This week's Torah portion describes some special dates in the Jewish calendar. This section begins:
"These are G‑d's appointed times [in Hebrew, 'Aylu mo'adey Hashem'] the callings of holiness ['…mikra-ey kodesh'] that you [the Jewish people] should designate in their proper time ['…asher tikri'oo otam b'mo'adam']". (Lev. 23:4)
We say this verse on holidays in the daytime Kiddush.

These holidays are the set times that G‑d's essence is able to be revealed….

There is a traditional chasidic teaching that has a very different take on the verse. The Rebbe Rayatz taught as follows: G‑d's name as it appears in this verse is G‑d's essential name, Havayah, describing G‑d on His first and foremost level, as Creator of all. Therefore, the verse can be read, "These [holidays] are the appointed times of G‑d's Name". In other words, these holidays are the set times that G‑d's essence is able to be revealed.

The continuation, "mikra-ey kodesh", can also be translated as "holy events", meaning that the revelation of divine energy is not something only spiritual and ethereal, rather it is something real in this plane that you and I can experience.

"…asher tikri'oo otam b'mo'adam" can translate as, "you will make this happen" (literally, "you will call them into being"), each at their right time and in a way unique to that holiday through your appropriate preparation for that particular holiday.

This explanation of this same verse was the very first Torah concept transmitted by the Baal Shem Tov to his main student and protoge, Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch. It was also with this Torah concept that the Maggid later acquired his disciple, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first rebbe of Chabad. Furthermore, when Rabbi Schneur Zalman used his spiritual powers to formulate the personality of his son and successor, Rabbi Dov Ber, enabling him to become a teacher and leader, he also taught him this concept. Rabbi Schneur Zalman explains that it was this Torah concept that the Baal Shem Tov used to merge souls with the Maggid, creating a Chasidic "Giving of the Torah". In this context, Rabbi Schneur Zalman continues, "I was the first to hear it from the Maggid, akin to the Jewish people receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai."

This exact potential to reveal G‑d's essence during the holidays is, in fact, accessible to us at any time, on the condition that we make ourselves a vessel to receive it. A person does not have to be stuck in the rut of day to day life all of the time. If you consider these ideas and lift yourself a few inches above ground, so to speak, you will immediately feel and see things in a different way.

Unfortunately, the constant problem is that we are in a heavy darkness, a vacuum, an atmosphere in which G‑dliness is hidden. Even though we all realize this on some level, most of the time we have become accustomed to think of the darkness as being light. A story is told about the master chasid, Rabbi Hillel of Paritch, who once made a chasidic gathering in a wine cellar. In the middle, someone came in and said, "Wow, it's so dark!" One of the other participants answered him, "What's the big deal? When you get used to it, the darkness becomes light." Rabbi Hillel responded, "No. It's a real problem when you get used to the darkness and think it is light!"

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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