Praying for the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
‘זכר לאברהם ליצחק ולישראל עבדך אשר נשבעת להם בך ותדבר אליהם ארבה את זרעכם ככוכבי השמים וכל הארץ הזאת אתן לזרעכם ונחלו לעולם’
‘(Sunday) Father in Heaven, Everlasting Living One! Bestow upon us kindness for the sake of the Honor of Your Great, Mighty, and Awesome Name that is called upon us, and keep, HaShem our God, the promise You have promised us by Zefania your prophet: ‘at that time I will bring you, and at that time I will gather you, for I will make you a name and a praise among all nations of the earth when I return your exiles before your eyes, says HaShem’ (last verse of Zefania)’ (Shaharit prayer). Our mouths abound with pleas and requests, supplications and prayers for the return of our exiles to our Holy Land, for the return of the The Holy Presence to its proper place. This parsha teaches us the great power of prayer, as seen in the prayers of Moshe Rabeinu for all Israel, especially in regard to bringing the The Holy Presence back to our midst.
(Monday) This week’s additional portion on purification by the Para Aduma also increases our awareness on purification, which is also quite crucial for the acceptance of prayer (see Rasag on 10 conditions of prayer, also Rambam Tefila 4, 4-5).
(Tuesday) ‘If Your Countenance (referring to the Holy Presence) does not come with us, do not raise us (to the Land)… and how will it be known that I have found favor in Your eyes, me and your People , alast when You go with us, and I and Your People will be distinguished from any nation on the face of the earth ‘, Moshe pleads. Subsequently, HaShem shows Moshe the great vision of ‘His Honor’ at the ‘cleft of the rock’, expressing that indeed the The Holy Presence will not leave Israel. It is with these prayers that Moshe saves Israel, step by step, from destruction right after the Sin of the Calf. By these prayers Moshe also saves Israel from one of this Sin’s potential ramifications, the withdrawal of The Holy Presence from the midst of Israel. Also, it is with these insistent and devoted prayers of Moshe that ultimately we, as a People, merited the ‘13 attributes of mercy’, which are a conduit of mercy and compassion in all our prayers till this very day.
(Wednesday) Every Jew’s prayer, and each and every one of these prayers, adds to and builds the great corpus of prayers of all Israel for Redemption. When we learn about the The Holy Presence and its meaning, the ingathering of exiles and its meaning, we imbibe our hearts with the meaning of our prayers, thus making our prayers evermore powerful. When we connect to our Forefathers in thought, speech and action we connect to Moshe’s archetypal prayer (in our title quote): ‘Remember Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yisrael Your servants’. It is by this connection that we have merit to ask for ourselves and our children as their descendants to be ‘as stars of the heavens’, and it is via this merit that ‘all this land’ will be our ‘inheritance forever’.
(Thursday) Another example of the Patriarchs power in prayer is found the Talmud (Baba Metzia 85b which teaches that if the three Patriarchs of Hebron would pray simultaneously, their united prayer would bring the Redemption before its proper time. It is with this power of prayer, ascending via the merit of our forefathers, that we renew our covenant with HaShem, as in the renewal of covenant in this parsha following Moshe’s prayer. It is in this renewal of covenant that we are told how the nations ‘will not covet our Land when’ we ‘go up to be seen before HaShem… three times a year’ (Pesah, Shavuot, and Sukkot).
(Friday) Subsequently to the commandment on observing the festivals at the Temple we are also commanded to ‘bring the first fruits to the House of HaShem Your God’. What is the connection between the pilgrimage of the three festivals and the nations not coveting our Land, and how is this connected to bringing the first fruits and renewal of covenant? The Torah’s commandment on first fruits is dependent on the presence of the majority of worldwide Jewry in the Land (see Rambam Trumot 1, 26). It is by our presence as a People in the Land in general as exemplified by the first fruits, and at the Bais Hamikdash specifically exemplified by three-fold pilgrimage, that it is clear to the nations that our connection to the Land stems from our covenant with God in mitzvoth and devotion to His Holy Presence, and that in turn the power of the Holy Presence is greatened with our presence. Thus, the nations cease to covet our Land, for they then realize that it is God who created them Who desires our presence in His Holy Land.
(Shabbos) Real-life Hashgaha Story: ‘This past week I decided to learn a passage from Likutei Moharan on Purim. I looked in the index and found that Torah 10 is the most suitable. A few days later I decided to learn Likutei Moharan with someone, who would pick a lesson randomly from the book. Out of hundreds of lessons in the book, the lesson that he picked randomly was Torah 10 (he had no idea that this lesson was connected to Purim).’
Seeking the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
‘ששת ימים תעבד וביום שביעי תשבות, בחריש ובקציר תשבות’
(Sunday) ‘Come in peace, her Husband’s crown of pride, with song and good cheer. Among the faithful of the People so dear, enter O Bride, enter O Bride; O Bride, Shabbat Queen, enter, come here!’ Every week, at the advent of Shabbat we say these words, greeting the Shabbat Queen, greeting the Holy Presence into our lives.
(Monday) This concept of ‘greeting’ Shabbat is deeply rooted in our sources. In a halachic sense, ‘greeting’ Shabbat is rooted to the concept of the obligation to ‘add holiness from the mundane (weekday) unto the holiness (Shabbat)’, that is, to voluntarily ‘greet’ or bring Shabbat upon ourselves at least a moment before it ‘dawns’ upon us involuntarily. This concept is learned by our Sages from the verse in regard to Yom Kippur, the tenth of Tishrei, which begins according to the Written Torah ‘at the ninth of the month at evening’, an expression that highlights the obligation to bring Yom Kippur upon ourselves at least a moment before it begins. According to many poskim this rule applies not only to Yom Kippur, but also to Shabbat and Holidays.
(Tuesday) In our title quote of this parsha, this concept of ‘initiation of holiness’ is taken to another level (see Rashi on verse). According to our Sages, the explanation of the latter part of the verse, ‘in the plowing and harvesting you shall rest’, refers to beginning the prohibitions of the Shemitta/SeventhYear a month before the Shemita year actually begins and also refers to extending these prohibitions even after the Shemita year for produce that grew during Shmita.
(Wednesday) The reasoning in this explanation is that the verse does not need to tell us that plowing and harvesting are forbidden on Shmita year, since all agricultural work is already forbidden in the Torah. Therefore, the verse teaches us that even in the permissible sixth and eighth years there are times that are forbidden from work. However, it should be noted that according to our Oral Tradition this law applies only when the Bais HaMikdash is standing.
(Thursday) This idea gains even greater meaning in context of our title quote which juxtaposes the Sabbath of the week to the Sabbath of the Land. Just as we ‘greet’ the Holy Presence of the weekly Shabbos, so may we ‘greet’ the Holy Presence of the Land inherent in the Shemita year, by observing the preparatory period on the sixth year before Shmita. By ‘greeting’ the Holy Presence, we unite with the Holy Presence in a greater way, for we express with our initiative an ‘awakening from below’ and the Holy Presence comes to us from an ‘awakening from above’, thus awakening a great holy union in all the spiritual worlds.
(Friday) This ideal is especially poignant in Hebron, the City of Unity (hibur) of our Holy Land, which unites us with the Holy Presence of the past, present, and future to ‘greet’ the Messianic era at the end of the sixth millennium before the seventh Shabbat millennium when ‘HaShem ‘recreates’ His World’ into a world of far-greater holiness.
(Shabbos) Real Stroies from the Holy Land 57: ‘One day, our oven, which had been working for many years, stopped working, so we called a technician to check it. While working, the technician ‘happened’ to notice a smell of released gas from the stove, and he advised us to call a gas technician. When the gas technician examined the stove, he alarmed us that the whole stove was open to release gas, and that we must cease immediately all use of the stove to not endanger the lives of our family…’
Sources: Yoma 81b, Rambam Shvitat Asor 1, 6 and Shmita vYovel 3, 1, Orah Haim 261,2 Ex. 34, 21 and Rashi, Sanhedrin 97b
Uniting with the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
כי תשא … ונתנו איש כופר נפשו
(Sunday) ‘May it be Your Will HaShem our God and God of our Fathers… that You sustain us with good sustenance with grant, with ease, and with plentitude, for the sake of Your service…’ We see from this parsha that one’s money is not a mere material matter, but rather has strong spiritual ties to its owner as it can conduct as ‘an atonement for one’s soul’ as in the case of the ‘half shekel’ given to the Mishkan/Bais HaMikdash.
(Monday) Indeed, we see this spiritual link again in our Sages’ comparison of stealing money to stealing one’s soul. This concept can be seen in many laws of the Torah, such as the importance of monetary possesion of the four species, and more, but our focus will be on the laws of the Holy Land in parallel to the Holy House (Bais HaMikdash) to which the ‘half shekel’, of our title quote, is given.
(Tuesday) One of the fascinating laws in regard to ownership in the mitzvot of the Land is the necessity that produce have (Jewish) owners in order to be liable for Truma and Maaser, rendering all ownerless produce exempt from truma and maaser. This law is extrapulated from the term ‘your produce’ which our Sages interpret to mean that produce must have owners in order to be liable for truma and maaser. In both instances, in the Holy Land and in the Holy House, we can say that the soul’s spiritual connection to possession is a crucial component in the holiness of such materials, whether produce in the Land which can be raised to the status of teruma-’kodesh’ (as called in the Torah), or money, as in the half- ‘holy’ shekel given for the holy functions of the Bais HaMikdash.
(Wednesday) Our Sages say that HaShem foresaw the monetary ‘deal’ between Haman and Ahasverosh to obliterate all Jews. Therefore, as a provision of the ‘cure before the blow’, HaShem commanded Israel to donate the half-shekel as an atonement for their souls, which would also give them merit to be saved from the decree of Haman.
(Thursday) Even today, Purim is linked to the power of donations towards mitzvot and charitable causes. This can be seen in the custom of the ‘commemoration of the half-shekel’ before and/or during Purim, and the mitzah of giving charity to the poor on Purim itself.
(Friday) As is the case all year round, charity to the poor of the Land of Israel is especially commendable in halacha, and of-course such charity in context of Purim takes extra meaning. Among the Torah-mandated gifts of the Land is Maaser Ani – the tithe to the poor. Thus, we go in the ways of the Torah when we initiate gifts to the poor of the Land of Israel with our attribute of kindness. May it be that through this kindness that we remember and be remembered with the kindness of our Patriarchs of Hebron, the City of Kindness, who plead compassion and kindness upon us to this very day.
(Shabbos) Real Stories from the Holy Land 110: ‘I had been waiting more than two months for a particular certificate in the mail, but nothing came. One day, I decided to write a letter to the people who were supposed to send the certificate, to remind them of their commitment. That very same day, I found the certificate in my mail-box (of-course it is impossible that they read my note and had the certificate arrive the same day)…’
Sources:Rambam Trumot 2, 1, Megila 13b, Baba Kama 119a