Tzfat 1


Leshichno Tidreshu

Cleaving to the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land

ויקחהו שדה צופים

“And may You cleanse us so that You rest Your Presence upon us, and bestow upon us a spirit of wisdom… as it says, ‘the spirit of HaShem, a spirit of wisdom and understanding…” (Prayer on Opening the Ark on Three Festivals) This prayer alludes to the request for Divine Inspiration, called the ‘spirit of HaShem’ in the quote from Isaiah used in this context. Indeed, Divine Inspiration is a necessity our People should aspire for and should not be considered a mere luxury, especially in the Holy Land, as Rabbi Kook writes, “in truth, the lack of Divine Inspiration in Israel is not a lack of completeness, but rather a blemish and disease, and in the Land of Israel it is a hurtful disease that must be cured.” (O”H 3, 355). One of the surprising instances of Divine Inspiration/Prophecy is in this week’s parsha as it comes forth from the mouth of the wicked sorcerer Bilam. Commentators explain that  Bilam himself was not worthy of such prophecy, but it was for the sake of praising/protecting Israel that God delivered prophecy through Bilam,  an even greater miracle than making Bilam’s donkey speak… One of the terms used for a prophet in Scripture is “Seer” – “Tzofeh”, which also means “one who sees afar as in an uplifted outlook post.” The term “tzofeh” easily associates itself with the mystical city “Tzefat”, which also lies at the peaks of the Galilean hills, a strategic outlook post. In truth, “tzefat” is mentioned in the book of Judges as a city in the tribe of Judah’s territory, adjacent to ‘Arad’ which we discussed last week. Just as Israel fights the Canaanites/Amalekites next to Arad and calls the place of battle ‘Horma’, so too in the book of Judges Israel calls this city of ‘tzefat’ ‘horma’ after defeating the Cananites there. Interestingly, the name ‘horma (+1 (the word itself – an accepted method of gematria))’ is numerically equivalent to the word ‘neder’ used in context of the vow ‘Israel took a vow that if HaShem helps us defeat this people we shall sanctify (‘veharamti’ – hence the name ‘Horma’) their cities’. As we began to explain last week in context of Arad, it is clear that it was Israel’s great faith in God when making this vow, that was a turning point in their military success, and turning this city into a sanctified city. Although the Galilean Tzefat of today is clearly a different city than the Judean Tzefat, it seems that it is no accident that the usage of this name indicates a sanctified (‘Horma’=Tzefat) city. Indeed, Tzefat is considered to be one of the ‘four holy cities of the Land of Israel’. It is in Tzefat that  Jewish renaissance in the Holy Land sprouted just after the Expulsion from Spain in the great spiritual luminaries, such as the ‘Bait Yosef’ (author of the Shulhan Aruch), the Ramak, the Arizal, Alshich, and more, that shine till this day. Indeed, these leaders of ‘Tzefat’ can be seen as ‘tzofim’, visionaries of the distant future, and therefore their spiritual light beacons out to countless generations after them, and especially to us in our present renewal of Jewish presence in the Holy Land. The association we showed last week between Hebron and Arad/Horma/Judean Tzefat can be linked to Galilean Tzefat as well. Indeed, both cities are of the ‘four holy cities of the Land of Israel’, both have ‘sprouted’ great spiritual luminaries, and both carry the great vision of the future.  “These miracles (at the time of Mashiah) will occur in the Land of Israel, for there is Hebron of the Patriarchs” (Tikunei Zohar 28b).

Real Stories from the Holy Land:  “We usually prepare whole-wheat hallas every Shabbos, but last week we didn’t have enough time to do so, since we prepared food for 130 people to spend Shabbos at ‘Mizpah Avihai’, a pioneer settlement/neighborhood of Kiryat Arba. However, just before Shabbos a number of volunteers came to our home in Kiryat Arba, handing out to us whole-wheat hallas…” (N.A)


Leave a Reply to Ethica Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One thought on “Tzfat