The Bat Mitzvah Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin TubAv 2009Concert with Chaim Dovid Serasic
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This week’s haftorah is the first of the seven “Haftarot of Consolation,” that we read on the Shabbatot (Shabbats) between Tisha b’Av and Rosh Hashanah. This section from Yesha’yahu begins with G-d’s refrain to the prophets: “Comfort, oh comfort My people, says your G-d. Speak comfortingly to Yerushalayim, and cry to her, that her period of exile has been fulfilled and that her sins have been forgiven...” (Yeshaya’hu 40:1). Yesha’yahu’s prophecy describes some of the miraculous events that we now see unfolding during the beginning of the Messianic era, such as the return of the exiles to Yerushalayim. We still await the complete solace for Israel described in the haftorah together with the revelation of G‑d’s glory and power.
The Connection Between the Haftorah and the Torah Reading
While the consolation in this week’s haftorah is appropriate for the Shabbat after Tisha b’Av, it also has a hidden connection to Parashat Va’etchanan which includes the Shema prayer. We have a tradition that the word Shema – שְׁמַע is an acronym for the beginning of the last verse of our haftorah. The first letters of the Hebrew words “Lift up your eyes on high…” (Yesha’yahu 40:26), spell out the word Shema – שְׁמַע. The phrase in Hebrew reads “שְׂאוּ מָרוֹם עֵינֵיכֶם” (“Se’u Marom Eineichem”). The continuation of the verse of the haftorah is “…and see who created all these…” This goes together with the lesson of the Shema prayer – to understand that Hashem is the One and only Creator. When we look around the world we live in, some things make sense to us and some don’t. We see so much violence and destruction. However, if we look to Heaven and understand that “Hashem our G-d is One,” who causes all events to happen, their higher purpose becomes easier to understand. The haftarah tells us to lift our eyes to see the same principle that we are told to hear in the parashah. We need to focus both our faculties of hearing and seeing on the oneness of Hashem. When we understand that He is the only power from beginning to end, then our questions are silenced.
A Time for Forgiveness and Consolation
Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel stated, “Israel had no holidays as joyous as Tu b’Av and Yom Kippur, when the daughters of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyards” (Mishnah Ta’anit 4:8). What is so joyous about Tub’Av and Yom Kippur, that they are considered the happiest days of the year? There is nothing more joyous than when we have worked hard to earn our reward. After the nine days of Av which symbolize all the suffering and toil of exile, the prophet promises us forgiveness and redemption through the hidden holiday of Tub’Av. On Tub’Av the rise of the feminine “Arousal from Below” begins. This holiday opens the period when we work hard to deserve Hashem’s forgiveness and reward. The period culminates on Yom Kippur, when we purify ourselves to the highest degree through fasting and prayer. On both days we receive complete forgiveness from our current and past misbehavior, going all the way back to the sin of the spies (Tub’Av) and the sin of the Golden Calf (Yom Kippur). On Tub’Av, we celebrate, after the nine difficult days, when we worked on submitting our heart to Hashem through mourning the destruction of our Holiness, fasting and lamenting on Tishab’Av with ashes. Our mourning and suffering has cleansed us from everything that separates us from un-holiness and the Land of Israel. Our suffering atones for the sin of the spies, who were afraid to conquer the Land of Israel. On both of these holy days, we receive the greatest gift of atonement. Therefore: “No days were as festive to Israel as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.”
Women Build the Malchut on the Land
Tub’Av is the time when the malchut (kingdom) of the Shechina (Feminine Indwelling Presence) begins to be revealed. This corresponds to the “Arousal from Below” and our Inner Lights, as opposed to the masculine “Arousal from Above” and our Surrounding Lights. The feminine malchut corresponds to Awe of Heaven and begins the period preparing for the High Holidays (in Hebrew Yamim Noraim – Days of Awe) when we crown Hashem King. Likewise the Land of Israel is also known to be the aspect of malchut. Therefore, women who are also the embodiment of malchut have a special connection with the Land.
Dancing in White Dresses Symbolize Purification of the Vessels for Malchut
We prepare our vessels to hold the Inner Lights by crowning Hashem “King of the whole Land” with our entire being: Head, heart and liver. (In Hebrew the initials of these three organs Moach,-Brain, Lev- Heart, Caved- Liver spell out the word King –melech). This entails working on ourselves in order to integrate the Torah into every fiber of our being. This is a greater level than “Surrounding Lights,” which correspond, for example, to hearing an inspiring lecture without being able to give it over. Rabbi Refael Luria explains that the daughters go out in white dresses on Tub’Av, to indicate the beginning of the period for preparing the “Inner Lights” – the vessels and the garments, which must be white and pure, worthy for the Divine to dwelling. The circle dance in the vineyards creates the vessel for the Inner Lights, to become a vineyard of G-d. The vineyard also alludes to the Inner Lights, as the vine is found inside of the grapes.
Tub’Av: Tikun (Rectification) of the Inner Lights through Creative Expression
According to the religious practice of modesty (tzniut), today it is unacceptable for young women go out to dance in the vineyards, while young men watch, and choose whoever pleases them most. Therefore, our work is to tune into the inner quality of the women’s circle dance by rectifying our Inner Lights by connecting with the land in tree-planting and praising Hashem through creative expression. Expressing our creative potential is the feminine mode of serving Hashem which will ultimately herald the geula. It requires getting in touch with the inner spark of the Shechina buried deeply within each of us and giving birth to it through our personal artistic expression in music, art, poetry, dance etc. Through expressing our creativity we integrate our Torah and become a channel for Hashem’s Shechina to shine through us.
The Inner Lights of Tub’Av & Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin
At Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin, women work together side by side, day after day, sharing insights, dreams and visions. We develop our intuitive femininity, learning from mothers, caretakers, visionaries, peacekeepers, teachers, guides, healers, and mediators. We strive to become wise and loving women knowing that our fundamental task is to maintain harmony and balance within our homes, community and the larger world. Through rectification of our Inner Lights we can engender spiritual transformation, and radiate the subtle power of “The honor of the King’s daughter is within” (Tehillim 45:14). “In the merit of the righteous women” and with G-d’s help, we will merit the building of the Divine Home and the complete redemption speedily!