Esoteric Couplings

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Sender Rozesz. Sender Rozesz is a practicing attorney with a background in Jewish pluralistic education for adults. Sender Rozesz is Jewrotica’s resident Double Mitzvah columnist. The views reflected in his writing represent his own personal views, and are not intended to reflect the views of any organizations, institutes or associations with whom he may be affiliated.

Rated PG-13

This week’s Parshah, Nitzavim, contains the following verse:

For this commandment (הַמִּצְוָה) which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away.

Deuteronomy, 30:11.

The famous Kabbalist, Arizal, addresses the following questions: (1) why is “this commandment” referred to in the singular, when we were given many many commandments? (2) what does it mean that it “is not concealed”?

The Arizal‘s explanation teaches a profound lesson in intimacy and in mature relationships.

First, he explains, there are two types of divine couplings. There is the coupling of the “father” and the “mother,” represented by Chokhma (wisdom) and Binah (understanding); and there is the coupling of the “son” and the “daughter,” represented by the six emotional Sefirot (Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzakh, Hod and Yesod), and Malkhut (kingship). Wisdom unites with Understanding to give intellectual voice to an idea, and to ultimately bear the Emotions; and Emotions unite with Malkhut to give actual voice and expression to the resolution of the Emotions.

These two couplings each find their place in the Hebrew spelling of G-d’s ineffable name: Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey (יְ-הֹ-וָ-ה). The Yud represents Chokhma/Father, the first Hey represents Binah/Mother, the Vav represents the six Emotions/Son, and the final Hey represents Malkhut/Daughter. Hence, Yud-Hey is the coupling of Father and Mother, and Vav-Hey is the coupling of Son and Daughter.

Next, the Arizal explains that there are two kinds of Mitzvot/commandments: there are 248 positive, or active commandments (the “thou shalt”s), and there are 365 negative, or passive commandments (the “thou shalt not”s). The 365 passive commandments are associated with the Yud-Hey of G-d’s name, and cause the Father-Mother coupling; and the 248 active commandments are associated with the Vav-Hey of G-d’s name, and cause the Son-Daughter coupling.

However, the Arizal further explains that passive commandments are a loftier level of commandment, and are therefore quieter, more passive and more concealed. This is even evident in the word “Mitzvah.” In the letter-transposing system of At-Bash, the first letter the Hebrew Alphabet is interchangeable with the last letter of the Alphabet (i.e. Aleph with Tav), the second letter is interchangeable with the second-to-last letter (i.e. Bet and Shin), and so on and so forth. Thus, the first two letters of G-d’s name Yud-Hey (יְ-הֹ) are the At-Bash equivalent of the first two letters of the word Mitzvah: Mem-Tzadik (מ-צ). The second two letters of both G-d’s name and of Mitzvah are the same: Vav-Hey. Thus, in the word Mitzvah, the passive commandments appear in a concealed state (the first two letters via At-Bash), and the active commandments appear in their regular revealed state.

The love and passion of youth is explosive, impetuous, volatile, arduous and uninhibited. It is indiscreet, as the young couple announce their love to all, daring anyone to challenge it. Such is the union of the Son and Daughter, of the Emotions and their expression. Fireworks! The positive commandments are most conducive to this stage of our relationship with G-d. They are full of things that we do for G-d, ways in which we outwardly express our love and devotion.

However, as they mature, a couple realizes that they can often enhance their relationship better by avoiding those things that negatively impact the other than by all of the outward gestures of affection. That, by refraining from insulting one another, from treating each other condescendingly or contemptuously, from seeking arguments with one another, and by avoiding those bad habits that grate on the other’s peace of mind, we can often achieve much more and demonstrate greater respect than we could with chocolate, cards, jewelry or declarations of love. While both are necessary to a healthy relationship, our passive ability to exercise restraint and self-control reflects and fosters the deeper and more mature relationship.

So, “the Mitzvah” actually represents the two different stages or styles to our relationship with G-d; and the Torah assures us that it is “not concealed from you, nor is it far away” – for indeed, we encounter these relationships and unions regularly in our own lives. We know what it means to actively pursue and love someone. But we also know what it means to truly cherish and respect them, by avoiding that which hurts them.

Many regard Rosh Hashanah as the Day of Judgment; the day on which G-d’s books are open and he inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year. Less known, however, is that Rosh Hashanah is the day of G-d’s renewed coronation. It is the day on which we turn to Him and say, despite our failures and our dissatisfactions, we are renewing our bond with You, and we are hopeful that our relationship with You this year will have waxed and matured beyond what it was last year.

How could He turn down a proposal like that?

Shana Tova, and sweet and successful year all around!