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Monday, May 15, 2006


The kever of the Degel in Medzibuzh. Thanks to A Simple Jew for this pic!

Today is the 17th [Tov] of Iyar, and the 32nd [Lev] Day of the Omer. The Hebrew words in brackets have the gematria – numerical value – of the numbers before them; thus today has a connection to “Lev Tov,” a good heart. The significance of this can be found in the sefer Bnei Yissaschar
on Lag B’Omer.

Today is also the Yahrzeit of the Baal Shem Tov’s grandson, Rebbe Moshe Chaim Efraim of Sudylkov, known for his sefer, the Degel Machaneh Efraim. [The full text of the sefer can be found here, in PDF format.]

Our good friend, A Simple Jew traces his ancestry back to the town of Sudylkov, and hence has become increasingly close to the Degel’s teachings. His posting today is about Netzach of Hod and its relation to the Yahrzeit.

Other interesting posts include last year’s post on the yahrzeit,
today’s Photo Essay on the Degel,
and today’s quote – from the Degel – about Am Segula.

Finally, there are beautiful pictures of the Shtetl of Sudylkov scattered throughout his blog, or you can find them here; while a photo essay of the Shul is here.


There’s a wonderful “vort” [commentary] from the Degel that I like to think about every year around his Yahrzeit, for it ties in to the upcoming Yahrzeit celebrations for Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Lag B’Omer. But first, an introduction.

When the Jewish People left Egypt, the verse [Shemos 14:8] says that they did so, “b’yad Rama” – literally, with a “high hand.” While the simple meaning is “triumphantly”, the Targum of Onkelos [ancient Aramaic translation] uses the Aramaic, “b’reish gali” – literally, “with a revealed head,” but this expression is usually taken to mean “openly, publicly” and even “flamboyantly.” Something that is done “b’reish gali” is done completely out in the open, with absolutely no fear or compunction of being observed by others.

Indeed, Rashi explains the verse as ‘with strength [that was] lofty and manifest.’ The commentaries on Rashi explain that he is also referring to “b’reish gali” – “not like slaves who are embarrassed, or thieves who are fleeing, but like triumphant heroes.” [More on this below…]

However, the Degel Machaneh Efraim explains the words of Onkelos as an allusion, as follows. In the Sefer HaZohar, the Book of Jewish Mysticism transmitted by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, it says, “With this book [the Jewish People] will go out of exile,” meaning the revelation of the Zohar will be a step towards the Redemption. Thus our verse hints to this: the Jewish People will go out, “b’yad rama – b’reish gali.” The word “b’reish” is an abbreviation of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai [Rashbi]. Thus when his sefer, the holy Zohar, will be revealed [“gali” means open, revealed], we will leave the exile.

There is a well-known story that the Baal Shem Tov ascended to Heaven and asked Moshiach, “My master, when are you coming?” To which the latter replied, “When your Torah will be revealed, and your wellsprings flow outward.” This, too, is hinted in our verse, for the word “b’reish” is also an abbreviation for Rebbe Yisrael Baal Shem [Rivash]. So when his Torah is revealed, the Jewish People will leave the exile.


Finally, the Degel also informs us that the word “b’reish” can be rearranged to spell “b’Shir,” with Song. That is, when it will be revealed that we can sing a [new] Song to Hashem, as Moshe Rabbeinu and the Jewish People did at the Reed Sea, then the Jewish People will leave the exile.

This is also mentioned in the Midrash [Mechilta] on the verse we discussed above. There it says that when the Egyptians were chasing the Jewish People [in the direction of the Reed Sea], they began cursing them, whereas the Jewish People were uplifted, praising Hashem with all forms of Praise and Song, for waging war on their behalf.

Similarly, the Ramban explains that “yad rama” means that the Jewish People lifted a Degel – Banner, to praise Hashem with Song, tambourines and stringed instruments, as befits a People going out from slavery to Freedom, not like slaves who are going to return to their master.

Zechuso Yagein Aleinu – may the Degel’s merit indeed protect us all!

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