Shalom and Shavua Tov dear *|FNAME|*

This is my yearly ritual – even though the Gregorian new year holds no Jewish consequence, writing up a “year-in-review” reflections letter has become a small ritual.

Positioned deep in the South African summer, it is the perfect time to breath, reflect, and with Hashem’s help, look ahead.  

See the forest for the trees.  

I am writing to you all from Cape Town; each one of you a gem and member of the broader Nexus community. 

It is an exquisite city for the senses.  (A Cape Town retreat, anyone? 🙂 

BH the kids are all home, and my husband has taken his first break from teaching Daf Yomi in a long time.  

(If you want to find previous years “end of year reflections”, visit my blog HERE.)

So I am taking a deep breath. 

These are questions I start my review with:

What happened this year for our community?
How have we grown? 
What was achieved? 
What do we have to be grateful for? 

Let’s look at it month-by-month and see what unfolded.  

I will include all the links for you to go back and fill in anything you missed along the way.  Suggestion:  read it through once, and then choose what you want to click on to watch or listen.   Or bookmark this email so you can come back to it whenever you like, or find it on the web HERE.

January

The year started with a visit from singer and composer, Yonatan Razel (who learns in the Dirshu program which my husband runs here in South Africa.  Here he is in our treehouse.)

It was the seed from where this year Summit sprouted. 

I interviewed him in my music studio, where he accompanied the orchestral track that I had recorded on my digital software.  (Yes, I recorded every single line in the orchestra and layered them all over each other.  It sounds real!  You can listen to my piano arrangement with the digitally produced orchestra HERE).  

In case you missed it, you can watch the interview HERE (free).  

February

In February, after three years of build-up and anticipation, the community completed the Rachel and Leah course. 

I have no words for the gratitude I feel to Hashem for allowing us to bring this to fruition.

Everything that was foreshadowed and conceived in the Chava course, the first of the Rise! Series, came to its full expression.

We learned about the rising women in the footsteps of mashiach with completely different names (Rachel, Leah, and Rachel HaGedolah).  

It’s absolutely essential learning for the deep and mystical Jewish woman, and so practical and healing – as everything we had set out to achieve settled into place. 

The engagement of the community was amazing. 

One of my favourite parts was finding the original Lithuanian sources for these Kabbalsitic ideas, and seeing how absolutely practical they all were in answering the most basic of questions the modern woman is juggling all the time.  

(Just a taster:  here is a diagram extracted from the Sefer “Pischei She’arim” by R’ Yitchak Issac Chaver, student of the Gra).

I don’t just have testimonials from you, I have a book of letters.  

I am grateful for how you all received this series.  

[In case you missed it, contact Darcie and find out how you can enroll.  These courses are all pre-recorded now.]

March

In March, while we were still completing the seven sessions of the Rachel and Leah course, we hosted a free Purim shiur, based on the teachings of the Stitchiner Rebbe, called “Purim Sparks”.  In it, through Esther, we discovered that the secret of redemption is in a woman’s hands. May the anonymous sponsor for the shiur see only brochos and yeshuos.

April

For Pesach, we traveled to the states for the chassuna of my youngest sibling, Yehudah Bortz to Hannah Greyman of Baltimore. 

One of my highlights was meeting with R’ Aharon Feldman, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael, Baltimore.   (Remind me to tell you the story how I got in). 🙂 His specialty is interpreting the agaric passages of the Talmud, through the cryptic and meaning-laden interpretations of the Vilna Goan).  BH he warmly blessed our community, bH (though please note that he does not give haskamos).

May

After Pesach, with the support of my husband (who traveled back to South Africa with the kids in tow), I flew to Mexico to run an immersive retreat in the gorgeous setting of Attessi, a small village a few hours away from Mexico City.  

Read the highlights here 🙂 

In Mexico City itself, I spoke about the power of a woman’s voice, “Shma B’Kolah”, about Sarah Imeinu. (Listen HERE.)

Shavua tov dear <> !

I am sitting down to write some reflections on the closure of the academic year, marking the transition into a new one.

Why do I do this?

It is a special gift I give myself. While we are so busy pushing forward, it feels so good to just stop, reflect, and connect.

I am writing this on motzai shabbos, when I am the farthest from the work week. I want to share these quiet moments.

Jan 1 is always deep into the summer here in Johannesburg. My kids are home, and the days and weeks take on a difference cadence.

I know the Gregorian year is not Jewishly significant in any way. But living in South Africa, it is how the school year is arranged, and thus my own activities too.

It is a chance to appreciate all the productivity, the gifts we have been given, the interactions we’ve had, new spiritual vistas we have discovered, conversations we’ve opened, and all the places we’ve been.

Your involvement in our community is what makes it so dynamic and vibrant. So firstly, I want to say thank you, to each one of you, for being here.

Most importantly, I thank Hashem for all the opportunities that lie behind and ahead of us, to know Him, to learn His Torah, and to see the goodness in each other.

We, and Jewish women everywhere, are quite a [rising] force.

So here goes some reflections.

If you want to read my end of the academic year letter from previous years you will find them on my blog (or click here. But wait.)

So, 2021.

Covid’s waves and surges continued. In fact, as I write this, I am recently recovered from omicron. BH.

The year started (like all creative endeavours) underground.

For months, within a deceptively caked and dry earth, there was a flurry of energy rising, preparing for the release of the first entire year program at the Nexus School of Transformational Torah for Women, the Rise! Series.

The series took years in the making, directly evolving out of our holy chutzpah to explore the role of the woman in the pre-messianic era, in light of Chazal.

This grand and sweeping intention found expression as we strove to live what we were learning and to bring “light to vessel”, the teachings into the crevices of our lives, hearts and relationships.

Some of us are married, some single, some seasoned Torah-learners and others came simply with a great desire.

We had one thing in common: because we wanted this Torah, Hashem gave it to us.

The depth of the sources, the paradigm shifts, the bonding of the community, the power of the healing… your letters have streamed in and I can’t find the words to thank you for your warmth and your love, your encouragement and most of all, your questions and uncompromising search for the truth. Together we have grown in leaps and bounds.

It was fitting that it was on Tu B’shvat when we opened our doors – and hundreds of women rushed through them. It wasn’t for everyone to embark on the depth of it, but it completely changed everything for those who did. We tasted the sweet taste of the Torahs’ inner waters, and we primed our hearts for a transformation.

And with Hashem’s help, it happened.

And so we began, with The Chava Course, recorded with state of the art technology in 2019. (You literally feel like you are there. Watch the highlights video and scroll down the Chava landing page to see what’s in every single class.)

The community went onto Sarah, with a great thirst, where we explored how the “Pre-Messianic woman, the woman living before the times of mashiach” creates a relationship with her husband (or husband to be).

Just when we thought we couldn’t take any more mind-expanding new paradigms… (I literally got this complaint from someone!), we moved onto the soft and feminine energy of Rivka Imeinu in the course on prayer.

Each one of the Rise! Series courses came with live group coaching sessions and a community forum that will make a book one day beH (a thriller).

The nexus mentors (the previous year’s graduates, click on the link to meet them) were phenomenal in what they brought to the learning experience, their dedication, and how they role modelled the teachings. I want to thank each one of them for their belief in me, in themselves and in the new women who joined the school.

In between all of this… Nexus opened up to another world-wide summit, The Global Marriage Conference, this time on the theme of marriage (following the Sarah course theme).

The calibre of teachers was world class, including R’ Noach Orloweck, Rebbetzin Tehilla Abramov, Sara Yocheved Rigler, Leah Richeimer, R’ Yaakov Zalmon Labinsky, Mrs. Rena Tarshish, Rebbetzin Tehilla Abramov, Mrs. Gila Levitt, R’ Shlomo Slatkin, Mrs. Faige Zelcer, Mrs. Chana Levitan, Mrs. Chana Eisenstein, Mrs. Leah Gebber, and R’ Avraham Edelstein.

This was free to the thousands of women who joined us, and each session was as unique as its guest. (Yes, it was all recorded.)

One of the gifts of this year was the addition of Hendy to the team. I cannot even describe how hard she works to respond and assist everyone personally via email, and all of the technical details she takes care of with round the clock dedication. May Hashem bless her with siyatta dishmaya in all she does and much nachas from her family.

This year was also the year where we lost the woman for whom so many shiurim were dedicated for over the years. Lee-Ann (Chaya Leah) was always so proud of whatever we were achieving, and had developed a keen sense of spirituality far beyond her years. May Hashem send her family nechama and siyatta dishmaya as they go on.

Since promoting the Rise! Series this year took massive amounts of my energy, I have needed a period of inwardness over the past few months. There has been much on the go on the home front, including a family wedding, visits from my parents and siblings who I haven’t seen in a few years, and sending my 2 boys off to Yeshiva overseas BH.

(Me with my sister-in-law, Adina)

In the background, we have been upgrading the website and free shiur treasury, (which I’ll give you a tour soon) and… I have started to set up my very own music studio. My hope is to capture some of my arrangements in a high level and shareable format. This has been a major learning curve.

Just for fun, I am sharing a exciting and fun piece of contemporary classical music, using special looping technology. Its called the Loop Song, composed by Hungarian pianist Peter Bence. I hope you enjoy it 🙂 (or click the picture)

(painting by Betty M-T)

We are now in the beginning of the Tefilla Series, my foundational series on the sefiros and their psycho-emotional expression – a map of the Jewish mind and soul. The second session is being released today, and you can still join us.

We are meeting for a live masterclass session at the end of the month (Jan 30th/ 28th Shevat). See below to join (or click on the picture)

So… now where am I?

I am deep into the waters of Rachel and Leah.

Before I go on, I want to take a moment to appreciate my teachers, Rabbanim and women who through mesirat nefesh, avail themselves to me when I encounter questions. They don’t all want to be mentioned by name, but they are gifts in my life and I am so grateful for all they give me at the drop of a hat.

Rachel and Leah is so deep…. And so relevant. I can’t wait to share it with you.

The starting date BeH is Feb 15, Purim Katan (14 Adar Aleph). We will be finished before Nissan (it’s a 7 week live course). It will bring the healing of the Rise! series alllllll the way home. (click the picture)

I always try to release some free shiurim, time permitting.

The flavour of the year (probably because of my research for the Rise! Series) has been an introduction to Arizal. The shiurim I released in 2021 can be found at the bottom of this email.

Each one of these shiurim has another foundational piece for the rise of the holy feminine.

Let’s see where we go next, with Hashem’s blessings of health and protection, light and vessels.
May you and your loved ones, our community and all of Klal Yisroel, continue to be blessed.

And may the world have a Refuah…. and its ultimate yeshua.

Continue to be the light and healing you want to see around you,

All my love,

🌟 For private coaching sessions, contact info@thenexus.org. Availability permitting.

🌟 To put your name down for the next round of the Rise! Series, (no commitment) starting in a few months, click HERE.

🌟 Join our WhatsApp group HERE.

🌟 Donate and help others who can’t afford School tuition. Help us and give this gift to someone who desperately wants to Rise! through the power of deep, feminine Torah. Mark your donation as “Learning Fund” and every penny will sponsor others in need.

🌟 The Tefilla Series is now in session! Join Here!

The Tefilla Series is the Chassidic and Kabbalistic essential wisdom we need to have in order to understand our inner workings and to transform prayer into the heartfelt, meditative power that it is.

– 6 videos/ audios that you can watch or download at your own pace
– vibrant discussion forum
– life-long access to materials
– translated source packs
– Live Bonus Class! Q&A and the practical Kavanos for Shema and the first blessing of Shemone Esrei.

In this short series you will deepen your relationship with Hashem through gaining insight and mastery over the 4 layers of your inner being: body, heart, mind and soul. Meet yourself at this core level and devote those gifts to Hashem.

Dedicated L’aliyat Neshama for Chaya Leah bas Moshe Tzvi and L’refuah shelaima for Doniel ben Sarah

All shiurim and programs available on our phone line. Contact info@thenexus.org.

🌟 Here are some of this years public, free shiurim and videos:

Say to the Women – When soft equals power (Click here)

Nexus Community Event – the deeper dimensions of Torah (Click here)

[Arizal – Advanced] The active ingredient in moon rise (Click here)

Come home! [Interview with Rebbetzin Devorah Fastag] The Chashivut of the Land of Israel (Click here)

Marriage, a Modern Mystery. Part I [for Singles and Marrieds] Arizal (Click here)

Are you married to/ will you marry your Bashert? (Click here)

Becoming Vessels for Redemption (Click here)

Extracted from my post-retreat communication letter to the the Mexico retreat participants.

On the last day, we did a unique 4-step Nexus breakthrough guided vessel work to bring light to the dark side of our moon, which is synonymous (psycho-spiritually) with rising into our crown.  You can do this 4-step process as many times as you like for the big things and the small things. It is nice to have a group or partner when going through the steps, but using a journal and some quiet time to reflect will also yield amazing results. [If you are reading this and you were not present at the retreat, stay tuned for when I am able to bring this to light in a bigger way bs”d, or contact info@thenexus.org for a private session.]

Attesi will always have a cherished place in my heart.  Carol Esther, Andrea and Danielle outdid themselves with attention to every detail.  The food was out of this world – so healthy, interesting and delicious.  And the venue – a pocket of Gan Eden on our troubled planet!  May Attesi only know Bracha, success, peace and true Jewish nachas (no – not nachos!  nachas 🙂 ) and many more wonderful retreats on their exquisite campus.

I now how thirsty you came and how much you wanted to penetrate the secrets of the feminine.  The Kabbalistic teachings that are the heart of Nexus are completely revolutionary and require a lot of safety and commitment.  I would like to look back at our sessions, quantify what we built and covered, and then for those of you that would like, explore  your next steps in the amazing journey of actualizing your feminine potential as a Jewish woman.  (One thing is for sure – I definitely came away feeling that the information needs to be put into book form – and made accessible to the world (and translated into Spanish beH!  I will need donors!)

So here is a quick review.

At the opening session, we tasted the fact that the feminine has 2 parts – one that is called “Malchus” in mystical texts and the other that is called “Bina”.  (Also referred to as “Rochel” and “Leah”!) The “higher feminine” is “Bina” and the “lower feminine” is “Malchus”.  This was meant to “crown” the retreat as a sort of foreshadowing of what I wanted to impart in the sessions that followed.

That night at the bonfire session we described the essence of the “lower feminine”, also known as the “classical feminine”, or archetypal feminine according to Kabbalah, as one of a “receiver”, as in the biological model of man and woman.  We explored why the feminine “chromosome” of creation was fundamentally created “diminished”, flawed or incomplete on each day of creation. (Why, you ask?  So that she could rise and that free will would exist in the world, enabling the ultimate revelation of Hashem and the highest, sweetest good).  We also touched on that the “feminine” does not just refer to women and girls, but is a much more cosmic concept.  By getting these definitions in place, we laid the groundwork to begin to bring definition to what is only emerging now in these pre-messianic times – what we call at Nexus “the higher feminine”.

The next morning, we went on the glorious forest hike.  Though the meditation didn’t appear to have anything to do with the theme of rising into our higher feminine, the structure of Hashem’s name is the basis for all the Kabbalistic teachings that we eventually bring in our journey.  (For example, the first and second heh’s are the two “feminines” and the yud and vav are the two “masculines”.)

In the afternoon session in the Beis Midrash, we had the core of our learning time in which we laid down the structures of the diminishment of the moon and the prophecies regarding her ultimate regaining of her light.  We learned that this will culminate when the masculine and feminine “will indeed share one crown”.  This brought out the important question of how to navigate relationships when the man and woman are not in sync/harmony, and how to rise into our feminine without this being the cause of fractures and destruction in our relationships.  During this session, we also learned about the 3 stages of relationship (based on the Arizal), namely:  back-to-back, “nesirah” (the uncoupling of Adam and Chava when Adam was sleeping), and the ultimate stage of complete union and re-coupling as two lovers and equals partners*.(*See the masterclass “Esther as Our Guide in the Evolving Feminine” for more on this.)

It was at this point that there was sufficient grounding to begin to go more deeply into the story of creation – how there were 2 Chavas – not just one –  and the first one turned into “Lili-th” – the demon and feminine archetype of evil, and of course what this all means practically.  This is usually the moment of big shift.  Unfortunately, we did not get to do this in the time that we had for the learning segment of this retreat.  But I trust and know that everything is always as it is meant to be, and I thank Hashem for everything that He has given us and made possible at the retreat and in the larger community.  This is exactly what the Chava course is and from that foundation the Sarah, Rivka, Rachel & Leah courses germinate and build on.  Plus, learning this material over a longer period of time is WAY more conducive to your complete transformation.  (Learn more here or see below for details how you can hook up with our learning community.)

The next day, having tasted that we are on a Divinely orchestrated and guided journey of revealing our full selves, on a mission of bringing moonlight back to its original grandeur, coming to know that our healing as the feminine indicates a much deeper level of world healing, and that our rise is the best thing that can ever happen to the masculine ;)… we set out to identify our subconscious blocks and barriers that were creating dis-harmony in our lives.  I was so touched by your journeys of discovery and only wished we had more time to sit in our small groups of safety and breakthrough.  This was where the magic happened, as you brought it from the mind (the masculine) to the heart and body (the feminine).  Well, the lower feminine :), guided by your higher feminine Bina wisdom and knowing!

If you haven’t yet begun your Rise! into your Highest Feminine Journey, HERE is the place to begin.  Chava is a pre-requisite for any of the other Imahos courses, as she lays the basic structures and foundations.  Check out the Chava course HERE to see what is inside every single session.

Enjoy just below this little sneak peak inside the curriculum!  These are some of the “maps of femininity” that you will receive and beH be able to navigate your life with.

In short, Nexus is an unfolding journey and you are invited for the ride!  There is a lot in the pipeline with Hashem’s help.  If you are subscribed, stay tuned for my next global free summit beH, hosting the Jewish world’s best teachers and attended beH by thousands of women all around the world.  If you haven’t yet participated in a Nexus world summit, check them out here.

Wishing you much hatzlacha and may you continue to Rise! through the light of Torah.

All my love,

 

You will also find the Sarah, Rivka and Rachel Leah courses, the Tefilla series (introduction to Chassidus), the Shalom Bayis series, A Torah approach to intimacy, and more at the school.  Most of these have been transcribed into written form, too.

Attesi, Mexico

Reflections, Part 1

I am BH safe at home. What a trip!! I cannot believe how much I am sleeping. I am grateful.

We were away for just under a month. There was the busy week before Pesach… and then Pesach, BH. My brother’s wedding BH. Sheva Brochos. My husband and children’s flight back to Johannesburg being cancelled. (Sorry Baltimore – I wanted to get something together for us. It wasn’t meant to be).

So, I guess my reflections start with Shabbos in Baltimore.  I was staying at the home of my childhood friend, who lives just behind the legendary Ner Yisrael Yeshiva. An enchanting path runs from her house through a forest and after three minutes of walking you pop out into the sprawling and beautiful campus. Behind the Yeshiva is a small street named Yeshiva Lane, where the great teachers and leaders of Ner Yisrael have resided for the last fifty or sixty years. Something came over me that I wanted to meet the Rosh Yeshiva, R’ Aharon Feldman Shli’ta.

Although our Torah is a “Toras Imecha”, a women’s Torah, transmitted from tent to tent, and more recently, through teacher to student, his Rebbetzin was resting from her recent travels, and so I set my sights on a meeting with the venerable sage himself. With my heart pounding, I held dear my notes from the Rachel Leah course (which we are completing beH next week with its 7th and final session) to show the Rosh Yeshiva.  The Gedolim speak the will of Hashem, and despite being told that the Rosh Yeshiva doesn’t give haskamos/approbations (how can he possibly know what I say and teach?), my feet walked me there.

I specifically wanted, audaciously, to bring Nexus to his attention.  R’ Aharon Feldman, the Rosh Yeshiva of Baltimore, is closely connected (aside from everything else of course), to the enigmatic and difficult-to-penetrate writings of the Vilna Gaon.  His safarim go through the most cryptic sections of Aggada, the seemingly non-sensical stories and legends of the Talmud.  Since the Talmud is not “primarily” a compilation of the Torah’s hidden layers, but rather its legal and ethical transmission, the deepest secrets are contained in a code language that is so hidden that only the greatest scholars can perceive the fundamental truths and teachings they contain.  So, despite my nerves, I persisted.  He agreed to see me.  And in my brief interaction with him, he left me – us – with a simple message.  We are learning/ teaching Torah.  It is a good thing.  He was very pleased.  I quickened my steps back through the path in the forest to my friend’s home.

At the crack of dawn the next morning, I left for Mexico.  I did not know what awaited me there.  What I found was an open, receptive, warm, passionate, ready-for-more community (and a lot of fire-works – it was some sort of national holiday!).  Hospitality, seriously, like I have never.  The unique village that hosted our retreat was full of home-grown goodness – earthy and authentic.  Expansive views, crops and lavender fields abounding, a beautifully-serviced, natural, healthy and delicious restaurant, beautiful venues for reveries or rendezvous or whatever takes one’s fancy.  Just the return to nature itself facilitated a return to sanity, to one’s inner being, to a rhythm that is conducive for such simple things like breathing and remembering who one is.

We incorporated a lot of experiential activities to accompany our learning and discovery, like Tefila, movement, art, singing, hiking, journaling, and moving through the deep inner work with chavrusas and small groups.

Every time I teach and aspire to facilitate change in others, I can’t help but not be touched and healed.  What lingers for me is the theme that definitely kept on coming out in so many different ways.  Carol Esther’s (the retreat visionary) wish for the retreat was to “connect women back to their femininity”.  It is true.  This is the healing balm.  But, there is so much confusion.  What is femininity, really?  What is happening nowadays in this area that is causing so much pain and hurt in relationships and in women’s general states?  Where do we find our power – clearly it is not where men find theirs – what then is it?  It is so easy to speak generally about it, trusting that it is good, that it is potent, but what exactly is it?

This is a dilemma I experienced throughout the retreat.  On the one hand, I wanted to share the pre-messianic teachings, that are so soul expanding and mind-blowing.  That is our special mission, our special commitment – to articulate, aspire and share the wisdom of the feminine on her ascent and movement towards the end of days.  Yes, this movement is a gentle one.  I felt that where things were hurting was deeper within these just only emerging ones.  I wanted to make sure that the containers were ready, the vessels were sturdy.  Backgrounds were diverse.  And so, for me, the teaching of “what is the feminine”, in her most simple and beautiful form, joined these two aspects together.  This is the feminine that just is.  And in aligning with it, we are automatically strengthened and healed.  There is no pressure to rise.  The rise will be automatic.  But first, to heal.  To return.  To know the feminine for who she already is, waiting for us to fumble our way to her and remove all the stress that we live with when we have forgotten her, or never even knew her.

(True, there is healing in the rise… but the Torah prescribes a timeline.  And that is healing to know.  As the Talmud says, “whoever pushes the hour… the hour pushes back at him”.)

The classic feminine, the traditional feminine, the eons-loved holy model of the feminine is a receiver.  I know you know this.  I know you think you already know this.  But let’s take this further.  A receiver doesn’t need to give to be worthy.  She doesn’t need a bris to be Jewish.  She doesn’t need to grasp to be spiritual. She. Already. Is.  Her beauty isn’t in her deservingness.  He power to receive IS her beauty.  The joy of receiving – and being made happy by it – is hers, already.  If she isn’t in touch with this – then she needs to peel away the wrapper of doubt and confusion, the false skin of masculine or societal or otherwise confused thoughts and beliefs.

 

Let’s keep peeling.  Deeper we go – and we find that in order to receive, she needs good boundaries.  A vessel needs good walls.  Otherwise, how can it contain?  That is how she holds and preserves, nurtures and cultivates all that she is given.  This is the greatest gift to the world – to gestate and birth the purpose of it all.  And, if I may ask, if you may wonder, what is the purpose of it all? Here are some suggestions. For the rest, fill in your own. It is for Emunah.  Joy.  Faith that everything is just the way it is supposed to be. Love of Hashem.  Love of His people.  Love of Torah.  Living a life of Torah.  Providing a vessel for the light.

In the forest, we had a meditation.  The trees were enormous, and so straight, reaching up so high.  The trails were so interesting, up and around and over freezing cold creaks.  In the meditation, we spoke about the 4 elements (fire, wind, water and earth), and how they reflect our inner make-up, which is of course a combination of masculine and feminine elements.  It landed on me like a ton of bricks.  To receive – to be feminine – in its essence – is to receive the glow of our own light.  This is in distinct contrast to the exhausted stance of over-giving – extending – deriving worth from seeking validation – reaching outward and not knowing our own selves, being strangers within.  To truly be feminine is to receive our own light, life-force, and love.  And to be full.

If you wanted to come – don’t worry.  With Hashem’s help, in the right time and way, the transformational process I shared will be made available to you.  We’ve got lots coming up before that :).  Together let us take a deep breath, and know that Hashem is guiding each one of us with the exquisite precision of a loving Father and the intimacy of a devoted Friend.

As the retreat ended, I found myself in Mexico City where I shared Torah with with a group of thirsty women whom I loved to meet.  Early the next morning, I boarded a plane back to the States.

We held a special Nexus get-together, live in-person in Staten Island.  I recorded it and it is transcribed… and that is my next email to you.  it is here is when I really want to start sharing…. It is news in the breaking.

But before I do… You have got to watch the official retreat video, created by retreat participant, Debbie Medrez!!  Watch it HERE

In this email you will find the meditation in the forest. I hope you enjoy.

All my love, Tamar Taback

“When you look for validation you have already shrunk. You no longer exist in a place of boundless truth but are limited by the dimensions of someone else’s perceptions.”  The Chava course

 

 

In this short series you will deepen your relationship with Hashem through gaining insight and mastery over the 4 layers of your inner being: body, heart, mind and soul.

During my pregnancy with my daughter Bas-Sheva, I was starting to plant the seeds for my course on Pre-Messianic Femininity,  (the Rise! Series,) when a cherished friend and member of our community here in Johannesburg took ill. 

I wanted to do something for her.  Tefilla was so close to her heart, and her illness evoked unimaginable prayers on her behalf.

None of them were wasted.

I decided to record the Tefilla series in her z’chut.

The truth is that this turned out to be an extraordinary journey into the inner capacities (and potential traps) of the feminine mind, which we call “Binah”.  

And here is an astounding truth. 

Before we can heal the feminine as we move and shake in the world and show up in our relationships, we need repair the broken feminine of the mind.

Here is a paradigm shift you may need to make when it comes to Tefilla, prayer.
Your prayers are as good as your ability to transform yourself.
Isn’t that what Tefilla is about? 📖
What that means is that we are called to self-mastery every time we pray.
We are invited to heal our hurts, iron out our lapses of belief in Hashem, and refine (actually more accurately, elevate) our middos through prayer.
The Tefilla series is the Chassidic and Kabbalistic essential wisdom we need to have in order to gain this self-mastery and to transform prayer into the heartfelt, meditative power that it is.
And the feminine of the mind, Binah, is where this all happens.
Session 1, free intro session: Nine Descriptions of Prayer that will Transform how You Relate to Prayer Forever, is always free.

I made a fascinating discovery.

I am only starting to work with this in my own life.
I am noticing the parallels and almost mystical connection between my own feminine nature (i.e. the way I relate to the world), and the feminine part of my mind.
Because we know that Hashem has 10 sefirot (10 different ways He interacts with the world,) and that we are created b’tzelem Elokim (in His image and with His likeness), we understand that we, too, have these 10 aspects of inner functioning.
Some of these middos or capacities, the way we interact with our worlds (inner and outer), are feminine and some are masculine. And some are a confluence of the two.
The primary feminine aspect of our make-up in the mind is called Binah.
In the Tefilla series, we really get to know her.
And what we discover is that she, when operating in perfect harmony with her “mate”,  known as chachma in Chassidus and Toras HaSod, is the perfect Aishes Chayil.
There are times, though, specifically because of her emotional, imaginative, and passionate nature (sound familiar?), that she veers off to somewhere else, very very far away.
Science has different terms for the feminine and masculine capacities of the mind.
Contemporary wisdom calls them the right and left brains*.
In a freak incident where one woman experienced the temporary shutting down of her left-brain, and only her right brain remained, she reported feeling totally at peace and a sense of transcendence.
What is going on here? What do we need to learn about the “left” brain, or the “feminine” of our minds?
How do we make peace with our biggest gift and feminine power of “Binah”?
Put differently, how does our inner “Binah”, the verbal and associative part of our brain, become the true Aishes Chayil that she is, so that when we daven, she doesn’t stray afar afield and interfere with our prayers, leaving us feeling disappointed and alone?
You guessed it. When we marry Binah to her true beloved, Chachma, we get what is known in Chassidus and Kabbalah as Da’as.
And we can concentrate.
Join us as we learn the Tefilla series, a comprehensive intro to Chassidus, together as a community.
6 classes that you can watch/ download and listen at your own pace plus a 7th, live closing session where we will turn all the theory into practice BeH.
https://thenexus.org/tefillah-series/
Yom Kippur 

The 13 Middot – A Shower of Love

Shiur by Rebbetzin Tamar Taback, 2017

Listen to it here

Transcribed by Cassia Riekhoff

1 Introduction 

The Vilna Goan says that we are here to be metaken hamiddot (rectify our “middos”, attributes), that is why we are here, and is the foundation of the Torah and all the mitzvot. If we don’t engage in this work, then, says the Vilna Goan, what is the point of life? The concept of doing a cheshbon hanefesh (soul accounting) needs to be discussed with a way to approach this massive topic of tikkun hamiddot

We will start by delving into the first chapter of Tomer Devorah, the classic source of the 13 Middot/ attributes of Hashem’s compassion that is the cornerstone of the Yom Kippur davening service. It’s all about emulating Hashem’s middot which is a beautiful approach to this topic of tikkun hamiddot

2 Chesbon HaNefesh 

The essence of cheshbon hanefesh is having in your mind’s eye an image of who you can be in potential. And then we overlay over that with who you are in actuality, the truth of the matter. Then you see where these two images are not in alignment. So obviously it is important to have a goal and know what your potential is and how great you can become which is an unfolding avodah/ work in progress. The step that we need to take in closing this gap is in the realm of our character, our middos. 

Just like we said that Hashem interacts with the world through His 10 Middot, (loosely translated as the 1 sefirot), so too, our middot are how we interact with our lives, with our world, and everybody in it. In our relationships, our essence is interfacing with the essence of another through our middot. So when we want to improve our lives, we improve our middot. 

The Gemara says, who is a true talmid chacham? Somebody that can turn his cloak inside out. 

i.e. somebody who has the full spectrum of choice and can choice the appropriate response; at times, chessed, at times gevurah. As the Rambam says, someone who can always modulate and find that golden thread, that perfect mean so that you are not an extreme form of any given midda. This requires a high-level form of self-control, awareness and mastery. 

the commentaries explain that one of the words for ‘garment’ is midda.  (see psalms 133:1) So in one moment you see that you need to be compassionate, in the next you see that now you need to hold your ground and select the appropriate response. 

In order to embark we need a map, a structure of what the middot are so that you can see where you are holding in each one. This is the cornerstone of any mussar work. Starting with Rav Yisroel Salanter, he boiled these traits into 13 Middot. The Vilna Goan goes according to the 4 essential elements that the whole world is made up of, that the human being (who is a microcosm of the world) is made up of. Fire, earth, water, air. Each one has a negative manifestation and a positive manifestation; it’s all there in the Even Shlaima. The Ramchal develops the Mesilat Yesharim of developing and working on each individual middah until you reach the peak of spiritual achievement. Orchos Tzaddikim also goes through different middas. So, we can see that developing and working on your middos is the essence of self-growth. And it is a very appropriate time as we stand before Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to look at your middos. 

Another special approach is to develop your middos through the way in which you emulate Hashem. Looking at Hashem’s 10 middas/sefirahs, understanding them, and seeing what they each mean. Today we are going to look through this and choose one of them to study more deeply. We are going to the top, which is called keter, crown. 

To summarize:

We are a replicate, a mirror image of Hashem’s spiritual form. Hashem has no body but He has imbued our physical body with the characteristics of these middos. And we said that middos are how you interact with the world but they are not the soul itself. Your soul is not your character, not your personality. So, when you let off steam when you shouldn’t, you haven’t damaged your soul. But your garment has gotten a little damaged and soiled and needs a bit of attention. 

The middot, says the Tanya, are the garments of your soul. So, can we know Hashem directly, face to face, essence to essence…? At this stage of history, we cannot. So how does Hashem interact with us, how do we know Him? We study His middot, we study His garment. 

When you look at someone’s arm, but it’s covered with a sleeve, you think you can see the arm but what you really see is the sleeve. However, you can still see the shape of the arm and this tells you something about the arm. 

Keter (“Crown”)

We are going to be focusing on keter, and guess what? It also has 13 branches or channels. It’s like to top of a fountain-head. Those 13 channels are the 13 middos of Rachamim that the whole seder of Yom Kippur is based on. 

Why is this such a perfect way to look at tikkun hamiddot? Rabbi Moshe Cordevero, who wrote Tomer Devorah, was the teacher of the Arizal. The Arizal said about his teacher that he had no reason to die because death is only from sin; the only reason therefore is because of the sin of Adam. 

Devorah the Prophetess would sit under the Palm Tree with its leaves because she had incredible tzniut and whenever she consulted men, they would be in full view. The numerical value of Tomer Devorah is Moshe Cordevero. The midrashim say that a Tamar is a tree that has one heart and that heart is facing Heaven and its sap goes in one direction. And so too the Jewish people have one heart facing our Father in Heaven. Also, a bee, a devorah, is collecting honey only for the sake of the hive. So too the Jewish people, whatever they do is for the sake of Hashem. 

Perek Rishon 

“A man needs to emulate his Creator. Then he will truly resonate with the form of the Supernal on High.” In image and in form. Because if you’ve got a body, you are already in the form of G-d (because Hashem has no body and the 10 sefirot are embodied in the body). 

In your body you have G-dliness in you – but what a pity when we don’t act in a way that is G-dly. Then we have a G-dly body, we are in the form of G-d in body but not in action, feeling, behavior, or in essence. And that is a very embarrassing situation because our potential is built in and yet through our actions we are showing that we are not holding there. So, we are trying to close that gap between our potential and where we are actually at. 

“When we are like Hashem in body but not in behavior we are betraying our body. We are beautiful form and a terrible demeanor. The way we emulate G-d is our behavior, our actions, our thoughts, our speech. Therefore, we have to align ourselves starting with the first midda of Hashem which is keter [crown]. These are the 13 Attributes of Compassion. And hinted in the deepest way possible in a verse in Micha.” 

This verse in Micha we say during Tashlich which is hinting at the 13 Middot which is the deepest level of the Yom kippur davening and it’s all in keter

Our approach 

We can either approach things psychologically or spiritually. Today we have so much psychological insight which is so helpful and accessible, this is a ‘self-help generation’.  However it is not Torah. What is out there psychologically in terms of self-help and human development is not Divine. And the 13 Middot is a path of development which is Divine. 

In truth, we cannot emulate Hashem because of our human nature and as you work through the 13 traits/ attributes, you’ll see that as a human being, you absolutely can’t do this. But your soul can! Your neshama can, because your neshama is Divine. The Divine potential with which to emulate Hashem, which He has commanded us to do, to go in His ways– you can do because you are a Jew and because Hashem gives you siyata deshmaya. The stakes are high and this is not a psychological class, this is a Divine class! 

So, if you can’t do certain traits, it’s totally understandable and you’re normal. But Hashem is saying, you can emulate Me and I will give you siyata deshmaya, heavenly assistance to do so, and when you do that you are rising above your human nature and you are activating your G-dly soul, your highest will. And guess what– that’s your keter 🙂 Keter is your will. 

So, when you do Hashem’s will in these 13 Middot of Rachamim, you are using your highest bechira, your highest will, and you are submitting yourself to the Torah and the Divine completely! Because there is no other humanly possible way to do this if you did not say, Hashem, this is what you want from me, this is what I’m trying to do. And this is a tikkun hamiddot which floats to the top of all the rest. This is because with all the other methods of working on your character you’re still working within the human realm. We are very much in the human realm– in the emotions and what gets triggered and what comes up and naming your feelings and processing them. But these 13 Middot are Divine. 

Why is it called “of Rachamim”? 

These 13 channels of Hashem’s “Keter”, so too speak, connect to all the other sefirot, connect to us, and flow down through us. Why are they called the 13 channels of compassion, of rachamim? This is very inspiring. 

Why couldn’t they have been called the 13 channels of loving kindness? Doesn’t that sound good? If you were writing a machzor wouldn’t you choose that? Why rachamim and what is rachamim

We could try to say that it’s because mercy comes when you don’t deserve it but that could be true for loving kindness, too. When you do an act of kindness for someone that does not deserve it then your act of loving kindness becomes much greater. 

We have Moshe to thank for these 13 middot because when we sinned at the chet ha’egel, sin of the golden calf, Hashem was not going to forgive us and He was going to annihilate the nation with Moshe. Moshe could have been okay with that but no, he begged for the Jewish people and Hashem taught him these attributes so that he could use them. And you should know that every time you say them, you evoke them! And they start to flow no matter what. Hashem taught Moshe how to daven then and always– a continuation. Every time we tap into this, we tap into that original time that Hashem taught them to Moshe. 

Which of the genders has the organ that is the same word as rachamim? Women– a woman has a womb which is called a rechem, and this the space in the body for another to be born. A man has no rechem but a woman has a rechem. And a step deeper, when you are vomiting in the first trimester, and you have backache and reflux etc, and you go to the doctor to tell him your symptoms, it’s the only “condition” where you’ll say all these symptoms and he’ll say you’re totally fine! So, are you throwing up and having backache because of this tiny little fetus inside your womb? No, you’re not doing it for that – you’re doing it for what it will become. Rachamim is saying that right now you may not deserve it but I know what you will become, what you could become. And Hashem gives us space to do teshuva, to explore, to search, to come close to Him, to learn. And on a mystical level it is fitting that it is the Keter. In order for Hashem to create the world He had to create a space for us to exist because before the Creation and the Middot, before He imbued anything into the world, it was just His endless light and there was no place for us to exist. 

We “love” love, and we love talking about love, and of course that is His essence, His goodness.  But now we are in the days of judgement, of din. So how do we combine these two paradoxical emotions of love and awe? Love with fear, trepidation, trembling. The answer is rachamim. Rachamim says, I love you, I want you to be great, you can be great, I have high dreams for you, you have high potential, and din says, I know you can do this, I’m holding you up to it, I’m sending you everything you need to actually do this. And He doesn’t let go of the din. Love is not about forgoing the judgement. Rachamim is about incorporating the judgement with the love.  And of course, this is the highest level of love.

 

3 Tomer Devorah 

מִי־אֵ֣ל כָּמ֗וֹךָ נֹשֵׂ֤א עָוֺן֙ וְעֹבֵ֣ר עַל־פֶּ֔שַׁע לִשְׁאֵרִ֖ית נַחֲלָת֑וֹ לֹא־הֶחֱזִ֤יק לָעַד֙ אַפּ֔וֹ כִּֽי־חָפֵ֥ץ חֶ֖סֶד הֽוּא׃

יָשׁ֣וּב יְרַֽחֲמֵ֔נוּ יִכְבֹּ֖שׁ עֲוֺֽנֹתֵ֑ינוּ וְתַשְׁלִ֛יךְ בִּמְצֻל֥וֹת יָ֖ם כָּל־חַטֹּאותָֽם׃

תִּתֵּ֤ן אֱמֶת֙ לְיַֽעֲקֹ֔ב חֶ֖סֶד לְאַבְרָהָ֑ם אֲשֶׁר־נִשְׁבַּ֥עְתָּ לַאֲבֹתֵ֖ינוּ מִ֥ימֵי קֶֽדֶם׃

(Michah 7:18-20)

There are the 13 Aspects of Hashems ‘essence’ that He showed to Moshe. It says that Moshe was hiding in the crevice of the rock and Hashem passed before Him and He said, “nobody can see my face”. 

Nobody came as close as Moshe, panim el panim, face to face, to Hashem. And even Moshe could not see Hashem’s absolute face, His essence and still live to tell the tale. It says in Shmos, when Moshe is begging for forgiveness, Moshe says, “show me Your glory!” Hashem says, “I am going to pass all my goodness, all my essence, before your face. I will have compassion and be merciful on those that I will have compassion and be merciful on.” And then Hashem teaches him the middot and he calls them out. (This is a great proof that G-d’s essence is goodness, by the way.)

Those 13 middot that Moshe said are paralleled perfectly by that verse in Micha that we say in Tashlich. 

18 words, 13 channels of Divine mercy. We say it, we evoke it. What is this shower head, this shower of light bathing us in compassion? 

3.1 Mi kel ka’mocha – מִי־אֵ֣ל כָּמ֗וֹךָ  – Who is a G-d like you? 

First we are going to say the G-dly attribute, and then we are going to see how this is not human nature, and then we are going to see how we can emulate this G-dly attribute in the following way. 

“Who is a G-d of compassion and love like You?” What does this mean? Says the Tomer Devorah that when we sin, it is the most ludicrous thing that we don’t drop dead. Because who gave us our body, our breath, our organs, our life force, our vitality? Hashem. And we are using the life force and the energy and the body that Hashem gave us to betray Him, to cover up malchus shamayim in the world– which is technically the opposite of why we are in the world. So technically Hashem should say, I am giving you this energy for a certain purpose to do and you are not doing that, so I am not going to invigorate you and to nourish you. Mi kel ka’mocha– who is a G-d like you that continues to nourish and give life-energy to the sinner even during his sin? 

Imagine, in terms of emulation on the human plane. Your son has a credit card connected to your bank account and he keeps spending money on things that you are not happy about. You could just cut off the card, block the card from working, but you keep it open. It’s not logical to do that. 

The point here is to nurture those who have sinned. Your husband sinned against you– have you put him in the dog box? Make him supper, nurture him. Don’t make their action contingent on your loving kindness. This is Divine. 

3.2 No’sei avon – נֹשֵׂ֤א עָוֺן- Forgiving iniquity

It says that Hashem pardons our iniquity. But literally, nos’ei means to carry. What does it mean that Hashem carries our sin? The Tomer Devorah explains that not only is Hashem nurturing us with His energy (each trait builds on the one before) while we are rebelling against Him, but every time we do a sin we create a dark force, a negative spiritual energy, a prosecutor, a kateigar. So, imagine, here we are in this early realm and there is a spiritual plane above us. Everything we do shows up there and pops up this negative angel. And Hashem says, who are you? This negative angel says, so and so just made me now because he didn’t bench/ say the birkas hamazon. So, Hashem says, where are you getting your food? (Because angels also need food on a spiritual level, and nobody can exist without Hashem willing them and imbibing them with life). So, Hashem says, how are you living? Who is giving you energy to live? And this negative angel says, I need spiritual energy; Hashem, nourish me, keep me alive. Hashem says, you want Me to keep you alive? But so and so made you, so if you want to be alive then go and get your life-force energy from them. And this kateigar would then go to that person and claim life-energy from the sinner and the sinner would die. Spiritually, in a world of din, you create a dark source so a dark source now takes your life energy, G-d forbid. 

Hashem says, I will nourish this one, this bad malach/ angel, this spiritual dark energy that exists because of your sin. He tells the negative angel to leave so and so alone, to give them space, time, grace because they will do teshuva. 

no’sei avoncarry sin. First, we saw that Hashem sustains the sinner, and here we see that Hashem is sustaining the dark energy that the sinner created so that it does not collect its life-force thereby cutting the sinner out of the game. Can you see how that is a Divine thing? 

Imagine a child does something wrong and they bring in this extra mouth to feed. And you respond, don’t worry my child, I’m still going to give you supper and supper to this bad friend that you’ve just brought into the house. Divine. 

3.3 Over al pesha –  וְעֹבֵ֣ר עַל־פֶּ֔שַׁע – And remitting transgression

This means that Hashem is the One who removes transgression. Not only does He sustain you and the evil forces that you created that are now in the world, but He actually comes and removes your transgressions. Hashem Himself sprinkles this cleansing water like a water on Yom Kippur and removes our sins. This is like changing diapers. You have a beautiful baby and babies don’t have bowel control.  We clean it up because we know what they can become. Hashem is prepared to clean us of our spiritual excrement, of our negative, disgusting contamination. He comes on Yom Kippur and He gets out the water and the soap and washes us down. 

3.4 Le’sheairis nachalaso – לִשְׁאֵרִ֖ית נַחֲלָת֑וֹ – Against the remnant of His own people

Why does Hashem have all this compassion? The word she’airis comes from the word she’er, as in she’er basar, a piece of flesh. It’s not: There is Hashem and there is us and it is so kind of Hashem to take care of us. No, says Tomer Devorah, Hashem is us and He is in us; we are a part of Him and when we feel pain, Hashem feels pain and when we need to be punished, it hurts Him because He is a part of us. From Shir HaShirim, He says, “you are my daughter, my lover, my mother, my spouse.” 

In the ketuba, the husband gives the wife she’ar ksus v’ona, it’s the same word– she’ar. It’s means we’re one, we are the same thing, we are connected. 

When we are receiving punishment, Hashem can’t stand it. He can’t tolerate, He feels it. How do we emulate this midda? We are all interconnected, we are all part of each other and when one person does an aveira there is a tiny little piece of that in every Jew. So, when I do a sin, I blemish my neshama, but I also blemish the piece of your neshama that is in me. So, you really have to say something, you really have to help and find creative ways to help someone who is spiritually in trouble. This is the deepest meaning of ve’ahavta le’reicha chamocha– love your friend like yourself. It’s not like yourself – it’s as yourself! He/she is you because we are all connected. So that is how Hashem feels towards us because that is the truth. Midda k’negged midda, we don’t just fall into human nature of seeing everyone as separate to us but rather we feel this connectivity. 

3.5 Lo Hechazik l’ad apo – לֹא־הֶחֱזִ֤יק לָעַד֙ אַפּ֔וֹ – Who has not maintained His wrath forever

He does not hold on to His anger forever. 

It brings the description from Torah, it says, you see your enemy’s donkey and he is crouching, not handling his heavy load. So firstly, you are allowed to have enemies in Torah? Who is this enemy? Well, say the commentaries that he is your enemy because he did an aveira/sin and usually you need two witnesses to bring that person to Beis Din but you were the only witness, so there is no way to ameliorate that sinner’s sin. That is the enemy you see and you see that his donkey is struggling. Go and help him. 

This is the trait of just letting it go. Yes, they did something bad, yes it wasn’t correct. But the work is to not hold on to it and to abandon it. In the words of the Tomer Devorah, see what is in your heart and let it go. Just let it go. 

3.6 Ki chafetz chessed hu – כִּֽי־חָפֵ֥ץ חֶ֖סֶד הֽוּא׃ – Because He loves graciousness!

Because Hashem desires kindness. 

The Tomer Devorah brings that when the destructive angel Gavriel was given the task of actually setting the Beis HaMikdash on fire and thereby destroy the whole Jewish people at the time of the destruction, he was instructed to put his hand between the keruvim on the aron and from those hot coals that were there he was going to set the Beis HaMikdash alight. The Midrash says that as soon as he went there to do that, he saw an image of an outstretched hand in the burning coals which was Hashem’s way of saying, “yes, this nation deserves to be wiped out, the Beis HaMikdash needs to be destroyed– but they are so kind to each other, they help each other, they extend a hand, they give tzedakkah.”

No matter we have done, if we have this trait of chessed, Hashem will emulate our chessed and grant us that grace, that chessed. The Divine trait is to keep on doing chessed and Hashem will treat you the way you treat others. 

3.7 Yeshuv yarachamaynu – יָשׁ֣וּב יְרַֽחֲמֵ֔נוּ  – He will take us back in love;

He will return and He will have mercy and compassion on us once again. The human trait is that once somebody has hurt you there is a blemish, there is a scar in your relationship and a distance in your relationship that has been created. The Divine trait is that not only when you do teshuva does the relationship go back to the status quo but you are even closer than before you sinned. This is a spiritual paradox that when you sin and do teshuva you are better than before you did the sin. But of course, if you sin while having in mind that you can do teshuva then this doesn’t work. The Rambam says that you can’t sin in order to do teshuva. But isn’t that incredible? It says that where those who repented stand, even the righteous can never stand– which means we are closer. This means that you should regret what you’ve done wrong but know that Hashem knew we would sin and he granted us teshuva and we are closer than before. 

Says the Tomer Devorah that you can see this in the word teshuva which is “teshuv” and “hey” which spells out “return the hey.” The Hebrew letter hey represents the shechina, so when you do teshuva you are bringing shechina to the world. We emulate this Divine trait when someone who has upset you comes to you to make amends and reconcile, you emulate Hashem by opening your heart wide open– you fill yourself with compassion for this person who is asking you for forgiveness. Don’t stiffen your heart. 

3.8 Eit kavosh avonosaynu – יִכְבֹּ֖שׁ עֲוֺֽנֹתֵ֑ינוּ  – He will cover up our iniquities,

You suppress our sins. 

What does it mean that Hashem suppresses our sins? The answer to this is that G-d is not fair. You know how people always say this when they are struggling? The truth is that they are right! The whole spiritual system is lopsided to the side of good. In the highest place where we will get our reward, sin does not penetrate at all, ever. What that does mean, the din aspect, is that those sins have to be attended to before we enter that place. We are guaranteed that we will always come to that ultimate place of reward and every mitzva that we have done will exist in its pure form. 

3.9 Mashlich bimsulos yam kol chatosam – וְתַשְׁלִ֛יךְ בִּמְצֻל֥וֹת יָ֖ם כָּל־חַטֹּאותָֽם – You will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Hashem casts into the sea all of their sins. 

Says the Tomer Devorah, this is the secret of the goats that were sacrificed at the time of the temple. They would take two goats, one was for Hashem and one was thrown off a stony cliff to die this gruesome death as a way for atoning for our sins. So, the question is, what did this goat do to deserve this death? Well, the qualities and the essence of the satan has been ascribed to that goat. In other words, that goat portrays the satan. By throwing it off the cliff what Hashem is doing is whatever punishment we need to get from the satan or from our enemies– once we do teshuva Hashem punishes the enemies and the satan for punishing us! 

This doesn’t seem logical because Hashem hired the satan and our enemies to give us our due judgement based on our deeds. But once we do teshuva, the logic goes like this – why were you hurting My precious people? Why are you coming to make my darlings’ lives miserable? Hashem punishes the ones that he sent to enact judgement. This is not logical, this is Divine Compassion. Can you see how this is not logical? The scales are topped over to the side of grace and chessed and favour but with din still operating. Therefore, it is rachamim

What does it mean that You cast into the sea? The wicked are compared to the sea (raging waters of unrest). So, whoever Hashem hires in order to give us our due, as soon as we’ve been cleansed, everything goes in to the sea. All the punishment and the suffering goes back on to the satan, into the sea, to wicked who came to hurt us for our sins. 

3.10 Titen emes l’yaakov – תִּתֵּ֤ן אֱמֶת֙ לְיַֽעֲקֹ֔ב ׃

You give truth to Yaakov. 

The name Yaakov refers to the average members of our people. Yaakov is the name that refers to the general beinonim, the general am yisroel, the general people, not the extra pious, the extra righteous. Yisroel refers to the lofty aspects, Yaakov to the more general aspects. So, Hashem does what is right with the average people, with the ones who are good, the ones who try to do the best they can, they try to do what is right. And therefore midda kenegged midda, Hashem does what is right for them. And what is right for the average person? Rachamim. Again, the logic doesn’t fit. You would think what’s right for them is justice. We are talking truth now. And what is emes? It’s rachamim in Hashem’s world because His essence is tov, compassion and love. 

3.11 Chessed l’Avraham – חֶ֖סֶד לְאַבְרָהָ֑ם

Kindness to Avraham. 

This is referring to those that go the extra step, they are really strivers and seekers. They are chassidim in terms of going beyond. So therefore middah kenegged midda Hashem goes beyond even what is just (which we just said is compassion). He gives them extra degrees of love. So too us, we emulate this trait when you are dealing with someone who is an average person– do the right thing and have compassion. When you are dealing with someone who is really something special, who tries so hard, you have to give them even more compassion and assume their righteousness.

3.12 Asher nishbatah la’avosaynu – אֲשֶׁר־נִשְׁבַּ֥עְתָּ לַאֲבֹתֵ֖ינוּ  – As You promised on oath to our fathers

And even when it comes to the wicked who are not trying their best or going the extra mile, they are full of sins and have problematic behavior, they are really not in a good place– Hashem says, Your fathers are Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. No matter how bad you are, no matter how far you’ve strayed, you are the son of the Avot, zchut avos. We can learn that even with wicked people, we need to think, this is a member of Klal Yiroel. 

3.13 Mimei Kedem – from days of old. – מִ֥ימֵי קֶֽדֶם – In days gone by.

This is the 13th Middah. This is scary: there comes a time when zechus avot gets used up. There is no longer merit from them. Then what? Then the 13th midda kicks in and that is, Hashem remembers how loyal we were, how pure we were in the days of our youth. And what Hashem does is He doesn’t look at the present, He actually chooses to go back in to the past and access how we were then, access how He felt about us then, and then He draws that feeling into the present and treats us with that midda. We can see that there is nobody who doesn’t deserve an open heart. This is not humanly possible. You can’t do this but you can do this. There was a time when even the most wicked person was just a sweet baby with uncorrupted human potential and that is ideally what we want to relate to and remember.

 

 

There was something cosmic that happened on this day exactly one year ago.

The first Rise! Into your Crown Rosh Hashana Transformational Torah world summit forever changed how we related to ourselves as women.

It changed how we related to:

 4,000 women felt it. 
 
It was unanimous outpouring of chizuk – on the part of men and women, Rabbanim and mothers and wives and daughters. 

It was a watershed in coming “out” with our love of Torah – a knowing that we must go to the next level, with the guidance of our Rabbanim, beyond where we ever have gone before (in school, in sem). 

And that this is what was called for and was deeply relevant. 

It was a reframe in terms of where we seek our ultimate healing – yes, there is a place for therapy, for psychological insight, for self-help.
But nothing has the power to heal and transform, uplift and re-create us like Torah.
 
The first Rise! Into your crown summit paved a new road – one we have only begun to walk down as a community. 

And what is distinctly special about this journey is that we are walking together.
 
Last year, we were just getting our brains around what a global pandemic meant for all of us.

For some, it meant personal loss of loved ones.  For all, it meant long periods of isolation.  Financial inhibition.  The great unknown.  Hashem had turned up the heat.  The world would never be the same.  

But even before all this, the Nexus had started talking about cosmic shifts – and the power of women in the end of days.

Even without acknowledging the societal changes in the past 100 years, Chazal predicted that women would have a special role to play in bringing the world to where it needs to go.

This isn’t some grand idea – it is something we can live in every moment that we mother, that we marry, and everything else in between.

We have unpacked this theme and we have strived to bring it down and make it real.  And it is working bH.

Women in our community have had massive personal shifts in their identity of who they are and their resourcefulness to respond to their challenges. 

They have stopped crying the tears of the confused feminine.

The power is in our hands to heal, the understand, and to lead.  But we need a connection to Torah – a feminine Torah, the Torah from the end of days.

This is my life’s work, b’siyatta dishmaya…and the Rise! into your Crown Rosh Hashana summit is a great introduction.

I invited the most inspiring, outstanding and articulate leaders that I knew.

Rabbanim and Rebbetzins, teachers, healers, thought-leaders and friends.

Together, we opened a new conversation.

It was a global affair.  Baruch Hashem, the world is different.

Get happy!  Realize your power to heal, to lead, to inspire.  To be transformed, and to transform. 

Watch the highlights video (its 6:13 minutes) to meet every single one of the 30 brilliant speakers that featured over the 11 days and feel the energy HERE.  

 

I don’t know where to begin.

I can’t believe it.

4 years ago, I sent a whatsapp message to Lee-Ann.  She had recently given birth to her twins.  She told me that something wasn’t right and that she was going to visit the doctor the next day.  Our whatsapp correspondence began.

The next night, she told me what the doctor discovered.  She was strong and sure that all would be well.

~

Roses

דּוֹדִי֙ יָרַ֣ד לְגַנּ֔וֹ לַעֲרוּג֖וֹת הַבֹּ֑שֶׂם לִרְעוֹת֙ בַּגַּנִּ֔ים וְלִלְקֹ֖ט שֽׁוֹשַׁנִּֽים׃

“My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to browse in the gardens and to pick roses.”  (Shir Hashirim 6:2)

The Midrash on this verse recounts a story.  When the tzaddik, R’ Chiya bar Avyah “fell asleep” (the language of the midrash reserved for the death of tzaddikim), his colleagues and teachers sought the one who could properly eulogize him.  Finally, they landed on his teacher, Reish Lakish (R’ Shimon ben Lakish), who knew him the most and could properly eulogize him.  R’ Lakish said this verse, “My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to browse in the gardens and to pick roses,” and then explained; “the Holy One, blessed is He, knows the deeds of R’ Chiya bar Avyah, and removed him from the world.”

The commentaries explain.  There are rare cases when, despite the fact that most people need a full lifetime to attain their tikkun and perfection, there are those who reach their perfection while they are young.  Hashem goes to His garden and “picks” these roses to frolic with in Gan Eden.  (For more explanation on this, read until the end.)

Lee was a rose.

Another verse in Song of Songs:

כְּשֽׁוֹשַׁנָּה֙ בֵּ֣ין הַחוֹחִ֔ים כֵּ֥ן רַעְיָתִ֖י בֵּ֥ין הַבָּנֽוֹת׃ – “Like a rose among thorns, so is my beloved among the maidens.” (Shir Hashirim 2:)

On this verse, the Midrash explains that the rose amongst the thorns described here is a secret reference to our matriarch Rivka, who was the first “ba’alas Teshuva”.  Rivka was a rose seed who was planted in the dark, followed the tug of her neshama, found the light and bloomed there.  

Lee-Ann, a daughter of special parents, wife to her husband Michael, mother of four children and friend (and teacher) of an entire community reached such great heights of Emuna in her short lifetime.

וְצַדִּ֖יק בֶּאֱמוּנָת֥וֹ יִחְיֶֽה׃ (Habakkuk 2:4) – “A righteous person lives in his Emuna.”

~

צדיקים במיתתם קרויים חיים – The righteous are considered alive even after their death.

Chaya

Chaya Leah was fiercely focused on life.

Her fight for life was for her children, her husband, her indestructible will to be a mother, a wife and to serve Hashem.  Her concerns were only about how she could do chessed, learn Torah, support Torah, daven, say Tehillim and give tzeddaka.

She saw through everything frivolous.  She was laser-focused on the greatest gift of all – life!  Because she knew its value and she knew what it was for. 

She planned to move to Israel as soon as she recovered.  

There wasn’t a minute she wasn’t thinking about Hashem and pleading with Him to grant her more of the greatest gift.  There was nothing she wouldn’t do to hang onto it.  Strict dietary regimens, organic homemade early morning juice, chemotherapy and every kind of holistic treatment and intervention. 

More effective than these she knew was her spiritual arsenal; the Tehillim group that ran round the clock for 4 years, marrying-off brides in secret and honor, supporting Torah institutions, her faith and visits to the leaders of our generation.

So much hope, so many prayers, for a singular vision.

 

אֲהַלְלָ֣ה יְהֹוָ֣ה בְּחַיָּ֑י אֲזַמְּרָ֖ה לֵאלֹהַ֣י בְּעוֹדִֽי׃ (Tehillim 146)

 I will praise Hashem in my life, I will sing to my G-d while I am yet alive.

~

The heart-space

She gave me the opportunity to be a giver, even though she would have rather not needed to receive.

Although our primary correspondence was on whatsapp, since her diagnosis and throughout the years, my heart grew.  This is love.  I felt her pain, the emotional anguish, her fierce desire to live, and I prayed daily.

We all did.

So, as she departs, what fills the space in our hearts that she created?  What is left in that vacuum?

~

Spiritual mechanics work in curious ways.
In Torah, the one who gives is the one who received the most.

Lee gave us that bit more space in our hearts as we loved her.

This is the biggest gift.

Now that she is nifteres, that space that was carved out in our hearts hasn’t collapsed. 

It has grown even more. 

That space in our hearts will forever be dilated.

Now, even though I still cannot believe it, that love is still there, because she is still there.

The midrash on the verse “and she died there,” (Bamidbar 20:1) describing the death of Miriam Haneviah, asks why is it important to emphasize where she died?   Why is this essential?

The midrash says, Miriam was “dead” only “there,” i.e. on earth, whereas she lived on in another region, the region reserved for the souls of the righteous.

The midrash continues, “G-d views the righteous as if they were pearls reposing in a jewel box. Whenever it pleases Him, He takes out one of these pearls and enjoys looking at it before He replaces it in its jewel box or He places it in another of His various jewel boxes.

So, the question is, what do we fill that cavity in our hearts – in that open space that she created?  What will fill that space of love in our hearts that we felt for her?  What would she have wanted us to do with it?

She wants us to follow her lead.  She devoted her heart to her husband, to her children, her parents, her friends. But most of all, she loved Hashem.

All the while she was walking the long scary road.

Not skipping a beat.

~

As we mourn, we find ourselves scrolling through our phone conversations.  We are looking for solace, trying to internalize the gifts of her friendship, ingrain our love and loss deeper inside so it will never get lost.

On June 6, 2021, Lee wrote me.

I am itching to write another letter to our community which I will PG do very soon.  I have so much to say 😂 I just hope I can down my thoughts and feelings into words aptly.  Just see so much wastage around us and disconnection and it pains me as life is transient and futile. Does anyone take Shlomo Hamelech’s words to heart…. it’s hard to really internalize unless you’re put in the corner.  I keep picturing myself at yam suf,  and H splitting it for me.. pg pg.

Here is a whatsapp message her husband found, that she wrote to her young niece.

How are you? How is school? How is all going ? I know you’ve been battling a bit with things lately.. are you ok? Sending so much love dear niece!

If you ever want to chat, I’m right here on the other side of your phone..

Thank you for your msg. Truthfully, I haven’t been feeling so well lately, and really need Tefilos and mitzvos. Thank you for davening for me 🙏🏻 our prayers never ever go unanswered and Hashem hears every word. It may not always be the outcome we want or expect, but it will always and absolutely manifest in one way or another. Very, very possibly the way we want it, and if not, then with a different result 💞 we just may not see the fruits of our labours, or see the result directly, or even in the short term, but Tefilos are always answered. Hope this makes sense..

Hashem knows what’s best for all of us, and He knows what’s best for me. We have limited minds and we can’t possibly comprehend His ways. Imagine you didn’t know what an operation was, and you didn’t know it’s to heal a person. So you walk in halfway through an operation, and you see the surgeon cutting someone open…. you’d be horrified and think he was trying to kill him, when the Dr is actually saving his life.

That’s how it is in this world and with Hashems ways. We don’t always understand why or how or what. But our greatest… rabbis, many of whom who had ruach hakodesh (a bit like prophecy, ie Hashem showed them the emes), teach us that H loves us and wants the best for us, and we have to try and internalize in our hearts that everything He does is good.

I’m not the same person I was 4 years ago…. my spiritual connection has increased and improved 1,000,000 fold. Everything H does is good 🙏🏻 this world means nothing if it is empty of spiritual connection… before I became frum I was searching and searching and looking for connection in the wrong places, and it never satisfied me, until I was introduced to true and emesdik spirituality.

Just about davening… it doesn’t have to be from a siddur or even tehilim if you are battling to connect to that.

If it makes more sense for you, just close your eyes, open your heart, and talk to Hashem 💞💞💞

Love u xxxxxx

~

What lingers now as the week of shiva comes to a close?

Life goes on.

We go back to our functioning, taking care of things, caring for our families, preparing for Rosh Hashana.

But we are forever changed.

The world is not the same.  We are not the same.

She leaves an appreciation for life in her departure, and she leaves her Emuna.

Simple faith is not a simple thing at all.

She has left a community of givers and she has left clear instructions with what to fill the heart space.

The response to her death is life – the kind she taught us was real.

~

Yaffa – The beautiful woman of war

Last week’s parsha, the parsha of her passing (Ki Tetzei), was about the captive woman of war, the Aishes Yefas To’ar.

In a strange scenario, the righteous and scrupulous Jewish soldier is granted permission to marry the non-Jewish, beautiful woman of the other nation.  As if the Torah thinks that he cannot control his urges.

The p’nimius haTorah (Torah secrets) reveal that this was not what was going on.

The Jewish soldier was attracted to the beautiful woman of war because there was something in her that he intuitively sensed was his.

The Ohr Hachaim explains that the beautiful woman of war holds a piece of his very own soul.

The Arizal says that she represents his soul in its entirety.

But she (the soul) is trapped in the territory of the enemy – she is held captive by the evil inclination. (Sound familiar?)

The beautiful soul (“the beautiful woman of war”) has to go along with whatever the enemy instructs her to do – even it means to pursue frivolity, forget the purpose of life, or revel as if there is no tomorrow.

The Jewish righteous soldier enters the battle zone and recognizes her, even if the spark within her is just a glimmer, shining through her now crude external.

In the parsha, the soldier releases the beautiful woman of war from the enemy zone and he marries her.

He says, you’re mine, and I want to marry you .

To make sure that indeed he has “married”/ committed to the right soul (i.e. the one that is indeed his), she must shave her head. 

The commentaries say that this means that she must remove corrupt and alien beliefs and instead, believe in the One and True Hashem. 

The verse goes on and the Torah requires that she “does her nails” – no, this is not a manicure.  This means removing the excess and spillage of her life-force so she can focus on what’s important.  (Read Lee’s message above.)

She must remove the dirtied garments of war – and examine her forms of expression in the world. (What are her thoughts, her speech, and her deeds?)  She realizes that what the world thinks is chic and in style are garments that she does not want to wear.

She cries for her father – Hashem! – who she wasn’t able to serve all the while she was in captivity on enemy turf. 

She cries for her mother – the Shechina, the source of the souls of Israel and the collective body of Klal Yisroel – for whom she did not make a home for while she was so exiled.

She cries over her sins for an entire month.  This month, says the Arizal, is the month of Elul.

She marries her true partner, the Jewish soldier.

She is the beautiful woman of war.

~

Lee passed away in Elul.

The mazal of the month of Elul is the virgin, not so different to the beautiful woman of captivity who is released and returns to her rightful place.

Chaya Leah bas Yaffa – the beautiful woman, aishes yefas toar, fought the good fight, and came out victorious.

And our souls, to the extent that they were trapped in coarseness and callousness, have been released in her merit.

Just in time for Rosh Hashana.

וְהַחַ֖י יִתֵּ֥ן אֶל־לִבּֽו  – (Kohelles ) “and the living take it to heart.” 

In her death, we are bidden to come more into life.

This is her legacy.

~

Leah

Why do the righteous suffer?  This is the hardest question to answer.  Even Moshe Rabbeinu couldn’t grasp it.

When Lee-Ann was first diagnosed, and we shuddered the fear of death, this question tortured our minds.

The Tanya, chapter 26, describes two modus operandi of the King.  The first revelation of the King, the Zohar calls “Rachel”.  And the second, it calls “Leah”.   The second “revelation” is a far greater revelation than the first and expresses even more deeply His love and engagement.

Though this is incomprehensible to us.

Quoting the Zohar, R’ Shneir Zalmon of Liadi explains that these two revelations of Hashem’s Shechina are represented by the two feminine archetypes we know as Rachel and Leah.

Rachel is the revealed good of Hashem and Leah is His concealed good that He wishes to bequeath to us. 

His concealed good is even greater than His revealed good.

Rachel is called “tov”, good, and “Leah” is called “very good”.

The funny thing is that we, as limited mortals with our human intelligence and restricted capacity for Divine revelation, can only perceive the aspect of Hashem’s presence called Rachel as “good”. 

So, we pray for a “sweet new year”.  We want to taste it.  We daven for open, revealed goodness.

But when the good is so great that it is beyond what we can perceive, our eyes (and taste buds) begin to play tricks on us.

In place of that great and blinding light, we see its opposite. 
We see darkness and pain.
Leah Imeinu cried tears of pain in her lifetime.  But she lies together with Yaakov forever in ma’aras hamachpelah (they can be heard still speaking softly to one another, says the midrash).

Only the greats can grope around in that darkness while living in their emuna every waking moment.

Lee lived the paradox of desperately wanting life while her soul knew she was dying in Hashem’s arms.

Her name was Leah, the matriarch who represented the capacity to live in complete truth, no matter the weather.

 

When the righteous suffer

The Masok M’dvash, commentary to the Zohar, says something remarkable about the Shechina, Hashem’s “feminine”, Immanent Presence.

Just like a mother protects her children, the Shechina accompanies the Jewish people wherever they may go during their exile, even when the light has rescinded and darkness predominates. 

The Shechina is especially close to one who is sick, to one who is suffering.

On the deepest level, the Shechina is also the innermost essence of the tzaddik.

How much more the tzaddekes, who she herself is feminine.

The Masok M’dvash says that when the righteous suffer, the Shechina embedded within them suffers, and her “children” (the children of the Supernal Mother, the Shechina) are indeed protected.  Her children are the Jewish people, the community who cannot bear such a direct and confusing expression of Divine engagement. Thus, the suffering of the righteous mops up the blackness and negativity of our sins, and we receive Hashem’s mercy, and He allows us to keep on learning.

~

This Elul, let us tune into the pain of the Shechina in her exile and release “her” from her entrapment. 

Let us know that we all are carriers of the terminal condition called life and that every moment is a chance to connect, to choose, to focus, and to thank – and sing to – Hashem.

Chaya Leah was buried in the northern most possible section of the cemetery, the closest point to Eretz Yisroel.

When the time is ripe, she will lead the South African diaspora all the way.

For years, knowing that Hashem could do anything, she was mentally composing her speech that she would deliver at the Seudas Hoda’ah for her recovery.

Lee lived it in excruciating focus – so that we could “come round” one day.

Her Seudas Hoda’ah is still coming – and we will all be there.

We will rejoice from the tears we cried and the people we became because of them.

Just like Miriam, who died with a kiss, Lee is not limited to her place of sleep. 

The righteous live on.

May she continue to daven for our success as we prayed for her healing.
May Hashem comfort, bless and protect her husband and children, her mother, extended family, friends and community.

May Hashem heal the broken Shechina in all of us.

אָנָּא אֵ-ל נָא רְפָא נָא לָהּ.

May He release her from her captivity.

~

׃ אֲהַלְלָ֣ה יְהֹוָ֣ה בְּחַיָּ֑י אֲזַמְּרָ֖ה לֵאלֹהַ֣י בְּעוֹדִֽי׃  

 I will praise Hashem in my life, I will sing to my G-d while I am alive.

~

וְהַחַ֖י יִתֵּ֥ן אֶל־לִבּֽוֹ׃ 

“And the living should take it to heart.”  (7:3 Koheles)

Introduction to the Mystical level of studying Aishet Chayil on Shavuot

Excerpted from the Aishet Chayil printable e-book (2020) available here: https://www.school.thenexus.org/courses/aishet-chayil

This series began years ago with my fascination as why the midrash correlates each verse to a different woman in Torah.

The Aishet Chayil poem was written by Shlomo HaMelech for his mother, Bas-Sheva, and expresses the treasured place of women in Torah.  Thus, understanding the Aishet Chayil is an important part of my mission in putting words to what our role is as women specifically living in our times, bs”d, and how we can unearth these treasures. 

It is uncanny how the names surrounding the Coronavirus have everything to do with our topic.  Let me explain.

The Aishet Chayil is called a “crown” to her husband, as noted above. “Corona” comes from the root “to coronate” and means a crown. 

Covid is phonetically identical to Kavod, as we say every day after we say Shema,  “Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuso L’Olam Va’ed”, “may His Kingship reign forever and ever”.  Kavod Shamayim, then, is the goal of the messianic process.

And finally, 19 is the numerical value of the name Eve, Chava ח = 8 ו = 6 ה = 5. That means that on a microcosmic level, the rectification of our femininity must play an important role in the Divine unfolding of Hashem’s plan for history.  On a macrocosmic level, the entire Jewish people are said to be the “feminine” player in the partnership of creation, so this would refer to the Jewish people as a whole.  Read my mystical introduction for a deeper understanding of these frameworks.

There we have it: Corona and Covid 19.

In summary, we have a mandate to use our power as Jewish women to grow through Torah and thereby reveal K’vod Malchus shamayim in the world, and by so doing, rectify – the complete archetype of all femininity.  It is the Aishet Chayil who does this so well.  This is her very essence.

As women, we are both an analogy for the Jewish people as a whole as well as the actual female members of our nation.  Everything that is true on one level is also true on the other level.

May Hashem guide us in learning everything we need to know to serve Him best, through the following verses.

Introduction to the Mystical level of studying Aishet Chayil on Shavuot

[Note: Wherever the mystical level of interpretation is employed in this book, I have indicated it by use of italics, and you can skip if you want to remain on the level of the simple and midrashic (homiletical) interpretations only.]

The Aishet Chayil concept is so much more that you could ever have imagined. On its simple plane of understanding, it is filled with promise as the paragon of spiritual beauty that a Jewish woman strives for. On the mystical level, a whole other world opens us for us.

A word about the Torah’s four dimensions before I write this very preliminary introduction, (which doesn’t pretend to do justice to the depth of this topic in the context of a short e-book). 

We access the inner depth of the poem through each of its pristine verses by entering the four layers of Torah, being “pshat, remez, drush and sod” (פרדס  Pardes), which refers to the revealed meaning (pshat), the hinted meaning (remez), the homiletical meaning (midrash) and the secret dimension (sod).)

On the one hand, Torah, without being connected to its innermost secret dimension, lacks its deepest meaning.  For this reason, Pardes without the final letter ,סוד, secret, spells Pered, פרד, which means “mule”, an infertile beast.  One cannot inspire the next generation without developing one’s deepest relationship to Torah ourselves.  On the other hand, Sod that is severed from the other layers of Torah becomes unstable like the super-charged electrons of an improperly bonded molecule.  Deep Torah without the firm foundations of the revealed Torah (including halacha) is similarly problematic.  The ultimate reason why we enter the Torah’s secrets are to bring us back to its simplicity: to serve Hashem.  Therefore, we need have clarity about from what level we are looking at the text at a given time, as its meaning completely changes depending on our perspective/ vantage point in these four levels of interpretation.  It is important to maintain this clarity of the distinctness of each layer as we go through.

The mystical layer of my commentary follows the writings of R’ Moshe Dovid Valli, teacher of the Ramchal, on his commentary to Mishlei. Chava was the very first woman to appear at the dawn of history. To make a long story short, sadly, she was also the entrance through which sin, and death on its heels, entered the world (this is a simplification that will suffice for now – what exactly happened and how this paints the picture of everything we need to know specifically at this time of history as women is the subject of my first course in the Rise! series,” Chava”.) The important point for now is that the Aishet Chayil, woman of valor, has gone way past these tainted beginnings and spins a new story of feminine rectification and perfection.

This is where we come in, beH!

Chava

While Chava was the composite soul of all women ever to issue from her, the 19 women in Torah (and many, many more great women unnamed in the midrash) all repaired different aspects of her brokenness, 19 being the numerical value of her name. 

Caveat: Before I continue, I would like to reiterate that all anthropomorphisms when referring to Hashem are only an analogy.  Hashem’s essence defies all human conception and the deeper Torah teachings make use of them to help us grasp what we otherwise couldn’t.  The goal for making the seemingly “human” parallels/ mashalim is that the more we come to know Hashem and understand His Torah, the more we come to love and fear Him and thereby deepen our Avoda (service) of Him. It is with this intention that I share the mystical meaning of the text.

Second Caveat:  Though we will be delineating two aspects of G-d, (called in Chasiddus, קודשה בריך הוא ושכינתא  Hakadosh Baruch Hu and שכינתא, His Shechina), we also know that He is absolutely One and there is no splitting within Him at all.

I pray that our learning be “oleh yaffa”, rise up to His throne and be found pleasing to Hashem, and that it bring us closer to Him as a community of women in Klal Yisroel.  May He protect us from any misconception or misapplication.  I recommend my school, thenexus.org for a solid foundations and correct applications of all I will be alluding to in the mystical meaning of the poem.]

Without further ado 😊       

The Supernal Aishet Chayil
The mystical Torah sources teach that corresponding to the rectified woman below, there is a parallel feminine concept, Above. We call this the Shechina, Hashem’s feminine Presence. This Supernal Aishet Chayil models the perfect expression of femininity in how she “mothers” Her children (us mortals on earth), and how She reveals Hashem’s transcendence in the world, in the most immanent of ways.  Therefore, She is also known as Hashem’s Malchut (the manifestation of Hashem in the world). This is why when I speak of the Supernal Aishet Chayil, Hashem’s Feminine Aspect, I have tried to use a capital H, though Hashem Himself is beyond all gender, as He has no form.

In this book, the Shechina doubles up as the SUPERNAL Aishet Chayil. It is an incredibly inspiring and uplifting paradigm through which to realize the importance of our work as women and how beloved that is to Hashem.  Though a thorough handling of this topic is beyond the scope of this short book written in the space of about a week (miracles!) I believe that as you go through the verses, (if you choose to study the italics,) you will start to get a feel of how this is all applied. Listen also to my free intro class, The Lost Princess to the Chava series.

The Aishet Chayil and Torah

The Aishet Chayil Above (Supernal Aishet Chayil) is also the root from whence our neshamot (souls) derive. It is for this reason that the conglomeration of Israel is called a “woman” אם , mother, as in  the source pool for all the offshoots of Divinity defined as actual Jews living in this world. This is incredibly profound!  It is as if there is one continuum of light, and all the mystical teachings are just defining its “packaging”, or vessels, along the way. Thus, when we connect to our deepest core, we are connecting to the Shechina and can feel G-d’s presence within. This is why the Sefer Tanya calls each a Jew a “piece of Hashem” Himself. Were we to live on this level all the time, collectively as a people, we would bring an end to the darkness and live in a state of constant personal redemption.

I hope that I am painting the picture of how amazing it is that the Jewish woman represents all this. Hashem certainly believes in our potential as women, as an analogy to His Feminine Presence, to effect tikkun in the world.  We are His partners when we connect to this place within.

This paradigm is further clinched for us when Rashi, the Vilna Goan and others explain that all 22 verses of the Aishet Chayil poem are actually alluding to praises of the Torah itself. Thus the woman is the analogy for the Torah, too. This is some of the depth that underlies King Solomon’s poem.

Shavuot

Now let us consider the special connection the Aishet Chayil has to Shavuot, the festival of the receiving of the Torah, which is compared to a woman.

A woman’s most essential gift after she ascends her ladder of growth and performs her own rectification, thereby coming into her full maturity, is called Bina, “understanding”.

As you must know already, there are fifty gates of Binah.

This is the secret meaning of “Aishet Chayil, WHO can find, מי ימצא? .  “Who” is numerically 50, the 50 gates of Bina! מ + י =  40+10 = 50 This is why the Torah is given on the fiftieth day. When we reach this level of true Binah, we will have “risen” into emulating the “Supernal” Aishet Chayil on High. This is what it means to rise! into our Aishet Chayil and is done through our connection to Torah.  Only then do we ourselves truly become the apt analogy for Torah, and are able to assist in the expression of Malchut (Hashem’s Kingship) in the world.

This is the purpose why He gave the Jewish people the Torah. The Vilna Goan points out that Chayil, “valor”, equals 48 = חיל , in Gematria (numerical value), because this process happens through the 49 days of the Omer as we prepare to receive the Torah!  That is also why there are 48 ways to acquire the Torah (Avot 6:6). (The 49th day being the “kolel”, a review and summary of them all)!

Bat-Sheva

The woman who encompasses all the 19 other great women (and is also included among the 19 women mentioned in this poem) is King’s Shlomos’s mother, Bat-Sheva. Bat-Sheva means “a daughter of seven” – an allusion to the seven weeks of anticipation and preparation for Shavuot. Each week of the Omer rectifies a different angle of the diamond. Bat-Sheva was the epitome of perfection in that she had repaired all seven dimensions, including the seven sub-dimensions within them (equaling 49, of course). May we continue to rise and grow into our Binah, the “crown” we wear when we are connected to Torah, and glow with true spiritual beauty, in service of Hashem.

Conclusion

The Jewish people are called G-d’s bride, His Aishet Chayil. By living up to our potential as Jewish women and continuing to grow through Torah, we help bring the Shechina to earth and make G-d’s Kingship manifest. ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד Blessed is the name of the Kavod (honor) of His Kingship forever and ever. May the pandemic soon end and bring the ultimate healing to the world. May we merit to experience the connection between Am Yisroel and Hashem, the true Aishet Chayil and her Husband, and may Klal Yisroel become the Crowning Jewel in creation, as He intended.

[Elianna wrote this letter as a gift to me.  Thank you, Elianna.] 

I’ve known Rebetzen Taback for a long time. 

Years in fact.

Our pre-school boys went to school together and built lego at playdates.

We’ve spent many hours discussing complex aspects of nutrition and spirituality

She’s a soul friend who reminds me of what it means to be whole. 

I’ve been to many of her classes and workshops (in-person too).

Every interaction with her, leaves me nourished, seen and elevated.

But until this year, when I joined her team, I had no idea.

Of what she’s put in. 

Of how she stays up till 3am.

Of her dedication.
Her drive.
her singular focus and her vision for each of us

Her investment of thousands of precious hours, and tens of thousands of dollars (do you know how weak the South African currency is?)

All while being an incredibly present parent to her beautiful (and demanding) family, and facing her own health journey.

Doing it all with love. 

With grace. With calm. With trust.

Not for her own kavod. Not to make money. Not to become famous.

But because she has a divine purpose to spark and grow the movement. 

Because she wants every single Jewish woman to access

Her worth
Her glory
Her healing.

Even in this crazy upside-down world where we are lost, far and have forgotten our names.

And from the tip of Africa, she has ignited a revolution

Of women searching, seeking, hoping.

Finding themselves again through her classes

Spreading this deep Torah, over and over.

If it were up to her, she’d be engrossed in Torah learning all day, or painting, or composing music…while being a mother.

But she jumped headfirst into the world and technology and marketing because of her vision for YOU. 

Social media, recordings, Zoom, whatsapp, website building, Mailchimp scheduling…

Each done with her signature delicacy and beauty that we deserve.

For one reason.

To change the lives of Jewish women, so we can bring the Geula.

As this month of free classes end (which was only possible due to hundreds of hours of planning and effort), there are dozens of women desperate to carry on learning.

But as much as she’d love to sponsor them all, the well has run dry.

Rebbetzin Taback would not want me to tell you this, but she cannot fund this anymore herself.

She’s exhausted her own limits.

Professional recordings, daily emails, transcripts and discussion forums give you the best learning experience you could ask for.

And she has done this for one reason: for Hashem’s glory.

Never mind the thousands of hours she’s put in – sacrificing so much. 

So, we’re turning to you, dear woman, asking you

To sponsor a woman for a month, a semester, or a year.- or any amount you choose

Your contribution – no matter how large or small – will allow another woman, another family, another generation of Jews to fulfill their deepest purpose, and play their role in bringing Hashem’s light into the world.

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for answering the call. 

Today, you have the opportunity to build the future of Nexus, and enabling the future of our transcendent, beautiful community.

Click here to donate any amount – every dollar counts.
Your donation will help other women carry on learning.

Thank you for your generosity and love.

With love,

Eliana and the Nexus team