Parshat Re'eh by Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron בס"ד
Discover the Holy Presence in the Holy Land
Seven Years and Seven Layers of the Brain
In the past two weeks, we discussed the brain, i.e., the largest part of the brain – the cerebrum, as it is divided into four lobes lengthwise, and divided into two hemispheres by its width. This week we will discuss the brain from a top-bottom perspective, examining the various “layers,” beginning with the cerebrum going down to the brainstem. In science, seven primary “layers” may be identified. Here we would like to show the parallelism between these seven layers and the seven days of the week or a seven-year Shemita-cycle, which is mentioned numerous times in this Parsha, from a Torah perspective. Kabbalistically speaking, the seven days of the week and the seven-year Shemita-cycle are interconnected and are also parallel to the seven kabbalistic sefirot from chesed to malchut. There is much more that has been found on these parallelisms, including additional functions of these parts of the brain not discussed here, but treating these matters fully would be too lengthy for this piece.
The cerebrum takes in data from sight and other sense organs, and ‘makes sense’ of it (interprets it). It controls consciousness and action (voluntary muscular activity). It plans, thinks, judges, and organizes speech and information. These are the so-called ‘higher mental functions’. Consciousness and ‘higher mental functions’ are what show the “grandeur” of man. The aspect of “grandeur” in Hebrew is “gedula,” which is considered by the Kabbalists to be a synonym of the sefira of Hesed.
The corpus callosum relates to the lateralization of brain function. Because the two sides of the brain communicate so intensively, they can afford to specialize in doing somewhat different things. The aspect of “lateralization” is identical with the concept of separating heavens and the seas on the second day of creation, which is Kabbalistically associated with the sefira of Gevura.
The thalamus acts as a relay station, gathering sense information of all kinds (except olfactory) and passes it on to the cerebral cortex. The aspect of “gathering” can be seen on the third day of Creation, when the waters were “gathered” to one place, leaving spaces of dry land. This third day is Kabbalistically associated with the sefira of Tiferet. Also the aspect of “relaying” or communicating/connecting is Kabbalistically associated with the sefira of Tiferet.
The hypothalamus connects the endocrine system to the nervous system. The endocrine system’s effects are slow to start and long-lasting in their response. In contrast, the nervous system sends information quickly, and responses are generally short-lived. This means that through the endocrine system, long-lasting effects can be achieved. The aspect of “long-lasting” is Kabbalistically associated with the sefira of “Netzach,” which literally means “everlasting.” Also, on the fourth day of Creation, the celestial bodies of the sun, moon, etc. were created, thereby indicating the “long-lasting” effects of time. Also, the hypothalamus controls systems of homeostasis, a process related to “long-lasting” stability, such as body temperature, hunger, thirst, and also controls circadian cycles, a matter which is also related to time.
The amygdala is related to the processing of emotions, especially fear. Emotions, called in ancient terminology, “the heart,” is Kabbalistically associated with the “left side,” originating with sefira pf “Bina,” called the “heart” sefira in the Zohar. The aspect of fear especially is associated with the sefira of Hod, also found on the “left side” Kabbalistically, a matter which can be seen in the verse (Daniel 10, 8) “hodi nehaphach alay lemashchit,” which is explained by commentators to describe a severe sense of fear experienced at the time of Divine inspiration. Hod is related to the fifth day/year (in the Shemita cycle).
The cerebellum works mainly to control balance and coordinate movement. It combines signals from the body and helps to coordinate control of the body. The aspects of balance and coordination are very similar to the aspect of union/enjoinment Kabbalistically associated with the sefira of Yesod, related to the sixth day/year.
The brainstem controls the most basic functions of the body, taking the critical role of regulating cardiac and respiratory function, helping to control heart rate and breathing rate. It is also of prime importance in the conveyance of motor and sensory pathways from the rest of the brain to the body and from the body back to the brain. The brainstem controls functions which are unconscious, but necessary for life. Similarly, the “seventh” sefira of Malchut is also the most “basic”/lowest of the sefirot, also functioning as a bridge between the lofty-Divine and the lower bodily functions, so too the brainstem acts as a bridge between the “lofty” brain and bodily functions.
Hebron is described as being “built seven years [before Zoan of Egypt].” Also, King David ruled seven years in Hebron, by which he built his monarchy towards his subsequent rule in Jerusalem. Here we described seven days/years which function as the “building blocks” of Creation and of “Divine” agriculture, i.e., human “creation” in the Land of Israel in the Shemita cycle. The seven layers of the brain supply us with the building blocks of the mind, teaching us also in life how to bring matters from the “cerebral” to the body/action. Similarly, Hebron, the first Jewish city, supplies our People with the “building blocks” of our People’s deep connection to this Land, teaching us how to unite with our Holy Land.
Real Miracles: Israel Independence War:
In the north, the Arabs were encamped at the top of Har Canaan, which overlooks Safed. It was a virtually impregnable position. The Jews could not gain control of the road to Safed or this city itself as long as they were there. Then the Israelis then brought up the Davidka, a tremendously noisy mortar – that was extremely inaccurate and of little tactical value. One Friday afternoon, the Israelis fired a Davidka several times — and then a miracle happened: it rained. It never rained in May and June there. The Arabs were now sure that the Jews had the atomic bomb. What else could make it rain? Consequently, they fled their impregnable positions on top of Har Canaan. The Israelis captured Safed and drove the Arabs out of the entire northern area of the Galilee.