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Lesson of Chukat

The Red Heifer, Kabbalah - Chukat

The lesson of Chukat opens with an explanations of how the impure and the unclean should be ritually cleansed with the ashes of a red heifer. Many commentators asks about the connection of the red heifer and the rest of the Bible. A surprising number of them conclude that we simply aren’t meant to understand what is being said here. But Kabalistically, not understanding what is being said here contradicts everything we know to be true, so obviously there is more to this than meets the eye. In a letter to Rav Berg, Rav Brandwein speaks about the two questions that Korach asked Moses: ” Must a talit ( prayer shawl) that is all blue have tzittzit ( fringes on the 4 corners) ? and ” Does a house that is full of only holy books need a Mezuzah?”  (more…)


Lesson of Korach

The Punishment of Korah- by Sandro Botticelli (1480–1482) in the Sistine Chapel.

The Punishment of Korah- by Sandro Botticelli (1480–1482) in the Sistine Chapel.

In this story, we must ask ourselves a very hard question: Sine Korach was a great and righteous person, how could he have fallen so low and so quickly?

The Midrash says that it was all because of Korach’s Wife, who said to him something like, ” look, Moses has all the money. He says he’s building a tabernacle but actually he just wants the money for himself. Korach’s wife was constantly nagging him. It is written: ” A woman can build or a woman can destroy.”  (more…)

The Lesson of Naso

The 12 Tribes of Israel

The 12 Tribes of Israel

According to the Kabbalistic calender, the previous Story of Bamidbar is usually read on the Shabbat prior to the festival of Shavuot, while the story of Naso is usually read on Shabbat after the holiday. Why is this exact placement of Naso (around Shavuot) so important?

The sages have taught us that everything in the Bible has a deep but often hidden importance. For example, the placement of the large and small letters and the dots above the words and spaces are always significant, in every case revealing a special Light. The Bible is not a history book; the stories are not about what happened in Egypt or what happened in the desert. Rav Shimon, in the Zohar, warns us not to take these stories at face value. Thus there must be some significance to the timing of our reading of the story of Naso, In the Midrash, it is written that there is no “earlier’ or “later” in the Bible- everything has its exact time. Each Shabbat reading connects us with the unique power of the coming week. Because Naso is almost always read on the Shabbat after Shavuot, it has a certain power that connects to the energy of Shavuot- that if immortality, or the death of death itself- which we can then draw to ourselves for the entire year.  (more…)

The Man who crossed the River

baal shem tov- kabbalah

One day, the Baal Shem Tov arrived at a small crossroads inn and was warmly invited in, and served by the inn keeper’s family. He asked the  children where their father was. “He’s praying,” they replied, so the Baal Shem Tov waited for him.

An hour passed, then two. It was late afternoon by the time the innkeeper emerged from his room. After greeting his guest, he apologized for his long absence. “I am an ignorant man,” he said. “I don’t know how to pray and the order of the prayers in the book, where they start and where they end, so I have to recite the entire book every time I pray.”

“Perhaps I can help you” said Rabbi Israel. For the next hour,the Baal Shem Tov sat down with the man and marked and separated the prayers with slips of paper, “morning prayers,” “afternoon prayers,” “evening prayers,” “for Shabbat,”  and so on, and inserted them to mark the proper place in the innkeeper’s prayer book. The Innkeeper was ecstatic as now he could pray properly!

A little while after, the prayerbook inexplicably fell from its shelf, and the slips of paper were scattered all over the place. The Inn Keeper was devastated and determined not to let this opportunity to begin praying properly escape him, he grabbed the prayerbook and the notes and ran off in the direction that his guest had gone.

He walked for a while and finally  sighted the Baal Shem Tov far ahead. From the distance he saw Rabbi Israel reach a river  spread his handkerchief on the water, step onto it as if it were a sturdy boat and move across the river.

He ran in that direction and once he reached the river, spread his handkerchief on the water, stepped on to it and floated across.  “Wait, Rabbi!” he called. “Wait! You cannot go until you mark my prayer book again! All your notes have fallen out!”

Hearing the man calling out to him, the Baal Shem Tov stopped and turned, to see his recent host running toward him, clutching his prayerbook in one hand and the slips of paper in the other. “How did you get here?” asked Rabbi Israel in amazement. “How did you cross the river?”

“Same as you, with my handkerchief”. Said the man. The Baal Shem Tov replied: ” I think your prayers are just right”.

The lesson for all of us is that there is unbelievable power in simplicity and purity of heart.


Mount Sinai and the Revelation of the Light of Immortality

Mount Sinai and the Revelation of the Light of Immortality

We learn from The Zohar that every night of Shavuot, Rav Shimon and his students stayed awake and studied Torah. Rav Shimon says that every year on Shavuot we can purchase life insurance. Nothing can afflict the insured. Whoever makes the right spiritual connection on Shavuot has been insured—they will not die or be hurt at least until the following Rosh Hashana. From this we can understand that the reason to celebrate Shavuot is not religious or historical tradition, but rather pure self-interest. (more…)

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