Friday, December 28, 2007


Erev shabbos kodesh Parshas Shemos 5766

D’ei Chochmah L’Nafshechah

“let your soul know wisdom”

Parshas Shemos: Abridged

From the discourses of our Rabbi and teacher, The gaon and tzaddik, rav Yitzchak meir Morgenstern, shlit”a

Translated and adapted by Rav Micha chaim Golshevsky

* Not for General Circulation *

Published by the Yam Hachochmah institute

Under the auspices of “yeshivas toras chochom” for the study of the revealed and hidden Torah

4 ohalei yosef st., JerusaleM

An Abridged Version of This Week’s Shiur

The Avodah of the Twelve Tribes

"ואלה שמות בני ישראל הבאים מצרימה"—“These are the names of the children of Israel who came to (or ‘come to’) Egypt.”[1] Just as all twelve tribes descended to Egypt before they could draw close to Hashem, so too must every single Jew also first pass through a personal Mitzrayim, along with successive stages of growth that parallel the avodah of each of the twelve tribes.

First is the avodah of Reuven (reiyah), the pleasure of “seeing” the light of the “countenance” of the King. Subsequently, one comes to the aspect of Shimon—when one’s begins to get a “name” (shem / shemuah) for people start to notice that one’s efforts to draw nearer to Hashem are bearing fruit. Levi symbolizes one’s connecting (leviyah, connection or escort) to the tzaddikim and following in their ways. One then comes to the path of Yehudah, grateful acknowledgement, hoda’ah and hodayah, of Hashem even when things are difficult. Afterward, one grasps the level of Yissachar, a deep appreciation of the value of every good deed and every word of Torah or prayer (“yesh sachar”—there is a reward).[2] One then comes to the level of the tribe of Zevulun who did business to support Torah scholars, for he truly appreciates the value of spirituality even when attained at the hand of another. Next, one attains the level of Binyamin (the “Ben Oni”—the one who passes through trouble to eventually come closer to Hashem, and the “Ben Yemin”—the son of the right-hand side), yearning for Hashem and true heartfelt prayer. Dan (din) represents the constant practice of judging oneself and one’s actions, to prune away any behavior not in keeping with Hashem’s will. Naftali is the path of connecting to the Creator, especially through prayer. The name Naftali (petil) is rooted in the word for a multi-stranded thread that wraps in upon itself, like the tefillin with which a Jew “binds” himself in prayer (tefillah) to Hashem.[3] The next grade of connection is the lovingkindness of Gad (gimmel and dalet are an acronym of the phrase “gomel dalim”—“He who gives to the destitute”). One then attains the level of Asher, whose “bread is fat,”[4] shmeinah, for he is well-filled with the study of Mishnah. (The Chid”a cites a Midrash which states that Asher son of Yaakov waits at the entrance to Gehinom and culls out all the condemned who learned Mishnah.[5])

And what of Yosef? Although people “in Egypt” always feel completely broken and can’t seem to find the proper path to the Creator, even those who have found a niche in serving Hashem also traverse the straights in their own way. Each attainment brings with it the danger of falling into arrogance, and this expresses itself by the person acting superior to his friend. This condition is an extension of the loss of Yosef. When a person reaches a spiritual goal and stops developing (mosif) because he feels complacent and self-satisfied, this parallels the verse: “And Yosef and that entire generation died.”[6]

The Greatness of Moshe Rabbeinu

The truth is that Dasan and Aviram were not simple people as many mistakenly believe. It was in their capacity of judges that they approached Moshe and exclaimed, "מי שמך לאיש"—“Who made you chief (literally, ‘the man’) over us?” However, Moshe’s level was very much above theirs since he felt the pain of every single Jew, especially those who were most caught in the depths of Mitzrayim. This is indicated by the verse, “And she saw that he was good.”[7] Moshe was good precisely because he didn’t feel he was above anyone else despite his towering spiritual achievements.

We can see Moshe’s great level from the verse, “And he looked around in all directions and saw that there was no ish, no man.”[8] The word Ish, man, refers to a person who is not completely G-dly. This is a reference to tzaddikim who serve Hashem on the level of the three lower worlds of Asiyah, Yetzirah, and Beriyah. The first is the world of Action, which implies serving Hashem because one realizes this is one’s duty. This first level is symbolized by the name Adon-i, literally “my Master,” since one is acting solely because he knows that Hashem is the Master of the world, and it is expressed in the first letter of Ish (איש). A tzaddik who has reached the world of Yetzirah, Formation, serves Hashem with his natural characteristics such as love and awed reverence. This second world is alluded to by the Name YHVH, and the yud of the word ish alludes to this Name. The third world is that of Beriyah, Creation, which is attained by a tzaddik who has who has reached the level of love and fear on the level of intellectual contemplation. It is alluded to by the name Shakai (ש-די), which is a contraction of the phrase, “He who said to His universe, Enough!” This Name is alluded to in the final shin of the word “ish.”

In contrast, Moshe reached a higher level—the level of the world of Atzilus. He looked "כה וכה"—“This way and that.” The word כה has a numerical value of 25 (chaf = 20, hei = 5) and it refers to the twenty-five letters of each of the prime statements of the Shema: "שמע ישראל ה' אלוקינו ה' אחד" and "ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד". [Note: The second statement is actually made up of twenty-four letters. If you add one for entire statement as the kollel, however, you come to the second “set” of twenty-five.] So Moshe attained the level of Shema united with Boruch Shem, and he “saw no man.” He saw no other man who had transcended the level of “Ish,” of the lower three worlds by ascending to Atzilus. This unification expresses the yichud of Atzilus, which was the level of Moshe. Moshe Rabbeinu never was self-aggrandizing. On the contrary, he was the paradigm of holy humility; he always felt that every spiritual achievement was a gift from Hashem. Even more, he felt that if another person had been given his gifts, he would surely have gone further.[9]

The ultimate tikkun is for every Jew to be deeply connected to his fellow Jew. This is the way that Moshe Rabeinu felt, and it is this humility that enables a person to do as he should and truly focus on Hashem’s unity, the single axis that unifies the entire universe. This is the only avodah that has genuine importance. Without it, all the other avodos cause a person to be arrogant. And anyone who feels greater than another is still in Egypt, regardless of whatever spiritual attainments he may have amassed. Moshe Rabbeinu’s aspect was primarily bitul, self-nullification, for his soul was drawn from the all-pervasive “waters” of limitless G-d consciousness. This is experiences as bitul in the midst of a multitude of distracting thoughts.

Moshe revealed in the world the path of “Zeir Anpin gazing in the face of Arich Anpin.” [Note: Zeir Anpin represents the lower middos or emotions that generally dictate a person’s actions. When a person’s actions are instead guided by the joy he experiences in transforming his challenging thoughts into connection with Hashem, the aspect of Arich Anpin, he is said to cause “Zeir Anpin to gaze into the face of Arich Anpin.” This was the avodah of Moshe Rabbeinu.] When a person reaches this towering level of continuously renewing his connection with Hashem, his face shines with a supernal light. This is the wisdom of man that “illuminates his countenance,” it comes to one who truly has internalized that Hashem never really hides His Face. He merely provides us with new opportunities to draw closer to Him on an even deeper level.

This revelation of Moshe is an aspect of, “And Moshe petitioned Hashem…”[10] He petitioned Hashem to reveal this path through which we will ultimately be redeemed. Although Hashem didn’t allow this revelation of a complete connection to the depths of the light of Torah, Moshe Rabbeinu’s prayers did have a very powerful effect and they do enable us to latch on to the path of Moshe / Moshiach / Atzilus that transcends the paths of other tzaddikim who revealed the aspect of the lower three worlds. It is only in the merit of his prayers that the deepest secrets of Torah may be revealed during the period preceding and during the arrival of Moshiach.

While the tzaddikim who were, and are, an aspect of the three lower worlds (as expressed in the word Ish as explained above) could not reveal the light to help even the furthest person out of the spiritual muck of the deepest pits of despair, Moshe and other tzaddikim who followed the path of Atzilus could, and can. Precisely because Moshe’s avodah is with complete connection and no self-aggrandizement, it is truly pure and it can uplift anyone from wherever he may have fallen. It was Moshe who took us out of Egypt, and it is the path of Moshe and in his merit that we are released from our spiritual Meitzarim, our own personal straights of Egypt. In order to merit this holy vision, the capacity to “be shown to know that Hashem is G-d,”[11] one must be connected to the true tzaddikim of the generation who are an aspect of Moshe. This can be attained by learning their works since these writings can bring a person to experience true dveikus and provide the broadened perspective needed to transform challenges into opportunities.

The entire exile is only an illusion. We ask Hashem to look kindly on our difficulties and help us open our eyes. Hashem placed the rainbow in the clouds, and clouds are an aspect of occluded vision, or spiritual barriers.[12] Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai told his son Elazar, “When we merit to see the rainbow shining in its brilliant colors, anticipate the arrival of Moshiach.”[13] May we be helped to see the “rainbow in the clouds,” the light that comes after traversing spiritual barriers, and merit to draw down the complete rectification of Moshe / Atzilus by connecting to tzaddikim and learning their works. Then we will be privileged to see Hashem’s long-awaited return to Tzion, speedily in our days. Amen!

Translated and Adapted by Rav Micha Golshevsky.

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[1] Shemos 1:1

[2] See Yirmiyahu 31:15 for this allusion.

[3] Bereishis 30:8

[4] Ibid., 49:20

[5] Chagigah 27a

[6] Shemos 1:6

[7] Ibid., 2:2; See Sha’ar HaKavanos, Drush HaPesach

[8] Shemos 2:12

[9] See Shemos 4:13, Rashi and Ramban there.

[10] Devarim 3:23

[11] Ibid., 4:35

[12] Bereishis 9:13; Likutei Moharan II:67

[13] Tikunei Zohar 78a

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