WALK AND SEE
Each Hebrew month is connected
to one of the soul’s twelve senses, and has defining parameters (i.e.
an organ in the body, letter, tribe, constellation, etc.) which help
us focus our spiritual service on the particular sense, and discover
how to use it to serve G-d. Just as our acceptance of the yoke of heaven
on Rosh Hashana improves our ability to serve G-d with humility the
whole following year, and eating matza on Pesach helps us serve G-d
with pure faith the whole year round, a per--son’s spiritual service
in each month is an auspicious time to inspire his soul to serve G-d
with that month’s particular sense for the entire year.
The Ari’s Opinion
According to the ARI [Rabbi Yizchak Luria, 1534-1572] version of Sefer
Yetsirah [one of the oldest works of Kabbalah, traditionally attributed
to the patriarch Avraham!] the sense associated with the month of Sivan
is the power to walk. The sense associated with the month that follows
it, Tammuz, is vision.
Sivan, the month in which
we received the Torah, is connected to our ability to "walk," to move
and accelerate in our service of G-d. On the other hand the main part
of the spies’ trip to see the Land of Israel took place during Tammuz.
The Vilna Gaon’s Opinion
The Grah [Rabbi Eliyahu the Gaon of Vilna, 1710-1797] disagrees. He
claims that the month of vision should be Sivan, and the month of walking
should be Tammuz. In Sivan everybody saw the revelation on Mount Sinai.
Even the sounds were elevated to the level of seeing, because everybody
saw the Divine voice [Ex. 20:15 and commentaries]. While in Tammuz,
the spies walked in the land.
I suggest that these two
opinions are the root of two quite different philosophies, and that
the ARI’s teaching laid the foundation of Chassidut. But first let us
cite how classic Torah interpretation supports the approach of the ARI.
The Spies and The Eyes
In the portion of Shlach, the spies were sent latoor–to
walk, to see–in the Holy Land [Num.13:17] (toor, by the way,
is the source of the English word, tour). But which element is primary–walk
or to see?
According to Rashi [ibid.
25], the spies did not walk much, because they had kfitsat haderech,
a miraculous "shortening of the way." Really, the distance they had
to cover should have taken them much more than the 40 days it did. Walking,
apparently, did not pose a problem for the spies. Eventually, however,
they were punished for misinterpreting what they saw. For example, instead
of seeing the kingsized fruit as an expression of the Land’s greatness,
they drew the conclusion that such enormous produce indicates that the
inhabitants of the Land were gigantic, and therefore invincible.
Every Weekly Reading is an
organic whole; its beginning is connected to and explains its end. The
concluding section in Shlach about tsitsit, is the third paragraph
of the Shema prayer. In it is the command "lo taturu–
Don’t follow your eyes" after all the negative things in the world,
because when you look at something your heart will desire it. Instead,
look at the tsitsit, so that you will remember all the 613 commandments.
Clearly, one message of tsitsit is seeing.
At the beginning of the Reading,
Rashi explains that walking was not the main activity of the spies.
At the end of the Reading, the Torah itself uses the same verb (latur)
in relation to tsitsit [ibid 14:39], (and Rashi notes this).
Further, Rashi emphasizes that the eyes are the "spies of the body",
which establishes a third connection between the month of Tammuz and
the sense of vision. Thus we see that the concepts established by the
Ari are rooted in the Torah.
Two Opinions, Two Philosophies
Chassidut adds a deeper dimension to the sin of the spies. The spies
believed that staying in the desert would advance the cause of Torah.
There, everything was provided–no need to worry about food, laundry,
clothes, medicine, etc. You only needed to learn Torah. Entering the
land, however, would necessitate becoming involved with the physical
world and dealing with numerous mundane affairs. Therefore, the spies
were afraid that the Jews might lose their perspective, become too worldly,
and compromise their connection to Torah.
This attitude is similar
to the outlook which claims that the ideal state is to be in yeshiva–safely
encased in the holiness of continual Torah study. For this reason, according
to the Grah, month of vision is Sivan. If you want to see G-d, you will
see Him in the yeshiva: the isolated, ideal environment, where you are
supported, free to learn Torah, and where its power is the strongest.
If you cannot maintain such a situation, or if you do not know how to
learn, you will be on the outside where you just hang around, walk.
It is dangerous, because you can be attracted by the world, and be corrupted.
The power of Torah to protect you is less on the outside.
The Chassidic point of view,
following the Ari is the opposite. The central meaning of Sivan is the
power Torah gives you to walk. Only when you go out into the land, outside
to the world where you realize how the Torah is energizing you to help
repair and light up the world, will you really see G-d. The dark outside
is actually the highest form of G-dly revelation. G-d reveals his infinite
power by garbing Himself in the standards of Torah, which fuel you as
you walk out and teach the world how to organize itself within the divine
borders of Torah. If you restrict yourself to your own four cubits,
you will never get to realize how the Torah enables you to make the
darkness outside reveal its G-dliness. The more you connect with the
world, the more you come into contact with the entire spectrum of Divinity–concealed
In particular, you will become
more sensitive to how G-d speaks to you from the concealed aspects of
creation, as He uses the concealment to attract you to where you are
needed. This, by itself, will give a new meaning to the revealed aspects
of the Divine light. Before your contact with darkness, the light of
Torah inspired you because of its brightness. But as you go out into
the world, you will become even more impressed with Torah. You will
see it’s incredible power to diffuse itself and light up the external
darkness, making the realm that the Torah rules not only the yeshiva
and the synagogue, but the whole world. This is what is called "seeing
G-dliness." G-d is talking to you much more from the darkness than from
the revealed light.
From Darkness to Light
The same concept applies to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; it was
part of the Divine Plan for them to leave Eden, so that they (and their
descendants) could purify the outer darkness. Adam’s departure gave
new meaning to the Garden: until that moment it was just a beautiful
place; suddenly it became a light to illuminate darkness. In other words,
darkness exists outside the Garden only to attract the light from within,
and show it where it needs to shine. It is the stimulus for us to reveal
more and more G-dliness, much more than if we just restricted ourselves
to the domain of Eden, the domain of the Sinai desert.
The particular way that the
non Chassidic streams in Judaism interpret the concept of tzimtzum
[the contraction and concealment of G-d's radiance which allows
the appearance of physical existence] causes them to consider darkness–
those domains in reality where Divinity is concealed by some kind of
klipah–as a place where Divinity does not exist, to be avoided
at all costs. In contrast, the Chassidic interpretation of tzimtzum
enables them to see the darkness as a place that they need to focus
their use of the revealed aspects of holiness in order to expose the
hidden Divinity in the world.
Chassidut sees the world
as a Divine theater which G-d, the director, has entirely lit with His
light, while the "spotlight" He uses is dark in order to attract our
attention, and show us where to look. In this way, we see where to focus
our efforts as we go out to expose the Divinity hidden in the world,
so that the entire stage will be lit. This explains the connection between
Sivan and Tammuz.
Rabbi Omer Yisroel Furmanski,
a native of Haifa, has advanced degrees in physics and mathematics from
Hebrew U. and Penn State. He lectures on Jewish mysticism throughout
Israel. Previous to his recent move to Jerusalem, he taught Kabbalah
weekly at ASCENT.