Weekly Reading Insights: 



From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


" And they saw the G-d of Israel" [24:10]

In line with the simple meaning of Scripture, the expression "the G-d of Israel" is used here to indicate that the merit of their father Israel (Jacob) was with them, and it was through his merit that they beheld this vision. And by the way of the Truth, (the mystic doctrine of the Kabbalah), it is because Scripture mentioned at the Giving of the Torah "and G-d spoke" this being identical with the verse "Behold, the Eternal our G-d has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice out of the midst of the fire" [Deut. 5:21], therefore Scripture explained here that they say the G-d of Israel. It does not say as it does in all other places, the Eternal, the G-d of Israel, but mentioned this (the G-d of Israel) in order to say that the seventy elders perceived in this vision more than the rest of the people who saw upon the earth His great fire [Deut. 4:36], because the people saw through a partition of cloud and thick darkness [ibid. 5:19].


Rabbeinu Bachya

"Do not boil a kid in the milk of its mother" [23:19]

A Kabbalistic approach: You are aware that all the commandments are divine and reflect something parallel to conditions which exist in the celestial regions. The same applies to the commandments known as chukim. They are called thus as they reflect matters engraved, chakuk, in the celestial regions. The legislation of meat and milk is an example of this. Just as each of these components by itself is permissible and only mixing them is prohibited, so the Torah had to be especially stringent in its prohibition against mixing two perfectly permissible items with one another. Were this not so we would find it difficult to understand that joining two permitted substances and making one out of them is so harmful to the condition of G-d's universe. It is like a lesson not to confuse the kind of holiness which exists, or is the aim of the Torah to establish, in our terrestrial world. Even when optimum conditions of sanctity exist in our part of the universe, this does not mean that these two types of holiness can be part of the same "brew", can be mixed as if they were all the same. As long as there is a yetser hara, an evil force at work in our world, G-d and His name are not one and the same. These two kinds of holiness are still apart and do not mix. It is our task to strive in this world to bring about a merging of these two kinds of holiness. When our sages (Massechet Gan Eden) said that in the future G-d will reveal to us the meaning of the legislation in His Torah including the reason for the prohibition of mixing milk and meat, what they meant was that although these commandments have been given to us to fulfill in this terrestrial world, the condition of this world is not such that it is appropriate to reveal to us the mystical dimension of this legislation as long as this world is infested with the yetser harah. If G-d were to reveal this information to us in our present state of spiritual/intellectual imperfection it might sow doubt in our minds rather than an additional resolve to observe the commandment meticulously. We might, G-d forbid, conclude that there are two competing divine powers which control the universe. In the future, after the power of the evil urge will have been broken, and when there is no fear that we would therefore misunderstand the reasons for this legislation, G-d will reveal it to us. This will be the period when the deserving dead will be resurrected. Only then will the concept of "on that day the Lord and His name will be one and the same", they i.e. will merge.In fact, at that time the prohibition of mixing meat and milk will become redundant. This explains why the angels who visited Avraham could eat butter and meat at the same time as it appears from Genesis 18:8 that Avraham served it both simultaneously. Seeing that the angels do not have an evil urge (Shabbat 89), this restriction does not apply to them. Once the evil urge will have been abolished there will therefore be no need for this commandment. This is what prompted our sages (Yuma 67) to say in explaining Leviticus 19:19 "you shall observe My statutes," as meaning: "I have engraved them and you have no right to investigate their meaning or criticize them as any such criticism would undermine this terrestrial universe in which the evil urge is still rampant." This is why a similar verse in Leviticus 18:4 concludes with the "justification": "I am the Lord."



"If a man sells his daughter as a maid servant" [21:7-11]

The Torah hints that the master cannot get rid of such girls as he could unwanted Canaanite male slaves, by injuring them. Rather, he or his son must wed her, or provide for her in such a way that she can easily find another man to marry her. Since the plain meaning of the verse is almost revolting to a reader who is not attuned to G-d's ways, it may be read allegorically. Adonav, refers to G-d His Master. The isha, woman, is the soul. The sons and daughters are the mitzvot commandments performed, i.e. the positive and negative ones. These are due to the fact that we have been equipped by our Maker with a pure soul. They, the mitzvot, the products of man's life, will leave the body and return to their Maker, only the body being left behind on earth. If the man, after erring, and having said 'I love my master' referring to mundane concerns, instead of 'I love her master', i.e. the soul's maker, will repent and say 'I love my wife' i.e. my soul and my children, i.e. my mitzvot, I do not want to be bereft of them, i.e. "I will not go free", then adonav, his G-d will assist him and by bringing him close to Him, bring him to the door i.e. the gateway of repentance; then He will pierce his ear, the ear which had previously not appreciated the message of 'for the children of Israel are slaves to Me'. As a result, va-avado leolam - such a person will serve G-d forever.

The parallel case of selling one's daughter is introduced in the indirect form, i.e. 'when a man sells his daughter' (verse 7). Again, following the homiletic approach the Torah is saying 'if G-d sells His daughter i.e. soul, to become an amah.' When the Jew serves G-d by performing mitzvot, then the nefesh (soul) becomes his maidservant (amah), by also looking after his physical needs. After all, without a soul, he could not lift a hand to perform a single mitzva. The Torah warns in this paragraph that the owner of this daughter (soul) should not abandon her due to her having become defective -like a gentile slave would leave his master once he had suffered physical defects. The Torah encourages the owner of this amah (soul) to make her feel at home in his body, seeing that she is after all purely spirit.



"Do not allow a witch to survive!" (Ex. 22:17)

Rabbi Yochanan in Sanhedrin 67, relates the term "witch" to the fact that witches deny the existence and function of "Divine messengers" [called "Pamaliah shel Ma'alah"]. The Chinuch describes the substance of such witches (whether male or female) in the following words: "At the time of Creation, G-d assigned certain activities to everything that has been created; such activities are all meant to benefit the universe".

This is the meaning of Genesis 1:12 that each variety of herb came into being in its individual kind, with its individual function. Each had a spiritual counterpart assigned to it in the "higher" world. This is what Bereshit Rabbah 10:7 means when it says that every herb has its own "mazal" [or constellate force] in Heaven.

This "mazal" instructs the herb to grow. Apart from the mission assigned to each herb individually, each herb performs other activities when it is merged with other species. When such mixing of species, occurs there are aspects which are forbidden to man, because G-d is aware that the use by man of such mixtures will ultimately be harmful to him. For this reason, Jewish law says that if a mixture of herbs is proven to possess therapeutic qualities, the use of it is not forbidden as something that is considered pagan practice (Shabbat 67).

We have been forbidden to contemplate…doing anything that appears to change what G-d in His perfection has created….
This means that though the pagans who deny G-d use this substance as a form of witchcraft, Jews are not therefore automatically forbidden therapeutic use of it. Matters forbidden under the heading of "for they are the ways of the Amorites" are only forbidden because of the ultimate harm this practice causes to its user.


Ohr HaChayim

"If he was a married man, his wife shall leave with him." (21:2)

The Torah alludes to a profound mystical element here. There are people who acquire their soul by dint of their good deeds so that such a person is transformed into the "owner" of its holy soul.

In order to understand this concept one has to refer to the Zohar volume three page 91 on Leviticus 22,27, where the Torah discusses that when an ox or sheep is born it is to remain with its mother for seven days before it can be offered on the altar as a sacrifice. According to the Zohar animals acquire their intelligence at the moment of birth. Animals are different from human beings in this respect. Human beings acquire their souls only in ratio to the good deeds they have performed (beginning after having been alive at least for one Sabbath). The greater the number of good deeds performed by man the higher quality is his soul.

The soul that such a Torah-observant Jew acquires is called 'wife' in our context-see Tikunei Zohar chapter 50. The Torah tells us here that if a person has acquired his "wife" i.e. soul, by reason of the performance of good deeds, his wife will remain with him also after death.



Ramban - credits
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or 'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel

Bachya - credits
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rabbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.

Alsheich - credits
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

Shelah - credits
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916, Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

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