Sunday, October 1, 2017

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.
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