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Sukkos and the Secret of Music

holidays parsha video Oct 07, 2020
 

 

 

Five months ago, he had been engaged to a wonderful woman, Sara. They had dated for a while and were excited to finally build a home based on their shared values and dreams. And then, out of nowhere, she broke the engagement. Benny still didn’t know why, and he was still heartbroken. At the very moment that she broke it off, there was a song playing in the background; the very same song that had was now playing in his car. The music brought back all the emotions, and he cried as he relived the worst day of his life. When he was able to calm down and continue on to work, he began to think about the power of music.

 

The Mystery of Music

 

There may be nothing more enchanting, mystical, and mysterious than the wonder of music; it has the ability to reach the very root of our soul. The right melody can transform our mood, bring us to tears of sadness or joy, and release emotions buried deep within the bedrock of our consciousness. Music unlocks the door to our heart, allowing us to feel and embrace our innermost yearnings for connection and oneness lying dormant within each of us, begging to be freed, begging to be expressed. From the artist’s perspective, music is the vulnerable expression of self; from the listener's perspective, music is permission to connect to the divine, the means by which to transcend the shackles of mundane existence, to experience something other-worldly. Many people have a favorite song, a personal gateway to spiritual ecstasy. With every note and every strum, their soul awakens and transcends. The Rambam states that had we not been gifted the Torah, we would have studied music in order to tap into spiritual truths. What is the secret behind the wonder of music?

 

If one breaks down and analyzes a musical piece, they would likely be surprised at its apparent simplicity. Almost every Jewish song, especially in Western music, follows the same two-step progression. The song begins with a low, steady build-up, progressively increasing in emotional intensity as it lays the foundation for what is to come. This build-up repeats itself, again rising in intensity, before bursting into the chorus, where the contained introduction expands into a full expression of emotion, where the soul erupts, unfiltered, guided by the stirring melody and words that perfectly capture the indescribable tune. The song then reverts back to the lower introduction, and this process repeats itself (sometimes with a bridge) until the song’s conclusion. Thus, the structure of a song is essentially a circle. Two low verses, two high, and repeat. One would expect music, one of the most spiritually uplifting experiences, to be more intricate, more novel, than a simple circle.

 

We find ourselves experiencing Sukkos, a holiday uniquely connected to circles and song as well. Every day, as we recite the hakafos, we walk in a circle. On Simchas Torah, as we celebrate the completion of the Torah with joyous song, we repeat this circular process seven times over. What is the meaning of this?

 

At every Jewish simcha (celebration), we find ourselves dancing around in circles as we joyously sing in unison and experience the celebration. This concept has deep spiritual roots, emanating from the very source of reality itself. The Gemara[1] states that in the future, Hashem will be in the center of a circle, with tzaddikim dancing around Him, each one pointing towards Hashem as they circle around their Creator, again and again. To grasp the inner meaning of this strange description, let us explore the spiritual concept of circles.

 

Circles: Spiritual Death

 

A circle represents spiritual death. It is a geometrical anomaly; it is the only shape with no newness- no turns, no corners, no changes. It has no beginning and no end. A circle is a cycle that goes nowhere, lacks evolution, and generates no growth. No point on the circle is unique, with each point equidistant to the center. A circle simply cycles back to its starting point, without making any progress. The idea of circles representing spiritual death is manifest throughout the Torah, most remarkably in the very creation of the world.

 

A Cosmic Mask

 

Hashem not only created the world at the initial moment of conception, but continues to create it at every single instant. The Nefesh Ha'Chaim explains the meaning of the phrase that we say in the brachos of krias shema, "Ha'mechadesh b’tuvo b'chol yom tamid ma’aseh bereishis-" Hashem creates the world anew every single day, constantly. The world is like an electric circuit that flows from Hashem, our source. Electricity must continuously flow from the source for the world to remain "lit up" with existence.  When we say the above phrase in kriyas shema, we are proclaiming our recognition of this phenomenon, of the world’s complete and constant dependence on Hashem for existence. Another analogy might be helpful: Imagine you conceive of a person in your mind, giving him an entire backstory, clothes, a profession, a personality, and a family. If you then decide to stop thinking about him, he ceases to exist, disappearing from your consciousness. Only when you willed him into being did he exist within you, the moment your focus shifted, the electric circuit was cut off, and he ceased to exist.

 

Hashem not only willed the world into existence at one point in the past, but continues to do so every instant. The world and everything within it exists only because Hashem continuously wills us into existence. If He were to "stop" creating us, for even an instant, we would cease to exist.[2]

 

Flawed Philosophical Theories

 

The flawed philosophical notion that counters this truth is called the Watchmaker Theory, and it states the exact opposite. This theory posits that Hashem created the world and then left it to run automatically, on its own. Just as a watchmaker creates a watch and then it proceeds to run on its own, they claim that Hashem did the same: Hashem’s act of creation was a one-time event, followed by the world’s continued independent existence. Accordingly, while the world may have begun with an act of creation, an act of newness, it has since run along an endless circle, with no newness and no interaction or connection with Hashem.

 

The most extreme position, taken by philosophers such as Aristotle, is that the world was never created and has no newness whatsoever. Just like a circle has no beginning and no end, the world has no beginning and no end; it simply always was. This is the spiritual concept of teva, the Hebrew term for nature. The physical world appears to be independent and self-sufficient, with no need or role for a creator. While some modern scientific theories reject this notion, showing the need for something to have existed before the Big Bang, those steeped in Western, scientific thinking do not feel the need to look beyond the physical, to the Divine, for answers.

 

This is why the word “teva” is connected to the concept of a circle. The physical world and all the planets in our galaxy are round. Fascinatingly, all the Hebrew words that share a root with “teva” also share this conceptual connection to circularity. “Taba’at” is the Hebrew word for ring, a circular shape. “Matbaya”, the Hebrew word for coin, reflects the circularity of currency. Money circulates from buyer to seller in an endless cycle.

 

The world is seemingly self-sufficient; one of the most basic concepts in science is the law of conservation of energy and matter. All matter and energy circulate, get transferred and transformed, but nothing is ever lost or gained - only recycled. Just think of the circular cycle of food: one eats food, digests it, lets it out as waste, uses that to produce more food, and then begins the process again.This is the circle of life, and many people get lost in it, never looking beyond it for a deeper root. Perhaps this is why the word “teva”, nature, shares a root with the word "toveya" - to drown. Drowning means becoming part of the medium, unable to escape its pull.[3]The challenge of teva, nature, is to escape the illusion of self-sufficiency, the pull of the physical cycle of life. This is the struggle of circles and cycles.

 

Hergel: Mindless Habit

 

On a psychological level, the circle in human life is the mindless cycle of habitual living, without any newness, growth, or evolution. So many struggle to create genuine change, going through the motions, instead of growing through the motions. This is why the Hebrew word for habit is “hergel”, which literally means "the foot." This is because the foot is the part of the body furthest away from one's head, the locus of thought, willpower, and decision making. The feet walk automatically, with no need for thought or contemplation. Hergel represents a lifestyle devoid of thought and newness.  Fascinatingly, the root of “hergel” is gal, and “li'galgel” means to roll, another circular motion.

 

Mindless habit creates a lifestyle which leaves one shackled in a mental and spiritual cage. Every week is just about survival, from Sunday to Sunday. Every year, it's the same holidays, the same experiences, the same birthdays, the same ups and downs. Life becomes a giant circle, a cycle of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. Spirituality becomes ritual, religion becomes habit. Davening, saying brachos, and learning Torah become items on a checklist, instead of an opportunity to connect to Hashem. Relationships becomes tiresome, food becomes boring, and life loses its flavor. This is the spiritual danger of circles, of cycles, of habit. This is a life without purpose, without passion, without an empowering why to all aspects of one's life. When one lives a Jewish life without questioning, without taking ownership, without seeking deeper meaning and purpose to all aspects of their lifestyle, they are doomed to live within the cage of circularity, where mindless habit replaces mindful transcendence.

 

Samech: The Letter of Circles

 

This is the depth behind the Hebrew letter samech, which is shaped like a circle. Chazal highlight several episodes recorded in the Torah which conspicuously omit the letter samech, including: ma'aseh bereishis (the story of creation), bikurim (the first fruits), bechor (the firstborn), menorah, and the brachos of Bechukosai. What is the meaning of this pattern?

 

As we have developed, a circle represents spiritual death- a lack of growth, an absence of newness. Each of the episodes listed above embody the principle of creation and newness; as such, the letter samech is omitted, as this circular letter fundamentally contradicts the essence of newness.

 

Ma'aseh Bereishis is the story of creation, the ultimate act of newness. Bikurim is about the first fruits, a yearly renewal. The parsha of bechor discusses the first-born male child, clearly connected to this same theme of newness. While the connection to the menorah may seem less obvious, Chazal link the Menorah to Torah Sheba'al Peh, which represents human contribution- creativity and newness- to the Torah. Torah Shebiksav was given to us by Hashem as a perfect and static text. Torah Sheba'al Peh, however, is a constantly developing work, requiring human creativity, thought, and innovation.[4]The brachos of Bechukosai are intrinsically tied to newness as well, as brachos represent the concept of Hashem manifesting newness and blessing into this world.[5]

 

Judaism: A Religion of Newness

 

Judaism is strongly connected to the concept of newness. Upon leaving Egypt as a newly formed nation, the first mitzvah the Jewish People receive is the commandment to declare the new month, "Ha'chodesh hazeh lachem rosh chadashim" – This month shall be for you as the head of months.[6]Why is this the first mitzvah the Jewish People are given, right at the moment of their formation? This seems like a secondary concept, paling in comparison to mitzvos such as Shabbos, bris milah, and other such fundamental, prominent mitzvos. What is unique about declaring the new month?

 

Upon leaving Egypt, the Jewish People were experiencing their very birth, their inception as a nation.[7]The Hebrew word for month, chodesh, also spells chadash, "new." Just as the moon constantly changes as it waxes and wanes, we are a people of newness and constant growth, waxing and waning through our continuous evolution. This is why the Jewish People count by the lunar year, built from months. The Western world, however, counts by the solar year, which is based on the earth's yearly rotation around the sun. The Hebrew word for year is shana, which also means old,[8]and comes from the same root as the word yashein, which means sleeping. It reflects the concept of repetition and mindless cycles, as the word sheini means to repeat or do something twice. The sun does not appear to change, it remains static. A life of shana represents a life spent spiritually sleeping, lacking any growth or newness. In a solar year, the months are merely a practical way of breaking down the year. In the lunar year, however, the months are the creative building blocks that come together to form the year. In essence, the Jewish system is built from twelve creative months, not a single repeating year. However, to understand the true ideals of Judaism and reframe how we are meant to relate to circles, we must briefly delve into the nature of time.

 

The Nature of Time

 

The widely accepted understanding of time is that it moves in a straight line. Hashem created our world of space and time, and since its inception, time has been moving inexorably forward. Along this line of time is the past, present, and the future. If we were to move backward on this line, we could peer through history and find Avraham Avinu at the Akeida, Moshe Rabbeinu receiving the Torah, and the Rambam writing the Mishneh Torah. Our current experience is taking place in the middle of the line, and if we could move forward along the line, we would see events that have not yet occurred. However, there is a major contradiction to this theory. 

 

There is a piyut in the Pesach Haggadah[9]which describes how Avraham Avinu served matzah to the three angels who visited him because it was Pesach at that time. Rashi[10]quotes this opinion and says that Lot did the same for the malachim who came to Sedom. How can this be? The mitzvah of matzah originates from the events of Yetziat Mitzrayim - which would not occur for another two hundred years!

 

Circles in Time

 

In order to understand why Avraham and Lot served their guests matzah before Pesach even occurred, we must develop a deeper understanding of time. Time does not move along a continuous, straight line; it circles around in a repeating yearly cycle. As the Ramchal explains, Hashem created thematic cycles of time, and each point in the year holds unique spiritual energy.

 

This deep understanding transforms our perception of time. We don't celebrate freedom each year on the 15th of Nissan because that's when the Jews were freed from Egypt, rather the Jews were redeemed from Egypt on the 15th of Nissan because that is zman cheiruseinu, the time of freedom. That power of freedom is what allowed the Jews to escape the slavery of Mitzrayim, and this is why Avraham and Lot ate matzah long before Yetzias Mitzrayim occurred. Matzah represents freedom, and Avraham and Lot tapped into the spiritual energy of freedom that is present at that point in time. Rather than commemorating a historical event, they were tapping into the deep energies of time already inherent at that point in the circle. So too, when we celebrate each holiday, we do not simply commemorate a historical event, we experience and tap into the deep energies inherent at that point in time. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, and all the rest of the chagim give us the opportunity to access unique spiritual energies in time.

 

Spirals in Time

 

However, even the circle analogy is limiting. If time were indeed a circle, each point of the year would simply be a repetition of that point from the previous year, from the previous loop around the circle. That would be pointless. We do not seek to re-experience the past each year. Our goal is to expand upon what we have created year after year, so that each time we return to that same point on the circle, we are on a fundamentally different level. Each Rosh Hashana must be higher than the previous one, each Pesach, a new Pesach, each Shavuos, a new Shavuos. Through our growth and ascension, we convert the two-dimensional circle into a three-dimensional spiral, traversing along the same circle at ever greater heights. We maintain circularity while achieving ascension.[11]

 

The same is true for all spiritual circles. The ideal is not to transcend the circular system, but to uplift it, to transform the circle into a spiral, to find innovative ways of creating newness within the circular system.

 

The Concept of Song

 

Although a song may superficially appear to be like a circle- two low verses, two high, and repeat- a song is actually meant to be a spiral. The intro creates a build-up of emotion that ascends into the chorus. But ideally, the chorus does not simply revert back to the original starting point. Instead, the second low part is meant to build on the chorus, still riding the waves of momentum and energy that the chorus created, and therefore begin on a fundamentally higher level. The low part is deeper this time, and you can feel the greater level of intensity. And then, as the low part builds up even more powerfully, it bursts into an even more potent and explosive chorus. This process can theoretically repeat itself ad-infinitum. As a matter of fact, at Jewish weddings of old they would dance around in circles singing the same song for hours on end. Each time around they would build the next rung in the spiral of the song as they built the next rung in their circular dancing. This is why we dance in circles at celebrations and during the hakafos of Sukkos. We are in fact dancing in spirals, and as we ascend through song, we spiritually ascend as well.

 

Each day of Sukkos, we build off the previous day's hakafah, climbing one rung higher. On Simchas Torah, after building throughout Sukkos, we dance up all seven flights of our newly built spiral staircase and accept the Torah in a transcendent fashion (the eighth rung).[12]

 

The Dance of Tzaddikim

 

When the Gemara describes the tzaddikim dancing around Hashem in circles, it reflects this principle as well. Olam Habah (The World to Come) is a place of eternal spiritual growth. Every time the tzaddik circles around Hashem, He experiences a higher level of spiritual awareness, a more elevated understanding of spiritual truth. Thus, the tzaddikim are not dancing around Hashem in circles, but ascending along a spiral of spiritual growth.

 

Shira: The Beauty of Song

 

This deep understanding of song is beautifully expressed in the Hebrew word itself for song, “shira”. While shira means a song, the word shir is also comprised of the letters that make up the word yashar- "straight," because at first, a song appears to progress along a straight line. However, shir also means a ring or circle, because upon further analysis, a song is simply a circular and repetitive progression. The last step, however, is to realize that a song actually mirrors the exact model we developed by time. We are not progressing forward in a straight line or cycling in circles; we are creating spirals, elevating our circular motions into a climb of spiritual ascension.

 

This spiritual concept is actually expressed on the musical scale itself. The Western scale is comprised of seven musical notes. However, the eight note is actually the exact same as the first note, simply on the next "rung" up, one octave higher. In other words, the musical scale is a spiral staircase, in which the seven notes repeat in an ascending spiral, and the eighth note is the elevated version of the first note.

 

As we have discussed previously,[13]the Maharal[14]explains that seven is the number of the natural. This is why all physical and natural components of this world are comprised of sevens: There are seven days in the week, seven notes in the musical scale, seven colors in the spectrum of light, etc. “Six” represents the physical pieces, such as the days of the week. “Seven” represents that which connects the physical pieces together, connecting the physical to the spiritual, such as Shabbos. The "eighth" refers to that which transcends the sum of the pieces, the transcendent aspect that emanates from the level of seven. “Eight” is that which transcends the physical, such as bris milah and Chanukah. This is why bris milah is performed on the eighth day- we transform the most physical and potentially animalistic organ into a vehicle of holiness and transcendence. This same theme of eight is why the miracle of Chanukah lasted eight days, and it is why the miracle came through shemen (oil), a word with the same root and concept as shemonah, eight.However, as we have just shown, transcendence is simply uplifting the lower level the next rung up. The eighth musical note is a return to the first note, but one level higher. This is the idea of transforming the circular system of teva (circles) into spirals. We ride the waves of nature, uplifting them into transcending stairwells towards the infinite.

  

Bringing Chodesh Into the Shana

 

We can now apply this principle to time itself. If time is meant to be a spiral, there is an apparent tension between two themes: The Jewish system of time is rooted in "chodesh-" newness, and seemingly opposed to shana- the circular system of solar years. However, we have already shown that Judaism does not oppose circles, but instead proposes to transform them into spirals. If so, we must further develop our understanding of shana.

 

In truth, our goal is not to transcend the realm of shana, but to transform it into an experience of chodesh- newness, within the realm of shana. As such, we create months within the year, newness within the old, spirals within the circular framework. We don't pull the months out of the year, but allow the months to uplift the year. The same physical template of shana receives the innovation and creativity that comes with chodesh. This is beautifully manifest within the word shana itself.

 

Shana means that which is cyclical and repetitive, and represents mindless ritual. However, shana also has another distinct meaning: to learn and to change (shinuy). This is because when you add chidush to shana, when you infuse newness into the circle, you create spiraling growth. This is why deliberate, effective repetition is the key to genuine growth.

 

Chazarah is usually defined as review. As such, when people review what they learned, many simply read it over, mindlessly repeating what they have already understood. But true chazarah, true repetition, is the process of learning old material on a completely new level, achieving elevated levels of clarity and gaining new insights. True chazarah requires bringing everything you've learned since last studying this material into your experience of reviewing it. Every time you repeat this process, you are able to elevate your learning to completely new heights, transforming your circle into a spiral. This is why the Gemara[15]says that learning something one hundred times cannot be compared to learning it one hundred and one times. Every time you review something, it should be a revolutionary experience of discovery and innovation. We never repeat, we expand; we never circle, we spiral.

 

The same is true of all experiences within time. Every day is a new day, every moment a new moment. The external templates and vessels, the external veneer of our life, may seem repetitive, but we create newness within each action. We might daven the same tefillah every day, but as the Nefesh Ha'Chaim explains, every tefillah should be a completely new experience. We may have the same spouse and family for our whole lives, but every day is a new opportunity to deepen our connection, to create spirals from the circles, chadash within the shana. We do not pass over time, reactively experiencing life; we actively ride the waves of time, imprinting ourselves into the fabric of reality.

 

Linking the Lunar to the Solar Year

 

There is one glaring problem with the concept of linking the lunar year to the solar year: The math does not add up. A full lunar year is 355 days, while the solar year is 365 days. As such, there is a full ten days missing if one unites the lunar and solar years. How, then, can we create this link? After all, Chazal themselves sometimes use the solar year in regards to halachic matters.[16]This would only make sense if we could successfully link the lunar and solar years together, bridging the gap between shana and chodesh, and thereby giving spiritual significance to the solar calendar.

 

The Vilna Gaon[17]explains that the ten days of the Aseres Yemei Teshuva serve as the link between the lunar and solar year. The judgement of the previous year carries over into the new year and remains in limbo until it is sealed on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Thus, the lunar year is extended ten days longer, linking the 365 days of the solar year to the 365 days of the lunar year, enabling the powerful collusion to take place.

 

Bridging Yom Kippur and Sukkos

 

Amongst the Yamim Nora’im (High Holidays), Sukkos is an anomaly.[18]Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are overtly spiritual and transcendent days, with intense rounds of prayer and spiritual elevation. Sukkos, on the other hand, is grounded in the physical. The centerpiece of Sukkos is a physical object - the lulav,[19]and much emphasis is put on going through our normal routines in a physical hut. It is the “zman simchaseinu”, a time of physical joy and festivity, highlighted by the celebration of the simchas beis hasho’eivah. How is this the ultimate culmination of the spiritual growth we have worked towards throughout the last month and a half? The answer to this question is the secret behind the power of Sukkos, as well as a fundamental principle in Jewish ideology.

 

While the physical can be dangerous if misused, the ideal is not to transcend the physical, but rather to use the physical in order to reflect something higher. In other words, we don't separate chodesh from shana, the spiritual from the physical, we fuse the two together. Think, how many mitzvos are commandments of the mind? Incredibly few! You can count them on your hands: Believe in Hashem, love Hashem, be in awe of Hashem, don't be jealous, and just a few others. The overwhelming majority of mitzvos are physical actions which connect you to the spiritual Source, Hashem. The act is physical, while the intentions and mindset must be infused within it. We eat matzah, shake a lulav, blow shofar, and wear tefillin; all actions, all physical. We don't believe in transcending the physical, we want to use the physical to connect to the transcendent.[20]

 

Sukkos epitomizes this lesson of embracing the physical. The purpose of this physical world is for us to utilize everything it offers for a spiritual purpose, spiraling in an upwards progression. This, however, requires us to immerse ourselves in the physical world, but for this immersion to be proper we must maintain control and focus while using the physical. In other words, our root must be transcendent, grounded firmly in the spiritual, and then atop that foundation we can descend into the physical and use it in a transcendent way. This is the ultimate goal of the process we undertake through the Yamim Noraim.

 

We first experience Elul, then Rosh Hashana, and then Yom Kippur, a developmental process of raising ourselves higher and higher above the physical world and deeper and deeper into the spiritual world. It is only once we create this transcendent root that we then re-immerse ourselves into physical living, but this time on an entirely new scale. We must infuse the totality of our spiritual acquisition into our physical life, elevating our actions and intentions as we move this physical world towards its ultimate spiritual root. Sukkos is the paradigmatic expression of this ideal, as we infuse the entirety of our spiritual acquisition from Elul, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur into a physical life of connection with Hashem inside the Sukkah. It is in that simple and mundane hut that we draw the connection between the transcendent spirituality we just experienced and the elevated physical existence we are about to embark on. This is how a Jew lives a life of spirituality, transforming circles into spirals.

 

Beautiful Circles

 

When a circle is merely cyclical, detached from growth, it represents spiritual death. However, just as an upwards trajectory transforms circular stagnation into spiraling ascension, there are other ways that circles relate to spiritual greatness.

 

Our point of free will is located at the intersection of whether or not to gossip, hit snooze, give charity, smile, or eat right. These are the battles of inches, and with these, sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Each time that we confront one of these challenges, we engage in this internal battle. On the outside we may give nothing away, but within each of us exists a fierce battle of will for spiritual ground, for eternity. If we push hard enough at one of these fronts again and again, the habitual and cyclical action we repeat creates an internal transformation. This will eventually become second nature, and what was once a struggle will become a constant victory. Transforming struggle into habit is the ideal utilization of the circular concept; the problem is when the habit then becomes mindless and automatic. If you struggle to say all the words of tefilah, then it is essential to work on this again and again until it becomes second nature. The next goal, though, is to ensure that even if the words of davening become second nature, the awareness and concentration continues to be vibrant and sincere.[21]

 

Life is a Song

 

When one lives a holistic life, tapping into the true nature and meaning of existence, life itself becomes a song, a magical and immersive experience. The beauty of a song is our unique ability to enjoy every note, every step, every stage in the progression. If one learns to live life in such a way, where every step is not only a means towards becoming something else, but is fully experienced, embraced, and treasured as an opportunity, then life itself transforms into a cosmic symphony, a soulful adventure. Looking at the world through this lens, every aspect of reality plays its notes, and every person becomes redefined as a unique and essential musician in Hashem's eternal orchestra of life. Music is powerful, but becoming part of the music is a sublime experience. On the deepest level, a true musician does not play the music, but becomes the music. May we all be inspired to play our instrument, to contribute our song into the grand symphony of life, and to transform the circles of life into a transcendent spiral staircase that leads towards our ultimate destination.

 

[1]Ta'anis 31a.

[2]The Nefesh Ha'Chaim famously explains that learning Torah is the key to Hashem's continuing to will us into existence. This was the impetus behind the famous practice in Rav Chaim’s Yeshiva in Velozhin of having a 24-hour cycle of talmud Torah, to ensure that Torah was being learned at every single second of the day.

[3]Yavan, the Hebrew name for the Greeks, means quicksand- the Greeks sought to “drown” us in their secular culture, replacing spirituality with atheism and hedonism. The very word “Yavan” conveys this idea. Yud is a small line, vav is a bit longer, and nun sofit is an extended vav. This process represents the quicksand that pulls you in deeper and deeper into the physical world.

[4]See chapter on Parshas Devarim for more on the concept of Torah Sheba’al Peh.

[5]See chapter on Parshas Balak for more on the concept of Brachos.

[6]Shemos 12:2.

[7]For more on this topic, see chapter on Parshas Beshalach.

[8]The word yashan, which shares the same root, means old.

[9]U'vchen Va'amartem.

[10]Bereishis 19:3.

[11]See the chapter on Shavuos (located at the end of this sefer) for more on this topic.

[12]For a deeper understanding of the relationship between the “seventh” and the “eighth”, see chapter on Parshas Behar regarding Sefiras Ha’Omer. After building the first six days of Sukkos, we connect everything together on Hoshana Rabbah (the seventh day) with seven hakafos, and then connect to the transcendent eighth day (Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah).

[13]See chapter on Parshas Emor, Section- "Kohanim: Creating This Connection". For a deeper understanding of the relationship between the “seventh” and the “eighth”, see chapter on Parshas Behar regarding Sefiras Ha’Omer (Section: “Forty-Nine Days of Building”).

[14]Tiferes Yisrael- Chapters 1-2.

[15]Chagiga 9b.

[16]Makkos 23b, Krisus 6a, Yoma 20a.

[17]Peirush to Safra Ditzniyusa- Chapter 2.

[18]Conceptually, Sukkos can be seen as an extension, or continuation, of the Yomim Nora’im.

[19]In this. case, lulav refers to all four of the arbeh minim.

[20]For more on this topic, and Avraham’s unique contribution to the world, see chapter on Parshas Vayishlach. (Specifically section: “Avraham’s Revelation”)

[21]There are other positive attributes of circles as well. When a man and woman get married, the kallah (woman) circles around the chasan (man) seven times, and the chasan places a circular ring around his wife's finger.

This reflects the fundamental and spiritual transformation of marriage. The chasan and kallah are both entering into a new relationship, and at its very inception, they place a circle around the other to symbolize the conceptual space they are creating within themselves for each other. Every relationship requires one to make space for another, to sacrifice ego, and allow the other person into our lives, and more importantly, into our inner world. Instead of projecting our own opinion of who they should be, we make space for them to exist as they are within ourselves. Creating this space allows the relationship to grow, in addition to allowing each of them, as individuals, to express their fullest potential.

The space we create for each other is specifically a circle, as this shape is unique in that every point on the circumference of a circle is equidistant from the center. When placing a circle around each other, each spouse expresses their commitment to keep their spouse at the very center of their lives and at the epicenter of their consciousness.

This is what Hashem did when He created the world. Many people believe that before Hashem created the world, there was simply nothing. On the contrary, until Hashem created the world, there was only Hashem Himself. The Arizal, Ramchal, and others explain that Hashem created the world by making a makom, a space, within Himself. Just as everything in the physical world requires space to exist, existence itselfrequired a space to exist. (For more on this topic, see chapter on Parshas Shemini, section: “Hashem as the Makom of the World.”)

Just as husband and wife signify their commitment to placing each other at the center of their lives with a circle, we are the center of Hashem’s attention and Hashem must be at the center of our life as well.

[See chapter on Parshas Behar for more on the concept of seven how seven represents connection and creating oneness. This is why the kallah specifically circles her husband seven times.]

 

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