By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
And You Shall Seek His Presence and Come There
“Our innards long, and our souls yearn for the redemption of Your Holy Presence, for Your Holy Abode, and for Your Will Hashem we long…” (Prayer of the holy Or HaChaim). Yearning for something so spiritual and non-tangible as the Holy Presence requires the attribute of “internal listening” rather than external “sight.” Indeed, this is what the Torah taught us two weeks ago when we read that at the Giving of the Torah, “you did not see any image, but you (only heard) a voice.” Nevertheless, the Torah also teaches that at the Giving of the Torah, the People “saw the sounds.” This matter can be explained by the Kabbalists teaching that there are two types of sight: external and internal. In regards to external sight, it is said “you did not see any image”, but in regards to internal sight (a facet that is closer to “internal listening” and to prophetic vision), it is said that the People “saw the sounds.” When we make an effort to tap into the voice of our souls through internal listening and vision, we may somewhat connect to the illumination of the Holy Presence that shines through our souls.
In the past two months, we noted that the month of Tamuz corresponds to Reuven (whose name signifies sight – “reu” – see – “ven” – son), and that the month of Av corresponds to Shimon (whose name signifies listening – “shemia”). One of the differences between sight and hearing is that while sight perceives many matters at once in a broad expanse, listening shines special attention to each matter one increment at a time. The verse in Isaiah (6, 10) says “fatten the hearts of this People lest they see with their eyes, and with their ears hear, and their hearts understand and they shall repent and be cured.” From this negative prophecy we also understand the stages of repentance and cure of the soul on a positive level. One stage is “seeing with the eyes” which alludes to the month of Tamuz associated with sight. The next stage is “with their ears hear” which alludes to the month of Av, associated with hearing. “Their hearts understand and they shall repent and be cured” alludes to Elul, the month of repentance, forgiveness and compassion. Indeed, the Sefer Yetzira assigns the attributes of sight and hearing to the months of Tamuz and Av respectively, while the month of Elul is assigned the attribute of “action”, which fits perfectly with the actual “repentance” and “cure” described in the verse in Isaiah we mentioned. Therefore, when we “tune-in” to the internal vision and listening of our souls, absorbed through the months of Tamuz and Av, we may find our souls “speaking” to us, providing us with the key to make yet wiser decisions for self-improvement and action towards the month of Elul and the coming year.
The ability to “tune-in” to the internal vision and listening of the soul is greatly enhanced in the Land of Israel, the Land of Divine Inspiration and Illumination. This may be hinted to by the Torah’s words in this parsha: “See (sight), I give before you a blessing and a curse. The blessing will be if you listen (listening)… When Hashem brings you to come (action) to the Land… You shall place the blessing on the mount of Grizim and the curse on the mount of Eival. Behold, they are on the other side of the Jordon (the Land of Israel)…” This verse may hint to the fact that the ability to see the “blessing and the curse” in a clear way in our lives is by “crossing the Jordon”, i.e entering the Land of Israel which illuminates our souls to make wiser decisions. Just as Tamuz and Av correspond to Reuven and Shimon, so too Elul corresponds to Gad, who is associated to entering and conquering the Land of Israel through action, according to the Midrash Raba Naso, we mentioned before, which assigns a special attribute/ability to each tribe.
Mount Grizim and Eval are linked to Shechem, the City of Responsibility [Shechem means “shoulders”], while Shechem itself is deeply rooted to Hebron. “And he sent him (Yosef) from Hebron and he arrived in Shechem.” It is through internal connection to our souls, through internal vision and listening and through action – Hebron (“hibur” – connection) – that we are able to take responsibility – Shechem – and transform our lives.
One of the Torah luminaries of Hebron, whose name also hints to illumination/”shining”, was Rabbi Zerahia Moshe. Rabbi Zerahia was one of the sages of Constantinople (Istanbul today) who ascended to the Land of Israel and settled in Hebron about 400 years ago. He wrote his commentary “Zerah Yakov” on the Shulhan Aruch, which was lost. He also wrote commentaries on the Rambam and Rashi, and his many response is found in manuscript in Oxford. One of his disciples was Rabbi Yehuda Sharaf, the master of Rabbi Hizkiya Di Siluva and Rabbi David Konforti, who describes him as a “prodigious rabbi and great posek, pious and exceptionally humble, and well-versed in the wisdom of the Kabbalah.”
Real Stories from the Holy Land #275
“I was once discussing a kabbalistic passage with my chevruta, or study-partner, which discusses the significance of the number 413. About three hours later I went shopping in the supermarket and the groceries added up to exactly 413 NIS.”
Sources: Sefer Hebron p. 125
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