The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

Nature and Beyond

This week's Parsha discusses the very essence of nature, the creation of the world. In Kiddush on Friday night we testify to the fact that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. It is interesting to note that it is not just Jews who testify to this event, but that around the world, in every civilisation, Hashem‟s creation is recognised with the seven day week.

Chazal teach us that the number seven is called הטבע מספר, the number of nature. This is reflected in the number of days in a week, the number of weeks in the Sefirat Ha Omer, the number of years in Shmitta, the number of months from Nissan to Tishrei and many other aspects. It is also the number of days in Succot and the number of times we walk around on Ha-shana Rabba with the Arba Minim. The Arba Minim themselves are made up of 7 components; 3 Hadassim, 2 Aravot, a Lulav and an Etrog.

Rabbi Michael L. Munk in, The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet, tells us the following: "The number seven symbolizes the complete pur-pose of human existence, combining the spiritual level of the Sabbath with the physical effort of the week. Going beyond seven, the number eight,הטבע מעל מספר symbolizes man's ability to transcend the limitations of physical existence. Thus, with a gematria of eight ח stands for that which is on a plane above nature, i.e., the meta-physical Divine. (Maharal)."

We read in Hallel " שָמַיִם שָמַיםִ, לָה; והְָאָרֶץ, נָתַן לִבְניֵ - אָדָם" - "The Heavens are for Hashem and the
earth was given to man."

This reflects the challenge of man, namely to raise the spirituality of this world towards heaven. In Yaakov's dream he had a vision of a ladder based on the ground, with the top reaching heaven and angels climbing up and down. From this he understood that the role of man is to elevate the “natural world” to reach the heavenly realm.

As one leaves Yom Kippur, a day when we are like angels, we enter into Succot, when we are surrounded by the mitzvah of Succah and cele-brate זמן שמחתנו - the time of our happiness. Throughout the seven days of the festival we have Hoshaanot, culminating in Hashana Rabba, when we circle the bima seven times. Through this we reach Shemini Atzeret, the day beyond nature.

On Shemini Atzeret we celebrate Simchat Torah when we have seven hakafot. This is the synthe-sis of the natural world with the eighth day, which is beyond nature. The role of Simchat Torah on this day is to demonstrate that through the study of Torah and the keeping of mitzvot we can elevate our spirituality to the realm above nature.

So this Shabbat as we read בראשית and testify as to how Hashem created the heavens and the earth, it is an opportune moment to consider that Hashem bestowed the earth to us and we are charged with raising it to a heavenly plane.

Written By Rabbi D.Meyer

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