Photo Credit: Jewish Press

As Tammuz comes to a close and Av begins, we find ourselves in the middle of the Three Weeks. This is the sadder part of the calendar, as we mourn for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash (and for all the tragedies that occur as a result). We all know that Hashem decreed the exile as a result of sinas chinam – the animosity and dislike we bear towards our Jewish brothers and sisters. How can we rectify this problem? It is deep-seated, but with a little analysis we will hopefully discover a tool to lessen this brotherly distaste, and thereby bring the redemption closer. Come; our journey has just begun.

The Sefer Yetzirah writes that each month has its own letter, with Tammuz and Av matching up with Ches and Tes, respectively. Although each letter represents a force that can be bad or good, the combination of these letters does not bode well – as alluded to in the fact that together they are the root letters of the word cheit – sin. That the letter combination spells ‘sin’ should not come as a surprise since we know that the tragedies that occurred in these months were a result of our sins. So let’s continue our journey by searching for a message of the Ches and Tes combo and see if we can use it to turn these months around. Take a breath; we have a way to go.


The source we will turn to is the Daas Zkeinim in Vayechi. The verses there describe how Yaakov called together his sons shortly before he died to bless them, and to reveal the date of the final redemption (the keitz). When Yaakov tried to reveal the date, the Divine Spirit departed from him and he no was longer privy to the secret information. The verse then describes how Yaakov proceeded to give the blessings. Daas Zkeinim elucidates by recording an exchange that took place between Yaakov and Hashem after Yaakov’s failed attempt to reveal the keitz.

“When Yaakov saw that he was denied permission to reveal the keitz he feared that his children were unworthy. Perhaps they sinned. Yaakov then reasoned that this could not be, for “They do not have the letters of cheit on their name.” Meaning, not a single one of the tribes had a Ches or a Tes in their names. Yaakov reasoned that since names reveal one’s essence, the essence of the tribes must be pure because they had no letters in their names which could represent cheit! However, Hashem denied Yaakov permission to reveal the keitz by countering “But they also don’t have the letters Kuf or Tzadi in their names. (These letters spell the word keitz.) They do not have permission to know this secret.”

Before analyzing this Daas Zkeinim let’s make a disclaimer. The ideas of letters and the essence of names are kabbalistic in nature and consequently out of reach for the vast majority of us. Therefore, any questions we pose may be off-base, out of context, and/or completely wrong. With this shot of humility, let us delve in as far as we are able. And so we go.

Here’s the question. If we run with the premise that one can only receive what his essence (reflected by his name) allows, then how was Yaakov able to give a bracha to any of the tribes? The word for blessing is spelled Beis, Reysh, Chof, Hey. However, if you look at the names of the twelve sons, not a single one of them has all four! So while Reuven had a Beis and a Reysh, wasn’t he lacking Chof and Hey? And while Yehuda might have had a Hey, he didn’t have the other three letters! So how could they each receive a blessing if their names didn’t allow it?

To answer this question, let’s take a look at the Vilna Gaon’s writings on Mishlei. In the final chapter we find the song of Eishes Chayil. Simply understood, this ballad is an ode to the Jewish woman – who is valorous in her great role of wife and mother. However, each part of the Torah has infinite levels, and through the eyes of our commentators we can glimpse the profundities of Hashem’s Word. Case in point, the Gaon explains that Eishes Chayil is also a song of praise for the Torah. The Gaon expounds on how “chayil” has a numerical value of forty eight – which is the precise amount of steps one must take to acquire Torah. With this understanding of the subject of the song, the Gaon explains the verses quite differently than they would be understood if they were only referring to the Jewish wife and mother.

Let’s skip to one of the last verses. “Rabos banos asu chayil, v’at alis al kulana.” If referring to a woman, this verse means “Many ladies have achieved great valor, but you rise above them all.” The Gaon, however, elucidates as follows. “{Rabos banos} Only through many scholars {Asu Chayil) can Torah – which is acquired through 48 steps – be acquired. {V’at alis} And you, Torah, can only be acquired, {al kulana} through all of these scholars together.” The Gaon then explains “There are 48 steps needed to acquire Torah. But it is nigh impossible for any one individual to achieve them all on his own. So each person achieves a few, and the Torah can be acquired through the sum of their combined efforts.

Let’s spell out the mind-blowing idea we see from the Gaon. It’s not necessary for each individual to have every single good quality to be able to share in the brachos that good traits bring down from Heaven. We Jews share a soul-connection, and if you have a certain quality, then I share in it as well! You contribute something, I contribute something, and between the two of us – we have everything!

Now we can answer the question we asked about the tribes. It was not necessary for Reuven to have all the letters of the word bracha. It’s true that he didn’t have a Chof and a Hey, but he didn’t need it – because Yehuda had a Hey and Yissachar had a Chof. Binyamin had a Beis, and he was able to borrow the Reysh from Reuven, the Chof from Yissachar, and the Hey from Yehuda. Collectively, they had it all!

With this understanding, perhaps we can backtrack and discover a way to lessen sinas chinam. It’s true that no group or individual in Klal Yisroel is the same as me. But that group or individual contributes something to our collective, national whole that would be missing otherwise. One group is very careful about davening in the proper time. Other groups are very careful about doing proper preparations for davening. Together, we have a perfect davening. Some individuals are very serious and focused about life. Other people are carefree and happy-go-lucky. Together, we can reach all kinds. We all can contribute a piece. Hashem made each individual good for something. So when you feel that niggling feeling of dislike for that other guy or group, try to stop and think what good they are contributing to our nation to make it more whole. In this merit, may we all merit to greet the Mashiach soon.

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Shaya Winiarz is a student of the Rabbinical Seminary of America (a.k.a. Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim). He is also a lecturer, columnist, and freelance writer. He can be reached for speaking engagements or freelance writing at [email protected].