Lag BaOmer

Today was my son Benayah's Halakeh. (or Upsherin for the ashkenazim out there)

I spoke about Lag BaOmer, why I think we cut a boy's hair at age three, and what makes the act really important.

First it seems to me that everything needs to happen in a three stage process. (1)We begin with a burst of newness. (2)Next we need to hide and bound that primary burst. (3)Finally we reveal that newness in a palatable and productive way. This is the case with the first three sefirot Hochmah, Binah and Da'ath; the second three sefirot Hesed, Gevurah, Tiffereth, and the third three sefirot: Netzah, Hod, Yesod.

Netzah is the desire to completely conquer all opposition. This is a powerful and dangerous force.

Hod is the hiding of Netzah.

Yesod is the controlled revelation of Netzah in a way that it can be productive, using it only where it will be helpful.

The secret level of Torah encompasses God's utter victory. The clear and certain reality that He Is Was and Will Always Be King, that nothing exists outside of HaShem, and that nothing at all could even continue to persist without His constant Will making it so.

Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai represents the level of Torah that is secret, and so during his lifetime the secret Torah remained unrevealed.

It's only truly with the revelation of Hassidut that the secret Torah is made accessible and useful to all in a productive fashion.

Now the Ba'al HaTanya explains in today's Tanya that HaShem (figuratively) put Himself aside to create us, in order to be able to spend time with us. Ideally a person should put himself aside as well in order to spend time with HaShem.

We named Benayah, Benayah Ariel -- A prayer that HaShem should rebuild the Beit HaMikdash (Ariel is one of the names of the Mikdash) -- and the Beit HaMikdash is the physical manifestation of HaShem's desire to put Himself aside as it were, and come be with us. Similarly our presence in the mikdash is the physical manifestation of our putting ourselves aside in order to be with HaShem.

But, Hassidut teaches that every interaction we have with HaShem is an opportunity to put ourselves aside and focus on sharing an experience with HaShem.

This is what is special about the Halakeh or Upsherin, at age three a child has reached the completion of the third stage (the first year is exponential growth, the second is a year of internal development and a discovery of self -- to the negation of what exists beyond the self, and the third year is a year of awareness of the world beyond oneself. By age three developmentally almost all children can speak, for example -- in order to communicate beyond themselves.) It is at this time that we must start to educate them in the performance of mitzwoth.

The first thing we do however, is not quite a mitzwah, but through a simple act, like a haircut, we educate about the mitzwoth. We teach the child that even though we are cutting their hair, we don't cut the payot, because there is a mitzwah forbidding it.

It is special that we are taking a non-mitzwah act and showing the child the holiness and awareness of HaShem in even a mundane act. From there we move on to other mitzwoth, Kippah, Tzitzith.

But this act of cutting the hair shows just how far we can elevate the physical world. Leaving ourselves (the hair that used to be part of us) behind and cleaving to HaShem -- even when a mitzvwah isn't actually happening.

The final level is the recognition that the Beit HaMikdash isn't really a place meant for just an individual to become close to HaShem, but rather it is for the collective whole of Bnei Yisrael to come and unite with HaShem.

This is why we make a celebration out of the Halakeh -- To teach the child that becoming close to HaShem involves becoming close to the rest of Am Yisrael as well.

It's evident even in the secret Torah, whenever we focus our intent by thinking or saying a passage that begins "L'shem Yichud" (In order to unify myself with HaShem) we continue and end the phrase "B'shem kol Yisrael." (In the name of ALL of the people of Israel)

Whenever we perform a mitzwah, the secret Torah says it's of paramount importance to perform the mitzwah as a part of the whole of the nation of Yisrael.

May we all merit to unite ourselves with Am Yisrael and with HaShem in all of our worldly endeavors. Because HaShem wants nothing more than that.


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