Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bamidbar – Counting the Tribes in Multiple Passes

"This was [the result] for the descendants of Reuben, Israel's firstborn."

All of the tribes are recounted in this manner: for the tribe of Shimon..., for the tribe of Gad, but the last tribe of Naftali is special, and it is counted without the word “for,” that is, “the tribe of Naftali...”

This letter (lamed) in the Torah tells us what algorithm they used for counting. First they went through every tent and wrote down “so-and-so, son of so-and-so.” In taking this first raw count, they did not divide the people into tribes. It was a complete, unsorted count.

Then they went through the same book again, twelve times, one time for each tribe. Thus, they were counting “this man goes for the tribe of Shimon.” Then they would mark off his name on the margin of the list, to indicate that he was already counted.

When they came to the last tribe, there was no need to direct the scribe to which tribe the men belonged, because they all belonged to the last tribe, the tribe of Naftali.

We see that when dealing with one's name, it is proper to concentrate only on this name. When dealing with one tribe, it is proper to count members of only that one tribe. Each individual's name is of utmost importance, to the exclusion of everything else, since the name is the essence of this person, and each person can claim “for me the world was created.” The same is true for a group, like a tribe, and each has its own unique importance.

Art: Lambert de Hondt - The Creation

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Meditation for Lag B'Omer – Gratitude ad Infinitum

The Sefirah associated with Lag B'Omer is Glory witin Glory (Hod shebe Hod), or gratitude inside gratitude. When a man is grateful to God, he should add that he is grateful for the possiblity of standing in front of God and being grateful. He thus completes and perfects his gratitude with gratitude.

However, he does not have to stop there. He can now be grateful for his capacity of being able to be grateful for being grateful. This chain has no end. It is reminiscent of God's desire to create the world, which had to be preceded with a desire to have a desire, and so on, also ad infinitum.

Compare this to Littlewood's idea of gratitude with potential infinity.

“The following idea, or coda to the series, was invented too late (I do not remember by whom), but what should have happened is as follows. I wrote a paper for the Comptes Rendus which Prof. M. Riesz translated into French for me. At the end there were 3 footnotes. The first read (in French) 'I am greatly indebted to Prof. Riesz for translating the present paper.' The second read 'I am indebted to Prof. Riesz for translating the preceeding footnote.' The third read 'I am indebted to Prof. Riesz for translating the preceeding footnote,' with a suggestion of reflexiveness. Actually I stop legitimately at number 3: however little French I know I am capable of copying a French sentence.” (Littlewood, Mathematical Miscellany).

Why does Littlewood stop at 3 while we continue ad infinitum? Obviously, because he is grateful not for the quality of being great, but for translating his gratitude. It is because our gratefulness is for gratefulness itself that we get into the infinite loop – which is better at stretching the mind than the finite.

Art: Gustave Courbet - Eternity

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bechukotai – Why is God Promising Physical Reward

If you will follow My statutes... I will give you rains in their proper time.”

We need to understand these words, for it seems that God is greasing Israel with words, and is trying to convince, almost to seduce them, by saying “If you will do so-and-so, you will have this and that.” Another thing that we need to understand is why God is promising only physical blessings.

However, here we have a hint to the reincarnation. As is known, the reincarnated soul may begin in two inanimate states, silent (earth) and sprouting (vegetation). Then it may become a living animal and if it deserves, a human, and in that state it can achieve perfection, in its appointed time.

That is why the Torah said, “If you will follow my statutes, I will give rain in its proper time, the earth will produce vegetables, and trees will grow fruit, and you will eat and be satisfied.” The souls that are found in nature will ascend and be elevated to the level of man. That is why the Torah continues, “and you will eat bread to satiety, and you will live securely in your land.” The wise student will understand.

Art: Paul Gauguin - Tropical Vegetation

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Behar – Seventh Day and Seventh Year

It is God's sabbath during which you may not plant your fields, nor prune your vineyards.” 

There is the seventh day called Shabbat, but there is also the seventh year that is called “Shabbat for God” and “Shabbat for the Land.” Why is the seventh year called Shabbat, indicating some similarity between the two, and what is the difference between them?

Shabbat is the time when all the spiritual worlds transform and go upwards, compared to their weekday position. For example, the Sefirot of Victory, Glory, Foundation, and Kingship of the lowest world, the World of Action, ascend to the place of Mercy, Strength, and Beauty. In their turn, Mercy, Strength, and Beauty go up to to the place of Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge. These upper three Sefirot, Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge, leave their World of Action and are transported into the next world, World of Formation, and so on. Even the highest world, the Long Face of the World of Nearness, goes yet higher, and the Supernal Father and Mother take its place, as is known.

The seventh year is called Shabbat, because it shares this quality with Shabbat that on this year the spiritual worlds also ascend to higher levels. However, the seventh year is different in that only the first three worlds, Worlds of Creation, Formation, and Action, go up. The upper world, the World of Nearness, stays in its place, and we too have no power to uplift it, and only on Shabbat does this world also experience an uplifting.

Art: Felix Edouard Vallotton - The Artist's Parents

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Emor – Yom Tov is Imma, Shabbat is Abba

These are God's festivals that you must call out as sacred holidays at their appropriate times.

The words “These are the festivals of God” (Eleh moadei Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey) spell out the word “Imma” with their first letters. Thus on a Festival the spiritual entities of the Cosmic Man and Cosmic Woman rise only to the level of Supernal Mother, but no higher. In addition, the Mother is represented by the expansion of God's name with aleph, like this: yud-vav-dalet, hey-aleph, and so on, with the gematria of 63. With the 10 letters of the expansion it makes 73, or the gematria of Yom Tov (Holiday) itself.

However, when you call out Holidays with your prayers, you allow the children (Man and Woman) to rise higher and come to the Supernal Father also. Thus the first letters of “them in their times,” (otam b'moadam) make the word Av (Father). On Shabbat the children go higher, to the Father, just because of Shabbat, “because it is holy.”

What is the meaning of all this? God has created the five spiritual entities in the world, of which we and our souls are a part. We allow them to find each other, and are blessed in return.

Art: Jozsef Rippl-Ronai - My Father And My Mother 1897