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 the Eternal appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud." [31:15]

The purport thereof is that the pillar of cloud was over the entrance of the tent and G-d appeared in the Tent-this being the Glory, according to Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra. In my opinion, this verse is like, "And the Eternal came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the door of the Tent; and, behold, the Glory of the Eternal appeared in the cloud. And the meaning of the verse here is that He wanted to speak with Moses so that Joshua would hear, and He would also charge Joshua there. Now, to Moses it was said, And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the ark-cover but Joshua was not of that exalted status in prophecy and he was forbidden to enter the Tent altogether. Thus the phrase, and the pillar of cloud stood over the entrance of the Tent reverts to explain that cloud, in which was the Glory, was above the door of the Tent covering it, and accordingly He was in the Tent as the verse states, And the Eternal appeared in the Tent in a pillar of cloud].


Rabbeinu Bachya

"At the end of seven years, at the time of the Sabbatical year, on the festival of Tabernacles;" [31, 10]

If you will analyze the mystical dimension of the commandment of Hakhel, you will find that just as the Shemittah year itself is an allusion to the 7th millennium during which our universe will revert to chaos, so the commandment of Hakhel, which commences after completion of the seventh year alludes to the word "la'asot" in Genesis 2:4 which follows the report of the conclusion of the seven days of creation after the Torah had introduced the concept of the Sabbath. We also find in Psalms 92, the hymn dedicated by David to the Sabbath, that he speaks about the righteous who will flourish like the palm tree, (presumably after the seventh millennium). I have already dealt with the meaning of that psalm in connection with Genesis 2:2. The mystical dimension of the commandment of Hakhel is that all people who exist at that time are called to appear before the Lord, the King of the universe. This is why this commandment had to be performed by the king. He represented the King in the celestial spheres. He had to read from the Torah (not the High Priest). This is reflected in the statement of the scholars of the Kabbalah who posit that before proceeding with the creation of the universe the Lord consulted His blueprint, i.e., the Torah.

Another reason for reading from the Torah on that occasion was to remind the people that without Torah the universe cannot endure, just as it could not have been created without it. The reason the site for the fulfillment of the commandment is described as "the place which the Lord will choose," is that the Temple-site was the place whence the universe started being created. This is the meaning of Psalms 50:2: "for from Zion, perfect in beauty, G-d appeared." As the sages say in Yuma 54: "the world was perfected starting with Zion."



"G-d said to Moshe: 'The time is coming for you to die; summon Yehoshua'...." [31:14]

Our sages (Mechilta Beshalach) say that G-d descended into exile with the Jewish people, in order to prevent Israel from succumbing completely in an hostile environment. The Zohar elaborates that the Shechinah, Divine Presence required an absolute tzaddik to justify its Presence in Egypt. Such a person at that time was Joseph, who served as the merkavah/vehicle for the Divine Presence. When Moses prepared for his departure from this world, seeing that he too had served as the carrier of the Divine Presence, G-d wanted to transfer Moses' special function as carrier of the Shechinah to his successor. Therefore He asked that both he and Joshua be in the tabernacle, the site of the Shechinah within the Jewish community. By inviting Joshua to this tent of meeting, the latter could begin to assume this special function of Moses, of being the human carrier of the Shechinah. Still, although all these preparations had been made, G-d did not talk to Joshua mouth to mouth as He had been in the habit of doing with Moses, while the latter was fully awake. Joshua needed the holy surroundings of the tabernacle to receive the word of G-d, though for the first time he received it while fully awake.



"Justice, justice you shall pursue." (Deut. 17:20)

The active pursuit of justice will be a direct result of the Courts handing down fair judgments. The reason the word "justice" is repeated is because there is a justice in our world and there is another justice in the Celestial Regions. The first kind is generally known as "dina malchuta dina" (literally, "the judgments of the kingdom are the judgments"), that the judgments pronounced in this world represent the divine name Ado-nai, i.e. the letters in the word "dina" rearranged. The justice in the Celestial Regions is anchored in the sefira of bina from which din/judgment, gevura emanates.

The justice in our world is the mystical dimension of the earth. The justice in the Celestial Regions is the mystical dimension of the World to Come. The promise of inheriting terrestrial Eretz Yisrael is tied to the pursuit of justice in this world…

Both Eretz Yisrael and the World to Come are gifts G-d gave Israel but through suffering. All such suffering originates in the sefira of gevura. Whenever the Sanhedrin bases its judgments on din Torah [strict legal interpretation of Torah Law], these result in sufferings, because Torah too is one of the three gifts we received from G-d which we acquire only by some suffering.



Ohr HaChayim

"This nation will arise and stray after idols, etc." (31:16)

How can Moses describe such a deviation as "a rising," instead of as "a descent, a degradation?" Perhaps we may relate the description "will arise" to 32:15 where Moses described the Israelites as first waxing fat and as a result "kicking." Up until that point Israel had been referred to as "Yeshurun." At this point Moses pointedly speaks about "the people," the common people rising. The coarsening of the Jewish people was due to their material blessing which G-d had showered upon the nation deserving of the distinctive appellation "Yeshurun."



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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