Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Secret of the Dreidel, the Four Kingdoms and the Dimensions of the Human Psyche

Playing the dreidel (top) on Chanukah is much more than a children’s game, but where does the minhag (custom) come from, and what does this game have to do with Chanukah? Here is one answer: During the Greek exile when Torah study was outlawed, the Jews would gather in caves to study. When Greek soldiers came, they would spin the dreidle, making believe they were gambling rather than learning.[1]

It is interesting to note that both the Chanukah and Purim customs revolve around a spinning toy. On Chanukah, we play with a dreidel, while on Purim we spin the noisemaking ra’ashan or grogger. While the dreidel is spun from above, we turn the grogger from below. The reason for the different directions of spinning during Chanukah versus Purim is that on Purim G-d saved us “from below” – disguised within Nature, while on Chanukah He saved us “from above” – through the miracles of the victory of a small group of Torah scholars, unskilled in war over the mightiest army, and through the miracle of the jug of oil that burned for eight days. While Purim is about hidden miracles within nature, Chanukah celebrates our connection with Hashem which transcends nature.[2]

The four-sided dreidle has multilayered significance, on each of the sides is a Hebrew letter. Traditionally the letters on the dreidle are: nun, gimel, heh, shin the acronym of נס גדול היה שם/nes gadol haya sham – a great miracle was there. In modern day Israel, this sentence has become “a great miracle was here” by exchanging the shin with the letter pei standing for פא/po – here. Little do most people know that there are deeper reasons for the original letters on the dreidel, which add up to the numerical value of 358 = Mashiach! When you read on you will learn how these letters also correspond to the four animals in Daniel’s dream, the four kingdoms and the four dimensions of our psyche.

The Four Kingdoms of Ya’acov’s Dream
There are four archetypical kingdoms who have exiled the Jewish people from the time of the destruction of the Temple until today. These kingdoms are particularly four, as they reflect the world of separation to the four extremities. The four kingdoms arise through the power of the klipot (spiritual shell) against Israel and desire to prevent Hashem’s oneness and unity from being revealed to the entire world. Because Israel is one nation who is cleaving to the unity of G-d, these kingdoms desire to nullify Israel.[3] Before the formation of Israel, Ya’acov dreamed about the protecting angels of these kingdoms in his well-known ladder dream. Hashem showed him the angel of Babylon ascend the ladder seventy rungs, and descend. The angel of the Empire of Persia and Media then climbed up the ladder fifty-two rungs, followed by the angel of the of Greece, who climbed hundred and eighty rungs. Finally, the protecting angel of the Roman Empire climbed up the ladder, without coming down. At that moment Ya’acov feared that this final exile would never end, until Hashem promised him, Don’t fear Israel, even if you see him dwell with me, from there I will bring him down…[4] We are still in that final exile, in the softly smothering embrace of Rome’s spiritual heirs.

The Four Dimensions of our Psyche
The four Global Kingdoms represent the four dimensions of the human psyche: Ego, bodily desires, intellect and a negative destructive drives. Nefesh, meaning “self” or “identity,” reflects the human ego. Guf – body, represents the bodily desires. Sechel, which means reason, corresponds to the intellect. Finally, Hakol, meaning everything, symbolizes the evil force, which covers itself in anything to reach its ugly destructive goal. Beyond these four, is our ‘higher’ or ‘inner self’ – the spark of G-d within us that reflects Hashem’s goodness and drives us to seek truth and idealism. Through awareness of our Divine essence within, we can utilize our ego, physical desires and intellect for spiritual growth. We can even channel our impulse to destroy to eradicate the evil. However, it can be dangerous if any of these four elements are detached from our higher divine self. A self-serving ego can drive us to destroy all who stand in our way. Our bodily urges and temptations can plunge us into the abyss. Our power of reason may rationalize any type of behavior and breach moral boundaries. Finally, our evil impulse can cause suffering and devastation to innocent human beings.[5]

The Four Kingdoms Come to Destroy the Four Parts of our Being
Each of the four kingdoms tried to nullify Israel in their way. They attempted to detach one of the four aspects of our being from our higher Divine selves. Babylon strove to destroy our nefesh – the connection between body and soul. The Babylonian Kingdom was the first to nullify the worship in the Temple – the sacrifices (mainly including the blood which is the nefesh).[6] The sacrifices are the rectification of the nefesh as it states, וְנֶפֶשׁ כִּי תַקְרִיב.../v’nefesh ki takriv – “a nefesh which will bring an offering…”[7] The Babylonians destroyed the first Temple – our unique pipeline to Hashem. The destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, therefore, severed the connection between the cosmic soul – Hashem, and the cosmic body – the world. The letter nun in the dreidel stands for נפש/nefesh – the vital soul, which represents the kingdom of Babylon who desired to dominate and rule. This corresponds to the ‘Lion’ in Daniel’s dream[8] – the king of the animals.

The exile of Persia and Media represents the threat to the guf – the body of the Jewish People, the physical threat of annihilation. Haman wanted a final solution of the Jewish problem. Therefore, Persia decreed “to destroy, to kill and to annihilate.”[9] The letter gimel in the dreidel stands for גוף/guf – the body, which represents the kingdom of Persia and Media. This corresponds to the ‘Bear’ in Daniel’s dream[10] – as the Persians are compared to the bear in their indulgence in materialistic pleasure – “Persians eat and drink like a bear.”[11]

The exile of Greece worshiped the human mind and beauty. With their exterior philosophical wisdom they desired to destroy the spiritual core of Judaism – the Torah. They weren’t interested in the physical destruction of the Jewish People; rather they wanted to contaminate our sechel – intellect. The letter shin in the dreidel stands for שכל/sechel – the intellect, which represents the Greek kingdom. This corresponds to the ‘Leopard’ in Daniel’s dream[12] – known for its beauty.

The fourth kingdom is worse than any other kingdom on earth because it includes all their powers and connects them. It is opposed to body, nefesh and intellect. In the beginning the Romans, like the Babylonians, stopped the sacrifices in the Temple – the aspect of the nefesh. Then, they destroyed the second Holy Temple and inflicted unthinkable bloodshed on the guf – the body of Jewish People. Afterwards they opposed us through their opposition of the Torah with the exterior wisdom of their sechel – intellect. The letter heh in the dreidel stands for הכל/hakol – all, which represents the Roman kingdom which includes the aspects of all the exiles. This corresponds to the ‘multi-horned animal’ in Daniel’s dream – “which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots; and in the [fourth] horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.”[13]

Goshna – The Meeting Point of Yehuda & Yosef
The mission of Israel is to unify all the four aspect of the human psyche to the Divine. Therefore, the kingdom of Israel stems from Yehuda, whose name includes the letters of Hashem’s name with the addition of the letter dalet. Hence, Israel has the power to reveal the unity of Hashem in the entire world. This unification is enacted by unifying the separation of the world from Hashem caused by the kingdoms that dwell in the four extremities of the earth.[14] For this reason Ya’acov “sent Yehuda before him to Yosef, to show the way before him גשנה/to Goshen.”[15] Immediately at the beginning of our exile to Egypt – the root of the four exiles, “he sent Yehuda before himself to Yosef” – to bring the two Mashiach’s together,[16] specifically in Goshen because this place correspond to the four kingdoms, which Mashiach will overcome. The word גשנה/to Goshen consists of the four letters of the dreidle that correspond to the four kingdoms that are opposed to the four aspects of our psyche: Gufani (Bodily), Sichli (Intellectual), Nafshi (Soul), Hakol (All). משיח/Mashiach who shares the gematria (numerical value) of גשנה/Goshna  – 358 will completely nullify all of them. Thereby, he will accomplish eradicating the impurity of the נחש/snake that also shares the gematria of 358. Only by nullifying the power of the primordial snake, from which the four kingdoms draw their power, can the complete unification of “Hashem is one and His name is one” take place.[17]

The Secret Unification of the Wooden Dreidel
Now we understand why most of gedolei Yisrael continued using dreidels with a shin rather than a pei even while living in Eretz Yisrael. The custom of the Belzer Rebbe was to twirl a wooden dreidel a few times on one of the days of Chanukah, and say in the name of the B’nai Yissascher: “if we twirl the dreidel below – it turns things around up Above.” “The minhag of our fathers is Torah” – the minhag during the days of Chanukah – the chinuch (education) for the future geula – is to play with a four cornered piece of wood, spun on its central point, to show that the four kingdoms alluded to in the word גשנה/Goshna are opposed to holiness by way of separating from the Divine Unity to the four corners. This minhag was always a custom in Israel, particularly using a wooden dreidel, as it states in the haftarah of parashat VaYigash: “You, son of man, take a wooden stick and write upon it, for Yehuda… then take another stick and write upon it for Yosef… and join them together to make one stick of wood…”[18] This is done particularly by means of wood (from a tree) “for a person is compared to the tree of the field,”[19] and because the four lettered name of Hashem is in the gematria of tree – עץ/etz – by multiplying the letters with each other.[20] The four kingdoms who are inherently opposed to the oneness of Hashem, and to His reflection in this world – the Jewish People, all spin around the center – the middle point corresponding to Israel who unifies all directions. When the extremities of the dreidel spin around and become nullified to the center, it alludes to the time when “…the nations will be transformed into [one] pure language to call upon the name of Hashem…”[21] When you spin the dreidel, you will notice that its four corners become blurry and turn into a circle. This circle is the reflection of the small point at its center, representing the unity of Israel within the oneness of Hashem.[22] By spinning the dreidel during Chanukah – the education for the redemption – we get a glimpse of the rectified world when all the kingdoms and dimensions in our psyche become unified with the one and only G-d.

[1] Rabbi Avraham Eliezer Hirskowitz, Otzar Kol Minhagei Yeshurun 19:4.
[2] Based on Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson, A New Twist on the Dreidel.
[3] Based on Rav Tzvi Elimelech of Dubno, B’nei Yissaschar, Kislev/Tevet 2:25.
[4] Yalkut Shimoni, Bereishit 25:121.
[5] Based on Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson, A New Twist on the Dreidel.
[6] Devarim 12:23.
[7] Vayikra 2:1.
[8] Daniel 7:4.
[9] Esther 3:13.
[10] Daniel 7:5.
[11] Babylonian Talmud, Kidushin 72a.
[12] Daniel 7:6.
[13] Daniel 7:7-8.
[14] Based on Rav Tzvi Elimelech of Dubno, B’nei Yissaschar, Kislev/Tevet 2:25.
[15] Bereishit 46:28.
[16] Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David who descends from Yehuda.
[17] Zecharia 14:9; Based on Rav Tzvi Elimelech of Dubno, B’nei Yissaschar, Kislev/Tevet 2:25.
[18] Yechezkiel 37:16-17.
[19] Devarim 20:19.
[20] Yud times Heh=50, Heh times Yud=50, Vav times Heh=30, Heh times Vav= 30, 50+50+30+30 =160. The gematria of Etz עץ (90+70)=160 This is also the gematria of כסף/silver. B’nei Yissaschar, Kislev/Tevet 2:25.
[21] Tzefania 3:9.
[22] Based on Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair, The Secret of the Dreidel.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kislev - The Month of Dreams

Student artwork - Dreams collage
Perhaps you may have experienced intense dreams recently? Sometimes you can get a feeling of what your dream is coming to teach you, while at other times you haven’t gotten a clue? I find myself dreaming much more during the month of Kislev or at least remembering my dreams more. Being in touch with my dreams help me connect with my unconscious feelings and needs. They help me live more in tune with my deeper inner self. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach explains how a dream is much deeper than direct speech or even prophecy because it affects our heart in a much deeper way. There is nothing deeper than when we can’t stop dreaming about something. Moreover, dream-language is intimate. You don’t have to be close to her person for him to tell you something straight. However, there is certain language which is only given when you love somebody very much. On one hand, it’s maybe not so clear. On the other hand, it’s so much deeper!

Dreams implant a message deep within our psyches. When we awaken we may not know it, but we have been “programmed.” We have received a message and that inner knowledge will direct the thoughts in our minds, the feelings in our hearts and the course of the events in our lives.[1] Dreams are sent to us all in order to direct our behavior and help us return to G-d. Everyone dreams regardless of whether we remember our dreams or not. While many dreams are caused by our waking thoughts, desires or fears, nonetheless the message dream is still a living and vibrant part of our psyches. Cultivating awareness of the meaning of our dreams and their inherent meaning enables us to draw closer to our blessed Creator. What greater work than this is there?

Read on to receive some tools from the Torah for understanding the hidden messages of your dreams...

Dreaming Ourselves to Teshuvah (Repentance)
The purpose of a dream is to reveal the thoughts hidden in our heart – in our sub-conscience, in order to arouse us to spiritual growth and repentance (teshuva)… Therefore the dreams constitute heavenly assistance to inform us of our inner thoughts in order that we may receive rebuke to think about good things that will help us grow.[2]In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, in slumbering upon the bed; then He [G-d]opens the ears of men, and by their chastisement seals the decree.[3] It is actually preferable to have a “bad” rather than a good dream as the Talmud teaches: A bad dream is preferable to a good dream... The anxiety of a bad dream cancels it out. Likewise, the joy of a happy dream cancels it out… “G-d made it that they fear him[4] – This is a bad dream by means of which a person is aroused to Tshuvah.[5]

Receiving Messages from Above
A dream is one sixtieth of prophesy.[6] “No occurrence materializes in the world that is not first revealed to one in a dream.”[7] Through dreams our conscious minds communicate with our Neshama (soul), which dwells in the super-conscious realm. The bond between our body and Divine Soul is somewhat loosened while we sleep. Our soul parts from Ruach and above rise from the body, and moves about in the spiritual realm. They can interact and associate with various kinds of angels. The soul can sometimes transmit these higher levels of perception, step by step, until it reaches the Nefesh (animal soul). The imagination is then stimulated to form images, which we call a dream. Dreams are at times greatly confused and intermingled with distorted images arising from the various substances that enter the brain, while at other times their messages are very clear. During a true dream the dreamer will remain calm and reposed, almost unemotional, regardless of what is seen. The dreamer will watch the dream vision like watching a movie, while the image’s inner meanings will somehow be imprinted in his mind. The Vilna Gaon teaches that there are certain boundless levels of Torah that the soul cannot perceive while limited by the physical body. G-d created sleep for the soul to access these levels. Even if we are not aware, sparks of what we have experienced in a dream trickle into our daily state of mind.[8]

Dreaming Mixed Messages
Not all dreams are prophetic. They may be intermingled with the distorted images originating in the imagination itself. Some dreams arise from our experiences while awake. Others may be a result of substances that rise to the brain, either from the body’s own hormones, or from food that eaten. These images are the dreams that all people experience.[9] Our Sages thus teach us, “Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said: just as there is no grain without straw, likewise there is no dream without nonsense. Rav Berchia said, although part of the dream is fulfilled, the whole of it is never fulfilled. We learn this from Yosef as it states: ‘behold the sun and the moon bowed down...’”[10] Yosef’s mother, Rachel, symbolized by the moon, died when Yosef was still a child. His dream, therefore, contained an element of untruth.[11] According to Rabbeinu Bachaya, dreams come from three different sources: 1. They can be caused by what we eat. Such dreams have no value or meaning. 2. They can be caused by our waking thoughts. Such dreams are exclusively psychological in nature. 3. They can be prophetic dreams with messages for us.[12]

Signs of Prophetic Dreams
The indication that a dream is in fact prophetic is if the dream is crystal clear, as if the dreamer were awake. However, false dreams are confusing and exaggerated.[13] “Three dreams are fulfilled, a dream early in the morning, a dream which his friend dreamed about him, a dream which is interpreted within the dream. Some say also a dream which is repeated as it states: “As for the repetition of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it is because the matter is true from G-d…[14] A person is not shown a dream except from the thoughts of his heart.[15]

The Dream Follows its Interpretation
Whenever you have a dream be careful about who you tell it to, because the dream follows its interpretation.[16] Therefore, if someone tells me their dream, my first response is: “It is a very good dream.” I will also never say that I had a bad dream, because even if dreams may be challenging, we don’t want to label them as being bad, and thereby cause them to become bad. We learn from the Torah’s description of Yosef’s dream interpretation that it is the interpretation which determines the outcome of the dream rather than the outcome which determines the interpretation, as it states: “And it came to pass as he interpreted for us, so it came to be.[17] Yet, this is only if the interpretation corresponds to the content of the dream, as it states: “to each man according to his dream he did interpret.[18] Moreover, the interpretation must resonate with the dreamer as it states, “But no-one interprets them to Pharaoh,[19] meaning Pharaoh’s advisors did interpret his dreams, however, their words were not accepted by Pharaoh. Why does the dream follow its interpretation? Rabbi Chisda said a dream not interpreted is like an unread letter…[20] If I never open that wedding invitation, I may not get to go to the wedding. Rav Kook explains that the dream and its interpretation are part of one structure. Hashem has encoded within the dream that its actualization takes place according to its interpretations. This can be compared to the relationship between the Written and Oral Torah. The Written Torah was meant to be joined with the Oral Law, which brings down the lofty teachings of the Written Torah in concrete ways. Likewise, the interpreter actualizes the hidden interpretations of any multilayered matter.[21]

Dreams are Sparks of Light within Darkness.
Before ever learning to speak a word, infants learn about the world through the feelings of pictures. Because we have been programmed to develop our sense of logic connected to our left brain, we have forgotten our innate connection to the feelings associated with pictures, which were much clearer when we were children. Dreams return us to our senses by bringing us back to the primordial language of pictures. Through dreams we can maintain our connection with Hashem even within exile after prophesy is lost. Rav Shlomo Carlebach explains that you need to be broken to receive a true dream. In exile G-d cannot speak to us face-to-face, ‘cause officially he’s angry at us, and officially we’re angry at him. However, when nobody's looking – we are sending love letters to each other, through dreams.

Let us treasure our dreams – the sparks of light within the darkness!

[1] Rav Ariel Bar Tzaddok,
[2] Based on Rav Eliyahu Dessler, Michtav M'Eliyahu p. 164.
[3] Iyov 33:15-16.
[4] Kohelet 3:14.
[5] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 55a.
[6] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 57b.
[7] Zohar 1,183b.
[8] Based on Ramchal, Derech Hashem, Chaper 3, The Soul and its Influence, pp.183-185.
[9] Derech Hashem, Chapter 3, p. 183.
[10] Bereishit 37:9; Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 55a.
[11] Rashi, Bereishit 37:10.
[12] Rabbeinu Bachaya, Bereishit 41:1.
[13] Kli Yakar, Bereishit 37:7.
[14] Bereishit 41:32.
[15] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 55b.
[16] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 55b.
[17] Bereishit 41:13.
[18] Ibid. 41:12; Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 55b
[19] Bereishit 41:8.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Rav Kook Eyin Reayah, Berachot 55a.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Month of Kislev: Illuminated by the Light of Miracles and Divine Inspiration

Rebbetzin with B'erot Alumna Rivka
In this world we are charged with having to do a lot of effort in order to achieve our goals whether physical or spiritual. Through the veil of the hidden world (עולם/olam) we can easily be misled to believe that our success is dependent on our own strength, the power of the doctor, the medicine, the benefactor, even the blessing of the Rabbi and all kinds of segulot (spiritual remedies) etc. We need to remind ourselves constantly that it is Hashem who gives the medicine, segulot, blessing etc. the ability to work. We only need to do our histadlut (effort) in order to create a vessel to receive Hashem’s infinite blessing. The Chanukah miracle, which illuminate the entire month of Kislev, teaches us how effort and miracle go hand in hand. The miracle of the oil burning for eight days didn’t happen until the Maccabees had created a vessel by searching and finding a jug of pure oil which they ignited. The eternal nature of miracles, as expressed through the light of Chanukah, ignites the darkness of exile. For this reason miracles are called נֵס/nes in Hebrew, consisting of the Hebrew letters nun and samech. According to Sefer Yetzirah nun is the letter that forms the month of Cheshvan. This letter begins the Hebrew word נוֹפֶל/nofel – fall. In this month our fall into darkness began through the rebellion against the house of David which caused the splitting of the kingdoms and eventually led to the destruction of the Temple. The Temple is like the plug that turns on our connection with the circuit of the spiritual realm. It is the connecting channel between our world and the Divine. Therefore, with the destruction of the Temple, this channel became blocked causing prophecy to be lost from the world. However Hashem in His great mercy gave us as a Chanukah present in the month of Kislev – the letter samech – which also means support. This letter represents the illumination from the hidden light, the light of Ruach Hakodesh which continues to shine for us even during the darkness of the “prophecy-less” exile.

Read on to understand more about this hidden light and how to tap into it...

Supported during the Darkness of Exile by Ruach Hakodesh
You may have noticed that the Chanukah story is not included in the Tana”ch (Bible), it is only written in the Oral Torah, because Chanukah is not a prophetic holiday, but rather a holiday illuminated from the light within darkness – the Ruach Hakodesh that shines even after prophecy has ceased. It is our light of hope within the darkness of despair, and so was the Oral Torah written after the destruction of the Temple, as it transmits Divine light deep into the darkness of exile.[1] While the letter nun of Cheshvan falls deep into the darkness of exile – as indicated by the long line of the ending nun, the letter samech which forms the month of Kislev means to support – it supports the falling nun. The closed circle of the samech indicates how Hashem surrounds and supports us from all sides with His Divine spirit of Ruach Hakodesh even in the post-prophetic darkness of exile. Yet, no matter how far we have fallen, Hashem is with us in our darkness, and we never lose the potential to connect with His light through Ruach Hakodesh. Usually Ruach Hakodesh is defined as the lowest level of prophecy, but I like to extend this concept to include our ability to find and connect with a spark of Hashem’s light within ourselves. When we unravel our klipot (husks) and blocks and tune inwards, we can connect with our inherent inner voice that knows, and guides us through life. Some people may call it intuition, its available for all of us – its light surrounds us and fills our beings.

The Connection between Miracles and Ruach Hakodesh
אמר רבי יוחנן מפני מה לא נאמר נו"ן באשרי מפני שיש בה מפלתן של שונאי ישראל דכתיב נפלה לא תוסיף קום בתולת ישראל במערבא מתרצי לה הכי נפלה ולא תוסיף לנפול עוד קום בתולת ישראל אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק אפילו הכי חזר דוד וסמכן ברוח הקדש שנאמר סומך ה' לכל הנופלים
Rabbi Yochanan said, why does Ashrei[2] not have [a sentence that starts with] nun? Because [nun] begins the word nofel which means] downfall… Rabbi Nachman son of Yitzchak said, even so, David returned and supported it with Ruach Hakodesh as it states “Hashem supports all those who fall.”[3]

The words “even so” don’t make sense, likewise saying that David supported it with Ruach Hakodesh, don’t we know that all the words of tehillim are written in Ruach Hakodesh? We can now answer these questions by explaining that through the miracle of Chanukah Hashem supports those fallen into exile symbolized by the letter nun of Cheshvan with the letter samech imbuing us with Ruach Hakodesh – reflected by the Chanukah lights, which we ignite specifically during the darkness of night. For this reason a miracle is called נֵס/nes – in this word the letter samech of Kislev supports the falling of the letter nun of Cheshvan. What is the connection between Ruach Hakodesh and miracles? Both are the imprints of Hashem’s eternal light throughout all times. The miracles that we experience in our lives make us feel surrounded by the light of Hashem’s providence – represented by the circle shape of the samech. Likewise Ruach HaKodesh is tapping into Hashem’s light filling us from within, represented by the space that fills the samech. Both are connected like a hand in a glove. Therefore, the miracle of Chanukah could not be written through prophecy, but only through Ruach Hakodesh in the Oral Torah. For the entire gift of the illumination of the light of Chanukah in the month of Kislev formed through the letter samech was for the time when we no longer have prophecy, to bless Israel with the gift of Ruach Hakodesh until the return of prophecy. Rav Shlomo Carlebach teaches that Chanukah is the holiday that even if all the vessels of the holy Temple are defiled, the holiest miracles are happening to us every second – miracles from another world, from the world of deepest holiness where defilement doesn’t reach.

Chanukah – Education for the Future Redemption
Chanukah is the education and practice for the future Final Redemption. Therefore, Chanukah from the word חִינוּךְ/Chinuch means education.[4] When we light the candles of the Chanukiah we are commemorating and connecting with the lights of the menorah in the Temple. In this way Chanukah gives of a glimpse of the light of the Temple, and prepares us for the time when this light will return to us in its full glory. Therefore, the Chanukah miracle took place after the passing of the last prophets Chagai, Zecharia and Malachi.[5] Even after the end of prophecy, Hashem did miracles for us through the oil of Chanukah – illuminated from Ohr Haganuz (the hidden light) with which Adam could see from one end of the world until the other.[6] What an awesome good present from Hashem to all the generations during the lowliness of our longwinded exile. From the illumination of Chanukah we receive the illumination of Ruach Hakodesh within all this darkness until the righteous sprout of David will sprout forth, and dedicate the third Temple in the month of Cheshvan.

Chanukah – the Vessel for Prophetic Soul Connections
The tribe of the month of Kislev is Binyamin. He is the bridge that ties the sons of Rachel with the sons of Leah, therefore the Temple is in Binyamin’s portion, and Binyamin is the tribe of the month which supports and enables the rebuilding of the final Temple. נשמה/neshama – soul consists of the letters of מנשה/Menashe – the tribe of the month of Cheshvan, and גוף/guf (body) is in the gematria (numerical value) of חנוכה/Chanukah.[7] Ruach Hakodesh is like the garment of the kingdom of Heaven, which is called “the holy body,” therefore Chanukah is in the gematria of body – the vessel for the light of the neshama. This light will shine to its fullest at the dedication of the Temple, G-dwilling in the month of Cheshvan when prophecy will return as it states:

וְהָיָה אַחֲרֵי כֵן אֶשְׁפּוֹךְ אֶת רוּחִי עַל כָּל בָּשָׂר וְנִבְּאוּ בְּנֵיכֶם וּבְנֹתֵיכֶם זִקְנֵיכֶם חֲלֹמוֹת יַחֲלֹמוּן בַּחוּרֵיכֶם חֶזְיֹנוֹת יִרְאוּ
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.[8]

[1] Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 29a.
[2] Tehillim 145 written acrostically from alef to taf, and is part of our daily prayer.
[3] Tehillim 145:14; Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 4b.
[4] Rav Tziv Elimelech of Dubno, B’nei Yissascher, Kislev, article 2, part 8.
[5] Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 9b.
[6] Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 60b; Babylonian Talmud, Chagiga 12a.
[7] Both the Hebrew word for body and for Chanukah share the numerical value of 89.
[8] Yoel 3:1, B’nei Yissascher, Cheshvan, article 1.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kislev: Rectifying the Sense of Sleep

Sleepy sunset of Bat Ayin
As we ended daylight savings and entered Kislev – one of the darkest months of the year – we also received renewed light, hope and trust. Actually the name “Kislev” derives from the Hebrew word for “security,” “hope” and “trust” as Iyov exclaims: “If I have made gold my hope (Kisli) and have said to the fine gold You are my security.”[1] This Rosh Chodesh Kislev I really felt the shift of energy and experienced a special light of hope which made me want to plant new flowers. There is a certain “nesting” that takes place at this time of year, a focus on building our personal Temple, including within it our closest family and friends and our deepest values. This is the time to develop and strengthen trusting relationship, and no less to work on our bitachon – trust in Hashem. (It is interesting to note that the English world “castle” is composed of the same phonetics as the Hebrew root of the word Kislev: “Kesel.” This word is also related to the Hebrew word kisuy which means covering and guarding. כסלו/Kislev, thus could mean: “The covering of the thirty-six, if you break it up into כס/kis (from kisui) – covering and לו – the numerical value of 36. This alludes to the Ohr Haganuz – hidden light that was shining in the Garden of Eden for the duration of the thirty six hours when Adam and Eve lived there.[2] This light is reflected in the 36 candles that we light in total during the holiday of Chanukah.[3] The entire month of Kislev is illuminated by its “Festival of Lights.” Even when I’m surrounded by darkness, I’m blessed with light, because Hashem is with me. In Kislev I can feel Hashem taking my hand and leading me to security.

The Spiritual Attributes of Kislev
המליך אות ס' בשינה וקשר לו כתר וצרפן זה בזה וצר בהם קשת בעולם, וכסלו בשנה, וקבה בנפש זכר ונקבה
“He made the letter samech king over sleep and He tied a crown to it and He combined one with another and with them He formed Sagittarius in the Universe, Kislev in the Year, and the belly in the soul, male and female” (Sefer Yetzirah 5:9).

Kislev – The Month of Support
The letter of the month – Samech means “to support.” The experience of feeling supported corresponds to the trust and confidence in Divine providence associated with the month of Kislev, as expressed in Tehillim: “G-d supports (somech) all the fallen, and lifts up all those who are bent over.”[4] The closed circle shape of the samech which represents the all-encompassing omnipresence of Hashem, moreover, symbolizes His providence and protection available to us during the month of Kislev. Hashem is our “security net,” He is there for us when we stumble and feel insecure: “Even when he falls he will not be let to fall to the ground, for G-d supports (somech) his hand.”[5] Whenever you feel you need spiritual protection, imagine yourself inside of the enclosure of the letter samech surrounding you. This is the time for us not only to feel supported but also to extend our support to others who need it.

Fixing Relationships in our Sleep
Although sleep isn’t one of our five senses, Sefer Yetzirah extends the concept of “senses” to include different states of consciousness and energy. The sense of sleep is the tranquility and restfulness that comes with trust and security in Hashem and His Divine providence, as David proclaims in his Tehillim: “I lie me down and sleep, I awake, for Hashem protects me (yismecheni).”[6] Sleep can accomplish that which is impossible to achieve while awake. Much healing takes place during sleep. Shlomo Carlebach teaches that you can do anything in the world outside your house, however, for sleeping, you need a house. During the month of Kislev – when the Temple was rededicated – we are called to rededicate our “G-d temple,” “people of Israel temple,” “husband and wife temple,” “parents and children temple.” Nothing brings parents and children closer, than when parents put their children to sleep. Why do children need their parents to put them to sleep? Because they need to know that there is someone watching who can and will perform miracles for them – someone whose love comes from a world of utmost purity and un-defilement. Chanukah is about fixing all our relationships – to love each other, and especially our family, with the utmost undefiled love.

The Weekly Torah Portions and our Dreams during Kislev
The sense of sleep entails the sense of dreaming. When we trust in G-d completely, we can dream good dreams of the future. According to Rav Tzaddok HaKohen, sleep symbolizes the vision and understanding that we may attain through dreams, just as King Solomon attained his great wisdom through a dream.[7] It is not by coincidence that we find most of the biblical dreams in the Torah portions read during the month of Kislev. Throughout the Five Books of the Torah, there are ten explicit dreams dreamed by seven “dreamers” – all in the Book of Bereishit. The first dream of Avimelech, King of Gerar, appears in the Torah portion of Vayera, read in the month of Cheshvan. The other nine dreams appear in the Torah portions of Vayetze, Vayeshev, and Miketz, all read during the month of Kislev.[8] According to the well-known Torah principle “to live with the times” (of the weekly Torah portion), the matter of dreams is an appropriate meditative subject.[9] This “month of dreams” is, therefore, suitable for examining and clarifying in our soul the deeper meanings of our dreams. Allow yourself to lie in bed just a few extra minutes to remember and decode your dreams, you may even keep a dream journal. Try to actualize some of your dreams of visions at this time.

Rectifying the Portions and Emotions of our Belly
The organ of the month of Kislev is קוה/keiva – belly, it includes the entire region of the abdomen, stomach, (large) intestines, and womb. It helps us to sleep calmly when our belly is satiated. Lacking the trust of Kislev, affects our belly first. Fear, nervousness and agitation can cause ulcers etc. (lo aleinu!) Therefore, Kislev is the time to heal our belly together with the negative emotions that affect the good health of our stomach. The word keiva derives from “kav,” which means “measure.” A tranquil belly knows its proper measure and “is happy with his portion.”[10] Our sages teach us: “a person desires one measure [kav] of his own more than nine of his friend.”[11] In order to rectify our keiva (belly), we need to work on overcoming jealousy of others; this will also help us sleep better.

The Bow of Sagittarius Propelling us out of Darkness and Despair
The astrological sign of Kislev is Sagittarius, in Hebrew: keshet – bow. The time of Sagittarius carries with it the possibility of change, as was revealed during Chanukah, when the spiritual attitude of Israel changed from slumber and negative self-image to renewal and revitalization. After the flood which had wiped out almost the entire world, rays of hope and renewal shot forth in the month of Kislev. It was the rainbow with its shining hope which was given as a sign of G-d’s promise never to destroy the world again. Teshuva (repentance) is compared to being shot upwards like an arrow from the bow. This bow is the constellation of Kislev,[12] it connects darkness and light in a fast leap full of power. Just as the tension on the bow being pulled back makes its arrow sore even higher, so does the darkness bring out the greatness of light. Sagittarius, the bow, also symbolizes the power of prayer that issues from the depths of the heart and pierces the upper heavens.[13] The tighter the arrow presses against the bow, the higher the arrow will travel when it is released. The Greeks oppressed the Jewish nation greatly. This ignited the inner sparks of the souls of the children of Israel to unite under the leadership of Matityahu and his Chasmonean Kingdom. The Greek oppression of the inner soul of Israel aroused the pintele yid – the essence point of our soul, the point of the tzadik – the righteous. The difference between the word ציון/Tzion and the Hebrew word for Greece יון/Yavan is only the letter tzadik. The planet of Sagittarius is Jupiter – tzedek (righteousness). The tzadik rules over Yavan especially during the month influenced by the planet tzedek.

Unifying the Fragments of our People in the Samech
The letter Samech is a circle, which includes all the different points within the space of her circumference. May we learn to reveal the one light that unifies all the fragments of our people, so we can achieve true shalom in the world as well as trust and security! Likewise the constellation Keshet- the bow includes all the colors and haskafot (outlook) of the rainbows; black hats. grey hats, knitted kippot, Chabadniks, Breslav, Rav Kookniks etc. Some are clear colors others are on the boundaries between different colors of the spectrum. All together we bring forth one unified light in all its glory. May this month of Kislev open us up to new possibilities and bring forth renewed hope, light, support and security!

[1] Iyov 31:24.
[2] Talmud Yerushalmi, Berachot 60b.
[3] 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8 = 36. Rav Tzvi Elimelech of Dubno, B’nai Yissaschar on the month of Kislev.
[4] Tehillim 145:14.
[5] Tehillim 37:24.
[6] Tehillim 3:6.
[7] Melachim I 3:5-15.
[8] Vayetze: 1. Ya’acov’s ladder; 2. Ya’acov – Hashem’s angel telling him to leave Lavan; 3. Lavan – warning against harming Ya’acov; Vayeshev 4. Yosef – the sheaves; 5. Yosef – the sun, moon stars; 6. The Baker – baskets of bread; 7. The Butler – the vine; Miketz 8. Pharaoh – seven cows; 9. Pharaoh – seven sheaves.
[9] Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh
[10] Pirkei Avot 4:1.
[11] Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh
[12] Midrash Tanchuma, Ha’azinu, chapter 1.
[13] Shem MiShmuel, Parashat Chayei Sarah.