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Leviticus - Vayikramain postsTazria

Parashat Tazria: Aliyah by Aliyah

אִשָּׁה֙ כִּ֣י תַזְרִ֔יעַ וְיָלְדָ֖ה זָכָ֑ר (תזריע יב, ב)

“A woman when she produces seed and gives birth to a male” (Leviticus 12:2)

First Reading: Reframing Genetics Based on Torah

The fundamental theory of genetics states that genes—chains of nucleotides in our DNA that are at the core of the characteristics of every living organism—act in pairs. One gene is described as dominant, and the other is viewed as recessive.

For example, in humans, one pair of genes defines the individual’s eye-color: brown or blue. In this pair, the brown gene is considered dominant, and the blue is recessive. What this means is that the individual receives one half of his DNA from his father and the other half from his mother. If one of these halves contains the gene that codes for brown eyes, even if the other contains the gene for blue eyes, the child’s eye color (the phenotype) will be brown. Only if both sets of DNA from both parents contain the gene that codes for blue eyes, will the child sport blue eyes.

Interestingly, this model allows us to describe gender as another characteristic of the body that is determined by a pair of genes, one coding for male, the other for female. These genes are located on chromosomes, which are long strands of DNA material that can contain hundreds and thousands of genes. The two chromosomes that code for male and female genders are known as Y—the male chromosome—and X—the female chromosome. These names actually describe the physical shape of the two chromosomes. To code for a male phenotype, the child’s DNA must have YX chromosomes. To code for a female the child’s DNA must have XX chromosomes. Thus, the Y chromosome, which when present dictates that the child will be male, is relatively dominant to the X chromosome. This reflects the sages’ statement (associated with an explanation of the verse, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and conquer it”[1]) that, “it is the nature of the male to conquer; it is not the nature of the female to conquer.”[2]

However, it seems that the contribution to the child’s gender phenotype is not equally weighted between the father and the mother. The mother, who has XX, can only contribute an X chromosome, thus only the father can contribute a Y chromosome (from his YX configuration) and it is the father alone that “determines” the child’s gender. Yet, the Torah seems to state that the mother too plays a role in determining the child’s gender, as we see in the verse, “A woman when she produces seed and gives birth to a male.”[3]

The way to reconcile the two views regarding the woman’s contribution to her offspring’s gender is by recognizing that the genetic model treats the recessive gene (and by extension, the chromosome) as non-contributing and non-active in the individual organism. The reason it is carried by an individual is to allow its transmission to future generations of the species. Case in point, the X chromosome in the male is recessive since the male’s phenotype does not rely on the X chromosome—the male’s female chromosome—specifically it does not rely on the gender determining genes on the X chromosome. Similarly, in a woman, the second X chromosome is deemed recessive as far as determining her gender.

But according to Torah, everything has value, even here and now (not just in the future). It is specifically those things that seem recessive or inactive (rendering them passive) that constitute the secret of success. This is also the secret of the Jewish people, as alluded to in the sages’ statement that our calendar is based on the moon[4] (יִּשְׂרָאֵל מוֹנִין לַלְּבָנָה), whose light is passive, since it originates in the sun, while the nations base their calendar on the sun, which is dominant. We must conclude then that the recessive X chromosome is not meaningless in either the male or the female. In the male, it functions as a concealed “feminine” attribute, while in the female, it acts as a concealed “male” attribute!

To illustrate the contribution of the recessive X chromosome, we can recount a story told about the Rebbe of Kotzk. One of his chasidim came to him and complained that even though the Torah states that “he [the man] will rule over you [the woman]”[5] (וְהוּא יִמְשָׁל בָּךְ), in his house, the situation is reversed and his wife rules over him. The Kotzker replied that the Torah’s statement is indeed eternal, but the full phrase reads, “your [the wife’s] urge shall be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (וְאֶל אִישֵׁךְ תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ וְהוּא יִמְשָׁל בָּךְ)—if the wife is the one yearning for her husband, then he will rule over her, but if it is you that yearn for your wife, the rebbe concluded, the situation is reversed.

On our verse, the sages state,[6]

Rabbi Yitzchak says in the name of Rabbi Ami: If the woman emits seed first, she gives birth to a male, and if the man emits seed first, she gives birth to a female, as it is stated: “A woman when she produces seed and gives birth to a male.”

The “woman” and the “man” in this passage can be interpreted metaphorically. Whomever is attracted first, in what is known as “an awakening from below” (אִתְעָרוּתָא דִלְתַתָּא) to connect with the other is referred to as the “woman.” Thus, if it is the husband that is drawn to his wife, he awakens his “woman,” i.e., his recessive X chromosome and therefore a girl will be born. But if it is the wife who is attracted to her husband, it is her “woman” that awakens, i.e., her recessive X chromosome, which then draws to it, spiritually, a sperm with the dominant Y chromosome and the child will be a boy.

from Torah Chaim)

 

וְהִ֕יא הָפְכָ֖ה שֵׂעָ֣ר לָבָ֑ן (תזריע יג, י)

“it has turned some white hair” (Leviticus 13:10)

Second Reading: Mathematical Insights

The phrase we will be looking at has 4 words and 14 letters in the original Hebrew, “it has turned some white hair” (וְהִיא הָפְכָה שֵׂעָר לָבָן). The value of the entire phrase is 784, or 28 squared. Apart from being an independent phrase grammatically, when the value of a phrase is a square number, that too indicates its inner coherence.

Since 28 squared is the same as 2 squared times 14 squared, and 2 squared is 4, the average value of each word in this phrase is 14 squared, or 196.

Since the total value of the phrase is 28 times 28, which is the same as 28 times 2 times 14, and we have 14 letters, it follows that the average value of each letter is 2 times 28, or 56. Let us take a closer look at this product, 2 times 28. 28 is a figurate number, meaning that we can take 28 dots (or letters) and arrange them graphically in the form of a triangle. In this case, 28 is the triangle of 7, which looks like this:

Now, 2 times 28 can be arranged as two triangles back-to-back, or a diamond shape. Thus, 56, the average value of each letter in the phrase is the diamond of 7.

Furthermore, we now have seen that the value of the entire phrase is 28 times 28, whereas the average value of each letter in the phrase is 28 plus 28!

The final letters in the phrase, “it has turned some white hair” (וְהִיא הָפְכָה שֵׂעָר לָבָן) spell “Aaron” (אַהֲרֹן), in sequence, whose value is 256 or 16 squared. The remaining letters then equal 784 minus 256, or 528, which is also a triangular number, specifically the triangle of 32, which we write using the following notation: r32. But you will note that 32 is 2 times 16. So, we have found a very interesting, not entirely trivial, mathematical relationship:

282 = 162 ┴ r(16 ┴ 16)

The value of a triangular number is easily calculated using the definition:

rn = n(n ┴ 1)/2

Thus, we have that 282 = 16 ∙ 16 ┴ 32/2 ∙ 33, or

282 = 16 ∙ 16 ┴ 16 ∙ 33 = 16(16 ┴ 33) = 16 ∙ 49 = 42 ∙ 72

So we have found that the square of 28 is equal to the product of two other squares, 4 and 7! This is especially beautiful because 28 is the product of 4 and 7. A challenge for the reader: is there another triplet of numbers for which this is true?

Alternating Words and Letters

16, the root of the value of “Aaron,” figures even more prominently in this phrase when we consider alternating words. The sum of the first and third words— וְהִיא שֵׂעָר—is 592, or 16 times 37. The sum of the second and fourth words— הָפְכָה לָבָן—is 192, or 16 times 12! Of course, we already know that the sum of 37 and 12 must be 49, or 7 squared, as above.

Let us do the same for the letters in the phrase. The sum of the first set of alternating letters— ויהכשרב—is 543, which incidentally is the value of God’s connotation, “I will be that which I will be”[7] (אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה). The sum of the second set of alternating letters—האפהעלנ—is 241, the secret of the acronym אָמַר, which stands for the three stages of formation: light, water, and firmament (אוֹר מַיִם רָקִיעַ). Mathematically, 241 is the covenant number of 16, which means that 241 dots can be arranged in the form of two triangles of 16, placed apex-to-apex, with another dot called the “sign of the covenant” in between the two apexes.

But what is even more interesting is that just as the sum of the two alternating sets is 784, a square number, so their difference: 592 minus 192 is also a square number, 400, the square of 20.

We can divide the second set of alternating letters—האפהעלנ—further by looking at the two sets of alternating letters within. The first set will be the letters הפענ, whose sum is 205, and the second set will be אהל, whose sum is 36. Now we have divided the phrase into 3 parts whose values are 543, 205, and 36.

We can use Newton’s method of “finite differences” to create a discrete quadratic series out of these 3 numbers:

36 205 543
169 338
169

 

The number in the last row, 169, is known as the series base. 169 is the square of 13.

We can use the base to extend the series forward:

36 205 543 1050
169 338 507
169 169

The next number is thus 1050, and the sum of all four numbers in the series (36, 205, 543, and 1050) is 1834—a number that has two interesting properties:

First, 1834 is the sum of the first 14 interface numbers (also known as “centered square numbers” in mathematics). Interface numbers are defined as the sum of two consecutive square numbers, such that f[n] = n2 ┴ (n – 1)2. The first few interface numbers are thus 1, 5, 13, 25, 41, etc.

Second, 1834 is a special 3-dimensional figurate number known as an octahedral number. Here is what the first few Octahedral numbers look like:

 

It should be clear that an octahedral number is composed of two square-pyramids, where each pyramid is a sum of squares. Graphically, it should not be very hard to convince ourselves that every Octahedral number is actually a sum of interface numbers. And so we have that:

If we would like a simpler function for the Octahedral numbers,[8] we can use the following:

Oct[n] = n(2n2 ┴ 1)/3

(from Weekly Mathematical Meditation)

 

 

וְהָיָ֞ה בִּמְק֤וֹם הַשְּׁחִין֙ שְׂאֵ֣ת לְבָנָ֔ה א֥וֹ בַהֶ֖רֶת לְבָנָ֣ה אֲדַמְדָּ֑מֶת וְנִרְאָ֖ה אֶל־הַכֹּהֵֽן (תזריע יג, יט)

“In the location of the inflammation there is a wool-white spot or a snow-white spot streaked with red, he must be shown to the priest.” (Leviticus 13:19)

Third Reading: The Colors of Tzara’at

One of the primary topics in Parashat Tazria is colors. Colors and the slight differences between shades of the same color are a central aspect of recognizing and deciding on whether a person has been afflicted with tzara’at, the Biblical disease known by translation as “leprosy,” but which is very different from the modern-day disease by this name.

The first and most important color is white. In all, the sages identify four types of white, which are identified in the verse, “If a person develops a wool-white spot, a white-shaded spot, or a snow-white spot on the skin of his flesh”[9] (אָדָם כִּי יִהְיֶה בְעוֹר בְּשָׂרוֹ שְׂאֵת אוֹ סַפַּחַת אוֹ בַהֶרֶת). Though the verse seems to indicate only 3 shades of white, the sages write,[10]

The signs of a lesion [tzara’at] are two which, in fact, are four. The bright spot [בַהֶרֶת] is bright white like snow; secondary to it is the sign that is as white as the lime of the Temple.

The rising [שְׂאֵת] is as white as the membrane of an egg; secondary to it is that which is white like wool, the words of Rabbi Meir.

But the sages say: the rising [שְׂאֵת] is white like wool and secondary to it is that which is like the white of the membrane of an egg.

But the sages say: the rising [שְׂאֵת] is white like wool and secondary to it is that which is like the white of the membrane of an egg.

After white we encounter black, yellow, and reddish. The white appears on the naked skin. The yellow appears where hair grows. The white appears where there is a skin lesion, while the yellow appears where hair grows and is not called a lesion (נֶגַע) but rather a netek (נֶתֶק). Black hair is a sign of purity, and that the person is healthy. Finally, the reddish color appears in reference to a burn that develops a lesion.[11]

Why is white the color of an impure lesion? Usually, people associate white with purity. However, to be too white (like the four white shades of tzara’at that we just saw) means that a person is too self-exonerating. He is always right and everyone else is wrong. Being “white,” being self-exonerating is the hallmark of Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law and his mother Rebeccah’s brother. Laban’s name literally means “white.” He is also called Laban the Aramean (הָאֲרַמִּי), which the sages permute to spell “the deceiver” (הָרַמַּאי).[12] Just like the color white divides into two main shades and two secondary shades, so Laban had four daughters: two daughters from one mother—Leah and Rachel—and two daughters from a maidservant—Zilpah and Bilhah. All four of these are of course the holy counterparts of the four types of white that indicate a state of impurity, following the principle that “this opposite this has God made”[13] (גַּם אֶת זֶה לְעֻמַּת זֶה עָשָׂה הָאֱ־לֹהִים).

Again, to be “white” means to self-exonerate, to dismiss one’s mistakes. When we consider that the gematria of “snake” (נָחָשׁ) is the same as “Mashiach” (מָשִׁיחַ), then we come to understand that the positive side of the primordial snake is the king of the generation who—like King David—is willing to acknowledge his mistakes. When King David lifted up his hands, acknowledging, “I have sinned,”[14] he rectified Adam’s sin, as the verse indeed alludes to Adam, “If a person develops a wool-white spot,” which in the original Hebrew refers to a person as “an Adam.” Adam’s sin was not so much that he ate from the Tree of Knowledge, but that he blamed his wife for his actions. The most important lesson every husband should take from Adam is not to blame his wife. All the world’s troubles began with blaming the woman. If Adam had simply spontaneously admitted his guilt, everything would have been forgiven. It is this shunning of blame that causes tzara’at.

The first topic in parashat Tazria—the conception of a child from both parents [see the first portion]—is also related to colors, because the sages tell us that the father gives all the white in the child and the mother gives all that is red in the child.

The three colors we have mentioned, white (לָבָן), yellow (צָהֹב), and “black” (שָׁחֹר) all have three letters in Hebrew and the sum of their values is the same as the name of our Torah portion, Tazria (תַזְרִיעַ).

Chasidic teachings explain that the reason for all cases of tzara’at is the presence of the mother principle, Imma, without the presence of the father principle, Abba. Let us explain this in a straightforward psychological way. If a person grows up in a household where the mother is constantly giving all she must provide a good upbringing, dedicated chinuch, as we say in Hebrew, but the father does not contribute to the upbringing then the children suffer. This affects both the boys and the girls, but especially the girls. If the father does not partner with the mother, then not only do the girls not come out as good as they could have, but they also suffer.

In the language of Kabbalah, instead of the girls being blessed, and coming out like Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah, they emerge like their impure counterparts, whose names we will not mention.

The conclusion is that both mother and father need to be present together in the home. They need to cooperate and share the burden of bringing up the children. This is a great Torah principle that is gleaned from the Torah’s discussion of tzara’at.

Since the value of “Tazria” (תַזְרִיעַ) is equal to the names of the three main colors associated with tzara’at and the full phrase is, “A woman when she produces seed” (אִשָּׁה כִּי תַזְרִיעַ), we can associate colors with the feminine. The one color that did not appear in our gematria is “reddish” (אֲדַמְדַּם), which in tzara’at appears only together with white. In other words, there is no reddish by itself, only when it is mixed (פָּתוּךְ) with white, as the verse states, “a snow-white spot streaked with red”[15] (בַהֶרֶת לְבָנָה אֲדַמְדָּמֶת). Thus, the reddish that comes with the white is a sign of father and mother that do not separate, this in contrast with the yellow and the black that also symbolize states of sickness and health,[16] respectively, but do not mix.

The sum of “white” (לָבָן) and “reddish” (אֲדַמְדָּמֶת)—using the spelling in which they first appear—is the value of the opening statement of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, “the foundation of all foundation, the pillar of all wisdoms” (יְסוֹד הַיְּסוֹדוֹת וְעַמּוּד הַחָכְמוֹת), a number that we endear and which is also the triangle of 48, alluding to the 48 attributes with which Torah is to be possessed. The sum of the masculine version of these two colors—לָבָן אֲדַמְדַּם—is 776, the same as “the coming of Mashiach” (בִּיאַת הַמָּשִׁיחַ).

(from a shiur given on 18 Adar 5773)

 

א֣וֹ בָשָׂ֔ר כִּֽי יִהְיֶ֥ה בְעֹר֖וֹ מִכְוַת־אֵ֑שׁ וְֽהָיְתָ֞ה מִֽחְיַ֣ת הַמִּכְוָ֗ה בַּהֶ֛רֶת לְבָנָ֥ה אֲדַמְדֶּ֖מֶת א֥וֹ לְבָנָֽה (תזריע יג, כד)

“Or flesh whose skin has a burn from fire, and the healed area of the burn has a snow-white spot or white with red streaks, or uniformly white.” (Leviticus 13:24)

Fourth Reading: Combinations of Tzara’at

Let us first introduce the pertinent laws regarding tzara’at. The first verse in this regard states, “If a person develops a wool-white spot, a white-shaded spot, or a snow-white spot on the skin of his flesh”[17] (אָדָם כִּי יִהְיֶה בְעוֹר בְּשָׂרוֹ שְׂאֵת אוֹ סַפַּחַת אוֹ בַהֶרֶת). The literal translation would be a little different and the sages identify the first type of lesion—one that is “raised” (שְׂאֵת) and here translated as “wool white”—and the third type of lesion—one that is “bright” (בַהֶרֶת) and here translated as “snow-white”—as the two main categories of lesion. The second type of lesion, the one that is literally a “rash” (סַפַּחַת)[18] and here translated as “white-shaded,” is a sub-type. What is a bit complex is that the sub-type of each category has the same name, “rash” (סַפַּחַת), so the second type of lesion in the verse is the name of two separate sub-types of lesions, one that is subordinate to the raised category of lesions and one that is subordinate to the bright category of lesions.

What differentiates the categories and the sub-types from one another is that each is a different shade of white. When a lesion appears in any of these shades, it is considered impure, because these “whites” are not from a holy dimension (we tend to associate white with purity), because here they represent a state of self-exoneration coupled with a critical attitude to others.

The highest shade of white is described as “snow white” (עַזָּה כַשֶּׁלֶג)—that is the “bright” (בַהֶרֶת). Its sub-type is the shade that is white “as the lime of the Temple” (כְּסִיד הַהֵיכָל). The “raised” (שְׂאֵת) lesion is described as white “like white wool” (כְּצֶמֶר לָבָן). Its sub-type is the shade that is described as white “like the membrane of an egg” (כִּקְרוּם בֵּיצָה).

One of the most important topics posed by the sages is whether or not different-shaded lesions combine. The general rule is that only a lesion that is at least the size of a split bean renders a person impure. But what if there are two adjacent lesions, one half the size of a split pea of one category of lesion and another half the size of a split pea of the other category of lesion; do these two areas combine to create the minimum area of a tzara’at? You really need to have good eyes to be able to tell the difference.

Even without getting into all the complexities of the legal arguments made by the commentaries, we can say a few general things. Altogether there are 6 possible combinations between the categories and sub-types of lesions that can be made: 1) the two top categories, bright and raised, 2) bright with its subtype “lime of the Temple,” 3) raised with its subtype “the membrane of an egg,” 4) bright with the sub-type of the other category, “the membrane of an egg,” 5) raised with the sub-type of the other category, “lime of the Temple,” and 6) the two sub-types, “lime of the Temple” with “membrane of an egg,” together.

Most of the commentaries say that only three of these combinations are treated as valid and they are options 1, 2, and 3. The combination of the two top categories is mentioned explicitly in the verse, “If a person develops a [raised] wool-white spot, [sub-type, that is] a white-shaded spot, or a [bright] snow-white spot on the skin of his flesh”—the raised and the bright appear together in the verse. Likewise, 2 and 3 mean that one of the top categories combines with its sub-type and this combination also appears in the verse.

However, combinations 4, 5, and 6 are not seen as truly combining and therefore cannot be counted together towards a whole size of a split bean. This is a simple and straightforward logic, that cannot be contested.

Maimonides however rules differently. He argues that all shades of white combine. Every white lesion goes toward the size of a half a split bean. All 6 combinations are valid.

But Maimonides ruling raises a very simple and straightforward question: if all the shades of white combine, what benefit is there to telling the difference between them?! What practical purpose might there be in diagnosing the tzara’at while differentiating between the different colors. This is the background for what Maimonides writes in his Laws of the Impurity of Tzara’at, chapter 1, halachah 3:

These four shades of tzara'at lesions can all be joined with each other and are considered as a single lesion, whether this produces a more lenient ruling or a more stringent ruling, whether at the beginning of the observation of the lesion or at the conclusion of the seven days, whether after the person afflicted with tzara'at was released from impurity or definitely categorized as afflicted.

What is implied? Whether a lesion is entirely white like snow or like the lime of the Temple building or like clean wool or like the membrane of an egg or a lesion was varied in appearance, part of its whiteness was the shade of “bright” and part was like the shade of the “raised,” and part like the shade of a sub-type, they are all considered as one appearance.

If so, why did the Sages count them and say, “The shades of tzara'at blemishes are ‘two which are four’?” So that one will understand the different appearances. For any priest who does not recognize the different appearances and their names when he is taught and informed, should not assess a lesion until he understands them and recognizes them and can say: “This is the “bright” and this is its sub-type. This is the “raised” and this is its subtype.”

Maimonides argues that it is incumbent on the priest to be able to differentiate between the different types. But again, why? What do we stand to gain from his knowledge? Is there any practical differential?

The spiritual problem at the root of tzara’at is that there is a revelation of the Mother Principle without the Father Principle.[19] What is the difference between the two? The Mother Principle refers to our connection with reality. Chasidic parlance associates the Mother Principle with reality—“the beginnings of reality” (ראשית המציאות). The Father Principle on the other hand refers to the essence and is described as the “beginnings of revelation” (ראשית הגילוי).

At the very end of the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe writes that there are certain laws—halachot—that will never be realized in reality. How then can they even be referred to as “halachot?” His answer is that in the supernal wisdom of the World of Emanation, these laws do have a place. In other words, in the supernal wisdom associated with the Divine World of Emanation, there is a necessary differential between even those things that will never be differentiated between in reality (i.e., the practical reality of the three lower Worlds). In fact, if the legal authority does not know how to differentiate between these various aspects, he cannot act as a judge in the lower reality. This is a very practical application: you cannot rectify reality if you do not know things that have no bearing on reality. This seems counterintuitive, but it is the truth.

Practically speaking, in the case of differentiating between shades of white, Maimonides’ ruling clearly demonstrates the difference between the Mother and Father Principles. To have a connection with the Mother Principle alone means to simply know that all the shades of white combine—without the need to actually be able to identify the difference between them. What then is the revelation of the Father Principle? The Arizal explicitly states that the priest observing and gazing at the footnote is providing the lesion with the missing light or revelation of the Father Principle. The priest’s gaze has the power to cure tzara’at in this way. And this gaze is dependent on the priest being able to differentiate between the shades of white, even though according to Maimonides, there is no way to actually apply this knowledge in reality. To be able to rectify reality, one needs to be an expert diagnostician, even if your analysis has no bearing on reality. To cure a lesion, one must be able to, at least in theory, make a diagnosis.

(From a class given on the 27th of 2 Adar, 5768)

 

נִרְפָּ֥א הַנֶּ֖תֶק טָה֣וֹר ה֑וּא וְטִהֲר֖וֹ הַכֹּהֵֽן׃ (תזריע יג, לז)

“the scall is healed; the person is pure and the priest shall pronounce him pure” (Leviticus 13:37)

Fifth Reading: Healing with Divine Names

The Lowest Common Denominator of God’s Names

The value of the phrase, “the scall is healed; the person is pure” (נִרְפָּא הַנֶּתֶק טָהוֹר הוּא) is 1118, the famous value of the Shema, “Hear O’ Israel, Havayah is our God, Havayah is One”[20] (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל י-הוה אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ י-הוה אֶחָד). The Shema is the quintessential statement of Jewish faith in God’s oneness, specifically, that the two Names of God, Havayah, designating His transcendence above all, and Elokim, referring to His immanence within all, are one and the same. The values of Havayah (י-הוה) and Elokim (אֱ-לֹהִים) are 26 and 86, respectively and 1118 is the lowest common denominator[21] of these two numbers. Thus, 1118 mathematically mirrors the unity between these two Names of God, just as the Shema states their unity with words. This simultaneous multilingual—mathematical and linguistic—reflection of unity is enough to demonstrate the crucial importance of analyzing the Torah quantitatively.

Divine Names and Kabbalah

Anyone intimately familiar with Kabbalah, especially its Lurianic exposition and restatement, recognizes the importance of these two Names, Havayah and Elokim, in laying out the foundation of this unofficial Torah theology. Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Arizal, identifies the “fillings” of these two Names as seminal in constructing the framework of Kabbalistic thought.

The Name Havayah has 27 possible fillings, of which 4 are identified as central by the Arizal: יוד הי ויו הי, יוד הי ואו הי, יוד הא ואו הא, and יוד הה וו הה. Their values are 72, 63, 45, and 52, respectively, and their sum is 232.

The Name Elokim only has 3 possible fillings whose values are 300 (אלף למד הי יוד מם), 291 (אלף למד הא יוד מם), and 295 (אלף למד הה יוד מם). Their sum is 886.

Tying everything together, we realize that the sum of these seven fillings of Havayah and Elokim, is also 1118!

Turning to our phrase, “the scall is healed; the person is pure” (נִרְפָּא הַנֶּתֶק טָהוֹר הוּא), whose value is as noted 1118, we now notice that it divides into two subphrases (with the semicolon providing the division). Amazingly, the first half, “the scall is healed” (נִרְפָּא הַנֶּתֶק) equals 886, and the second half, “the person is pure” (טָהוֹר הוּא) equals 232!!!

Revealing God in Nature

The netek, or scall, in Hebrew literally means a detachment, and thus this type of lesion alludes to a disconnect from Godliness, the ultimate reason for tzara’at specifically and for all illness, spiritual or physical, in general. To say that the scall is healed implies that a new connection to Godliness has been formed and that it is stronger than ever before.

It is to this unification that the Shema alludes to. The Name Elokim represents God as Nature (the value of Elokim, 86, is also the value of “nature” הַטֶּבַע, the realm in which God is concealed. Havayah on the other hand, represents an eternal, ongoing, and direct awareness of God. When Elokim is unified with Havayah, even Nature, even the human body, reveals that all is God and God is all.

Two Stages of Healing

Healing here occurs in two stages. The first is affected by the Name Elokim—corresponding to the first two words of the phrase, “the scall is healed” (נִרְפָּא הַנֶּתֶק), which equals 886 and is the sum of the fillings of Elokim. This Name acts to sweeten the harsh judgments at their source, specifically.

Then the second stage, corresponding to the final two words in our phrase, “the person is pure” (טָהוֹר הוּא), whose sum is 232, is affected by the Name Havayah, which affects the revelation of the soul’s very essence, about which we say in the morning prayers, “It is pure” (טְהוֹרָה הִיא). The soul is described in this way because its source is in the supernal Tahiru (טְהִירוּ עִלָּאָה), a realm that is pure Divine consciousness and the source of all the Hebrew letter pairs that form the basis of the Hebrew language through the 231 Gates.

Jealousy

One final observation about this phrase. The first and last letters of its first two words, “the scall is healed” (נִרְפָּא הַנֶּתֶק), which we said represent the sweetening of the harsh judgments at their source, also reveal where the root cause of the onset of the tzara’at lies. These four letters spell the word “jealousy” (קִנְאָה), revealing that tzara’at is caused by jealousy, which when nullified and healed bring about recovery from the disease.

(from Weekly Mathematical Meditation)

Respecting Our Mothers

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn of Lubavitch was born on the 11th day of Nissan 5662 (1902) to his father Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn, a fifth-generation scion of the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe. His mother was Rebbetzin Chanah, the daughter of Rabbi Meir Shlomo Yanovsky. At the age of seven, the family moved to Yekaterinoslav (now called Dnieper), where his father was appointed as the chief rabbi of the relatively large Jewish community. In Yekaterinoslav, he was privately tutored by Rabbi Shneur Zalman Vilenkin. Alongside his diligence and depth in both the revealed and the mystical aspects of Torah, the Rebbe also excelled in mathematics, geometry, and the sciences. In 1923, he met his future father-in-law and mentor, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe Rayatz, and on the 14th of Kislev 1928, he married the Rebbe' Rayatz’s daughter, Rebbetzin Chayah Mushkah in Warsaw.

After his marriage, the Rebbe moved to Berlin, where he continued his nearly impossible schedule of Torah studies, while auditing courses in mathematics, physics, and philosophy at a local university and received rabbinical ordination from the author of the Sridei Eish, Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg. In 1933, he moved to Paris and studied naval engineering at École Polytechnique. In 1941, the Rebbe and Rebbetzin fled burning Europe. The Rebbe joined his father-in-law in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn and began to lead the Chabad institutions.

On the 10th of Shevat 1950, the Rebbe Rayatz, passed away, and a year later, on the 10th of Shevat 1951, Rabbi Menachem Mendel was crowned as the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe. On the 22nd of Shevat 1988, Rebbetzin Chayah Mushkah passed away, and the Rebbe referred to her passing as the end of an era and the preparation for a new era leading to the coming of Mashiach. On the 27th of 1 Adar, 1992, while praying at his father-in-law’s grave, the Rebbe suffered a stroke and ceased speaking. This condition continued until Saturday night, the eve of the 3rd of Tammuz 1994, the day when “the sun stopped in Giv’on and the moon in the Valley of Ayalon.”

Some forty years ago, a young woman who grew up in California was aroused to return to her faith. Although she was Jewish, her parents were not connected to Judaism at all. Her father respected the step she took, but it struck her mother's soul to the core (even though she didn’t really know what a soul was…) that her daughter would choose a different path. Her mother vehemently opposed her daughter’s new-found faith and made her life bitter. When the young woman reached the age of eighteen and was legally independent, she was determined to find a place where she could live as a religious Jew. Eventually, an incident occurred where her mother lashed out at her terribly, and in anger, the daughter retorted: “You’re not my mother!” and left home.

From there, the young woman went to New York and enrolled in a school for the newly observant. After several years, she reached marriageable age, but no match worked out. Someone advised her to go to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneershon, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, consult with him, and ask for his blessing.

The yechidut (private audience) with the Rebbe was scheduled for late on Saturday night, at four in the morning. The young woman came to the Chabad Headquarters for the entire Shabbat. It was the first time she was at 770, and she witnessed the happenings there and the respect and nullification of the chasidim towards the Rebbe. When the time for her yechidut arrived, the young woman handed in her note, and the Rebbe read it. The Rebbe turned to her and said: “Were you here on Shabbat? Did you see the royal honor they give me?” It was very strange for the Rebbe to speak like this. “Yes,” she answered. (Apparently, she had been very impressed, and the Rebbe sensed this). The Rebbe began to elaborate on the great honor given to him, and after he did so, he turned to her and said: “Know this: I would give all of this up entirely for just half an hour with my mother of blessed memory.”

With that, the yechidut was over, and the young woman understood the message. Immediately on Sunday morning, she caught a flight to California and returned home after several years away. She asked her mother for forgiveness, her mother asked for forgiveness from her, and shortly after, in Divine providence, she found a very good match, got married, and established a chasidic home.

The Rebbe, as is well known, was very meticulous about honoring his mother. When he visited his mother, he made sure to take leave as he walked backwards, never turning his back to her. He tried to conceal this, finding various “excuses” to justify his way of walking by adjusting the tablecloth, moving a chair, placing something on the table, all the while moving towards the door. Once someone saw this, and when he realized what motivated the Rebbe’s unusual conduct, he mentioned it in awe to the Rebbe’s mother. The Rebbetzin responded with a smile: “What are you amazed by? Since his Bar Mitzvah, I have not once seen his back!”

What inner movement does facing forward express, especially while moving away and walking backward? The Alter Rebbe answers this very question in a discourse that begins with the verse: “I will walk (אֶתְהַלֵּךְ) before God in the land of the living.”[22] Contrary to the simpler form for “I will walk” (אֵלֵךְ), pronounced Eilech, the form Et’haleich (אֶתְהַלֵּךְ), says the Alter Rebbe, suggests “running and returning,” approaching and distancing. Every person has times of expanded consciousness, in which he draws closer and ascends in the service of God. But everyone also has times when they fall, distance themselves, and are in a state of contracted consciousness.

King David says that in every state of Et’haleich, whether approaching or distancing, a person remains “before God.” Obviously, when approaching, his face is turned towards God. But even when he falls, he continues to think incessantly about the place from which he has grown distant. The same is true regarding parents. Every person, even the most respectful and loving, leaves his parents’ home and goes his own way. Yet, as the Rebbe conveyed to the young woman in the story, this distance does not have to cause the severing of ties. It is both possible, and necessary, says the Rebbe, to distance and approach simultaneously, keeping the heart and face always connected to the place from where we came.

“With the Crown with which His Mother Crowned Him”

Certainly, the Rebbe was meticulous in honoring both his parents. However, if, by Divine providence, this story is specifically about his mother, there must surely be significance to it. It is related that before his marriage to Rebbetzin Chayah Mushkah, Rebbetzin Channah hinted that the match was on the condition that the Rebbe would be his father-in-law’s successor when the time came. To this, the Rebbe Rayatz replied: “Chasidim have intellect, and they will know to choose the one who is suitable.” Rebbetzin Channah took this as an agreement to her request, and the match was made. Therefore, to a great extent, it was Rebbetzin Channah who ensured the Rebbe was crowned with the leader of Lubavitch (as she surely recognized his virtue and connection to leadership).

From this, we can learn that it is specifically a mother who cares for her child’s “crown.” She is even more sensitive than his father to his great potential and ensures that he can fully realize his life’s mission. This is also evident from a specific verse in Song of Songs: “With the crown with which his mother crowned him on his wedding day”[23] (as occurred at the Rebbe’s wedding). From the moment that he was aware, the Rebbe acknowledged her for this, always making sure to maintain a face-to-face relationship with his mother and receive inspiration from her in fulfilling his royal role. In light of this explanation, the Rebbe’s statement at the beginning of the story is even more meaningful: All the status, the crown, and the honor, they all mean nothing to me compared to my intrinsic connection with my mother, which outweighs it all.

[1]. Genesis 1:28.

[2]. Kiddushin 35a.

[3]. Leviticus 12:2.

[4]. Sotah 29a.

[5]. Genesis 3:16.

[6]. Niddah 31a.

[7]. Exodus 3:14.

[8]. Incidentally, whenever referring to figurate numbers, we usually reference the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (oeis.org), where these series, or sequences of numbers are cataloged. The series we have mentioned in this article are: triangular numbers are sequence A000217, square numbers are sequence A000290, interface or centered-square numbers are sequence A001844, diamond numbers are also known as pronic numbers and they are sequence A002378, covenant numbers do not have an exact representation in the oeis.org, octahedral numbers are sequence number A000590.

[9]. Leviticus 13:2.

[10]. Mishnah Nega’im 1:1.

[11]. Leviticus 13:19.

[12]. Bereishit Rabbah 70:13.

[13]. Ecclesiastes 7:14.

[14]. 2 Samuel 12:13.

[15]. Leviticus 13:19.

[16]. In the fifth reading of our parashah, Ibid. 13:29-37.

[17]. Leviticus 13:2.

[18]. In Modern Hebrew, this word is used as a translation of “psoriasis.”

[19]. See more in the article for the third portion.

[20]. Deuteronomy 6:4.

[21]. The lowest common denominator of 26 and 86 refers to the smallest number that is a multiple of both these numbers. Multiplication in arithmetic acts like a true unifying operator, ensuring that the product is commensurate to both multiplicands. Applying this last statement to our relationship between 26, 86, and 1118, we can imagine a ruler with 26 units and a ruler with 86 units; 1118 is the first number of units that can be accurately measured using both rulers.

[22]. Psalms 116:9.

[23]. Song of Songs 3:11.

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