The Periods of our Lives

Posted by Dovid Boruch Kopel
December 8, 2008 - י"ב כסלו ה' תשס"ט
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Moadim / Tekufos Series
This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Moadim / Tekufos

The World was created in Six days. This span of time that began from the first moment of existence up until today is broken up into smaller units. We have years, months, weeks, days and so on. Are they just a unit of measurement, or are they an actual existence? Meaning to say is the day a unit of measurement to compare and contrast, or perhaps it is more than that. A day is a span of time that has its own specifications. As we learn from the Torah, a day begins through the sunset. Everyday starts through the sunset and begins the next day. This cycle of the motions of the sun create a natural phenomenon that we see daily. Everyday is broken down to smaller components that reflect the amount of sunlight for each day. The Jewish day always has twelve hours of sunlight and twelve hours of darkness. The Halachik Hour will change depending on the time of the year and the location. These details are small wonders of the mechanics of the awesome World we live in.

In addition to the physical changes of the year our lives are deeply impacted by the time in countless ways. One of the ways that the Nations have tried to destroy our people was through the prevention of the Mitzvah of Kiddish HaChodesh. This mitzvah allows us to function and carry out many mitzvos that are dependant upon time. Without the sanctification of the new month there would cease to be any of the Yomim Tovim that are so dear to us. Even mitzvos like shmitah would be impossible without knowing the year. It is evident that the Jewish people are strongly affected by time its boundaries.

The actual calendar that we use is much too complex for the scope of this piece. I do however want to note that the fact that we now have an established calendar does not diminish the importance of time in our lives. It is due to the power of the Beis Din that they had already sanctified the forthcoming months for us. Without this we would cease to function as we know and have known.

We questioned earlier if the time measurements are not just units to distinguish themselves. They are completely separate spectrum’s of time that coincide with each other. That means that a sixty seconds are a minute and sixty of them are an hour and twenty-four of them is a day. We say in our tefillos by the brachos Krias Shema “המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית”. Know that is not an exaggeration, rather it is exactly what happens. Every single day the world is recreated. How can this be? I remember yesterday, I remember the day before that. How can it be that the world is recreated? I heard from the Rosh HaYeshiva zt”l Rav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg who said that Hashem with his infinite wisdom makes the world again and again with a memory of its past instantiations.

Why make the world need to be recreated again and again? Why can it not put into motion and sustained? The answer is that every single second of the world is with precision and meticulous judgement. Every moment is a gift and given the same attention that it was in the beginning. If the world is created constantly, then why don’t we appreciate it like that? When we get a new book or article of some sort we find ourselves enthusiastic and excited when we are simply not used to it. Clearly we can only have that great intense excitement when we sense this new acquisition. When we are created we cannot sense that. So we come back to the same question again, why would Hashem create us again and again constantly if we can’t tell? The better question is even when we know it why aren’t we excited about it like we just got it for the first time? I imagine that we have enormous difficulty in being excited in something that we cannot understand. That is a fallicy, a very scary and powerful misunderstanding. Your beliefs go well beyond the capabilities of your understanding. If you cannot see something or hear something, does that mean it is not there? Why is your knowledge limited to your senses, can nothing exist beyond that? I think that even knowledge can exist past the five senses. Belief has no limits and can even make things that are not clearly visible unavoidably apparent. That means when you believe in something so strongly you see it in everything.

Everyday has its start, its middle and its end. It has its hardships, and its easy points. A day is a miniature lifetime, as it contains all events of a life. We wake up like a new beginning. Where our neshamos enter our lifeless bodies once again. We go through the morning which is like our childhood. We start of walking slowly gathering our senses. We are rising to our state of awareness where we may do something substantial. We daven and find all our tefillos preparing us for our day. We make all of our brachos for learning Torah and all of the brachos for all that we have. This is all looking at our earlier stage of Life. We then get to the afternoon where we stop our busy day to daven. This is our adolescence where we find ourselves busy constantly trying to figure out where we are heading. Then comes the evening where things are dark and slower. We become tired again feeling weak both mentally and physically. We lay down and end the microcosm called a day. Note that technically the Jewish day begins at nightfall though the concept still holds its validity in my opinion.

Now that we have gone through a day, we enter a Shabbos. Shabbos is the highest point of our week. We come back to reflect upon the week as a whole. There is a completeness that we have gone through. The composition of our week is determined by the days that we have and which week it is in the month. As the earlier two weeks of a month are different than the last two weeks. The concept of Shabbos is a bris and an ose between the Almighty and his people Yisroel. Every Shabbos enables us to relive the first Shabbos of Brias HaOlam.

The months of the year are twelve in number[1]. The months all have their own specific purpose and associations. The year has its apparent ups and downs (though they are really all ups). The months of the year provide new beginnings to different planes of worship. The Rosh Chodesh is a time for slichah, mechilah and kaparah with is found at many times before we begin something new.

Every day and month and year we follow the motions of the past. Mimicing the paths that have been taught to us. Learn from them, and then embrace the future. Don’t get caught up on the past anymore than it is worth. As the future can only help heal the past if you allow for a future. The times we need to work on are the inbetween steps where things aren’t so clear. The times when we aren’t counting sefirah or listening to shofar. It is the long days that seem to last forever. One flowing into the next. Remember, that not only is everyday a fresh start but even every moment! Don’t let the past ruin your future, as the present is already gone. Ensure your present by utilizing your past for your continued future. Let the lessons of our great Chachamim be a chizuk to us. Take every moment seriously, but enjoy every second as well. You cannot be scared every moment or laughing it all away. As with everything in Life it must be in the middle. Use your time wisely as it is your most precious possesion. It is your greatest gift and at times biggest enemy. Let the hands ticking on your watch fade away as you find yourself floating above time. Totally enveloped in the carrying out of mitzvos you find you have all the time in the world, and love every moment of it. One who knows the importance of time, finds that he is very good at managing it. Use your time to its max, but don’t break your watch with fear of the constant ticking. Every moment has its purpose and you can use it. Let us all be zocheh to grasp every moment of time. Use it for Torah and Mitzvos. With that zchus we should see the next day come soon, the day where the true glory of Hashem is clear to all!

  1. In a leap year there are thirteen months []

Moadim / Tekufos ,

The Ups and Downs of the Year

Posted by Dovid Boruch Kopel
December 21, 2008 - כ"ה כסלו ה' תשס"ט
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Moadim / Tekufos Series
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Moadim / Tekufos

We have already begun to explore the calendar at large. We recognize that time is not simply here, rather it is a very special gift that we utilize every moment. The units of time are not simply units of measurements but separate vessels to fill. Just like you have different vessels for different needs so too you have different times for different needs. You wouldn’t begin your meal with a dessert spoon rather you would use a soup spoon. For each time of the year we have different forces to help us through the year. Without even one of them we would be unable to continue. Why is that so? You don’t hurt yourself if you eat your soup with your dessert spoon. In this parable we do at least see that you will take a very long time, and by the time you will finish your soup it will probably  be fairly chilled. We must use the right tools for the task. The Almighty with his great kindness provides us with the exact recipe for success on a daily basis. Not only do we know how to succeed from day to day, but even from year to year. We learn how to fix the mistakes of the past and embrace the open paths of the future. Let’s go across that bridge and take a step in the right direction, its easy. You’ll see.

What a precious jewel we have here among us. You could be staring at a diamond right in front of you. So close that its under your nose. So close that you fail to notice it because you are looking so far forward that you missed it! Don’t worry, we’ll give you a second chance. This time we’ll get it. The great Bnei Yissosschar discusses the different months of the year and the attributes they personify. The months of the year numbers are twelve. These twelve periods are special and unique. They aren’t just a bunch of day one after the other. They are a different existence. Each and every month the will of Hashem is emitted in a different angle. Expressing a different aspect of the Almighty’s will. This will is shown through His holy names. These names contain the deepest pillars of the world. The existence of the world is built on different aspects of these holy names. Simply the names of Hashem can be ordered in twelve different combinations. These twelve different combinations express a different attribute. Along with the different combination are many other factors that are on a scale of twelve that change through the year. The study of these combinations are among the sacred teachings of our Torah. That which have been passed down from generation to generation of whom only a small number of people are zocheh to grasp these teachings. Without exploring this we can learn so much from the times of the year and their order. There is always so much more beneath the surface, but first we must start with the surface.

In our year there are two beginnings. One is the beginning of the Shalosh Ragulim where we go to the Holy Temple three times a year. This year begins from the month of Nissan. The other year which is the beginning of the year in reference to the the creation of the world. This first path of the year is associated with the Midas HaChessed, which is opposed to the other path of the year which is associated with the Midas HaDin. That means that the same month can be viewed from two perspectives. First how it correlates to chessed, and secondly how it correlates to din. There are really twenty-four different combinations to the Holy Names of the Almighty, two for each month. One associated with the Midas HaChessed the other with the Midas HaDin. That means that every month has a distinct duality that provides us with an environment for growth. That duality is something that we can take in to our lives. The realization that everything that we encounter has both a midah of din and chessed. That is a tremendous chizuk for us in our lives. We can look at every event with its response to our actions as well as being a pure expression of unconditional good-will.

The time that we have in this world is a great gift to us. It is the thing that enables us to become much better than we already are. I was once thinking about an aspect of what it means to exist beyond the realm of time. The Almighty is of course beyond the boundaries of time and we cannot fathom that existence. I realized at that point that I cannot understand what is such an existence rather what is not such an existence. That means I cannot understand a level that I myself and not close to, therefore I must realize to what extent am I constrained by time to realize that Hashem is not. From that point I asked myself a question that has always bothered me. What is the purpose of time, and furthermore for whatever its purpose may be why is Hashem not bound to it. It is obvious from the word in Hebrew שנה which means year which is the same root as שונה to change. Similarly the word שינה (to sleep) is the same root as the aforementioned. What is the reason for this? I believe that the nature of time is the ability to change. A year is the base unit of a complete change. Consequently the word שינה or sleep, is the absolute lack of change.[1] The Almighty is perfect in all ways possible. That leaves time completely useless and unecessary to him. It is of course more than that, it is even a downside as if to say that the true perfection of the Almighty ever needed change chas v’shalom.

Let’s take a peak at the year ahead and the ups and downs it has in store for us. The year is a cycle not because it repeats as much as we repeat. We have our tendencies that find there way back again and again. The year is conducive to both break free from these tendencies as well as utilize them to the greatest extent. Let’s look at the month of Cheshvan. Cheshvan or MarCheshvan meaning the bitter month of Cheshvan is empty with no Yomim Tovim in the near future. We left the days of Awe after the Yomim Norayim then were pleased to that great joy of the chag of Sukkos. Now we are left no direction…where do we go? That is the moment that we must realize that we were given everything we need to shteig for the next month and so on until the upcoming chag of Chanukah. That void of Cheshvan is a time for great growth on the tail end of the high of Sukkos with a fresh start. As great as it sounds, it can be very lonely and empty. The long winter is ahead of us, with no break in between - what are we going to do!? That is the negative feeling of Cheshvan that you must avoid. Look at every moment and treat them as precious gems as they won’t last if you don’t tend to them.

Now this duality is present within every single day our lives. This seeming absence of direction is often the obstacle to jump up and grab it. With time we will go through every tekufah and its paths of wonder and slendor and its more scary bewildering caves. Let’s start the year of right and take every day as an oppurtunity for kedushah and a new oppurtunity to make something of yourself.

  1. We find this in other places that the root or gematriah of something will actually be the total opposite. For instance עונג which means to have pleasure and נגע which means affliction. []

Hashkafah, Moadim / Tekufos ,