Three Weeks of Pain, Seven of Comfort, & Two of Return

crack in the earth

Religion, economy, our basic security – all our existing infrastructures are undergoing an unprecedented reality check – tremors that will surely change the universe in which we live.

As we enter the second week of the traditional Three Week mourning period, when we grieve the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem – life around us seems to be tragically reflecting this sad time period.

This three week period is one that exposes the cracks in our universe. Cracks in our systems shake us up; but a crack also exposes what lies within. We can be demoralized by the cracks or we can attempt to look between the cracks and see an emerging larger picture.

We are now directly experiencing a crack in the continuum of history, one that can catapult us into a completely new awareness and raise our consciousness to a completely new level.

To understand the deeper meaning of these weeks – and glean from them a system how to heal, grow and rebuild our lives – allow me to cite a discourse of the great Chassid Reb Hillel of Paritch (1795-1864) in which he explains the deeper significance of the “three weeks of rebuke, seven of consolation, two of return.”

The Kabbalah teaches that the Three Weeks manifest the concealment of the three intellectual faculties (Chochma, Binah, Daat). The following Seven Weeks express the revelation of the intellect of Atik Yomin (lit. ‘ancient days,’ referring to the higher dimension of Ketter, the crown – the highest Divine revelation) in the seven emotions. And the Two Weeks of Return is the elevation of Malchut achieved through the two levels of teshuvah (‘higher teshuvah’ and ‘lower teshuvah’) that elevates from Biy”a (Beriah, Yetzirah, Asiyah). This is followed by Yom Kippur, when the Second Tablets were given, the revelation of the intellect of Atik Yomin into Biy”a. Followed by  Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, when the revelation of Yom Kippur is revealed in great joy.

If you had problems understanding the last paragraph, don’t be forlorn; most of us have the same difficulty. That is why we need Chassidus to explain the cryptic language of Kabbalah. Reb Hillel explains it with an analogy of a teacher and student (which is the classical and best example to explain the relationship between the Divine and the mundane).

The conventional transmission of knowledge from teacher to student is a seamless process. It does not require a special effort. However, when the teacher (out of his deep love to the student) wants to convey an entirely new concept – one that is beyond anything yet revealed – he needs to collect his thoughts, return into the deepest recesses of his mind until he is ready to being transmitting the new concept.

During the process of reflection, the teacher will suspend his transmission teacher to the student, while he gathers his thoughts. The deeper he goes into his own mind, the more he immerses into the new concept, the deeper will be his silence.

From the student’s perspective this silence can be perceived as a disconnection. He can even think that the teacher has abandoned him. In truth what is happening is that the teacher is connecting ever more with the student. His silence actually reflects a deeper bond with the student; this silence is giving birth to an unprecedented new concept that will afterwards be conveyed to the student.

Reb Hillel explains, that the Three Weeks reflect a cosmic silence that progresses from week to week. The Three Weeks begin with the 17th of Tammuz, the day when Moses broke the Two Tablets when he saw that the people had built the Golden Calf, 40 days after he received the Tablets with the Ten Commandments at Sinai.

On the surface, the broken Tablets are a tragic events and the 17th of Tammuz is the beginning of the saddest time of the year. Yet, following that day Moses returned to Sinai to beseech G-d to forgive the people. His efforts would take 80 days, but at the end of that period Moses would prevail and return on Yom Kippur with the second set of Tablets.

The Second Tablets are in many ways far greater than the first. They revealed an entirely new ‘concept’ and introduced an unprecedented new energy into existence. This new ‘concept’ and energy is born in the Three Weeks (the first three weeks of Moses prayer on Sinai).* During these weeks Moses was on Sinai, the people below experienced only silence. But above a birthing was take place.

As the Three Weeks progress the silence deepens. The people feel that perhaps they will not be forgiven. The siege over Jerusalem intensifies from day to day, until we reach Tisha B’Av at the end of the Three Weeks, which is the saddest day of all, when the Temples are destroyed. Traditionally the mourning intensifies as these weeks pass and reach closer to Tisha B’Av.

In week one the first intellectual faculty (Chochma) is concealed. Though the ‘teacher’ is retreating into his mind to generate the new ‘concept,’ he still can maintain some form of superficial communication with the student. In week two the concealment progresses into the dimension of Binah (understanding). Finally, in week three all levels of intellect are concealed, including the third faculty of Daat (knowledge).

Yet as the silence deepens, the new ‘concept’ is developing further and reaching new heights. The greater the silence, the greater the revelation.

Even during this silence, if we look close enough we can detect a glow on the face of the teacher as he experiences the new revelation.

This glow, this aura expresses itself in the seven emotions of the teacher – and they in turn comfort us (the student) in the Seven Weeks of Consolation. In each of the seven weeks we are increasingly comforted as we progressively connect to the ‘glowing’ seven emotions of the teacher (as will be discussed in detail in future essays).

The Seven Weeks of Consolation are meant to motivate and prepare us for the work we must do to receive the new revelation birthed in the Three Weeks. This work entails teshuvah: In order to grow and be receptive to a new perspective, we must suspend our old perspectives and free ourselves from our old patterns of behavior. This teshuvah has two steps – the Two Weeks of Teshuvah, which allows us to finally receive the new revelation of the Second Tablets on Yom Kippur. After all this work we are finally ready to celebrate our reception of the new ‘concept.’ And celebrate we do on Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

This in brief is a synopsis of Reb Hillel’s fascinating discourse, which apparently is based on the teachings of his teacher, the Tzemach Tzedek.

I don’t know about you, but I find that this explanation provides us with a brilliant formula to cope with our challenges today.

We now stand in the second of the Three Weeks – the week of Binah. Families torn apart by recent violence seem to be experiencing a deep silence. And we all grieve with them. When we think about it (or even when we don’t) we are all living in a long shadow of uncertainty, and the gloom seems to be deepening.

“Where is G-d in all of this?” many of us are asking. Why is G-d silent?

Will we get through this, and more importantly how will we?

These and so many fundamental questions asked today are answered by the system that teaches us how to deal with loss, how to be comforted and how to rebuild a new world.

Even as we experience great loss, we also witness – and are comforted by – noble heroism and the majesty of the human spirit – perhaps a manifestation of the seven ‘glowing’ emotions.

Even as we hear silence, we must realize that a great new revelation is being born. And we are privileged to be part of it. We are blessed to help precipitate a new era – when materialism will be not an end in itself, but a means to spirituality – to a world whose entire occupation will be to know the Divine, to perceive in all of existence the sublime energy within, the ‘hand inside the glove;’ a “world filled with Divine knowledge as the waters cover the sea.”

But to do so, we must first be cognizant of the tenuousness of the material world (as an end to itself). We must grieve for our losses, stand in awe of the silence and recognize the cracks that have opened up in our existing infrastructures. Then we must be comforted by the knowledge and the trust in G-d’s promise, that the ‘destruction’ of a previous state allows for the birth of a new one. That the cracks around us reveal a deeper truth. And finally, we must acclimate ourselves to the deeper truth. We must free ourselves – through teshuvah – from our subjective pasts and our hardened habits, and realign our lives to a greater vision of new horizons.

May we use these weeks well to align our lives to the healthy cosmic rhythms of time – the rhythms that reflect the inner patterns of life and inner forces that make existence tick.

May we do our part to prepare ourselves and the world to finally receive and experience the new revelation: the rebuilding of the Third and eternal Temple, the final and eternal Redemption. After the long silence, it’s about time.


*) Aryeh (lion) – the Mazal (sign) of the month of Av – is an acronym of Elul, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Hoshana Rabbah. Av gives birth to the success of Moses prayers beginning in Elul (when Moses ascends Sinai for the third and final time), through Rosh Hashana, finally prevailing on Yom Kippur, and consummated and celebrated on Hoshana Rabbah.

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