Three breeds of materiality
Eight Times Eight
What happens when the credo of the week is postponed for
three weeks running?
INSIGHTS: Wide Angle Lens
Is that person as bad as he looks, or are you looking
at what is bad in that person?
A TELLING STORY: A Young Mans Advice
and an old mans trust
All who walk on their paws among the four-legged animals,
those are unclean for you
For example, the dog, the bear and the cat
On several occasions, our sages emphasize the importance
of placing a protective barrier between ones feet and
the ground. A person should sell the roof-beams of his
home, they enjoin, in order to buy shoes for his
feet. They go so far as to count one who walks barefoot among those
who are shunned by G-d.
Chassidic teaching speaks of an equally critical need for
spiritual shoesfor a shield between the person and the
earth. To walk barefoot through lifeto allow
full, unmitigated contact between oneself and the mundanity
and materiality of our worldis deleterious to our mission
and role as a holy people whose lives are driven
by higher, loftier aspirations.
(On the other hand, we invite and insist upon uninhibited
contact with holy groundwith those areas
and aspects of the material world which openly display their
divine source and purpose. Thus, when G-d appeared to Moses
in the burning bush, He instructed: Remove your shoes
from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. By the same token, the kohanim
serving in the Holy Temple went barefoot; in fact, a service
performed by a kohen with even the slightest barrier
between his feet and the ground was invalid.)
The Torahs repudiation of barefootedness extends to
the animal kingdom as well: only hoofed animals are kosher,
fit for consumption for the Jew. Animals who walk
on their paws with no shoe between the soles
of their feet and the ground are excluded from our diet, for
this anatomical feature reflects a nature and characteristic
we should avoid ingesting into ourselves.
The Dog, the Bear and the Cat
The Zohar tells us that There are three [internal]
governors [in man]: the brain, the heart and the liver.
The brain is the seat of the intellect; the heart, of the
emotions and character; and the liver, the most complex and
important of the metabolic organs, represents the physical
Of the thousands of species of animals who walk on
their paws, Rashi cites three examples: the dog, the
bear and the cat. For just as there are three basic dimensions
to man, so there are three basic types of materialityintellectual
materiality, emotional materiality and physical materialityrepresented
by these three hoofless beasts.
The Talmud notes that A dog acknowledges its master;
a cat does not acknowledge its master. In contrast, the cat is cited for its refinement
and positive traits (Had we not been given the Torah,
we could still learn modesty from the cat),
while the dog is a virtual symbol of crassness and impudence.
Acknowledging ones master in the spiritual
sense is to possess an awareness of G-d and an appreciation
of His mastery over us. The cat represents one
who is deficient in this area. His heart may be noble and
refined; but his mind is a material mind, consumed with material
thoughts and the indiscriminate acceptance of the material
conceptions of reality.
The dog, on the other hand, acknowledges
his masterhis mind is in the right place. His
hooflessness is expressed in the baseness of his
character and emotions. It is in this area that he fails to
erect any defenses against the materiality of the earth.
Then there is the barefoot creature whose materiality is
of the purely physical sort. His is not an intellectual deficiency
or an emotional weakness, but a simple hedonism. Lacking hooves
between his physical self and material earth, he indulges
his physical drives without restraint. He is, in the words
of the Talmud, one of those who eat and drink like a
bear, are swaddled with flesh like a bear... and are restless
as a bear.
For an animal to be kosher it must have hooves; but an utterly
shod creature (such as the camel or horse) is also unclean.
The hooves must be split.
For the purpose of life on earth is not to escape its materiality,
but to sanctify it. So while unmitigated contact with the
earth makes for a non-kosher creature, so does the absence
of any contact whatsoever.
Both extremes are unacceptable. There must be a certain element
of distance and aloofness in our earthly involvements, lest
we become enslaved by that which we have come to master. But
involvement there must be, for developing the physical world
into a home for G-d is the essence of our mission
Based on an undated entry in the Rebbes journal
and on a talk delivered on Av 29, 5710 (August 12, 1950)
And it came to pass on the eighth day, that Moses called
Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel...
This eighth daythe day that followed the
seven-day inauguration of the Sanctuarywas the first
of Nissan, a day that wore ten crowns: it was
a Sunday, the first day of the week; it was the beginning
of a new year; it was the first day that the divine presence came to dwell
in the Sanctuary; the first day of the kehunah (priesthood);
the first day of the service in the Sanctuary; and so on.
There is even an opinion that this was the anniversary of
the creation of the universe.
With so many firsts associated with this day,
why does the Torah refer to it as the eighth day?
The number seven represents the natural reality. The world
was created, and continues to be created anew each week, in
a seven-day cycle. There are seven sefirot, divine
attributes that define G-ds relationship with our reality;
these are reflected in the seven middot, the seven
traits of the human heart.
Thus our sages explain the special significance of the number
eight. If seven is the number of creations natural cycles,
eight represents that which is higher than nature,
the circumference that encompasses the circle
of time and space. On that eighth day, the day
that the divine presence came to dwell in the Israelite camp,
we were granted the potential to reach beyond the natural
and the norm, to break free of the seven-dimensional cycle
that defines and confines our existence.
A Timely Reading
Shemini, The Eighth, is the name of the
Torah section (Leviticus 9-11) we read this week, which derives
its name from its opening verse, And it came to pass
on the eighth day...
A Jew lives with the times, drawing inspiration
and guidance from the weekly Torah reading. Each year, when
the section of Shemini comes along in the annual Torah-reading
cycle, it inspires us to liberate ourselves from the systems
and routines that have come to define our lives and reach
for that higher, eighth dimension.
Indeed, the section of Shemini is usually read on
the Shabbat after Passover, when we are engaged in the Counting
of the Omer that connects Passover to Shavuot. The Counting
of the Omer is itself a quest for the eighth dimension:
a seven week, 49-day count leading to a 50th day (7x7+1) that
is the scene of the divine revelation of Shavuot.
A Turn of the Calendar
This year, the configuration of our calendar emphasizes the
lesson of Shemini in a most unique way.
Each of the Torahs 53 sections is generally read during
one week of the yearin part on Monday and Thursday mornings,
and the previous Shabbat afternoon, and in its entirety on
Shabbat morning. At times, however, a particular section may
be lived with for more than one week. When Shabbat
coincides with a festival, a special reading associated with
the festival is read, and the regular reading is moved ahead
to the next week. The Shabbat afternoon readings, however,
and the Monday and Thursday readings (when these are not themselves
festival days), are still from the weekly sectionthe
section that would have been read that Shabbat were it not
This year, both the first and last days of Passover fall
on Shabbat. As a result, the section of Shemini is
twice postponed and is publicly read in the synagogue
eight times over the course of three weeks: on the
Shabbat afternoon, Monday and Thursday before Passover; on
the afternoon of the first day of Passover; on the afternoon
of the last day of Passover; on the Monday, Thursday and Shabbat
mornings the week after Passover.
So this year, the lesson of Shemini is even more compelling
than in other years. It is read eight times, granting us the
power of eight, eight times over.
Based on an address by the Rebbe, Shabbat Shemini 5751
(April 13, 1991)
...and judge every person to the side of
Ethics of the Fathers 1:6
Sometimes it is extremely difficult to judge another person
favorably. That person might have committed a certain deed
or he might possess a certain trait which, try as we might,
we cannot see in a positive light. At such times, it is important
to remember that there is more to this person than that particular
trait or deed. If we learn to appreciate his positive qualities,
the negative ones will be more tolerable and forgivable.
The Ethics of the Fathers alludes to this approach
when it says, Judge every person to the side of merit.
The Hebrew phrase es kol haadam, which the Ethics
uses for every person, literally means the
whole person. If we view the whole person rather than
focus on the parts that are wanting, we will surely find much
that is meritorious.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi once said to one of his grandchildren:
Let me tell you about the simple faith of the Jews of
Many years ago, I was traveling home from Mezeritch
after a period of study under the guidance of my master, the
It was a cold winter night, and my feet had become immobilized
by the cold. When we stopped at a wayside inn, the coachman
had to carry me inside in his arms.
The innkeeper, an elderly, G-d-fearing Jew, rubbed
my feet with snow and spirits until the life returned to them.
He asked me about the purpose of my journey, and I told him
that I was a disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch. In answer
to my questions, he told me that he had been operating this
inn for close to fifty years, and that, thank G-d, he has
earned a comfortable living from it.
Is there a Jewish community here? I asked.
No, replied the innkeeper. We are the only
Jews for many miles around.
So you dont have a minyan?
What do you do on Shabbat and the festivals?
To my sorrow, sighed the old man, we pray
without a quorum all year round. For the High Holidays, we
close the inn for two weeks and travel to the citya
several days journey from here.
But how can you live this way! I exclaimed. How
can a Jew go for months on end without a kaddish or
borchu, without hearing the public reading of the Torah?
What can I do? This is my livelihood. There is nothing
for me to do in the city.
How many Jewish households are there in the city?
About a hundred, he replied.
If G-d manages to provide a living for a hundred families,
I said, dont you think He could find a way to
provide for one more?
On that note, we parted company. I was given a room
in which to rest, and the innkeeper went off to attend to
An hour later, I heard a commotion outside. Looking out the
window, I saw several carts and wagons piled high with bundles
and crates, furniture and household items. The innkeeper and
his sons were running about, tying down the bundles and settling
the women and children into the wagons.
Whats going on? I asked the old man.
Were moving to the city, he replied. Youre
rightthis is no place for a Jew. A Jew needs a minyan,
a rabbi, a community...
But just like that, youre going? Where will you
stay? And what will you do for a living?
Well find something. As you rightly pointed out
to me, if G-d can take care of a hundred families in the city,
He can surely provide for a few more souls...
Such was the faith and trust in G-d of these Jews,
concluded Rabbi Schneur Zalman. I was but a young man
at the time, but because I had told him that I was a disciple
of the Great Maggid, he unquestionably acted on my advice.
Without giving it another thought, he left behind an enterprise
that had provided him with a comfortable living for fifty
years and set out, that very night, to a place where he could
better serve his Creator.
Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber
. Talmud, Shabbat 129a.
. Ibid., Pesachim 113b.
. Mishneh Torah, Laws Regarding Entry Into the
. Cf. Nachmanides on Leviticus 11:12.
. Zohar, part II, 153a.
. Thus a melech (king) is one
in whom the moach (brain) wields the highest authority,
the lev (heart) is second in command, and both have
priority over the caved (liver); (melech is
an acronym for moach, lev, caved, in
that order). This hierarchy of priorities is also reflected
in the vertical stance of the human body, which places the
brain as the highest (also in the literal, spatial sense)
of the bodys organs, the heart below the brain, and
the liver below them both. In contrast, in a four-legged
animals body, the three are on the same plane. (Thus,
a person is acting like an animal when his mind
does not exercise its authority over his heart, and his
thoughts and feelings have no influence upon his physical
. Isaiah 55:11; Talmud, Beitzah 25b; Meorei
Ohr, s.v. kelev.
. Talmud, Avodah Zarah 2b.
. Reshimot #39, p. 10; Likkutei Sichot, vol. I,
. Though the Jewish year is usually reckoned as
beginning on the first of Tishrei, the month of Nissan is
designated by the Torah as the first of the months
of the year (Exodus 12:2. See Our Other Head,
WIR, vol. IX, no. 26).
. Talmud, Shabbat 87b.
. Ibid. Cf. Talmud, Rosh HaShanah 10b.
. Keli Yakar on Leviticus 9:1. Thus, the mitzvah
of circumcision on the eighth day of life takes precedence
over the mitzvah of Shabbat, the seventh day of the cycle
. See The Journey in last weeks issue
of Week In Review.
. Sefer HaSichot 5751, vol. II, pp. 475-477.
. Told by Rabbi Moshe Rubin, The Albany Haggadah,
. Rabbi DovBer of Mezeritch (d. 1772), second leader
of the Chassidic movement.
. A quorum of ten adult Jewish males required for