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Kabbalistic Chanukah: The Downloading of Primordial Light
God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.(Genesis 1:3)
The 36 candles on the menorah correspond to the 36 hours when Adam and Eve were bathed in The Primordial Light of creation. Today, as we kindle our own lights, we call forth a revelation of this now hidden and intense light. (12th century Kabbalist, R. Eliezer of Worms)
The Primordial Light of Creation is hidden in the 36 candles of Chanukah. (B'nei Yissachar, Kislev)
The mood of Winter shares with us the tender gift of returning to our inner wombs, where our wisdom resides and from which our destiny will once again shine forth in Divine Timing.
Chanukah, the Festival of Lights invites us to turn our senses inward to find, cultivate, and rededicate our inner sanctuary. It is a time to empty accumulated garbage, to create an open and receptive space, and to cultivate an intimate relationship with our emotions as the sensory system of our soul. As we become more peaceful inside, we gather back our power, one candle at a time. The more supportive and nurturing our inner container, the more the Ohr HaGanuz, the Primordial Light of Creation becomes available to us during this time of year.
Spiritually, the eight nights of Chanukah are a cumulative and progressive process through which the light of the menorah grows to reveal the inherent light of Creation. The total number of Chanukah lights over the eight days is 36 (1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8). As Rabbi Eliezer writes, these 36 lights arouse that very same Primordial Light which illuminated Adam and Eve on the dawn of their creation, the first 36 hours of their existence. The Talmud teaches: "36 hours the Light served . . . and Adam HaRishon (Primordial Man) saw with it from one end of this world into the Other". (Yerushalmi, Brochot 8:5)
The Midrash teaches that this intense light needed to be removed from the universe, hidden away for a time still to be realized. All this so duality could exist and the evolution and purpose of the universe could unfold.
Ever since the dimming of that Primordial Light, we yearn for it, search for it and pursue it, in our prayers, studies and meditation. Yet, even in our darkest hours, we can access this memory born of the 36 hours when we, humanity as a whole, were bathed in this light. "Where was this Light to be hidden?" asks the Midrash. It answers, "in the Torah." When we immerse ourselves in the truth and wisdom of the Torah, in its inner radiance, we can experience this Primordial Light of wisdom, purpose, and the intent of creation.
The significance of the number 36 will lead us into some further deeper understandings.
God's Name in Hebrew is Elo-him (language of Moses)
God's Name in Arabic is Al-lah (language of Mohammed)
God's Name in Aramaic is Elahh (language of Jesus)
They all share a common three letter root in Hebrew: Alef, Lamed and Heh. The sum gematria, or numerical value of the three letters is 36 (Alef - 1, Lamed - 30, Heh - 5).
Concept of light (in one form or another), appears exactly
36 times throughout the entire Torah (Rokayach).
It took Moses 36 days to explain the Torah to Israel (Seder Olam Rabbah 10).
Moses himself was born exactly 36 years after the oppression in Egypt began.
When Moses was born, it is said that the house was filled with light.
It is written there, "And she saw him, that he was GOOD"
(Exodus 2:2) and there (in Genesis 1:4) it is also written, "God saw the light, that it was GOOD" (Talmud; Sotah 12a)
Commentary to above: "She saw him, that it (he) was good" - "it" being the Ohr HaGanuz - Hidden Light of Creation, as a Presence that came into the world with Moses. (Sha'arei Leshem, p. 130)
The word in the Torah used to describe the Hidden or Primordial Light is "tov" meaning GOOD. When it appears in the Torah for the first time, the first letter "Tet" of "tov" (good) has a very unusual feature. The letter "tet", like many other letters in a Torah scroll have tiny "crowns" extending from them (which kabbalists teach is a hidden language of its own). What is unusual about this letter here is that is has four "crowns" instead of the usual three. According to the Kabbalist, the B'nei Yissachar, when the four is multiplied by the number nine (the value of the "tet" itself), the total is 36.
The Patriarch Isaac
Abraham was a righteous person whose very life embodied the values of the Hidden Light of creation. But when Isaac was born, he was the first in history to be circumcised on the eighth day. Since eight represents transcending the physical, he became infused with all that "eight" represents (transcendence), raising him forever above the natural world. This is why he, at such a young age warranted to see the Divine Presence like his father. Contrary, to popular legend, Isaac was 37 years old when he was "sacrificed". According to the mystical tradition, Isaac was a very willing and enthusiastic participant in offering himself up as a sacrifice to G-d, and that although no slaughter took place, Isaac nevertheless left his body.
The event took place when Isaac was 37, for the reason that he had already reached his spiritual climax at the end of a complete 36 year life cycle. According to Midrash, although Isaac had not died physically, a part of him transcended even further beyond his earthly identity, causing him to be likened to an angel. The text says he was blind after the Akeidah (binding, sacrifice). It wasn't physical blindness he suffered from, but being "blind" to garments of this existence, especially the aspect of duality (this is why he was "blind" to his own twin's characteristics, Esau and Jacob). The energy of the 36 facilitates a non-dualistic consciousness since it is a light which Primordial Man bathed in, before the "Fall".
Rachel and Leah
The total amount of years it took Jacob to transform on his life journey was 36 (from when he left home, and then returned with his new family). (Rashi, Bereishit 28:9)
Jacob then meets his soul mate Rachel (archetype of free-will), but gets tricked into marrying Rachel's sister, Leah (archetype of destiny).
The gematria of the Hebrew name Leah (lamed-aleph-heh) is also 36.
The letters are also a rearrangement of the holy Name of God as mentioned above (Alef, Lamed, Heh).
According to Kabbalah, Leah is the Biblical archetype of unanticipated destiny. She may not be what we choose to have happen to us in life, nor is she even desirable, but when she is accepted and embraced (Jacob accepted her as part of the family) it is through her that transformation happens. It is through the influence of Leah that the tribes of Israel are born and Destiny is fulfilled. It is through Leah that the seed of the Messiah is produced (through Judah, House of David, etc..) who will eventually come to initiate humanity into an Age where the Ohr HaGanuz, the Hidden Light, will be revealed.
Now we look at Rachel who gives birth to only two sons. Her first son is Joseph, and the younger one, Benjamin. However, Rachel dies in Bethlehem while giving birth to Benjamin, at age 36. It was at this age, that Heaven felt she had fulfilled her life journey. Like Isaac, her grandfather, legend tells of her absolute willingness to offer her life (one incarnation) for a higher cause (in this case, Benjamin).
In history, Benjamin comes to represent Jerusalem and the Holy Temple since they were both built on the tribal land of Benjamin. It also happens to be the same exact site (Temple Mount - Mt. Moriah) where years earlier Isaac was willing to sacrifice his own life.
Temple Mount in Jerusalem is one of the most powerful energy vortexes in the world.
It is the same site where the Chanukah miracle would take place later in history.
Interestingly enough, Chanukah is the ONLY Jewish holiday that takes place in ISRAEL, and specifically on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The story of Chanukah is hardly given a mention in the entire Talmud. Less than one page is devoted to it, while other holidays receive entire Tractates reviewing the holiday in depth and detail. The rabbis of the earlier generations tried to play down the story of Chanukah for political reasons, but it would not go away. Today, it is one of the most popular and beloved Jewish holidays, treasured especially by children and mystics - guardians of the Hidden Light.
When does the Chanukah Story take place in history? In the 36th Century of the Hebrew Calendar.
The 36 Hidden Saints (Lamed Vav Tzaddikim)
According to tradition, there are 36 lofty souls present in every generation who sustain, nurture and guard this Hidden Light. Those that guard it, remain hidden and unassuming as well. These 36 righteous people are sparks of that Hidden Light. Through their refined consciousness, this light, warmth and wisdom flows into and permeates the world.
Master Kabbalist - The Holy Ari (1534-1572)
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria Ashkenazi - The ARI - reverently known as Ari HaKadosh, was the lion of his and all generations when it came to revealing the depth of Kabbalah and its understanding of the Universe as a whole. Until this very day, nobody comes close to his greatness and light in terms of revealing the metaphysics of existence contained within the secrets of Torah.
For our own interest here, the ARI remained hidden for most of his life, until his maggid, a non-physical guide, announced it was time for him to reveal himself. He had received his mission to reveal the hidden when he was only 36 years old. He died some 2 ½ years later.
Our world is filled with mysteries, and it is in the darkest months of the year, that the most luminous energy becomes available. The hidden is revealed and its radiance is accessible to all those who wish to partake and be nourished by it.
The Chanukah lights, unlike the Shabbat candles, may not be used for personal pleasure. "These lights are holy. We must not use them for pleasure, we may only gaze upon them" (Chanukah liturgy). For these Chanukah lights celebrate a primordial light, untouched, reminding us that there are higher forces at work. It is our connection with these higher forces that replace the false perception of separation and fear with experiences of oneness, Divine assistance and trust.
In Earth school, we are in the process of learning and training ourselves to reach higher levels of consciousness. Indeed, the Chanukah lights serve as an antennae for holiness, drawing down the energy of the 36. With every day of Chanukah that passes, the light gets increasingly stronger. We place our lit candles in the window as a beacon to all passersby to remind the world that darkness can indeed be dispelled, obscurity can be illuminated, and that it is God's Light which will prevail in the end.
May the up and coming year be a new journey of discovery for us all and may we jump with all our heart into the evolutionary unknown holding our candles of faith, and common love for each other.
In Spiritual Fellowship,
Rabbi Michael Ozair
Copyright 2004 - Rabbi Michael Ezra Ozair
Rabbi Michael Ezra Ozair has been providing spiritual guidance for the last 15 years to a very wide and diverse range of people. He is an ordained rabbi, a well sought after scholar in the area of Kabbalah, published author, life coach and spiritual counselor. Michael's expertise stems from merging his knowledge as a teacher of metaphysics with his experience in practical counseling. He can be reached at email@example.com or by visiting his site at http://www.KabbalahCoach.com
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