The Best Kept Secret
This week's PERCEPTIONS has been dedicated in the merit of Temimah Yael
bas Sarah and Zechariah ben Temimah Yael. May their recovery be quick and
complete, and may the merit of all their chesed and hospitality serve to
protect them from any further illness.
I implored G-d at that time, saying, "My L-rd, G-d, You have begun to
show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand . . ." (Devarim 3:23)
This week is Shabbos Nachamu, the Shabbos of Consolation after Tisha B'Av.
The truth is, today, as I write, it is Sunday, the 29th day of Tammuz, and
tonight is Rosh Chodesh Av. This afternoon I will have to go home and put
on clothing so that I can wear it during the Nine Days, to avoid wearing
freshly laundered clothes as is the halachah for the Nine Days, except for
Shabbos. I am writing about consolation as I go into the final stage of
mourning for the loss of our Temples and our sense of mission in history.
A little strange, is it not?
I am reminded of the words of the Pri Tzaddik, who points out that the
ninth day of Av is the day on which Moshiach is supposed to be born, and
hopefully has already been born some time ago. He reminds us that the
Talmud says that the letter Tes, because it is first used to describe good
is essentially associated with good, even though it represents the number
nine which for us, until the time of Moshiach, represents a day of infamy,
going all the way back in time even to the year before Creation, when the
vessels (pre-Creation Sefiros) broke.
Yet, the good with which the letter Tes is associated is the Ohr HaGanuz,
the holy and sublime light with which G-d made Creation, gave the Torah,
and with which He will bring the Final Redemption. It is, therefore, the
light of nechamah, of consolation, and hence its name, the Ohr HaGanuz
(Hidden Light) for that is what it is on the ninth day of Av each year
until Moshiach comes and becomes its very revelation.
Then, retroactively, like Yosef's brothers, we will see how ALL the
destruction was really just construction all along the way. However, that
does not reduce the suffering along the way, from Ya'akov Avinu who for 22
years lived with the tragedy of his favorite son's alleged death, to all
the billions of Jews who have suffered since then throughout the ages
until this very day. But that is an issue of tikun, of personal and
national rectification, and does not take away from the fact that from the
midst of destruction comes the very basis of redemption.
For example, there is the following famous account from the Talmud:
It happened again that they (Rabban Gamliel, Rebi Elazar ben Azariah, Rebi
Yehoshua, and Rebi Akiva) were going to Jerusalem. When they arrived at
Har HaTzofim (Mt. Scopus), they tore their clothing (as a sign of mourning
over the destruction of the Temple, which could be seen from there). When
they reached the Temple Mount and saw a fox coming out from the place
where the Holy of Holies had been, they began to cry; Rebi Akiva laughed.
They asked him, "Akiva, why do you laugh?"
He answered them, "Why do you cry?"
They said, "If the prophecy concerning the place which the posuk
says, 'The stranger who approaches (the Holy of Holies) will be put to
death' (Bamidbar 1:51), is now fulfilled that, 'For the mountain of Tzion,
which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it' (Eichah 5:18), should we not
He said, "That is precisely why I laugh! It says, 'I will take faithful
witness to record, Uriah HaKohen and Zechariah...' (Yeshayahu 8:2). Now,
why is Uriah mentioned together with Zechariah? The former was from the
time of the First Temple and the latter was from the time of the Second
Temple! It is, therefore, to make the prophecy of Zechariah dependent
upon the prophecy of Uriah. Uriah said, 'Because of you Tzion shall be
plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps' (Michah 3:12).
Zechariah said, 'There shall still sit old men and old women in the
streets of Jerusalem' (Michah 8:4). Now, until the prophecy of Uriah was
fulfilled I was very concerned that the prophecy of Zechariah might not be
fulfilled. However, now that I have seen the fulfillment of Uriah's
prophecy, it is clear that the prophecy of Zechariah will come to be."
Having heard this, they told him, "Akiva, you have consoled us! Akiva,
you have consoled us!" (Makkos 24b)
An amazing story, for a variety of reasons, one of which has EVERYTHING to
do with us, with OUR generation specifically, as we shall now discuss.
Rachel is crying over her children . . . (Yirmiyahu 31:15)
Last week I mentioned an idea from Rabbi Moshe Shapiro, a world-renowned
Torah leader in Jerusalem. He is well known for many things, but he mostly
known for his deep and penetrating insights into Torah and history, in
general. Thus, every Thursday night during the regular zman, over a
hundred men pack into a large room to hang onto every word and thought he
is prepared to transmit.
A friend of mine who attends a different shiur of the rav's, mentioned to
me that his main point this week was that the nechamah of Yerushalayim
(the consolation of Jerusalem) can only come through Sod. And, he used the
above-mentioned account from the Talmud to help make his point.
Many people know of Rebi Akiva as the great Ba'al Teshuvah, the simpleton
who at the age of forty was brave enough to start from scratch and learn
Torah. They know of his great wife, Rachel, who sacrificed invaluable time
with her unlearned husband, not to mention her right to her father's
wealthy estate, to allow Akiva ben Yosef to work hard to join the great
Torah academy of his time, and how her sacrifice ultimately resulted in
him becoming the teacher of 24,000 students. And, many may even be aware
that the Mishnah, eventually recorded by the great Rebi Yehudah HaNassi
usually follows the opinion of Rebi Akiva.
Rebi Akiva had become a giant among the giants.
What they may not know is that Rebi Akiva, at the same time, became one of
the greatest Kabbalists of all time. Whatever Rebi Shimon bar Yochai
revealed and recorded in the tradition called the Zohar, he learned from
Rebi Akiva. It was Rebi Akiva who hid the keys of Kabbalas Ma'asios
(practical Kabbalah), the level of Kabbalah that was behind all the great
miracles mentioned matter-of-factly in the Talmud.
When Moshe Rabbeinu went on top of Har Sinai, and was given a prophetic
glimpse of the future Akiva ben Yosef, he didn't simply say, "Wow, what a
brilliant man. He'll certainly be a help to the Jewish people somewhere
down the line." Rather, he responded with awe and said to G-d:
"You have one such as him, and you still want to give the Torah through
me!?" (Menachos 29b)
In other words, when Moshe Rabbeinu saw Akiva ben Yosef, he saw Akiva
Rabbeinu. And, he wasn't just speaking out of humility either; he
seriously and objectively saw Rebi Akiva to be on a higher spiritual plane
than himself, which at that moment may have been true. For, Moshe's vision
was at the start of the forty days of receiving Torah, not at the end of
the forty years of teaching it.
Thus, the Talmud tells us that of the four rabbis who entered Pardes (the
deep and sublime realm of Sod), only Rebi Akiva entered in peace and came
out in peace (Chagigah 14b). The others either died young, went crazy, or
became a heretic. He was truly a king among kings.
Rabbi Shapiro explained that the Torah of Rebi Akiva was that of the
future, from the realm of Sod. He viewed all of history through the eyes
of Sod, and therefore was able to see beyond the present representation of
reality. Thus, where his colleagues saw doom and gloom, Rebi Akiva saw the
seeds of redemption, and the promise of a brilliant future for the Jewish
people. And, when he shared that vision with his colleagues, they too saw
it and were immediately consoled, because with the help of Sod, everything
finally began to make sense - NOW.
Thus, the Moshe Rabbeinu revealed to Rebi Shimon Bar Yochai:
In the future, Israel will taste from the Tree of Life, the Book of the
Zohar, and will depart from the exile with it in mercy; and through them
will the words [of the verse] be fulfilled: "G-d alone will lead him, and
there was no strange god with him" (Devarim 32:12). And the Tree of
Knowledge of Good and Evil which deals with what is forbidden and
permitted, impure and pure, will no longer [be the] dominant [course of
study] in Israel. Rather, our sustenance will come only from the Tree of
Life (i.e., the Zohar). (Zohar, Ra'aya Mehemna 3:124b)
And, lest one say that is only true of the time during and after Moshiach
arrives, the Zohar expounds:
It is as we have learned: All souls that occupied themselves in this
world in an attempt to know their Creator in the study of the Upper
wisdom, i.e., the secrets of Torah, will elevate themselves to a higher
level which is not [the domain of] the souls who remained ignorant of the
Upper Wisdom, and it is they who will arise from the dead first. (Zohar
No wonder it says:
"Rachel is crying over her children" (Yirmiyahu 31:15), because they are
not involving themselves in this wisdom and the End approaches
rapidly . . . since the arrival of Moshiach depends upon repentance, and
the study of the Zohar and the wisdom of Kabbalah, and her children are
neglecting its study with the exception of "one in each city and two in
every family." For, there is no place set aside for its study in each city
as there is for the study of Talmud. Therefore, its study is neglected and
her children are not luring and expediting the arrival of Moshiach. (Kol
Originally, Rachel cried for her children who were being led into exile
after the destruction of the First Temple. Thank God, we survived that.
However, now, thousands of years and three more exiles later, our mother
cries for a different reason: because her children possess THE key to
bring an end to exile altogether, and usher in Moshiach without any more
suffering, and they are disregarding that power on a daily basis, enduring
more exile, and more suffering instead. Which mother wouldn't cry over
Let me now cross and see the good Land that is on the other side of the
Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon. (Devarim 3:25)
This was Moshe Rabbeinu's final heart-wrenching plea to G-d to allow him
to overcome the punishment pronounced against him when he hit the rock and
lost the right to enter Eretz Yisroel.
What did Moshe Rabbeinu really want? What was he after? A place to retire,
a place to settle down after being on the run for so many decades? Why
would he need that? He was headed for the ultimate retirement village, Gan
Aiden, so why would he settle for a physical paradise that had yet to
achieve its potential? To complete his mission?
After spending so much time and energy on the Jewish people, leading them
out of Egypt to Har Sinai, receiving the Torah on their behalf, enduring
their sins and the punishments that followed, perhaps Moshe Rabbeinu only
wanted to see his mission to its final stage of settling Eretz Yisroel?
Could be, but more than likely he had better things to do where he was
So then what?
Let's begin with the following statement from the Talmud:
Nun Sha'arei Binah (Fifty Gates of Understanding) were created in the
world, and all of them were given to Moshe EXCEPT FOR ONE. (Rosh Hashanah
21b; Nedarim 38a)
And the question is, why? The Talmud answers in the most remarkable way:
Where Ba'alei Teshuvah stand, even the completely righteous cannot stand
there. (Brochos 34b)
And the Pri Tzaddik explains why:
The level of the Fifty Gates of Understanding is the level of knowledge
given to the Ba'al Teshuvah. (Pri Tzaddik, Tu B'Av 6)
And Moshe, being quite perfect from birth, ironically, could never become
a ba'al teshuvah (Pri Tzaddik, Aikev). Yet, Rebi Akiva was one of the most
famous and dedicated ba'alei teshuvah in all of history, and perhaps this
was one advantage of Yehoshua leading the Jewish people into Eretz
Yisroel, as opposed to Moshe himself. For, Yehoshua was Yehoshua BIN NUN,
which means Yehoshua the "son of fifty."
And, regarding Eretz Yisroel it says:
Ten measures of wisdom fell to the world, nine of which fell on Eretz
Yisroel, and one on the rest of the world. (Kiddushin 49b)
The goal of inheriting a portion of Eretz Yisroel has been to help each
Jew find his own portion within Torah Sh'b'al Peh. (Zohar Chadash 2:137b)
The essence of Torah Sh'b'al Peh (Oral Law) is within it. (Pri Tzaddik,
Parashas Massey 4)
There is no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisroel. (Bereishis Rabbah 16)
All of this is by way of the holy light of the Holy One, Blessed is He,
Who emanates His light and makes it dwell on the Western Wall, and from
there it dwells on the Jewish people [and then it spreads out to the rest
of the world] ... (Drushei Olam HaTohu 1:161a)
In Eretz Yisroel only a minor amount of Chavut HaKever is necessary. For
someone born in Eretz Yisroel it is already separate (i.e., spiritually
elevated). (Sha'ar HaGilgulim, Chapter 23, p. 66)
In other words, Eretz Yisroel is the land of the Nun Sha'arei Binah, the
land of Sod, and what Moshe Rabbeinu experienced through death (he died on
Har Nebo, which means nun-bo, or "fifty upon it"), he could have had it in
life had he only crossed the Jordan river as he pleaded to do.
Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to the bitter in
soul. (Mishlei 31:6)
Based upon this posuk, the Talmud draws the following conclusion:
Wine was only created in the world to comfort the mourners and to reward
the evil. (Sanhedrin 70a)
What connection can there possibly be between these two extreme classes of
people? If anything, mourners are victims of bad, whereas evil people are
perpetrators of bad. It is usually the latter who give the former what to
mourn over, G-d forbid!
On the Pshat-level, wine's inebriating affect helps to alleviate some of
the pain the mourner feels, while it serves to provide artificial joy now
for an evil person who will pay for his life later. It is the evil
person's payoff in this world, so that he will have no merit later on to
protect him from the punishing and purifying effects of Gehinnom.
On the Sod-level:
Anyone who becomes settled through wine has the knowledge of his
Creator . . . has the knowledge of the Seventy Elders; wine was given with
seventy letters [Rashi: the gematria of yai'in (wine) is 70], and the
mystery [of Torah] was given with seventy letters [sod (mystery) also
equals 70]. When wine goes in, secrets go out. (Eiruvin 65a)
Indeed, there is one thing that both a mourner and an evil person have in
common, and that is a lack of intellectual clarity. The loss of a dear
one, quite naturally, tends to yank a person out of the big picture of
life and into the smaller, personal picture that can leave him or her
completely disoriented within the society from which they came and must
continue to function.
Very few people in history were ever born inherently evil, and certainly
good people who sin do not really mean to rebel. Indeed, all evil can
usually be traced back to some form of intellectual darkness, some black
hole in the person's understanding of what counts most in life, and why.
That is why Amalek, the gematria of which equals the Hebrew word for
doubt, is Ayin-malak, which means the severance of the Ayin . . . of the
eye . . . of the seventy . . . of the sod.
Thus, after the Jewish people's first victory against Amalek, Moshe
instructed Yehoshua BIN NUN about all future battles against the nemesis
of the Jewish people:
G-d told Moshe, "Write this as a remembrance in the Book and recite it in
the ears (b'aznei) of Yehoshua, that I shall surely erase the memory of
Amalek from under the heavens." (Shemos 17:14)
The gematria of 'b'aznei' is 'sod' (secret), because the war against
Amalek in the beginning is through Sod (Kabbalah). As we explained
already, the work of 'Kibbutz Golios' is the war against Amalek, the way
to neutralize the Sitra Achra in the gates of Jerusalem, and Yehoshua was
designated as Moshiach Ben Yosef [at that time]. (Kol HaTor, Chapter 2,
(Though this work may be controversial to many, though not to Rabbi Chaim
Friedlander who apparently gave his approbation to the version I have
within my possession. I can verify that this is consistent with other
words of the Vilna Gaon, and certainly with respect to Kabbalah in
This may be a little avant garde for many, but then again so has every
change undergone in the Torah world as a result of a crisis. We have been,
for the most part, reactionary, responding to the needs of the times that
we did not dictate, and that we have been unable to control. A lot of the
changes we make have not been the kind that we would have chosen had we
been consulted [by Heaven] when making decisions about the direction of
But, maybe we're more behind the times than we know:
Know that it was the decree of G-d's wisdom, may He be blessed, that the
book of the Zohar would not be divulged and publicized until the
generation of Rebi Shimon bar Yochai, and only through him, may he rest in
peace. A decree was made in Heaven that after the generation of Rebi
Shimon bar Yochai and his son Rebi Elazar, this wisdom should not be
studied publicly until the final generation - that of Moshiach Ben Dovid.
And this is what we find in the Tikunim in many places, that the secrets
will not be revealed until the generation of the coming of Moshiach.
Elsewhere it says that in the merit of Rebi Shimon bar Yochai's circle,
Melech Moshiach will be revealed . . . (Ohr HaChamah, Introduction)
That's fine. There are many quotes regarding the Final Generation, those
Jews who merit to be alive when after almost six millennia, Moshiach Ben
Dovid finally arrives. The question is, though, who is that infamous Final
Generation, and how do we know? So, Rav Avraham Azulai continued:
I have found written that what was decreed in Heaven, that the True Wisdom
(i.e., the Zohar) should not be studied in public, was only for a
specified period of time until 5250, and from that time on would be
considered the Final Generation, at which time the decree would be
annulled, and permission would be given to study the Zohar. From 5300 on,
it is among the foremost deeds to study [Zohar] in public, old and young
alike, as is mentioned in the Ra'aya Mehemna. And since it is due to this
merit that Melech Moshiach will come and not to anything else, it is not
befitting to be careless [in its study]. (Ibid.)
What can I tell you, but don't shoot me; I'm only the messenger. And know
that consolation only comes through Sod, through the Tree of Life, from
seeing the Big Picture with your mind's eye.
Have a great Shabbos, and be consoled.
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.