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​The deeds of women often go unnoticed. Their accomplishments are seldom divulged, sometimes for modesty reasons. Because Scripture and the Talmud does not record much, we often have to rely on our oral tradition and the writings of the Kabbalist to understand their greatness.

​Rachel, the wife of Rabbi Akiva, holds a special place in history as her husband attests to his 24.000 students that “It’s thanks to her that I have what I have and you have what you have”. Rabbi Akiva was none less than one of the greatest Tannaim, who is one of the most quoted sage in the Talmud. And this was all thanks to Rachel’s supernatural self-sacrifice in allowing her husband to study 12 years, followed by another 12 as he was returning.

​The truth is the name Rachel does not appear in the Talmud, but only in the Avot D’Rabbi Natan. What we can glean from her story is truly amazing.

Read on to find out!

 

Extra Understanding

One fact that often goes unnoticed in Rachel’s story is her acute understanding of who Akiva was before they married. Our sages teach that Rabbi Akivalived 120 years, 40 of which he was an Am Ha’aretz(lit. “person of the land”, or boor”), for 40 years he studied intensively and for another 40 he taught.

It’s surprising to see that the daughter of the magnate Kalba Savuah would be interested in a man who had little to show for and, in his own words “would bite the hand of Rabbis like a donkey (whose jaw crushes the bones beyond repair)” due to his hate toward them. To say her father was displeased with her decision is a major understatement. He banished the newly married couple from his property and they were related to living in a barn.

Most people know the teaching of our sages which say that “Women possess a great Bina [lit. understanding]”. The Sefer Yetzirah adds that in Judaism, words are often called Bayit (house) because they “house” a number of ideas woven together, instead of describing discreet objects.

In Kabbalistic Tradition, Bina means the capacity to analyze a rough idea and develop it in order to visualize its many details. The seminal concept of a thing is often expressed as a seed. Through Bina one would then see the fruits emerging, which would be the idea fully developed.

Rachel displayed the special trait women possess, which is to see what her husband could become, and sacrificed her life for it. In the end, she proved to her scorning neighbors she was right all along.

 

Humiliation as a means of growth

No sage is made overnight. In fact, there are many requirements in order to build a person into a Tzadik. The Midrash HaGadol relates another fascinating story in which Rachel displayed tremendous foresight.

​When they married, Akiva was hesitant to go study, not least because he was already 40 years old,and was constantly being mocked by small children who knew a lot more than him. To dispel this embarrassment, she sent her husband with a donkey laden with potted plants to the marketplace, in order to sell and bring back flour. Naturally, Akiva was made the laughingstock and came back downtrodden. The next day the story repeated when he was again asked to go to the marketplace to buy lentils. Akiva’sembarrassment then became a daily occurrence but something was changing: each time he was less ashamed than before since he started to become accustomed to it. Finally, Akiva lost all his shame and Rachel told him to go to school and start learning since we saw in Pirkei Avot that “An embarrassed person can never become learned”.

​There’s of course a deeper meaning to Rachel’s plot. Clearly there were other ways of getting Akiva to start learning without resorting to sending him to the marketplace. Yet, remember: she was building one of the greatest sage of the whole Talmud (out of about 1000). Her goal was to make him embarrassed because Rebbe Nachman teaches that only one who’s humiliated can earn the supremely exalted soul of Zihara Ila’ah (the “Supreme Illumination” from Keterof Atzilut). This is the level of soul that Yosef himself earned when he was sent to prison in Egypt and the one whom Chanoch who became the angel Meta-Tron also merited.

​A person who’s still attached to his honor and fears being humiliated can never reach the level Rabbi Akivaachieved. As we find in the Arizal’s writtings “if we knew the true value of being ridiculed, we’d be running to the marketplace to ask people to mock us!”. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, this is a hidden reference to Rachel, who knew what makes a truly great man.Indeed, as he himself declared, Rabbi Akiva owed everything he had to his righteous wife.

Rachel is buried in Tiberias, and her modest shrine is a less known place for pilgrimage.

This article was written in The zechut of Pinchas ben Sarah, SaraMiriam bat Sarah and their children Rachael Segulali, Benyamin Chaim and Abigail Ruchami. May Hashem help them attain all their hearts desires speedily.



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​The Torah doesn’t elaborate much on the lives of Yitzhak and Rivka. This might probably be because the world is built on Chesed (lovingkindness), and this couple’s souls are rooted in the Sephira of Gevurah (stern judgment). Yet, the little we know about them is filled with secrets and lessons for life.

​In Likutey Torah, the Arizal explains that Rivka was a reincarnation of Chava while Yaakov, their son, was a reincarnation of Adam. Her spiritual power enabled her to see that it was time to rectify the sin of convincing Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and said “now, my son, listen to me”, which is a clear reference to the admonition Hashem gave to Adam “because you listened to your wife.” Not only that, but Yaakov also said “maybe my father will feel me and I will be seen as a deceiver and receive a curse instead of a blessing?”, to which Rivka replied “your curse should be upon me, my son!”, therefore rectifying the curse that Hashem put in all mankind after Adam and Chava sinned.

​But, more importantly, very few people know that Rivka, our Matriarch, saved the entire world with her ruse. Let’s explore this in-depth.

Saving the World

​The Torah states that Yitzhak loved Esav, while Rivka loved Yaakov. Near his death, Yitzhak summoned Esav to task him with bringing a meal. He wanted to bless his firstborn with nothing less than supremacy in this world and in the world to come. These were blessings that would confer the continuation of the holy lineage of Avraham and Yitzhak.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Rivka saved the world through her bravery. The Torah doesn’t give us many details about the content of the blessings Yitzhak wanted to give, but it’s enough that we peek into the Zohar to understand what they are all about. In Zohar Bereshit 142A, Rabbi Yosi said “Come and see! If, Heaven forbid, Esav would have been blessed at that time, Jacob would never have ruled over the world.”

​Esav was, of course, a reincarnation of the primordial Snake whose job was to seek the destruction of all matters of holiness. It was evident that had Esav received the blessings, he’d have become so powerful nobody would be able to stand against him, and he’d have destroyed the entire world.

​The Tikkuney HaZohar also states that the word used for “meal” (Mat’amim) is a reference to the positive Mitzvot. In making sure Yaakov came before Esav to give his meal, she ensured that he’d get the positive Mitzvot for posterity. RebbeNachman of Breslov also elaborates that conducting one’s business affairs with Emuna is an aspect of Mat’amim, meaning, through this act, a person shows his love for Hashem and His Name is sanctified and made loved.

 

Pursuing good by all means necessary

Rivka knew better than anyone what the stakes were. At first glance, it seems incoherent she’d force her son Yaakov to lie to her husband. But her ruse was in fact a necessary ploy to thwart the Snake’s desire to destroy the world.

​One critical detail that many people miss in the narrative is: how could Yitzhak then tell Esav “your brother came with deceit and took your blessings”? He was inciting Esav to hate Yaakov, which is nothing less than the prohibition of Lashon HaRah (evil speech)! But, in a way, he was merely reflecting a truth that Rivka had realized a long time ago: Esav had no hope and so was unfit to receive the blessings. In instigating Esav against Yaakov, Yitzhak was protecting Yaakov from being corrupted by his brother’s evil influence.

The story of the righteous Rivka is a timely lesson for all generations: sometimes, we must pursue good even while doing things that supposedly seem wrong. There’s a not-so-fine line between truth and honesty. One example of this being true is when, during the Holocaust, many righteous gentiles lied to Nazis about hiding Jews in their homes. Being honest about it would’ve obviously been a negation of the truth that human lives matter more than accepting orders from evil (and not lying).

We should emulate the example of our holy Matriarch Rivka who risked everything to make sure evil wouldn’t get the upper hand in the battle for holiness. The battle continues through the spiritual descendants of Yaakov, even non-Jews, who follow the path of searching for Hashem!


This article was written in the zechut of all Emuna Builder partners. May they have eternal success in all their endeavors with complete emuna!


If you would like to become an Emuna Builder Partner you can join today!

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We spoke before about how the festivals illuminate the entire month. Shevat is no different and in the 15th day we celebrate the new year of Trees, Tu B’Shvat. While most people are unaware of its deeper significance it’s become a custom to delight in the fruits of the trees both at dinner and at lunch in order to increase the number of blessings we make.

Why is this so?

In the writings of the Arizal, we find that during Tu B’Shvat we can rectify the original sin of Adam HaRishon (the first man) of eating the forbidden fruit of knowledge of good and evil… by eating fruits! This is remarkable, if we consider that, at the beginning of the Idra Zutra, when Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is in his death bed, he says Adam HaRishon came to him and asked to conceal his real sin. It was because Adam was made directly by Hashem that his real

As always, there’s alot to cover about the Kabbalistic significance of this day so let’s get started!

 

The rescued Month

Certain months have more light than others. Sometimes it’s simply a different type of illumination. We usually think of Av, Tevet and Tammuz as being more problematic because we have days of mourning. In this sense, many Kabbalists teach that they were “taken” by the forces of evil which govern it.

In Tevet, the month we are about to leave, we rectify the Sephira of Netzach (victory, eternity) of the masculine aspect of the spiritual worlds, while in Shevat, we rectify Hod (splendor, brilliance). The first letters of the words Shevat, Tevet, Netzachand Hod form the name of the Accusing angel, “Sa-tan” (השטן), which signifies that he tried to grab hold of us even during these 2 months, just like Av and Tammuz.

Many of our Rabbis struggle to explain why Yaakov Avinuwent a long way back the River Yabok for 2 small bottles (פחים קטנים). Some, like Rashi and Rebbe Nachman, explain that it’s because they know all their possessions come from Heaven and are imbued with holiness and divine sparks that are related to them. Therefore our sages teach “the money of the righteous are more precious than their own lives”, and they dare not ever disdain it.

But many Kabbalists have a different take: if we take the word פחים קטנים, we see that it’s the exact numerical value as the accuser, שטן! Yaakov Avinu wrestled with the guardian angel of Esav, the very accusing angel who was subdued by him. Before releasing him, Yaakov said “I shall not leave you until you bless me”. This last part “until you bless me” (אם ברכתני) has the numerical value of these two months Tevet and Shevat (טבת שבת) with one more for the general idea. Not only that, but the name Yaakov (יעקב) and the one he got after his encounter Israel ישראל)) are exactly the numerical value of Tevet and Shevat!

To sum everything up, the two small flasks represented the months of Tevet and Shevat, which Yaakov got from the Sa-tan, after wrestling with him. And we have a principle that the more difficult the challenge, the greater the reward. Therefore, these two months have a special illumination for being rescued from the side of evil.

 

Renewal and bounty

Just like the trees begin to regain their vitality (as we are leaving winter), so too we begin experience a profound illumination for renewal during Shevat. This is, after all, when many men are in the middle of the incredibly deep and powerful rectification of Shovavim (lit. mischievous, and an acronym for the Parashiot of Shemot, Vayeirah, Bo, Beshalach, Yitro, Mishpatim). This period of time allows men (and sometimes women) to rectify the most severe sins of immorality.

Rabbi Shalom Sharabi (the “Rashas’h” for short), elaborates greatly on the Kabbalah of the Arizal. He teaches in his magnum opus Nahar Shalom that each and every person has his own spiritual system comprised of all the higher worlds related to him. Not only that, but each and every mode of services has its own unique system of higher worlds.

When a person does a Mitzvah, like praying or giving Tzedaka, he rectifies the entire system from the uppermost level of Adam Kadmon down to the lowest world of Assiyah assigned to him, which came into being at that particular day and hour! This is an incredibly great idea and, if you ponder it, you will never feel unimportant again!

This is one of the reasons why we want to increase the number of blessings on Tu B’Shvat. Each of us is unique and can bring our own light to the world. Not only that, but the Arizal teaches that each fruit has its own illumination and power that we can acquire. We want this month to be infused with all the blessings we can take

The main lesson of Tu B’Shvat is to realize we have tremendous power in our hands. Hashem created a marvelous spiritual system for each and every one of us! It’s up to us to make the most out of this month. Think about it and you won’t ever feel jealous about anyone ever again.


This article was written in the zechut of all Emuna Builder Partners. May they have eternal success in all their endeavors with complete emuna.


If you would like to become an Emuna Builder Partner you can join today!

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