A Midrash for Monday
Jul11

A Midrash for Monday

A Midrash for Monday “Therefore proclaim: Behold! I [God] am giving [Pinchas] My covenant of shalom!” (Numbers 25:12). Great is the shalom that was given, because the world runs only on shalom. The entirety of the Torah is shalom, as it is said (Proverbs 3:17), “Her ways are way of pleasantness and all her paths her shalom.” When someone arrives from a journey, we welcome him, “Shalom.” In the morning, as our day begins, we hail one...

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49th Day

Week of Malkhut, Seventh Day Major sefirah: Malkhut/Royalty-Kingship; minor sefirah: Malkhut/Royalty-Kingship Well, this is it. The final day of preparation. I’m committed to serving the King for the sake of serving the King. Sounds a little circular, but that’s really the ideal form of pledging allegiance—you’re my King and it has nothing to do with “what have you done for me lately.” Towards that end, I will ask for siyata d’Shemaya...

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48th Day (Monday, 17 May)

Week of Malkhut, Sixth Day Major sefirah: Malkhut/Royalty-Kingship; minor sefirah: Yesod/Foundation When it comes to crimes against the government not all misbehavior is the same. There are misdemeanors and there are felonies. But most kings and kingdoms, the smart ones, realize that their subjects will make mistakes: give in to temptation, scoff at certain laws, etc. Although every lapse indicates a buried disregard for the majesty...

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45th Day (Friday, 14 May)

Week of Malkhut, Third Day Major sefirah: Malkhut/Royalty-Kingship; minor sefirah: Tiferet/Splendor There’s a time to be frugal and a time to be lavish. For my family and myself, we don’t have to a tent made from crocodile skin, imported from the Far East. It’s enough if our tent is decent quality canvas from wherever—frugal. But when it comes to making a tent for God—the Mishkan—then whatever it costs to import the finest giraffe...

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44th Day (Thursday, 13 May)

Week of Malkhut, Second Day Major sefirah: Malkhut/Royalty-Kingship; minor sefirah: Gevurah/Strength I didn’t have much time to write today, but it occurred to me that fear has a bad reputation. Of course no one likes to be scared or live with a feeling of impending tragedy, but fear prevents us from doing harmful things, like driving our donkey down the wrong side of the road or sticking our hand in the fire. And sometimes, we know,...

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43rd Day of the Omer (Wednesday, 12 May)

Week of Malkhut, First Day Major sefirah: Malkhut/Royalty-Kingship; minor sefirah: Chessed/Kindness It’s sort of funny, you know, that a lot of ordinary, “at first glance” thinking is really wrong, the opposite of how things really are. What do I mean? Well, for example, to be in charge of something, to be its king, means to take from it what you want, when you want and to tell it what to do. Wrong! I mean, on all counts, wrong. What...

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41st Day of the Omer (Monday, 10 May)

Week of Yesod, Sixth Day Major sefirah: Yesod/Foundation; minor sefirah: Yesod/Foundation What’s the foundation of the Foundation, eh? Good question. I’ve discovered that quiet itself is foundational (Zohar 3:115b). When I reach that inner-stillness I feel the strength to carry out my resolutions because that inner-quietness can overpower all the outer-noise. And that strength of my convictions gets carried by my words. I’m able to...

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37th Day of the Omer (Thursday, 6 May)

Week of Yesod, Second Day Major sefirah: Yesod/Foundation; minor sefirah: Gevurah/Strength How does an ordinary person like me become a tzaddik? Like in any other endeavor, it takes practice. But unlike other endeavors you can’t choose when to practice! It’s like being at sea in a small boat. It’s smooth sailing, but all it takes is one big wave and you’re sunk, God forbid! So my motto is, “Be prepared!” I try to anticipate where...

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36th Day of the Omer (Wednesday, 5 May)

Week of Yesod, First Day Major sefirah: Yesod/Foundation; minor sefirah: Chessed/Kindness A few days ago I mentioned that I realized that certain central components of my being determine the quality of my thinking and behavior. If a certain appetite takes control, just about any behavior or belief that indulges the appetite can be rationalized. The appetite becomes a god, a relentless, demanding god. So it’s a real chessed (kindness)...

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34th Day of the Omer (Monday, 3 May)

Major sefirah: Hod/Thanks-giving; minor sefirah: Yesod/Foundation I’ve realized that there are certain central components that determine the quality of many, if not all, of the things I do. If I let a certain appetite get in control, then I can rationalize just about any behavior or belief that allows that appetite to feed. The “foundation” of my overall behavior will be shaky. All my doings are more likely to collapse. My tongue,...

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Lag b'Omer (33rd Day of the Omer; Sunday, 2 May)

Major sefirah: Hod/Thanks-givng; minor sefirah: Hod/Thanks-givng I thank God for allowing me to thank Him. I realize that in many, many ways thanking God is the purpose of life. It recognizes His kindness and His care. It’s an indicaton of my own “good eye”—itself a gift, albeit one that I have had to work to develop, both the work and the reward subjects of thanks—and thanking and being aware that thanking is a gift, opens my eyes to...

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Take a Bow (Part Three)

Again, the following is based on a teaching of Rabbeinu Yehudah ben Yakar, one of the teachers of Ramban (Nachmanides). The focus is the bowing in Modim, the penultimate blessing of Shemonah Esrei. Our Sages were very strong in their emphasizing the importance of bowing in this blessing. They said that the spine of one who fails to bow in Modim will turn into a snake. Here are two reasons offered for this. Tosfot (Bava Kama 16b) write...

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Take a Bow (Part Two)

The following is based on a teaching of Rabbeinu Yehudah ben Yakar, one of the teachers of Ramban (Nachmanides). We bow down four times in Shemonah Esrai. We bow at the beginning and end of Avot, the first blessing, and at the beginning and end of Modim, the penultimate blessing. One point to consider is, why specifically at these points? Another: Why do our Sages particularly stress the severit of *failing* to bow in Modim? Rabbeinu...

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Take a Bow (Part I)

Rav Chaim Pilajee (Kaf HaChaim 15:38) writes (in the name of the Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah) that when bowing in Shemonah Esrei, a person should invoke within himself feelings of yirah, awe and fear of God. As he rises, one should invoke a deep trust in God, that He will be helpful in all his affairs. He notes that this is indicated by the verse (Proverbs 14:26), “In ‘fear of God’ there is a stronghold of trust.” Rashi on that verse...

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Take a Bow (Part I)

Rav Chaim Pilajee (Kaf HaChaim 15:38) writes (in the name of the Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah) that when bowing in Shemona Esrei, a person should invoke within himself feelings of yirah, awe and fear of God. As he rises, one should invoke trust in God, that He will be helpful in all his affairs. He notes that is indicated by the verse (Proverbs 14:26), “In ‘fear of God’ there is a stronghold of trust.” Rashi on that verse cites Avraham...

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A Question about Hitbodedut and Shemonah Esrei

I’ve been asked a number of times, and again just last week, the following: Is it OK to do my hitbodedut in Shemonah Esrei (aka the Amidah)? No. Interestingly—and somewhat counter-intuitive—even though the Amidah was meant to be a replacement for one’s private prayer (see Rambam, Hilkhot Tefilah Chapter 1), Shemonah Esrei is to be used only for praising God and making requests from Him. This is true not only in the...

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