The Netziv’s Classic Intro to Bereishit – translated and annotated by Rabbi Shlomo Grafstein

I want to thank Rabbi Shlomo Grafstein for this monumental effort…Note: The footnote links in this article, as posted on my blog, do not work at present…please scroll down to the footnotes manually to view the footnotes…thanks!

Ron-Ami Meyers


From the appendix of the forthcoming book — Judaism’s Biblea new and expanded translation and elucidation, volume II   

The following article is a translation from the Hebrew of one of the introductions of Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (The Netziv) [1817-1893] to his Biblical commentary, Ha’amek Davar, on the Book of Genesis.  Pertinent footnotes not only show sources, but also include ideas which shed light on this essay and its guidance on Jewish spiritual living. 

 A Torah Taste of Tolerance

This volume, Genesis, is referred to by both the prophets, Joshua and Samuel, as “Sefer HaYashar,”[1]  (Hebrew for “The Book of the Upright”). 

Rabbi Yochanan explains [2] that this is the book that deals with the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who are called upright, as we see that Balaam said, “Let my soul die the death of the upright“.[3]  We shall try to understand the reason why Balaam called our forefathers specifically “upright ones” and not “righteous ones” or “pious ones” or any other appellation.  Moreover, we shall analyze the questions of why Balaam prayed for himself, wishing that his end would be as these upright ones, and why this volume was given the added name, The Book of the Upright.[4]


All these questions can be answered and explained by elucidating upon the phrase in the Song of Ha’a’zi’nu,[5] “The Rock, His Work is perfect…HE is righteous and upright.”[6]  The word “upright” shows the “justness of the judgment” of His destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple during the time of a generation whose outlook was crooked and twisted.[7]

[What prompted GOD, The OMNIPOTENT ONE, to allow the destruction of The Divine Sanctuary?]

 It is explained [8] that the people of that generation of the Second Temple were “righteous”, “pious”,[9] and intensely involved in Torah study.  However, they were not upright in their relationships with others, either in their actions, thoughts, or speech.  Therefore, because of the unwarranted hatred [10] each had for the other,[11] one would falsely accuse another of heresy, simply because the other’s religious expression, and way of respecting and showing reverence to GOD, was not in accordance with one’s own way.[12]  The one whose way was different [13]  was thereby labeled a non-believer and considered cut off from authentic Judaism, even though that person fulfilled The Torah’s Commandments.[14]  This lack of tolerance and limited acceptance of individual religious expression eventually led to murder [15] in the first degree and to all the evils in the world.  Eventually, GOD felt that punishment — the destruction of the Holy Temple — was necessary.[16]

 From this punishment we can see the “righteousness of The Divine Judgment”, for The HOLY ONE, The ALMIGHTY, is Upright and will not tolerate so-called “righteous” people such as these.[17] However, The RULER will sanction them only with the stipulation that they choose the upright way in their relationships with others.  GOD does not want people to be devious, even if their acts are proclaimed “for the sake of Heaven,”[18] since the essence of these acts is corrupt.  This perverted manner destroys creation and uproots the tranquil settlement of the earth.

Now we understand the reason for the unique praise attributed to our patriarchs [and matriarchs]:  not only were they righteous and pious and not only did they love GOD to their fullest abilities, but, in addition, they were upright. [19] That is to say, they accustomed themselves to deal straightforwardly with other people, not only because it is honest to do so, but also because they realized that this positive way of relating to people bestows the continuity of existence on creation.[20]  Even idol worshippers, despite their low and despicable spiritual level,[21] were treated with love and concern for their well-being by our patriarchs [and matriarchs].  This is exemplified by the great extent to which Abraham, our father, applied himself, through intensive prayers and appeals, to gain the preservation of wicked Sodom.[22] Abraham beseeched GOD to spare Sodom even though he hated the people and their leaders to the fullest degree,[23] because of the wickedness that saturated their very being.[24]  Nevertheless, he wanted them to continue to exist.[25]

 In the Midrash,[26] this concept of Abraham’s compassion is touched upon when we learn that The ALMIGHTY said to Abraham, our father, “You love righteousness and hate evil;[27] namely, you love to find the good within all My creatures,[28] to make them right before ME,[29] and you hate to attribute evil to them, to make them guilty.”[30]

 Thus Abraham was truly worthy of being called by GOD, “a [real] father to a multitude of nations”.[31]  For just as when a son does not follow a straight path, yet his father nevertheless desires his welfare and goodness, giving him what is best and most beneficial, so Abraham extended his loving-kindness [in a diverse and variety of ways] to give continuity to the world.[32]

Another clear example of Abraham’s worthiness is exemplified in the grace that was poured forth by Abraham in his unique extension of tolerance toward Lot.[33]  We also see how compassionate, calm and serene Isaac, our father, was, when making no demands himself, he was appeased by his adversaries, Abimelech and his entourage, with a minimum of words of placation.  He was mollified to a much greater extent than they had requested.[34] 

 Jacob, our father, got very angry with Laban, for he knew that Laban wanted to kill him, to destroy him completely, and that Laban would have succeeded in killing him, had it not been for GOD’s intervention.[35]  Nevertheless, Jacob spoke gently to Laban and readily formed a peace agreement with him.[36]  Thus our sages say, “Better is the patriarchs’ reconciliatory approach of dealing with assertiveness than the humility of later generations.”[37]

 There is truly much to be learned from the peaceful manner [38] in which the patriarchs approached life and accepted others, qualities so vitally necessary to sustain the world.[39]  This is the principal idea of this book, The Book of Creation.  Therefore, it is also called The Book of The Upright because of the many episodes of the patriarchs’ deeds which illustrated their true love of humanity and their astounding tolerance.[40]

 What about Balaam?  [What was Balaam’s rationale for calling the patriarchs specifically “the upright ones“?  And why did he wish that his end would be as “the upright ones“?]

At the moment of his Divine Inspiration, he did not consider to wonder about his low level of piety, which was in contrast to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s devotion to GOD.  This was natural because Balaam was a prophet of the nations of the world, and since he believed in idols, the essence of his being came from a source of impurity.[41]

 But Balaam was upset about his bad conduct toward humankind.[42]  Though it was most natural for him, an idolater, to hate The Israelite Nation, because they, The Israelites, were the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and had their source of being in the foundation of sanctity which is diametrically opposed to his source of being, impurity,[43]  nevertheless, it was not proper for him to make the demand that an entire nation be uprooted.[44]  Such an act of destruction would not have been in accordance with the continued existence of the world and would have been the antithesis to humanitarianism.[45]  Concerning his recognition of the Jewish patriarchs’ level of tolerance, Balaam cried out, [I pray,] “Let my soul die the death of the upright and let my end be like his.”[46]

That is to say, Balaam wanted his end to be like that of those who sustain creation and help it remain in existence because they are straight-forward, upright people.  The Book of The Upright, The Book of Creation, and The Book of Genesis are one and the same.  The founders of Judaism — Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Rachel and Leah — are examples to all humanity.  Their godly views reflect true tolerance [47] for, and a real love of humanity since they desire all of creation to exist. [48]

[1]  The words of the prophets are quoted and explained in the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Avodah Zarah 25a, which quotes two prophetic sources: “Is it not written in The Book of the Upright?”  (The Book of Joshua 10:13); “David said, ‘Since the heroes of Israel have fallen, the sons of Judah must teach them [to wage] war and draw the bow.  Behold, it is written in The Book of the Upright,'” (II Samuel 1:18) Note Rashi’s explanation therein.

Is it not paradoxical that The Book of The Upright, which reflects tolerance, harmony and even praying for the welfare of idolaters, is based upon, and learned out from prophetic verses of waging war?  Is war not seemingly parallel opposite to being upright and tolerant?  (Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsbourg)

One could possibly think that in order to emulate the upright patriarchs, men of peace, one should avoid war and not draw the sword at all costs.  However, it was specifically the prophetic verses dealing with war that reflect and create the rule for another manifestation of yashar or uprightness.

Generally, one is a yashar or upright person by being tolerant, patient, and by acting with goodness and consequently by circumventing arguments and confrontations.  This is vis-a`-vis a regular encounter with others.  However, if there are people contemplating to go out to attack and crush Israel, then, “…and the heroes of Israel have fallen…teach them to wage war….”  (II Samuel 1:18)  Even Abraham and his entourage entered into war and fought against and killed four powerful kings and their armies in order to save his family, Lot.  (Genesis 14::14-15)

One is a yashar, an upright person, by avoiding battle with individuals or even groups, if life will go on peacefully.  However, in defense of one’s family or nation, then one is acting in an upright manner and will not tolerate their own demise by avoiding an offensive physical confrontation.  Otherwise, one is advocating suicide with one’s passivity.  A lack of pro-active involvement is parallel opposite to being upright.  That which allows one’s continuity to continue is most noble in GOD’s eyes. <<s>> 05-18-09 Therefore, in certain instances a necessary entry into a war is yashar, most upright and even considered meritorious.  <<s>> 05-22-09

[2]  Talmud, Avodah Zarah 25a

[3]  Numbers 23:10

[4]   Since the patriarchs are also given other names such as, “my beloved” (Isaiah 41:8), then why specifically is the term “the upright ones” chosen by the prophets?

[5]  What is Ha’azi’nu?  Ha’a’zi’nu is one of the 54 Torah portions.  It is written mostly in poetic form, starting with Deuteronomy, chapter 32.

[6]  Deuteronomy 32:4

[7]  They hated one another with unwarranted hatred.  (Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma, chapter one, halachah one)

See Talmud, Yoma 9b.  Unwarranted hatred not only caused the awesome destruction of Jerusalem and The Holy Temple, but it also brought about the termination of the Second Jewish Commonwealth and the uprooting and lengthy exile of The Jewish People for close to two millennia.

[8]  See Deuteronomy 32:5 and Ha’a’mek Davar thereon and Talmud Yoma 9b.

[9]  The adjectives “righteous” and “pious” are in quotation marks.  The generation of the Second Temple was not fully righteous or pious since they did not possess an abundance of love for each other.  Unfortunately, they deceptively appeared pious and they did not possess a righteous spirit, a spirit filled with attributes of The Divine ONE, such as compassion and grace and true love and tolerance for people.

[10]  It is known that Moses was the first to enunciate, “Love your neighbour as yourself….” (Leviticus 19:18), as he transcribed the dictation, Word for Word, from The ALMIGHTY.  Rabbi Akiva said that this verse is a prime pivotal principle in The Torah (Talmud, Yerushalmi, Nedarim 9:4), a key to fulfilling The Will of GOD.  Thus, the opposite, namely, hatred of another, is a prime deviance and a prime inhibitor blocking the fulfillment of The Will of GOD.<<s>>

Although lack of tolerance is not the same as hatred, nevertheless it can lead to hatred, and then its possessor is pulled further and further away from love.

An increase of selfless love will lead to the dissipation of hatred and to a germination of the quality of tolerance.<<s>> 08-24-08 In the face of  receiving bad from another, one can transcend one’s limitations and repay good for the bad.  A prime example is Joseph who not only forgave his brothers, but also extended kindness to them and sustained them.  (Genesis 47:11,12)

One could possibly ask: Yes, Joseph, the righteous one, could perform such noble deeds, but can others also readily do such a herculean acts?  Yes, every Jewish person can accomplish elevated tasks since, “… Your people, everyone is righteous….”  (Isaiah 60:21)<<s>> 09-10-08 “Sinai people”, The Children of Israel, possess three special traits.  They are sensitive, they extend loving-kindness to others and they have compassion.  (Talmud, Yevamouth 79a) <<s>> 11-24-08

[11]  In the end of the period of the Second Temple, Jewish people deviated from the requirements of Judaism which spiritually elevate the individual.  Judaism requires that a person grows with his/her relationships with others, by adhering to the Torah principles which guide this maturity.  “You shall be for a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to ME….”   (Exodus 19:7)  This is an essential foundation, a guiding verse, for at that time, 2000 years ago, such caring for others was lacking in many people.  With GOD’s greater glory, with The Holy Temple of Jerusalem, came the responsibility to rise to a higher level in their attitude toward one another.  Consequently, then, The Jewish People were more culpable when they violated this principle of compassion.<<s>>

Jewish tradition respects the right and responsibility of a learned and observant individual to express Torah opinions that are based on accepted Torah authorities, even when these opinions differ from those popularly held.  Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein who passed away in 1908, author of the Aruch HaShulchan (a major commentary on jurisprudence and a Code of Jewish Law, in and of itself), noted that differences of opinion among the Jewish sages constitute the glory [and harmony] of The Torah:  “The entire Torah is called a ‘song'” (“shirah”(*) in Hebrew).  See Deuteronomy 31:21, 22.  The glory of a song is that the voices differ one from the other.  This is the essence of The Torah’s pleasantness.  (Aruch HaShulchan, introduction to Choshen Mishpat)  In fact, actually, singing a tune which accompanies one’s learning of Torah, assists in its acquisition.  Such singing aids the learning since joy is one of the 48 pre-requisite qualities necessary for a true acquisition of Torah knowledge.  (sixth Perek of Avoth #6)

(*) There are three types of melodies: a melody with words; a melody or tune without words, and a melody without a melody, which encompasses the inherent sweet sounds of Torah.  (Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi)  The sweet sounds of Torah become even sweeter when two learned sages present differing conclusions within Torah, and respect and civility prevail.<<s>> 10-13-08 Eruv Sukkoth 5769

[12] During the time of the Second Temple, The Jewish People were divided into the P’rushim (the Pharisees), a title that comprised a vast majority of The Jewish Nation (people who believed in and were observant of Torah principles and practices), and the Tze’du’kim (the Sadducees), a minority, and deviant group, (heretics, denigrators of The Divine Oral Traditions).(*)  The on-going situation of intolerance and lack of principle became so bad that some P’rushim branded as a Tze’du’ki anyone who deviated even slightly from a prevailing practice.  To dissent from the dominant opinion, to err, by treating some aspect of Jewish Law lightly and thereby sinning in action, unfortunately resulted in that person being ostracized.  This pejorative labeling was falsely affixed to even one observant of, and believing in, Torah’s principles.

Rabbi Berlin applied this lesson of the necessity of tolerance to his own era:  “It is not difficult to imagine reaching this situation in our time, Heaven forbid, that if one of the faithful thinks that a certain person does not follow his way in the service of GOD, then he will judge him as a heretic. He will distance himself from him.  People will pursue one another with seeming justification (“be’heter dim’yon” [Hebrew]), Heaven forbid, and The People of GOD will be destroyed, Heaven forbid.”(**)  (Meshiv Davar, volume I, responsa number 44, published in Warsaw 5654 /1896 C.E.)

(*) See the essay The Oral Torah by Moshe Chayim Luzzato (from Ma’a’mar Ha’Ik’ka’rim) translated in Judaism’s Bible: a new and expanded translation & elucidation, volume II.

There are denigrators of The Divine Oral Traditions in our present age. However, because of various factors, they are considered as “infants taken captive among the idolaters” and are not considered intentional sinners.  They are not [fully] accountable.  (Sh’ai’loth U’te’shu’voth Bin’yan Tzion Ha’Cha’da’shoth, Rabbi Ya’a’kov Yu’kav Ettlinger, # 23, Vilna, Lithuania, 1878)  Also see Melamed Le-ho’eel by Rabbi Dr. David Tzvi Hoffman (1843-1921), Berlin, Germany, 1925.

Rather than being labeled a heretic and pushed away, any Jewish person who has deviated from observance should be drawn (***) in the direction of Torah’s Truths by abundant “cords oflove.”  (Chazon Ish,Letters of “Bitachon” [Hebrew for “Trust in GOD”])  With respect to The HOLY and Blessed ONE, the prophet mentions “cords of love.”  (Hoshea 11:4)  With a display of such tolerance one is emulating GOD Who continues, with love, to give life to one who deviates from acceptable actions.  See the first listed Divine trait of GOD Tomar Devorah by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero.  <<s>> 05-22-09

(**)  Rabbi Berlin wrote “Heaven forbid” three times in his responsa.  Why? The effect of   pursuing one another was so awesome an act that it warranted a repeat of such powerful language, since the terrible potential destruction of the people of GOD could be the result, GOD-forbid.<<s>> 10-29-06 “The LORD protects the one who is being pursued.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:15)  In a sense, The ALMIGHTY will not let the pursuer be successfully.  In a sense, The ALMIGHTY loves the pursued person. <<s>> 10-31-08  The LORD always seeks, namely, The LORD is on the side of the pursed person to exact retribution from the pursuer.  Ultimately a person will be held responsible for his/her deeds.  (Rashi)

(***)  The love, sensitivity and caring that Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook demonstrated towards non-observant people was legendary.  At times, such warmth was even greater than that which he showed toward his own students, whom he considered to be his children.  Unfortunately, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook did not have any children.  His demonstrative love entered the heart of numerous secular-oriented Israelis, and as a result many were drawn to the study and the observance of Torah

In 1970, I brought a French Jew, a beginning student of Torah, to Reb Amram Blau’s apartment in Meah Shearim, Jerusalem.  I knew that this student would get clear answers to his questions in his mother tongue by speaking with Amram Blau’s wife, Ruth, who also originated from France.  She was away from Eretz Yisrael on a chessed mission.  See Mishpachah Magazine, Shavuoth edition, 5769.  With great love, Reb Amram clarified several principles of Torah to this young man, to his satisfaction.  I translated the Hebrew and Yiddish ideas to the student.  The outpouring of caring and enlightening Torah thoughts made a profound impression on this student.  With “cords of love,” the student not only cut his very long pony-tail, had the tattoo, his literal “sign between his eyes” (Deuteronomy 6:8), removed, lay tefillin every day, went through circumcision (****) at Shaarei Tzedek Hospital, but also embarked on a long dedication to intensive Torah study, day and night, until he eventually became a teacher of Torah himself; he is scholar and an author of books on Torah Wisdom.

(****)  His parents were holocaust survivors, originally from Poland. They were fearful of another holocaust.  Consequently, they did not want their son to be physically identifiable as a Jew in France.

[13] Within The Torah, there is room for various opinions, “These and those are the words of The Living LORD, and the ruling is in accordance with Beit Hillel.”  See Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin Chapter 4:2, and Chidushei HaRitva, on the Talmud, Eruvin 13b, for clarification and explanations of this concept.  However, in order to be acceptable, different ideas must be within the boundaries of Torah rules and values.  Only then can they have legitimacy in the eyes of GOD and Israel.  One cannot espouse values that run counter and are clearly contrary to those of The Written Torah and The Divine Oral Torah and then call them authentic Torah values, even if one possesses the title “Rabbi”.  To do so is a perversion of The Torah and a distortion of GOD’s Revelation.

In addition, the advocate of a Torah opinion must not only be deeply learned in Torah wisdom and sharply honed, capable to evaluate and clarify specific fine points in Jewish Law, but also must be personally observant of Jewish Law, live a superior ethical and moral life based on Torah Legislation and Torah Principles.  Moreover, this person must be a firm believer in “Torah M’Sinai” — the belief that during a period of close to 40 years, each and every letter of The Torah was transmitted by The Divine ONE to Moses, the teacher of all of The Jewish People.  See Talmud, Sanhedrin, perek chelek and The Rambam’s introduction to Mishnayoth and his commentary on perek chelek.

[14] There was an historical reconciliation between two different schools of thought, the mitnagdim and the chassidim, when Rabbi Yechiel Michel HaLevi Epstein and the leader of the Chabad Chassidim, The Tzemach Tzedek, had a dialogue.  Rabbi Baruch HaLevi Epstein explained, “I believe that both sides came to the inevitable conclusion that neither method nor approach was absolutely correct for all Jews.  In addition, each person must walk in the holy path that most befits his [her] soul, so long as that path leads one to true faith and holiness.” (Mekor Baruch)

Even though Rabbi Baruch Epstein concluded that both streams of thought felt that their method or approach was not absolutely correct for all Jews, yet, as a point of information, it is an integral principle in Chassidic thought that every Jew should learn a certain amount of Divine esoteric wisdom.  The Baal Shem Tov alluded to this necessity as a pre-requisite to the bringing of the messiah, “when the `wellsprings’ of Chassidic ideas will be spread outside.” (Letter of the Ba’al Shem Tov to his brother-in-law, Rabbi Gershom Kitover, written in the year 1746)  See Ginzei Nistoroth Ohr Yisrael, p. 22, and the introduction of the Maggid of Mezeritch to the Likkutei Amarim.

Why did the Men of The Great Assembly redact the language of prayers specifically with the following apparent redundancy, “The GOD of Abraham, The GOD of Isaac and The GOD of Jacob?” (Amidah prayer)  There is only one GOD!  Why could the Amidah not have simply said, “The GOD of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?”  Each one of the three patriarchs found a unique Divine path that he emphasized as his foundational means of connecting to The ALMIGHTY, as he served GOD, in his own way, with loving-kindness, with strength, and with harmony, respectively.  (Ba’al Shem Tov)

In a similar sense, in the educational process, some students will gravitate towards greater devotion to Torah study, others will have a stronger propensity to “service of the heart” — namely, prayer — and others will gravitate towards an emphasis on doing acts of loving-kindness. (*)  It is the responsibility of parents and educators to accentuate the youngsters’ individual qualities, so that they will flourish in congruence with an appropriate manifestation of their unique souls.  (Rabbi Mordechai Machlis, of Jerusalem)  “Extend education to the youth according to his way….”  (Proverbs 22:6)  An educator should view the individual student as a world unto himself/herself and take into account his way and not the teacher’s way.<<s>> 09-15-08 In addition, the flexibility of dealing with a student encompasses allowing and encouraging him/her to spend more time on some particular area of study that he or she personally wants to learn.  It may even be outside of the regular curriculum and even serve as a substitute for some regular study.  <<s>> 06-08-09

Tremendous growth in learning comes to a person when he/she attaches his/her mind to “whatever place [topic] his/her heart desires” [to absorb]. (Talmud, Avodah Zarah 19a; Yalkut Shimoni, Psalms 614) <<s>>

The opportunity for individual godly expression within Judaism is so strong within the Covenant of Faith that, in a marriage, a husband and wife have the right and opportunity to personally strive as unique individuals.  Each can embody ideological Torah thoughts and also stress authentic Torah philosophies different one from the other as together they build their “true house in Israel.”  Then, they will grow with the additional benefit of complementing each other.  Of course, in many areas of life they must practice common Jewish customs and laws.(**)  <<s>>

(*) Simeon the Righteous One was prone to say that the world rests on three concepts: on Torah, on Service, and upon Acts of Loving-kindness. (Mishnah, Avoth 1:2)

(**) One example of the necessity of complying with the same customs and laws would be the couple’s acceptance of kosher dietary laws in common, even when each may have come from different family backgrounds which had permitted one of them different foods and ipso facto differences in standards of Jewish Law; for example, the consumption of rice on Passover is permitted by certain Sephardic groups, whereas Ashkenazic Jewry have the rabbinical prohibition of not eating rice on Passover.  See the Ramah in the Code of Jewish Law, Orech Chayim 453:1.

[15] The Netziv, Rabbi Berlin, knew that intolerance can lead to actual murder.  Jewish internal squabbles led to their lack of a united stand against the Romans and, consequently, numerous murders by the Romans. (*)   The intolerant Jews were culpable for they caused the atrocity that ensued.

In addition, intolerance can also lead to another form of murder. Intolerance of individual religious expression limits The Divine Presence in This World.  Such a lack of broadmindedness inhibits a true fulfillment of the major stipulation of the Affirmation of Faith.  There is a constant positive duty “to love GOD, Your LORD with all your heart….”  (Deuteronomy 6:5) <<s>> One of the personal ramifications of this positive duty is: each Jew is bidden to allow and encourage The Torah to flow through the matrix of his or her own unique personality.(**)  “One should love GOD with all of his/her own heart, not with his/her teacher’s heart, nor with his/her parents’ hearts.”  (Rabbi Ze’ev Chaim Lifshitz, Dean of Sadnat Enosh, Jerusalem)  GOD wants each person to exert, within the parameters of Torah guidelines, individual godly expression.

An indication of one of the traits of a great teacher and a nurturing parent is the use of any and all techniques available to elicit individual expression from those students and children who are in one’s care.<<s>> 10-13-08, Eruv Chag HaSukkoth 5769

(*) At the time of the Roman siege of Jerusalem in the first century of The Common Era, there was enough grain in the storehouses in Jerusalem to last for 20 years.  (Midrash Eichah)  Most of the Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem felt that they could hold out and not have to go out and fight the surrounding Roman army.  They were secure, well-protected within the walled city of Jerusalem.  However, the Jewish zealots insisted on fighting, and so they burned the Jewish-owned granaries within the walled city, forcing the opening of the Gates of Jerusalem in order to seek sustenance outside of the city.  This resulted in a direct confrontation with the Roman legions and the subsequent destruction of both Jerusalem and of The Holy Temple.  Many Judean Hebrews were murdered and the survivors were sent into exile.  This group of zealots felt that their way was the only way.

In contrast to those devious zealots, there are, in Jewish history, righteous zealots whose acts are not only acceptable, but also meritorious, such as Judah the Maccabee, who, [with Divine wisdom], killed a traitor who was desecrating The Temple of Jerusalem, and thereby Judah sanctified GOD’s Name.  He acted with dedication to preserve the purity of The Jewish faith against Hellenism.  He fought to stifle Jewish assimilation.  See The Book of Maccabees.  There is a time for authentic zealousness to be employed when it is used to fulfill the Will of GOD and not to further one’s own personal agenda. The classical Biblical example of a most noble and praiseworthy zealot is Pinchas.  See The Book of Numbers 25:11.  Zealotry requires a complete

pure motive and Divine Guidance.

(**) The Alter of Slabodka not only stressed the potential of a person in general, but the unique potential of each [and every] individual. (Yonason Rosenblum Reb Yaakov, The Life and Times of HaGaon Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, Mesorah Publications Ltd., Brooklyn, N. Y. 1993, p. 50)  Day by day for nearly a week, the Alter of Slabodka chastised Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz, the spiritual advisor of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Poland, for not allowing each student to develop his own unique expression. (Ibid. p.53)  The Alter, the spiritual mentor, had encouraged individuality to such an extent so that his students could even reject his advice! (ibid)(***)

    Rabbi Mordechai Shulman, Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka in Israel, described the quest of Isaac, the patriarch:  “It was clear to Isaac that he would not reach the status of a patriarch (a founding father of The Jewish People) [simply] through emulating the trait of loving-kindness of Abraham, his father.  He became Isaac, the patriarch, through the approach of ‘pachad Yitzchak’; namely, with the use of his ‘innate introspective strength.’  Although Isaac was the student of Abraham, his father, he could only become Isaac, the patriarch, by means of his own unique pathway.”

“… every human being has his/her special purpose and must discover his `name,’ namely the proper expression of his own individuality…”  (Reuven Grossman, The Legacy of Slabodka, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem, 1986, p. 66)  Judaism, to be practiced, as required by GOD, does not advocate a “penguin” approach.  Yet, there is some sense of obligation “not to deviate from the congregation.” (Mishnah Avoth 2:4; Talmud, Ta’anith 11a)  Moreover, one must bear in mind the principle of “in a place where there is a[n established] custom” (Talmud, Pesachim, chapter four) one should adapt a compliance to that custom.

(***) Advice is merely a suggestion, even if it comes from the profound counsel of the Alter.  Of course, one should take such sagacious advice seriously.  However, the Alter knew that individual freedom to choose, when the decision is not contrary to The Torah, is a true expression of being created in the Image of The LORD.  See Rashi on Genesis 1:26, “to discern and to understand.”

Great Jewish leaders will merely advise and not dictate to their disciples.  Good advice which can help another is a fulfillment of the Biblical precept of extending loving-kindness to another. <<s>> 03-06-07  The Torah sets an equivalent to dictation and not mere advice when referring to established legislation from the Sanhedrin.  However, when mere advice is given, rather than the dictates of a particular ruling of the Sanhedrin, then the principle, “do not deviate either to the right or to the left from what they tell you….”(Deuteronomy 17:11) it is not mandatory and binding. (****)  The individual can use his or her own GOD-given talents to accept sagacious advice or choose to ignore it.  However, when a clear binding rule of Jewish Law is presented, then an individual Jew must strive to comply. (*****)

(****)  Of course, receiving a lack of a response by simply being ignored could possibly upset the deliverer of the advice.  The recipient should at least minimally acknowledge and thank the other for their sincere interest, and also respond. A response does not have to be too difficult or even committal.  An example is, “I will think about it.”<<s>> 08-24-08

(*****)  One who is on the path toward accepting, but has not yet accepted, “the responsibility of The Commandments” can only strive to comply, but that person may not necessarily comply and fulfill the appropriate requirement.  Others should be tolerant of such growth.  Moreover, sometimes in the process toward spiritual growth, the path may be two steps forward and one step back.<<s>> 09-15-08  This movement is referred to as “rah’tza v’shov,”  Hebrew for “forward movement and return” (back).  See Ezekiel 1:14.

[16]  The Jewish People were liable to be wiped out by Divine Judgment.  GOD, in His Mercy, “thrust His anger on the wood and on the stones, [as HE destroyed The Temple], instead of making an end to His children.”  See Psalms 79:1, based on Lamentations 4:1.  If The Temple had remained intact, it would have been a tool for redemption, which The Jewish People would have readily been able to attain.  However, the destruction of The Temple contained an element of the extension of GOD’s Mercy:  the opportunity for mandatory prayer to function as a substitute for the service in The Temple gave each person an additional definite opportunity to have a binding personal and intimate individual relationship with GOD.  Thus, wherever s/he would be, “GOD is as close to all who call out onto Him, to all who call out sincerely with truth.”  (Psalms 145:18) <<s>> 07-23-08, Air Canada, Toronto, to Vancouver    In additional, the facet of personal repentance, a gift from GOD, would become magnified through increased prayer. <<s>> 07-07-09

Didn’t the gift of prayer exist even prior to the destruction of The Temple?  In fact, it existed from the time of Creation with Adam.  See Rashi’s comment on Genesis 2:5 quoting Talmud, Chullin 60a.  However, with the destruction of The Temple in Jerusalem, the enactment of obligatory prayer took the place of “avodah,” Hebrew for “service.” <<s>> 10-13-08, Eruv Chag HaSukkoth 5769   The three daily prayers are uttered in the place of the offerings of The Temple. (Talmud, B’rachoth 26a)

GOD primarily continues to manifest The Divine Attribute of Mercy.  “The loving-kindness of GOD fills the earth.”  (Psalms 33:5)  “For I said, the world is created through loving-kindness.” (ibid. 89:3)   “The loving-kindness of EL exists the entire day.”  (ibid. 52:3)(*)  However, when it is necessary, The LORD manifests The Divine Attributes of Justice.  Justice is one of the three pillars upon which This World rests.  Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says, “upon three things the world exists: on the truth, on (the) justice and on (the) peace….”  (Mishnah, Avoth 1:18)  We see that the concept of justice is specifically placed in the middle of the sequence.  Justice is surrounded by truth and peace.  Authentic justice must be applied in both a peaceful and honest way. <<s>> 

(*)  “EL,” a Hebrew appellation for GOD, reflects a greater manifestation of The Divine Attribute of Mercy than even the name Y-H-V-H.  “EL” represents giving on the part of The DIVINE ONE.  (GurAryeh)  The letter sequence of the name EL is the reverse of the Hebrew word “lo” which translates “no.”  “EL” implies “yes.”  In an affirmative way, GOD is always ready to give. <<s>>  GOD is constantly available to acquiesce to His children.<<s>> 09-15-08

[17]  When an individual acts in a leadership capacity, then that person has the additional responsibility to be even more accountable than others.  Such a person should not even have a stain on his garments. (*) See Rav in Talmud, Yoma 86a.  In addition, that leader should pay immediately for any items that he purchases, even if credit has been extended to every customer.  (Talmud, Shabbat 114a; Rambam, Laws of Knowledge 5:9)  There is a greater responsibility demanded of a righteous person since he can sanctify GOD’s glory in a greater way as the embodiment of a Living Sefer Torah <<s>> 10-29-06  or GOD-forbid, the opposite —  he can desecrate GOD’s Name more than other people.<<s>>  03-13-07

(*)  All the more so, a leader should not have a stain on his personality. <<s>> 07-10-08  Personality flaws are most difficult rectify.  Rambam, Laws of Return (Repentance), chapter   , law #     .     It is more difficult to alter and improve and transform one’s personality trait than to learn the entire Shas/Talmud.  (Rabbi Israel Salanter)

[18]  Having the noble intent to do an act “for the sake of heaven” is an appropriate accompaniment to the performance of every deed.  (RambaN)  Such thoughts embellish the deed and elevate it to a higher spiritual plane.

[19]  Previously the Netziv mentioned that there were people who were viewed as being righteous and pious, yet they were not upright.  Such people are lacking immensely.  If they are missing the trait of uprightness, it means that their righteousness and their piety are not authentic in GOD’s perspective.  However, when the component of uprightness is included and supplements piety and righteousness, then a very supreme godly level of living can be achieved. <<s>> 07-23-08

Such examples of those who have attained a supreme godly level of living can be found in authentic Torah sages.  One could learn an abundant amount of wisdom by observing their “mundane” actions, even by observing their tying of their shoelaces. See the introduction of the Interlinear Artscroll on Avoth.

[20]  Those who act with dishonesty and crookedness create a corrupt world which cannot exist in the full richness of being a recipient of a Divine blessing.  Symbolically, we can look at the word “emeth”, Hebrew for “truth”.  When one removes a small portion from it — the letter “aleph” — what remains is the word, “meth”, which means “death”.  (Netiv Emeth, authored by the Ma’ha’ral.  This idea was also taught by Rabbi Eliahu of Vilna)  Similarly, if one takes a minimum amount away from the name (and teachings of) Mosheh (Hebrew for Moses), which numerically is 345, then one is confronted with “sh’mad” (numerically, 344), capitulation to “apostasy”.(*)<<s>>   One can get to “the source,” (“makor” in Hebrew) [numerically 346] and get away from “sh’mad” only with The Torah of Moses.<<s>>  By studying and then by practicing The Torah of Moses, one can also achieve a higher level, with an incorporation of “His Name” (“sh’mo” in Hebrew), and all the spirituality and blessings that it entails. “Sh’mo” also has an expanded notation of 346. (Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg), 08-24-08

“His Name” is, in fact, “the source.”  <<s>> 06-02-09

By acting dishonestly, one moves out of the realm of truth to the domain of falsehood.  “False matters have no feet.” (the beginning of aleph bet of Rabbi Akiva; Tikkunei Zohar 428)  With the utterance of something false, one is immobilized and cannot go forward properly in life. <<s>> 11-30-06    “Falsehood has no `teshuvah’, Hebrew for `repair.’” [Midrash Ruth Rabbah 5:5]

The Glory of GOD is manifested in Truth.  When GOD revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush, GOD said, “I shall be as I shall be.”  (Exodus 3:14)  The Hebrew is “eh’heh’yeh asher eh’heh’yeh.”  This Hebrew word “eh’heh’yeh” has an expanded notation of 21.  The twice-written word “eh’heh’yeh” is 21 times 21 which equals 441, or the numerical value of the Hebrew word “eh’meth” or “truth.” (Yitzchak Donsky, HaKohen, 2007) Prior to Reb Yitzchak’s utterance, this “original idea” had been conceived both over 200 years before by the Vilna Gaon and again repeated 85 years ago  by the Imrei Emeth, the Gerrer Rebbe (told to me by Dr. Alan Haber at the J.C.C.).

(*) The name of our teacher, Mosheh is composed of: “mem”=40, “shin”=300 and “hay”=5, which totals 345. The word “sh’mad” equals “shin”=300, “mem”=40 and “dalet”=4, which totals 344.  The Hebrew word “makor” equals, “mem”=40, “kuf”=100, “vav”=6, and “resh”=200, which totals 346. Also the Hebrew word “sh’mo” (meaning “His Name”), which is composed of “shin”=300, “mem”=40, and “vav”=6, equals 346.

[21]  “You saw the disgusting, putrid idols….”  (Deuteronomy 29:16)   “There must not be among you a root (of idolatry), that bears gall and wormwood.”  (Ibid. verse 17)  GOD, The RULER of the cosmos, set as an imperative the Divine standard of a total rejection of idolatry.  See Exodus 20:3,4 and Deuteronomy 5:7,8.  The rejection of idolatry is so significant that there are are 65 separate Biblical prohibitions in The Torah to distance oneself from idolatry.

Why is idolatry so bad?  To worship something created is false.  It is the element of falsehood that makes it so terribly bad.  See Maimonides comment on Mishnah, Avodah Zarah, chapter four.  Also to deify an object or a person that is finite, limits the expansiveness of the character and of the soul of such a worshipper.<<s>>

In contrast, GOD is infinite, without boundaries.  GOD is called “ain sof” or “without an end.”  Consequently, worshippers of GOD can live and grow with limitedless possibilities as they strive for godliness, imitatio dei, Latin forimitating GOD.” <<s>> 09-01-08   Parenthetically, an appropriate “…help-mate” (see Genesis 2:18) is one who encourages his or her partner to strive to accomplish more. <<s>> 09-15-08  “What is heaven, but to strive for?”  Only when one is so encouraged, can one live a godly-oriented boundless life.  <<s>> 09-01-08.

[22]  Genesis, chapter 18:23-33

[23]  Does The Torah say that Abraham hated the Sodomites?  (Philip Silverman)  No, it does not say so.  However, Abraham truly loved GOD.  Regarding him, the prophet writes, “Abraham, who loves ME.”  (Isaiah 41:8)  “Those who love GOD hate evil….”  (Psalms 97:10)  Thus, specifically one intrinsically bound up with an abundance of love for GOD, such as Abraham, could hate (evil). <<s>> 07-23-08

[24] One is allowed to hate the intensely wicked people (*) because the very wicked, if left unchecked, could destroy the earth. (**)  Regarding one who is not so enveloped in total wickedness, one is allowed to hate only their wicked deeds, but not the wicked person himself.  See the episode of Rebbi Meir and his wife Bruria and her sagacious advice to him:  “Do not pray for sinners to cease, rather pray for sin to cease [for the evildoers to repent].”  Then there will not be any more wicked people [and everyone will be righteous].  (Talmud, B’rachoth 10a)  Bruria based her wisdom on the understanding of the verse from The Book of Psalms, “Let wickedness be destroyed from the earth.”  (Psalms 104:35)  This verse implies the termination of wickedness itself and not the death of the wicked person.

(*)  See the articles entitled, The Parameters of Hatred, 5762, and The Border of Tolerance, 5763 by Rabbi Benjamin Hecht, the founder and director of Nishmah.  These essays are found on

(**) If the wickedness dissipates, that is, if the wicked have ceased and desisted from perpetuation of evil — then one is not allowed to hate them.  Everyone possesses a potential to “return.”  This opportunity to return is especially potent. Consequently, if the deviant person views himself or herself as having such an opportunity, (***) then, he or she will return. <<s>> 08-22-08

(***)  Repentance, or the gift “to return,” is one of seven unique items that were created prior to the creation of This World.  (Talmud, Pesachim 54a and Nedarim 39b)  See Judaism’s Biblea new and expanded translation, volume I, p.29.  Consequently, with the use of this powerful gift, one can transcend all boundaries and limits. <<s>> 09-15-08   See Rabbi Kook’s Philosophy of Repentance, by Rabbi Abraham  Isaac HaKohen Kook, translated by Rabbi  Alter Benzion Metzger, Yeshiva University Press, New York City, 1968.

[25]  Abraham lived in the hope that the wicked people of Sodom would some day turn to Divine moral living.  See Gateway to Happiness by Zelig Pliskin, B’nay Yakov, 1983, Brooklyn, New York.  Abraham emulated The ALMIGHTY who waits patiently for the wicked to better themselves.  GOD is The Humble King Who gives people a chance.  See the first Divine Attribute, of the 13 Divine Attributes, in Tomar Devorah, by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero:  “Who is like YOU….”

Moreover, the prophet advocates an optimistic view that the future will be improved with new good choices.  “May the wicked one forsake his path and the deceitful man his thoughts, and let him return to GOD Who will show him mercy, and [return] to our LORD, for GOD is abundantly forgiving.”  (Isaiah 55:7)  Also note what the Prophet David wrote, “I have said in my haste, all of humanity is deceitful.”  (Psalms 116:11)

“YOU favour the repentance of the wicked and YOU do not desire their death.” See the Neilah Service of Yom Kippur, which stresses the return of the individual supplicant to good ways.  GOD, The LORD says, “I do not desire the death of the wicked one, but only the wicked one’s return from his way, that he may live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways — why should you die, Oh House of Israel?”  (Ezekiel 33:11); “Do I desire at all the death of the wicked man…?  Is it not rather his return from his ways, so that he may live?”  (Ibid. 18:23)

Just as GOD always “keeps the door open,” (*) so the upright person “never closes the door to another.”<<s>>  See Judaism’s Bible — a new and expanded translation, volume I, p. 26-27, footnote #3.

(*) GOD’s abundance of patience generates hope.

[26]  Midrash Genesis Rabbah, Chapter 49

[27]  “YOU love righteousness and hate wickedness.”  (Psalms 45:8)

[28]  GOD refers to Abraham as “Abraham who loves ME” (Isaiah 41:8); that is, Abraham is said to have “loved GOD” because he loved righteousness.  (Zohar HaKodesh, B’reishith 1:76b)  Abraham was a father to GOD’s children.  GOD asked, “Shall I destroy the children without informing the father [Abraham], who is My beloved friend?”  (Rashi on Genesis 18:17)  In this episode regarding The DIVINE ONE’s destruction of the cities, it is because of Abraham’s uprightness and devoted caring for others that GOD consulted with him prior to overthrowing the five cities and their inhabitants. Abraham’s righteousness emanated from his being upright. <<s>> 07-23-08

[29]  Do not look at what appears to be evil as evil.  “Judge everyone in the scale of merit.”  (Yehoshua ben P’rach’ya in Mishnah Avoth 1:6)   Even though the bad deed is wrong, find an extenuating reason for the other person’s act.  Moreover, perhaps the action can be justified.  Be a realistic advocate of goodness for all.  This was the approach of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev, who always found a merit in the individual even when the act appeared bad.  The Rabbi did not even feel that the action was apparently bad; all the more so, it was not really evil. (*)

However, it should be noted, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  (Edmund Burke [1729-1797])  There is a time to stand and oppose a havoc-filled situation and a time to avoid a destructive person. <<s>> 07-23-08

There is a positive result in finding the good in another.  The person who has acted badly may very likely become good if another reinforces their positive attributes; and then the latent sparks of goodness within their very being are bolstered and ignited with this new positive self-image.  Accentuating the latent good with positive reinforcement will bring out and activate the good within another and it will also assist in transforming him/her.  With a more positive self-image additional positive deeds will most likely ensue. <<s>>

(*)  Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was phenomenal in his abundance of love for people and he possessed a whole slue of “alibis” when people appeared to deviate from standard Jewish practice in order to justify the rightness of their behaviour.

[30]  When Avraham Yitzchok HaCohen Kook arrived at the Yeshiva of Volozhin, he asked the Rosh HaYeshiva (The Dean), Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (The Netziv), for permission to wear tefillin all day as a personal dedicated spiritual act.(*)  Rabbi Berlin approved of this request.  A short time later, Rabbi Rabinowitz, one of the married scholars, requested permission from the dean to also wear tefillin all day.  Rabbi Berlin denied his request.  Rabbi Berlin explained to Rabbi Rabinowitz that he was a tzaddik, a righteous person.  However, Avraham Yitzchok HaCohen, even though he was not yet married, was a “yashar,” Hebrew for, “an upright person.”  Avraham Yitzchok HaCohen had achieved the level of a “yashar.” He greatly emulated this Divine trait (**) which Abraham the patriarch possessed, because, he loved to find the good within all of GOD’s creatures. He hated to attribute evil to them. (***)    (As heard from Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik, z”tz”l at the 50th  year memorial gathering in the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, New York City, 1985 honouring Rabbi Kook)

One has to be on the spiritual plateau of continually seeking the good within others in order to merit the personal level to be allowed to wear tefillin all day. <<s>>

The Netziv said that it was worthwhile to have built the Yeshiva of Volozhin just for the sake of Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook alone!

(*)  See Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18 for the Biblical sources for tefillin.  Nowadays, tefillin (also called phylacteries) are generally only worn during the morning prayers every day, except for Shabbat and Festivals

(**)  Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook was emulating GOD.  The ALMIGHTY wears tefillin all day. (Talmud, B’rachoth 7a comments on Exodus 33:23)  Also see Rashi and Talmud, B’rachoth 6a.  See the Ma’har’sha, Rashba, Perushei HaHa’gadoth, Ben’ei HaGra and I’yun Yaakov.  What is written in GOD’s tefillin?  “And who is like Your people Israel, one nation on this earth, when GOD went forth to redeem unto Himself for a people.”  (I Chronicles 17:21)  See II Samuel 7:23.  GOD views The Jewish People through the prism of love, “…I loved Jacob.”  (Malachi 1:2)  GOD looks only for the good, the same as a loving father views his cherished child only in a positive light.  <<s>> 05-24-09, Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5769

(***)  Finding the good in all people does not diminish the responsibility of speaking up when a virtuous, caring person observes the inappropriate actions of others.  Since Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook loved the Torah and loved people, he would not be silent and he would not tolerate everything.  Consequently,  Rabbi Kook wrote a letter to Dr. Kupin in Iyar 5670 [May 1910]:

“…. In HerzlForest, people desecrate the Shabbat in public, and the Jewish guard [there] rides his horse throughout the entire Shabbat, night and day….”  “…it is impossible for us to tolerate and suffer [bear] desecration of The Holy Name, before all of Israel, on common public property.  Please sir, quickly remove this horrible blemish and banish shame from GOD’s portion.”  (Rav A.Y. Kook Selected Letters translated andannotated by Tzvi Feldman, Yeshiva Birkat Moshe, Jerusalem, Israel, 1986)

If Rav Kook was so patience with so many things, why did he not also bear this particular situation?  However, when it came to a publicly sanctioned “chillul HaShem,” an overt “profaning of GOD’s greater glory,” Rav Kook, the tolerant one, the upright one, clearly said, “…it is impossible to tolerate….”<<s>>

When the Chofetz Chayim, Rabbi Israel Meyer HaCohen, a saintly 19th and 20th century leader, saw the blatant overt desecration of the Shabbos on his visit to Warsaw, Poland, he could not tolerate such a desecration of GOD’s Name, a Chillul HaShem.  The Chofetz Chayim broke down and cried.  He was a man who possessed great control, and he knew that crying on Shabbos is generally not acceptable.  So why did the Chofetz Chayim cry?  He could not simply accept the desecration with passivity and his soul was naturally forced to react.  He could not tolerate such an overwhelming horrendous situation, which he had observed for the first time in his life. (*)

My maternal grandfather, Reb Yechiel Chayim, z”tz”l, was a most patient and understanding person, capable of tolerating a great deal.  However, when the Jewish neighbour across the street was cutting the grass on Saturday, and thereby desecrating the Shabbat Day, my zaidie walked over to him and gently persuaded him not to do so in front of him in respect for the Shabbos, which he cherished.

There is a difference of one’s approach between tolerance of thought (on the part of the one who tolerates), which should reign supreme, and tolerance of dastardly acts against which one must speak out.  Otherwise, “silence is like acquiescence.”  (Talmud, Yevamouth 87b; Bava Metzia 37b; Pirkei d’Rebbi Eliezer, chapter 39) <<s>> 08-17-08

(*)  In a sense, the Chofetz Chayim was crying for the opportunity to repent, to follow Torah’s guidelines of the standards for goodness and to live in godliness that assimilated Jewish people had temporarily lost. <<s>> 09-31-08  They were living without having the beauty and richness of Shabbat observance permeating their lives.  The Chofetz Chayim was also crying along together with the Shabbat that was crying for her lost partner(s), (**) the not-yet observant individual(s). <<s>> 10-16-08, first day of Chol HaMoed Sukkoth 5769

(**)  Each day of the week is coupled with another day as a partner.   Shabbat, “the odd day out” of seven, felt that she stood alone.  The CREATOR reassured The Shabbat Day that she had a partner.  It was The Nation of Israel.  (Genesis Rabbah 11:8)

[31]   See Genesis, chapter 17:4, 5.  The name “Abraham” means “a father to a multitude of nations.”  The Hebrew name “Avraham” reflects quite an elevated personage.  Abraham personified an elevation of spirit.  The name has in it “av” which means leader or “father” to “great heights”, “ram” in Hebrew.  <<s>> 05-22-09

[32]  When people acted badly, Abraham acted in a goodly manner toward them.  For example, even when he saw men who practiced idolatry, he lovingly brought them into his home.  However, since the standard of holiness of Abraham’s home was to be maintained and not compromised, Abraham insisted that they remove the idols before they entered his home.  Any overt object of foreign worship, anything related to idolatry, was to be kept out of his domicile.  See Genesis 18:3, Rashi thereon, and footnote in Judaism’s Biblea new and expanded translation, volume one, p. 270, footnote # 35, where there is an elaboration of the standard to maintain holiness.  Abraham personifies the fulfillment of hospitality, par excellence. (ibid. and Genesis chapter 18)  However, the priority of maintaining sanctity in his home superseded the potential loss of the opportunity to perform the positive duty of welcoming guests. <<s>> Also see Bethuel’s removal of objects of idolatry before Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, would enter his house.  (Rashi quoting Midrash Genesis Rabbah on Genesis 24:31)  There, idolaters were cognizant that even, in Abraham’s servant’s presence there was a prerequisite to adhere to the Abrahamic standard to be adistant from actual idolatry.

[33]  Abraham acquiesced to give away a significant portion of land to Lot to his brother’s son.  (Genesis, 13:1-11)  It was quite clear to Abraham that harmony would subsequently prevail.  Abraham’s action is in contrast to the later established Prohibition for The People of Israel not to relinquish any portion of The Covenant Land to any other nation. <<s>>  03-03-09

[34]  Abraham was cool-headed and accepting.  (Genesis 21:22-24)  Yet, there was “a red line that could not be crossed.”  Abraham was not accepting of the situation of their seizure of the well.

[35] Laban said to Jacob, “It is in the power of my hand to harm you.  However The LORD of your father spoke to me yesterday at night, saying, `Watch out that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad.'” (Genesis 31:29)   Also it is written in The Torah: “The Aramean killed my father…”  (Deuteronomy 26:5)  This means that Laban tried to kill Jacob. (ibid., Rashi)  Laban’s mere intentions and machinations to murder Jacob made Laban culpable of murder specifically in the Heavenly courts.  Such are the ramifications for deviance from GOD’s Law for “B’nai Noach” — for “humanity” — that have so few obligations.  In contrast, The Jewish Nation who is “chosen for additional responsibility” is not culpable for intent alone to perform a forbidden action, which not carried out.

[36]  Genesis 31:44-54

[37]   See the Midrash Rabbah on Genesis, chapter 74:7; P’seik’tah Zut’ra’tee; Tanchumah at the end of Va’yei’tzei.  “The anger of the patriarchs is still preferable to the appeasement offered by their descendants.”  When Jacob became angry and quarreled with Laban, he merely said to Laban, “….What is my sin, what is my offense, that you should pursue me?”  (Genesis 31:36)  However, when David appeased his generals and forbade them to raise a hand against Saul, he [David] cried out, “As GOD lives, GOD will smite him down, or his day will come to die.”  (I Samuel 26:10)  [Midrash Tanchumah]

This example teaches us that those who strive for righteousness must be especially careful with their words and must take care not to stir up hatred.  This applies even under those exceptional situations when a righteous person quarrels with others and the circumstances even allow him to become angry.  (Chofetz Chayim)

“Argumentative disputes are hateful, and great is peace.”  (Rashi’s comments on Genesis 10:9, quoting Genesis Rabbah 38:6) Another way to express this rabbinic dictum, as found in Judaism’s Biblea new and expanded translation, volume one, p. 169, is, “skirmish is vile and peace is virtuous.”

Isaac, the second patriarch, kept silent for 12 years and didn’t reveal the fact that Joseph was still alive. See Rashi on Genesis 37:35. (*)   Isaac privately bore this information even as he saw his son Jacob suffer over the loss of Joseph who was, in fact, still alive.  Isaac assessed the scenario and decided as follows.  Since he had been given this prophetic vision privately, consequently, Isaac knew that he must retain the matter to himself.  For the sake of peace and harmony within the family, this secret matter had to be kept secret, exclusively within Isaac’s purview.  With the strength of his conscious passivity, Isaac acted in an upright manner. <<s>> 07-23-08,

One could possibly think that Jacob was not upright when he pretended to be Esau.  (Genesis 27:10-24)  The Torah’s message from The ALMIGHTY does not hold Jacob liable for the act of pretension because it was an acceptable deed.  Jacob was following the clear instructions of his mother, Rebecca, who had a private prophecy that she was not allowed to reveal to her husband Isaac, but which she could only reveal to Jacob.  Rebecca had been told at the time of the birth of her twins, Esau and Jacob, that the younger would inherit the elder’s portion.  (Genesis 25:23)  Jacob never lost his nobility of uprightness as he complied with his mother’s prophetically-filled wishes, which were the Will of The OMNIPOTENT ONE. <<s>> Others should not emulate this act with trickery and chicanery because they simply do not have the benefit of prophecy to guide and instruct them.  In contrast to honesty and integrity, a misguided person feels she should emulate Rebecca and constantly deceive and lie in order to get things done.  See Deceit in Jerusalem (unpublished manuscript).  Such deviances are not The Will of The ALMIGHTY Whose (essence and seal) is truth.  (Talmud, Shabbat 55a; Jerusalem Talmud,        1:1; Genesis Rabbah 81:2; Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:7; Zohar HaKodesh 1:2b) <<s>>  07-23-08  

(*)  Isaac was the recipient of GOD’s prophecy regarding Joseph’s endurance. Otherwise, Isaac would have been devastated with such a loss.  He never revealed this fact.  Since Isaac and Isaac alone knew that Joseph was alive, it was a test for Isaac to maintain the privy code, retain the information, and not disclose the truth. <<s>> 12-23-08  By passing this test of non-disclosure, Isaac showed that sometimes it is necessary to disclose and sometimes not to reveal certain information.  Isaac had told Esau that the blessings had been co-opted by another, namely by Jacob because he felt that it was necessary that Esau find out from him. “…your brother came with cleverness and took your blessings.”   See Genesis 27:35.  <<s>> 05-27-09

[38]  It is not appropriate that one should always express love (*) and maintain passivity in the face of wickedness.  Against vicious armies, Abraham’s agents were forced to kill in order to have greater peace in the end.  One does not want to, but one may have to, kill an enemy in self-protection or in order to save a hostage from a terrorist.  It is most appropriate to do such actions in order to accomplish greater peace in the end.  The prophet Solomon makes mention of, “…a time of peace and a time of war.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:8)

(*) When one kills a murderous enemy for self-protection, it is, indeed, an act of love for one’s own life. <<s>> Passivity in the face of a deadly attack is tantamount to suicide.  The Torah specifies that if one is pursuing another to kill him, then anyone who views this manslaughter pursuit can and must retaliate against the pursuer if they are capable of doing so.  See the Sifrei on Deuteronomy 25:12 and Rambam, Law of Murderers 1:7, 8 and Sefer HaMitzvoth, Negative Commandment #295.

[39]  In order to enable the world to continue to exist, it is necessary for people to strive for harmony also with those who are different than oneself.  Immediately after the Flood, in the time of Noah, The ALMIGHTY said, “I place my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of The Covenant between ME and the earth.”  (Genesis 9:13)  The rainbow symbolizes peace and unity amidst diversity.  A rainbow is made up of various colours and shades of colour.  Although they are very different from each other, they come together to form one harmonious entity. (*)

Similarly, people differ from one another.  Individuals come from different national backgrounds; possess a unique variety of personalities and approaches to life as well as individual thoughts. (**)  However, if people will look at themselves as one unit (all children of GOD), there can be peace, harmony and tolerance, despite the overt and covert differences, which do exist.  Such an approach is the basic justification for the continued existence of the world and enhances for the welfare of individuals.  For this reason, the rainbow, a multi-coloured pattern, is the symbol of The Covenant between The ALMIGHTY and the earth.  (Otzar Chayim, volume 1, p. 39)

(*) It is noted that all colours of the spectrum appear in the rainbow except for the extremes of white and black.  One can infer with respect to The Divine Covenant of the rainbow, that GOD is teaching the following message, “I abhor extremism” [or absolutes]. (***) <<s>> See Judaism’s Bible — a new and expanded translation, volume one, p. 154, footnote 177.

(**)  “Just as the visage of one is not similar to another, so their thoughts are not similar.”  (Tanchuma, Pinchas 10; Tanchuma, Buber one; The Book of Numbers Rabbah 21:2.  “There, [the same] as their minds are not similar one to another, so too their visages are not similar one to another.”  (Talmud B’rachoth 58a; Sanhedrin 38a; Jerusalem Talmud, B’rachoth 9a)

(***) Within the scope of applied Jewish Law, there are exceptions to a rule that stem from principles of Jewish Law.  Some examples of applied factors that affect the outcome are “hef’sed mih’rue’bah,” Hebrew for “an extensive loss” and “Shal*m bayit,” Hebrew for “harmony in the home.”

[40]  The patriarchs’ approaches to life represent the foundation of creation itself.  In creation, the fire allowed the water to exist and the water allowed the fire to exist, even though they appeared to be opposites.  The CREATOR blended them with one another, and made the Heavens from them.  With the co-existence and complementing of each other, Heaven became a reality. <<s>> The Hebrew word for “Heaven”, “Shamayim”, is composed of two Hebrew words, “aish” (fire) and “mayim” (water).  See Rashi on Genesis 1:8 quoting Genesis Rabbah 7 and Talmud, Chagigah 12a.  Why is a letter missing from the Hebrew word “Shamayim?”  The “aleph” of “aish” is not included.  In The CREATOR’s Divine involvement with human beings, there cannot be the fullest measure of the severity of judgment.  The word “ma’yim,” Hebrew for, “water”, representing mercy, is written in full, but the word “aish,” Hebrew for, “fire”, symbolic of justice, is not fully dispensed in order to enable humanity to approach a heavenly existence. (The Chidah)  The world cannot endure the fullness of justice.

[41]   In contrast to the “truth” of service to ONE GOD which evokes the “upright” (*) attribute, idolatry is destructive and wrong.  It is destructive because a belief in idolatry pulls one down to inherit “geh’hih’nem,” Hebrew for “purgatory.”  Such a false belief, an adherence to idolatry, restricts one from “The World of Truth”  (an appellation of “The World to Come”) <<s>> 08-24-08.

(*)  The word “upright” can refer to two ramifications for those who possess this trait.  They will go “up” – that is, they will become elevated.  A second meaning is: they are “right.”  They personify “truth.”   Idolatry is terrible because it is not truth.  See Rambam on the Mishnah, Avodah Zarah, chapter four.  To worship the physical inhibits a true worship of The DIVINE ONE.  <<s.>> 05-19-09, Sheraton Fallsview  Israel, who possess The Torah of truth are called The People of “Yisrael” which is a word that can be understood by its two part formation: “yasher EL” that translates, “the upright one of GOD.”  <<s>> applied here 05-24-09, Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5769

[42]  This is the opinion of the Netziv in Parshat Balak in The Book of Numbers.

[43]  Timna, for example, was the concubine of Eh’li’faz. (Genesis 36:12) Yet we see that Timna was also identified as one of the children of Eh’li’faz.  How is this possible?  Eh’li’faz had relations with the wife of Sayir; Timna was conceived from this union.  When, she grew up, Eh’li’faz took her as his concubine.

Menachem Mendel of Kotzk questions how it was possible that Eh’li’faz, who not only had relations with a married woman, but then he also lived with the daughter resulting from this union could be a prophet among the gentile prophets?  Do these acts reflect an appropriate spiritual level?  How could Eh’li’faz retain his prophecy?

Prophecy among gentiles is quite different than prophecy among The Jewish People.  With the gentiles, no correlation exists between the actual prophecy and the prophet’s qualities of purity and holiness.  Consequently, even someone so defiled as Eh’li’faz’s was, was not disqualified from possessing the gift of prophecy.  He was a prophet with an impure soul. (The Rebbe of Kotzk)

[44]   Yet do we not see that GOD did destroy the inhabitants This World in the time of The Flood of Noah?  (Genesis 7:23)  Only GOD knows when wickedness is so intensive, pervasive, and cancer-like that its eradication is essential (Ibid. 13:3, 18:20 and Genesis Rabbah 41:7) for the future preservation of This World.  Similarly, the five cities of Sodom, Gemora, Admah, Tzovoim and Yaktan needed to be overthrown (Deuteronomy 29:22), but only specifically by The Divine ONE’s Command. <<s>> 03-27-07   If such intensive evil would continue, it would spiral out of control and the world would, GOD-forbid, become consumed.<<s>> 05-14-09

[45]  The request to destroy a nation can be contrasted with Abraham’s heart-filled prayer and sincere request to GOD to save wicked Sodom from destruction.  (Genesis 18:23-33)

There are Divine exceptions that warrant active destruction.  For example, there is a Biblical Commandment that The Israelites wipe out the entire wicked tribe of Amalek.  (Deuteronomy 25:19)  Another example is, “however in the cities of the people that GOD your LORD gives to you for an inheritance, you should not let any person live.”(*) (Deuteronomy 20:16)  It is to be noted that these two Commandments cannot be fulfilled nowadays because of specific legal requirements of Jewish law, which are presently lacking.  The exceptions that warrant destruction are those vicious and wicked countries, or even groups of people who rise up against The Jewish People.  By their dastardly acts and because of their intent to destroy the Jews, (**) they thereby earn the title “Amalek”.  (Rabbi Chayim of Brisk)  Such examples of those who possess vicious hatred toward The Jewish People are the Nazis, y”sh, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Hezbollah. (***)

(*)  The Divine Oral Tradition clarifies that the idolaters living in The Holy Land should not live unless they repent of their idolatry.  Who is an idolator in our age?  When I served in India and discussed the worship of idols with some Hindus, they told me that they believe in One GOD.  So why did they have the idols at home?  They said that the idols were used as a mere focus for their devotion.  <<s>> 06-09-09

(**)  Why didn’t Jacob try to kill Laban?  (Philip Silverman)  After all, didn’t Laban want to destroy Jacob?  The “Mitzvah”, Hebrew for, “religious duty” or “responsibility” of wiping out Amalek and those who emulate Amalek became applicable only after The Divine Revelation at Mount Sinai.  See Deuteronomy 25:19. <<s>> 07-27-08    Jacob wanted to preserve the lives of others as much as he could. <<s>> 05-24-09, Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5769   Thus, we have seen that with Jacob’s encounter with Esau, Jacob was distressed that he might have to kill Esau in a defensive battle.  The thought of such an act caused such deep fear in Jacob.  See Rashi on Genesis 32:8, quoting Genesis Rabbah 76:2 and Tanchuma 4.

Only later, when the people of Amalek became mixed up with and indistinguishable among the nations, did it become an obligation for The Jewish People to destroy any nation that resembled Amalek if that nation possessed vile and seething hatred, with the potential to annihilate, toward The Nation of Israel. <<s>> 07-27-08

What about the righteous gentiles who were a minority among the dominant wicked nation who, themselves, end up dying?  They can get injured or killed for just being there in the vicinity of a war.  GOD does not create overt miracles.  <<s>> 05-26-09

(***)  “Whosoever is merciful to the cruel will eventually demonstrate cruelty to the merciful.”  King Saul wiped out Nov, the city of “Kohanim,” Hebrew for “priests” because they had extended hospitality and acted with mercy to David when he was fleeing from Saul. See Midrash Shmuel on Talmud, Yoma 22b. Government officials of The State of Israel did extend inappropriate mercy by releasing from their prisons numerous cruel convicted terrorists who had blood on their hands and who plan to have additional blood on their hands.  Unfortunately, these officials may be traveling, GOD-forbid down the road to perdition to eventually act cruelly to the merciful Israeli Jews. (****)  Only the tears (*****) and the cries of the merciful ones can shatter The Gates of Mercy.  Then “The Father of Compassion” (Shabbat morning service prior to removal of The Torah from the ark) can reverse a negative decree.

(****)  Unfortunately, close to 10,000 peaceful Israelis were uprooted from Gaza with a cruel decree by the Government of Israel.  Many are still suffering hardships years and years later, as a result of the awesome displacement.

(*****)  Even when all the gates of prayer are closed, the gates of tears remain open. (Talmud, Bava Metzia 59b)

[46]  The Book of Numbers 23:10 has written this pronoun in the singular.  Consequently, I am compelled to translate “his.”  However, in this essay, because the preceding noun “patriarchs’ ” is plural [referring to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob], the plural possessive pronoun, is “theirs.”  The singular form can be understood that Balaam now prayed that when his life would end, that he would be admitted into The World to Come, just as each righteous and upright person of Israel has secured that entitlement. <<s>> 11-04-08

How do we know that it was because of the quality trait of tolerance and not another quality that Balaam was referring to?  (Philip Silverman)  Balaam specifically cried out with a request, “Let my soul die the death of the upright….” (The Book of Numbers 23:10) Is his request referring specifically to his awareness of the patriarchs’ high level of tolerance? (Philip Silverman) The term upright is a flag word for one possessing an abundance of tolerance. <<s>> 07-23-08  However tolerance and uprightness should not be equated, even though they possess a number of common qualities.

[47]  In this essay, tolerance is used in at least three different ways:

1) With the idolaters and evil-oriented people, the patriarchs bore such their deviance from truth.  They recognized that such deviance is not part of the song of The Torah. (*)  “Tolerance” in Hebrew is “soiv’la’nuth”.  “To bear,” or “to withstand” a situation is translated in Hebrew as “leet’vol.”  “Patience” is “sav’la’nuth.” (Hebrew)  When one develops patience, one can then bear the situation and achieve the elevated level of a tolerant person. (**)

2) With respect to another person who is fulfilling the tenets of The Torah, but employing a different pathway, by doing so, the upright one accepts and appreciates the different, but authentic (***) approachwhich theother person possesses.  The upright one does not only bear it, but respects it as part of the upright one’s “music” and his “rainbow.”

The upright person feels that the other who differs from himself complements his own Divine Service.<<s>> 08-31-08  Moreover, the other person’s actions are a necessary component for the upright person’s wholesomeness and completion.<<s>> 09-16-08  A true “yashar,” a person living with uprightness appreciates the different sounding musical notes of others which help to complete his or her symphony of life. <<s>> 10-17-08, Eruv Shabbat Sukkoth 5769  In addition, by comparing and contrasting one’s own belief and practice with another person’s approach that is quite similar, but different in some way, one can then gain additional insight and strength in one’s own belief and practices.  <<s>> 05-27-09

3) Learned Jewish people confer on some people the title “tee’noke  sheh’nish’ba,” Hebrew for “an infant who was grabbed up” by another religion or by secular society.   This appellation applies to any adult who never was truly exposed to the richness of authentic Divine teachings, namely one who was never given an appreciation of the beauty and the significance of the application and binding power of observance of Torah Wisdom.  Every observant Jew is obligated to be tolerant of, understanding of, and patient with such people.  The average non-committed Jewish person does not deliberately defy Torah legislation with audacity and intentional rebelliousness.  One is not held responsible if one is without ample knowledge of GOD’s Truths as being applicable to one’s life.  Accountability could possibly come only if one is first “drawn with cords of love” (Chazon Ish) (****) to initially understand and accept the “yoke of the kingdom of heaven.”  Such understanding should be followed by an acceptance of GOD’s absolute sovereignty.  Only with possession of such a fundamental understanding, which can take years, is one who never had an authentic Jewish education then able to assume and to become fully responsible for the incorporation of the yoke of The Commandments into one’s daily life.  <<s>> 07-27-08

(*) However, the Zohar HaKodesh says that evil can have a positive purpose.  In confronting overt evil, one can clearly see and recognize the wrong.  Then one can be propelled away from the wrong, and choose the parallel opposite — The Truth and The Good.  (Zohar HaKodesh)  The sequential approach is to first “turn from evil, and [then] do good.”  (Psalms 34:15, 37:27)

(**)  Under British rule, Muslim, Christian and Jewish Palestinian residents, as bus passengers, had learned to line up in a queue when they waited for their bus.  When Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, z”tz”l had proceeded in line as it moved forward, and when he was just about to enter the bus, instead, he went to the back of the queue.  It seemed very odd.  However, he wanted to build up the quality of his patience.  Just because his turn to enter had come, it did not mean that he had to take it.  He felt that this action of not immediately gaining something that was coming to him would help him to develop tolerance.

Tolerance is also generated when a person, on occasion, is willing to attend another synagogue (which adheres to authentic Torah standards) (****) other than the one that one attends on a regular basis.  (I heard this thought from Rabbi Mordechai Machlis, in Jerusalem, who relayed it in the name of Rabbi Yoel Schwartz)  This attendance reflects and stimulates the openness of a person to other ways, and different styles within Torah Judaism.

Prayer is quite personal and one is in sync in one’s own “minyan,” Hebrew for “quorum.”  Thus, for someone to especially attend a different quorum than the one that someone is used to, reflects an element of tolerance.  <<s>> 06-03-09

(***)  This Hebrew term for “cords of love,” “ah’vo’toth ah’ha’vah,” is found in Hosea 11:4.

(****) There are approaches that are outside of an “authentic” Jewish weltanschauung.  Such deviant approaches deny the validity of The Torah as an eternally binding Divine Document.   Two examples are those who advocate and permit same-sex marriages, contrary to GOD’s Word, which is clearly written in Leviticus 18:22 (and clarified by the binding of The Divine Oral Tradition); and those who deny Divinely mandated and accepted Rabbinical legislation, such as The Code of Jewish Law or, in the case of Yemenites, the teachings of the Rambam, as prescribed by Deuteronomy 17:11.  Such deniers are termed “outsiders.”  See the writings of Rabbi Chaim Zimmerman, in Torah and Reason where he elaborates on “Insiders and Outsiders.”

Rabbi Nachman Bulman told me of the difficulty of producing a translation of this particular essay of the Netziv.  Rabbi Bulman felt that the translator could possibly mislead people.  If someone asserts that some such practice or belief is a part of Judaism, or that some practice or belief should be excluded, does it show a lack of tolerance for another to judge that assertion false and unacceptable?  However, in The Torah’s Commandments, The Divine Legislator, ALMIGHTY GOD, has placed some man-made practices and beliefs outside of the realm of acceptability for a truth-seeking Jew.  These are practices and beliefs that are counter The Divine Oral Law and are inauthentic.  Their rejection does not reflect intolerance, but rather an upholding of Torah standards and the avoidance of accepting something false.

Rabbi Bulman is correct in saying that some practices and beliefs are not part of historical Israel under any circumstances.  One example is the prohibition of a Jew to have a belief in a partnership between another “divine being” and GOD.  The belief of a Jew is that there is not only the prohibition of a Jew to believe in any divinity other than GOD, but even to retain a belief in a partnership of another alleged divinity with GOD is prohibited.  Such a forbidden “partnership is called “shi’tuf” in Hebrew.  Judaism advocates “…there is none beside Him.” (Deuteronomy 4:35) and “…there is none other.”  (ibid. 4:39)

However, there are numerous normally prohibited practices that can be performed under emergency circumstances.  For example, in a situation when one’s life is endangered, one can and should desecrate The Holy Sabbath day, or even eat pork.  This is because the preservation of life takes precedence over those Commandments. (“My Rules which a person shall carry out and shall live by them….” [Leviticus 18:5]; that is, one should observe The Commandments, but not die by performing them.)  The preservation of life reigns supreme.  However, for a Jewish person to eat pork merely to accommodate or to conform to his/her associates, at a business gathering, even if the Jew (ess) incurs tremendous financial losses by being a non-participant is not allowed; the Jew cannot partake of such a meal.  Similarly, one should not reveal a pejorative matter about another person even though secular society might say “that as long as it is the truth, one can speak up.” See Guard Your Tongue by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Bene Yaakov Publications, Brooklyn, 1975

[48]  The Divine ethical and moral values of the patriarchs and matriarchs that are found in Genesis continue to serve as guideposts for eternity to assist the world’s continuity, as people incorporate these Divine attributes into their own lives.  The deeds of the patriarchs serve as a sign for their descendants [and all humankind].  See RambaN’s commentary to Genesis 12:6 and 10.

The precious trait of being upright that the patriarchs possessed continues in the world when we study the nobility of their lives in depth and emulate their upright and godly approach to life.




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The sign <<s>> stands for Shlomo.  It is the symbol that is standing for an original thought of mine.  I could not say “original” as per the suggestion of my cousin, Rabbi Dr. Lawrence Zoberman, because my thought may have said by another person, even though I was blessed to have thought of it.

“Sparks of goodness are scattered throughout Creation.”  It is the task of Israel to gather them up. The location where an original Torah idea was conceived is significant.  One of the reasons why The Jewish Nation was sent into exile was to raise up sparks of holiness.  The feat of the elevation of a particular place can be accomplished by uttering prayers, performing a Commandment, and/or by learning holy Torah thoughts there.  (Ba’al Shem Tov)  Consequently, whenever I feel that I have made an original point about a Torah portion or I have reached a particular understanding of a Biblical passage, I make note of that idea.  In addition, if I remember it, I also recently indicate the date in which the thought occurred.

In this essay, I have italicized several words for emphasis; words such as upright, uprightness, tolerance and intolerance.

I am requesting any feedback, especially constructive, critical comments.  Such advice is an act of loving-kindness, on your part.  They will enrich the Word of The Living GOD.



  1. The author, Rabbi Shlomo Grafstein, has indicated that he has upgraded this essay on tolerance…including source matterial and an additional story about Rav Kook’s honour of Torah

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