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Monday, October 16, 2017

Week 5 (from the Book): To Use All Tools Available in order to Elevate the World

The Crane is saying, "Give thanks to G-d with the lyre; make music for Him with the ten-stringed harp." (Psalms 33:2)

Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi would say: Beautiful is the study of Torah with the way of the world, for the toil of them both causes sin to be forgotten. Ultimately, all Torah study that is not accompanied with work is destined to cease and to cause sin.

Those who work for the community should do so for the sake of Heaven; for then the merit of their ancestors shall aid them, and their righteousness shall endure forever. And you, [says G-d,] I shall credit you with great reward as if you have achieved it.
Be careful with the government, for they befriend a person only for their own needs. They appear to be friends when it is beneficial to them, but they do not stand by a person at the time of his distress.

He would also say: Make that His will should be your will, so that He should make your will to be as His will. Nullify your will before His will, so that He should nullify the will of others before your will.

Hillel would say: Do not separate yourself from the community. Do not believe in yourself until the day you die. Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place. Do not say something that is not readily understood in the belief that it will ultimately be understood [or: Do not say something that ought not to be heard even in the strictest confidence, for ultimately it will be heard]. And do not say "When I free myself of my concerns, I will study,'' for perhaps you will never free yourself.
He would also say: A boor cannot be sin-fearing, an ignoramus cannot be pious, a bashful one cannot learn, a short-tempered person cannot teach, nor does anyone who does much business grow wise. In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.

He also saw a skull floating upon the water. Said he to it: Because you drowned others, you were drowned; and those who drowned you, will themselves be drowned.

He would also say: One who increases flesh, increases worms; one who increases possessions, increases worry; one who increases wives, increases witchcraft; one who increases maidservants, increases promiscuity; one who increases man-servants, increases thievery; one who increases Torah, increases life; one who increases study, increases wisdom; one who increases counsel, increases understanding; one who increases charity, increases peace. One who acquires a good name, acquired it for himself; one who acquires the words of Torah, has acquired life in the World to Come.

Hod shebeChesed (glory and gratefulness within the context of kindness)

On the fifth week of the Jewish calendar, we celebrate Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. The month of Cheshvan is represented by the tribe of Menashe. Menashe, the firstborn son of Joseph, assisted his father in managing the entire Egyptian empire at the time. In Cheshvan, we bring all the holiness that we acquired in Tishrei, and use it in our day-to-day spiritual and physical endeavors to elevate the world. After the introspection and delving into the treasures of the Torah that took place in Tishrei, we must put our new resolutions into practice in this physical world. In this service, we use all powers, tools, and technologies available to us.  In Perek Shirah, the crane sings to G-d with joy, asking that we use musical instruments such as the lyre and the ten-stringed harp to thank Hashem.[1] With instruments, our music to Him will be even more beautiful.

The number five represents the five books of Moses, the Torah. At Mount Sinai, Moses brought the Torah down from heaven into this physical world, transforming it forever. Five is also one more than the number four, which as mentioned in the previous week, reflects the basic structure of the world(s).

In Pirkei Avot, the words of Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi are also related to the above description of the month of Cheshvan. Rabban Gamliel states that the study of Torah should be combined with making a living. Rabban Gamliel explains that it is specifically through the combination of Torah and work that one is able to stay away from sin. The subsequent sayings of Rabban Gamliel are also related to the concept of being active in the world. He describes how one should go about work on behalf of the community, as well as how to interact with the government. The additional sayings of Rabban Gamliel, as well as the words of Hillel, included in this section, also discuss how to interact with others and how to balance the need to engage with the material world, and yet not lose focus on what is truly important.

Hillel specifically talks about a situation of someone who was drowned in the water, which is very appropriate for the beginning of the month of Cheshvan, the month of the Flood. As will be further explained in week twenty-four, the Flood and its mighty waters are often used as a reference to material concerns, which threaten to drown us.

This week’s sefirah is hod shebechesed, which, as mentioned above, is closely connected with Aaron, and the service of the Kohanim (priests). As also mentioned, Cheshvan will be the month in which the future Third Temple will be inaugurated, and that is where the Kohanim will elevate the material world through their sacrifices.

A lesson in self-improvement that we can learn from the crane is the power of music. After all, music and the sound of instruments is one of the most powerful and ancient forms of fighting sadness. David would play the harp in order to gladden King Saul, who was tormented by depression. The Levites would also sing beautiful songs as the Kohanim performed their tasks.




[1] See Genesis 4:21, on how musical instruments, specifically the lyre is described in the Torah as one of the first technologies developed by human beings.
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