Friday, February 25, 2011

Purim: Connect the Dots

The following is influenced in part by the Meor Einayim, Nefesh HaChayim Pachad Yitzchak, Maharal Sfas Emes, Ohr G’Dalyahu, Afikei Mayim, as well as conversations with Rav Avshi Weingott Shlit’a. Please feel free to print this out and read it over Shabbos, but please not during Tefilos.

HaKadosh Baruch Hu tells us that His fight with Amalek spans through all the generations - M’Dor Dor. We are commanded, “Timcheh Es Zecher Amalalek” – Wipe out any recollection of them. Clean the world of them.

Even more powerfully, the termination of Amalek comes hand-in-hand with the world reaching Tikun, a lofty spiritual term which simply means, “fixing” or “rectification.” The Passuk says, “Reishis Goyim Amalek V’Achariso Adei Oved” - Amalek is the Reishis, the start, the head of all the nations, but it’s Acharis, its end, its finality is destruction.

The meaning of V’Achriso Adei Oved is that Amalek’s final Tikun, their spiritual-fixing, is attained only via their nullification. V’Achriso: Their meeting with Acharis - as in Acharis HaYamim, the End of Days, where all things meet their Tikkun - is Adei Oveid, eternal destruction.

We see here Amalek’s association with the concept of being first, Resishis Goyim. Hashem always creates a balance between the holy and impure, and the contrast to Amalek’s Reishis, is that of Am Yisrael’s. As the Midrash says on the first word of the Torah, Bireishis, Bishvil Yisrael She’Nikra Reishis - What does the word Bireishis mean? For Am Yisrael who are called Reishis.

And so the stage is set for history’s most important battle, Reishis versus Reishis, withAchris HaYamim and Tikun Olam hanging in the balance.

Amalek has Koach HaPirud, the power Pirud - Disconnection. Amalek works like a pot-hole, seeping into the smallest crack, pushing and pushing until everything collapses. Amalek severs ties (last week we spoke about Amalek breaking up the Jewish people), between man and his fellow man, between man and his Maker, and between man and himself. Pirud, separation, divide and conquer. If we are trying to bring the world to Tikun, then Amalek is using Koach HaPirud to bring the world to farther and farther Kilkul, Spiritual Ruin.

The world of Tikun is described as a time where, VaYimaleh Ha’Aretz Da’as Hashem, the world will be filled with the truest form of Da’as, the Knowledge of God. If Da’as, specifically that of God represents Tikun, then logically Amalek is standing in the way of proper Da’as.

Da’as, as it is used first in the Torah, is an expression of connectedness. Va’Adam Yada Es Chava Ishto - And Adam ‘knew’ his wife. The verse goes on to tell us that this knowledge of one another caused Chava (Eve) to bear children. Clearly this wasn’t simply a deep conversation. The Torah is telling us that true knowledge means to be connected at the core.

This is the goal of VaYimaleh Ha’Aretz Da’as Hashem, for the world to live together with Hashem, to have a life infused with a deeply rooted consciousness of God – this is the Tikun of the universe.

Amalek therefore opposes this Da’as. Da’as leads connectedness, which leads to Tikun. Amalek brings Pirud - disconnection - and thereby Kilkul.

Haman, the main antagonist of the Purim-Story was a direct descendant of Amalek. And therefore he must have Pirud and Kilkul in his veins. (We’ve described how this is so in last week’s essay.) But to intensify this already startling information, Chazal trace Amalek’s roots back to the, Nachash HaKadmoni - the Snake in the Garden of Eden, thereby making Haman a reincarnation of everything that the Nachash HaKadmoni represents. Let’s see how this is so.

If we look carefully we see this Koach of anti-Da’as with the snake as well. For if we learned that Da’as is codeword for the intimate relationship between Adam and Chava, then it does not come as a shock that the Midrash tells us that the Nachash HaKadmoni actually slept with Chava (we don’t understand such things) in order to convince her to eat of the Eitz HaDa’as, which caused all of the problems that we experience for the rest of history. Thus, the Nachash, comes to desecrate the original Da’as in order to created the ultimate Kilkul.

What’s so bad about the Eitz HaDa’as Tov V’Ra? How does its consumption further the goals of Amalek? Until Adam ate from the tree he was living with Da’as Hashem, the way that God intended it. It part of his very nature to be totally in tune with Hashem’s will. A life of total Dveikus. But after he ate, he replaced this consciousness with a confusion of Tov V’Ra a confounding and fuddling blend of good and evil, right and wrong. Things were no longer clear as they once were. He was distracted away from that deep connection that he once possessed. Man’s clarity of mind allowed him to live on-on-one with the Creator, constantly. The consumption of the Eitz HaDa’as Tov V’Ra separated that connection, thereby creating the Pirud between man and maker, which opened the door to all sins - ever.

And this ultimate Kilkul, the eating of the Eitz HaDa’as Tov V’Ra (Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil) is Chazal’s source of Haman in the Torah. “Haman Min HaTorah Minayin?” Where does Haman appear in the Torah? “HaMin Ha’Eitz.” This is where Hashem asks Adam if he ate of the tree. And as we know, he did.

We learn a very important fundamental concept here. If Haman’s Torah-root is found in the Eitz HaDa’as Tov V’Ra (Hamin HaEitz), then it means that he must be pulling his entire essence from the Eitz HaDa’as Tov V’Ra, and therefore we see that the Nachash, Amalek and Haman are seeking to replace Da’as Hashem with Kilkul via Pirud.

It’s written in the Zohar that Moshe Rabbeinu is the Raza D’Da’as, the Secret of Da’as and the Da’as of Am Yisrael. One shining example is when Am Yisrael was fighting Amalek on the way to Har Sinai (a classic display of the Pirud against Da’as Hashem by the hand of Amalek). Chazal tell us that when Moshe’s hands were lifted, the Jews would gain the upper hand. When he put his hands down, Amalek would gain the upper hand. Chazal ask: What, Moshe’s hands win wars? No! It means that when Moshe would raise his hands he would be reminding the Jews to keep focused on the One Above. Keep your thoughts on Him and you are invincible. Moshe shows us here how he is a vessel of Da’as Hashem.

It would thereby reason to say that in the Megilah, at every stage of Haman’s downfall, we should see an expression of Da’as to signify the occasion. And we do.

The first seed is planted for Mordechai’s eventual upheaval and rise to power was before any problems with Haman began. His incrimination of Bigsan and Seresh led to his entry into Achashverosh’s book of merits which eventually led to his total decimation of Haman’s pride. He overheard Bigsan and Seresh plotting to kill Achashverosh, and the verse says there, “VaYivada HaDavar L’Mordechai” – And the matter became known to Mordecha.

Then again, when Haman rises into power, and the decree is set forth againt the Jewish people, before Mordechai begins to pray, the Passuk says, “U’Mordechai Yada Es Kol Asher Na’asa” And Mordechai knew everything that was done.

And then, finally, things go really down hill for Haman when Ester is finally convinced to go into see Achashverosh. How does Mordechai convince her to go in? U’Mi Yodea Im L’Eis KaZos HiGa’at L’Malchus? Who knows? Maybe this is the reason that you were brought into royalty! Save us!

Thus it’s clear that at every stage– the precursor, the preperation and the coming into fruition - of Haman’s downfall, an expression of Da’as is present. And we understand fully why this needs to be so. Haman, Amalek, the Nachash, and anything else in the world that seeks to cause Kilkul, simply falls before true Da’as.

So how does this play into my life? The message for me is that no matter what challenge comes my way, no matter what confusing situation needs to be dealt with, if my am constantly thinking about God, If I am absorbed to the best of my abilities in contemplation with my relationship with the divine, then I become so deeply rooted, so intrinsically connected to Hashem, my enhanced state of Da’as will pull me through. If I put my mind in high places, if I think holy thoughts, if I sit and take the time to focus and meditate on the right things, to work on that deep inner connection – then I am doing my part to bring the whole world towards VaYimaleh HaAretz Da’as Hashem. We are where are thoughts are, and it’s that power that can fight off any Amalek.

As we move closer to Purim, HaKadosh Baruch Hu should give us a Brahca to live with such a lofty state of mind. If we can do so there is on doubt that we will live lives of true Simcha and Shleimus, moving closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and ultimately the Geulah Sheleimah!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ki Sisa/Purim - United We Stand

Please feel free to print this out and read it on Shabbos Kodesh, just please not during Tefilah.

In the beginning of this week’s Parsha we learn about the census of the Jewish people. “Ki Sisa Es Rosh Bnei Yisrael LiFkudeihem” – When you tally up the Jewish people in accordance with their numbers… Everyone who passes through the count shall give a Machatzis HaShekel, one half of a Shekel coin. And who is obligated in the count? MiBen Esrim Shanah VaMala - all people over the age of twenty. And what is the result of such a tally? V’Lo Yihiyeh Bahem Negef - Plague will not come upon the Jewish people.

The command to calculate the census was in essence a command to solidify the Jewish people as a national entity. A whole unit whose parts were all accounted for. From this fact arises the possibility to learn about the fundamentals that make the Jewish people a nation and where that brings us. And if we fully transform the individuals into a living, breathing unit, then we can receive the blessing of V’Lo Yihiyeh Bahem Negef. Let’s try to understand how this is so.

The language used for the tally is ‘Ki Sisa’ When you tally, or count. It’s brought down that the root of this word comes from the root which means to lift up, or possibly is rooted in Si (pronounced See) which means a Record High. What emerges from this is that Ki Sisa Es Rosh Bnei Yisrael literally means “When you lift up the heads of the Jewish people.”

When do you tell someone to lift up his or her head? “Pick your chin up ; it’s going to be alright.” We lift someone’s head to give them Chizuk, give them inner-strength, an emotional boost, a sense of pride. Through what ever the goal of the census is – Hashem is commanding Moshe to inspire the people.

In his Sefer Binayahu, the Ben Ish Chai brings this concept the next step forward. He points out two connected references to an uplifted spiritual unity within the Jewish people within the Passuk.

The first is the word he analyzes is “Rosh” – meaning head (the head being a parable here for purpose and direction). Rosh, he says is the Roshei Teivos (acronym) for Shishim Rubah Osiyos - Six-Hundred-Thousand Letters. What are the six-hundred-thousand letters? Chazal tell us in many places that there are six-hundred-thousand root letters that make up the Torah. Thus the Shishim Rubah Osiyos - the Torah is the Rosh, the top priority, the head, the leading cause of Jewish unity.

The second reference to the same concept is in the word Yisrael. He brings from Chazal that Yisrael is also an acronym for the ‘full-version’ of the previously mentioned phrase, “Yesh Shishim Rubah Osiyos LaTorah” – ‘The Torah is comprised of Six-Hundred-Thousand letters.

But why is this fact contained in the word Yisrael? The answer is the famous line from the Zohar, that Yisrael V’Oraisa Kula Chad - The Torah and the Jewish people are one inseparable entity. And for that reason, the famous Kabalistic concept that there are Six-Hundred-Thousand root souls of the Jewish people is completely parallel to the letters of the Torah. Each Jewish soul is an expression of one letter in the Torah. Each Jew represents the coming into fruition of another detail in the larger picture of the Jewish goal – which is bringing Ratzon Hashem (the Torah) to the entire world - Tikkun Olam.

The goal of the census is to connect this concept of Rosh - the Torah, to Yisrael, the manifestation of the Torah’s message in the world. When the concept of the Shishim Rubah Osiyos finds it’s context with in the Roshei Teivos of Yisrael - when each Jew, finds his or her unique role, identifying with their unique place in the world which stems from their letter in the Torah – only then will the count be L’Fkudeihem, which comes from the word Tafkid, purpose, role, destiny.

And as we know, if a Torah is missing a single letter, the whole thing is invalidated, and so too with the Jewish people’s national mission. We each have our unique niche in Avodas Hashem, and we also share the common goal of spreading the Knowledge of God. This means that I am not only living on an island with my “Letter”, it means that I have my friends for inspiration and means that it’s my responsibility to awaken others to their calling as well.

And this itself is the encouragement of Ki Sisa Es Rosh Bnei Yisrael. The essence of the Jewish people’s inspiration comes from the fact that all of these Shishim Rubah Osiyos make up one whole and all these individuals together create a community which is designed to support all of it’s members.

The words of the Ba’al HaTurim will bring us to the next level. He points out that the Sofei Teivos (acronym from the final letters in a word) of the phrase Ben Esrim Shanah spell the word Haman, the antagonist of the Purim-story.

He explains that this is a reference to the Gemara in Messeches Megilah (13b) that tells us that Hashem knew full well that Haman would try to buy the destruction of the Jewish people by paying off Achashveirosh, so Hashem pre-empted Haman’s Shkalim with the Shkalim donated in this week’s Parsha (Tosfos does the equation to show that the two sums were in fact equal).

But we need to understand, what is the significance of the Machatzis HaShekel that it was able to over-power the force of Haman’s wicked decree?

The Sefer Amudei Hod explains that the answer comes from the essence of what the Machatzis HaShekel is all about. Each person was commanded to bring specifically a half of a Shekel, not a whole coin, to signify the dependence of each Jew on every other. No person alone was able to donate a full unit to the cause, rather each Jew was totally reliant on another Jew to fill his coin. The Machatzis HaShekel is the theme of Achdus - Jewish unity.

Amalek, the forbearer to Haman, is the opposite. They are power of Pirud - separation and disassociation. The Passuk says about them that they are the ones Asher Karcha BaDerech, They happened upon, they interrupted the Jewish people on the way. Derech, a path, is a complete route from A to B. Amalek seeks to break up that wholesomeness.

This was exactly how Haman convinced Achashveirosh (and the Heavenly Court) to lay down the decree to destroy the Jewish people. “Yeshno Am Echad Mifuzar U’Miphurad” There is a nation, a dispersed and scattered - they have no unity - divided and conquerable. And to bring ensure his control, Haman bribed Achashveirosh with money, but that power was over come by the money that we gave, in the form of the Machatzis HaShekel - the symbol and the expression of our Achdus. And through that we were saved from Haman, thereby fulfilling the Passuk in our Parsha, V’Lo Yihiyeh Bahem Negef - Plague will not come upon the Jewish people.

The Sfas Emes and Rebbe Shlomo Alkabetz explain that the turning point in the Megilah also comes from this same point. Ester. After Haman initiates and decrees doom over the Jews, Ester commands Mordechai, “Lech Knos Kol HaYehudim” Go an assemble all of the Jewish people. Bring them together. Unify them.

From that unity came the prayers which empowered Ester to go into see Achashverosh, which arranged the party, which led to Haman’s demise and the salvation of the Jewish people.

From the census of Am Yisrael and the MAchatzis HaShekel we learn that the Jewish people are only able to remain on this earth and carry out their mission if there is Achdus. Only when the Rosh is connected to Yisrael will we have the inspiration and the drive to energize the universe with Ratzon Hashem. And when there is Achdus, we receive the blessing of V’Lo Yihiyeh Bahem Negef - Plague will not come upon the Jewish people.

We should be Zocheh to live a life where we are constantly bringing all the Jewish within our reach closer to one another. We should be Zocheh to have the sensitivity to Daven for the individuals who make up Klal Yisrael. If we do there is no doubt that we will live lives of Shleimus and Simcha moving closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu and ultimately to the Geulah Sheleimah!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Tetzaveh/Adar: The Nose Knows

The following is partially based on the teachings of Rav Moshe Wolfson. You can feel free to print this out and read it on Shabbos, just preferably not to be read during prayers.

I apologize for the extra length – it’s Adar. I couldn’t help myself.

In last weeks Parsha we learn about the building of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) and all of the vessels that were used inside of it. This week, the topic shifts to the man running the show on the inside – The Kohen Gadol. We learn about what he wears, who his staff is (the rest of the Kohanim, Preists) and their inauguration.

This begs the famous question: If last week was about Vessels and this week is about Priests, then what happens at the end of the Parsha? After an entire Parsha dealing with the Kohanim, all of a sudden, in the last eight verses the subject switches back to dealing with vessels, specifically the Mizbeach HaKetores - the Altar used for the burning of the incense. What about the Mizbeach HaKetores necessitates that it be taught to us only now?

And if we zone in on the very last verse, we come away with a very interesting anomaly in the language of the Passuk. The Torah says that no one other than the Kohen Gadol will be involved with the Mizbeach HaKetores, nothing other than the specific Ketores will be brought on it. But the Kohen Gadol will sprinkle blood on its corners to atone for the Jewish people. The verse says in regards to Yom Kippur, “V’Chiper Aharon Al Karnosav Achas BaShana MiDam Chatas HaKipurim, Achas BaShana Yichaper Alav L’Doroseichem, Kodesh Kodashim Hu LaHashem.” – ‘Aharon the Kohen Gadol will bring atonement upon its horns once a year, from the blood of the sin-offering of the atonements, once a year, shall he bring atonement upon it for your generations; it is Holy of Holies to Hashem.’

We walk away from this verse learning that some ritual is performed on this altar once a year. We even told some details of how this is performed. We are told it’s very important - Kodesh Kodashim. But if we read carefully, we see that we are told twice that this event happens only once a year. What, we couldn’t get it the first time?

A completely unrelated question: We all have heard the famous line that the Holiest day of the year, the tenth day of Tishrei, Yom Kippur is really Yom HaKippurim, Ki-Purim - Like Purim, but Purim itself is even greater. If the comparison is made, what’s the connection between the two, and what puts Purim on a higher level?

If we take a few moments to set ourselves up clearly, everything will come together beautifully.

Our journey begins with a deep teaching of the Bnei Yissacahr. We know from our youth that we have five senses. Touch, sight, taste, hearing and smell. In accordance with the Kabbalistic tradition, these five senses line up with the four letters that make up Hashem’s Shem Havaya, (ie: A Yud, a Hay, a Vav and a final Hay) So the obvious question is, there are five senses and four letters, how does that line up? The sources explain that the letter Yud has a tip on the very top called the Kotzo Shel Yud, the thorn of the Yud. All of the energy, all of the spirit contained in Shem Havaya is contained in and spreads out from this point of the Kotz. This upmost point is so high, so spiritual, so lofty that is maintains a partial identify unto itself – its holiness is so intangible that it’s part of Hashem’s name even though it’s not even a letter. Therefore there are really five parts to Shem Havaya.

If the Kotzo Shel Yud is so lofty it would reason that only the most spiritual sense is connected to this level. In order to figure this out, we need to look back to the first time in the Torah where senses are used, and that is back in the Garden of Eden when Chava is convinced to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. She sees the tree. She listens to the snake. She feels the fruit and takes it. And finally she eats from the fruit. Which one is missing? Smell. Therefore, what arises is that all senses with the exception of the sense of smell have been tarnished by the sin of the Tree of Knowledge.

This purist of routes, the nose, is specifically where God gives life to a person, as we see when He fashioned Adam HaRishon, VaYipach B’Apav Nishmas Chayim, and Hashem blew into man’s nose a soul of life. It’s the most direct line to the soul, as we will explain right now.

These two sets of five, with the Kotzo Shel Yud lining up with the sense of smell, together line up with another set of five. That set of five is the five parts of the Jewish soul. Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya and the Yechida. This highest level, the Yechida is of the same nature as we have already explained. It cannot be contaminated. No matter how far a Jew goes, no matter how much sin is done, the Yechida remains totally uncontaminated. And therefore this purist level corresponds to the uncontaminated sense of smell and the Kotzo Shel Yud.

This power comes down in Adar. The Arizal teaches us that the different parts of the human head correspond to the months of the year, and Adar corresponds to none other than the nose.

This is why the two main characters in the Purim story are named after types of incense. Ester is also called Hadasa, which is a type of fragrant leaf, and Mordechai’s name comes from the language of Mor Dechi which is an Aramaic term for incense.

This is also why we could only overcome Haman in Adar. Haman wielded a tremendous amount of evil and impure force. He served as a major spiritual prosecutor against the Jewish people. So much so is this the case that it’s brought down that in the Court of Heaven he won, and a death sentence was set out against the entire Jewish people.

So how did we get out? Through this power of Adar, the month of the sense of smell, the month of Kotzo Shel Yud, the month of Yechida, the month of Hadasa andMor Dechi - the month that reveals the highest levels of purity. So no matter how intense the claim is against us, there is a certain point which supersedes any negative counterforce, and these powers are wrapped up in the essence of Adar.

And while this is true of Adar and Purim, it’s also true of Yom Kippur. It’s brought down that the Satan and all the forces which try to oppose Am Yisrael are given the day off on Yom Kippur, it is a day which is totally soul - the theme of Yechida.

And this is the Ketores. The Zohar brings down that the Ketores is the most beloved of all of the offerings and that the Kelipos, the negative spiritual forces simply run away when it’s energy enters into the world.

And this is the Kohen Gadol. He is the soul of the Jewish people. The main representative of us to God. The spiritual epicenter and the main charachter of the Mishkan.

And this is the Kodesh Kodashim, a place where the only thing that exists is relationship with God, based on top of the Even Shesiya, the Foundation Stone, the place from where all of creation started, the Kotzo Shel Yud of the universe.

And to bring it all together, it now makes perfect sense, that (this is a loaded sentence)… When the Kohen Gadol enters into Kodesh Kodashim on Yom Kippur he brings in with him only one thing – the Ketores.

And the amazing thing is that we received of these energies wrapped up in one, we received the light of Purim - in the exile. There was no redemption. The Purim story ends and we are still under Achashverosh’s rule. Because Purim teaches us that we can access the Yechida even not in the most ideal situation.

This explains why the Mizbeach HaKetores is not inside the Kodesh HaKodashim, even though logic dictates that it should. We now understand that there is always an energy of Kotzo Shel Yud that will reach outside of Kodesh Kodashim, the way the light of Purim (and everything that comes with it) reaches us in the exile. For that reason the Mizbeach HaKetores is on the outside, showing us that the experience of Kodesh HaKodashim is available even outside the Kodesh HaKodashim.

This revelation of Yechida is hidden in the name Megilas Ester. The term Megilas Ester can mean to be Migaleh that which is B’Hester, to reveal that which is hidden. This level of Kodesh Kodashim is usually under wraps, but the force of Purim draws it out for all to see, like the Mizbeach HaKetores - Yechida, comes into the public eye.

And now we understand how the Mizbeach HaKetores is taught to us out of place. It’s taught to us out of place, because its whole role is to draw holiness into places where it normally wouldn’t be found. So therefore and the very end of the Parsha away from all of the other vessels, there is the Mizbeach HaKetores bringing us back to Kodesh HaKodashim - the Holy of Holies. And as we saw in the verse, Kodesh Kodashim is the very name of the Mizbeach HaKetores.

And now we can also understand why Achas BaShana - ‘Once a year’ is written twice in the verse about Yom HaKippurim. ‘The Kohen Gadol will bring atonement upon it once a year, from the blood of the sin-offering of the atonements, once a year, shall he bring atonement upon it for your generations; it is Holy of Holies to Hashem.’ It appears twice because this experience of Kodesh Kodashim is a once-a-year deal that really happens twice. Once on Yom HaKippurim, the day which is like Purim, and once it’s brought all the way out into the open on Purim itself.

But at the end of the day what does it mean to be in touch with this part of myself? What difference does it make if I’m connected to my Yechida. The answer is that it makes all the difference in the world. If I know that in my truest essence, in the most real part of me I’m completely and wholly pure, then there is no stopping me. If I know that the real me is not even a little bit connected to impurity then I can never feel like can’t do it. Whatever that ‘it’ is, the fact that I’m rooted in such a pure, spiritual, sublime, lofty, clean place means that I’m linked up directly to the Big Man and such a power can carry me through any struggle, help me overcome any difficult time and help me achieve any impossible task. And Adar is the time to reach it.

HaKadosh Baruch Hu should give us a Bracha to be able to live by this. If we can maximize the potential being given to us right now, then there is no doubt that we will be able to do everything that we need to do to bring Moshiach.

Who, by the way, is called Ruach Apeinu Moshiach Hashem - Moshiach, the Spirit of our Noses. Go figure.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Terumah: Monkey See, Monkey Do

The Ari’Zal teaches us that the first six weeks of Sefer Shemos are specifically infused with energy and inspiration that bring a person to Teshuva. The Passuk says - Shuvu Banim Shovavim! - Repent you sons, you wild-ones! The Hebrew word for ‘wild-ones’ is Shovavim, which serves as the Rashei Teivos, an acrostic for titles of the first six Parshios of Sefer Shemos. Shemos Vaera Bo Beshalach Yisro Mishpatim.

But this year, things are a little bit different. This year is a Shana Me’uberes, a year with a double-Adar (This Shabbos Kodesh we enter into the first of them). Beis Din set up a system in which every few years an extra month is added into the calendar to ensure that solar, seasonal calendar matches up with the series of months, as the are enumerated by the lunar calendar.

In a year which is a Shana Me’uberes, and has in it an extra Adar, two more weeks are added into Shovivim, turning it into Shovivim-Tat. ‘Tat’ stands for Terumah-Tetzaveh which are the names of the two weeks which are added.

But why? Why do we need to add two weeks to Shovivim just because the year is a little longer? The answer is brought to us by the Heilige Reb Tzadok HaKohen Mi’Lublin.

Why do we need to insert the extra month in order to fix the calendar in the first place? Why didn’t Hashem just line them up from the start? The answer is that He did, but as the Midrash tells us, in the start of creation the moon was out of line and so it was decreased in size, thus decreasing what it could accomplish in the course of twelve months, making it lag behind its greater, more powerful counterpart – the sun. Every few years the moon falls so far behind that it risks throwing the whole cycle off. For this reason we add more strength to the moon – we add a month to its cycle – in order to match it up with the sun.

Says Reb Tzadok, a year where such a thing occurs contains within it a taste of the word to come, when the moon will be restored, and the two cycles – lunar and solar – will line up once again. This added strength is a symbol of the Teshuva that moon is doing over the course of history in order to overcome its original limitation. Thus a Shana-Me’uberes is a year which is naturally filled with a greater potential for Teshuva overall, and therefore it is very fitting that Shovivim be extended.

But why extend Shovivim specifically into Chodesh Adar? And why specifically into the Parshios that deal wit the building of the Mishkan? What about this month, and these Parshios makes it an extra special occasion to make tremendous leaps of growth in our Avodas Hashem?

Let’s explore.

We are taught that every month has a specific letter from which it is emanating from. The spiritual potential of any given month is being formed from the essence of the letter which is appointed over it. The letter of Chodesh Adar is Kuf.

The Zohar does not have positive things to say about Kuf. Says the Zohar, the letter Hei represents the Shechina, which is compared to an Eishes Chayil, a Woman of Valor. And what is Kuf? Kuf is a cheap counterfeit. A Harlot. She dresses pretty, she’s got the moves but she lacks class. If Hei represents the Shechina, which is all the good vibes and energies in one place, the Kuf is the Sitra Achra, the Yetzer HaRa, the center of all impure and negative energy in the universe.

Why does Kuf represent the cheap imitation? The Zohar goes on to tell us that Kuf comes from the language of the word Kof, which means monkey. You can take an elaborate dance routine and more or less teach it to monkey. But what are you going to get? Are you going to get a sharp, exacting run-through of the moves? No. It’s going to be a sloppy, dumbed down version of the original plan.

Says the Sfas Emes, this ‘monkey-see monkey-do’ trick is how the Yetzer HaRa gets me to mess up. My soul desires greatness. I’m destined for big things, to make waves. But my Yetzer HaRa takes that very desire for greatness in the realm of holiness and ruins it. So in the end I just have an ego. My soul desires a personal intimate relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu. This desire for closeness, this longing for relationship gets Kof’ed-out by the Yetzer HaRa and I end up with all of my lustful desires. In essence all of my bad traits are rooted in a good place, but the power of Kof takes them, twists them and serves them back to me as negative, temping urges.

But there is a Kof, the power of imitation, that is rooted in a very holy place as well. And in truth, it is the aimof all of Teshuva and the goal of all Avodas Hashem. It’s brought down that Every time I do a Mitzvah I’m really doing two Mitzvos. Why? Because every time a Mitzvah is done, I’m also doing the Mitzvah of ‘V’Halachta B’Drachav’ – to imitate God’s ways. Every Mitzvah is another piece of advice how to be more godly. We say this in many ways. Chazal tell us ‘Mah Hu Rachum, Af Atah Rachum.’ – Just as He is merciful, so too shall you be merciful. ‘Mah Hu Chanun, Af Atah Chanun’ – Just as He is gracious, so too shall you be gracious. We are playing copy-cat with God!

Just like the Passuk says in Parshas Kedoshim, “Kedoshim Tihiyu, Ki Kodesh Ani Hashem Elokeichem” - ‘You shall be holy, for I your God, am holy.’ What’s the motivation for being holier? Ki Kadosh Ani! Be holy because it makes you more like God!

And it’s all summed up by the Gemara in Bava Basra (58:a) which says that ‘Adam B’Fnei Shechina? K’Kof B’Fnei Adam. What does man look like in front of the Shechina? He looks like a monkey who stands before a man. We are trying to imitate all that which is holy, because that brings holiness into our very being.

The Ohr HaGanuz explains how the building of the Mishkan embodies this idea.

The Parsha opens up by Hashem listing off all the materials need to building the Mishkan. ‘I want your gold, silver, bronze. I need wood. Lots of wood. Cloth, dyes, and hides. We’re building something amazing here.’ Moshe looks at the list and God finishes off by saying, ‘Take a look at all this stuff, because with this - Va’Asu Li Mikdash V’Shachanti B’Socham - through the building of the Mishkan I will come to dwell in the very beings that make up the Jewish people.

But then, between the lines of the Psukim, Moshe Rabbeinu asks a question to Hashem: How is this stuff going to make you dwell in the Jewish people, in the essence of every single Jew?

So God answers back with another question, “I have a better question. Instead of asking how I’ll make Myself fit into the heart of every Jew, ask how I can fit My presence into the Mishkan! You can ask an ever better question. I’m infinite. Nothing else is infinite. How I do I fit in the heavens? How I do I cram myself into any of the levels of any of the spiritual universes! Nothing is big enough to contain Infinite! The answer is a constrict Myself, I hold back infinitude because I want to be with you. And if I can crunch Myself down through the supernal dimensions. I can also cram Myself into the heavens, and I can bring my presence into the world, and I can concentrate My Presence into a building.” And so the Passuk says, “K’Chol Asher Ani Ar’eh Oscha” – Just like I will show you – “Eis Tavnis HaMishkan, V’Eis Tavnis Kol Keilav - The structure of the dwelling place. Which one? Shochen Bamromim! – I’ll show you that if I can fit in there, in all of those worlds. - V’Chein Ta’asu - That’s how you’ll do it. That’s how you’ll fit my presence into the small physical space called the Mishkan. If I can do that, it’s no big leap to believe - V’Shachanti B’Socham, B’Chol Echad V’Echad.
that I can bring my presence into to bodies of the Jewish people as well.

And so building the Mishkan shows us that God can bring His presence, He can influence any space that invites Him in. This is how my Rebbe Rav Yoel Rackovsky Shlita understands the Passuk in Shir HaShirim. The Passuk says ‘Mashcheini Acharecha Narutzah’ – The Jewish people ask Hashem, Mashcheini - Pull us after You and we’ll come running! Says my Rebbe, Mashcheini can be interpreted to mean ‘Turn me into a Mishkan!’ Infuse me with Hashem’s presence!

This is what Chodesh Adar is all about! Adar’s whole essence is about bringing Hashem’s presence into our lives. To become influence by Him. To become more Godly ourselves. Adar is coming from the term Adir BaMarom Hashem - Hashem is awesome in the highest places. But He takes all that awe and brings it down. Adar spells out the phrase ‘Alef-Dar’ – The Alef dwells. Who is the Alef? Alufo Shel Olam! The Commander of the universe, Hashem! In Adar Hashem comes down, now more that ever, to come and infuse us, to enrich our lives with godliness.

We are striving to be more like Hashem. To be holy, to sanctified, to be actively bringing the world to a better place. This is what godliness is. This is what the Mishkan is all about. This is what Adar is all about. This is nothing less dramatic than what the goal of all Avodas Hashem is about. So in a year like a Shana Me’uberes, a year laden with such potential, is it not fitting to pull Shovivim into themes like this?!

Hashem should give us a Bracha that we should be able to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity that is upon us right now. We should be Zoche to truly maximize ourselves, to become Godly people - V’Shachanti B’Socham, B’Chol Echad V’Echad. Because if we can do that there is no doubt that we live lives of Simcha and Shleimus moving closer to the Creator and ultimately the Geulah Sheleimah!