There is something about order that mesmerizes
us. It just feels comforting to see, for example, a complex
system at work – an assembly line, a computer –
millions of different parts, each doing their thing, all
coordinated toward one end.
A beautiful musical composition
or a masterful piece of art, a great book or a powerful information database
structure (or at least its results), the eloquence of mathematics or the rhythm
of business systems – touches us in a place that resonates. Perhaps our gravitation
to mosaic-like harmony reflects the order that we so long for amidst an external
sea of chaos. Perhaps it stems from the inherent unity within existence. Perhaps
it manifests our craving to see what makes the world “tick.”
Just look at the wonder
on the face of a child (or the inner child of an enchanted adult) taking apart
a clock, studying the wheels, gears and springs in their intricate, interactive
dance. (Not quite as easy to see in today’s digital clocks).
One could even say that
all of life is about alignment – setting things straight, allowing our systems
to breath, ensuring that all the details of our lives are part of a “well-oiled”
The ultimate system is
of course our own bodies and the universe itself. No words can describe the
wonder of nature; the fluency of so many different systems and species all
working in synchronized harmony and balance.
One of the most eloquent
systems ever devised is the Hebrew calendar. The months, weeks and days of
the year are seen not as disjointed fragments in time linked merely by their
proximity. They are all components of a flow of energy. Each segment – day,
week, month – linked together in a chain, building a structure, telling the
story of the vicissitudes of our lives, in all its richness and splendor,
in all its challenges and mysteries.
When we “live with the
time” – as Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi once phrased it – we tap into the
synchronized fluency of time and align ourselves accordingly.
This time of year – between
Passover and Shavuot – is especially poetic.
celebrates the Exodus from Egypt 3318 years ago. Following the Exodus, the
Jewish people began to count the days in anticipation of their receiving the
Torah 50 days later, on Shavuot. This transition period – connecting Passover
to Shavuot – is known as the 49 days of the Omer. As we read in this week’s
“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after
the Sabbath [second day of Passover], from the day on which you bring the
omer offering [omer was a measure (around two quarts) of barley which the
Jews brought as an offering on the second day of Passover], seven complete
weeks shall there be; until the morrow of the seventh week you shall count
fifty days, and you shall proclaim that very day a holy festival”
Even after the destruction
of the Temple when we no longer bring the omer offering, the tradition
of counting the omer continues.
That’s the technical calendar. Here’s the inner rhythm
behind this calendar:
On Passover we celebrate transcendence – our ability to
get beyond (pass over) all our inhibitions, fears and constraints, be they
physical or psychological. Passover lifts us on its wings – the “wings of
eagles” – and takes us to heaven.
However, every inspiration from above will just as quickly
dissipate. The next stage requires integration: Personalizing the transcendent
experience. We therefore count the 49 days of the Omer, each day reflecting
on and refining another aspect of our emotional
personality. Thus, we internalize the transcendent Passover experience.
This in turn prepares us to absorb the 50th
day – the Sinai experience, an even greater transcendent dimension, when we
receive the Divine blueprint and power to fuse matter and spirit. We don’t
count the 50th day, but we cannot reach it unless we first count
– refine and illuminate (“count” in Hebrew also means to shine and tell a
story) – our 49 (7x7) personality features.
These three stages – Passover transcendence; 40 Omer days
of personal refinement; Sinai revelation – are also reflected in the sequence
of these three consecutive months:
Nissan is month one of the lunar calendar (chesed), symbolizing
the transcendent unity that is rooted in the Divine. Iyar is month two (gevurah),
reflecting the duality of the Divine inspiration that comes from above and
the work that is required on our part below to integrate the transcendent
experience. Sivan is month three (tiferet) – the synthesis of both previous
In Kabbalistic/Chassidic terms – as explained in the Samach-Vav
discourse delivered 100 years ago this week:
Every person, generally speaking, has two aspects to their
lives; two voices: 1) The spiritual voice – our transcendent and sublime experiences,
2) The material voice – the one that is immersed in the struggle and needs
for survival (eating, sleeping, work), and the pursuits of physical pleasures.
A harmonious – if I may say, eloquent – life consists of
addressing both dimensions: Allowing your soul to express its spiritual yearnings,
and sublimating your material involvements in higher purpose.
These two paths, are reflected, as discussed in a previous
segment of the Samach-Vav
series, in two types of service, or more generally – two types of souls:
1) Souls of the world of Atzilut, whose primary
nature, even as they live in bodies in this material world, is spiritual.
These unique individuals – like Moses – are completely selfless, and their
service consists of revealing the absolute nullification of their souls in
face of the Divine. These souls are compared to “sons” who have access to
the “most intimate chambers and secrets of their father’s home.”
2) Souls of the worlds of B”iya
(Beriah, Yetzirah, Asiya), whose
primary nature is material, and their service consists of the hard work to
sublimate the “egocentric” personality of matter. These souls are compared
to “servants,” who are strangers in the palace, and their access is not by
virtue of their “genes” but by their hard work and dedication.
More specifically, each of us
has subtle elements of both souls, and times when one type of experience is
more dominant than the other.
The transcendent (Passover)
experience is a revelation from the Divine world of Atzilut. The counting
of the omer is the work of refining the materially driven “animal” within
(the omer was of barley, which serves mainly as animal feed) – the emotional
drives and desires, which are comprised of 7x7 (49) dimensions (for a breakdown
of each one, click
here). This work internalizes, each according to his/her level, the spiritual,
and prepares us for The Sinai revelation, which combines both transcendence
With this Samach-vav explains
the inner meaning of the mitzvah (in this week’s portion): And you shall
count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, seven complete weeks
shall there be:
The Hebrew word used here for
“count” is “v’sefartem,” which also means “to illuminate,” “to glow.”
This refers to the luminous spirituality of the ten Sefirot of the world of
The verse then continues: “V’sefartem
lochem,” “Illuminate – for yourselves,” a seemingly superfluous
word (what would be missing without this word?) – to tell us that the luminous
Sefirot of Atzilut have to be drawn down and illuminate “to yourselves”
in your material involvements (in the worlds of biy”a). And this light gives
you the power to refine your emotions, drives and desires.
“From the day after the Sabbath”
refers to the level of Chachma, the highest point in Atzilut.
And “seven complete weeks” is the Divine light that is higher than
Atzilut – telling us that the counting (illuminating) of the omer accesses
the highest levels of the Atzilut and beyond, reaching into “most intimate
chambers and secrets of their father’s home.” The reason being because Atzilut
is a reflection of the hidden Divine light of higher levels, and serves as
an “interface” between the Divine and the human, as discussed in previous
Much has been said about living
a life of purpose, a meaningful life (you know where you heard that before…),
a happy and healthy life, and a fulfilling one.
Here is a blessing of yet another dimension: May you live
an eloquent life. Filled with poetry and music. Recognizing the shades and
fluctuations of your life as nuances of one beautiful tapestry – one that
carries may mysteries, hidden even from us.
As my family and I mark the first yahrzeit of our beloved
father, the eminent journalist, Gershon Jacobson – a storyteller par excellence:
his articles addressed the inner, hidden script that lay beneath the stories
of the day – please accept my blessings for many healthy, happy, meaningful
– and eloquent – years.
To live an eloquent life.
Ahh, what a dream.