From the age of 4 weeks old, identical twins Jim Lewis and Jim Springer were raised apart. Yet fascinatingly, when they were finally reunited in 1979 at the age of 39, they discovered that both suffered from tension headaches and were prone to nail biting. They both smoked Salem cigarettes, drove blue Chevrolets and even vacationed at the same beach in Florida. Both had married women named Linda, divorced them and then remarried women named Betty, and the names of their first sons were James Alan and James Allan respectively.
Undoubtedly there is something unique and almost otherworldly about twins. The idea of a conception resulting in not one, but two individuals, each with their own unique character, never fails to evoke wonderment and mystery.
In fact, the zodiac symbol of the month of Sivan is Gemini – the sign of the twins. Whilst all the other months aside for Pisces are individual signs, Gemini seems to have a dual force, created from two individual elements. Yet what is the meaning of this concept of twins, of two components coming together as one? To fully understand, we need look no further than the first mention of twins in the Torah.
Going back a few thousand years to the ancestry of our nation, we find the first and most famous set of twins; Yaakov and Eisav. Even before their birth, their mother Rivka was puzzled and disturbed by two strongly opposing forces within her, leading her to seek advice from her ancestor Shem. He told her – ‘You are carrying two nations; two separate people… one will be mightier than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.’ Crucially, Rivka was to birth two separate entities. Yet they were supposed to work in tandem, in complete synergy, to fulfill one greater purpose.
And indeed, when they were born, they were instantly perceived to be very different individuals. Yaakov blossomed into the pure one, who spent his time learning Torah in his tent, whilst Eisav became the red-skinned and hairy man of the earth; hunter, murderer, idolater, and womanizer. Yet this was not supposed to be the case. Eisav the warrior’s purpose in this world was to channel his capabilities to serve G-d, to conquer the elements of the world and thus transform the material universe into a Divine home. Instead, he chose to relentlessly overindulge in material conquest, effectively disqualifying himself from being a part of the twin unit that Rivka had carried in her womb. Accordingly, it was Yaakov who received the birthright and the blessings of material comforts from Yitzchak, whilst Eisav assumed the role of the warring twin, forever grappling at his brother’s throat.
The Torah is here to create unity in a world of duality; to unite the physical and spiritual into one element, where each side works in perfect harmony and balance to achieve perfection. The tablets themselves were given to us on Mount Sinai as two halves, and the event of the giving of the Torah is likened to a marriage between G-d and the Jewish nation. Again, the idea of marriage is that of two individuals uniting together to create one perfect entity.
The Zohar tells us that the third month Sivan also corresponds to the characteristic of Tiferet – beauty. Beauty exists when different elements stand in perfect synchrony, when harmony is achieved and when we can find the meaning within everything. When we can accomplish this balance of physical and spiritual and the unification of these two forces as one, that is when we attain true beauty.
Every day, twice a day, in the words of the Shema, we outline the material rewards and bounty that G-d will shower upon us if we just keep His Torah and commandments. Indeed, material reward in this world is so intrinsically connected and bound to our observance of the Torah that the upcoming festival of Shavuot where we celebrate the Torah is also known as Chag Hakatzir – the Festival of the Harvest.
The bounty of materialism and the transcendence of the spiritual are nothing but two sides of the same coin. They are twin forces which were created to be united and balanced, to achieve the perfect harmony that the Torah asks of us and which both our physical selves, and indeed our souls as well, are seeking.