I. Giving honor to others
1. ‘And Yehuda approached to him and said, please my lord…’ (*Bereishis 44.18) It appears to me that this verse can be explained according to what I heard from my teacher (the Baal Shem Tov) *ZT’L. He said, ‘if you wish to praise someone, praise *HaShem, and if you wish to denigrate someone, denigrate yourself.’ We can understand this with the explanation that I have given elsewhere to what the *Mishnah says, ‘Who is the one who has honor, he who gives honor to other people [Heb. brios lit. creations] as it says, ‘those who honor Me I will honor, those who denigrate me I will curse.’ [The Mishnah is here relating the honor of HaShem to the honor of men.] We need to understand what the relationship is between the honor due to other men and the honor of HaShem. The explanation is that all the Jewish people are as one person, therefore any fault that exists in another Jew is present in the person himself. Also if a person denigrates another person, who was created by HaShem, it is as if he denigrates HaShem as we see from a story related in the Talmud. The story concerns what happened when Rabbi Shimon ben Eluzer met a certain person who was ugly. [When he saw this person, who happened to be *Eliyahu HaNavi, he remarked ‘how ugly you are’. To which Eliyahu remarked that he should go and complain to the One who made him. Rabbi Shimon then realized his error and asked him to forgive him, which he did after great difficulty. See the story in the *Talmud *Taanis 20b.] We can then understand the meaning of to ‘give honor to other people’ who were created by HaShem. He does it because they are the creation of HaShem. By doing this it will reflect on the person himself, since he gives them honor and there is the well known idea of the oneness of the Jewish people. [He then shares in that honor. By honoring another person because he is G-d’s creation, he will bring honor to himself.] It is not the same with one who denigrates another, which HaShem considers as if He was being denigrated and it is an insult to the honor of HaShem. Not just that but it reflects on the person himself. He is likewise cursed and disgraced because of the oneness of the Jewish people. [Since as was said above the idea of oneness means that any fault seen in another person is present in every Jew.]. This is the meaning of what it says, ‘and those who denigrate me I will curse.’ (Look there where I explain this more.) With this we can understand what my teacher ZT’L meant. If you praise any other person, you are praising HaShem who is the one who created that person, and if you are denigrating another person then you are denigrating not only HaShem but yourself also. [This is because of the basic oneness of all Jews.] With this we can understand the meaning of, ‘and Yehuda approached.’ ‘Yehuda’ has the meaning of praise and thanksgiving. ‘And he approached to him’ i.e. HaShem, ‘Yehuda’ i.e. with praises. This is because all the praises that a person gives to other people the praise applies to HaShem Himself. And all the base things he sees in others applies to the person himself. (sefer Ben Pores Yosef teachings of *Rebbe Yakov Yosef of Polnoye a *Talmid of the Baal Shem Tov). * * * II. Prayer 2. ‘And Yehuda approached to him and said, please my lord… because you are like Pharaoh’ (Bereishis 44.18) *Chazal say that “‘approach’ refers to prayer”. It seems that we can therefore explain this verse as a *remez. ‘And Yehuda approached’, refers to a Jewish man, who is called ‘a man of Yehuda’ [Heb. ish Yehudi], when he stands in prayer before HaShem. What is the proper manner for him to act? It should be that all his intentions should be for the benefit of the *Shechina. Chazal say, ‘One should not stand in prayer expect with humility [Heb. kovid Rosh], which means that he should prayer for the needs [Heb kovid] of the Head [Heb. Rosh] of all Heads, i.e. HaShem. Even if he is praying for his own needs he should pray for those things that are lacking above. [As it has been taught by the Baal Shem Tov that whatever is lacking in this world reflects a need for us to pray for a lacking above. HaShem has created the world in order to show his goodness to that world. If there is something lacking, then it is because HaShem is unable to share this goodness at that time. Therefore he should pray that HaShem should be able to share of his goodness because that is what He wants.] He can do this because the *nashama of a Jew is a part of the godliness of above. It is like a limb of the Shechina. And the main purpose of prayer is that we should desire that there should be benefit above. It is certain that a prayer given in this manner will be accepted and the Satan will not be able to criticize it. However it is not the same with those who act only for themselves, and cry out ‘Give me Give me’ as it says in the *Tekunei Zohar. This is the meaning of the verse. ‘And he approached’ in prayer. And Yehuda said that HaShem should do what he asks for His sake, because he is a part of the godliness of above. This is the meaning of ‘please my lord’. [Heb. bi adoni which can also mean ‘in me is my lord’. This means that he has a portion of the godliness above in him.] Then it is certain that ‘you should not be angry with your servant.’ And there shall be no anger against him since all his intentions are to benefit the One above, that portion of godliness that is in him, which is the meaning of ‘please my lord’. [Since he is not praying for himself the prayer will be accepted.] ‘Because you are like Pharaoh’. The word ‘Pharaoh’ can also mean to be revealed. [The word pari’ah means to reveal.] He is like Him, in that which is hidden. [i.e. his nashama which is hidden is a part of the godliness above.] (sefer Lekutim Yikorim teachings of the *Rebbe Reb Ber, the *Maggid of Mezritch) * * * 3. ‘And Yehuda approached to him ‘ (Bereishis 44.18) The *Torah is here trying to teach the way in which we can approach HaShem in prayer. A person should not feel dejected because this would cause him to say ‘How is it possible for me to pray before HaShem? I am not worthy that I should do this because of my actions.’ This is especially true when he remembers the sins that he committed before HaShem. The Torah is here giving us three suggestions that with any of these three he will be able to have the strength to approach HaShem in prayer. The first is that he should consider that it is true that he is as nothing, and the deeds he has done were filled with foolishness and emptiness. He is, however, still able to approach HaShem. Not on his own merit, but in that of his holy ancestors, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yakov. This is because he has of their holiness in him. It is like a rope that when one grasps one end below it moves above, even though it is very long. Even if he is very far from the other end of the rope, if he takes it and gives it a shake, it will go all the way to the other end. So, even though it is true that he is on the lowest of levels, still since he is a member of the Jewish people, descended from the patriarchs, he has the power to effect above with his prayers, and HaShem will accept them and have enjoyment from them. The second way is that he should consider that within him there is his holy soul, which is a part of the godliness above. This is because HaShem has placed in him this holy soul and when praying this holy portion can attach itself to it’s source above. Since he has this it is fitting that he pray before HaShem. This portion is what will pray for him, and it is this which causes all the letters and the words to join themselves into one prayer. The third way is by considering what Chazal say. ‘How do we know that HaShem prays?…’ This can be understood according to what they have said elsewhere that ‘the Shechina spoke through the mouth of Moshe.’ This means that HaShem will place his words in a person’s mouth and pray. He should say that even though he is not worthy of praying to HaShem, however in his great mercy He will see his situation. That he is unable to pray by himself and he will place His words in his mouth and pray with him. Yehuda symbolizes prayer, as it says when he was given his name, ‘now I will be able to praise [Heb. odeh] HaShem, so she called his name Yehuda.’ So we see that this name hints at praise. Also the name Yehuda has within it the four letter name of HaShem with an extra letter ‘dalit’ to signify praising HaShem. And also that a person should know that he has nothing [Ar. delais], by himself at all. This is the level of the ‘dalit’. He only has what HaShem has given to him through His great mercy as a free gift. HaShem is the one who makes all that exists and a person should praise Him constantly for this. As Chazal say, ‘for each and every breath he should praise HaShem.’ And everything that HaShem should bestow on him he should consider a very great thing and he should laud HaShem for that. This is the symbolism of the ‘dalit’ in the name of Yehuda. This is the meaning of the verse. ‘And Yehuda approached’, when a person will approach HaShem in prayer and he will feel in his heart that he is not able to do this. That he is an empty vessel and has no learning. And specifically because of his many sins how can he approach to HaShem, that HaShem would accept his prayers? He has distanced himself from HaShem so much that he wonders how he can be close to Him at this time? The verse then is giving a remez to the three ways that I explained above. First the last three letters of the Hebrew words, ‘And Yehuda approached,’ ‘shin’ ‘vov’ ‘heh’ are letters that in the *Tenach have either been added to or exchanged in the names of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yakov. Avraham had a ‘heh’ added to his name [which had been Avram.] Yitzchok is also called, ‘Yischok’ with a sin. [The sin and the shin being the same letter.] And Yakov has a ‘vov’ added to his name. This is a remez to what I said that he should remember that he is a descendant of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yakov, the holy patriarchs. And with this he can approach HaShem in prayer. There is a remez to the second method in the words that follow, ‘please my lord’, [which in Hebrew can also mean that ‘in me is my lord’]. That is to say that in him rests a holy soul that is attached above to HaShem. The words here meaning that HaShem is as it were in him due to this holy soul which is connected to the godliness above. The third method is from the words, ‘my lord asked his servant.’ This means that HaShem, as it were, prays together with His servant. As we mentioned above the statement of Chazal about ‘how do we know that HaShem prays?’ [He is not praying on his own but it is HaShem who is doing it for him.] (p.40b sefer Zerah Kodesh teachings of Rebbe Naftuli Tzi of Ropshitz.) * * * III. Serving HaShem 4. ‘You should not be angry with your servant because you are like Pharaoh’ (Bereishis 44.18) My grandfather the Holy Rebbe of Tzanz ZT’L said that this verse can be explained as a remez for an important principle in serving HaShem. A person should not try to justify himself for the inferior quality of the service that he does for HaShem by saying that his soul is an inferior one, and if he had a better one he would be able to serve HaShem on a higher level. This is foolishness and an opinion that lacks common sense. This could be compared to a servant of a king who said that if his master the king would place him in a higher office he would be able to serve him properly. Everyone with a little understanding can see the foolishness of this. It is apparent that this servant is only rebelling against his master. It is only that this servant thinks he knows better how to run the kingdom then the king himself. The same is with the King of Kings. If HaShem has created him with the soul that he has, it must be that it is the one that he needs in order to serve Him, and it is not possible any other way. This is the meaning of the verse, ‘you should not be angry with your servant.’ It is saying that with regards to one’s service of HaShem, he should not complain and say that he has a soul that is inferior and for that reason he cannot serve HaShem in the way that is proper for him to do. ‘You are like Pharaoh’ means that he should act openly according to the source of his soul. The word ‘Pharaoh’ can be said to mean revealed. [According to the level of his soul he should strive to serve HaShem.] If his soul is this way at it’s source then it is certain that it is the way it should be and no other way would be good for him. Therefore he must serve HaShem the best that he is able to, according to the soul that he has, and he should not desire for levels of service that are above the power of his soul. (p. 191
sefer Kedushas Tzion teachings of Rebbe Ben Zion of Bobov)
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Baal Tshuva (Baalei Tshuva): Hebrew for someone who is a repentant sinner.
Bamidbar: Fourth book of the Torah. Called in English Numbers
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
Chesed: Hebrew word meaning acts of mercy
Drash: A method of Biblical interpretation ascribing moral or ethical meaning to verses in the Torah.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
mikvah: Hebrew word referring to a ritual bath used for purification
Mishnah: An ancient Jewish work made of specific laws.
Moshe Rabbeinu: Hebrew for Moses our teacher. A common Jewish way of referring to Moses.
Or HaChaim: Jewish Torah commentary
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Rebbe Reb: A title added to a few special Rebbes as a sign of their higher spiritual stature.
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints in the Torah for various concepts.
Rov: An official rabbi who renders legal decisions. Many of the Rebbes were both a Rebbe of Chasidim, and the Rov of the city in which they lived.
Sanhedrin: 1. Tractate in the Talmud 2. Name of the highest level of the Jewish court system.
sefer (seforim): A Jewish religious book.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law c. also common term for a chassidic teaching
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
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