Minute Rice

Words from Rabbi Yisrael Rice


The irrational fear of the number 13. Or is it?  As we now enter the year 2013, and we will be frequently reminded of this prime number, I figured it would be a good time to share the breathtaking view of this special number according to Kabbalah. 

The usual number of import is twelve. There are the twelve tribes who are the progenitors of the Jewish People, twelve months of the year, and a plethora of twelve imagery throughout the Torah. 

Kabbalistically, there are four letter in the Divine Name, three unique letters. Thus we have twelve permutations. The twelve permutations become translated spatially as a box, which has 12 vectors. Four lines of the square on top, four lines on the bottom square, and four lines that connect them. 

This is the first template for space as we know it - 3D. A similar expansion occurs with time as the 12 months of the year are generated. 

If twelve symbolizes a box, well then, thirteen is that which is outside the box. (Hey, I think I should coin that!) It is a symbol for that which transcends reality as we know it. It is through this transcendent element that we can draw the Divine unity into the dimensions of space and time. The Hebrew word for one is EChaD, spelled Alef – Chet – Dalet. The numeric value of “Echad” is thirteen. 

And finally, we have the most Divine sublime form of thirteen, and this is the “Thirteen attributes of mercy.” When a person falls away from the proper path, when one veers from the truth of their own inner core, one can arouse Divine mercy from the Source. These are the special attributes through which G-d shines His inner light upon our inner light to regenerate the bond between the finite human and the Infinite creator.

I hope I have cured your triskaidekaphobia.


With appreciation to Adam Singer.  May his father, Avraham HaKohein ben Goldy, have a refuah shleimah.

All that glitters is gold

Patina.   That is my word for this week.  Translation: 

1.      A green or brown film on the surface of bronze or similar metals, produced by oxidation over a long period.
2.      A gloss or sheen on wooden furniture produced by age and polishing
Perhaps you have not heard about Patina; I had heard the word but didn't really know what it was.  Apparently, when dealing with antiques rule #1: Don't touch the Patina.  I was quite surprised that this was the case.  I would think that you want to take that antique and make it shine.  Rub off the old and let the new shine through!  My brother informed me of a nice lady who brought in a nice polished antique piece to a dealer.  "I can see you were up all night shining that piece."  The women smiled at the acknowledgment.  "I'll give you $25,000 for it.  It is an extremely rare Frence piece.  Had you not polished it, it would be worth $500,000." 

We don't have adequate appreciation for old things.  We have this urge to polish them and make them shiny.  But removing the Patina has dire consequences of acutley devaluing the objects.  Patina protects from further corrosion; in this way, the patina acts as a protection.  When one removes this coating, they will unavoidably also remove some of the very fine details that lay underneath.  Patina does not shine, rather, it reflects the authenticity and genuine nature of a rare and ancient piece.

Judaims has a thick layer of patina that surrounds it.  It has been formed by centuries of experience, tears, devotion, love and awe.  Underneath this patina is an ancient work called Torah.  It is G-d's gift to the Jewish People, and through them, to all of humankind. It is delicate in its refinement, and precise in its symmetry and beauty.  The crastmanship is beyond comparison and its ancient message is pentrating and profound.

We may sense this inner beauty of the Torah and have the urge to polish off the patina.  We can make the Torah sparkle and shine so that all can see.  We can rub off that film that people may not appreciate, we can scrub off the coarse signs of age that seem to conceal what is underneath.  Rule #1 of dealing with antiques tells us an important and counter-intuitive  idea: Don't touch the patina.  Move yourself to appreciate the rare gift and the dull patina that surrounds it.   You will find the authenticity curiously refreshing. 

How to get the will for the way

Where there is a will there is a way.  Yes, we have all heard it before, but did it ever occur to the one making this grand pronouncement that in fact, there is no will whatsoever!  So the question then becomes, how do we produce will? 

According to Chassidic Psychology will receives its charge from the highest level of existence - Delight (ta'anug).  We have an innate sense of what will bring us to experience delight, and what will disturb this delight.  Based on this subconscious sense, we want to do certain things and we strongly do not want to do others.  When we lack will, often times it is simply that there is some activity that we must do that disturbs our delight.  This is our most concious awareness, and so it is the front line of our battle with life.  We must break through our initial discomforts to realize our more profound delights.  This profound delight can be cleaning our room, terminate world hunger, or writing an eLetter.

Since our most concious impulse is our discomfort, we must put forth extra effort to feed our subconcious.  Practically speaking, spend four minutes on imagining the delight you will receive from achieving your goal.  Do not underestimate the power of this daydeam.    Make this day dream as real as possible in your mind, add details such as colors, people and furnishings.  Think about how good you will feel having accomplished your purpose (big or small).  Then make a list with 8 tasks that need to be doing to acheive your goal. 

Jewish Cosmology teaches that G-d imagined the great pleasure that He would derive from a human-being "down" here performing His will through one's own choice.  It was this pleasure that then generated the Ohr Ein Sof (the Infinite Light of G-d), and ultimately brought about this world.  So, when one does a simple Mitzvah here in this world he or she is causing a great delight above.  The delight that brought about this universe in the first place.  I can't think of anything that could make me happier! 

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