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Rosh Chodesh Shevat: Kavanot Print E-mail

Rosh ChodeshWe derive the appellation for God’s Name, used in the Rosh Chodesh Mussaf – Additional Prayer – from the combination of letters and vowels of the following verse: “He shall not distinguish between good and bad and he should not substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then it and its substitute shall be holy.” – Vihay Hu Utemurato Yiheye.” (Leviticus 27:33)

Rashi, based on the Talmud (Bechorot 14a) explains: Even if the tenth animal is bad, in that it has a blemish that disqualifies it from use as an offering, it is Ma’aser nonetheless. It may be used only for food but not for work or shearing.

I. Transformation
The Imrei Tzaddikim quotes the Maggid of Mezeritch as explaining that, “Vahaya,” is a term that is used to express joy. When a person succeeds in making both the holy and its substitute – the mundane – holy, even that which goes against holiness, the person himself will become holy and will rejoice in his holiness.

Shevat is the month in which we begin to look forward to the spring and its rejuvenation of life. The physical world begins to awaken from its summer sleep. The physical world is neutral. It challenges us to choose how to use the mundane, whether to sanctify it, or whether we will limit ourselves by living a purely physical existence.

We focus on the Name of God that is hidden within this verse with a prayer that, this spring, we will merit to transform every aspect of our physical lives into eternal spiritual existence, and that we will merit to experience the eternal joy that is so potent in spiritual existence.

II. Teshuva

Rabbi Chaim Meir of Vizhnitz explains that a person has the capacity to transform even sins into Mitzvot through Teshuva, and thus, all becomes holy.

The world awakening from its winter sleep is a representation of the ability of people who have fallen asleep; people who perform Mitzvot, pray, and study Torah, without awareness, and out of habit, as if they were sleep walking through their spiritual lives, to wake up and inject new spirit into their spiritual lives. This awakening from sleep is Teshuva, “Awaken sleepers from your slumber!”

A new year begins in Shevat; Tu Bishvat. It is an opportunity for Teshuva, for waking up. We focus on this Appellation as a prayer that God will empower our Teshuva and help us return to Him, and begin the New Year with blessing and joy.

III. The Impact of Our Choices
The Shiva Einayim reflects on how much of our world depends on the idea of exchange, “Chalipin”. We exchange money for goods, one favor for another, and we exchange greetings. The world is filled with give and take.

There is a higher level of exchange, Temurah, with which we shed an outer garment in order to clothe ourselves in something holier. For example, the 600,000 letters of the Torah represent the 600,000 Root Souls of Israel, and 600,000 Ministering Angels. We begin with a basic letter and then we can shed its physical garment – form – and use each letter of the Torah to connect with the Roots of our Souls and the Highest Angels.

When we pay attention to each letter of the Torah and stop and reflect on it as having a higher message from God, the letter reaches beyond its physical form. When we are able to come up with a new insight because of that letter, we connect with the Root of our Soul. When we act on that insight, we touch the world of the Ministering Angels. We have performed Temurah on that letter. We “switched” or “exchanged” on level of existence for another.

We also have the capacity to take the ethereal and limit it to a basic physical form. When we recite a blessing without thought or awareness, we have “switched” the holy into a simple physical act. Even when we perform a “Temurah” from the higher level to the lower, we are accessing the holiest power we have been granted: Our ability to step from one world to another. We use the gift of making choices and acting in a manner that can change worlds.

We focus on this Divine Appellation in order to remind ourselves of this great Divine gift, the ability to shed one level of existence for another. We pray that God empower us to use this gift for good so that we can blossom anew with fresh perspectives and new strengths.
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