The goal of all efforts is to bring about the restitution
of the unity of God and the world.
The restoration of unity is a constant process and its accomplishment will be the
essence of Messianic Redemption.
~ Abraham Joshua Heschel
When we are redeemed by the grace of God from slavery to the Pharaohs of the world, and choose to worship God and to walk in His ways, our individual journey through life becomes a constant effort to align our wills with our Creator’s. The challenge we face is to subdue our natural urges and often negative inclinations in order to meld our character in harmony with His and to better reflect the beauty of His image in which we were created.
The four basic negative traits that played a key role in the Fall of the first Adam, as described by Israeli Rabbi, Ezra Jacobs, are:
1. ta’avah, passion (the desire for pleasure)
2. kavod, honor-seeking (the desire for power and control)
3. kinah, jealousy (covetousness, or resentment of another; the basis for murder)
4. sinat chinam, baseless hatred (that results in lashon ha’ra – evil speech)
When the first Adam sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, both the physical and spiritual worlds were affected and underwent fundamental damage and changes. For Adam and Eve, their wondrous relationship with God, as well as the wholeness of body, soul and spirit they had enjoyed, was tragically shattered and broken. Ever since, the desire of both our Father in Heaven and of mankind has been to restore the relationship and to heal what was broken. In Jewish thought and expression, the aim and effort to do this is termed tikkun olam – the healing, or rectification, of the world (including man himself).
The face (panim in Hebrew) reflects man’s internal world, and the head [ rosh – meaning ‘first’] is considered to be the king [the ruling factor] over his entire personality.*
The four primary senses are expressed in a person’s face. The eyes – sight, the ears – hearing, the nose – smell, the mouth – taste and speech. These important faculties play a role in the healing of the four negative traits of brokenness listed above. How so?
- Ta’avah pertains to raw, unregulated passion that results in immorality. In the Garden of Eden the snake lured Eve with the promise that if she ate of the fruit, “Then your eyes will be opened” (Genesis 3:5-6). She was tempted by the desire to see and know more. The fire of passion is not a bad thing in and of itself and it can be healed by its transformation into something spiritual and beautiful. To accomplish this, the eyes need to be directed to the truth and beauty of the Torah – the teachings of the Word of God – whereby the mind will gain wisdom (chochma). This is connected to the right brain and the intellect, which is associated with the masculine personality. In general, men tend to find greater temptation by way of their eyes.
As the saying goes, “The eyes are the window of the soul.” When the soul is filled with the truth and wisdom of God the eyes will shine His warm and welcoming light.
2. Kavod pertains to one’s ego and results in idolatry. The pride and honor-seeking of the ego needs to be broken down and rectified by the trait of humility (anavah), which is a component of love (ahavah). The ears play a role in this because their function is to hear. To truly listen and to hear the ‘heart’ of the other, whether it be a fellow human being, one’s spouse, or God Himself, needs the care and sensitivity afforded by humility. This quality is connected to the left-brain, which is the seat, as it were, of the heart and emotions and is associated with the feminine personality. The true hearing of the ears results in the gaining of binah, deeper heartfelt understanding.
3. Kinah pertains to the negative trait of jealousy that breeds anger and ultimately leads to murder. The first example of this was Cain and Abel. The structure of the nose, with two nostrils encased in one organ reflects the balance and unity there should be between the right and left brain, the mind and the heart, the masculine and feminine, man and God. Physiologically, it is compared to the head and the spinal column. When the wisdom of the mind and the understanding of the heart are in harmony, one gains da’at – intimate knowledge and perception – that results in the true performance of God’s will. One is able to do the commandments/mitzvot in loving obedience and to consistently hurry to carry out physical deeds of kindness.
4. Sinat chinam pertains to baseless hatred that leads to lashon ha’ra – the evil speech of slander, lies, gossip, and mockery and belittling of others. The snake in the Garden, in effect, slandered God by intimating, “Did God really say…?” and planted doubt as to God’s character in Eve’s mind. The harmony of will between man and God was torn apart as a result. The healing of this disconnect lies in the mouth with its faculty of speech – the physical gift that sets man apart from the animals and enables relationship with others and with God.
The mouth is connected with keter (crown) – the head of a person, which represents his or her all-encompassing will and being, and which enables a person to make decisions and to express thoughts in speech. Using this gift for evil is considered one of the greatest sins and the healing of it requires the mercy, grace and redemption of God. Which fact links together with the celebration of Pesach, Passover, and needs a separate paragraph in order to explore the concept!
PESACH AND THE EXODUS
Two years ago, in September 2020, the Hebrew year 5780 began. In Hebrew it is written as tav-shin-peh (תשפ) as peh has the numerical value of 80. In Hebrew peh is the word for mouth. The decade will continue until 5790. We may conclude, therefore, that a major focus of the decade is on the mouth. God is saying it’s time to be still and know that HE is God!
PESACH – the very name connects it with the mouth. Peh is ‘mouth’ and sach is ‘speaks’. The mouth speaks! Before the redemption from Egypt the people of Israel suffered slavery and the complete annihilation of their individuality, the subjugation of their will and they lost the freedom to speak. Egypt was the national embodiment of the Snake in Eden, even displayed in Pharaoh’s head dress, and it literally robbed, crushed and destroyed the lives and will of the Israelites. Only then were they rebuilt into a new and united nation set apart unto God. Paradoxically, Egypt was the volatile womb that gave birth to the nation of Israel. Through their common experience of suffering, they could build on a foundation of genuine love and empathy with one another. To this day we are exhorted, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt.” Never dishonor or dehumanize another human being by forgetting to honor the image of God in which they are created.
In Egypt, the Hebrews witnessed the Ten Plagues, which, as they would realize at Mount Sinai, corresponded with the Ten Words He spoke and to the Ten Sayings He used at Creation to create the world. These, together with His miracles of redemption and provision, demonstrated without a doubt His existence, power and sovereignty over all creation. Now, the people of Israel were ready to be His witnesses, a light to the nations, and to express the reality of His Presence in the physical world by simply fulfilling His will, now delineated for them in His Torah given to Moses.
THE DECADE OF THE PEH (Mouth) AND THE FINAL REDEMPTION
Hatred and lashon ha’ra (bad or evil talk), we may understand, are healed by the full acceptance and expression of God’s will in the world. Sadly, we know from history that the lesson was not fully learned by Israel and the Second Temple was destroyed due to sinat chinam, baseless hatred. Rome literally plowed under the City of God, Jerusalem, and the majority of the Jewish People were scattered to the four corners of the earth. The Sages believe that the full healing of the mouth will occur at the Final Redemption. Pesach relives the Exodus from Egypt and the first redemption and Sukkot will celebrate the final redemption, which will be permanent and eternal.
As we are approaching the culmination of history and the fulfilment of God’s plan of Redemption it is no wonder the emphasis is on how we speak and the words we are proclaiming. The restoration of the mouth as a wellspring, speaking only words of prayer, goodness, praise, encouragement and goodwill, can happen with those who are surrendered to the love and will of God.
We now are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Mashiach ben David as King of kings, to usher in the Final Redemption and to reign from Jerusalem over His Father’s Kingdom on earth. Then all God’s people will be fully restored and Jerusalem will be established on a solid foundation of Peace.
“May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!”**
The exhortation, ” Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem” is, at heart, a prayer for the restoration of the unity and wholeness of the nation of Israel and for all the people of God to be healed and restored and established on the bedrock of His chesed, lovingkindness, and His perfect justice.
May it be soon and in our time!
~ Keren Hannah
* Rabbi Ezra Jacobs, Coming Full Circle, 251
** Psalm 29:11