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Careful! Up to Mischief

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The Jewish year begins ceremoniously with the shofar blast of Rosh Hashanah (New Year), salve and continues to reach new climaxes with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), click Sukkot (Festival of Tabernacles) and Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Torah). Despite a certain drop in energy during the month of Cheshvan, when there are no festivals, the scent of the festivals continues to accompany us until we move on to the third month of the year, Kislev. Kislev is illuminated by the Chanukah candles, which shine through the end of the month and include the beginning of the month of Tevet. The Chanukah candles symbolize the end of the light that shines from the festivals with which the year began. Then, we reach the month of Tevet and the fast of the Tenth of Tevet, the first of the fasts that commemorate the destruction of the Temple.[1]

The Tenth of Tevet marks the beginning of the siege on Jerusalem?then we begin to realize that there are dates in the Jewish calendar that are not such happy occasions…

The Lowest Descent

We might say that the Tenth of Tevet is the lowest descent. On Rosh Hashanah everything is pristine and clear, initial and pure, as if we stand on a mountain peak, breathing in deeply the fresh mountain air. Then, our prayers are at the highest possible level, as we pray to God, “Rule over the entire world with Your glory.”[2] But, it is difficult to stay at the summit of this spiritual mountain, and after the festivals we naturally begin to descend. The great lights gradually disappear, the feelings of holiness and spiritual uplifting wear away and it seems that we lose the spiritual energy that we acquired at the beginning of the year. The completion of this process is symbolized by the number ten, which always represents an end point. This is seen quite simply from our ten fingers, or in the decimal system where the number ten is the final number. In fact, the Tenth of Tevet is tenth from two directions: it is the tenth day of the tenth month (when we count the months from Nisan). Some years, as in this year 5774, the Tenth of Tevet actually falls on the one-hundredth day of the year and one-hundred is ten squared (102). So, we have descended all ten levels and reached rock-bottom. It seems appropriate then, that the Tenth of Tevet represents the entire process of destruction, since it was on this day that Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylonia, began a siege on Jerusalem?the beginning of the end of the first Temple.

Chassidut teaches us that every phenomenon on the national plane is also reflected on the personal plane. This is why the Tenth of Tevet should be explained not only with reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in their literal context, but also to the events that occur in our psyches. Once we have constructed the Temple in our souls, the physical Temple on Mt. Moriah will also be rebuilt. The same is also true from the opposite perspective: once the Temple is rebuilt, the light of the Divine Presence will illuminate our hearts, as the verse indicates, “And they shall make for Me a Temple and I shall dwell within them”? “within them” in the plural, meaning that God will dwell within the Jewish People. [3]Every one of us has an inner Jerusalem in our heart?an inner point of perfect fear of Heaven.[4] This point of Jerusalem within our hearts is aroused on Rosh Hashanah, but gradually disappears, until the lights are finally extinguished on the Tenth of Tevet. Parallel to this on the national scale, the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple are the climax of the connection between the Jewish People and the Almighty. Yet, we see that immediately following the dedication of the first Temple by King Solomon, a process of spiritual descent began that ended with the siege and the Temple’s destruction. In recent years, it has also become the practice to mention the dreadful Holocaust, which we cannot imagine any night darker than its black shadow.

When Descent becomes Positive

So, what is the purpose of this descent? Why do we fast on the Tenth of Tevet? Is it to wallow in sadness and depression, just to shed tears over reaching a low point? Not at all! A fast day is a day that arouses us to rectify the situation from below, as Maimonides[5] writes:

There are certain days when all the Jewish people fast because of the troubles that took place on them. [This is] to arouse the hearts and to open the paths to repentance and this should remind us of our evil deeds and those of our ancestors, which were no better than our own deeds, so much so that that they brought upon them and upon us these troubles. Because, by remembering these things, we will return to do good…

Since every fast is intended “To arouse the hearts and to open the paths to repentance,” let’s note the type of arousal that is especially suited to fast of the Tenth of Tevet. We have already seen that the fast of the tenth month is a phase of descent and we can learn from this that we must find the particular path to repentance that we have access to on this day. The key is to transform the descent itself into something good. How can this be achieved?

Intermingled with any emotional state of arousal is something superficial and not completely authentic. When our heart beats with enthusiasm and strong feelings throb within us, there is always a sense of self that feels these emotions and often they are not one-hundred percent authentic. These emotions usually include a touch or more of wild imagination, or an attempt to reproduce something that is not genuinely our own. They may well be accompanied by self-excitement, to a certain extent, which produces an artificial experience of spiritual ecstasy. Within such a dream-like uplifting atmosphere, one floats somewhere above the ground and above one’s own character. Many of the lights that we reach in this state do not become our own personal acquisition. In order to make them our own, we need to descend with them to the lowest possible level, to surrender our spiritual ecstasy, put aside our imagination and remain somewhat “dry.” When we succeed in doing so, we reach the most profound level of our inner selves that is the essential “me” without any embellishments. A process of descent such as this is the true healing of a person’s soul, a sort of “psychological diet,” that disposes of all the excess fats and reveals our strong, healthy bones and essence. So, after the first one-hundred days of loving-kindness in the year we must complete our psychological diet by fasting on the Tenth of Tevet. Instead of a negative fall, we need to descend to a positive level at which we succeed in bringing down all the grand lights that we experienced previously to the ground-level of our souls. On the Tenth of Tevet we must return to God in a way that does not anticipate great lights. We just need to descend to mundane reality and to the essential level of the soul and simply begin to serve God from that level.

On the national level, Jerusalem was rebuilt and the Temple dedicated, with a magnificent beauty that has no counterpart. But retrospectively, it became clear that some of the great lights were not completely integrated by the nation’s inner essence. This is why it was necessary to go through a penetrating clarification process, as all the prophets cautioned. They were sent to return the Jewish People to the Almighty and they warned that the Temple should not be related to as a security certificate that is complete in itself and does not require any other service. In this context, the message of Tenth of Tevet is to work on the positive process of bringing the great spiritual lights into the world and realizing them in reality. Indeed, the sages describe the dwelling of the Divine Presence in the Temple as a positive descent: “When God created the world He desired that He have a dwelling place in the lower worlds.” [6] Sin banishes the Divine Presence from earth to heaven, while the good deeds of the righteous reconstruct the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the Temple, and succeed in bringing the Divine Presence down into the very lowest realms.

The exile of the Divine Presence from the Temple is described as the ten journeys that the Divine Presence traveled as it rose from the Holy of Holies in the Temple, until reaching its abode in the heavens. [7]The redemption is a renewed descent of the Divine Presence to the lowest reality; quite literally, as it is called, “A dwelling place in the lowest worlds.”

An Easy Fast

The Prophet Zachariah announced that all fast days that commemorate the destruction of the Temple will turn into joy and happiness, “The fast of the fourth month [17th Tamuz] and the fast of the fifth month [9th Av] and the fast of the seventh month [Tzom Gedaliah, 3rd of Tishrei] and the fast of the tenth month [10th Tevet] will be for the House of Judah joy and happiness and festive times.”[8] Even while we fast and mourn, we can already sense the future joy that is hidden in these days. In fact, these days were intended to be joyful from the beginning, “The end of the deed is in the original thought.”

In practice, the Tenth of Tevet is the easiest fast, because it falls during the shortest winter days. This is especially true this year (5774) when it falls on a Friday when we are busy preparing for Shabbat and hardly feel the fast at all. This indicates the simplicity with which we can transform this fast and sweeten it, by joining Friday to the Shabbat, which is “a taste of the World to Come.” By perceiving the destruction at its initial point, we can transform the negative descent into a positive descent, bringing the Divine Presence down into this lowest world.

Kingdom in Kingdom

According to Kabbalistic wisdom, we can easily perceive the abovementioned descent as a positive concept. In Kabbalah, the creation of the world is described as a long, complex, and complicated evolutionary process of descent from the infinite, spiritual Divine light down to depths of mundane reality in the world as we know it. The basic system that runs through this process is the fabric of the ten sefirot, of which the tenth and lowest is the sefirah of kingdom. Within the sefirah of kingdom exists an interinclusion of all ten sefirot, so all the sefirot are in fact finalized by “kingdom in kingdom,” which is the tenth of the tenth, exactly like the Tenth of Tevet, the tenth day of the tenth month.

Yet, although the system of the sefirot descends to the sefirah of kingdom, the lowest of them all, nonetheless, the descent is not one of negative decline and deterioration. On the contrary, it strives to fulfill God’s desire to reach the lowest point to which it is directed. The entire evolution of the spiritual worlds was intended to reach the lowest point, to reveal God’s kingdom within our superficial mundane reality that seems foreign to spirituality. The ultimate aim is to reveal God’s kingdom in all the levels of the world and in the consciousness of all creations. Then “God will be King over the entire world. On that day God will be one and His Name will be One.”[9] The extension of His kingdom in all His creations is a positive descent. Moreover, the root “to descend” (???) also refers to, “government and kingdom,” (as we find in various Torah verses). [10]

God’s kingdom is not just an abstract idea or merely a matter of acknowledging God’s sovereignty in our hearts. God’s kingdom appears in a very concrete garb, in the form of the kingdom of Israel. When the Jewish People is united in the Land of Israel under a rectified rule that follows the Torah, it becomes the Kingdom of Israel that serves as a throne to God’s kingdom in the world. This idea becomes apparent from the verse that refers to King Solomon, “And Solomon sat upon God’s throne as king.”[11]

The correct blueprint for constructing the kingdom of Israel appears as a three-stage process:[12]

  1. Rectifying leadership to the extent of coronating a king of Israel. He must be a righteous king who cares for his people, a descendant of King David, whose success will prove that he is the Mashiach.
  2. Victory over all enemies: this stage of war will culminate in the victory over Amalek, the archetypal enemy of the Jewish People, which will essentially be internationally eliminating all evil from the world.
  3. The construction of the Temple, reaching a golden age when the Divine Presence resides within the Jewish People, and through them, reaches the entire world.

The three dates that commemorate the destruction parallel the three stages of this process:

  1. The Tenth of Tevet, with the beginning of the siege over Jerusalem saw the nullification of Jewish kingdom in Israel.
  2. On the seventeenth of Tamuz, a hole was breached in the fortress that surrounded Jerusalem and the war spread to every corner.
  3. The remnant of the military ability crumbled on the Ninth of Av, when the Temple itself was destroyed.

Here too, our task is to transform the fast days to joy and happiness, therefore:

  1. On the Tenth of Tevet, the day of the tenth sefirah, a day when the Jewish kingdom was annulled, it is our task to reinstate the kingdom of Israel, by uniting the People around a rectified leadership that follows the Torah. This rectifies the descent, beginning from below, from the first and most fundamental level of rectifying the state’s leadership.
  2. On the Seventeenth of Tamuz we confront the military aspect of things, when it becomes apparent that Mashiach will be triumphant, without one battle and without shooting even one bullet (as Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught).
  3. On the Ninth of Av, we are occupied with the reconstruction of the Temple which is a heavenly seal that results from our own work, “With fire You did ignite it and with fire You will reconstruct it in the future.”[13]

Adapted and Translated from the article entitled “The Fast of the Tenth Month, from the book, Maayan Ganim (???? ????), Vol. Bereishit (??????)



[1] The Fast of Gedaliah (3rd Tishrei) precedes the Tenth of Tevet in the calendar, but chronologically speaking, the Fast of Gedaliah was the fast that culminated the destruction.

[2] Rosh Hashanah prayers.

[3]  Exodus 25:8. Reishit Chochmah, Sha’ar Ha’ahavah ch. 6.

[4]The main letters of the words, “inner fear of Heaven” (?????? ???????? ????????) are an acronym for “Jerusalem” (??????????).

[5]Hilchot Ta’anit 5:1. .

[6] Tanchuma, Naso 16.

[7] Rosh Hashanah 31a.

[8] Zachariah 8:19.

[9]  Zachariah 14:9.

[10] E.g., Genesis 1:28; Numbers 24:19.

[11] I Chronicles 29:23.

[12] Maimonides, Hilchot Melachim (Laws of Kings).

[13] From the addition to the standing prayer (amidah) on the Ninth of Av.

x stairs

The Jewish year begins ceremoniously with the shofar blast of Rosh Hashanah (New Year), salve and continues to reach new climaxes with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), click Sukkot (Festival of Tabernacles) and Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Torah). Despite a certain drop in energy during the month of Cheshvan, when there are no festivals, the scent of the festivals continues to accompany us until we move on to the third month of the year, Kislev. Kislev is illuminated by the Chanukah candles, which shine through the end of the month and include the beginning of the month of Tevet. The Chanukah candles symbolize the end of the light that shines from the festivals with which the year began. Then, we reach the month of Tevet and the fast of the Tenth of Tevet, the first of the fasts that commemorate the destruction of the Temple.[1]

The Tenth of Tevet marks the beginning of the siege on Jerusalem?then we begin to realize that there are dates in the Jewish calendar that are not such happy occasions…

The Lowest Descent

We might say that the Tenth of Tevet is the lowest descent. On Rosh Hashanah everything is pristine and clear, initial and pure, as if we stand on a mountain peak, breathing in deeply the fresh mountain air. Then, our prayers are at the highest possible level, as we pray to God, “Rule over the entire world with Your glory.”[2] But, it is difficult to stay at the summit of this spiritual mountain, and after the festivals we naturally begin to descend. The great lights gradually disappear, the feelings of holiness and spiritual uplifting wear away and it seems that we lose the spiritual energy that we acquired at the beginning of the year. The completion of this process is symbolized by the number ten, which always represents an end point. This is seen quite simply from our ten fingers, or in the decimal system where the number ten is the final number. In fact, the Tenth of Tevet is tenth from two directions: it is the tenth day of the tenth month (when we count the months from Nisan). Some years, as in this year 5774, the Tenth of Tevet actually falls on the one-hundredth day of the year and one-hundred is ten squared (102). So, we have descended all ten levels and reached rock-bottom. It seems appropriate then, that the Tenth of Tevet represents the entire process of destruction, since it was on this day that Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylonia, began a siege on Jerusalem?the beginning of the end of the first Temple.

Chassidut teaches us that every phenomenon on the national plane is also reflected on the personal plane. This is why the Tenth of Tevet should be explained not only with reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in their literal context, but also to the events that occur in our psyches. Once we have constructed the Temple in our souls, the physical Temple on Mt. Moriah will also be rebuilt. The same is also true from the opposite perspective: once the Temple is rebuilt, the light of the Divine Presence will illuminate our hearts, as the verse indicates, “And they shall make for Me a Temple and I shall dwell within them”? “within them” in the plural, meaning that God will dwell within the Jewish People. [3]Every one of us has an inner Jerusalem in our heart?an inner point of perfect fear of Heaven.[4] This point of Jerusalem within our hearts is aroused on Rosh Hashanah, but gradually disappears, until the lights are finally extinguished on the Tenth of Tevet. Parallel to this on the national scale, the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple are the climax of the connection between the Jewish People and the Almighty. Yet, we see that immediately following the dedication of the first Temple by King Solomon, a process of spiritual descent began that ended with the siege and the Temple’s destruction. In recent years, it has also become the practice to mention the dreadful Holocaust, which we cannot imagine any night darker than its black shadow.

When Descent becomes Positive

So, what is the purpose of this descent? Why do we fast on the Tenth of Tevet? Is it to wallow in sadness and depression, just to shed tears over reaching a low point? Not at all! A fast day is a day that arouses us to rectify the situation from below, as Maimonides[5] writes:

There are certain days when all the Jewish people fast because of the troubles that took place on them. [This is] to arouse the hearts and to open the paths to repentance and this should remind us of our evil deeds and those of our ancestors, which were no better than our own deeds, so much so that that they brought upon them and upon us these troubles. Because, by remembering these things, we will return to do good…

Since every fast is intended “To arouse the hearts and to open the paths to repentance,” let’s note the type of arousal that is especially suited to fast of the Tenth of Tevet. We have already seen that the fast of the tenth month is a phase of descent and we can learn from this that we must find the particular path to repentance that we have access to on this day. The key is to transform the descent itself into something good. How can this be achieved?

Intermingled with any emotional state of arousal is something superficial and not completely authentic. When our heart beats with enthusiasm and strong feelings throb within us, there is always a sense of self that feels these emotions and often they are not one-hundred percent authentic. These emotions usually include a touch or more of wild imagination, or an attempt to reproduce something that is not genuinely our own. They may well be accompanied by self-excitement, to a certain extent, which produces an artificial experience of spiritual ecstasy. Within such a dream-like uplifting atmosphere, one floats somewhere above the ground and above one’s own character. Many of the lights that we reach in this state do not become our own personal acquisition. In order to make them our own, we need to descend with them to the lowest possible level, to surrender our spiritual ecstasy, put aside our imagination and remain somewhat “dry.” When we succeed in doing so, we reach the most profound level of our inner selves that is the essential “me” without any embellishments. A process of descent such as this is the true healing of a person’s soul, a sort of “psychological diet,” that disposes of all the excess fats and reveals our strong, healthy bones and essence. So, after the first one-hundred days of loving-kindness in the year we must complete our psychological diet by fasting on the Tenth of Tevet. Instead of a negative fall, we need to descend to a positive level at which we succeed in bringing down all the grand lights that we experienced previously to the ground-level of our souls. On the Tenth of Tevet we must return to God in a way that does not anticipate great lights. We just need to descend to mundane reality and to the essential level of the soul and simply begin to serve God from that level.

On the national level, Jerusalem was rebuilt and the Temple dedicated, with a magnificent beauty that has no counterpart. But retrospectively, it became clear that some of the great lights were not completely integrated by the nation’s inner essence. This is why it was necessary to go through a penetrating clarification process, as all the prophets cautioned. They were sent to return the Jewish People to the Almighty and they warned that the Temple should not be related to as a security certificate that is complete in itself and does not require any other service. In this context, the message of Tenth of Tevet is to work on the positive process of bringing the great spiritual lights into the world and realizing them in reality. Indeed, the sages describe the dwelling of the Divine Presence in the Temple as a positive descent: “When God created the world He desired that He have a dwelling place in the lower worlds.” [6] Sin banishes the Divine Presence from earth to heaven, while the good deeds of the righteous reconstruct the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the Temple, and succeed in bringing the Divine Presence down into the very lowest realms.

The exile of the Divine Presence from the Temple is described as the ten journeys that the Divine Presence traveled as it rose from the Holy of Holies in the Temple, until reaching its abode in the heavens. [7]The redemption is a renewed descent of the Divine Presence to the lowest reality; quite literally, as it is called, “A dwelling place in the lowest worlds.”

An Easy Fast

The Prophet Zachariah announced that all fast days that commemorate the destruction of the Temple will turn into joy and happiness, “The fast of the fourth month [17th Tamuz] and the fast of the fifth month [9th Av] and the fast of the seventh month [Tzom Gedaliah, 3rd of Tishrei] and the fast of the tenth month [10th Tevet] will be for the House of Judah joy and happiness and festive times.”[8] Even while we fast and mourn, we can already sense the future joy that is hidden in these days. In fact, these days were intended to be joyful from the beginning, “The end of the deed is in the original thought.”

In practice, the Tenth of Tevet is the easiest fast, because it falls during the shortest winter days. This is especially true this year (5774) when it falls on a Friday when we are busy preparing for Shabbat and hardly feel the fast at all. This indicates the simplicity with which we can transform this fast and sweeten it, by joining Friday to the Shabbat, which is “a taste of the World to Come.” By perceiving the destruction at its initial point, we can transform the negative descent into a positive descent, bringing the Divine Presence down into this lowest world.

Kingdom in Kingdom

According to Kabbalistic wisdom, we can easily perceive the abovementioned descent as a positive concept. In Kabbalah, the creation of the world is described as a long, complex, and complicated evolutionary process of descent from the infinite, spiritual Divine light down to depths of mundane reality in the world as we know it. The basic system that runs through this process is the fabric of the ten sefirot, of which the tenth and lowest is the sefirah of kingdom. Within the sefirah of kingdom exists an interinclusion of all ten sefirot, so all the sefirot are in fact finalized by “kingdom in kingdom,” which is the tenth of the tenth, exactly like the Tenth of Tevet, the tenth day of the tenth month.

Yet, although the system of the sefirot descends to the sefirah of kingdom, the lowest of them all, nonetheless, the descent is not one of negative decline and deterioration. On the contrary, it strives to fulfill God’s desire to reach the lowest point to which it is directed. The entire evolution of the spiritual worlds was intended to reach the lowest point, to reveal God’s kingdom within our superficial mundane reality that seems foreign to spirituality. The ultimate aim is to reveal God’s kingdom in all the levels of the world and in the consciousness of all creations. Then “God will be King over the entire world. On that day God will be one and His Name will be One.”[9] The extension of His kingdom in all His creations is a positive descent. Moreover, the root “to descend” (???) also refers to, “government and kingdom,” (as we find in various Torah verses). [10]

God’s kingdom is not just an abstract idea or merely a matter of acknowledging God’s sovereignty in our hearts. God’s kingdom appears in a very concrete garb, in the form of the kingdom of Israel. When the Jewish People is united in the Land of Israel under a rectified rule that follows the Torah, it becomes the Kingdom of Israel that serves as a throne to God’s kingdom in the world. This idea becomes apparent from the verse that refers to King Solomon, “And Solomon sat upon God’s throne as king.”[11]

The correct blueprint for constructing the kingdom of Israel appears as a three-stage process:[12]

  1. Rectifying leadership to the extent of coronating a king of Israel. He must be a righteous king who cares for his people, a descendant of King David, whose success will prove that he is the Mashiach.
  2. Victory over all enemies: this stage of war will culminate in the victory over Amalek, the archetypal enemy of the Jewish People, which will essentially be internationally eliminating all evil from the world.
  3. The construction of the Temple, reaching a golden age when the Divine Presence resides within the Jewish People, and through them, reaches the entire world.

The three dates that commemorate the destruction parallel the three stages of this process:

  1. The Tenth of Tevet, with the beginning of the siege over Jerusalem saw the nullification of Jewish kingdom in Israel.
  2. On the seventeenth of Tamuz, a hole was breached in the fortress that surrounded Jerusalem and the war spread to every corner.
  3. The remnant of the military ability crumbled on the Ninth of Av, when the Temple itself was destroyed.

Here too, our task is to transform the fast days to joy and happiness, therefore:

  1. On the Tenth of Tevet, the day of the tenth sefirah, a day when the Jewish kingdom was annulled, it is our task to reinstate the kingdom of Israel, by uniting the People around a rectified leadership that follows the Torah. This rectifies the descent, beginning from below, from the first and most fundamental level of rectifying the state’s leadership.
  2. On the Seventeenth of Tamuz we confront the military aspect of things, when it becomes apparent that Mashiach will be triumphant, without one battle and without shooting even one bullet (as Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught).
  3. On the Ninth of Av, we are occupied with the reconstruction of the Temple which is a heavenly seal that results from our own work, “With fire You did ignite it and with fire You will reconstruct it in the future.”[13]

Adapted and Translated from the article entitled “The Fast of the Tenth Month, from the book, Maayan Ganim (???? ????), Vol. Bereishit (??????)



[1] The Fast of Gedaliah (3rd Tishrei) precedes the Tenth of Tevet in the calendar, but chronologically speaking, the Fast of Gedaliah was the fast that culminated the destruction.

[2] Rosh Hashanah prayers.

[3]  Exodus 25:8. Reishit Chochmah, Sha’ar Ha’ahavah ch. 6.

[4]The main letters of the words, “inner fear of Heaven” (?????? ???????? ????????) are an acronym for “Jerusalem” (??????????).

[5]Hilchot Ta’anit 5:1. .

[6] Tanchuma, Naso 16.

[7] Rosh Hashanah 31a.

[8] Zachariah 8:19.

[9]  Zachariah 14:9.

[10] E.g., Genesis 1:28; Numbers 24:19.

[11] I Chronicles 29:23.

[12] Maimonides, Hilchot Melachim (Laws of Kings).

[13] From the addition to the standing prayer (amidah) on the Ninth of Av.

x stairs

The Jewish year begins ceremoniously with the shofar blast of Rosh Hashanah (New Year), web
and continues to reach new climaxes with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), buy viagra Sukkot (Festival of Tabernacles) and Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Torah). Despite a certain drop in energy during the month of Cheshvan, order when there are no festivals, the scent of the festivals continues to accompany us until we move on to the third month of the year, Kislev. Kislev is illuminated by the Chanukah candles, which shine through the end of the month and include the beginning of the month of Tevet. The Chanukah candles symbolize the end of the light that shines from the festivals with which the year began. Then, we reach the month of Tevet and the fast of the Tenth of Tevet, the first of the fasts that commemorate the destruction of the Temple.[1]

The Tenth of Tevet marks the beginning of the siege on Jerusalem?then we begin to realize that there are dates in the Jewish calendar that are not such happy occasions…

The Lowest Descent

We might say that the Tenth of Tevet is the lowest descent. On Rosh Hashanah everything is pristine and clear, initial and pure, as if we stand on a mountain peak, breathing in deeply the fresh mountain air. Then, our prayers are at the highest possible level, as we pray to God, “Rule over the entire world with Your glory.”[2] But, it is difficult to stay at the summit of this spiritual mountain, and after the festivals we naturally begin to descend. The great lights gradually disappear, the feelings of holiness and spiritual uplifting wear away and it seems that we lose the spiritual energy that we acquired at the beginning of the year. The completion of this process is symbolized by the number ten, which always represents an end point. This is seen quite simply from our ten fingers, or in the decimal system where the number ten is the final number. In fact, the Tenth of Tevet is tenth from two directions: it is the tenth day of the tenth month (when we count the months from Nisan). Some years, as in this year 5774, the Tenth of Tevet actually falls on the one-hundredth day of the year and one-hundred is ten squared (102). So, we have descended all ten levels and reached rock-bottom. It seems appropriate then, that the Tenth of Tevet represents the entire process of destruction, since it was on this day that Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylonia, began a siege on Jerusalem?the beginning of the end of the first Temple.

Chassidut teaches us that every phenomenon on the national plane is also reflected on the personal plane. This is why the Tenth of Tevet should be explained not only with reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in their literal context, but also to the events that occur in our psyches. Once we have constructed the Temple in our souls, the physical Temple on Mt. Moriah will also be rebuilt. The same is also true from the opposite perspective: once the Temple is rebuilt, the light of the Divine Presence will illuminate our hearts, as the verse indicates, “And they shall make for Me a Temple and I shall dwell within them”? “within them” in the plural, meaning that God will dwell within the Jewish People. [3]Every one of us has an inner Jerusalem in our heart?an inner point of perfect fear of Heaven.[4] This point of Jerusalem within our hearts is aroused on Rosh Hashanah, but gradually disappears, until the lights are finally extinguished on the Tenth of Tevet. Parallel to this on the national scale, the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple are the climax of the connection between the Jewish People and the Almighty. Yet, we see that immediately following the dedication of the first Temple by King Solomon, a process of spiritual descent began that ended with the siege and the Temple’s destruction. In recent years, it has also become the practice to mention the dreadful Holocaust, which we cannot imagine any night darker than its black shadow.

When Descent becomes Positive

So, what is the purpose of this descent? Why do we fast on the Tenth of Tevet? Is it to wallow in sadness and depression, just to shed tears over reaching a low point? Not at all! A fast day is a day that arouses us to rectify the situation from below, as Maimonides[5] writes:

There are certain days when all the Jewish people fast because of the troubles that took place on them. [This is] to arouse the hearts and to open the paths to repentance and this should remind us of our evil deeds and those of our ancestors, which were no better than our own deeds, so much so that that they brought upon them and upon us these troubles. Because, by remembering these things, we will return to do good…

Since every fast is intended “To arouse the hearts and to open the paths to repentance,” let’s note the type of arousal that is especially suited to fast of the Tenth of Tevet. We have already seen that the fast of the tenth month is a phase of descent and we can learn from this that we must find the particular path to repentance that we have access to on this day. The key is to transform the descent itself into something good. How can this be achieved?

Intermingled with any emotional state of arousal is something superficial and not completely authentic. When our heart beats with enthusiasm and strong feelings throb within us, there is always a sense of self that feels these emotions and often they are not one-hundred percent authentic. These emotions usually include a touch or more of wild imagination, or an attempt to reproduce something that is not genuinely our own. They may well be accompanied by self-excitement, to a certain extent, which produces an artificial experience of spiritual ecstasy. Within such a dream-like uplifting atmosphere, one floats somewhere above the ground and above one’s own character. Many of the lights that we reach in this state do not become our own personal acquisition. In order to make them our own, we need to descend with them to the lowest possible level, to surrender our spiritual ecstasy, put aside our imagination and remain somewhat “dry.” When we succeed in doing so, we reach the most profound level of our inner selves that is the essential “me” without any embellishments. A process of descent such as this is the true healing of a person’s soul, a sort of “psychological diet,” that disposes of all the excess fats and reveals our strong, healthy bones and essence. So, after the first one-hundred days of loving-kindness in the year we must complete our psychological diet by fasting on the Tenth of Tevet. Instead of a negative fall, we need to descend to a positive level at which we succeed in bringing down all the grand lights that we experienced previously to the ground-level of our souls. On the Tenth of Tevet we must return to God in a way that does not anticipate great lights. We just need to descend to mundane reality and to the essential level of the soul and simply begin to serve God from that level.

On the national level, Jerusalem was rebuilt and the Temple dedicated, with a magnificent beauty that has no counterpart. But retrospectively, it became clear that some of the great lights were not completely integrated by the nation’s inner essence. This is why it was necessary to go through a penetrating clarification process, as all the prophets cautioned. They were sent to return the Jewish People to the Almighty and they warned that the Temple should not be related to as a security certificate that is complete in itself and does not require any other service. In this context, the message of Tenth of Tevet is to work on the positive process of bringing the great spiritual lights into the world and realizing them in reality. Indeed, the sages describe the dwelling of the Divine Presence in the Temple as a positive descent: “When God created the world He desired that He have a dwelling place in the lower worlds.” [6] Sin banishes the Divine Presence from earth to heaven, while the good deeds of the righteous reconstruct the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the Temple, and succeed in bringing the Divine Presence down into the very lowest realms.

The exile of the Divine Presence from the Temple is described as the ten journeys that the Divine Presence traveled as it rose from the Holy of Holies in the Temple, until reaching its abode in the heavens. [7]The redemption is a renewed descent of the Divine Presence to the lowest reality; quite literally, as it is called, “A dwelling place in the lowest worlds.”

An Easy Fast

The Prophet Zachariah announced that all fast days that commemorate the destruction of the Temple will turn into joy and happiness, “The fast of the fourth month [17th Tamuz] and the fast of the fifth month [9th Av] and the fast of the seventh month [Tzom Gedaliah, 3rd of Tishrei] and the fast of the tenth month [10th Tevet] will be for the House of Judah joy and happiness and festive times.”[8] Even while we fast and mourn, we can already sense the future joy that is hidden in these days. In fact, these days were intended to be joyful from the beginning, “The end of the deed is in the original thought.”

In practice, the Tenth of Tevet is the easiest fast, because it falls during the shortest winter days. This is especially true this year (5774) when it falls on a Friday when we are busy preparing for Shabbat and hardly feel the fast at all. This indicates the simplicity with which we can transform this fast and sweeten it, by joining Friday to the Shabbat, which is “a taste of the World to Come.” By perceiving the destruction at its initial point, we can transform the negative descent into a positive descent, bringing the Divine Presence down into this lowest world.

Kingdom in Kingdom

According to Kabbalistic wisdom, we can easily perceive the abovementioned descent as a positive concept. In Kabbalah, the creation of the world is described as a long, complex, and complicated evolutionary process of descent from the infinite, spiritual Divine light down to depths of mundane reality in the world as we know it. The basic system that runs through this process is the fabric of the ten sefirot, of which the tenth and lowest is the sefirah of kingdom. Within the sefirah of kingdom exists an interinclusion of all ten sefirot, so all the sefirot are in fact finalized by “kingdom in kingdom,” which is the tenth of the tenth, exactly like the Tenth of Tevet, the tenth day of the tenth month.

Yet, although the system of the sefirot descends to the sefirah of kingdom, the lowest of them all, nonetheless, the descent is not one of negative decline and deterioration. On the contrary, it strives to fulfill God’s desire to reach the lowest point to which it is directed. The entire evolution of the spiritual worlds was intended to reach the lowest point, to reveal God’s kingdom within our superficial mundane reality that seems foreign to spirituality. The ultimate aim is to reveal God’s kingdom in all the levels of the world and in the consciousness of all creations. Then “God will be King over the entire world. On that day God will be one and His Name will be One.”[9] The extension of His kingdom in all His creations is a positive descent. Moreover, the root “to descend” (???) also refers to, “government and kingdom,” (as we find in various Torah verses). [10]

God’s kingdom is not just an abstract idea or merely a matter of acknowledging God’s sovereignty in our hearts. God’s kingdom appears in a very concrete garb, in the form of the kingdom of Israel. When the Jewish People is united in the Land of Israel under a rectified rule that follows the Torah, it becomes the Kingdom of Israel that serves as a throne to God’s kingdom in the world. This idea becomes apparent from the verse that refers to King Solomon, “And Solomon sat upon God’s throne as king.”[11]

The correct blueprint for constructing the kingdom of Israel appears as a three-stage process:[12]

  1. Rectifying leadership to the extent of coronating a king of Israel. He must be a righteous king who cares for his people, a descendant of King David, whose success will prove that he is the Mashiach.
  2. Victory over all enemies: this stage of war will culminate in the victory over Amalek, the archetypal enemy of the Jewish People, which will essentially be internationally eliminating all evil from the world.
  3. The construction of the Temple, reaching a golden age when the Divine Presence resides within the Jewish People, and through them, reaches the entire world.

The three dates that commemorate the destruction parallel the three stages of this process:

  1. The Tenth of Tevet, with the beginning of the siege over Jerusalem saw the nullification of Jewish kingdom in Israel.
  2. On the seventeenth of Tamuz, a hole was breached in the fortress that surrounded Jerusalem and the war spread to every corner.
  3. The remnant of the military ability crumbled on the Ninth of Av, when the Temple itself was destroyed.

Here too, our task is to transform the fast days to joy and happiness, therefore:

  1. On the Tenth of Tevet, the day of the tenth sefirah, a day when the Jewish kingdom was annulled, it is our task to reinstate the kingdom of Israel, by uniting the People around a rectified leadership that follows the Torah. This rectifies the descent, beginning from below, from the first and most fundamental level of rectifying the state’s leadership.
  2. On the Seventeenth of Tamuz we confront the military aspect of things, when it becomes apparent that Mashiach will be triumphant, without one battle and without shooting even one bullet (as Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught).
  3. On the Ninth of Av, we are occupied with the reconstruction of the Temple which is a heavenly seal that results from our own work, “With fire You did ignite it and with fire You will reconstruct it in the future.”[13]

Adapted and Translated from the article entitled “The Fast of the Tenth Month, from the book, Maayan Ganim (???? ????), Vol. Bereishit (??????)


[1] The Fast of Gedaliah (3rd Tishrei) precedes the Tenth of Tevet in the calendar, but chronologically speaking, the Fast of Gedaliah was the fast that culminated the destruction.

[2] Rosh Hashanah prayers.

[3]  Exodus 25:8. Reishit Chochmah, Sha’ar Ha’ahavah ch. 6.

[4]The main letters of the words, “inner fear of Heaven” (?????? ???????? ????????) are an acronym for “Jerusalem” (??????????).

[5]Hilchot Ta’anit 5:1. .

[6] Tanchuma, Naso 16.

[7] Rosh Hashanah 31a.

[8] Zachariah 8:19.

[9]  Zachariah 14:9.

[10] E.g., Genesis 1:28; Numbers 24:19.

[11] I Chronicles 29:23.

[12] Maimonides, Hilchot Melachim (Laws of Kings).

[13] From the addition to the standing prayer (amidah) on the Ninth of Av.

The five revelations of light that Moses received in his vision correspond to five Divine revelations that became potently manifest in the secret of the burning bush. By meditating upon the five interpretations of the burning bush symbol we reveal how Moses incorporated five souls into his one soul in order to redeem the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.

An Illuminating Correspondence

After killing an Egyptian officer, web Moses fled Egypt to escape Pharaoh’s wrath. At the age of eighty years old, approved working as a shepherd for his father-in-law, purchase Jethro, he led his herd through the wilderness and saw an incredible sight?a burning bush that was not consumed. When Moses deviated from his path to take a closer look, God spoke to him directly out of his first prophetic vision.

The word “bush” (????????) appears five times in three consecutive verses in this account of Moses’ prophecy at the beginning of the book of Exodus. This five-fold appearance of one key word in three consecutive verses suggests a parallel between the concept of the burning bush and the word “light” (????) which also appears five times in three consecutive verses in the account of creation that begins the book of Genesis.[1] Light was the first entity that the Creator created and here, Moses’ first prophetic vision is also a revelation of light in the form of an inexplicably unquenchable fire.

Moreover, the Torah, is one unit that contains five books and is referred to as “light.”[2]

One way to interpret this correspondence is alluded to in the sages’ teaching that God hid the original light of creation and set it aside for the righteous individuals in every generation. Thus, Moses, as a righteous individual in his generation, was privileged to experience the five lights of creation that correspond to the five times the word “bush” (????????) appears in his prophetic vision.

In addition to its appearance five times in one Torah section, one unique attribute of the type of thorn bush that Moses saw in his vision is that it had five leaves emerging from one common source.

Five Souls, Five Sefirot

The sages teach us that three leaves of the myrtle shrub represent the souls of the three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the archetypal souls whose merit had stood for the Jewish people until Moses received his vision. The five leaves of the thorn bush that Moses saw revealed and prepared him for the fact that the Jewish people would be redeemed in merit of his and his brother Aaron’s additional two souls.

It is clear that the sages allude here to the fact that the number five is closely related to the secret of the Exodus from Egypt.

In Kabbalah, the three Patriarchs together with Moses and Aaron correspond to the five primary emotions of the heart as they appear in our service of the Divine: love of God; standing in awe of God; compassion for others; and confidence in God’s power to help us succeed. The fifth attribute of the heart is sincerity, which applies to persevering in our service with devoted dedication and simplicity, always acknowledging God’s presence in every avenue of our lives.

The symbol of five leaves exuding from one source taught Moses that he would need to incorporate the attributes of each of the five souls in his one soul in order to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt.

Five Interpretations

Just as the word “bush” (????????) appears five times, so there is a complete spectrum of five principal interpretations that the Midrash[3] offers to explain Moses’ vision of the burning bush.

  1. The first interpretation is that the bush represents all of reality and the fire represents the revelation of the Divine that encompasses everything. The Midrash explains that the reason why God revealed Himself to Moses in such a lowly shrub was to emphasize the fact that even the lowest of creations is a revelation of the Divine. The parallel terminology of the Zohar is, “there is no place that is vacant of Him.”[4]

This teaching corresponds to loving-kindness, the attribute associated with Abraham, the first soul who Moses had to incorporate into his own soul. Abraham was the first individual who taught true monotheism to the world by teaching that God is omnipresent. This fundamental teaching of omnipresence arouses an inherent attraction in the soul and a desire to come closer to God. This corresponds to love of God, the first of the five emotive powers of the soul mentioned above.

  1. In the second interpretation, the bush represents the Jewish people suffering in exile, while the fire represents the Divine Presence that experiences the pain of exile together with them. The concept of pain and suffering derives from the second emanation of the heart which is awe. In this vein, the sages interpret the symbol of the burning bush to be a revelation of the fact that God participates in our pain and experiences it together with us, as the verse states, “In all their suffering, He suffers.”[5]  The knowledge that God is together with us in our suffering is the key to our faith that He will eventually redeem us.

This idea relates in particular to our patriarch, Isaac, in whose merit we will eventually be redeemed from exile.[6]

  1. The third revelation of the bush is the paradox of coexisting opposites. The bush represents nature, while the fact that it is not consumed by fire represents the supernatural phenomena that miraculously coexist within nature. Once Moses became aware of this paradox he was drawn to inspect it. In fact, the Midrash explicitly states that Moses took five steps towards the bush, a fact that upholds the connection with the number five, stated above.

For something to be considered beautiful, it must include two or more attributes that blend together harmoniously. Thus, to perceive two opposites that exist simultaneously is to experience beauty. In the soul, the attribute of beauty manifests when one soul takes active compassion on another, merging with the other individual in empathic harmony.

Here, Moses’ curiosity reflects, in particular, the attribute of Jacob, who of all the three patriarchs was a “scientist.” Jacob meditated on Laban’s flock of sheep and experimented with them until he discovered the Divine secrets that governed their ability to reproduce. This type of Divine curiosity to examine and understand the wonders of nature is a way to approach God that reflects the sefirah of beauty.

  1. The fourth of the five attributes is the one that corresponds in particular to Moses who is associated with the sefirah of victory, or eternity (?????). The idea of something being consumed relates to the law of entropy which reflects temporality. In this case, however, Moses saw that although the bush was in a state of active combustion, nonetheless, it was not consumed.

Here, the fire no longer symbolizes Divinity, but is a symbol of the profane fire of the Jewish people’s servitude in Egypt that should naturally consume them, God forbid. According to this interpretation, the message that the burning bush held for Moses was, “I, God, have not changed, and you, the children of Jacob have not been consumed.”[7] The literal reading of this verse relates to the fact that the attempt to consume the Jewish spirit in this way would never succeed because the Jewish people are eternal.

  1. The fifth interpretation teaches us that the particular type of bush that Moses saw in his vision was barbed with sharp thorns. Yet, like a rose bush, it also produces beautiful flowers with a fragrant aroma. The rose bush symbolizes the Jewish people, who have great tzadikim (righteous individuals) but also has the greatest wicked individuals, more so than any other nation. Expounding the verse, “And he saw and behold, the bush was aflame with fire, but the bush was not consumed,”[8] the Zohar[9] reveals that God showed Moses how the thorns, representing the powers of evil, fueled the fire, but the branches, the fruit and the leaves of the bush were not burnt.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad movement, taught that this interpretation offers a far more profound insight into the abovementioned verse, “I, God, have not changed, and you, the children of Jacob have not been consumed.” He stated[10] that the bush represents the Jewish soul, and the fire represents one’s meditation upon God’s essential transcendence, which is above physical reality that is constantly changing. When meditating upon this thought and integrating it, we would expect the soul be overtaken by the experience of God’s changelessness, so much so that it leaves the body altogether. However, this would result in the death of the body on earth, which is something that God does not want to happen. Indeed, the burning bush alludes to the fact that the soul is never consumed.

The Jewish soul “runs” in its aspiration to become a part of God even to the extent of leaving the body but is concomitantly committed to remain in the physical realm to make this earth into a dwelling place for God. This commitment is the prerequisite for the soul to return to its physical abode. Yet, by rising in its meditation towards the Divine, the soul is actually refined by the fire, which consumes every evil thorn that is attached to it.

This idea reflects the service of Aharon, the High Priest in the Temple. Aharon was the soul who approached God most closely in the Temple services. Similarly, it is the service of the kohanim (priests) in the Temple that ultimately facilitates the dwelling of the Divine Presence in our mundane, physical world.[11]

In this way, by integrating the attributes of five souls that manifest in these five interpretations of Moses’ vision, he merited to redeem the Jewish nation from the Egyptian bondage.



[1] Genesis 1:3-5; see Tikunei Zohar, Tikun 19.

[2] Megillah 16b.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Tikunei Zohar, Tikun 70.

[5] Isaiah 63:9.

[6] Shabbat 89b.

[7] Malachi 3:6.

[8] Exodus 3:2.

[9] Zohar 5, 274b.

[10] Likutei Torah, Shlach 45:3.

[11]   The souls of Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, were consumed by this fire when they voluntarily entered the Temple to offer incense, against God’s command.

The five revelations of light that Moses received in his vision correspond to five Divine revelations that became potently manifest in the secret of the burning bush. By meditating upon the five interpretations of the burning bush symbol we reveal how Moses incorporated five souls into his one soul in order to redeem the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.

An Illuminating Correspondence

After killing an Egyptian officer, story Moses fled Egypt to escape Pharaoh’s wrath. At the age of eighty years old, website like this working as a shepherd for his father-in-law, Jethro, he led his herd through the wilderness and saw an incredible sight?a burning bush that was not consumed. When Moses deviated from his path to take a closer look, God spoke to him directly out of his first prophetic vision.

The word “bush” (????????) appears five times in three consecutive verses in this account of Moses’ prophecy at the beginning of the book of Exodus. This five-fold appearance of one key word in three consecutive verses suggests a parallel between the concept of the burning bush and the word “light” (????) which also appears five times in three consecutive verses in the account of creation that begins the book of Genesis.[1] Light was the first entity that the Creator created and here, Moses’ first prophetic vision is also a revelation of light in the form of an inexplicably unquenchable fire.

Moreover, the Torah, is one unit that contains five books and is referred to as “light.”[2]

One way to interpret this correspondence is alluded to in the sages’ teaching that God hid the original light of creation and set it aside for the righteous individuals in every generation. Thus, Moses, as a righteous individual in his generation, was privileged to experience the five lights of creation that correspond to the five times the word “bush” (????????) appears in his prophetic vision.

In addition to its appearance five times in one Torah section, one unique attribute of the type of thorn bush that Moses saw in his vision is that it had five leaves emerging from one common source.

Five Souls, Five Sefirot

The sages teach us that three leaves of the myrtle shrub represent the souls of the three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the archetypal souls whose merit had stood for the Jewish people until Moses received his vision. The five leaves of the thorn bush that Moses saw revealed and prepared him for the fact that the Jewish people would be redeemed in merit of his and his brother Aaron’s additional two souls.

It is clear that the sages allude here to the fact that the number five is closely related to the secret of the Exodus from Egypt.

In Kabbalah, the three Patriarchs together with Moses and Aaron correspond to the five primary emotions of the heart as they appear in our service of the Divine: love of God; standing in awe of God; compassion for others; and confidence in God’s power to help us succeed. The fifth attribute of the heart is sincerity, which applies to persevering in our service with devoted dedication and simplicity, always acknowledging God's presence in every avenue of our lives.

The symbol of five leaves exuding from one source taught Moses that he would need to incorporate the attributes of each of the five souls in his one soul in order to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt.

Five Interpretations

Just as the word “bush” (????????) appears five times, so there is a complete spectrum of five principal interpretations that the Midrash[3] offers to explain Moses’ vision of the burning bush.

  1. The first interpretation is that the bush represents all of reality and the fire represents the revelation of the Divine that encompasses everything. The Midrash explains that the reason why God revealed Himself to Moses in such a lowly shrub was to emphasize the fact that even the lowest of creations is a revelation of the Divine. The parallel terminology of the Zohar is, “there is no place that is vacant of Him.”[4]

This teaching corresponds to loving-kindness, the attribute associated with Abraham, the first soul who Moses had to incorporate into his own soul. Abraham was the first individual who taught true monotheism to the world by teaching that God is omnipresent. This fundamental teaching of omnipresence arouses an inherent attraction in the soul and a desire to come closer to God. This corresponds to love of God, the first of the five emotive powers of the soul mentioned above.

  1. In the second interpretation, the bush represents the Jewish people suffering in exile, while the fire represents the Divine Presence that experiences the pain of exile together with them. The concept of pain and suffering derives from the second emanation of the heart which is awe. In this vein, the sages interpret the symbol of the burning bush to be a revelation of the fact that God participates in our pain and experiences it together with us, as the verse states, “In all their suffering, He suffers.”[5]  The knowledge that God is together with us in our suffering is the key to our faith that He will eventually redeem us.

This idea relates in particular to our patriarch, Isaac, in whose merit we will eventually be redeemed from exile.[6]

  1. The third revelation of the bush is the paradox of coexisting opposites. The bush represents nature, while the fact that it is not consumed by fire represents the supernatural phenomena that miraculously coexist within nature. Once Moses became aware of this paradox he was drawn to inspect it. In fact, the Midrash explicitly states that Moses took five steps towards the bush, a fact that upholds the connection with the number five, stated above.

For something to be considered beautiful, it must include two or more attributes that blend together harmoniously. Thus, to perceive two opposites that exist simultaneously is to experience beauty. In the soul, the attribute of beauty manifests when one soul takes active compassion on another, merging with the other individual in empathic harmony.

Here, Moses’ curiosity reflects, in particular, the attribute of Jacob, who of all the three patriarchs was a “scientist.” Jacob meditated on Laban’s flock of sheep and experimented with them until he discovered the Divine secrets that governed their ability to reproduce. This type of Divine curiosity to examine and understand the wonders of nature is a way to approach God that reflects the sefirah of beauty.

  1. The fourth of the five attributes is the one that corresponds in particular to Moses who is associated with the sefirah of victory, or eternity (?????). The idea of something being consumed relates to the law of entropy which reflects temporality. In this case, however, Moses saw that although the bush was in a state of active combustion, nonetheless, it was not consumed.

Here, the fire no longer symbolizes Divinity, but is a symbol of the profane fire of the Jewish people’s servitude in Egypt that should naturally consume them, God forbid. According to this interpretation, the message that the burning bush held for Moses was, “I, God, have not changed, and you, the children of Jacob have not been consumed.”[7] The literal reading of this verse relates to the fact that the attempt to consume the Jewish spirit in this way would never succeed because the Jewish people are eternal.

  1. The fifth interpretation teaches us that the particular type of bush that Moses saw in his vision was barbed with sharp thorns. Yet, like a rose bush, it also produces beautiful flowers with a fragrant aroma. The rose bush symbolizes the Jewish people, who have great tzadikim (righteous individuals) but also has the greatest wicked individuals, more so than any other nation. Expounding the verse, “And he saw and behold, the bush was aflame with fire, but the bush was not consumed,”[8] the Zohar[9] reveals that God showed Moses how the thorns, representing the powers of evil, fueled the fire, but the branches, the fruit and the leaves of the bush were not burnt.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad movement, taught that this interpretation offers a far more profound insight into the abovementioned verse, “I, God, have not changed, and you, the children of Jacob have not been consumed.” He stated[10] that the bush represents the Jewish soul, and the fire represents one’s meditation upon God's essential transcendence, which is above physical reality that is constantly changing. When meditating upon this thought and integrating it, we would expect the soul be overtaken by the experience of God's changelessness, so much so that it leaves the body altogether. However, this would result in the death of the body on earth, which is something that God does not want to happen. Indeed, the burning bush alludes to the fact that the soul is never consumed.

The Jewish soul “runs” in its aspiration to become a part of God even to the extent of leaving the body but is concomitantly committed to remain in the physical realm to make this earth into a dwelling place for God. This commitment is the prerequisite for the soul to return to its physical abode. Yet, by rising in its meditation towards the Divine, the soul is actually refined by the fire, which consumes every evil thorn that is attached to it.

This idea reflects the service of Aharon, the High Priest in the Temple. Aharon was the soul who approached God most closely in the Temple services. Similarly, it is the service of the kohanim (priests) in the Temple that ultimately facilitates the dwelling of the Divine Presence in our mundane, physical world.[11]

In this way, by integrating the attributes of five souls that manifest in these five interpretations of Moses’ vision, he merited to redeem the Jewish nation from the Egyptian bondage.



[1] Genesis 1:3-5; see Tikunei Zohar, Tikun 19.

[2] Megillah 16b.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Tikunei Zohar, Tikun 70.

[5] Isaiah 63:9.

[6] Shabbat 89b.

[7] Malachi 3:6.

[8] Exodus 3:2.

[9] Zohar 5, 274b.

[10] Likutei Torah, Shlach 45:3.

[11]   The souls of Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, were consumed by this fire when they voluntarily entered the Temple to offer incense, against God’s command.

2459NewScib

Which would you prefer, a “rebellious” child, cialis 40mg or a “good” child? Most parents and educators would choose the good, well-behaved and polite child who does everything he is told and behaves as expected of him. Who needs the trials and tribulations of the rebellious child?!

But, a seasoned educator may well prefer a rebellious child. He knows that this kind of child is a great challenge, but he also knows that beneath the rebellious shell hides a special soul. A sharp-witted Chassidic saying states, “If he does no harm, he will do no good!” Meaning that if the child does no harm as a youngster, when they grow up they may just be like everyone else…

The Days of the Rebellious

So why are we talking about rebellious children now? Because we are now in the period that is referred to as “the days of the rebellious,” or in Hebrew, “shovavim.” In Rabbinic literature, a custom is mentioned to fast and repent during the weeks of the first six Torah portions in the book of Exodus.[1] The initial letters of the names of these six portions in Hebrew spell out the word “rebellious” (??????????; shovavim). Later, Kabbalists, headed by the Holy Arizal, authorized the custom of fasting and repenting while revealing the allusions and profound meditations that abound during this time period.[2] However, as the generations pass, the practice of fasting has gradually diminished, as the great Chassidic masters since the Ba'al Shem Tov have instructed. Nowadays, the recommendation is to donate charity abundantly instead of fasting, since money is a person’s “energy,” and giving it away is considered to be like a physical fast. In addition, many communities have the custom of saying extra prayers during this time period, especially Psalms (which are always a good thing to say).

In modern Hebrew, the word shovav (???????) has taken on the connotation of “mischievous,” which sounds quite playful. However, in its Biblical context, the word means “rebellious,” which does not have a positive connotation at all. Indeed, as we must work to appreciate the genuine meaning of any Hebrew word, when we look at the various forms of this word in the Torah, we discover that it certainly is a negative adjective. Examples of this negativity can be seen in the verses, “He went rebelliously following his heart,”[3] “Return, rebellious sons,”[4] etc... The scriptural rebel does not just play childish pranks; he is mutinous, licentious and defiant.[5]

The days of shovavim are dedicated to rectifying sin, and to repenting for our rebellious behavior. In particular, this refers to the sin of “the flaw of the covenant” (i.e., illicit sexual behavior), beginning with the promiscuous thoughts that contaminate the mind through a sense of sight that wanders around unchecked, culminating in complete physical arousal (God forbid). The gravity of this sin lies in the fact that our ability to achieve our God-given potentials are “lost” during the process. However, it is clear that this flaw can be rectified, as we read in the Torah portions of these weeks how the entire Jewish nation was indeed lost under the Egyptian bondage. Yet, as the Jewish People left with “great possessions,” and redeemed all the holy sparks that were in captivity, so too we can reclaim the sparks of achievement lost by this sin.

Although, in its particular sense, this sin relates more to men than to women, in its more general sense, this flaw exists in women too. “Covenant” refers to a genuine connection between souls, and when a woman does not make a single, faithful alliance with one man, but explores other options in thought, speech or action, she damages her part of the covenant.

Enough with Playing Around

What rectification can there be for this type of evil mischief?

At first glance it appears that the rectification is quite simple: just pull back to the other direction. If until now you have been a mischievous rebel, from now on, you must get back into line, accept the yoke of discipline and begin to “behave nicely.” Although children have something mischievous about them, they must finally grow up and realize that licentiousness is not the goal. There are laws and there is a Judge, there is justice and truth; and the time has come for a person to take control of himself and begin doing what should be done and not what he feels like doing.

This can be appreciated well in the context of “doing teshuvah” (i.e., returning back to God and His Torah). Many Jewish people can testify how they lived for years in this “rebellious” way, doing what they liked and never listening to anyone who told them to do otherwise. Such people may have believed that they need not observe the Jewish traditions that they could not comprehend. But then, the day arrived and our no-longer-juvenile delinquent suddenly realized that the very same ancient Torah that his grandfather studied in yeshivah, and those very same mitzvot that his grandmother devoted her life to, are not an outdated museum piece that has become obsolete. Ours is a living Torah that never ages; a true Torah whose finest accents conceal the most profound wisdom. At that point, he took himself in hand and realized that until now he had lived a hollow life, a life of rebellion that offered an imaginary sense of freedom and pleasure but was irresponsible and immature.

The Good Rebels

But, although changing to a religious lifestyle is a long way along the road of teshuvah, the ultimate rectification is yet to come. We have already mentioned that a mischievous child contains a special treasure of potential. Their energy and astuteness are precious assets that cry out for a guiding hand. Does doing teshuvah mean completely suppressing all mischievousness and rebelliousness? Does it mean that we all become insipid, obedient automatons, without any spark of daring and defiance? Unfortunately, ba’alei teshuvah do suffer from this type of negative image, but the time has come to release ourselves from it. The time has come for all rebels to make good mischief and they are all invited to transform their rebelliousness into holy mutiny.

When we look more carefully at the abovementioned verses that refer to rebels, we see that they do have a positive side. For instance, the verse, “Return, rebellious sons,” concludes with the phrase, “I will heal your rebelliousness,” meaning that there is a cure for rebelliousness. In fact, the word “rebellious” (???????) is from the same root as “return” (?????), which is the root of teshuvah (??????????). This root almost always appears in a very positive context, as in the verse, “Return rebellious sons” (??????? ??????? ??????????) in which the two words appear in conjunction with each other. Teshuvah transforms the rebel into a good mutineer.

This means that someone who has a rebellious personality does not need to suppress the vital energy that burns inside him. The rebel is astute and quick. He has courage and audacity. But now he must behave with “holy boldness,” as the mishnah states, “Be as bold as a leopard… to perform the will of your Father in Heaven.”[6] We need to make use of all our faculties and talents and with wisdom and insight harness them to serve God. Indeed, the most essential principle of Judaism is “accepting the yoke of Heaven.” In contrast, licentiousness is referred to as “throwing off the yoke,” and in Chassidic thought is considered the archetypal sin of impurity.

Once an individual has submitted and accepted Heaven’s yoke upon him, he reveals that this type of yoke is fun! Within the framework of Torah and mitzvot there is a very broad scope for active personal initiative. And yes, there is even room for the added “spice” of mischievousness and rebellion. So, for example, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson instructed a ba’al teshuvah (returner to Judaism) whose name was Nimrod (????????; meaning “Let us rebel”), that there was no need for him to change his name. Despite the fact that the Biblical Nimrod was the image of a negative rebel who rebelled against the Almighty, the modern Nimrod must now utilize this quality of rebelliousness positively and rebel against the counterfeit conventions of the world at large.

Responsible Rebellion

A successful rebel has freedom of thought and is quick, assertive and pragmatic. All these qualities are something that we require?like the air we breathe?regarding all that relates to the rectification of the public face of the Jewish People. Only such a positive rebellious nature can help us shake off the fetters of an alienated establishment, and the foreign husks that encase us. Only a positive rebel can initiate the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel that we desire. We are in dire need of such holy rebels, who can “overturn the world” and transform us all into genuine ba’alei teshuvah (returnees). However, it must be stressed that our good rebel must act out of a sense of mutual responsibility for the entire Jewish People.[7]

In conclusion, let’s remember that we are in the year 5774, which, as explained elsewhere, is an allusion to the holy boldness and audacity that is required to breathe new life into the world.[8] For this we pray that all rebels will become ba’alei teshuvah and will utilize their rebelliousness to benefit the entire Jewish People and the whole world.

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s classes of 27th Shevat 5772 and 16th Tevet 5774



[1] Sefer Haminhagim Tirna (Purim); Leket Yosher (p. 116); Levush Orach Chayim 685.

[2] See Birkei Yosef, Orach Chayim 685:1.

[3] Isaiah 57:17.

[4] Jeremiah 3:22.

[5] See the root shin-vav-bet (??"?) in Radak’s Sefer Hashorashim, there he enumerates three principles, the third of which is rebellion.

[6] Avot 5:20.

[7] In Hebrew, “shoulder” (??????), the seat of responsibility, has the same numerical value as “rebels” (??????????). “Shoulder” (??????) is also the name of the city of Shechem (??????) where all the Jewish People became responsible for one another. It is also the city where Joseph is buried. Joseph in particular was one who was bold enough to reject worldly pleasures for holiness and he also took care of his brethren and led an entire country through difficult times.

[8]  ???"? – Year of “Holy Boldness” (?????? ????????????)

 

2 Responses to “Careful! Up to Mischief”

  1. […] said that the story relates exactly to the “holy mutiny” mentioned in this week’s article “Careful! Up to Mischief.” Even a person who is a pirate his entire life, can pass away from this world like the righteous […]

  2. Al the above is so true. I had a rebbellious son. But I knew if I can channel the energy, he express, into the good, he will became a man which the world is in great need off. Today we, he, my wife, my daughter and together with five grand children, have reached that state. He has married a wonderful women. They have two wonderful children, a boy and a girl. Forget is all the past with every thing you can imagine how a rebellious son can be. To day we are a great family and together we enjoy this wonderful thing we call “Life.”