Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Parashat Ha'azinu #2 - Enlarged Letter Hey (ה)


The letter Hey of Ha-le-Ad@nai in parashat Ha'azinu, Devarim/Deuteronomy 32:6 is a standard letter written enlarged according to Midrash Rabbah Aqim. This parasha is almost always read on Shabbat Shuvah, during the Ten Days of Repentance, and it is taught that Hey represents repentance. Why?

הַ לְיְהוָה, תִּגְמְלוּ-זֹאת-- עַם נָבָל, וְלֹא חָכָם: הֲלוֹא-הוּא אָבִיךָ קָּנֶךָ, הוּא עָשְׂךָ וַיְכֹנְנֶךָ.
Is this how you repay Ad@nai, O foolish and unwise people? Isn't He your Father who has gotten you? Hasn't He made you and established you?

This Hey is also special in that it's not just the prefix of the definite article ("the"), as the letter Hey at the beginning of a word can be, but it's to be treated as a separate word and therefore should be spaced (Talmud Yerushalmi Megilah 1)

The Ba'al Ha-Turim teaches that this Hey is an indictment against Am Yisra'el, the Jewish People, being so ungrateful to G@d. He had generously gifted us with the original self-help book (Torah), not for His sake but for the sake of our own self-improvement and growth through service. Our Sages taught that the Torah was given to us only to purify the people. The enlarged Hey is referring to the five books of the Torah, as Hey has a gematria of 5.

This Hey also balances out the diminished Hey which can be found in parashat Be-reshit Be-reshit/Genesis 2:4. This pasuq/verse reads:

אֵלֶּה תוֹלְדוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ, בְּהִבָּרְאָם: בְּיוֹם, עֲשׂוֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים--אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם.
These are the generations of the Heaven and the Earth, when they were created in the day that Ad@nai, G@d, made Earth and Heaven.

The letter Hey of בְּהִבָּרְאָם be-hibaram, "when they were created", is written smaller than all the other letters. So we have a small Hey at the very beginning of the Torah, and a large Hey at the end. And when we read from the end and then cycle back to the beginning again on Simchat Torah, we meet both Heys on the same day.

The world was created with the letter Hey. How do we know this? Because we can read be-hibaram, "when they were created", as be-HEY-baram, "with Hey He created them". These are the generations of the Heaven and the Earth, with Hey they were created.

We also know this by Hey's shape: it reeks of teshuvah, repentance. There are two ways we see this: The Gemara in Menachot 29b tells us that this world is like the letter Hey - very easy to fall out the bottom (sin). But G@d has left a little space which we can climb up to, and squeeze through, to "get back to the Garden". That is teshuvah.

Menachot 29b also teaches that this letter Hey is G@d's sacred breath - as in Tehilim/Psalms 33:6:

בִּדְבַר יְהוָה, שָׁמַיִם נַעֲשׂוּ; וּבְרוּחַ פִּיו, כָּל-צְבָאָם.
By the utterance of Ad@nai the heavens were made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.

What is the sound of Hey? Exhale. That's it. Just like G@d blowing this holy breath of spirit into humankind, speaking all of Creation into existence, the letter Hey shows us G@d's creative power.

The other way is this: Hey is in fact made up of two other letters - Dalet and Yud. Dalet (דלת = door) is the doorway to G@d, to teshuvah, while Yud (יד = hand) is our own will to transform ourselves and getting closer to G@d by pushing open that door...

Both Rashi and the Lubavitcher Rebbe indicate that there is a question and a response (teshuvah) here. The little Hey in Genesis requires and anticipates the large Hey in Deuteronomy. Also, as we accepted, then transgressed the Torah (again Hey, as there are five books to the Torah and the number for Hey is five), we were given an extra gift from G@d to fix everything with. Teshuvah.

This is a new thing in the Universe, the Fifth Element, if you will. Since G@d made Creation to have four elements, four directions, et cetera, Teshuvah is the "fifth dimension". It is with this tool that we repair our lives and the World around us. And it comes straight from G@d.

This enlarged Hey being five also shows us G@d's open hand (five fingers) open to receive our repentance and generously forgive.

We only have Ten Days between Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kipur. Please, let's use it.

Copyright © A. Barclay

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