Friday, December 1, 2006

In the Bible and rabbinic literature

The shofar is mentioned frequently in the Hebrew Bible, from Exodus to Zechariah, and throughout the Talmud and later rabbinic literature. It was the voice of a shofar, "exceeding loud," issuing from the thick cloud on Mount Sinai that made all the Israelites tremble in awe (Exodus 19, 20).

The shofar is prescribed for the announcement of the New Moon and solemn feasts (Num. x. 10; Ps. lxxxi. 4), as also for proclaiming the year of release (Lev. 25. 9). The first day of the seventh month (Tishri) is termed "a memorial of blowing" (Lev. 23. 24), or "a day of blowing" (Num. xxix. 1), the shofar; the modern use of the instrument survives especially in this
connection. In earlier days it was employed also in other religious ceremonials, as processions (II Sam. 5. 15; I Chron. 15. 28), or in the orchestra as an accompaniment to the song of praise (Ps. 98. 6; comp. ib. xlvii. 5). More frequently it was used as the signal-horn of war, like the silver trumpets mentioned in Num. 10. 9 (see Josh. 6. 4; Judges 3. 27; 7. 16, 20; I Sam. 8. 3).

The Torah describes the first day of the seventh month (1st of Tishri = Rosh ha-Shanah) as a zikron teruah (memorial of blowing; Lev. xxiii) and as a yom teru'ah (day of blowing; Num. 29). This was interpreted by the Jewish sages as referring to the sounding the shofar.

The shofar in the Temple in Jerusalem was generally associated with the trumpet; and both instruments were used together on various occasions. On New-Year's Day the principal ceremony was conducted with the shofar, which instrument was placed in the center with a trumpet on either side; it was the horn of a wild goat and straight in shape, being ornamented with gold at the mouthpiece. On fast-days the principal ceremony was conducted with the trumpets in the center and with a shofar on either side. On those occasions the shofarot were rams' horns curved in shape and ornamented with silver at the mouthpieces. On Yom Kippur of the jubilee year the ceremony was performed with the shofar as on New-Year's Day.

The shofar was blown in the times of Joshua to help him capture Jericho. As they surrounded the walls the shofar was blown and the Jews were able to capture the city. The shofar was commonly taken out to war so the troops would know when a battle would begin. The person who would blow the shofar would call out to the troops from atop a hill. All of the troops were able to hear the call of the shofar from their position because of its distinct noise.

<-- Israeli Diamonds: Shofars

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Ahavas HaShem, Ahavas Yisroel, Ahavas HaTorah
Love of G-d, Love of fellow Jews, Love of the Torah
by Moshe Shulman


The intention to do a mitzvah*

'If you will follow in my decrees, and you will keep my mitzvos and
do them. ' (V'yikra* 26.3)

The verse here seems to have some extra words. It could have just said, 'If you will keep my mitzvos I will give the rain in it's time.' We can explain it the following way:

The Talmud* says, 'A good thought HaShem* brings together with an action.' This means that when one takes upon himself in his thoughts to do a mitzvah, [and he has not been able to do the action] HaShem brings it together with an action. HaShem considers it as if the person had immediately completed the action.

It is even more the case [that he will be rewarded] if he actually does the action without any other thought then to fulfil HaShem's will. Then he will merit to attain a higher level of service [to HaShem] and will be able to do another mitzvah. Then if he does that mitzvah, he will go higher and higher. For this reason the Tzaddik is referred to as being on the level of 'going.' He is going from one level to another level [higher then the first.] This is the meaning of what it says in Pirkei Avos* 'one mitzvah brings another mitzvah.'

With this idea we can understand what Chazal* teach in the Midrash* Tanna d'bei Eliyahu*, 'Everyone who learns halacha everyday is assured of a place in the world to come.' This refers to the Tzaddik*. He 'learns [Heb. shoneh] halacha' means that he changes [Heb. yishneh] his goings [Heb. helichos] from day to day from one level to
another. For that reason he is assured of a place in the world to come.

This is the meaning of the verse, 'If you will follow [Heb. telechi] in my decrees.' If you will connect yourself to my decrees, then you will be on the level of 'going'. Then 'and you will keep my mitzvos.' [The word keep [Heb. tishmoru] is similar to what [another verse] says, 'And his father] kept [in mind Heb. shomer] what happened'. [The meaning of that verse is that he was waiting to see that the event occurred.] HaShem says that if you will keep His mitzvos, i.e. that you will keep in mind to do his mitzvos, even those that you have yet to do, then you will [be able to] do them. i.e. HaShem will
consider it as if you had already done them. Because of your good thought to do the mitzvah HaShem will consider it as if you had already done them. (p. 70 sefer Kedushas Levi teachings of Rebbe* Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev.)

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Serving HaShem

'If you will follow in my decrees, and you will keep my mitzvos
and do them. ' (V'yikra 26.3)

Chazal explain that the words 'to follow' mean that you should be occupied in the learning of the Torah. In this verse we see all three levels [with which one can serve HaShem,] speech, thought and action. ['To follow' means learning Torah which is the level of speech.] 'My mitzvos you shall keep' refers to one's will to do them, as Rashi*
says, 'on the condition that you will do them [later. This is then the level of thought.] Through one's speech and thought [in doing the mitzvos] one will merit to actually do the action of the mitzvos. Doing the action of the mitzvah is the hardest thing of all.

The main purpose of 'in order to do them' is to correct yourself. This follows from what Chazal say that 'and to do them' means that 'you do to yourself' [i.e. that your actions effect yourself.] The reason is that the 613 mitzvos correspond to the limbs and sinews of the persons body. Through the performance of the mitzvos [and the purification that comes to the person through them] he will merit to receive a neshama* that is called a 'new creation.' [This means that he will receive a greater spiritual strength above what he had before.] All of this comes to the person through his exertions in learning of Torah as we have learned in the Zohar*. (p. 209 sefer Sefas Emes teachings of Rebbe Yehuda Aryeh Leib of Gur)

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Sacrificing for HaShem

'I will make desolate your sanctuaries and I will not smell your
pleasant aromas [from your sacrifices]' (V'yikra 26.31)

The holy Maggid* of Koznitz said, 'If only I could merit to see fulfilled the verse "I will make desolate your sanctuaries..." in my time.' [It is very hard to understand his meaning in this. These are words of a curse, and he wanted to see them fulfilled?]

We have been taught that all of curses in this portion of chastisements are really blessings, but that they are said in a hidden manner, and are not revealed openly to those who read it. [We know that nothing bad that comes from HaShem, as it says,] 'From Him does not proceed any evil things.' However to our physical eyes it appears to be curses.

[To explain this statement of the Maggid] we have to understand that all of the 10 martyrs [who were killed by the Romans as is related in Chazal] and all the others like them who were killed and slaughtered because of His Holy Name's sake, their death brought great joy to HaShem. It is not possible to measure the amount of joy they brought to Him.

However we pray to HaShem that we should not be brought into these trials. That there should not be this type of joy Above with our physical deaths. It should be sufficient to Him that we are willing to give over our souls to him for His Name's sake when we recite the Shema*, and when we pray with all our strength.

This idea is learnt from a teaching on the verse, 'They shall pelt them with stones, their blood is upon them.' The meaning is that a person is required to imagine that he is undergoing each of the four different types of death penalties that the courts would give, when he is saying the Shema (and at similar times during his prayers.)

This is the meaning of the verse, 'you shall pelt him with stones' i.e. this refers to the punishment of 'stoning.' 'Their blood [Heb domihem] is on them.' This means that this occurs through their imagination [Heb midomei] alone, with a complete heart [and not
physically. When they have this in mind it] is considered as if they had been physically killed for His sake.

This is the meaning of this verse. HaShem is telling us that He will not have joy from the Holy Ones who are being physically killed, but He will have joy in us, who give over our souls to Him when we recite the Shema and pray with all our strength. And from this sincere acceptance with our thoughts [of the four types of death penalties] he will consider it as if we had actually been killed.

This is what our verse says: 'I will make desolate your sanctuaries' [Heb. mekdushim] I will nullify the slaughter of the Holy ones [Heb kedoshim] and make that a desolation [i.e. something that will no longer exist.]

'And I will not smell your pleasant aromas [from your sacrifices]' He will not longer have any desire to accept this sacrifice of those who are physically killed for His Name's sake.

This is the meaning of what the Maggid said, 'If only I could merit to see fulfilled the verse "I will make desolate your sanctuaries..." in my time.' If only we could merit that HaShem would no longer desire the physical sacrifices, but he would find joy in those who sacrifice themselves through learning Torah, prayer, and good deeds with their full soul. (p. 26b sefer Ateres Yeshuah teachings of Rebbe Yehoshua of Dzikov.)

Copyright (c) 1999 by Moshe Shulman (
All rights reserved.
Issur Hasugas Givil

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