A century ago, Albert Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity in which he developed further his ideas of space and time. The classical model of a world of three dimensions of space (width, length, and height) with time being an independent quantity, was superseded by an intertwined four-dimensional world of spacetime.

It is fascinating to observe a kabbalistic parallel to this notion in the description of the birth of Yehudah or Judah. Leah, Jacob’s wife, had given birth to three sons, Reuven, Shimon, and Levi, in quick succession. The Torah then states: “She conceived again and bore a son. She said, ‘This time I will praise G-d.’ That is why she named him Yehudah. And she stopped giving birth.” (Bereishit 29:35)

The name Yehudah, in due course, came to be associated with all of Jacob’s descendants who are called Yehudim, ‘Judahs’ or Jews. This is seen as more than an accident of genealogy. The very name, Judah, expresses the identity and essence of our people.

The mystical text, the Zohar explains that the Hebrew word יהודה contains the four letters of G-d’s name, (Yud, Heh, Vav, Heh) plus the letter Dalet (ד), which has the numerical value, 4. When the Torah states that with the birth of Yehudah, “she stopped giving birth,” there is the suggestion that all of life and creation as it affects the Jew, is, in some symbolic way, subsumed in the name Yehudah. The letter Dalet (ד) alludes to the four dimensions in the world that G-d created for the Jewish people to achieve their destiny.

With Einstein’s insight, we can suggest that the four dimensions of interconnected spacetime, represent, for the Jew, an existence that transcends the classical constraints of space and time, in surviving historical forces that have wiped out many a great empire. We are currently undergoing in Israel and in Gaza the latest round in a struggle we have endured since the beginning of our existence as a people. In the words of Vehi She’amda in the Haggada:

Ela Sheb’chol Dor Vador, Omdim Aleinu Lechalotenu, Vehakadosh Baruch Hu Matzilenu Miyadam

“In every generation, they rise up to try to destroy us, but the Holy One Blessed Be He saves us from their hand.”

We hope and pray that the present sufferings will lead to the final chapter of Jewish history. We await the crowning of the Messiah, the descendant of Yehudah, ushering in peace for Israel and all humanity.