Articles with the “kedusha/holiness” tag

Netilas Yadayim: Lifting the Five Senses of Separateness

Netilas Yadayim: Lifting the Five Senses of Separateness

We take a cup of water—with its chesed of natural undifferentiated seamless whole—and we empty it on gevurah, thus receiving the power to transform restrictions and concealment into vastness and openness.


The Anguish of Love

Kedusha, holiness–and every truly positive phenomenon in the world–is eternal. A Yom Tov- a religious holiday is not merely a remembrance of a past miracle or positive event. It is a celebration of the reshimu, the eternal imprint of the transcendental event, which is revealed anew on its original date, every year. The very same force that brought the original miracle into the world is vividly present on its respective holiday. Like lovers who celebrate the anniversaries of all their tender exchanges, several times a year we spend time with the Divine Presence, delightfully re-living our most romantic moments.

The nature of everything unholy or negative, on the other hand, is to fade and disappear. And yet, on the day of Tisha b’Av, we fast, afflict ourselves, and mourn events that happened thousands of years ago. On this day, the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem were tragically destroyed, and the Jews went into exile. On this day, circumstances physically forced the lovers apart.

Wounds, however, heal. Yes, it is true that throughout the centuries our wounds have been reawakened on the very day of the Ninth of Av–for example, with the Expulsion from Spain in 1492. Yes, in that sense, the Ninth of Av is a ‘bad day’. Nonetheless, so many centuries after the destruction of the Temple, there really should be no negative reshimu lingering on this day. Negativity does not have such staying power. What, then, is the connection between our fasting and the destruction of the Temple?


Human beings tend to turn outwards in times of joy, and turn inwards in times of tragedy. Negativity seems to break down our egoic resistance to the experience of the Transcendent. Tragedy and anguish, even more than joy, tend to bring people into spiritual introspection and self-evaluation.

Without denying the great tragedies of Tisha b’Av, there was a redeeming factor: the people who lived through these events were shaken out of their spiritual complacency. They were shaken to their core, and powerfully motivated to make teshuvah–to return to the depths of their true selves. This is the positive, holy imprint of those events, and this is why Tisha b’Av is considered a holiday.

Unlike other holidays, of course, this one is ‘celebrated’ by fasting and mourning. In order to tap into the day’s positive imprint–in order to shake ourselves out of our own complacency–we must tap into our brokenness. Activities such as fasting and reciting lamentations sensitize us not only to the tragedy of the historical exiles, but to our own exile, our own separation from who we really are. We too can allow Tisha b’Av to motivate us to make teshuvah.

In order to construct something new, the old must be deconstructed. In his book, Netzach Yisrael, the Maharal, (Rabbi Yehudah Loew, 1525-1609), explains that the destruction of the Temple was the extinguishing of an old light, so that the new, greater light of Moshiach could be revealed. The Midrash says that Moshiach was, or ‘is’, born on Tisha b’Av. Such profound light can only be revealed within darkness.

The Talmud says that when Israel was not aligned with the Beloved Creator, the two golden Keruvim, or Cherubim, that adorned the Ark of the Covenant, miraculously turned and faced away from each other. When Israel was aligned, the Keruvim turned to face each other. On Tisha b’Av, as we were being expelled from the place where human and Divine kissed, it would seem that the Keruvim should be facing away. However, as the Romans were ransacking the Temple, they entered the Holy of Holies. There, they found the Keruvim enwrapped in an intimate embrace.

Lovers make their most dramatic demonstrations of love when they must leave each other. At the moment that we were being torn away, a sign of indestructible love manifested. In the anguish and passion of this embrace, our Redemption was conceived.

When physical closeness is impossible, the longing of lovers to connect is intensified. Over time, constant yearning can deepen into a spiritual maturity. It is precisely within the atmosphere of exile that Redemption gestates, matures, and is finally born.


The first nine days of the month of Av consist of 216 hours (9 x 24 hrs). 216 is the gematria, the numerical value, of the word gevurah, ‘severity’. It is also the gematria of word aryeh, ‘lion’, and the astrological sign of Av is Leo, the lion. One of the epithets of the Holy Temple is Aryeh, referring to the leonine fire that consumed the sacred offerings. All this suggests that during the Nine Days leading up to Tisha b’Av, great severity manifests in relation to the Temple.

Looking deeper, however, 216 is three times the numerical value of the word chesed, or Divine kindness (72). This tells us there is deep chesed in gevurah, and gevurah in deep chesed. The passionate lovers of Hashem consider it a great ‘kindness’ when they are reminded of their Beloved–even when, in their anguished yearning, it’s impossible eat or drink.

May we merit to see our longing fulfilled!