Friday, July 29, 2011

The Nine Days: Beneath the Surface

The following concepts have been adapted from and inspired by Reb Tzadok HaKohen. Feel free to print this out to read over Shabbos Kodesh, just please not during Tefilos!

This Shabbos Kodesh is Shabbos Mevarchim Chodesh Menachem Av, meaning that this week we will announce the onset of the new month of Av that will arrive this upcoming Monday.

Chodesh Av is serves as the pinnacle of anguish in the Jewish calendar. The center of our connection to Hashem, the center of the universe as a whole, the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed twice in this month. The repeated demolishment of the universe’s religious center leaves a scar in the fabric of time that we re-enter and re-experience every year in this season. So as we cross the threshold into this difficult stretch of t we need to ask ourselves – what’s the meaning of it all?

We are told that each month has a number of factors that generate the characteristics that form the month’s ‘personality’ so to speak. It is this identity from which all of the events in the month emerge.

The Kabalistic Sources tells us that the month of Av emanates from the letter Tes and the sense of Shmi’a, hearing. A delicate study of each of these factors will hopefully reveal their unifying theme. Let’s discover.

Let’s begin with the letter of the month – Tes. The Gemara in the ninth Perek of Brachos says that he who sees a Tes in his dream should expect Tov, good things, to occur in his life. Why does Tes signify Tov? The answer is that the first time that the letter Tes appears in the Torah it forms the word Tov. “VaYar Elokim Es HaOr Ki Tov.” ‘And Hashem saw the light, for it was Tov – it was Good.’ Because we know that the first appearance of something in the Torah defines its nature, Tes is forever the symbol of Tov.

Chazal revealed to us that before the creation of the world the letters of the Alef-Beis approached one by one and requested from God be the letter with which the world was created. When Tes steps up – I’m Tov! Create the world with me! God says that although Tes is the manifestation of Tov, it’s not designed for this world. True Tov is saved for the next world, as the Passuk says in Tehilim, “Mah Rav Tuvcha Asher Tzafanta L’Yreiecha” ‘How abundant is Your good that You have treasured away for those who fear You.’ Hashem declared that Tov in its very nature has to be stored away; it is waiting to be revealed in the proper time.

This is the reason that Chazal explain that the Or Ki Tov, the Light of Goodness was immediately stored away after its creation. It was Tzafun LaTzadikim, treasured away for the righteous in Times to Come. Why? Because Tov, by the very spirit of its existence, is meant to be veiled.

We learn from Tes that true Tov is only experienced via existing in universe devoid of it. Taking the world at surface value is missing the point. Those who are aware that the darkness of the universe is merely a mask are the unique few who will merit to recieve the Light at the end of the tunnel of history. Tes is not merely Tov, it is the existential Good that is discovered by penetrating past reality’s dark mask.

It is Chodesh Av brings darkness to the world. The Beis HaMikdash is called Oro Shel Olam, the light of the world. From it shined forth God-consciousness. Its destruction was the extinguishing of that Light. Therefore the tragedies of Av generate the darkness of our lives. Without the Beis HaMikdash perceiving God becomes exponentially more difficult. That destruction creates a mask in the world.

Obviously, in darkness our sense of sight is taken from us. But as we have experienced in our own lives, when we take a frightening walk in a pitch-black forest, in those moments when our sight is robbed from us another sense heightens in its place. When we can’t use our eyes our hearing sharpens. Perhaps on a different level we have surely felt that to truly vibe with the song playing in our headphones we need to close our eyes as to shut out visually perceived world.

Our eyes only have skin-deep perception. The nature of sight is that it is surface level. That, on the other hand is contrasted by hearing. When a person speaks he is emitting nothing from the external levels of his presence. The breath is channeled from inside. The sound is formed inside. The thought being expressed is coming from inside. Therefore, when you listen to a person’s words you begin to relate to their internal world. When it comes to communicating, seeing a person’s face and lip-reading is a far more difficult task than not seeing them but being able to listen. This is because the sounds coming from within a person are a much more honest revelation of his essence than his body is. Shmi’a is intrinsically deeper.

This is not only the physical level of sight versus hearing. It applies on the spiritual level as well.

The Geulah Asida is ultimately dependant on spiritual Shmi’a. The Passuk asks, ‘When is Mashiach coming? He’s coming HaYom – today.’ Today? Yes, Today. “HaYom Im B’Kolo Sishma’uMashiach comes today if you listen to Hashem’s Voice. Now we understand that by Hashem’s ‘Voice’ we mean His internal will and ‘hearing’ means to sense it beneath the surface. Geulah means becoming aware and sensitive to the makeup of reality. Geulah comes by perceiving, understanding and ultimately revealing that which is hidden beneath the surface – spiritual Shmi’a.

But when we say redemption what do we mean? We mean that the Tov becomes revealed again! It means that the light of God-consciousness is restored to the world. Thus at this stage we understand why Tes correlates to Shmi’a. If true good is only beneath the surface then only one sense truly gets us to that level.
The Passuk in the beginning of Bereishis describes the terrible state of the universe before the creation fully came into form. V’HaAretz Haisa Tohu VaVohu V’Choshech Al Pnei Tehom – And the land was Chaotic and Desolate and Dark upon the surface of the Abyss.  Say Chazal in the Midrash, these four descriptions: Chaotic, Desolate, Dark and Abyss are references to the four agonizing exiles that the Jews will undergo. Those negative energies are weaved into the fabric of reality. But the Passuk doesn’t end there, “V’Ruach Elokim Mirachefes Al Pinei HaMayim” – And the Spirit of Hashem was hovering upon the surface of the waters. Continue Chazal – this fifth component of Ruach Elokim that follows the first four is a reference to Rucho Shel Mashiach, the redemptive spirit of the Messiah. The depth of it is as such; Specifically through the process of entering and overcoming Tohu, Vohu, Choshech and Tehom can one fully experience Rucho Shel Mashiach.
And this is depth of what the Gemara means when it says that Mashiach is born on Tisha B’Av. If Av’s letter is Tes whose numerical value is nine, then it serves logic to say that the month’s theme expresses itself most boldly on the Tes, the ninth of the month. That day is Tisha, the ninth of Av. That means that Tisha B’Av, the most tragic and darkest day of the year is specifically the day from which the most Tov and most light will sprout. When Am Yisrael pays attention to the Tohu, Vohu, Choshech and Tehom of Tisha B’Av, a little bit more of Rucho Shel Mashiach is born into the universe.
When we keep our perceptions shallow we rob ourselves of pleasure in this world and the next. We can’t enjoy this world because we are consumed and distracted by our day-to-day bothers, and we can’t enjoy the next world because we will have missed out on the opportunity to become sensitive to godliness.
But when we begin to see world in a deep way, when we choose to realize that the difficult moments are there to be entered into and overcome then we place ourselves on a path to achieve greatness. The darker the situation the more Tov must be potentially possible to attain. When we begin to listen to the vibrations of the universe in this way we not only refine ourselves to but we also push history in direction that it should be moving.
Av affords us the opportunity to enter into the darkest depths, to perceive that which is hidden beyond the surface. We can either get lost in our sorrows or we can take a moment to use the difficulty of the situation to push us to achieve further in our Avodas Hashem. Hashem should give us the strength and the inspiration that we need to take full advantage of this most profound of moments. For if we can there is no doubt that we will live lives full of Tov and Shleimus, moving closer to the Ribono Shel Olam and ultimately we will be meritorious to experience Rucho Shel Mashiach!

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