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Baltimore, MD — August 18, 2017 - Authorities are investigating a stabbing that happened Friday morning in northwest Baltimore. A male from outside of the community was stabbed in the stomach in the 2600 block of Gage Court in the Pickwick Apartment complex.
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Parsha Hashavua
Parshas Re'eh - Seasons of the Soul

In three places the Torah instructs us to celebrate the festivals by making a pilgrimage to the Temple on each of the three festivals; Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos. The first two appear in the portions of Mishpatim and Ki Sisa with the final reference at the end of our portion, Reeh.

In each of these cases the Torah omits the exact calendar date each festival is to fall out on and merely makes mention of the ‘season’ it falls in. Pesach is to be celebrated in the אביב, springtime, Shavuos fifty days later, during the קציר, ‘harvest’ season; summer, and Sukkos during the season of אסיף,  the ‘ingathering’ of the harvest; autumn.

Why the omission of its precise date in conjunction with its seasonal location?

The Torah instructs, שמור את חדש האביב (דברים טז א), Observe the month of the springtime, requiring the addition periodically of a month to the year to realign the lunar calendar with the solar year so that the festivals fall out within the designated seasons associated with them, as there is an eleven day discrepancy between the length of a solar year and the lunar one.

Clearly there is a need then to combine both facets, lunar and solar, so why would the Torah choose to refer only to the seasonal marker without its exact historical date as well?

Why are these yearly pilgrimages only mentioned in context of the seasons but never in the other portions of the Torah that detail the festivals and their sacrificial requirements, as outlined in Pinchas, as well by the full complement of the specific mitzvos associated with each festival that are elaborated in Emor?

In our reading it also calls for one to ‘rejoice’ on the festival, ושמחת בחגך (שם שם יד), You shall rejoice on your festival. Although this obligation applies to all three festivals, nevertheless the Torah omits any specific reference to ‘rejoicing’ when discussing Pesach. Additionally in discussing Shavuos it makes only a single mention to rejoice, yet the Torah emphasizes twice, during its description of Sukkos, the obligation to be happy. What is the underlying message in this progression from zero joy to a call to rejoice and finally a full double expression of happiness, indicated in these verses?

The great Maharal makes a remarkable observation. Man and his life experience, he says, parallels the four seasons. The cycle of the seasons begins with the Tekufas Teves, the winter solstice, the shortest ‘day’ of the year, where from this juncture the sun begins to appear in greater proportion each day as the days now grow longer. The power of the sun displays its affect at the onset of Tekufas Nissan, the spring equinox, and the appearance of the first crops that have sprouted from the earth due to the sun’s influence.

This season corresponds to the segment of man’s life where he develops from a fetus until maturity, ready to leave his parents home and head forward in establishing a family and homestead of his own. Assuming as King David asserts, ימי שנותינו בהם שבעים שנה (תהלים צ י), The days of our years among them are seventy years, that a lifetime is measured by seventy years, this first quarter of life, represents 17.5 years, approaching 18, as seventy divided by four equals seventeen and a half. This, he teaches, is the basis for Mishna in Avos which advocates man to marry at the age of 18,  since it as this age he is now ‘ripe’ to begin a family.

The Maharal leaves the rest of this analogue for us to figure out on our own. I would suggest the next quarter of life from the age of 17.5 through 35 years of age, corresponds to the season that begins with Tekufas Nissan and concludes with Tekufas Tammuz, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year with the sun at its peak, beginning to wane beyond that point and the days ahead. This would allude to the period of greatest growth within a family, both in terms of children and as well in establishing one’s successful career in life, a time of flourishing amidst the many challenges these endeavors entail.

The following quarter, from the age of 35 to 52.5 would align with the period from Tekufas Tammuz through Tekufas Tishrei, the autumn equinox, the midpoint of the sun’s southward journey, where the glorious bounty of summer has been fully gathered as the summer wanes, nights now beginning to diminish the brightness of daylight, as one heads towards the darkness of winter and the apparent demise of any visible nature of ‘growth’.

This mirrors the years where man looks back on his accomplishments enjoying the fruits of his labor with great satisfaction and accomplishment.

From that point and on, from the age of 52.5 until 70, the final quarter of life, the night of the material world grows darker with the omen of man’s eventual demise, reaching Tekufas Teves, the longest night, implying death, only to recover with continuation of life as the next generation begins to gestate, as the sun once again begins its northerly trek, bringing its magnificent sunshine and warmth to the next generation in that continuous cycle called life.

The Maharal makes another fascinating suggestion. He asks, why from among all the four Patriarchs does the Torah only record the age of Yitzchok, being 40 years old when he married?

He suggests that we see that Yitzchok lived to the age of 180, and Yishmael his antagonist, to 137. It’s fair to assume that Yitzchok due to his righteousness was blessed with extra years while the jealous and threatening Yishmael had his years lessened. We can then surmise that age of the ‘average’ man at that period in time in history can be determined by calculating the median age between them both, which would give us 158. If we divide the ‘base life’ of Yitzchok by four we obtain, 39.5, with each subsequent quarter marked by the years: 79, 118.5 and 158. We discover that 40 (39.5 rounded out) was Yitzchok’s ‘18’, and thus the source for the Mishna in determining the appropriate age to marry! (גור אריה תולדות)

May I add to my illustrious ancestor’s theory the following observations:

During Yitzchok’s second quadrant he finally merited to joyously father children, at the age of 60. At the age of 123, approximate to the end of his third quadrant, he ultimately and happily affirms Yaakov as his rightful heir with the conferring of his blessings, then together with Rivkah dispatches him on his journey towards his destiny in marrying Leah and Rochel, and begetting the future Tribes of Israel. Rivkah, his beloved wife, passes away when Yitzchok is 159, connoting the end of his ‘base’ life, with Yitzchok going on to live his ‘extra’ years in relative isolation, passing away at the age of 180.

Each festival celebrates the quarter it follows. Pesach, the festival of אביב, springtime and rebirth, reflects on the formative years of maturation and the struggle to define and discover oneself, now equipped to ‘spring’ forward. Perhaps because of this doubt we experience until we reach  self-realization is the reason why ‘joy’ does not yet appear explicitly. Shavuos, a time of harvest and industry, realizing one’s potential, whether in the birth of children or in the exercising of skills developed, contemplates the joy of success, though tempered with the stress and hard labor that expends so much of our energy in the process. But there is clearly ‘rejoicing’ nevertheless, thus one mention of joy. The third quarter of life, where we begin to see our children go forward in life, coupled with the ‘ingathering’ of our wealth of accomplishments both material and spiritual, warrants the double expression of happiness that is represented in Sukkos.

Of all the Patriarchs Yitzchok is the sole one who lived his full years. Avraham died prematurely so he wouldn’t have to see his grandson Esav falling into bad ways. Yaakov lost years of his life because he ‘complained’ to Pharaoh about his difficult life.

Yitzchok was the only one of the Patriarchs born in Nissan, unlike the others, we are taught, who were born in Tishrei.

His name as well, Yitzchok, connotes laughter, an expression of joy.

There were three ‘laughs’ related to the birth of Yitzchok. The laughter of doubt that Sarah was taken to task for, when she chuckled in disbelief, when hearing of the promise of a child, questioning her worthiness of such great privilege.

There was the laughter of astonishment that Avraham exhibited as he rejoiced upon hearing of the great privilege his legacy would now be assured.

Finally after having been earlier admonished, Sarah upon bearing the child of the promise, recovers from her previous failure and proclaims with genuine glee, “G-d has made laughter for me, whoever hears will laugh with me.”

Perhaps the initial ‘imperfect’ laugh of Sarah is indicative of the self-doubt we all experience until we mature and identify ourselves and our relationship with G-d with greater clarity and understanding. This aligns with Pesach and our inability to yet fully experience joy.

The laughter of Avraham, represents the expression of satisfaction in realizing our dreams and the ability to pursue them. This coordinates with Shavuos and the celebration of accomplishment, harvesting, a joy that is apparent but yet not absent of all anxiety.

The ‘last laugh’ of Sarah, however, depicts an awareness of the special relationship we each can access in accomplishing our greatest hopes, as Sarah avers that all those who ‘hear’ her, comprehend her, will be able to laugh along with their own renewed awareness of the personal connection one can achieve in bringing dreams to fruition. This echoes the joy of Sukkos where one regales in that special bond one senses upon realizing the responsiveness of G-d to those who seek Him earnestly.

The Torah records these ‘pilgrimages’ with unidentified dates to allude to the timelessness of this constant process of growth.

As we begin the month of Elul in preparation for the Day of Judgement, where we are forced to consider how far we have come and to where we are headed, it would be wise to contemplate the ‘seasons of our souls’ with brutal honesty. Where do we stand in the cycle of life? Do we have what to deservedly rejoice in? Have we appreciated the opportunities we have been given and utilized them appropriately or have we squandered them?  

It is high time for some healthy ‘global warming’ to mature, harvest and gather in the vast blessings that await those who align themselves with the vital message of the ceaseless pilgrimage we trek each day of our lives until we finally achieve a complete and final return!


צבי טייכמאן

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In three places the Torah instructs us to celebrate the festivals by making a pilgrimage to the Temple on each of the three festivals; Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos. The first two appear in the portions of Mishpatim and Ki Sisa with the final reference at the end of our portion, Reeh. In each of these cases the Torah omits the exact calendar date each festival is to fall out on and merely makes mention of the ‘season’ it falls in. Pesach is to be celebrated in the אביב, springtime, Shavuos fifty days later, during the קציר, ‘harvest’ season; summer, and Sukkos during the season of אסיף,  the ‘ingathering’ of the harvest; autumn. Why the omission of its precise date in conjunction with its seasonal location? The Torah instructs, שמור ...
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