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Tuesday
Feb282017

OUR COLLECTIVE BAR MITZVAH

NO COINCIDENCES

In the construction of the Mishkan— the portable Sanctuary—as is recounted in this week’s parsha, the Jews were commanded to contribute their resources to this holy project.

According to Rashi, there were thirteen items that constituted the bulk of their contributions.

If everything that happens is by Divine Providence, how much more so is it true with respect to the momentous event of the construction of the Mishkan. The Mishkan cemented the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people and was emblematic of our purpose in life. We are here to create a Sanctuary for G-d in our own lives, and ultimately throughout the entire world. It is thus no wonder that the Torah dedicates almost four entire sections to the details of the construction of the Mishkan, for indeed, the entire Messianic vision, which is the realization of G-d’s purpose for the creation of the universe, was set into motion with the construction of the Mishkan.

If the Mishkan’s objective was to make the world a “dwelling place for G-d,” which is the Messianic vision, then the fact that it was constructed with the contribution of 13 items dictates that the number 13 has a direct bearing on its objective.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NUMBER 13

The number 13 is significant in multiple ways. Here are 13 of them culled from Talmudic and Midrashic literature:

1) 13 Attributes of Mercy.

2) 13 methods of Torah interpretation.

3) 13 Principles of Faith.

4) 13 is the gematria (numerical equivalent) of the word “love” (Ahava).

5) 13 is the gematria of the word “one” (Echad).

6) Moshe wrote 13 Torah scrolls.

7) 13 expressions of praise in the Yishtabach prayer.

8) G-d’s name is mentioned 13 times in the Ten Commandments (more accurately, the “Ten Statements”).

9) When translating the Torah into Greek, the Sages made 13 changes (Megilla, 9A).

10) There are 13 musical notes for the reading of the Torah.

11) The section of the Shma, entitled V’Ahavta, contains 13 instructions in it.

12) We were commanded to love G-d 13 times in the Torah.

13) Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai hid in a cave with his son for 13 years.

But of all thirteens, the one that stands out the most is the age of Bar and Bas Mitzvah (a girl becomes Bas Mitzvah at her 12th birthday which is the beginning of her 13th year).

CORRELATION OF BAR MITZVAH TO THE MISHKAN

There is a correlation between the age of Bar Mitzvah and the Mishkan. The purpose of the Mishkan was to construct our own personal sanctuaries within our own hearts and bodies. The Torah alludes to this in the words, “Make for Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in them.” It does not say “in it,” but “in them,” to teach us that G-d wants to dwell within each and every individual. This process is achieved when we reach the age of maturity at Bar Mitzvah. That is when we build our own Sanctuary, comprised of the contribution of 13 years of preparation and education.

It stands to reason that since the Mishkan epitomizes the ideal of the Messianic Age, when the entire world will be one universal Sanctuary, that it is also connected to a Bar Mitzvah. Indeed, the Messianic Age is when the entire world will reach its state of maturity and we will perform our Mitzvos with total understanding and knowledge.

DIVIDING HISTORY INTO 13 STAGES

The analogy of the Messianic age to both Bar Mitzvah and the Mishkan suggests that all of history, that has led us to the Messianic Age, consists of 13 items/stages. Each period of Jewish history has contributed to our maturity just as each of the 13 years of a child’s life contributes to the stage of Bar Mitzvah. One does not become Bar or Bas Mitzvah in a vacuum; it requires the preparation and education in the preceding thirteen years.

Similarly, all of our history, in all of its 13 periods, to be discussed, has paved the way for Moshiach. Each period’s contribution combines with the next, because the good that we’ve accomplished is cumulative, while the negatives of each period get erased with the passage of time.

The Jewish people’s Exodus from Egypt has been likened by the prophet Yechezkel to their birth. Hence the Egyptian bondage is the embryonic period of our history, and the Exodus is when we entered the world. In truth, the Exodus was not complete until we received the Torah at Mount Sinai at which time we were now a nation unto itself and no more a “nation within a nation.”

As newborns, we receive our identity and the resources our soul needs to achieve our life’s goal. Similarly, when we received the Torah, it established our identity for all times, set the goal and objective for the world and gave us the Master Plan to implement and realize that goal. This period lasted through the 40-year period we sojourned in the desert and prepared ourselves for the eventual entry into Eretz Yisroel. At this stage we were still in our infancy.

In stage two, we entered into Eretz Yisroel and began our education to transform the land into a dwelling for G-d, which would serve as a model for what we expect to happen in the Messianic Age for the entire world.

Stage three was the period of Kings David and Solomon who laid the foundation for, and actually constructed, a permanent Beis HaMikdash.

Stage four was the period of Babylonian exile, which produced the Festival of Purim, when, as our Sages state, we embraced the Torah willingly. Although it was exile, it did advance us to the next level of preparation for the future.

Stage five was the return of the exiles to the Land of Israel and the construction of the Second Beis HaMikdash; a period which produced the festival of Chanukah; a foretaste of the light of the future.

Stage six, the period of the Tana’aim, followed the destruction of the second Beis HaMikdash and produced the greatest of Sages, such as Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi. They were responsible for compiling, collating, and editing the Oral Law. More specifically, it was the period of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who began the process of publicizing the secrets of the Torah in the Zohar, which, he was told by Moshe, would eventually lead us out of exile.

This period, which culminated with the writing of the Mishnah, was followed by the seventh period of the Amoraim, who further developed the understanding of the Mishnah, interpreted and amplified its teachings and demonstrated to us how to apply Talmudic principles to the changing situations. This period made it possible for us to implement the ideals of Sinai into an ever-changing world and set of circumstances. This empowered us to elevate the world through the guidance of Torah and pave the way to the Final Redemption.

The Rabbanan Savurai and the Gaonim (the eighth period) put the finishing touches to the Talmud, making the Talmud accessible to us. This period also marked the beginning of the scattering of Jews to all the far-flung corners of the world. The Gaonim were the Jewish spiritual leaders who communicated with all these communities and gave them guidance in all matters that pertained to their lives.

The ninth period, known as the period of the Rishonim (Early Commentators) featured giants such as Rashi, Maimonides and Nachmanides. Their contributions to Jewish knowledge included making the Talmud even more accessible to all segments of the Jewish people through their commentaries and codes of law. In this period, there was also a significant escalation of the mystical teachings of the Kabbalah (that was begun centuries earlier by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai).

The 10th period, known as the period of the Acharonim (Latter Commentaries), began roughly with the writing of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish law) by Rabbi Yosef Karo and the teachings of the greatest Kabbalist, the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria Ashkenazi). The Arizal introduced Kabbalah in an unprecedented fashion by stating that “now it is a Mitzvah to reveal these teachings,” as opposed to the previous restrictive attitude that prevailed.

This period continued until the Baal Shem Tov (the 11th period), who founded the Chassidic movement, and took the dissemination of the inner dimension of Judaism to a new high. The Baal Shem Tov reported that he had visited the soul of Moshiach and asked him when he would come. Moshiach’s reply was “when your fountains [of Torah] will be spread to the most remote reaches of the world.”

The Baal Shem Tov’s cloaking his mystical teachings in short, pithy teachings constituted the embryonic stage of this effort; the very last thrust towards the coming of Moshiach.

The Baal Shem Tov’s teachings were then given a boost in the 12th period, through the teachings of his disciple’s disciple, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, known as the Alter Rebbe, who founded the Chabad movement. The Alter Rebbe took the seminal and nascent teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and developed them into a cohesive and structured intellectual system, thereby enabling this heretofore mystical, esoteric and elusive knowledge to penetrate even the realm of intellect. Moreover, these teachings that have been digested and internalized into our minds have the capacity to affect the entirety of the person, through which it will ultimately reach and prepare the entire world for the Messianic Age.

THE THIRTEENTH PERIOD

The thirteenth and final stage can be said to have commenced when the Rebbe, the seventh leader of Chabad, assumed leadership and began a massive, all-encompassing effort to spread Judaism – Torah and Mitzvos and the teachings of Chassidus – to every place on earth. The Rebbe, by sending shluchim-emissaries, to every nook and cranny of the world, to promote Judaism in the spirit of unconditional Ahavas Yisroel, as well as through the dissemination of the Seven Noachide commandments to the rest of society, and his emphasis on doing everything we can do to finally bring about the Redemption, brought us to, what the Rebbe referred to as, the very threshold of Redemption.

The Rebbe’s efforts, which channeled and capped the efforts of all the preceding twelve periods, have brought us to the Bar Mitzvah of the entire Jewish people and the world’s entry into a new era of maturity.

The Rebbe exhorted us to be aware of the unprecedented stage we are in and to do the one Mitzvah that will finally put an end to the exile and bring the world to its fulfillment, its ultimate Bar Mitzvah.

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