By Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller
Today is Yom Kippur Katan. Yom Kippur Katan is a time to review the month and enter the new month, in this case Adar, the happiest month of the Jewish calendar, with a cleaner slate (after doing tshuvah), and a more open heart.
Most of you haven’t heard of this, since it’s only just a custom that has been adopted by many but by no means the majority of communities. It sets the stage for seeing how every month opens new possibilities. Adar begins at the end of this week.
If you were living in ancient Israel, you would be waiting for messengers to reach your town or village to collect half shekels. The money was collected annually to pay for communal offerings.
Messengers also went out to warn the farmers against growing kilaim (mixing species of plants by grafting or other means). Adar is the perfect time of year to do this, because the plants that were planted earlier are now beginning to be visible.
Some people find this mitzvah somewhat difficult to grasp (and some people find every mitzvah difficult to grasp because of the underlying assumption that a commandment implies a Commander…). Even if you have enough spiritual maturity to accept that the Master of the universe may know its rules, you may still find yourself asking, “What’s so really wrong with mixing a cherry with a banana and getting weird-shaped cherries with hard peels? Wouldn’t they be easier to package?”
The answer to the question requires that you look at yourself. You are both physical and spiritual, and the truth is that everything in the world has both components. The Talmud tells you that every blade of grass has an angel that tells it to grow. That means that it has a spiritual role in the world, and that its physical presence is necessary not only for the sake of the world’s physical ecology, but for its spiritual balance as well.
The arrogance involved in “fixing” things by intermixing species can trigger results that cause profound unbalance. Most of you aren’t farmers, and the laws of kilaim in agriculture aren’t all that relevant to your daily life. The idea of recognizing that everything has spiritual purpose is one of the most valuable lessons that you can learn.
One of the many civil laws the Torah told us in last week’s Parshah, Mishpatim, concerns theft. If you were to steal, you usually have to pay back what you stole plus a fine of the same sum to compensate your victim for the anxiety and grief that is an inherent result of being victimized. If you stole a lamb, you have to pay back 4 times its value, and if you stole an ox, 5 times. The reason why there is a different penalty for a lamb and for an ox is that if you were to steal a lamb you would have to carry it home on your shoulders, which is embarrassing, while if you stole an ox, it would follow you and let you maintain your dignity.
The Torah’s laws usually don’t take into consideration the emotional response of the thief; it is more concerned with the victim. Imagine a judge adjudicating a case by considering whether it was the thief’s mom’s birthday, and judging him leniently because he has the pain of knowing how disappointed she is…..
This case is an exception. Ben Yehoyada tells us that the reason is that theft is really very much like kilaim. When Hashem grants someone (say you…) a possession (say your phone) it’s because He wants you to have it to fulfill a specific aspect of what your mission on this world is. A theft is a distortion of your spiritual ecology. Assume that you were going to do good things with your phone (invite a friend over, be an empathetic listener, organize a kiruv weekend), and you are at least temporarily unable to do so. This doesn’t only affect you, it affects the person who needed the invitation today! or needed some validation now.
The thief therefore needs to pay two different types of fines, one for the theft itself (which is double the value of the object stolen) and twice more for the blinders that he puts on before every theft that prevent him from noticing that the world has a Master who governs His world with far more complexity and intricacy than he is willing or able to envision. If the circumstances of his theft awakened some shame within him, even though he obviously wasn’t able to move beyond himself enough to resist the temptation to steal, he is still in a far better place than the thief who feels no shame, who pays the heaviest fine of all.
What does this have to do with those of you who are neither thieves nor farmers?
It should tell you that the world has spiritual ecology, and that everything that you are and everything that you have is part of Hashem’s greater plan.
As you head towards Adar and begin thinking of Purim, try to find the time to read through Megillat Esther. If you can put yourself in the place of any of the main characters, Esther for instance, you will see that she always had enough spiritual sensitivity to recognize that there was a bigger picture. Otherwise she would have been content to be Miss Persia. She knew that there was a reason she was in the palace that was bigger than that.
Adar is almost here. It’s time to do battle against feeling the blahs. Recognize the gifts you have, see the Plan, and use a couple of minutes on Yom Kippur Katan to erase the nonsense that fogs up the screen.
Visit Rebbetzin Heller’s website at www.tziporahheller.com/