The HoneyMOON Begins
By Rabbi Pinchas Winston
G-d spoke to Moshe and Aharon in the Land of Egypt saying, "This
month will be the first of the months for you . . ." (Shemos 12:1-2)
Here comes Parashas Bo! Here come the mitzvos!
As Rashi points out all the way back at the beginning of the Torah,
the first mitzvah the Jewish people receive as a nation is the
positive mitzvah to sanctify the new moon. It is a mitzvah that has
the Jewish people establishing the new month based upon the actual
sighting of the new moon, when the nation lives in Eretz Yisroel and
the Sanhedrin still functions.
The moon is one of those things in life that if you don't know
better, you will think that it isn't all that significant. However,
just the fact that the Jewish people are compared to the moon (Succah
29a), is reason enough to wonder if it is special, or at least
represents something special.
The moon first made it onto the international scene on Day Four of
creation when G-d went about making the "Great Luminaries" to light
up the day and the evening sky. According to the Midrash, originally
the moon was equal in brilliance to the sun, but after questioning
the value in having "two kings who wear the same crown," G-d solved
that problem by reducing the light of the moon to what it is today
(Chullin 60b). The moral of the story: Be happy with your portion
and don't be jealous of others.
How true. It is an eternal lesson for sure. However, it is not
really what is going on over here, and certainly such a moral does
not justify G-d giving the Jewish people a mitzvah to sanctify the
new moon right off the bat, even before we arrived at the place
necessary to execute the mitzvah itself. If we let Kabbalah have its
says, then we can end up with a new appreciation of the new month,
which is about to be upon us, G-d willing, may it come only for good.
Imagine a classroom made up of two levels of students, one group
being made up of "A-students" and one group made up of "C-students."
The natural tendency of the A-students will be to associate with one
another only, and form their own exclusive group. This, of course,
will be to the detriment of the lower-grade group which, lacking an
example of excellence will most likely under-achieve in school.
The teacher, however, finds the situation unacceptable knowing that
the C-students are capable of achieving much more if motivated by a
good example. Therefore, in order to rectify the situation he
decides to approach an A-student and request that he associate with
the C-students in order to motivate and inspire them.
There will be resistance for sure on the part of the A-student, who
can only see it as everything but beneficial for himself. However,
being the loyal student that he is, he accepts his teacher's
recommendation and moves his desk and life to the side of the
C-students'. He knows that he can never really feel that comfortable
with the shift, and that at times he might even feel "violated" to
Nevertheless, it is a sacrifice imposed upon him for the betterment
of the society for which the world was ultimately created, though he
yearns for the day that he can be amongst his own - that all of the
students can be amongst his own. In the meantime, it is his job to
make it work, and that is what he intends to do while in the
situation he has found himself.
What does this have to do with the moon and the Jewish people you are
asking? Everything! All we have to do is put all the proper
characters into their corresponding roles in the analogy, and we will
begin to understand two of the deepest and most profound concepts in
the Zohar HaKodesh: Mi-ute HaLavanah and Shechinah b'Golus - the
reduction of the moon's light and the exile of the Divine Presence -
in the next d'var Torah.
". . . It will be the first month of the year for you." (Shemos 12:2)
There is a concept in Torah called, "yeridah tzorech aliyah" - a
going down that is for the sake of going up. It is one of those
phenomenon in life that is so universal that all societies seem to
have taken note of it and have described it in their own terms.
It is not that a person should intentionally allow himself to
spiritually fall with the intention of getting up again and growing
higher. It often doesn't work when we plan it that way; too many
people in such a predicament end up staying down.
However, when the yeridah is unintentional, thrust upon us by one
circumstance or another, then it can end up having a positive
outcome. It can be like two friends or even spouses who have a rift,
but who become even closer after resolving it.
Nowhere is this concept more true than by the Malchus of Atzilus.
The Malchus of what?
The Malchus of ATZILUS.
What's an Atzilus? What's a Malchus?
The Malchus of Atzilus is just one of the many spiritual levels - the
tenth one in the spiritual realm called "Atzilus" - that separates
man from G-d for our own good. This is because the light of "Ain
Sof" (Without End), the name we give the light of G-d, is so
spiritually overwhelming that physical man could never withstand
exposure to it in its pure or even close-to-pure form.
Therefore, G-d put into place different levels of spiritual "filters"
to reduce the light as it emanates from Ain Sof to man, without which
life could not go on - not even for a nanosecond. The Malchus of
Atzilus is one such level within a very elaborate system of spiritual
filters designed to allow the light of G-d to come down according to
the needs of creation, man, and history.
However, as one would suspect, the higher up one spiritually climbs,
the holier the levels become. In fact, at some point, the levels of
light must become so holy that evil can no longer exist and
everything must be, by definition, G-dly. Indeed, there must even be
a point in the spiritual realm at which the INTRINSIC G-dliness
ceases to manifest itself for all intents-and-purposes. That point
is called the Malchus of Atzilus.
Seeing that the Malchus of Atzilus is the hand-off point for the
light of G-d to the lower, lesser G-dly worlds within which we live
at this stage of history - light without which we would cease to
exist - it is "Her" light that is said to have left its Heavenly
Abode and descended completely for the benefit of the lower worlds.
She went down so that we can go up.
However, we can't go up unless it is with her light, and one of the
main points of all that we do in life is to cause her light to return
to its rightful place in the sublime and G-dly spiritual world of
Atzilus. When we learn Torah, do mitzvos and perform good deeds, we
spiritually buoy the light of the Malchus of Atzilus upwards towards
its ultimate place Above.
We'll know when we've done this because the world will simply become
a better and more spiritual place; evil will go up like smoke.
What about the moon in all of this? The light of the Malchus of
Atzilus is considered Kabbalistically, to be the spiritual source of
the light of the moon. The fact that it had to emanate down into the
lower worlds all the way from the beginning of creation is called
"Mi-ute Halavanah" - the reduction of the moon's light, the real
story behind that Midrash.
Thus, there really was no better time to deliver the mitzvah of
Kiddush HaChodesh - the Sanctification of the New Moon - to the
Jewish nation, a nation that is compared to the moon, which is
compared to the light of the Malchus of Atzilus. Rectify one of
them, and you rectify them all, and bring ALL of creation to
G-d said to Moses, "Come to Pharaoh . . ." (Shemos 10:1)
There are a lot of bizarre things that happen throughout the
redemption story. However, that doesn't bother us because they only
emphasize the Divine Providence in all that occurred, as Dovid
HaMelech taught, "This is from G-d, that which is wondrous in our
eyes." (Tehillim 118:23)
One of the things that stands out is the honor that Moshe and Aharon
continued to show Paroah from the beginning until the very end:
Command the Children of Israel and Paroah, King of Egypt . . . (Shemos 6:13)
PAROAH KING OF EGYPT: He commanded them to speak to him with honor. (Rashi)
The question is why? It certainly wasn't because Moshe and Aharon
were afraid to anger Paroah, since they were acting as the vehicles
to systematically destroy Egypt. Do you also have to worry about
being polite in front of evil people in order to sanctify the Name of
The following provides an insight into what was really going on:
The Torah commands us to show honor and to flatter the Sitra Achara
(literally, "Other Side"), for the sake of the holiness that was
hidden within it from before G-d made creation, as The Holy One,
Blessed is He, commanded Moshe and Aharon to speak to Paroah with
honor (Rashi, Shemos 6:13). The Sitra Achara, knowing that the honor
it receives is because of the holiness from its side, pursues after
the Sitra d'Taharah (Pure Side) like a monkey after a man. (Sefer
This is a phenomenal concept that is VERY difficult to appreciate,
but from which comes a VERY important lesson. Look at the
sensitivity! How easy it is to forget that even an evil person could
not live if it wasn't for the Holy Spark within him, especially when
he abuses it by using it to fulfill his evil goals. Even Moshe and
Aharon had to be reminded to show Paroah respect, not because of
Paroah himself, but because of the Holy Spark to which he played host.
If this is true of evil people, how much more so must it be true for
people who try to be good, and even more so for people who are good.
For, when it comes to human beings, what you see is not what you get,
since all we can see is the body, and not the many Holy Sparks
This helps to explain why G-d stopped the angels from singing praise
upon the drowning of the Egyptians at the Red Sea (Megillah 10b).
They thought that the elimination of evil people from the world was a
completely good thing and cause for Heavenly celebration.
However, G-d informed them otherwise, and told them to cease singing
immediately. Those weren't just Egyptians being tossed around in the
sea below, they were bodies that contained Holy Sparks, though far
fewer than holy people might contain. This is why G-d would rather
see the evil person repent than to destroy him, for the sake of the
Holy Sparks within him.
We may have difficulty honoring some people in this world, but we
have to remember that whatever it is we see on the outside, there are
Holy, Heavenly sparks on the inside worthy of our respect.
Chanukah & The Wonderful World of Thirty-Six Installment #7, Chapter Six, Part Two: The Tribes of Israel
Yehudah had married a wife who bore him three children, Er, Onan, and
Shelah. The oldest son, Er, married Tamar, a righteous woman (she
had been the daughter of Noach's son, Shem; Bereishis Rabbah 85:11).
However, Er was not so righteous and deserved death from Heaven.
After he died and left his wife childless, Yehudah told Onan to marry
his brother's wife in order to prevent the end of his dead son's
name, the mitzvah of Yibum.
However, Onan was more like his brother than his sister-in-law, and
he too angered G-d and deserved death. After Onan died, Yehudah was
worried that Shelah too might suffer the same fate if he married
Tamar. He instead instructed her to return to her father's house for
a while until Shelah was older.
Time passed and even though Shelah was now of an age to marry Tamar,
Yehudah did not arrange it. Knowing that her fate lay with Yehudah's
family, Tamar took the initiative to complete the process that
Yehudah had started many years before.
Dressed as a harlot to attract Yehudah, Tamar positioned herself at
the crossroads near the place Avraham used to live, a place she knew
every passerby stopped to visit. Yehudah noticed her, but recognized
her only as a harlot and passed her by. But Heaven knew who she
really was and asked, "From which union will kings arise if not from
this one?" (Bereishis Rabbah 85:8).
Thus, even against his will, Yehudah was drawn towards the veiled
Tamar. In a sense, it was another act of "measure-for-measure," for
one who does not recognize the hand of G-d becomes a pawn in His
master plan. Had Yehudah been more keenly aware of Divine
Providence, he might have noticed that something unique was happening.
A deal was struck between Yehudah and Tamar for her hire: One kid
goat from the flock. In the meantime, Yehudah was to leave his
signet ring, his cloak and his staff as a pledge until he could make
good on his word. Yehudah later went on his way, unaware that, min
hashamayim Tamar had conceived a child who would be the ancestor of
Dovid HaMelech, and eventually Melech Moshiach.
After Yehudah returned home, he sent the kid goat he had promised in
exchange for the pledge he had left behind. The "harlot," however,
was nowhere to be found. Afraid that further pursuit of her would
lead to humiliation, Yehudah left well enough alone and went on with
Three months later Yehudah was informed that Tamar was pregnant.
Being the daughter of a priest (Shem), she was punishable by death,
and the necessary arrangements were made to carry out her execution
by burning. In the meantime, Tamar said nothing to reveal the father
of her children (she was pregnant with twins).
At the last moment, Tamar sent the signet ring, cloak and staff to
Yehudah saying, "The man to whom these things belong, he is the one
who made me pregnant." Tamar reasoned that if Yehudah admitted that
they belonged to him, then she would be saved. However, if he chose
to remain silent, then she was prepared to die with her secret.
But Yehudah did not remain silent:
Yehudah recognized the ring, cloak, and staff, and said, "She is more
righteous than I am. She did this, because I did not give her to
Shelah my son." (Bereishis 38:26)
Thus, Tamar was saved from a fiery death, and Yehudah was forced to
admit his error. But more importantly, the Master of the Universe
brought creation one step closer to the light of Melech Moshiach with
the birth of Peretz.
In the meantime, back in Egypt, the "bear" hunted Yosef. Time after
time, the wife of Potiphar sought Yosef, but to no avail. On one
occasion, after Yosef refused his master's wife, she accused him of
attacking her. To save face, Potiphar had no choice but to heed his
wife and put Yosef in jail. This seemed a downturn in events as
prison was a far cry from the lifestyle Yosef had enjoyed in the
house of Potiphar. However, this too had been for the good - an
important stepping-stone along the path to the heights of power in
In prison, Yosef also earned the respect of his new master, the
prison warden. In the meantime, Divine Providence had Paroah's chief
butler and wine steward thrown into the same cell as Yosef, and both
servants dreamed. The next morning they sought out a dream
interpreter and Yosef availed himself to explain the meaning of their
dreams. For the wine steward, he interpreted favorably, predicting a
return to his former glory. For the baker, however, he predicted
The seeds planted to free him from prison had begun to sprout.
Up until that point, Yosef had performed well ascribing his ability
to interpret dreams to G-d Himself. But now Yosef added words that
cost him two extra years in prison. He told the wine steward:
When things go well for you, please do a kindness for me and mention
me to Paroah, and have me released from this prison. I was kidnapped
from the land of the Hebrews. Here also I did nothing, and yet they
placed me in this pit. (Bereishis 40:14)
But later the verse says,
And the chief wine steward did not remember Yosef and forgot him.
FORGOT HIM: Because Yosef depended upon him to remember him, he had
to spend two extra years [in prison]. (Rashi)
One might ask: Did not Yosef make a simple effort to free himself
from prison? Was his effort so unreasonable as to constitute a
violation of trust in G-d? Some answer this question by stating that
as Yosef haTzadik, he should not have even made such a simple
request; on his level of spiritual greatness, it was enough to trust
However, perhaps Yosef's error was something different. After all,
why did Yosef feel compelled to explain how he arrived in prison,
revealing that he was kidnapped and falsely accused? Was not all of
that min hashamayim and therefore for the good?
Perhaps, as much as Yosef knew and understood that, it had not been
as real to him as it ought to have been. Now, the two extra years in
prison made the hand of G-d in his life even more apparent than
before, and they prepared him to be the vehicle to teach this central
theme of, "everything originates from Heaven," to his brothers who
still grappled with the issue.
After the two years had finally passed, Paroah also dreamed his
famous dream. He dreamed of seven thin cows that consumed seven
healthy cows, and of seven poor stalks that consumed seven healthy
stalks. Conveniently, no one in the entire kingdom was able to
interpret the dream to Paroah's satisfaction, which reminded the wine
steward of a young Jew in prison who had a knack for interpreting
Apparently, after thirteen years of being on the way down, the time
had finally come to fulfill Yosef's boyhood dream of becoming a ruler.
As the Torah relates, Yosef so satisfactorily interpreted Paroah's
dreams, that Paroah saw in him wisdom beyond his years and the help
of Heaven. For this reason, he elevated Yosef from prisoner to
Second-in-Command, which is exactly where he had to be to drive the
message of Chanukah home to his brothers. Paroah called him, Tzafnas
Pa'aneach (Bereishis 41:45) which means the "(man through whom) the
hidden is revealed." (Rashi, Onkeles)
As Yosef had interpreted, Egypt enjoyed seven years of plenty that
were followed by years of terrible famine. However, the famine was
not confined to Egypt; Canaan too ran out of food and the brothers
were forced to go to Egypt in search of food that Yosef had stored
during the years of plenty. The stage was set for the dramatic
confrontation between Yosef and his brothers, who had not seen him
for twenty-two years.
The entire famine that affected all the nations of the world at that
time was to bring the brothers down to Egypt in search of food, in
order to resolve their conflict. The entire history of the Jewish
people depended upon this resolution, for it was to prepare the way
for the light of the Moshiach, and the entire history of the world
for that matter. And once they arrived, and Yosef took note of their
arrival, the process of resolution accelerated towards its climax.
Yosef saw his brothers and recognized them, and acted as a stranger
towards them, speaking harshly, 'From where did you come?' They
answered, 'From Canaan, in search of food.' Yosef recognized them,
but they did not recognize him. (Bereishis 42:7)
Since they never saw the potential in Yosef to ever become what he
had become . . . since they never saw the hand of G-d in his dreams
and in all that occurred . . . because they only looked at the
surface, which blinded them to that which was hidden.
And Yosef remembered his dreams that he had dreamed and said to them,
"You are spies who have come to see where the land is vulnerable!"
The accusation shocked the brothers, who took it at face value. They
were caught off guard and put on the defensive, forced to clear their
names. Had they been accustomed to looking beyond the surface for
the truth, they may have broken Yosef's code. They may have caught
on that Yosef, by accusing them of being "meraglim," was in fact
revealing his hidden identity.
Meraglim (mem-raish-gimmel-lamed-yud-mem) is an acronym for "m'immi
Rachel genavtem, l'Midianim Yishmaeling mecartem" - from my mother
Rachel you stole me, to the Midianties and Arabs you sold me. (Bris
Perhaps Yosef was testing them to see if their perspectives had
changed. The fact that they could not understand his clue indicated
that they had not, and therefore Yosef embarked upon a course that
would dramatically disturb his brothers and eventually shock them
into seeing the truth. As Yosef knew, there was no other way to
correct what they had done wrong and to put Jewish history back on
On the defensive, the brothers felt compelled to tell Yosef about
their family, which is what he wanted. This set the stage to bring
Binyomin down to Egypt and replay the incident of the sale of Yosef.
The brothers were given their supplies and the second oldest brother,
Shimon, was kept as a guarantee that they would return with Binyomin,
Yosef's brother from the same mother, to verify their story. The
rest of the brothers were free to return, for as Yosef said,
I fear G-d. (Bereishis 42:18)
Another clue, perhaps.
The events of what had just occurred hit the brothers like a
nightmare, which made the hand of G-d ever more obvious:
Each man said to his brother, "This is happening because we are
transgressors, because we saw the suffering of our brother [Yosef
twenty-two years earlier] and how he pleaded with us, yet we did not
pay attention to him." (Bereishis 42:21)
However, it wasn't until they reached the inn on their way back to
Canaan, that they really felt like fugitives:
They loaded the food onto their donkeys and left. One of them opened
his sack to feed his donkeys at an inn and saw his money at the top
of his pack. Each one said to his brother, 'My money [with which I
paid for the food] has been returned!' 'It's in my pack!' Their
hearts sank. 'What is this that G-d has done to us?' they asked
each other with trembling voices. (Bereishis 42:26)
In spite of this, it still did not occur to them that Yosef was
behind everything. Their perspective did not permit them to see the
hidden. In the meantime, they returned home to their father Ya'akov,
who was still mourning the loss of Yosef - another sign that Yosef
was still alive. They related what had happened, and delivered the
horrible news that another son was missing.
Though they were prepared to return to Egypt to free Shimon by
presenting their youngest brother as proof of their plea of
innocence, Ya'akov would have nothing of it. Binyomin was the only
remaining son of the wife he loved most (Rachel, Yosef's mother), who
had died at age thirty-six. Why place this son in jeopardy?