Monday, December 26, 2016

Third Set of 22 Days: Heh & Vav, the Desert & the Fields

This Tuesday, the 7th of Cheshvan, began the third set of 22 days of the Jewish calendar, which parallel the letters Heh and Vav, as well as the Desert and the Field in Perek Shirah.

Just as Gimmel and Dalet have an interesting relationship, so too do the letters Heh and Vav. Heh is female, and represents the Divine attribute (sefirah) of Malchut. The letter Heh also is tied to the concept of pregnancy, as it is the first letter in the Hebrew word for it, Herayon. The shape of the Heh is also that of a Dalet with a Yud "impregnated" inside. Of all the sefirotMalchut does not give, but only receives - that is why it is called a "poor" sefirah, because "she has nothing of her own" (De'leit Lah, like the letter Dalet). The Dalet represents an unrectified feminine aspect, while the Heh, represents a rectified one.

Furthermore, Heh, spelled out in full, appears in the verse, "Heh Lachem Zerah," take for yourselves seed. (Genesis 47:23):

The Magen David and the Kli Yakar interpret the words “Hei lachem zerah” to mean, ‘Take the letter Hei () for yourselves for zerah.’ The word zerah, ‘seed’, often means ‘children’. Therefore, the letter Hei is connected with fertility and having chidren. This is why G-d changed our matriarch Sarah’s name. When the Yud in the name Sarai was changed to a Hei, spelling Sarah–she soon became pregnant with Yitzchak. (

The Vav is male, and symbolizes the sefirah of Yesod (foundation) as well as all of Zeir Anpin, the six masculine emotional Divine attributes (sefirot) that come prior to Malchut, which is female. The shape of the Vav is a straight line, which is associated with male qualities, while female qualities are associated with round, curved shapes, like that of the Heh.

Furthermore, the Vav, which literally means a "hook," grammatically is a letter that connects and transforms. A Vav preceding a word usually means "and." If that word is a verb, the Vav can transform it from past tense to future tense, or vice-versa.

The 22 days of this cycle usually fall mostly within the month of Cheshvan, and start around the time of the yahrzeit of Rachel Immeinu, our matriarch. In Kabbalistic literature, Rachel symbolizes the sefirah of Malchut. As explained previously, Cheshvan is a "poor" month, waiting to be impregnated with the holiness we obtained during Tishrei.

The Heh therefore represents the time in the month of Cheshvan that stands for a "rectified" Malchut, when the initial spiritual void we encountered has already been somewhat filled with spirituality.

The cycle also includes the first days of Kislev, the month of Chanukah, and which is also filled with Chassidic holidays, such as the 19th of Kislev (the Rosh Hashanah of Chasidut) and others. The Vav therefore connects us to the time in which we stood our ground (Yesod) against Greek culture, and transformed darkness into light.

The Desert and the Field have a similar kind of relationship. The Desert also represents the idea of "poverty," be it spiritual or physical, a deep desire for water (Torah). The Desert however, although still symbolic of the bitterness of exile, is already great "step up" from the previous element, Gehennom (purgatory). We are already at a more rectified level of exile.

The Fields are another step closer to elevation. The fields contain even more life and spirituality. Fields are associated with Isaac, who would converse with G-d in the field. As also explained in other places, of the two sons of Isaac, it is Eisav who is called a "man of the field," while Jacob was a wholesome man who would dwell in the tent (of study). In exile, Jacob must learn to be a man of the field as well.

It is also worth noting the progression in the Torah regarding how each of our patriarchs related to the place of the Temple, Mount Moriah. Avraham saw it as a mountain, Isaac as a field, while Jacob knew it as Beit-El, G-d's home (R. Ari Jacobson, YU). A similar progression exists in Perek Shirah, in transforming the world from Gehennom, to a Desert, to a Field.

The desire for water, associated with Desert, also coincides with the time when the Flood began, on the 17th of Cheshvan. Also, the elements of the coming 22-day cycles will be related to water.

The above is reflected in the verses that the two elements sing:
  • The Wilderness (Desert) is saying, "The wilderness and the desert shall rejoice, and the arid region shall exult, and blossom like the rose." (Isaiah 35:1)
  • The Fields are saying, "God founded the land with wisdom; He established the heavens with understanding." (Proverbs 3:19)
The Desert sings of its desire for water (Torah), and the day it will be completely rectified in the Messianic era. The Fields speak of foundation (Yesod) and wisdom (Chochmah), the quality most associated with Greek culture, and one of its biggest threats in the time of Chanukah. Many aspects of Greek wisdom and reasoning, however, when properly incorporated into Jewish values, have proven immensely beneficial. (See Maimonedes, and also how Talmai ("Ptolomy," the Greek leader at the time), has the same gematria as "Talmud.")