Rosh HaShanah – Sefer Bikorat Behem’techa

סֵפֶר בִּקוֹרַת בְּהֶמְתֶּךָ
Sefer Bikorat Behem’techa

by Rav Rahmiel Hayyim Drizin

download PDF version of the book.

Rosh HaShanah Korban
Rosh HaShanah

We Sefardi Jews begin saying Selichot prayers on the 2nd of Elul, when Moshe was
on Har Sinai receiving the second Luchot .
The prevalent custom amongst Ashkenazic Jews, on the other hand, is to begin
reciting Selichot /forgiveness prayers from the Sunday morning before Rosh
Hashanah, unless Rosh Hashanah falls out on a Monday or a Tuesday ( as it does this
year, 5776 ), in which case Selichot begins a week earlier ( this year, 5775, Motzaei
Shabbat September 5/Sunday morning September 6 ), as we require at least four days
of Selichot before Rosh Hashanah .( Rama Siman 581:1 ). Mishna B’rurah 581:6
explains that the reason that the preparation is no less than four days is because
some had the custom to fast for ten days prior to Yom Kippur however, since one
can’t fast on Rosh Hashanah ’s two days, Shabbat Shuvah , and Erev Yom HaKippur ,
one had to begin fasting four days prior to Rosh Hashana.
Another reason for this is that we require at least four days of Selichot before Rosh
Hashana . A Korban ( sacrifice ) in the Bet HaMikdash required four days of
examinations to ensure it was blemish free and acceptable for the Mizbeach ( altar ).
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רמב”ם הלכות תמידין ומוספין פרק א
אין פוחתין מששה טלאים המבוקרין בלשכת הטלאים שבמקד ש, ויהיו מוכנים קודם יום הקרבה בארבעה ימים , ואף על פי שהיו
מבקרין אותו מתחילה לא היו שוחטין את התמיד עד שמבקרין אותו שניה קודם שחיטה לאור האבוקות, ומשקין אותו מים בכוס של
זהב כדי שיהיה נוח להפשט.
The R ambam writes above in his H ilchot Temidim v’Musafim: ויהיו מוכנים קודם יום הקרבה
,בארבעה ימים
“They should be prepared four days before their sacrifice.”
In his commentary to the Mishna Arachin 2:5, Rambam further writes that the
source for this practice was the Korban Pesach /Paschal sacrifice brought by the
Jews in Egypt. They were commanded to take the lambs four days before they were
offered.
Concerning this Korban Pesach ( Shemot 12:4 ) Rashi writes:
והיה לכם למשמרת: זה לשו ן בקו ר שטעון בקו ר ממום ארבעה ימים קודם שחיטה
This is an expression of inspection, that it [ the animal ] requires an inspection for a
blemish four days before its slaughter.
He uses the root בקור B ikor /inspection.
So too each Jew should consider themselves as a Korban Olah on Rosh Hashanah
and be ready to sacrifice themselves in atonement before Hashem, and thus utilize
these four days ( or more ) to inspect their deeds and do Teshuvah for their sins
( blemishes ) and thus be pure when approaching HaShem on Rosh Hashana .
How does saying Selichot parallel checking blemishes? The Mishna B’rurah explains
this with an incredible insight from the pesukim about the korbanot of Rosh
Hashanah . Usually, the Torah describes our obligation to bring a korban olah with
the words “V’hikravtem olah” “You shall offer an olah ” ( e.g. Bamidbar 28:19 );
however, with regards to Rosh Hashanah the Torah says ” va’asitem olah” “You
should make a korban olah” ( Bamidbar, 29:2 ). This difference alludes to the idea
that the true korban olah of Rosh Hashanah is not the animal we bring ; rather, we
must “ make” a korban by working on perfecting ourselves and sacrificing our inner
animal’s desires for Hashem’s sake. Since we are offering ourselves as korbanot , it
follows that we should inspect ourselves for four days– and this is accomplished
through the four days of Selichot and teshuvah which precede Rosh Hashanah .
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Besides saying the Selichot , how should this self-inspection process be done today?
With the help of Heaven I received an insight in learning the daily Chabad study
HaYom Yom for 4 Elul , and to ascend the four days prior to Rosh Hashanah in
menschkeit /humanity by focusing on improving our character:
מעלת מין האנושי, ישנם ארבעה תוארים: אדם מעלת
המוחין והשכל, איש מעלת
הלב והמדות, אנוש החלישות
באחד מהם
בשכל או במדות, או בשתיהם, גבר מתגבר
על עצמו להסיר המניעות ועיכובים להשיג אחת המעלות או בשכל או במדות, היינו
.דגבר עוסק עם האנוש להגביהו למעלת איש או אדם
ומאחר דאפשר לעשות מאנוש איש או אדם, הרי בהכרח דגם באנוש ישנם כל אותם המעלות שישנם באיש וגם באדם
In describing the unique qualities of humankind, four terms are used: Adam refers to the quality of
mind and intellect; ish to the quality of heart and emotion; enosh , weakness in either intellect or
emotion or both; gever , who overcomes inner weakness and removes obstacles and hindrances to the
attainment of an intellectual or emotional quality. I.e. gever works upon enosh to elevate him to the
plane of ish or adam . Since it is possible to turn enosh into ish or adam , it is obvious that enosh
already possesses the qualities found in ish and adam .
In summary, in Hebrew “man” has four distinct names: adam , ish , enosh , and
gever . Each of these terms describes a special virtue of man, and a failing. As
Rabbi Posner writes:
Adam refers to a man of wisdom and understanding; ish is descriptive of moral, emotive attributes;
enosh signifies weakness in either intellect or emotions; gever denotes strength and mastery over
obstacles, either in the realm of the intellect or of the emotions, whether or not the strength is innate
or acquired.
Adam is the loftiest adjective, that of intellectual capacity. Through this trait a person, striving with
mind and heart, achieves superiority over all Creation, not only over terrestrial creatures, but even
over spiritual ones, such as the ministering angels and emanations. Though the angels ( on high ) are
Abstract Intellects ( despite their bodily existence )-since their conceptions are non-spatial and
non-temporal, while those of humans are circumscribed by the limitations of time and space-still man
is superior. For only man has been given the mission and ability to illumine the darkness of this
physical world with the light of Torah and mitzvot , to make it a G-dly abode. The Abstract Intellects
lack this ability. Moreover, they cannot even conceive that physical objects can serve as an abode for
the Divine Majesty, or that a physical brain can conceive of G-d.
Man alone was chosen by G-d for this task. Therefore he is called the principal creature. He has no
parallel among the higher or lower creatures. Indeed, since he is composed of the loftiest and the
lowest components ( his body being formed from the lowest gross matter-dust of the earth, and his soul
from the highest of all-part of G-d above ) man with his physical brain can grasp G-dly concepts even
more thoroughly than can the angels. This dual composition of man, makes him superior to the
heavenly creatures .
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Our Sages in the Gemara point out that there are four distinct 1 terms for a human
being: adam , ish , gever , and enosh ( Shabbat 54b). Each means “person,” but they
represent four distinct spiritual dimensions. For example, adam is considered the
most elevated, as a person is created in the image of G-d. The Zohar mentions the
same names, but hints to a different focus:
Zohar III:48
אנָא בְּכַמָּה דַּרְגִּין אִתְקְרֵי בַּר נָשׁ: אָדָם, גֶּבֶר, אֱנוֹשׁ, אִישׁ. גָּדוֹל שֶׁבְּכֻלָּם אָדָם. (משום)דִּכְתִּיב, (בראשית א) וַיִּבְרָא
אֱלהִֹים אֶת הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ. וּכְתִיב (בראשית ט) כִּי בְּצֶלֶם אֱלהִֹים עָשָׂה אֶת הָאָדָם. וְלָא כְּתִיב, גֶּבֶר, אֱנוֹשׁ, אִישׁ. אָמַר
רִבִּי יְהוּדָה, אִי הָכִי, וְהָא כְּתִיב (ויקרא א) אָדָם כִּי יַקְרִיב מִכֶּם קָרְבָּן לַיְיָ’. (ולא גבר, אנוש, איש) מַאן בָּעֵי לְמִקְרַב
קָרְבְּנָא. מַאן דְּאִיהוּ חַטָּאָה וּכְתִיב אָדָם .
We learned that man has names in different stages: adam (man), gever (male man), enosh (human),
ish (person). The greatest is Adam , as written, “S o G-d created man ( adam ) in His own image ”
( Beresheet 1:27 ), and, “for in the image of G-d made He man (adam) ” ( Beresheet 9:6 ), instead of
using Gever, Enosh or Ish. Rabbi Yehuda said, in that case, it is written, ” If any man (adam) of you
bring an offering to Hashem” ( Vayikra 1:2 ). Who needs to bring an offering? Only whoever sins
[ meaning who is of a lower level than adam ]. Nevertheless it is written “ adam .”
The Kabbalistic tradition advises that each of these four aspects of the human being
represents a different level of soul—in descending order: adam is chaya , gever is
neshama , enosh is ruach , and ish is nefesh . In each soul level, there is a unique
human capacity for immanence, transcendence, and transformation. There is also
the ma’aveh , a damager, but this is a Talmudic, not a biblical, term. Rav teaches
that a ma’aveh is a human damager ( Bava Kama 3b ). A ma’aveh is one who is
alienated from the spiritual self. Though this terminology is complex and difficult to
1 It is interesting to note that sometimes the Hebrew ish is translated as the Aramaic gavra , as in
Devarim 25:5 where “to a strange man” לְאִישׁ זָר is rendered .לִגְבַר אוֹחֲרָן
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grasp, the idea is important—that each human being is composed of several
spiritual dimensions.
Today, we often seek quick and profound spiritual highs ( external stimuli that spark
elation and an intensity of emotions) . However, the Torah comes to teach that we
should not look for thrills but for consistent spiritual commitment. We should
change the way we search for spiritual transformation and follow the teachings of
the Torah; with practice, exercise, and discipline, one can access inner worlds and
the inner light that can be truly transformative.
One central part of spiritual reflection is temporal:
Akayva ben Mahalel says: Anyone who gives four things to his heart will sin no more: from where he
comes, to where he goes, what in the future he will be, and who is his judge.
From where he comes—from a place of darkness.
To where he goes—to a place of darkness and gloom
What in the future he will be—dust and worm and maggot.
Who is his judge—the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He . ( Ethics of the Fathers
3:1 )
Another key aspect of spiritual reflection is eternal. One must attempt to access the
eternal levels of the soul within the self in order to spiritually progress.
One important facet of discovering one’s inner spiritual world is to learn from others
and support others in their spiritual journeys. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter taught that
another’s physical needs are my spiritual needs. When we take care of others as
adam , ish , enosh , gever , and even when they are ma’aveh/ damagers, we develop
important spiritual depth in ourselves as well.
It is our task to see the spiritual complexity in other people and to humbly serve
others. In the process, we continue to flourish in our own spiritual and religious
complexity and grandeur. We must embrace these different existential human
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characteristics, recognize our spiritual dimensions, and seek spiritual transformation
through service.
Imagine next time you are speaking with someone casually that they are not mere
flesh and blood [ adam /man is of dam /blood] but that they are multi-dimensional
spiritual beings with depths of spiritual worlds within them.
So, it came to me with the help of Heaven, that as you inspect your inner animals,
בִּקוֹרַת בְּהֶמְתֶּךָ , called the Nefesh Behemit, we need to contemplate the source of all
miss-takes, something called the Evil Inclination. The Talmud speaks of the Good
Inclination and the Evil Inclination. Following the Mussar tradition, the Chovot
HaLevavot ( Shaar HaYichud chapter 5 ) explains thusly:
“You should know that your greatest enemy in this world is your yetzer hara. He is enmeshed in your
spirit and mixed in to your abilities and character traits, he joins you and operates on all levels of your
spiritual and physical senses. He rules over you, knowing your deepest darkest secrets, he advises
you at every turn, whatever conscious or subconscious decision you consider whatever hidden or
revealed path you seek to take, he is there guiding you. He constantly seeks to tempt your footsteps
to tread onto the way he has laid out for you.”
Chassidut adds that the Good Inclination is the intellectual faculty of the Nefesh
Elokit and the Evil Inclination is the emotions of the Nefesh HaBehamit . All negative
character traits stem from the emotions of the Nefesh HaBehamit . The intellect of
the Nefesh HaBehamit just serves as a server to its emotions, the mind finds a way
to fulfill the desire. Take for example the emotion of Chesed / lovingkindness. In
the Nefesh Elokit , the Sefirah of Chesed represents the soul’s love for G-d. In the
Nefesh HaBehamit it is the capacity to love the material. This love can degenerate
into lust and can be very destructive. Not everyone has the ability to totally
transform and sublimate the Emotions of the Nefesh HaBehamit like the Tzaddikim .
The intermediate level person will always have the struggle and it is for that
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purpose that he has been created. Knowing how powerful the Evil Inclination can be
how is one to bridle the Emotions of the Nefesh HaBehamit .
And that is going to be a main task in your four days of inspecting your inner
animal. These four final days of the year, “last dance, last chance to love,’ it
seems, work well to focus on the four different names of adam /man, one each day,
following the Chassidic system, described above. Rosh Hashanah is none other
than the creation of Adam Rishon/ Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and
their first actions toward the realization of mankind’s role in G‑d’s world.
Man, say our sages, is a universe in miniature. So just as creation as a whole is
comprised of the pre-human world created on Elul 25 and the adam /human
element introduced on Tishrei 1–so it is within the human being. And just as all
elements of the macro-universe fulfill their purpose in creation via the deeds of
man, so do all strata of the human “universe” attain fulfillment and realization
through its distinctly human element, through the man in man. [ Lubavitcher Rebbe ]
Our sages categorize the entirety of creation as consisting of four “worlds” or
“kingdoms”: the “inanimate” or mineral kingdom; the vegetable kingdom; the
animal kingdom; and “the speaker” kingdom–the human being. We hope to
examine these inner kingdoms during the four final days before Rosh Hashanah .
Man, too, incorporates these four “kingdoms” within himself. There are occasions
and pursuits in our life in which we resemble the inert mineral. We might be asleep,
on vacation, at play, or engaged in any of the other forms of repose and recreation
to which we devote a significant portion of our time. Obviously, we are physically
alive at these times; we might even be greatly exerting ourselves and employing
our keenest faculties. But spiritually, we are an inanimate stone. “Life,” in its
ultimate sense, is the endeavor to transcend one’s present state–to grow and
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achieve beyond what one is–while the function of our “mineral” pursuits is to
sustain rather than produce, to conserve rather than create.
There are also times when a we are in our “vegetable” mode–when our focus is on
self-growth and self-development. With these activities, we exhibit signs of spiritual
life, as opposed to the inertia of our “mineral” hours. Nevertheless, because they
are confined to the betterment of self, these represent a limited, “botanical”
vitality: we are growing upwards, blossoming and bearing fruit; but we remain
rooted to the “spot” where nature has planted us.
A more dynamic vitality is exhibited by the “animal” in us–the instincts, passions
and sensitivities by which we relate to others. With our faculties for love, awe and
other emotions, we roam the terrain beyond the narrow spectrum of self,
transcending the merely vertical growth of our vegetable element.
But we are more than the sum of our mineral, vegetable and animal lives; more
than repose, growth and feeling. The adam in man, our quintessentially human
qualities, are our intellect and our spirituality.
With our unique capacity for independent thought and discriminating intelligence,
we transcend the self-defined world of instinct and feeling to view ourselves from
the outside, and change ourselves accordingly. Thus the intellectual self is truly
“alive”–constantly reassessing and redefining its perceptions and sensitivities.
Even more transcendent than the intellect is our spiritual self, the “spark of
G-dliness” within us that makes us the apex of G-d’s creation. The intellect is “free”
and “objective,” but only in relation to the subjective emotions; ultimately the
intellect is defined and confined by the nature and laws of reason. The divine in
ourselves, however, knows no bounds, surmounting all constraints and limitations
that might inhibit our relationship with our Creator.
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It is when we engage our intellectual and spiritual faculties that we are truly our
human self. It is in these moments–when we employ our mind to literally recreate
ourselves through self-critique and the refinement of our character and behavior,
and when we transcend all inhibitions of ego, feeling and even intellect to serve G-d
without restraint or equivocation–that we rise to our role as G-d’s partner in
creation, as the only one of His creations who possesses the freedom to originate
and create.
The four days represent an upwards ascension to the state of Adam created on
Rosh Hashanah , and flow as such:
26 Elul : אֱנוֹשׁ Enosh — weakness in either intellect or emotion or both, related
to domeim /mineral. ( see page 10 )
27 Elul : גֶּבֶר G ever- -overcomes inner weakness and removes obstacles and
hindrances to the attainment of an intellectual or emotional quality, related to
tzemach /vegetative. ( see page 13)
28 Elul : אִישׁ I sh –quality of heart and emotion, related to c hayah /animal.
(see page 20 )
29 Elul : אָדָם A dam refers to the quality of mind and intellect, related to
medaberet /speaker. ( see page 23 )
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The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that on the macrocosmic level, Rosh Hashanah
teaches us that “Every אָדָם m an is obligated to say: ‘The entire world was created to
serve me, and I was created to serve my Creator.’” That our “privilege” to exploit
nature’s resources to serve our own needs is also a duty and a responsibility, since
it is through their contribution to our lives that all elements of creation can rise
from the limitations of their “robotic” existence to share in the spiritually and
transcendence of a אָדָם human deed. When we prove equal to this task, we not only
rise above our created state but also raise the entire universe with us; when we fail
to do so, G-d forbid, we not only debase our own humanity but also drag down with
us everything that is partner to our existence.
The same applies to the microcosmic universe–the four-tiered life of man:
אֱנוֹשׁ גֶּבֶר אִישׁ אָדָם
Our “mineral,” “vegetable” and “animal” endeavors are important–indeed,
indispensable–components of our lives; but we must remember that also in this
inner world, everything was created “for my sake”–to serve the אָדָם A dam human in
me.
When the goal of our recreational, growth-oriented and experiential activities is to
enable our intellectual and spiritual lives, they, too become partners to our
transcendental endeavor to remake ourselves, and the world we inhabit, in the
divine image imprinted within us; they, too, become אָדָם h uman endeavors,
participants in the realization of the divine potential invested in אָדָם m an.
The Ascent to Adam
26 Elul 2: אֱנוֹשׁ E nosh — weakness in either intellect or emotion or both, related
to domeim /mineral.
2 Today is the Second Day of Creation. The Midrash points out here the Torah does not use the
expression ” Ki Tov” ( It was good ). On all the other days of Creation, the Torah says that ” G-d saw
that it was good “. However, the Torah does not use this expression on the second day of Creation.
The Midrash explains that on the second day, G-d made the firmament ( rakiah ) which divided
between the waters above and the water below. This was the day when G-d introduced division
( machloket ) into the world. Therefore, G-d did not want to use the expression ” It was good” regarding
machloke t.
The Midrash continues, “If a machloke t which is for the establishment of the world is not ‘good’,
certainly a machloket which is not for such a lofty purpose, but rather is just to create disunity and
arguments, is not good”. Perhaps this too was a weakness in Enosh ’s generation, as we describe
below.
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הלכות עבודת כוכבים פרק ראשון
א. בימי אנוש טעו בני האדם טעות גדול ונבערה עצת חכמי אותו הדור ואנוש עצמו מן הטועים היה וזו היתה טעותם אמרו
הואיל והאלהים ברא כוכבים אלו וגלגלים להנהיג את העולם ונתנם במרום וחלק להם כבוד והם שמשים המשמשים לפניו
ראויין הם לשבחם ולפארם ולחלוק להם כבוד וזהו רצון האל
ב
In the first chapter of Laws Concerning Idolatry, Rambam outlines the history of
man’s recognition of the truth of the One G-d. Originally, man knew his Maker; but
“in the generation of Enosh ( Adam ‘s grandson ), humanity erred grievously, and the
wisdom of that generation’s wise men was confused; Enosh himself was among
those who erred. Their error lay in that they believed that it would be pleasing to
G-d if they were to venerate the forces of nature which serve Him, as a king desires
that his ministers and servants be venerated. Soon they were erecting temples and
altars to the sun and the stars, offering sacrifices and hymns of praise to them,
believing all this to be the will of G-d.”
The source is brought in the Leket Yoshe r in the name of a talmid of the Terumat
Hedeshen ; to begin on Saturday whilst still in the Simcha of Shabbat , and wearing
Shabbat clothing. Piskei Tshuvot 581:2 As we mentioned earlier, when there are
only four days of Selichot prayers, the first day would be Motzai-Shabbat , and this
is the day of the quality of Enosh , which also means “human.”
This connection with Enosh and Shabbat is important, for as our Sages [ Shabbat
118b ] teach: Whoever observes the Shabbat properly, even if he served idols as
did the generation of Enosh , will be forgiven, as it says: Praised is the man who
does this, guards Shabbat from desecration ” Ashrei Enosh Ya’aseh Zot…[Shomer
Shabbat ] me’Chalelo ” – we read this ‘Machul Lo’ ( he is forgiven )
How can keeping Shabbat achieve forgiveness for one’s transgressions? In this case
one even worshipped idols, which carries a penalty of death. How can it be that
keeping Shabbat would earn him complete forgiveness?
Rabbi Aharon Karline r once stated that if one didn’t feel or even endeavor to feel
some of the spiritual delights of the World to Come on Shabbat, then when he goes
to Gan Eden , even there, surrounded by the Divine Presence, he will feel none of
the spiritual delights that are part of Gan Eden . He will be nothing more than a
bench that the tzadikim sit on. Shabbat is a taste of the World to Come, a day of
the Neshama , not a day of the body at all ( Zohar II 205b ). Shabbat is a day of
connecting to G-d and rapture – total attachment to G-d, as it is written, ” Israel
shall keep the Shabbat making it a day of rest for all generations, as an eternal
covenant. It is a sign between Me and [the People] Israel that during the six days
G-d made the heavens and the earth, but on the seventh day he ceased working
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and rested (or withdrew to the spiritual or put the soul into Shabbat). ( Shemot
.31:16-17 ).
All of the 613 commandments have value even when one does them with no
spiritual feeling. Performing mitzvot brings rectification to the world. The six days of
working are the time for doing mitzvot . According to tradition, the human body is
composed of a total of 613 identifiable limbs and sinews. Clearly the Sages
understood that performing mitzvot is the explicit purpose of the physical body.
Shabba t though, carries with it no specific physical mitzvot, and the Torah asks us
to do only one positive Shabbat mitzvah: to sanctify it. Being that Shabbat is the
day of the soul, it makes sense that the body and its mitzvot have no active role in
Shabbat. If a Jew doesn’t activate his soul and feel some of the spiritual delight
inherent in Shabbat , then he is missing the entire essence of Shabbat !
The Arizal ( in Shaar Hakavanot , explaining the differences between Shabbat and the
holidays ) expressed this in a very dramatic way. On all other holy days, the
supernal unity between G-d and the Shechinah is affected by the prayers of the
day. But on Shabbat , the essence of the day is unity and complete connection to
G-d. The very essence of the day creates the divine unity. The message is that the
divine service of Shabbat should be until there is a desire for G-dliness so strong
that the Neshama wants to leave the physical and reunite with its divine source.
When one serves G-d on Shabbat with such desire, it is as if one’s Neshama has
actually gone out and returned to its source. If one was deserving of the death
penalty for idol worship then it is as if it was already implemented. This is also
hinted at in the language of the Sages “…anyone who keeps Shabbat according to
all its laws…”
Now we can understand why the Sages said, “Anyone who observes [ from the root
word ‘ shamor ‘ ] Shabbat according to all its laws, even if he worshiped idols with the
same fervor as the generation of Enosh, he is forgiven his transgressions”. When
one has elevated even the ” shamor ” aspect of Shabbat, and the physical aspects of
Shabbat have become spiritual, then certainly G-d will forgive him his
transgressions.
Enosh connotes weakness in either intellect or emotion.
The intellectual mistake was to focus on the parts [ division ] instead of the whole
unifying factor, on nature instead of the Source.
Emotionally, we “fix” Enosh , by increasing our desire for Shabbat.
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13
This in turn helps to repair the domeim /inanimate part of us, also related to today.
Many times we maybe doing the physical commandments but lacking the spiritual
component. That happens unfortunately a lot with Shabbat , worrying about the
details but forgetting the sacred energy.
One big step here is to build one’s desire for Shabbat starting on Sunday, which is
Yom Echad B’Shabbat Kodesh. In Hebrew, there is no word for Sunday, rather it is
the “first day of the Holy Sabbath.” So each day we proclaim our countdown to
Shabbat , increasing our passion for it daily. חַלָּמִישׁ, לְמַעְיְנוֹמָיִם
; הַהֹפְכִי הַצּוּר אֲגַםמָיִם
, t his will
turn “ the [inanimate ] stone into a pool of [ passionate ] water, the flint into a
fountain of waters. “
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27 E lul : גֶּבֶר G ever- -overcomes inner weakness and removes obstacles and
hindrances to the attainment of an intellectual or emotional quality, related to
tzemach /vegetative.3
Today perhaps is most crucial, as we overcome the problems accessing our mind
and heart. Therefore, a more extended contemplation is required.
Gever has the sense of Gevur ah /strength, that which is needed to overcome
issues. Gevur ah moreover relates to din /judgment, and is part and parcel of the
Cheshbon HaNefesh /self assessment we do during this time. Rosh HaShanah is
Yom HaDin, the day of judgment, and this entire period corresponds to
Gevurah /strength.
Who gives the Gever /rooster understanding
One of the first blessings of the day is:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’, אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם, הַנּותֵן לַשֶּׂכְוִי בִּינָה לְהַבְחִין בֵּין יום וּבֵין לָיְלָה
3 Today is the Third Day of Creation, where Gd
said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation ” corresponding to
tzemach /vegetative.
4In Hebrew, the word for rooster is “Gever “. Early in the morning it is the call of the rooster that
serves as the alarm clock, rousing man from his peaceful sleep, bidding him to begin his day’s work.
The rooster is the symbol of Gevur ah severity, the opposite of kindness.
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“Who gives the sechvi understanding to distinguish between day and night.”
Some commentators to the Talmud translate the word ” sechvi” as rooster, which is
also called Gever , that we are thanking G-d for giving the wisdom to this animal to
be the world’s first natural alarm clock. This is the simple meaning, fitting in with
our basic needs, the first of which is to wake up in the morning. However, the
blessing also uses the word ” lehavchin ,” which is used in Hebrew for a deeper type
of differentiation than simply seeing the sun rise; this refers to a deeper
understanding. Here the Gever/ sechvi /rooster has “understanding”, to help
overpower through distinguishment any obstacles our intellectual achievement, the
dark that clouds the light of insight.
Other Talmudic sages interpret the word “sechvi ” as “heart.” So that could
associate Gever / sechvi /rooster/heart. The heart as the source of emotions here
now may also be fixed by greater understanding between dark and light inside,
between proper and improper emotional expression.
The Gever / sechvi /rooster/heart apparently refers to the capacity of man to
differentiate between night and day. This, however, does not seem to reconcile the
issue; why does man need deep intuition to tell between dark and light?
Some answer this by the fact that the rooster does not actually wait till daybreak to
commence its crowing; it senses that day is about to begin, the first rays of the sun
are soon to break the horizon, and begins its mission while it is still dark. The
rooster senses the imminent light from within the darkness, a unique endowment to
this animal. This is also an analogy to the endowment of human wisdom. Every day
has periods of light, representing clarity, peace of mind, success. There are also
spurts of darkness which can last for some time, times of confusion, challenges and
difficulties. It takes a level of wisdom, patience and maturity – coupled with belief
and trust – to not get caught up in the darkness, rather to find the light in the
darkness and the silver lining in every cloud.
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One needs to look at the rooster to derive inspiration that the darkness will
eventually lead to light. With this the two commentaries of rooster and heart
become one bigger reality reflecting upon the totality of the human experience;
hence this is the first blessing recited.
This apparently reflects the Jewish attitude on life. The rooster crows only with the
onset of day – but not when day turns into night. We always believe that no matter
how difficult things might be, either individually or as a nation, there is always a
brighter future in store. Things will be all right. We look at every new day with
positive anticipation and excitement – the dawn of a new time to accomplish and
grow and make a difference in the world.
One sage understands the Gever /sechvi rooster to be used symbolically in this
blessing which praises G-d for creating the intricately connected eco-system that is
our world: flora and fauna, animal and human, each element connected to every
other. The rooster’s crowing acts as a natural alarm clock for human beings; it is
the first manifestation of this interconnection and of the many ways in which the
entire natural world is meant for our benefit.
All the above requires a deeper intuition, “lehavchin ,” to use one’s full faculties and
understanding to plumb to the more subtle depths and nuances in the world and in
our lives. Our ability to do so is a Divinely endowed gift, one that enables us to
understand life itself, and is certainly worthy of our thanks to the One who gifted it
to us! On this day of Gever , we contemplate our innate talents to make
distinctions, those of the mind and of the heart.5
5 Early in the morning of the day preceding Yom Kippur , a white Gever /rooster is chosen, because
white symbolizes the purity in service to G-d. This rooster now symbolizes man who has erred during
the year. ” If his sins be red as scarlet, they shall become white as snow.” With somberness and
sincerity the man swings the rooster over his head three times. He hold the rooster in his right hand,
the hand which is the side of kindness. “This is in my place” he chants three times, as he recites his
prayers. The rooster is to be slaughtered. He should have been slaughtered for his sins, but for the
kindness of G-d, a rooster reminds him that he may be deserving death for his iniquities. ( footnote
continued on next page > )
The rooster is taken to the ritual slaughterer, the ” shochet “. The shochet plucks several feathers from
the neck of the rooster to make the slaughter easier and faster. He bends the rooster’s head up, and
pulls the sharp knife across the neck. In a split second the rooster is no longer alive. His body is hung
upside down to allow the blood to drip out of the incision.
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Gavra Rabbah /a Sage
We find a fascinating passage in the ” אמר רבא, כמה טפשאי שאר אינשי, דקיימי מקמי ספר G emara
תורה ולא קיימי מקמי גברא רבה, דאילו בספר תורה כתיב ארבעים ואתו רבנן ”חדא בצרו —Rava said: How
foolish are some people, who stand up in honor of a sefer Torah, but they do not
stand up in honor of a “ gavra rabbah” , a great man. a Sage .
The Maharit provides us Parashat Derachim ( Drush 24). He explains that there is a
big difference between a Torah-scholar who is a ” גברא רבה “ and one who is not a
גברא רבה“ “. The latter’s greatness stems exclusively from the fact that he is learned
and well-versed in the Torah. His greatness is due to the Torah. Therefore, the
honor of a sefer Torah surpasses his honor, prompting the statement: “Since one
rises before those who study the Torah, how much more so should one rise before
the Torah itself?!” This, however, is not the category of Torah-scholar of whom
Rava spoke. He was referring to a scholar who had already achieved the status of a
גברא רבה ” “ —a great, renowned personage. This scholar has distinguished himself
through his tireless devotion to Torah-study—clarifying and refining difficult,
obscure halachot that are not explained in the Torah; they require extensive debate
and dialectic. The honor of such a ” גברא רבה “ surpasses the honor of a sefer Torah.
For, he is capable and adept at clarifying points of law that are not stated explicitly
in the Torah.
We all have an inner גברא רבה , a Sage that explain our most difficult internal
problems, whether they be intellectual or emotional. The trick is to access this, to
open ourselves to the inner wisdom needed just to make it through the day. Once
The man looks at this rooster. Only because of the kindness of G-d, am I not punished, he thinks, for
I, and not the rooster, am guilty of sin. The man does not eat from the rooster, instead, the rooster is
given to charity. A kindness from G-d, spares the man, in return, the man gives the rooster to charity,
that poor people who must fast on Yom Kippur may have food. The rooster does not bring atonement
to man, but it arouses man to return with a true heart to G-d. The intestines too, are not thrown out
to the garbage. They are given to the birds that they too, may eat. A kindness on this day is shown
even to the ravens.
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we take this seed, the kernal of truth we find, we fix our tzemach “vegetable”
mode–when our focus is on self-growth and self-development.
Strength of Character
.איזהו גבור? הכובש את יצרו. שנאמר (משלי טז), טוב ארך אפים מגבור ומשל ברוחו מלכד עיר
Pirke Avot 4:1 recalls:
Who is strong/ Gibbor ? One who overpowers his inclinations. As is stated ” Better
one who is slow to anger than one with might, one who rules his spirit than the
captor of a city. ”
This Gibbor /warrior is the Gever/ man overcoming weakness through the use of
Gevur ah . Gever hints to our father Yitzchak , who was by nature fearful [ Pachad
Yitzchak ], but also corresponds to the attribute of Gevur ah /strength t0 battle those
obstacles blocking our path. Gever has a numerology of 205 plus one for each
letter equals 208, that of Yitzchak !
So, back to the Mishnah , whose message here is clear: dealing with and changing
negative behavior is extremely difficult. Why does discipline and self-control need
so much strength?
As mentioned above on page 6, Kabbalists explain that two forces operate on every
one of us—the Nefesh Behemit /animal soul and the Nefesh Elokit /divine soul. The
animal soul is the source of our ego, and encourages hedonism, aggression,
laziness and emptiness. The divine soul is the source of moral reasoning and
spiritual consciousness. It inspires an awareness of a higher purpose, and gives us
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the ability to think rationally and objectively, making decisions for ethical behavior
and giving appropriate responses to everyday experiences.
Each soul has its own dominant force. The animal soul is driven by instincts that are
highly emotional, whereas the divine soul is dominated by the power of intellect and
reason. Both souls fight for control of the person. Both struggle to shape our
personality and define our identity.
This is where the challenge of self-control lies. The animalistic force is quick. It is
emotional and instinctive, and prompts a very swift response. The divine soul is
intellectual. It needs time to cognitively process the appropriate and moral
response. So, when we are insulted, or provoked, or presented with temptations
and ethical dilemmas, the immediate response will be the feelings generated by the
instincts and explosive emotions of the animal soul. We are tempted to get angry or
do the wrong thing before we give the moral reason a chance.
Self-control, therefore, needs the incredible strength of restraint. It requires holding
back for just a few seconds between the things that happen to us and our response,
creating a little space to think and process the point of view of the divine voice. It is
what Stephen Covey calls the “pause button between the stimulus and the
response.”
Today and in general we need to train ourselves as a Gever not to act quickly and
instinctively. We need to use the unique ability of the Gever being to stop and ask
ourselves the question: is this wrong or right? It takes amazing strength to wait a
few seconds, but those few seconds can be the difference between an animalistic
act and a divine one.
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So today if you are faced with a challenge, give yourself a few seconds for the voice
of the soul Nefesh Elokit to be heard–to be overcome with the power of Gever —
over the braying of your Nefesh Behemit .
The Gever trusts in Hashem
In a powerful affirmation that we quote in daily prayers as well as in the Grace After
Meals, the Prophet Yirmiyahu tells us that trust spawns certainty, and certainty
breeds success: Baruch ha Gever asher yivtach baHaShem v’hayah HaShem
mivtacho —Blessed is the Gever who trusts in G‑d; G‑d will be his security.”
Perhaps this is the secret the Gever can share we us to overcome mental and
emotional obstacles to our proper functioning: cultivating trust, a lifelong project.
This process calls for making room in our awareness for a Higher Power, relying on
G‑d as the source of all challenges and blessings. It means acknowledging this
Source regularly, learning about G‑d and communicating with Him on a regular
basis, keeping His number on speed dial on our metaphorical cell phones. This can
be achieved through meditation and prayer.
Rabbinic tradition prescribes praying three times a day, and making gratitude our
first thought in the morning and last thought before sleep. Established times for
prayer were introduced for the well-being of the individual—certainly not because
G‑d needs them. For prayer to genuinely augment our trust and calm our souls, it
must be mindful. Who is G‑d? Why am I connecting to Him in this way? How can I
enhance my awareness of His dynamic presence in the details of my daily life?
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Such practice of the Gever cultivates trust—and one who truly trusts in G‑d’s
benevolent guidance will not be riddled with problems, nor with the gnawing feeling
that something is lacking. Of course this doesn’t mean life will be without
challenges—as 3,800 years of Jewish history will readily attest! But our ability as
Gever to cope with problems and follow through with effective solutions increases
in direct proportion to the calm certainty that comes with knowing G-d is our caring
and capable partner. And it is the Gever ’s trust that allows his life to flourish as
the tzemach , growing upwards to the light, and to the Source above.
******************************************************************
28 Elul : אִישׁ Ish –quality of heart and emotion, related to chayah /animal.
Today, as an Ish , we need to listen to the messages of our heart, the place of
passion.
” To You, my heart has said, “seek My countenance”; Your countenance, HaShem I
will seek. ” King David communed with his heart and found his deep yearning for
HaShem . Even more, he realized that his longing for HaShem , was initiated and
awakened by HaShem, Himself.
If the king invites his friend to visit him, it is inconceivable that that he will be
denied entry to the palace. So too, since HaShem stirred King David ’s heart to seek
Him, King David was confident that HaShem would answer his prayers. This
confidence was built up through the prior step of yesterday’s Gever .
Listen today to the yearning in your heart, that of the Ish , to seek and come close
to HaShem . Pray to Him to show you compassion, and He surely will admit you into
His presence and answer all of your prayers.
( Based on the commentary of the RaMad Valli to Tehillim )
To learn about the heart qualities of the Ish , let us examine three verses from the
Psalms, the heartfelt renderings of King David , a man of great passion.
תְּפִלָּה, לְמֹשֶׁה אִישׁהָאֱלֹהִים
“ A prayer of Moshe, the Ish of G-d ” (Tehillim 90:1)
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Moshe was אִישׁ an I sh , a man of flesh and blood, but when he ascended Mt. Sinai,
and survived without the physical food for forty days, he resembled הָאֱלֹהִים G-d.
Moshe upon his passing achieved the 50th gate of Binah /understanding, a quality of
which the K abbalah speaks “ בִּינָה לִבָּא וּבָהּ הַלֵּב מֵבִין . “ “B iN ah is the heart (H aLev ), for
the heart ( HaLev ) understands ( ma ViN ).
Moshe was the only prophet who saw every Divine vision with clarity, free from any
distortion. He also communicated these visions with perfect clarity. His heart did
not blur the small still voice of the Eternal within.
It is noteworthy that this Psalm written by Mosh e, in the beginning mentions two
other names of man, Enosh and Adam , the former discussed above, the latter
discussed below:
וַתֹּאמֶר, שׁוּבוּ בְנֵיאָדָם
; תָּשֵׁב אֱנוֹשׁ, עַדדַּכָּא
“ You reduce Enosh to pulp, and You say, “Repent, O
sons of Adam . ”
Enosh refers to man as frail, limited creature. [ Malbim to Tehillim 8:5 ]
Adam is used to remind man of their potential to do Teshuvah .
Our second verse is
אֹהֵב יָמִים, לִרְאוֹת טוֹב ; מִיהָאִישׁ,
הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים “Which Ish desires life, who loves days of seeing
good”
Which Ish is passionate about life, about following the good path of the heart?
This Ish has internalized the Gever aspect in him to overcome the Enosh frailties:
(1) Guard your tongue from evil
(2) and your lips from speaking deceitfully.
(3) Turn from evil and do good.
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Radak notes that these two verses, King David discusses sins of thought, of speech,
and of deed. The Ish whose heart desires life recognizes that it is the heart that
controls how the organs relate to sin.
As Rashi says on the verse:
וְלֹא תָתוּרוּ אַחֲרֵי לְבַבְכֶם וְאַחֲרֵי עֵינֵיכֶם : a nd you shall not wander after your hearts
The heart and eyes are the spies for the body. They are its agents for sinning: the eye sees, the
heart covets and the body commits the transgression. – [Mid. Tanchuma 15 ]
The Ish ’s heart is always in the right place, the Ish ’s emotions are healthy and
appropriate, so that his nature is to turn from evil and towards goodness.
The final verse concerning the Ish is:
Who is this, the Ish fearful of Hashem? מִיזֶה
הָאִישׁ, יְרֵא יְהוָה
The Midrash says that this is Avraham , who is called הָאִישׁ , and of whom it is
written, “ For now I know that you fear G-d .” [ note that his grandson Ya’akov was also
called I sh , as in אִישׁ תָּם “an innocent man”]
One’s heart should not truly fear those of mere flesh and blood, rather one’s awe
and respect should be directed the One Above, pure יְרֵא יְהוָה y irat Hashem .
The Ish has perfected his emotions, his heartspace, his desire to return to come
close to Hashem. The Ish has also perfected the chayah “animal” in himself–the
instincts, passions and sensitivities by which he relates to others. By constantly
seeking Hashem’s presence, he does nothing to distance himself, which only brings
him closer to his fellow.
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29 Elul : אָדָם A dam refers to the quality of mind and intellect, related to
medaberet /speaking.
Adam ’s offering of his inner behemah /animal
A man who shall bring near of you an offering to G-d (1:2) The verse does not say,
” a man of you who shall bring near an offering ,” but, ” Adam a man who shall bring
near of you an offering” –the animal offering must come from within the person. It
is the animal, בִּקוֹרַת בְּהֶמְתֶּךָ within man that must be “brought near” and elevated
by the divine fire upon the Altar. ( The Chassidic Masters )
Adam ’s inner purity
Why does G-d use the word Adam for “man” ( instead of the more common synonym
ish )? To teach us that a person cannot offer to G-d what has not been honestly
obtained by him. G-d is saying: ” When you bring an offering to Me, be like Adam
the first man, who could not have stolen from anyone, since he was alone in the
world.” ( Midrash Tanchuma; Rash i )
When we speak of Adam as one who “was alone in the world,” we are speaking of
the very first hours of his life. Thus we are speaking of Adam before he partook of
the Tree of Knowledge–of man still unsullied by sin. This is the deeper significance
of the Torah’s reference to the bearer of a korban/ animal sacrifice–which has the
power to obtain atonement for a transgression–as an ” Adam .” Every man, the
Torah is saying, harbors in the pith of his soul a pristine ” Adam ,” a primordial man
untouched by sin. Even at the very moment his external self was transgressing the
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divine will, his inner essence remained loyal to G-d; it was only silenced and
suppressed by his baser instincts. It is by accessing this core of purity, by
unearthing that part of himself that did not sin in the first place and restoring it to
its rightful place as the sovereign of his life, that man attains the state of
teshuvah — return to his original state of perfection. (The Lubavitcher Rebbe )
And that, in short, is the work we are doing today, and during the upcoming 10
Days of Teshuvah .
Adam names his animals [ his own inner psychic complexes ]
Adam , who relates to the mind, had the particular knowledge to give each animal
its Hebrew name through his power of speech, medaberet :
He brought [it] to man to see what he
would call it, and whatever the man
called each living thing, that was its
name .
וַיָּבֵא אֶל הָאָדָם לִרְאוֹת מַה יִּקְרָא לוֹ וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָא לוֹ
:הָאָדָם נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה הוּא שְׁמוֹ
But these weren’t random names picked out of a hat, mind you. According to the
Kabbalah, the name of every creation is its life-source. The Hebrew letters carry a
G‑dly power, and, when put together in different formations, they give life
wherever they are applied. Thus, all created things are directly affected by their
Hebrew names, and the letters of which they are composed.
Here is a quote from the Midrash to Genesis 2:19:
W hen the Holy One, blessed be He, was about to to create humankind, He consulted with His
ministering angels, saying, “Let us make Adam .” The angels responded, “What’s so wonderful about
this Adam ?” So He brought each creature before the angels and asked them, “This creature, what is
its name?” But they did not know. Then He brought the creatures before Adam and asked him, “This
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creature, what is its name?” To which Adam responded, “This is shor [ Hebrew for ox ], this is chamor
[ donkey ]… ”
Adam was able to perceive the spiritual components of the creative spirit that
brought every animal into being, and named with his power of speech medaberet
each animal in conjunction with its spiritual configuration.
So too for us. While all animals have names, no so for our inner animal complexes,
those based on the Nefesh HaBehamit mentioned earlier. To become an Adam
means to name these inner animals and to offer them the altar, to become closer to
the Source.
For example, we know of the expression “stubborn as an ox.” A bit of
stubbornness is good, too much, however, creates an obstacle for personal growth.
Perhaps we need to examine our “ox complex” בִּקוֹרַת בְּהֶמְתֶּךָ , and then offer those
parts which are hindering our teshuvah process.
Another example is found in the P irke Avot , where we are commended to be וקל כנשר
“light as an eagle” – As Rabbi Shimson Raphae l Hirsch explains, we are to leave all
earthy impediments behind and soar up to the Compassionate One. This is good,
but the eagle is also a predator, which is why we cannot eat it. Perhaps as we
examine our “eagle complex” we need to then “sacrifice” those personality traits in
which we poach on others, attacking them, stealing their precious qualities for only
our own use.
סֵפֶר בִּקוֹרַת בְּהֶמְתֶּךָ
26
To fulfill Adam’ s role, we need to name our inner animals, our inner behemit , and
inspect them בִּקוֹרַת בְּהֶמְתֶּךָ before we offer them on the spiritual altar of Rosh
Hashanah .6
Adam ’s Positive and Constructive Thoughts
Adam we have learned has perfected the level of thought. The Gemara Yoma 29
teaches us, counterintuitively, that “thoughts of sin are worse than sin.” This
demonstrates the high level that Adam seeks to achieve, channeling positive and
constructive thoughts over those toward negativity.
In Tomer Devorah, Chapter 3, Rav Moshe Cordovero quotes: ‘ I know My thoughts
which I think about you,’ says HaShem, ‘thoughts of peace and not ill will, to give
you a future and hope'” ( Yirmiyahu 29:11 ). One of HaShem’ s most precious
attributes is His thoughtfulness and care for all of His creations. He compassionately
oversees our lives and kindly provides us with all of our needs.
So HaShem continuously thinks positive, constructive thoughts for mankind. Even if
we experience challenges, HaShem sends them for our ultimate good. Adam is
created in the image of HaShem , and we must emulate Him by always looking for
ways to help others. Befriend those in need of friendship and generate positive
thoughts towards them. Reflect on how you can best benefit your friends and
provide them with good advice. With such intent, we become mensch -like, in the
spirit of Adam .
6 In my youth, I was troubled with eating issues, Once I realized that being “The Hunger Artist” was
paving my path toward death, I called this complex “Auschwitz Man” and gathered the strength to not
let it determine my daily choices and day-to-day existence.
סֵפֶר בִּקוֹרַת בְּהֶמְתֶּךָ
27
Rosh Hashana and Us
On Rosh Hashanah we remember, and remind the world, that G-d created
Adam –man and woman, G-d gave them the gift of life, and G-d laid down its rules:
respect the life, family and property of your fellow, treat the creatures of your
planet kindly, do charity and uphold justice. Do so not only because it makes sense
to you, not only because it “feels right,” but because you are a subject of G-d and
you accept your Sovereign’s decrees.
The creation of Adam enables the true purpose of Creation to be fulfilled. G‑d
created a world that conceals His presence, and He wants us to reveal Him. Only
man — who is endowed with intelligence and freedom of choice; the ability to
accept G‑d or reject Him — can accomplish this. On the day of his creation, Adam
realized that G‑d is the Master of the Universe, and he said to the other creations:
בֹּאוּ נִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה וְנִכְרָעָה נִבְרְכָה לִפְנֵי יְהֹוָה עֹשֵׂנ וּ
” Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before G‑d our Maker .
Rosh Hashanah is the day when we follow Adam ‘s example, and accept G‑d’s
kingship over us and the entire world. For this is the true head of the year: the time
when G‑d’s goal in making the world started to be fulfilled.
סֵפֶר בִּקוֹרַת בְּהֶמְתֶּךָ

  1 comment for “Rosh HaShanah – Sefer Bikorat Behem’techa

  1. Ish Tam
    September 10, 2015 at 5:10 am

    Perhaps if we practice korban tamid daily, we would have easier time preparing for the Rosh Hashana Korban Olah 🙂

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