Hashem Cries with Us

Hashem has a hidden abode where He cries over the glory of Israel that was taken away… [after the destruction of the Holy Temple and subsequent exile], and over the desecration of the glory of the kingdom of Hashem. (Chagigah 5b)

Rav Tzadok explains that after the destruction of the Temple, Hashem changed the way He interacts with the Jewish People. Prior to the destruction, Divine providence was easily discernible. After the destruction, Hashem concealed His guiding presence and it looked as if He had abandoned the world and His people. In reality, this was not the case. The holy presence of the Sh’khina remained connected to us through all of our sufferings. However, Hashem’s watchful providence was no longer discernible.

While Hashem’s presence is concealed, we may be subjected to suffering until the rectifications are completed, leading us to do t’shuva (repentance). Hashem’s crying in His “hidden abode” is the concealment of His presence. When we suffer, Hashem cries with us.

Based on Rav Tzadok HaKohen on the Parsha, By Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz, Devarim


Hashem Has Not Forgotten Us

We enter into the month of Av, still in exile, still without our Temple, and still weeping. The Beit HaMikdash was so much more than just another building. Our Temple was a microcosm of the entire world! As King David says, “How shall we sing Hashem’s song in a foreign land?” (T’hillim 137:4) Our people have suffered so much since then, to name only a few, the Inquisition, the pogroms, the Holocaust, and now the annihilation through assimilation.

In order to continue forward, we must strengthen our emuna that Hashem has not forgotten us and that we are still deeply connected to Him. After so long and so much pain and suffering, we may begin to doubt our status with Hashem.

Rebbe Levi Yitzchak admits that we are still in exile, thrown out of Hashem’s House, and kicked out of His Land. Although it appears as if we have lost Hashem’s love, yet, deep down inside, we know He still loves us. How do we know? Because we have never stopped receiving Hashem’s love letters.

Deep within the darkness of this long exile, our souls still cry out to Hashem, responding to the daily call from Him that has never ceased, “Return, My wayward children” (Yirmiyahu 3:24). How do we know that Hashem is still calling out to us to return to Him? We just need to look around us to see how many of our people are returning to Hashem — from ba’alei t’shuva, to converts, to those born and raised within the fold.

Although it may appear as if, G-d forbid, Hashem has forgotten us, He is still calling us. Hashem has never stopped sending us love letters to return to Him, and our people are responding! As we enter another month of Av, may we strengthen our emuna in Hashem and help those who may still be living in the darkness of this long exile to hear Hashem’s call, “Return, My wayward children!”

Based on Sparks from Berditchov, Based on the Teachings of  Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov, by Yaakov Klein, Parshas Matos

Do Not Desecrate One’s Word

“This is the thing that Hashem has commanded … he shall not desecrate his word, according to whatever comes from his mouth shall he do” (Numbers 30:2-3)

The Abir Yaakov warns us that a person may learn Torah, pray, and fulfill the mitzvot, but if one does not guard oneself in the areas of business dealings or speech, by being honest and acting in good faith, regarding such a person we read, “In vain is the watchman vigilant” (T’hillim 127:1). This person’s Torah is for nothing, G-d forbid.

This is similar to a mincha  (grain offering) to Hashem that must be brought in a pure vessel. Even if only the vessel is impure, they are both rejected.

The vessel through which we offer our words of Torah and prayer to Hashem is the mouth. If our mouth becomes contaminated by improper speech, especially by lies and deceit, then any words of Torah and prayer spoken by the same mouth are contaminated and become an abomination to Hashem, G-d forbid. The mouth and the speech we utter are inseparable. If we guard our mouth in mundane matters, then our words of Torah and prayer are acceptable to Hashem. Otherwise, not.

Based on Pituchei Chotam: Insights on the Weekly Parashah by Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzeira, The Abir Yaakov, Bamidbar — Devarim, Artscrcoll

Guarding the Tongue

The Abir Yaakov tells us that our main function and tikkun (rectification) in the world depends on that which we speak. King Solomon says, “All man’s toil is for his mouth” (Ecclesiastes 6:7). The words of prayer and Torah that we say create worlds above. When we remove ourselves from physicality, we will realize that the most important thing is our lofty words that are spiritual and are our life force.

The power of true speech is unique to humanity. Every holy word we speak rises up to the heavens above and attaches itself to its spiritual root in the upper worlds and rectifies them.

The opposite is also true, G-d forbid. We can destroy spiritual worlds through our speech. Our Sages tell us that lashon hara (disparaging speech) is equal to idolatry, forbidden relations, and bloodshed (Arachin  15b).

King David warns us, “Who is the person who desires life, who loves days of seeing good? Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit” (T’hillim 34:13-14). Unfortunately, most people are not concerned with guarding their tongue. King David is warning us that improper speech prevents a person from cleaving to holiness and creates a barrier between the person and Hashem.

The Abir Yaakov explains that we are being warned by King David, “Who is the person who desires life?” — who wishes to achieve holiness in this world? And, “who loves days of seeing good?” — this refers to the World to Come, where we will find eternal life, goodness, and delight. If a person desires these things, then one must “Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.” The life we seek depends on our ability to guard our words, so that our words will rise above, enabling us to attain holiness.

Based on Pituchei Chotam: Insights on the Weekly Parashah by Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzeira, The Abir Yaakov, Bamidbar — Devarim, Parashah Mattot, Artscrcoll

Light Coming from Darkness

This week’s Torah portion occurs as we begin the month of Av. Rav Tzadok, the Pri Tzadik, points out a remarkable paradox (Pri-Tzadik, Rosh Chodesh Av 1). As we enter the month of Av, a sense of gloom sets in as we recall the national tragedies that have befallen our people during this month. Both our First and Second Temples were destroyed and our people were exiled from out Land.

Despite this, the halakha requires us to sing the Hallel in celebration of the new month. Also, the Sefer Yetzira explains that each Hebrew month is associated with a particular Hebrew letter. The month of Av is associated with the letter tet, which is the letter from which the light of life emanates (Zohar Chadash 152a).

The question is, “How can the letter associated with life, light, and goodness be associated with a month filled with so much tragedy and misfortune?” Rav Tzadok reveals that the highest level of light and goodness always emanates from the darkness. When Hashem created the world, “It was chaotic and formless, darkness loomed over everything… Then Hashem said let there be light and there was light. Then Hashem saw that the light was good…” (Genesis 1:2-4).

Rav Tzadok explains that whenever a letter or word appears for the first time in the Torah, the context in which it appears reveals its essential meaning. In this case, both the words tov (good) and ohr (light) first appear in the Torah in the context of the chaos and darkness in the beginning of creation.

Our Sages tell us that the creation of light in the above verses referred to not just a physical light, but also to the spiritual light of Divine goodness. Rav Tzadok tells us that this supernal light always emerges from darkness and turmoil, just as it did in the beginning of creation.

On the one hand, the Beit HaMikdash (the Temple), referred to by our Sages as the “light of the world,” was destroyed. Since then, ever-increasing layers of darkness that accompanied the month of Av have cast a rather gloomy shadow over us.

However, our Sages saw the benevolent light of creation veiled within the darkness. As Rabbeinu Yona writes,

One who places his trust in Hashem should always be filled with hope and anticipation that even in the midst of his most intense anguish and tribulation, the darkness will itself bring the light… ‘To my enemies [I say] do not rejoice because I have fallen for even as I sit now in darkness Hashem is my light’ (Mikha 7:8), upon which our Sages comment: Had I not fallen, I would never have risen, had I not sat in the dark I would never have had light (Sha’arei T’shuva 2:5).

In the midst of our national or personal troubles, this can be a very powerful and encouraging thought.

Based on Rav Tzadok HaKohen On the Parsha: Based on Sefer Pri-Tzadik, by Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz, Masei