5782: Numbers and Meanings for the New Year

5782: Numbers and Meanings for the New Year

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

Elul 5, 5781 • Kfar Chabad

As per the Alter Rebbe’s metaphor capturing the essence of the month of Elul, the king is now in the field and everyone is able to approach, speak with him and ask for what they need. The most important need is the coming of Mashiach immediately.

We have a custom to begin the year with the different allusions of the number of the year—specifically focusing on these gematriot (numerical allusions) that pertain to our inner service and that enhance our ability to approach Hashem now and during the coming year.

The phrases representing the year 5782

The year we are about to enter is 5782, but as is well known, the custom is to refer to the year as 782, sans the millennia. This is the number we will contemplate and reveal important allusions regarding. Before beginning to look at the numerical hints associated with the new year, we like to give a phrase or idiom that captures the letter-representation of the year as well; for this coming year, this will be תשפ”ב. The first two letters, ת and ש, which are the same for an entire century, customarily stand for “May it be a year of” (תְּהֵא שְׁנַת).

30 years ago in 5752 (which was תשנ”ב), the Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that the letters representing the year stood for the phrase, “May it be a year of wonders in all things” (תְּהֵא שְׁנַת נִפְלָאוֹת בַּכֹּל). Wonders can be written as either נִפְלָאוֹת, or just פְּלָאוֹת, without the prefix letter nun (נ). So actually, the phrases used in the entire present decade (5780 through 5789) can just be copied from those used three decades ago (from 5750 to 5759). For our particular upcoming year, 5782, we could then use the phrase, “May it be a year of wonders in all things” (תְּהֵא שְׁנַת פְּלָאוֹת בַּכֹּל). Wonders in all that we do and in all that God does with us.

Another beautiful idiom that uses the letters פב is “face to face” (פָּנִים בְּפָנִים) and so this year can stand for the phrase, “May it be a year of face to face” (תְּהֵא שְׁנַת פָּנִים בְּפָנִים). God gave us the Torah face to face. Face means inner in Hebrew, and so God gave us the Torah from His inner essence directly to ours. The idiom, “face to face,” applies both to the relationship between man and God and between man and his fellow man. Thus, the coming year is for uniting and relating to other souls in a manner of face to face, from my inner essence to yours and back again. When we approach someone with direct light (or yashar) it causes them to reflect back to us with what is called reflected light (or chozer).

Building a partzuf for 782

These were two examples using the initials of the year. But this is not the technique we normally employ, because we usually focus on the numerical value of the year, which once again is 782. We are going to choose from a multitude of possibilities—many different words, idioms, and phrases, whose value is 782—six different phrases, which are very significant and also have a common denominator to them. In each case, the phrase that equals 782, will refer to two or more concepts that go together naturally. Together, these six different expressions from the Torah, form a partzuf, or a model that reflects the human form which is based on the ten sefirot with which God creates reality.

The sefirot and their inner experiential dimension from above to below begin with the super-consciousness of the soul—usually divided in two (pleasure and will). Then the intelligences of the soul divided into the three faculties of the mind: wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Then the emotions of the heart, loving-kindness, might (or courage) and compassion. Then the powers of the soul to enact itself in reality, to impress itself upon reality: confidence, sincerity, and the power of self-fulfillment of the soul, which correspond to the sefirot victory, thanksgiving, and foundation. Finally, we have the external reality of the soul, the kingdom, the purpose of creation, which is described by the verse, “God will be King over the entire world, on that day [the day of the Mashiach], God will be one and His Name will be one.”[1] This is just to remind us of the model and the flow of all the sefirot, which are also the powers of the soul, the way God created man in His image.

Crown: “May He give you peace”

We will now begin from above and descend downward. The first allusion of 782 is the climax of the Priestly Blessing, which is one of if not the numerical gem of the Torah. It is comprised of three verses. The priests say, “May God bless you and guard you. May God shine His countenance upon you and give you grace.”[2] And the third and final verse and blessing is, “May God lift His countenance upon you and give you peace.”[3] The final three words, are the climax, “May He give you peace” (וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם). There is a very important intent in these words, which we say every day, that the ultimate blessing is peace—peace in the world, peace of mind; peace in Hebrew also means consummate perfection or soundness, even good health, anything that needs to be complete is peace.

The sages say that there is nothing greater than peace, גָּדוֹל הַשָּׁלוֹם.[4] This is the ultimate blessing that the Torah blesses us through the priests who are the messengers that bring the word and blessing of God to us, and we send them to receive this message and channel it through them to us. The ultimate blessing are the final three words.

In the sages, they teach us that each part of the three blessings is about something specific. The Sifrei, the anthology of interpretations of the words of the Torah according to the oral tradition received from Sinai, explains that “May He give you peace” means “the peace of the Torah” (זֶה שְׁלוֹם תּוֹרָה). The explanation is that there is something unique about the Torah since it has the power to make peace between opposite opinions. This is very prominent throughout the rabbinic literature. Even though one sage says so and the other says the opposite and they contradict one another, “these and these are both the words of the living God.”[5] There is something intrinsic about the Torah that the peace of the Torah is the true ultimate union of opposites that will be revealed in the future by the Mashiach. In this world we cannot yet fully understand what it means that two opposite opinions can be one. This is why this allusion belongs to the realm of the crown, to the supernal super-conscious realm of the soul. There the Torah makes peace between the people that express these opposite opinions—everything that a rabbinic sage says expresses his soul root. In our world, these opposite soul roots even seem antagonistic, but in the crown, they are ultimately in a state of perfect peace. As the Torah says, “In Vaheb in Sufah,”[6] which the sages allegorically interpret as meaning, “love in the end,” meaning that the dispute between the different opinions clarified through the study of Torah, which is like a war, ends with love. In the crown it is revealed how all different people are actually one and the same in their Divine essence; that every Divine soul of Israel is an actual part of the Divintiy of God. Divinity does not split into parts, so each soul is a reflection of the entire whole. Every part is the whole, except that you only see one aspect of the infinite dimensions of the whole.

This phrase, “May He give you peace” (וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם) equals 782. If I add the interpretation of the sages, “the peace of the Torah” (זֶה שְׁלוֹם תּוֹרָה) to 782, the sum comes to 1781, which is 13 times 137, where 13 is the value of “one” (אֶחָד), or “love” (אַהֲבָה)—peace is a revelation of love and oneness—and 137 is a very important number, the most important number in modern physics, it is the value of the word “kabbalah” (קַבָּלָה). So, this is a very beautiful number.

One more point about this. As we said before that peace means perfection in Hebrew. To give peace is the peace of God. What does this mean. The Torah and God are one and the same. The peace of God is an expression explained in the early texts of Kabbalah, that God is complete (peace) inasmuch as, although He is infinite, He possesses the power of finitude in His infinity. He is without boundaries, but to be complete He cannot be lacking anything, not even the opposite of what He appears to be. Before the contraction of His infinite light, He is infinite. But to say that He is just infinite and does not possess in His essence finitude, is to take away His completeness. Therefore, the completeness of God, which is also the completeness of the Torah, is that it also includes details. Everything in the Torah has a limit, it is limitless together with being limited, simultaneously. Since all the different details come from the same infinity, for that reason itself, different sages, which are representative of different soul roots, each has his affinity—they are all part of the infinite one. There is both a limit (like in mathematics) and sometimes there is no limit. The unity of the limitless and the limit is the peace of God, which is also the peace of the Torah. This is the first meditation of 782.

Crown: “To dwell in the mist”

The second meditation, which we will call the transition stage between absolute infinity and the manifestation in reality, which is finite—because the power of limits is part of the infinity. When king Solomon inaugurated the first Temple, he said a very important prayer to God and in this prayer, he began with a phrase that equals 782. The Book of Kings describes, “Then Solomon declared, ‘God has chosen to dwell in a mist’”[7] (אָז אָמַר שְׁלֹמֹה הוי’ אָמַר לִשְׁכֹּן בָּעֲרָפֶל). The word “then” (אָז) precedes the songs of the Torah. God desired to dwell in the mist or the fog. This mist is also referred to as “the thickness of the cloud” (עַב הֶעָנָן). The first time this word appears is when Moses went up to the mountain to receive the Torah, “Moses approached the mist in which God was”[8] (וּמֹשֶׁה נִגַּשׁ אֶל הָעֲרָפֶל אֲשֶׁר שָׁם הָאֱ-לֹהִים). This word, “mist” (עֲרָפֶל) appears 3 times in the Torah and altogether 15 times in the Bible. It is unique because it is a four-letter root, not very common in Hebrew. What King Solomon is telling us is that the secret of the Temple is the purpose of all of creation, that the entire world becomes a dwelling place for God and God says and chooses to dwell in the mist (לִשְׁכֹּן בָּעֲרָפֶל), which equals 782. The initial letters of this phrase spell “heart” (לב). This is another straightforward allusion for the coming year.

What can we learn from this phrase? Sometimes it is explained that the spiritual meaning of the word mist is “uncertainty.” Just like before we talked about limits and unlimited, obviously our faith is certain, God is certain and the Torah is certain, but God chooses to dwell in uncertainty, in the fog, in the mist. Solomon in these first words is explaining what this temple that he built for seven years is in a sense, a fog. It is the thickness of the cloud (עַב הֶעָנָן) has a direct and exact translation into English: condensation (הִתְעַבּוּת, in Modern Hebrew). Condensation means that vapor condenses into droplets of water. This is one of the most fundamental teachings in Kabbalah: “From the thickening of the lights, the vessels were made” (מֵהִתְעַבּוּת הָאוֹרוֹת נִתְהַוּוּ הַכֵּלִים). Everything is made of light and vessels. They seem to be opposite states of being. But actually, the vessels come into existence from the light. Light represents the infinite. The value of the word “light” (אוֹר) itself equals “infinity” (אֵין סוֹף). That infinity, which is sometimes called the primordial atmosphere (אֲוִיר קַדְמוֹן), condenses into droplets, like the condensation of vapor into droplets. What does this mean spiritually? It means that the mist, the uncertainty is the transitory stage between two definite states of being; uncertainty is relatively a state of nothingness, because it is uncertain what exactly will come into being after the transition is over. In English this is called metamorphosis. This is just a broader term for the physical process of the condensation of water, which in Kabbalah is called “light, water, firmament” (אור מים רקיע). First light, which is the atmosphere, the air (אויר),[9] becomes water and then it becomes the firmament—which is the vessel. It is like the transition from the egg to the chick, the uncertainty is the state in between where it is not clear what will become. This sounds very deep and indeed is a very deep and important concept.

It is said that Moses is the first redeemer, and he is also the final redeemer.[10] Moses is certain just as the Torah he gave is certain. The Rambam writes that nothing will be new by the Mashiach, he has less prophecy than Moses, yet he also has more holy spirit. What is the difference between prophecy (which Moses has more of) and Divine inspiration or Holy Spirit (that the Mashiach has more of)? Moses is the epitome of certainty, and that is the infinite of God. If there is no limit, there is no doubt. No limit means that the mind of God as it were, is not limited in knowing. When knowledge has no limit, then everything is certain. But, if there is a limit to knowledge—like in the case of the human mind—we have a limit to our knowledge, then there is uncertainty and that is why we have uncertainty. The sages say in the Talmud that there are seven things that are concealed from man. Two of them are: what will be one’s livelihood—the source of his physical sustenance in this world—and when Mashiach will come. The Alter Rebbe says that from this we learn that these two things are commensurate. They are identically uncertain. There is something certain about Mashiach—that he is uncertain. The ultimate certainty in our realm of consciousness is uncertainty. In the Tanya it says that these two are equal (actually all seven, but he only quotes these two). But, there are other places in Chassidut that says that the source of one’s livelihood is even more uncertain than when Mashiach will come. Maybe that’s why the Rebbe could say that Mashiach was here already and yet it was still uncertain how you would make your living. Something that is uncertain is the secret of the fog in which God has chosen to dwell.

It is worth doing all of these gematriot for the New Year just in order to understand all these important concepts. So, we said that Moses is the first redeemer and he is the final redeemer, what then is the difference? As Moses and as a prophet the first redemption is about certainty, about being in tune with God’s unlimited total knowledge of all, that He and His knowledge are one. But, Mashiach and the final redemption are the epitome of uncertainty—he is and always remains about uncertainty. Even when he is here, Mashiach is about metamorphosis. The world has to go through transition, through change, it has to undergo condensation.

Every word in Hebrew derives from roots, two letters than three letters than the rest. The strongest letter in the sub-root of “mist” (עֲרָפֶל) is the pei, the two letter root is פל, and the three letter root is עפל. We are now explaining the etymology of “mist” using an inner methodology. The root עפל is the same root of the word מעפילים, those who after the sin of the spies wanted to take the initiative and the self-confidence to enter the land of Israel even though Moses told them that God was not with them, “and it will not be successful”[11] (וְהִוא לֹא תִצְלָח). And indeed, the attempt to take the initiative without God’s certain support certainly led to them being killed. But Rabbi Tzadok of Lublin writes that in the future, they will succeed, people who take initiative to bring Mashiach, just as the Rebbe said, do everything in your power to bring Mashiach, a new think, a new plan. It will be successful in the future. In the process of metamorphosis of the egg becoming a chick, sometimes it works and sometimes it does not; there is uncertainty. In the past it was a negative transition, but in the future that metamorphosis which depends on taking initiative and having self-confidence will be successful in bringing Mashiach and this is actually the only one way to bring Mashiach, since Mashiach is uncertain. The idiom for change in Hebrew is meeting someone in the corner (נִפָּגֵשׁ בַּפִּנָּה), which implies moving through a 90 degree change, moving one way and then turning the corner to go in a different direction altogether. The corner itself is nothing—it has no definition; it is also a fog or mist.

So עפל, ע itself is a condensation of the letter alef, while עפל means darkness. So first there is פ then פל, then אפל, which transforms into עפל, finally a reish is added, which is for the beauty of speech (תפארת הלשון). Thirteen letters—פ פל אפל עפל ערפל—whose total sum is 841, the value of “Holy Temple” (בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ) and Rosh Hashanah (רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה), because Rosh Hashanah is also a corner. It is the corner that we turn; the corner is the light that surrounds all worlds. This itself is a great thought in itself, the secret of the mist (ערפל) and God’s desire and choice to dwell there.

The simple derivation is different. According to grammar, “mist” comes from the word meaning, “the small back of the neck” (עֹרֶף) and it represents the stiff neck of the Jewish people. Being stubborn to believe in the certainty of the uncertainty. We are stubborn to believe that the caterpillar we are looking at now will turn into the most beautiful butterfly imaginable. From a worm the world is going to transform into the most beautiful phenomenon possible.

These first two allusions are related to one another.

Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge: The God Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob

The next allusion is the phrase we say at least three times daily at the beginning of the Amidah, the silent devotion. In the first blessing, we refer to God as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (אֱ-לֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אֱ-לֹהֵי יִצְחָק וֵא-לֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב) a phrase that also equals 782. The three patriarchs themselves correspond to the three emotive faculties of the heart—loving-kindness, might, and beauty. But, when we speak of the “God of,” each of the patriarchs we are referring to the intellectual faculties that lie above the emotive faculties. Thus, the God of Abraham refers to wisdom , the God of Isaac refers to understanding, and the God of Jacob refers to knowledge.

This is something that we can and have in mind this coming year. This coming year is the year of devotion and prayer to the God of our fathers.

So, we had two allusions above the mind: the ultimate above the mind is the peace of God and the peace of the Torah. Then we had the transition from light to vessel, the metamorphosis the state of uncertainty the fog. Then comes the mind, which is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Loving-kindness, might, and beauty: The Binding of Isaac

The next allusion is a phrase that is just two words, which we also say in our prayers many times, the binding of Isaac (עֲקֵדַת יִצְחָק), which also equals 782. What does this represent? God gave Abraham an infinitely difficult test—to sacrifice his only son which God had promised would be the seed after which Abraham’s name would be known. All tests, especially this one even more than others, can be surmounted through faith (everything begins in faith). The secret of the binding of Isaac is that the two opposites (like the opposite opinions of the sages which lead to peace and love between them), the ultimate duality of the right (Abraham) and the left (Isaac) at the moment of the binding, when Abraham is ready to sacrifice his son, and Isaac knows that he is about to be sacrificed and accepts it lovingly, their attributes metamorphosized. The love of Abraham became awe or fear and the awe of Isaac became love. The power to unite them comes from the “perfection of all” (שלימותא דכולא), which comes about through the blessings, “May He give you peace.” When we mention Isaac’s binding on Rosh Hashanah, we do so as part of the additional blessing in the Amidah known as “remembering the covenant.” The conclusion of this blessing is “May you remember Isaac’s binding with mercy.” Thus, not only are Abraham and Isaac who represent loving-kindness and might involved in Isaac’s binding, but they bring about the revelation of God’s mercy on the Jewish people—more than anything else, it is the Binding of Isaac that brings about the revelation of mercy or compassion, the inner aspect of the sefirah of beauty—the third emotive faculty. That is why we ask God to remember it on Rosh Hashanah and this will arouse mercy on our souls.

So in the Akeidah, Isaac’s binding, we have the unity of the love and fear and this union brings down compassion, which is the third emotional attribute. So now we have all three emotional attributes.

Victory and thanksgiving: Gerizim and Eival

Again, in each of these numerical equivalencies we find two or even three different concepts interlinked. The next pair that equals 782 is the two mountains that we read about last week in the Torah,  “Mount Grizim [and] Mount Eival” (הַר גְּרִזִים הַר עֵיבָל). When we entered the land of Israel, we were commanded to go to Shechem, which is situated between these two mountains. Six of the tribes were on one mountain and six on the other and the Levites were in the middle speaking the blessings and the curses to Gerizim and Eival, respectively. They are thus a pair.

What is the source in Kabbalah for these two mountains? There are number of different explanations. But one of them is that they are the secret of the two pillars that Solomon built in the Temple—a feature that didn’t exist in the Tabernacle. These two pillars correspond to self-confidence and sincerity, the two feet of the soul that together walk. Pillars are like legs. They correspond to these two mountains. The blessings were given on Gerizim, the self-confidence of victory of eternity, and the curses on Eival, not something negative for there has to be a transition. The curses are expressed explicitly in the Torah—there is something more necessary about Eival than with Gerizim—believing that everything is for the good and that itself transforms the curse into a blessings. So, the coming year is about drawing in one’s mind these two mountains. We also wish this be a year in which we return to Shechem.

Foundation and Kingdom: the image of God, the likeness of God

The final of the six allusions—the last one has to also be a pair that will correspond to foundation and kingdom, the truth of self-fulfillment and the final manifestation of the entire flow of energy and revealing that God is one and His Name is one.

There are two phrases describing how man’s creation mirrors God. The first is that man was created in God’s image, the second is that man was created in God’s form and together, “God’s image [and] God’s likeness” (צֶלֶם אֱ-לֹהִים דְּמוּת אֱ-לֹהִים) equals 782. The first is more familiar.  The second appears in what is sometimes considered the third account of creation[12] (beginning with זה ספר תולדות אדם). In the first account of creation it says, “Let us make God in our image and our likeness.” Then man is created in God’s image (צלם אלהים). But, later on it says that man was created in God’s likeness.

What is the difference between them? Tzelem (translated as “image”) represents the tzaddik, who is the foundation of the world. This is the ability man has to fulfill his potential, to fulfill himself. [missing…] Tzelem is masculine and the “likeness” is feminine. Every male is an image of God and every female is a likeness of God. Likeness is the ability to receive. The female aspect is to receive and reflect Godliness. Image is the ability to project. Likeness is a reflection. Both tzaddik and tzelem begin with צ. In fact, tzelem, צלם is a shortened form of, “tzaddik the foundation of the world” (צדיק [יסוד עו]לם). The female aspect is the likeness.

How is this word likeness used in the Torah? It is not a mitzvah to be an image of God. But there is a mitzvah to be like God. The sages explain that to “walk in His ways” (וְהָלַכְתָּ בִּדְרָכָיו).[13] You should be like God—just as He is compassionate you should be compassionate, etc.[14] So the female aspect of man is one of the fundamental mitzvoth of the Torah. But the ability to project Godliness into the world is not a commandment it is a state. The male state is not a commandment, but the female state is a commandment. Kingdom is an active reflection. So, 782 captures these two aspects of man’s relationship with the Divine.

To summarize: we have seen how 782 is related to the ultimate union of opposites. To the secret of the Temple itself the secret of transition and existential uncertainty, the secret of Mashiach. Then, to the prayer to God as the God of the patriarchs, the mind of the soul. To the union in the heart itself the right and the left and their interchange in the Binding of Isaac. To remember it arouses mercy. Then to the blessings and the curses at the two mountains. Both are necessary. The ability to walk in the world. The two pillars and finally, to the two aspects of man.

This is our meditation upon the number 782. May it be a year of revealed good, revealed Mashiach, that we certain of the uncertainty, infinitely happy uncertainty and should be a כתיבה וחתימה טובה לשנה טובה ומתוקה בטוב הנראה והנגלה.

 

Unedited transcript written by Moshe Genuth

[1]. Zechariah 14:9.

[2]. Numbers 6:24-25.

[3]. Ibid v. 26.

[4]. Baba Metzee’a 87a, Yevamot 65b, and elsewhere.

[5]. Eiruveen 13b.

[6]. Numbers 21:14.

[7]. 1 Kings 8:12.

[8]. Exodus 20:17.

[9]. The Hebrew words for “air” (אור) and “light” (אויר) are related.

[10]. Shemot Rabbah 2:4.

[11]. Numbers 14:41.

[12]. Genesis 5:1.

[13]. Deuteronomy 28:9.

[14]. Sotah 14a. Hilchot De’ot 1:5-6. Chinuch mitzvah 611.

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