeds of kindness – the “three pillars” upon which the world stands. (Avos 1:2.)
-Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XVI, pp. 292-297.

In this week’s Torah portion, we see the Children of Israel being commanded to bring contributions that will be used as materials for building the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the desert. Moses is provided with what me might think of as a “diagram” of the Heavenly Court and told to direct the Children of Israel to build, for all intents and purposes, a “scale model” so that God might dwell among His people. This is a strange enough request when you try to picture the “environment” where God dwells in the Heavens, and then imagine what it would be like to build a physical representation of that metaphysical “place.”

But it gets even stranger.

Thus, it is understood that although the construction of the Mishkan and the bringing of donations had to have happened in accordance with only one of these three schedules, all three opinions are true as they relate to the spiritual Mishkan within the heart of every Jew.
-Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. VI, pp. 153-156.

The use of the term ‘them’ rather than ‘it’ has been interpreted as a message that the purpose of the Mishkan sanctuary was to facilitate the dwelling of the Divine Presence within the heart of every Jew. The role of the Mishkan in the wilderness and during the first four centuries of a Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael was perpetuated by the first and second Beit Hamikdash Temples which spanned a period of nine centuries. All of this is today but a memory to which a visit to the Kotel (Western Wall) gives a special dimension. This does not mean, however, that a Jew cannot build a mini-sanctuary in his heart even today. The Divine Presence is waiting to dwell within the hearts of all Jews if only they will let it enter!

-Rabbi Mendel Weinbach
‘The “Holy Sites”‘
For the week ending 8 February 2003 / 6 Adar I 5763
Ohr Somayach

If it seems unusual or even incomprehensible to be able to build a “scale model” of the Heavenly Court and then expect God to take up residence, how much more incredible is it to expect God to take up residence within the “spiritual Mishkan within the heart of every Jew?”

Oh, have you heard of this before?

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. –Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)

Perhaps this isn’t so strange, since the Jewish disciples of the Master had a precedent for the Pentecost event act at Sinai, but what came next was completely unexpected.

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. –Acts 10:44-48 (ESV)

God desires to dwell among His people, which we can understand, because God once did dwell among His people in Eden before the fall. God once again, though in a somewhat different sense, arranged to dwell among His people Israel, and that dwelling was to be a light to the nations. As part of the process of God being among man, each Jew was to consider that the Divine Presence was also dwelling within each of them. This was repeated at the Pentecost event and while all of that is magnificent, the truly amazing thing in the eyes of God’s chosen ones, was (and perhaps still is for some Jewish people) that the Creator extended His splendid and compassionate grace, even to the Gentiles.

But is this the whole story and, now that Christianity boasts of the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit,” is this work finally complete?

On the ninth day of the month of Av (“Tish’ah B’Av”) we fast and mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Both the First Temple (833-423 bce) and the Second Temple (349 bce-69 ce) were destroyed on this date. The Shabbat preceding the fast day is called the “Shabbat of Vision,” for on this Shabbat we read a chapter from the Prophets (Isaiah 1:1-27) that begins, “The vision of Isaiah…”

On the “Shabbat of Vision,” says Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, each and every one of us is granted a vision of the third and final Temple — a vision that, to paraphrase the Talmud, “though we do not see ourselves, our souls see.” This vision evokes a profound response in us, even if we are not consciously aware of the cause of our sudden inspiration.

Adapted by Yanki Tauber
“Shabbat of Vision”
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Chabad.org

I previously mentioned that Christianity abandoned a major portion of it’s history and heritage by tossing the Jewish foundation of our faith aside, so I can understand that the church would view any Jewish “vision” of the Third Temple with skepticism if not utter disbelief. Perhaps they are right, but could there be any way to reconcile all of the imagery we have of the bodies of believers being as Temples for the Spirit of God and the coming of a Third, physical Temple where God will once again dwell among His people Israel?

Maybe.

Especially in western thought, we tend to see conditions as “either or”. Either the Spirit dwells in the Temple, or it dwells within the heart of the believer. For some reason, it can’t be both, although I’m not sure why. After all, in Judaism, the Divine Presence dwelt within the Mishkan, but it also dwelt within each Jewish heart in some mysterious, spiritual, and mystic way. God, in a metaphysical manner, dwelt within the Heavenly court, but He also made it possible for a physical replica of His “abode” to be created among His people Israel so He could also dwell among men, even though no structure could possibly contain Him.

God’s desire to be among us is fraught with problems when we actually make ourselves wonder how it is possible, and yet we see reliably, that God has indeed done so, in Eden, in the Mishkah, and in Solomon’s Temple. Jews are said to be able to have a vision, on a mystic level, of the Third Temple on the Shabbat just before the Ninth of Av. What are the Jewish people supposed to see and understand? Perhaps this.

The First Temple was built on Divine command and assistance. The Second Temple was constructed at the orders of a human being. The level of revelation associated with it, and the accompanying miracles, were far less intense. Yet, precisely because it came to be built through human efforts and on human initiative, it had a greater impact on this world. It was larger than the first Temple, taking up more of this world in terms of space, and it lasted longer, occupying this world for a greater length of time.

The Third Temple, like the Shabbat on which we are shown its image, combines the strengths of both the first and second Temples. It combines the Divine revelation, an inspiration from Above, along with human effort, an inspiration from below, to create a permanent home for G-dliness. Thus is the lesson and inspiration of this Shabbat. We are given a Divinely revealed vision which we must combine with human efforts to permanently alter the world we live in, and, even more challenging, ourselves.

-Chana Kroll
“Make It Real”
Shabbat Chazon
chabad.org

Repeatedly, we’ve seen how God must contribute to the construction of His dwelling on Earth, but so must man. While God does not need human beings to offer their efforts in the service of Divine tasks, we see in the Bible how people are continually involved in “building” with God and repairing the world. While God does not “need” our help, something about the nature of God dwelling among us requires that we be actively engaged. In this, we must take “ownership” of our desire to return the holy sparks within us to Him, not by our going up to God, but in allowing God to come down to us. Somehow, God dwelling within us and God dwelling among us in a Temple are all interconnected. We must change the world for Him but we must also change ourselves. Paradoxically, we can do neither without God’s help, but then, those tasks cannot occur without us, either. I can’t explain how it all works. I only know that God is showing all of us, not just the Jewish people, a picture of His future with His people; His human beings.

Chassidic master Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev uses the following metaphor to explain the necessity of the Three Temples and why we must wait such a long time for Him to be truly among us again.

A father once prepared a beautiful suit of clothes for his son. But the child neglected his father’s gift and soon the suit was in tatters. The father gave the child a second suit of clothes; this one, too, was ruined by the child’s carelessness. So the father made a third suit. This time, however, he withholds it from his son. Every once in a while, on special and opportune times, he shows the suit to the child, explaining that when the child learns to appreciate and properly care for the gift, it will be given to him. This induces the child to improve his behavior, until it gradually becomes second nature to him — at which time he will be worthy of his father’s gift.

God has shown us His gift in the Messiah, but He also withholds the Messiah’s coming until we are ready. But God is gracious enough to show us what will happen once we reach this state of being worthy. Through the vision of a prophet, we can see the return of the Messiah, our later return to Eden, and finally, the placing of the Throne of God among us at a future time when the requirement for Ezekiel’s Temple is no longer necessary.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. –Revelation 22:1-5 (ESV)

But before all that happens, we must come to terms with our struggle between life in this world, in the spirit and in the body, as Rabbi Tzvi Freeman relates:

The human mind despises the body that houses it, but the soul has only love.

The mind would soar to the heavens, but for a body that chains it to the earth. The mind would be consumed in divine oneness, but for the body’s delusion of otherness, as though it had made itself.

But the soul sees only G-d.

In that very delusion of otherness,
in that madness of the human ego,
even there, the soul sees only G‑d.
For she says, “This, too, is truth.
This is a distorted reflection of the Essence of all things,
of that which truly has neither beginning nor cause.”

And so she embraces the bonds of the body,
works with the body, transforms the body.
Until the body, too, sees only G-d.

—Basi LeGani 5712

Good Shabbos.

Mishpatim: The Boundaries of Knowing God

At the conclusion of Mishpatim – after almost an entire Torah portion that addresses matters not directly related to Mattan Torah, the giving of the Torah – Moshe is told: “Go up to G-d.” (Shmos 24:1) Rashi explains (Commentary of Rashi ibid.) that this took place on the fourth of Sivan, prior to Mattan Torah.

The Midrash notes (Shmos Rabbah 12:3; Tanchuma, Va’eira 15) that at the time of Mattan Torah , two things were accomplished: “Those Above descended below” – “G-d descended on Mt. Sinai,” (Shmos 19:20) ; and “Those below ascended Above” – “And to Moshe He said: ‘Ascend to G-d.’ ” (Ibid. 24:1) Man ascended to G-dliness.

“A Tale of Two Portions”
Commentary on Torah Portion Mishpatim
The Chassidic Dimension
Chabad.org

The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and wait there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the teachings and commandments which I have inscribed to instruct them.” So Moses and his attendant Joshua arose, and Moses ascended the mountain of God. To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us until we return to you. You have Aaron and Hur with you; let anyone who has a legal matter approach them.”

When Moses had ascended the mountain, the cloud covered the mountain. The Presence of the Lord abode on Mount Sinai, and the cloud hid it for six days. On the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. Now the Presence of the Lord appeared in the sight of the Israelites as a consuming fire on the top of the mountain. Moses went inside the cloud and ascended the mountain; and Moses remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights.Exodus 24:12-18 (JPS Tanakh)

Regardless of the differences between the world’s wide spectrum of religious disciplines, they share one, basic, common goal: to understand God. How we conceive of God and the mechanics and meaning behind the process of finding Him (or her, depending on your tradition) varies tremendously across different cultures and across the panorama of history, but in the end, we want and even need to connect to something that is larger than us, and to find out why we are here and where our place is in a universe.

In Judaism, this process has two parts: God descending to man and man ascending to God. Both of these parts happen at the end of Mishpatim, and the climactic moment of this week’s parashah, in some sense, mirrors the desires of every person of faith. This is why we study the actions of the Creator: to learn the nature of God. It is also why we study people who have had personal encounters with the Creator…because those people have learned something of the nature of God. I like how Rabbi Tzvi Freeman expresses the thoughts of the Rebbe in this matter:

Science is the study of those things G-d thinks about,
by one of His thoughts.

Torah is the study of G-d thinking.

We do not have the privilege of ascending Sinai as God has descended upon it, and the ability to encounter God within the smoke and the flames, but like my previous description of how Moses encountered God, we also have two parts to our own process of approaching an understanding of Him: we can study the universe and we can study the Torah. As Rabbi Freeman points out, the first is studying what God thinks about and the second is studying God as He thinks.

I’m not discounting prayer at all and prayer is a vital component in establishing and developing our relationship with the Creator, but we are not only called to experience God in a spiritual and emotional sense, we are also called to experience Him in thinking. We need to understand, at least to the limits God built into the human mind.

This is why the Torah has manifested as a document or series of documents that is tangible and lends itself to study and multiple layers of interpretation. It’s why humanity has spent countless centuries pouring over every tiny bit of text and arguing with ourselves and each other over meanings both obvious and arcane. This is why the Bible can be read in your native language, pointing the way to the Kingdom of Heaven, and still allow God to be a complete mystery in every single aspect.

God seeks to dwell among mankind, but our ability to “know God” is something we struggle with all our lives. As human beings, we often make the mistake of thinking that God is knowable in the same way his creations are knowable. We mistake how we can learn what God’s thinking about by studying His universe (which we don’t understand all that well, either) with understanding the process of God thinking by studying the Bible. And even in studying God’s “thought process,” our ability to truly comprehend more than a tiny fraction of anything at all regarding God, is extremely limited. The world is filled with commentaries (including this one), in bookstores, in libraries, in seminaries, and particularly on the Internet, with a stream of endless text purporting to explain the nature and character of God, including that which is secret and that which may only be known to a favored few “prophets”.

But what do we know?

One who is unqualified can never assume that he understands the depths of halachah like a genuine posek. It is astounding how even the most apparently obvious halachos can sometimes be much more complex than they appear on the surface.

Mishna Berura Yomi Digest
Stories to Share
“The Transfer of Holiness”
Siman 153 Seif 1

A certain man was assumed to be a kohen for many years and redeemed many bechoros. One day he was confronted with an unexpected visitor to town who claimed upon his arrival that this kohen was really no kohen at all! To the surprise of everyone in the town, the man who had been assumed to be a kohen for so many years admitted that he was not a kohen. People wondered what the halachah was in such a case. Was this man still considered a kohen? Did all the many bechoros that he had redeemed need a new pidyon? Although they figured he was now like a yisrael in every regard since presumably he had nothing to gain by accepting this man’s testimony — and this is the halachah whenever
someone believes one witness—they decided to consult with a competent posek.

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“The False Kohen”
Arachim 34

Studying TorahHere we see two things. We see that not everyone is qualified to interpret the Bible and, even more so, to plum the depths of halacha related to Jewish understanding and ritual observance, and we also learn that one may successfully misrepresent himself as a person who has a special religious or teaching authority when in fact, he does not. Beyond the fact that there are false prophets, charlatans, and religious hucksters in the world who have some sort of religious ax to grind, there are also people who are seemingly well-meaning and sincere, but who are also naive or just plain ignorant about how complicated it is to study the text and arrive at meaningful conclusions. There are people who feel they have a special calling to arrive at these “meaningful conclusions” and to teach them to others, perhaps because of some emotional need, when that special calling is only an illusion. Anyone can create a web site or a blog (even me).

I’m not trying to discourage anyone from honest study and exploration on the path that leads to holiness, (which is, after all, what I’m trying to do) but there’s a difference between being one pilgrim on the road who asks questions and reaches for the Heavens, and someone who is a true posek and tzaddik who has spent all of his or her life and resources in acquiring the knowledge to fulfill a position that only God can assign.

I am the former and not the latter, but I still need to ask the questions, record my observations and, if necessary, accept (hopefully) gentle rebukes from those who are authentically learned (as opposed to the scores of folks out there who only think they are) as to where I’ve made my mistakes.

And I’ve made mistakes.

And I will no doubt continue to make mistakes as I attempt to learn, throughout the rest of my life.

But it’s worth it if, in the end, I am allowed to even approach the tiniest thread trailing from the hem of the garment of God.

But, as I said, there are limits.

The above allows for an extended interpretation of a famous statement of our Rabbis: (Bechinos Olam, sec. 8, ch. 2; Ikarim, Discourse II, ch. 30; Shaloh 191b.) “The ultimate of knowledge is not to know You.” The simple meaning of this statement is that a person should realize the limits of his intellect, and therefore understand that knowing G-d is impossible, for He transcends all limits. There is, however, an allusion to the concept that when a person has fully developed his mind, he appreciates that even the concepts which he knows possess an inner dimension which transcends intellect. And going further, one can infer dimensions of G-d that are infinite, internalizing this knowledge to the point that it shapes our personalities.

-Rabbi Eli Touger
After Sinai; Making the Torah a Part of Ourselves
Commentary on Mishpatim
“Knowing, and Not Knowing”
Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 896ff; Vol. XVI, p. 242ff;
Sefer HaSichos 5749, p. 243ff.
Chabad.org

As I’ve already mentioned, our limits are built in, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a great deal we can learn, as long as we are mindful that we do have limits and know where those limits are set. Some men are great scholars, while others will only rise to the level of a humble and seeking student. Some women have been appointed by God to be learned sages, while others may only reach the most elementary levels of Torah comprehension. This does not make one of us better than another in God’s eyes, or make the learned more loved and cherished by the Creator than the struggling disciple. It only means that we have our roles and our boundaries which have been set for us as God has set the limits to the sea and the sky.

Of course, we must make certain that the limits we acknowledge are those set by God and not by us. Just as an overly ambitious or arrogant person can elevate himself to a station higher than God intended (and eventually fall an equally great distance into a spectacular abyss of defeat), so can a person fail to rise to the level God has apportioned for them, not recognizing that they can seek and learn and understand more than they have imagined (or more than someone else told them they were allowed). Seek the level that God has set; learn to see when you still have miles to go on the trail and when you have reached the point where God has said, “no further”.

But even when you have reached that limit, realize that it’s not truly the end.

Knowledge of G-d in this manner anticipates and precipitates the coming of the Redemption, the era when “A man will no longer teach his friend…, for all will know Me, from the small to the great.” (Jeremiah 31:33)

“Knowing, and Not Knowing”
-Rabbi Touger

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

-John Muir, Scottish-American environmentalist and writer

Good Shabbos.