Thursday, August 26, 2010

Unfolding the Light of Redemption

Rebbetzin's Yovel Celebration in her garden
As the sixth of the seven haftarot of consolation read between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashanah, this penultimate haftarah describes the unfolding of the light of redemption in glowing words. I experienced a glimpse of this light, this past Sunday during the celebration of my Yovel (Jubilee/fiftieth year) year. To see the slideshow of my birthday celebration click here. It is known that Yovel, which follows the completion of seven cycles of shemitah (sabbatical years), alludes to the redemption. On the fiftieth year, the shofar is blown and all the Hebrew slaves are set free. In the same way, Israel will be set free from both the physical and spiritual slavery of exile. I bless us all to be freed from the bonds of exile and experience the goodness and luminous glow of the Land, enjoying both its physical and spiritual fruits!
To donate to Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin in honor of Rebbetzin Chana Bracha’s 50 year birthday click here

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The Connection Between the Haftorah and the Torah Reading
Haftorat Ki Tavo is like a bridge between the mourning of Tisha B’Av and the renewal of Rosh Hashanah. The haftarah, emphasizing Israel’s dazzling future, is an appropriate antidote for the drawn out curses, included in Parashat Ki Tavo. After having heard the devastating curses, resulting from the withdrawal of the Shechinah, because we blocked her light through immorality, the soaring glory that Yesha’yahu describes is especially touching and hopeful. It heralds the coming of renewed radiance and light shining from the Messianic glow. Although, today may be dark, tomorrow, G-d’s light will shine on His people.

The Light of the Shechina will Shine Forth
The images of light in our haftorah paint a stunning painting with soft luminous strokes. Our haftorah opens: “Arise, shine, for your light has dawned; the Presence of Hashem has shone upon you!” (Yesha’yahu 60:1). We sing an adaption of this verse in the Lecha Dodi song, Friday night, when we welcome the Shabbat Queen. At the end of the haftarah, Yesha’yahu returns to the light and dark imagery, and promises us that even the rules of nature will be suspended in our apocalyptic future. There will be no need for the sun or moon, because the everlasting light and glory of Hashem will shine directly upon Israel.

No Greater Good than Being Side By Side
“Lift up your eyes all around and see, they all have gathered, they have come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be raised     (תֵּאָמַנָה) on [their] side” (Yesha’yahu 60:4). Originally, Chava was created from Adam’s side, as I explain in my book, “Women at the Crossroads: A Woman’s Perspective on the Weekly Torah Portion,” page 4. The common understanding is that G-d created Chava from one of Adam’s ribs. However, a more accurate translation of the word “tzela” reveals that she was actually created from his side. Since Chava initiated the eating from the Tree of Knowledge an imbalance was caused in the original equality of man and woman. She became dependant on him, and he ruled over her. (Bereishit 3:16). At the unfolding of the redemption, this imbalance will be repaired, as “your daughters shall be raised on the side [of your sons].” The numerical value of the Hebrew word for “side” צַד is 94. This equals the value of “mazal tov!” which literally means a good flow. It also equals hatov v’hametiv – “good and does good” (Benaihu ben Yehoyada, on Pessachim 50a).When woman’s light was reduced, it created a certain loneliness in man, in the part of himself which he was no longer able to share with her. Being alone for a man is called “lo tov – not good” in the Torah (Bereishit 2:18). The greatest good, therefore, is for man and woman to return to being side by side in the fullest sense so that the light of the Shechinah flows down without any blockages. This light is the crown, which at the redemption, the sun and moon will once again equally share.

Elevating the Woman
The Hebrew word translated “raised” in (Yesha’yahu 60:4) is תֵּאָמַנָה (teamana), related to emunah (faith). This word carries the meaning of raising someone else, like in the sense of raising children. In Megillat Esther 2:7 the same root “אֹמֵן” (omen) is used to describe that “Mordechai raised /nurtured Esther.” We can learn from here that Esther grew to her greatness, because Mordechai taught her to have faith in herself. As part of the geula (redemption) process, women need to evolve from low self-esteem, and learn to believe in themselves and the power of their hidden light. My understanding of Sarah Yehudit Schneider’s Kabbalistic Writings on the Nature of the Masculine and the Feminine is that just as Mordechai raised Esther, it is man’s role to elevate woman. Kabbalistically, woman had collapsed from a full stature of ten sefirot into the lowest sefira of malchut (Kingdom). Man, then, became in charge of the resources of woman’s “building fund.” He was entrusted with a special energy fund earmarked and designated for woman’s growth. It now became his responsibility to raise the woman to the point where she no longer relies on him to transmit her spiritual sustenance. Rather than being dependant on him for her spiritual lights, he enables her to receive them directly from their original source. On a practical level, this means that husband must facilitate his wife’s spiritual growth, by, for example teaching her Torah, or offering to do the dishes, so that she can learn or teach Torah. Helping his wife in this way would not be considered bitul Torah, (nullifying his responsibility to learn Torah). Therefore, we, women, do not need to feel guilty about accepting our husbands’ help, in order that we too get involved in Torah. On the contrary, we should be aware that when the man diapers babies, barbecues meat, or mops the floor, it actually speeds up the redemption and increases the light of the Shechinah by “raising daughters [wives] on [their] side.”

The Iron Elevation of our Mothers
The end of the haftorah describes the mystical future elevation of every material: “Instead of copper I will bring gold, and instead of iron I will bring silver, and instead of wood, copper, and instead of stones, iron, and I will make your officers peace and your rulers righteousness” (Yesha’yahu 60:17). Rav Tzadok of Lublin, in Machshevot Charutz 8, notes that the Hebrew word for iron – בַּרְזֶל (barzel), is the acronym for the names of Ya’acov’s four wives: Bilhah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Leah. Note that in this acronym, the letters that refer to the maidservants are mentioned first. This foreshadows the future transformation taking place when the physical dimension will be raised up, and Hashem will be one and His name one. At that time, the spiritual world –Yud and Heh (Chachmah and Binah) will be completely unified with the physical realm – Vav and Heh (the six middle sefirot and Malchut). This implies that the highest will be come the lowest, and the lowest will become the highest, as is alluded to in our verse “in place of iron I will bring silver…” Iron is the hardest of all materials, representing the negative aspect and the power of Esau, about whom it states “upon your sword [made from iron] you shall live” (Bereishit 27:40). Yet, the source of all is the secret of the uppermost Mother. Nothing can exist without Hashem’s life-giving energy, keeping it alive. The only way to attain the hidden good inside the coarse, strong material of the element of iron is through teshuva. King David brought the concept of teshuva into the world. His birth was enabled by the accumulated efforts and sisterhood of the Mothers. Their hidden power of being willing to yield for one another transformed “the rock that the builders hated, to become the cornerstone” (Tehillim 118:22). David HaMelech alluded to this power of the Mothers in his Tehillim: “You shall break them [the enemies] with a rod of iron…” (Ibid. 2:9). The Hebrew word for breaking תְּרֹעֵם (teroem) comes from the word for blowing the shofar תְרוּעָה (teruah). Just as we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana in order to chase away the negative forces (Satan), so does the energy of iron have that same power.

The Mothers are the Iron Lock of Israel
The four wives of Ya’acov are the iron lock of Israel, ensuring that no negative exterior force enters the holy nest of our people. Through the power of the mothers of the twelve tribes, the builders of the Jewish nation, we can overcome the negative extraneous forces (Rav Tzadok of Lublin, Drush for Rosh Hashana that falls on Shabbat). The mothers prevent any negative intruder from the outside, especially from the hand of Esau to penetrate and inject impurity within the children of Israel. The low maidservants Bilhah and Zilpah were instrumental in locking in and perpetuating the qualities of Rachel and Leah. Together, these holy mothers anchored the spiritual within the physical. Through complete selflessness, Bilhah assisted Rachel in overcoming jealousy and drawing down the Shechinah in holy union, and keeping it dwelling within Israel. Zilpah assisted Leah in her hidden work of prayer and praise. At redemption, when the lower is raised to become the higher, the slaves are redeemed, and the role of women emerges, revealing their hidden qualities. At that time, Bilhah & Zilpah will be included within our four foremothers. Some mothers have already begun to bless their daughters to become like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah & Zilpah! (Heard by Rebbetzin Esther Kitov).

May we all become a personal link in the iron chain of the mothers!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Barren Woman Bursts Out in Song

Haftorat Ki Teitzei, Yesha’yahu 54:1-10

As the fifth of the seven haftarot of consolation read between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashanah, this haftarah of only ten verses, conveys a compact, powerful and comforting message for the single woman, the divorced, widowed and barren. It is actually my birthday haftorah, and I totally feel that this haftorah relates to me personally. After over ten years of infertility, Hashem comforted and blessed me with a second son, and afterwards with three beautiful granddaughters – ken yirbu!
Rebbetzin Chana Bracha with her new grandaughter

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The Barren Woman Bursts Out in Song of Jubilation
The haftorah opens by comparing Israel to a barren woman, who is promised countless children.
“Sing barren woman, you who did not bear; burst out into song and jubilate, you who have not experienced birth pangs… (Yesha’yahu 54:1). When I was 35 years old and my only son was 13, I had almost given up hope of ever expecting another child. Yet, at a routine checkup, my gynecologist brought up the subject of fertility. I told her my story, and after we both shed tears together in her office, she gave me new hope. I remember when I received the good news that I was finally pregnant. How I had waited, hoped and prayed for this moment. I felt exactly like the barren woman described in our haftorah. I felt like bursting forth in a proclamation to the whole world: I am pregnant!!!! I AM PREGNANT! After all these years! It was unbelievable. All I wanted to do was to publicize the miracle.

The Barren, Divorced and Widowed
During our long exile, Israel is compared not only to a barren woman, but also to a widow who lost her husband, and to a woman whose husband left her, abandoned and forlorn. “For, like a wife who is deserted and distressed in spirit has Hashem called you, and a wife of one’s youth who was rejected, said your G-d (Ibid.6). The prophet assures all these bereaved women, that G d has not forsaken them. Although He has momentarily hid His countenance from them, He will gather them from their exiles with great mercy. I was trying to understand the metaphorical meaning of each of these deprived women. Which aspect of our thorny distressing exile do they each represent? The barren woman seems to allude to the lack of fertility of the land, and the freeze on the development of our vibrant Jewish neighborhoods. When the communities of Israel will become like a mother blessed with many children, every new-married couple will easily find affordable housing. We still await the time when Eretz Yisrael will produce even more wormless organic fruits, as there is no greater sign of the coming redemption than when the Land of Israel brings forth fruits in abundance (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a). The widowed woman, I believe, refers to the suffering of the terrorism in Israel. The prophet promises: “Fear not…the disgrace of your widowhood, you shall no longer remember (Yesha’yahu 54:4). When women are brutally murdered, and children are left orphans, we ask ourselves “where is Hashem? Why does He not protect and defend His people from this disgrace and terrible affliction?” Finally, the divorced woman seems to refer to the different divisions within Jewry: black hats, knitted kipot, secular, and settlers. Like “divorce”, the word “disengagement” signifies this division that includes the expulsion from Gush Katif and part of Shomron, the separation and estrangement of some Diaspora Jewry from the Land of Israel, the division of the Jewish people as a whole from the Torah lifestyle.

The Greatest Building Defrost
Our haftorah of consolation comforts the barren woman, who is told to enlarge the size of her tent to make room for all the children she will have. “Widen the place of your tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of your habitations, do not spare; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes; for you shall spread out right and left, and your seed shall inherit nations and settle desolate cities” (Ibid. 2-3). These prophetic verses don’t exactly suit our current political climate. Nonetheless, the hidden agenda of all the political figures trying to impose a building freeze on Israel, is to prevent the redemption of Tzion and the fulfillment of its prophecies. The United States, seemingly our ally, descends from Esav, and like him, is disguised in the veil of a cultured, civilized, modernity. Yet, behind the mask of friendliness hides the selfish greediness of a power-monger, promulgating individual advancement, at the expense of facilitating a dwelling place for the G-d of Israel. In spite of the resistance from the majority of the world, the proportions of the Jewish redemption will be so overwhelming that Eretz Yisrael won’t be capable of containing it. Yerushalayim will be flooded with newly arrived residents, and the surrounding areas will speedily overflow. Rabbi Dovid Siegel explains that even after the entire Judean hills will be saturated with newly sprouted neighborhoods, the Jewish aliyah will continue. The new wave of emerging Jews will take possession of the entire land of Israel and settle it. The return will be so encompassing that even these broadened quarters will not suffice.

Forget the Shame!
In order for all these blessings of redemption to take place, we all need to return to Hashem in perfect faith. However, the feeling of hidden embarrassment about our dark past often prevents and blocks us from reuniting with Hashem in the deepest way. We ask ourselves, “How will we ever overcome our past transgressions and establish an everlasting bond with Hashem?” Hashem responds, “Fear not, for you shall not be ashamed, and be not embarrassed, for you shall not be put to shame; for the shame of your youth you shall forget…” (Ibid. 4). Malbim explains that all the disgrace of exile will be totally forgotten, both our personal embarrassment for having acted immorally (תֵבוֹשִׁי), as well as the shame received from others (תִּכָּלְמִי). Now, during the month of Elul, Hashem is in the field, ready to welcome us back to His holy palace, even if we have dirty feet, as long as we brush off the mud. No matter what kind of murky past we leave behind us, Hashem is waiting for us to start anew, as a pure vessel for His blessings.

The Remarriage and Birth of Redemption
During the redemption, Hashem will finally gather His beloved people back, and renew His loving relationship with us, just like when we were His youthful bride. “I forsook you for a brief moment, but with great compassion I will gather you in” (Ibid. 7). My dear friend, whose husband was murdered in a terrorist attack, never allowed herself to despair, but always radiated joy and hope. This year, I happily participated in her remarriage. Another close friend who has been an aguna for many years, yet never allowed herself to become bitter, is now engaged to a wonderful loving man. All these examples of personal redemption are signs of the upcoming redemption of the congregation of Israel. “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My faithful love shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed,” says Hashem, Who has compassion upon you (ibid. 10). Even if the mountains move and the hills are shaken, G-d’s covenant with Israel will stand firm. Rashi explains that the mountains refer to our Patriarchs and the hills to our Matriarchs. The merit of our Mother Sarah was so great that when G-d granted her a child, He blessed together with her all barren women, as well (Rashi, Bereishit 21:6). Yet, Hashem implores us to strengthen our emuna that even if the merits of our fathers and mothers will cease, Hashem’s loving/kindness to us will be everlasting. When I gave birth to my second son, I prayed not only for other women who struggle with infertility like me. I told myself, “Don’t pray only for the barren women, but pray for all of Israel. For our long exile can be compared to a childless woman, and a long and difficult labor.” Join me today in my prayer and blessing that all single women will find their soul-mate, all the divorced and widowed will remarry, and that all childless women will bear fruit! May G-d bring miracles to our nation the way He performed miracles for me, and may we give birth to complete redemption as speedily as I gave birth to my precious baby!

Rebbetzin Chana Bracha's sons and two eldest grandaughters

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fear No-One but Hashem!

Haftorat Shoftim, Yesha’yahu 51:12 - 52:12.
Haftarat Shoftim, the fourth of the seven “haftarot of consolation” read between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashana, opens with G d’s promise: “I, myself am the One that comforts you!” (Yesha’yahu 51:12). Whatever hardship we have experienced in our personal life and as a people, Hashem’s comforting energy is always near, if only we tap into it. This haftorah really strengthened my emunah, I hope reading this will strengthen your emunah too!

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The Haftorah’s Connection to the Parashah
– Fear No-One but Hashem!
The theme of this week’s Torah reading centers around the fact that Israel has many judges, yet, there is only one true Judge: G-d. The role of the judge is to bring Israel to true fear of G-d, by facilitating the keeping of His precepts. True fear of G-d results from removing fear of anything but Hashem. The beginning of the haftorah teaches us that the only One to fear is Hashem, He is our only true comfort, and the source of our life. “Who are you that you should fear Man who must die? ...have you forgotten Hashem your Creator, that stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth, and are you afraid continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor…?” (Yesha’yahu 51:12-13). Malbim distinguishes between the word יראה, yirah (fear) and the word פחד, pachad (afraid). The former is a fear of something external, whereas the latter is a continual state of internal fright, without being aware of the source of one’s fear. Interestingly, the first word for fear in our haftorah is written in the feminine form וַתִּירְאִי from יראה, whereas the word for being afraid continually is written in the masculine formוַתְּפַחֵד from פחד. I was thinking of how external, occasional fear could possibly be more feminine than the constant fright of an unknown source. I came up with the possibility that women have greater innate emunah (faith), and therefore, are less prone to constant inner fright. Although women are stereotyped to be more fearful than men, it could be that actually women are more aware of their fears, whereas men suffer a deep unconscious fear. Women are more involved in self- development and awareness. By identifying possible fears and traumas, these fears are externalized, as a step towards removing them. I would like to call on my readers to give your opinion regarding the fears of men and women respectively.

The Garments of Jerusalem
“Wake up! Wake up! Dress up in your strength, Tzion! Put on your beautiful garments Jerusalem the Holy City… 2. Shake yourselves from the dust, arise, and sit down, Jerusalem; free yourself from the bands of your neck, captive daughter of Tzion” (Yesha’yahu 52:1-2). Part of the Kabbalat Shabbat song Lecha Dodi is taken from these two verses of our haftorah: הִתְנַעֲרִי מֵעָפָר קוּמִי. לִבְשִׁי בִּגְדֵי תִפְאַרְתֵּךְ עַמִּי –”Shake off yourselves from the dust, arise! Dress up in the garments of the splendor of my people!” We welcome the Shechina Friday night, by arousing ourselves and the entire Jewish people to shake off the dust of the mundane reality of the week, in order that we, our community, and the whole world will be able to get dressed up in the spiritual Shabbat clothes of splendor. Just as we prepare for Shabbat every Friday, now, during the messianic era, we need to prepare for the great celebration of Mashiach, when all reality will become Shabbat. It reminds me of a giant wedding hall being cleaned spotless and decorated for a very special wedding. Just as it is mainly the woman of the home who is involved in the Shabbat preparations, women have the key role in preparing for the world’s cosmic Shabbat, through self-development and spiritual healing. In order to become ready to dress up in our Neshama yetera – higher Shabbat/redemption level of consciousness, we must remove any blockages from our soul. We need to ask ourselves, “What is the dust we would like to shake off ourselves?” Which dust in my life clogs up my vessel from being a pure channel to receive Hashem’s presence? Which stains of dust on the windows of my soul prevent me from perceiving Hashem with full consciousness and clarity? As we sweep and mop on Friday afternoons, let us work mentally on shaking off any fear, stress, anger, grudge and residue of sadness that blocks our soul from shining fully.

The Inner and Outer Garments of Israel
Getting ready for the banquet of Mashiach entails two stages, as reflected in our Shabbat preparation. In honor of Shabbat, we first take a shower and then dress up in our Shabbat clothes. Similarly, in the messianic era, only after having shaken off our spiritual dust, are we ready to wear our garments of holiness. We need to heal our childhood wounds and remove negative emotions and midot (character-traits), in order to illuminate the world with the light of our soul. Malbim distinguishes between the inner and outer garments of Jerusalem. “Tzion” referring to the City of David needs to dress up in her inner strength: The Temple, the Sanhedrin and Kingdom. However, “Yerushalayim,” which refers to the general city, will wear the external garments of wealth and success. Tzion and Yerushalayim are the reflections of the inner and outer reality of each individual Jew. Thoughts, speech and action are the garments of our soul. By perfecting these inner garments, we become a pure channel for Hashem’s shefa (abundance) to receive the outer garments of wealth and success. Our spiritual workout consists of developing a positive outlook – giving the benefit of the doubt, really working on cleaning our speech from negativity and gossip, and increasing acts and kindness. To the extent that we have perfected the inner garments of actions, speech and thoughts, we will be able to dress up in the outer garments of blessings and prosperity which Hashem constantly causes to flow down to us. When our outer garments match our inner garments, our unity with Hashem can never be broken again.

Everlasting Return
The haftarah concludes with the promise that the Jewish people will never have to leave Jerusalem in a rush, because Hashem will return to Tzion and protect us both from the front and the rear. (Ibid. 52:11-12) Rabbi Dovid Siegel explains this guarantee Hashem is giving Israel through a parable. A king became enraged at his queen, and banished her from the palace. After some period of time, he reconsidered his actions and informed her of his intentions to remarry her. She consented on the condition that he doubles the amount of her ketubah (marriage financial agreement). This is a parable for the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. Our initial relationship with Hashem was established when accepting the Torah on Mount Sinai. At that time, Hashem revealed Himself to His nation and proclaimed, “I am your Hashem.” Afterwards, the Jewish people’s behavior was so inexcusable that Hashem rejected us and exiled us from Tzion. Yet, at the time of the redemption, Hashem desires to reunite with us. However, recognizing our failure during our first relationship makes us doubtful whether this second one will be any better. Hashem responds that He will increase His revelations which will guarantee an everlasting relationship with His people (Yalkut Shimoni 474).

Perceiving Hashem with Renewed Clarity
At the close of the haftorah, Hashem conveys his incredible new commitment to us: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that brings good tidings of peace; proclaiming goodness and salvation, saying to Tzion, your G-d has come to reign! The voice of the on-lookers is heard, they raise their voice in unison and singing, for they shall see eye to eye, Hashem returning to Tzion” (Yesha’yahu 52:7-8). Chazal explain that until this point it was virtually impossible to behold Hashem’s presence with perfect clarity. However, in the era of Mashiach, all constraints will be removed. The Ba’al Haturim on his commentary to Bemidbar 14:14 echoes this concept and contrasts Israel’s experience at Mt. Sinai to that of the Messianic era. . When Hashem began this relationship and proclaimed, “I am your Hashem,” the revelation was so overwhelming that we were incapable of maintaining our consciousness throughout the experience. In fact, Chazal (Shabbat 88b) reveal that we were miraculously revived after each of the commandments. However, in the era of Mashiach, the Jewish people’s capacity will be greatly increased and we will be capable of viewing Hashem with total clarity. This is the meaning of the words of this week’s haftorah: “For they shall see eye to eye, Hashem returning to Tzion.” Hashem’s return will be so tangible that we will merit to sense His presence with perfect clarity, and so to speak, look Hashem directly in the eye.

Double-Sided Eternal Relationship
It was our spiritual dust that prevented us from fully absorbing Hashem’s revelation even at Mount Sinai when He proclaimed, “ אָנֹכִי – I am your Hashem” (Shemot 20:2). However, the suffering of exile together with our spiritual Shabbat cleaning prepares us to absorb the new revelations in their fullest form, so that during the Messianic era, the Jewish people will be perfectly prepared to receive Hashem’s presence with complete consciousness. No longer will our relationship with Hashem be one-sided – אָנֹכִי, as during Matan Torah. Our haftorah opens with a double expression of Hashem’s name – אָנֹכִי אָנֹכִי. With this double expression, “I” and “Myself” Hashem informs us that the upcoming relationship will be double sided. It reflects both Hashem’s perfect revelation, as well as the Jewish people’s total reception. The renewed revelations will establish an everlasting bond between Hashem and His people. Hashem’s “eye” – the degree of His revelation, and our “eye” – our sense of Hashem’s presence, will match at last. We will then enjoy the ultimate everlasting relationship with our true Partner and Father above!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Precious Stones That Will Build Jerusalem

Rebbetzin Chana Bracha with her Parents in Denmark

Haftorat Re’eh, Yesha’yahu 54:11-55:5
This week’s haftorah is the third of a series of seven “haftarot of Consolation,” which began on the Shabbat following Tisha b’Av and continue until Rosh Hashanah. I found the metaphor about the different stones that will build Yerushalayim very fascinating. Malbim explains how these stones represent the holy tribes of Israel. In this writing, I explain how the attributes of the assorted crystals, as explained in new age science, fit perfectly with Malbim’s commentary.

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The Mother Tzion – Swaying in the Wind
Hashem comforts the “afflicted and storm-tossed” Yerushalayim. “O you afflicted tempestuous one, who are not comforted, behold I will set your stones with garnet, and I will lay your foundations with sapphires” (Yesha’yahu 54:11). Although the dispersed children of Israel are being ingathered from the Diaspora, Yerushalayim is still like a poor woman shaking in the stormy wind writes Metzudat David. This metaphor seems to perfectly describe the political situation in Israel today. Jerusalem is being pulled in different directions, by nations fighting for the right to her as their capital. Last week (July 31, 2010) Jerusalem Post reports: “United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Israel to extend the settlement freeze and further apply it to east Jerusalem in a meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in New York.” Earlier this year, the U.S. administration demanded that Israel freeze construction in East Jerusalem, including Jewish neighborhoods such as Nevei Ya’akov, French Hill and Ramat Shlomo. While young couples are struggling to find affordable apartments in Jerusalem, our mother – Tzion – is helplessly striving to provide shelter for her beloved children. Despite the stormy winds from both North and East, threatening to break the frail mother, Hashem comforts Jerusalem, assuring her that in the end she will be rebuilt. Her foundation, walls and ground will be laid with precious stones. Any weapon pointed against her will eventually fail.

Her Foundation is the Kingdom of Torah
Malbim explains, that following the beginning of chapter 54 in Yesha’yahu, about the barren woman who became blessed with children – alluding to the ingathering of the exiles, the prophet now describes how Tzion is still not rebuilt. Although Tzion is no longer barren, as the dispersed Jews are being ingathered and the land filled with her children from the Diaspora, Jerushalayim is still in ruins. However, Hashem renews the hope of Tzion “…behold I will set your stones with garnet…” Garnet will be the stone upon which the foundation of Tzion will lay, while the foundation itself will be of sapphire. The garnet, the stone of Yehuda, is the sign of Kingdom, and the sapphire, the stone of Yissaschar, is the sign of wisdom and Torah. These two – the crown of kingdom and the crown of Torah – will become the foundation of the Temple. In The Secrets of Crystals, by Shani Toder, I found that the sapphire (סַפִּיר) creates balance, wisdom and stability. The blue sapphire, symbolizing the celestial, improves ones mood, and relieves pressure. It is good for communication. It lightens situations of deep hopelessness and increases intuition. White sapphire strengthens spiritual wisdom. Wearing a sapphire helps us talk from within with higher inner wisdom. These attributes ascribed to the sapphire fit perfectly with Yissashar who represents the wisdom of the Torah. The garnet (נוֹפֶךְ) strengthens self-confidence and is known as the stone of commitment because it strengthens determination and devotion to a cause or goal, to other people and to self obligation. This fits perfectly with the character of Yehuda and kingdom. The garnet affects the lowest vertebra, the foundation of the body, and the nerves along the spine. This stone, which resembles blood by its color, strengthens, purifies and provides renewed energy to the body, especially to the blood system. During the transition between exile and redemption, we need purification and renewed energy. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the garnet and what it represents will serve as the foundation of the building of Tzion.

Her Children Support Her with Stones of Strength
“I will make your windows of onyx and your gates of beryl stones, and all your borders of desirable stones (Yesha’yahu 54:12). Malbim continues to elucidate the metaphor about the different stones that build up Yerushalayim. According to Chazal, the כַּדְכֹד (Cadchod) is the onyx – Yosef’s stone, which is the sign of success and wealth. The windows, called in our verse שִׁמְשֹׁתַיִךְ (Shimshotayich) literally “your suns,” will be made from onyx. This symbolizes that Hashem will provide us with all kinds of sun-grown produce bringing wealth and success. According to The Secrets of Crystals, the onyx eases fears, pressure and depression, and is therefore recommended during times of pain and sorrow. This fits perfectly with “your windows of onyx,” as it is known that sufficient sunlight is one of the main keys to happiness. Many studies have proven, that people living in dark basement apartments, are predisposed to depression. Onyx is also the stone that protects against negative energy. It, therefore, makes sense that our windows, prone to outside influence, are made of the protective onyx stone. Malbim explains that our gates will be made out of beryl, which is Levi’s stone. These are the gates of Hashem, which the tzaddikim (righteous) enter. The beryl is a spiritual, physical, and mental healer. It is good to wear while working with others. Just like the Levites were involved with the holy worship of the heart, and played music in the Temple, the beryl increases the ability of self-expression and strengthens the heart. According to Malbim, “…all your borders will be desirable stones” refers to the stones of the rest of the tribes, which will be established in the complete building of Israel. This symbolizes that all the tribes will be unified and no longer divided into two kingdoms.


Happy is the Mother Engraved with the Peace of her Children
All your children shall be students of Hashem, and your children’s peace shall increase. (Yesha’yahu 54:13). I just returned from visiting my family in Denmark, in honor of my mother’s seventy fifth birthday. It brought her so much joy to gather her children and grandchildren together. However, more than her kids being physically close, it is the peace and love between the children that gladdens their mother. Baruch Hashem, my two sisters and I continually make our mother happy and honor her with our closeness. Sprouting forth from the same stem, we have a piece of each-other within us wherever we go. It is the saddest thing when adult siblings don’t get along. The Torah naturally guides us to get along with our siblings, by teaching us never to gossip, bear a grudge or take revenge. Although there are more than fourteen years between my oldest son and his brother, their love and care for each other warms my heart. There is nothing that makes me happier than when I see my two sons studying Torah together. This is when I joyfully experience the greatest and deepest bond between them. The more we learn Torah, the more we refine our character and ability to love each other in the deepest way. The prophet comforts our mother, Tzion, that her children – all of Israel – will come to Torah, and thereby find everlasting peace with one another. Each of her children contributes the necessary qualities for the greater, unified good. With the purification, self-confidence and devotion of Yehuda; Yissaschar’s wisdom, balance stability and communication; Levi’s heartfelt self-expression; the success and protection of Yosef; and all the qualities of the rest of the tribes we will build the renewed reality of peace and redemption. Once we establish true peace among ourselves, despite our differences, then the prophecy: “You shall not fear, and from terror; then it shall not come near you” (Ibid. 14) will be fulfilled.