Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Kabbalah of Time: An Introduction

Welcome to the "Kabbalah of Time" Blog!

ויעל אליהו

Book 1

We'll be using this blog for postings related to the e-book, "The Kabbalah of Time: Revelation of Hidden Light Through the Jewish Calendar," by Rabbi Daniel Kahane and Ann Helen Wainer. The book is only $2.99 and is available at various websites, including ModernJewishHome.com, Amazon, iTunes, BarnesandNoble.com, and others. We'll also be posting video lessons based on the book. For all classes, check out our youtube channel here.

Below is the introduction to the book. Here are also a few videos of a presentation given at our book launch: Video1; Video2; Video3; Video4. We truly hope you enjoy this information and can join us on this amazing spiritual journey!


"For everything there is a season and for every time there is a purpose under Heaven."
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

We spend much of our life in spiritual darkness. We often go about our lives with great uncertainty, without the benefit of sage advice or guidance. Yet somehow we just keep going, attaching ourselves to values that confuse our minds and our hearts, and ignoring the real needs and wants of our soul.

We become so busy with our own personal affairs and so distracted by the avalanche of superfluous information directed at us, that we blind ourselves to the signs all around, the lessons and warnings G-d presents to us at every moment. Certain instances, however, awaken us from this darkness. In those times, which are like lightning bolts of clarity, we realize that there is something greater, something beyond this physical plane and our worldly concerns.
The reality is that our soul needs to sing! Yet what are we to do if we do not know the melody and the lyrics of the song? The Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, explains that this is the feeling behind the shofar blast on Rosh Hashanah. The shofar is the most basic and primal expression of the soul, and it is with this cry that the Jewish people awaken spiritually at the start of every year.
This book’s objective is to bring us closer to our song. The song of the soul: of the individual, of the Jewish people, of humanity, and of nature.[1] This “four-fold song”[2] is directed towards G-d, and the Jewish calendar itself is its sheet music.
In an effort to promote more harmony in our lives, we will study Jewish values and techniques for spiritual enhancement that will make ourselves attuned to the energy of each week of the year. This book will give access to unknown tools, which allow for an open channel of dialogue with G-d. These teachings are not new. They are already found in the Torah itself. They are within everyone’s reach, close to the mouth and to the heart.[3]
Through continuous effort, an individual who is committed to change can obtain personal as well as collective transformation: in the family, the local community, the city, and beyond. As the prophet Isaiah exclaims, the Earth was not created to be chaos.[4] We desperately need to live in a better world, and leave it more peaceful for future generations.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe, teaches that one should “live with the times.”[5] By connecting Jewish lessons to fixed times in the Jewish calendar, the book is meant to serve as a tool for self-reflection and spiritual development through the songs of the animals in Perek Shirah, the teachings of the rabbis in Pirkei Avot, as well as the kabbalistic meaning behind the numbers and divine attributes (sefirot) related to each day of the Counting of the Omer.

The Counting of the Omer
The Counting of the Omer, known in Hebrew as Sefirat Ha'Omer, is a Torah commandment to count the weeks and days in which the omer sacrifice was offered in the Temple. This sacrifice was made of barley, which in those days was primarily an animal food, and had the Biblical measurement of one omer. The counting takes place every year during the 49 days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost).
The Counting of the Omer has always been used by the Jewish People as a basis for spiritual development. In Egypt, the Jewish People had reached the 49th level of spiritual impurity. During the first 49 days that followed their escape from Egypt, the Jewish people gradually purified itself, until it reached the 49th level of purity. Within but seven weeks, upon reaching Mount Sinai, the Jewish people had become so spiritually and emotionally refined that the entire nation was able to encamp there in complete harmony, peace, and unity: “as one person with one heart.”[6] It was only in this way that they merited to receive the Torah.
During the omer count performed every year between Passover and Shavuot, there is a custom to spend each day concentrating on a different combination of sefirot. Sefirot, as further explained below, are Divine attributes which are also found within every individual. By doing so, it is possible to obtain a level of spiritual and emotional improvement similar to what the Jewish people achieved after leaving Egypt.
The Counting of the Omer takes places mostly during the Jewish month of Iyar, a month known for its healing powers. A hint of Iyar’s connection to healing is found within the letters of its name, alef, yud and reish, an acronym from the biblical verse Ani Hashem Rofechah, “I am G-d your Healer.”[7]
Besides from being a time of great spiritual elevation and healing, unfortunately the omer is also a reminder of a sad period in the history of the Jewish people. Twenty-four thousand students of Rabbi Akiva passed away during these days. They suffered from a plague inflicted due to their lack of unity and respect for one another, the very opposite of what characterized the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai.
The plague ended on the 33rd day of the omer, known as Lag Ba’omer. This is one of the reasons why this date is so commemorated. Another reason for celebrating Lag Ba’omer is because it is the yahrzeit – the anniversary of the passing – of the great tzadik Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who died many years after the plague. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, himself a student of Rabbi Akiva, is the author of the Zohar, the basic and most important text of the Kabbalah.[8]
The order in which the combination of sefirot takes place for each day of the omer follows a very simple principle. As further explained below, there are seven emotional sefirot, and since the Counting of the Omer occurs over seven weeks, each week represents one sefirah. The first week represents the first sefirah, chesed (kindness), while the second week represents the second sefirah, gevurah (discipline), and so forth. Furthermore, each day within each week represents a subdivision of one of the seven emotional sefirot within that sefirah. For example, the first day of the omer represents the attribute of chesed within chesed (chesed shebechesed), as it is the first day of the first week. The second day of the first week represents the attribute of gevurah within chesed (gevurah shebechesed). Lag Ba'Omer is the fifth day of the fifth week. The fifth sefirah is hod, and therefore Lag Ba’omer represents hod shebehod. The sefirot combinations of each day of the omer are found in most prayerbooks.
Furthermore, the most basic element in the commandment of the Counting of the Omer is to give each day a specific number. Numbers in Judaism have tremendous meaning that goes much beyond their day-to-day usage. Each number has kabbalistic significance, and each letter in the Jewish calendar has a numerical value.
Incredibly, just as Lag Ba’omer takes place on the thirty-third day of the omer,  two thirds into the counting between Passover and Shavuot, so too – and this is quite remarkable – the week of Lag Ba’omer falls two thirds into the Jewish year, exactly on the thirty-third week! Each week of the year therefore parallels each day of the Counting of the Omer, and each week is connected to the sefirah combination for that day. It is therefore possible to work on oneself through the sefirot and the numbers related to the omer during the entire year.[9] (See Calendar)

Pirkei Avot and Perek Shirah
In addition, from Passover to Shavuot, in most religious Jewish communities there is a custom to study the Pirkei Avot, also as a mechanism of self-improvement. Pirkei Avot, which literally means “Chapters of the Fathers,” is part of the Mishnah (the Oral Torah) compiled by Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi. In these chapters, each of the main rabbis of the generation writes in concise form what he considers to be most important in order to live ethically and in accordance with the principles of the Torah. Pirkei Avot can also be understood as “Father Chapters,” since these chapters include the fundamental principles for the study and fulfillment of the rest of the Torah. In this sense, the teachings of Pirkei Avot are like "parents," and the rest of the Torah’s teachings are like their children.[10] 
This book shows how the teachings of rabbis found within the first four chapters of Pirkei Avot are organized in such a way that each rabbi corresponds to a week of the year. Similarly, this book will show how this weekly method of self-improvement is also related to each animal of Perek Shirah.[11]
Perek Shirah, which means Chapter of Song, is an ancient text that is not very well known, as it has been published only in a handful of prayerbooks around the world. While the authorship of this work is not certain, many attribute it to King David. Perek Shirah itself hints to David’s authorship as it describes his interaction with a frog immediately following the completion of the Book of Psalms. In this conversation, the frog exclaims, “David! Do not become proud, for I recite more songs and praises than you.” 
Among sacred Jewish texts, Perek Shirah is a pioneer when it comes to the environment. It is a work of enormous lyricism and exaltation of the Creator, including songs from the sun and the moon, Heaven and Earth, as well as from various members of the plant and animal kingdoms. The praises found in this book are like a great orchestra in which, instead of musicians, each element and living being contributes to a beautiful and emotional masterpiece. That result is the best possible exclamation of G-d’s greatness by all of His Creation.
It is extraordinary that of all the different elements and creatures listed in Perek Shirah that glorify the Creator, there are exactly fifty-two animals in Perek Shirah, one for each week of the solar year.[12]
In Judaism, as well as in many other cultures, it is well known that humans can learn many important lessons on how to behave by observing animals and nature. The Book of Job, for example, teaches that we should learn how to glorify G-d by observing birds.[13] The Talmud teaches that “Had the Torah not been given, we would have learned to be modest from cats, to avoid theft from ants, to avoid promiscuity from doves, and derech eretz (proper conduct) from roosters.”[14] The Book of Proverbs advises those that are lazy to observe the ant. Despite the fact that this animal has no supervisor, it collects its food in the summer and stores it during the harvest season.[15] In a similar vein, in Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Yehuda Ben Teima tell us to be “bold like the leopard, swift like the eagle, fast like the deer, and courageous like the lion, in order to fulfill the will of your Father in Heaven.”[16]
It is quite often easier for a person to learn character traits from animals because human beings are full of paradoxes and internal conflicts, while animals have emotional attributes that are strong and clear, without room for human subtleties. The fact that during the omer we work on our emotional characteristics (our animal qualities) is reflected in the omer offering itself, which was made out of barley, an animal food. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the process of self-analysis which begins on Passover and runs through the Counting of the Omer, culminating on Shavuot, is parallel to the kind of food related to each of these days. On Passover we eat matzah, which involves total nullification of the ego; the omer, made of animal food, reflects our struggle to improve our emotional/animal characteristics; on Shavuot, once our character traits have been refined,  leavened bread is brought into the Temple for the first time.[17]
When reading Perek Shirah, it is fascinating to observe how the animals so gracefully praise and acknowledge G-d’s actions. If animals glorify G-d in such a way, how much more so should we! Furthermore, through each animal and its respective song, we extract examples and lessons on how to help us heal and combat sadness.

How to Read this Book
The pages of this book will show the link between each week of the year and 1) the animals of Perek Shirah, 2) the rabbis of Pirkei Avot, as well as 3) the number and sefirah combination of each day of the omer. This book can be read from beginning to end all at once, but its main purpose is to be experienced during each week. Along with the meaning of every Jewish month and the important dates of the Jewish calendar, the idea is to connect with the spiritual energy of the week through these three paradigms: Perek Shirah, Pirkei Avot, and the Counting of the Omer. While doing so, one should try to absorb and internalize the teachings found in them, in order to improve one’s daily conduct.
The book can also be experienced during each day of the actual omer count, from Passover until Shavuot (using one week for each day), given that the omer count is itself a microcosm of the whole year. The fifty-two weeks of the year are also reflected in the rituals and times connected to each day. (See Appendix and Table I)
The weeks of this book can even technically be applied on a yearly basis, with each week representing a different year. This may have both an individual application, with each week representing a year in a person’s life, but could even be applied to history as a whole, which would more or less parallel the cycles of Sabbatical and Jubilee years. (See Table II)
For the individual, the cycle would start at birth, and then restart at age 52. Examples of this would be King Solomon and Shmuel HaNavi, who both lived 52 years. This may also apply to more than one reincarnation. In the Passover Hagaddah, Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah states that he “was like a man of 70.” The Vilna Gaon teaches that Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah, who was only 18, knew that he was a reincarnation of Shmuel HaNavi, and so therefore, he saw himself as being 18 plus 52, which equals 70.[18]
For those seeking a daily connection throughout the year, this can be done simply by subdividing each week, using a different sefirah for each day. In this way, a person would perform seven separate “omer counts.” The first day of the year is chesed shebechesed shebechesed (the first day of the first week of the first series of seven weeks), and Lag Ba'Omer will represent not only hod shebehod but, hod shebehod shebehod (the 5th day of the 5th week of the 5th series of seven weeks).[19]
In order to succeed in this journey, the reader will benefit from one more ingredient: emunah. Emunah means faith in G-d. The Midrash states that the Sea of Reeds only split, allowing the Jewish people to cross, after Nachshon ben Aminadav threw himself into the water.[20] At that time, we know that the Jewish People was completely cornered, seeing the Egyptian army approach on one side, and facing the deep waters of sea on the other. What was the way out?  The Jewish people hesitated, and somewhat panicked, despite the great number of Divine miracles they saw upon being freed from Egypt. At this moment, without having second thoughts and believing firmly that everything would work out for the best, Nachshon jumped into the sea. When the waters were already entering his nostrils, the Sea of Reeds split and all of the Jewish people followed him.  The Midrash explains that G-d wanted His people to act based on emunah.
Thus, it is through Nachshon’s example that we learn how to conduct our lives. Emunah is a process we develop (it is etymologically linked to the Hebrew word for craft, omanut), but to begin, a person needs a certain amount of faith, to just jump in like Nachshon. The obstacles in Nachshon’s way were removed because he was determined to bring G-d’s will into reality. After all, nothing is impossible or even difficult for the Eternal One, Who took His people out of the land of Egypt.[21] G-d took His dear people out of slavery; He did not do so through an angel or a messenger, but did it Himself, through His strong hand and outstretched arm.[22] For this reason, besides celebrating Passover annually, the Jewish people also remember its freedom from Egypt in its daily prayers, despite the fact that this liberation took place a few millennia ago.
In conclusion, filled with emunah, one can march onward with ease in this beautiful spiritual journey. It is with this strong sense of faith, truth and hope that we present the tools for Jewish wisdom, understanding and knowledge contained in the pages to follow.

[1] Orot HaKodesh II, p. 444
[2] Id.
[3] Deuteronomy 30:11; Tanya - Introduction
[4] Chapter 45:18
[5] Hayom Yom, 2nd of Cheshvan, p. 101
[6] Exodus 19:2, Rashi
[7] Exodus 15:26; The Rebbe in his Chassidic Discourse for Tu B’Shvat, 5741 states that the Arizal and previous rebbes note that choleh has the gematria of forty-nine, also a reference to the Forty-Nine Gates of Understanding, related to the omer.
[8] “Kabbalah” is a general term used to describe the inner most spiritual dimension of the Torah. The term “Kabbalah” literally means that which was “received,” passed down from master to teacher since the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. At one point in Jewish history, Kabbalah was studied only by a relatively small group of saintly individuals, and this remains true for the more esoteric teachings. Nonetheless, since the times of the Holy Ari, Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Lion of Safed, as well as the later rise of the Ba’al Shem Tov and Chassidism, the fundamental principles of Kabbalah are now not only widespread, but their study by the general population is encouraged.
[9] At the time of the writing of this book, the authors had not come across the idea of expanding the Counting of the Omer to the entire year in any earlier source. Recently however, the authors became aware of a book by Brazilian rabbi Nilton Bonder called Exercícios D’Alma (Soul Exercises), which has a similar premise, although the counting itself is done differently, based on the Torah readings for each week instead of on Lag Ba’omer.
[10] Marcus, p. 12
[11] No authoritative source has been found for the idea of connecting the weeks of the Jewish calendar to Perek Shirah and Pirkei Avot, but the authors strongly feel that these connections are not only present, but become increasingly apparent with each coming week. In any event, there is certainly much to be learned from these sources regardless of any specific connection.
[12] The solar calendar of fifty-two weeks is used in Judaism on various occasions. For example, it is used to calculate the blessing over the sun, Birchat Hachamah, as well as to calculate the time to switch part of the prayer in the Amidah connected to the harvest and the rain (this change is always made on the 5th or 6th day of December). The number 365 is also used in Judaism in order to calculate the stockpiling of incense, ketoret, in the Temple, and in order to remember the number of biblical prohibitions in the Torah, 365 in all.
[13] Chapter 35:11
[14] Talmud, Eruvin 100b
[15] Chapter 6:6.
[16] Chapter 5:23
[17] Touger, Eliyahu, Timeless Patterns in Time, available at: http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/timeless-patterns/37.htm (Chassidism also explains that working on our “inner animal” is also one of the main purposes of animal sacrifices in the Temple, as explained in the Chassidic discourse Kuntres U’Ma’ayan, by Rabbi Shalom Dovber of Lubavitch, the fifth Rebbe of Chabad).
[18] Perhaps one can also say that there is an even bigger connection between 70 and 18. Perhaps the 70th year is really like the 18th year of the second cycle, and that everyone who is 18 is really like 70, and vice-versa. The very word Ben in the phrase, “Harei Ani keBen Shivim Shanah” equals 52. There keBen is 20, 2, and 50. If the 2 is subtracted from the 20 and added to the 50, you have 18+52 =70. Rabbi Shmelke of Nicholsberg also said that he had the soul of Shmuel, and he also alluded to Shmuel’s age of 52, his age when he made this statement upon his deathbed. The Ba’al Shem Tov’s life can also be considered to be 52 in total; 26 years before Achiah haShiloni revealed himself to him, and then 26 years after he revealed himself to the world (the ten years in which Achiah haShiloni taught him Torah would not count, as they are more parallel to the World to Come; some Chassidim, however, count it doubly). (See Likutei Diburim)
[19] All "33rd days" for each cycle of seven weeks are connected to important days in the Chassidic calendar: the 29th of Tishrei - yahrzeit of Shimon HaTzadik, which is commemorated by Chassidim in many of the same ways as Lag Ba’Omer, including giving three-year-olds their first haircut by his grave. In fact, many those in Jerusalem that cannot go to Shimon Bar Yochai’s grave on Lag Ba’Omer go to Shimon HaTzadik’s instead; Yud Tes Kislev;  Yud Shvat; the 27th of Adar (date of the Rebbe's two strokes); Lag Ba’Omer; the 8th of Tammuz (halfway between the 3rd and the 12th/13th of Tammuz); and the 29th of Av (day the Alter Rebbe flees Liadi, which led directly to his passing)
[20] Bamidbar Rabbah 13:7; Talmud Sotah 37A
[21] Exodus 20:2;  Psalm 78
[22] Deuteronomy 4:34