Home Arrows_Purple copy.jpg Torah Arrows_Purple copy.jpg Lamplighter

The Lamplighter Weekly

Volume 22 Issue 29
August 2-8, 2020 - 12-18 Av 5780
Torah Reading: Eikev
 Candle Lighting : 7:57 PM
Shabbos Ends: 8:52 PM
  Pirkei Avos: Chapter 4

 

Parsha Synopsis · A Word From the Rabbi
Essay ·
Thoughts That Count
Once Upon A Chassid · Tid Bits · Happenings · Notes From Israel

 

Parsha Synopsis

Eikev
Dueteronomy: 7:12-11:25

In the Parshah of Eikev (“ Because”), Moses continues his closing address to the children of Israel, promising them that if they will fulfill the commandments ( mitzvot) of the Torah, they will prosper in the  Land they are about to conquer and settle in keeping with G‑d’s promise to their forefathers.

Moses also  rebukes them for their failings in their first generation as a people, recalling their worship of the  Golden Calf, the rebellion of  Korach, the sin of the  spies, their angering of G‑d at Taveirah, Massah and Kivrot Hataavah ( “The Graves of Lust”). “You have been  rebellious against G‑d,” he says to them, “since the day I knew you.” But he also speaks of G‑d’s forgiveness of their sins, and the  Second Tablets which G‑d inscribed and gave to them following their repentance.

Their forty years in the desert, says Moses to the people, during which G‑d sustained them with daily  manna from heaven, was to teach them “that man does not live on  bread alone, but by the  utterance of G‑d’s mouth does man live.”

Moses describes the land they are about to enter as “flowing with  milk and  honey,” blessed with the “seven kinds” (wheatbarley grapevines figs pomegranates olive oil and  dates), and as the place that is the  focus of G‑d’s  providence of His world. He commands them to destroy the  idols of the land’s former masters, and to beware lest they become  haughty and begin to believe that “my power and the might of my hand have gotten me this  wealth.”

A key passage in our Parshah is the second chapter of the  Shema, which repeats the fundamental mitzvot enumerated in the Shema’s first chapter, and describes the  rewards of fulfilling G‑d’s commandments and the adverse results (famine and  exile) of their neglect. It is also the source of the precept of  prayer, and includes a reference to the resurrection of the dead in the  messianic age.

 

A Word From the Rabbi

Share

  

Rabbi_Photo copy.jpg


 
NOT BY BREAD ALONE
Turning Reality on its Head

A joyous farbrengen was held one evening at the humble home of Rabbi Shmuel Betzalel Sheftel (The 'Rashbatz'). For hours the group of Chassidim sat, toasting L'chaim's, singing, talking, rebuking and inspiring one another. As the clock marked the passing of the night, the meager platters of 'Farbeisen' (food with which to follow up the L'chaim vodka) ran out, so Rabbi Shmuel Betzalel instructed that the lamb being raised in his yard be slaughtered. A hot stew was prepared to fuel the Farbeisen for many an hour to come.

The next morning Rabbi Shmuel Betzalel's wife came in from the yard with the distressing news that the lamb – which constituted the whole of the 'family ranch' – had disappeared! Said Rabbi Shmuel Betzalel: "No, no, the lamb has not disappeared, the lamb is very much here, it has only changed its sound. Yesterday it said meh-eh-eh. . . today it is saying Echo-o-d. . ., O-o-one. . . " (as in G‑d is one).

-------------------------------------------------

“Man does not live by bread alone, but by all that emanates from the mouth of G‑d does man live.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

----------------------------------------------

Did you ever wonder how it is that the highest life forms on planet earth are sustained by the lowlier levels of existence? Is it not strange that man should depend on animals, plants, and minerals for his vitality and nutrition? This question has not escaped the probing eye of the Chassidic masters.

All of nature is divided into four general categories, or worlds: mineral, vegetable, animal and human. There is a substantial difference between a grain of sand and a grain of wheat, or between a flower and a bee, or between a clueless animal and a homosapiance. There is obviously an even greater gap between the lowest in the scale of created matter (minerals) and the highest (man).

According to the natural order of things, the strong are meant to support the weak; the rich can support the poor, not the other way around (not intended as an endorsement of any political ideology or agenda). Therefore it is hard to understand why in the case of nutrition things appear to work the other way around. In what has been dubbed the “Food chain,” the lower creatures support the higher creatures, (not just with a contribution, they expect a total commitment). The mineral/soil realm for example, supports the vegetable kingdom; the vegetable supports the animal kingdom and all three serve to support man.

Bread, for instance, has no life; no mental or intellectual qualities, yet when a person eats bread as well as other foods, it is not only transformed into human flesh and blood, which is in itself an incredible transformation, but also into extraordinary cells of tissue that comprise the human brain, allowing a person to think and to speak.

A child feeding on cereals and other foods grows and develops not just bodily but mentally and spiritually as well. How is this possible? Does bread have mental and spiritual qualities that are passed along to its consumer?

By way of explanation of this deserving question the masters recall the basic principle of Kabbalah that there is a “Spark of G‑dliness” at the core of every created being.  Nothing in the world could exist without having a nucleus of G‑dliness. This Divine spark sustains a given objet; imbuing it with its own unique qualities and characteristics.

When we eat food, our bodies are nurtured by the physical components of the food, while our soul is nurtured by the Divine nucleus. This, then, is the meaning of the statement in our Parsha, Eikev – we do not survive only because of the physical component of bread, but by the Divine word that is within it.

Yet the question seems to linger: How can the “Spark” of something lowly, by comparison, sustain and enliven that which is far superior? This conundrum is actually entirely dissolved in face of the Chassidic view regarding the nature of the vital spark contained within creation. “The lower a thing is,” maintains Chassidus, “The higher its spiritual core, since the sparks contained in the so-called ‘lower’ tiers of creation are actually loftier than that of the higher realms.”

The aforementioned revolutionary axiom, and its broad implications vis-à-vis reality, life and matter, is based on the Kabbalistic assertion that our world – referred to as the world of Tikun (repair) – is the byproduct of a primordial world by the name of Tohu. The collapse of the world of Tohu, as the result of an explosion, has given birth to our world of Tikun. (now, is that where the “Big Bang” theory comes from?)

It is not unlike the physical order of nature, maintain the mystics. When a wall collapses, the uppermost stones fall the farthest, it is similarly the case with the “collapse” of the world of Tohu. The loftiest sparks of the Divine creative force fell farthest from their source and were incarnated within the most mundane creations of our world. This is what Kabbala alludes to in its reference to the 288 Sparks of the world of Tohu that fell after the collapse of that world and the shattering of its Sefirot.

To our eyes, man is the most spiritual of earthly creatures, the animal exhibits a more sophisticated vitality than the plant, and the mineral shows no outward signs of life at all. In essence however, the sublimity of the spark of Divine life in an object is in converse relation to its manifest spiritual status. Thus the mineral has the energy to nourish the vegetable, both contain the nutrition to nourish the animal, and all three sustain human life.

This can be better understood upon contemplation of the power of the “G‑dly word,” so to speak. When G‑d willed to create the universe, there was nothing at first, G‑d created everything out of nothing by saying: "Let there be . . .;” ten utterances in all. The process of creation continues ever since, as we say in our prayers: "In His goodness He renews each day the work of Creation."

 If G‑d should withdraw His "Word" for one instant, everything would lapse back to nothingness as before Creation. It is hence the "Word" of G‑d which is the real bread of life. It is that which issues from G‑d's mouth" that gives life, with all the mental and spiritual qualities to the human being eating it.

This is the meaning of a statement made by the renown Kabbalist; the saintly Ari, that everything, even the "lifeless" objects, such as stones, has a "soul" – a Divine "word," "will," or "power" – hidden within, which is its true essence. It is not physical matter which gives and sustains life. It is not the carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, etc in the bread that sustains man but rather the Divine essence that is hidden in every particle of matter – the "word" of G‑d which created it out of nothing and constantly says to it.

It is this "word" of G‑d which is the real life spark, while the physical matter is but an outer "shell," very much like our body is the outer shell or frame for our inner and hidden soul. It is hence no longer a mystery that the mineral would have the energy to nourish the vegetable, the animal, and even the life of us humans.

The above stated axiom is part of a larger Jewish weltanschauung on life. It supports and is supported by a series of critical components which comprise Judaism’s delicate theological echo system.

For example, the aforementioned converse perspective of a things true significance supports and dovetails a number of other unique Jewish tenets, particularly that of “Hashgacha Protis” (Divine Providence), the notion that G‑d’s Divine oversight extends to every minute particle of matter.

The realization of the fact that at the root and core of everything there is nothing but G‑d and His word, will inevitably lead to a deeper appreciation of G‑d's essential unity, which in turn will bolster the awareness of how much closer we are to G‑d than we could imagine. Knowing these truths, and living up to them in our daily life, is the deeper meaning of the statement in our Parsha: "Not by bread alone does man live. . ."

Most important of all however is the awareness of the fact that only man has the capacity to direct the vital energy within himself toward a G‑dly end. For man alone has been granted the gift of free choice. The animal, vegetable, or mineral cannot sin; their conformity with the Divine will is instinctual and inevitable, and thus devoid of moral significance. Only man can elect to do good and, by the force of his deeds, transcend the creature state to achieve intimacy with the Divine.

So, when man consumes the resources of the physical world, a bilateral transformation takes place. The slice of bread, piece of meat or glass of water confer their superior vitality to the person, imparting to him a spiritual potential that he does not himself possess. At the same time, if the person utilizes this vitality to perform a Divine deed, he elevates the plant, animal, or mineral he has consumed, releasing its vital soul from its mundane encasement, reuniting it with its Divine source.

The phrase "Man does not live by bread alone" related in our Parsha has become a familiar refrain. Less familiar however is the end of the verse: "Rather by everything that emanates from the mouth of G‑d does man live." So, if the point here is that G‑d's emanations are the source of our lives, why talk about bread at all? Bread after all only becomes edible through the toils of man? Wouldn't fruits be a better example of G‑d's astounding power to create and sustain the universe on all levels?

According to our earlier discussion, however, the use of bread as the object of choice is rather consistent, as bread exemplifies the toil of man. The message here is that just as with bread we must perceive the inner “Word of G‑d “ – the G‑dly source and purpose, so too with all the labors of our hands must we seek out the embedded “Word of his G‑d” – the spiritual source and purpose.

In the above light it is clear that man’s every action has significance beyond what the eye can ever behold. A person’s spiritual mission is to introduce holiness and spirituality into all parts of the world subject to his influence. He must reveal the G‑dly essence in all things – animal, vegetable and mineral – in which he comes into contact.

When man realizes his obligation under heaven – when he lives-up to his G‑dly potential, not only does his purpose come into fruition but the entire universe does as well. Conversely, should man neglect his responsibility, he negates not just his own purpose and raison d’être but that of all lower orders of creation brought into existence to serve him.

“Walking in the street one must think words of Torah,” says the Lubavitcher Rebbe. (“Whether to actually pronounce the words depends on the place, if one is permitted according to Torah law to utter words of Torah there.) But when someone goes about not occupied with Torah words, the stone he treads on exclaims: "Bulach! (‘Clod', in Russian) How dare you trample me! How are you any higher than I am?" (Hayom Yom, 7 Adar II).

Through our efforts in serving G‑d through all our actions, as the verse states: “In all your ways, you shall know Him,” we will certainly transform this world into a G‑dly vessel which will precipitate the Messianic era, BBA.

Gut Shabbos! 

book mockup.png


Rabbi Kahanov is the founder/director of Chabad in Northeast FL, consisting of 6 Chabad Centers
He is also the author of "What Chabad Really Believes"
If you like this, you might be interested in purchasing his book click here for more information 

  Share

In the Land of Because


Try to imagine life without the word because. You got paid this week because you came to work each workday morning. They let you walk out of the store with a bag of food because you paid for it in coin, paper or plastic. As a rule, you are loved by those whom you love, are cared for by those for whom you care, are treated nicely by those whom you treat nicely.

Can we rise above this tight little world of “because”? Maimonides speaks of a kind of person who “does the truth because it is true,” meaning that there is no “because.” There is a place, Maimonides is saying, where things are by virtue of what they are, not as a means for something else.

Indeed, we encounter glimmers of this world of truth in our utilitarian lives. A parent loves and cares for their child “because he/she is my child”—i.e., for no reason. Yet by and large we live our lives in the land of “because,” so that even when we talk about the world-of-truth aspects of our lives, we still find it hard to avoid the terminology of our natural “because” reality (“does the truth because it is true”; “I love her because she is my child”).

 


 

The Shema is a collection of 20 biblical verses enumerating the fundamentals of Judaism. When a Jewish baby is born, we bring children to recite the Shema at his cribside. On his deathbed, the Jew recites the Shema. In between, we say these verses twice every day, morning and evening.

The Shema consists of three sections. The first two sections—Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and 11:13–21—declare the oneness of G‑d and our duty as Jews to love Him, to study the Torah and teach it to our children, bind tefillin on our arm and head, and affix mezuzot to the doorposts of our home. (The third section—Numbers 15:37–41—speaks of the mitzvah of tzitzit and of the Exodus.)

The interesting thing about the Shema’s first two sections is that the second is basically a repetition of the first. There is one primary difference. In the first section of the Shema we are simply told to love G‑d and perform these mitzvot as our affirmation of G‑d’s oneness. In the second section—which forms part of this week's Torah reading of Eikev (“Because”)—we are also informed of the rewards of fulfilling the mitzvot (“I will give the rain of your land in its due season . . . and you shall eat and be sated . . . In order that your days be multiplied . . . upon the land”) and warned of the consequences of transgression (“He will stop up the heavens . . . you will soon perish from the good land”). Other than that, however, the second section repeats the verses of the first, with only minor differences in wording and syntax.

If being a Jew meant breaking free of egotism and temporality of our “because” world, we would have only the first section of the Shema. If the essence of Jewishness were the development and perfection of the reality into which we were born, we’d have only the second section. We have both, because our mission in life is both.

G‑d wants us to rise above the narrowness of our humanity, and at the same time remain trapped within it. He wants us to touch Truth, and at the same time remain enmeshed in the needs and machinations of our selfhood. G‑d wants to be one—He wants to be everywhere.

Yanki Tauber

Thoughts That Count
(back to top)

Blessed shall you be above all the nations; there shall not be a barren male or female among you (Deut. 7:14)

The Torah considers the Jewish soul the most precious commodity in the world. The proliferation of the Jewish people, therefore, is the highest blessing that can be bestowed upon them. (Rabbi Shimshon Refael Hirsch)

And the L-rd will take away from you all sickness, and all the evil diseases of Egypt (Deut. 7:15)

"Sickness" is an illness which causes the sufferer to lie in bed, not because of pain or discomfort in any particular organ, but because it has spread throughout the body; "evil disease" alludes to an ache in a particular limb, while the rest of the body remains unaffected. (Haketav Vehakabala)

As a man chastens his son, so does the L-rd your G‑d chasten you (Deut. 8:5)

A father's heart is heavy when he is forced to strike his son. Similarly, G‑d suffers with us when punishment is meted out. (Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev)

A land whose stones are iron (Deut: 8:9)

Rabbi Abba said: A Torah scholar who is not as tough as iron is no Torah scholar, as it states, "whose stones are iron." Do not read "avaneha" (stones), but "boneha" (her builders). This Talmudic homily teaches us an important lesson in how to protect the land of Israel: Although it is certainly necessary to possess "iron" weapons in the literal sense - an army and ammunition to deter our enemies - we must always remember that the true "iron" and strength of the Jewish people is their Torah learning and observance of mitzvot (commandments). (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

 


Once Upon A Chassid

(back to top)

Cold Feet

For G‑d your G‑d… is a consuming fire (9:3)

Between coldness and heresy stands an extremely thin wall. It is written: "For G‑d your G‑d is a consuming fire" - G‑dliness is a blazing flame. Torah study and prayer require a flaming heart, so that "all my bones should proclaim" the words of G‑d. (Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch)

Rabbi Nechemia of Dubrovna told:

I once saw a Russian soldier being whipped. His crime? While standing watch on a winter night, his feet had frozen in their boots. "Had you remembered the oath you took to serve the czar," his commander berated him, "the memory would have kept you warm."

"For 25 years," concluded Reb Nechemia, "this incident inspired my service of the Almighty."


Tid Bits
(back to top)

Why is the Ketubah written in Aramaic?
tid bit
 The Ketubah is the marriage contract that outlines the obligations of the husband to his wife, as well as the financial compensation due to the wife in the event of the marriage’s dissolution through divorce or widowhood. Similar to a Get (divorce document), the Ketubah is traditionally written in Aramaic, the common language of the Jews during Talmudic times.

Why was it originally written in Aramaic, not Hebrew? And why is it still written in that language today, when most of us are more proficient in English or another language?

Precise Legal Language

The importance of the Ketubah’s precise and exact language cannot be overstated, due to the legal nature of the Ketubah as well as its deeper spiritual significance.

In fact, having a properly written kosher Ketubah is so critical—not just to the marriage ceremony itself, but to married life in general—that it is problematic for a couple to live together, even temporarily, without a kosher Ketubah. (In the event that the document is lost or destroyed, or if a serious error is found in its text, the couple must immediately obtain a replacement from a rabbi.)

For centuries, going back to Talmudic times, the sages have pored over the Aramaic Ketubah formula, ensuring that each word is precise, and especially looking out for words that may have multiple meanings.

As with contemporary contracts, the more important the contract, the more experts you’d have review the language to tighten it and make sure it is precise. So it is no wonder that the contract for marriage, one of the most important and monumental steps that one takes in life, bonding two half-souls into one union, needs to have extremely precise language. Thus, we use the traditional Aramaic text, which has gone through the rigor of centuries of Talmudic scholars.

Translations of the Ketubah

Although it is theoretically possible to have a Get or Ketubah in another language—if written precisely, in accordance with all the relevant laws, etc.—halachah only permits this in extreme situations.

To be sure, there are many translations of the Ketubah, both in English and Hebrew (including on our site). And since the Ketubah is a legal document, one should certainly read a translation to understand what is written in it (or at the very least, have the rabbi explain the basics of the document). Nevertheless, the actual Ketubah used for the marriage should be the traditional text, ensuring that it is precise and kosher.

A Semi-Holy Language

Aside from the legal aspect of the Ketubah, there are deeper reasons for the Aramaic as well.

The Ketubah has been written in Aramaic going back to Second Temple times, imbuing the text with holiness and the tradition of our ancestors. Thus, using the traditional Aramaic text of the Ketubah links us and our future family to our ancestors’ rich and illustrious heritage.

The Ketubah and the Get are actually written in Aramaic with a sprinkling of Hebrew. A document that alternates between two languages is generally invalid. So why is it OK here?

Among other explanations, Rabbi Moses Isserlis explains that Aramaic has a certain holiness to it (going back to Mount Sinai ) and can therefore go together with Hebrew, “the Holy Tongue.”

In fact, parts of the Bible itself, as well as the Oral Torah as recorded in the Talmud, are written in Aramaic. Furthermore, some of the special prayers, such as the Kaddish, are also recited in Aramaic, signifying that Aramaic is considered a special and unique language.

But why was Aramaic chosen over Hebrew?

The Angels Do Not Understand

On a homiletic level, many cite a Midrash regarding the time before G‑d gave the Jewish people the Torah. Wishing to keep the Torah in Heaven, some angels claimed that mere mortals could not be trusted to study the Torah. In reply, G‑d promised that the Jewish men would occupy themselves with learning Torah.

Yet, in the text of the Ketubah, the Jewish men accept upon themselves unconditionally to work their very hardest to support their wives. This can theoretically be used by the angels to bolster their case that the Jews cannot be relied upon to study Torah assiduously.

The sages teach us that the angels understand all languages except for Aramaic. Thus, some explain, by writing it in Aramaic we prevent the angels from using the Ketubah in their argument.

A Foundation of Peace

In a somewhat similar vein, some cite another Midrash.

When the time came for G‑d to create Adam, G‑d “consulted” the ministering angels. The Angel of Truth said, “Don’t create humans, for they will be full of lies.” The Angel of Peace said, “Do not create them, for they will be in constant strife!” What did G‑d do? He grabbed the Angel of Truth and hurled him to the earth.

While that took care of the Angel of Truth, the commentaries ask, how did G‑d contend with the Angel of Peace?

The commentaries explain that, based on the halachah that one is allowed to bend the truth to keep the peace, now that the need for absolute truth had been thrown down, it was possible to maintain peace.

However, part of the text of the Ketubah reads, “I will work, honor, feed and support you in the custom of Jewish men, who work, honor, feed and support their wives faithfully.” The Aramic word translated as “faithfully,” בקושטא, literally means “in truth.” Thus, when we are creating a union that will, with the help of G‑d, result in more of mankind, we are stating that it will be with truth. This gives room for the Angel of Peace to again raise objections that there will be a lack of peace. To avoid this, we write it in a language that the angels don’t understand.

These homiletical explanations, while not the main reasons for the Aramaic Ketubah, stress the importance of being mindful to imbue our new home with Torah and peace. 

A noted scholar and researcher, Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin serves as content editor at Chabad.org, and writes the popular weekly Ask Rabbi Y column. Rabbi Shurpin is the rabbi of the Chabad Shul in St. Louis Park, Minn., where he resides with his wife, Ester, and their children.

 

 


Happenings

(back to top)

If you, or someone you know, would like to receive the Lamplighter by E-mail – let us know!

To add a name to the growing list of recipients please contact Chabad

To sponsor an issue of the Lamplighter please contact the Chabad office.

What do you think? We want to hear your comments and suggestions for the Lamplighter. Please let us know what you think!

Phone: 262-6641 | E-mail: Info@chabadjacksonville.org

Be A Part of It!