Torah Fax

Friday, May 13, 2005 - 4 Iyar, 5765
Torah Reading: Emor (Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23)
Candle Lighting time: 7:46 PM
Shabbat ends: 8:53
Pirkei Avot: Chap. 2
Shabbat is 20 days of the Omer 
The Age of L’Chaim
One of the most interesting Jewish objects is the Lulav, a plant used during the holiday of Sukkot and which is described in this week's Parshah as "Kapot Temarim - Date Palm Leaves."
Commentators point out that the numerical value (gematria) of the word Lulav is 68, a gematria it shares with a familiar Hebrew word, Chaim - life. Central to the concept of gematria in Jewish thought is that since Divine providence arranged that two words have the same numerical value, it must be that they have an intrinsic connection. But what is it about the Lulav that warrants its analogy to life?
It is noteworthy that the Hebrew word Chaim is in the plural. In fact, it is impossible to say the word "life" in Hebrew in the singular form.
Perhaps the most fundamental reason for life to be written in the plural form is to teach us that life can only be truly experienced when it is shared with others. A person who lives in a vacuum, or secluded on a mountaintop, is not truly alive.
The Talmud tells a remarkable story about the famous sage, Choni HaM'agel ("Choni the circle maker." He was so called because once, in a time of drought, he drew a circle on the ground and stood in it. He refused to leave the circle until G‑d acceded to his prayers for rain.) Choni fell asleep once in a secluded area and awoke 70 years later. This original Rip Van Winkle immediately proceeded to the Study House upon awakening. When he discovered that all of his peers had long passed on, he prayed to G‑d that he too be taken away. The Talmudic sage, Rava, later commented on this story, "O Chavruta O Mituta - give either companionship or death." Without companionship, life is not worth living.
The Talmud tells us of four people who, though they may be breathing, are considered more dead than alive: The pauper, the Metzorah, the blind person, and one who has no children. Commentators explain that it is clearly not the intention of the Talmud to denigrate these unfortunate individuals, G‑d forbid. Rather, the Talmud wishes to teach us of our obligation to help these people regain meaning and joy in their lives, though these four terrible situations have challenged their lives to a great deal.
These four individuals are often forced into social or literal isolation due to their circumstances. The poor are shunned from mixing with more affluent members of society; a Metzorah is required to be quarantined by the Torah; a blind person finds it hard to get around and may become homebound. People who have no children, G‑d forbid, are also sadly left out of social conversation where their peers will discuss their children, show pictures of them and the like.
The common denominator of these people is that their involvement in society is seriously diminished, which, based on what we wrote above, means their life is less of a life. It is our obligation to try and return their life to them - we must get them more involved in society and help them share their lives with others: the plural Chaim.
If we are to understand Chaim in this light, if we are to view life as meaningful only in terms of community and togetherness, than the Lulav is the perfect illustration of this. The Talmud notes that the word (which the Torah uses for the lulav - ) Kapot, leaves, can also be read as Kafut, which means bound together. Thus, the Talmud rules, a Lulav is only Kosher if all of its leaves are naturally stuck together. Once they begin to spread, it is not kosher to be used on Sukkot. Thus, the Lulav represents the coming together of individual and separate entities.
In addition, when we take the Lulav, we bind it together with myrtle and willow branches. Not only is the Lulav "interested" in bringing together different members of "its own kind," it also "seeks" the companionship of other species as well.
According to the Midrash, the myrtle and willow symbolize classes of Jews who are less spiritually accomplished. The myrtle, which has a good smell but no taste, is like a Jew who has some good deeds, but is unlearned in Torah knowledge. The willow, which has no taste or smell, represents a Jew who has neither Mitzvahs nor Torah learning. Yet the Lulav, consistent with its message of Chaim - life through togetherness - attaches itself to those species as well.
Thus, we learn from the Lulav that in order to experience true life, we should not only socialize and become involved with our peers, but we must also develop a relationship and bond with those that we might consider to be on a lower spiritual level.
Our sages tell us that one of the names of Moshiach is Chaim. This means that one of the defining characteristics of the Messianic Age is that it will infuse an unprecedented spirit of unity within the Jewish community, and indeed - within the entire world.
Our sages identify the Lulav with victory. The ultimate victory is when we will usher in the age of Chaim because that is the age when we will experience true unity.
Moshiach Matters
"'L'Alter l'geula - Immediately to the Redemption' must be the purpose of our repentance and our prayers, of our hopes and deeds. All other hopes and deeds are illusory dreams... we must prepare heart and soul to greet our righteous redeemer... L'alter l'geula, be prepared for the imminent Redemption!" From a public notice of the Previous Rebbe, published the eve of Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5701-1941
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