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The various increments of time each have their unique spiritual roots.

Time is On My Side

Time is On My Side

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Time is On My Side
The various increments of time each have their unique spiritual roots.

"...I worked for you fourteen years for your daughters and six years for your flocks..." (Gen. 31:41)

If the obligation of a laborer hired for a day's labor hired for a day's labor is as great as the Talmud described, how much greater must be our obligation to be dedicated in our service to G‑d, who is guaranteed to pay us our reward! Surely we must serve Him both by day and by night, for do we not combine within ourselves the status of day-and night-laborer? The subject matter of wasting time is fraught with profound mystical significance…

The subject of wasting time is fraught with profound mystical significance, as every particle of time is a separate unit and none of it must be lost. A particle of time is perceived as an extension of G‑d's eternity, or a mini-branch of the branches represented by His Ineffable Name.

G‑d Himself alludes to this when He says, "I am Havayah" (Gen. 6:2). Rashi explains that this means that G‑d can be trusted to pay the reward of those who walk before Him. All aspects of "time" are anchored in a mystical dimension of this name of G‑d. [Ed. Note that the name Havayah implies "being" in the past, present, and future.] Kabbalists are aware that the arrangement in the cosmos of times allocated to certain events or activities represents a combination of the emanations tiferet and malchut. These are the mystical domains of the "sun and moon" in the Celestial Regions, the domain of the Creator of light and darkness.

These six emanations or 'branches', are analogous to the six days of Creation…

The emanation contains the "torso" as it were, of the Ineffable Name, from which His creative activity radiates, much as in a human torso the arms and legs, etc. perform comparable tasks. The six emanations from tiferet down to the emanation yesod perform these creative activities. [We are discussing the creation of a spiritual as opposed to a physical universe.] These six emanations or "branches", are analogous to the six days of Creation and, since they each represent a fusion of the attributes of judgment and kindness, they are really twelve. They expand, or radiate, in 6 different directions. The number twelve is the total number of possible permutations in writing the 4-lettered Ineffable Name of G‑d.

The "lowest" emanation, acts as receptacle of all these radiations. This concept can be understood as analogous to the moon, which receives radiations from the sun during twelve separate months of the year.

The sun and moon respectively are viewed as 2 "faces". Bina, being the 7th emanation [counting from malchut "upwards"], must be viewed like the Shabbat, the day on which all the forces abstain from activity. This is a cycle which repeats itself endlessly.

The secret of these six radiations called the "binyan" is stored in the "upper regions", i.e. the region known as the "great Shabbat", whose domain is in the emanation of bina. That emanation is also the root of the hexadirectional radiations. Kabbalists know the emanation bina also as "Supernal Mother", as opposed to the emanation malchut, which they describe as the "Lower Mother". The withdrawn "light" of the seven days of Creation is stored within the domain of the emanation bina, for this is where it originally emanated from. From the emanation bina, the binyan - the spiritual structure of the Celestial Region - is formed. This takes the form of an arrangement of different units of Time. This "structure" then expands into 7 different sub-categories. Here is the way these matters are explained in Pardes Rimonim, in the chapter entitled Shaar Shaarim. The ordinary hour is perceived as part of the emanation malchut

Time is divided into seven units:

  1. The jubilee, a period of 49 years
  2. Sabbatical years, periods of multiples of 6+1 years
  3. years
  4. months
  5. weeks
  6. days
  7. hours

The Jubilee consists of a collection of 7 times 7 years, which in turn comprises all the other subcategories of time.

A Sabbatical Year comprises 7 years by assembling 6 years and making a unit of them:

  • A year comprises 12 months.
  • A month comprises 4 weeks.
  • A week comprises 7 days.
  • A day comprises 24 hours, 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.

The ordinary hour is perceived as part of the emanation malchut and performs an activity. "Time" changing is the result of something we call Seder Zmanim, which exercises its influence on the various sub-categories within the overall concept of Time.

The four seasons of the year correspond to the 3 times four months, and the 12 signs of the zodiac are represented by the four flags according to four basic principles. Each flag was assigned to three encampments, i.e. three tribes, and had a specific purpose. The Torah describes this as, "Each man was assigned a certain task according to the symbols on the flag he belonged to."(Numbers 2:2)

The arrangement of the tribes and their respective constellations was in the following order: First, the flag of the sign of the ram, corresponding to fire. Around this flag were encamped the tribes featuring the zodiac signs lion and archer, respectively.

This was followed by the flag featuring the bull, corresponding to earth, around which were encamped the tribes featuring the zodiac signs virgin and goat, respectively.

This was followed by the flag featuring the zodiac sign, twins, corresponding to air, around which were encamped the tribes featuring the zodiac signs balance and water-carrier.

This was followed by the flag featuring the zodiac sign cancer, corresponding to water, around which were encamped the tribes featuring the zodiac signs scorpion and fish. There were 4 flags corresponding to the 12 tribes, each flag being the focal point of a group of 3 tribes (cf. Pardes Rimonim). Every month, a different one of the twelve permutations of the name of G‑d is active…

Every month, a different one of the twelve permutations of the name of G‑d [which are divided according to the 4 seasons] is active; the three permutations based on the first letter yud [of the name Havayah] are active in a season comprising three months. The same applies to the permutation belonging to the other three variations of arranging the Ineffable Name. One may consequently perceive the four letters of Havayah as symbolizing the beginning of the four seasons of the year. At the same time, of course, since each letter is portrayed in three combinations, we now obtain a total of 12 such combinations, or one for each month.

You can perform the very same pattern by dividing the month into 4 weeks, with each week assigned three of the different permutations. In this way every week will be assigned 3 permutations. These 12 permutations [which comprise 48 letters] are active on 24 days of the month, each letter assigned to either a daylight period or to a night. Shabbat is considered the source…that "collects" all the 3 permutations…

Since the respective Shabbat days are not days of "activity", no part of these permutations needs to be assigned to them. Shabbat is considered the source for the other 6 days, the day that "collects" all the 3 permutations which originated in one of the four "opening" letters of the total of 12 permutations described earlier.

On the Shabbat all these permutations, or combinations of letters of the Ineffable Name, are at rest, enabling them to provide the energy needed for their activities during the following six weekdays. [The author goes on to show that when taking into consideration the minimum of 4 Shabbat days per month, 28 days of the month are accounted for by being serviced by a letter in the various permutations. The twenty-ninth day apparently is viewed as Rosh Chodesh, "a collector" day of the month similar to the Shabbat being a "collector" day of the week.]

All the elements of time described above played a part in the labors which the Torah describes Jacob as performing for Laban - and in the wedding feast described in our parasha. The "days" we spoke of are the seven days of the wedding feast. Rashi already explained that when Laban asked of Jacob to "Complete the week of this one [Leah]" (Gen. 29:27), he was referring to the seven-day wedding feast. He bases himself on the half vowel sheva instead of the full vowel kametz that we would have expected under the letter "shin". This is why the Jerusalem Talmud Moed Katan states that this instance is the origin of the custom to entertain the groom and bride for seven days starting with the wedding.

You also find the time unit "month" mentioned here, when Jacob stayed with Laban for a month (Ibid. 29:14) before starting to be recompensed for any services performed.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]

Rabbi Isaiah HaLevi Horowitz [5320/1560 - 11 Nissan 5390/1630] served many years as chief rabbi in Frankfurt and then Prague, his birthplace. In 1621 he moved to Israel and became the chief rabbi of Jerusalem. He is best known as the author of Shenei Luchot HaBrit, a work of Scripture commentary and Jewish Law, and is usually referred to as "the SHeLaH", the acronym of its title.
He lived the last years of his life in Tzefat although his burial place is in Tiberias, only a few meters from the tomb of the Rambam. It is a popular pilgrimage site, especially on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan, which he himself recommended as a propitious time for saying the special prayer for success in educating one’s children that he composed.
Eliyahu Munk, the translator, was born in Frankfurt, and emigrated to England as a young man, later moving to Toronto. After retiring from education and moving to Israel in 1978, he began an extraordinary second career as a translator, publishing English versions of the Torah commentaries of Rabbeinu Bechayei, Akeidat Yitzchak, Shelah, Alshich and Ohr Hachaim.
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