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!

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