Pillars of the Universe

Kli Yakar Numbers: Masai

Pillars of the Universe

“Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together.” Carl Zwanzig

What is the basis of creation? What keeps our world afloat? Ancient myths believed in a giant turtle that swam through the currents of the cosmos, upon which the earth rested. Scientists from not long ago believed in an invisible ‘ether’ that the planet moved through. Jewish tradition believes that it is the righteous that hold our world together and keep things going. 

“And they camped upon the Jordan, from Bet Hayeshimot until Avel Hashitim.” Numbers 33:49

The Kli Yakar reads meaning into the names given for the Israelite encampment at the end of their forty years of wandering. Just a few verses earlier, the Torah mentions the death of Aaron the High Priest, who died in the Hebrew month of Av, a month that contains sadness and mourning, the month that starts this Monday.

“Hayeshimot” refers to “shmamah” (destruction), while “Avel” (mourning) “Hashitim” (of the cedars) refers to the loss of the righteous that are compared to the cedars, the tall majestic trees of the world. The verse foreshadows the destruction of the Temple(s) in the month of Av which is equated to the death of the righteous.

The Kli Yakar takes the comparison further. At the destruction of the Temple the heavens shook and the earth quaked. It was a catastrophe of epic proportions which altered and lessened all of existence. So too the death of the righteous. When they pass away, creation trembles. The righteous are the very foundations of reality. Their loss loosens the power that binds the world together.

May we have the merit to identify them, treasure them and support them.

Shabbat Shalom,



In memory of Rabbi Yehuda Amital of blessed memory, Founder and Head of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut. This week commemorates one year since his passing. The universe shook that day and reality seems ever so tenuous since.


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