B’Ezrat HaShem Yisborach: “You are My witnesses, a guarantee of HaShem” (Isaiah Chapter 43:10) “Na’aseh v’Nishmah” Spiritual Practices and Their Benefits: This column will introduce you
to various spiritual practices. Some of them can be stated in as little as a single sentence. And yet, the dividends of these practices can be quite large, an encounter with the Infinite even.
Spiritual Role Playing
In our first column we introduced the concept of spiritual role playing that frequently takes place in our customs, which we will come to realize is based on the fourth portion of PaRDeS, S-ode, the secrets of the Torah as taught in Kabbalah.
Rav Yaakov Weinberg ztllh’h taught: “There is not much we know or can say definitively about G-d. However, one thing we can say is that in relationship to G-d, we are receivers and G-d is the Giver. That is why we refer to G-d as ‘Him’ and not ‘It’ or ‘She’. To do so is to negate the relationship that is described in Shir Ha-Shirim, The Song of Songs.”
To elucidate Rav Yaakov’s words a little further, although it may not be necessary: G-d is the mashpiah. In the physical sense, He is the one who provides for all our needs. With regard to the spiritual the same is true, but it is useful to introduce a few terms: G-d pours out shefah, beneficial spiritual energies and we are the mushpah, the receivers of these forces. The model of this relationship, as found in Shir Ha-Shirim, is male-female. The male is mashpiah and the female draws and receives shefah from the male. She also returns shefah to Him.
The amazing thing is that just as G-d is Infinite, so too is the amount of Shefah that we can draw. In other words, how much of G-d’s energy is in the world is largely in our hands! Not only that, but on an individual basis, we can earn extra Shefah by learning Torah, davening and performing mitzvoth with more kavanah and doing more of each to the extent of our abilities. Doing so favors us in uncountable ways and helps entirety immeasurably. This was the incredible insight of the Lubavitch Rebbe, may his merit defend us, when he started his Mitzvah campaigns: simply (“simply!”) by getting Yidden who were not doing anything to do a single mitzvah opened up that soul’s faucet to let additional Shefah into the world through their unique valve!!!!~ Think about how many tens of thousands of extra valves he opened to draw G-d’s light into the world.
When you reach a certain level or do things right, you can see the effects of what you have accomplished blossom before your very eyes. This week I will give over one such practice, a treasure that I learned from Rav Yaakov Reissman, the Rav of the Agudath Yisrael opposite the White Shul in Far Rockaway, New York.
When one’s mother lights Shabbat or Yom Tov candles, each son should take both of her hands in his own, and gently and tenderly kiss each of her hands. Where it is the custom of the mother to bless her children after licht-bentching, each son should wait his turn, receive his mother’s brachah and then take her hands and kiss them in the tender fashion described.
Instruction and Explanation:
This practice is rooted in a deep understanding of Kabbalah. In this case, the practice is *son to mother*. There is not source for the husband to perform this custom in lieu of a son. In fact, it would be wrong to do so.
Why the son(s) and not the daughter(s)?
This is another case of spiritual role playing. Each person has a distinct and unique role to play. (It is critical to recognize and to embrace who we are. We have not been created by chance! We have been born who we are and given our unique life circumstances and our particular gender for our souls to fulfill their mission.)
We explained that HaShem is the ultimate Giver and is represented by the males. The Shechinah, Knesset Yisrael, the Feminine Presence of G-d is the receiver and is thus represented by the female. In this case, the highest level female of the household, the Ima.
Remember: our souls are a “chelek Elokeem mee’mah’ahl, a portion of G-d from Above.” We say “HaShem Echod, G-d is One” but we don’t truly realize what that means or the power it confers upon us. We are a part of G-d!
When a son kisses his mother’s hands it parallels what is going on in the spiritual worlds on Shabbat and it sweetens Din; it mitigates harsh judgments that might otherwise apply.
Rav Yaakov Reissman gave over this teaching during a shiur in Gemarah. The shiur began with gemarah and then he showed us the corresponding laws in the Shulchan Aruch, a code of Jewish Law. During the lesson he quoted the commentary called the Magen Avraham (siman Resh-Peh-Heh).
The Magen Avraham’s source for this practice may have been Rav Yeshayahu Horowitz’s sefer Shnei Luchot Ha-Brit (how nice to recall the Luchot as well as Na’aseh v’Nishmah to complete the Sinai experience this week!) The root source of this instruction is in the sefer Pree Eitz Chaim – the Gate of the Sabbath – Chapter 14. There Rav Chaim Vital brings it down as the custom of his master, the Arizal.
For the son(s) and onlookers: Look at your mother’s face after you kiss both her hands. Oh and by the way, it’s ok to kiss her on the cheek and give her a hug too after that! ☺
For the moms: how do you feel after the experience?
About the Magen Avraham:
From www.wikipedia.org: Abraham Abele Gombiner (c.1633-c.1683), known as the Magen Avraham, was born in Gabin (Gombin), Poland. He was a rabbi, talmudist and a leading religious authority in the Jewish community of Kalisch, Poland during the seventeenth century. His full name is Avraham Avli ben Chaim HaLevi from the town of Gombin. There are texts that list his family name as Kalisch after the city of his residence. After his parents were killed in the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648, he moved to live and study with his relative in Lithuania, Jacob Isaac Gombiner.
He is known to scholars of Judaism for his Magen Avraham commentary on the Orach Chaim section of Rabbi Joseph Karo’s Shulchan Aruch, which he began writing in 1665 and finished in 1671. His son wrote in the preface to the work that his father was frequently sick and suffered pain and discomfort.
Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein’s Aruch HaShulchan and the Chofetz Chaim’s Mishnah Berurah both relied on the Magen Avrahm for their acceptance of kabbalistic practices.
Rabbi Gombiner's innovative approach to commenting on the Shulchan Aruch was to incorporate the customs of his contemporary Poland. His lasting effect on Jewish law was the incorporation of the Kabbalistic customs of Safed, especially those found in Rabbi Yeshayahu Horowitz’s work Shnei Luchot Ha-Brit, which itself was founded upon the teachings of the Arizal that the Ari gave over to Rav Chaim Vital in Safed.
The purpose of this column is to introduce readers to spiritual practices, or ways of performing Mitzvot – that if practiced on an ongoing basis – will grant the person doing them an understanding and/or experiences of the deeper spiritual benefits that we accepted would be there in faith when we said, “Na’aseh v’Nishmah” at Sinai.
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Thank you for letting me share this treasure with you.
Shabbat Shalom U’Mevorach