Thursday, July 20, 2017

WOMEN and the TORAH



Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn


The strangest teaching in the Talmud is the battle between HaShem and the Moon.[1] But let us begin from the Beginning. “In the Beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth.” The term for G‑d is ELOKIM, which in Kabbala, refers to the Female Force of Strong Justice. The entire first biblical section dealing with the Creation refers to HaShem in the word ELOKIM, which is the female Kabbalistic level. Only later, when the Torah begins once again the story of Creation, and repeats much of what was done earlier, does the Torah refer to G-d as HaShem Elokim, both the Male (HaShem) and Female (Elokim) Names for heaven. Male is “kindness” and Female is “justice.”
ELOKIM, the term for justice, is a dangerous level. If there is ELOKIM or strong justice, when people sin they can receive strong punishment very quickly. People who are perfectly righteous have no fear of strong justice, but how many perfectly righteous people are there in the world? On the other hand, we must establish at the story of Creation the great value of a world based upon obeying HaShem in a serious manner. On the other hand, such a level can destroy the world, because we know that most people are not ready for it. Therefore, there were two sections of the Creation story. First, that G‑d wanted more than anything the Perfectly Righteous who certainly are important to the Creation. On the other hand, most people are not on that level and can be swept away by such standards. Therefore, for most people, it was necessary to introduce a strong measure of kindness and mercy to offset strong and rigid justice. That is why the first section of the Creation story mentions only ELOKIM for G‑d, to emphasize the importance of being in constant fear of heaven. But the second section of the Creation story deals with reality, that most people are not ready for this, and need a lot of kindness and mercy, along with their constant effort at penitence which they hope will be accepted.
Now we come to the next phase of the Creation story, when things begin to heat up. HaShem created the Sun and Moon at the time of Creation. The Sun and the Moon, as you notice, begin with Capital letters, Sun and Moon, to indicate that we are not talking about the ball of fire which is the sun that we see every day, and we are not talking about the moon, which we see most of the lunar month. We, at the beginning of Creation, are talking about a talking Moon. Not only did the Moon talk, it said outrageous things, and began an argument with HaShem that became “the strangest teaching in the Talmud” as I mentioned before. Obviously, the Sun and Moon were angelic and even higher, because an angel would never talk back to HaShem as the Moon did.
But higher than angels we don’t know about, so let us explain that the Sun and the Moon were angels or angelic. So how did the Moon talk back to G‑d when no angel would do it? Because there are some angels created at the time of Creation to prepare the world for the bad things that go on in the world, such as Chutspah and even much worse things. That is one idea. But the real answer is that the Moon when arguing with HaShem did not step over the line into any kind of wickedness. The proof is that HaShem demoted the Moon but said, “I will bring an atonement for demoting the Moon.”

What Did the Moon Say to HaShem?


What outrageous things did the Moon say to HaShem? The Moon demanded that “two kings cannot share a throne.” In other words, the Sun and Moon were like kings, and at that time, the luminance in both of them was enormous, and both were equals. The Moon demanded that there not be two “kings” shining great light upon the world. The Moon should be the great light and the Sun a small and diminished light.
The Sun ignored all of this, but the Moon pushed forward with her demands. To make a long story short, finally HaShem told the Moon that she would not drive the Sun away from his great luminance, and furthermore, she would have to shrink, and become the Moon that we know, which is a tiny sliver of shining rock most of the month.
Perhaps we think that HaShem did this because He appreciated the modesty of the Sun who did no pushing or demanding. If so, HaShem “gave the Moon a spanking” and that would be that. But here we find that the Talmud quotes HaShem saying, “bring for Me a sacrifice because I made the Moon small.” HaShem should bring a sacrifice because He insisted that the Moon with her demands be rejected? That is the strangest statement I ever saw in the Talmud. And it requires an explanation.
To understand this, we must turn to the story of Purim, when Mordechai treated Haman, the second most powerful person in the Persian Empire, with disdain. The Jews in Persia were terrified to see a Jew antagonize the powerful Haman. But the miracle end of the story was that King Achashverush became infuriated with Haman during a royal meal with the King and Esther. Haman was killed there and the King made Mordechai his new second in command. This led the Jews to great power in Persia. But how could Mordechai risk the lives of all of the Jews when he antagonized Haman in direct contradiction to the royal ruling that everyone had to honor Haman? It would seem that the many Jews who rebuked Mordechai for this were right.
Here we see the power of a perfectly righteous Jew. Mordechai knew that Haman wore pagan medallions so people would bow to them. Technically, bowing to a   great officer who wore pagan medals was not necessarily a sin, because the bowing was to the officer a royal personage, not to pagan medallions. But Mordechai was a perfect Tsadik, and refused to enter the realm of bowing to somebody who sported pagan idolatry. There is a Torah for people who are not perfectly righteous, and a Torah for the perfectly righteous. The perfectly righteous have no fear of Haman. They keep the Torah and HaShem will protect them. And so it was.
What has that to do with the Moon and HaShem’s decision to atone for defying her? As follows: The Moon, represented by the Name Elokim, meaning rigid justice, taught perfection of the Jew in this world. Mordechai was what she was. He thus had no fear that if he refused to bow to Haman and his idols he would suffer. And he did not. Just the opposite. From that bowing came Haman’s discomfiture predicted by Haman’s friends and family. And then came Haman’s death by the anger of the King.
But the moon wanted the whole world to be perfect! She refused to accept any level of evil! Therefore, she argued that she, not the male Sun, should dominate. The Sun was the male level of kindness, and it represented a world where people did sin, did penitence, and continued on with their lives. The Sun represented a world of sin, not a world of perfection. And the Moon fought against this. Because every level of sin is a Chilul HaShem, a disgrace for Heaven.
If so, the Moon was right, that any sin defiles the purity of G-d’s world, and must be opposed. And G-d admitted that the Moon had a point, that sin has no place when the Divine Presence observes what is happening in the world. Surely, the world was not ready for the perfection desired by the Moon, but when we accept that, we realize that to accept this we demote the Moon, who had the right idea, that never should there be in G‑d’s world people walking around with their sins. And HaShem, who designed an imperfect world, one filled with sin, “atoned” for this by bringing, as if it could be, a sacrifice of atonement. Thus, sin is wrong, and we desire purity. But the world is filled with people sinning, and we don’t want to destroy all of them. But to accept such a world requires an obligation to recognize that the ideal is no sin, or the level of the Moon.

Male and Female, Sun and Moon

We thus understand the Sun and the Moon as Male and Female, also, as Kindness and Strict Justice. The world by day has a blazing sun and by night a tiny moon, invisible some times during the month, and at best, reaching a full shine in the middle of the month. This brings us to a great problem.
We explained before that G‑d recognized the importance of a pure world, represented by the Moon. And yet, He made the Sun the powerful luminance. But the Sun represented a world of sinning, penitence (hopefully), and people maybe dying with their sins uncleansed. The Moon represented a pure world, ideally of people like Mordechai, a perfect Tsadik. But the Moon was tiny and insignificant relative to the Sun. Is this not a problem?
The Book of Shir HaShirim, Song of Songs, is about this problem, the denigration of the female by G‑d who promotes therefore a lot of sinning people walking around the world, which is a disgrace to heaven. Then G‑d declares this sinful and, as if it could be, blames Himself for this!
The Book of Shir HaShirim begins as follows: “A Song of Songs of Shlomo. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, because your love is better than wine. The fragrance of your good oil, your name is poured oil, that is why the maidens love you. Pull me after you, and we will run. The king should bring me to his dwelling, we will celebrate and rejoice with you.  We will remember your love greater than wine, those who go in the proper path love you.
“I am black and I am beautiful, daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kador as the dwellings of Solomon. Do not look at me that I am very  black, because the sun has blackened me, the sons of my mother turned against me, they made me someone who guards the vineyards, but my vineyard I did not guard.”
This passage is in keeping with the story of the Moon and the Sun. The Sun is the blazing luminance, and the Moon is for the night, barely noticed much of the time. And yet, the Moon declares, “I am black and I am beautiful.” How can that be? Because if HaShem flung her from her wish to be the sole great luminance in the world to being a barely noticed rock in the sky, if this is HaShem’s wish, it cannot be anything less than beautiful.
The morning prayers begin with Baruch Sheomar, followed immediately by Mizmor Lisoda. The Shulchan Aruch[2] says that all of the songs of King David do not come to the level of Mizmor Lisoda, which seems to be nothing more than all of the other songs of King David. And nobody explains what is so important about Mizmor LiSoda, which seems, as we mentioned, just like all of the other Psalms of King David.
I asked this question to Torah scholars and finally, I came up with an answer. In this world, I said, all Jews suffer and immediately mention that if HaShem wanted this it must be for the good. Now, that is what they say and that may be even what they, to some degree, think. But the thinking that suffering is good is only a religious faith, not something that people really know, because how could they know it? Therefore, all acceptance of suffering is a low level, relative to Mizmor LiSoda, which is the higher level when we merit, miraculously, to really know that our suffering is completely for our own good! Again, Mizmor LiSoda represents the ability to actually know that our suffering is for our own good, not as an act of faith which we don’t really know. I don’t know who merits this, but whoever does it is way ahead of those who merely accept G‑d’s goodness with religious faith.
This is the story of male and female, the Sun and the Moon. In this world, we see only “I am black and beautiful” but the black doesn’t go away and returns as “Do not look at me as I am very black because the sun has blackened me.” What happened to “and beautiful”? It remains, in this world, an act of faith. But the time will come when G‑d reveal the secrets of suffering, and why women are denigrated in this world, and how this denigration itself is the secret of the very great glory the female and the Moon merit.
On the one hand, in this world, the man recites a blessing “who has not made me a woman.” On the other hand, the gemora in Berochose says that Greater is the trust that HaShem has for women than what He has for men.” Women in this world are “black” and their beauty is not readily understood. But HaShem, and the women themselves, understand that the Moon, with all of her “minimize yourself” is very close to HaShem, who values the greatness of the Jewish woman, with her suffering, her “blackness” in this world, and challenges, knowing that the woman has the ability to be denigrated by the “Sun” and remain faithful to HaShem. She also knows that HaShem appreciates her faith. In fact, her faith in this world equals the level of Mizmor LiSoda in the other world, where people not just believe that their suffering was for their own good, but see it miraculously! The men cannot readily attain this level in this world therefore the gemora says that the level of faith women have is greater than the level of men. [3]
Furthermore, there is a gemora in Menochose[4] that few men merit the truly high level of heaven. There is a place for women in this world, full of challenge and pain. This is like the Jewish people, who suffer more than the nations of the world, and precisely this guarantees them a high place in the other world. But in this world, filled with very great problems for the women, the woman merit more than men to what the gemora refers to as the trust that HaShem has in the greatness and belief of women, and that this exceeds HaShem’s trust in the belief of men. We have quoted the Book of Shir HaShirim with its sad comments about women. Now, let us take a look into the female in Kabbala.

The Female in Kabbala

We have mentioned before the great trust that HaShem has in women in this world, and that it exceeds His trust in men. We also credited this with the great challenges that women, not men, have in this world. Let us now look into the higher world, and see how women fare there. Now, we don’t know how individual people fare there, but we will speak Kabbalistically. Just as the Sun and Moon were “male” and “female” so we will speak of the Ten Sefirose or Divine Emanations that comprise the Kabbalistic world. The bottom of these ten is MALCHUSE which is lower than others, has more evil and suffering in it than other Sefirose, and is known as the Female level.
Let us now talk about the high ten Kabbalistic worlds. The highest world is KESER (crown) and the lowest world is MALCHUSE (monarchy). KESER is a world we may not refer to in any way, because it is utterly beyond our mortal understanding. Just as a crown is above the body of the king or person who wears it, so is the ability to understand KESER beyond us completely. The lowest world MALCHUSE (monarch) is the closest to mortal understanding. There we find evil and problems that do not exist in the highest holy dimensions, but they do exist in MALCHUSE.
The world underneath KESER is CHOCHMO (wisdom). CHOCHMO is also a completely hidden world, but not like KESER. We are privileged to know something about CHOCHMO, that it exists. But nothing more. This does not extend to KESER, where even that is hidden from us. Of course, we know that KESER exists, but since we are completely ignorant of KESER, we don’t really know what exists, having absolutely no idea of what it is. But of CHOCHMO we are not so remote and we may know something about it, that it exists, and we may even have some idea of what its existence means. Keser is the highest and first level. Then comes Chochmo or Father, and then comes Bina or Mother, number three. Now, Bina or Mother is far removed from Father, because between them is a barrier that separates the very high unknown world of holiness with the seven lower worlds where things exist that we do understand. But the worlds of one and two Sefirose are completely hidden from us, including BINA or MOTHER, who are separated from these two dimensions. Father, number two, is married to BINA or MOTHER, number three. And yet, BINA is far removed from the hidden holy world of One and Two, Keser and Chochmo. Thus, CHOCHMO is closer to us, even though it is like KESER comprised of such holiness that we are completely remote from understanding what it is. Of Keser we know absolutely nothing of what it is.
 We must add that “Father and Mother were created simultaneously” and that they will never separate. That brings Father or CHOCHMO into our ability to get some idea what CHOCHMO is. And yet, we are still at the stage of knowing him only as one who exists, without understanding what it means to exist in such a high level so close to HaShem.
Now we return to MALCHUSE the bottom level with its suffering and evil and of course a lot of holiness as well, as befits a Sefiro closely connected to the highest heavens.

MALCHUSE AND KESER

Because we on earth, a very low world, are closest to MALCHUSE and very remote from KESER, we can appreciate MALCHUSE with its suffering and its evil even though it is a holy Sefira also. What we find difficult to understand is that MALCHUSE has an extremely close relationship with KESER. How can that be? But yet, MALCHUSE and KESER are so close that they flip up and down sometimes!
Reb Moshe Chaim Lutsato one of the very greatest Kabbalists, writes (ADIR BAMOROM page 119 in my volume) that “MALCHUSE RISES TO KESER”. He has a discussion of what this means and part of it is a statement about KESER MALCHUSE that they are somehow united as one. Let us stop here, but we see that MALCHUSE, the female level, rises to KESER and is intimately involved with KESER. And recall that CHOCHMO which is underneath KESER is married to MOTHER beneath him. But KESER above CHOCHMO is very closely involved with MALCHUSE, the bottom Sefira!
We cannot help but notice that ladies in that world are very high. This encourages us especially when we recall what we said about ladies in this world. We quoted the gemora that ladies are trusted to serve G‑d and believe in Him more than He believes in men. This surely fits in with MALCHUSE, the female, rising to KESER, but CHOCHMO fears and trembles from KESER and shrinks from KESER.
Now, since we are talking about Kabbala, let’s leave it at that. It is enough to make people proud of women. And it is also enough to let us admit that more than that we don’t really understand, but, that is plenty!




[1] Chulin 60B – the Moon demanded that she become greater than the Sun and G‑d made her less than the Sun. She then argued with G‑d who finally ruled, “Go and make yourself small.” Then G‑d decreed that a sacrifice would be brought for His “sin” of making the Moon small.
[2] Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 51:9 – One should recite Mizmor LiSoda with a tune, because all songs will in the future be negated with the exception of Mizmor LiSoda.
[3] Gemora Berochose 17A based upon a passage in Yeshayo the Prophet 32:9 “Comfortable women, hear my voice; women who trust [in G‑d] hearken to my words.”
[4] 29B – Why was the Higher World created with a YUD [a tiny letter] because very few tsaddikim merit to come there.