Thursday, August 26, 2010

Unfolding the Light of Redemption

Rebbetzin's Yovel Celebration in her garden
As the sixth of the seven haftarot of consolation read between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashanah, this penultimate haftarah describes the unfolding of the light of redemption in glowing words. I experienced a glimpse of this light, this past Sunday during the celebration of my Yovel (Jubilee/fiftieth year) year. To see the slideshow of my birthday celebration click here. It is known that Yovel, which follows the completion of seven cycles of shemitah (sabbatical years), alludes to the redemption. On the fiftieth year, the shofar is blown and all the Hebrew slaves are set free. In the same way, Israel will be set free from both the physical and spiritual slavery of exile. I bless us all to be freed from the bonds of exile and experience the goodness and luminous glow of the Land, enjoying both its physical and spiritual fruits!
To donate to Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin in honor of Rebbetzin Chana Bracha’s 50 year birthday click here

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The Connection Between the Haftorah and the Torah Reading
Haftorat Ki Tavo is like a bridge between the mourning of Tisha B’Av and the renewal of Rosh Hashanah. The haftarah, emphasizing Israel’s dazzling future, is an appropriate antidote for the drawn out curses, included in Parashat Ki Tavo. After having heard the devastating curses, resulting from the withdrawal of the Shechinah, because we blocked her light through immorality, the soaring glory that Yesha’yahu describes is especially touching and hopeful. It heralds the coming of renewed radiance and light shining from the Messianic glow. Although, today may be dark, tomorrow, G-d’s light will shine on His people.

The Light of the Shechina will Shine Forth
The images of light in our haftorah paint a stunning painting with soft luminous strokes. Our haftorah opens: “Arise, shine, for your light has dawned; the Presence of Hashem has shone upon you!” (Yesha’yahu 60:1). We sing an adaption of this verse in the Lecha Dodi song, Friday night, when we welcome the Shabbat Queen. At the end of the haftarah, Yesha’yahu returns to the light and dark imagery, and promises us that even the rules of nature will be suspended in our apocalyptic future. There will be no need for the sun or moon, because the everlasting light and glory of Hashem will shine directly upon Israel.

No Greater Good than Being Side By Side
“Lift up your eyes all around and see, they all have gathered, they have come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be raised     (תֵּאָמַנָה) on [their] side” (Yesha’yahu 60:4). Originally, Chava was created from Adam’s side, as I explain in my book, “Women at the Crossroads: A Woman’s Perspective on the Weekly Torah Portion,” page 4. The common understanding is that G-d created Chava from one of Adam’s ribs. However, a more accurate translation of the word “tzela” reveals that she was actually created from his side. Since Chava initiated the eating from the Tree of Knowledge an imbalance was caused in the original equality of man and woman. She became dependant on him, and he ruled over her. (Bereishit 3:16). At the unfolding of the redemption, this imbalance will be repaired, as “your daughters shall be raised on the side [of your sons].” The numerical value of the Hebrew word for “side” צַד is 94. This equals the value of “mazal tov!” which literally means a good flow. It also equals hatov v’hametiv – “good and does good” (Benaihu ben Yehoyada, on Pessachim 50a).When woman’s light was reduced, it created a certain loneliness in man, in the part of himself which he was no longer able to share with her. Being alone for a man is called “lo tov – not good” in the Torah (Bereishit 2:18). The greatest good, therefore, is for man and woman to return to being side by side in the fullest sense so that the light of the Shechinah flows down without any blockages. This light is the crown, which at the redemption, the sun and moon will once again equally share.

Elevating the Woman
The Hebrew word translated “raised” in (Yesha’yahu 60:4) is תֵּאָמַנָה (teamana), related to emunah (faith). This word carries the meaning of raising someone else, like in the sense of raising children. In Megillat Esther 2:7 the same root “אֹמֵן” (omen) is used to describe that “Mordechai raised /nurtured Esther.” We can learn from here that Esther grew to her greatness, because Mordechai taught her to have faith in herself. As part of the geula (redemption) process, women need to evolve from low self-esteem, and learn to believe in themselves and the power of their hidden light. My understanding of Sarah Yehudit Schneider’s Kabbalistic Writings on the Nature of the Masculine and the Feminine is that just as Mordechai raised Esther, it is man’s role to elevate woman. Kabbalistically, woman had collapsed from a full stature of ten sefirot into the lowest sefira of malchut (Kingdom). Man, then, became in charge of the resources of woman’s “building fund.” He was entrusted with a special energy fund earmarked and designated for woman’s growth. It now became his responsibility to raise the woman to the point where she no longer relies on him to transmit her spiritual sustenance. Rather than being dependant on him for her spiritual lights, he enables her to receive them directly from their original source. On a practical level, this means that husband must facilitate his wife’s spiritual growth, by, for example teaching her Torah, or offering to do the dishes, so that she can learn or teach Torah. Helping his wife in this way would not be considered bitul Torah, (nullifying his responsibility to learn Torah). Therefore, we, women, do not need to feel guilty about accepting our husbands’ help, in order that we too get involved in Torah. On the contrary, we should be aware that when the man diapers babies, barbecues meat, or mops the floor, it actually speeds up the redemption and increases the light of the Shechinah by “raising daughters [wives] on [their] side.”

The Iron Elevation of our Mothers
The end of the haftorah describes the mystical future elevation of every material: “Instead of copper I will bring gold, and instead of iron I will bring silver, and instead of wood, copper, and instead of stones, iron, and I will make your officers peace and your rulers righteousness” (Yesha’yahu 60:17). Rav Tzadok of Lublin, in Machshevot Charutz 8, notes that the Hebrew word for iron – בַּרְזֶל (barzel), is the acronym for the names of Ya’acov’s four wives: Bilhah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Leah. Note that in this acronym, the letters that refer to the maidservants are mentioned first. This foreshadows the future transformation taking place when the physical dimension will be raised up, and Hashem will be one and His name one. At that time, the spiritual world –Yud and Heh (Chachmah and Binah) will be completely unified with the physical realm – Vav and Heh (the six middle sefirot and Malchut). This implies that the highest will be come the lowest, and the lowest will become the highest, as is alluded to in our verse “in place of iron I will bring silver…” Iron is the hardest of all materials, representing the negative aspect and the power of Esau, about whom it states “upon your sword [made from iron] you shall live” (Bereishit 27:40). Yet, the source of all is the secret of the uppermost Mother. Nothing can exist without Hashem’s life-giving energy, keeping it alive. The only way to attain the hidden good inside the coarse, strong material of the element of iron is through teshuva. King David brought the concept of teshuva into the world. His birth was enabled by the accumulated efforts and sisterhood of the Mothers. Their hidden power of being willing to yield for one another transformed “the rock that the builders hated, to become the cornerstone” (Tehillim 118:22). David HaMelech alluded to this power of the Mothers in his Tehillim: “You shall break them [the enemies] with a rod of iron…” (Ibid. 2:9). The Hebrew word for breaking תְּרֹעֵם (teroem) comes from the word for blowing the shofar תְרוּעָה (teruah). Just as we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana in order to chase away the negative forces (Satan), so does the energy of iron have that same power.

The Mothers are the Iron Lock of Israel
The four wives of Ya’acov are the iron lock of Israel, ensuring that no negative exterior force enters the holy nest of our people. Through the power of the mothers of the twelve tribes, the builders of the Jewish nation, we can overcome the negative extraneous forces (Rav Tzadok of Lublin, Drush for Rosh Hashana that falls on Shabbat). The mothers prevent any negative intruder from the outside, especially from the hand of Esau to penetrate and inject impurity within the children of Israel. The low maidservants Bilhah and Zilpah were instrumental in locking in and perpetuating the qualities of Rachel and Leah. Together, these holy mothers anchored the spiritual within the physical. Through complete selflessness, Bilhah assisted Rachel in overcoming jealousy and drawing down the Shechinah in holy union, and keeping it dwelling within Israel. Zilpah assisted Leah in her hidden work of prayer and praise. At redemption, when the lower is raised to become the higher, the slaves are redeemed, and the role of women emerges, revealing their hidden qualities. At that time, Bilhah & Zilpah will be included within our four foremothers. Some mothers have already begun to bless their daughters to become like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah & Zilpah! (Heard by Rebbetzin Esther Kitov).

May we all become a personal link in the iron chain of the mothers!

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