Thursday, August 25, 2011

Re'eh - Cessation at seven

Why are the festivals all connected to the number seven? What is their connection to the seven of Shabbos? What is the special idea of simcha, joy, in this context? What is the connection to Elul, the loving relationship of the Jewish people with Hashem and the lead up to this joy? How does one access this joy in his life, his service of Hashem and prayer?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 18:52

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The missing malchus (female aspect)

I wanted to share a deep thought that struck me early today. When one has a good grasp of the core concepts underlying Hashem's world, the ideas laid down in the deeper sources, one can see applications of those ideas in a very broad range of places. Perhaps the most essential concept is the balance between the male and female aspects of creation. These two aspects are in a constant state of disrepair, needing our actions to create the proper balance between them. The actions that do this are the mitzvos we do. This is indicated in the kabbalistic prayer many say before the performance of a mitzvah, "l'shem yichud kudsha brich hu u'sh'chintei" - "For the sake of the unity of the Male aspect of divinity and its female." This is a necessity as a result of the imbalance created through the sin of Adam and Chava, where the male and female aspects lost their perfect state of balance.

Generally, the male aspect is represented by the number six, and the female aspect is represented by the number seven. We see this in the six days of creation, which are the days of 'work' - the male aspect, and Shabbos, which is the seventh, the female dimension, of reflection, of malchus. Malchus means kingship, and it corresponds to the moon, which reflects the light of the sun. The sun is the male aspect, it is the keser, the crown, which the kingship of malchus reflects.

There is something that has long puzzled me, that I was thinking about this morning, and Hashem lit up my eyes with a deep insight I would like to share. We find that there are certain places where we only seem to have the six, without the seventh aspect. For instance, we find that there were twelve tribes of the Jewish people. This twelve corresponds to the twelve months of the year. The twelve months can be broken down into two parallel sets of six - from Nissan to Elul and from Tishrei to Adar. The day is split into twenty four hours - twelve hours for the day and twelve for the night. This can further be split into four sets of six hours. We seem to see that in the dimension of time there is a very strong male aspect, as indicated by the multiples of six. Where is the female aspect? And even if one would answer that Shabbos is the female aspect in time, where is the female aspect in each day?

In discussing a different topic with my chevrusa this morning, we spoke about the idea that the sefiros are what make up all of reality. Our physical bodies are made of the sefiros. The entire world is made of sefiros. Our souls are made of the sefiros. Even the dimension of time is made of sefiros. We see this indicated, for example, in the fact that we count through seven sets of sefiros from Pesach to Shavuos. We see this, also, in that which we mentioned that the week is made of seven days.

One of the places where this is brought to the fore, both in the temporal dimension, as well as the spatial dimension, is in the holiday of Succos. The first seven days of Succos correspond to the seven. (As an aside, the eighth day corresponds to the transcendant aspect of Binah, one of the first three sefiros. We are here discussing the lower seven.) This is the dimension of time. We find that the Succah, as well as the movements of the lulav, represent the aspect of space. The Succah surrounds us in all six directions - East, West, North and South, as well as above and below. The lulav is waved in six directions, as well. Where is the missing seventh aspect - the female dimension of malchus here?

The answer is, as R' Aryeh Kaplan Z'l explains, that the center is the female aspect. The idea of the lulav is that there is a back and forth between the male and female aspects. Each time we wave the lulav, we bring together the six components of the lulav (1 lulav, 3 hadasim, 2 aravos) with the seventh component, the esrog (which represents malchus, the female). We wave this bundle in each of the six directions, each time bringing the bundle back to the center, which is the seventh - the point in the center. In the succah, we are surrounded on all six sides, and we are in the center, the seventh point.

If we extend this idea from the spatial dimension into the temporal dimension, we see something remarkable. In the aspect of time, we seem to only see the male aspect of sixes, as they keep recurring, with no evidence of the seventh aspect. The secret is that just like in space the seventh dimension is the center - where the person stands; so too in the dimension of time, the present moment is the female dimension. The fact that the female dimension is represented by the present moment is evidenced in the exemption that women have from positive commandments that are time bound. Women are not affected by the movement of time - their strength is in living in the present. They are, however, commanded in the time bound mitzvos of Shabbos, because Shabbos is the seventh aspect itself, that time of no movement, where everything is previously prepared - there is only to live in the present.

When Adam and Chava sinned, it created a powerful imbalance in the fabric of the spiritual realms, as well as the physical realms of space and time. This imbalance is reflected in every aspect of reality as a discord between the male and female aspects. The way it manifests is expressed by Hashem in His statement to Chava, "והוא ימשול בך" - "And he shall rule over you." As long as the world is in disrepair, the male aspect forcibly rules over the female aspect. Through the proper fulfillment of the Torah and its commandments, we bring the male and female aspects into their proper balance, where man and his wife are equal partners in reality. This is clearly expressed in the mitzvah of lulav, where we have the joining of the male and female aspects, which are waved back and forth between the male spatial dimension, and the female spatial dimension. This corresponds to the joining power of da'as. Da'as ('knowledge') is the glue that binds together the male and female dimensions, and it works through the back and forth between these opposite polarities of reality. This consistent back and forth motion yields a state akin to the androgynous dimension which Adam and Chava inhabited before they were separated from each other through the Nesirah process. This perfect balance was their state prior to their eating of the forbidden fruit, and will be our state when Moshiach comes and we return to that absolute balance.

In the meantime, we live in a state of disrepair, where the male dimension 'rules over' the female dimension at every level of reality. Our job in this world is to return these dimensions to their proper state of balance through the correct use of da'as - giving significance to each of the opposing aspects, bringing the seemingly paradoxical elements of male and female into a state of harmony. This is the back and forth motion of the lulav.

If we take this idea and apply it to the temporal dimension, we discover something remarkable. As we saw, the present moment is the female aspect of time, while the past and future can be said to be the male aspects of time. The current state of reality is that the male aspect 'rules over' the female. Thus, it is our natural state to be overwhelmingly aware of the events of our past and our projected future. This has the effect of robbing us of our present moment, of completely subduing the female aspect of time. The Torah, however, wants us to achieve the proper balance between the past and future (the male aspect) and the present (the female aspect). This means that we need to have a true and proper perspective on the value of each of these dimensions of time. When the past and the future are so powerful in our minds that we can not live in the present, we are living in a state that is the result of Adam and Chava's sin. When we give proper focus to the present, without allowing the past and (projected!) future to overly affect our present, then we are living in the desired state, which is akin to the state we will be in with the advent of Moshiach. This does not mean we should disregard our past or that we should not plan for the future. It means that we must have the right balance such that none of the aspects of time overtake the other.

When we develop this state of harmony between the male and female aspects of our lives, it brings more elements of the world into resonance with that future time, actively bringing us closer to the time period of Moshiach, when all of reality will be in a state of perfect harmony between its male and female aspects.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ekev - 120 days

How do we understand the concept of the one hundred and twenty days Moshe was on Har Sinai? What is the difference between the first and second set of luchos (tablets)? What is the concept of Chasadim and Gevuros?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 16:16

Friday, August 12, 2011

Va'eschanan - true love

What is the concept of the Shema? Why does Rashi say that the Unity of Hashem that we are speaking of is in the future? How does one love Hashem? What are the two types of fear and love of Hashem? How does one serve Hashem with one's evil inclination?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 19:20

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nine days video (youtube)

If you didn't see it yet, here is the video that was made in conjunction with the RBS tzedaka fund (

Friday, August 5, 2011

Devarim - Where are you?

What is the meaning of the word 'Eicha?' What is the theme that runs through the word as we find it in Lamentations and in our parsha? What is the connection to the story of Adam in the Garden of Eden? How can we apply it for oursleves?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 22:05

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Special nine days video - Jerusalem, How long will we cry

Ari Goldwag and the RBS Kupa Shel Tzedaka have come together to produce an amazing video appropriate for the 9 Days, hoping that thousands, if not tens of thousands of people will become partners with local residents in helping the needy of our community. Please watch and forward to your email lists, encouraging friends and family to forward it to their lists.

Thanks for the support