Mashal (Analogy) - משל

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)


Man as a Microcosm.. 2

Laughter 3

A Dream – A Mashal of a Mashal 5

Sleep. 9

Kissing. 9

Speaking. 10

Voice. 11

Loneliness. 11

Crying. 11

Homesickness. 13

Traveling To See HaShem’s World. 13

Marriage – Longing to be one with HaShem.. 13

Chessed vs. Gevurah. 14

Right or Left Handed. 14

Idle Chatter and Games. 14

Humor 15

Postures. 15

Standing. 15

Sitting. 16

Lying down: 17

Body and Soul 17

A Convert 18

Sickness and Suffering. 18

The Beit HaMikdash (Temple) 19

The Development of a Man. 19

HaShem.. 19

Unreal Concepts. 20

Needs – By Rabbi Daniel Lapin. 21

The Chimp and I – By Rabbi Daniel Lapin. 22

Conclusion. 23

Appendix A: 24


In this study, I would like to examine some aspects of the spiritual world as seen through the physical world. I would like to examine the human body and its physiological reactions, which provide insights into the spiritual world.


I Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.


The physiology of man is like the analogy of a map. Just like a map has all of the details of the full-scale piece of land it represents, so too, a person’s body has all of the details of their soul. And just like a tiny line on a map may represent a giant river, so too, every tiny detail of the body represents a lot in the soul.


In order for us to properly know who we are and what we can be, we need to deeply understand the relationship which exists between the body and the soul. This requires that we investigate a profound level of Torah exegetical interpretation known as the mashal - משל (pl. meshalim), the analogy. This mashal is an understanding of the drash level of Torah. I explored the four levels of Torah interpretation in my study titled remez. A summary of the four levels can be found in appendix A.


The spiritual world is a world of abstraction. We do not have the tools to grasp that world directly. The only way we can understand the spiritual world is by examining the physical dimension.


To experience a relationship with another person, we want to engage their soul, that which is inside. We are not looking to just relate to their body. Unfortunately, we can not see the person, the soul; we can only see their body. We want to engage that aspect of a person that disappears a minute after they die. We want to engage the soul, which is the essence of a person.


The only way to access the soul of a person is through the physical body. This is a rather remarkable thing. For example, if I want to move an intangible soul, all I need to do is to lift a baby and put him in his crib. By manipulating the body I have manipulated the soul. HaShem has created human beings with a faculty called daat (knowledge) which can be used to grasp things as they really are, as opposed to just grasping the physical. For example, we can engage in a conversation where we are “seeing” only the ideas and not the muscles contracting, the vocal chords vibrating, and the lips moving. Whilst these things are all surely present, we have switched to our daat and all we are paying attention to, is the concepts that are being imparted.


The classic way of engaging a soul is through speech. Speech is the most intangible physical reality that we can use as a tool to engage a soul. Speech allows us to transcend the body and connect with the soul inside.


Words, sound waves if you will, are the tool that we use to convey the most subtle of ideas and expressions, to the soul. Speech emanates from the head which is a picture of the Olam HaBa. Speech is a tool of the upper world. Its reception, hearing, is also a faculty of the upper world.


Using speech to engage a soul is not the same as having knowledge (daat) of a soul, but, it is the primary tool for grasping this knowledge. Knowledge is something that we grasp with an inner faculty, which we acquire from speech and from the variants of speech such as gestures, tonal inflections, and other behaviors. We do not understand a person from words. We understand a person, despite the words, by using this inner faculty. Despite their clumsiness, words and gestures are good enough to tell us what is going on inside the soul of a person. They give us such a deep sense that we feel that we actually know that person, that soul.


Words are like a “body” which contains a “soul” hidden within. Daat, knowledge, is the “soul” which lives in the “body” of words. Words are just snippets of sound which we assemble into words, which we assemble into ideas, which contain a “soul”, within. This “soul” is just as intangible as the soul that lives within a body. Never the less, speech is the primary tool we use for understanding the soul.


Therefore, knowledge of a person comes only through using this faculty of daat, through movements of the body. Manipulation of the physical is the only tool we have for manipulating the spiritual world. What is amazing is that we do this task quite naturally. We do it without even thinking about it. However, we can only do this with people. We can not do this naturally with a tree, for example. We can not relate to the spiritual aspect of a tree in the same natural manner that we use to relate to the soul of another person.


HaShem gives us a gift that we can use to experience the spiritual world. He gives us one aspect or tool that allows us to make contact with the spiritual world. Without this gift, it would be impossible to grasp the aspects of the spiritual world. The purpose of the physical world is to teach us about the spiritual world. Therefore, HaShem gives us at least one physical tool to grasp the essence of each aspect of the spiritual world. For example, to understand death, HaShem gives us sleep in order to understand death.


Study your own body: “It is all mashal (analogy)”.


Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, the student of the Gaon of Vilna, offers the following explanation of the connection between physicality and spirituality, in his work, Nefesh Hachaim:


Human beings discern physical phenomena mainly by utilizing the power of vision. Their eyes and ears are mainly employed to serve as gateways to ideas and thoughts. Stated another way, the physical world is a detectable reality that we actually see; our awareness of anything spiritual is in our thoughts expressed in the medium of concepts and ideas. We ‘see’ physicality; we ‘hear’ spirituality.


Man as a Microcosm


Chazal, our Sages, teach that man, created in the image of HaShem, is a microcosm of reality. In the mystical literature, a human being is called a “Olam Katan”, a miniature world. This means that the structures of his body, his psyche, his soul, as well as the structures of the physical and spiritual worlds, are all analogues of each other. To know what is in the upper world, all we have to do is to look at who we are in this world.


Therefore, whatever transpires in the spiritual world above will give rise to a corresponding, but smaller, occurrence within the human personality below, and vice versa. Man influences the cosmos not only because they are identical in form, but more so, because man is the expressed spiritual and physical counterpart of the world.


“The rabbis taught: The creation of the world was like the creation of humanity, for everything that HaShem created in the world, He created in the human being. The heavens are the head of mankind, the sun and the moon are the human eyes, and the stars are the hair on the human head”.[1]


In the words of Ibn Ezra, “One who knows the secret of the human soul and the structure of the human body is able to understand something of the upper worlds, for the human being is in the image of a small world”.[2]


In other Midrashic sources, the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, is referred to as an “olam katan” with its various objects mirroring both different astronomical concepts and certain organs in the human body. Additionally, we have other sources which indicate that the part of Torah correspond to the parts of the body. Thus we can learn that:


Torah = Mashiach = Israel (man)


Thus as we study our body, the Torah, and the Temple, we will learn about the spiritual structures that are projected into this world. To expand the concept that man is an olam katan, we are going to explore some of the actions and feelings of men that teach us deep spiritual truths about the spiritual world.


Let us start by looking at laughter.




Laughter is a function of the daat. We respond with laughter to an event, or sequence of events, which have a certain form, and then this form reverses itself. The sharper the reversal, the sharper we laugh. The sudden juxtaposition of two polar opposites causes us to laugh. When one thing becomes its radical opposite, that’s what provokes laughter. Laughter is a response to the unexpected. Laughter is the reaction of humans when the confines of reason have been broken. We laugh occasionally out of extreme fear or out of extreme joy.


Laughter is the experience of the soul to the transition from this world to the next. Death, from the spiritual perspective, is the funniest experience imaginable.


This world is the exact opposite of the next world. In this world it seems that everything is headed for decay and death. When we suddenly transition to the next world, we see that it is not like that at all.


Now that we know what causes us to laugh, let’s look at examples from the Torah.


The first use of קחצ “laugh” is found in:


Bereshit (Genesis) 17:17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?


This first occurrence of laughter indicates that this is where laughter was created. Avraham, when confronted with the impossibility of having a son in his old age, laughs. This is where we learn that laughter occurs when we are confronted with the impossible, where two opposites come together.


Both Avraham and Sarah laughed when confronted with the impending birth of Yitzchak:


Bereshit (Genesis) 18:10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?


יצחק, Yitzchak (“He shall laugh”) is a person of extremes. He is also “the unexpected one.” He is the person who we least expected to come onto the scene. Avraham and Sarah didn’t expect him. Ishmael was certainly jarred by his arrival. Yitzchak is a symbol of laughter because his very being is a suspension of reality.


Laughter is produced only by noticing something which strikes us as ridiculous. But where, in the whole world is there any greater absurd contradiction than the expectation that a hundred year-old man and his ninety year-old wife, who never had a child in the course of their long married life, now, practically at the end of their lives, should get a son!


Intrinsic to the experience of humor, is the experience of happiness. For example: When a woman is in labor, literally dying to give life, she experiences extremely sharp pains. Just when it seems that it could not get any worse, then the child comes and the incredible pain is forgotten in the joy of a new life. This is the time for laughter. Yet, the baby is not laughing, he is crying. It is those on the outside, the mother and the father who laugh. This is an important concept.


If a person slips on a banana peel, it is NOT funny to the one who slips. It is only funny to those watching. The same applies to those who transition from this world to the next. It is difficult for those making the transition, but it is funny to those watching the transition. This is the secret of laughter.


יצחק, Yitzchak (“He shall laugh”) was born at a time when it was impossible to be born. Not only were Avraham and Sarah way past the age of bearing children, but Sarah did not have the organs of birth, she did not have a womb! At this moment when it was impossible, then the angel came and announced his birth. At that moment, Avraham and Sarah both laughed.


Sarah was criticized for not laughing enough. Avraham laughed because he experienced the birth of Yitzchak, and the holding of him at that moment. Sarah laughed because she would experience holding Yitzchak in forty weeks.


So, when Avraham and Sarah experienced the total reversal of their lives, they laughed. They laughed at the birth of the Jewish people! Thus we derive the concept that the concept of the Jewish people is that they are the people of the impossible, and that when the impossible happens, they will laugh. We live at the moment of the impossible.


A womb and a grave are both called “kever”, in Hebrew. Why are they both called the same word? They are called the same word because they are both portals between this world and the Olam HaBa. Thus we learn that laughter occurs when we face the impossible, the transition between worlds.


The letters in Yitzchak can be rearranged to: Ketz chai, which means “death in life”, or idiomatically as “the next world while yet in this world”. This give us a hint that the Jewish people should be people who are so tuned in to the spiritual aspect that they can actually live in the next world whilst still in this world.


Yitzchak means laughter. Laughter occurs when two opposites come together. Yitzchak is the connection between the higher and the lower worlds. The higher world is just the opposite of this world. It is what this world was supposed to be. No wonder this connection was named Yitzchak, laughter.


The mystical concept of the root of laughter is as a response to deliverance from imminent, and certain, disaster.


People laugh when they encounter a sharp and unexpected encounter of opposites. The sharper the contrast between the opposites, the greater the laughter.


Mishlei (Proverbs) 32:25 Strength and dignity are her clothing; and she shall laugh on the day of the end (death).


There can hardly be a sharper contrast between this world and the next. Thus we see that the woman of valor will laugh at this transition. To the woman of valor who has already seen through the mask of this world, and sees the next world whilst still in this world, this will be a time of laughter.


The Hebrew words for “laughter” and for “play” are closely related: tz’chok and s’chok; and it should be no surprise at all that the word used for intimacy between man and wife in Torah is this very word: “And Isaac was causing Rebecca his wife to laugh”, referring to marital intimacy. There are no empty expressions in Torah; the delicate and pure language of Torah is always exact. Thus when the woman of valor transitions to the next world and experiences the sensation of ‘arrival’ with no place to go and nothing more to do, then she laughs just as she laughed in marital intimace when she ‘arrived’.


Esav’s descendants see things as they are, selling their soul for a sweet-tasting moment.


Yitzchak’s descendants, the Hakhamim (the wise men) sees the future. Rooted to one spot, he knows that true success is the measure of a tree that’s solidly planted. Yitzchak’s descendants have seen through the mask of nature and see clearly the spiritual world.


Yitzchak will laugh - and he will laugh best.


It is in the redemption that true happiness, accompanied by laughter, will be experienced, as in the verse:


Tehillim (Psalms) 126:2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, HaShem hath done great things for them.


A Dream – A Mashal of a Mashal


Our life in this exile is as unreal and as inconsistent as a dream. In a dream, one can envisage anomalies; one can see oneself walking on the ceiling. Likewise, in the present state of exile, we can know all about HaShem, yet at the same time be occasionally oblivious to His commandments. Contrasting with this dreamlike unreality, the true reality of the world will become apparent in the days of Mashiach.[3]


When we dream, everything seems to make perfect sense and to be totally logical. Once we awaken and review our dream we then realize that it really made no sense at all. So too, is our current situation. During the pre-redemption stage, during the darkness of this world, things appear to make sense, in the same way that a dream seems to make sense while we dream, but when we wake we see that the dream was non-sense. In the same way, we will “wake up” in the next world and see that everything in this world was just a dream.


If a person’s goal in life is to be a millionaire, we find that understandable. This person doesn’t think that mitzvot are important, even though we disagree, we can relate to where he is coming from. When the redemption will arrive, we will have true clarity of vision. It is then that we will come to the realization that all our ideas, until now, were like dreams. Our whole environment, it’s values, it’s priorities, made no sense at all, but at the time it seemed so logical! We look back and can’t even imagine how it then made any sense at all.


To examine dreams, lets look at the quintessential dreamer, Yosef ben YaakovJacob’s son, Joseph.


After interpreting Paro’s dream, Yosef tells Paro that he should now appoint an understanding and wise person to be in charge of the food collection and storage. This would take an incredible Hakham, wise man, to handle the task. During times of plenty, it’s extremely difficult to have a mentality of only eating what’s completely necessary and to save every additional morsel. Who is the Hakham who can see the future? Not that he knows what will be but rather he ‘sees’ it. Only such a man, who sees the future as if it’s present, has the ability to prepare Egypt for the coming famine years.


In olam hazeh, our present world, we are living through years of plenty. During our 120 years of life, we have an immeasurable amount of opportunities to perform mitzvot. In this respect, Olam HaBa, the world to come, is a time of famine. In the Olam HaBa we will no longer be able to perform the mitzvot.


It is well known that the Vilna Gaon was crying at the time of his death. When asked, why he was crying, he explained how painful it was to leave this world of such incredible opportunity. He grabbed hold of his tzitzith and said “In this incredible world, for a few cents one can fulfill this wonderful mitzva of tzitzith, which merits one the level of seeing the face of the Shechinah. In the next world, a person is unable to perform a single mitzva even if he offers all his possessions. How can’t one cry when he’s about to leave such a place?


HaShem should open our eyes so that we will realize that we are in the storehouse of the king for a limited amount of time. We must be Hakhamim who see the future, know that our time here is limited and not go through life in a dream like state. We need to recognize the true cause for all that happens here and making ourselves worthy of being recipients of those blessings.


To reach the ultimate truth you also have to remember the details. Remember that when you stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai your ‘ears’ became ‘eyes‘ and your eyes turned into ears.[4] Through Torah it is still possible to reverse your orientation. Re-adjust your perception of reality through Torah study; ideas will become your true reality while the world that surrounds you will be exposed as the realm of dreams that it truly is.


A dream is an interesting experience in that an observer knows that we are dreaming when he sees our closed eyes moving rapidly. This stage of sleep is called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. If a person is awakened after being in REM sleep for a second or two, he will describe a dream that went on for a long time, sometimes for years! This teaches us that a moment in the Olam HaBa will be like a long time in this world. A dream teaches us that “time“ in this world is fleeting compared to “time” in the Olam HaBa.


In a dream we can run effortlessly. We can even fly! Thus we learn that all of the physical limitations of this physical world can, and will be transcended in the Olam HaBa. We will not be encumbered with limitations in the Olam HaBa.


Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 40:31 But they that wait upon HaShem shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.


Another interesting aspect of a dream is the concept of moving. When we dream, we move through the dream world in an effortless manner. Yet, we know, after we awaken, that we had not moved or traveled at all. In fact, we had a variety of travel type actions whilst firmly planted in our bed. Thus we learn that in that world we will be like trees which are firmly planted, yet we will experience no limitation of movement. If this sounds like a great limitation, consider what happened to us at Mount Sinai. When HaShem spoke with us, the Midrash teaches us that there was no movement anywhere in the world!


At Mt. Sinai, in the days of Moshe, HaShem gave His Torah to the Children of Israel. According to the Sages, when HaShem gave the Torah all of nature stood still. The sea did not roar. No birds sang. No creature stirred or made so much as a peep. Not even a leaf fell from the trees. In short, there was no movement whatsoever! The Midrash put it like this:


Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XXIX:9 What is the meaning of, The Lord God hath spoken; who can but prophesy? (Amos III, 8). Said R. Abbahu in the name of R. Johanan: When God gave the Torah no bird twittered, no fowl flew, no ox lowed, none of the Ophanim stirred a wing, the Seraphim did not say ‘Holy, Holy’, the sea did not roar, the creatures spoke not, the whole world was hushed into breathless silence and the voice went forth: I AM HASHEM THY GOD. So it says, These words the Lord spoke unto all your assembly... with a great voice, and it went on no more’ (Deut. V, I9).


The lack of movement at Sinai suggests that there were no needs during this period. At Sinai we lacked nothing; therefore, we had no need to move. We move because we have a need. Without needs there is no reason for actual movement.


Lack of movement is an indication that there is no force moving it out of position.


Eretz, the Hebrew word for land, comes from a root which means to move. This is why the mystics say that this world, Eretz, is the world of movement. This world is constantly moving towards shamayim, heaven. Shamayim is the place of the infinite. Shamayim comes from the root shammin which means “there”. There there is no movement because everything has arrived where it should be. Thus we learn from a dream that we will not move in the Olam HaBa because we will have all of our needs met. In the Olam HaBa there will be no need to move.


When we are dreaming, we believe that the world of that dream is real. That is why we can have strong emotions like fear and ecstasy during a dream. Yet, when we awaken we realize that that world, the dream world was an illusion. How do we “know“ that the dream world was an illusion? The answer is we just know! Thus we learn that our perception of reality is a function of the daat. Further, we learn that there will come a time when we awaken, in the resurrection, from this world, this “dreamworld, and realize that this world was the dream! When confronted with the reality of the Olam HaBa, we will realize that this fleeting world was just a dream. In the transition from this world to the next, we will suddenly wake up and know that this world was a dream. We will suddenly wake up and wipe the sweat off our brow. We will breathe a sigh of relief because we will know that the Olam HaBa is the real world. This is the mashal of a dream.


The time of exile has been likened to a dream. For so it is written:


Tehillim (Psalms) 126:1 When HaShem will return the exiles of Zion, we will have been like dreamers.


A dream can fuse two opposites. In the present time of exile likewise, a man can be a paradox. While he is at prayer he is aroused to a love of HaShem; when his prayers are over this love has vanished: he is preoccupied all day with his business affairs, and gives priority to his bodily needs.[5]


A Bad Dream


Rabbi Chisda[6] said that the purpose of a bad dream is more effective than lashes in arousing a sinner to mend his ways. The fear aroused by a dream which may foretell an unpleasant future has a longer lasting impact on the dreamer than the pain suffered in corporal punishment. According to Chazal, our Sages, a bad dream is therefore related to thunder which likewise instills a fear which will hopefully inspire us to return to the Creator.


Rav Dessler’s take on dreams:[7]


A prophet who has a dream—let him relate a dream. The one who has My word—let him speak the truth. Why mix the straw with the grain? says God.[8]


These words of Yirmeya lead us to consider the significance of dreams. That dreams are indeed significant has always been part of Jewish tradition.


The purpose of a dream is to reveal a person's hidden thoughts—that which is hidden in his subconscious mind. The point is to make a person awaire of his true madrega and to set about correcting what needs correction. This is how the Zohar puts it: "And so the Holy One, blessed be He, communicates to the soul...these matters, which correspond to the thoughts of his heart, so that a person may accept the path of rebuke".[9] This is a form of heavenly aid to the person. We find! in the Talmud that "a person who remains seven days without dreaming is called evil".[10] It is a sign that he is not worthy of being noticed by Heaven and this is why no dreams, are given him to awaken him from his moral slumber.


Sometimes a dream may hint at something that is going to happen in the future. The reason for this, too, is to arouse him to repentance.




Why do human beings pursue worldly pleasures so avidly? There is a hidden reason for this. They have a subconscious urge to still the pangs of spiritual hunger: The longing of the soul for its state of perfection. Indulgence in physical pleasures is an illusory substitute that stills this hunger. This is why they never satisfy a person.[11]


Beneath the subconscious layer of our mind, which we see as the source of worldly strivings, there is a deeper substratum which is the source of spiritual strivings. [This could be called the "sub-subconscious."] Sometimes a dream may reveal this hidden layer, which the yetzer hara usurps to further its goals. Several dreams are discussed in the Talmud,[12] in which imagery of serious transgressions masks spiritual or intellectual attainments. These dreams represent the pinings of the yetzer hara to harness a person's spiritual striving in order to get him to pursue physical pleasures. The Talmud gives a number of examples showing how an analysis of the imagery in the dream, based on the metaphors in Tanach, can reveal a person's spiritual potential.




"A dream is one-sixtieth of prophecy."[13] This means that dreams, too, come from a high source, as we have seen. The Zohar[14] tells us that they come from the angel Gavriel "who resides in the Palace of Will". Gavriel, from gevura, means "the judgment of God." As we saw above, the function of dreams is often to warn us of our moral fail­ings. "The Palace of Will" means the world of free will—behira. A person must choose whether to learn from his dreams or not. This is why "there is no dream without words of falsehood...there is no dream without both sides being represented".[15] Similarly, the Talmud says, "There is no dream without worthless words".9 Since the dream comes from the world of behira, it must contain a mixture of good and bad. The "worthless words" and "words of falsehood" come in order to hide the truth. The behira of a person is to choose the truth and not the falsehood.




The Rabbis tells us that "just as there is no grain without straw, so there is no dream without worthless words".[16] This is derived from the quotation from Yirmeya we placed at the beginning of this essay: "A prophet who has a dream..." Rashi explains: "LET HIM RELATE A DREAM.Let him relate it as nonsense, like other dreams, and not present it as prophecy. WHY MIX THE STRAW WITH THE GRAIN?—What has falsehood to do with truth?"


It would seem that the verse is talking about a false prophet who dreams an ordinary dream and publicizes it as if it were a prophecy. We know that an ordinary dream always contains truth mixed with falsehood, which is not the case with prophecy. A prophecy is absolutely clear to the prophet, beyond any possibility of doubt,[17] and con­tains no "mixture" whatsoever. [When they said "Dreams are one-sixtieth of prophecy",[18] they meant that dreams give just a "taste" of prophecy, but there is no true resem­blance between them.]


However, the verse may be speaking about a true prophet, but about one who has not yet reached the level of complete clarity in his prophecy. There were some who were called prophets in a broader sense and others who were "students of the prophets",[19] to whom this might apply. They might have been mistaken about the true level of their prophecy, and it is these students whom the verse warns not to confuse dreams with prophecy.




The Talmud mentions the idea of "amelioration of dreams".[20] "If a person is very troubled about a dream...he should ameliorate it in front of three people. He should bring three people and say to them, 'I saw a good dream'. They should reply: 'It is good and may it be good, and may the All Merciful make it good. May it be decreed from Heaven seven times that it should be good; and it will be good'. And then they should say three verses re­ferring to bad being converted into good, three verses re­ferring to redemption, and three referring to peace".[21]


This idea is connected with the principle "Dreams go after the interpretation".[22] In a similar vein, we find:[23] "If one sees a river in a dream, he should at the first opportu­nity recite the verse referring to a 'river of peace'[24] before another verse occurs to him referring to a 'river of trou­bles'".[25] Many other examples are given.


This is consistent with the dictum we quoted above[26] about both sides being represented in every dream. [Every prophetic warning contains both sides: if you do not repent, such-and-such will happen to you; if you re­pent, it will be converted into a blessing. Thus Yona's warning "In forty days Nineveh will be overturned" had a double meaning: "Either you will be overturned mor­ally, from bad to good, or you will be overturned physically, by a disaster."[27] Similarly, a dream may contain these two alternatives. Since God is merciful and always prefers the sinner to repent rather than to die for his sins,[28] the person who has been sent the dream should make every effort to seize the good alternative. If his mind grasps the good side, there will be a corresponding reac­tion from Heaven. The dream will have achieved its pur­pose.]




Sleep is a mashal for the exile. Our Sages applied[29] the following verse to the exile:


Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) 5:2 I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.


Our Sages commented that, “I am sleeping in exile.” [To develop the mashal:] When a person is asleep, all of his conscious powers, beginning with the power of intellect, become obscured. For during sleep, the power of intellect is withdrawn; all that remains is the power of imagination[30]. Moreover, the fundamental concealment, which sleep brings about, is with regard to the power of sight. Indeed, this is reflected in one’s actual physical person, while sleeping, one’s eyes are closed.[31]


When we return to The Land and the exile is ended, we will finally see that all our ideas about HaShem have been imagination only. In that glorious era we will finally see with our intellect. We will finally have the knowledge of HaShem. Thus we see that sleep and it’s imaginations are a mashal for the exile.


Sleep is also a mashal for death. Our Sages have taught that sleep is 1/60th of death. It is just a taste.




Kissing is the intimate connection between a husband and his wife; a husband and a wife are two opposites. In fact, they are as opposite as the spiritual and the physical. Kissing is the connection between husband and wife that produces children in the higher world. The Zohar speaks of this kind of kissing:


Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 124b I SEND AN ANGEL BEFORE THEE. R. Isaac quoted in this connection the words: “Let him kiss me with the.kisses of his mouth” (S.S. 1, 2), and said: ‘It is the Community of Israel who says this (to God). Why does.she say “Let Him kiss me” instead of “Let Him love me”? Because, as we have been taught, kissing.expresses the cleaving of spirit to spirit; therefore the mouth is the medium of kissing, for it is the organ of.the spirit (breath). Hence he who dies by the kiss of God [Tr. Note: According to the Haggadah, Moses.and certain other saints died “by the kiss of God”.] is so united with another Spirit, with a Spirit which.never separates from him. Therefore the Community of Israel prays: “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His.mouth”, that His Spirit may be united with mine and never separate from it. The verse continues: “For thy love is better than wine” (Ibid.).


Jerusalem is the place where the higher and the lower worlds kiss. These two opposite worlds do connect at the Temple.




Speaking is a bridge between the higher and the lower worlds. When we speak, we take an idea, which is entirely spiritual, and we manifest that idea in the physical world with sound. Sound, and therefore speech, has a physical component which can be felt in this world.


Speech, which emanates from the mouth, is that which connects two opposite worlds; the spiritual world and the physical world. This, as we can see, is the nature of the mouth.


Speech was fractured at the tower of Babel. Most folks think that what happened when HaShem confused the language, that He created Spanish, French, Japanese, etc. While this is true, the reality is far greater than this. In addition to creating multiple languages, HaShem also confused even the language of those who spoke the same language. This means that even if two men spoke English, even then they did not understand each other. In other words, the thoughts in the speaker’s mind were not the same thoughts that the hearer had when the conversation was over. Language was truly confused.


After Babel, language was fractured in all areas save one. The last vestige where language retained it’s original power was in prophecy. When a Prophet spoke, his thoughts and the thoughts of those who heard him were exactly the same. They experienced his prophecy such that there was no doubt that they were hearing prophecy. There was no chance of not believing that this was a message from HaShem. The experience was so powerful that there was no doubt, no possibility of disbelief.


Prophecy also ended in Babel. The Sanhedrin excised idolatry while in Babylon (Babel). Since the excision of the negative aspect of prophecy also excised the positive aspect of prophesy, thus prophecy was also lost at Babel. The Talmud speaks of the end of prophecy:


Yoma 69b And [they] cried with a great [loud] voice unto the Lord, their God. What did they cry? — Woe, woe, it is he who has destroyed the Sanctuary, burnt the Temple, killed all the righteous, driven all Israel into exile, and is still dancing around among us! Thou hast surely given him to us so that we may receive reward through him. We want neither him, nor reward through him! Thereupon a tablet fell down from heaven for them, whereupon the word ‘truth’ was inscribed. (R. Hanina said: One may learn there from that the seal of the Holy One, blessed be He, is truth). They ordered a fast of three days and three nights, whereupon he was surrendered to them. He came forth from the Holy of Holies like a young fiery lion. Thereupon the Prophet said to Israel: This is the evil desire of idolatry, as it is said: And he said: This is wickedness.


Babel is the place of babbling. Today there is only a vestige of prophecy in the world. The last vestige of prophecy is a dream (except for that found in young children, insane people, and dogs).




The neck is the organ of connection between the higher and the lower world. In the front, and within this structure is the “voice box”, the organ that produces the voice. The front is the side of elevation and spirituality. The front is called “panim – face” in Hebrew. Panim means the outer face and also the inner internality. That which goes on inside a person is most obviously visible in the face. Thus we can see why we have the same Hebrew word for the thing and it’s opposite.


Voice is produced in the front, the side of spirituality. Voice, in the kabbalistic writings, is referred to  as “Moshe Rabbenu”, the one who brought Torah to the world through his voice. The voice is the origin of speech. Prophecy originates with the voice, as we can see from the Prophet’s words:


Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 58:1 Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.


Again, prophecy originates with the voice, as we can see when Sarai spoke to Abram:


Bereshit (Genesis) 16:1 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. 2  And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, HaShem hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.


Note that Abram was not to hearken to her words, but rather to her “voice”. When we talk about prophecy, we are talking about voice. That is why Abram was commanded to listen to her voice – listen to her prophecy!


HaOref, in Hebrew, means the back of the neck. If you rearrange the letters you get Paro, Moshe’s arch enemy. Paro tried to suppress Moshe’s prophecy.




The Talmud teaches us that a human being is a husband and a wife, together, a single soul with two halves. Before one is married, he or she is only half a human being, a male half or a female half. This is why one feels loneliness for a mate. It’s like having “your better half” surgically amputated from your complete self. Loneliness disappears after one lives with his or her soul mate.




Crying is another normal human response to the sudden termination of a process that we wanted to continue.


What is crying? Crying is the involuntary reaction to a process that has ceased. Our soul becomes confused by certain events. The soul expresses this confusion in the physical world with crying. We can see from the symptoms of crying, that everything about them spells confusion. The symptoms of crying are:


  1. Water pouring from the eyes.
  2. Blurred vision.
  3. Slurred and incoherent speech.
  4. Confused thoughts.


Water is a fluid that can dissolve anything. Water is often called the universal solvent.


On the land we have landmarks, but we have no such marking for our path on the sea. The waters of the tears are an indication that we have lost our path and that we no longer know which way to go; the pathway in no longer marked and clear. We are now sailing on the sea without a clear path.


What are tears? Tears, דמעהות - dima’ot, come from a root denoting mixture and confusion. Crying, בכי - bechi, too, is from the same root as confusion, nevucha. We see this confusion in:


Shemot (Exodus) 14:3 … They are confused (nevochim) in the land, the desert has closed them in.


The numerical value of bechi, weeping, is equal to that of lev, heart, which is thirty-two, because tears are meaningful when they are sincere expressions of the heart.


In Hebrew, the word for “tear” (דמעה - dima) is spelled the same way as the word “jumbled” (דמעה - dema).


The Talmud[33] describes earthquakes as produced by two tears shed by HaShem into the Great Ocean over “His children dwelling in pain among the nations.” When the Jewish people are not living according to the Torah in their Land, the essential image of man is missing from the world, and the world therefore returns to the chaos and formlessness it had before creation. HaShem’s tears symbolize the chaos: His crying for a world without apparent order.


The ocean is a place of chaos, a place incapable of fulfilling the purpose for which HaShem formed the world, to be inhabited. The water filling the ocean is the paradigm of physicality; it has no shape of its own, but can only take on the shape of whatever container is found. This explains why the book of Revelation tells us that in the end there will be no more sea (Revelation 21:1).


What is the mashal of crying?


The Gemara says that, although the gates of prayer may be closed, the gates of tears are never closed. Apparently there is a relationship between the two, although the tears may go further.


In his commentary on Bereshit (Genesis) 43:20, Rashi equated crying and beseeching. Thus we learn that the right kind of tears can be shed to beseech HaShem to hear our prayer.


The Talmud shows that tears are the source of the mitzva of shofar on Rosh Hashanah.


Eicha (Lamentations) 3:48-49 “My eye sheds streams of water at the shattering of my People. My eye will flow and will not cease, without relief, until HaShem looks down and takes notice from Heaven.”


The Tanakh teaches a number of things with respect to tears; I will speak to four of them:


1 - Two closely related physiological acts emanate from different parts of the face. The act of weeping is associated with the mouth (the voice), as we see in Yirmeyahu 31:15, where the Prophet speaks encouragingly to our mother Rachel, “Keep your voice from weeping...”, but tears are associated with the eyes, “...and your eyes from tears.” (ibid.)


2 - Tears can be, and are, counted and preserved by HaShem – “collect my tears in Your flask...” (Tehillim 56:9), recited in the “Neilah” prayer at the end of Yom Kippur.


3 – A reward is given for the shedding of tears:


Tehillim (Psalm) 126:5 “Those who sow with tears, will harvest with joy.”


4 – Ultimately, HaShem will wipe away all of our tears:


Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 25:8 And the Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face.


Injustice and tears


All human beings who personally encounter injustice respond with strong emotion. Many people break down and cry when they are unfairly treated; age doesn’t seem to be a major factor. The tears are a reaction to the injustice itself, quite apart from any upset over any actual misfortune suffered.


Explains Rabbi Dessler: We inhabit the world of yezira as ruchot, as spirits, just as we live in the world of assiyah as bodies. The world of assiyah may be a dog-eat-dog world where the strong feed on the weak etc., but this is not the way things operate in the realm of yezira which is a spiritual universe where justice always reigns supreme. Insofar as we know that all our fellow human beings are also inhabitants of this spiritual world of yezira along with ourselves, we expect just behavior from them in spite of the way reality operates in the physical world of nature. We are freshly disappointed each time that human beings behave in a fashion that the ruach rejects, no matter how often such behavior is repeated.




We feel homesick when we have been away from our home for a protracted period of time. No matter how humble, we long for our place of origin. We long for our home. Thus we learn that our soul longs to return to HaShem, it’s origin, it’s source. Homesickness was given to us as a mashal to help us understand that our soul longs to return home, to HaShem.


Traveling To See HaShem’s World


Why do we like to travel? Most folks will spend a year of planning to make a two week trip. And they look forward to this trip all year. What does this teach us? From this urge to travel, we learn that our neshama, our soul, longs to move through this world to behold the wonder, the beauty, and the goodness of HaShem. The body thinks that travel helps us see and experience the physical world. The neshama wants to acquire the mitzvot associated with these new things. It longs to sing the praises of HaShem when it encounters His wonders.


The desire to travel is related to the desire to acquire “things”. Both men and women strive to buy things. This desire is due to the neshama’s desire to acquire the real goods, the mitzvot. This world is full of opportunities for the neshama to draw near to The Creator. The neshama longs for this. This gets translated in the physical world with the desire to acquire things.


If channeled properly, this desire leads us to beautify the mitzvot by buying a better kiddush cup or chanukiyah. It drives us to acquire things of the lasting value: The mitzvot (observance of the commandments). Following this path leads to fulfillment and a sense of closeness to HaShem.


As an aside, this idea helps us to understand why women are associted with shopping and spending money more so then men. A woman is built to convert the spiritual into the physical. She is built to convert potential into actual. It is her job to convert the speck of semen (potential) into a child (actual). She is built to spend money (potential) and convert that money into goods (actual).


If channeled improperly, our acquisitions lead to a desire to acquire things for the comfort or pleasure of the body. Following this road will inevitably lead to a neshama that feels the lack.


Thus we can learn from our physical desires. From these desires we can discern the desires of the neshama. We need to focus our energies on acquiring the mitzvot and enjoying the pleasure that HaShem gives to those who seek Him and His ways.


Marriage – Longing to be one with HaShem


Marriage, the intense desire to unite and become one with one’s spouse, is a major driver in the lives of most young people.


Bereshit (Genesis) 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.


The intimacy of marriage is the desire for two entirely different and opposite people to become greater than their separate parts. This desire bears fruit in the birth of a child.


The act of becoming one with another neshama by engaging in physical intimacy is well known. What most people fail to realize is that this desire for physical intimacy was given as a mashal for the neshama’s desire to unite and become one with HaShem. Though the neshama is different and opposite HaShem, never the less they can join as a husband and wife join. From the intensity of the human desire we can learn about the intensity of the desire of the neshama to unite with HaShem.


Further, the act of marriage is the physical activity which teaches us about the Olam HaBa. The sharp sense of arrival that is experienced in this act is the same sense of arrival that the neshama desires in the Olam HaBa. This pleasure is the pleasure of being THERE with no place else to go.


As a side note, the pleasure of a trivial game or a trivial conversation is also the pleasure of the Olam HaBa. This is the pleasure of not having an obligation to be somewhere or doing something. A game has no other purpose than to provide pleasure in doing nothing. Chazal teach that this is HaShem’s pleasure. They teach that HaShem is playing with His Torah.[34] Playing a game is a mashal for the pleasure of the Olam HaBa.


Chessed vs. Gevurah


A man is said to lean towards the side of chesed, while a woman’s trait tends to be one of gevurah, for the man provides the unlimited spark of giving / inspiration, whilst the woman gives this definitive plans and limits in bringing them into fruition in the world. This is all mirrored biologically in the process of birth; the woman is the one who provides the form to the baby and brings it into life.


The man provides billions of sperm and has difficulty with fidelity because he has a desire for all women. He has plenty of sperm to go around. The woman, on the other hand, sorts through billions of sperm and select just ONE. She then witholds to all the other sperm and denies them entrance. She desires fidelity and tends to decide very quickly on the man who is acceptable.


Thus a man is characterized by Chessed (unlimited giving) and a woman is characterized by Gevurah (unlimited witholding).


Right or Left Handed


Right = positivity. Iker


Left = Samek mem


I will write more on this at a later time.


Idle Chatter and Games


The Vilna Gaon said: “Although there is no worldly pleasure in idle chatter and games, still, it is particularly sweet:


Mishlei (Proverbs) 1:22-23 ... their spirit will not quiet or rest until they speak words of frivolity, and from this they have pleasure...”


What is the nature of this Yetzer Hara, this evil inclination, the desire to fritter away our lives by being idle with one’s time? When people gather for idle conversation, the first topic of discussion is the solution of life’s problems. Whether it is President Clinton’s nuclear disarmament policy, or the latest flood tolls in rural India; talk shows are filled with folks from Des Moines who share their thoughts with the world. The urge to gossip is quite similar. When one finds a particular person truly disturbing, he finds no rest until he can sit in a quiet circle of friends, unload his pain and anger, and slice his foe to pieces with a few well-placed words. Why is Lashon Hara so satisfying? In person, I may feel powerless and humiliated, but, at least here, in this room, I have killed him. Speech is a form of control, a tool of power. The words may be idle, but they define one’s world.


Idle chatter is related to playing a game. Both are pointless, yet both give us great pleasure. This is one of the pleasures of the Olam HaBa. In that world we will not have to account for our time as we do in this world. We will no longer be required to accomplish something. In the Olam HaBa we will be like HaShem who plays with the Torah. We will play with the Torah as we play games in this world. We will find this game as immensely satisfying as we find the playing of games in this world.


Consider how many people spend all of their free time playing golf or other games. Games and idle chatter both teach us about the pleasure of the Olam HaBa. However, we must be wise enough to discern that these are the pursuits of the Olam HaBa; they are NOT the pursuits of this world! We should do everything we can to accomplish our mission in this world. In this world we have legs in order that we may travel in the pursuit of our mission. We have hands and arms in order that we might accomplish the tasks that make up our mission in this world. In the Olam HaBa there will be no more “going” and no more “doing”. When we arrive there, we will experience the pleasures of that world as a reward for the “going” and “doing” that we faithfully executed in this world, in the pursuit of our mission.




Jewish humor is rife with paradox.


Examples of humor:


A young woman brings her fiancée home to meet her parents. After dinner, her mother tells her father to find out about the young man, so the father invites the fiancée to his study for a drink. “So what are your plans?” the father asks the young man.


“I am a Torah scholar,” he replies.


“A Torah scholar. Hmmm,” the father says. “Admirable, but what will you do to provide a nice house for my daughter to live in, as she’s accustomed to?”


“I will study,” the young man replies, “and God will provide for us.”


“And how will you buy her a beautiful engagement ring, such as she deserves?” asks the father.


“I will concentrate on my studies,” the young man replies, “God will provide for us.”


“And children?” asks the father. “How will you support children?”


“Don’t worry, sir, God will provide,” replies the fiancée. The conversation proceeds like this, and each time the father questions, the young idealist insists that God will provide.


Later, the mother asks, “How did it go, Honey?”, and the father answers, “He has no job and no plans, but the good news is he thinks I’m God.”


* * *


If a tin whistle is made out of tin (and it is), then what, exactly, is fog horn made out of?




Chazal teach us that in spirituality (and, consequently, in corporeality) a person can be found in three postures: lying, sitting, and standing. Each of these postures is a mashal to teach us about this world and the Olam HaBa.


Standing is the correct posture which shows the head at the highest level and all of the other organs correctly positioned relative to the head. In this posture we can walk and move around. This is the posture of this world. Sitting is the position of study because we move into the next world when we study Torah. Similarly, we sit when we judge because that is an activity of the next world.


If one were to “sit” in this world, then he would be punished for trying to be in the Olam HaBa while he is still in this world. He is abdicating his proper role and squandering his time. There will be plenty of time for rest in the Olam HaBa.


Standing is defined by the Torah as a mode of respectful behavior.[35] Since it is particularly emphasized in the case of worship in HaShem’s Temple (i.e. “in front” of HaShem), it also becomes a model for the proper respectful stance in front of teachers and parents.


In general, it would seem that standing is a way of not being, or showing oneself to be, at leisure. Being in the presence of HaShem demands action and readiness for action.


Walking: Chazal teach that walking through this world is like walking in water and mud. You put in a tremendous amount of effort and you barely move. Movement in this world is very slow and requires standing and walking. There is no movement without walking.


Sitting is when we are at rest. Sitting is the posture of the Olam HaBa. Sitting is where the organs of movement are inactivated, yet you are still vertical. All of the other organs, of the main part of the body, are correctly positioned, only the organs of locomotion are inactivated. This is the posture of the Olam HaBa.


Zechariya 13:1 In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to those who sit in Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.


Sitting Shiva is where we feel the blow of no movement. It is when we realize that the sadness of no more movement. Sitting is the concept of a place of sadness, a place of non-development.


Bereshit (Genesis) 23:1 And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 And Sarah died in Kirjath-arba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her. 3 And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying, 4 I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.


Iyov (Job) 2:11-13 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. 12 And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. 13 So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.


A yeshiva (a school to teach Torah) is a place of sitting. The word “yeshiva” means “sitting”. Why is this a place of sadness? There is ONLY one place you can sit in this world, and that is in Torah. When you are absorbed in Torah study you are experiencing a faint reflection of the Olam HaBa when we rest in Torah. A yeshiva is like a ship where you can move while sitting down. The Torah shows this posture repeatedly in relationship to Torah:


Bereshit (Genesis) 25:27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, sitting in tents.


Yaakov was a student of Torah. He sat in his tent as one sits in a Yeshiva.


Bereshit (Genesis) 4:20 And Adah (Ornament) bare Jabal (Stream of Water): he was the father of such as dwell (sit) in tents, and cattle.


Jabal, a stream of water, who sits in his tent, is a picture of Torah learning. Water throughout the Torah is used as a picture of the Torah itself. The one who sits learning Torah will therefore experience streams of Torah.


Finally, we see Hakham Shaul sitting at the feet of his teacher whilst he was learning:


II Luqas (Acts) 21:40 And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,1 Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defense which I make now unto you.2 (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) 3 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.


Chazal teach that walking through the Olam HaBa is like is like sitting in a rocket ship. You put in very little effort and you move rapidly where ever you wish. Movement in the next world is accomplished while sitting and not moving.


Judgment is also an act of the Olam HaBa and is therefore executed while sitting. Further, judging requires deep Torah learning in order to judge with righteousness. Lot was a judge in the gate of Sodom:


Bereshit (Genesis) 18:1 HaShem appeared to him in the plains of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day.


Rashi comments: The word “sitting” is written without the letter vav, and therefore may be translated “he sat down.” This teaches that he wished to rise, but the Holy One, Blessed is He, said to him, “Sit, and I will stand. You shall be an example to your descendants that I, in the future, will stand in the assembly of the judges while they will sit, as it is written:


Tehillim (Psalms) 82:1 G-d stands in the assembly of the judges.


We see this again with Avraham’s nephew, Lot:


Bereshit (Genesis) 19:1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;


When two people are sitting together, the lack of words of Torah being exchanged between them renders it a session of mockery as we can see in:


Tehillim (Psalms) 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.




Lying down:


A new-born child in our world and a spiritually born person develop in the same order. Lying means that the position of the head, the legs and the body are at the same level. In the spiritual this corresponds to the state of an embryo. This is the lowest spiritual state.


Body and Soul


Sanhedrin 91b Antoninus said to Rabbi: ‘The body and the soul can both free themselves from judgment. Thus, the body can plead: The soul has sinned, [the proof being] that from the day it left me I lie like a dumb stone in the grave [powerless to do aught]. Whilst the soul can say: The body has sinned, [the proof being] that from the day I departed from it I fly about in the air like a bird [and commit no sin].’ He replied, ‘I will tell thee a parable. To what may this be compared? To a human king who owned a beautiful orchard which contained splendid figs. Now, he appointed two watchmen therein, one lame and the other blind. [One day] the lame man said to the blind, “I see beautiful figs in the orchard. Come and take me upon thy shoulder, that we may procure and eat them.” So the lame bestrode the blind, procured and ate them. Some time after, the owner of the orchard came and inquired of them, “Where are those beautiful figs?” The lame man replied, “Have I then feet to walk with?” The blind man replied, “Have I then eyes to see with?” What did he do? He placed the lame upon the blind and judged them together. So will the Holy One, blessed be He, bring the soul, [re]place it in the body, and judge them together, as it is written, He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people:1 He shall call to the heavens from above-this refers to the soul; and to the earth, that he may judge his people-to the body.’


A Convert


Avraham ben Avraham, the famous Ger Tzadik {the Righteous Convert} revealed an insight into seeing through the external to the very core of a matter. He was the son of a wealthy Polish feudal lord who was being groomed to be a priest. He was drawn to Judaism and ultimately converted. Out of fear of the brutal Inquisition, he was learning secretly while hiding in a small town in Lithuania.


The forces of the Inquisition ultimately caught up with him there and he was taken to Vilna where he was imprisoned. He was given the choice to either renounce his Judaism by returning to Christianity or to be burned at the stake. With all of their threats and tortures, he steadfastly refused to utter a word against Judaism. As they were taking him to be killed, the guards said to him: “Here in this world we are punishing you but in the next world you’ll have your chance to avenge us.”


The Ger Tzadik turned to his oppressors with a serene smile. “I’ll tell you a story that happened to me when I was a young boy. I used to play with the children of the serfs on my father’s estate. One day, after hours of work, I had shaped clay into men-shaped figurines and had placed them around the garden. As the farmer’s children came through with their thick boots, they trampled and destroyed these figurines. In a fit of rage, I ran to my father demanding that he severely punish these boys. Not only didn’t my father get angry at the boys, but he chastised me for taking such nonsense so seriously. I thought to myself that now I’m young and not in a position to make them pay for their crime, but once I get older and have some power, then I’ll make them regret what they did to me. However, once I got older and I was in power, do you think that I seriously considered punishing them? What did they do to me? All they did was smash figures made of clay.”


The Ger Tzadik then turned to his oppressors. “Do you think that once I’ve obtained the clarity of the next world, I’ll want to take revenge against you? What are you going to do to me? Smash my body? A figure of clay...”


He was not fooled by the exterior, he had become a true dwelling place for the Shechinah.


Sickness and Suffering


Harav Yaakov Galinsky, Shlita, relates the following powerful story, underlining its inspiring message. A terminally ill person was attached to an artificial respirator and lay in bed suffering excruciating pain. His doctor, a compassionate man, hoping to spare him more suffering, decided to disconnect the life-support system. The man died soon afterwards. It seems like the end of the story, but there is more.


A few days later, the deceased man appeared to the doctor in a dream and said the following to him, “I had four more days left to live. During this time I was to suffer terrible suffering, which would have catapulted me directly into Gan Eden. Their cleansing effect was all that I still needed. Because you caused me to die four days before my time, I lack that measure of suffering. Now, I have no idea how long I will have to be in Gehenom, Purgatory, to be purified. Suffering on earth has a greater effect than suffering in Gehenom.”


The doctor woke up from his dream completely shaken. He eventually became a Baal Teshuva[36] due to his fear of the final judgment. Life and death are in HaShem’s hands. We must learn not only to accept His decisions, but, also, to trust in them.


Devarim (Deuteronomy) 32:7 Remember the days of yore, understand the years of generation after generation.


The Beit HaMikdash (Temple)


The Zohar describes the First and Second Holy Temples as “the building of mortal man which has no lasting existence,” whereas the Third Holy Temple, since it is “the building of the Holy One, blessed be He,” will endure forever. The First Holy Temple corresponds to Avraham; the Second Holy Temple corresponds to Yitzchak; the Third Holy Temple corresponds to Yaaqov. And since the dominant characteristic of Yaaqov is truth, which can be neither intercepted nor changed, the Third Holy Temple will stand forever.


The Development of a Man


“Asu Li Mikdash - V’shochanti B’tocham (make Me a sanctuary - and I will dwell among THEM).”


Our body is tied systematically to the soul of the Torah. The Book of Shemot directly corresponds to the ruach, that aspect of the soul, which composes the emotions, and feelings of a person.


Though the Book of Shemot vividly describes the developmental processes and stages involved in a child growing up, through gestation (the embryonic formation of the Jewish nation within the womb of Egypt), birth (the Exodus from Egypt), adolescence (the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot, known as Sefirat HaOmer), until young adulthood is reached (the giving of the Torah). Still, the full impact and realization of the coming of age of the Jewish People is only achieved with the building of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, the details of which fill approximately half of the Book of Shemot. This is because the full attainment of adult maturity is not as dependent upon an intellectual or theoretical foundation (in this case, belief in the existence of a Creator), as it is dependent upon an emotional and practical one. As the verse says (Devarim 4:39), “And you are to know this day and INTERNALIZE it into your heart that HaShem is the only God, in the heaven above and on the earth below, there is none other.”


Shemot (Exodus) 25:8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.


It does not say “that I may dwell in it.” Instead, it says “that I may dwell in them’.” Each one prepared within his heart a dwelling place for the Divine Presence, “that I may dwell in them,” within the heart of every Jew.[37] 




Now that we have taken a brief look at the human body, let’s examine what the Torah teaches about HaShem. Let’s begin by asking question. Does HaShem have a hand? Consider the following pasukim:


Shemot Exodus 3:20 And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.


Shemot Exodus 7:5 And the Egyptians shall know that I am HaShem, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them.


If we believe that the Torah is true, then we must conclude that HaShem does indeed have a hand. Now, why does the Torah tell us that HaShem has a hand when we know that He has no differentiated parts? Why does it tell us that HaShem has a hand when it is an axiom of faith that He has no corporeality?


This problem is compounded when we realize that we are not allowed to have any graphic representation of HaShem, especially when we pray. How can the Torah give us a graphic representation if we are not allowed to have a graphic representation?


The problem is that when we see the word hand, we see a fleshy appendage with five fingers. If we were to have this as a picture of the hand of HaShem, we would be committing a gross sin which is akin to idolatry. Yet, it is hard to escape this thought, especially when we have the Torah telling us that HaShem has a hand. So, what is the solution?


The solution is that the fleshy appendage with five fingers is a mashal. Our hands are a mashal for the hand of HaShem. Our hand is flesh and blood, but His hand is REAL! With His non-corporeal hand He can turn rivers and hearts. With His hand he can deliver His people. Our hand is the mashal, the analogy.[38] Our hand is given to teach us what a real hand is like. We must never be deceived into believing that our hand is real. If we do, we are sliding towards idolatry. We must see our hand as a mashal for the hand of HaShem.


Does HaShem have a hand? Absolutely! The difference between His hand and our hand is that His hand is real. Our hand is the mashal.


So when we read about HaShem’s eyes, His arms, His peyot (long hair at the temples of the head), we must realize that he has the REAL versions of these items and that he has given us the corporeal version as an analogy to help us understand that which is real.


Unreal Concepts


The Torah defines reality. If one understands a concept which is not found in the Torah, then we would say that that concept does not exist. That concept is a figment of our imagination! Lets look at some concepts that most of us understand, but these concepts do not exist – they have no basis in reality.


Romance – This concept is popularized in books, plays, and movies, contains the idea that one can love another person simply based on appearance. In reality, this feeling that we get is a free gift from HaShem to teach us what love can be like IF we put is many years of giving to another person. This feeling is withdrawn shortly after marriage in order to encourage us to build it into reality by giving to our spouse. Love is giving.


Ideas from Rabbi Daniel Lapin


Fair - In Israel you might hear a youngster protesting to his mother in Hebrew, Zeh Loh Fair. The first two words mean "This is not..." The third word means exactly what it says in English - fair. The juvenile is saying that his mother is unfair. You see, there is no word in Hebrew for the concept of fair. He had no choice other than using the English.


This is because "fair" is a false concept with no reality. What does fair actually mean? That everyone should have the same housing, talent, looks, and destiny? No two people even have identical opportunity. The word means nothing at all.


Generally, English words for which there are no Hebrew equivalents are unreal concepts detached from reality.  


Adolescent - Permission for an adult to behave like a child while claiming the benefits due an adult. There's no word for adolescent in Hebrew. You are either a child or an adult.


Coincidence - Demeaning Divine messages and camouflaging cosmic connection. There's no word for coincidence in Hebrew. Why ignore synchronicity and live bereft of the significance of subtle suggestion?


For millennia, Hebrew has had an unbroken history of effectively conveying both verbal and written information. Its power lies not only in what you can communicate in Hebrew but also in what you can't.


Religion - The most surprising word for which no Hebrew equivalent exists is - Religion. Nowhere in the entire Tanach, the Hebrew Scriptures, does the word religion appear.


Where does the English word, "religion" come from? One theory is that it derives from the Latin "relegere" which means to do something repeatedly. Others guess that it comes from the Latin "religare" which means to tie up or bind.


Needs – By Rabbi Daniel Lapin


HaShem created man with three main appetites: food, sex, and money. Ancient Jewish wisdom distinguishes between these three appetites in this way:


The less food you’ve been eating,

the more you want it.

The more you’ve had

the less you want it.


Since food is the energy which connects the soul to the body, we would expect that once we have a strong connection the appetite will dimish, and so it is.


The less sex you’ve been experiencing,

the less you want it.

The more you’ve been enjoying,

the more you want it.[39]


Since sex enables us to become one flesh with our beloved spouse, we would expect that we would find that connecting would cause us to appreciate what it is like to become one flesh, and so it is. [40]


The less money you posses,

the more you want.

The more you posses,

the more you want.


In other words, our desire for money is extraordinarily powerful and relentless. This is why the Five Books of Moses contain nearly ten times more commandments about money than about food.


Consider that money represent potential (to buy something, typically to improve themselves or their households), give it to charity, and to use it to change the world) and has no real value until it is spent. Since our wives represent the physical world and are drawn to the spiritual world, we can expect that they would be intensely interested in converting potential into actual in order to draw down the spiritual and elevate themselves. This is why wives typically love to shop and spend money much more so then their husbands.


Yet, these appetites for food, sex, and money are necessary for society to endure. These three desires are a function of the Yetzer HaRa, the evil inclination. Consequently, they tend to be abused as we seek to gratify the flesh. Yet without them the world could not endure. It is our job to master these desires and to focus them for the improvement of ourselves and of our world.


To illustrate this last point, lets take a look at the Talmud. Please do not neglect to read the footnotes:


Yoma 69b One does not pronounce the Ineffable Name outside [the limits of the Temple]. But may one not? Is it not written: And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose. [. . . and Ezra praised the great God].[41] And R. Giddal [commenting thereupon] said: He magnified Him by [pronouncing] the Ineffable Name?-That was a decision in an emergency. And [they] cried with a great [loud] voice unto the Lord, their God. What did they cry? — Woe, woe, it is he[42] who has destroyed the Sanctuary, burnt the Temple, killed all the righteous, driven all Israel into exile, and is still dancing around among us! Thou hast surely given him to us so that we may receive reward through him.[43] We want neither him, nor reward through him! Thereupon a tablet fell down from heaven for them, whereupon the word ‘truth’ was inscribed. (R. Hanina said: One may learn therefrom that the seal of the Holy One, blessed be He, is truth). They ordered a fast of three days and three nights, whereupon he[44] was surrendered to them. He came forth from the Holy of Holies like a young fiery lion. Thereupon the Prophet said to Israel: This is the evil desire of idolatry, as it is said: And he said: This is wickedness.[45] As they took hold of him a hair of his beard fell out, he raised his voice and it went [was audible] four hundred parasangs. Thereupon they said: How shall we act? Perhaps, God forbid, they might have mercy upon him from heaven! — The prophet said unto them: Cast him into a leaden pot, closing its opening with lead. Because lead absorbs the voice, as it is said: And he said: This is wickedness. And he cast her down into the midst of the measure, and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof.[46] They said: Since this is a time of Grace, let us pray for mercy for the Tempter to evil.[47] They prayed for mercy, and he was handed over to them. He said to them: Realize that if you kill him, the world goes down. They imprisoned him for three days, then looked in the whole land of Israel for a fresh egg and could not find it.[48] Thereupon they said: What shall we do now? Shall we kill him? The world would then go down. Shall we beg for half-mercy? They do not grant ‘halves’ in heaven.[49] They put out his eyes and let him go. It helped inasmuch as he no more entices men to commit incest.


The Chimp and I – By Rabbi Daniel Lapin


Most human activities can be located along an imaginary line anchored at one end by “Spiritual“ and at the other by “Physical“. We’d put praying near the spiritual end; reading and music would be its neighbors. As the source of both sensual pleasure and new life, sex might be mid-spectrum, while eating and other bodily functions belong near the physical end. Where do commercial transactions fit? Is exchanging money for something we’d rather have a spiritual or physical action?


Scripture teaches us to ask this question. Genesis opens telling us that God made the firmament ‘...and called it heaven’ in Genesis 1:7-8 and that God decreed ‘dry land’ and ‘called it earth’ in Genesis 1:9-10. In that case, what do the words ‘…God created heaven and earth’ in verse 1 tell us that we wouldn’t have understood from subsequent verses?


Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that in the Torah’s opening verse ‘heaven’ means all things spiritual and ‘earth’ alludes to everything physical. The idea is that to understand how the world really works, we must know that God created all things physical and all things spiritual and we need to appreciate both.


One way of identifying a spiritual act is by determining whether a chimpanzee would understand it. When I return home and slump into an armchair, my pet primate undoubtedly sympathizes.  When I eat he certainly gets it. However, when I hold a newspaper motionless before my face for twenty minutes he becomes quite confused. Reading tends spiritual.


We’re always slightly uneasy about pursuits with no spiritual overtones at all. We subconsciously superimpose spirituality to avoid being exclusively physical and thus animal-like. For instance, we apply ceremony to virtually all activities performed by both people and animals.


Only people read a book or listen to music, hence these activities require no associated ritual. On the other hand, most animals eat, engage in sexual activity, give birth and die. If we do not confer a uniquely human ritual upon these functions, we reduce the distinction between ourselves and the animal kingdom.


Therefore, we celebrate the birth of a child often by a naming ceremony; no animal does that. Even if our hands are clean, we wash them before eating. We serve food in dishes on a tablecloth rather than straight out of the can, although the physical, nutritional qualities have not been enhanced. We even say a blessing. This is a human, spiritual way to eat; dogs are quite content to gobble food off the floor.


After encountering an attractive potential partner, wise people do not proceed directly to physical intimacy. An engagement announcement followed by a marriage ceremony serves to accentuate that all-important distinction; no animal announces its intention to mate and then defers gratification for three months.


The more physical the activity, the more awkwardness and subconscious embarrassment surround it. Nudism is practiced with a certain bravado in order to conceal the underlying tension. Famous photographer Richard Avedon shattered a barrier by capturing images of people as they ate. Frozen in the act of chewing, humans resemble apes rather than angels. Similarly, we express a normal and healthy reticence about bathroom activities.  On the other hand, as purely spiritual occupations, reading and art evoke no discomfort.


Where on the spectrum do business transactions fall? A chimpanzee would not have the slightest idea of what is transpiring between proprietor and customer in a store. Economic exchange takes place only after two thinking human beings will it. The process must be spiritual. If we truly believe that, we should have no discomfort with buying and selling, whether our skills, services or products. Economic activity is another way in which we satisfyingly distance ourselves from the animal kingdom and draw closer to God.




We live in a world of physicality, a world of illusion. This world, with all of it’s processes, is given to us as a mashal of the higher world. We do not have a sense organ to discern and to understand the higher world. We do know, however, that this world is a projection of the real world. We can see this in the Mishkan that was to be fashioned according to the pattern of the Mishkan in the higher world:


Shemot (Exodus) 25:8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I show thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the furniture thereof, even so shall ye make it.


From the physical world we can see a mashal for the spiritual world. The spiritual world projects into the physical world like the projection of a film on a screen. What is portrayed on the screen is not real, it is just a mashal, but, it is good enough. If we study the mashal we can begin to understand the real, the spiritual, world. We will have the greatest clarity by examining the human body because it is created in the image of the Creator and is a very “high” structure to begin with. Ultimately, we should be able to examine a tree and discern it’s spiritual root. That is to say, we should be able to look carefully at every physical object and discern it’s spiritual root. When we can do this, then we will have mastered the world of illusion; we will have mastered the mashal. Once we have accomplished this, we will be able to see and live in the next world while we are yet in this world.


The human body has an additional mashal about HaShem. This mashal is based on our observation of the world. Our observation is that this world is composed of differentiated parts. We observe this same differentiation when we observe other human beings. They seem to be composed of parts: Head, hands, legs, etc. This is analogous to this world which seems to be composed of parts. Further, as we saw in our last mashal, HaShem seems to be composed of parts. Yet, we know that HaShem is ONE. That is our declaration in the Shema: HaShem is one! To understand this paradox, HaShem gives us a mashal in our own bodies that will help us understand this paradox.


When others observe us, they see parts. When we observe ourselves externally we see parts. However, when we grasp ourselves internally we see only the totality. We do not grasp ourselves, internally, as a collection of parts. We see only… ourselves! When we use our intellect, or our creativity, we do not have the sensation of moving to another part. We have only the sensation of ourselves as a unity.


Our awareness of ourselves is always in totality. We grasp ourselves as a unity, not a collection of parts.


From this mashal we learn how to view HaShem as one. Since the whole world is nothing more than a manifestation of HaShem, we learn that despite the appearance of parts, this world is one as HaShem is one. Thus we can begin to understand a bit about the unity of HaShem by observing how we are unified to ourselves.


Appendix A:
















Explore - Ask


Literary level





Audience level

Common People

Noble (Lawyers, Shoftim (Judges), Scientists)



Hermeneutic level

7 Hillel Laws

13 Ishmael Laws

32 Ben Gallil Laws

42 Zohar Laws

Rabbinic level







I and II Luqas




HaShem’s Servant

Son of Man

The King

Son of G-D


Outside Chatzer



Kodesh Kodashim

Principle Concern

What do we have to do?

What is the meaning behind what we have to do?

How do we go about establishing HaShem’s Kingdom on earth?

What metaphysical meaning is there to what is happening?







Mikrah Megillah

Matanot L’Evyonim

Mishloach Manot

Seudat Purim


“Anatomy of the Soul” by Chaim Kramer based on the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (this is not to be confused with a small booklet of the same name published by R’ Ginsburg of Gal Einai).


It is described as a book which: provides a study of each aspect of the human body: the Skeletal and Muscular systems, the Circulatory and Respiratory system, the Reproductive Systems, etc. showing how they relate to the Ten Sefirot, the five levels of the soul.


* * *


This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:


Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Tumwater, WA 98501


Internet address:

Web page:


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Return to The WATCHMAN home page

Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address:



[1] Otzar haMidrashim, Olam Katan 406

[2] Comment to Exodus 25:40

[3] “To Live and Live Again”, by Rabbi Nissan Dovid Dubov

[4] They heard lightning, and saw the thunder – Shemot 20:15.

[5] Torah Or, Vayeischev, p. 28c

[6] Berachot 59a

[7] This essay is taken from Michtav Me-Eliyahu IV, pp. 164-166.

[8] Yirmeya 23:28

[9] 1,183a.

[10] Berachot 55 b.

[11] See Strive for Truth! II, p. 13.

[12] Berachot 57a.

[13] Berachot 57b

[14] 1,149a

[15] Zohar I, 149a

[16] Ibid

[17] Rabbi M. H. Luzatto, Derech Hashem 3:4:1.

[18] See note 15, above.

[19] Melachim II, 2:3 & frequently.

[20] Berachot 55b.

[21] This procedure may be found in the larger prayer books, e.g. OtzarHa-tefillot, pp. 463-464.

[22] See note 16, above.

[23] Berachot 56b.

[24] Yeshaya 66:12.

[25] Ibid. 59:19.

[26] See note 9, above.

[27] Rashi, Yona 3:4.

[28] Yehezkel 18:23

[29] Zohar, Vol. III, p. 95a

[30] Torah Or, Bereshit 28c

[31] Sefer HaMaamarim 5669, sec. 70, p. 99ff.; explained at length in the maamar entitled Padah BiShalom, 5713

[32] I heard this section from Rabbi Akiva Tatz.

[33] Berachot 59a

[34] Mishlei (Proverbs) 8:30

[35] As evidenced in the law of standing up when doing Avodah - Zevahim 23 - also, this is exemplified in Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:32 - standing for the scholar (see Rashi ad loc.) and for the old person.

[36] A Baal Teshuva is a Jew who repents and begins walking in the commands of HaShem.

[37] ibid. Alshich

[38]A similarity between like features of two things, on which a comparison may be based: the analogy between the heart and a pump.

[39] Sanhedrin 107a R. Johanan said: He changed his night couch to a day couch,(I.e., he cohabited forgot the halachah: there is a small organ in man which satisfies him in his hunger but makes him hunger when satisfied.(With regard to human passion, ‘the appetite grows by what it feeds on’.)

[40] This shows that the more you get close to HaShem, the more you want to be close to Him.

[41] Nehemiah 8:4-6.

[42] The Yetzer HaRa, the evil inclination, tempter of idolatry.

[43] For resisting him successfully Israel would be rewarded.

[44] The Yetzer HaRa, the evil inclination, tempter of idolatry.

[45] Zechariah 5:8.

[46] Zechariah 5:8.

[47] The evil desire, for idolatry is also the evil desire for immorality. The two were found to go hand in hand.

[48] Whereas there is no good in idolatry there is at least some good in the desire for sex indulgence. Perpetuation of the race depends upon it. So does human food. The people who found themselves with the opportunity to destroy the temptation of flesh-love discovered that, when the genius of sex-love is cancelled, no eggs are available.

[49] To ask that temptation or the tempter should live, but not tempt, is to ask a thing that Heaven will not grant. The tempter lives to tempt. But by depriving its flame of its major glare, by keeping it within lawful limits, one promotes domesticity and prevents depravity.