Friday, January 28, 2011

Mishpatim: Land of the Free

After an emotionally charged and very dramatic Parshas Yisro, Am Yisrael figuratively descends Mount Sinai and enters into the world of nitty-gritty monetary laws. But these seemingly mundane, physical and financial ordinances contain within them deep secrets and relevant messages in Avodas Hashem.

The first set of laws discussed in the Parsha are the details of the Eved Ivri - a Jew, who for one reason or another becomes a slave. Torah says that he serves his master for six years. After his term as a slave he has one of two options: he can either go free, or he can choose to give himself over to his master for life.

Let’s first discuss going free. After his six years of service the Passuk tells us that he is released Chofshi Chinam - ‘Free; for no charge.’ Why does the Torah employ the repetitious terminology (‘double-Lahon’) of Chofshi Chinam? What do we learn from the fact that he leaves both Chofshi, free and Chinam which also means free? And while Chazal do learn out more monetary nuances from this double-Lashon, nowadays, when we don’t have the concept of Eved-Ivri, how does this apply to me?

But like we said, there is a second possibility. He can give himself over to his master forever. Why would he want to indenture himself forever? Simply because his master has to treat him really well. His master gives him a wife. If there is one bed, the master sleeps on the floor (the list of perks goes on). The downside is that at the end of the day, it’s still slavery, and the spiritual realities that are intrinsically rooted into the life of a slave are far from the best.

Hashem wants us to be His servants, Ovdei Hashem. He doesn’t want us to give ourselves over to human beings. He wants us to be , to accept the Yolk of Heaven, not Ol Basar Va’Dam, the yolk of another human. So if he does choose to give himself over there are consequences. The slave is taken to court and (take a deep breath) the officials take his ear and nail it into a doorpost. Not pleasant. The tool used is some sort of spike called a Martze’a.

With this information we have to add another question: Why smash his ear? What connection does his handing himself over have to his ear? He’s giving over his whole being!

Our answer begins by a seemingly ambiguous line in the Ba’al HaTurim. He reveals to us the hidden secret of the Martze’a. This word’s Gematria (numerical value) is four hundred. This corresponds to the fact that after four hundred years Hashem redeemed us from Egypt. After such redemption, this man wants to re-enter slavery from his own free will? So we smash his ear in with a Martze’a, the four hundred corresponds to the four hundred years of the long awaited redemption which he is now proactively rejecting.

This cute correspondence of four hundreds has a tremendous depth, revealed to us in the Sefer Amudei Hod in the name of HaGaon Rav Yitzchak Hutner and Rav Moshe Shapira Shlita.

Every year at the Pesach Seder we sing the song of Echad Mi Yode’a, commonly known as “Who knows one?” Every number is linked to a fundamental Jewish statistic. Three are the forefathers (Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov. and four are the mothers. (Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, and Leah.) The goal of the fathers was to generate the progeny, to make the nation. The goal of the mothers, and therefore intrinsically the essence of the number four, was to remove the bad from within the nation. Sarah Imeinu kicked out Yishma’el. Rivka took the blessings away from Eisav as to weaken him. Rachel and Leah convinced Yaakov Avinu to finally distance himself from Lavan so that he would not be able to leach off of Yaakov’s incredible holiness. So we see that four, when dealing with the realm of holiness is there to push away impurities that hold us back from taking upon ourselves Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim - the acceptance of the Yolk of Heaven (Living with the reality that God is running the show).

And the same applies in the realm of the opposite of holiness – in Tumah - as well. There are four nations which exile us, and there goal is to remove our ability to draw godliness into the world. When Yaakov Avinu was making his way to Eretz Yisrael, the path was blocked by Eisav, who came with four hundred men (The Maharal explains that the as any number grows by one decimal [four to forty, forty to four hundred] the meaning, significance and theme of that number grows with it. Thus the four hundred men is an exponential continuation of the theme of four.) And so too when Avraham tried to purchase Ma’aras HaMachpela, the gateway to Gan Eden, he had to pay four hundred silver pieces to gain entry. If four within the context of holiness represents the removal of blockages between man and godliness, then four within the realm of impurity represents the removal of Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim - Acceptance of the Yolk of Heaven.

Therefore when Hashem wanted to prepare us for Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim He brought the holy Jewish people to the most unholy place in the world - Mitzrayim. And He did so for specifically four hundred years. Why? Because this sets up the ultimate challenge to Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim. Anyone who can survive this is ready to go to the ultimate Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayaim at Har Sinai. And therefore he who willingly re-enters slavery is actively removing his Ol Malchus Shamayim and therefore rejecting everything that the whole Egyptian exile and redemption was all about! Therefore the rejection of four hundred comes back to smash him in the form of four hundred - the Gematria of Martze’a.

In short, this man who is choosing to re-enter slavery is rejecting Ol Malchus Shamayim, because by being a servant of a human being, it is automatically impossible to fully be a servant of Hashem. (One example: A slave is exempt from the twice daily recitation of Shema, which is our daily Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim.)

Perhaps with this in mind, we can bring forward the words of the holy Sfas Emes to explain why we specifically smash his ear. The answer is that Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim is done with hearing.

How do we know? From the famous words of this weeks Parsha - Na’aseh V’Nishma - We shall do and we shall listen. The question is famous: How are we going to listen after we’ve already done the action? Says the Rebbe Zatz’al, this is the secret to what Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim is all about. What is the acceptance of a yolk? A yolk on an ox means that it’s always ready to do work. The plow connected to the yolk means that he now has the opportunity to do so. The plow is not always connected, but as long as the yolk is still on, he’s ready. So to by Na’aseh V’Nishma.

Na’aseh means that we will do whenever we can. Whatever opportunity comes our way, we’ll jump on it. And Nishma? That’s how we say that after we do it, or even when there is nothing to do, we are still listening out for the next opportunity. There may be no plow, but I’m waiting with the yolk on. That’s Kabbalas Ol - the Yolk, the essence of being totally ready, fully invested in Avodas Hashem, and that comes specifically through hearing.

Thus, when a person is a slave of another human being there is a certain intrinsic freedom from Kabalas Ol Malchus Shamayaim, because the very nature of his role causes him to be fully invested in the service of something other than God.

Says the Zohar, that this is the depth behind a certain negative spiritual reality, a Klipah called Chinam - freedom (U-S-A! U-S-A!). When a sense of disconnection to Ol Malchus Shamayim enters into a persons heart, because he is enslaved, because he is in servitude to something else, he is under the influence of the impure spirit called Chinam. And therefore when the slave in our Parsha goes free, he goes Chofshi Chinam! Meaning, he is going free from the status called Chinam! He can finally be Mekabel Ol Malchus Shamayim!

And now everything comes together. The value of four hundred that the Martze’a embodies come to strike the ear because this man is showing that he is not interested in his redemption from Egypt, and therefore not interested in Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim and therefore not interested in Nishma - We shall hear.

Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shamayim means that I’m a servant of Hashem and nothing else. I’m always ready. I’m fully and totally invested. I’m focused. Nothing can pull me away. This is my life and I’m sticking to it. No matter what the situation is, I got my yolk on and I’m ready. I’m here to bring holiness into the world, and I’m not going to fail. HaKadosh Baruch Hu should give us a Bracha to be Mekabel Ol Malchus Shamayim B’Emes. Because if we can there is no doubt that we will live lives of Simcha and Shleimus, moving closer to the Creator and ultimately the Geulah Sheleimah!.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Yisro: Aint No Mountain High. Aint No Valley Low.

The nature of receiving Torah, the written revelation of God’s desire for mankind, is a central theme of this week’s Parsha. This week, the Jews underwent the history-altering experience of Matan Torah.

The cycle of Torah-reading is deeper than a repetitious review regimen. The reading of the Torah creates realities. As we go through the yearly progression, the words and stories of each Parsha infuse the world with the unique energies and forces of vigor that constantly keep the universe fresh. So when we read about the Jewish journey to Mount Sinai we aren’t merely scanning a history book, we are reliving and re-enlivening an experience that is very real – If we choose to tap into it. That means that right now we are being given an opportunity to encounter a personal Kabalas HaTorah.

Our question revolves around a famous Midrash about how God ‘shopped-around’ the Torah before giving it to the Jews. He offered to the Children of Eisav. They replied, “What’s in it?” Hashem answers, “Don’t kill.” Astonished, they exclaim, “But it says in that very Torah, the one that You want to give us right now that we are the offspring of a murderer. It’s written right in there that we are a vicious homicidal people! No thanks.”

So Hashem offers the Torah to the children of Yishmael. “What’s in it?” “Don’t steal.” They answer with the same response as Eisav’s descendants, “But it says in Your book that our forefather is a thief. It’s written black on white that our whole core is to plunder. We have deception and deceit rooted down to our bones! Not interested.”

Hashem moves onto the nation of Moav. “What’s in it?” “No adultury.” And in familiar form, they reply, “But You Yourself have it written down as saying that our whole nation’s inception was incestuous! That’s who we are, and it’s not changing anytime soon.”

But we need to work out the following difficulty: Hashem knows what was written in the Torah before He offered it. Surely He could have anticipated such questions! He created the world, and He created these nations with the various ingrained traits that they posses. So why offer it to them in the first place? What good would it do?

Our answer stems from learning more about what is the true meaning of Kabalas HaTorah. And to do this there us another topic that we need to address.

If this Parsha is all about the Jews special relationship with Hashem, as defined by our receiving the Torah, then why name the Parsha, and start it off by reintroducing us to a convert named Yisro. Sure, he’s a great guy, but it would seem out little of place for him to take the spotlight! Things would be less confusing if the Parsha was called ‘Moshe’ or ‘Har Sinai.’ But the Torah teaches us about Yisro as a means of an introduction to Matan Torah. Why?

If this week is a small re-experiencing of Matan Torah then the Parsha is deeply intertwined with the holiday of Shavuos where we celebrate our receiving of the Torah.

If this is so, then our question stems out from our Parsha and into Shavuos. Every holiday has a theme song. The anthem of any given holiday on our calendar is its Megila. Succos has Koheles. Pesach goes with Shir HaShirim. Shavuos is paired up with Rus.

Megilas Rus is the story of another convert. We are told of a princess from the Moabite nation who left everything behind when she realized that Judaism holds the truth. Being in the public eye, wealth, admiration and political sway were all meaningless in contrast to the intrinsic goodness of closeness with HaKadosh Baruch Hu. And it wasn’t easy. She worked in fields and slept on floors. But in her eyes, it was all worth it. The honor of being a Jew was worth everything in the world.

Our story by Yisro is not different. In his native land of Midyan he was a star. He was a political leader, the head of a religious following as well a thriving businessman. But when he chose to follow the path of holiness and deep, internal self-improvement that comes with Jewish-conversion all his comfort was taken and instead he and his family were excommunicated. But he stuck to it. Because intimacy with Hashem, a connection to the diving – it’s more precious than all of that.

Am Yisrael accepts the Torah every week. We are commanded to read the Shnayim Mikra V’Echad Targum, to repetitions of the classic Hebrew text with one read of a translation or commentary. The goal is that every week, the entire Jewsh people walks away with a clear understanding of that week’s Parsha. The original style was done with the Aramaic rendering of the Torah, as translated by a man named Unkolus.

Who was this man? He fits the description of our two previous characters. As a descendant of the powerful and vicious Roman King Titus, he was born into Roman nobility - not an uncomfortable place to be. He was endowed with political influence, fleets and brigades of top army forces at his disposal, physical indulgences of royal class, and all of that aside from his ability to revive the dead with magic. He was really living it up. But he was a thinker. And his ponderings and musings led him to Judaism – which proved to be a difficult decision. He fled to houses of Torah study where he locked himself day and night, studying. All the while keeping a low cover as to avoid being detected by the myriads of Roman troops who were searching the whole world for him. But like we explained, if the upshot is getting to be close to the Creator, if there is a possibility of experiencing a relationship with the Source of all life – then leaving behind the life of Roman royalty is really no big deal.

But why? Why is it that every time the Jews experience some form of Matan Torah, be it Parshas Yisro, Chag HaShevuous or even the weekly Shnayim Mikra V’Echad Targum, does Hashem deem the party incomplete without the presence of some very dramatic convert?

It must be that these holy converts are teaching us an intrinsic lesson about the personal Kabbalas HaTorah that happens in our lives.

What is Kabbalas HaTorah? Kabbalas HaTorah is a pledge of allegiance to Hashem.

Yisro, Rus and Unkolus are teaching us that if closeness to Hashem is really that important to me, then nothing is going to hold me back. If I really want it, if this really means something, if this really means everything to me, then I will be divinely empowered to do whatever it takes achieve Diveikus - a sense of clinging to Hashem. These holy converts are teaching me that no lifestyle is so engrossing, so full of temptation that it cannot be escaped for the sake of greater meaning, purpose and happiness in my being. No matter what it is, it doesn’t make a difference if it’s a bad habit or character trait; the situation isn’t changed by the intensity of my social complications – If I choose spirituality then I can overcome anything.

This explains why throughout the entirety of the laws of conversion, all the scriptural allusions are drawn from the path of purity undertaken by the Jewish people as they made their way to Sinai. One example is reason as to why a convert must go to Mikveh. He needs to because before Matan Torah Moshe told Am Yisrael to immerse as well. We see from here that aside from the story of Yisro himself, the entirety of the Jewish people also experienced a qualitative change of life as a result of Matan Torah. Every convert needs to undergo a mini-Matan Torah.

And now we can finally understand the offer that Hashem is making to the nations by suggesting that perhaps they are interested in the Torah. Even though you are so convinced that this is your way of life, even though it seems that there is no way of breaking the cycle – if the nations take upon themselves the Torah then Eisav won’t kill, Yishmael won’t steal and Moav will make a clean break from immorality.

We are often so caught up in the status quo that to change, to grow, to improve, and to add holiness into our lives seems simply out of reach. The person who I am right now is incapable of transforming into the person I want to be. But now we see that it isn’t true. If I want the Torah, if I want Kedusha and Taharah then Hashem will help me get it. I can cause a revolution in my entire life if I need to. I can do it. If I put my mind to it, If I decide that this is what I really want, then Kabalas HaTorah that happens anytime I want it to. That is the message of Unkolus, the message of Rus and the message of Yisro.

If we can find within ourselves the wellsprings of inspiration that lay waiting to be tapped into and push ourselves to live by such lofty standards, there is no doubt that we will live lives of happiness and Shleimus, mocing closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu and ultimately the Geulah Sheleimah!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Beshalach: DJ in the Sky

In this week’s Parsha, when the Jews finally exit Egypt (and in grand style they do), Paroh tries one last time to chase down and round up his escapees. With the Egyptians on their tails and a sea at their front, the Jews turn to Hashem. But God cuts the prayers short and tells them to march in – and they listen. With the water up to their necks God splits the sea – the Jews get the message and begin to cross. With the whole nation surrounded by anti-gravity water-walls, the Egyptians see this as their final opportunity to over-take their former servants. But Hashem would have it otherwise. The water came crashing down and in a fleeting instant the entirety of the Egyptian army was decimated. As the Jews finished their excursion they see their former taskmaster’s corpses strewn across the shore. And with that begins the song that defines the Jewish display of thanks and praise of Hashem Shiras HaYam… Az Yashir. But as we will see the entire scene was much more emotionally deep and spiritually significant than we just described.

There are a few simple questions that we need to ask, and some amazing Midrashim that we need to address.

The Passuk says ‘Az Yashir Moshe U’Binei Yisrael.” This is usually translated as ‘And so Moshe and the Jews sang.’ This is completely incorrect. Az Yashir means, ‘And so shall sing Moshe and the Jews’ – sang in the future tense. Had the Passuk said VaYashir Moshe U’Binei Yisrael then the verse would mean, ‘And Moshe and the Jews sang.’ But our structure translates into the perplexing ‘And so shall sing Moshe and the Jews.’

Fist of all, why future tense. Secondly, why say, ‘V’Az - And so they shall sing’? The verse would be complicated enough if it remained without the emphatic ‘And so shall’. ‘And they shall sing’ is confusing as it is!

On a more essential level, what’s a Shira? What is song?

Let’s move on to the Midrashim.

The Midrash says that one of the merits that got the Jews out of Egypt was Zechus of the holy mothers. What did they do? In the face of Paroh’s evil decree to kill all the children, they went out into the fields of Egypt and gave brith to their children in secret. They didn’t separate from their husbands, they didn’t abort the babies; rather they did their part in furthering the progeny of the Jewish people. But how did these babies survive? Chazal tell us an amazing thing. The Midrash says that God Himself came down, and clothed His Presence in the form of a Handsome Man. The ‘Handsome Man’ had two rocks from which He extracted nourishment to feed and sustain a generation’s-worth of field-born babies. He raised them, He clothed them, he taught them and He cleaned them. When they became old enough and strong enough to return to their homes they did – and they told their parents of the ‘Handsome Man’ who raised them.

Chazal tell us that in the moments of the splitting of the sea, when the Jews reached the other side and began to sing, they reached levels of prophecy that even the greatest of prophets throughout history could not attain. God ripped open the heavens and revealed Himself as a Strong Warrior. This generation of children, the ones raised by a ‘Handsome Man’ were there. And when they saw this vision of God in Heavens they started tugging on their parents. “That’s the Guy! That’s the Man who raised me! That’s the one who fed and bathed and taught me! That’s the Guy I told you about!” It was these children who started Az Yashir.

Another Midrash. Every Friday night after Mizmor Shir L’Yom HaShabbos we say the paragraph of Hashem Malach. In that piece we say the words Nachon Kisacha Me’Az - Your Throne was established from ‘Az’ – from then. Says the Midrash - From Az? That Az is Az Yashir. God’s Kisei, His Throne was set right when the Jews sang on the shore.

So what is Az? The Beis Yaakov of Izhbitz says that Az is made up of two letters, of an Alef and a Zayin. When the Alef connects to the Zayin we can begin to sing. Let’s try to understand what this means.

Alef in the eyes of Chazal is always a reference to Alufo Shel Olam - the Commander of the world, meaning God. The Presence that hovers over all of the creation, watching and controlling everything – that’s Alef. Zayin on the other hand is this world as we know it. The numerical value of Zayin is seven. Seven days of the week. Seven colors in the rainbow. Seven notes in the musical scale (and the list goes on…). When the Alef, when God’s presence is connected to and felt in the realm of Zayin, that harmony is song self.

Says the Sfas Emes, the word Shira comes from Shura, meaning line or beam. When things are directly in order, when I gain clear perspective of where everything belongs, when I see everything in its place, when I see God’s presence permeating my whole life, on a very personal level, then my life becomes its own theme-song.

These two concepts give us new depth in our understanding of the Trup or Te’amim, that surround the letters used for reading the Torah. These symbols that surround letters indicate exactly what tune is used when reading any given portion of Scripture. It’s brought down that these symbols, which hover around the letters represent the spiritual aspect of life. The letters which give the tune context resemble physicality (think a soul/body relationship). When the connection is made between tune and verse, between the Trup and words, the Psukkim become alive, they gain a whole new dimension. This fusion of spirituality into the physical makes the whole Torah a song.

With this we can understand why it was the children whom HaKadosh Baruch Hu raised that started the Shira. When they saw an image of Hashem in the sky, when they recognized Him as that Handsome Man who raised them; they, at that moment realized that God was such a intrinsic part of their lives. They realized that the Alufo Shel Olam was not some distant entity that lives ‘out there’ they saw that God was with them, in the Zayin of reality that they experienced - whole time. Everything made sense. The Shura of their lives finally lined up. The only reaction was to break out in song.

Now we can also understand the Midrash of Nachon Kisacha Me’Az. Says the Sfas Emes, God’s throne, His Kisei is a parable for what we would refer to as the ‘Control Center.’ That’s the place from where he pulls all the strings, where He’s running show. The word Kisei is deeply rooted to Kisui, which means covering. The processes from which God clothes His presence in the world begin at the Kisei. But if no one realizes that the all of the things in the world are being directed by something that is Kisui, then something is wrong in the place from where that Kisui is rooted, i.e.: the Kisei. When those children made that connection. When they saw that the Presence in the sky was a presence in their lives, they set the Kisei right. Therefore Nachon Kisacha Me’Az - from Az Yashir.

We’ve answered what Az and Shira are, but we still need to answer why it was all done in future tense. Says the Sfas Emes, we are dealing with future tense because really the Jews were setting a precedent. This is how we are going to react in every situation like this from now until the end of time. When we see God in our lives we’re going to turn up the stereo and party it up. We’re going to make that connection – and that connection is the song itself. From now until forever, when a Jew feels God in his life he’s not going just going to sing with his mouth -

He may not even use his mouth at all. Libi U’Besari Yiranenu L’Kel Chai - My heart and my flesh will sing to the Living God, to the God who is a part of my life. That connection itself is the song. The harmoniousness of feeling God’s presence in my life, in my physical surroundings give the world an anthem. When I open my eyes and try to be a little deeper, a little more spiritually aware, just a little more sensitive to God’s little messages my life becomes Mamesh a musical. When I realize that all of my Zayin is really preceded by an Alef it’s time to turn up the volume.

B’Ezras Hashem we should Zoche to hear this song. We should have ears that are delicate enough to hear HaKadosh Baruch Hu humming into them. Such a life is a more joyous one. Such a life is a more fulfilling one. And if we can live up to such a lofty level there is no doubt that we will achieve both of these things, moving close to HaKadosh Baruch Hu and the day of which we say about Az Yimalei Schok Pinu - ‘Then our mouths shall be full of laughter’ – the day of the Geulah Sheleimah!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Bo: Time Is Against The Essence

In this week’s Parsha, Am Yisrael is given its first Mitzva - the Mitzva of Kiddush HaChodesh, setting up the months. This by itself begs a simple question. Why? Why did HaKadosh Baruch Hu designate Kiddush HaChodesh as the headliner for all other Mitzvos?

Based on the deep words of the Zev Yitrof, with Hashem’s help, we will reveal the answer. Let’s explore.

Back in Parshas Lech Lecha, Hashem enters into the Bris Bein HaBesarim, a treaty with Avraham Avinu. He guarantees to Avraham that there will be an Egyptian exile. ‘Yada Teida’ – Know this – ‘Ki Ger Yih’yeh Zarecha B’Eretz Lo LaHem’ – Your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land – ‘Va’Avadum V’Inu Osam Araba Meos Shana’ - And they will be enslaved and oppressed there for four hundred years.

But even though there will be a lengthy exile, God tells Avraham not to fear, because they will emerge, Hashem will take them out. ‘V’Dor Rivi’i Yashuvu Heina’ – After four generations I’ll bring them back to Eretz Yisrael.

The Vilna Gaon highlights a very subtle discrepancy between the calculation of the exile in contrast to that of the redemption. When God describes the length of exile, He introduces it to Avraham Avinu through years. ‘Va’Avadum V’Inu Osam Araba Meos Shana’ - And they will be enslaved and oppressed there for four hundred years. But when God tells him about the redemption, He does so through a number of generations, ‘V’Dor Rivi’I Yashuvu Heina’ – After four generations I’ll bring them back.

Why does God introduce exile with years and redemption with generations? The Gaon defines a tremendous foundation in our perception of reality. Years are the result of a natural passing of time. Generations are formed through man’s proactive creation of children. Says the Gaon, Time is the root of destruction. Man is the source of it’s Tikkun. It’s up to us to make it right.. The painful experience of exile is therefore referenced to by the natural system of years. The positive experience of redemption on the other hand, is brought about through the generations which man cause.

We know how time is the inevitable source of entropy (the natural tendency for things to move towards disorder over time). If I clean my room and put everything in order I walk away with one perfect way to set up a room. If one book is moved, one shirt falls off a hanger the room is already imperfect. If left unchecked, this denigrating force of entropy will; over time, revert the whole room back to disorder. There needs to be some conscious proactive force to keep a room clean.

Chazal tell us that when an event is introduced with VaYihi, it’s a Lashon Tzar, an expression of pain. On the other hand, when the Torah introduces something to us with V’Haya it’s a Lashon Simcha, it means that the Torah is telling good news.

Why is this so? The root Yihi is really future tense, but the Hebrew prefix of Vav flips the tense of the word from Yihi - It will be, to Va’Yihi, And it was. This tense-switching prefix is called the Vav-HaHipuch, The Overturning-Vav. ‘It will be’ connotes the hope for the future, but the Vav HaHipuch puts those hopes under the destructive influence on time, reverting it to the past. And nothing is more depressing than crushed hopes. This is why VaYihi is Lashon Tzar.

Conversely Haya means ‘It was’ – back in the day, under the cobwebs of history. In this case the Vav HaHipuch breathes new life into that which time has already dominated, switching ‘It was’ to ‘It shall be’. This refreshing vitality is the life of the Lashon Simcha.

From the moment creation begins we start out with the force Vav HaHipuch. God says, Yihi Ohr - There shall be light. Just as light is formed, time is formed with it, and with that comes the Vav HaHipuch. ‘VaYomer Elokim Yihi Ohr, VaYihi Ohr.’ And God said let there be light, and there was light. If VaYihi is Lashon Tzar, then history is off to a bad start.

Every single creation and every single day has a VaYihi attached to it. But the first time we see Lashon Simcha is by the creation of the stars. V’Hayu L’Osos U’La’Moadim - And they shall be for signs and for festivals. Rashi says on the spot that they were really created for future use, when Am Yisrael will use the stars and the moon to set the months and set up the holidays.

There is a very perplexing Midrash that says that when the moon was created, it ‘talked-back’ to God and complained that it and the sun were the same size, and two kings can’t share one crown; i.e.: two luminaries can’t simultaneously be the most important. God said, ‘Fine, I’ll make you smaller and that will solve the problem.’ And so, God shrunk the moon. But to comfort it, HaKadosh Baruch Hu created all the stars in order to keep it company and give it backup at night. But in the end, when Moshiach comes, the moon will return back to its original glory. A perfected moon signifies a perfected world.

On a miniature scale, we experience this every month. Every month, time slowly grabs hold of the moon and wears it away until there is nothing left. And just when the past, when the power of Haya has seemed to completely win out, when the moon has been reduced to nothing, out comes the Vav HaHipuch and brings the moon back. As we say to the moon in every Kiddush HaChodesh, that we are Asidim L’HisChadesh Kamoscha - Destined in the future to renew like you. Am Yisrael will make a historical comeback – just like the moon will.

All the stars, which serve Chazal as identifying factors for the ever-changing months, were used throughout history for astrology – a system of reading the future which has since been lost, but referred to throughout Torah literature as a legitimate science. And what are they called in the verse? Osos - Signs. Adds the Vilna Gaon, the etymological-root of Osos is Alef-Taf-Hei, which means ‘To come’ (like we see in Yeshayahu 21:12; Asa Boker - Morning is coming). And what emerges from this is that the whole purpose of the stars that we see at night is that they are there to determine that which is to come; they are there to tell the future.

But most importantly, we need to go back to what Rashi said. The whole point of creating the stars and the moon was so that eventually the Jews would use them to organize the calendar. Why does this deserve a Lashon Simcha of VaHayu? Because when the Jews are given the Mitzva of Kiddush HaChodesh, to use the night luminaries to organize the calendar, it means that we are being given the tools to fight the destructive nature of time! It means that time is now being given over into the hands of Am Yisrael to be moved and adjusted for the holidays, for holiness! As we say in the prayers of the holidays, ‘M’Kadesh Yisrael V’HaZmanim’ which is explained to mean that God makes the Jews holy, and they make time holy. Time is the root of destruction. Man is the source of it’s Tikkun.

If the entirety of the creation story is delivered through Lashon Tzar with the exception of the luminaries, then when those tools are handed over to the Jews, it means that history takes a non-reversible turn for the better. The Jews’ role of perfecting the world is embodied by their control over the world’s destructive force of time. If the whole creation of the stars is there for the purpose of Am Yisrael to overtake time, then it is specifically the tools that overpower entropy that will be created with Lashon Simcha, because it is they that will take the Haya of time, and turn it over into V’Haya.

In short: Time causes things to rot. The day-in-day-out can get me in a rut. It’s the unique power of the Jew to take time, to take all the rotted corrupted things in the world and fix them. To take the stars and the moon and use them make time holy. This perfection brought about by the Jews embodies the goal of every Mitzva, to bring more holiness into this very physical (and very prone to entropy) world of ours. It is our job to take all the cracks, all the broken things, all the things that are distant from Hashem, all the things that are overtaken by Haya, and turn it upside down, to enliven them with holiness, to turn them into V’Haya Hashem L’Melech Al Kol Ha’Aretz. The day where all things are so imbued with holiness that the knowledge of Hashem fills the land.

B’Ezras Hashem If we can set our minds to this goal there is no doubt that we will live lives of Shleimus and Simcha moving closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu and ultimately the Geula Sheleima!