The Missing Link – Mishpatim


וְאֵלֶּה הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר תָּשִׂים לִפְנֵיהֶם. (שמות כא, א)

The first passuk in our parsha contains one of Rashi's most famous principles that apply to our understanding of the Torah. Rashi says –

כָּל מָקוֹם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר 'אֵלֶּה' פָּסַל אֶת הָרִאשׁוֹנִים, 'וְאֵלֶּה' מוֹסִיף עַל הָרִאשׁוֹנִים. מָה הָרִאשׁוֹנִים מִסִּינַי, אַף אֵלּוּ מִסִּינַי. וְלָמָּה נִסְמְכָה פָּרָשָׁת דִּינִין לְפָרָשָׁת מִזְבֵּחַ? לוֹמַר לְךָ שֶׁתָּשִׂים סַנְהֶדְרִין אֵצֶל הַמִּקְדָּשׁ.

Rashi asks a simple question. Why does the parsha begin with the word וְאֵלֶּה and not with the word אֵלֶּה? Elsewhere, for example parshat Noach, begins אֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת נֹחַ and not וְאֵלֶּה. Rashi explains that the presence of the letter vav ו, serves to connect, i.e to connect this parsha to the parsha before it.

What is the connection between parshat Mishpatim and last week's parsha Yitro? Rashi continues: "Just like all the commandments we received in Yitro were Torah le'Moshe mi'Sinai, so too – all the dinim we learn in parshat Mishpatim are mi'Sinai". Taking it one step further, Rashi says – "and what is the connection between parshat Mishpatim and the paragraph immediately preceding it, speaking about the Mizbeach?" and the answer is that again there is a connection, to teach us that we must make a connection between dinim and the Mizbeach, i.e that the Sanhedrin (located in the Lishkat ha'Gazit in the Mikdash), must be adjacent to the Mizbeach.

It is a powerful principle, but it did not originate with Rashi. Rashi is just quoting it. It is a principle that is repeated many times by Chazal in the Gemara (יבמות ט:א; שבועות י:א; בבא קמא קז:ב; וכו') "וי"ו מוֹסִיף עַל עִנְיָן רִאשׁוֹן", the letter vav is a "link" connecting two parts, (also termed ו' הַחִבּוּר).

In this shiur I would like to explore the letter vav in depth and hopefully acquire greater insight to many parts of the Torah and the way our universe is structured.

Using R' Tzadok ha'Kohen mi'Lublin's basic principle ("To understand something we must examine the first time it is mentioned in the Torah"), the first letter vav in the Torah is in the first passuk of Breishit - בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱ-לֹקִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ, in the word וְאֵת – connecting Heaven and earth. Right from the "beginning" we understand that the purpose of the letter vav is to connect.

The spiritual essence of the letter vav ו originates with the letter yud י. The letter yud represents spiritual perfection (שָּׁמַיִם). HKB"H's spiritual perfection, reflected by the letter yud י (the first letter in HKB"H's name yud-keh-vav-keh), extends downwards forming the letter vav ו which connects שָּׁמַיִם and אָרֶץ. The letter vav therefore embodies the connection between the spiritual and the physical.

In the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, every single letter has the letter vav in one of its components. If you break down each letter into its separate components, at least one of the components will be the letter vav.

For example, the letter א contains a central diagonal letter vav, flanked on either side by two letters yud.

The letter kaf כ is made up of three letters vav – one horizontal vav at the top, one at the bottom and one vertical vav on the right connecting them.

The letter shin ש also has three letters vav connected at the bottom and radiating outward as they go up.

The letter מ is made up of the letter כ on the right and a vav on the left.

And so on, with each of the letters. The only "exception" is the letter yud (which is actually a "baby" vav – the origin of the vav before it grows into a full vav, as we have explained above).

As we know, HKB"H used Ten Utterances עֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת to create the world (Pirkei Avot 5, 1). These utterances were uttered in Lashon Hakodesh, which is made up of the aleph bet. Therefore, the world and all its components, without exception, include the letter vav.

The letter vav is the "force" that connects everything and holds everything together and is at the heart of physical matter. Physicists are endlessly searching for what they call the "G-d Particle" which is at the heart of matter and holds everything together. The reason that physical matter does not fall apart is because there are forces holding the quarks, atoms and molecules together. Without these forces, all matter will break apart, their atoms and molecules flying in every direction. These forces are symbolized by the letter vav, the link connecting matter.

The numeric value (gematria) of the letter vav is six. Six in Hebrew is שש, two letters shin ש, each made up of 3 vav's (see above). Therefore, the Hebrew word for the number six is made up of six vav's.

 Six is the magic number of our natural, 3-dimensional world. In any 3-D structure you have six planes/boundaries, left, right, front back, up and down – a cube.

For this reason, the physical universe was created in six days, because it reflects the principle of vav – everything is connected: light, Heaven, earth, the planets, flora, fauna, man. Each is a unique component of Creation, they were each created on their own day – but all are interconnected.

For example, animals and plants are interconnected. Their metabolism is a mirror image of each other. The "waste" products of plant metabolism or photosynthesis (carbohydrates and oxygen) are "energy/air" for animals/man. The "waste" products of animal/human metabolism (heat and CO2) are "energy/air" for the plants. Every single component of HKB"H's Creation is interconnected. It is impossible to be a scientist and not believe in HKB"H. The deeper you delve into the secrets of our natural world, the more you uncover this interconnectivity and order. This is not random - it is by design.

This is also the secret of the Magen David. The Magen David consists of two intersecting triangles, each with three sides, making a total of six. Just like the entire aleph bet is made up of the letter vav, the six-pointed Magen David embodies all the letters of the aleph bet in its shape –

(From the book הצופן, הרב זמיר כהן שליט"א)

The letter vav is not restricted to the realm of space, it also serves as the connecting element of time. By adding the letter vav to the beginning of a verb in Lashon Hakodesh, you switch it from past to future tense (or vice versa - depending on the vowels).

The "connecting" property of vav is not limited to the physical world, it features prominently in the spiritual world as well.

In next week's parsha Truma, we will read about the Mishkan. The structure of the Mishkan was made up of beams, קְרָשִׁים, uprights made of cedar wood. How was everything connected together? Using וָוִים. The Mishkan was connected together with the letter vav.

Did you ever wonder why the Lechem Hapanim, shaped like a curved ship, were stacked on the Shulchan in two stacks of six? Why not have 4 in one stack and 8 in the other, or 5:7? The reason is that the Lechem Hapanim represent the Twelve Tribes coexisting in harmony, all connected to each other. To achieve such connectivity, you need the letter vav, the number six.

The letter vav is the only letter in the Hebrew alphabet that when spelled out (מילוי format) is made up of two of itself. For example, when you spell out the letter aleph you get אלף, bet is בית, gimel is גימל. Vav, however, is spelled out ואו – two of the same letter ו (the letters מם and נון are too, but with them it is not two identical letters, the second is a "sofit" letter).

The letter vav ואו is in fact the blueprint for the arrangement of the Lechem Hapanim on the Shulchan. Two stacks of six ו loaves, one on each end and an aleph in the middle. As we said above, an aleph is made up of a central vav with two yuds attached - yud symbolizing HKB"H. In the center of the Shulchan, between the stacks of bread there are two bowls of levonah that were burnt on the Mizbeach as an offering to HKB"H. The shape of a yud also resembles a curved ship (hinting to the shape of the Lechem Hapanim).

In last week's haftara (Yitro), we read Yishayahu's prophecy of the מַעֲשֵׂה מֶרְכָּבָה.

שְׂרָפִים עֹמְדִים מִמַּעַל לוֹ שֵׁשׁ כְּנָפַיִם שֵׁשׁ כְּנָפַיִם לְאֶחָד בִּשְׁתַּיִם יְכַסֶּה פָנָיו וּבִשְׁתַּיִם יְכַסֶּה רַגְלָיו וּבִשְׁתַּיִם יְעוֹפֵף (ישעיהו ו, ב).

Yishayahu describes (in the previous passuk) HKB"H sitting on His כִּסֵּא הַכָּבוֹד and hovering above, we have the Seraphim (one of the types of angels). Look closely. What do you see?

Firstly, we notice that the perek of the מַעֲשֵׂה מֶרְכָּבָה is perek vav! Secondly, we see something that looks like a … "printing error"?? The passuk repeats שֵׁשׁ כְּנָפַיִם twice! Lehavdil, how often have you written an email and mistakenly repeated the the word twice. Luckily for you Gmail highlights the error. Why does the passuk have to repeat שֵׁשׁ כְּנָפַיִם twice? If the passuk simply said שְׂרָפִים עֹמְדִים מִמַּעַל לוֹ שֵׁשׁ כְּנָפַיִם לְאֶחָד we would have understood perfectly - Seraphim (plural), more than one, flying around and each had six wings. Why six wings and not seven? And why "six wings six wings" – twice?

The answers are all the same. Just as the blueprint for our physical world is all based on the letter vav and the number six, so too is the blueprint up in Heaven, where HKB"H sits on His כִּסֵּא הַכָּבוֹד.  The secret of the מַעֲשֵׂה מֶרְכָּבָה is that everything is connected, it all embodies ו' הַחִבּוּר.

The description of it has to be in perek vav. The angels have to have six wings, not five or seven. Six wings have to be repeated twice, because chas vechalila you should think that each angel was flitting around doing their own thing, oblivious of one another. The passuk emphasizes two angels, because to "be connected" you need two or more! It is all about interconnectivity -

... מְשָׁרְתָיו כֻּלָּם עומְדִים בְּרוּם עולָם וּמַשְׁמִיעִים בְּיִרְאָה יַחַד בְּקול דִּבְרֵי אֱ-לקִים חַיִּים וּמֶלֶךְ עולָם. כֻּלָּם אֲהוּבִים, כֻּלָּם בְּרוּרִים, כֻּלָּם גִּבּורִים, כֻּלָּם קְדושִׁים וכו'

Incidentally, the Lechem Hapanim on the Shulchan resemble two Seraphim, each with six wings, hovering above the כִּסֵּא הַכָּבוֹד.

A person's voice קוֹל is part of the צֶלֶם אֱ-לֹקִים, the ability of speech that elevates us above the rest of the animals. The letter lamed למד reflects HKB"H – it is the tallest of all the letters, while the letter kuf קוף resembles … a monkey! a lower life form. The letter vav connecting the kuf and the lamed elevates man from a monkey to the spirituality of HKB"H.

Based on this, the Zohar (ויגש, רי, א) says that every time the word קֹל is written in the Torah חָסֵר, i.e without the ו, it reflects מִדַּת הַדִּין, suffering and galut. However, with the letter ו, the word קוֹל reflects מִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים and Geulah.

In the Kabbalistic structure of the Ten Sfirot, the six Sfirot חג"ת נה"י (חֶסֶד, גְּבוּרָה, תִּפְאֶרֶת, נֶצַח, הוֹד, יְסוֹד) are the connecting point between the upper three spiritual Sfirot (כֶּתֶר, חֲכָמָה, בִּינָה) and the lowest physical Sfira (מַלְכוּת) that symbolizes עוֹלַם הָעֲשִׂיָּה, our physical world.


The sixth Sfira (from the top) is Tiferet, which itself is a mixture of Chessed and Gvura (Yaakov/Tiferet, was the connection between the middot of Avraham/Chessed and Yitzchak/Gvura).

The six Sfirot חג"ת נה"י are also called the זְעֵיר אַנְפִּין and reflect the different middot. The Zohar HaKadosh (פקודי רכז, ב) says that the letter vav corresponds to HKB"H's מִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים.

The letter vav, therefore, is the "missing" link that ties the entire universe together. It is HKB"H's blueprint for connectivity.

Combining the principles we have learned above - the letter vav, the Lechem Hapanim and the angels - we can acquire a deeper understanding of the power of unity.

When the letter vav is in the middle of the word אַחְדוּת, it connects the אחד, the individual to the ת, the Torah. When there is "connectivity" – between us and HKB"H, between ourselves, one to the other – things function according to the blueprint. The vav activates מִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים and good things happen.

If there is a disconnect, the vav is outside the word and not connecting the individual to the Torah it is אַחַ(ת) דָּתוֹ – לְהָמִית (אסתר ד, יא), it activates מִדַּת הַדִּין and results in death and destruction.

When we use our קוֹל to connect, it results in unity and Geulah. If the vav is missing from our voice, if we misuse our voice, to disconnect and sow disunity, we invite disaster.

The required model of Am Yisrael is that of the Lechem Hapanim on the Shulchan, all connected in harmony like the Heavenly angels. When that mechanism is in place, HKB"H showers abundance, שֶׁפַע and peace on us and the world. That is the way HKB"H designed the world to be, that is the blueprint! If we do not implement that blueprint, we are in effect rebelling against HKB"H and inviting disaster.

As we enter the month of Adar we are commanded to be מַרְבִּים בְּשִׂמְחָה, to make a special effort to pull ourselves out of the dark depressive atmosphere of whatever reality surrounds us and increase the joy in our lives. To do so, let us focus on becoming more aware of all the miracles that surround us. I am not talking about the supernatural miracles, but rather the natural miracles that we consider mundane, like the blue sky, like the blossoms starting to form on the trees, like the fact that HKB"H just raised the level of the water in the Kinneret by a whopping 60cm in the last two weeks, and all the other "hidden" miracles that we just take for granted – like our heart beating, breathing!

We need to reconnect to the true wonder of Creation and steer clear of anything and anyone seeking to sow disunity and fear. We need to use our voices to connect and build, not to tear down and destroy, like monkeys.

It takes concerted effort, but it is the order of the day and the mission of the upcoming month - of joy.

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