In the parsha podcast a few weeks ago, I mentioned the interesting point that when Yosef comes out of jail, he immediately receives a change of clothing, which is referred to as שמלות. Similarly, when Yosef finally reveals himself to his brothers, he gives them each a change of clothing – חליפות שמלות. This reference to clothes as שמלות comes in contrast to previous references to clothing as בגדים (e.g. when Potiphar’s wife grabs Yosef’s clothes). The chiddush that I said then was that the difference between a בגד (beged) and שמלות (Semalos) is that the root of the first comes from the word ‘to rebel’ – an indication of the clothing’s function after the sin of Adam Harishon, to cover up his rebellion. After Yosef and his brothers achieved their complete rectification, they each earned their שמלות. Since the first letter is the letter ‘sin’ and it is interchangeable with the letter ‘samach,’ it could be explained that the concept of שמלות represents the concept of a סמל – something that represents. Whereas the בגד betrays who the person is, the שמלה represents properly who the person is. Thus, they received a change of clothing – now that they rectified their previous blemishes – clothing that reflected their true greatness.
As the ba’al korei read the parsha this past week, I had to smile as I saw that when the Jews left Mitzrayim, they ‘borrowed’ gold and silver – as well as שמלות! At the very moment which represented the final rectification of the Galus of Mitzrayim, just as at the first moment of the tikkun, the Jews got new clothes – שמלות.
What I didn’t mention in the podcast was something else I noticed about the word שמלות. In the Torah, it is actually spelled חסר, without the ו”ו. Thus it is written שמלת. The Gematria of the word is תש”ע – the year we currently stand in. Thus, the very word which represents the completion of the rectification has the same value as this year.
What is also interesting is that when the Jews leave Egypt, the passuk says that they borrowed gold, silver and clothing. There the word is with the extra ו”ו which means ‘and.’ This brings the gematria of the word to be the same as the year תשע”ו which is in six years from now.
Thus, if there is any significance to this observation, it could be said that there is a significant rectification that might be accomplished by the leaders of the Jewish people in our current year (5770). Perhaps the rectification of the entire Jewish people is hinted to as being set to occur in the year 5776. It must be noted that the year 5776 is a yovel year, and the last one was in 5727 (1967) when the six-day war occurred. It is worth checking out Keitz Meguleh’s post, entitled “Geulat Mitzraim to Yemot Hamashiach” which speaks at length about the significance of these dates. Also, see his online book on Yovel and the year 5776, which is fascinating.
It is also significant to note that in this year we also reach an important point in time on the sixth day. What I am referring to here is that each thousand years of history corresponds to a day. The period of 6000-7000 is Shabbos. Thus, we are in the second half of Friday. 1990 marked חצות – midday – of Friday. There is no question (and I have seen this in completely secular books) that the year 1990 marked a new chapter in the annals of mankind. Russia and Communism fell, and we began a new age of computers and internet. (Stephen Covey refers to this age as the ‘knowledge-worker age.’) The world today is vastly different from the world of the 1980s.
The sefer Kol Hator notes that if we divide 1000 years into 24 (hours of the day), each hour corresponds to 41 2/3 years. This would mean that the year 5500 was daybreak of the sixth day, and 5750 was חצות (as we saw). This year (5770/2010), we hit 12:30, which is 20 5/6 years (half an hour) since 5750. This occurs on Rosh Chodesh Av. The time 12:30 is referred to as Mincha Gedolah – the first time you can daven Mincha. It is also the time that the daily afternoon Tomid offering was brought. This time is also known as the time when the walls begin to darken as the sun is no longer directly overhead. It is also the time that the sun begins to lean towards the west. Interestingly, this time is referred to as בין הערביים – between the eves. This is because the word ערב (normally translated as eve) means ‘to set.’ This is the first time the sun sets, as it has passed its peak and it begins to head downward. The second time the sun sets is at shkiah – sundown. Thus, Rosh Chodesh Av is the beginning of the suns descent on erev Shabbos.
Now, as in the past, I am reluctant to make any predictions, but I think it is safe to say that when we look back at this year, we will be able to note a very significant point in history, just as we do when we look back at the year 5750 (1990).