Friday, October 10, 2008

My Yom Kippur

So my Yom Kippur was both terrible and great.

I had a terrible fast and had to lie down after mincha because my legs had turned to jelly, my right knee was getting tiny spasms and my back was in agony after being hunched over for ages during Vidui. I lay down on my bed for what was supposed to be half an hour to 45 minutes, and fell into a really deep sleep. I have no idea how I managed to wake up after about an hour and a half, as opposed to three or four hours later, but all the same I missed mincha in Yeshiva, because they had started davening. The halacha is that it's preferable to start Tefillat Amidah with the minyan, and not join in unless there's no better option. So I do what I normally do in such situations... I went on down to the Kotel (yeah I know, living in the Old City rocks).

The Minyan there was good, but there were no chairs left and my back was still aching like crazy! I eventually resorted to sitting on a ledge so that my back could get some kind of relief, and then switched to another Minyan and finally found myself a chair before Ne'ilah.

And so on to the good. The Shaliach Tzibur gave a 10 minute speech before he started, so I managed to collect my thoughts, finish off all my private prayers and then stand up for the whole Ne'ilah. (which I was dreading, but it turned out not to be so bad.) While I was waiting to start, I kinda said to myself, now my body's really hurting me, I have a choice. Do I give in, or do I fight it off? Is it mind or matter? And then it really did feel a lot better. Like yeah, it still hurt, but when I said that I wasn't going to let the Satan beat me with my own body, I got a lot of strength.

I learned in the summer that the Gematria of Elohim is the same as Hateva. Hateva means "the nature." (Whole subject why it's in the definitive.) Another way of using the same root Teva is for drowning. The concept of Teva is that it is overwhelming. The concept of nature is that it is multi-faceted, and although within Hashem's control, can seem to be as though it is not. Notice how the name Elohim is in the plural. Hashem is one, but in Elohim he can also appear to multiple things at once. Notice how we often say Eloheinu as opposed to Adonainu. We continually refer to Eloheinu. The reason is that Elohim, the God of multiplicity, of multiple facets, is a Hashem's physical interface. We can relate to Hashem on that level because we cannot comprehend the infinite. Elohim is the name of God that humans can at least partly understand and connect to. Through Elohim, He has us created to appear as though we are separate from him. That is why we use the possesive נו.

So I said to myself, what do we say at the end of Ne'ilah? We say the following, seven times: "Adonai hu HaElohim." Hashem is the 'Elohim.' Until now I would simply say these two names, and not really understand at all what I was saying. Well, "Duh," I would think, "Hashem and Elokim are both names of G-d!" But this time I got it!

Elohim, the apparent discrepancy, is nothing but Hashem. It is all one and the same. And if my back and legs and knee are all aching me, then should I really complain, or should I respond to this test correctly? So I told my body to take a walk to where the sun don't shine, and all was well :)

I finally understood why this statement is said at the end of Yom Kippur: we have to realise that in order to accept Hashem as our God, we have to recognise everything around us as coming from him. All that is good, and all that seems bad. All that seems to fall outside of his dominion, and all that we can't comprehend.

According to Jewish thought, there are seven levels of physicality. The concept of the spiritual in numbers is always one above. So if seven is a physical number, then eight must be spiritual. The word for Eight in Ivrit (as opposed to most other numbers,) is spelt the same way in both its male and female forms - שמונה.(This can be read as Shmonah or Shmoneh.) Rearranged, the letters of this root can spell out the word נשמה, soul. Another way to order these root letters is to form the word שומן, oil. Oil always rises above water. Water symbolises this world. We are all dependent on water, it is the very substance of physicality. Oil however, always rises to the top, it is one above.

With that in mind, my theory on why we repeat this line seven times is that we have to pierce through the seven levels of physicality in order to achieve such an understanding. Given that, I asked myself if I was really going to allow my body to cause me problems, was I really close to giving in? Am I a physical being or a spiritual one?

Yes, that was only a small test, and it was on Yom Kippur, but still! And yes, I agree that the above does seem mad, but I guess I wanted to prove that mind over matter really does work!


  1. There are two other ideas there...throughout Tanach we can see Ado-shem (YKVK) is associated with a facet of Hashem that has rachamim, (mercy) and His name Elokim denotes the facet of Hashem acting in din, (judgement). So by saying Ado-shem hu haElokim, we're literally saying, Hashem of mercy IS Hashem of judgment. Why do we say Ado-shem first? Because we want to call upon Hashem's merciful side in judging us! We're calling out, saying "Hashem your merciful side is at one with your judgment, Ado-shem hu haElokim, judge us with mercy!"

    Also - another reason why we say this seven times is not only because of the physical levels, but the spiritual levels. (You may already know this.) There are seven levels to shamayim, and uttering this we hope to pierce each of them and reach Hashem one last and most powerful time before the sealing of our years at the end of Yom Kippur.

    Those, specifically, are what I thought of this Yom Kippur, but again, "shivim panim l'torah...."

  2. Thanks for the feedback! Really appreciated!

    If you care to unveil your identity that would be cool, but if the mask is purposely in place, I shall ask no further questions.

  3. Oh, and given that we are equating Hashem's different properties, then might we say that there is no difference between the physical and the spiritual. The lowest level of spirituality is the one where physical is seemingly most clearly manifested, the highest being the level where the two are in perfect harmony?