Witness:Massacre in Meron: https://rumble.com/vgb2db-massacre-in-meron.html
Due to Blogger Format Changes
30 April 2021
Please call 718-854-4548 if you are missing an immediate family member and need assistance.
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Below is a short list of eight fundamental ideas about coping with disaster that you may find helpful if you feel affected by this event- in addition to praying for the welfare of the injured and seeing if there is any other practical help you are able to provide.
Avi Tenenbaum is an expert in Disaster Behavioral Health and Psychological First Aid. His experience includes providing aid for families coping in the wake of large-scale disasters and war including the Second Lebanon War, Hurricane Harvey, The Pittsburg Tree-of-Life massacre, the Haifa 2016 Fires, Operation Cast-Lead, Sorotzkin Arson Fires, and more. He can be reached at email@example.com
One, it is normal to feel traumatized or affected emotionally and psychologically by this type of event. People react in all sorts of ways to traumatic incidents. You may have trouble sleeping, feel sad, have intrusive thoughts, a lack of appetite, or other symptoms of trauma in lieu of the Meron Disaster.
Experts reassure that it is quite normal and even expected to have symptoms like these immediately after such an event. It has been described as a "normal reaction to abnormal circumstances". This is how our bodies and minds react to such unthinkable tragedies. Do not panic or be overly concerned if this happens to you.
You are not alone in having such feelings.
Two, you are permitted to feel sad or shocked about this event even if you did not personally lose somebody in this incident. Some trauma incidents occur on such a large scale that we, as the Jewish people, feel emotionally connected to what happened regardless of having any direct personal involvement.
You did not need to have travelled to Meron this year to feel sad or affected by this event. You do not need to feel stupid or guilty that you feel anything at all concerning this event. You do not need to feel guilty that you feel indifferent or empty if this is what you feel. You are permitted to feel exactly as you do right now, and this is acceptable.
You are not alone in having such feelings.
Three, some people may feel guilty that they were not harmed in this disaster while others were injured or killed. Thoughts like "why did I survive while they didn't?" can come up in our minds and feel challenging.
These types of thoughts commonly occur after escaping such incidents without harm and this phenomenon is well known.
If this happens to you, you are not alone in having such thoughts.
Four, after events like these it is common to ask oneself or other people questions such as "why did this happen?" or "why on Lag Ba'Omer, on such a joyous day and holy site?”
It is okay to have such questions. You may or may not find answers to them now or ever. In fact, you may not even be seeking an answer but a way to express shock and surprise by talking about this event in the form of a question. This is common and okay. If you feel like you are carrying around questions like these and feeling shocked, you are not alone.
Five, if you are feeling some challenging emotions or reacting in some way to the tragic event, you can think of some practical ways to cope. I invite you to pause and think of a safe reasonable way of coping that might help you. Can you think of something which would make you feel calmer, better, or at ease?
Here are some time-tested coping methods that you might find helpful. Feel free to try them as needed-
-Call a trusted friend and share with them whatever you feel you want to. Get a hug. Be listened to. Reach out to people who you feel could hear your feelings or story.
-Go for a walk around the block or neighborhood by yourself or with a friend.
-Listen to calming music.
-Reduce your exposure to media coverage of the disaster.
-Talk to a professional.
-Avoid using alcohol and drugs as a method of coping with challenging thoughts or feelings. There are many reasons for this.
There are many ways to cope with trauma. Discover the ways that help you feel more at ease. See what you can come up with. If you would like, consult with a trusted friend or professional on how to do this.
Six, Take it easy. These types of events have a major impact on our bodies and minds. They can be overwhelming, tiring, depressing, or confusing. Make sure to eat, drink, rest, and take it easy as needed. Sometimes we need to slow down and take care of ourselves, and that is okay.
Seven, Difficult thoughts and feelings from such disasters usually begin to subside after a few days from when the incident occurred. For others, these symptoms may persist for a few weeks and then go away. For a smaller group of people, these symptoms may persist for a month and even longer. You are invited to consult with a professional at any time for assistance.
If you find yourself having a challenging time after 3 days from the incident has passed, experts recommend that you connect with a trusted professional to get some assistance.
If you find yourself having thoughts of suicide you should seek assistance immediately.
Over the next few days, I hope that we will see a slew of services available for those seeking counseling and emotional support in light of these tragic events.
Here are two resources available right now-
"Eran" operates an emotional support hotline which can be reached by dialing 1201. Dial the number without a star before or after it.
For people seeking help specifically from clinicians sensitive to religious people, the Bayit Cham organization is running a special hotline which can be reached by dialing *9518.
Eight, If you know somebody who appears traumatized by the disaster, consider approaching that person and asking if they would like to talk. If they express interest, try to give them an opportunity to share with you whatever they want to. Listen to them nonjudgmentally and with empathy. Do not ask them to tell you their story if they do not offer to.
Ask directly if there is anything they would like from you at this time. If their request is reasonable, see if you can help them with it. Encourage them to connect with a professional if you or they suspect that this is necessary. If you chat together and they express interest in learning ways to cope with traumatic stress, see if you can both together come up with some coping techniques that the person things will be helpful to them. Make sure that the person gets the support that they need.
Meron Tragedy Eerie Reminder of Similar Calamity 110 Years Ago
It did not take moments from the Meron tragedy for historians to point out that a similar event took place exactly one hundred and ten years ago, on the night of Lag Ba’omer. Tonight’s events—thought on a far larger scale—bring to mind the article in the Morgen Zhournal of May 21, 1911, a report from an eyewitness.
He begins by laying out for the readers the aura, the joy, the hope-saturated tears and tefillos at the kever. The spirited dancing, and how it is difficult to see any ground beneath the mass of humanity.
“The true joy begins with the “hadlakah”…and lighting this first fire is something that one cannot acquire for any sum in the world. This is a chazakah of the Boyaner Rebbe, without whose permission one cannot light the fire. And as soon as the […] it is indeed lit, then begins the true hislahavus… the chassidim dance with a rare fervor, the light blinds the eyes, and it goes on for the entire night.
“This year, this joy began just as it has in previous years… only it ended in a catastrophe:
“The entire courtyard, and the entire surrounding area, are packed with people… The clock strikes ten, and Reb Refoel Dayan, the appointee of the Boyaner Rebbe, lights the hadlakah. The fervor reaches its climax as the men dance around the fire… and suddenly, BANG!, the platform collapsed with a terrible thud—the steel, along with the heavy stone—and with them the many people stationed atop the balcony.
“To describe what then transpired… the moans of the injured as they lay under pieces of metal… the screams of the children… A shudder goes through one’s body hearing, and imagining, these events that unfolded there. The large crowd did not know what to do first, how to approach the work of the rescue. After a while, when some of the crowd had dispersed, they were able to tend to the injured.
“40 people were badly injured, and one by one they were brought indoors. There was no medicine, no first-aid… with water and schnapps they were awakened. There was only one doctor in attendance, the city doctor of Tzefas. Meron is one hour from Tzefas (in those times), and until doctors and medicine could arrive took three hours.”
It went on to lament the need to support the fresh Yesomim and almanos.
As we dazedly lift up our eyes Heavenward and cry out: kdai hu Rabi Shimon lismoch alav bish’as Hadchak… In the zechus of Rabi Shimon who is surely deeply pained by the tragedy that occurred in his backyard, may he approach the Kisei Hakovod and beseech Hashem to end the galus immediately.
before all the initial reports mostly, from the Jewish/Israeli news, disappear into a sanitised version:
HORRIFIC TRAGEDY IN MERON: 44 R”L Dead After Stampede At Kever Rashbi; More Than 100 Injured
A stampede broke out early Friday at a Jewish religious festival attended by tens of thousands of people in northern Israel, killing nearly 40 people and leaving some 150 hospitalized, medical officials said.
The stampede, one of the deadliest civilian disasters in Israeli history, occurred during the celebrations of Lag BaOmer at Mount Meron. Tens of thousands of people, mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews, gather each year to honor Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd century sage and mystic who is buried there. Large crowds traditionally light bonfires, pray and dance as part of the celebrations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “great tragedy,” and said everyone was praying for the victims.
Media estimated the crowd at about 100,000 people.
Eli Beer, director of the Hatzalah rescue service, said he was horrified by how crowded the event was, saying the site was equipped to handle perhaps a quarter of the number who were there.
“Close to 40 people died as a result of this tragedy,” he told the station.
The incident happened after midnight, and the cause of the stampede was not immediately clear. Videos circulating on social media showed large numbers of ultra-Orthodox Jews packed together in tight spaces.
A 24-year-old witness, identified only by his first name Dvir, told the Army Radio station that “masses of people were pushed into the same corner and a vortex was created.” He said a first row of people fell down, and then a second row, where he was standing, also began to fall down from the pressure of the stampede
Police fire pepper spray in Meron
Riots over the partitions between men and women at the shrine of R. Shimon Bar Yochai were dispersed by force, including the use of pepper spray.
Vaccine clinic in Meron
A COVID-19 vaccination clinic has been established in Meron, to remain open until Shabbat.
Update: Stampede At Israeli Lag BaOmer Festival Kills Nearly 40
PICTURE NOT SHOWN, THIS IS THE CAPTION: Israeli security officials and rescuers stand around the bodies of victims who died during a Lag Ba'Omer celebrations at Mt. Meron in northern Israel, Friday, April 30, 2021. The director of an Israeli ambulance service has confirmed that nearly 40 people died in a stampede at a religious festival in northern Israel. (Ishay Jerusalemite/Behadrei Haredim via AP)
MERON (VINnews) — In a horrific turn of events, many people are reported injured in Meron after a stampede occurred near the Toldos Aharon bonfir. There are multiple fatalities, with even more injured.
At the time of this writing there appears to be at least 38 fatalities, and at least 50 people injured, 20 of them critically.
An IDF team has been brought in to asssit with freeing people still trapped.
Inital reports said that the disaster was caused by some sort of collpase, but Magen David Adom seem to indicate that it was ralated to overcrowding.
Later, an IDF team at the scene reported that a roof had collapsed.
The Lag Baomer celebrations have been brough to a halt. Bonfires are being put out, and officials are attempting to lead people out.
In place of the lively music, Tehilim recitals can now be heard.
Chareidi journalist Aryeh Erlich retweeted a warning of a potential tragedy occurring on the narrow Toldos Aharon passageway that he wrote in 2018!
“Tell the police to stop making excuses,” he captioned the retweet. “I refer you to my tweet from 2018.”
In order to prevent a recurrence of what happened at the levaya of HaRav Wosner, z’tl, [when a man was trampled to death and dozens were injured due to overcrowding], it should be forbidden to hold the hadlaka there before a new larger exit way is constructed.”
“People Are Going To Die” – J-m Deputy Mayor Warned Police 2 Hrs. Before Disaster
Two hours before the unfathomable mass casualty occurred, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yossi Deitsch warned the police that a tragedy was imminent, B’Chadrei Chareidim reported.
Deitsch told B’Chadrei that he took part in the Boyaner hadlaka two hours before the tragedy and already then he felt the dangerous crushing force of the crowd. “I was being crushed in an unprecedented manner,” he said.
Due to the crowding, he decided to give up on his usual custom of standing and davening at the western entrance, next to the area where the tragedy occurred, and returned home early. His life was saved but sadly, so many others weren’t.
Deitsch slammed the police, saying that he warned them of imminent disaster. “What occurred could have happened two hours beforehand at the Boyaner hadlaka,” he said.
“The police saw the crowding but didn’t take appropriate action to relieve it. Instead of opening an exit way, they threatened them with pepper spray.”
“I turned to a police officer and warned him that people were going to die. I told him:
‘You’re not ashamed? You see that people are going to die!’ But there was no one to talk to,” Deitsch asserted.
There is a witness who said “5 policemen prevented the rushing charedim from passing” This caused the crushing of people against one another. HaShem Yerachem. An ignorant and unwise decision by police who have no understanding of a Haredim.
THERE IS MORE TO THIS THAN WHAT THE EYES SEE ……………………………………………….WE NEED TO WAIT FOR FURTHER REPORTS…………..THE FIRST TWO OR THREE REPORTS ARE NOT THE ENTIRE PICTURE …….THIS IS KNOWN IN THE FIELD OF REPORTING
Parashat Emor 5781
Rabbi Nachman Kahana
How Can Both Be Right?
A disputing couple came to a rav for help. After hearing the narratives of the two, the rav said, “It appears that the husband is right, but the wife is also right”. The rebbetzin then chimed in, “How can both be right?” And the rav replied, “You too are right”.
We read last Shabbat concerning the two goats brought before the Kohen Gadol who would determine the fate of each animal. Halacha states that both must be identical in appearance, in height and in monetary value. Yet only one will be sacrificed to HaShem while the other will experience a far different fate.
One lesson to be gleaned from this is that two entities, two ideas or two opinions can appear to be correct to the same degree but, in fact, only one is true.
Last week, I received two messages: one from a dear friend of close to 70 years. I am beholden to him for his and his family’s friendship over these many years, and for all he has done for Talmudic Commentaries Foundation. In his message he “rakes me over the coals,” as they say, because of the articles I write that point out the failures of the rabbis in galut to encourage aliyah, while some spiritual leaders even negate coming home until some unspecific time in our history.
The other message is from a family who I do not know personally and will be coming on aliyah this summer in no small measure due to the ideas I put forward in these weekly articles.
The messages represent polar differences, but each is a legitimate opinion and carry a degree of truth. But, dear reader, you might ask, how can they both be legitimate and truthful when they are so different? You too are right!
But, in fact, despite what is true to the person endorsing his own ideas, there is only one absolute truth over which we are wrestling to prove.
The critical message:
“It is a chillul Hashem to denigrate the members of the clergy who are working hard to hold their congregations together during these difficult times. It is time to stop! It’s time to take a look at your own back yard and what’s going on and make sure that the Holy Land does not have any blemishes before you start looking at the problems that are elsewhere in the world. It is disgusting to Bash Americans and America. It is the hand that has fed you. It is the country that has supported Israel. Without the US Israel would have barely survived. So, from henceforth it’s time to look at Israel’s problems and write about them and how you can heal them, stop looking elsewhere until you are perfect! And as you said, there is no perfection in this world.”
The encouraging message:
Hope you are well.
We’ve never met, but my wife and I have read your weekly divrei Torah for the last 5 years. Our family has finally decided to make Aliyah, something we have always dreamt of, but never thought would really materialize. We have spent many years growing up in the system which talks about the value and importance of Israel, yet we were not on the track to making the move…
There are many factors that lined up and led to this special move.
One of the most consistent factors has been receiving your weekly emails, which to be honest invokes many mixed feelings and emotions, many of which leave us motivated and inspired. There are only so many years we can read about the exodus and the “cleansing” process of chamushim (1/5th), or about the lady at the Pesach seder who started crying at l’shana haba… because she would miss the chandelier… The list goes on…
There was a point in time, maybe at the onset of covid, where you made reference to having received too much negative feedback, and people feeling judged…
We wanted to write this email to you, with tremendous gratitude for the constant work, effort, and chizzuk you give so many readers.
We are awaiting our papers, which should be ready shortly bh, and have a planned date of motzei Tisha B’Av.
Look forward to one day meeting you in person,
If we can ever help you in any way please let us know,”
So, in order to determine the path that I should be taking between refraining from hurting the feelings of some spiritual leaders in the galut or speaking my mind after experiencing galut life for 24 years, and 59 years (so far) in our Medina in Eretz Yisrael, I turned to the prophet Yechezkel for enlightenment.
יח) ואשפך חמתי עליהם על הדם אשר שפכו על הארץ ובגלוליהם טמאוה:
יט) ואפיץ אתם בגוים ויזרו בארצות כדרכם וכעלילותם שפטתים:
כ) ויבוא אל הגוים אשר באו שם ויחללו את שם קדשי באמר להם עם ה’ אלה ומארצו יצאו:
כא) ואחמל על שם קדשי אשר חללוהו בית ישראל בגוים אשר באו שמה:
כב) לכן אמר לבית ישראל כה אמר אדני ה’ לא למענכם אני עשה בית ישראל כי אם לשם קדשי אשר חללתם בגוים אשר באתם שם:
18 So I poured out My wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. 19 I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. 20 And wherever they went among the nations they profaned My holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave His land’. 21 I had concern for My holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone. 22 Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone’.
The navi is telling us that the very presence of Jews in the galut is a desecration of Hashem’s holy name. And the Gemara in four places (Brachot 19b; ibid 28b; Airuvin 63b and Sanhedrin 82a) states that in the process of halting a chillul HaShem, one must not be impeded by the personal feelings of any individual, be it as it may. So, I will go with the prophet Yechezkel, while attempting to relate to all religious leaders in the galut with derech eretz.
Prohibition regarding Kohanim and a Corpse
The parasha begins with an admonition to Kohanim not to touch any human corpse nor to be present under the same roof with the corpse of a Jew (the accepted view is that of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai that a Kohen may be under the same roof with the corpse of a non-Jew).
The prohibition on Kohanim is in effect even before death sets in, when the ill party enters into a state of gesisa (death throes). There is an earlier state when a Kohen may be in close contact with one who will shortly die, when the individual has been declared to be terminally ill, but not yet gosais.
Life signs of a near death human can be extended artificially by feeding tubes, parenteral nutrition, mechanical ventilation, dialysis, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, defibrillation, artificial pacemaker, etc., but the Angel of Death’s patience has its limits.
The manifold parts of a whole human organism cease to function very soon after death sets in; however, individual organs can cease to function even before death (e.g., a limb can be gangrenous and amputated and internal organs removed with the patient continuing to live).
There are also maladies classified as autoimmune diseases, where the body produces antibodies that are meant to attack and destroy foreign entities (e.g., germs, viruses, etc.), but for some reason they begin to destroy the body’s own healthy tissues, often leading to death.
Terminal Illness of the Galut
The galut can be viewed as a living, breathing organism composed of many individual organs called Jewish communities. Each community can function independently, but when one is diseased it can compromise the existence of all the others.
We are witnessing a slow but progressive spread of spiritual gangrene overtaking the galut organism, deeming the general galut as “terminally ill” and the unaffiliated Jew and Reform as gosasim (death throes). The spiritual gangrene is deadly and very contagious, with the official diagnosis being the distancing of Jews from their holy tasks as God’s chosen people. This disease, when not treated spreads very quickly, as it dismembers limbs from the nation’s body by intermarriage.
Jewish presence in the galut always was and is still “a terminal illness”, with no chance of survival. Its life signs are being extended by the artificial intervention of spiritual leaders who provide their communities with a feeding tube of distorted pseudo-Torah, like “sit tight until the Mashiach sends a limousine to whisk you off to your private plantation in the holy land”.
The new, vibrant Jewish communities dotting the gentile landscapes across the good old USA, with their affordable homes, day schools, mikvaot, and kollelim in places too difficult to spell, are shots of adrenaline or morphine which can extend the end for a while, but the writing is on the wall. The galut has served its purpose – to punish the Jewish nation after we were exiled from our land for leaving the Torah. And as all things in nature, when its purpose has been exhausted it withers, shrivels, and dies. So too, our long sojourn in the lands of Aisav and Yishmael has finished its historic purpose and now will go the way of all things.
The galut organism is presently also under attack by a reprehensible autoimmune disease, in which the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues. It manifests when Satmars and other break-away “lovers of Zion” demonstrate against the Medina, and by association, against the holy land of Eretz Yisrael. The end result will be that they themselves will wither away as they break off from the mainstream of Judaism.
Over 2000 years ago, two great rabbis Rabbis, Yosi ben Yo’ezer and Yosi ben Yochanan, with the agreement of the Sanhedrin, declared all the lands outside of Eretz Yisrael to be tomai’im (ritually impure) to the extent of the tuma exuded by a corpse.
Several parallel reasons have been suggested for this broad based, global decree. Tosefot in tractate Nazir (54b) states that a major reason was that Jews should remain in the holy land.
The decree has special significance for Kohanim, who as stated in our parsha must refrain from the tuma of a corpse.
One need not be on the high spiritual level of Rabbis Yosi ben Yo’ezer and Yosi ben Yochanan to see how correct they and the Sanhedrin were. The dying communities of the galut exude tuma, and the faster our brothers and sisters escape the better they and all the nation of Yisrael will be.
Shabbat Shalom and prayers for refuah shelaima when the disbursed of our people come home.
JLMM Jewish Lives Mean More
Copyright © 5781/2021 Nachman Kahana
BARLEY AND WHEAT
It says in this week’s Parsha, “You shall count for yourselves … seven weeks, they shall be complete. Until the day after the seventh week, the fiftieth day, you shall count, and then you shall bring a new meal-offering to Hashem….” (Vayikra 23:15)
We are in the middle of Sefira. What is it all about?
Several weeks ago, I mentioned the remarkable “egg” moshul, which I heard from Rabbi Naftali Jaeger Shlita”h. This parable clarifies the relationship between Pesach and Shavuos. The egg exemplifies the two-stage birth process of Am Yisroel, physical birth during Pesach and spiritual birth during Shavuos.
Sefira is counting. We count the days between Pesach and Shavuos. The Torah teaches us to value every second. As King David says, “According to the count of our days, so may You teach us; then we shall acquire a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90)
As the egg story illustrates, Sefiras ha Omer is a transition from the level of physical existence to the level of spiritual existence during which we try to elevate ourselves in order to merit receiving the Torah. On the day we begin counting, an omer of barley is offered in the Temple. On Shavuos, seven weeks later, we offer shtei ha halechem … the two loaves, an offering of wheat.
“The Omer is brought from barley flour. Barley, however, is not a primary food of man, but is considered food for animals. The Omer represents merely physical existence …. Only on the Fiftieth Day, after struggling toward purification and freedom while counting days and weeks, only on the day that commemorates the giving of the Torah, does Israel approach G-d’s altar with wheat bread, which is designed for man. And this bread is chometz; it bears the stamp of social and political freedom and independence.” (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch on Vayikra 23:17)
During Sefiras ha Omer, we are expected to rise from the level of the animals to the level of the person who is refined enough to stand in front of Hashem and receive His Torah. This is reflected in the language of the prayer we say during the daily counting: “Master of the Universe, You commanded us through Moshe, Your servant, to count the Omer in order to cleanse us from our encrustations of evil and … our contaminations, as You have written in Your Torah.”
How does this apply to our world today?
As we have mentioned many times, the Chofetz Chaim stated that the events surrounding our Redemption from Biblical Egypt will be reflected in the events at the End of History. Just as we were liberated from adherence to idolatry and witchcraft in Ancient Egypt, so we hope to be liberated soon from subservience to the surrounding culture of Edom. This indicates that the surrounding culture is comparable to the culture of Ancient Egypt, which was on the level of domestic animals, which eat barley. There is no perception of the Existence of Hashem at that level.
Frightening as this may sound, that was apparently the level of our ancestors when they were redeemed from Egypt. That was the meaning of “mem tes shaarei tumah … the forty-ninth level of impurity,” from which Hashem liberated us. If this is comparable to the level of the surrounding nations in our own days, we have some idea of the danger which surrounds us.
This week we celebrate L’ag B’omer, the thirty-third day of the Omer count, a day of great rejoicing. Why do we celebrate?
Let’s talk about gematria, the numerical value of Hebrew words. I am not sure whether this is my thought or I heard it somewhere else, but I would like to point out that the numerical value of the day before L’ag b’Omer, thirty-two, is equivalent to the word “lev … heart” in Hebrew.
We would like to hope that the reason for our rejoicing on the thirty-third is that we are making progress: our heart is changing. Perhaps we have reached the point in our spiritual journey when we are beginning to feel the closeness of Har Sinai, which is just ahead. Our heart is beginning to feel the love of Hashem. Although surrounded by a civilization obsessed by animalistic desires, we are climbing the ladder out of the pit, from the level of barley to the level of wheat.
May we soon merit to see the Great Day on which the entire world will acknowledge, “Ki mi Tzion taitzai Torah u’dvar Hashem mi Yerushalayim … From Zion will come forth Torah and the Word of Hashem from Yerushalayim!”
A stalk of wheat in the Land of Israel
Chol ha Moed: the intermediate days of the Pesach and Sukkos Holidays
Yomim Tovim: Biblical Holidays
LAG B’OMER IS finally here, b”H. Four weeks have gone by since the Seder, and we can finally get haircuts and listen to music, perhaps while making huge bonfires and eating barbecued food. Doesn’t sound very kabbalistic for a day that celebrates the revelation of Kabbalah, does it?
Besides mysticism, what is Kabbalah? Why is it so important? IS it so important? Why make a big deal out of the revelation of a level of Torah that most people do not learn and some people still don’t believe in? We don’t celebrate the completion of the Talmud, except by individuals who have completed a section of it. So, why do we celebrate what amounted to the basis of the holy Zohar?
How about a little Kabbalah 101?
Mysticism is a broad term that seems to imply to most people something supernatural. So when people think about Kabbalah, they imagine people who learn it being able to do supernatural things, somewhat like what the superheroes they are used to watching are able to “do” courtesy of the Special Effects crews of Hollywood.
What does the word “supernatural” even mean? Obviously it means “above nature,” or beyond it. But, objectively speaking, does nature even exist? Apparently, according to Rebi Chanina ben Dosa in the Talmud, it depends:
Once on a Friday night he (Rebi Chanina) noticed that his daughter was sad and he said to her, “My daughter, why are you sad?”
She answered, “My oil container got mixed up with my vinegar container and I kindled Shabbos candles with it.”
He told her, “My daughter, why should this trouble you? He Who had commanded the oil to burn will also command the vinegar to burn!” (Ta’anis 25a)
It is a principle of Torah that G–D created everything and continues to maintain all of it everyday. It is a principle of Kabbalah that He does this every single moment of the day, every day of the year, and every year of history. Creation is completely a function of the will of G–D and can only exist as long as He wills it. Should G–D take His mind off anything for but a single moment, it will cease to exist completely in that moment.
This was the basis of Rebi Chanina’s answer to his daughter. He was telling her, “Don’t be fooled by the consistency of Creation. The only difference between something being combustible and not being combustible is what G–D decides at the moment.” Hence, the Temple, made from stone, burned as if it was made from wood. When G–D wills it, the usually incombustible burns just as fiercely as the usually combustible.
In fact, that is perhaps one of the greatest advantages of learning Kabbalah. It is a peek beyond the “veil of nature” that has so many people fooled and limited. Life is not about being able to perform spectacular supernatural feats. It is about learning how to perform spectacular “natural” feats. These can only be accomplished after first understanding how the world actually works, and how we interact with it. That is Kabbalah 101.
THE NEXT THING to understand is that everything exists as function of Divine light. If that makes sense, then think again. It shouldn’t, at least until you have learned some Kabbalah. The temporal world is quite physical. Divine light is completely spiritual. How can the latter result in the former?
Many scientists simply eliminate the question. They reject the idea of a spiritual world and keep their search for the origin of Creation in the physical realm. The Greeks grappled with it and simply called “Creation Ex Nihilo,” Creation from nothing. Many scientists are also talking about the role of “nothing” in Creation, though they’re not sure just what “nothing” is, other than, well, nothing.
It is not an issue for Kabbalah. We call it “Yaish M’Ayin,” which also literally means “something from nothing.” But here is where Kabbalah parts ways with the rest of the world on the idea. Yes, “ayin” means “nothing,” but not nothing in the everyday sense of the word. In this case, it refers to something very specific, something that is more than the “Theory of Everything.” It is the FACT of everything.
A very important part of learning Kabbalah is the idea of relativity, though not the one Einstein spoke about. His idea of relativity was confined to behavior within the physical world. This version of the idea incorporates everything in Creation, the physical and the spiritual. For example, something spiritual relative to something physical can be as if it doesn’t exist at all.
It’s like someone who is a nobody among higher-ups and the most important person in the room among lower-downs. In this case, certain levels of light are so high up and spiritual that, compared to lights lower down and so much less spiritual, it is if they do not exist. So they, and in particular one level, are called “Ayin.”
Which level is Ayin specifically?
Imagine a world in which there isn’t one. In other words, nothing but nothing has yet to be created. All that exists is a “reality” of G–D that is so far beyond our ability to grasp, that we don’t even bother trying. It is especially so since trying can alone can result in an incorrect perception, that could easily be called blasphemous. Finite minds are very limited when it comes to understanding the infinite, at least in non-finite terms. It may be easy to call something “endless,” but a lot more difficult to imagine what it “looks” like.
So instead, we admit intellectual defeat by referring to the light in terms of what it isn’t, rather than by what it is. Kabbalah calls it “Ohr Ain Sof,” literally “Light Without End,” but is also quick to point out that even this level of light is not the essence of G–D. Rather the Ohr Ain Sof is but a projection of light on its way to eventually make Creation where it can be revealed somewhat to man, the reason for it all.
This is the entire point of everything G–D has decided to do: revelation. A fundamental of Torah thought is that G–D is perfect and needs nothing. But for reasons known only to Him, but completely to our benefit, He wishes to give good to beings. The greatest good we can enjoy is a revelation of His reality on some level. Everything else that has ever been created, much of which is discussed in elaborate and exquisite detail by Kabbalah, is just to support this Divine mandatet.
TECHNOLOGY HAS REALLY helped us to better explain kabbalistic ideas. Take the idea of an energy surge, which has been known to cause all kinds of damage to electrical wiring and equipment, especially computers. If you make something to be able to handle a certain amount of electricity, and it has to deal with more, then the result can be destructive and even dangerous.
The same thing is true of Divine light. It is not physical light, but it can be far more destructive than anything physical. This is why one has to be careful about their exposure to Divine light, which only becomes more intense from level-to-level. A person may seem to lose their mind from over-exposure, like what occurred to Ben Zoma (Chagigah 14b), but what really happened was an overloading of his mental “circuits.”
For electricity, we developed a system that takes its nature into account in order to “filter” its intensity and make it usable. Friction is used to slow down electrons and weaken their impact, so that by the time they reach our homes and offices, they are safe to use. (But, I found out as child, it is still unwise to stick something into a plug that does not belong in there…unless you like being shocked and sent into recoil.)
Long before we developed copper wire and transformers to manage electrical flows, G–D had created something called “Sefiros” and “Partzufim.” The word “sefirah” usually means “counting,” as in “Sefiras Ha’omer,” the “Counting of the Omer.” This occurs over the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuos, and of which Lag B’omer is the 33rd day. A partzuf is a face, but it is not necessary for now to understand its connection to the sefiros.
In any case, the sefiros, which are completely spiritual, are the system employed by G–D to deliver His light to Creation on an ongoing basis. They are also the system He uses to regulate that flow, increasing the light, vis-a-vis the sefiros, when and where necessary, and reducing it as per the needs of Creation and history.
Being so, the sefiros are also the way that G–D allows His light to be revealed to man. Just as physical light can be fractured into all the colors of the spectrum, each with its own name and purpose, the sefiros act as a way to reveal different aspects of the light of G–D, something called “middos—traits.” This way G–D can communicate to man Who He is, or at least how He wants to be known. This makes possible the goal of Creation, a relationship between man and his Creator.
In general, there are 10 sefiros: Keser, or Crown, Chochmah, or Wisdom, Binah, or Understanding, Chesed, or Kindness, Gevurah, or Strength, Tifferes, or Harmony, Netzach, or Dominance, Hod, or Glory, Yesod, or Foundation, and finally, Malchus, or Kingdom. There is even a sefirah called “Da’as—Knowledge,” but that is a discussion for another time. Each sefirah is the “label” and description of the characteristic of G–D’s light on that level.
THERE ARE 118 known elements in the Periodic Table as of today. It’s a lot, but not that much really when you consider that they are responsible for the zillions of things that exist in the entire universe. How can so few things be responsible for the creation of so much?
We can ask the same question about the sefiros, which G–D has used to create everything and continues to use to maintain all that exists. And at least the elements of the Periodic Table start off being physical. The light that flows through the sefiros is completely spiritual, and yet ends up creating everything, spiritual and physical. How do the sefiros help the light go from ayin to yaish, and to create so much of it?
It’s like water. Water is everywhere, though it is not always visible. For example, the air we breath has about one percent water vapor, and even more on a humid day. And even though you can “feel” it, the vapor only begins to turn into actual water if the temperature drops significantly. That’s when you begin to see water droplets form on windows and stream downwards.
If the temperature continues to cool even more, the water will begin to freeze. On the side of a roof, icicles might form as water runs down the side of a newly formed icicle, freezing as it does and increasing its size. What began as something quite invisible has become, because of cooler temperatures, quite apparent.
It’s not cooler temperatures that transform the light of G–D from ayin to yaish, but distance. The further the light “travels” away from its Source, Ayin itself, the less intense it becomes, and therefore, less spiritual. At a certain distance it will reach “condensation point,” that is, the point at which the spiritual makes the leap to the physical and, voila! something physical results.
That actual point occurs between the sefirah of Chochmah and Binah, or between the partzufim of Atzilus and Beriyah. But that is already Kabbalah 201.
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