From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of
13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben
14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben
16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe
Alshech of Tsfat
17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya
18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim
"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].
"..and the priest who is exalted above his brothers"
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
"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..."
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
We need to understand why on the Shabbat, even the preparation of food
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
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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.
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.