I bought 2 sets of Tefillin 1 for me and 1 for X ..for X’s bar mitzvah, supposedly the best of the best! About 3- 6 months later a Mekubal tells me to change my Tefillin… I change mine and X’s. What can I do with the supposedly “the best of the best”?
I get an email like this at least once a week. Which is rather sad. My first piece of advice, is to use your expensive Tefillin until you KNOW that they are not Kosher. Rav Hillel dealt with this sort of thing in his book Faith and Folly, and this falls out as the latter. Let me explain.
If you bought a Lamborghini Venom, best of the best, with all of the tricks, would you shelve it simply because some religious guru claimed to know that there was something wrong with it? I would bet dollars to donuts that that you probably simply ignore the advice. If you were seriously superstitious you may even take it to a mechanic to have it looked over. However, I am certain that you wouldn’t toss it to the side without convincing evidence that there was actually a problem. Your Tefillin should be no different.
I have known or known of several Mekubalim that reputedly could have done something like this. Four I’ll name, the Arizal, Rav Mordechai Sharabi, The Baba Sali and the Shteipler. In all of the stories that I have heard about any of them(and this generalization carries over to the one’s that I will not name) they never told a person to get new Tefillin. They only ever told them to get their Tefillin checked. There are two very good reasons for that. First Ruach HaKodesh(at least the kind that we have today) does not make one infallible, so even if some mekubal feels sure, it is best to hedge his bets. Let’s say you have a Mekubal of the stature of the Baba Sali, who is right 99.9% of the time, that .o1% that he is wrong could cost him dearly. If he makes a pronouncement that costs a man his hard earned money, he is responsible for that if he is wrong. Thus any G-d fearing Mekubal(the G-d fearing part being a necessary prerequisite for Ruach HaKodesh) would simply tell the person to have them checked.
Second having one’s Tefillin checked is a mitzvah, and one that many people often ignore. Thus far from putting oneself in a position of potentially committing several aveirot, he now puts himself in a position of being a partner in a mitzvah.
As a third reason, if he is wrong in his intuition regarding the Tefillin, his reputation is not thereby damaged.
Hopefully if you bought the “best of the best” Tefillin you did your due dilligence in shopping for them, and you got them from a reliable sofer who is certified in all aspects that he will have a part in. In which case there is no reason to assume that there is a problem with them just because some mystic tells you that there is.
More to the point, unless you know that this supposed Mekubal is a true Tzadik, who is prefected in his middot and well learned in all aspects of Torah, you would be better off chalking such advice up as the rantings of your local charlatan.
Many people may be familiar with the more traditional printing of Sepher Eilimah by Rav Moshe Kordevaro. It was a fairly foundational work for understanding his Kabbalah. Some may even know that the sepher was never fully published, with just a little less than a third of the sepher ever(previously) in print.
Well the good folks at Nezer Shraga have changed all of that. They have now published the sepher in it’s entirety, in a very clear block font. It is a hefty volume to be sure, measuring 27cm long, 19cm wide and 6cm thick, with 902 pages of text. It quite easily surpasses in breadth the Ramak’s other famous work on Kabbalah the Pardes Rimonim.
The sefer shares with it’s brother the Ramak’s gift for organization and systemization. However, it is also vitally different. Whereas the Pardes essentially systemized all of the prior schools of Kabbalah, attempting to gain a synthesis, this sefer deal almost entirely with the Zohar, Tzimtzum and how it relates to Avodah. In other words it is very much like the later work, Eitz Haim by Rav Haim Vital.
The Ramak vigorously defends the need to for learning Kabbalah, and situates the various aspects of Kabbalistic theology along the lines of the various core tenants of the Jewish faith, and then he delves right into the creation of the Sephirot and the various worlds.
It is a vitally important text in that it more clearly than anything else shows the bridge between the later “Lurianic” School of Kabbalah and those that preceded it. There seems to be a myth circulating that in a certain sense the Arizal claimed some sort of special revelation from Eliyahu HaNavi and thus created a system never heard of before. This sefer should dispell that myth once and for all. While certainly the Ari did have revelation of Eliyahu HaNavi and thus was privileged to deliver many novel thoughts and ideas in a certain sense, it becomes increasingly clear that those novelties took on two primary forms. First was the ability to achieve a previously uknown synthesis of systems. Second was the ability to rectify various textual difficulities and seeming contradictions in a a way that was both intellectually honest and internally consistent.
Finally as an added bonus this sefer inculdes as an appendix the Sefer Tomer Devorah, corrected and expanded from the Ramak’s original manuscripts.
Rav Benayahu Shmueli, Rosh Yeshiva Yeshivat HaMekubalim Nahar Shalom, on the auspicious occasion of his son’s wedding published the third edition of the volume of the Siddur HaRashash, the Kavvanot of the Huppah. For various reasons I am anything but an impartial reviewer of the book, seeing as that I learn there and was part of the chevra that learned through the material with the Rav in order to put the sefer together. However, I will try to give my fair assessment.
Really whether you love the siddur or not comes down to whether you like the shitta of Nahar Shalom, in their layout of siddurim. In many ways I prefer that of the Hakhamei and Rabbanei Beit El, which Rav Hillel does a fine job of on those parts he releases. This siddur, like the others that Rav Benayahu has done is primarily an edited version of the Siddur HaMudpas(Arom Tzovah), with minor changes to line up the the shitta of the Yireh and the Sadeh. In other words if you liked his previous edition of this siddur, you will like this one.
Since this is the third edition let us discuss what has changed. This siddur bears primarily the same dimensions as the previous two editions, though it is considerably thicker, more than 100 pages thicker to be exact. It has a greatly expanded introduction(now 84 pages compared to the original 40). The introduction explores the topics of Nisuin and the Sheva Berakhot from the Zohar, through the Kitvei HaAri and finally the introductions of the Rashash, Yire and Sadeh. With copious explanatory notes found on the bottom of the page. Whereas in the previous siddurim it was taken for granted that a person had a basic understanding of the topics at hand, in this edition it is not, and thus they are fully(more or less) explored and explained.
Also the Rav has added Birkhat HaMazon with the Kavvanot there. A great edition, in my opinion, as it cuts down on the number of seforim I have to drag to a wedding/sheva berakhot with me. The introductions to the Birkhat Hamazon are incredibly brief, so it is not a replacement for that sefer. Here we primarily have only the Hakdamah of the Rashash, however the Rav does add a nice explanatory paragraph explaining that the Kavvanot of the Sheva Berkhot are also to be used as part of the Sheva Berakhot at the wedding meal, and the following days as well(under certain circumstances which he explains).
While still being a paperbound hardcover(as opposed to the leather bound versions that are becoming more common) the new edition has considerably more eye appeal than the previous editions. Including a nice ribbon book mark so that when one has to flip back to the Sheva Berakhot after Birkhat HaMazon(he did not repeat them) one will be able to easily and quickly find their place. Selling price direct from the Yeshiva is 50shekels, which at current exchange rates is approximately $14, plus shipping.
I got some flack about my post regarding the Dag Chazir. Apparently I confused the hog-carp(carpioscrofa) with another fish with similar properties namely the actual pig-fish. Some of my readers pointed out to me that the latter’s proper classification is carpiosus. While they both are from the same Genus there is apparently considerable variation in appearance between the two subspecies. As you can see from the picture of the hog-fish it has dull grey and silver scales. Whereas the the pig-fish has pinkish scales.
I have also been told that there is considerable difference in the texture and flavor of the two fish. My apologies for the confusion. Hebrew apparently doesn’t make a distinction and neither do any of the Rabbanim previously consulted. However for accuracy sake I thought I would post this update.
In other news there is great reason from Purim like joy on Pesach this year. Finally the Rabbanim have done it. After years of needing to subsist on Arak and Slivovitz(plum brandy) this year you can lift your l’chaim in style with a premium single malt-scotch. Now if that isn’t reason to bake some matza-meal hamantaschian I don’t know what is.