A Spiritually Transformational Seder

Exploring the inner mystical depth and meaning behind the Seder’s 15 steps.

 

The traditional 15-step structure of the Seder is pregnant with inner meaning and significance. The rhythm and progression behind the Seder are an eternal template for the deepest transformation of the Jewish soul. On Seder night we are able to receive a spiritual influx from above which jumpstarts a whole new cycle of growth for the coming year.

Every process of spiritual awakening contains three stages: “Hachna’ah” – submission, “Havdala” – separation, and “Hamtaka” – sweetening. This triple-beat shows up here too and turns the Seder into a powerful process that brings deep healing to your own beautiful soul.

First, submission – this takes place BEFORE Passover

In Judaism, the journey is an essential part of the destination. This is a paradigm shift for our western minds that fixate on the achievement of our goals. It is how we travel our course that allows God to palpably enter our lives.

In this vein, the transformational power of the Seder actually begins before Passover arrives. In the weeks of cleaning and scrubbing, shopping and cooking, we are getting ready to live life without chametz, leavened products. Not only are we eradicating the actual substance that represents the puffed-up ego, but the act of adhering to the will of God itself dissolves our egos. Whatever false self we clutched onto now slowly melts away as we eagerly wipe and scrub our homes to remove all its chametz. Submission is the first step of the path of transformation, as we rise above our limited identities and find ourselves comfortably part of God’s world and in His value system. This submission enables us to tap into something greater than ourselves. The stage is set for redemption.

Second, Havdalah, separation – and the Seder Begins.

1. KADESH – SANTIFICATION

With the recital of Kiddush as the first of the 15-step journey, we sanctify everything to follow. In Jewish etymology, the concept of holiness suggests separating ourselves from all that is profane. Therefore, with Kiddush, we set out on a journey with our intent to transform ourselves.

2. URCHATZ – WASHING THE HANDS

The first thing that needs to happen is the removal of alien forces that hover around us during the regular course of life, that impede our growth. These dark forces represent the aspects of evil that have managed to masquerade themselves as good to our own eyes and have actually taken on some of our affections. With the simple act of washing our hands, we are able to see these negative forces for what they are, (be they thoughts, emotions, behaviors or affiliations) and make the separation between what is truly good and what is not, what is holy and what is impure.

It is a powerful movement up the ladder of Jewish transformation, when we are prepared to take this honest look at ourselves and allow what is non-essential to be washed away.

3. KARPAS – VEGETABLE DIPPED IN SALT WATER

There is no authentic spiritual path without tears, dubbed the sweat of the soul. There is no joy of transformation without some degree of pain. Living a brave and authentic life takes courage and grit! While in the previous step we isolated our essence from all the non-essential layers of our beings and washed those away, in Karpas, we sow the seed of that new-found essence into soil and water it with the salt-water of our tears. As the psalmist says, “Those who plant with tears will harvest in great joy” (Psalms 126). These are the best tears we will ever cry as we are expanding our taste-buds/capacity for spirituality and are headed for nothing less than our greatness.

4. YACHATZ- BREAKING THE MATZA

The next step is the dissolving of that seed in the earth, the part of the process that appears the most devastating. Yachatz means brokenness, hinting that things might seem worse before they get better. We are finally letting go of whatever last vestige of ego remains as we confront the very vulnerable truth of what it means to be human. Staring directly at our vulnerability expands the little seed of perfect spiritual essence inside us, as we come into the coherent field of the simple truth that God is One and all that really is, and His love for us knows no bounds. Therefore, we can endure this breaking of the matza, since we know that the broken piece will become the crowning jewel at the end of the Seder, when it will reappear as the coveted Afikoman at the stage of Tzafun.

Third: Hamtaka, sweetening.

5. MAGGID – TELLING THE STORY

With Maggid, the real healing starts to happen. We tap into the characteristic energy of the month of Nissan, which according to the earliest mystical work Sefer Hayetzira is the energy of “holy speech”.

The gift of speech is the crowning feature of our humanity. With words, we are able to transcend even the most difficult of circumstances by expressing our desire for something different. The first stirrings of redemption came in Egypt when the Jewish people, persecuted, allowed themselves to groan. God heard their primal cries and knew they were ready for the first sprouting of their redemption1.

When we start to add words to that guttural expression, we are able to delineate the details of our story in the sequence in which they occurred. Maggid is a form of narrative therapy by which we begin to stitch all the details into one continuum within our hearts. This is the essence of the Kabbalistic idea called “sweetening”, as we suddenly realize that there was no piece of the story that can be excluded, and that somehow, amid twinges of pain and joy through its millions of nuances, there was always a higher order, an infinitely Great and Close Being, bringing all the parts together into one gestalt.

Through telling our story, we weave the bitter and the sweet into a tale of tension and pathos, of struggle and heroism, and most profoundly, of love. When we have the courage to view our lives in the way of a story, exploring our histories from their inglorious beginnings and everything we went through, unedited, we expose our deepest humanity and it is there that we find G-d. We realize that there was nothing extraneous and that, to our surprise, He was there all along. Perhaps the best part is realizing the emergence of our own resources, for as much as we have come to admit our imperfection, now we are able to admit to our greatness. Thus, our experience becomes integrated into our deepest identities and the good and the evil are no longer seen as two separate entities. This is the heart of the Seder and when the real transformation starts to take place, though it would not have been possible without any of the earlier steps.

6. RACHTZA – WASHING FOR THE MATZA

Now, we are ready to wash away whatever hasn’t been redeemable in our story, as well as the layers of our erroneous belief structures that only obscure our deepest truth. What is left is a re-kindled attachment to God, and we are now clear on our mission to move as His people in the world. The fragmentation and pull between good and evil that we may have felt at earlier stages is gone and replaced with the galvanization of all our inner resources.

7. MOTZI

8. MATZA – TWO BLESSING AND EATING THE MATZA

With this step in the journey, we are ready to imbibe the bread of humility into our very selves through the act of eating, for there is no ego left, only connection to God. Food has become sublime and the act of eating matza is the fulfillment of a positive commandment. We are ready to live with our commitment to our relationship with God as a natural part of our lives and to receive all that He wants to give us.

9. MAROR – THE BITTER HERBS

Maror is the “real-life” factor.

Ask yourself a question: what is more delectable, sugar straight from the bag or well-made chocolate? Sugar water or lemonade? Hot sweetened milk or coffee? In all of these pleasures, an intrinsically bitter component is added to the sweetness, and yields a far more pleasurable result than consuming the sweetness directly.

In a similar way, light is brighter when it is on a backdrop of darkness, and it is at this point in the Seder that we are able to relate to our suffering from a different place and extend our compassion to ourselves as well as to all those who suffer. For reasons we cannot fully understand, God in His infinite love adds painful challenge to the mix of life, and through it we are made great and our souls expand. A Seder without Maror lacks depth and beauty, and a heart without some pain lacks empathy. This is an advanced step and accrues the tremendous eternal reward of accepting our suffering with love. Ultimately, our pain brings us to an even more refined level of spirituality where we eliminate any vestige of impurity from ourselves and appear completely cleansed before God.

10. KORECH – THE SANDWICH

Here we are able to bear paradox and thereby go above the limitations of our minds. We lean like free men and make sandwiches as did Hillel in the time of the Temple. The sandwich is the ultimate mixture: the bread of freedom (matza) together with the bitter herbs (chazeres), dipped in the sweet mixture of the charoset symbolizing the mortar from the bricks of slavery. This is a real concoction, a sort of coda of the awareness we have been cultivating thus far, where we relate to our lives in a far deeper way than how they appeared to us at first. The bottom line: true freedom is derived from our relationship to God and gives our spirits the huge dimensions through which we can bear even the most intense paradox.

11. SHULCHAN ORECH – THE MEAL

At this moment, we have reached the level of sanctification where the act of eating our prepared feast is now the pinnacle of our Divine service. To prove that this is so, just before the main course begins, we actually say the first two paragraphs of Hallel, the praises King David composed to be said at our highest and most joyous moments. It couldn’t be clearer that the act of eating is not an interruption of the holy Hallel, but a continuation of our praises in the form of the partaking of our delicious meal. We praise God, fusing the physical and spiritual into one.

12. TZAFUN – REVEALING THE HIDDEN

Now, with a new relationship to our suffering, we are on the other side of any ordeal we have been through, and hold up our battle scars with hearts brimming with joy and eyes brimming with tears. In this advanced stage, we have a deeper understanding and see why it all had to be that way. Our souls are wide open. The hidden is revealed and we…

13. BARECH – GRACE AFTER THE MEAL

…move straight into the grace after meals, capitalizing on our joy which knows no bounds, as we identify God as the source of all the miracles that were unique to our journey. We are fully clear that both the difficult and the easy times originate from that very source.

14. HALLEL – PSALMS OF PRAISE

Now we utilize the power of our speech, which we have developed from the primitive groan of oppression to the brilliant articulation of our gratitude, into the realm of song. We master the art of turning our own lives into a song and we open our mouths to unashamedly sing that song that is uniquely our own. For this was the reason we came to the world in the first place.

15. NIRTZA – LONGING FOR REDEMPTION

We now come full circle, where all that is left to be heard is the scintillating silence after the song has ended its final notes and words are no longer necessary. The impression of our voices lingers in the still air while we bring our attention to our longing for the ultimate redemption. We pray that God receives all of our sincere offerings and grants us the ability to bring into reality all that we were able to touch within ourselves during the Seder. Next Year in Jerusalem!

recipe coming soon

recipe coming soon

~ This blog is dedicated to my husband R’ Ari Taback for his unfailing support.  ~

Based on “As Dawn Ends the Night” by R’ Akiva Tatz

Before I continue, let us review our questions.

  1. Why do we celebrate the miracle of chanuka when if fact since then, the “lights have completely gone out” – there hasn’t been an open miracle SINCE the chanuka story and in fact, Jewish history is peppered (ok, drenched) with exile, persecution and heartache. How do we connect to living on a miraculous plane when Hashem’s revelation is so profoundly hidden in our times?
  2. Why is chanuka not referenced to in the Torah?
  3. Why do we observe chanuka and purim without any cessation of melacha, constructive work, like Pesach, Shavuos, Sukkos but continue on with our regular activities?
  4. What is lighting the candles “doing” for us on a spiritual level?
  5. Why is our commemoration of the Judo-Greek battle still so relevant?
  6. Where are we situated now in the big picture of history?? What can we do to expedite the promised good of the messianic era?
  7. I’ll add another one – special for nexus – What does all this have to do especially for women? This is my favorite question 😊

~

The key to all these questions lies in making a distinction between the two phases of history, a distinction that the Arizal helps illustrate with his mysterious reference to Chanuka and Purim as the two “legs” of history. This of course ties into the archetypal feud between Yaakov and Esav in which the spiritual essential being of Esav mortally wounded Yaakov’s thigh. We mentioned that intriguingly,  “And he smit him on his leg” equals Chanuka and Purim in gematria. Each of the questions we started with enters the territory of a central teaching that will not only provide the answers but display new facets of beauty of this teaching.  Let’s begin with getting a grip on miracles.

The first phase of history was a phase of unimaginable revelation and miracles.  The world shone with a knowledge of the Divine that we cannot fathom in our day.  Prophets abounded (there were over a million – though not all their prophecies were recorded in Torah if they weren’t relevant for the long haul).  Direct encounter with Hashem on a constant basis by these prophets changed the air that everyone breathed.  The question wasn’t whether to believe in a Divine Being or not, but rather whether one wanted to serve G-d directly or negotiate with His intermediaries instead (in the form of idol worship) for personal interest.  Although temptation for the forces of evil was great (as demonstrated by the villains of that era) it was not the pathetic materialism, atheism, and ignorance that we have today.  The stakes were high because the spiritual voltage of that era was high.  It was clear to all that the material world was energized from an unseen but uncontested source world above it. Let’s call this stage of history phase one – it includes the splitting of the sea, the giving of the Torah, the prophets and miracles, and spanned up until the destruction of the first temple and the sealing of the written Torah (the 24 books of Tanach), at which point the world started to transition into phase two.  In phase one, although the miraculous was wondrous, it naturally fit into the spiritual worldview that dominated the minds of people.  Miracles were to those who saw them merely a temporary suspension of the laws of nature by He who designed them in the first place, in the context of a relationship with G-d that was as real as relating to flesh and blood.

The gemora (yoma 29a) says that “as dawn ends the night, so Esther ends [the era of] miracles”.  The stories of Chanuka and Purim were both the last vestiges of a supernatural mode of existence in a world that was going dark – Chanuka saw the burning of one day’s oil for eight days – a bending of the laws of nature one last time – and Purim saw the Hand of G-d as He saved the people from certain annihilation within the laws of nature.  At this time, prophesy was ending, Tanach was being sealed (the book of Esther was the last book to be included), the Men of the Great Assembly were institutionalizing formal prayer and standardized blessings to ensure that we would still know how to connect to G-d in the dark, and a new era began.  Goodbye to searing clarity, to intimate and direct experience of Hashem, to miracles and prophets.  And welcome…  Greeks.

Who were the Greeks?  With the rescinding of a supernatural light the Greeks were able to lay down a new operating system into the psyche of man called “reason”.  Reason is the elegant and hard to argue with mental tool that allows you to observe the evidence and draw logical conclusions.  Reason is the father of science, the grandfather of art, culture and aesthetic beauty, and the great uncle of technology.  Reason innocently sees what it there to be seen and in a backwards way divorced from any higher knowing, constructs a new paradigm of what we are living for.  Greek ideology could never have taken hold or elicited such allure in a world with open miracles – it would have been blown right out of the water when the evidence for the spiritual was experiential.  But when that faded to memory and Hashem removed His revelation, the mind-frame of reason appears the most plausible description of reality and how to engage with all that is.

Esav, Rome, and Edom [all names for the same empire] is a regime of brute force that when paired with the genius of Greece capitulated the Greek value system into the rest of world history.  Our battle with western ideology is in fact a battle with Greece at its core.  What’s worse is that we are fighting this battle within our own psyches without recognizing who is the enemy.  The logic and appeal of empirical ways of knowing tug at our western trained faculties and we struggle to recognize them as foreign because we have become them. 

Phase one, Hashem’s light pours into the world.  Phase two, it has gone dark.  And Chanuka is at the crux between them – a final display of other-worldly light that is to escort us into the long haul.  But wait!  The gemora about Esther, the heroine of Purim,  Chanuka’s “twin sister” festival which also escorted out the era of miracles and transitioned us into the new phase, doesn’t make sense …

“As the dawn ends the night, Esther ends [the era of] miracles”.

As the Dawn ends the night???  If we are using the imagery of light and day as our metaphor, shouldn’t the gemora say as dusk ends the day???  When Hashem shines Himself into the world – shouldn’t that be compared to DAY and our impossibly long exile compared to night?  Why is Esther likened to the morning star, Ayelet HaShachar, when she, Purim, and Chanuka bring us to a new phase in history when miracles are not present and prophecy has long since been silenced?

The answer is that although we are in the dark, there is indeed a new light dawning.  There is a secret wisdom that we can learn that allows us to access the same place where the miracles came from during the first phase of history, while we are in the second phase of history.  This wisdom has to do with the brilliance of the sages who participate in generating a second-phase Torah called the Oral Law.  The commitment, passion and creativity pressed from them and all who engage in cultivating this spiritual mentality is nothing less than a display of love from those who seek Hashem.  It is a new kind of light, one that is reflected and refracted from the original blaze of prophecy and miracles yet scintillates in the here-and-now with an otherworldly glow.  Men – and women – who understand this have touched the inner essence of their own Jewish psyche.  Precisely because it is dark, we are in a new phase of history where Hashem has invited us to step forward and create a new Torah and therefore a new relationship, through our own spiritual attunement.  He is inviting us to see the lights of the Chanuka and know that just because something cannot be quantified or measured doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but in actually it is ALL that really exists and in fact is the generator of the world that we do see.  Chanuka is an invitation to climb above the confines of our own Greek mindset and find ourselves in a world of miracles.  Not miracles that we can see blatantly but that we sense into within the darkness, trusting that they are there and banking our lives on them.  To quote a friend, “we don’t just believe in miracles – we rely on them!” That is what it means to be Jewish.  We may be western in our acculturation but we will always be spiritual at our core.  On Chanuka we allow the core to chart our path and relate to everything in our world through those new-found, undeniably Jewish eyes.  It’s time to take off the Greek glasses.

Esav battled with Yaakov, dislocating his hip.  The Arizal says that Chanuka and Purim are the legs of the cosmic body of Jewish history.   Legs, as limbs, are not core to the body, just as Chanuka and Purim are not core to the written Torah.  However, without legs, the torso is immobile and cannot carry itself beyond itself.  So too, the written Torah and its festivals of Pesach, Shavuos, Sukkos are indispensable to Torah and celebrate the direct light from Hashem as was experienced in the Temple.  When the lights went out, it was Chanuka and Purim that literally walked us into the dark of night and will ultimately be the ones to bring us to yet another dawn. They give the first phase of history continuity and hope for the future and will bridge us to the third and final phase of history, the arrival of Moshiach.

Yaakov’s leg remained injured until Chanuka – this means, until we entered the second phase, Yaakov [the Jewish people] didn’t have the tools to propel himself to the end of time, because he was still in the light and that was not the purpose of that phase of history.  But when all that light withdrew and Purim and Chanuka signaled a new beginning, we began healing the broken thigh by carrying Torah into the exile as only legs can do.  Hashem had made space for us to shine by withholding the very light we craved – and that is the subtle light – our own light – that we are able to emit.  How proud is our Father in Heaven when despite the darkness around us, we ourselves glow like Chanuka lights. It is truly a new day – in the darkness we have the lofty role of stitching together the phases of history – a luminous beginning with the dawn of the redemption, through our ability to renounce the limitations of reason and choose to see the light of a world that is hidden. Living with miracles is our choice – and when we are sure of them, they begin to reveal themselves to our very eyes.

~

Let’s go back and answer our questions.

  1. Why are we celebrating miracles when there are none in our times?

A – Miracles are no longer revealed to us but through our faith and a Jewish worldview we are sensitized to living on the plane of subtle miracles.  Seeing Hashem’s presence in our lives is like looking at the chanuka lights in the dark of night.

  1. Why is chanuka not referenced to in the Torah?

A – The whole essence of Chanuka is that it is not referenced to the past but to the future, and is the epitome of the brilliance of our sages and their authority to create a festival for and relating to the exile.  This is the power of the second phase of history, that of the Oral Torah.

  1. Why do we observe Chanuka and Purim without any cessation of melacha, constructive work, like Pesach, Shavuos, Sukkos…

A –  Ditto to above. The holiness of the festival lies precisely in the mundane because it is the perfect spiritual ammunition to combat it.   Chanuka and Purim bring the light into the darkness forever and ever and therefore are celebrated in the domain of the secular, since, in essence, there is no such thing as secular anyway – it is just a (Greek) illusion.

  1. What is lighting the candles “doing” for us on a spiritual level?

A – It is imprinting into our neshamos everything we need to accomplish our role in history, to keep on glowing in the dark.

  1. Why is our commemoration of the Judo-Greek battle still so relevant?

A – Rome and by extension the entire western world is merely an extension of Greek ideology.  Therefore the battle between Yaakov and Esav is the epic struggle before the coming of Moshiach.

  1. Where are we situated now in the big picture of history?? What can we do to expedite the promised good of the messianic era?

A – We are far down the leg… close to the feet, about to usher in the final redemption .  We expedite the coming of the dawn by referencing ourselves to that reality and live supernatural lives within the natural.  Let us not be too surprised when the truth is revealed because we were already aware of it!

  1. I’ll add another one – special for nexus – What does all this have to do especially for women?

A – This is the subject for another time to do it justice (stay tuned be”H for the Pre-Messianic Woman programs!) Let it suffice to say that the realm of faith, intuition and living with miracles is a woman’s forte and important contribution to our nation.  She is at the nexus of light and dark, day and night, spiritual and physical, and is perfectly suited to be a key player to bring the redemption. 

 

Chanuka Sameach!

 

Chanuka – Claiming Miracles

Part 1

Dedicated to:

Emuna bas Zahava for speedy refuah shelaima

HaYeled ben Oriana Devorah for speedy Refuah Shelaima

~

וירא כי לא יכול לו ויגע בכף ירכו ותקע כף ירך יעקב בהאבקו עמו

Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. When he perceived that he could not overcome him, he struck the socket of his hip; so Yaakov’s hip socket was dislocated as he wrestled with him. Then he said, let me go, for dawn has broken. (Bereishis 32: 25-27)

 

Inspired by “As Dawn Ends the Night” by Rabbi Akiva Tatz (Targum 2018)

 

As Chanuka approaches I am pondering many things. 

Kislev is known as the month of miracles. 

And yet, we are so deep into the exile … it is so, so dark out there – even as the sun shines here in the South African summer.  When was the last time you saw a sea split or manna come down from Heaven?  Or heard the voice of a prophet?  (Or perhaps you heard prophecy yourself? I hope you don’t answer yes to that one 🙂 ) 

The era of miracles was long, long ago.   In fact, the miraculous burning of the oil for 8 days was the last documented miracle in Jewish history, a cut-off point so to speak from a previous era,[1] and since then it hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park.  Whether through threat of mortal persecution and annihilation or the smiling temptation to adopt a foreign ideology, the Jewish soul and body has been under threat for most of history since the Chanuka story.  So, what does it mean that kislev is a month of miracles – and most importantly, what does living with miracles mean for us today?  Is this something we can even hope for?

 

A few other questions:

  • Why is there no reference to Chanuka in the Torah?? As one of the key features of the Jewish year, we would expect to find it referenced in the Torah since every aspect of Jewish life obviously must be contained in the Torah. In fact, the laws and details of Chanuka aren’t even brought down in the Mishna!! All relevant discussion about Chanuka is found in the Talmud alone. What is this textually hidden festival of lights all about?

 

  • Why is Chanuka (and Purim, for that matter) not observed with a similar sanctity as the Biblical festivals like Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos with the cessation of all constructive work? Many find it hard to “connect” to the festival when we continue all of our regular activities and mundane concerns for the duration of the eight days, save lighting the candles every night.  To put it cynically, how many latkes must one eat or draidels must one spin to somehow activate the latent spiritual potential in the chag? What is happening on a soul level and how can we tap into this consciously?

 

  • Who are we lighting for… the nations of the world? Ourselves?  In South Africa, no one places their menorah on the street since our houses are surrounded by security walls.  Thus it is clear that we are not lighting for the nations of the world.   Put differently, what is lighting candles each night achieving for each one of us on a soul level?

 

  • Why is our commemoration of our battle with the Greeks even still relevant? The dust has long settled since the rise and fall of the Greek empire… why is this battle still relevant? This one is Greek to me!

 

  • And finally… let’s get some context please. Where are we in the unfolding of history and to what destination are we headed?  And how do we get there??

 

~

Take a look at our opening verse from this week’s parasha.  There are deep undertones, as there are in every nook and cranny in Torah. For these verses, let us contemplate the possibility that perhaps the dawn is not only referring to the literal break of sunlight spilling upward from the horizon marking the end of Yaakov’s primal battle with the angle of Esav on that particular morning, but perhaps the dawn alludes to something much deeper and historic – the break of the dawn of redemption. Let’s plug that in and see what the verses are saying now.

“Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. When he perceived that he could not overcome him, he struck the socket of his hip; so Yaakov’s hip socket was dislocated as he wrestled with him. Then he said, let me go, for dawn has broken.” 

The wrestling of Yakov and Esav contained within it and foreshadowed the bitter and intense battle of empires over thousands of years.  But, as the verse tells us, once dawn has broken, it will all be over.

What’s of interest then is what happened as they pivoted in the dust in their match under the stars.  “When [the angel of Esav] perceived that he could not overcome him [Yaakov], he struck the socket of his hip…”, dislocating it.  Yaakov emerged unconquered by the Angel of Esav, but limped forever after that… well, until the Chanuka story when the injury began healing, as we will see. 

R’ Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld makes an astounding observation.[2]  “ויגע בכף ירכו” – “And he struck the socket of his hip” hints to the two festivals not of biblical origin, Chanuka and Purim, by using the method of investigation known as gematria, observing the similar numerical values of the letters of the words.  “Vayiga – and he struck” equals the numerical value of “Chanuka” (amazing!) and “kaf yereicho”, “the socket of his hip” equals the numerical value of Purim.  Wow!

What does this all mean?

The Arizal[3] provides the missing link between the battle of Yaakov and Esav and the festivals of Chanuka and Purim.  He divulges that  mysteriously, Chanuka and Purim are likened to the legs of the cosmic body of Jewish history.  The injury to Yakov’s left hip starts to fall into place (literally and figuratively) with the miracles that precipitated the festival of lights at the time of the epic Greek and Jewish battle.  This teachings holds the answers to all the questions we started with, and most importantly sheds light on how we can come to live with miracles too.  But before we can understand this, some other background is necessary.

TO BE CONTINUED BE”H

~

[1] Aside from the miraculous preservation of the dead of Beitar after the destruction of the Second Temple, a hint to the eventual resurrection of the dead at the end of days

[2] As cited on page 166 in R’ Tatz’s “As Dawn Ends the Night” – a title reflecting exactly our verse 

[3] Shaar Hakavanot; Meor Eynaim, Haazinu

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תשע”ט 

Have you ever wondered why our sages teach us that the final seal on our judgment for the year is on Hashana Rabba? It certainly doesn’t seem like that when we pray with all our might at Neila on Yom Kippur – Neila in fact means the locking of the gates, the final seal. So, what is Hoshana Rabba all about? Why do we have until today to do tashlich and take care of any last threads of teshuva and spiritual repair? Why do today we pray so fervently and wish our loved ones a “good kvittel” – lit. “a good letter”?

Hoshana Rabba is the final day of Sukkot, the festival when we are judged for rain. We pray that the channels of water should open in shamayim and its abundance should start to descend into the vessels we have created during the past 21 days. In that sense, whatever cosmic changes we have made in the spiritual spheres we only start to experience once they reach us, much like one can only read a letter that is in one’s hands – not as it is being written or sealed by the sender. (On Rosh Hashana – the letter is written. On Yom kippur, it is sealed. And today on Hashana Rabba it is dispatched – may it be for good with Hashem’s abundant mercy.)

This, however, only happens through the power of prayer. Just like the first man in Gad Eden, the bounty and produce was positioned just beneath the surface waiting to burst through to visibility only when Adam prayed for it, our new year and its bounty is just “above” the surface of Heaven, so to speak, waiting for us to elicit its dispatch through prayer. (R’ Moshe Shapiro)

Rain is a channel, a passage way from above to below. The Hebrew word for blessing, ברכה, etymologically shares its meaning with the word בריכה, “pool”. The blessings Hashem wants to give us have collected so to speak Above and by the creation of a channel, they will begin their descent.

תשע”ט = ת”ש עין טובה! May it be a year that Hashem has a good Eye for us, that we have a good Eye for ourselves, for others and for the year to come.

Wishing you a good kvittel and bountiful, nurturing showers of blessing.