THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THIRTY-SIX

Introduction

The Torah tells us that on the first day of creation God made light. (Bereishis 1:1) A few sentences later, the Torah tells us that on the fourth day of creation, God formed the sun, moon and stars. (Bereishis 1:14) So what kind of light was it that God made on the first day, and where is it?

The Torah itself doesnít answer these questions, at least not directly. However, the Talmud Yerushalmi (Brochos 8:5; The thirty-six hours consisted of the twelve hours of Day Six before the seventh day, and the twenty-four hours of Shabbos itself. However, Rashi (1:14) indicates that the light served all seven days (or at least the first three days until the sun and moon were operative), and the Ramban concurs (though he also says that it did not remain in the same state). Others write that the light was hidden in stages, or, that it was hidden on the first day and revealed again on the sixth day for Adamís sake, only to be hidden once again after Shabbos (just as the earth was cursed on the third day though the actual curse did not take affect until after Shabbos with the rest of the curses given to man, woman, and the serpent). explains that, after "serving" for exactly thirty-six hours in Gan Aiden, this light was hidden away for the righteous for a future time. Rashi explains that God did this to protect the light from being abused by the evil people of history. (Bereishis 1:4, q.v. VíYavdel)

Well, that explains at least why we canít see this special light. However, Rashiís explanation doesnít indicate where the light was hidden, or even what the light of the first day of creation was like.

To unlock the mystery of the light requires a key, a very special key, perhaps we should call it a secret key. Even finding the "key" requires a clue. The clue is thirty-six.

Thirty-six? How is the number thirty-six a clue to the hidden light of creation? To begin with, it seems that the light which shone for thirty-six hours was hidden within thirty-six - the thirty-six candles of Chanukah! (Rokeach) What does this mean? What connection can there possibly be between the thirty-six-hour light of the first day of creation and a holiday which didnít exist until, well, the thirty-sixth century from creation? (The miracle that led to the establishment of the holiday of Chanukah occurred in the year 3597 from creation.)

Is it a mere coincidence that the first reference to the light of creation (rut, a word that is referred to exactly thirty-six times throughout the Torah), is also the twenty-fifth word of the Torah? After all, the holiday of Chanukah itself begins on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev.

And was it a coincidence that the twenty-fifth place the Jewish people camped during their forty years of desert wandering was called Chashmonai, the name of the family of priests who initiated the rebellion that led to the Chanukah miracle?

It doesnít stop there. After God created man and gave him the responsibility of tending the Garden of Eden, Adam ate the forbidden fruit, and God called out to him,

"Aiyeka?" - Where are you? (Bereishis 3:9)
The way the word aiyeka is spelled would usually be pronounced eichah, which means "how," not "where are you." Perhaps this is hinting a different understanding of the word. Indeed, the rabbis view the word aiyeka as a gematria which equals thirty-six:

Aleph = 1... Yud = 10 ... Kaph = 20 ... Hei = 5

And this unusual word can also be broken up into two words:

"Ai Ko" - where is twenty-five?

Are we referring to Chanukah here? Is this some kind of code? What does the Torah want us to learn from this?

It is certainly difficult to make any sense out of this at this point. But itís not difficult to appreciate why Godís approach to Adam after violating the purpose of creation would include a strong reference to the light of creation, albeit in an obscure way. After all, it is the light that is called "good," an indication that the creation of light was in keeping with Godís plan for the world.

And guess what? The Hebrew word for good - tov - begins with the ninth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letter "tes," itself representing the number nine. What makes this so significant is that, in a Sefer Torah this letter has four tagin (crowns) on it. The product of nine and four is of course thirty-six. (Bínei Yisaschar)

Furthermore, the word tov itself has a total numerical value of seventeen, which, when reduced to its mispar katan is equal to eight - the number of days over which we light the thirty-six candles of Chanukah!

(It is interesting to note at this point that the mispar katan (Every Hebrew letter is represented by a numerical value (e.g., Aleph = 1; Beis = 2, etc.), which means that a word can be represented by the sum total of its letters. For example, Adam (man) is equal to 1 (Aleph) + 40 (Dalet) + 400 (Mem), or 441. This value, in turn, can be reduced to a number between zero and ten by adding together the numbers of the total, i.e., 441 = 4 + 4 + 1 = 9. Nine is called the mispar katan (literally, "small number") of Adam, which alludes to the essential quality of man.) of the Hebrew word for truth, emes, is equal to nine, the same mispar katan of the number thirty-six and many other important holy concepts in Torah.)

In any case, one message is clear. Thirty-six is a number that alludes to an exceedingly important concept within creation, one that expresses the very purpose for creation. The number thirty-six seems to allude to a theme that was given expression in the form of a supernal light, hidden away for the righteous, of which there happens to be thirty-six in every generation. (Sukkah 45b)

Just one last point. Though it is not quite clear just where in the Chanukah lights the hidden light of creation can be found, we have information on how to get there. If one studies the Babylonian Talmud, of which there are thirty-six sections, (Bínei Yisaschar) one will eventually merit the "Great Light." (Tanchuma, Noach 9)

The journey begins into the wonderful world of thirty-six, and though this book may not provide the complete picture, let it at least be an introduction to one of the most awesome concepts known to mankind.

* * * * * * * * *

Before embarking on that journey, it is only fitting to acknowledge where that journey began for me.

Approximately eight years ago, I was involved in a book called, Patterns in Time: Chanukah, by Rabbi Matis Weinberg, shlita. It was during this time that I was exposed to many of the ideas and sources found in this book. The midrashim that formed the basis for Rabbi Weinbergís book continue to have a profound impact on me, and were the source of inspiration to further my own personal investigation into the concept of the "Hidden Light" of creation, and its relationship to the number thirty-six.

Thank you once again to Mrs. Dívorah Miller for her invaluable editing, and to all those who offered important input: Michael and Malkah Levinson, Rabbi Dovid Slavin, shlita, Rabbi Avi Blumenthal, shlita, Jonathan Mayer, Brian Rubenstein, and others.

A special thank you, once again, to Rabbi Mordechai Friedlander, shlita, for his invaluable time, his profound concern, and his wise guidance.

Speaking of hidden lights - there is my wife, Ahava, who works behind the scenes to help my books see the "light of day"; our children: Rivkah Malkah, Moshe Yosef, Chananyah Aharon, and Dovid Simcha; our parents: Jack and Betty Winston, and Rabbi Avraham and Rozie Neumark, whose love and support never waver. Thank you Helen and Joe, as always.

The list of people to whom I must show appreciation for all I have become and have been able to achieve grows with each book. My light is a collective light, made up of the brilliance of others. If I reflect anything positive, it is the light of Torah I reflect. And for all of that, I have only the Source of Light Himself, Hashem Yisborach, to thank.

Pinchas Winston
Tishrei 25, 5756

© by Mercava Productions

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