Category Archives: Kli Yakar

Beardless Righteousness

Kli Yakar Numbers: Korach

Beardless Righteousness

Judaism has generally venerated old bearded men. The righteous aged scholar with a lifetime of wisdom is the apex of the Jewish communal life-cycle. There is an ancient belief that these righteous individuals are a major force for good in our lives. The Kli Yakar traces the source of this belief to this week’s Torah portion. Though the personality upon whom this doctrine is based, was not bearded, nor even male.

The source is Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron (see Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Moed Katan 28a). After Miriam dies, the well of water that miraculously accompanied the Children of Israel throughout their desert journey, disappears. This occurred apparently to highlight the connection between the well and this righteous woman.

The Kli Yakar (Numbers 20:2) explains that the righteous individual accomplishes four different things for her or his generation:

      1. Nourisher”: Just as in Miriam’s Well, the righteous are believed to be a source of our sustenance – not only spiritual, but even physical.
      2. Teacher: The righteous guide us in how to live our lives.
      3. Shielder”: In some sense, the righteous protect us from negative events.
      4. Forgiveness at Death: The death of the righteous individual provides atonement at some level to the generation.

An impressive list of effects that the righteous accomplish.

May we find such people and attach ourselves to them.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

To the memory of Berel Schwartzblatt of Cedarhurst, NY. A righteous and sweet singer of Israel, we will always remember his song.

Adulterous Power

Kli Yakar Numbers: Korach

Adulterous Power 

According to the Kli Yakar (Numbers 16:4), the great, holy Moses, the deliverer of the Torah, the Prophet of Prophets, the mortal to reach the highest levels of divine contact is accused of adultery. The Kli Yakar further explains that the antagonist of this week’s Torah reading, Korach, is the accuser and accuses Moses publicly. Though the basic text of the Torah makes no mention of such an event, the Kli Yakar teases out the meaning from in-between the lines, and states that Korach, while not having any evidence to base such a wild accusation, had a good understanding of human nature and that men in power do succumb to such temptation (hence the primacy of the 7th commandment “Do not commit adultery”, nestled between murder (6th) and theft (8th)).

It is therefore no coincidence that men of power are frequently accused and found guilty of inappropriate behavior in this department. The Kli Yakar says that one is a result of the other. The Talmud has at least two different references (Tractate Sotah 4b):  

“One who raises himself above others, in the end commits adultery,”

The second one is that:  

“One who raises himself above others, is as if he commits adultery.”

The reason for this, he explains, is that a man of power can’t abide to see others exerting authority. For a man of power even the normal authority of a man over a wife is one that he would seek to override. The man of power, ever hungry for more control, will seek to rule and conquer even the most intimate and sacred relationships of others. 

May we beware of those who exert power.

Shabbat Shalom, 

Bentzi

Dedication 

To all those accused of such misconduct. May the innocent ones be proven as such and may the guilty ones get their divine comeuppance.

 

Divine String Symphony

Kli Yakar Numbers: Shelach

Divine String Symphony

 

Blue Fringed Tzitzit

The Commandment of ‘tzitzit’ (the four cornered garment that Jewish men are obliged to wear with fringes at each corner) is both unusual and highly symbolic. The Talmud (Tractate Menachot 43b) famously and cryptically states:

“Tekhelet (the classically blue fringe amongst the white ones of the tzitzit) is similar to the ocean, and the ocean is similar to the heavens, and the heavens are similar to the Throne of Glory.”

The Kli Yakar (Numbers 15:38) tells how we need to observe the sky and how it doesn’t veer one iota from its mission. Not only that, but according to ancient Jewish sources, the sky exults in its mission. He continues that we need to look at the ocean as well. The ocean also does not alter its mission and stays strictly within God’s directives. However, the same sources tell us that the ocean is not as happy about it, but rather obeys out of fear of God, while the sky performs its mission out of love of God.

The Kli Yakar then explains the Talmudic statement. The wearing of tzitzit with its strings is meant to make us cognizant of the ocean, which performs its obligations, even if it doesn’t like it, but rather out of fear and awe of God. The next level is to think of the sky, which follows God’s commands out of love. Once a person reaches that level he can then attach himself more directly to God and His Throne of Glory and thereby enjoy the symphony of Creation.

May those of us who can wear tzitzit, do so and have the thought processes it is meant to engender. Others will just have to think of the ocean, sky and the divine orchestra of the world that surrounds us, without the benefits of tzitzit.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication 

To Maestro Paul Salter, on his masterful and harmonious musical instruction.

To the Ptil Tekhelet organization for their work in bringing back the blue fringes that had been lost for millennia.

Food’s Spiritual Levels

Kli Yakar Numbers: Behaalotcha

 

Food’s Spiritual Levels 

The Children of Israel complain (several times) during their desert journey. At one point they’ve had enough of the miraculous manna, and seek something more substantive and familiar like the meat or fish they had in Egypt. God accedes (not too happily) to their demand and rains down on them (literally) millions of birds (popularly translated as quail – but it’s not clear that’s really what it was).

 

Why the disparity between what they wanted (fish or meat) and what they got (poultry)? 

The Kli Yakar (Number 11:22) explains that the Jewish request was inappropriate. Specifically the type of animals. According to the Kli Yakar, meat is for people at the lowest spiritual level, which was not the case with the Children of Israel who requested it. On the other hand, fish represents the highest spiritual level, and they weren’t there either. God gave them what they needed, not what they wanted, namely fowl, which is for people at the middle level. The Kli Yakar brings as evidence of the animal’s spiritual level the symbolism in the way the type of animal is killed for consumption.

 

In kosher slaughter, meat is obtained by cutting what are called the two ‘simanim’ (literally signs, but refers to the esophagus and trachea). This represents the evil person being removed from this world and the next world at death. 

Fowl can be killed by cutting just one ‘siman’. This represents the average person who is merely removed from this world at death.

 

Fish only need to be ‘gathered’ from the water (and make sure they die). This represents the righteous that depart this world with just a divine kiss. 

In table form it would look as follows:

 

Jews asked for: Meat –  Evil – 2 ‘simanim’ – cut off from both worlds

Jews received: Fowl – Middle – 1 ‘siman’ – pulled from this world

Jews asked for: Fish – Righteous – ‘gathered’ – divine kiss

 

Though some of us may have a heavy meat diet, may we reach greater aquatic levels. 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Bentzi

Dedication 

To Menachem, the butcher of Alon Shvut. He serves it all.

Secrets of the Priestly Blessing

Kli Yakar Numbers: Naso

 

Secrets of the Priestly Blessing

Priestly Blessing during Temple period

In Israel, every day, during the morning prayers (and outside of Israel, just during the Festivals), the Kohanim, the priestly descendants of Aaron, the High Priest, bless the rest of the congregation.

 

There is an ancient, fifteen-word formula that they recite, while spreading their fingers in an unusual pattern. The Kli Yakar (Number 6:24) states that there are secrets to creation hidden within the ritual. 

The ten fingers refer to the ten revealed physical attributes of a person and the ten hidden spiritual aspects of a person. He explains that each parent contributes five physical attributes to their child, while God bestows all ten of the spiritual characteristics.

 

The father is responsible for all the “white” in a person: tendons, bones, brain, fingernails, and the white of the eyes.

The mother is responsible for all the “red” in a person: skin, muscles, blood, hair, and the dark of the eyes.

God infuses man with ten spiritual abilities: spirit, soul, features of the face, vision, hearing, speech, walking, knowledge, understanding and wisdom. 

The priests, during their blessing, are directing divine energy towards us. The blessings are directed to both the openly physical aspects of our being, as well as the hidden spiritual dimension.

 

May we continuously absorb their blessings. 

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Shavuot Sameach,

 

Bentzi 

Dedication 

To all my priestly friends. Keep on blessing us.

 

Tribal Wisdom, Humility, Courage and Wealth

Kli Yakar Numbers:Bamidbar

Tribal Wisdom, Humility, Courage and Wealth

During our desert wandering, the twelve tribes were grouped into four divisions when they camped around the tabernacle. The Kli Yakar (Numbers 2:3) explains that beyond the logistics and tribal hierarchy involved in the placement, there was a deeper meaning. He states that the tribes were each camped in a different direction representing traits and the order in which man should acquire them in his journey through life. He bases his formula on the Talmud and Maimonides.

The first division, on the eastern front, under the leadership of Judah, included Yissachar and Zevulun. Together they represent the attribute of Wisdom that according to the Kli Yakar is the first step and the foundation of growth and development. 

The second division, on the southern front, under the leadership of Reuven, included Simeon and Gad. They represent the attribute of Humility. This is the second step for any type of true growth.

The third division, on the western front, under the leadership of Ephraim, included Menashe and Benjamin. They represent the attribute of Courage. This is a requirement for success. 

The fourth and final division, on the northern front, under the leadership of Dan, included Asher and Naftali. They represent the attribute of Wealth.

The Kli Yakar quotes the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 92a) stating: “The Divine Presence only dwells upon one who is wise, wealthy, courageous and humble.” 

When the four divisions, each with their own traits and strengths are united by the common and central service of God – that is when we approach the ideal.

Shabbat Shalom, 

Bentzi

Dedication 

To the memory of Rabbi Uri Dasberg of Alon Shvut. He died in a tragic car accident this week. He was a scholar of great breadth, a man of sustained action and a leader with deep vision. He was a role-model and an inspiration. Most poignant is that his untimely death has orphaned his two grandchildren, his adopted childen, who had already been orphaned of both parents. May God console his wife, Yehudit, and all of the family amongst the mourners ofZionandJerusalem.

Messianic Predictions

Kli Yakar Leviticus:Bechukotai

Messianic Predictions

Every generation since the destruction of the Second Temple has anticipated the arrival of the Messiah, who would usher in a new age and build the Third Temple. It is an article of Jewish faith as popularized by Maimonides and sung to various tunes (Ani Maamin). 

The Kli Yakar provides some hints as to the magnitude of the Messianic era, based on a verse in Leviticus 26:10. He writes that there are secrets hidden within the verse and then takes us to verses in Jeremiah 23:7-8. English translations don’t to justice to the Hebrew (the curious can look them up), but the point is that the miracles of the Egyptian Exodus will seem paltry compared to the miracles we will witness in the Messianic age.

I was told the very same thing by a living sage just a few weeks ago. The Rebbe of the Shomrei Emunim Hasidim, echoed the same verse from Jeremiah and then based on the Biblical commentary of the great Don Isaac Abarbanel (Lisbon, 1437 – Venice, 1508) proceeded to translate the following predictions to our times: 

          A military aircraft will be crashed into the Vatican sparking a religious war.

          There will be a nuclear war that will change the world.

          Israel will be the only safe place in the world, which will witness amazing miracles of salvation. 

I asked the Rebbe the all-consuming question on all prophetic efforts – “when?” He answered that not even Elijah the Prophet knows when he will arrive to announce the coming of the Messiah. However, he added that he can come in an instant – any instant.

I asked him: “How do we prepare? What can we do?” 

He answered: “Only through Torah and good deeds.”

May we merit welcoming the Messiah speedily in our day with all the accompanying good it entails. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi 

Dedication 

To Elijah and the Messiah. I imagine you’re anxious too. I expect your timing will be just right.