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


"They shall be baked with leaven" [23:17]

Scripture commanded that these two loaves be leavened, because they are a thanks-offering to G-d for having kept for us the appointed time of the harvest [Jeremiah 5:24] and a thanks-offering comes with cakes of leavened bread [Above, 7:13]. Perhaps the [usual] prohibition of bringing leavened things as an offering is because leaven alludes to the attribute of justice, for it is called chametz [leaven], just as wine which sours is called chometz yayin v'chometz sheichar' [vinegar of wine or vinegar of strong drink] the word [chametz] being derived from the expression: the unrighteous 'v'chomeitz' [and ruthless man], for [vinegar of wine and vinegar of strong drink] are drinks whose original taste has been "robbed" from them, and they are therefore not suitable for [normal] drinking.

Similarly, for my heart 'yithchameitz' means that it was "in a ferment, and it lost its composure." Now since the offerings are brought to be acceptable before the Glorious Name, they are therefore not to be brought from objects which possess a strong power to change natural properties of other things [such as leaven], and similarly they are not to be brought from things which are completely sweet such as honey. [Instead, they are to come] only from things that are blended of different qualities, just as the Rabbis have said with reference to the creation of the world "He combined the attribute of mercy with the attribute of justice, and created the world." Now on the Festival of Weeks, which is the day of the Giving of the Torah [on Mount Sinai], the offering [i.e., the two leavened loaves and the various burnt offerings, together with their meal-offering which is of unleavened bread, as stated in verse 18] comes in accordance with the law of the thanks-offering [which was brought with ten leavened cakes and thirty unleavened cakes], for it is the day of the solemn assembly. The student learned in the mysteries of the Kabbalah will understand. And this is the secret of which our Rabbis have said: "All the offerings are destined to cease [in the World to Come], but the thanks-offering will never cease etc.," for in it are both unleavened and leavened [cakes], comparable to the World to Come [in which the Divine attributes of justice and mercy will forever be in perfect harmony].


Rabbeinu Bachya

"..and the priest who is exalted above his brothers" [21:10]

A kabbalistic approach to the words "the priest is exalted above his brothers"; he is the person who is always conscious who his role model is, i.e. G-d Himself. He is flanked by his deputy on the right and the president of the Supreme Court on his left. This parallels the vision of the seraphim described in Yuma 37, a reference to the encounter between an angel and Yehoshua the High Priest in Zecharyah 3:7, where the angel assured the High Priest that he would be someone making spiritual progress as opposed to the angels flanking him who are spiritually stationary. This was a hint that the spiritual parameters within which the High Priest was to move consisted of the Sanctuary and what this symbolized.

There is another Beraita which discusses these phenomena describing three men walking together, the tallest in the middle, flanked by a gadol (great one) on his right and a katan (small one) on his left. When the three angels visited Avraham (Genesis 18:3) the angel Michael was in the center, Gavriel on his right, and Raphael on his left. If you are fortunate you will appreciate that our verse tries to teach us something analogous and that is why the wording hacohen hagadol (the High Priest) had been selected to describe the High Priest. It is reminiscent of Deut. 11:7 "all the great work of Hashem which He did;" The word gadol (great) has first and foremost a qualitative dimension rather than being a description of physical properties possessed by the High Priest.



"The feasts of the Lord...you shall proclaim to be holy gatherings...Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is the Shabbat..." [23:2-3]

Q1) Since these days are to be declared by the court, why would the Torah begin the list with the Shabbat, a day which is fixed, and not subject to the court's discretion?

Q2) The reason the Shabbat is also called 'holy convocation' is to explain that the other holy days have the work prohibition in common with the Shabbat.
We need to understand why on the Shabbat, even the preparation of food is prohibited.

A Jew receives an additional soul from the higher world on the Shabbat. That world is a world of menucha, serene rest, there is no melachah, labor, in that world. Hence the Jew will refrain from melachah on the Shabbat to demonstrate the fact that he had become a member of a higher world for the duration of that day. The 70 elders who were given the gift of prophecy according to Midrash Rabba, were 70 in number, since there are 70 Shabbat days and holidays in the year. These 70 days are days on which the lower world is infused with a measure of the holiness that prevails in the higher world. Each day derives its holiness from an individual source in that higher world. We view that world as supplying our world with sanctity by means of 70 separate conduits. Although the Shabbat is basically a source of sanctity, the different Shabbatot at different times of the year each add an individual nuance to the holiness they dispense down here.

The Shabbat, having been declared holy by G-d, does not need an introduction on earth in order to become holy, and to bring its blessing on earth. The mo'adim, festivals, need to be invited, i.e., mikra-ey kodesh, proclaimed to be holy gatherings. Their holiness must be proclaimed by the court in order for its benefits to become available to us here on earth.
The Shabbat sanctity is different from that of the mo-adim, since it is part of each Jew, and this is why when a Jew desecrates the Shabbat, he desecrates the holiness within him, and can be sentenced to death. On the mo-adim, though they are proclaimed holy by the Sanhedrin, Supreme Court, the Jew does not have an additional soul. It is this additional soul from a world where melachah, work is unknown, which would be desecrated if he performed work on the Shabbat. All we do on those days is to pattern ourselves symbolically on the additional holiness that pervades the higher world on those dates.



"There are special times that you must celebrate as sacred holidays to G-d. the following are My special times:" (Lev.23:2)

The thrust of the legislation is that the court proclaims the dates when the various festivals are to be observed. We determine when to rejoice, when to eat festive meals. These festive meals should serve a spiritual purpose, just as did the delicacies Isaac ordered before blessing his son. When one approaches the holy days in this spirit, the second half of the verse, "These are My festivals", will be true.
If, however, these days are observed only as days when you fill your stomachs, indulge your body, then they are not "My festivals", but are vomit and excrement, concerning which the prophet has quoted G-d as saying: "My soul hates your festivals." (Isaiah 1:14) On the festivals, a person must not be so preoccupied with chores that he thereby should lose the awareness of his special closeness to G-d on such days.

Ohr HaChayim

"And if a priest's daughter will become widowed or divorced, she may return to her father's house as when she was a girl, and she may eat her father's food. Any non-priest must not eat sacred things." [22:13]

In this verse the Torah speaks of the person who had achieved the most spiritually advanced level of neshama leneshama. We have explained that as a result of such an ascent this kind of person is separated from sin almost absolutely, his whole lifestyle being one of avoiding even the proximity of sin. The Torah hints at this by describing such a bat cohen as "married," i.e. closely attached to her holy roots. This is the kind of soul of which Solomon had spoken in Proverbs 12:21 when he described it as not becoming the victim of any mishap, i.e. sin.

When such an elevated soul somehow commits a sin, the result is that it will lose its status of being "married" to her holy roots and will become "widowed or divorced," as the case may be, in either case forfeiting the source of its sustenance, the most holy domain, the olam ha'atsilut.

The example gerusha (divorced) refers to the nature of its misdemeanor having been more serious than the one in which it is described as almanah, widowed. When the Torah adds vezera ein la, that she (the soul of souls) did not have any seed, this is a simile for such a soul (person) not having performed the kind of good deeds in this world that are known as perot "fruit." Nonetheless, the punishment is "only" that "she will return to her father's house," to eat of the food dished out at the table of her father such as she did before her soul had begun to ascend to spiritual heights.

The fact that she has to eat once more the kind of food she used to eat when she had been only on the level of nefesh or ruach, is a very painful experience for such a soul. It is equivalent to a person who had sinned and who had never ascended beyond the nefesh level of existence, having to die as a punishment for his sin. If the person who had attained the spiritual level of being a neshama le neshama had also performed the kind of good deeds on earth known as perot, its punishment for having committed a trespass would be "only" that she is considered as eating at her own table.

"Any stranger [non-priest] must not eat sacred things" - Here the Torah provides a rationale why G-d does not display His mercy to such a soul, permitting her to eat sacred things if not as a matter of right then at least as a matter of G-d's grace.

When a soul which had once ascended to lofty spiritual heights had allowed herself to backslide and make common cause with spiritually negative forces known as zar (strange, alien), she can no longer qualify for partaking from kodesh, "G-d's table," as it were.



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.

Back to Top


Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION