Renovation Road

Parashat Behukotai 5778

This week our Self Renovation workshop, a joint program between Tal Orot and Livnot U’Lehibanot, is in full swing. A number of adventurous adults have joined us here in Tzfat, most from the States, one person from Sweden, for what we call, not a retreat, but an advance. Each of four days is devoted to activities in one of the four worlds described in the Tikkunei Zohar and discussed at length in Lurianic Kabbalah. For the World of Action we helped renovate an apartment that had been badly damaged. For the World of Formation we engaged in creative art forms, with a painting workshop given by one of the foremost artists of Tzfat, a session of poetry study and reading, and sessions of music with instrumental jamming and choral singing. For the World of Creation we hiked Mount Meron for a spiritual immersion in nature. The World of Emanation will be experienced through study of Kabbalistic texts and visits to the resting places of some of the great rabbinic scholars and tzadikkim who lived in the Galil. We conclude by celebrating Shabbat together. The Self Renovation program is followed by a two-day intensive workshop in Jewish meditation. All together, the program is aimed at cultivating wholeness in our lives, effecting tikkunim in all dimensions of existence.

Spiritual wholeness is also the life vision we get from the blessings that are promised Israel in this week’s parashah for our efforts in Torah learning and mitzvah practice, that conclude:

ויקרא פרק כו פסוק יג

ואשבר מטת עלכם ואולך אתכם קוממיות: פ

I will smash the pinions of your yoke and guide you upright

In the Gemara Sanhedrin and the Gemara Baba Batra the word “קוממיות — upright,” is interpreted as a plural:


תלמוד בבלי מסכת סנהדרין דף ק עמוד א

ואולך אתכם קוממיות. רבי מאיר אומר: מאתים אמה, כשתי קומות של אדם הראשון. רבי יהודה אומר: מאה אמה, כנגד היכל וכותליו

“and I will guide you upright – Rabbi Meir says “two hundred cubits, corresponding to two statures of Adam haRishon. Rabbi Yehudah says “one hundred cubits, corresponding to the height of the Temple and its walls.

These recondite interpretations of Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehuda are expounded by Rabb Eleazar in the Gemara Hagigah:


תלמוד בבלי מסכת חגיגה דף יב עמוד א

דאמר רבי אלעזר: אדם הראשון מן הארץ עד לרקיע, , וכיון שסרח – הניח הקדוש ברוך הוא ידיו עליו ומיעטו, . אמר רב יהודה אמר רב: אדם הראשון – מסוף העולם ועד סופו היה, כיון שסרח – הניח הקדוש ברוך הוא ידו עליו ומיעטו, – אי הכי קשו קראי אהדדי! – אידי ואידי חד שיעורא הוא.

Rabbi Eleazar says “Adam haRishon originally extended from the earth to the heavens, but when he spoiled, the Holy One, blessed be He, placed His hand upon him and diminished him… Rav Yehudah says in the name of Rav: Adam haRishon extended from one end of the world to the other… but when he spoiled, the Holy One, blessed be He, placed his hand upon him and diminished him… If so, the verses contradict each other. Rather, both refer to the same measure.

The point is not that Adam haRishon was very tall or very fat. Rather, as R. Moshe Alsheikh explains, the reference is to the original expansiveness of soul, of the full structure of consciousness of Adam and Eve, that connected their sense of existence with the full scope of the universe and every one of its creatures. But when they sinned, they were reduced to feeling like small individuals isolated in their bodies. But Bnei Yisrael are promised that through keeping the Torah and laboring in it, we will be able attain and regain the expansive cosmic consciousness, the wholeness, that Adam and Hava had.

So we worked this week on regaining wholeness through tikkun of various dimensions of our lives, and we’ve been having some memorable adventures together. And this togetherness is the key. Rabbi Hayyim Vital notes that the fundamental method of tikkun, of repair, is through developing mutually supportive relationships that strengthen us all to receive HaShem’s infinite light (Etz Hayyim 11:5). Our brave band has worked to achieve this camaraderie and a sense of solidarity with all humanity and the whole of existence. We are sharply aware that our program is taking place in the context of escalating hostilities between Israel and Iran, Syria and Hizballah. This is a war against violent and destructive nations and cultures that are cruel and oppressive to their own people and seek to impose their cruelty and destruction on the entire Middle East and the world. As we work to repair our little corners of the world, may HaShem help all humanity learn to live together in love and mutual care, as we pray daily:

  סדר רב עמרם גאון

והבא עלינו שלום מארבע כנפות הארץ והוליכנו קוממיות לארצנו כי אל פועל ישועות אתה

And bring peace upon us from the four corners of the earth, and bring us upright to our Land, for You are God Who accomplishes salvations.

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