A righteous man falls down seven times and gets up. – King Solomon, Proverbs, 24:16
Dear Friends, dear Partners,
A new year is always a time to think about the past year, and the new challenges to come.
On the occasion of this Rosh Hashana, it is our pleasure to share with you some thoughts on the miracle of creation and cyclical time delivered by Professor Haviva Pedaya, and some thoughts on the beauty of challenges delivered by Yoni Yeffet Reich, one of the successful Matanel’s partners.
We hope that you will enjoy reading them and that they will enrich you as they are enriching us.
May you all be blessed with a happy, peaceful, healthy and prosperous new year.
Joëlle & Gad
Holiness expresses itself in cyclical time. Circular time. According to Jewish mysticism, on each of the festivals of the year the light of the original event in ancient times which the festival represents shines forth again.
Rosh Hashanah, according to Jewish tradition in the Midrash, Kabbalah and Hasidism, is the festival of the Creation. What a wonderful opportunity Rosh Hashanah gives us to go back to the miracle of Creation, to represent it, to feel the pain and the joy, and to celebrate the Creation.
Rosh Hashanah has become the favorite festival of mystics because of the meanings of Creation, new beginnings, the second birth of the soul that is ready. Here Kabbalah and Hasidism are not in the position of merely adding an interpretive layer to the festivals, as in the festivals that commemorate more historic events. Here they really pour into this holiday the heart of Lurianic Kabbalah, including the two basic concepts of tsimtsum (contraction) and nesirah (sawing-apart).
The basic concept of God as Creator is tsimtsum.
The basic concept of man as creature is nesirah.
The basic concept of the world and the Temple is the Even haShtiyah (the foundation stone).
The primal step of the infinite light toward Creation was the tsimtsum. The light of the Infinite, which filled everything with its infinity, contracted and allowed an empty space to form temporarily. In that space was created the world, which now became the focus of God’s relating.
The question arises how we as human beings repeat God’s action of tsimtsum. For as we have said, the festival is a moment of repetition, through ritual and ceremony, of what happened once, in ancient, primal time, or in mythic time.
When man does tsimtsum on himself, willingly and consciously, he returns to the point of his own origin, to his essential, authentic and most important point, to the singular point of every human being, which is connected to the spark of his soul in God. This spark contains the genetic code of his soul, its destiny, its mission, its consciousness, those things without which it can have no life, in the sense of a meaningful, satisfying and fulfilling life. A life in which there is a progression of self-actualization on the most meaningful levels in order that it may be a life of development.
No doubt man was born into the world. The fate of each person is to be born, to be young, and to hope for a kind and merciful old age. In that sense every person has his or her life cycle, which comes to an end. But the soul is beyond the process of the body’s withering; it is always aspiring to development, and in this lies its spark of eternity. One cannot connect with this eternal spark unless one has that courage to return to the origin-point which makes inner concentration possible. The ability to begin anew is like immersing in the springs of myself, a purification, a focusing, an event of new birth of the soul, that second birth of man without which he will not achieve self-actualization and his own singular goals. Rosh Hashanah gives man an annual opportunity and reminder to make this connection.
When a person learns to swim, they explain to him that the head is the helm of the body. Everyday time, the time of functioning and secular action, the current of linear time, is like swimming in stormy waters, whereas Rosh Hashanah is like the head which is the helm of the body, above time, the transcendental dimension, which directs our struggle among the things of this world and the current of time.
Yedayah HaPnini, one of the most original of Jewish thinkers, who lived in Provence and was born in Beziers in 1270, who was not a Kabbalist but a philosopher, nevertheless wrote in one of his finest poems: “The world is a wide, deep and stormy sea, and time is a shaky bridge built across it; the bridgehead is anchored in the absence that preceded its being, and where does it lead to?”
The tradition relates that Adam was created as a kind of androgyne, a dual being both male and female, like Siamese twins joined back to back. Then — according to a midrash from Breishith Rabbah that was extensively developed by the Kabbalists — God “sawed” this dual form in two, and woman stood before man.
In this view the Adam on whom God causes the deep sleep to fall is man as this dual being, composed of male and female. The Hebrew word tsel’a, which is usually translated “rib,” is understood as “side.” Man is cut along his entire length and divided into two, a male and a female. This, by the way, is a process that begins in the human soul, in the soul of every human being; it is not only a myth about male and female as physical beings.
Above all it is a myth about the beginning of the soul. For the soul also has these two aspects.
To look at nesirah from the viewpoint of Rosh Hashanah: Kabbalah emphasizes that this is the day of the creation of man, the day man falls asleep in the Garden of Eden and the sawing-apart occurs. There is a paradox in the relations between man and man and between man and woman. When they are connected back to back, that is, completely connected, they form a single organism, and this closeness is actually under the aspect of judgment rather than kindness. For each one is forced to give to the other, since if he hurts the other he hurts his own organism, of which he is a part. Each one gives without seeing the face of the other to whom he is bound. Because they are so close they see less.
But after the nesirah, when male and female are not one organism but stand face to face, there is a very high potential for kindness, from the illumination of looking at each other face to face. On the other hand there is also the danger of alienation, since now one is not forced to give to the other, not being connected with him or her in a single organism. This is the true test of humanity — to give to the other not only because we are actually one physical organism but from an understanding and recognition that in any case, as human beings, we are all one living chain.
If the other is the spouse –to love with kindness, from the ability to see you as you are and not from the way in which we are caught up in each other in an alienated intimacy.
If we are speaking of the soul — this means an ascent to a higher level of awareness and a deeper and more accessible relation between the conscious and the unconscious.
Thus on Rosh Hashanah – as we said, a day of judgment according to tradition — the aspect of judgment, boundaries, expresses itself in the very possibility of creation (the tsimtsum). For without the act of judgment which God exercised on himself when he contracted and limited himself, the kindness that makes creation possible could not have been.
And thus on Rosh Hashanah, the traditional day of judgment, judgment and limitation express themselves so to speak in miniature; and even in the recognition of the strange and complex connection between dichotomy and duality within the human being — here too, from judgment and perhaps from the pain of the nesirah, the kindness of turning face to face and seeing the other and activating kindness toward the other becomes possible.
The Even haShtiyah
We have spoken of the beginning of the world and of man. The third beginning is that of the Temple. If the point of the origin of Creation begins with some foundation stone, some keystone, which God shot into the Creation, then tradition believes that this was the Even Hashtiyah.
Later, when David starts to build the Temple and chaos threatens to invade and submerge the world, the Even haShtiyah comes and stabilizes it.
Rosh Hashanah: Festival of Beginning
In sum, Rosh Hashanah is the festival of beginning, the festival of creativity and Creation. It is said that all beginnings are hard, and Rabbi Nachman testified of himself that sometimes he began from the beginning a thousand times in one day.
The joy which a Jew feels on Rosh Hashanah is a joy that contains within it awesomeness, elevation, and fear of the Exalted. It is a day that wants to give the abundance of the good beginning to the whole year, and so there is a great measure of willingness to accept judgment in order to make this mighty new beginning possible.
To immerse anew in the infinite source of light that is myself, to be willing to undergo the sawing-in-two, the precise separation that will make for a better connection between me and myself and the other, to find the good equilibrium between chaos and the Temple, between the force of life and creativity and the force of construction, not destruction.
The going to the mikveh before the great day, the white clothes and the purity, the symbolic casting of the “not-I” into the stormy waters of chaos in the ceremony of Tashlikh, the unifying blast of the shofar which recalls the process of tsimtsum by the constriction of the air (teki’yah), the breakdown (shevarim), and the unification of whole and broken together (teru’ah), as well as the small symbolic enjoyments of apple and honey — all these represent the hope and the great blessing of a new beginning.
May we all merit to have a good and blessed year with many exact good new beginnings filled with abundance and relatedness, with kindness and giving and with joy and with days in which our soul immerses in infinite light like an apple in honey and brings sweetness even to those others who suffer their day.
Chairwoman of the Eliyachar Center for the research on Sephardic and Oriental Judaism
Translated by Esther Cameron
CHALLENGE AS OPPORTUNITY
Life is full of both beauty and challenges. One of the secrets to a satisfying life is found within the discipline of embracing both, understanding how much beauty can be found within the various challenges which rise up to meet us, for even the toughest ones are simply opportunities in disguise.
Indeed, the Torah recognizes a righteous person not as someone who had succeeded, but someone who persists and finds possibilities even when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It’s really all about getting up after falling. At Rosh Hashana – occurring in the seventh month, on the first day of the month – we all have the ability to renew ourselves, as individuals and as communities. We can reflect on the past and apply ourselves to face that which challenges us today and in the future.
“He saw a man planting a carob tree and said to him: “How long does it take for this tree to bear fruit?” He answered: “Seventy years.” “Are you certain you will live for another seventy years?” The man replied: “I found ready-grown carob trees in the world; as my ancestors planted these for me, so I too plant these for my children.” – Babylonian Talmud, tractate Taanit 23a
How extraordinary it would be if society adhered to a similar code, always considering the implications of our actions (or non actions), taking the time to knit together that which is broken for those in our midst and planning for the next generation.
Collectively we must help the person, disconnected, lost and alone in this world, to rejoin society; we must commit ourselves to restoring land abused through callous, human-induced deforestation; and we must work to assure protection and equal rights to those without a voice and help them start anew.
If indeed life is about the ability to get up from challenge, get up today and help someone else do the same! In this spirit, as we transition from a year of shmita and as the 100 sounds emanate from the shofar heralding the start of the new year, I would like to thank the Matanel Foundation for helping so many in such endeavor.
L’Shana Tova U’Metuka
Yoni Yefet Reich, Founding Director
Kaima Organic Farm