Seasons of the Moon

Seasons of the Moon - Elul 5759

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Seasons of the Moon

The Month of Elul 5759
13 August - 10 September1999


The World's End

When Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World in 1492, many people thought he would fall off the edge of the earth and vanish into oblivion. The cosmography of the 15th century held that the world was a flat disc. Nowadays, this idea seems childish, however, in one respect, they were right: The physical world has an end. There is a place where this reality ends and another begins. Where is it?

We are living in a physical world. The essence of the physical is that it can exist only within the confines of space and time. In the worlds above this world, there is no space, no time. They are spiritual worlds. Between this existence and its neighbors, however, there exists a place of transition, a border. Where is the border between this world and the next? Where is this gateway to eternity? And what would we see there?

In the First Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple), in the middle of the Holy of Holies, there sat the Aron HaKodesh - the Holy Ark. There's an amazing fact about the Aron. It took up no space. Even though it had physical dimension1, nevertheless it took up no space2.

How was this possible? How was it possible for the Aron to have measurements and yet occupy no space in this world?

Imagine you're driving from France to Italy. Twenty kilometers from the border you see signs in French announcing the approaching Italian border. Closer, you notice that the French signs have now been joined by the same signs written in Italian: "Douanes/Dogana" - Customs. On the other side of the border, you notice the reverse. At first the signs are in both languages, then after some kilometers they are only written in Italian.

Wherever there is a border between two entities, we can expect to see elements of both.

On The Borderline

The Aron was the border of two worlds. It sat on the Even Shesia, the rock from which G-d extruded the entire Universe. This was the "border post" between two worlds, thus the characteristics of both this world and the next were manifest. The Aron occupied no space because it represents the upper worlds. It contains the Torah, the communication of G-d to man. On the other hand, from the place of the Aron flows all Creation, all space and time. This is the place where the physical world begins. From here, it expands outward.

The Aron was in this world, but it was not of this world. It was subject to the laws of a higher world where there is no space and time. The Aron was the threshold between two worlds. It was the "French/Italian border" between this world and the next. It had dimensions without occupying space.

The Dot Matrix

There's a little letter in Hebrew that's like the Aron. From it too flows all of Creation. The letter yud. The yud is the smallest letter in the Hebrew language. It's no more than a dot. But with this little yud, this little dot, G-d created the Future World3. The ideal dot has no dimension. However, If you put any yud under the microscope you'll see that it has length and breadth. It's impossible to write it any other way, but ideally it should be the smallest existence capable in this world.

The letter yud exists in this world - you can read it in any book - but it represents a world beyond this world. The physical shape of the yud hints to this dichotomy: It is a notion without dimension. Naturally, when we write a yud, we are constrained by the laws of this world, we have to give it dimension or it would be invisible. However, what the yud represents is a world beyond this one where there is no space and no time. It is the world of the yud. The Future World.

Elul and the Letter Yud

The month of Elul was formed by the letter yud. If G-d used the letter yud to form the month, it means that the letter itself expresses the essence of the month of Elul. Maybe, in this smallest of letters, we may find some of the secret power that is locked into the month of Elul. Let us examine this "dot matrix."

Not only is the yud an otherworldly letter, it is also the foundation of all other letters. Just as the Future World4 is the foundation of this world, so too the letter yud is the foundation of all other letters. In order to write any letter, you have to start with a little dot, a little dot called yud. In other words, the foundation of all language, and thus all cognition, is the yud, the smallest dot. Our thoughts are aligned with reality only when we realize why, and on what, this world is founded. Just as the root of language is an infinitesimal dot which stands at the gateway between this world of space/time and the world which is beyond those constraints, so too the root of all knowledge, its foundation, is to know that there is a world above this world5. When our thoughts turn towards that infinitesimal point, we align ourselves with transcendence.

Back to the Future

Two more pieces, and our puzzle will be complete. Elul in Aramaic means searching6. We only search for something when we see a future for it. No one searches for a lost cause, a broken camera or a used Coca-Cola can. The essence of searching, of Elul, is that we believe in two futures: Our own future and that there is a future. Firstly, we must believe in our own future. We must believe that we are not forever rat-trapped in a Skinner's Maze of our own past mistakes. Secondly, we must believe that there is a future: A Future World where all is clear and the darkness that surrounds us is lit up by the great aura of the Presence of the Holy One. A Jew must know that this world is no more than a dark and narrow corridor to a great palace of light.

Given this, it will not come as a surprise that the letter yud is one of the ways that we make the future tense in the Hebrew language. The yud is the letter of the future. The letter of the Future World. Elul is the month of the future. The month where our minds are preoccupied with the anticipation of Rosh Hashana, that great and awesome day when The Creator scrutinizes every minute part of His creation, seeing if it corresponds to His intentions, and judging it accordingly.

The essence of Elul is wanting to go back - back to the Future - to connect to that Reality which is beyond this world, beyond space and time, to remake ourselves in the mold of the maiden.


 Shemot 25:10. "They shall make an Ark of acacia wood two and a half amot its length (about five feet), an amah and a half its width, and an amah and a half its height."

 How do we know that the Aron took up no space? If you went into the Holy of Holies and measured from one wall to the Aron in the middle. Then, you measured from the other side of the Aron to the far wall. That measurement would be the same as the distance from one wall to the other without taking the Aron into account. The distance between the two walls of the Holy of Holies was the same whether you measured from the walls to the sides of the Aron, or whether you measured the entire width.

 Yeshayahu 26:4, "Ki b'Kah, Hashem Tzur Ha-olomim"

 This world was formed with the letter heh. One of the two elements of the letter heh is the letter yud.

 The word foundation is apposite. Foundation connotes both meanings implied here: a) a beginning, a starting point. And b) the sum total of all that the entity is supposed to be. For example, the Declaration of Independence was the foundation of the United States of America. It was both its beginning and it contained the essence and aspiration of all that the United States was intended to be.

 Targum, Bamidbar 13:2 "That they may spy out the Land."

The Unquiet Soul

You said you don't believe
in a world to come,
that we ended like so much meat.
"Prove it to me." you said to me.
"Prove that you're my brother" I replied.

Inside, that same knowing heart
that shares our flesh
wipes the sleep from its eyes
and stirs.
Unquiet is the soul.

The publication of Seasons Of The Moon was made possible by the generosity of Jill Sinclair and Trevor Horn

SEASONS OF THE MOON is written by
Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair and edited by Rabbi Moshe Newman.
Designed and Produced by the Office of Communications - Rabbi Eliezer Shapiro, Director
Production Design: Eli Ballon
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