Rabbi Chaim Vital

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Ki Tisa Hints at the Coronavirus

On the Eve of Shabbat, we received a government mailing containing documents that we were required to fill out and send back to the Census Bureau. The connection between the Census and the plague was not lost on me. The Torah portion we read last Shabbat, Ki Tisa. It begins with the story of the census: When you count the children of Israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the Lord an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them when they are counted.” (Exodus 30:12) This verse, linking the census with a plague, was uncanny in view of the COVID-19—Coronavirus pandemic—the modern-day plague, in the midst of which we find ourselves today. Interestingly, the word “count” in the verse above is [...]

Daughters of Zelophehad

Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad …. of the families of Manasseh, the son of Joseph; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar, the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, saying: “Our father died in the desert, …. and he had no sons. Why should our father's name be done away from among his family, because he had no son? Give unto us a possession among the brethren of our father.” (Numbers 27:1-4) In the Torah portion that was read last Shabbat in the Diaspora, Phineas (Pinchas), we read the story of the five daughters of Zelophehad who brought the claim for inheritance in [...]

Chanukah Menorah – the River of Time

In a Kabbalistic meditation on lighting Chanukah Menorah, the Arizal links the menorah lights with a supernal river (see Candle on the River). The Arizal’s principal disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital, writes in Shaar HaKavanot, Inyan Chanukah: One should meditate on the idea that the initials of the words ‘…l'hadleek ner Chanukah [to light the Chanukah candle]’ are the holy name called ‘Nachal’.” The first letters of  “l'hadleek ner Chanukah” are three letters, Lamed (L), Nun (N), and Chet (Ch). Rearranged, these letters spell the word NaChaL, that is, a stream or a small river. As I wrote in my essays, “On the Nature of Time and the Age of the Universe,” and “Joseph—the Master of Time,” a river has been the metaphor for time across many cultures. Does this Kabbalistic meditation hints at a connection between Chanukah lights and [...]

Jacob’s Sheep—Particles, Fields and Strings

And it came to pass at the time that the flock conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the he-goats which leaped upon the flock were streaked, speckled, and spotted. (Gen. 31:10)   This week’s Torah reading, Vayeitzei (Gen. 28:10-32:3) talks about three kinds of sheep: streaked, speckled, and spotted.   Streaked Sheep   Streaked sheep (“akudim”) were ankle-ringed. They looked as if their ankles were bound together with a black rope. Hence the name—"akidim" (Hebrew world for streaked, “akud” means bound as in “Akeda”—binding of Isaac). Speckled Sheep Speckled sheep (Heb. “nekudim” from sing. “nakod”.) were sheep with black dots.   Spotted Sheep   Spotted or flecked sheep (Heb. "berudim") were blotched. What is the significance of these streaks, speckles and blotches that the Torah devotes [...]

Balak – Interference of Souls

Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. Moab became terrified of the people, for they were numerous, and Moab became disgusted because of the children of Israel. Moab said to the elders of Midian, "Now this assembly will eat up everything around us, as the ox eats up the greens of the field. Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. He sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of his people, to call for him, saying, "A people has come out of Egypt, and behold, they have covered the 'eye' of the land, and they are stationed opposite me. So now, please come and curse this people for me, for [...]

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