Archive for Desembre de 2009

D’aquí unes hores celebrarem el cap d’any civil. Dissabte llegirem els darrers capítols del llibre de Gènesis. És normal, doncs, que fem recompte. Tot al llarg del llibre de Gènesis podem veure com un gran drama va desgranant-se. El foc que alimenta el drama és la rivalitat entre germans. Començant per Cain i Abel, una parella de germans la relació dels quals acaba amb assassinat. Ismael és expulsat cap al desert després del naixement d’Isaac. Jacob ha de fugir de casa perquè Esaú vol venjar-se després   d’haver enganyat a Isaac, el seu pare, i haver aconseguit la benedicció. Els fills de Jacob venen un dels germans, Josep, a una caravana.
Darrera d’aquesta rivalitat trobem la gelosia. Déu va preferir Abel. Isaac és el fill preferit, i no Ismael, d’Abraham. Si bé Esaú era el preferit d’Isaac, la mare preferia Jacob i és qui l’ajuda a enganyar el pare. Josep és sense cap mena de dubte el fill preferit de Jacob.
Al llarg de la narració de Gènesi la tensió acaba amb reconciliació. Isaac i Ismael es retrobaran quan han d’enterrar el seu pare, encara que el text no especifica què varen dir-se. Més recentment hem vist com Jacob va retrobar-se amb el seu germà Esaú deixant apart el passat. La setmana passada varem veure com Josep va re-definir la relació amb la seva família en donant-los un espai a Goixen, oblidant així tot el mal es varen fer. Aquesta setmana veurem com en la mort del pare, Jacob, Josep torna a prometre que no es venjarà en els seus germans.
Què és el que podem aprendre de tot això? Els clàssics deien que equivocar-se era humà, i perdonar era diví. La relació de Josep amb els seus germans és, de molt, el millor exponent d’una relació conflictiva i del poder guaridor de les paraules. El fill, Josep, supera el pare, Jacob, en la reconciliació familiar i fa possible la continuïtat de la narració. Sinó, com podria tenir cap mena de sentit la narració de l’èxode, sense haver pau entre els germans? El perdó és la clau que obre la porta del futur.
La tònica dominant a Gènesis doncs és l’esperança, que és diferent de l’optimisme tot i que tenim tendència a confondre ambdós conceptes. Mentre que optimisme és la creença que el futur serà millor, esperança és la creença en què les nostres accions poden tenir un efecte positiu en el futur. L’optimisme és passiu. L’esperança és activa. A diferència de l’optimisme / pessimisme qualitats amb les que naixem, l’esperança és quelcom que em d’abraçar, que ens exigeix. Gènesis és doncs una invitació a abraçar l’esperança no a través de dogmes o idees, sinó a través d’històries i accions.
Una cosa tant complicada com la creació del món només ocupa un parell de capítols en el llibre de Gènesis, la resta parla de la història dels nostres avantpassats i les seves relacions. La nostra tasca és fer nostres aquestes històries a través de l’estudi, paint-les en el punt en que cadascú de nosaltres es troba a les nostres vides prenent aquesta tradició i tot trobant camins diferents i personals comprometre’s en una mateixa aliança, inscrivint-nos en la història sense fi del poble jueu i de la seva Torà.

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Consistency, logic, coherence are not an integral part of human nature. Rather these are qualities that we are always looking for. Thus, we can understand these words of the Hallel (Ps.118: 8): “To trust in the Invincible is good, and surer than a trust in human power.”

The overall functioning of the world on the one hand, and the future on the other, are alien things for us. We can predict neither the worst nor the best. If we seek to predict the consequences of our actions, we are aware that a large part of these effects depends on other people’s attitudes, over which we have no influence

In the end, while we remain open to all the possibilities, we can only do our best on remaining consistent, until the fulfillment of our task pays back. That’s what we, as Jews, have been trying to do ever since.

For more than 2000 years we have repeated the Shema day and night, “The Eternal is our God, the Eternal one alone!” stating two things

First, we do not accept the idea of a predefined life scenario that some adhere to under the name of “fate” or “predetermination.” No other than our God, our ideal, beliefs and values can rule over us. The Eternal is the one who liberated us from Mitsrayim and placed the yearning for freedom and sovereignty in the fibers of our heart.

Secondly, we consider our God as “Sovereign of all worlds” – as we say in every blessing. Thus we state that we all have the same sovereign and nobody can claim full possession. Similarly each of us is responsible for their own behavior, conscious or not. Nobody can deny the humanity in the other, because we all have been created “in God’s image.”

We will die whispering these words, and even after our disappearance, our children will bear them.

Also at the end of every service, during the Aleinu prayer, we recite “bayom hahu yihyeh adonay echad u shemo echad – On that day shall the many named be one, God’s name be one!” All humans will be able to recognize that they are part of one big single family. Each will appeal to God without the intent of claiming ownership. There is no more dangerous game than the one of “My God is bigger than yours.” We know that this is not a given, but rather a painful and difficult task that unites all those who work for this recognition.

Today like in the past, the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionists arguments are not consistent. A current example is the contradiction between the question “why did the Jews not defend themselves during the Shoah?” juxtaposed with the question “why do you defend yourselves? ” of those who oppose the wars in Israel. The answer is that we stand up for our means always, based on information and means at our disposal. We want peace, but we also want to live.

Our parashah vayehi opens with Jacob’s death. When Jacob knew he did not have long to live, he called in Joseph and said: “If you really love me, you must make a solemn promise and do kindness and truth (chesed ve emet) with me – please do not to bury me in Egypt. Instead, bury me in the place where my ancestors are buried.” (Gn 47:29-30) This is the cave of Machpelah in Hebron. Joseph also disappears in our paracha with the promise that they will bring his remains back to Israel when the children of Israel return.

Before Joseph died, he told his brothers, “I won’t live much longer. But God will take care of you and lead you out of Egypt to the land he promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 2Now promise me that you will take my body with you when God leads you to that land.” (Gn 50:24-25)

It is not from yesterday that Israel is part of our identity and it will not be today that we will renounce it. Our identity, in its diversity, has remained consistent for at least 2000 years.

It was not yesterday that we knew the wounds that may affect human identity and it will not be today that we will agree to immerse ourselves in them. It was not yesterday that we received the human identity that we hold in our hearts, and it will not be today that we will give up this human identity of courage, righteousness and conviction.

Let each of us find ways to resists the difficulties and to recharge this deep consistency of our tradition. This is what community is for.

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This parashah begins with a heated discussion between Yosef and his brothers. They never thought that when they were addressing the governor of the country, in fact, they were addressing their own brother. Yosef accuses Binyamin of theft by means of a trick and threatens to keep him in his service. Then Yehudah intervenes, offering himself in Binyamin’s place and making very clear that he is ready to fight in order to save Binyamin. To justify his ferocity on this matter he explains to Yoseph that he is Binyamin’s guarantor vis-à-vis his father.

There is a rabbinic discussion regarding the role of the guarantor or the collateral. According to Rav Chisda, the guarantor’s liability is limited to a financial commitment. On the other hand Rav Huna believes that the guarantor is engaged without limit, as Yehuda stated: “I am bound by a powerful bond with the threat of being banned from two worlds.” This explains his desire to accept upon himself his brother’s trouble

In regard to Rav Huna’s opinion and the principle of “Kol Israel aravim ze la ze “(All Jews are guarantors of each other), we understand the principle that a Jew can free another Jew of a certain mitzvah, although the first Jew has already fulfilled the mitzvah and it is forbidden to do a mitzvah twice. This means that the obligation of one Jew also lies upon another Jew as guarantor.

It is interesting to note the origin of the Hebrew word guarantor, erev, related to meurav (mixed). This means that one Jew is mixed to another, thus forming one single entity, and also to the source of the soul, which is the same for us all at the level of “Adonay Echad,” the divine unity. In the material world we are all different from one another. This is an indispensable condition to exit. One’s qualities complement the knowledge of the other.

The classical sources compare this to the relationship of their limbs to the body. The rabbis observe that the body depends primarily on the presence of each limb and organ. Also, all of their faculties are complementary, each using the skills of each other, to achieve a coherent whole.

This unity, or Sh’lemut, can only be achieved when each member does not consciously feel like an independent entity compared to the other members, but rather as part of the body. Yes we are part of everything, as R. M. Kaplan noticed in his commentary to the Barchu (page 56).  Life becomes infinitely more meaningful and worthwhile when we become aware, through our participation in public worship, of a common life that transcends our individual selves.”

This is also true for the unity of the Jewish people. Its fullness depends of the presence of each Jew and the identification of each Jew as a member of the people.

Unity can only be accomplished when one benefits of the skills and participation of the other. But the real union depends on our ability to feel what we share with the other, what’s common to all as members of the same group, which is the source of our soul. Now we can better understand the assertion that the way to achieve the true love of our neighbor is to consider the relationship between soul and body. Then Yehudah’s words “I am bound by a strong bound” acquire a deeper meaning for us.

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Shneur Zalman is the founder of the intellectual movement in Hasidism, the systematic exponent of the basic ideas of Hasidism with a strong emphasis on theory, contemplative prayer, and detaed study of the kabbalistic principles in their Hasidic interpretation. The movement he founded within Hasidism is known as Chabad, a word formed from the initial letters of Chokhmah, Binah, Deah (Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge). These are technical terms referring in the first instance to the Sefirot of these names, and then to the intellectual processes in man which mirror the processes on high.

Shneur Zalman was born in Liozna in Russia. From the year 1760, when he journeyed to the Maggid of Meseritch, whose fame as a spiritual leader had spread to distant Russia, Shneur Zalman became a member of the Maggid’s circle of close disciples. He became the particular target of the Mitnaggedim after he had become a Hasidic master in the town of Liady. Accusations were brought against him that he was plotting the downfall of the tsar, and in 1798 he was arrested and imprisoned in Saint Petersburg. He was acquitted on the nineteenth day of the month of Kislev (December 1798), and to this day yat Kislev (“the nineteenth day of Kislev”) is celebrated as a major festival by the Habad Hasidim. Shneur Zalman was succeeded by his son Dov Baer (whom he named after his teacher, the Maggid of Meseritch) in the year 1813. Dov Baer became the head of the movement with his center in the town of Lubavitch; hence the Habad Hasidim are called the “Lubavitcher Hasidim.” Dov Baer was succeeded by his son-in-law and nephew (the son of Shneur Zalman’s daughter), Menahem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789-1866). The Habad Hasidim call Shneur Zalman the “Alter Rebbe” (“the Old Rabbi”), Dov Baer the “Mittler Rebbe” (“the Middle Rabbi”), and Menahem Mendel, after the title of his magnum opus, “the Tzemah Tzedek.” The Habad dynasty has many ramifications, and an immense literature has been produced by the various masters of the group. The present Lubavitcher Rebbe in New York is the great-great-grandson of Menahem Mendel.

Shneur Zalman’s major Hasidic book is Tanya (It Has Been Taught). The meaning of the title is that the book begins with the word Tanya, quoting from a passage in the Talmud, and books were frequently called after the opening word or words. Another name for the book is Likkutey Amarim (Collected Sayings), i.e., an anthology ot Hasidic ideas. A third part, called “The Letter on Repentance” (Iggeret Ha-TeshuvahJ was added in Shklov in 1806. Finally, the fourth part was added: Iggeret Ha-Kodesh (The Holy Letter), letters of the rabbi, in the Shklov edition of 1814. The standard edition of the Tanya was published repeatedly by the famous printing house of Romm in Vilna, 1900, etc. This is the edition used here. So high is the regard of the Chabad Hasidim for the Tanya that many of them keep it in the same bag as their tallit and study it regularly. One of Shneur Zalman’s contemporaries is reported to have said when he read the book, “What an achievement, to contain such a great God in such a small book!”


Tanya, part 1, chapter 33, pp. 82-85

Here is another way to make the soul glad, especially when a man senses, from time to time, that his soul needs to be refined and illumined by rejoicing in the heart. He should then engage in deep contemplation, depicting in his mind and understanding the idea of God’s true unity, blessed be He. That is to say, He fills all worlds, those on high and those beneath them, and even the fullness of this earth is His glory, blessed be He. In relation to Him everything is really nothing at all. He alone is actually in the upper and lower worlds, just as He was alone before the six days of creation.

Shneur Zalman gives here his typical Chabad exposition of the Maggid’s views on the immanence of God. His grandson Menahem Mendel states in one of his works that the idea of God’s unity has passed through three distinct stages. In the Bible and Talmud the unity of God means, chiefly, that there is only one God and that there are no other gods. For the medieval Jewish philosophers the doctrine of God’s unity meant not alone that He is one but that He is unique, that none of His creatures can in any way be compared to him. The disciples of the Baal Shem Tov deepened the idea still further, teaching that the unity of God means that God is the only ultimate reality, that there is no world at all because all is God. In that case, why do we see a world, and how can we ourselves exist? The Chabad answer is that the divine light is screened so that we appear to enjoy existence, and so does the world. But the man who contemplates long on this version of God’s unity comes to realize that, in reality, God is the same, “filling all,” even now that there seems to be a world, just as He was “before the six days of creation.” Shneur Zalman is here developing the thought that this idea brings joy into the soul.

Even in the space into which this world was created, heavens and earth and all their hosts, He alone fills this space. And even now He alone is, without any change whatsoever because all creatures are annihilated in Him just as the letters by means of which speech and thought take place are annihilated in their source and root. That is to say, in the real being and essence of the soul, its ten aspects of Chochmah, Binah, Deah, and so forth.

We have seen in a previous chapter that the ten Sefirot (in Habad and other kabbalistic systems, Deah is one of the ten) are mirrored in man’s soul and that therefore man’s nature can be used as an analogy for God’s relationship to the universe. The Sefirot in man’s souls are the potential means of all expression, the pure thoughts and emotions of man. For these to be actualized man has to think or speak, thus bringing his thoughts and feelings into play. For speech (and thought, because one thinks in words) letters are required which are formed into words. These letters are the “garments” of the ten aspects of the soul. But although from one point of view they have a separate identity, from another there are no such things. This is because the letters are simply the means of expressing and were it not for the forces in the soul requiring expression, letters and words would be unimaginable. In Shneur Zalman’s analogy, the letters are “annihilated,” i.e., lose their identity in the forces which resided in the soul and which brought the letters into being. In the same way, God is really all. The world is only the word He uses to express His goodness, and in relation to His Being there is no world because it is “annihilated in Him.” Now Shneur Zalman goes on to illustrate this idea by means of another analogy.

We have also given elsewhere an illustration taken from the physical world for this idea. The shining and the light of the sun are annihi­lated in the sun itself in the heavens. For without doubt up there, too, its light shines and extends even more so than it extends and shines in space below. Only there it is annihilated in its source and enjoys no existence at all. So by analogy is the total annihilation of existence of the world and the fullness thereof in relation to its source, which is the light of En Sof, blessed be He.

The rays of the sun shine on earth. Logically, there must be sun rays in the sun itself, but so bright is the light of the sun, the source of the rays, that in the sun itself the rays fade into total insignificance. By the same token the whole world is only the ray of the light of En Sof. Now since He is beyond space and time and is present always, this really means that the world and its creatures only enjoy existence by being remote from God to some extent. When man contemplates long on this theme he comes to see that he and the world he inhabits are like the rays of the sun in the sun itself and there is total “annihilation.”

Now when a man contemplates on this idea very profoundly, his heart leaps in joy and his soul is glad, there is abundant joy, and in this belief there is gladness and song, with all the heart and all the soul and all the might. For this is to be near to God quite literally. This is the whole purpose for which he and all worlds were created, that God should dwell among those down below. . . . How great is the joy of an ordinary, inferior person who draws near to a king who has agreed to be his guest and to live with him in his house! How much more so, then, when man is near to the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, who dwells with him! As it is written: “For who is he that hath pledged his heart to approach unto Me? saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 30:21). This is why it was ordained that we should say each morning when praising God: “Happy are we. How good is our portion and how beautiful our heritage.” This means that, just as a man rejoices when he is left an inheritance of a very large amount of money for which he has not toiled, so, and even more so, should we rejoice over the heritage our fathers have left us, namely, the doctrine of God’s unity in truth, that even on this earth down below there is none else beside Him, and this is the meaning of His dwelling down below.

The verse in Deuteronomy (4:35) says: “Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightest know that the Lord, He is Cod; there is none else beside Him.” In the context, the verse means that there is no other God beside Him. But Chabad understands it to mean that there is only He, there is none else beside Him, i.e., apart from Him, no worlds and no creatures.

This is why the Rabbis (Makkot 23b, 24a) say that 613 precepts were given to Israel, but Habakkuk came and reduced them to one great principle: “The righteous shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). This means that it is as if a man only had a single precept to carry out, that of faith, for through faith on its own a man will come to carry out all the other precepts. For when a man’s heart leaps for joy in his belief in the unity of God, with limitless joy, as if the only command he had been given was this one and that this is the whole purpose for which he and all worlds were created, then this joy he experiences will endow him with such strength and such vitality that he will be able to rise far, far above all obstacles that prevent him from carrying out all the 613 precepts, inwardly and outwardly. This is why the verse says, “The righteous shall live by his faith,” he shall live, it will be just like the resurrection of the dead, so, by analogy, will his soul be revived through this joy he will experience. And it will be a two­fold joy, for in addition to the joy his soul will experience when it discerns that God is near and dwells with him, he will rejoice all the more that God rejoices and the great satisfaction this belief provides to Him, blessed be He.

It is worth noting that the Mitnaggedim, unlike Shneur Zalman, held it to be spiritually dangerous to dwell on this idea that God is all. The reason for their opposition was either that they did not understand the doctrine of God’s unity in this way and thought it to be heresy, or they did. believe in it but thought that if man reflects too much on it, it will tend to obliterate all distinctions between good and evil, for it would seem to follow that Cod is in evil as well as in good. Shneur Zalman, therefore, now goes on to state that evil does not really exist at all. The belief in God’s unity in the sense he has described the doctrine reduces evil to nothingness or, in the kabalistic language Shneur Zalman uses, the “Other Side” (the demonic side of existence), and the kelipot (“shells” or “husks”) are vanquished.

For [the belief in God’s unity] will cause the Other Side to be van­quished and darkness will be converted into light, that is to say, the darkness of this  material  world which obscures and  conceals  His light, blessed be He. So will it be until the end of days, as it is said, “He setteth an end to darkness” (Job 28:3), referring to the end of days when God will remove the spirit of impurity from the earth and the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it. Shneur Zalman refers to the messianic age. In that time all the darkness shall vanish and all men will see the truth that God is all— “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.” The job passage really seems to mean: “Man sets an end to darkness,” but as the text only says “he,” Shneur Zalman feels free to say it is God who will do so.

This applies especially in the lands of the idolaters, where the very atmosphere is unclean, full of kelipot and the “Other Side,” and there is no greater joy to God, blessed be He, than the light and joy which stem from darkness, especially from darkness (i.e., when the joy comes even in a place where there had been deep spiritual dark­ness). This is the meaning of the verse: “Let Israel rejoice in His deeds” (Psalms 149:2). That is to say, whoever is from the seed of Israel should rejoice that God rejoices and is glad that He resides among those here below, which is called “deeds,” which are physical. And that is why it uses the plural deeds. For this material world full of the kelipot and the “Other Side” is called the public domain and the mountains of separation. But they are turned into a private domain, to the unity of God through his belief.

The rabbinic term for “public domain” is reshut ha-rabbim, literally, “domain of the many,” while the term for “private domain” is reshut ha-yahid, literally, “domain of the one.” Hence Shneur Zalman remarks that this world in which there is evil and separation is the domain of the many forces of impurity and the domain of multiplicity and separation, but through belief in God’s complete unity all division and multiplicity and evil disappear and the world becomes “the domain of the One.” He is again forcing a translation, for the Psalm really says: “Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him,” but Shneur Zalman can’t resist a broad leap that allows this interpretation.


Tanya, Iggeret Ha-Kodesh, 2, pp. 206-7

This noble letter was sent originally to all his followers by Shneur Zalman after he had returned from his imprisonment in Saint Petersburg. This was a great victory for Hasidism, and he sensed that some of the Hasidim would take the opportunity to hit back at the Mitnaggedim, so Shneur Zalman here warns his followers to repay hatred with love and not to gloat over the discomfiture of their opponents.

“I am unworthy of all the favors” (Genesis 32:11). The meaning of the verse is that for every mercy shown by the Holy One, blessed be He, to man, he should be all the more humble. For mercy is the “right hand” and “His right hand embraces me” (Song of Songs 2:6). This is the category of the real nearness of Cod to a far greater state than ever before. Now the nearer a man is to God and the greater his elevation, the more is he required to be exceedingly humble, as it is said: “From afar the Lord appeared unto me” (Jeremiah 31:3). Now it is well known that everything before Him is as nothing so that the more one is before Him the more he is as nothing.

There are a number of kabbalistic allusions in this passage. First, the saying, “everything before Him is as nothing,” is in the Zohar. In the context this refers to the insignificance of creatures before God. But in Chabad, and to some extent in the Maggid’s school in general, this became a favorite text for the view that all creatures are literally “nothing” in relation to God, since all is God in reality. It follows that the nearer one is to God, the nearer to true reality, the less of selfhood will there be. Hence Shneur Zalman’s interpretation of the saying, “Everything that is before Him [i.e., near to Him] is as nothing.” When Cod shows mercy (the term used is Hesed, the Sefirah Lovingkindness, the source of all mercy), He embraces man, as it were, with His right hand (the Sefirot of Mercy are described as belonging to the right, those of Judgment to the left). So when man is shown mercy and God has “embraced” him and thus brought him near, it must follow that he feels all the more unworthy. The verse in Genesis means literally: “I have become small because of the mercies,” i.e., I feel all the more inferior because God has shown so much mercy to me. The conclusion is that the Hasidim, to whom Cod has shown special favors, now have to be very humble.

This is the category of the right hand of holiness and “mercy to Abraham” (Micah 7:20), who said: “I am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). And this was also the quality of Jacob. That is why he apologized for fearing Esau and not relying on God’s promise to him: “And, behold, I am with thee” (Genesis 28:15). For since Jacob had become so very small in his own eyes because of God’s great mercies to him, “For with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two camps” (Genesis 32:11), and he thus thought that he was unworthy to be saved from Esau. This is what the Rabbis mean when they say (Berakhot 4a) that Jacob feared that sin may have been the cause of the promise being unfulfilled, i.e., Jacob thought he was a sinner.

Abraham, in  the Kabbalah, is called the “pillar of Hesed,” i.e., he represented on earth God’s mercies on high. On the basis of Shneur Zalman’s analysis we can see why Abraham, in particular, said that he was dust and ashes. Now the Rabbis ask why Jacob was so afraid of Esau. After all, God had promised to be with him and to protect him. The Rabbis say that Jacob feared he might have sinned and so forfeited his right to divine protection. Shneur Zalman gives this a novel turn. Cod had led Jacob and enriched him so that from a poor wanderer with his staff he had become a rich man with “two camps.” Cod had been very good to him and this caused him to feel even more inferior. Hence, even if he had not really sinned, in his new great humility he thought he was a sinner and had forfeited divine protection.

“God has made one as well as the other (Ecclesiastes 7:14). So it is quite the opposite with regard to Ishmael, who represents the Hesed of the kelipah. With him the more mercy he is shown the more he is puffed up with pride and the more ambitious he becomes. The verse, “Cod has made one as well as the other” is interpreted in the Kabbalah to mean that whatever there is found in the realm of holiness is also found in the realm of the demonic. That is to say, there are unholy Sefirot. i.e., profane love, terror, pride, and so forth. Ishmael is the symbol of unholy Hesed. When Hesed manifests itself to the unholy man, instead of being humble like Jacob was, he thinks that he deserves even more goodness and becomes proud and demanding.

Therefore, I come to inform you, in an important proclamation to all the members of our fraternity, of all the kindness which the Lord has wrought for us. It is right, therefore, to seize hold of the quality of our father Jacob, “the remnant of His people” (Isaiah 11:11), “the remnant of Israel” (Jeremiah 6:9), so called because he treats himself like a- remnant, like something useless that is left over. Do not, therefore, exalt yourselves over your brethren and do not speak in haughtiness against them and do not hiss at them, Cod forbid. Let such a thing never be mentioned. I give you a strict warning. You should therefore be very humble in spirit and heart, seizing hold of Jacob’s quality in the presence of all men, with a lowly spirit and the kind of gentle answer that turns away wrath. And have a restrained spirit, etc. Perhaps, after all this, God will put it into the hearts of your brethren to behave likewise: “As in water face answereth to face, So is the heart of man to man” (Proverbs 27:19).

When a man gazes into water he sees his own face reflected. So, too, if the Hasidim will behave well toward their opponents, there is a possibility that the latter will also respond with love.


Tanya, Iggeret Ha-Kodesh, 9, pp. 226-28

In this letter to his followers, Shneur Zalman urges them to be generous. The background is the extremely difficult time in Russia when many Jewish communities were impoverished. There is an element of extremism in Shneur Zalman’s complete negation of family love, but it has to be realized that he was addressing Hasidim whom he suspected of placing the family before anything else to the extent that the needy were overlooked. From another version of this letter, however, it seems that his appeal was on behalf of the Hasidim in the Holy Land.

Friends, brothers, and companions whom I love as myself! I come now to recall you to your duty, to awaken those who sleep the heavy slumber of vanity of vanities, to open the eyes of the blind that they should see. Let all their desire, longing, and ambition, with all they have, in their innermost being, be for the Source of Life, all the days of their life, whether in things spiritual or material. 1 mean that they should not engage in worldly things and in earning a living solely with self in mind. They should not be like the idolators who work for, support, and have regard for their wives and children out of their love for them. For it is written (1 Chronicles 17:21): “Who is like Thy people Israel, a nation one in the earth.” This means that even when attending to earthly matters they should not be separated, God forbid, from the truly One. They should not be guilty of testifying falsely, God forbid, when they recite the Shema daily, saying, with their eyes closed, “The Lord is One,” and He alone reigns in all four directions, in heaven above and on the earth beneath, and yet, no sooner do they open their eyes, than it has all vanished, God forbid.

It is the practice, when reciting the Shema, to close the eyes and concentrate on the belief that God alone reigns above and below and in all four directions of north, south, east, and west. Shneur Zalman takes this to mean that the true Hasid does everything for God. He only loves his wife and children because this, too, is what God would have him do. But no sooner has he opened his eyes, after affirming it in the Shema, that he forgets all about it and thinks only of earning a living for his family

Through this alone can we be acceptable to God, in that all our efforts in worldly things should be with the motive of reviving souls, portions of God, and to satisfy their needs in pure love. In this way we resemble our Creator, the Lord who is One, whose lovingkindness is all through the day a true lovingkindness, wherewith He revives the world and the fullness thereof at every moment. Only, it so happens that according to the Torah a man’s wife and children take prece­dence over others.

Shneur Zalman means that man is expected to resemble his Maker. Now Cod’s love is entirely untainted by self-interest, for He lacks nothing. It is pure, unadulterated goodness. So, too, man should be entirely disinterested in the good he does. He should not have any self-interest. His aim should be to keep souls alive, i.e., to help others because they have immortal souls (in Chabad, as in Levi Yitzhak’s thought, they have an actual portion of Cod in their souls). Strictly speaking, there ought to be no difference whether a man supports others or his own family. It is only that the Torah demands that he give precedence to his family. Thus his special care for his family should be because the Torah has so commanded.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, consider these things stated here very briefly (please God when we meet face to face, I shall elaborate on them) that the main way of serving God in these times, the times of the “heels of the Messiah,” is to give charity. As the Rabbis of blessed memory say (Sanhedrin 98a): “Israel will only be redeemed through charity.” The Rabbis only said (Peah 1:1) that the study of the Torah is equal to acts of benevolence in their day when the study of the Torah was their main way of serving God, and that is why they were such great sages, Tannaim, and Amoraim. It is quite dif­ferent during the time of the “heels of the Messiah,” when the Tabernacle of David has fallen to the stage of “heels” and “feet,” which represents action. There is no other way of converting darkness into light except through action, namely, the act of giving charity. For those who are wise know that the category of “action” with regard to the divine realm is the category of the influx of divine grace down below to those who have nothing of themselves.

Everything on earth mirrors the divine processes. Consequently, just as in the sefirotic realm there is wisdom and action so, too, in the progress of human history. Now the aspect of “action” in the divine realm is that God acts in His mercy to sustain the world, giving of His goodness to those who have nothing. Similarly, as mankind progresses toward the messianic age, raising the Tabernacle of David that has fallen, there are stages. In the days of the Rabbis the stage was that of thought, mirroring the stage of thought in the divine realm. But now we have to mirror the stage of action in the divine realm by giving charity. The reference to the “heels of the Messiah” is to this expression found frequently in the rabbinic literature, where it means the time when the “feet” of the Messiah are heard, i.e., just before he comes. But in the Kabala the meaning is that man has, as it were, worked his way downward from the head (the thought of the Tannaim and Amoraim) and has now to put right things through the “heels,” which denotes action, i.e., the lowest stage of the divine processes, when Cod’s thoughts are being realized. The Tannaim are the rabbis of the Mishnah, the Amoraim of the Gemara.

Whoever sacrifices his evil inclination in this matter and opens his hand and heart will cause the “Other Side” to be vanquished and will convert darkness into the light of God, blessed be He, who dwells among us in the category of “action” at the time of the “heels of the Messiah.” And he will be worthy of seeing God eye to eye when He returns to Zion.

Reading between the lines of this epistle, it would seem that some of the Hasidim tried to find an excuse for their lack of generosity in that they served Cod by studying the Torah, which is just as good as being benevolent. They could quote the passage in Peah in their support, so Shneur Zalman hastens to disabuse them.

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Quan pensem en relacions tenim tendència  a considerar-les sub specie eaternitatis, ‘es a dir, a veure-les a través del prisma de la eternitat, com deia Spinoza. Quan mor una persona amb la que hem tingut una relació tendim a recordar els moments i paraules que varen fer que ens estiméssim aquella persona. La realitat és que possiblement la relació va tenir els seus moments alts i baixos, però oblidem les tensions i ens centrem en les coses positives. Seleccionem els records de tal manera que creiïn una imatge positiva i d’afirmació.
El text de la Torà que llegirem Dissabte vinent tanca el cicle de Josep. Durant les dues setmanes passades el text ha tingut com a heroi central la figura de Josep, però aquesta setmana començarà a compartir protagonisme amb els seus germans. Després  d’un discussió entre Judà i Josep al començament del nostre text setmanal, Josep decideix finalment revelar-los la seva autèntica identitat. La primera reacció dels germans és que ara Josep vulgui venjar-se d’ells. De sobte els germans es veuen  davant de l’abisme de la incertesa.
Per contra Josep tria una altra via. A través d’un gest significatiu r definirà la relació amb els seus germans. Els demana “És viu encara el pare?” (Gn 45:3) El germans romanen muts, incrèduls. És llavors quan per a tranquil·litzar-los, Josep fa una afirmació sorprenent:
Però no us dolgui ni us sàpiga greu d’haver-ho fet: és Déu qui m’ha enviat aquí abans que vosaltres, per conservar-vos la vida.  Ja fa dos anys que hi ha fam al país i encara en passaran cinc sense conreu ni sega.  Déu m’ha enviat aquí abans que vosaltres per assegurar-vos la supervivència en aquest país i salvar prodigiosament les vostres vides.  No sou vosaltres els qui em vau enviar aquí, sinó Déu.
(Genesis 45:5-8)
En tota la narració de la vida de Josep fins al moment present, el text no ha donat mai cap indici de que tot el que li ha succeït al llarg d’aquests temps obeeixi a un pla diví.. És cert que Déu va revelar a Abraham que la seva descendència seria esclavitzada a Egipte, però Josep no té cap indicació. D’on ho ha tret?
En aquest moment precís de la narració, Josep es troba en una cruïlla. Té la oportunitat per a venjar-se dels seus germans i recordar com el varen tractar i el mal que li varen fer, la caravana a la que el varen vendre, i els mals tràngols pels que va haver de passar a Egipte. Igualment també pot recordar els somnis de grandesa que tenia de jove o el favoritisme de Jacob envers ell. Josep es troba en una cruïlla: té la possibilita de revenjar-se pel passat o de reconcilar-se amb els seus germans.
Nosaltres no som tant diferents de Josep. Després d’una mala relació recordem tot el que l’altra persona ha fet o dit i que ens ha fet mal, tot donant-nos un sentiment de justificació.Alhora també podem recordar les nostres paraules i accions. Quan una relació es deteriora, cada part ha d’assumir la seva part de responsabilitat. Només si assumim la nostra part de responsabilitat podrem trobar maneres d’arreglar el que ha estat malmès.
Fa dos dissabtes vàrem estudiar a la comunitat la història que hi ha al darrera de la festa Khanukà i com al llarg dels anys hem triat recordar uns o altres esdeveniments relacionats amb la festa. Es tracta d’una guerra d’un grup de jueus, els macabeus, contra altres grups jueus i contra els seleucides, capitanejats per Antioc, per a prendre el poder del país. Quan expliquem la història, tot i no oblidar l’element militar original, emfasitzem les lliçons espiritual i culturals que podem aprendre’n. En comptes de fer sonar trompetes i fer parades militars, emfasitzem la història de l’oli contingut en una humil gerra i que va cremar durant 8 dies. Com Josep triem allò que volem recordar.

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Xabat Khanukà
Paraixà Gn 41:1-44:17
Haftarà Zc 4:1-7
Les aventures de Josep continuen però ara a la cort del faraó. Després d’haver estat acusat per la dona de Potifar, Josep va a parar a la presó on farà algunes coneixences. Una d’aquestes coneixences el farà arribar fins al faraó mateix, quan aquest buscarà algú que li expliqui el significat d’un somni que ha tingut. Josep dóna al faraó una interpretació que el satisfà tant que el nomena virrei.
És en aquest context quan Josep es retroba amb els seus germans. Aquest han baixat a Egipte a buscar menjar i per això demanen audiència amb el virrei. Josep els rep. Els germans no s’adonen que estan davant de Josep, mentre que ells sí que els ha reconegut i els acusa de ser espies. Ells insisteixen qu eno ho són, sinó que són deu de dotze germans. Els dos que faltes, un ja no hi és i l’altre ha tornat a casa amb el pare. Josep insisteix que portin el germà petit, Benjamí. Mentre un dels deu germans es quedarà com a garantia.
En el moment de la separació els germans es diuen l’un a l’altre «Ben cert que avui expiem per causa del nostre germà [Josep]. Vam veure la seva angoixa d’esperit, quan ens suplicava, i [literalment, però] no el vam escoltar. Per això, ens ha vingut aquesta tribulació» (Gn 42:21)
En hebreu “però” es diu “aval.” Trobo que aquesta conjunció resumeix perfectament el pecat dels germans “Vàrem veure la seva angoixa… però no el vàrem escoltar” No costa gaire imaginar els sentiments i les emocions d’aquests deu germans en aquest moment precís del relat. Sabien que estaven fent mal fet, però / aval em Josep s’ho va buscar, o almenys això varen pensar en aquell moment. El text no és explicit sobre els seus sentiments, però deixa clar que acaben de tenir un moment de lucidesa i s’adonen que podrien haver actuar d’una altra manera, pero / aval no ho varen fer.
D’aquí unes setmanes celebrarem el cap d’any amb grans festes. Serà el moment de fer la llista dels nostres bons propòsits. Molts d’ells seran repetició dels propòsits que vàrem fer l’any passat. Vaig prometre mantenir-me en forma però la veritat és que fa massa fred per a córrer pel carrer. Desembre és un moment de l’any quan ens sentim generosos i voldríem donar a totes les ONG però ja ho faran els que tenen diners perquè jo no en tinc. Hauria de fer posar-me a estudiar més Torà però estic massa ocupat amb la meva feina. Totes aquestes excuses tenen una part de veritat, però quan ho mirem honestament sabem que ho podríem fer millor.
El vidui, o confessió, que fem el dia de Iom Kipur és el text que millor encarna aquest principi en la tradició jueva “…no som tant insolents i arrogants com per a dir en la teva presència “Oh Sant, Déu dels nostres pares i mares, som justos i no hem pecat” però hem pecat – aval anakhnu khatanu.” En aquest text, la paraula clau que ens obre les portes de la confessió és “però / aval.”
Tant si recitem aquest text en les nostres pregàries durant Iom Kipur o si llegim el text de la paraixà aquesta setmana, en ambdós casos, “aval” és una crida a examinar les nostres consciències, una crida a interioritzar la responsabilitat no a exterioritzar-la. Els germans de Josep reconeixen el seu pecat. Reconeixen que sabien quina era la manera correcte d’actuar, però tot i això, –aval– no ho varen fer.
Molta gent pensa que la confessió només és una tradició de la església catòlica, altres creuen que la confessió en la tradició jueva és una forma d’hipocresia. Res més allunya’t de la realitat ja que són diversos els textos que afirmen la ineficàcia de la confessió a Déu si no hi ha abans una confessió i un demanar perdó a la persona a la que s’ha fet el greuge. La confessió, reconèixer el greuge i assumir-ne les responsabilitats que se’n deriven és el primer pas en el procés de teixuvà, o penediment. El segon és comprometre’s a no tornar-ho a fer, i el tercer és evitar situacions similars que varen dur a cometre el greuge.  Els germans de Josep aniran passant per cadascuna d’aquestes etapes mentre restableixen la seva relació amb Josep.
És la nostra natura humana el defugir responsabilitats i buscar-nos excuses del tipus “Sí. això era el correcte, però…” Aquests tres passos tenen la funció de recorda-nos aquesta temptació. Com els germans de Josep, durant Iom Kipur, reconeixem les nostres culpes mentre intentem no només buscar excuses sinó racionalitzar-les traduint aval com “de fet” i dient “D’acord que vaig fer malament. Bé, de fet,….” La manera que traduim “aval” dependrà de les nostres intencions. Quan intentem racionalitzar el nostre mal comportament, aval és un terme per a la evasió moral. Quan confessem el nostre mal comportament, aval és sinònim de prendre responsabilitat.

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Tant el judaisme com el cristianisme atribueixen una gran força a la paraula. En el nostre cas, el judaisme exemplifica aquesta importància amb la pregària que obre el servei del matí anomenada “Barukh xe amar – Beneït aquell qui va dir/parlar i el món va ser creat.” El món va ser creat a través de la paraula com veiem reflectit en els primers capítols del llibre de Gènesis.
Les paraules també contenen missatges no sempre evidents. Un bon exemple d’això el tenim en el text que ens ocupa aquesta setmana. La història és prou coneguda per tots: a la cort del Faraó. Després d’arribar a Egipte Josep acaba com esclau a casa de Potifar. La seva mestressa sent una atracció física per Josep i el tracta de seduir. Ell intenta negar-se però ella li arranca el vestit que més tard presentarà al seu marit com a prova d’un intent de seducció per part de Josep. Per aquesta raó Josep acaba a la presó. (Gn 39:11-20)
El geni d ela llengua hebrea li agrada jugar amb els significats de les paraules. En el text que us he presentat l’objecte central és el vestit., que en hebreu es diu begued (amb les lletres bet guimel dalet), però també hi ha una altra paraula que comparteix la mateixa arrel: beguidà i que podem traduir com a engany o traïdoria. La connexió entre aquestes dues paraules en el context de la nostra paraixà és casual? Les aparences enganyen i la realitat pot amagar-se més enllà del que veuen els nostres ulls.
El nostre text sembla confirmar-ho. La dona ha convençut el seu marit i la prova és el begued, o vestit que ha pres de Josep. No és la primera vegada que això passa a en Josep. Abans hem llegit com els seus germans varen agafar-li el vestit i el varen tacar amb sang per a mostrar-lo al seu pare, Jacob, i convèncer-lo  que Josep havia estat devorat per una bèstia ferotge. (Gn 37: 31-33) En tots dos casos el vestit [begued] esdevé l’instrument d’una beguidà, o engany.
Hem dit abans que les aparences enganyen i que la realitat pot estar més enllà del que veuen els nostres ulls. Aquest concepte és bàsic per a la mística jueva. S’anomena nistar o ocultació. L’objectiu que el místic jueu persegueix és revelar aquesta veritat amagada.
La manera en què vestíem revela qui som,  quina és la nostra professió, o la nostra cultura. Hi ha una relació entre la aparença i la manera en què ens veiem a nosaltres mateixos i com ens veuen els altres, però això també pot enganyar. Pensem per exemple en carnaval quan portem màscares darrere de les quals amaguem la nostra identitat real.
La veritat no només pot amargar-se darrere de les aparences. De vegades la veritat que busquen pot estar a la vista, però el que passa és que ens fixem en els llums que brillen i perdem la perspectiva del món. Necessitem veure allò transcendent en allò que fem  diàriament. Això em recorda la història de dos peixos joves que neden en l’aigua. Pel camí es troben un peix més gran que els saluda i els pregunta: “què nois! Com està l’aigua?” Els peixos passen de llarg, sense respondre. Uns minuts després un peix jove diu a l’altre: “I què és això de l’aigua?”
Sembla un acudit, però  ens recorda que les realitats més importants sovint són les més difícils de veure. Allò que ens és més familiar, sol ser allò que ens passa més desapercebut. Créixer com a persona és sinònim d’aprendre el què és més important, què cal prioritzar, en què ens hem de concentrar. Certament no ens gens fàcil, especialment en la era del portàtil, el mòbil, en què tot sembla competir per atreure la nostra atenció. I tot i així, quan preguem, quan estudiem, quan parem esment a la saviesa dels que ens han precedit aprenem a com concentrar-nos millor. L’aprenentatge de veritat busca allò que és veritable i que està amagat a plena vista tot al nostre voltant.

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