Photo Credit: XnihiloCreative.net
By Yonatan Gordon
During Elul and Tishrei it is customary to discuss simanim, signs for the coming year based on its number. Some simanim concentrate on the last two numbers, in this case 75 or עה, and other simanim contemplate the full 775 (the custom is to leave off the thousands digit).
What is remarkable about this year—as taught by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh during a class for 1,200 women in Elul—is that 775 spells a Hebrew word in the exact same order as the number is written—תשעה, nine. Anyone familiar with the “Who Knows One?” song sung at the end of many Passover Seder tables knows that nine stands for the “nine months of pregnancy.” Thus the blessing for this year is that it should be a year of birth. Both of physical children and new spiritual campaigns and initiatives.
In this essay I thought to mention a most essential “birthing,” which is an outgrowth of the second kind of birth mentioned by Rabbi Ginsburgh. The birth I thought to speak about is to give birth to ourselves, to our full potential, which we hope will collectively give birth to the birth of Mashiach.
The imagery that we are working with is that there is concealed good, concealed light within ourselves. And now we’ve like to shine this light to the world. Now the world is fond of using shorthand, so the “shorthand” that we can now picture in our minds is the letter ט (tet) whose numerical value is nine.
To begin our meditation…
The ט is the initial letter of the word טוֹב, “good.” The form of the ט is “inverted,” thus symbolizing hidden, inverted good–as expressed in the Zohar, “Its good is introverted within itself.” Whereas the form of the letter ח (chet) symbolizes the union of groom and bride consummating with conception, the secret of the ט is the power of the mother to carry her inner, concealed good–the fetus–throughout the nine months of pregnancy.
Now every good person wants to eventually reveal their good. But there’s something essential about goodness in that it begins with an introverted feeling.
The first time that the word “good” appears in the Torah is in the verse following the creation of light, “God saw the light to be good.” It is explained by the sages to mean that God saw that the light was so good that it has to be contained and hidden within itself. And like a precious possession, the initial reaction is to first hide it from view.
The Tet Revolution
To continue our meditation:
All that we have now explained is what Susan Cain in the subtitle of her book “Quiet” calls the “power of introverts.” In both her examples and our meditation, we begin with introverted good. A good that is so good that we first think to conceal it from the world. But then there comes a time when we feel compelled to reveal this goodness to the world.
Now Susan also was inspired from a good source. She dedicated her book to her grandfather, an observant congregational rabbi, who while introverted by nature, gave sermons weekly for 62 years in front of standing-room-only audiences. Growing up she saw a living example of someone who endeavored to share the light of Torah to the world. But instead of the letter ט, Susan chose to use the letter Q.
Now unlike the letter ט which is open at the top, always ready to receive and give birth to new Divine influxes of light from Above, the letter Q is closed. This is why instead of the “quiet revolution,” as Susan calls her desire for introverts around the world to speak up and reveal their goodness, we can now call it the “tet revolution.” To give birth to our potential through revealing the Divine light of Torah contained within each of us to the world. And there is no better time now to do this than this year of tet, of nine (5775, תשעה).
Introverted or Highly Sensitive?
This meditation raises another interesting question: Is it that Susan’s grandfather was introverted or sensitive to, and humbled by, the light of Torah which he merited to reveal to thousands throughout his lifetime? To be sure, Elaine Aron, author of “The Highly Sensitive Person,” responded to Susan’s book by stating that Cain was in fact describing highly sensitive people and not introverts.
Of the eight synonyms for “beauty” in Hebrew, טוֹב–”good”–refers to the most inner, introverted, and “modest” state of beauty. Even while revealing good it is praiseworthy to do so modestly. Thus when a congregant of Susan’s grandfather would call to say hello, he would end the conversation abruptly. Although Susan explained that it was due to the fear that he was taking up too much of their time, as we now explained, perhaps he didn’t want to overwhelm them by speaking too long. Was it that he was introverted or just sensitive to the gifts that God gave him to spread the light of Torah?
In addition to giving birth to physical children, may this year be a year of giving birth to new campaigns and initiatives, and meeting a public that is receptive to receiving our once hidden light.
And even if we speak long on the phone or in person, may it be that we not overwhelm.