Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan - Slither, Sting or Soar!

Happy Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan - although "happy" isn't usually an adjective associated with either the Hebrew month of "Mar" Cheshvan ("Mar" meaning "bitter") or Scorpio (Akrav), not typically perceived as a "happy" sign. Intense, yes. Powerful, yes. Transformative, yes. Painful? Often!
The gift of Cheshvan is the gift of intensity and the accompanying insights one obtains when turning that intensity within to discover the depths of one's own soul. Scorpio has three animal symbols usually associated with it - the Gray Lizard (the one who slithers), the Scorpion (the one who stings) and the Great Eagle (the one who soars). By elevating Scorpio's propensity to investigate the darkest and wettest of places within one's own psyche (or that of others), Cheshvan's energy can be used to find the nuggets of beauty, the sparks of holiness, and elevate them from beneath the mud and slime to the most exalted heights. Don't be satisfied with slithering through the mud, nor with stinging others with defensive poisons - transform that powerful energy into the eagle-like ability to soar and transcend even the uttermost depths of the darkest nights of your soul.

The following overview of Cheshvan is from the Gal Einai Institute, a United States non-profit organization dedicated to disseminating and implementing the inner wisdom of the Torah--Kabbalah and Chassidut--as taken from the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

The Month of Cheshvan According to The Book of Formation (Sefer Yetzirah)

Each month of the Jewish year has a corresponding color, a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a zodiac sign, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, a sense, and a controlling organ/limb of the body.

Cheshvan (or Mar-Cheshvan) is the eighth of the twelve months of the Jewish calendar.

In the Bible, Cheshvan is called chodesh bul, from the word mabul, "the flood." The flood began on the 17th of Cheshvan, and ended the following year on the 27th of Cheshvan. The following day, the 28th of Cheshvan, Noah brought his sacrifice to G-d and G-d swore never again to bring a flood upon the earth to destroy all mankind, and then revealed the sign of His covenant with the world, the rainbow.

Cheshvan is the only month which has no holidays or special mitzvot. We are taught that it is "reserved" for the time of Mashiach, who will inaugurate the third Temple in Cheshvan.

In Hebrew:

Color: Violet

Letter: nun

Nun is considered to be the letter of Mashiach, as is said (with reference to Mashiach): "before the sun, is his name Ye-non [from nun]" (Psalms 72:17). As a verb-root, nun means "to reign." As a noun, it means "the heir to the throne" (from nin). The eighth month is the month of Mashiach, for eight signifies the eternal revelation of the supernatural (the consummate state of rectified nature being the secret of the number seven). Whereas the "harp" of this world possesses seven strings, the harp of Mashiach possesses eight strings. Just as 8 transcends 7, so does 50 (the numerical value of nun) transcend 49, 7 squared. In this world, the nun is bent over, confined by the boundaries of nature. With the coming of Mashiach, the nun "straightens out" (the shape of the final nun), breaks through the boundaries of nature, and descends "below the line" into the subterranean realms of reality in order to reveal there G-d's all-encompassing Infinite light.

Mazal: Akrav (Scorpio - Scorpion)

Our sages teach us that the scorpion is the most deadly member of the general category of poisonous creatures whose archetypal figure is the primordial snake of Eden. The word akrav derives from the word akev, "heel," as is said: "and you [the snake] shall bite him [man] at the heel" (Genesis 3:15). Thus the akrav symbolizes the consummate "bite" of the snake at the heel of man. While in general, the poison of the snake is "hot," the poison of the scorpion is "cold." The Mashiach is the one and only soul who can overcome, kill, and ultimately revive the primordial snake (in order to convert it to good). (The soul of Mashiach and his continuous state of consciousness manifest the ultimate rectification of "heat," "burning" solely in his love for G-d and Israel, as well as that of "cold"-absolutely "cold" to the false vanities of this world.) This is the secret of the numerical equation: Mashiach (358) = snake (nachash). Akrav (372) = Mashiach (nachash) plus David (= 14; nun is the 14th letter of the alef-beit). The root-letters of Cheshvan permute to spell nachash (in Cheshvan the nun is "straightened out;" in nachash it is "bent over").

Tribe: Menasheh

Menasheh is the firstborn of Joseph. Deriving from the word "to forget" (literally "to leap, up and away"), Menasheh implies the power of the tzadik (Joseph) to make us forget the hardships, trials and tribulations of this world, with the coming of Mashiach. By the power and sense of Menasheh, all of the pain of this world will transform and metamorphose into the pleasure of the Messianic era. The name Menasheh permutes to spell neshamah, "soul." Menasheh represents the sense to reveal the Divine soul in Israel. In the Bible, Moses is called Menasheh, for Menasheh is Moshe (Moses) with an additional nun (the letter of Cheshvan). Of Moses is said: "he is the first redeemer and he is the final redeemer" (See Shemot Rabbah 4:2; Zohar 1:253a; Sha'ar HaPesukim, Vayechi; Torah Or, beginning of Mishpatim). In his first lifetime (as "the first redeemer") he did not achieve the "50th gate of understanding" (the understanding of G-d Himself, as it were, and His deepest intention in the creation of the universe). When he returns as Mashiach, he will be given forever the "50th gate," the nun of Mashiach, the secret of Menasheh (Moshe-nun. In the Zohar we are taught that when Moses first passed from this world he received the "50th gate" and was "buried" in the Mishnah, another permutation of Menasheh, Moshe-nun. Through the study of Mishnah (in the time of exile) we reveal the neshamah of Israel and thereby merit the redemption of Moshe-Mashiach and the revelation for all on earth of the "50th gate."

Sense: smell

The sense of smell is the most spiritual of all senses. The Hebrew word for "smell," rei'ach, is cognate to that for "spirit" (ruach). Our sages teach us that smell is the one and only sense that "the soul enjoys and not the body." "Soul" (neshamah) is a permutation of Menasheh, as mentioned above. The sense of smell is the only sense (of the five common senses) that did not participate, and thereby was not blemished or polluted, in the primordial sin of man in the Garden of Eden. It is the sense which saved the Jewish people in the time of Mordechai and Esther, who are called Mor veHadas ("myrrh and myrtle," the two primary sources of fragrance). It is explicitly stated that the sense of Mashiach is the sense of smell. "And he shall smell in the awe of G-d"--"he shall judge by smell" (rather than by sight or hearing. Isaiah 11:3; Sanhedrin 93b). By his sense of smell (his ruach hakodesh, "holy spirit") the Mashiach will know how to connect each Jewish soul to its Divine root, and thereby identify its tribe (branch) in Israel.

Controller: intestines

The word for intestines (dakin) derives from the word "minute" (dakah) or "particle" (dak). It implies the power to dissect into fine, refined parts. In the process of preparing the incense for the Temple (the consummate expression of the sense of smell in the Temple service), one would say (over and over), "grind well, grind well" (hadek heitev, heiteiv hadek: hadeik from dak). All of the sacrifices in the Temple service are meant to produce a "satisfying aroma" (rei'ach nichoach) and please the Divine sense of smell, which implies the Divine "satisfaction" with the service of His children Israel in particular and with His creation in general. Our sages interpret the phrase rei'ach nichoach as "I am satisfied (nachat ruach), for I have spoken and My will has been fulfilled." This Divine satisfaction with man and creation was first expressed on the 28th of Cheshvan, when Noah offered his sacrifice to G-d. Due to His satisfaction, G-d swore to Noah never again to destroy the world by flood. As is expressed explicitly in laws of the Torah, it is the fats of the intestines that when offered on the altar produce the "satisfying" aroma for G-d. For this reason the intestines are seen to control the sense of smell.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

North American Jewish Database Created by Christians Targeting Jews for Aliyah - or Targeting Jews for "Removal?"

Tonight the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem hosted "Israeli Night," capping off their annual "Feast of Tabernacles" celebration which brought nearly 10,000 Christians from around the world to Jerusalem. Malcom Hedding (pictured), ICEJ's Executive Director, on stage with former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Ayalon( pictured), introduced a mysterious pot-bellied Russian man (not pictured, as - unbelievably! - I didn't have my camera with me!), who who presented Mr. Ayalon (now co-chairman of Nefesh b'Nefesh, which just replaced the Jewish Agency as the sole provider of Aliyah in North America) with a database said to contain "the names, addresses and phone numbers of every single Jew in North America." The database was being presented to Mr. Ayalon ostensibly because of his role with Nefesh b'Nefesh, and the idea of happy Christian telemarketers phoning Jews all over America after dinner every evening offering them free one-way tickets to Israel sent the audience of thousands of already G_d-giddy Christians into fits of cheering, clapping and hallaluyah-ing. I the only one here who thinks that Christians who have a list of every Jew in North America can be scary, even sinister? Christians who want to "help Jews make Aliyah" can quickly turn into expulsionists. Jurgen Buhler, the ICEJ's International Director, strutted around the stage of tonight's event, quoting from the Book of Ruth and warning Israelis that, just as Ruth said to Naomi "Wherever you go I shall go, Your people shall be my people, your G_d shall be my G_d," we Jews "won't be able to get rid of us (Christians)." They're sticking to us - listen chevre, we've been warned!
Wow, the Christians are going to follow us everywhere. Why don't we take them to Yeshiva? Many have such a deep and sincere love of Israel and the Jewish People, but they don't know Torah and they worship idols. So - yesh ba'aya, there's a problem.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kaparh, Chickens, Coins and pre-Yom Kippur Preparations

Feathers flew and brachot blew by all day in Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda Shuk, where pre-Yom Kippur "Kaparah" was being perfomed by a variety of vendors. One might swing a chicken overhead while reading the prayers (pictured) or one might give money to a local tzaddick who will hold it over your head while praying blessings down upon you. Either way, it's all part of the preparations for the most intense day of the year - Yom Kippur, which begins tomorrow night at sundown. We're loading up on carbs, giving tzadaka ("charity") to anyone who asks, hydrating like mad, learning special Torah, going to the mikvah, and generally running around like...a chicken with its head cut off!