Parshat Vayigash By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron בס”ד
Discover the Holy Presence in the Holy Land
The Circle of Fifths
In music theory, the circle of fifths is a sequence of pitches or key tonalities, represented as a circle, in which the next pitch (turning clockwise) is found seven semitones higher than the last. A simple way to see the musical interval known as a fifth is by looking at a piano keyboard. Starting at any key, count seven keys to the right (both black and white, not including the first). The key reached is called a ‘fifth’ because, although it is a distance of seven semitones on a keyboard, it spans five adjacent notes in the major or minor scale. According to theorists, harmonic function, including “functional succession,” might be “explained by the circle of fifths. In this view, the tonic is considered the end of the line towards which a chord progression derived from the circle of fifths “progresses.” In use, many musical pieces when “progressing” to a new key, often use or are associated with the circle of fifths.
In this Parsha, we see the theme of “the fifth,” mentioned numerous times in the Torah, for the first time in context of Yosef’s administration of produce supplied to the Egyptians during the years of famine, i.e. the “fifth” value of the produce bought is to be given to the ruler, Pharaoh. Although this incident is non-halachic, we see another five instances of the “fifth” theme in the Torah in a halachic context. 1) One who eats teruma accidentally, must pay the value of the teruma plus a “fifth” of its value to a Kohen. 2) when redeeming Maaser Sheni or Neta Revai (fruit that grew on a tree on the fourth year since planted) produce upon a coin one must add a fifth of the value of the produce. 3) When redeeming a holy object upon a coin, one must add a fifth to its value. 4) One who benefits from holy matters [“hekdesh”] must give the value of what he has benefitted and add a fifth of its value 5. One who has stolen an object from his fellowman and taken an oath that he did not do so must return the stolen item and add a fifth of its value. The common theme of all these “fifths” is that they pertain to matters that may seem mundane in their monetary context of payment, but yet it seems that Torah wishes to stress that they have holy aspects that supersede the mundane. Teruma, Maser Sheni/Neta Revai are all called “holy”-“kodesh” in the Torah. Also, regarding stealing and taking an oath in God’s Name entails the involvement of the “holy” – God’s Name – in the transgression of stealing, and therefore a fifth must be added. Kabbalistically speaking too, there are the four letters of the Tetragrammaton. At the same time, there is a fifth element – the beginning initial point/line of the yod, which represents a “bridge” to higher spiritual realms. Similarly, the “fifth” theme shows us a bridge or “progression” towards a higher realm above the mundane, i.e., the holy. Also, regarding Yosef’s administration in this Parsha, it seems that the “fifth” represents the recognition of the “higher rulership” involved with the provision of produce, in this case, being Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt. Similarly, in regard to music, it seems that also the circle of fifths represents a “progression” towards a new level in the process of a musical piece, as mentioned above.
According to the kabbalists Maarat Hamachpela, the “Double Cave,” represents the double “heh” ’s in the Tetragrammaton. “Heh” numerically equals five, which seems to also represent “the power of fifths” discussed here. According to our Sages, Maarat Hamachpela is the “bridge” between this world and the Garden of Eden, located in Hebron, the City of Unity, which unites and connects the lower and higher realms in beautiful harmony.
Miracles from the Holy Land:
In 1898, the great Russian Jewish historian Simon Dubnov, wrote that “the creation of a state with a significant Jewish population is impossible. . . . [I]n the year 2000, there will live in Palestine at most 500,000 Jews.” Many years later, even after the birth of the Jewish state, Arnon Sofer announced in 2004 that Israel was “in a demographic collapse; the demographic map in Jerusalem, in the Negev, and in the Galilee points to devastation.” So said the demographer Sergio Della Pergola of the Hebrew University, who foresaw that by 2020 there would be a Jewish minority “west of the Jordan” of some 6,380,000 Jews versus 8,810,000 Arabs. Nevertheless, defying all predictions, in the past 15-20 years Israeli Jews started to have many more children, the birthrate rising by about 15 percent, when modern societies everywhere face drastically declining fertility rates, bringing about a complete reversal of demographic trends. Today, the Jewish birthrate has soared so high that it outpaces that of Arabs both in Israel and on the West Bank, and even in most Arab and Muslim countries.