the children of Israel, and say unto them: My offering, My bread for My fire offerings"
By the way of the Truth, [the mystic teachings of the Kabbalah],
the verse also hints to the following: It states "My offering, My bread l'ishai'
- of 'ishai' (My Divine powers) - you shall keep and be careful to offer
Me to My Name, in its due season. And you shall say to them further. This is the
fire-offering which you shall offer unto the Eternal, so that the offering should
bring about [the desired unity and harmony on high]". Now there is no sin-offering
amongst the Additional Offerings of the Shabbat as there is in all the other Additional
Offerings [i.e., those brought on the new Moon and the festivals], because the
congregation of Israel is its partner [that of the Shabbat], and all is [therefore]
peace [and harmony]. The student [learned in the teachings of the Kabbalah] will
"On the eight day shall
be a solemn (atzeret) assembly for you." [29:35]
to the plain meaning of the text the word atzeret means: "to be prevented
from performing one's regular work."
A kabbalistic approach: The word
atzeret is a term describing the Knesset Yisrael, the spiritual
concept known as 'Israel." The reason that this term is an apt description
is that (in colloquial parlance: 'this people is where the buck stops.') In other
words, were it not for the concept represented by the Jewish people the whole
universe would lack meaning and purpose. It is also an expression denoting malchut,
authority, dominion, such as in Samuel I 9:17 "this one will rule over My
people" (G-d speaking). The word occurs in that meaning also in Rosh HaShana
16 meaning "crown-prince", i.e. the prince who will assume the authority
of the king. For the above-mentioned reasons Shemini Atzeret is a festival all
by itself. We may see reflected in this day the practice that among the four species
of plants with which we praise the Lord on the festival of Sukkot it is the etrog
which represents the Jewish people and which is held separately, not being bound
up with the other species. The Shemini Atzeret festival is perceived as the festival
of the giving of the Torah which the Talmud always refers to as atzeret,
meaning the festival of Shavuot, the recurrence of the calendar date on which
the Torah was received. We find that the name atzeret is also applied by
the Torah to the seventh day of Passover (Deut. 16:6) although that day is an
integral part of the festival. In other words, the term appears in connection
with all three pilgrimage holidays.
What does all this mean? Just as the
word Shabbat is applied by the Torah to the various festivals on various occasions
to show that the Knesset Yisrael is the "bride" of the Shabbat,
[and that without this "bride" the entire legislation would be devoid
of meaning. Ed.] so the word atzeret when used in connection with the festival
conveys the idea that the Jewish people, spiritually speaking, are the purpose
of all these festivals. In kabbalistic terms, they are the yessod [borrowed
from the emanation by that name] "foundation, without which the entire legislation
of the festivals would lack meaning. David gave expression to this feeling when
he composed the hymn of the Shabbat commencing with the words "a song to
the Shabbat Day," Naturally, he did not mean to address the "day,"
[in fact this might have been idolatrous, Ed.] but he addressed the spiritual
concept of Knesset Yisrael which represents this emanation yessod.
"..Go up on this mountain Avarim
and behold the land" [27:12]
Moses is shown the land, whereas those
who died in the desert, had not been granted that privilege as is stated in Numbers
14:23. 'Behold the land!' points out the contrast between Moses and Aharon and
the rest of their generation. But there is also a spiritual dimension to the land
of Israel. Therefore, the first reference was to the physical land of Israel,
the second to the spiritual land of Israel. Moses was shown both. He would die
only after having been granted a glimpse of this spiritual level of the land of
Israel. (compare Zohar Parshat VeYechi on 'you will be gathered to your people') The
Zohar compares the immediacy of entry into a higher world by those whose physical
death occurs in the land of Israel, with the delayed ascent by those who die outside
of Eretz Yisrael. Those who die the kind of death that Moses died, even though
outside the land of Israel, do not need to traverse the way stations reserved
for ordinary people dying outside the land of Israel. Possibly, the letter heh
at the end of the word ve-ra-ita in verse 13, (which is most unusual) is
a hint to Moses that he will enter the hereafter without delay, that his soul
would not need a cleansing process.
At the time of his momentous act of zealotry, Pinchas saw the letters
of the Hebrew word "met", meaning "dead", in
his mind's eye, and this inspired him to be a barrier of "death".
How did he do this? The Zohar, commenting on the lance which Pinchas used
to slay Zimri, describes Pinchas as "garbing" himself with this
lance in order to mete out justice here on earth so that mercy could be
invoked in the parallel regions of Heaven.
He saw his own name [which has a numerical value of 208] rise heavenwards,
and realized that his name had the same numerical value as that of Isaac
the patriarch, who personified the attribute of Justice on earth. He also
saw the letter mem fly in the air. This letter is an allusion to
death - in Hebrew, "mavet".
This allusion has already been commented on: "The woman saw that
it was good she took from its fruit, ate, and gave [to her husband]".
(Genesis 3:6) We find here four words commencing with the letters vav
tav, and in the middle of these words a word commencing with the letter
mem. When you join this letter mem to the word to the four
words which commence with the letters vav tav, you get the word
"mavet", meaning "death", each time.
In other words "death" is present in all four compass directions.
This is what the sages had in mind when they referred to Pinchas' mind's
eye as seeing the letter mem "flying" in the air.
"Let the Lord, the G-d of
the spirits appoint, etc," (27:16)
The fact that G-d has equipped
all of us with both a free will and unequal levels of intelligence makes it an
almost foregone conclusion that each one of us reacts, - i.e. uses this freedom
of will - differently when confronted with identical data. In other words,
it is in the nature of things that no two people react identically to what happens
In view of what we have just said it is clear that the 600,000
people Moses was in charge of comprised 600,000 personalities. How could they
be expected to be fused into a uniform, like-minded congregation? The reason that
Moses was able to find a common denominator with each one of them, i.e. "to
tune in to the wavelength of each Israelite," was the fact that his soul
was the root of all their soul (compare Tikkuney Hazohar chapter 69). This is
the mystical dimension of Isaiah 63:11: "G-d remembered the days of old,
Moses His people." (Compare what we have written on Numbers 11:12 in connection
with the words: "Have I conceived them?") This was the reason that Moses
was so concerned that no one but he would be able to truly understand these people
and lead them.
For considerations such as these, Moses reacted to the news
that he was about to die by asking G-d "Let the Lord, the G-d of the spirits
appoint, etc." that G-d in His capacity of understanding the immense variety
of spirits, i.e. personalities of the people, should appoint someone who could
"tune in" to all these various spirits. When Moses said that such
a leader "should go out ahead of them and lead them," he referred
to the ability of the people to agree with the initiative of their leader. At
the same time, Moses said: "and who will come home with them," i.e.
that the leader should also be able to align his thinking to their thinking. He
must be capable of accepting suggestions by the people.
Moses' words to
G-d could be summarized as follows: "I am prepared to do what You have told
me; however, I cannot die with my mind at ease (as You promised me) unless I know
that You have appointed a new leader who possesses the qualities I have mentioned.
If not, the people will, for all practical purposes, be like a flock without a
- 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
- 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.
- 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)
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
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.