Sefer uTemai’im beyad Tehorim
We are blessed here to offer our fifth workbook for the Holy days of Hanukah.
Our title comes from the Al HaNissim prayer which we recite several times daily during
You [Hashem] delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the
few, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, the “impure” into the hands of the “pure,”
and the wanton into the hands of the diligent students of Your Torah.
This “impure” to “pure” distinction will be discussed in detail later. Hanukah which
involves a review of differences and revolves around the mitzvah of lighting candles
is thus similar to the weekly Havdalah ceremony around a candle, using words of
[Hashem] Who separates between holy and secular, between light and darkness, between Israel
and the nations, and between the seventh day and the six days of labor.
We recognize such distinctions as necessary, harkening us back to the second day of
And G-d said: ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the
And G-d made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters
which were above the firmament; and it was so.
The Written Torah itself makes distinctions, as we noted in the Havdalah ceremony,
and designated certain days as “holy” (kodesh), during which various forms of
activity are forbidden. It also designated certain places as holy, such as the Temple
and walled cities, from which various kinds of impurity must be excluded. The Oral
Torah called the Mishnah systematically applies the dichotomy between the “holy”
(kodesh) and the “profane” (ḥol) in order to constitute an elaborate hierarchy of holy
times and holy places. The holiest times were defined by the most rigorous and most
comprehensive set of prohibitions, and lesser degrees of holiness by more lenient and
less comprehensive sets of prohibitions. 1Similarly, the Mishnah defines ten ascending
levels of holy space (Kel. 1:6–9), each defined by stricter and stricter rules of purity.
These distinctions that follow form the basis of our halakhah, our Jewish law, in
determining differences through the close examination of some dimension of ordinary
human life or experience, and the careful categorization of certain aspects of that
experience in line with a limited number of formal dichotomies.
The most obvious – and familiar – halakhic dichotomy is the one between “forbidden”
(asur) and “permitted” (mutar). This dichotomy is most regularly applied to human
behavior. For example, the Mishnah may categorize sexual relations between two
individuals under certain circumstances as permitted, and under other circumstances
as forbidden. While eating on the Day of Atonement is certainly forbidden, Mishnaic
halakhah lists certain exceptions to this rule and even requires children under a certain
age to eat. Similarly, the halakhah permits heating food on the Sabbath under certain
circumstances and forbids it under other circumstances.
A related dichotomy – applying also to a large extent to behavior – is the one
between “liable” for punishment or some other formal sanction (ḥayyav) and ‘exempt’
from such sanctions (patur). This dichotomy is generally applicable to actions which
have already been categorized as forbidden. For example, Mishnaic halakhah
forbids the carrying of an object in the public domain on the Sabbath. In order for
the transgressor to be considered “liable” for sanctions, however, the act of carrying
must conform to a number of different conditions. If any one of these conditions is not
1 Note that in the hanerot hallalu prayer said after lighting we mention the holiness of
These lights do we kindle about the miracles and the wonders, about the salvations and the wars that
You did for our fathers in those days and that time, by the hands of Your Holy “priests” (Kohanim). All the
eight days of Hanukah these lights are holy. And we do not have permission to use them, but only to look
met, the transgressor is considered “exempt” from sanctions. Similarly, the halakhah
forbids baking bread on a holiday for use the following day. One who transgresses this
rule is, however, not necessarily liable for punishment. It is forbidden to steal. Under
certain circumstances the thief will be liable to pay double indemnity, while under other
circumstances he will be exempt from this additional payment. Although a person can
be liable for the indirect or inadvertent consequences of his or her actions (or inaction),
it is not always possible to categorize these actions as forbidden.
The dichotomy between ḥayyav and patur may also be applied to human behavior in
another way – with regard to positive commandments, such as the eating of matzah on
Passover. Here ḥayyav should be translated as “obligated [to fulfill the commandment]”
and patur as “exempt [from fulfilling it].” The halakhah categorizes eating matzah on
the first night of Passover as an “obligation” (ḥovah), and on the remaining days
of Passover as “optional” (reshut). The Mishnah states that properly prepared
matzah “may be used in order to fulfill one’s obligation” (yosin bo). When prepared
improperly, the Mishnah states: “it may not be used in order to fulfill the obligation” (ein
yosin bo). The Mishnah uses the dichotomy between “fit” (kasher) and “unfit” (pasul)
in a similar fashion, in order to determine whether various ritual objects – a shofar
or a lulav, for example – may be used to fulfill one’s obligation in performing these
The most highly developed area of Mishnaic halakhah is to be found in its system of
ritual purity. Seder Toharot applies the dichotomy between ritually pure (tahor) and
ritually impure (tame) to virtually every aspect of ordinary life. These terms can signify
either that an object is susceptible to becoming impure, or that it is actually impure
and capable of transmitting this impurity to something else. Certain tractates define
the purity or impurity of tools, garments, vessels, and places of residence. Others
define the purity or impurity of foods and drinks. Others categorize certain individuals
as themselves being sources of ritual impurity, and other individuals as impure as a
result of contact with other sources of ritual impurity. This area of halakhah seems to
have played a decisive role in the life of the Mishnaic sages, even among non-priestly
families, and with no obvious connection to the Temple.
Now back to Hanukah. In our Al HaNissim prayer, we will in every Amidah and every
After-blessing for Bread mention the distinctions listed above.
It came to me with the help of Heaven, that we while gazing upon the Hanukah lights
lit during the darkest time of year, we have an ready-made opportunity to meditate on
the power of distinguishing, in particular the eight categories listed above: Mutar and
Asur, Patur and Chayav, Kasher and Pasul, Tamei and Tahor.
It moreover occured to me with the help of Heaven, that these terms also have strong
correspondence to the mystic energies that flow on Hanukah during the 8 days, related
to the 8 Sefirot, in the following order and pages:
Night 1: Chesed and Mutar: page 5
Night 2: Gevurah and Asur: page 8
Night 3: Tiferet and Patur: page 11
Night 4: Netzach and Kasher: page 14
Night 5: Hod and Pasul: page 17
Night 6: Yesod and Chayav: page 20
Night 7: Malchut and Tamei: page 24
Night 8: Binah and Tahor: page 27
While the candles are burning, it is an important mystic practice to contemplate the lights as well
as one’s self.
It is humbly submitted that during this time when we make daily distinctions, in the Al HaNissim
prayer to personalize these themes based on traditional halachic dichotonomy can only bring
us closer to ourselves, to return in teshuvah as it were. And since Zot Hanukah on the 8th
night is viewed as the end of the process of return begun on Rosh Hashanah, 8 days of
meditation which lead to action can only facilitate this movement. May these distinctions make
Blessings for a Joyous Hanukah,
Rahmiel Hayyim Drizin,
Tonight right after we do the Havdalah ceremony honoring distinctions, according to
Sefardi Kabbalists, say the first blessing, then light the first Hanukah candle, then say
the remaining two blessings.
So, it would seem that with all of the distinctions listed above in the Al HaNissim for
Hanukah, said earlier for the first time in our Modim prayer of Arabit, plus the Havdalah
ceremony, we are all primed to begin our work during the next 8 days to focus on
differences in our lives, and how to recognize them and make them meaningful.
Tonight according to some systems represents Hesed/lovingkindness, or expansion.
[Note our color choices. In the news last month we read “With one day left in the campaign, a basic
difference between the two parties is in depressing evidence: Democrats seek to expand the franchise,
while Republicans seek to restrict it.’ So much for blue and red States!]
It corresponds to “Yes Saying”, which Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz of Jerusalem lists:
1. ACTUALIZE OUR CALLING
2. OPEN UP OUR EMOTIONAL POWERS
3. SHARE OUR LOVE WITH HASHEM AND THE WORLD AND OURSELVES
4. BECOME A MASTER GIVER
5. CONNECT WITH MANY OTHER PEOPLE THAN WE KNOW NOW
6. OPEN UP MANY NEW DOORS OF OPPORTUNITY AND ABUNDANCE
7. IMPROVE OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OUR SPOUSE [PRESENT ONE OR FUTURE ONE]
8. FULFILL NUMEROUS INTERPERSONAL MITZVOT
9. MAXIMIZE OUR ATTRACTIVENESS TO OTHERS AND THEIRS TO US
10.HELP BUILD A WORLD OF CHESED
11.EMULATE G-D’S TRAIT OF GIVING AND BENEVOLENCE
12.SWEETEN AND MINIMIZE HARSH DECREES AND HARSH JUDGEMENTALISM
13.EXPAND CONSTRICTED CONSCIOUSNESS
14.EMULATE THE WAYS OF THE PATRIARCHS AND MATRIARCHS
15.PERPETUATE ‘YES’ SAYING IN THE WORLD [WITH ALL OF THESE POWERFUL IMPACTS]
16.LEAD A LIFE FULL OF INSPIRATION
17.LIVE THE LIFE YOU LOVE AND LOVE THE LIFE YOU LIVE
18.EMPOWER YOURSELF TO CARRY OUT ANYTHING THAT YOU INTEND
19.EMPOWER OTHERS TO ACTUALIZE THEIR INTENDED GOALS
20.BECOME A BEACON OF LOVE, LIGHT, GOODNESS AND POSITIVITY
See, mutar means “Yes Saying” to a particular behavior, saying “yes” that it is
It is the magic word to a halachic question in which one seeks a resolution to a query
involving Jewish law.
Once you ask a Sage and he says “Mutar”, you then have a halachic basis to rely on
to then do this behavior.
So on this very first day of the Holy day, when all 8 days are open up to us, we
say “Yes!”, and imagine a world of expansion without boundaries.
Once one enters the halachic world, often one will seek a “heter”–permissive approval.
It is not considered good behavior to go “heter shopping”, meaning to go from one
Rabbi to another until one gets his or her desired answer.
Just because one obtains a heter, however, does not mean that the behavior is
The Ramban, in a famous argument with Rashi, says that the verse “You shall be
Kedoshim” has nothing to do with illicit sexual acts. Rather, Kedoshim Tihiyu [You shall
be holy] is referring to perfectly permissible activities. The concept is “sanctify yourself
by withdrawing from that which is permissible to you” (kadesh et atzmecha b’mutar
lach). Without such self-limitation, the Ramban declares, a person can be a ‘naval
b’rshust haTorah’ [a glutton ‘sanctioned’ by the Torah]. The level of sanctity required by this
pasuk [verse] is that achieved by restraining oneself somewhat from even those physical
pleasures that the Torah permits.
There are times in our life when a “NO” voice fills our minds when we want to say Yes.
The following list suggested by R. Yitzchak would be well to contemplate while the
candles are burning:
–Identify the ‘NO’/ prohibited voice that fills your mind when you want
to say YES/permitted
–Ask yourself why the NO is there—What is it’s purpose?
–How is it coming to help you?
–Give thanks to Hashem for your inner NO
–Acknowledge it’s benefit and it’s role in helping you out
–Now ask yourself how it would be possible to derive this
same benefit by saying yes and not saying no [ie…saying Yes in a
safe harmless way]
–When you are convinced of a safe way of saying YES, say it and
follow through, and carry on with another YES, processing it in the
same way [ and another and another, etc…]
Bound and Unbound
Jewish mysticism explains a reality called ‘Klipah’ or ‘husk’. This husk conceals the G-dly
spark that gives life to every creature. The husk renders the spark inaccessible. This
is what we call evil. The inherent G-dliness is trapped in the vestments of the klipah and
is unable to express itself and rise to a higher level.
Certainly, non-kosher foods have a G-dly spark in them as well. Indeed, their energy
is metabolized. However, since the G-dly spark is bound up with the husk, it cannot
be elevated through ingestion. This spark remains trapped in the physical without the
possibility of ascent. (There are other ways to elevate a non-kosher animal, such as riding on it. In the latter case, the
undesirable energy does not enter the body.) In contrast, ‘Mutar’, the Hebrew word for permissible,
literally means unbound. The energy of permissible foods is not bound to the klipah and
thus can be elevated through having the proper intentions and using the energy for a Gdly
Eating non-kosher food results in another problem. The unprocessed spark in the
non-kosher food acts like any foreign element in the body. Energy was meant to be
metabolized, and this applies to spiritual energy as well. Since the spark cannot be
processed by elevation, it causes a spiritual blockage that retards our ability to relate to
Certainly, one can become accustomed to a low level of sensitivity. But, for example, if
we eat only healthy food, we will feel the effect of a small measure of unhealthy food.
This reaction does not mean that we are unhealthy, but on the contrary, that we have
a heightened sensitivity. Similarly, through eating non-kosher food, we build a level of
tolerance to it. But if we alter our diet to kosher food, the sensitivity slowly returns.
Every morning we bless Hashem for Matir Asurim.–“Who frees the imprisoned./bound”
Binding hints to Akeidat Yitzchak, the binding of our forefather Isaac, who was tied to
the altar. Yitzchak stands for the force called Gevurah, literally “strength”, but hinting
to severity, restriction, limitation, “Just say No.”
***Gevurah IS “SAYING NO”
Let’s take a step backwards
Let’s examine a list of descriptive terms that describe the Sefira Gevurah [drawn
from a variety of sources]. Our goal is to see how SAYING NO is [at least one]
theme that is central to all these
4. justice [DIN}
6. fear [of losing something good]
10. constrict [conceal]
When we examine these terms, we can see that the functional feature at work-
–the inner voice common to all the terms is SAYING NO . Whether we restrain,
we fear, we are repulsed or repulse others, we exercise restraint or we display
strength we activate the inner directive of SAYING NO
***EMPOWERED NO SAYING FROM THE PAST
Let’s now take a look at a possible list of empowered no sayings that we may
have experienced in the past….let’s try to discover from the list the factors or
tools that empowered us, so that we can derive these tools or meditations for
facillitating future empowered no sayings:
1. refusing to say yes if there’s a strong INNER NO
2. refusing to say yes when it contradicts my inner lower self
3. saying no to worry
4. saying no being in need of finding favor in the eyes of others
5. saying no to commitments that do not represent my total self
6. saying no to in authenticity
7. saying no to lack of total utilization of my resources
8. saying no to a situation where I find myself being used, abused,
controlled, intruded upon, taken advantage of or enslaved by others
9. saying no to wasting time
10. saying no to surviving rather than thriving
11. saying no to settling for less than the best for my beloved ones
12. saying no to senselessly just doing what everyone else is doing
13. saying no to being overwhelmed and overextended
14. saying no to danger
15. saying no to risky , doubtful commitments
16. saying no to non-holistic partial conclusions
While the candles are burning brightly, think of a Holy Asur, a holy prohibition which is
sorely need in your life, to add more light. Similarly, contemplate an Asur/prohibition in
your life which needs revision:
–Allow a whole new way of coping or way of being enter your mind and go with it.
–Create or Co-create or project a brand new way of coping or a brand new set of
Tonight when we light three candles we move to a different plain,that of
missing the mark in our deeds, words, and actions, and how to “fix” these
miss–takes. In Mishnaic language, if one screws up unintentionally,
he or she could be liable to offer a KoRBan/sacrifice lehaKRiV/to bring
oneself “close” to Hashem, after the “distance” caused by the miss-take.
There are certain actions where are patur/exempt from bringing the
It came to me with the help of Heaven that Patur has a bit of a Tiferet/
bridging feel. Note that each word shares consonantal similarities with
a “T”, “P/F”, and “R” sound:
Patur like Tiferet seems to bridge between Mutar (permitted from Day
One) and Asur (forbidden from Day Two)
The rabbis of the Talmud had an amazing ability to come up with ways
around strict yes or no answers. You would think that behavior would
simply be defined as “do this” or “don’t do that,” but the rabbis are very
creative in refining these categories. For example in Tractate Shabbat 47,
the rabbis consider the case of assembling a bed –the sockets for the legs
or the legs themselves should not be inserted, but if they are inserted the
individual is not liable for a sin offering. But it is still forbidden to do it! This
concept of patur aval asur [exempt but forbidden] runs the risk of becoming
a rule without any penalties other than “I’d be very disappointed in you.”
Yet it also provides for shadings of grey in behavior – something could be
forbidden and liable for punishment, or forbidden but exempt, or permitted.
And this is independent of considering whether an action was intentional or
This to me feels like “Tiferet” analysis, bridging between Hesed and
Gevurah. Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz writes about bridging:
TIFERET IS THE BRIDGE-ING OR RESOLUTION OF CONTRASTING
ELEMENTS INTO A NEW HARMONIOUS WHOLE WHEN WE
EXERCISE TIFERET, WE BRIDGE:
1. OUR YESES AND OUR NO’S
2. CERTAIN TYPES OF PEOPLE WITH DIFFERENT TYPES
3. CERTAIN PARTS OF OUR PERSONALITIES WITH OTHER PARTS
4. OUR WEAKNESSES WITH OUR STRENGTHS
5. WHAT WE FEEL WITH WHAT WE EXPRESS
6. WHAT WE ARE MEANT TO DO IN LIFE WITH WHAT WE
7. THE PARTS WITH THE GREATER WHOLE
R. Yitzchak discusses each of the above in detail [I can send you the original if
you’d like!]. For our purposes, Patur aval asur, exempt although prohibited
seems like bridging our Mutar Yes with our Asur No.
While the candles on this Third Night of Bridging, meditate on your
–When you feel like saying yes, but you know you should say
–when you feel like you’re attracted , but you know that you
better reject that feeling
–when you feel like expanding, but you’re scared to go beyond your normal
–when you feel like you’d like to give, but a voice inside says you’d better
–when you feel like understand one side of the picture, but you also know
that the other side is correct too..
BECOME a master of people bridging by:
(1) recognizing the differences just as they are—no need to change them –
just accept them;
(2) put yourself in their places—see the world as they see it [put on their life
spectacles]—do this even if you are bridging many people at once [a charismatic
teacher or performer can do this simultaneously with many people at the same time]; and
(3) to really be able to bridge properly– communicate to both or all sides [or
sometimes just to yourself] what the other side needs and desires and negotiate a
win win or a bliss bliss deal that satisfies everyone.
“Kasher” or “Kosher” in Yiddish is one of the more familiar Hebrew terms.
It tends to have two related meanings:
1. With food, it means prepared in accordance with Jewish religious
Well, if I had known it was a kosher deli, I certainly would not have ordered
a ham and cheese on rye.
2. And figuratively, by extension, it means in accordance with standards
or usual practice.
Is what I have done kosher with Mr. Smith?
Here are the more familiar Kosher symbols:
It seems to me that Kasher/Kosher relates well to the 4th Sefira on this
4th Night of Hanukah, called Netzach, which means victory, eternity,
and persistence, and hints to overcoming. It connotes enthusiasm and
technology, both of which are important for the Kasher process.
If you’ve ever “koshered” a kitchen for Pesach/Passover, you know what
I’m talking about!
One must be persistently focused on details and with supreme energy
remove all semblance of chametz/leavened products from one’s house.
The spiritual process is to overcome all “inflated ego”, to get rid of it for
the one week of the Holiday. It is a temporary “victory” over chametz, a
parable for destroying one’s yetzer hara, or inclination toward evil.
In terms of the Mishnaic model we are following, there the most relevant
such concept is a law of purity and impurity known as “hachshara”. [note
the root of kosher] Basically, food which touches an impure object does not
itself become impure. But if the food comes in contact with water (or certain
other liquids), the food is “made susceptible” (“muchshar”) to impurity.
From then on, if the food touches an impure object, it DOES become
This impurity is called machshirin, as it becomes suceptible to impurity
forever, the third definition of Netzach.
Hanukah itself concerns a victory of the Hashmonean Jews over the Syrian
Greeks, when the small overcame the many. Rabbi Yitzchak offers an
exercise which we submit would work well while gazing at the candles on
this Fourth Night:
Netzach involves transcending all limits.
This means overcoming the assumption that you are a person who has
limited capabilities and capacities, and open yourself up to the magnificent
possibility of overcoming as many barriers as possible and transcending as
many limits as possible and living in an above-nature extraordinary way.
Identify an area of your life that you feel are limiting your capacities and
Now look closer, as if you were to project extending and expanding your
if you were to ask Hashem to help make it happen for you, if you were to
enlist all of your powers and all of your friends powers and
all of your innovative tools, wouldn’t you feel like you could go beyond your
Now , just do it—do it in this one area of your life and another and another
and see how many of the present walls of your life come
Now as the walls come down, make sure that when you burst through your
actions, words, and thoughts all are Kosher/ appropriate.
One our Fifth Night of Hanukah we deal with the concept of Pasul and the
Sefirah Hod. Pasul is the “opposite” of Kasher: as Kasher means “fit” for
ritual use, pasul means “unfit” for ritual use.
“Pasul” seems like an appropriate concept to contemplate in these days, for
in our famous Hanukah story, the wicked Greeks desecrated our Temple,
rendering all oil save one sealed container pasul, unfit for the Menorah.
There are also many laws concerning how to appropriately light the
Menorah, the main mitzvah/commandment of the holiday, which oils, which
wicks, where to place the Menorah, what time to light, etc. Those who are
following the Daf Yomi Talmud cycle were treated in late October 2012 with
the Gemara account of these laws.
Hod to me seems to have a unique relationship to Pasul.
Hod means splendor, confession, acknowledgment, and thanksgiving, all
part and parcel of the Hanukah holiday. Moreover the word Hod is found
specifically in the Al HaNissim prayer:
“And they established these 8 days of Hanukah to express praise and
In fact, according to Kabbalists, Hanukah is specifically connected with the
Sefirah Hod, as as Pesach is with Chesed, Shavuot is with Tiferet, etc.
Hod and Netzach work together as the two legs, Hod on the left, with
Netzach on the right. Netzach is externally actively expressed, while Hod
is internally passively expressed.
Does it come as no surprise that Pasul, which we are holding is
the “negative” of Hod, has the gematria of Chai Netzach, the internal part of
Just as we avoid Pasul oils and wicks during Hanukah, this holiday also
has a concept concerning “beautifying” the mitzvah of lighting. The
universal practice of Jews to perform the rabbinic commandment to light
the Hanukah lights for 8 days is performed mehadrin min hamehadrin, in
the most glorious manner.
The minimal mitzvah, explains the Talmud, is to kindle 1 light each night
per household. A more embellished manner (termed mehadrin) is for
each member of the household to light 1 candle per night. But the most
embellished method (called mehadrin min hamehadrin) is to add 1 light per
night. According to the accepted view of Beit Hillel, this means lighting 1
candle on the first night, 2 candles on the second, and an additional light
every night, culminating in the last night when a total of 8 candles are lit
Hod and Hadar are virtual synonyms, meaning to beautify, and Hadar is
the root of meHaDRin. Here on Hanukah we take extra measures to move
away from Pasul /unfitness and towards beauty.
Rabbi Yitzchak suggests that Hod implies empowering. Hod is on the left
side of the Sefirotic setup—-opposite the Sefira Netzach. These 2 are like
2 sides of a coin The Netzach dynamic of dominant competitive conquering
and overcoming of all obstacles that stand in it’s way. Therefore , Netzach
is in need of support—a support system. This need spurs Hod into
responding by becoming Netzach’s chief enabler or
empowerer. In terms of relationships, this means that the Hod partner is
awakened to be of service to their partner, since their prime goal is to
enable their partner to become empowered and succeed. Rabbi Yitzchak
suggests the following empowering meditation, which we have tailored to
work well in the light of the candles:
First: Acknowledge an area of your life which seems Pasul/unfit for service with
Hashem. Perhaps you are not praying with intent, you are giving charity for selfish
reasons, you are learning Torah to impress others, etc. Take the light of the candles
and bathe this area, coming up with solutions to beautify your behavior, and empower
yourself to add glory to the area.
Next: bring to mind an experience or situation in your life. Ask yourself how
empowered or powerless you are on a scale of 1 to 10,. How would you rate the
experience. Extend this to another experience and another until you begin to develop
a sense of the level of empowerment that you are holding by presently in most all
situations that you find yourself
Then: begin to reempower yourself by re-focusing on all the powerless experiences
of your life. Find something in or around the experience that you feel to be positive
and that has redeeming value for you [including the realization that ultimately this
experience is G-d sent and ultimately for your best] Focus on this to the exclusion of
all the other negative aspects of the experience. If you still feel disempowered, then
give it over to Hashem, expressing your need for Hashem to take over control [until
ultimately you will be reempowered]. Do this [and any other type of reempowering tool
that comes to you] for another challenge in your life , and another and another, until you
feel that you are beginning to experience a shift in your life.
Now: reempower others, and begin to shift the focus of attention in your
reempowerings from yourself to others, repeating all that you’ve done in the previous
steps for yourself, and to do it instead for others.
Finally, reempower the past and future. Begin to extend your empowerings to your
past, by simply saying thank you for all of the empowerings that you have been given
and that you have been allowed to give to others by the ONE ABOVE. Keep repeating
the thank yous and let the memories come to mind, one by one. See how often that
your and others powerlessness was replaced by empowerment, and be thankful for
that, and for how often you and others you have helped, have been bestowed with
empowerment in your life. With this awareness, project a future of empowerment —a
level of empowerment that is beyond any level that you have ever experienced.
On the Third Night of Hanukah, we lit three candles representing Tiferet
and Patur/exempt. Tonight as the Sixth Night corresponds to Yesod/
Foundation and to Chayyav/Liable.
Chayyav means liable for a sanction or punishment. It is taught that there is
no tzaddik/righteous person who does not sin on earth.
And we know from the Iggeret Hakodesh of the Ramban that the two areas
we must be wary are (1) our eating and (2) our sex life. Those areas are
in the province of the Sefirah Yesod, the Sixth emanation that is located
in the genital or lower stomach area, and is the place of passion.http://
It is interesting to look at the word chayyav/liable. The mystical classic
Sefer Yetzirah/Book of Formation notes an analogy of a scale:
“a pan of of merit, a pan of liability and the tongue of decree deciding between
On this night we should reflect on how we may have missed the mark in
our eating and sexual behaviors. Let the lights of the candles illuminate
the nooks and crannies of your consciousness, showing you places where
spiritual “chametz” has been left in these areas. Now let’s turn to a “asay
tov”, doing good, focus.
Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz correlates Yesod with “Allness”. That is because:
(1) The Yesod is the harmonious and fully expressed communicator of all the
Sefirot [thus it is the only Sefira that corresponds to reproduction]
(2)The way that this is expressed in the consciousness of the Yesod person, is
(3) Whatever they think, feel, speak or do is an expression of Allness
(4) They constantly seek to engage more of life, more fully lived and
expressed, more unified, more impactful, more abundant, more experienced
(5) They therefore make all decisions in life, based on allness—to the extent
that what they choose will empower their allness, to that extent they are
prepared to jump in [and so too, the opposite]
How do we achieve this allness? Rabbi Yitzchak offers the following
meditation, which we suggest is done in front of the 6 candles:
Review your day:
— What were the activities/experiences that you had?
–Measure the ALLNESS level of your daily activities.
–How fully expressed and alive and pleasureful were they?
–Try to experience how the more that they were activities expressing your
ALLNESS, the more inspired you were—in all ways.
Now Project your upcoming day:
–How can you change your day completely, by injecting ALLNESS ?
–See the antipated activities /experiences of your day without ALLNESS, then
see them with it
Inspire your day with ALLNESS:
1. Reframe an upcoming interaction with someone as being an
opportunity to bond with that person in a totally unique and creative and
meaningful way [that will elicits from them their bonding ALLNESS in
2. Reframe an upcoming errand that you need to run as being an
opportunity to accomplish your goal with as much expression of your inner
powers as you can enlist—your power of creativity and feeling and love and
innovation and sensitivity
3. Reframe an upcoming spiritual experience [prayer, study , meditation,
etc] as being an opportunity to express yourself in a way that you never
have before, nor will you ever be able to again See that your experience will
resonate for Eternity. See that your experience will have the power to effect,
not only yourself and those around you, but the entire world. See that your
experience will be one that will perpetuate similar experiences in your life in
what will be an upward spiral of spiritual power and bliss.
Noted Talmud teacher Judith Abrams of the Maqom learning center has
illuminated our understanding of tumah and taharah, the final distinctions we will
examine on these last two nights of Hanukah. She relates:
If the priests who performed the sacrifices in the Temple were ritually unclean
(tamei), they were not permitted to eat the terumah until they had taken a bath and
the sun had set. (Terumah means literally “that which is lifted or separated” and
was an offering to be given to the priest. There were two types of terumah: the
regular offering which the Israelites had to separate from their own crops and give
to the priest, and the terumat ma’aser, the tithe offering, which the Levites had
to separate for the priests from the tithes they received) By the time the Talmud
was completed, ritual purity was not as crucial a category as it had been when the
Temple stood. How can we understand the concepts of ritual purity and impurity
today? First of all, get out of your mind that this has anything to do with dirtiness
or negativity. Such concepts result from the inability to accurately translate the
words taharah (purity) and tum’ah (impurity) into English. What this really has to
do with is boundaries between life and death and helping us deal with times, places
and things which involve ambiguity in those boundaries.
Think about the following, real-life, modern example. A woman’s father was in
the hospital in the process of dying from cancer. He had to be moved to a new
room. The last occupant had died in the room to which he was to be moved. The
nurse found this information important enough that she asked the woman if she
minded if her father was put in a room in which the last occupant had died. There
was probably nothing objective about the room which caused the death. Yet, our
intuition tells us that something about the death happening there had changed the
room. It is as if, in passing out of this world, a bit of “disembodied soul residue”
was left in the room. This feeling, this concept, this is what ritual impurity is
about. Anything that is connected with death is in some way impure, i.e., is
touched with “disembodied soul residue”. So, for example, blood that is flowing
unstaunchably (e.g., menstrual blood) is considered impure because it is normally
related to death: if a wound bleeds uncontrollably, death is the inevitable result.
Only whole, complete items (obviously, defined by cultural norms) can become
impure. Incomplete or broken items cannot become impure; cannot receive the
“disembodied soul residue”. So, for example, a piece of pottery could become
ritually impure but the shards of a broken piece of pottery could not.
Paradoxically, touching the Torah can make your hands impure. Why? Because
something that is holy has “disembodied soul residue” in it. That’s part of what
makes it holy. All the people who have reverently read a given Torah scroll
before you leave an essence of their soul in that scroll. You might try opening a
Torah scroll to see if you can sense this. This will be especially evident if you can
compare an old scroll with a new one. The sensation is indescribable but definitely
there. This also hints at a deep mystical truth: the most life-intensifying thing in
our faith (Torah) is reminiscent of death, too. (Spiritual development involves
paradox. Really living means living now and after you die and understanding how
that works. Death doesn’t necessarily have to refer only to physical death. It can
also denote the death-by-degrees that comes from not actually living your life.)
When you read in the Talmud about ritual purity and impurity, think about it as a
discussion of embodiment, the soul and wholeness rather than about it as one on
dirt or defilement.
Some Torah commentators and poskim advocate the keeping of prespecified
nuances of tum’ah and taharah even in the absence of the temple in Jerusalem and
even in the diaspora. The advocated sub-divisions of tum’ah and taharah include
tumath ochlin v’mashkin (consuming food and drink that did not become tamei)
and abstaining from the midras of a niddah. The Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem
Schneerson, in his Igrot Kodesh, discouraged abstaining from any object made
impure by a menstruating woman in modern times, with the exception for unique
Why is a meditation on tumah valuable today?
See we live in a world of tumah, where the disembodied death residue is present
all over in our Olam Ha-Asiyah, the World of Action.
This World of Action correlates precisely to the Sefirah Malkhut of today–
Shabbat Kodesh–and to the 7th day of Hanukah. Our world is full of gashmiut/
physicality, and accordingly, life and death are mixed together. For our world
receives from all–both good and bad, alive and dead, etc.
It is this quality of reception–Receiving– that most characterizes the Sefirah
Malkhut, which receives from the 9 Sefirot above it. Perhaps our job is to receive
all–from the Sixth Day meditation above on page 22.–and to clarify it.
Recognize those aspects of ourself which are dead, lifeless, stuck, and to invigorate
them, inspire those areas with new life, as it were. R. Yitzchak Schwartz offers
a meditation, which we suggest be done while the Hanukah candles are aflame.
Now this year, since it is Shabbat and we need to light the Menorah first before
the Shabbat candles, perhaps the meditation might work best after finishing the
Be totally open to receive.
Receive the voices from inside yourself
Receive the information from outside of yourself.
Receive the messages that come to you with every interpersonal encounter.
Receive the people that you encounter, not only as you perceive them, rather
put yourself in their place and see things the way that they see things
Be receptive to the birth process that you are going through—your active role
in the birth process, as well as your passive role in birthing—by watching
Hashem make it all happen.
Bridge your active role in the birth process with your passive role.
See how, despite all of YOUR efforts to bring the birth to it’s fruition and
actualization, actually it’s really all being orchestrated by THE ONE ABOVE
in His own way and in His own time.
See how that which you are giving birth to in life, directly corresponds to what
you receive and how you receive it.
Notice that the more that you see the birth process coming to its actualization,
the more you see its beauty and it’s wonder and how this birth process is
perpetuating other related birth processes—some insignificant and others,
Tonight is Zot Hanukah.
The significance of the number eight is that it transcends the realm of this mundane
and physical world and alludes to the exalted and holy. In the natural world, time
is based on a seven-day week and all occurrences are controlled by sheva kochavei
lechet – the seven orbital planets. Hashem transcends all this, and therefore the
number eight represents His lofty Holiness.
In the era of the Messsiah named Mashiach we will merit a higher revelation of Gdliness,
and therefore Mashiach’s harp will consist of eight strings, one more than
the seven-stringed harp of the Beit Hamikdash (Arachin 13b).
Hanukah is a preparation for the forthcoming Messianic era. These days are called
“Hanukah” because they are a Hinuch – education/preparation – accustoming us to
the final redemption. During the candle lighting we are treated to a resemblance of
the illumination of the Or Haganuz – hidden primordial light – which will radiate in
full glory in the days of Mashiach.
The candles and light of Hanukah are analogous to Torah and mitzvot as King
Shlomo said, “For a mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light” (Proverbs 6:23).
During Hanukah an increase in Torah study is preferred since through the Ohr
Hadash – new light of Torah that we add in the world we will accomplish the
purpose of creation and merit the revelation of the new light which transcends our
mundane world – the light of Mashiach.
The correlation of Hanukah and Mashiach is most evident on day eight, because
the number eight represents that which is above the chain of creation. Similarly,
the Messianic era will usher in a new order which will also transcend the chain of
With the 8 lights plus the Shamesh, the pure new light helps to cleanse our souls,
in a way perhaps similar to Yom HaKippurim, the day of at-one-ment. According
to some schools of Kabbalah, Yom HaKippurim is related to Binah, as both are
the place of Teshuvah/return. And we are told that this night is the end of the
Teshuvah process begun in Elul: we have until Zot Hanukah to get it right!
Aharon the Kohen during the Yom Kippur service went into the Holy of Holies
with Zot, the incense. This Zot has gematria of 407, the total of Tzom/fasting,
Mamon/money for charity, and Kol/voice for prayer. By gazing into the 8 lights
on Zot Hanukah, we too have the ability to do teshuva shleimah/complete return,
much in the way we did nearly three months earlier in Tishre. This meditation
if done sincerely, can in a way “sprinkle pure waters” on you, removing the
disembodied death residue of being stuck in inappropriate behaviors and mindtrains.
According to Rabbi Schwartz, Binah/understanding, the Sefirah for today,
involves package-ing, namely compartmentalizing the your inner wisdom, and
synchronizing it, and planing to put it into practice. Teshuvah is the return to one’s
roots and self. As you contemplate where you are spiritually and what you need to
do to really do teshuvah, he suggests:
SEE TO IT THAT THE WISDOM THAT YOU ARE NURTURING, IS
ALLIGNED WITH G-D’S WISDOM AS WELL AS YOUR OWN
IF NOT, THAN REALIGN.
KEEP SYNCHRONIZING, REFINING AND ALIGNING THIS WISDOM
UNTIL IT IS STABLE ENOUGH TO STAND THE TEST OF TIME IN
THIS WORLD AND ON TO ‘THE WORLD TO COME’ [another Binah term]