What goes around comes around

A nugget from Zeev Wolf of Zhitomir, Or haMeir, Behaalotecha


If you see people spreading lies about you, know for sure they are only giving you back your own, and that you have brought this upon yourself because you could not keep your mouth shut.

Posted in Behaalotecha, Concepts, Divine Providence, Hasidic Masters, Parsha, Reward and Punishment, Shorts, Zeev Wolf of Zhitomir/Or HaMeir | 1 Comment

With apologies to the foodies…

From R. Uziel Meizlish of Ostrog, Tiferes Uziel, Beha’alotecha

שָׁטוּ הָעָם וְלָקְטוּ וְטָחֲנוּ בָרֵחַיִם אוֹ דָכוּ בַּמְּדֹכָה וּבִשְּׁלוּ בַּפָּרוּר וְעָשׂוּ אֹתוֹ עֻגוֹת וְהָיָה טַעְמוֹ כְּטַעַם לְשַׁד הַשָּׁמֶן The people walked about and gathered it. Then they ground it in a mill or crushed it in a mortar, cooked it in a pot and made it into cakes. It had a taste like the taste of oil cake. Bamidbar 11:8

TUbehaalotechaWhere is the praise in saying that the manna tasted like oil cake?

It is known that the manna was given every morning so that the people could serve God without having to take time away to feed themselves, and this is why the taste of the manna changed into many tastes, so that they should not take any time away from service chasing after their desires for other foods, such as meat. Now the righteous among them, whose sole purpose was to serve God in truth, would eat the manna as it was when it fell from the heavens and did not “walk about” (shatu) that is, they wasted no time doing anything else to it, because they did not wish to be caught up in trivialities; they tasted any taste in the world they desired. But the people שטו shatu, that is, they acted foolishly (שטות shtut) by feasting (משטים mashtim) (1), for “the people,” as opposed to the righteous, were on a low level (2), and so they “ground it in a mill or crushed it in a mortar, cooked it in a pot and made it into cake,” wasting their time on trivialities, against the intent of the Creator. So they tasted nothing but oil cake, while the righteous among them tasted any taste in the world they desired.


Sources: the taste of the manna…Rashi brings the sources here.

1) All three words are built on the same root and could be seen as variations on the same word.   2) Literally “a small level,” evoking the Hasidic concept of katnut, “small[minded]ness,” a mindset in which we focus on ourselves and our own, usually physical, needs, as opposed to gadlut, “big[minded]ness,” when we focus on our place in the whole and our relationship to others, including God.

Jeff says…

A story is told of Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin:

When Rabbi Shelomo drank tea or coffee, it was his custom to take a piece of sugar and hold it in his hand the entire time he was drinking. Once his son asked him: “Father, why do you do that? If you need sugar, put it in your mouth, but if you do not need it, why hold it in your hand!” When he had emptied his cup, the rabbi gave the piece of sugar he had been holding to his son and said: “Taste it.” The son put it in his mouth and was very much astonished, for there was no sweetness at all left in it. Later, when the son told this story, he said: “A man, in whom everything is unified, can taste with his hand as if with his tongue.” (Buber’s translation from Tales of the Hasidim)

Posted in Behaalotecha, Hasidic Masters, Parsha, Uziel Meizlish/ Tiferes Uziel | Tagged | 1 Comment

The World is a Mirror

Marc Chagall's The Mirror

Marc Chagall’s The Mirror

A nugget from Zeev Wolf of Zhitomir, from Or haMeir on Parshat Naso

Everywhere you happen to look and everything you happen to see, even the ugly and the coarse, you should understand that it was not for nothing that God showed you this thing.  Rather, it is because you yourself have some lack that you have not yet realized. So when you see another doing something wrong, you should learn from this what you must fix in yourself and for what you must ask forgiveness from God…

Posted in Concepts, Divine Providence, Hasidic Masters, Naso, Parsha, Zeev Wolf of Zhitomir/Or HaMeir | 3 Comments

Face to Face at Sinai

Moses Shows the Tablets of the Law, by Marc Chagall

Moses Shows the Tablets of the Law,  by Marc Chagall

Two brief teachings by R. Kalonymus Kalman HaLevi Epstein on Shavuot, excerpted from Maor vaShamesh

ויחן שם ישראל נגד ההר And Israel camped there under the mountain. Exodus 19:2

Rashi points out that ‘camped’ is in the singular, and explains they camped there ‘as one person with one heart.’

To receive the Torah, the essential thing, on which everything else depends, is that there be love and brotherhood among the children of Israel, as our sages said, ‘The entire Torah depends on the mitzvah of love your fellow as yourself.’ For when there is peace among us, the divine Presence rests among us, since the totality of our souls equals 60,000, the number of letters in the Torah, for we each have our soul’s root in one of the letters of the Torah — and this is hinted at by the very word ישראל ‘Israel,’ which stands for יש ששים רבוא אותיות לתורה, yesh shishim ribo otiot latorah, ‘there are sixty-thousand letters in the Torah.’ So, when there is peace among us and love and brotherhood and fellowship, we are fit to receive the Torah, for through our joining together is the Torah made complete, and with ease can each of us join to our root in the Torah. So, at the time of the giving of the Torah Israel ‘camped with one heart,’ thereby meriting the Torah and revelation of the Shekhinah face to face.

In the Zohar it is written that ‘the Blessed Holy One and Torah and Israel are one.’ This does not mean one as in the number, so that two should follow, rather that all is one single and simple unity, for our souls and the Torah are all emanations of God’s own essence. And I heard from my teacher Elimelech of Lizhensk on the verse, God spoke all these words to them saying, ‘I am Hashem your God,‘  that the Blessed Holy One gave all of the Torah so that we could understand Him (1)… So we find that all of the Torah is included in [the first word of the Ten Commandments] anochi, ‘I.’ 


Sources: The entire Torah depends…Shabbat 31a; God spoke…Exodus 20:1

1) To make the point clearer, the word ‘saying,’ lemor, can also be read ‘[in order] to say.’

Posted in Concepts, Hasidic Masters, Holidays/Days of Remembrance, Kalonymus Kalman HaLevi Epstein/ Maor VaShamesh, Revelation, Shavuot | 1 Comment

49 Steps


Marc Chagall’s “Wedding”

Excerpts from R. Ze’ev Wolf of Zhitomir’s teachings on Counting the Omer, from Or haMeir.

וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת

Count for yourselves, from the morrow of the rest day from the day you bring the omer as a wave offering, seven weeks. Leviticus 23:16

The essence of the Counting of the Omer between Pesach and Shavuot is to mend the seven attributes (1), to bring to them a holy awareness. When you have done this, making yourself into a complete image of the divine in all of your ways, in holiness and purity, then the Shekhinah, in whose image you are made, is also mended. Then we are fit to be God’s, and God to be ours, like a bride ready to enter the wedding canopy…

When your deeds are made good, then you will merit to hear in the plain talk of one person to another words of Torah and advice on how to serve God. This is truly the highest of levels, to have such a clarity as this, and you cannot achieve it unless you seek to refine yourself with all of your soul and all of your might, down to the particulars of your senses and your limbs, purifying and sanctifying them to the service of God, doing nothing, performing no single act nor making any motion, not even lifting your hand or your foot or opening your eyes or your ears, that is not in some way for the sake of the Shekhinah…

Thus God commanded usefartem lachem, “count for yourselves” — sefartem means not only count but “purify” and “clarify,” for yourselves, for your own sake and your own purification, that you may merit the enlightenment of the Torah, beyond which there is no greater delight nor joy.


1) The seven attributes are seven qualities found in both God and us, and are also identified with the seven lower sefirot. In Hebrew they are most frequently called (from top to bottom) Hesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malkhut. In the context of character traits these might be translated (loosely) as boundless compassion, setting limits, discerning compassion, steadfastness, humility, knowing your role, and the ability to manifest all of these qualities in daily life. Each of the seven weeks of the Omer is given over to working on one of these traits, and each day within that week to developing one of these aspects of each trait (for example, maintaining compassion in the most difficult circumstances, or setting limits in a humble way). So the Counting of the Omer becomes a “49-step Program” from Freedom to Responsibility and from Degradation to Purity.

Posted in Concepts, Divine Service, Hasidic Masters, Sefirat HaOmer, Zeev Wolf of Zhitomir/Or HaMeir | 1 Comment