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The Mystical White Snow

The Mystical White Snow

The snowy streets are slippery and it's cold and wet. It's also a special time to get close to God.

by

Few experiences in life compare with waking up in the morning after a snowfall and looking outside. The sight is stunning, the landscape glorious and beautiful, and the feeling one has is nothing less than sublime. Only after modernity with its high-powered engines, tampers with winter's wonder, does the snow become filthy and unpleasant.

Where does this feeling of awe come from? What is this unique creation -- snow -- that only appears in the winter?

First, another question. Why are all the biblical holidays crowded into the spring and summer? Wouldn't it have made more sense to space the holidays more evenly throughout the calendar year?

The Maharal, the great 16th century philosopher, comments that the Jewish calendar can be divided into two sections. Half of the year, from Passover until Sukkot (spring through summer), has the force of spiritual Ohr (light) as its primary power, while Choshech (darkness) rules the fall and winter months.

We actualize growth during the summer and then maintain and that growth during the winter.

The implications are clear. The season for Spiritual Light is the spring/summer, and it is only then that one can actualize the greatest amount of spiritual energy. Fall/winter is a time for Spiritual Darkness and is not ideal for tremendous spiritual growth. In fact, the Maharal actually describes the winter as being "outside of the realm of time." This is because winter does not offer growth, neither agriculturally nor spiritually, thus in a certain sense the winter cannot be acknowledged as being part of any "real existence" due to its lack of spiritual developmental value.

We can now understand the uneven arrangement of the biblical calendar. The holidays mentioned in the Torah all take place during the spring/summer months, because it is then that the potential for a real, profound, spiritual growth exists due to the power of Ohr (light). God wanted us to actualize growth during the summer and then to maintain that growth during the winter.

WISDOM: ABSORBING AND REFLECTING

Why did God create the world to live under Darkness -- lack of growth -- for half the year?

Because it is extremely difficult to “get high” and stay there constantly. You can't expect a baseball team to play every single game as if it's the World Series. It's just too hard to remain on that high level of intensity all the time. So too, in the spiritual realm God does not expect us to be growing constantly at a high, fast pace. Every day can't be Yom Kippur. Therefore, God set aside half the year for strong spiritual growth, and the other half for maintenance of that spiritual growth.

How were we to hold on to that growth? Did God leave us without any assistance? The answer leads us full circle to our most fascinating subject – snow, as described in the Midrash:

From where was the dry land of the earth made? From the snow that is under God's Throne of Glory. God took it and threw it upon the water, the water then froze, and the dust of the earth was formed. As the verse states (Job 37:6) "To snow, God said: Become land!"

The Midrash implies that snow at its very essence is closely related to God's Throne of Glory and thereby, to God Himself.

The Zohar, the chief work of Jewish mysticism, tells us a remarkable insight. It states that God actually wears Tefillin. And in the same manner in which our Tefillin must be perfectly black in color, so too God's Tefillin must be perfectly white.

As our Tefillin must be perfectly black in color, so too God's Tefillin must be perfectly white.

A possible explanation is based on some basic facts we know about the colors black and white. Black absorbs all other colors within light rays, while white reflects all other colors. We must wear Tefillin that are completely black because we must absorb all of God's wisdom and direction. God "wears" Tefillin that are white because He reflects all wisdom and guidance.

We sense from the Zohar the meaning and symbolism of the color white. Snow, in being the purest form of white, also represents the idea that God, who is sending the snow from the heavens, is the "Reflector of all Wisdom." White snow is the object which descends from God's "wearing white Tefillin" to remind us that God created and maintains the world and we must serve him wholeheartedly.

CLIMACTIC REMINDER

The Maharal describes snow as being an illuminating force that is tantamount to Spiritual Light. This is why God made the earth from snow (as mentioned in the Midrash earlier) because people on earth need to be reminded of God's involvement in man's affairs. By creating the earth from snow, God has placed a spiritual force that is present at all times in the earth, enabling us to actualize spirituality. And by causing snow to fall at certain times, God sends us a reminder to actualize this spirituality.

Snow's profound meaning helps us feel connected to God once again.

This is why God makes snow in the winter. In the winter we do not experience biblical holidays, it is our lowest point of spiritual inspiration. God, therefore, sends us snow; contemplating snow's profound meaning helps us feel connected to Him once again. Snow descends and covers the ground as if to shout, "Remember that it is God that is constantly “covering” the ground and providing everything in our life. Draw closer to Him!"

So the next time it snows, instead of being upset that you're going to be late for work, be reminded of the deeper truths of this world. It is wintertime, time to bask in the glory of God, as reflected in the pure, white snow.

Published: December 22, 2001


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Visitor Comments: 19

(19) gali, May 26, 2013 3:05 PM

G-d be magnified

To live forever isn't enough to learn the secrets of the holy Torah....may we always be in awe of the Allmightys powerfull ways may the children of Israel who have lost their way reconnect with the Allmighty and may we merit to be a generation who finally see the moshiach ben David!!!אמן וכן יהיה רצון

(18) Yehudith Shraga, July 15, 2012 9:27 PM

Why then there is nearly and no snow in the Land of Israel?

The book of Zohar relates the white colour to the spiritual world of Atzilut, the Seffirat Binna is connected to the constant freezing coldness and also to the throne of the Creator,on the other hand the white colour is the colour of the Hessed(mercy)the Light of Hassadim=bestowing quality,so there must be some other system which makes the white colour the colour of the world of Atzilut. the Sages explain us that there is a point in what Rav Boruch Leff says, that it is impossible to ascend comstantly,but it isn't a reason to relax and to wait for the next ascend to come, because it won't if at the time of "winter" we don't work as hard as we do it at the time of ascend, in simple terms it is easier to progress when everthing and everybody around help you to progress, but it is very difficult to do so, when everything is against you,when you are surrounded with the white coldness of indifference and lack of understanding, but if one overcomes it by the Faith above the Knowlege he will reach the world of Atzilut,the world of equility of the qualities with the Creator, it is very true for the People of Israel, because they have a very special mission in this world, and they have no time to wait when the spring comes, and next ascend apears, we have to move ahead through the snow of whinter and the unbearable hotness of summer overcoming the coldness and enjoying in the shadow because we are above the seasons and above the fate of stars, it is our legacy and nothing may stop us on our way,though it goes through the steel, freezing abysses of misunderstandings and burning of extanimation camps we live, we prosper, we are here, we are on our way to bringing the world of Atzilut to this world,the world of purity and faith,trust and love, we have done a lot, we still have a lot to do,we have times when the Devine Providence openly leads us and we have times when Its leadership is hidden, but our Faith will melt any snow and put down any flames on our way to the Purpose.

(17) marianne, December 12, 2008 2:58 PM

Thank you so much for your wonderful description and spiritual input of 'snow'! An angered business man and woman commented to me that it snowed in New Orleans this past week and they were snowed in and wanted to get out! It has never snowed in New Orleans and they were furious as to why now when they are there on business! My interpretation in only an instant to respond...was that maybe God had send the snow which is "purity" to purify the city from all the "past" and get it ready for fruitation again and new and awesome wonderfulness and that maybe they should enjoy the "miracle" and just enjoy and "slow down and enjoy the snow" ....(like stop and smell the roses)...this was purely coming from heart in an instant respond and now a few days later I wanted to look up some meanings of 'snow" and learn more! I LOVE ALL YOUR MEANINGS AND VALUABLE WONDERFULNESS!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH! IT HAS BROUGHT A PEACE, CONTENTMENT AND PURITY TO MY EXISTANCE AND MADE ME APPRECIATE!

(16) Anonymous, January 24, 2005 12:00 AM

A few comments

I enjoyed the interesting article. Thanks.

I have the following comments to share -

1) "Only after modernity with its high-powered engines, tampers with winter's wonder" - Even in the 'good ol days' snow got soiled after a while - by footsteps of people, animal tracks and other things. It's not like snow stayed forever fresh before modern high powered engines appeared.

2) There seems to be a contradition or at least a difference between the statements that "Fall/winter is a time for Spiritual Darkness and is not ideal for tremendous spiritual growth." and that of the Maharal that winter is "outside of the realm of time."

3) The gemara states that Hashem 'wears tefillin'. The other parts are from the Zohar I guess.

4) The longer nights of the winter are a time to learn more Torah. Chazal say that we must increase our learning of Torah when the nights get longer (e.g. after the 15th of Av). The Rambam says that a person learns most of his wisdom at night. Layla ligirsa nitnoh.

5) Perhaps the enforced (somewhat) inaction and lesser mobility during the snow and the winter make such times somewhat like a Shabbos and yom tov atmosphere to a degree.

(15) Anonymous, October 25, 2002 12:00 AM

What a wonderful article! I've actually had people become angry at me while I was praising God for His magnificant power in a snowstorm!
I see snow as rest, our culture wants to be moving nonstop 24 hours a day 7 days a week and it refuses to rest, to reflect and to be reverent to God who made and enables us all. Snow is disabling to human overactivity and it is also wonderously beautiful, it is like a reminder from God , a powerful discipline that says Be still and know that I AM God. Also I note that snow provides a quietness that muffles the sounds of man made things that often distract us from hearing and listening to a loving Creator. In snow you have to be still you are made to listen ....it is awe inspiring!!!
Great article!
G.B.

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