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The Mishkan & the Shechinah

dvar Torah for parashas Vayakhel-Pekudei 5783

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the L-RD filled the tabernacle.” – Exodus 40:34, JPS 1917 Tanach

At Sinai, H’Shem’s Presence was observable in the form of thunder and lightning (Exodus 19:18). His Presence was seen by B’nei Yisrael, previously, before they crossed the Sea of Reeds; at that time, H’Shem’s presence was manifest in the form of the cloud, and the pillar of fire. Additionally, the cloud rested atop Sinai: “‘Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee’”(Exodus 19:9, JPS).

When Moshe was on Sinai with Aaron, Nadav and Avihu and the seventy elders of Israel, (see 24:9), he was called by H’Shem, “Come up to Me into the Mount and be there; and I will give thee the tables of stone,” and thus, “Moses entered into the midst of the cloud.” (24:18). R. Bachya explains that just as he was called to go into the cloud of H’Shem’s glory at Sinai, the only way he could enter the sanctuary when the cloud of glory filled the sanctuary was when H’Shem would first call to him (see commentary on 40:34, sefaria).

Therefore, let us consider that to a certain extent, if a parallel lesson can be drawn from this reading, then we too will find that as we approach H’Shem, the way may be obscured by His glory, like the cloud atop Sinai and within the Mishkan (Tabernacle). We may find that we are not able to draw close to Him until He calls us from within the obscurity of our understanding.

R. Bachya further explains, that Moshe was not permitted to share the same “space with G-d’s attribute of kavod (glory);” rather, when he was called either on Sinai, or at the Mishkan, “it was an indication to him that this attribute had departed” from the area ( The experience of Moshe shows how even he was not able to approach G-d’s attribute of glory.

Thus, when we consider ourselves, we are not at the madreiga (level) of Moshe. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of G-d” (Romans 3:23, English Standard Version). Our sins weigh us down to the extent of which we need to realize that in this state, we can hardly approach G-d.

Yet, He calls to us, as it were, through he who tabernacled among us. “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon his glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, Tree of Life Version). “The radiance of His glory and the imprint of His being” (Hebrews 1:3, Tree of Life Version).

In another translation, “And the Dvar H’Shem [Word of G-d] took on gufaniyut (corporeality) and made his sukkah, his Mishkan (Tabernacle) among us, and we gazed upon his Kavod, the Shechinah of the Ben Yachid [Only Son] from Elokim HaAv [G-d, the Father]” (Yochanan 1:14, Orthodox Jewish Bible).

And, in the Book of Revelations, regarding H’Shem’s Presence at the end of the age, after the new heavens and earth: “And I heard a kol gadol (loud voice), a Bat Kol from the Kisse (Throne) saying, “Hinei, The Mishkan of H’Shem is with men, and he shall tabernacle with them, and they shall be His people, and H’Shem Himself shall dwell among them” (Hisgalus 21:3, OJB).


Compassionate Consideration

weekly Torah reading: parasha Ki TIsa 583 – Compassionate Consideration

“And the L-RD passed by before him, and proclaimed: ‘The L-RD, the L-RD G-d, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth: keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” – Exodus 34:6-7

H’Shem acknowledges the fallen “human condition” of mankind; therefore, He is merciful to potential sinners, even knowing that they will, indeed, sin. This act of compassion towards those who are prone to sin, denotes the mercy associated with His name. For how can frail man be treated with ill intentions by the One Who is “Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to Anger, and Abundant in Kindness and Truth” (Exodus 34:6)?

Rather, let this serve as a model for us human beings, within the framework of our relationships to each other; for, we may learn to be tolerant of others, who we might otherwise despise, if we, regrettably took the stance of a haughty attitude towards them. Moreover, we do not know whether or not someone will engage in unlawful (sinful) behavior; therefore, we should not judge anyone who might seem inclined towards a less than godly life.

There is hope for all, including ourselves when we fall. For H’Shem is also “Forgiver of Iniquity, Willful Sin, and Error” (34:7).  This is our reassurance, that when we are unfaithful to the stipulations of the Sinai covenant, H’Shem is still faithful to us. Like unto His forgiveness of B’nei Yisrael, regarding the golden calf debacle, in response to the compassion that Moses elicited from Him through his prayer on behalf of the people; this is also a model for us, to seek H’Shem’s forgiveness, when we fall prey to temptation. “Pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Thine inheritance” (Exodus 34:9, JPS 1917 Tanach).

If we set our gaze upon others, condemning them in our heart, then we condemn ourselves as well; for, if we truly searched our conscience, we would find those same faults in ourselves. Akin to a mirror, we should immediately acknowledge our feelings of condemnation towards others as an indication of how we disparage our own faults. Our human (fallen) nature compels us to point out faults, instead of searching ourselves, and bringing our sins to G-d in repentance.

And,when we are chastised for our sins, “despise not the chastening of the L-RD, neither spurn thou His correction; for whom the L-RD loveth He correcteth” (Proverbs 3:11-12, JPS 1917 Tanach). For, “the L-RD is slow to anger, and plenteous in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression” (Number 14:18, JPS). He is our everlasting assurance of forgiveness.

“The L-RD is full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always contend; neither will He keep His anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our own sins, nor requited us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” – Psalms 103:8-12, JPS 1917 Tanach

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The Faith of Yisro

parasha Yisro (Exodus 18:1 – 20:23) 5783

Yisro, Moshe’s father-in-law “heard of all that G-d had done for Moses, and for Israel his people” (Exodus 18:1, JPS). He journeyed from Midian to the encampment at Sinai, and brought with him Zipporah, the wife of Moses, and Gershon and Eliezer, the two sons of Moses. He proclaimed, “Now I know that the L-RD is greater than all gods” (Exodus 18:11, JPS). He implied, that in the same manner that the Egyptians conspired against the Children of Israel, so was Pharaoh and his army destroyed; i.e., measure for measure, by means of water.

Yisro, former minister to Midian, had worshipped many gods; and, according to Tanchuma, he had renounced idolatry many years ago. Yet, it was not until he heard of H’Shem’s plagues against Egypt – each one symbolizing H’Shem’s superiority over an Egyptian god – and the splitting of the Sea of Reeds, that he recognized H’ Shem as “greater than all gods.”

Up until then, his belief was predicated upon rational inquiry; he had his doubts about the efficacy of the many deities that he used to worship. Yet, when he heard of H’Shem’s greatness being demonstrated in a tangible way through the plagues, and the splitting the sea, his belief was upgraded to the level of knowledge, because of H’Shem’s miraculous intervention for the sake of Israel’s Redemption.

In other words, “seeing is believing;” although, it was enough for Yisro to “hear” “of all that G-d had done,” for his belief to become manifest. So strong was his belief in H’Shem, that he chose to align himself with truth. Only H’Shem is the One true G-d. All other so-called deities are no-things. Yisro’s fidelity shifted from potential to actual, when he travelled out to the encampment at Mount Sinai.

There, he presented offerings to H’Shem, and ate bread with Moses, Aaron, and the elders (Exodus 18:12). This ratified a covenant (agreement) between Yisro and G-d that effected a formal conversion, whereby he sought refuge under the wings of the G-d of Israel (see also Ruth 2:12).

“All that the L-RD hath spoken we will do.” – Exodus 19:8, JPS 1917 Tanach

Notably, even before the giving of the commandments, the Children of Israel, declared in unison, “All that the L-RD hath spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8, JPS). B’nei Yisrael agreed to follow the commandments before they actually were given to them. And, Yisro made a declaration of his belief in G-d, before understanding the full implications of a covenantal relationship with him.

What is the significance of this comparison, between the belief of Yisro, and the willingness of Israel to accept the Commandments? The answer is found in what is considered to be the first commandment, yet, appears to be more like a statement: “I am the the L-RD thy G-d, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 20:2, JPS). The first commandment is the hinge upon which all the other commandments rest. It is a declaration of belief in H’Shem. Accordingly, the first commandment is a prerequisite to the others, as if to say that only when we accept H’Shem’s sovereignty, can we also accept His commandments (Baal Halachos Gedolos).

Faith at the Sea

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The L’RD drove the sea back with a strong east wind throughout the night and turned the sea into dry land. So the waters were divided. Then Bnei-Yisrael went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, while the waters were like walls to them on their right and on their left.” – Exodus 14:21-22

“If they came into the sea, why does the Torah write: “they came unto dry land?” If they came unto dry land why does the Torah call it “sea?” (Shemot Rabbah 21.10). The verse teaches that the sea was not split for them until they had set foot in it while it was still sea up to the level of the nostrils (to demonstrate their faith). Immediately after they had done this the sea was converted to dry land.  – R’Bachya on Exodus 14:22,

The midrashim are not always meant to be taken literally, rather to make a point. Perhaps, one inference to be drawn from this particular midrash, concerns the nature of emunah (faith). While the faith required by B’nei Yisrael to enter into the narrow passage created in the midst of the sea is comprehensible, an even greater faith would have been required if they began to enter the water, even before the splitting of the sea.

The nature of faith, is not only an abstract quality of belief, per se, in something that is unseen. True emunah is to actually believe in what one cannot see, beyond speculation, as if it exists in actuality, and has an influence in a person’s life. Therefore, while many people claim to have a belief in G-d, only by trusting in Him, in tandem to the day to day challenges of life, does that belief become more of an actuality, especially when we become aware of the causality between His influence and the circumstances in lives.

Belief in G-d is more than an intellectual exercise in speculation, in order to compel us to have a reference point (e.g., Heaven) to direct our prayers towards in times of need. The nature of faith denotes an interface between a person’s belief system and practice, not as something removed from a person’s life, compartmentalized in a region of the mind, wherein a disconnect exists to that person’s practical existence.

At the Sea of Reeds, the Almighty’s Presence within the pillar of fire, and the pillar of cloud, were manifestations of His actual existence. Additionally, the splitting of the sea served as a sign of His power, not only to the Children of Israel, also to the rest of the world at that time. The existence of G-d, the manifestation of His Presence, and the signs of His interaction in this world are not as easily found in our lives, surroundings, or greater environmental milieu. Instead, emunah (faith) requires a profound degree of nuanced awareness.

Three points can be made, in regard to the acquisition of emunah. First, an intellectual understanding of who G-d is, inclusive of the role he plays in the world, and in our lives. Second, the gaining of knowledge of Him, by way of the performance of His mitzvoth (commandments). Third, His relationship to Israel, the Jewish people, and mankind as a whole. These three points provide entry points into learning about Him from a vantage point that will help to bridge the distance between us and a transcendent G-d. What is important to keep in mind, is that He is not only transcendent, He is also immanent, that is within the world, as well as closer to us than we might be aware of, even inasmuch that he hears the prayers within our heart.

“The L’RD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. This is my G’d, and I will glorify Him, my father’s G’d, and I will exalt Him.” – Exodus 15:2

The Talmud teaches that He is both in His throne in Seventh heaven, as well as able to hear our whispered prayers on earth. This connotes His oversight of worldly affairs, through His sovereignty, like a King on a throne, as well as His intimate connection to those who earnestly seek Him.

Concerning His interaction in the lives of the Israelites at the Sea of Reeds, the midrash states that even a lowly handmaid saw more at the Sea of Reeds than the prophet Ezekiel saw in his visions (see Ezekiel ch. 1). In other words, she was able to perceive more in regard to H’Shem, because of her actual experience, where G-d’s intervention was clear.

The midrash emphasizes the importance of seeing G-d’s direct interaction in our lives; this type of interaction is referred to as hashgacha peratis – G’d’s guidance over the life of every individual on earth, even on a personal level. The other type of divine guidance, is called hasgacha kelalis – His guidance over the affairs of the world, including nature, and nations, especially Israel. Acknowledging G’d’s sovereignty might be reframed as an acknowledgement of how everything happens in the world either according to His will or is permitted by Him.

Whereas comprehension of how he guides us on an individual level is more subtle, in need of an increased awareness of the events of our own life in the moment. With a heightened awareness, we may begin to see a relationship between our own actions, even our thought and speech; and, how in response to our positive or negative thoughts, speech, and action, we will be dealt with measure for measure. When we begin to see how the blessings in our lives, as well as the curses (negative consequences) in our lives are a result of our attitude and perspective to His commandments, then we will comprehend how what occurs in our lives is a measure for measure response.

“Awe, reverence, and respect towards H’Shem “is the beginning of wisdom.”

  • Psalm 111:10

Only with a healthy fear of H’Shem, are we able to have a foundational starting point for true wisdom. Additionally, when we are pursuing His best interests for ourselves, instead of any interests that may be contrary to His will, then we begin to reconcile ourselves to Him. If we make the effort for teshuvah (returning to G’d) then, He will meet us halfway (Yoma 35b).

Light Within the Darkness

dvar for parasha Bo 5783

“And the L-RD said unto Moses: ‘Stretch out thy hand toward the heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.’ And Moses stretched forth his hand toward the heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days; they saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days; but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.”– Exodus 10:21-23, JPS 1917 Tanach

This darkness originated in a heavenly place: “He made darkness His hiding-place, His pavilion round about Him; darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies” (Psalms 18:12, JPS; Ohr HaChayim, Shemot Rabbah 14). H’Shem is surrounded and hidden by atmospheric darkness. “Inasmuch as the darkness was of a supernatural kind, Moses did not consider it appropriate to raise his staff against supernatural phenomena” (Ohr HaChayim, Exodus 10:23,

His presence within the clouds may also refer to our inability to draw close to Him, unless we enter a place of unknowing, wherein we cannot fully rely upon our intellect. Yet, in the darkness, we may gain insight into the nature of His essence. This unfamiliar place, where H’Shem may be found, may manifest on an experiential level, within the circumstances in our lives. Or, on an intellectual level, from new insights and conceptions of Him.

The darkness of our lives compels us to seek answers for ourselves; otherwise, we are bound to sit in the darkness, immovable, like the Egyptians, who were unable to move. When the inability to comprehend our circumstances, causes us to remain immobile, stuck in old patterns of thought or behavior, we relinquish our volition to the darkness.

Even so, when we enter the darkness, seeking to draw close to G-d, within the midst of our overwhelming challenges, we may find Him, there in the stillness of our heart, the center of the storm, and the quiet of the night. Night represents exile, a time of foreboding; yet, when we place our trust in G-d, our fears and insecurities may be replaced by the reassurance that everything is in His hands.

G-d calls us from the midst of the darkness, to draw us even closer to him, through our circumstances; by placing our faith in Him, we gain His presence in our lives. We will bring the light of understanding into our lives, every time we turn towards Him, instead of towards our fears, anxieties, and concerns.

To G-d’s GLory

“For this cause have I made thee to stand [endure], to show thee My power, and that My name may be declared throughout all the earth.” – Exodus 9:16, JPS 1917 Tanach

“G-d’s name would be declared from generation to generation because of the signs which He performed.” – Ibn Ezra,

H’Shem continually hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would remain recalcitrant against G-d’s divine plan to free B’nei Yisrael from bondage, and endure the subsequent plagues; thus, this may be understood as enabling Pharaoh to continue in his resistance, without letting up on his initial rebelliousness. He would not accept the higher authority of H’Shem. Even the Egyptian were approached in mind to gain results that would best suit his own ambitions. There was no sense of capitulating to a moral code that was given upon the authority of these deities.

Yet, with H’Shem, there is both justice and mercy, above and beyond the understanding of mankind, in regard to his commandments; therefore, He responded with justice upon Egypt carried out in the form of ten plagues; and, mercy towards the Children of Israel, who cried out to him in their suffering. Elsewhere it is written, “I will be gracious (חנן) to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy (רחם) on whom I will show mercy” (Exodus 33:19).

Because of Pharaoh’s unrepentant heart, H’Shem could not show mercy towards him; by hardening Pharaoh’s heart, he strengthened only his position. Rashi explains that the first five times, Torah mentions that “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened,” implying an act of self-volition. Only, for the sake of G-d’s own glory, demonstrated through the plagues decreed upon Egypt, did H’Shem permit Pharaoh to remain recalcitrant.

Pharaoh’s recalcitrance is demonstrative of this principle: “at scoffers He scoffs, but to the lowly He shows grace” (Proverbs 3:34, JPSN). Pharaoh scoffed at the idea of H’Shem, whom he never heard of, commanding him to free His people. Pharaoh hardened his own heart five times. Only then does H’Shem harden the heart of Pharaoh in accordance with Pharaoh’s arrogance. Thus, Pharaoh’s fate was sealed by his own pride.

Even so, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (Exodus 37:19, JPS). If a person’s heart is hardened toward G-d through sin, then he is unlikely to receive G-d’s grace. G-d will let him remain stuck in his recalcitrance. Yet, if we, out of humility, open our hearts to G-d, He will show compassion toward us, and bestow His grace (favor) upon us. The treasures that we will receive are those of Malchus Elokim (the Kingdom of G-d) in the next life, and the blessings of the Shechinah in this life.

The Trials of Joseph

 parasha Vayeishev (Genesis 37:1 – 40:23) 5783

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a coat of many colours.”

– Genesis 37:3, JPS 1917 Tanach

Jacob, loved his son Joseph more than any other of his children, for Joseph was “the son of his old age” (Genesis 37:3). Joseph was the firstborn to Jacob’s wife, Rachel. Joseph was favored enough by Jacob to make him a coat of many colors (Genesis 37:3); the coat was a symbol, demarcating Jacob’s intention of elevating him to the status of the firstborn. Reuben had lost that status because of a previous transgression (Genesis 35:22). This would explain why Joseph was given the responsibility to check up on his brothers who were “feeding the flocks in Shechem” (Genesis 37:14).

Joseph’s brothers were already jealous of him; when he told them of his dreams that foretold  he would rule over them “they hated him even more” (Genesis 37:5). When Joseph was sent to check up on his brothers, they took advantage of the situation. And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph of his coat, the coat of many colors. Then, they threw him into a pit and sold him for “twenty pieces of silver” to a caravan that was passing through Shechem. Joseph’s brothers dipped Joseph’s multi-colored coat into the blood of a goat (Genesis 37:31); then, they took the coat to their father Jacob as evidence of Joseph’s alleged death by way of a wild animal (Genesis 37:20).

When Joseph arrived in Egypt, by way of the caravan of Ishmaelite traders, he was sold as a slave, and became a servant in the house of Potiphar. Even so, in the midst of his nisyanos (challenges), H’Shem was with him;  he had been put in charge of the household, and became successful in all of his endeavors. Yet, he was wrongly accused of indiscretion, by his master’s wife; hence, he was sent to prison. Even there, H’Shem was him, strengthened him, and he was placed in charge of the prison ward. After interpreting two of his fellow prisoner’s dreams, word got out to Pharaoh, two years later when he needed a dream interpreter. Thus, Joseph was brought into Pharaoh’s court. Held in high esteem, Pharaoh promoted him to viceroy.

The nisyanos (trials) of Joseph’s life serve to designate the name of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 as Moshiach ben Yosef, as mentioned in the Talmud (Sukkah 52). “He was despised and forsaken of men” (Isaiah 53:3, JPS 1917 Tanach). Because like Joseph, he was also destined to suffer: “he was wounded because of our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5, JPS). Even to the end that his soul would serve as an atonement for Israel: “Thou shalt make his nefesh [soul] an asham [guilt] offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10, OJB). The role of Moshiach ben Yosef points toward the suffering he endures for the sake of Israel.

Humility and Deference

parasha Vayishlach 5783

“And Jacob sent messengers.” – Genesis 32:4, JPS 1917 Tanach

“This parasha was written to show how H’Shem saved his servant from a stronger foe, and sent his angels to rescue him. In addition it teaches us that he [Jacob] didn’t rely on his righteousness, and made every effort to save himself.” – Ramban,

Previously, the Torah speaks of two camps of angels, one that accompanied Jacob to the edge of the land of Canaan, and another camp that served to accompany him and his entourage once they entered Canaan, the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their descendants (see Genesis 32: 2-3). Now, at the beginning of parashas Vayishlach, the Torah alludes to these very same angels that were assigned for protective measures (Genesis 32:4).

As is stated, “Jacob sent messengers [malachim] before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the field of Edom” (Genesis 32:4, JPS). The Hebrew word, malachim can mean messengers or angels. In the literal sense, Jacob sent messengers to Esau; yet, on another level, the angels granted to him for protection, may have also gone ahead of Jacob’ s entourage.

Regardless of the interpretation, if Jacob had the opportunity to seek divine protection from angels who would defend his entourage, he did not only rely on this; rather, he made a three-fold preparation for an encounter with Esau: prayers, appeasement, and a defensive strategy. He prayed to H’ Shem for deliverance from the hands of Esau; sent gifts to Esau to appease his resentment; and he divided the camp, so that if one camp was attacked, the other would have the opportunity to escape.

Although Jacob could have prevailed upon H’Shem to rescue him through an angelic force, he chose humility, by subjecting himself to Esau. He sent droves of sheep, cattle, and goats ahead as gifts for Esau; his servants went ahead of him with these gifts. Finally, when Esau approached, Jacob went ahead of his family and bowed seven times to his brother Esau.

By way of the gifts that Jacob sent ahead, and his own humble posture of subservience to Esau, even calling him, L-rd, out of deference, Jacob brought about a meeting with his brother that became more like a tearful reunion. Esau’s “pity was aroused when he saw him [Jacob] prostrating himself so many times” (Rashi, Genesis Rabbah 78: 8,

Perhaps, the angels were there for Jacob’s protection; however, he did not avail himself of their services. Neither did he “rely on his righteousness” (Ramban, see above mentioned quotation), as if he was worthy of being delivered from the hands of Esau. He presented himself to his brother Esau, despite whatever the circumstances might be.

Bundle of Life

parasha Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1 – 25:18) 5783

“And the life of Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.” – Genesis 23:1, JPS 1917 Tanach

It’s interesting to note, that Judaism is often regarded as a worldly religion, focusing on our earthly lives, while placing less emphasis on the next life, otherwise known as Olam Haba – the World-to-Come. However, when we delve into Torah, looking below the surface of the plain meaning, we begin to see a different picture. Additionally, the teachings of chazal (the sages), can inform us as well, concerning a perspective that brings us into a fuller knowledge of Torah.

Torah itself is compared to the ocean, perhaps, because its depths are unfathomable. Moreover, it is recorded in Torah, that the number of creatures in the ocean are uncountable; perhaps, this also applies to Torah itself, in regard to the many facets of Torah. It is said that there are seventy faces of Torah, connoting the teaching that Torah presents its mysteries in many ways.

The parasha begins with the death of Sarah, a seemingly disconnected beginning to a narrative entitled Chayei Sarah – the Life of Sarah. Yet, the first word of the parasha, vayechi, meaning “life,” according to R’ Bachya implies “something that exists permanently,” thereby, it could be inferred that this hints toward the understanding that her soul would “take up permanent residence in the celestial regions” (R. Bachya, commentary on Genesis 23:1,

In this respect, Chayei Sarah, the Life of Sarah may be understood as an implicit message or remez (hint), concerning Sarah’s continued existence in Olam Haba. Thus, the title of the parasha points to the promise of an afterlife for the righteous in the World-to-Come.

This promise is reiterated, in regard to Abraham, towards the end of the parasha: “And Abraham expired, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8). This phrase, “gathered to his people” (vayei’asef el amaiv) is likened by Sforno to “the bundle of life:”

“The bundle of souls who are part of the life after death, all of whom the righteous of the various generations who were like him in lifestyle” (Sforno,  Sforno continues, “there are all kinds of different spiritual levels among the righteous souls, not all attained the same level of righteousness while on earth although all of them share the experience of enjoying eternal life” (Sforno, commentary on Genesis 25:8,

The “bundle of life,” that he refers to is also found in reference to a prayer expressing the intent of Abigail, David’s future wife, for the eternal well-being of David: “yet the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the L-RD thy G-d” (1 Samuel 25:29, JPS 1917 Tanach). May we also be bound up for eternity in the bundle of life: biz’ror hachayim, after living all our days.

parasha Noach 5783

dvar Torah for parasha Noach 5783

After Adam and Chava partook of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, an admixture of good and evil occurred; for, evil had entered the world through the original sin, compromising the integrity of Gan Eden. Prior to the first aveirah (sin), only good existed in Gan Eden; afterwards, evil became mixed with good. Over time, the yetzer hara (evil inclination) grew in strength amongst all of mankind, except for Noah, who served as a kind of repository of good. “And the L-RD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5, JPS).

A perplexing dilemma arises, in relationship to G-d’s omniscience; knowing past, present, and future, G-d knew that man would fall as a result of temptation, when seduced by the serpent. Yet, the nature of free will bestowed upon mankind, is such. that at the time, G-d excluded his foreknowledge of man’s fall, from deterring Him to follow through on the divine plan. As a safeguard, teshuvah (repentance) was included from the beginning of time, in fine print, in order to give mankind the ability to seek reconciliation with G-d.

Once fallen, mankind would need to be guided toward an everlasting covenant, despite the original sin, so that G-d’s ultimate intentions for man would remain intact. When mankind had gone too far off from the blueprint, G-d sought to find a reason to not entirely destroy His creation. “The L-RD looked forth from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any man of understanding, that did seek after G-d” (Psalm 14:2, JPS). “Noah found grace in the eyes of the L-RD” (Genesis6:8, JPS). For, “Noah was in his generations a man righteous and wholehearted; Noah walked with G-d” (Genesis 6:9, JPS).

“I will establish My covenant with thee; and thou shalt come into the ark.” – Genesis 6:18, JPS

Through his faith, Noah, persisted in his preparation of the ark to save himself, his family, and various species of animals, in order to start anew. While the rest of mankind on earth went about their usual activities, Noah put his steadfast trust in G-d’s refuge. He implicitly rebuked that generation, while attempting to persuade them to do teshuvah (repentance). He would say to them: “The Holy One, blessed be He, is bringing a flood upon you” (Sanhedrin 108b; Yet, they only scorned him, while he continued to build the ark. This occurred for a 120-year period, the amount of time G-d gave the inhabitants of the earth to change their ways.

Although G-d promised that the world will never be destroyed again by a flood… how can the days that precede the keitz (the end) be reckoned? The message is the same, in regard to the opportunity to reconcile ourselves to G-d, before the door is closed. “All who call upon the name of the L-RD shall be saved” (Joel). Yet, if we miss this window of opportunity to enter the Ark of Refuge, then we will be swept up in the tides of secularism to no avail. Let’s not be caught unprepared; severe plagues will be brought upon the world; yet, G-d has prepared a place for His people.