He is referred to as “Arizal HaChai – the Living Arizal,” an epithet that is not used for other great Jews, even those who only died on account of “the serpent’s bite,” and even those of whom it is said that they “did not die” at all. * Source materials compiled by Rabbi Shloma Majeski. Underlining is the author’s emphasis.

Presented and translated by Boruch Merkur

On the 4th of Menachem-Av 5749, the eve of the hilula of the Arizal HaChai, the Rebbe MH”M spoke about the 16th century master kabbalist’s unique association with the eternal life of the Future Era. In this sense, the Rebbe says, the Arizal surpasses even the tzaddikim who only died on account of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, tzaddikim who, on account of their profound righteousness, would have otherwise lived forever. In fact, in this respect, the Arizal even outshines Yaakov Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu, regarding whom our Sages teach in the Talmud that they never actually died. The Rebbe’s sicha follows.


The revelation of Shabbos Chazon foreshadows the revelation of the Future Era. This year, Shabbos Chazon occurs on the 5th of Menachem-Av, the hilula of the Arizal. As stated in Igeres HaKodesh siman 28, on the day of a hilula of a tzaddik, all “the service he performed throughout all the days of his life” is revealed and “brings about salvation in the midst of the land.”

The Arizal is synonymous with the inner dimension of the Torah. (Indeed, the Arizal is an embodiment of “to’ameha chayim zachu – those who savor it merit life,”* the revelation of the inner dimension of the Torah of the Future Era,** “bread from Heaven,” as discussed earlier.) In fact, it is the Arizal who said that “specifically in recent generations has it become permitted – verily, a Mitzva – to reveal this wisdom” (Igeres HaKodesh siman 26, 142b). Later on, the banner of promoting the study of the inner dimension of the Torah was upheld by the Baal Shem Tov, as well as the Rebbes, our leaders, following the directive and instruction of “spread your wellsprings outward,” which brings about “asi Mar – the approach of the master,” Malka Meshicha, the Messianic King.

As a direct result – in addition to an increase in “mishpat” [i.e., Torah, intellect] and “tz’daka” [Mitzvos associated with refining and purifying physical things, as well as the middos, one’s character traits], both of which are especially emphasized in the Arizal*** – this should inspire us to increase in all activities associated with spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward, “this wisdom – zos ha’chochma,” especially as it is expressed and richly elucidated in the teachings of Chabad Chassidus, which emphasize the three aspects of the mind: Chochma, Bina, and Daas.

The concept of spreading the wellsprings outward likewise applies to oneself: The general concept of the study of Chabad Chassidus with understanding and comprehension is expressed through the dissemination of the wellsprings of Chochma, Wisdom, into Bina and Daas, reaching as far as the middos, which are considered “outward” with respect to the mind. This Chochma must even extend to [the three “garments” of the soul] thought, speech, and action. Indeed, “action is the most pertinent.”

(From the address of Shabbos Parshas D’varim, Shabbos Chazon, 4 Menachem-Av; Seifer HaSichos 5749, pg. 619)


*Footnote 83: See Likkutei Sichos Vol. 15, pg. 282, where it is discussed.

**Footnote 84: To note that the concept of redemption is alluded to in his name: “Yitzchok” – for in the Future Era we shall say of Yitzchok, “for you are our father” (Shabbos 89b); “ben Shlomo” – for in the time of Shlomo HaMelech there was perfect peace and tranquility, resembling the peace of the Future Era (Shaarei T’shuva of the Mitteler Rebbe, words beginning with “Pada V’Shalom” Ch. 11).

And also to point out that in several places he is referred to as “Arizal HaChai – the Living Arizal” (an epithet that is not used for other great Jews, even those who “only died on account of the serpent’s bite,” and even those of whom it is said that they “did not die” at all – see Shabbos 55b, Bava Basra 17a; and see Likkutei Sichos Vol. 24, pg. 132 ff.) – a state that resembles the revelation of the eternal life of the future Era.

***See Footnote 87 in the original for sources.

The Holy Whole. Within the walls of the Holy Temple

Jewish Practice » Jewish Holidays » Tisha B’Av and the 3 Weeks » The Holy Temple » Readings & Insights

The Holy Whole

Within the walls of the Holy Temple
My two-year-old came running up to me yesterday as I stood mashing potatoes for dinner and, with as much indignation as a two-year-old can muster, flung his finger in the general direction of his older brother and said, “He hit me!”

“Not true!” my four-year-old denied the allegations. “I didn’t hit him, my hand hit his face!”

I stood there for a moment, unsure how to proceed, until, after what was probably a full minute of silence, my four-year-old explained, “I didn’t want to hit him. It was an accident. So it wasn’t really me hitting him, it was just my hand hitting his face.”

I was struck by the depth of this four-year-old logic. If he had lifted his hand intentionally to hit his brother, then it would be fair to say that he had done the hitting, and that he had hit his brother. But since the blow was unintentional, it did not come from him, only from his hand, and he hadn’t hit his brother, only his brother’s face.

I directed both boys back to their trains with a warning to please be more aware of what their hands were doing, especially around faces. And then I stood for a while in the kitchen, watching them and thinking about the very compelling argument my four-year-old had just made.

There is action, and then there is the will that drives the action. They are not one and the same, but they are not really separate either. Imagine how painstaking it would be to have to issue an explicit command to your hand every time you wanted to move it, or to your foot if you wanted to walk or hop, or to your mouth to form a certain sound or word. Thankfully, that’s not how our bodies are designed. Instead, our neurons almost instantly transmit our will to the specific limb that will express it.

When you watch an artist paint a picture, what you see is the movements of the artist’s hand as he guides his brush over the canvas. You don’t see the firing of those many millions of neurons, bringing the messages from the artist’s will to his hand and guiding his hand to the brush, the brush to the paint and then to the canvas, to make the artist’s desire to paint a reality. Yet when you see the final masterpiece, you would never think that the artist’s hands created it by mistake.

The same is true of the world we live in. We see the various processes around us, but in truth there is an underlying will that guides each process. Unlike my four-year-old, though, G‑d doesn’t act without intent, and nothing happens by chance. Every occurrence is the express will of G‑d.

The Tabernacle and the Temple were designed to teach us how G‑d is present in every detail of the world, and the service performed therein was a further reminder of His presence and the ways in which we can connect to Him.

Each of the vessels of the Temple served as an expression of G‑d’s relationship with the world. Just like a mouth cannot walk and a foot cannot talk, each vessel was used for only its specific purpose.

The copper altar, upon which animals, meal cakes and wine were sacrificed, guided people to sacrifice their animalistic tendencies and give of themselves to G‑d. The incense altar helped further refine the relationship with the One Above. The menorah lit the Temple, spreading the light of G‑dliness to the world. The shulchan held the showbread, emanating the blessings of livelihood to the entire nation. Each vessel had a specific, manifest holiness.

But equal to, and possibly more important than, the vessels of the Temple were the walls that surrounded them. The Torah issues very specific instructions for the making of the curtains that served as walls in the desert, including which materials to use and what their dimensions should be. And most importantly, the curtains were fashioned before the vessels. These weren’t just any curtains; they were the walls of the house of G‑d, and they gave innate holiness to the vessels themselves. Beyond the manifest holiness of each specific vessel, the vessels were innately holy simply because they were found within the walls of the Temple.

This manifest and innate holiness can be seen in the entire world. Each moment manifests individually, like an individual piece of furniture, and some moments seem more holy and G‑dly than others. And each person has his or her own talents and strengths, and some seem more suited to the service of G‑d than others. At the same time, each moment and each person is part of a greater, innately holy whole. We are within the walls of creation, the whole of G‑d’s world, created by His word, and powered by the neurons of the universe—the will and desire of G‑d.

Just as every synapse and neuron is integral to the final action, and each brushstroke is integral to the final piece of art, so too each moment and each person is integral to the purpose of creation. It is our job to uncover this innate holiness in every moment and every person, so that the world can be filled with manifest G‑dliness in the most complete way possible, with the coming of Moshiach and the final redemption.

Based on the maamar “Mitzvas Binyan Mikdash” in Derech Mitzvosecha, by the Tzemach Tzedek.

Ester Shurpin lives with her family in S. Louis Park, MN.
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Breaking Walls : The Three Weeks By: Sara Esther Crispe

The Jewish Woman » Spirituality & the Feminine » Time in Thought » The Month of Av

There is no time more tragic, no period more painful, no suffering more acute than what has befallen the Jewish people, throughout history, during the Three Weeks.

Beginning on the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz and ending with the 9th day of the month of Av, the Jewish people, as individuals and as a collective whole, mourn and commemorate the many painful attempts at our destruction which occurred in this time.How do we diminish the pain and suffering which comes when Av enters?

The list of tragedies associated with this time period is overwhelming. Tammuz 17, the day which starts these three weeks, is the same day when, in the year 1313 BCE, the tablets containing the Ten Commandments were broken.1 On that same day, some 1380 years later, the legions of Rome breached the walls of Jerusalem after a 30-month siege. For three weeks the battle raged in Jerusalem, until the city was vanquished, the Holy Temple destroyed and the Jewish people driven into exile. Thus we entered the state of galut (physical and spiritual displacement) in which we still find ourselves today.2

And yet, this was only the beginning.

Three tragic weeks later we arrive at Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av. Predominantly known as the day on which both the first and second Holy Temples were destroyed—the First Temple by the Babylonians in 423 BCE, and the Second Temple by the Romans in 69 CE—the Ninth of Av is also associated with many other horrific events, preceding the destruction of the Temples and continuing until the present.3

(By a cruel irony, the day originally chosen by the Israeli government for the expulsion of thousands of men, women and children from their homes in Gush Katif and the other settlements in the Gaza Strip fell within the Three Weeks. But that date was changed due to tremendous pressure from Jews the world over, aghast that the government of Israel would add to the list of our sufferings during this tragic period.)

Jewish law mandates a series of mourning observances during the Three Weeks. The 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av are both fast days. For the entire Three Weeks we do not hold weddings; like mourners, we refrain from cutting our hair, listening to music, or purchasing or wearing new clothes. In the final nine days of the Three Weeks (i.e., from the 1st to the 9th of Av) we enter a period of heightened mourning: in addition to the above mourning practices, we do not eat meat or drink wine, do not bathe for pleasure, and in general refrain from any activities whose purpose is pleasure and enjoyment.

These three weeks are referred to by the prophet Jeremiah as bein hametzarim, literally “between the constrictions.” The word meitzar, “constriction,” is the root of the word mitzrayim, “Egypt,” alluding to our days of being enslaved in our first galut. When we are constricted, we are in a state of exile—we are not able to express ourselves or be who we truly are.

Yet, as is true with most everything in Judaism, nothing is as simple as it appears. Our prophets prophesied that the Ninth of Av will ultimately be revealed as the greatest and most joyous of all the days of the year. Even now, as we fast and mourn on this day, Jewish law alludes to its future status as a moed, a day of joyous celebration: it is for this reason that we omit tachanun (“supplication” prayers and confession of sins) from our daily prayers on the Ninth of Av, as we do on festivals and other joyous days in our calendar.

In the Kabbalistic work Zohar we are shown how the entire period that we consider a period of mourning, the whole Three Weeks, is actually the seed for what will become this day of celebration.

The 21 days of the Bein HaMetzarim period begin on the 17th of Tammuz. The number 17 is numerically equivalent to tov, the word in Hebrew for “good.” Clearly this “good” is not a revealed good, yet concealed within the darkness is the good which will be revealed. Furthermore, while we have 21 days of this mourning state, we find that throughout the Jewish calendar there are also 21 days of festivity: Shabbat is one day; Rosh Chodesh, the celebration of the new month, is one day; Passover, the holiday marking our breaking out of slavery and into freedom, is seven days; Shavuot, considered the day of our wedding to our Creator, when we merited to receive the Torah, is one day; Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish new year, is two days; Yom Kippur is one day; Sukkot is seven days; and Shemini Atzeret (Simchat Torah) is one day. Thus: 1+1+7+1+2+1+7+1=21. Now, if these numbers seem off to you, there is a reason. The days equal 21 only if they are calculated according to how the festivals are observed in the Land of Israel, where most holidays are one day shorter than they are in the Diaspora. This already is an allusion that the true way to celebrate our holy days is the way that it is done in the Land of Israel. And we know that one of the first things that will be done when we are redeemed is that all Jews will be returned to our true home, in the Holy Land of Israel.

In the Jerusalem Talmud (Taanit 4:5) we are told that the 21 days of the Three Weeks correspond to a vision that the prophet Jeremiah had concerning the destruction of the Temple. Jeremiah saw a makel shaked, “a staff of almond wood,” and heard G‑d warning him that evil was imminent—“For I will hasten (shoked) My word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:11–12). The Talmud explains: “The almond takes 21 days from when it blossoms until it ripens. This corresponds to the 21 days between the 17th of Tammuz, when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and the Ninth of Av, when the Holy Temple was burned.”Everything, no matter how dark or how seemingly bad, has the ability to turn around . . .

The famed “Gaon of Rogatchov” (Rabbi Joseph Rosin, 1858–1936) writes that inherent in G‑d’s warning to Jeremiah was a consolation. Almonds start off bitter and become sweet as they develop (in contrast to another kind of nut called luz, which starts off sweet and becomes bitter). This is why the 21 days of Bein HaMetzarim are alluded to by the 21-day “staff of almond wood”: not only are we able to negate the bitterness of these days, but we are capable of turning their bitterness to sweetness, of transforming these days of mourning into days of rejoicing and gladness.

Another allusion to this is in the famous Talmudic statement, Mishenichnas Av memaatin besimchah. The basic meaning of these four words is “When Av enters, we decrease in joy.” However, because the original Talmudic text contains no punctuation marks, this statement can be read in two ways. On the one hand, yes, practically speaking, because of the tragedies that befell the Jewish people during the month of Av, we minimize our joy. However, now that we know that the good is only hidden and will soon be revealed, we can also read it another way: “When Av enters we decrease, in joy.” How do we diminish the pain and suffering which comes when Av enters? Specifically through the simchah, through a positive outlook and a joyous approach.

And we end the three weeks with a similar reminder. On the Ninth of Av we read the kinot (“lamentations”), a collection of poetic prayers describing the terrible events that we suffered as a people. Yet if we just turn the letters around, we have the word tikkun, rectification, showing that everything, no matter how dark or how seemingly bad, has the ability to turn around.4

Being that the Ninth of Av is in the month of Av, we must also look at the esoteric dimensions of the month itself to have an even deeper understanding of this time period. As is explained in Sefer Yetzirah (the earliest book of Kabbalah we have, and which is attributed to Abraham himself), each month of the Jewish year has a letter that represents it, and each letter can be interpreted according to its form, its shape, its numerical value and its meaning.

The letter which represents the month of Av is tet, which is the 9th letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and its gematria (numerical value) is also 9. As the first letter of the word tov, the tet represents the concept of concealed good which is waiting to be revealed. It also represents the concept of pregnancy, both in its form (with its rounded, introverted shape) and numerical value (alluding to the nine months of pregnancy). See image above.

Indeed, one of the classic metaphors in Jewish thought is that pregnancy represnts a state of constriction, for it is a time when hidden good is concealed and constricted within, until the moment comes for it to be birthed and revealed into this world. It is vital to remember that pregnancy does not exist just on a physical level, but rather we are all—both men and women— considered to constantly be in various stages of pregnancy, be it spiritual or emotional or intellectual. Thus the mitzvah of pru urevu, “Be fruitful and multiply,” does not just mean to physically have children, but also that we are commanded to be creative, to use our G‑d-given talents to create within this world.

The state of pregnancy is thus a state of being constricted, in which we are not yet able to fully manifest our potential or the latent or hidden good that is within. But as we often find, it is the work we accomplish when enslaved and constricted that allows us to truly appreciate our freedom. Only through limitation can we understand what it means to be limitless. And so, the very key to our celebration, our redemption, can be found in this time of constrictedness.

The Ninth of Av is the tet day of Av, the pregnant day of the pregnant month. Incredibly, the sages teach that Moshiach will be born on the Ninth of Av (and there are different opinions as to whether this will be his physical birth or his spiritual birth). In other words, our redeemer will be revealed and bring our world to a state of revelation on the very day that during our exile has represented terrible destruction. In the midst of our destruction, we have the ability for rebirth.

The same is true of the day that marks the beginning of our mourning period, the 17th day of Tammuz. If our walls are always up, then no one can come in and we cannot get out; they are a barrier that becomes a prisonOn this day the walls of Jerusalem were breached, leading to the destruction and the exile. However, there is something positive that can result from the breaking down of walls. There is some “good” (alluded to in the number 17 = tov = good) here which can also be the seeds of a very positive process. The only way we can rebuild is when we are willing to first tear down the present structure, to break down the walls. This is certainly true not only on a physical level, but psychologically, emotionally and spiritually as well. If anything, these barriers are often harder to break than even the highest and thickest physical wall.

A wall is something that keeps others out, that protects and hides what is kept behind it. Walls are necessary, especially in an imperfect world. However, there are times when we need to let down our walls in order to truly experience and feel and grow. If our walls are always up, then no one can come in and we cannot get out; rather than mere protection, they become a form of escape, of separation, a barrier that becomes a prison.

This is the true work that we must do, both individually and globally. We must look within and without, and start breaking down our walls. We must break our walls of fear, distrust, ignorance and hate, and we must destroy them to the ground. Then, when we are standing in the midst of the rubble, when we can finally see one another again and there is nothing blocking us, we can begin the process again, brick by brick. But this time, rather than building a wall, we will build a home, a home that can be shared by all, and where all are welcome. And through this, we will finally be able to reveal the goodness that has been concealed for so long, and bring meaning to the confusion and purpose to the apparent chaos. Then we will no longer experience these days as days of mourning, but rather of celebration and joy, for we will truly be redeemed.

1. The breaking of the tablets was a national tragedy of the highest order, as it marked the first breakdown in the covenant between G‑d and the people of Israel. Just 40 days after that covenant was entered into with the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, the people made and worshipped a golden calf, resulting in the breaking of the tablets which represented their “marriage contract” with G‑d. Since the physical and national events that befall us as a people directly mirror the state of our relationship with G‑d, the breaking of the tablets is the source of all tragedies of Jewish history. In the words of our sages, “There is no catastrophe that befalls Israel that does not have in it something of the catastrophe of the golden calf.”
2. Three other tragic events occurred on 17 Tammuz that are associated with the destruction of the two Temples: the service in the First Temple was disrupted, three weeks before its destruction by the Babylonians in 423 BCE; a Torah scroll was burned by Apostomos, a Greek or Roman officer; and an idol was erected in the Temple’s sanctuary.
3. On the ninth of Av it was decreed the generation of the Exodus would not merit to enter into the Land of Israel, following the nationally ruinous incident of the spies. It is the day when Beitar, the last Jewish stronghold after the destruction of Jerusalem, was conquered and cruelly destroyed by the Romans in 133 CE. The final expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 was on this date. Most recently, the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which resulted in 86 deaths and at least 120 wounded, occurred on 9 Av in 1994.
4. From Kol Bochim (“The Crying Voice”), a Kabbalistic commentary on the Book of Lamentations, written in 1589 by Rabbi Avraham Galante, student of Rabbi Moshe Cardovero (Ramak)

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Wanton Love

Inspiration & Entertainment » Daily Dose of Wisdom » Bringing Heaven Down to Earth » We Are All One


One who is full of himself fills all the space around him. There is no room left for anyone else. Therefore, he despises another person by virtue of the space that other person consumes. He may give reasons for his disdain, but the reasons are secondary.

This is called wanton hatred. It is the reason given for our exile. It is the core of all evil.

Its only cure is wanton acts of kindness and caring for the other guy beyond reason.