Roy Neuberger - Apr. 27, 2018

“Does a non-Jew really understand the pleasures of this world? Did he ever wake up a few hours before sunrise, drink a hot coffee, and then, with a clear mind, study Torah without interruption for two hours, followed by immersion in a hot mikveh as preparation for an inspired, fiery davening? Does he have any idea of the true pleasures of this world?”

(Ksav Sofer, as quoted in the book, Rav Pam on the Haftaros, Page 161)


I identify with these words. To me, early morning is the best time. It is still dark; the world is quiet; one’s mind is clear. At what other time can one study Torah “without interruption?” I identify with everything in this beautiful description, including the hot coffee!


A clear mind is precious! In this frenetic world, the Satan presents countless distractions. Technology was supposed to serve us, but it has confused us. One needs a lifetime just to understand the instruction manuals!


In the darkness before dawn, the Torah shines a light before us which illuminates the entire day. “Uri kvodi … Awake my soul, awake oh lyre and harp. I shall awaken the dawn!” (Psalm 57:9) This is when King David’s soul reached the heights. “In the evening one lies down weeping, but – with the dawn – a cry of joy!” (Psalm 30)


One of the beauties of early morning is the mikveh. This week we learn, “Aharon shall come to the Tent of Meeting…. He shall immerse himself in the water in a sacred place and don his vestments ….” (Leviticus 16:23-24) Furthermore, “No person may enter the [Temple] Courtyard for service, even if he is pure, until he immerses [himself in a mikveh]. The High Priest performs five immersions and ten sanctifications on the day [of Yom Kippur] ….” (Yoma 30a)


The other day, when I was actually in the mikveh, its unique quality suddenly became so clear to me. It is not an innovation to say this, but sometimes the obvious is so powerful. When you are in the mikveh, you are totally surrounded. You are not aware of anything but water. All is quiet, because water blocks sound. There is no sight; my eyes, anyway, are closed in the mikveh. As in the womb, one is submerged in warmth and security, protection and comfort. As the Ksav Sofer put it, this is one of the “true pleasures of this world.”


Because of the mikveh, we can understand the concept of being surrounded by the Ocean of Torah. “Water can be [interpreted as signifying] nothing other than Torah, as it is said, ‘Ho! Everyone that is thirsty go to the water.’” (Bava Kamma 17a) In the mikveh one can feel vividly the sensation of being surrounded by Torah. That is why it makes so much sense to immerse in the mikveh before that “inspired, fiery davening.”


Incidentally, the most beautiful mikveh I ever saw was in the Syrian Sephardic community in Mexico City. The water was pure like a coral reef. You felt you could drink it. The attendant hands you a warm towel and slippers as you enter. This would be indulgence if it weren’t “preparation for an inspired, fiery davening” and a day filled with Torah.


Today we have no Temple and no Altar. “Both Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Elazar said: The entire time that the Temple was standing, the Altar would atone for Israel. But now [that the Temple has been destroyed], a man’s table atones for him.” (Berachos 55a) Thus it is that the utensils upon our tables also must pass through the waters of the mikveh.


If we are to try to come close to Hashem, we have to be surrounded by Torah. We say “Shema, Yisroel, Hashem Elokainu, Hashem Echad …G-d is One.” What does “echad” mean? Hashem is Everything, Hashem is All There Is! There is nothing else! Everything in the cosmos is created by and is part of Hashem. That is why it is so absurd to rebel against Him, because … who are we anyhow? We are part of Hashem! How can one rebel against Him?


Someone asked me, after a lecture, how I feel about trying to become closer to G-d through a strictly intellectual approach. I personally was never persuaded by an intellectual approach, because Hashem is completely beyond our intellect. Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis a”h used to tell us, “You have to get a Jew to do a mitzvah before you can reach him.” A mitzvah expands the soul and then the questions go away by themselves.


I will never forget the (Jewish!) missionary who tried to get Rebbetzin Jungreis to convert to his “religion” some forty years ago. It was just before Shabbos, and she was at the Pineview Hotel in the Catskills. She said to him, “Just stay for Shabbos and then we’ll talk.” He stayed. When Shabbos was over, there was nothing to talk about.


Shabbos is a mikveh. You are surrounded by Torah. “Shema Yisroel, Hashem Elokainu, Hashem Echad.” Hashem is One. Hashem is everything. “Ain od milvado … there is nothing else beside Him.” In this world of falsehood, we all need to know there is no safety except to surround ourselves with the living waters of Torah.


“Moshe said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand fast and see the salvation of Hashem that He will perform for you today’ …. And the Children of Israel shall come into the midst of the sea ….” (Exodus 14:13ff) In these shrill and tense moments, as we near the culmination of world history, let us be comforted by the thought that, soon, “the knowledge of G-d (will fill) the world as the sea fills the ocean bed.” (Isaiah 11:9)


Recent Posts


alone sacrifices Jewish festival Rabbis three weeks 2020 Vision Mount Zion Final redemption Maccabeans lights Sabbath Rebbe flood Esau Golden Calf Chafetz Chaim Achashveirosh Abraham End of Days fear yeshiva Magog redemption peace Earth dreams Jeremiah biblical Ten Commandments Ishmeal Moshe Day of Judgement Moab patriarchs terrorist yarmulke fires Bilaam keys Tzuk etan Talmud ancestors rain idol Passover Sages death menorah Faith compassion High Holy Days Psalm leprosy Bais Hamikdosh United Nations Mount Hermon tremors Raiders of the Lost Ark resurrection moon Sephardi King David Pharaoh High Priest Ishmael bible Holocaust Ezekiel Egypt Mount Sinai Abrahem pray self-worship terrorism Rabbi Akiva Noah Zion, Angel slaves Solar eclipse rabbi Macabees Leah Land of Israel purity Song of Songs Purim spiritual rosh chodesh Benjamin seder Amram Jerusalem King Solomon Aharon Western World king Adam Samuel the Prophet song esrog meraglim Gog commandment Maimonides Miraglim Pinchas Golan prophet Samuel miracles Esther Edom Holy Ark Joseph Balak Boaz secret Eglon redeemer Angel of Death Laban Repentence Sarah chaos Matriarchs fragrance Master of the Universe Rebecca Divine presence Tallis kiddush trees Hebrew miracle India holy Sea of Galilee survival Galil Lot prophets Teshuva Banias Sefiras haOmer fault Chanukah Second Temple Red Sea murder gossip Rachel Tefillin angel Chanukkah exile Jewish Moses water Judgement Day messiah Shushan cries King of the Universe Temple Mount Rome Hashem sin shofar plague soul Ammon missiles kosher war evil inclination Terror Attack in Jerusalem danger evil Tu b'Shvat mitzvos Mordechai Western Wall Beit Hamikdash Shavuos Europe prayers Haman Torah portion Holy Temple Day of Atonement chessed Jews Torah scholars Malbim Baku Zohar prayer book paradise Golus culture spirituality Sukkos automobiles Exodus Avraham Isaiah Yerushalayim Father in Heaven Temple bris milah Nation of Israel Chofetz Chaim Tu b'Av Judaism Amalek locusts Jewish People Samuel bird siddur Shabbos Protective edge Ishamael America violence tablets sanctity Babylon Ashkenazi prayer Psalms deluge Jacob New Moon ethics mikveh Elul tabernacle mitzva Tisha b'Av barley darkness terrorists Holy land media priests idolatry pain night repent heaven stones Eve Red Heifer Matisyahu Moshiach eternity incense Babylonia Zion light Geula spies Blame Israel Lunar eclipse Judah Sodom Ruth kinneret Dead Sea angels Midrash patriarchs'matriarchs eternal Shechina liberation Canaan David holiday logic Rosh Hashanah Parsha shmittah Rosh Hashana enemies synagogue stars Moshaich Holiness world to come heavenly throne prophet salvation cholent forefathers Genesis slavery Torah G-d matzos Creator persecution materialism creation hubris blessing judgement terror Hasmoneans Sukkah Jew brotherhood Isaac minyan Yom Kippur Garden of Eden heavenly gates Prophecy evolution Zechariah repentance Heavenly Mercy mikveh, Sabbath Solomon Greeks God sun earthquake Hagar Jewish holidays Children of Israel kesuba Passover Seder Rashi shield of Abraham Yaakov Miriam Chol haMoed tears