Parshat Ki Tetzei by Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron בס"ד
Discover the Holy Presence in the Holy Land
The Spinal Vertebrae and the Amida
In continuation of our study of the nervous system we will continue with the second of the three primary components of this system after the brain – the spinal cord/spinal vertebrae, and next week, God-willing we will discuss the third component, the nerves throughout the body. Our Sages mention that the eighteen blessings of the Amida correspond to the eighteen vertebrae of the spine. Science today describes approximately thirty vertebrae of the spine. Nevertheless, it seems that our Sages referred to the vertebrae that are part of the “body” or “guf,” which Kabbalistically begins with the shoulders, not the neck, and ends with the legs, most probably ending with the pelvic bones, excluding two “lumbar vertebrae” that continue with/after the pelvic bone, unlike science which includes the bones of the neck and pelvic area. Based on this we can remarkably notice three groups of vertebrae which correspond exactly with the three groups of blessings in the Amida and the numbers of vertebrae in each group. The cervical vertebrae that began after the shoulders consist of three vertebrae, which seem to correspond to the first three blessings of the Amida of “praise to Hashem”, which are also Kabbalistically related to the “loftiest” or highest levels of the Amida, just like these bones are found at the highest points of the spine (after the shoulders as explained).
Then, come the twelve Thoracic vertebrae, which correspond to the twelve “middle blessings” where one makes requests before Hashem. On Shabbat and holidays, these blessings are replaced with one blessing [or three on Musaf of Rosh Hashana]. This may be indicative of the fact that the Thoracic spine is also the “source” of the Thoracic Cage of ribs that surround the internal organs of the body such as the heart, lung, liver, etc. Shabbat and Holidays represent the more internal connection to Hashem versus weekdays which represent the external. Therefore, it seems that on Shabbat and Holidays the internal organs of the Thoracic section, as one wholesome unit, are emphasized and not the external vertebrae of this section. After the Thoracic vertebrae come the third group of vertebrae, comprising of three Lumbar vertebrae till the pelvic bone (scientifically there are two more Lumbar vertebrae, but they begin and continue after the Pelvic bone begins, as explained above), and it seems that these correspond to the third group of blessings of “thanksgiving before Hashem of the Amida’s conclusion” just as these vertebrae “conclude” the spine.
Our Sages also talk about a “19th small bone” that is an irregular bone and therefore was not given representation initially in the corpus of the “eighteen blessings. Some say that this “small bone” is the Os hyoideum connected to the tongue, found very high in the spine in the cervical area. Indeed according to the Kabbalists, the “19th blessing” – Lamalshinim against heretics and enemies of Judaism touches on the “highest” sefira of the blessings of the Amida [each blessing corresponds to a different sefira], the sefira of “keter.” It can be explained, according to the Arizal, that before Judaism was under attack by these heretics it was taken as a “given” that the fundamental faith of Judaism, associated with the “loftiest” sefira – keter, remained intact, and therefore no blessing was enacted for this, even though faith is the highest and “loftiest” value. However, once Jewish faith was under attack by these heretics this blessing was enacted.
This Parsha is the most detailed one in the Torah spanning about seventy mitzvoth from the vast areas of life. Similarly, in our Amida, we can relate to the vast areas of life through our conversation before Hashem in our prayers, and so too the vertebrae of the spine express this concept beautifully as the spine spans the vast stretches of the body, connecting one extreme of the body with the other. Hebron too, where Kaleb chose to raise his supplication before Hashem, means unity, for here we connect the prayers of all Israel “spanning the vast expanses of different souls and requests”, through their common roots, the holy Patriarchs, raising these Prayers to Heaven, as all these souls begin their prayers: “and He remembers the kindness of the Patriarchs and brings a redeemer for their children’s children for His Namesake with love.”
Real Miracles: Israel Independence War:
Even as Israel declared its statehood on May 14, 1948, five mechanized Arab armies invaded. The Jews had only 35,000 fighting men, no air force (except for a small training plane out of which the pilot dropped a grenade), and only six tanks. The Egyptian army alone had 40,000 soldiers, 135 tanks, heavy guns and an air force of over 60 planes, including Spitfires and bombers. The Jordanians had the Arab Legion, which trained by the British and led by an Englishman, Sir John Bagot Glubb, along with 48 British officers. Yet, against all odds, the Jewish fighters won. Many of the pitched battles became epic and smacked of the miraculous.