Friday, September 29, 2017

First Set of 22 Days: Alef & Bet, the Heavens and the Earth (the Priestly Families of Jehoiarib and Hezir)

The 26th of Elul began the first set of 22 days of the Jewish calendar, which parallel the letters Alef and Beit, as well as the Heavens and the Earth in Perek Shirah. This cycle includes the days of Creation, as well as Rosh Hashanah itself, running until the middle of Sukkot.

The Talmud teaches that Alef Beit together stand for Aluf Binah (learn understanding). The current week of the year, Week 51, is the week of Binah).

Alef, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, stands for the Alufoh Shel Olam, the Master of the World, Hashem. Its shape is formed by two yuds and a vav. The yud above represents G-d and the yud below represents the yid, the Jew. The vav that connects the two is Emunah, faith.

Beit, the second letter, stands for Bayit, home. Midrash Tanchuma teaches that G-d created the world because He desired a dwelling place in the lower realms. Beit is also the first letter of the Torah, which begins with the a description of Creation: "Bereshit Barah Elokim Et HaShamayim Ve'Et Ha'Aretz," "In the beginning, G-d created Heaven and Earth. The Beit represents the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people, and the Torah itself serves as a link to bind the Jewish people to G-d.

Heaven and Earth refer back to the opening verse of the Torah, mentioned above. The verses themselves also hint to similar themes as above:

The Heavens are saying: "The heavens speak of G-d's glory, and the skies tell of His handiwork."

As mentioned in the very last set of the year, which overlaps with this one and also includes Rosh Hashanah, "Everything that G-d created in His world, He did not create but for His glory." (Pirkei Avot, 6:11) In the last set, the Grasses sing a verse that it almost identical to that of the Heavens: "May the glory of G-d endure forever, may G-d rejoice in His works." (Psalms 104:31)

The Earth is saying, "The earth and everything in it are G-d's; the inhabited area and all that dwell within it." (Psalms 24:1) And it is saying: "From the wings of the land we have heard song, glory to the righteous." (Isaiah 24:16)

The verse of the Earth speaks of the world as a dwelling place, and G-d's ownership over it, including its dwellers. The second verse appears to link G-d's glory to that of the Tzadik, the one that follows in G-d's ways and that of the Torah. As also mentioned in the last set of the year (which includes Rosh Hashanah), G-d Himself is righteous, and on Rosh Hashanah we pray to be judged as Tzadikim, and inscribed in the Book of Life.

The priestly families related to these 22 days are Jehoiarib and Hezir. The guard of the family of Jehoiarib headed all of the priestly guards, just as Rosh Hashanah heads the year. The name means, G-d will fight, contend. Hezir appears to come from the word "Chazarah," which mean to return. In these days we crown G-d as our King and Creator of all things. Yet this crowning is defined primarily by our returning to Him (Teshuvah) and repairing our relationship.

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