Every point of time contains, in potential, all of time; every point of space contains, in potential, all of space. This somewhat abstract statement is born out, not only by our own experiences and certain scientific concepts, but by various verses and traditions in Torah.
A few examples in regards to space: Have you ever stood under a huge tree, perhaps hundreds of feet tall or hundreds of years old and realized that it all came from one tiny seed. Or grasped the meaning of every cell in the body containing the full DNA code. Or looked inside an atom and seen a mirror image of a galaxy and the vastness of space. Science tells us that the entire physical universe of billions of galaxies was contained in an infinitesimally small point that exploded in the Big Bang. The entire cosmos which has been expanding continually since the initial moment of time was all contained in that primordial point of space.
During Jacob’s dream of the ladder which stretched from the earth to the heavens, God, who was at the top of the ladder, promised him that “the ground you are lying upon, to you will I give it and to your descendents” (Genesis 28:13). Though this is taken to mean that all the land of Israel will be given to Jacob and his descendents, the literal reading of the verse could be taken as only the land on which he lay. Rashi, quoting the Talmud (Hullin 91b) comments that God “folded up” all of Israel under him, hinting to him that it would be as easy for his descendents to conquer all the land as the small area he lay on.
“Folding up” all of Israel beneath Jacob alludes to the above examples of the “little that holds much,” the Midrashic description of the yod, the first letter of God’s four letter name and the smallest of the letters (Bereishit Rabbah 9:7; Vayikra Rabbah 10:9). The shape of the yod alludes to the initial point of creation remaining within the vacuum of the primordial tzimtzum, contraction, as taught by the Arizal and discussed in previous chapters. This point of the “little that holds much” is the secret of the initial point of the Big Bang.
When Abraham bought the plot of land on which to bury Sarah, his purchase is taken to symbolically express his coming to possess all the land of Israel. Similar to these two episodes of our Patriarchs, we are taught that our thoughts, speech and action, in a single moment of time and in a specific space can effect our future and countless others as well for years to come. Or, as the inter-connectiveness of reality is expressed in a popular modern expression: a butterfly flaps its wings in Australia and there is a tornado in Kansas.
And now a few examples regarding time: Who has not experienced a minute that seemed like an hour, or an hour that passed as if only a moment? Or a summer that is over before we know it, or a predicament that seemed to last for ever? Or a dream that appeared to take years to unfold, but by the watch was only a nap of twenty minutes? Or finding ourselves totally engrossed in thoughts of the past, while technically in the present.
A prophet is one who God shows a clear picture of future events already in the present. Nearly everyone has experienced in some small manner this phenomenon. For example: we think of a person and then a minute later they call on the phone, or we think of a person we haven’t thought of in ages and when arriving home there is a letter from them in the mail box.
All these common occurrences relating to time are highly subjective in nature, yet we now know scientifically, that time is in fact relative. A clock placed in a space ship will return with a different time than a clock on earth, due to the effect both gravity and velocity have on time. The closer we come to the speed of light the more time slows down until theoretically at the speed of light, past, present and future are simultaneous.
This is what our Sages have told us for millennium – that for God, who is above time and space, time is simultaneous. The four letters of God’s name, in fact, are the very letters of the Hebrew words for past, present and future as discussed above. The relativity of time and time dilation are among the most important revelations of modern science, yet are spoken about in the Psalms (90:4): “For a thousand years in Your eyes are but a yesterday that has passed and like a watch in the night.”
Therefore, different moments in our lives, especially auspicious occasions like holidays and life cycle events, contain within them potentially, all of time. At these moments, our own memories come alive, as well as the possibility of tapping into an all encompassing collective consciousness spanning the ages. A wedding is one of these distinctive events, and in the rituals and customs of a wedding we can see the yearly cycle of holidays as they unfold.
Rosh HaShanah is when we begin a new year after a lengthy period of introspection. On the wedding day and the week leading up to it, this energy is manifest as groom and bride begin a new life in every sense of the term. Rosh HaShanah is in general the “birthday” of the world and more specifically commemorates the creation of man. On the wedding day groom and bride are reunited in soul, and all that this mystically, spiritually and psychologically implies, much as Adam and Eve were united at their creation before Eve was separated from the body of Adam. On Rosh HaShanah we declare God King and on the wedding day we acknowledge that it is God who is sanctifying the marriage. According to the Midrash it was God Himself who arranged ten marriage canopies for the first couple, Adam and Eve (Bereishit Rabbah 18; Vayikra Rabbah 20).
The seven days that groom and bride separate before the wedding day can be seen to correspond to the seven days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The High Priest at the time of the Temple separated from his usual routine for a week in order to intensely prepare for Yom Kippur, when he would perform the service for all the Jewish people and enter the Holy of Holies, which for the groom and bride is like entering the chuppah, the wedding canopy.
On the wedding day there is a custom to fast and to recite the prayers of the afternoon before Yom Kippur, including a special section of confession. This private Yom Kippur is a once in a life time occurrence, giving groom and bride the focus for deep introspection and the opportunity to seek atonement in order to be ready for a whole new life. The bride dresses in white as on Yom Kippur and the groom wears, as it is customary to do, on Yom Kippur, a white robe, a kittel, for the first time.
When the groom is brought on the wedding day to the bride for the first time for the bedekung, the ceremony where he covers her face with a veil, we experience Succot, when God covers us with His Divine Presence. According to some authorities the bedekung fulfills the requirement of the groom to take the bride into his domain, in this case, it is as if into his succah. At this point the groom is promising to protect and surround his bride with his love.
As groom and bride are walked to the chuppa, those accompanying them hold candles. This brings into the moment the light and energy of Chanukah. We are taught that the light of Chanukah represents the light of the soul, as well as the initial light of creation before it was hidden away. The light of the candles at the wedding remind us that the souls of the groom and bride were meant for each other from even before they were born and that now they are being reunited. The light of their souls, like Chanukah candles are now radiating for all to see.
We are taught that at Tu B’Shvat, the new year of the trees, the sap begins to flow once again in the trees. This sap will translate itself into life as new buds, leaves, fruit and seed. On wedding day groom and bride prepare to come together in marital union, figuratively, the sap rising in order to create new life.
The joy of Purim according to our Sages and Kabbalists reaches a level beyond all comprehension and definition. It is this level of joy that permeates the entire wedding, from beginning to end: “And to the Jews there was light and joy, rejoicing and preciousness” (Esther 8:16 ).
Walking to the chuppa is for groom and bride like Pesach and crossing the Reed Sea. When the Jews left Egypt on Seder night they were still within their borders and thus still not totally redeemed, as evidenced by the Egyptians chasing after them a few days later. Thus, crossing the Reed Sea represents not only leaving the borders of Egypt, but leaving slavery forever and entering into a new reality. Groom and bride walk to the chuppa in the status of separate individuals and leave the chuppa as married couple. Leaving slavery and attaining freedom at Pesach entailed for the Jews not only privileges but responsibilities as well. So too, groom and bride enter a relationship laden with new freedoms, but also responsibilities. Another beautiful connection between Pesach, crossing the Sea and marriage, is found in a well known statement of the Sages who exclaimed that putting two souls together for God is as hard as splitting the Reed Sea! (Sotah 2a).
As the bride enters under the chuppa, where the groom awaits her in great anticipation, she circles him seven times. This corresponds to the seven weeks between Pesach and the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai on Shavuot. The seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot are compared to the seven “clean” days of a bride (the Jewish people) before she can unite with her husband (God) on the wedding night (Shavuot).
Bride and groom standing under the chuppa, now ready for the proper blessings to be recited and the marriage contract to be read, draw down the energy of Shavuot, described in Kabbalah as the Divine wedding between the Jewish people and God. On the morning of Shavuot, when the ten commandments are read publicly, it is a custom in many synagogues to hold a tallit over the bima like a chuppa, to symbolize the Divine wedding. The ten commandments themselves are like the ketuba, the wedding contract, between God and Israel. Other commentaries speak of the cloud that hovered over Mt. Sinai as a chuppa.
When the glass is broken under the chuppa, reminding us of the destruction of the Holy Temples, it brings to life, if but for a moment, the national day of mourning, Tisha B’Av. We are taught that even at our greatest hour of joy we must remember the world is not yet redeemed. Conversely, even at our hour of greatest mourning we should maintain hope in the future. For this reason the Sages taught that the Messiah is actually born on Tish B’Av.
The idea of redemption and joy born from the travails of destruction, is seen in the holiday of Tu B’Av, a very joyous celebration that occurs less than a week after our low point of Tisha B’Av. On this holiday young women, dressed in white, would go out to the vineyards and dance to the light of the full moon, thus attracting the young men. We are taught that the holy ambiance of the night was conducive to young people meeting and forming bonds of lasting love. After the wedding ceremony, the joy of bride and groom, along with all their families and friends, is expressed in the joyous dancing and music that lasts throughout the night, reminiscent of the energy of Tu B’Av. The wedding evening publicly ends with the recitation of the seven blessings. These same seven blessings are repeated at joyous gatherings for seven days. From Tisha B’Av until Rosh HaShanah and the new year there are seven weeks. On each of these weeks we read on Shabbat for the HafTorah, the portion of the Prophets, a special reading of consolation for the destruction and mourning commemorated at Tisha B’Av. The seven days of celebration represent these seven weeks of consolation.
Many variations of the above correspondences could be made showing how the energy and teachings of the holidays and the cycle of the year manifest themselves in one specific event, in this case a wedding. This wisdom and sensitivity to time is of course not limited to a few incidents alone, but is applicable in an almost infinite amount of ways throughout the year. In every moment there exists the potential of the renewal of Rosh HaShanah, the atonement of Yom Kippur, the protection and faith of Succot, the light of Chanukah, the arousal of Tu B’shvat, the joy of Purim, the freedom of Pesach, the receiving of Torah on Shavuot etc… To be a master of time is to plug in to the appropriate energy when we need it and know how to use it in the moment.