Weekly Cycle

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Eleventh Set of 22 Days: Shin and Tav, Dew and Rain

Eleventh Set of 22 Days: from 10th of Iyar to 2nd of Sivan

Shin and Tav, Dew and Rain

21. Ben Bag Bag would say: Delve and delve into it, for all is in it; see with it; grow old and worn in it; do not budge from it, for there is nothing better.
Ben Hei Hei would say: According to the pain is the gain.
22. He would also say: Five years is the age for the study of Scripture. Ten, for the study of Mishnah. Thirteen, for the obligation to observe the mitzvot. Fifteen, for the study of Talmud. Eighteen, for marriage. Twenty, to pursue [a livelihood]. Thirty, for strength, Forty, for understanding. Fifty, for counsel. Sixty, for sagacity. Seventy, for elderliness. Eighty, for power. Ninety, to stoop. A hundred-year-old is as one who has died and passed away and has been negated from the world.

The 10th of Iyar began the eleventh set of 22 days of the Jewish calendar, which parallels the letters Shin and Tav, as well as the Dew and Rains in Perek Shirah. This 22-day period includes Lag Ba'OmerYom Yerushalayim and Rosh Chodesh Sivan (extending until the 2nd of Sivan), immediately prior to the Shlosha Yemei Hagbalah (three days of separation) and Shavuoth.

Shin literally means "tooth," the strongest bone in the human body. It is also one of the "mother" letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and is connected to Esh, fire. According to Sefer Yetzirah, it represents the head.

The Shin has different ways of being written (sometimes with 4 arms instead of 3), and also has different sounds (sometimes Sh, sometimes S, and sometimes silent). The Shin's numerical value is 300, consistent with its three-armed shape. This fiery letter sometimes has a negative trait. Along with the two letters of the previous cycle, it forms the word Sheker, a lie. 

These are fiery times in the Jewish calendar, particularly Lag Ba'Omer (also very much connected to the number 3, as it is the 33rd day of the Omer: Lamed is 30 and Gimmel is 3. Yom Yerushalayim is also connected to fire. Of the 4 holy cities, Jerusalem is fire. "It was destroyed by fire and will be rebuilt by fire."

The next and final letter in the Aleph-Bet is the Tav. Is in many ways the opposite of the Shin. It represents Tmimut (wholesomeness), perfection, stability. Along with the "mother" letters Alef (air) and Mem (water), it spells out the word Emet, truth. As the final letter, it represents completion. It also represents death, Mavet, which ends with the letter Tav.
 This cycle is also about completing the Counting of the Omer, which are called Shevah Shabatot Temimot (seven wholesome, complete weeks). Also, as explained in the previous cycle, it is during the counting of the Omer that we transform unholiness into holiness, falsehood (Sheker) into truth (Emet), and, ultimately, death into life. As we encamp at Mt. Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, we are settled, stable, and in harmony, prepared to receive the Torah. 

A similar theme can be found in the Perek Shirah verses of the Dew and the Rain:

The Dew is saying, “I shall be as the dew to Israel, he shall blossom as a rose, he shall spread forth his roots as the Lebanon." (Hoshea 14:6) Other texts add: "Arouse yourself, O north [wind], and come, O south! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow out; let my Beloved come to His garden and eat of its precious fruit." (Song of Songs 4:16)

The Rains are saying, "You, O Lord, poured a generous rain, to strengthen Your heritage when it languished." (Psalms 68:10)

Dew represents renewal. It is connected to resurrection of the dead. There is also something called the Tal of Torah. The teachings of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai revived us. We blossomed like a rose... which are the opening words of the Zohar.  

The Dew also connotes a "surprise" redemption, which is independent of our merits. Such was the conquest of Jerusalem and the Six-Day war, in which Israel "spread forth his roots as the Lebanon. The "Lebanon" is a known reference to the Temple and Jerusalem. 

The additional text also seems related to Lag Ba'omer and Yom Yerushalayim, as it speaks about being aroused from the hidden (North, Tzafon, can also mean Tzafun, hidden), like the hidden knowledge of Kabbalah revealed by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. It also speaks of spreading out to the north, south, and to Hashem's garden, Jerusalem.

Rain is usually conditional on our behavior. It is in this way more connected to the attribute of judgement and truth, like the Tav. However, there are times, like on Yom Yerushalayim, when even rain can fall simply out of Hashem's generosity, as well as out of the need to protect His heritage. As we say in the opening lines of the Shmoneh Esreh Prayer... "Elohei Avraham, Elohei Yitzchak, veElohei Ya'akov... uMevi Goel liVnei Bneihem, L'ma'an Shemoh Be'Ahavah" (the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac and the G-d of Jacob... and Who brings redemption to their children's children, for the sake of His Name, in love). The song of the Rain is also about us feeling strengthened and firmly established, like the encampment by Mt. Sinai.

These last two elements also mark the end of the second chapter of Perek Shirah, and the completion of all the songs of the elements of the mineral kingdom. The following chapters in Perek Shirah relate to trees and to animals.

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