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Evil Crouching at the Door
The Zohar
From the teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai; translation and commentary by Shmuel-Simcha Treister, based on Metok MiDevash

"And Jacob sent angels before him to Esau his brother, to the red fields of the country Seir."(Gen. 32:4)

Rabbi Yehuda opened his discourse with the verse:
"For He will give command of His angels to you, to look after you wherever you will go."(Psalms 91:11)

This verse has been explained by the Companions to mean that at the time when a person comes into the world the Yetzer Hara is already waiting for him.

"Evil Inclination" is the typical translation of " Yetzer Hara". The root of the word "yetzer" is "to create" and refers to how a person's animal drives try to demand "needs" at any particular time.

The Yetzer Hara is constantly ready to entrap a person into doing wrong and then goes to prosecute him in the spiritual world. This is the meaning of the verse "Sin [in Hebrew, 'chatat'] crouches at the door, ready to pounce."(Gen. 4:7) What is it that crouches, waiting to pounce, as soon as a person emerges from his mother into this world? It is the Yetzer Hara. King David also refers to the Yetzer Hara as "Chatat", as he says, "And my sins [in Hebrew, 'chatati'] are always before me"(Psalms 51:5). The Yetzer Hara is constantly ready, every day, to cause a person to do wrong in the eyes of G‑d, and he doesn't leave a person from the time he is born.

Now the Yetzer Tov[Good Inclination] comes to a [male] person when he reaches the age of 13 [and to girls at age 12], which is the age that a person is able to purify himself and connect to his spiritual roots by performing mitzvot. At that age, when a person is obligated to perform mitzvot, the Yetzer Tov comes to assist him, and the two inclinations join up with the person, the Yetzer Tov on his right and the Yetzer Hara on his left. These two inclinations are actually angels - pure spiritual forces - and they are charged with protecting the person from anything that could harm him. They never leave a person.

If he decides to purify himself and return to his spiritual roots, then the Yetzer Hara submits to the Yetzer Tov, and the inclination to do good rules over the inclination to do bad. Both of them join together by mutual agreement to guard the person from doing bad wherever he goes. This is why the verse says, "He will give command of His angels to you, to look after you wherever you will go." The angels referred to are the two inclinations and when a person decides to strengthen his good inclination over his bad inclination then the bad inclination, even against its will, says "Amen".

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Just Do Something
By Tzvi Freeman

You have to do something. What you choose is not the issue. Neither are all the neat little tricks and conniving.

All that really matters is that you do your job honestly and as best you can using the talents and skills with which your Creator blessed you.

As He blessed you with those talents, so He will bless you in whatever you do.

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II SAMUEL CHAPTER 9


The rabbis advised to "be careful of the government, because they only reach out to a person to serve their own need and appear to show him love only so long as they have benefit from him but do not stand up for him in his hour of hardship" (Avos 2:3). King David showed himself a notable exception to this mode of government, displaying his truly royal nature in searching for any surviving members of the House of Saul that he might be able to help despite the fact that he had nothing whatever to gain from showing them favor.

David remained loyal to the covenant he had struck with Jonathan at the very beginning of their acquaintance (I Samuel 18:1-3) and which had been renewed several times with both Jonathan (I Samuel 23:18) and Saul himself, to whom David had promised that he would never cut off his seed (I Samuel 24:21-2).

Tzeeva, the "servant of the House of Saul" whom David called for information about surviving members of Saul's family, evidently had the status of EVED KENA'ANI, a "Canaanite slave", who according to the law of the Torah remains a slave unless his master frees him and who is part of his master's estate, passing on his death into the possession of his inheritors (see Leviticus 25:44-6 and RaDaK on II Samuel 9:2). Unless he or she is freed, the Canaanite slave is not permitted to marry a free Israelite and enter the Kahal ("Assembly", but is nevertheless a member of the Covenant and is bound by all of the commandments that Israelite women are obliged to fulfill. (Thus the Canaanite slave must observe Shabbos, eat kosher, share in the Paschal lamb, etc. but does not wear Tefilin or pray the set daily prayer services etc.)

With the death of Saul and his three sons in the war against the Philistines and the subsequent assassination of his fourth son, Ish-bosheth, the only male survivor of Saul's house was the son of his first-born Jonathan – Mephibosheth -- who had been a small child at the time of the Philistine war and who while being evacuated by his nursemaid had fallen and injured both legs, leaving him permanently lame (II Samuel 4:4, see RaDaK there). His lameness is symbolic of the collapse of Saul's house.

It appears that Saul's family estate now legally belonged to king David because Saul's son Ish-bosheth was MOREID BE-MALCHUS, a "traitor against the kingship", since with Avner's encouragement he had acted as king despite the fact that all Israel knew that Samuel had anointed David to be king after Saul. Under Torah law, the estate of a traitor falls to the crown, and thus David's kindness to Mephibosheth lay in returning the estate to the family, which he was not legally obliged to do (see RaDaK on v 7). David thus appointed Tzeeva as APOTROPUS ("adult executor" or "guardian" over Saul's estate for the benefit of the young Mephibosheth. Tzeeva and Mephibosheth will enter the narrative again in II Samuel ch 16.

CHAPTER 10


After the death of Nahash king of Ammon, David wanted to "practice kindness" with his son Hanoon – i.e. to send a delegation to comfort him in his mourning – because "his father practiced kindness with me" (v 2). Nahash's "kindness" to David lay in taking in the one member of his family who survived when the king of Moab killed all the others after David had taken them there when he fled from Saul (I Samuel 22:1-6; see Rashi on II Samuel 10:2).

The Torah commands Israel not to seek out the peace and goodness of the Ammonites or Moabites "all your days forever" (Deut. 23:7) because far from hospitably coming out with bread and water to help their Israelite cousins in their journey from Egypt through the wilderness to their land, they even hired the Aramean Bilaam to come and curse them.

The rabbis criticized David for showing kindness to those who were intrinsically unkind, pointing out that it led only to a humiliation for David and his delegation that escalated into a full scale war (see RaDaK on ch 10 v 2). [Similarly, contemporary attempts to appease angry terrorists and their supporters have only led to escalating terror and violence.]

The new Ammonite king's advisors convinced him that David – whom they presumably perceived as a menacing expansionist – was seeking to spy on them in order to prepare to incorporate them into his growing empire.

In view of the history of Jewish costume in the last few hundred years, it is interesting to note that the humiliation which the Ammonites chose to inflict on the Israelite delegation was to shave off their beards and cut their garments in half over the buttocks. Similarly, in 19th century Germany, the first acts carried out by Jews wanting to dissociate themselves from traditional European Jewish culture were the removal of their beards and the drastic shortening of their coats, turning them into jackets that barely covered their buttocks, earning for Jews of German origin until today the nickname of YEKERS ("short jackets".

Realizing that their blatant provocation of David was likely to elicit a very firm-handed military response, the Ammonites repeated their ancestral ploy of calling in help from Aram. Since the times of Bilaam, the Aramean clans had spread westwards from Mesopotamia into the territories of modern-day Syria and Lebanon, and the Ammonites summoned Aramean mercenaries from there to attack David's forces from the rear when they advanced against the capital city of Ammon.

HOW DAVID'S MEN MADE WAR

The serious military crisis in which David's commander-in-chief Joab found himself in the war with the Arameans and Israel's other enemies is reflected in Psalm 60. The Ammonites intended to coordinate with the Arameans in order to stage a pincer attack on the Israelite forces, who saw the war closing in on them "from in front and from behind" (v 9). It is noteworthy that Joab did not merely raise his hands to God and hope for the best: first he carried out his HISHTADLUS ("effort in the world of practical action", dividing the Israelite forces into two, sending his brother Avishai against Ammon while he himself marched against the Arameans, who because of their numbers and training were the more serious threat. Only after making a pact of mutual support with Avishai (v 11) and giving him a powerful "pep talk" on being courageous "for the sake of our people" (that they should not be captured) and "for the sake of the cities of our God" (that they should not be sacked) did Joab then entrust the outcome of their efforts into the hands of God (v 12).

This trusting believer's way of making war met with a positive outcome, and the Arameans fled from Joab while the Ammonites fled from Avishai (v 13-14). Hadad-ezer, the king of Aram Tzova (in the BIK'A of Lebanon) now sent for Aramean reinforcements from east of the Euphrates, but David went out against them with the entire Israelite army and forced the Arameans into submission (v 19). This gave David's kingdom supremacy in the entire region, opening the way for the conditions of peace in which the future builder of God's Temple in Jerusalem could be born through the mysterious chain of events that is the subject of the ensuing chapters.

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The Sinew That Keeps On Taking


Therefore, the Bnei Yisrael do not eat the gid hanasheh…to this day.[1]

The 613 mitzvos are often seen as corresponding to the 248 body parts and its 365 sinews. This structure, which we see manifested in the human form, only starts there. It is expressed as well, says the Raavad in his commentary to Sefer Yetzirah, in three different realms: those of the macrocosm, time, and the inner self. In the realm of time, the 365 show themselves as the days of the solar year. One sinew – the gid hanasheh – corresponds to Tisha B’Av. While the other sinews function to engage kedushah frontally and directly, the gid hanasheh’s role is retrograde. It therefore is the locus to which kelipos can attach themselves. In consequence, Tisha B’Av is the day that permits like no other the nations to have some place in the yearly calendar, and to wield power over Am Yisrael. Therefore, the pattern of catastrophic displays of non-Jewish dominance over us on that day: the destruction of both Temples, the conquest of Beitar, the plowing over of the destroyed Yerushalayim. (Tisha B’Av is the opposite of Yom Kippur – a day of so much kedushah that it overflows into the entire year. On that day, even Soton has no power over us.)

Our pasuk hints at this. “Therefore, the Bnei Yisrael do not eat את/es gid hanasheh.” The word את as an acronym stands for תשעה אב.

When the Torah speaks of a man’s wrestling – vayei’avek – with Yaakov,[2] it uses a grammatical form that denotes continuous action. The dust-up between Yaakov and his adversary did not end that morning. The Soton/yetzer hora never ceases his accusations against Yisrael, nor his attempts to distance it from HKBH. The struggle will only cease with alos hashachar/the dawning of a new day. Then, the bright and clear light of Am Yisrael, deriving from the imminent messianic age, will begin to break through. The world will be purged of all its tum’ah; all of its kedushah will become clarified and visible. As Amalek is drained of its strength, the relationship between Klal Yisrael and its Creator will be “face-to-face” – direct and clear – rather than in a more backhanded manner.

When Esav’s angel injured Yaakov’s gid hanasheh, he established his ability to wage war with Klal Yisrael. All galus, both national and personal, stems from this power. The latter means that the neshamah is estranged from its Creator. Darkness blankets the ohr of comprehension. Completeness of daas – such as that which we experienced at the giving of the Torah – is therefore lacking. The profound understanding that we experienced there retreated into the kelipos. We are denied this daas until the same alos hashachar, when it will be liberated from its own exile.

Only then will we be restored to the direct and clear relationship with Hashem. “Face to face Hashem spoke with you at the mountain.”[3] May it happen soon, in our days!

Bereishis 32:33 ↑
Bereishis 32:25 ↑
Devarim 5:4 ↑

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Gid Ha-Nasheh
by R. Gidon Rothstein

The prohibition of gid ha-nasheh, the last of the mitzvot laid out in Bereshit, ostensibly comes because of the story in this week’s parsha, Ya’akov wrestling with an angel and being wounded in his hip (according to Sefaria, the hip being taken out of its socket). Sefaria also translates gid ha-nasheh to mean “thigh muscle,” where I grew up hearing it called the sciatic nerve. Let’s see what our sources tell us.

Rambam, Prohibition 183, defines the mitzvah sparely, not to eat the gid ha-nasheh, cites 32;32 (therefore, the children of Israel do not eat the gid ha-nasheh, etc.), and adds the prohibition is fully violated by eating an entire such gid, no matter how small (Minhat Hinuch explains it counts as a biryah, an entire item, and many prohibitions recognize entire items as enough to violate the prohibition despite their small size), or an olive’s worth of a larger one.

Sefer Ha-Hinuch 3 assumes we might have thought the verse was telling us a fact rather than obligating a practice, was telling us Ya’akov’s descendants chose not to eat this part of animals because of what happened to their forefather. It is not, it is a prohibition God instituted.

The Gid Foreshadows Suffering and Survival

Sefer Ha-Hinuch reads the mitzvah to be a hint to the Jewish people of the troubles they will suffer in their various future exiles, beset at some point by all nations, including Esav. Ya’akov’s experience is supposed to instill confidence in us that we will not be destroyed . There will always be a Jewish people, who will eventually be redeemed. Memory of this truth will fortify Jews to remain within the religion.

The hint depends on the traditional assumption the angel who fought with Ya’akov was the sar, the protective angel, of Esav, who wanted to remove Ya’akov and his whole family from the world, but could not and instead injured his thigh. So, too, the descendants of Esav will damage the Jewish people, who will nonetheless be saved at the end. Like with Ya’akov, who suffered, but then had the sun shine for him and heal his pain.

. It would have been a more easily generalizable lesson had he not thrown in the idea this was Esav’s angel, said only it symbolized the troubles of the Jewish people. Part of this same point, I think, is that symbolism is always uncertain, is open to many other options.

Second, his assumption that the angel strove to remove Ya’akov from the world implies a much greater freewill for angels than I would have thought. Last for now, to consider throughout our discussion: if the Torah seeks to remind us of something, it seems odd to lodge that memory in a mitzvah that has almost always been performed by professionals, those who slaughter our meat for us and then give it back. I suppose in the times when people bought animals and then brought it to a shohet, they would have a clearer experience of the gid being removed, but for most of us, it is almost a non-event.]

Fitting for a symbolic act, though, Sefer Ha-Hinuch has a short list of dinim, rules, for the mitzvah, which he directs us to the seventh chapter of Hullin to learn more fully: how much into the animal we must dig to remove the gid fully, what animals’ gid are included, and who we can trust to remove it properly.

The Rules of Gid, More Fully Presented

In Yoreh De’ah 68;12, Aruch Ha-Shulhan rules the prohibition applies to hayyot, non-domesticated animals (also not eligible for sacrifice), as well as behemot, the usual kosher ones, cows, sheep, goats. Kosher animals not successfully slaughtered (terefot , bearers of a wound that makes kosher slaughter impossible, or nevelot, animals that died without or with invalid shechitah) retain this prohibition, the non-kosher death not enough to remove the gid ha-nasheh issue.

There is no problem of gid ha-nasheh in non-kosher animals, since the whole animal may not be eaten. Nor is it a factor with birds, who do not have the hip socket where the gid is found.

In paragraph thirteen, Aruch Ha-Shulhan mentions one of the more puzzling aspects of the mitzvah, that we assume gid ha-nasheh has no taste, I think unique among eating proscriptions. More, Aruch Ha-Shulhan thinks that’s the reason gid ha-nasheh also stays when an animal is a nevelah or terefah, despite not really being food (food has taste). Minhat Hinuch points out this means mixtures with an unidentified gid ha-nasheh only need a majority to nullify it. The idea of sixty was to overcome the taste of the problematic item.

For us, it deepens the question of the reason the Torah banned it, since it only counts as food because of the Torah’s paying attention to it.

A Reason for the Mitzvah?

The laws of the gid ha-nasheh seem to me to make clear this is more of an eating prohibition than a memory one, as Sefer Ha-Hinuch argued. True, we have eating mitzvot about memory, but those memories mostly accompany acts of eating, such as matzah on Pesah. Especially since we conclude gid ha-nasheh has no taste, the prohibition on eating calls for explanation.

Still, any reason we would build must also focus on the precipitating incident, an angel attacking Ya’akov, being defeated by him, yet leaving him wounded in the process. Because of it, the wounded body part becomes off-limits to us, in all our eatings.

The eating part suggests to me there is a message about our physicality, in contrast to angels and, le-havdil, God. We remember when our forefather interacted with an angel, and did not walk away whole. Because we essentially physical beings need to know, however great we become, we will not overcome our physicality, and if we interact with non-physical beings, we will not walk away whole. As we eat—a particularly human activity—we are to remember our physicality, and the care we need to take when we approach the metaphysical and, beyond that, the divine.