ARI - 9th of Av – Tisha B'Av

Redeeming the Widow in Exile

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

In every generation a spark of the Mashiach comes into the world

Tamar was Judah's daughter-in-law, married to his son Er. Er did not want pregnancy to damage Tamar's beauty, so he withdrew before completing intercourse and wasted his seed on the ground. After G‑d punished Er for this by killing him, Judah had his second son, Onan, marry Tamar in order to perpetuate Er's name, fulfilling the commandment of levirate marriage. Onan, knowing that the child of their union would not be considered his, also withdrew before completing intercourse, and G‑d punished him also by killing him.

Judah evidently did not know why his sons had died. He had a third son, Shelah, but hesitated to have him marry Tamar, because he was afraid she was somehow the cause of her husbands' deaths and that Shelah would meet the fate of his two older brothers. He therefore gave her an excuse for not having Shelah marry her:

So Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, "Wait as a widow in your father's house until my son Shelah grows up," for he feared lest he also die as his brothers did. So Tamar went to live in her father's house. (Gen. 38:11)

chanoch adds: According to the Midrash Tamar lives in Jerusalem whith her father MalkiTzedek which is an alias for Shem the son of Noach who was the High Priest of the world. He was the high priest or Cohen Gadol until he appointed Abraham to replace him. This can be found in the Torah in the story of Abraham's meeting with Malkitzedek.

So Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar…. [Tamar] is an allusion to the Shechina, who accompanies us in exile after G‑d killed all of the evil generations [among us], who are [alluded to by] Er and Onan.

chanoch adds: Er spelled in Hebrew is the same letters as Ra which translates as Evil. Onan in Hebrew has the meaning of and being translated as “wasting seed”. This is a biblical teaching that relates to masturbation.

Some of the Jewish people who lived before the destruction of the Temple were guilty of very heinous sins. The Sages state that the First Temple was destroyed because of the sins of idolatry, murder, and adultery, while the Second Temple was destroyed because of the sins of baseless hatred and despising Torah study.

Even though G‑d exiled the Jewish people, His Divine Presence accompanies us, always available to us…

These wicked people were eliminated in the destructions. The people remaining were not guilty of these sins, and whatever sins they committed could be atoned for and rectified by the process of exile. Even though G‑d exiled the Jewish people, His Divine Presence (the Shechina) accompanies us, always available to us.

"Wait as a widow…" [This image also applies to the Shechina], as it is written, "[Oh, how the populous city now dwells alone, the greatest amongst the nations] has become like a widow." (Lamentations 1:1)

[The Shechina] has to be like a widow during the exile.]

This is the opening of the Book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah's dirge lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the seat of the Temple, is seen as the Shechina incarnate.

Exile is compared to widowhood, since in exile the Shechina (the wife, in this allegory) must exist without her husband (G‑d). The Shechina, the sefira of malchut of Atzilut, descends into the lower worlds in order to sustain them and is prevented from rejoining with Zeir Anpin of Atzilut to renew her inspiration.

"…in your father's house…" This refers to the Holy One, blessed be He.

"…and wait until my son Shelah grows up", implying that he is still young. This means that [she should wait] until [Shelah] is filled with the letter yud, indicating the supernal light. [This state] is alluded to in the verse, "Behold, I have made you small amongst the nations; you are very despised." (Obadiah 1:2)

Shelah refers to the Jewish people in exile…

Thus, Shelah refers to the Jewish people in exile. The Shechina is destined to mate when Shelah attains his mature form, Shiloh. Shelah and Shiloh are spelled exactly the same, except that Shiloh possesses an additional yud.

"Shelah" is spelled shin-lamed-hei; "Shiloh" is spelled shin-yud-lamed-hei.

Shelah remains in exile "until Shiloh will come", filled [with the yud]. This refers to the Mashiach, who [will possess the soul of] Moses.

On his deathbed, Jacob prophesied, "The scepter [of rulership] shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from amongst his descendents, until Shiloh is come, unto whom the nations shall gather." (Gen. 49:10) Shiloh, in this verse, is an appellation of the Mashiach. Thus, Shelah here is the Jewish people, whose consummate leader and representative is the Mashiach.

The Sages state that Moses is the first and last redeemer. This means that his soul will in some way be present in the Mashiach.

chanoch adds: Recently there is a movement among some Kabbalistic student Rabbi's and teacher to teach a concept of Mashiach usung the term Mashiach Peocess. The essence of the teaching is that there are many prominent people who are tasked by HaShem to fulfill part of the Mashiach Prophecies. Thus all of these individuals will in total manifest the Mashiach Prophecies. One of these teacher is explaining that there are 4 Mashiachs. A Mashiach for Edom; one for islam; Mashiach Ben Joseph / Efraim representing the lost Tribes; and finally ashiach Ben avid who is a reincarnation of a spark of the soul of Moshe.

The reason why [G‑d] decreed that [the Shechina] should be likeR a widow is "because He feared lest he die as did his brothers." Therefore, she would have to remain a widow, without a husband, until the Mashiach comes, i.e. until Shelah grows up.

In exile, the Jews could be rectified gradually and safely…

If the Shechina would "wed" the Jewish people - and thus not be in exile - and they would be found unworthy of this union, they would have to die as did their brethren when the Temples stood. Therefore, G‑d prefered that the Shechina remain in exile. When living in the Temple's presence, the standards of behavior are higher, i.e. sinning is more sinful, more of an affront to the open manifestation of divinity. In exile, the Jews could be rectified gradually and safely.

"…because He feared lest he die as did his brothers." This is because in every generation a spark of the Mashiach comes into the world, in accordance with G‑d's will. If the generation is worthy, [he is revealed as the Mashiach]. If not, he dies or is killed as a martyr, as happened to Rabbi Akiva in the time of Ben Koziba, and in many other cases we do not even know about.

Rabbi Akiva was killed as a martyr in the Hadrianic persecutions that came as a reaction to the revolt of Bar Kochba, whom the Sages called pejoratively "Ben Koziba", "the deceiving one".

But come he must in every generation, either to redeem Israel if they are worthy, or to purify the generation, or to teach them the Torah if the generation is ignorant.

This is why [Jacob] said, "lest he also die," referring to the one [spark of the Mashiach] that comes in every generation. "Do not marry him," he said, "until he matures. He will then come to redeem Israel by G‑d's will."

The remainder of this excerpt describes how in the case of the prophet Habakkuk, we see also that G‑d said that the time must be ripe for the Redemption to occur.

The vision is still for an appointed time, and it speaks concerning the end, and does not lie…

We also see this in the case of Habakkuk, who, according to some opinions, was the spark of the Mashiach in his generation. He said, "I will stand on my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say to me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. And G‑d answered me, and said, 'Write the vision, and make it plain upon tablets, so that he who reads it may run. For the vision is still for an appointed time, and it speaks concerning the end, and does not lie; though it seems slow [in coming], wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not come late.'"

(Habakkuk 2:1-3)

This seems self-contradictory. If G‑d told him "Write the vision, and make it plain upon tablets, so that he who reads it may run [through it]", meaning, so that whoever reads it will understand it immediately, it is obvious that he will write it plainly and clearly. But then, after [G‑d] tells him what to write, He says that the matter is cryptic, and that "the vision is still for an appointed time, and it speaks concerning the end, and does not lie; though it seems slow, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not come late", without saying when. This statement adds nothing to what we have been believing for all generations, i.e. that even if [the Mashiach] tarries, we still await him, for "he will surely come".

The explanation, however is as follows. It is written in the book of Daniel: "Now I have come to make you understand what shall befall your people in the latter days; for the vision is for days yet to come." (Daniel 10:14)

This verse follows the account of how Daniel witnessed frightening and incomprehensible allegories.

Thus, whenever the term "vision" is used, it refers to an allegory.

chanoch adds: In a few weeks the havtara we read will use the word for vision”. When hearing this havtara remember the above comment about “vision” with the idea of an allegory.

Therefore, when G‑d told Habakkuk "Write the vision", He was referring to an allegory, which is by nature a riddle.

The expression "and make it plain on tablets" simply means that [Habakkuk] should write it down [clearly], not that it should be understood, for it is so obscure that the reader will run [through it, not pondering its meaning, since its] meaning [is so obscure].

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Meditations for Troubled Times

Kabbalah provides unique mystical meditations to sweeten harsh judgment.

These are some [mystical meditative] intentions that one should have during the Standing Prayer for all the days of this period [of the Three Weeks]:

During difficult times...Kabbala instructs us to "lay low"….

During difficult times, such as the Three Weeks, in which the Accusing Forces seem to reign, Kabbala instructs us to "lay low", disguising the holiest of our divine service, lest it fall prey to the kelipot. In addition to this, however, is a profound underlying principle that the deeper we penetrate into the realms of the concealed, the greater the potential for accessing the inner light of the Torah. Hence, it is not surprising that the following meditations from the Ari, to be applied to the daily liturgy during the Three Weeks, offer deep secrets as to the nature of divine mercy and the impending Redemption at this traditional time of mourning the historical tragedies which have befallen the Jewish People.

In the blessing of the Avot [Patriarchs], during the first mention of the name Havayah, have in mind that this name Havayah is illuminating its related name created by shifting [the letters of Havayah] back [in the order of the alef-beit]: tet-dalet-hei-dalet.

The Benei Yissaschar, Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech from Dinov, comments that the first two letters of this divine name, tet (= 9)-dalet (= 4), hint to the 13 days of the Three Weeks which are in the month of Tammuz. Related to these difficult days of Tammuz, we anticipate the times in which the Thirteen Rectifications of [Beard] of Arich Anpin shine upon us.

The last two letters of the above divine name, hei (= 5)-dalet (= 4), hint to the last nine days of the Three Weeks, in the month of Av. These correspond to the Nine Rectifications [of the Beard] of Zeir Anpin.

Also noteworthy is that 13 X 9 equals 117, the numerical value of the phrase "noam Havayah", the "pleasantness of G‑d" (Psalms 27:4).

And in the name Havayah in the [second blessing, that of] blessing of "Ata Gibor" ["You are Mighty"] have in mind that this name Havayah is illuminating its related name created by shifting [the letters of Havayah] forward [in the order of the alef-beit]: kaf-vav-zayin-vav.

And in the third Havayah, that of the "Ata Kadosh" ["You are Holy"] blessing, have in mind that this name Havayah is illuminating its related name created via the At-bash method: mem-tzadi-pei-tzadi. These three names, tet-dalet-hei-dalet, kaf-vav-zayin-vav, and mem-tzadi-pei-tzadi, have the numerical value of the word [the letter shin, spelled] shin-yud-nun, with the kollel [= 361].

The Benei Yissaschar notes that numerical value of these three names (361) plus the three times Havayah (3 x 26 = 78) they enclothe (with the kollel) equals the words for "loving-kindness" ("chesed" =72), "judgment" ("din" = 64, "and mercy" ("v'rachamim" = 304), the three general characteristics of the three first blessings of the Standing Prayer, respectively:

361 + 78 + 1 = 440

72 + 64 + 304 = 440

It is a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved from it….

In addition, the sum of these three names equal the numerical value of the tribes from which the two Mashiach's, Ben Yoseph and Ben David, will emerge: Judah (in Hebrew, "Yehuda" =29) and Ephraim (=331).

And for the blessing "R'tzei" ["Favor"], have in mind that the word "r'tzei" [spelled reish (=200), tzadi (=90), hei (=5), = 295] has the numerical value of the name Elokim spelled out with hei.

"Elokim spelled out with hei" is: alef (1) lamed (30) pei (80), lamed (30) mem (40) dalet (4), hei (5), hei (5), yud (10) vav (6) dalet (4), mem (40) mem (40) =295.

This is because the word "r'tzei" is the same letters as the word "tzara" [which means "trouble"], and this is the secret meaning of the verse "….and it is a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved from it" (Jeremiah 30:7); this "trouble" ["tzara"] is [the secret of the name] Elokim spelled out with hei.

And this is the secret of [this period, the Three Weeks, known as] "Bein HaMetzarim" [literally "Between the Straits"], for the above name [Elokim spelled out with hei], which represents harsh judgment emerges during this troubling period.

Also [intend to] add the name Ado-nai [= 65] with "r'tzei" [= 295] of the spelling out of Elokim above, and the result is [the letter shin, spelled] shin-yud-nun [= 360].

And have in mind that the two courts of judgment, [represented by] the names Elokim and Ado-nai, which are mystical meaning of "Bein HaMetzarim" [literally "Between the Straits" or "Among the Instigators of Trouble"] - these two "instigators of trouble" [i.e. the name Elokim spelled out with the letter hei and the name Ado-nai], which together equal the word [for the letter shin] shin-yud-nun, are rectified [literally "sweetened"] via the first three names that you had in mind during the first three blessings of the Standing Prayer, tet-dalet-hei-dalet, kaf-vav-zayin-vav, and mem-tzadi-pei-tzadi, which have the numerical value of the word [for the letter shin, spelled] shin-yud-nun [with the kollel], as mentioned above.

And through this intention, the letters of the word for "trouble" [in Hebrew, "tzara"], get flipped to the side of mercy, resulting in "favor [us G‑d, our Master]" [in Hebrew, "r'tzei", spelled with the same letters as "tzara" rearranged].

By acknowledging the difficult state of affairs we are in, we begin to be able to rectify it.

By acknowledging the difficult state of affairs we are in, we begin to be able to rectify it. By transforming words representing harsh judgment into words which communicate beneficence, our meditations affect divine influence even into the physical reality. This is a common technique, especially utilized during the Three Weeks, transforming words like "davei" ("sadness") into "hod" ("glory"), or "ani" ("poor") into "ayin" ("eye", communicating clarity of vision).

And in the blessing "Sim Shalom" ["Bestow Peace"], have in mind that initial letters of "Sim Shalom", are the two letter shins mentioned above. Also, the words themselves, "Sim Shalom", together have the numerical value shin-yud-nun, shin-yud-nun [two times the word for the letter shin, 720], plus 6, which represents the six divine names we mentioned until now: Havayah, its three related names, tet-dalet-hei-dalet, kaf-vav-zayin-vav, and mem-tzadi-pei-tzadi, and the name Elokim, and the name Ado-nai.

The numerical value of the additional divine names used in the above meditations equals ten times 72, the number most associated with the sweetening of judgmental forces, and the number of possible permutations of the word "Bereishit" ("In the beginning…" - Gen. 1:1) (360 + 295 + 65 = 720.) This hints at the founding principle of Torah that the world was created with the intention that we become partners, so to speak, with G‑d in rectifying it, truly creating a "world of loving-kindness".

[Translated and edited by Baruch Emanuel Erdstein from Shaar HaKavanot, Inyan Chag HaShavuot; commentary based on the Benei Yissaschar, by Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech from Dinov]

Rav Kook Torah] Tisha B'Av: The Beauty of the Universe

Chanan Morrison


Every day we pray for the restoration of the Beit HaMikdash. Why is this spiritual center so important for us?

The Sages noted that the words dei'ah (knowledge) and Mikdash (Temple) both appear in verses ‘sandwiched’ between God’s Name (I Sam. 2:3 and Ex. 15:17). Is there a special connection between the two?

“Rabbi Elazar said: Whenever a person has dei'ah, it is as if the Temple has been built in his days.” (Berachot 33a) What exactly did Rabbi Elazar mean by “a person with dei'ah”? And what does this quality of wisdom have to do with rebuilding the Beit HaMikdash?

True Da’at

We must first understand the concept of dei'ah. Having dei'ah means much more than just being knowledgeable. People who lack dei'ah approach matters only using their powers of logic and reasoning. They fail to recognize that the intellect is but one faculty of the human soul. In addition to intellectual abilities, we have character traits, emotions, and powers of imagination.

True da’at is knowing how to utilize all the faculties of the soul. Spiritual perfection can only be attained through a holistic approach that engages all aspects of the soul and all pathways of faith.

The Beauty of the Universe

But what does this have to do with the Beit HaMikdash? The Sages used an intriguing expression to describe the Temple: “the Beauty of the universe” (Zevachim 54b). Why did they single out beauty as the Temple’s primary characteristic? This statement is significant, for it indicates the central function of the Beit HaMikdash - to engage our sense of beauty and elevate our imaginative powers. The imagination is a powerful resource, and the Temple’s aesthetic qualities served to promote the world’s spiritual advance through this faculty of the soul. When the Beit HaMikdash stood in Jerusalem, it had a profound influence on the imagination, as it projected images of sublime purity and holy splendor. This impact on the imagination then inspired and elevated the character traits and conduct of those visiting its courtyards.

We may distinguish between two different aspects of the Temple’s influence. The first is in terms of the Temple’s intrinsic holiness and the impact of this holiness on those observing the Temple service. The second aspect is in terms of the receptivity of the human soul. God gave us powers of imagination so that we will be receptive to the Temple’s splendor and holiness. These two aspects of the Temple’s influence correspond to the two Names of God, placed before and after the word Mikdash.

Elevating the Imagination

Now we may understand Rabbi Elazar’s statement. Individuals who are blessed with dei'ah -who are wise enough to value all faculties of the soul, including their imaginative powers - it is as if the Beit HaMikdash was rebuilt in their days. With their wisdom, they are able to recreate for themselves and their immediate circle a small measure of the Temple’s holy influence. They recognize that their powers of imagination were created for a sacred purpose. While in terms of cold logic, the imagination may appear to be of little value, God placed it in the human soul for its potential to promote spiritual growth. Those crowned with dei'ah are able to utilize and elevate all of their faculties in genuine holiness.

Rav Kook likened the Temple’s enlightening influence on the soul to the first rays of morning sunlight, as they provide warmth and nourishment:

“The sublime beauty, the Divine splendor, attracts and draws the soul to itself. It awakens the soul from its sleep and rejuvenates all of its powers. It shines over the soul like sunlight over a cherished plant, cultivating all of its aspects, full of strength and beauty, pleasantness and vitality.

“Our yearnings to be connected to the Temple - to God’s House on the mountain summit, to the service of the kohanim, the song of the Levites, and the ma’amad (deputation) of the Israelites, to share all of the nation’s soul-ties to its holy abode - these yearnings awaken the “beauty of the universe” in the hearts of Israel each day. They establish an elevated Temple inside the soul of each individual, as we begin the day by reciting the order of offerings and incense in our morning prayers.” (Shemonah Kevatzim vol. I, sec. 606)

(Silver from the Land of Israel (now available in paperback). Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I on Berachot 33a. )