Thursday, October 6, 2016

Week 52 (From the Book): To Crown G-d as Our King

The dogs are saying: "Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before G-d our Maker." (Psalms 95:6)

Rabbi Elazar HaKapar would say: Envy, lust and honor drive a man from the world.
He would also say: Those who are born will die, and the dead will live. The living will be judged, to learn, to teach and to comprehend that He is G-d, He is the former, He is the creator, He is the comprehender, He is the judge, He is the witness, He is the plaintiff, and He will judge. Blessed is He, for before Him there is no wrong, no forgetting, no favoritism, and no taking of bribes; know, that everything is according to the reckoning. Let not your heart convince you that the grave is your escape; for against your will you are formed, against your will you are born, against your will you live, against your will you die, and against your will you are destined to give a judgment and accounting before the king, king of all kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

Daat/Keter (knowledge/crown)

Finally, we come to week fifty-two, when the dogs cry out for all to worship and prostrate themselves before G-d our Maker. (Psalm 95:6) This week coincides with Rosh Hashanah of the following year. On Rosh Hashanah, man was created. The question then arises why do we celebrate Rosh Hashanah on this date, and not on the 25th of Elul?

The Midrash also relates that when Adam was created even his heel (the lowest and least sensitive part of his body), outshone the sun, so holy was he. In fact, he was so full of light that all of the animals came and bowed down to him, believing that he was their creator. But Adam told them, “Come let us bow down together and worship the One Who created us all.” This was his function and purpose — to bring all of the world to the service of Hashem.[1]

The words of the dogs in Perek Shirah are Adam’s exact words on the day of Rosh Hashanah, recalling the desire for all of Creation to bow before G-d and worship Him. It also describes the main purpose of Rosh Hashanah: crowning Hashem, our Creator, as our King. What a remarkable conclusion for this awe-inspiring text.

The song of the dogs echoes that of the rooster, as we start the yearly cycle over again. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the two times of year when Jews kneel and completely bow before G-d during prayers. By lowering our heads all the way to the ground, we submit our intellect to the Divine King, who is infinitely greater than us and beyond our comprehension. The dog has this same characteristic, as the word for dog in Hebrew, kelev, means kuloh lev, it is “all heart” - its heart completely dominates its intellect. In our daily lives, it is a basic principle in Chabad Chassidism that the intellect must always rule over the heart. However, when we stand before Hashem, our Father, King and Judge, we know that our intellect is nothing compared to Him.

In Kabbalah, the dog also represents the concept of kelipah, impurity. The very image of Satan, also known as the Angel of Death, is that of a dog with many eyes. The dog is all heart, and it is specifically by way of our emotions that the evil inclination attacks. The conclusion of Perek Shirah contains an explanation given by an angel to Rabbi Yeshaya, a student of Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa, as to the reason for the inclusion of the dog in Perek Shirah. The angel explains that the dogs behaved very well and remained silent during the Jewish people’s departure from Egypt. The angel also mentions how the dog’s feces are used in tanning leather for tefillin and other holy writings. As with the redemption from Egypt, in the final redemption and the messianic era, even the deepest impurities will be nullified, and will be elevated for the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvot.

The number fifty-two has the gematria of the Hebrew word kelev (dog) and also the word Behemah (animal), which also represents a form of kelipah. Moreover, the number fifty-two is the number of one of the names of G-d, B"N, which is connected to the kabbalistic concept of raising the divine sparks that are stuck in the kelippot. When we finished raising all these sparks, G-d finally send our Mashiach. Fifty-two is also the gematria of Eliyahu (Elijah), the name of the prophet who will announce Mashiach’s arrival.

Week 52 represents the total transformation of the dog, from being associated with impurity to holiness, marking the time of the coming of Mashiach, announced by Eliyahu HaNavi. The Talmud on Bava Kama 60b states that, “When dogs ‘cry’ the Angel of Death has come to town.  When they ‘laugh’ Elijah the Prophet has come.” 
We already see today, just how much dogs themselves have changed. They are no longer usually associated with impurity. Instead, they are man’s loyal companions, and demonstrate enormous positive, healing behaviors.

The letters nun and beit together form the word ben, which means son. There is a verse from the Book of the Prophets saying that before the great final day, G-d will send Elijah, who will bring back the hearts of parents through their children.

Rosh Hashanah is a day of judgment, and we relate to G-d as our King. However, it is also a day in which we relate to Hashem as His children. Children are an important theme in the Torah readings of Rosh Hashanah. We read of how Sarah was barren for 90 years until she gave birth to Isaac. We also read of a similar story regarding Chanah.[2] Both of these events took place on Rosh Hashanah. The story we read about Hagar, Abraham’s maidservant, is also about saving the life of her son, Yishmael. On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, we read about the sacrifice of Isaac, and the Haftorah is about Rachel weeping for her children, and of Ephraim, described as Hashem’s dear and beloved son. Moreover, perhaps the story most associated with the blowing of the shofar is about a lost prince who after many years even forgets his mother tongue, yet when he sees his father the King, he calls out in a deep and loud cry.

Fifty-two is also the gematria of the word “bakol,” which means “in everything.” The Torah states that by the end of Abraham’s life he had been blessed with “bakol.” There are many interpretations of what bakol means (especially given the fact that Isaac was blessed with “mikol” (“from everything”) and Jacob with “kol” (everything)). 

Nevertheless, one of the main interpretations of this verse is that Abraham was blessed with a daughter. This is also appropriate for this last week, as we complete “everything” in the year, and begin again.[3]

When the letters of the word “bakol” are spelled out, their numerical value is the same as the gematria of the word “shofar.”[4] This appears to be another connection between Week 52 and Week 1.

This week in Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Elazar HaKapar teaches that envy, lust and the pursuit of honor take a man out of the world. (IV:21) Rabbi Elazar’s statement captures the idea that we must be in control of our emotions. Ultimately, feelings of envy, lust and pursuit of honor are irrational, given that it is Hashem who runs the world and that everything He does and commands is for our own good.

There is also a more positive way to understand this teaching. If we direct these desires toward G-d, in “holy” envy (also known as the envy of scholars), desire to be close to G-d, and to honor Him, our relationship with G-d will be so strong that it will take us out of the concealment and illusion that is this world. As mentioned previously, the Hebrew word for world is olam, which comes from the word ehelem, which means illusion and concealment.

He also states as follows:

Those who are born are destined to die, those who are dead are destined to live again (in another version to be resurrected), and those who live (again) are destined to be judged. To know, to make it known and to have knowledge that He is G-d, He is the Maker, He is the Creator, He is the Comprehender, He is the Judge, He is the Witness, He is the Litigant, and He will judge. Blessed be He, before whom there is no iniquity, no forgetfulness, no favoritism or bribery, and know that everything is done according to the reckoning. Let not your evil inclination convince you that the tomb is a place of refuge for you, for you were created against your will, against your will you were given birth, against your will you live, against your will you will die, and against your will you are destined to provide accounts before the Supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He." (IV:22)
This second part of Rabbi Elazar’s teaching is a perfect description of what Rosh Hashanah is all about. With these words, we recommence the yearly cycle, as well as life’s cycle in general.

Rabbi Elazar HaKapar’s lesson is closely connected with the judgment of Rosh Hashanah, as well as with the sefirah of da'at, the application of knowledge to the reality of everyday living. Notice how the word da'at (knowledge) appears repeatedly in Rabbi Elazar’s words: "to know, to make known and to have knowledge" in Hebrew are written as leidah, lehodiah, le'ivadah, all verbs that have the da'at as their root.
This week is connected to Shavuot and the sefirah of da'at, also referred to as keter, crown. As mentioned previously, during the week of Rosh Hashanah, we crown G-d as our King. We must understand that we are nothing compared to Him. He alone decides, judges and creates. He is   G-d, King of Kings, Blessed and One. There is nothing besides Him.

A lesson we can derive from the dogs is that it is our duty to reach out to those who are suffering and distant from Judaism, to raise them so that they too can praise their Creator.






[2] The very last day of this week, the last day of the entire cycle, is the 6th of Tishrei, yahrzeit of Rebbetzin Chanah Schneerson, the mother of the Rebbe.

[3] Noam Elimelech; Rabbi Ginsberg

[4] Vedibarta Bam - And You Shall Speak of Them, Volume I - Bereishit; Chayei Sarah, available at: http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/vedibarta-bam/005.htm


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