sacred letters

Sacred Letters

On The Shemah – Source Material

Mishnah Berachot 1.4

In the morning one says two Benedictions before it and one after it; and in the evening two before it and two after it.

One is long and one is short. Where they said it must be long, it is not permitted to be made short; to be short, it is not permitted to make long….

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוֹה אֱלהֵינוּ יְהוֹה ׀ אֶחָד

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead; inscribe them on the door posts of your house and on your gates.


Deuteronomy 11:13-21

If, then, you obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving the LORD your God and serving Him with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late. You shall gather in your new grain and wine and oil – I will also provide grass in the fields for your cattle–and thus you shall eat your fill. Take care not to be lured away to serve other gods and bow to them. For the LORD’s angel will flare up against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will soon perish from the good land that the LORD is giving you.

Therefore impress these My words upon your -very heart- bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a -symbol on your forehead,- and teach them to your children–reciting them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up; and inscribe them on the door posts of your house and on your gates–to the end that you and your children may endure in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give to them, as long as there is a heaven over the earth.


Numbers 15:37-41

The Lord said to Moses as follows: Speak to the Israelite people and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a cord of blue to the fringe at each corner. That shall be your fringe; look at it and recall all the commandments of the Lord and observe them, so that you do not follow our heart and eyes in your lustful urge. Thus you shall be reminded to observe all My commandments and to be holy to your God. I the Lord am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I, the Lord your God.


בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד

Psalm 72:18-19

Blessed is Adonai God, God of Israel

Who alone does wondrous things;

Blessed is His glorious name forever;

His glory fills the whole world.

Amen and Amen.

וּבָרוּךְ ׀ שֵׁם כְּבוֹדוֹ לְעוֹלָם וְיִמָּלֵא כְבוֹדוֹ אֶת־כָּל־הָאָרֶץ אָמֵן ׀ וְאָמֵן

Mishnah Yoma 3.8

[The High Priest] came to his own bull; and his bull stood between the Porch and the Altar, its head to the south and its face to the west; and the priest stood in the east and his face to the west and laid both his hands upon it and made confession. And thus he would say, “I pray, [God’s ineffable Name]! I have done wrong, I have transgressed, I have sinned before You, both I and my house; I pray, [God’s ineffable Name]! Forgive, I pray, the iniquities and the transgressions, and the sins, which I have wrongly committed, and which I have transgressed, and which I have sinned before You, both I and my house, as it is written in the Law of Moses, Your servant, for on this day shall atonement be made for you, etc. And the assembled responded, בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד. Blessed is His Name, the glory of His kingdom is for ever and ever.


On Habbakuk

I finally swallowed my anxiety and sat down with the 632 page book of all the extant translations of The Dead Sea Scrolls. No, I didn’t read all 632 pages, but I dipped and plunged into the texts that I though would be of interest. I understand a bit better just how impressive this treasure trove of scrolls is, of how they illuminate the circumstances and the responses of Jews in the first and second centuries Before the Common Era (BCE).

They were creative and passionate people. The Commentary of [the biblical prophet] Habakkuk was constructed by the lifting a motif from the Judean prophet and applying it to their own time. Habakkuk was warning of entreaties with Babylon and of the danger that they would invade and destroy Judah and her capital city Jerusalem. They did in 587 BCE. The Dead Sea Scroll writer, preaching 500 years later warns of the royal entreaties with Rome and the danger that they would destroy Israel and her capital city, Jerusalem, using Habakkuk to draw a parallel. The fear of Rome is palpable throughout the commentary and the language is dramatic. The preacher was proved correct a hundred years later. Rome did arrive by royal invitation in 63 BCE, and as feared, the Roman generals Vespasian and Titus destroyed Israel and her capital by 70 CE.


The Interpretation of Dreams – Source Material

Deuteronomy 18:9-15

9 When you enter the land that Adonai your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations. 10 Let no one be found among you who consigns his son or daughter to the fire, or who is an augur, a soothsayer, a diviner, a sorcerer, 11 one who casts spells, or one who consults ghosts or familiar spirits, or one who inquires of the dead. 12 For anyone who does such things is abhorrent to Adonai, and it is because of these abhorrent things that Adonai your God is dispossessing them before you. 13 You must be wholehearted with Adonai your God. 14 Those nations that you are about to dispossess do indeed resort to soothsayers and augurs; to you, however, Adonai your God has not assigned the like. 15 Adonai your God will raise up for you a prophet from among your own people, like myself; him you shall heed.

2Kings 23:24

24 Josiah also did away with the necromancers and the mediums, the idols and the fetishes — all the detestable things that were to be seen in the land of Judah and Jerusalem. Thus he fulfilled the terms of the Teaching recorded in the scroll that the priest Hilkiah had found in the House of Adonai.

 1Samuel 28:7-19

7 Then Saul said to his courtiers, “Find me a woman who consults ghosts, so that I can go to her and inquire through her.” And his courtiers told him that there was a woman in En-dor who consulted ghosts. 8 Saul disguised himself; he put on different clothes and set out with two men. They came to the woman by night, and he said, “Please divine for me by a ghost. Bring up for me the one I shall name to you.”

9 But the woman answered him, “You know what Saul has done, how he has banned the use of ghosts and familiar spirits in the land. So why are you laying a trap for me, to get me killed?”

10 Saul swore to her by Adonai: “As Adonai lives, you won’t get into trouble over this.”

11 At that, the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He answered, “Bring up Samuel for me.”

12 Then the woman recognized Samuel, and she shrieked loudly, and said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!”

13 The king answered her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a divine being coming up from the earth.”

14 “What does he look like?” he asked her. “It is an old man coming up,” she said, “and he is wrapped in a robe.” Then Saul knew that it was Samuel; and he bowed low in homage with his face to the ground.

15 Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me and brought me up?” And Saul answered, “I am in great trouble. The Philistines are attacking me and God has turned away from me; He no longer answers me, either by prophets or in dreams. So I have called you to tell me what I am to do.”

16 Samuel said, “Why do you ask me, seeing that Adonai has turned away from you and has become your adversary? 17 Adonai has done for Himself as He foretold through me: Adonai has torn the kingship out of your hands and has given it to your fellow, to David,

18 because you did not obey Adonai and did not execute His wrath upon the Amalekites. That is why Adonai has done this to you today. 19 Further, Adonai will deliver the Israelites who are with you into the hands of the Philistines. Tomorrow your sons and you will be with me; and Adonai will also deliver the Israelite forces into the hands of the Philistines.”

Genesis 40:1-22

Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt gave offense to their lord the king of Egypt. 2 Pharaoh was angry with his two courtiers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, 3 and put them in custody, in the house of the chief steward, in the same prison house where Joseph was confined. 4 The chief steward assigned Joseph to them, and he attended them. When they had been in custody for some time, 5 both of them — the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison — dreamed in the same night, each his own dream and each dream with its own meaning.

6 When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were distraught. 7 He asked Pharaoh’s courtiers, who were with him in custody in his master’s house, saying, “Why do you appear downcast today?”

8 And they said to him, “We had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” So Joseph said to them, “Surely God can interpret! Tell me your dreams.”

9 Then the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph. He said to him, “In my dream, there was a vine in front of me. 10 On the vine were three branches. It had barely budded, when out came its blossoms and its clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

12 Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: The three branches are three days.

13 In three days Pharaoh will pardon you and restore you to your post; you will place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, as was your custom formerly when you were his cupbearer.

14 But think of me when all is well with you again, and do me the kindness of mentioning me to Pharaoh, so as to free me from this place. 15 The truth is that I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews. Further, I have not done anything here that they should have put me in the dungeon.”

16 When the chief baker saw how favorably he had interpreted, he said to Joseph, “In my dream, similarly, there were three openwork baskets on my head. 17 In the uppermost basket were all kinds of food for Pharaoh that a baker prepares; and the birds were eating it out of the basket above my head.”

18 Joseph answered, “This is its interpretation: The three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and impale you upon a pole; and the birds will pick off your flesh.”

20 On the third day — his birthday — Pharaoh made a banquet for all his officials, and he singled out his chief cupbearer and his chief baker from among his officials. 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his cupbearing, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand;

22 but the chief baker he impaled — just as Joseph had interpreted to them.

 Ezekiel 1

In the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, when I was in the community of exiles by the Chebar Canal, the heavens opened and I saw visions of God. 2 On the fifth day of the month — it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin — 3 the word of Adonai came to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, by the Chebar Canal, in the land of the Chaldeans. And the hand of Adonai came upon him there.

4 I looked, and lo, a stormy wind came sweeping out of the north — a huge cloud and flashing fire, surrounded by a radiance; and in the center of it, in the center of the fire, a gleam as of amber. 5 In the center of it were also the figures of four creatures. And this was their appearance: They had the figures of human beings. 6 However, each had four faces, and each of them had four wings; 7 the legs of each were fused into a single rigid leg, and the feet of each were like a single calf’s hoof; and their sparkle was like the luster of burnished bronze. 8 They had human hands below their wings. The four of them had their faces and their wings on their four sides. 9 Each one’s wings touched those of the other. They did not turn when they moved; each could move in the direction of any of its faces.

10 Each of them had a human face the front; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right; each of the four had the face of an ox on the left; and each of the four had the face of an eagle the back. 11 Such were their faces. As for their wings, they were separated: above, each had two touching those of the others, while the other two covered its body. 12 And each could move in the direction of any of its faces; they went wherever the spirit impelled them to go, without turning when they moved.

13 Such then was the appearance of the creatures. With them was something that looked like burning coals of fire. This fire, suggestive of torches, kept moving about among the creatures; the fire had a radiance, and lightning issued from the fire. 14 Dashing to and fro among the creatures was something that looked like flares.

15 As I gazed on the creatures, I saw one wheel on the ground next to each of the four-faced creatures. 16 As for the appearance and structure of the wheels, they gleamed like beryl. All four had the same form; the appearance and structure of each was as of two wheels cutting through each other. 17 And when they moved, each could move in the direction of any of its four quarters; they did not veer when they moved. 18 Their rims were tall and frightening, for the rims of all four were covered all over with eyes. 19 And when the creatures moved forward, the wheels moved at their sides; and when the creatures were borne above the earth, the wheels were borne too.

 Berachot 55b

  1. Bizna b. Zabda said in the name of R. Akiba who had it from R. Panda who had it from R. Nahum, who had it from R. Biryam reporting a certain elder—and who was this? R. Bana’ah: There were twenty-four interpreters of dreams in Jerusalem. Once I dreamt a dream and I went round to all of them and they all gave different interpretations, and all were fulfilled thus confirming that which is said: All dreams follow the mouth. Is the statement that all dreams follow the mouth Scriptural? Yes, as stated by R. Eleazar. For R. Eleazar said: Whence do we know that all dreams follow the mouth? Because it says, and it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was. Raba said: This is only if the interpretation corresponds to the content of the dream: for it says, to each man according to his dream he did interpret. When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good.

How did he know this? R. Eleazar says: This tells us that each of them was shown his own dream and the interpretation of the other one’s dream.

 Berachot 56a

Bar Hedya was an interpreter of dreams. To one who paid him he used to give a favourable interpretation and to one who did not pay him he gave an unfavourable interpretation. Abaye and Raba each had a dream. Abaye gave him a zuz, and Raba did not give him anything. They said to him: In our dream we had to read the verse, Your ox shall be slain before your eyes, etc. To Raba he said: Your business will be a failure, and you will be so grieved that you will have no appetite to eat. To Abaye he said: Your business will prosper, and you will not be able to eat from sheer joy. They then said to him: We had to read in our dream the verse, You shall beget sons and daughters but they shall not be yours, etc. To Raba he interpreted it in its [literal] unfavourable sense. To Abaye he said: You have numerous sons and daughters, and your daughters will be married and go away, and it will seem to you as if they have gone into captivity.

 Berachot 56a

Bar Hedya was once traveling with Raba in a boat. He said to himself: Why should I accompany a man to whom a miracle will happen? As he was disembarking, he let fall a book. Raba found it, and saw written in it: All dreams follow the mouth. He exclaimed: Wretch! It all depended on you and you gave me all this pain! I forgive you everything except [what you said about] the daughter of R. Hisda. May it be God’s will that this fellow be delivered up to the Government, and that they have no mercy on him!

Bar Hedya said to himself: What am I to do? We have been taught that a curse uttered by a sage, even when undeserved, comes to pass; how much more this of Raba, which was deserved! He said: I will rise up and go into exile. For a Master has said: Exile makes atonement for iniquity. He rose and fled to the Romans.

He went and served the keeper of the King’s wardrobe. The keeper of the wardrobe had a dream, and said to him: I dreamt that a needle pierced my finger. Bar Hedya said to him: Give me a zuz! The man refused to give him one, and Bar Hedya would not say a word to him.

The Keeper of the King’s wardrobe again said to him: I dreamt that a worm fell between two of my fingers. Bar Hedya said to him: Give me a zuz. The man refused to give him one, and Bar Hedya would not say a word to him.

“I dreamt that a worm filled the whole of my hand.” Finally Bar Hedya said to him: Worms have been spoiling all the silk garments. This became known in the palace, and they brought the keeper of the wardrobe in order to put him to death. The Keeper said to them: Why execute me? Bring the man who knew and would not tell. So they brought Bar Hedya, and they said to him: Because of your zuz, the king’s silken garments have been ruined. They tied two cedars together with a rope, tied one leg to one cedar and the other to the other, and released the rope, so that even his head was split. Each tree rebounded to its place and he was decapitated and his body fell in two.

 Berachot 59a

AND OVER EARTHQUAKES [ZEWA’OTH]. What are ZEWA’OTH? R. Kattina said: A rumbling of the earth.

  1. Kattina was once going along the road, and when he came to the door of the house of a bone necromancer, there was a rumbling of the earth. R. Kattina said: Does the bone necromancer know what this rumbling is? The bone necromancer shouted out to him, “Kattina, Kattina, why should I not know? When the Holy One, blessed be He, calls to mind His children, who are plunged in suffering among the nations of the world, He lets fall two tears into the ocean, and the sound is heard from one end of the world to the other, and that is the rumbling.”
  2. Kattina replied: “The necromancer is a fraud and his words are false. If it was as he says, there should be two earthquakes!”

[The Gemara comments] It was not as R. Kattina argued. For in fact there were two earthquakes, and the reason why R. Kattina did not admit this to him was so that people should not make the mistake of following the necromancer in other things.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s