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Omer Furmanski

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 and revealed.

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.


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