Shirata for Jewish Prayer & Song
Sha'alu sh'lom Yerushalayim - Pray for the peace of Jerusaelm.
Number 3 - 17 of Kislev 5765 - November 29, 2004
From Jacob to Israel

Our sages always say that we are the only nation embedding in its name the name of God. Israel means "he who struggles [isra-] with God [-el]." I often wonder if this is anthropologically true. Most of the nations and religions we know have not taken for themselves names relating to God: Franks means free people, Slaves means slaves. Americans (of America), Germans (?), Russians (red)... Christians refer to Christus, the anointed one, the messiah; Muslims are named for Islam which means Obedience to the word of God, though God is not a literal part of their name; Buddhist are named after Buddah, the awakener, a person, a teacher.

Jacob's wrestling with the angel in Genesis 32 (in last week's parsha) is one of the most awesome scenes in the Bible, and one of the most telling on the mission of the Jews. Jacob is left alone struggling with a "man." Part of our tradition says the man is Esau's guardian angel, the Evil, the Other Side, the Satan; others say that he was a holy angel, representing Jacob's high spirituality.

Jacob wrestles all night. The angel asks to leave as dawn is breaking. Jacob says: "I will not let leave until [unless] you bless me." The angel agrees, as if waiting for this opportunity all night. The blessing is the transformation of the Name, from Jacob, a name of deception and deceit, to Israel, a name of greatness and holiness.

'Tis the Season is approaching: Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel. The Christians say that they are the new Israel, since the Jews have betrayed their essential mission in not acknowledging Jesus Christ as their own messiah.

The Muslims say that the nation of Israel has lost their right to the Holy Land because they have betrayed the holiness of the land. God sent them to exile and gave it to others. The Muslims have assumed, in their eyes, the right to the land, because God has discontinued his original covenant with his original people.

Since the Jews have betrayed their mission, says the competitors of the Jews, there is a holy right to replace or augment the Torah with their scripture. But the Jews, sons of Israel, have continued to wrestle and struggle for their right and vocation to represent radical Oneness. Yes, we have sinned, we have fallen in our faith, we have been exiled and persecuted. But we are still here, and we are still Israel. Torah is One, and cannot be replaced or augmented. We are still struggling to make ourselves and the world know that there is Only One. We'll keep fighting until the struggle itself blesses us with the transformation of our essence from betray to holiness.

The Besht on Parashat VaYeshev

"And he said: I am looking for my brother (Genesis 37:17). The Holy Zohar (184a) says: Rabbi Yehuda opened the discussion and said: Who can make you as my brother, nursing the breasts of my mother, I will find you outside, I will kiss you (Song of Songs 8). I will find you outside, that is the depth of exile, in a different country, see there. He who understands will understands in the Zohar what the Baal Shem Tov said, that in our exile outside of Israel, we have extra support to achieve the holy spirit [of prophesy], even though Shekhina does not dwell outside of Israel... nevertheless, there is support for achieving the holy spirit. Even though a person might not be so appropriate, he is not seen with severity as a person in the Holy Land. A parable to it would be a king who is on a voyage, having to spend nights in hotels and eat in places which are not kingly in beauty or cleanliness. There is no disgrace for the king, as everyone knows that the king is on a voyage. Please understand. "

From Sefer Ba'al Shem Tov al HaTorah, Parashat VaYeshev 5.

My understanding of this teaching: our sages always speak about the height of spirituality in the Holy Land and the poverty of spirituality outside the Holy Land. The Baal Shem Tov suggests the radical opposite. In exile, the king is traveling, staying in places that are not as kingly and demanding. This means that although His dwelling is in exile, we have easier access to Him.

Tikkun Haklali Preparation Practice

This week we'll learn Psalm 77 and add it to our practice.

The following file contains a first draft of the Hebrew, transliteration and translation of the first five Psalms of the Tikkun Haklali.

Song of Song Class

We're on for Wed, 19 Kislev 5765, December 1, 2004 at 7:00pm. Our plan is to learn Song of Songs on 2:10 with the Malibm commentary.

There's a link to a file with all our Song of Songs work on the website.

We're on for Dec 8, the first candle of Hanukkah.

No class on Dec 15 -- I'll be out of town.

We're on for Dec 22.

We'll then be off until mid January.

The following file contains our translation, Malbim commentary and creative verse commentary on Song of Songs 1:1-2:9. The file size is about 450Kb.


Ronnie Serr
1725 S. Genesee Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90019
323 939 1669

It's around Venice and Fairfax -- 3 blocks East of Fairfax, Between 18th Street and Airdrome

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