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Revealing the Spiritual in Nature

by Rabbi Noson Gurary

www.kabbalaonline.org

  

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And on your day of gladness, and on your festivals, and on your new moons...."1

Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the lunar month, is called literally "the head of the month" and not the "beginning of the month", because just as the head contains the life-force for all the limbs, so does the first day of each month represent the spiritual "life-force" for the rest of the month. The second part of the name, "Chodesh", is related to the word "chadash", meaning "new". In simple terms, this refers to the renewal of the moon, the birth of the new moon. In Kabbalistic sources, however, it is explained that every Rosh Chodesh brings a new spiritual light, one that never illuminated before throughout time. This light derives from a completely new general revelation that takes place every  Rosh Hashanah and that is divided up for the twelve months of the year. When each Rosh Chodesh arrives, its particular new light illuminates.

The renewal of the moon itself has a Kabbalistic dimension. The moon corresponds to the  sefirah of  malchut in that it "has no light of its own" and shines with reflected light from the sun. Similarly, the spiritual "light" of malchut is only what it receives from the sefirot above it. Just as the moon becomes smaller and smaller until it is not visible immediately before its rebirth, similarly malchut receives its light from the sefirot above it by "nullifying itself" in its yearning to receive this light. In the same way, the Jewish people (who are compared to the moon) are able to become a vessel for G-d's light through exhibiting the trait of self-nullification.

Rosh Chodesh, on which work is permitted, represents drawing down the spiritual into the earthly and mundane
The association of newness with the word "chodesh" has important implications for a person's spiritual service. The Jewish people are compared to the moon, and "reckon by the moon" and "are destined to be renewed like it".2 Through the "chidush", the new spiritual element that is accomplished in the world through the service of the Jewish people, the Jewish people achieve a new level higher than the one they occupied before coming down into the physical world. This will be finally revealed in the future redemption. One might say that each Rosh Chodesh there is revealed in each individual Jew the spark of  Mashiach that is within him, the level of  Yechidah, which is a spark from the level of general Yechidah, the soul of Mashiach.3 This revelation accomplishes a chidush in the person's whole existence and everything that pertains to him; the level of Yechidah permeates him.

The spiritual character of Rosh Chodesh can best be explained by contrasting it with Shabbat. Each of these two days expresses one mode of a basic two-fold pattern in spiritual service, a pattern that is also built into the structure of Creation: elevation and drawing down. Rosh Chodesh, on which work is permitted, represents drawing down the spiritual into the earthly and mundane; Shabbat, on which work is forbidden, represents elevation, as the mundane and the earthly become more spiritual.

The two modes of this pattern also have a reciprocal relation: An elevation brings a corresponding drawing down, and a drawing down brings a corresponding elevation. The Shabbat elevation of the physical world and all the levels of the spiritual realm is followed by the drawing down of spiritual delight. The drawing down of a higher level of G-dliness on Rosh Chodesh brings an elevation to the life-force creating the world.

Although Rosh Chodesh is unlike Shabbat and Yom Tov in that work is permitted, Rosh Chodesh is not considered a regular work day and retains a separate identity. It is actually on a higher level than an ordinary weekday, which is why an additional sacrifice was brought in the days of the Temple, called the Musaf offering, to which the Musaf Standing prayer that we say now corresponds. This is also the reason we say the prayer of Hallel. In Kabbalistic terms this means causing a descent of malchut into the midot, corresponding to the work of sifting and purifying, and contrary to the spiritual character of Shabbat, when malchut ascends to  chochmah.4

On Shabbat, by contrast, it is forbidden to do work, for spiritually Shabbat is higher than the level of "in six days G-d created, etc." Then a divine light shines that is not clothed in nature. By violating the prohibition of work on Shabbat, we cause G-d to contract Himself.

Footnotes

  • 1. Num. 10:10.
  • 2. Liturgy, Kiddush Lavanah; Sanhedrin 42a.
  • 3. See Me'or Einayim, parashat Pinchas.
  • 4. Torat Shmuel 5630.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Miscellaneous » The Jewish Calendar
Shabbat » A Day of Rest
Torah » Kabbalah » Kabbalistic Concepts

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Purim
A one-day holiday celebrated in late winter commemorating the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish people from a decree of annihilation issued by Persian King Ahasuerus in the year 356 BCE.
Chanukah
An eight day mid-winter holiday marking: 1) The miraculous defeat of the mighty Syrian-Greek armies by the undermanned Maccabis in the year 140 BCE. 2) Upon their victory, the oil in the Menorah, sufficient fuel for one night only, burned for eight days and nights.
Hallel
Hebrew word meaning "praise." Normally is a reference to Psalms 113-118-- Psalms of jubilation which are recited during the morning prayers of all joyous holidays.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Rosh Chodesh
The "Head of the Month," Rosh Chodesh is observed the first day of every Jewish month. If the previous month had 30 days, then the last day of the previous month is also observed; hence a two-day Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is a semi-holiday, marked by Torah-reading and special prayers.
Kabbalistic
(adj.) Pertaining to Kabbalah—Jewish mysticism.
Musaf
The additional prayer service added (after the morning prayers) on Sabbath, Biblically mandated holidays and the first day of the Jewish month.
Yom Tov
Jewish Holiday.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.