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November 27, 2021 – 7:49 pm | 13 views

The dreidel for Chanukah and the gragger (Ra’ashan) for Purim have the exact same structure, have you ever noticed? Both have a round bulb from which a stem protrudes. The difference is that the dreidel’s stem protrudes from the top of the dreidel and points upward, the gragger’s stem protrudes …

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Toldot: Rebirth

Submitted by on November 2, 2021 – 10:03 amNo Comment | 130 views

Rebirth means to reexperience the novelty, excitement, innocence, mystery, and magic of birth even after many years of life. A baby’s birth, such as that of Jacob and Esau described in this week’s Torah portion, is a majestic moment. Everyone present is enchanted by the miracle; the creation of something new. The emergence of an utterly new human to join the unending chain of the human experience.

The first moment of life can never be replicated. It lasts for a second and disappears. Never again will the child be brand-new. The sense of miracle and mystery can last a few minutes, the novelty and excitement can last a few hours or days, but before long, the baby becomes “normal.” Just one more child in a world filled with billions of children.

Babies are special because of their unsullied innocence. They have yet to experience their interaction with the world, they have yet to register a human experience. They are fresh from heaven, and everything they know is divine. Moreover, their whole life stretches out before them, and the possibilities are limitless; their potential transcends the Heavens. Everyone believes this baby will turn out to be something special. An awesome person.

Then they hear human voices, feel human touch, experience physical sensations of warmth and cold, feel the pangs of hunger and the satisfaction of nursing. They join the terrestrial ranks and become one of us. Their minds develop as do their motor skills. Before long they will be crying, laughing, cooing, and talking. Running, sitting, crawling, and walking. Their wholesome joy and curiosity will fade.They will do all the things that we do and will be perceived as just another human in a planet full of them. They will become themselves—their personalities will emerge along with their good and bad traits. Their potential will become defined.

Monthly Rebirth
Every month we experience a similar kind of rebirth when we look up and see the new moon. The last night of the month is dark and gloomy. The moon recedes and becomes invisible. The next night, a sliver appears, and the moon is reborn. This sparks excitement akin to birth. At this moment, the month feels like it has endless potential. Anything can happen.

Then the nights progress, the moon expands, and the month begins to feel ordinary. The excitement fades, and the moon no longer feels special. It is a month like any other month.

Daily Rebirth
In a very small way there is also a daily rebirth. It is the moment when we stir in the morning and open our eyes. Our synapses have yet to fire, we are still in a sleepy haze, and yet we are awake.

When we watch another (especially a child) wake up, there is a similar feeling of rebirth. There is the excitement of watching the eyes open and knowing that conscious thought has yet to begin. The person is looking at me but doesn’t see me yet. This lasts but a moment and then the eyes focus and connect. The person smiles and you wish them good morning.

It is no surprise that a Jew uses this first magical moment to acknowledge and to thank G-d for the miracle of rebirth. We chant, “I thank you living and enduring king for returning my soul to me, abundant is your faithfulness.”

As beautiful as these words and sentiments are, they are not as pure, as innocent, as real, special, and magical, as the initial moments of wakefulness. In those very first moments, we were not processing, we were just alive; a holistic part of the cosmos and existence. We were an inherent part of G-d; a fragment of infinity. Then we started thinking for ourselves. The moment we began to process thoughts, articulate words, and perform actions, we became conscious of self. We are no longer a holistic part of the universe. We differentiated and became independent.

This is the crux of the matter. A baby is a sliver of infinity; part of the fabric that comprises existence. Adults gain consciousness of self as separate from the universe. They are confined and defined by their strengths and weaknesses, which limit their potential. Just like the moon, the first moments of our lives are magical. Then ordinariness sets in.

Imagine if we could somehow hold on to the magical innocence and purity of birth as we transition into maturity. Life would be incredible. We would have our cake and eat it too. We would be sophisticated and innocent, accomplished and pure, defined and unlimited, whole and a sliver simultaneously. We would process and think for ourselves while remaining part of the larger cosmos; part of G-d Himself.

The Mashiach Rebirth
This is precisely what will occur with the coming of Mashiach. Our sages taught that Jews have a lunar calendar because Jews resemble the moon. When G-d first created the sun and the moon, they were of equal size. Then G-d told the moon to shrink to its current dimensions. Similarly, when our ancestors came out of Egypt, they were a powerful nation. When we were exiled from our land, we became a weak and wandering people. Yet, just as the moon always returns from the brink of extinction, so do we always survive. We rise out of the ashes and thrive.

When Mashiach comes, our sages taught that the moon will grow even larger than its original size. Similarly, the Jewish people will assume such a state of spiritual, financial, and political prominence that we will eclipse anything we experienced in the past; even the prominence we enjoyed in the days of King Solomon.

Yet, we will not be like the sun. We will be reborn like the moon. This means that despite the brilliant prominence that we will enjoy at that time, we will retain the freshness, purity, and innocence of the moon’s birthing moment. It will be a combination of what we consider opposites today. We will be fully aware, uber alert, we will process and understand, our spirits will soar in ecstasy and melt in joy. Yet we will be as pure and innocent as the newborn who is oblivious to all and is part of the very fabric of existence.

Calling Directly to G-d
This means that when Mashiach comes we will serve G-d as children and as adults simultaneously. A child has a wholesome innocent conception of G-d. The child doesn’t understand or feel, the child embraces G-d fully without knowing anything about G-d. Just that He is G-d and I reach out to Him.

As adults, we have a sophisticated understanding of and a complex relationship with G-d that allows us to be grateful and loving, fearful and humble, hopeful and prayerful, at the same time. But to achieve that, we must give up on the purity and innocence of infancy.

When Mashiach comes we will have both. We will know G-d as adults, and we will marvel over G-d like children. We will have a complex and sophisticated relationship with G-d, without losing our innocence and the purity of G-d’s embrace. It will be a vortex of existence. We will be ourselves and a part of G-d simultaneously. We will know all that we can know and remain pure as the driven snow. A fragment of infinity.[1]

 

 

 

[1] This essay is based on Toras Menachem 5752:1, pp. 311–321.

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