Saturday, October 3, 2015

Week 4 (From the Book): To Take Responsibility for All, Yet Protecting Oneself from Bad Influences

The eagle[1] is saying, "And You, G-d, Lord of Hosts, Lord of Israel, awake to punish all the nations; do not be gracious to any wicked traitors, sela!" (Psalms 59:6)
Rabbi [Yehudah HaNassi] would say: Which is the right path for man to choose for himself? Whatever is harmonious for the one who does it, and harmonious for mankind. 

Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one, for you do not know the rewards of the mitzvot. Consider the cost of a mitzvah against its rewards, and the rewards of a transgression against its cost.
Contemplate three things, and you will not come to the hands of transgression: Know what is above from you: a seeing eye, a listening ear, and all your deeds being inscribed in a book.

Netzach shebeChesed (victory and endurance within the context of kindness)

On the fourth week of the year, which encompasses the end of Sukkot (including Hoshanah Rabbah), as well as Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, the eagle sings. During this week, as soon as each community completes the annual reading of the entire Torah, we immediately start our studies anew, just like the eagle renews its feathers from year to year.[2] It is also worth noting that during these days, both for hoshanot and hakafot, we spend a large portion of our service circling the bimah,[3] just like the eagle.

Rebbe Nachman’s yahrzeit, the 18th of Tishrei, often falls on this week of the year, the week of Simchat Torah. Two of Rebbe Nachman’s main teachings are relate to the concept of always being happy and of always starting anew.[4] That is exactly what Simchat Torah is all about.  As Rebbe Nachman said himself, his “main day” is Rosh Hashanah, and as further explained below, Simchat Torah is the culmination of the judgment that took place from Rosh Hashanah to Hoshanah Rabbah.

The eagle is the greatest of birds, flying higher than the rest. It therefore has an extremely broad and potent view and perspective on all Creation. Unlike other birds, which carry their young between their talons, the eagle carries them on their wings because no other animal can reach that high. So is our relationship with God: "You have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I took them on eagles' wings and brought them to Me."[5]

The eagle requests that G-d remember the nations (Psalms 59:6). The word “remember” can have both a positive (remember for good) as well as a negative connotation (remember in order to punish). The continuation of the eagle’s song appears to be more connected to the latter, as it states, “do not be gracious to any wicked traitors, selah.” Throughout Sukkot, the Jewish people have been bringing sacrifices on behalf of all nations. However, on Shemini Atzeret, we stop bringing sacrifices for others, and place them aside for the time being, so that the Jewish people can be alone with G-d.

The number four represents stability and strength more than the number three, just as a table with four legs is firmer than a tripod. The number four also refers to the matriarchs of the Jewish People: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. The Torah itself is quite explicit about how the matriarchs were more firm than the patriarchs when it came to protecting their family and their lineage from bad influences and from veering off to wrong paths. Sarah made sure that Yishmael was sent away in order not to be a bad influence for Isaac. When Abraham became apprehensive about this, G-d told him to listen to Sarah. Similarly, Rivkah made sure that Jacob would receive the proper blessings from Isaac, instead of Esau. She also insisted that Jacob not intermarry with the local tribes.

The stability of the number four is reflected in various aspects of the world itself. There are four basic elements in the world: fire, water, air, and earth. There are also four spiritual worlds, or dimensions, mentioned in the Kabbalah: Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah. There are also four rivers that flow from the Garden of Eden, and four levels of Torah knowledge, also known as Pardes. Pardes literally means “orchard,” and stands for: Peshat (simple/meaning), Remez (implied/hinted), Derush (interpreted), and Sod (secret). All of the above concepts are deeply related.
In Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi discusses how to stay on the right path, and be laudable in their own eyes and in the eyes of his fellow man. The word used by Rabbi Yehudah to describe this state of equilibrium is tiferet, the sefirah connected to Sukkot.
As part of his teaching, he states that different mitzvot should not be compared. Some think that dancing with the Torah on the day of Simchat Torah is somehow less important than the prayers recited on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, or even that this mitzvah is somehow smaller compared with the daily study of the Torah. In fact, in the eyes of G-d, dancing with the Torah is very important.
Continuing the transition from Week Three to Week Four, Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi tells us to reflect upon three things, which are actually four: "(1) Know what is above you: (2) an Eye that sees, (3) an Ear that hears, and (4) all your deeds are recorded in a Book." This lesson describes the four Jewish holidays of the first four weeks: On Rosh Hashanah, we acknowledge that G-d is above us (the Hebrew word is lada'at, “to know,” and Rosh Hashanah is connected with da'at, as explained in Week 52); on Yom Kippur, G-d sees our teshuvah (our repentance), as stated in the Haftorah of Jonah read on Yom Kippur;[6] the festival of Sukkot is connected to the ear; and Hoshanah Rabbah, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah all reflect the idea that our actions are written in a book, the Book of Life, because it is precisely on Hoshanah Rabbah that the judgment is concluded.
On this week, the sefirah combination is netzach shebechesed. In it, we complete the reading of the entire Torah, which ends with Vezot haBrachah, when Moses blesses each one of the twelve tribes of Israel. As explained in the beginning of the book, Moses is associated with the sefirah of netzach. Netzach means victory and endurance, which we feel as we reach the completion of the Torah’s reading. Moses’ blessings are linked to chesed.
As mentioned above, the number four, associated with netzach, is connected to Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. As a leader, Moses displays maternal characteristics, drawing a striking parallel with our matriarchs. In a particularly difficult time of his journey, Moses desperately please with G-d: "Was it I who gave birth to this entire people, that You ask me to carry them in my bosom as one who carries a nursing [baby], to the land You promised their ancestors?"[7]
It is also worth noting that the Rambam, Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, whose known for the phrase, that “from Moshe to Moshe there was no one like Moshe,” was known as the “Great Eagle.” Rebbe Nachman also always said about himself that his sefirah was netzach. Rebbe Nachman also stated, “I have been victorious (nitzachti) and I will be victorious (v’anatzeach); I have finished and I will finish.”
The lesson of self-improvement that can be derived from the song of the eagle is that we should show care and concern for all others, not just ourselves. In fact, caring about others besides oneself is a great way to fight sadness. The eagle shows concern for the community and for all nations, not just for itself.

[1] Rabbi Slifkin translates Nesher as vulture. Other translations have it as an eagle.
[2] Psalm 103:5; Rashi
[3] The bimah is the platform in the middle of the synagogue, which parallels the altar (mizbeach) in the Temple.
[4] Rebbe Nachman stated, “Mitzvah Gedolah Lihyot B’Simchah Tamid! (It is a great mitzvah to be happy always!)" (Likutei Moharan II, 24). He also would say, “Start serving God as if you had never started in your whole life. This is one of the most basic principles of serving God. We must literally begin all over again every day.” (Likutei Moharan I, 261).
[5] Exodus 19:4
[6] The Book of Jonah states, "And G-d saw their actions  ... and G-d reconsidered the evil which He had spoken to perform against them, and He did not perform it." (3:10, emphasis added)
[7] Numbers 11:12

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Yonah (Dove)

It's time 
To fly,
Ben Amitai

The trial is over,
Victory sealed
Our pact renewed
My truth revealed.

Now, shine your light
From miles away
Like those before
For those today.

It's not too early,
It's not too late.
Pour out your joy
My pure young mate.

Please be at peace
And sing My song
Let out your smile
Don't wait too long.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Week 3 (From the Book): To Be Happy, Balanced, and Secure in G-d

The dove is saying: "Like a swift or crane, so do I chatter; I moan like a dove, my eyes fail with looking upward; O G-d, I am oppressed, be my security." (Isaiah 38:14) The dove says before The Holy One, Blessed be He, "Master of the World! May my sustenance be as bitter as an olive in Your hands, rather than it being sweet as honey through flesh and blood." (Talmud, Eruvin 18b).
Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamliel would say: By three things is the world sustained: law, truth and peace. As is stated (Zachariah 8:16), "Truth, and a judgment of peace, you should administer at your [city] gates.''
Tiferet shebeChesed (beauty and balance within the context of kindness)
In the third week of the Jewish year, when we celebrate Sukkot, the dove is the next animal to sing in Perek Shirah. It calls to G-d to be its source of protection, and states that it prefers that its sustenance be as bitter as an olive branch but come directly from Him, than it be as sweet as honey from the hands of humans. This week also usually marks the yahrzeit of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel, the Rebbe Maharash, on the 13th of Tishrei.
Throughout these days we eat apple and honey and dip our challah in honey, yet we live under the branches of the Sukkah. The dove asks for protection by using the word “Arveni,” which means“be my Guarantor” – but also can be understood as “be sweet to me.” Arveni is also reminiscent of the phrase“Kol Israel Arevim Zeh LaZeh,” which means every Jew is responsible for, mixed together with, and/or sweet to one another, one of the main themes of Sukkot.
On Sukkot, the Jewish people remember how G-d protected them in the desert, and celebrate how that protection continues until today. We live as in an everlasting sukkah, which is fragile and vulnerable to changes in weather conditions. While we must do our part to protect ourselves, we also realize that ultimately we all depend entirely on G-d for our sustenance and safety.
The dove is also characterized by faithfulness and loyalty. The Torah compares the Jewish people to a dove, and Tefillin to its wings: just as the wings protect the dove, so too the mitzvot, the commandments, protect the Jewish people.[2]Just as we are loyal to G-d, He too shows loyalty to us and protects us.
The dove is also considered a bearer of good news and symbolizes peace and tranquility: when Noah wanted to make sure that the flood waters had already receded, he sent the dove, which came back with an olive branch in its mouth, indicating that the Flood had subsided.[3]
In this third week, the dove mentions two birds aside from itself: the crane and the swallow - three animals in total.
The number three is related to the three patriarchs, and also represents balance and stability. While the number two brings tension, three creates harmony. It is well known that on the second day of creation, G-d did not say "it was good." On the third day, however, G-d said "it was good" twice.
The Torah itself is a third and balancing force in the relationship between the Jewish people and G-d. The Talmud states that the Torah, which has three parts (Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim) was given to the three-part Jewish people (Kohanim, Levi'im and Israelim), by the third son (Moses, the younger brother of Aaron and Miriam), on the third day of separation, in the third month (Sivan, counting from the month of Nissan).[4]
One of the first statements in Pirkei Avot is that the world stands on three pillars: Torah, Avodah (Divine service), and Gemilut Chassadim (acts of kindness). These three pillars are also represented by the patriarchs themselves: Abraham represents acts of kindness, Isaac represents Divine service, and Jacob represents the Torah.
As explained in the beginning of this book, Jacob, the third patriarch, represents tiferet, the balance between Abraham’s chesed and Isaac’s gevurah. Jacob is also strongly associated with Sukkot itself. This is a verse in the Torah that explicitly refers to this: after parting from Esau, Jacob goes to [a place called] Sukkot![5]
Jacob is also connected to the concept of truth. In our morning prayers, we recite “Titen Emet L’Ya’akov, Chesed l’Avraham,” give truth to Jacob, mercy to Abraham. In Jewish law, three also represents the concept of chazakah, a legal basis for assuming that statement is true. Furthermore, if a certain occurrence happens three times, there is a chazakah (a legal assumption) that it will happen again.
The number three also plays an important role in the Pirkei Avot lesson for the third week. Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamliel teaches that the world endures because of three things: justice, truth and peace. (I:18) Without these three things there would be no balance and security in the world. This teaching is closely related to the above mentioned teaching in Pirkei Avot, about the three pillars in which the world stands.
The three things mentioned by Rabbi Shimon are directly related to the three holidays in the weeks mentioned so far: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot: Rosh Hashanah is also known as Yom HaDin (Day of Judgment). Din means justice, the exact word used in this teaching. Yom Kippur is the day in which individual Jews are sealed in the Book of Life (our sages explain that “G-d’s seal is truth”). Sukkot is strongly tied to the concept of peace, as can be seen in the bless HaPoress Sukkat Shalom Aleinu (the One who extends a Sukkah of peace over us), which is part of Ma'ariv, the night time prayer.[6]
During this week, the combination of sefirot is tiferet shebechesed. As mentioned above, Jacob represents the sefirahof tiferet. The Rebbe Maharash also represents this sefirah. He was born on the 17th day of the omer,tiferet shebetiferet, and his father would sometimes even refer to him by this combination.[7]The Rebbe Maharash’s yahrzeit falls on or close to the 17th day of the year, which, if one were to attribute a sefirah to each day of the year, would be equivalent to tiferet shebetiferet shebechesed. (See Calendar at the end of the book)
During these days, the Jewish community receives blessings of spiritual and physical assistance, under the fragile construction of their sukkot. Furthermore, during these days we are commandedto be happy, as stated in the verse “veSamachta beChagechah Vehaitem Ach Sameach, you shall rejoice in your festival and you shall be very happy.”[8]
In general, Sukkot are spiritually as well as visually quite beautiful. The actual building, decorating, and preparing meals in the sukkah, are all activities that can be very inspiring. The beauty of the sukkah in the context of the blessings we receive are a great example of tiferet shebechesed.
In this week, we learn from the dove not to be worried or anxious, but instead to have full faith in G-d, Who is All Powerful, and Who provides for all our needs. That said, it is also important to create a vessel to receive G-d’s blessings. It is very important to be grateful for what we have. Furthermore, besides from taking care of the body, it is crucial to be in an environment that is organized, balanced and pleasant, just like a sukkah.

[1] Arveni comes the word Aravah, the “poorest” of the four species used for the mitzvah of shaking the lulav, in that it represents the Jew that has no Torah or mitzvot. Nevertheless this Jew is equally important and essential to this mitzvah.
[2] Talmud, Shabbat 49
[3] Genesis 8:11
[4] Talmud, Shabbat 88a
[5] Genesis 33:17
[6] From the Rebbe’s Sichos
[7] Hayom Yom, 2nd of Iyar, p. 50
[8] Deuteronomy 16: 14. One may ask, “How can a certain emotion be commanded?”The Tanya, the Alter Rebbe’s seminal work, explains that ultimately it must be the mind that controls the heart. By meditating on G-d’s greatness and kindness, we are able to inspire the love for Him in our hearts as well. The same can be said for happiness.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Yom Kippur

My love, in My eyes,
Is the apex of beauty.
My people are perfect
Like the cries of a child
Never a fall
From which it doesn't recover.
Not a single blemish
That I can't brush aside.
It always looks tall
From the top of My shoulders.
Calm and collected
As it's held in My arms.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Week 2 (From the Book): To Relate Well to Others and to Our Own Body

The hen is saying, "He gives bread to all flesh, for His kindness endures forever." (Psalms 136:25)
[Rabban Gamliel’s] son, Shimon, would say: All my life I have been raised among the wise, and I have found nothing better for the body than silence. The essential thing is not study, but deed. And one who speaks excessively brings on sin.
Gevurah shebeChesed (discipline and judgment within the context of kindness)
In the second week of the Jewish year, the week of Yom Kippur[1](the “Day of Atonement”), it is the turn of the hen in Perek Shirah to sing of G-d’s eternal kindness, for providing food for every living being. It is during this time of the year that G-d determines specifically how much sustenance each being will receive, but also who will live and who will not. Many people may not know this, but eating well on the eve of Yom Kippur is considered to be as meritorious as the fast itself.
There is also an important parallel here: It is exactly in this second week, on the eve of Yom Kippur, when we are busy asking each other for forgiveness, that the Jewish people make Kapparot, an ancient custom where each individual symbolically atones for one’s sins before G-d through the means of a hen! After the ritual is performed, each chicken is slaughtered and given to families in need. Nowadays, many have the custom to use charity money in order to fulfill this ritual. Before Yom Kippur, we also have the custom to ask each other for forgiveness.
The number one is somewhat lonely, but once another one is added they make a pair, just like the rooster and the hen. The number two also represents the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments (Luchot HaBrit). While one tablet contains laws regarding our relationship with G-d, the other tablet contains laws regarding relationships between human beings. It was precisely on Yom Kippur that the tablets were given for the second time for the Jewish People. The number two represents the concept of relationship, as well as the idea of giving and receiving.
The Pirkei Avot of this week contains the recommendation of Shimon ben Rabban Gamliel: "All my life I grew up among the Sages, and found nothing better for the person [literally, the body] than silence; it is not to study, but rather action which is of the essence… one who talks too much brings forth sin" (I:17). In order to properly receive and absorb the words of others, one must first be silent.
Furthermore, the "silencing" of the body, appears to be a clear reference to the fasting that takes place on Yom Kippur, as well as other actions such as not wearing leather shoes, anointing ourselves (using perfumes or lotions), having sexual relations – preventing all these things on Yom Kippur is a way to distance ourselves from physicality and be very close to G-d, like angels, even if only for a single day. Yom Kippur is also a day of reflection and introspection, for which silence is an important virtue.
We saw that the Pirkei Avot of week number one focuses on acquiring a single main teacher. In this week, we speak about learning from“sages,” in the plural. While the number one relates to unity, two represents the concept of multiplicity.
These two concepts are not contradictory – they complement each other. One can still have a single main teacher, while still learning from every person. In fact, as we will see in week 30 of Pirkei Avot, that Ben Zoma states that to do so is a sign of true wisdom.[2]
On Yom Kippur, we also focus on fact that the main thing that G-d values is our actions. One of the high points of this holy day is the reading of the Book of Jonah, which in turn has as its climax the following verse: "And G-d saw their actions ... and G-d reconsidered the evil which He had spoken to perform against them, and He did not perform it." [3]
In the second week, the sefirah combination is gevurah shebechesed, discipline and judgment within the context of kindness. During the fast of Yom Kippur, the Jewish people act with discipline, willpower, and self-control. We do so while begging our Creator for mercy and protection, knowing that G-d is just and kind.
This week, a lesson in self-improvement we draw from Perek Shirah is that even the hen recognizes that God nourishes all living beings. After getting out of bed, as we learned from the rooster, the next step in combating sadness is to take proper care of ourselves, eating properly and exercising.

[1] Erev Yom Kippur always falls on the second week of the year, but in certain years, the day of Yom Kippur itself falls on the first day of Week Three. This is the only exception for all dates described in this book.
[2] Chapter IV:1
[3] Chapter 3:10. Jonah in Hebrew means “dove,” the animal in Perek Shirah for Week Three.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Market of Shabbos

I want to get to a place
Where I don't have the time
To think about images

Too busy in cycles of 
Informing and exchanging
Taking flight and upgrading
Deciphering and deplaning

Keeping up with the beat
Of the conductor,
The master of

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Week 1 (From the Book): To Raise our Heads, Choose a Master, and Recognize G-d’s Oneness

Week 1: To Raise our Heads, Choose a Master, and Recognize G-d’s Oneness

Each week will begin by quoting the week’s animal in Perek Shirah, rabbi in Pirkei Avot, and sefirah combination. The program begins on the week of Rosh Hashanah, coinciding with all or part of selichot, the days of repentance leading up to the holiday. The exact day of the week in which counting starts is the same as the day the Counting of the Omer starts, the second day of the Passover holiday.

The rooster is saying, "When the Holy One, blessed be He, comes to the righteous in the Garden of Eden, all the trees in the Garden of  Eden scatter their spices, and they rejoice and praise, and then He, too, is aroused and praises." (Zohar, Vayakhel 195b)
In its first call it says, "Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in! Who is this King of glory? G-d strong and mighty, G-d mighty in battle!" (Psalms 24:7-8)
In its second call it says, "Lift up your heads, O gates! Lift them up, O everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in! Who is this King of glory? G-d of hosts, He is the King of glory, Selah!" (Psalms 24:9-10)
In its third call it says, "Stand, O righteous ones, and busy yourselves with Torah, so that your reward will be double in the World-to-Come."
In its fourth call it says, "I have hoped for Your salvation, O G-d." (Genesis 49:18)
In its fifth call, it is saying, "How long will you sleep, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?" (Proverbs 6:9)
In its sixth call, it is saying, "Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes and you shall be satisfied with bread." (Proverbs 20:13)
In its seventh call, it is saying: "It is time to act for G-d; for they have made void Your Torah." (Psalms 119:126)

Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly.
They [the Men of the Great Assembly] would always say these three things: Be cautious in judgment. Establish many pupils. And make a safety fence around the Torah.
Shimon the Righteous was among the last surviving members of the Great assembly. He would say: The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G-d, and deeds of kindness.
Antignos of Socho received the tradition from Shimon the Righteous. He would say: Do not be as slaves, who serve their master for the sake of reward. Rather, be as slaves who serve their master not for the sake of reward. And the fear of Heaven should be upon you.
Yossi the son of Yoezer of Tzreidah, and Yossi the son of Yochanan of Jerusalem, received the tradition from them. Yossi the son of Yoezer of Tzreidah would say: Let your home be a meeting place for the wise; dust yourself in the soil of their feet, and drink thirstily of their words.
Yossi the son of Yochanan of Jerusalem would say: Let your home be wide open, and let the poor be members of your household. And do not engage in excessive conversation with a woman. This is said even regarding one's own wife--how much more so regarding the wife of another. Hence, the sages said: One who excessively converses with a woman causes evil to himself, neglects the study of Torah, and, in the end, inherits purgatory.
Joshua the son of Perachia and Nitai the Arbelite received from them. Joshua the son of Perachia would say: Assume for yourself a master, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every man to the side of merit.
Nitai the Arbelite would say: Distance yourself from a bad neighbor, do not cleave to a wicked person, and do not abandon belief in retribution.
Judah the son of Tabbai and Shimon the son of Shotach received from them. Judah the son of Tabbai would say: When sitting in judgment, do not act as a counselor-at-law. When the litigants stand before you, consider them both guilty; and when they leave your courtroom, having accepted the judgment, regard them as equally righteous.
Shimon the son of Shotach would say: Increasingly cross-examine the witnesses. Be careful with your words, lest they learn from them how to lie.
Shmaayah and Avtalyon received from them. Shmaayah would say: Love work, loath mastery over others, and avoid intimacy with the government.
Avtalyon would say: Scholars, be careful with your words. For you may be exiled to a place inhabited by evil elements [who will distort your words to suit their negative purposes]. The disciples who come after you will then drink of these evil waters and be destroyed, and the Name of Heaven will be desecrated.
Hillel and Shammai received from them. Hillel would say: Be of the disciples of Aaron--a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah.
He would also say: One who advances his name, destroys his name. One who does not increase, diminishes. One who does not learn is deserving of death. And one who make personal use of the crown of Torah shall perish.
He would also say: If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?
Shammai would say: Make your Torah study a permanent fixture of your life. Say little and do much. And receive every man with a pleasant countenance.
Rabban Gamliel would say: Assume for yourself a master; stay away from doubt; and do not accustom yourself to tithe by estimation.
Chesed shebeChesed (kindness within the context of kindness)

The month of Tishrei is represented by the tribe of Ephraim, and is almost entirely devoted to spiritual pursuits. It is replete with Jewish holidays, full of joy from beginning to end. Ephraim, the son of Joseph, studied Torah under his grandfather Jacob and led a life that was almost completely devoted to spiritual concerns.

The first week of the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Hashanah, which literally means “the head of the year.” The first animal in Perek Shirah is the rooster, who awakens us by singing an introductory verse followed by seven songs, one for each day of the week. Similarly, on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish people experience a spiritual awakening through the blowing of the shofar. Each of the songs of the rooster parallel the meaning behind the shofar blows that take place on Rosh Hashanah. The shofar is blown 100 times, and the rooster’s verses contain 100 words.

The first week also contains the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah, which are called selichot. On these days, like the rooster, we arise early in the morning in order to ask forgiveness for our sins and begin the year with a clean slate.The rooster, the majestic animal that heads the list of animals in Perek Shirah, represents the concept of G-d's kingship. It is exactly on Rosh Hashanah that the Jewish people acknowledge G-d as King.

The number one represents G-d’s unity as the Master and Creator of the universe. This is the fundamental belief of the Jewish faith.

In Pirkei Avot, the first set of sayings found in Chapter I repeat the idea of receiving guidance from a single teacher/spiritual guide (rav). In order to grow as a person, it is important to have a life coach; someone that knows us well and can therefore guide, answer questions, and be objective about what aspects of our life need improvement.

These verses of Pirkei Avot include an introduction followed by seven pairs of rabbis, which is parallel to the introduction followed by the seven songs of the rooster. Upon careful review, one will find that each of these lessons is intimately connected to Rosh Hashanah, in which we acquire G-d as our ultimate Master.
The first week is associated with the sefirah combination of chesed shebechesed. Chesed means loving kindness, and on Rosh Hashanah we feel that G-d pours his kindness upon His children.[1] The Ba’al Shem Tov explains that the blowing of the shofar is like the cry of a prince who spent years away from home and forgot his mother tongue. Seeing his father, the King, from a distance, the son screams to Him in order to be recognized.

It was exactly on Rosh Hashanah that G-d showed enormous kindness to Sarah, the first of the four matriarchs of the Jewish people. During this festival, Sarah, an elderly woman who had been unable to become pregnant her entire life, received the news that she would give birth to a son, Isaac. It was also on Rosh Hashanah that Chanah was told of the extraordinary news that she would give birth to a son, the prophet Samuel. Chanah was also barren and advanced in years. It is worth noting that the rooster is mentioned in our prayer book as an animal that recognizes the kindness of its Creator. Every day, in our morning prayers, we thank G-d for giving the rooster the understanding to distinguish between day and night.

We can also learn a very important lesson in self-improvement from the rooster. It tells us to stop sleeping, to get up, and to move forward. Getting out of bed is an important first step in fighting sadness. The act of arising in the morning is a daily miracle, as well as an essential action in facing the joys and the challenges of every new day. By tapping into the song of the rooster and the call of the shofar, our physical and spiritual alarm clocks, we acknowledge G-d’s oneness, and take an important first step towards a harmonious, spiritually aware, and productive new year.

[1] It is worth noting that Rosh Hashanah is also known as “Yom HaDin,” the “Day of Judgment,” which is more associated with gevurah than with chesed. That is because Rosh Hashanah is associated with the judgment of our actions during the previous year (See Week 52), although it is also the day in which all the blessings of the coming year are determined. Perhaps that is another reason why Rosh Hashanah is called “kesseh,” the hidden holiday, for G-d’s tremendous chesed on this day is somewhat hidden. 

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Rabbi Daniel Kahane and Ann Helen Wainer have recently launched a new book, which promises to change the way scholars and laymen understand the Jewish calendar as well as the structure of central Jewish texts. 

The book shows how the 52-day period spanning from Passover to Shavuot (Pentecost) is in fact a microcosm of the 52 weeks of the year. Additionally, it demonstrates how 52 rabbis and 52 animals listed in the sacred works Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of Fathers”) and Perek Shirah (“Chapter of Song”) parallel the year’s weeks as well. Finally, the book explores the kabbalistic meaning behind the numbers and divine attributes (sefirot) related to each day from Passover to Shavuot known as the Counting of the Omer.

The Counting of the Omer has always been one of the key tools used by the Jewish People as a basis for spiritual development. The book expands its use to the entire year and shows amazing and eerie connections between how the weeks of the year and the days of the Omer parallel each other. “The basis for the entire book is one simple idea,” Rabbi Kahane says, “Just as the culmination of the Counting of the OmerLag Ba’Omer, falls on the 33rd day of the Omer, so too the week of Lag Ba’Omer falls on the 33rd week of the year. 

“The book’s use as a weapon against sadness should also not be underestimated,” exclaims Ann Helen Wainer, “its uplifting ideas and its connectedness to the song and harmony of nature, as well as the wisdom and foresight of our ancestors, is a true gift.”