Why Do We Cover Our Eyes for Shema? By Yehuda Shurpin and 70 years ago, Jordan's king was assassinated by Palestinian on Temple Mount and What Is the Additional Soul We Receive on Shabbat? By Mordechai Rubin and Ben and Jerry's board chaired by anti-Zionist and the Torah Portion of Eikav
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
In continuation of the preparations for entering the Land of Israel, Moses stresses the importance of obeying the laws set forth in the Torah. Only then, G-d promises, will the land flowing with milk and honey produce its bounty and the people of Israel will be blessed.
Observance of the laws requires an in-depth inquiry and understanding by the judges of the statutes so that they will be certain to issue the correct decisions in the cases brought before them.
The curved letter "pei" in the word "mishpatim' (laws) emphasizes the importance of investigating the law. (Baal Haturim)
The Three Musketeers at the Kotel
Ben and Jerry's board chaired by anti-Zionist
The ice cream brand's decision to stop selling its products in Judea and Samaria is driven by an individual with deep animosity for the Jewish state.
Popular ice cream brand Ben & Jerry's announced this week it will no longer sell its products in specific areas of Israel, including Judea and Samaria.
So, who is responsible for making this anti-Israel decision?
Joseph Cohen of the Israel Advocacy Movement exposes "hardcore anti-Zionist" Anuradha Mittal, head of Ben Jerry's Board of Directors, revealing her steadfast support for boycotts of the Jewish state.
When saying the first six words of the Shema, it is a universal Jewish custom to cover one's eyes with the right hand.
Why? The simple answer is that doing so allows one to concentrate properly without visual distractions.1
It is crucial to have the proper intention when reciting the first verse of Shema, even more so than during other parts of prayer. As we say the words, we focus not just on the meaning of the words, but on accepting the yoke of heaven. We concentrate on the idea that G‑d is the only true reality. This intention is so important that one who recites the words of this verse but does not think about its meaning needs to recite it again.2
The custom to cover one's eyes can be traced back to the times of the Mishnah, when Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (Judah the Prince) would cover his eyes while reciting the first verse of the Shema.3
Direction of the Eyes
Some early commentators, however, explain that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi covered his eyes while reciting the Shema because some had the custom to look in all directions so as to accept divine sovereignty throughout the world. Rabbi Yehuda covered his eyes, for he wished to conceal his precise eye movements while reciting the Shema.4
The Secret of the Blind Maiden
The kabbalists, most notably Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, known as the Arizal, explain that one is meant to use the right hand to close5 one's eyes while reciting the first verse of Shema.
The Arizal explains that this is connected to a very enigmatic "riddle" found in the Zohar.
The Zohar relates that "an old man" (saba), ostensibly a donkey driver, met Rabbi Yossi on his travels and posed several questions to him, but Rabbi Yossi failed to appreciate their true significance. However, his colleague Rabbi Chiya sensed that there was more to the questions than met the eye, and after probing the matter, they realized that the old man was in fact teaching them some of the deepest mystical secrets.
The "riddle" that he had the hardest time understanding was the following:
Who is the beautiful maiden without eyes, whose body is concealed and revealed, who comes out in the morning and disappears during the day, who is adorned with ornaments that never were?
There is much discussion about the meaning of this "riddle."6 But to simplify the Arizal's explanation as it relates to the reading of Shema, "the maiden" refers to the divine attribute of malchut ("kingship"),which at times is referred to as the Shechinah (the feminine aspect of the divine). In this context, it is also referred to as "Rachel."
There are four spiritual worlds within the kabbalistic formulation of the cosmos, the world of Atzilut ("Emanation") being the highest of the four. In this realm, nothing has physical form or color, and sight is nonexistent.
When we recite the Shema, we are elevating the Mayin Nukvin ("Feminine Waters") to the world of Atzilut, setting the stage for the unification of the feminine and masculine, or the unification of the soul and the Shechinah. Since the Mayin Nukvin are entering Atzilut, a world that is higher than sight, one must close one's eyes during the first line of the Shema.
The reason we specifically use the right hand (even if one is a lefty), which symbolizes the attribute of chessed (kindness) as well as the Mayin Dechurin ("Male Waters"), is also connected to this "riddle."
The Blind Are Full of Light
Throughout the Talmud, the blind are called sagi nahor—"enough of light" or "full of light." This is because one's physical sight, which gazes out at the mundane and materialistic world, often contradicts and weakens one's "inner" spiritual sight.
The idea of G‑d's oneness, that is, that G‑d is the only true reality, often seems contradicted by our physical senses. We see and smell and taste and feel the world around us, while divinity is an abstract and spiritual reality.
Therefore, when we say the Shema and proclaim the oneness of G‑d, we are affirming that true reality is neither what our eye sees nor what we experience naturally and intuitively. By covering our eyes, we are indicating our desire to disconnect from the physical and connect to the spiritual.7
The Shechinah Rests Upon the Face
When we recite the Shema and accept upon ourselves the yoke of heaven, the Shechinah, Divine Presence, rests upon our face. Out of respect for the Divine Presence, we cover our faces, as G‑d told Moses, "And it shall be that when My glory passes by, I will place you into the cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with My hand until I have passed by."8,9
Judgement and Mercy
In the first verse of Shema, we proclaim that "the L‑rd is our G‑d; the L‑rd is one."10 With this statement, we are affirming our belief that both G‑d's attribute of strength and judgment and G‑d's attribute of mercy are really one. Thus, we cover our eyes, symbolizing that what we may perceive with our physical eyes as negative is, in truth, positive.11
Of course, we await the day when we will see this positive reality with our physical eyes as well. May it be speedily in our days!
Tuesday marked 70 years since Jordanian King Abdullah I was assassinated by a Palestinian on the Temple Mount, as Abdullah was visiting Jerusalem to meet with Israeli officials amid his efforts to reach a settlement with Israel.Abdullah was assassinated at the age of 69 by a Palestinian gunman while exiting al-Aqsa Mosque after Friday prayers with his grandson Hussein.The assassin, Mustafa Shukri Ashshu, was associated with the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini, who sparked riots against Jews in Mandatory Palestine and was close with Adolf Hitler during World War II. Those associated with the ex-mufti were "bitter enemies" of Abdullah, as the ex-mufti supported the establishment of a Palestinian state, which Abdullah seemed to have thwarted by annexing the West Bank, according to a Guardian article from the day after the assassination. A few days before the assassination, Riad al Sohl, the first prime minister of Lebanon, was also assassinated in Jordan. Ali Razmara, prime minister of Iran, and Abdul Hamid Zanganeh, former education minister of Iran, were also assassinated in the months before Abdullah's assassination. The assassinations were seen as a sign of increasing instability in the region.
Abullah was succeeded by his son Talal, who was forced to abdicate about a year later due to mental illness. Talal was succeeded by Hussein, who ruled until 1999, when he was succeeded by the current king of Jordan, Abdullah II.King Abdullah of Jordan was known for his efforts to reach at least some form of peace with Israel, although he was assassinated 43 years before a peace treaty between the two nations was finally signed.Abdullah met with Reuven Shiloah, the first Mossad director, and Golda Meir in a number of discussions from 1949 to 1950. The king made extensive efforts to get other Jordanian officials to support reaching a settlement with Israel, but faced intense opposition from both officials and the Jordanian and Palestinian public.Abdullah had been set to meet with Shiloah and diplomat Moshe Sasson in Jerusalem the day after he was assassinated, according to Avi Shalim, an Israeli-British historian.In Lion of Jordan, Shalim's biography of Abdullah's grandson, Hussein, Abdullah is quoted as having told Sasson "I want to make peace with Israel not because I have become a Zionist or care for Israel's welfare but because it is in the interest of my people. I am convinced that if we do not make peace with you, there will be another war, and another war, and another war, and another war, and we shall lose all these wars. Hence it is the supreme interest of the Arab nation to make peace with you"Elias Sasson, Moshe's father, wrote shortly after Abdullah's assassination: "King Abdullah was the only Arab statesman who showed an understanding for our national renewal, a sincere desire to come to a settlement with us, and a realistic attitude to most of our demands and arguments... We as well as some of the Arabs and foreigners are going to feel for a long time to come his absence, and to regret more than a little his removal from our midst," according to Shalim's biography.By the time of his assassination, Israeli officials had largely lost hope that Abdullah's efforts would ever lead to an actual peace due to continuing opposition by Arab and Jordanian officials.At the time of his assassination, a newsreel by the British Pathé News described Abdullah as "the one man who might have brought peace to the Middle East."Winston Churchill expressed deep regret after hearing of Abdullah's assassination, saying "I deeply regret the murder of this wise and faithful Arab ruler, who never deserted the cause of Britain and held out the hand of reconciliation to Israel," according to The Guardian.
What Is the Additional Soul We Receive on Shabbat?
In the opening to Hilchot Shabbat, Maimonides describes the obligation to rest, which translates into the prohibition against working.1 But at the beginning of Hilchot Yom Tov, we find the exact opposite: Maimonides emphasizes that during festivals work is forbidden; the element of rest is secondary.2
This noteworthy textual nuance is not merely semantics.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe3 infers a fundamental distinction between Shabbat and the festivals from this discrepancy. On Shabbat, the focus is the obligation to rest. Not working is simply an outgrowth of that obligation. On the festivals, however, we are commanded to desist from work. The rest that emerges from this cessation is secondary.
This knowledge helps us understand why we do not smell the spices (besamim) during havdalah on occasions that Shabbat leads directly into a yom tov.
Each week, at the close of Shabbat, we recite the havdalahservice, which includes smelling spices to provide comfort to the soul over the departure of the "additional soul" that joins us for Shabbat.4 If, however, Shabbat is directly followed by a holiday, although we still recite the havdalah (during the kiddush for the festival), we leave out the blessing over the spices.
A State of Mind
In order to understand this, we must first be clear what we are referring to. The additional soul we receive can be understood in two different ways. The Zohar describes it as a spiritual phenomenon—an extra we soul receive for the duration of the day.5 Others, however, explain it as a state of mind—the state of being more disposed to rest and joy, without being constrained by one's general concerns.6 With this second definition in mind, we are able to decipher the following debate.
According to the Rashbam, the additional soul, this uplifted state, is present on yom tov, too, and therefore no consolation is necessary when Shabbat directly leads into a yom tov.7
Tosafot poses the obvious question: If this is true, shouldn't we add the spices to the havdalah we say at the end of a festival? But we do not, seemingly because the additional soul is not present. The state of complete rest felt on Shabbat, referred to as the additional soul, is not present on Yom Tov. Rather, Tosafot suggests, when going from Shabbat directly into a holiday, the soul is consoled over the loss of Shabbat, by the joy of the festival, and therefore the spices are unnecessary.8
Per the Ran9 (whom the Rashbam seems to follow), we leave the spices out because on a festival we do not rest to the same extent as we do on Shabbat. On yom tov we are permitted to cook, which interferes with rest. As such, even though this additional soul is present—we are still in an uplifted and restful state—the shock of leaving the festival and entering a state of weekday is not so great that the soul requires the comfort provided by the spices.
According to Tosafot however, although pain of the loss would necessitate the spices (since according to him the state of mind of yom tov is not on the same plane as that of Shabbat), the joy of yom tov itself provides the comfort.
We can now revisit the distinction made at the outset between Shabbat and yom tov: On Shabbat the focus is on the obligation to rest, whereas on yom tov the emphasis is on the prohibition against working. This conforms with the view of Tosafot, who maintains that the spices would be needed after a Shabbat that leads into yom tov because they are two completely different states of mind. Shabbat is a time of rest, and we are given an "extra soul" to be in a state of complete relaxation. On yom tov, however, there is no "extra soul," no particular state of mind. Therefore spices would be necessary, were it not for the joy of yom tov, which comforts the soul.
According to the Rashbam, on the other hand, there is no such distinction. Both Shabbat and yom tov necessitate rest and the cessation of work, therefore spices are not necessary for the transition; it is a continuation of the same state of mind. Due to the fact that on yom tov we may cook, however, the state of rest is not quite as all-encompassing as that of Shabbat, and the shock of leaving is not as great as the jolt of transitioning from a regular Shabbat to weekday. As such, spices are not needed to cushion the blow.
Every Shabbat we enter a new, G‑dly state of being. We are no longer troubled by worldly pursuits; we are given a day of respite, a day to focus on what is truly important. Shabbat, as the cornerstone of Jewish life, must be strictly guarded, not just by meticulously observing the laws of Shabbat, but by keeping all our activities within the "spirit of Shabbat." Even our speech should not veer into mundane territory, instead, we dedicate our time to prayer, Torah study, and quality family time.