Thursday, December 25, 2008

#15 - CHANUKA: Jewish Activism - Part 2

Half way through - half way to go. Now, the only question is - which is the better half? Well, that depends on how you look at it.

In terms of my perspective, the second half have unique days. Starting from the end, you have the last day of Chanuka, which actually has its own special name - Zot Chanuka, taken from the Torah reading for the last day, and kabbalistically, is the final time for Hashem sealing his decrees, and thus repentance - though in a happy mode - is in order. And then every year, Rosh Chodesh falls out on the 6th day - which in this year will also fall out on Shabbat, thus a triple yammy; and in some years, also on the 7th day, as it falls out this year. And then the 5th day...this is the best part, at least as far as I am concerned.

On the 5th day of Chanuka, as we read on all the days of Chanuka, we read from the section in the Torah about the Korbanot/mostly animal-sacrifices that the leaders of the particular tribes of the Jewish Nation brought. On this day, we read what the leader of the tribe of Shimon brought on the 5th day from the dedication of the Mishkan/Tabernacle (outside of Israel, the next portion is also read each day; but in Israel, where the miracle of Chanuka took place, only one portion is read - besides the 1st & last days of Chanuka when the same thing is read everywhere). I love the sight of my name Shimon, but there is something unique here about the Korbanot that the leader of this tribe brought. You see, each of the 12 leaders brought the same exact things but they all had different intentions corresponding to various themes - Patriarchs & Matriachs, the Exodus, the Torah, etc. The Midrash Rabba points out that the intentions of the leader of the tribe of Shimon had to do with the Mishkan, the forerunner of the Beit HaMikdash/Holy Temple. That's interesting, because Beit HaMikdash has the same Gematria as my 2nd name Matisyahu, the name of the one who started the Jewish revolution that lead to the holiday of Chanuka, when the Beit HaMikdash was rededicated when the Jews took control of it once again from the Anti-Semitic Greeks.

Now, this is my 15th post. It is true that we light a total of 15 candles during the first 5 days of Chanuka (besides the candle that lights the others - the Shammash), and this number also has something special particularly with the 5th day of Chanuka. But in addition, the number 15 also is related to the whole holiday. The Vilna Gaon points out that the different holidays correspond to the various spiritual emanations (Sefirot), which are Kindness, Strength, Splendor, Triumph, Glory, Foundation, and Kingship. The one for Chanuka is the Sefira of Glory/Hod. Hod is the Gematria of 15!

Hod also has the meaning of Hodaya/Thanksgiving, and as we say in the Chanuka prayers of Haneirot Halalu & Al HaNissim - Lehodot U'Lehalel L'Shimcha HaGadol - "to give thanks and praise for Your Great Name". Thus, indeed it is the Sefira of Hod that is most related to Chanuka, the only other eight day holiday besides Sukkot when we say the FULL Hallel.

In Talmud Berachot 58a, it quotes the verse "To You, Hashem is the Greatness (meaning Kindness), Strength, Splendor, Triumph, Glory..." (Chronicles I 29:11). Quoting Rabbi Akiva, Greatness is the splitting of the Reed Sea, Strength is the death of the firstborn Egyptians, Splendor is the giving of the Torah, Triumph is Jerusalem, and Glory is the Beit HaMikdash/Holy Temple. Now, bearing in mind that Glory/Hod is the Gematria of 15, we see another parallel of this number to the Beit HaMikdash. On Passover, when we celebrate it with the Seder on the night of 15 Nissan, and we read the Haggadah which has 15 parts to it, we sing the famous song of Dayenu. In it, it lists 15 different favors/gifts that Hashem gave us. The 15th and last one is the Beit HaMikdash! (In the Hagaddah, it is called the Beit HaBechira - House of Choice, the name that the Rambam/Maimondies gives for the laws of the Beit HaMikdash). Now, if you take a look in the above Talmudic source, you will see that no explanation is given for the last two Sefirot which are mentioned in the original source in Chronicles. So the question can be asked - why does it end with Hod/Glory and not with Kingship? We'll answer this a little later on.

Usually, when we talk about Sefirot, it's usually between Passover & Shavuot when we count the Sefira - the daily count from 1 to 49 days. Corresponding to these 49 days, you have the above Sefirot/Spiritual Emanations that start with Kindness in Kindness, Strength in Kindness, etc., and then the 2nd week beginning with Kindness in Strength, Strength in Strength, etc. Well, the fifth week corresponds with the Sefira of Glory, and starting with Kindness in Glory, it continues to...Glory in Glory - Hod ShebaHod. Can you figure out what day this is? This is Lag Ba'Omer - the 33rd day of the Omer, the famous celebrated day of the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. It's the 5th day of the 5th week, and this day is especially related to the rabbi who started revealing the Kabbala which later became what is known as the Zohar, which means brightness, related to light, thus relating to Chanuka, the holiday of lights. In any event, we see an amazing thing here - we see a correlationship here between the number 5, and the name Shimon. First we see that the leader of the tribe of Shimon brought his sacrifices on the 5th day from the Mishkan dedication, and then we see that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi for short) passed away on the 5th day of the 5th week of the Sefira period. And why did this rabbi achieve such greatness as being the kabbala man, something that no one was known as such in Jewish history until he came along?

You see, Rashbi is another Jewish hero, who followed in the footsteps of Matisyahu. Matisyahu had no fear killing the Hellenistic Jew who dared offer a pig on the altar, and Rashbi had no fear speaking his mind on the Romans. When he was together with a couple of other rabbis, one of whom spoke in praise of the Romans' accomplishments, Rashbi spoke his mind saying that whatever they did was only for themselves. Now mind you, this was at a time that the Romans controlled the land of Israel following the destruction of the 2nd Temple which the Romans were responsible for. The next thing you know, the Romans were hunting for him to have him executed, and Rashbi with his son Elazar hid in a cave for 13 years. No doubt that it was this time in his life that he reached unfortold spiritual heights which led him to reveal the Kabbala.

Another point about Chanuka as especially related to the 5th day when we read the sacrifices of the leader of the tribe of Shimon, is that according to a Hassidic book called B'nei Yissachar which has interesting Torah thoughts, Gematriot, etc. about Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and holidays - the Jewish months corresponds to the Jewish tribes in the order that the leaders of these tribes brought the sacrifices following the Mishkan dedication. Thus, the tribe of Shimon corresponds with the 5th month of Av. It was in the beginning of this month on Rosh Chodesh that Aaron the first Cohen Gadol/High Priest passed away, and as the Torah tells us, the entire Jewish nation mourned him for 30 days for his role in making peace between everyone, thus for that entire month of Av. Also, the seven special guests of Sukkot, who are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David, correspond to the above seven Sefirot. Thus, Aaron corresponds to the Sefira of Hod/Glory, and is the ancestor of the Chashmonaim family from Matisyahu who brought us the holiday of Chanuka which corresponds to the Sefira of Hod/Glory! (It's interesting to note that Rabbi Isaac Luria, the famed Kabbalist following Rashbi, passed away on the 5th day of the 5th month of Av).

Now, I want to tell you something that I just discovered like a week ago. If you take a look at my very first post - I mention that the 669th chapter in the first section of the Shulchan Aruch - Book of Jewish Law, which deals with the laws of Simchat Torah when we finish reading the Sefer Torah, is related to the 669 Parshiyot/sections that are divided by space in the Sefer Torah, and corresponding to which, one of the Gematriot of Gematriot (depending on its spelling) equals 669. There is something that I did not mention in my first post. There are exactly 669 mentions of the name Jerusalem in the Bible! (It's not mentioned under the name of Jerusalem even once in the Sefer Torah, but the first time this name appears is in the rest of the Bible beginning with the Book of Joshua). I knew this before, but the following is the discovery that I just made:

There is a custom brought down in Jewish law about the Shemoneh Esrai prayer that when we conclude it, we say a verse(s) corresponding to our Hebrew name(s) - the first letter of the verse which is the same as the first letter of our name, and the last letter of the verse which is the same as the last letter of our name. Thus, for my name Shimon - I say the verse Shabechi Yerushalayim Et Hashem Haleli Elokayich Tzion - "Praise Hashem, O residents of Jerusalem;
Laud your G-d O Zion" (Psalms 147:12). Yes, a most beautiful verse, and indeed I lived in Jerusalem for two and a half years, so I certainly fulfilled my own verse. But here is the punchline - the Jerusalem of this verse is its 401th mention in the Bible. Now, I was curious to know, what is the 401th Parsha/section of the Torah as seen in the Sefer Torah? Amazing - the reading for the 5th day of Chanuka mentioning what the sacrifices of the leader of the tribe of Shimon! (When I gave myself my second name Matisyahu, I chose the verse in Psalms 24:3 that refers to the Beit HaMikdash - the Gematria of Matisyahu - which relates to my first verse about Jerusalem). To appreciate the connection here, you have to ask, how many people with my name Shimon have this verse of the many verses that begin with a "Shin" and end with a "Noon" corresponding to this name? And also, how many other people have a verse corresponding to their name that mentions the name Jerusalem? (There are over 22,000 verses in the Bible). For more information on the beauty of life in Jerusalem, you can check out this fascinating site

On a personal note, as I mentioned in the past, my present full Hebrew name - Shimon Matisyahu - has the same Gematria as Keriat HaTorah/Reading of the Torah (1,327). It is this reading of the Torah of the 5th day of Chanuka as it relates to the tribe of Shimon (NOTE: I was born on the 5th day (Thursday) of the week, the SAME DAY OF THE WEEK as the leader of the tribe of Shimon brought his sacrifices, and during the daytime - sacrifices were only allowed to be brought during the daytime) that corresponds to the mention of Jerusalem in the verse that I say corresponding to my name Shimon, that is just one more proof to myself that it was meant for me to add on the name Matisyahu, whose daring actions brought the holiday of Chanuka that represents the 5th Sefira. Also to note, in this week's Parsha Miketz which falls out this year on Chanuka, it mentions Shimon (ancestor of his tribe) three times in relation to his imprisonment and his release.

And in terms of the first letters of the Sefirot, the first letters of the names of the first five Sefirot - Cheit for Chesed/Kindness, Gimel for Gevura/Strength, Tav for Tiferet/Splendor, Noon for Netzach/Triumph, Hei for Hod/Glory - add up to the same Gematria as my first name Shimon - 466! And it is Hod, the last of these Sefirot, that refers to the Beit HaMikdash which in turn is the same Gematria as my second name Matisyahu - 861. Also, if you add up the three numbers of 861, where
8+6+1, this adds up to 15, the Gematria of Hod, which refers to the Beit HaMikdash!

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Matisyahu's grandfather was Shimon HaTzadik who was the Cohen Gadol/High Priest in the Second Temple for 40 years, in addition to his role in the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah/"Men of the Great Assembly" of which he was the last of its 120 members to have passed away. He is perhaps most known for his famous statement in Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers, where he says "The world stands on three things: The Torah, the Avodah (prayer/sacrifices) and Gemilut Chasadim/doing acts of kindness." His Yahrzeit of 29 Tishrei, is the first day of the FIFTH week of the year starting from Rosh Hashanah.

Now as I asked earlier, why did Rabbi Akiva fall short of explaining all the seven Sefirot when he only explained the first five, ending with Hod/Glory? Answer - It ends where it begins. We mentioned the 15 favors Hashem did for us from the time He helped us leave Egypt until he finally granted us the Beit HaMikdash almost 500 years later. It took nearly three millenium since Creation for this to happen (In the midst of the 30th century since Creation - perhaps this is why it is Psalm 30 that became the psalm of the Temple Dedication). Accordingly, the last holiday that the Sages instituted for us was Chanuka - the holiday of Hod/Glory, which marked our return to the Beit HaMikdash - the concept of Hod/Glory, following our spiritual exile from access to the holiest site in the world. And in recent times, Hashem granted us a very similar miracle - over 42 years ago, we were once again able to return to our holiest spot once more following a 19 year absence (NOTE: At that time in 1967, the Temple Mount was in our hands. While we are forbidden to walk on certain areas there due to our impurity from the dead until we will in the future be purified from the ashes of the red heifer, the fact that it came back to our control from enemy hands despite all odds of Israel being possibly annihilated from 31 million enemies shows Hashem's glory). Accordingly, we call the day that the miracle happened Yom Yerushalayim/Jerusalem Day - our triumph over our enemies, and our return to the Glory of Hashem's palace in this world.

We hope and pray for the day that very shortly, we will be able to perform the Temple functions, including the sacrifices, that we used to do thousands of years ago. This will happen in the merit of no doubt - the heroes of the Jewish people that showed self sacrifice that brought some of our best spiritual packages: Aaron - the Kehuna/Priesthood, Nachshon - ancestor of Moshiach, King David - Book of Psalms, Matisyahu - Chanuka, Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai - Kabbalistic teachings of Zohar, and of course Rabbis Meir & Binyamin Kahane who lived every day as their last. And this is how we need to live our lives - any day could indeed be the last day when all of a sudden, the contest will be over and King Moshiach will arrive at the finish line...

P.S. As per my last blog on information for those living outside of Israel to vote, it seems that while it's being talked about in the Knesset, only those who are actually in Israel can vote. I sent E-mail to Marzel's party, but I haven't received a response yet, and I will attempt to find out some other way about how we can help Baruch Marzel's Jewish Front party get its foot in the Knesset in the upcoming elections of February 10. Again, we have to do our part, and then Hashem will do the rest.

5th day of Chanuka - Day of Reading of Korbanot of Nasi L'Bnei Shimon - 29 Kislev 5769

Monday, December 22, 2008

#14 - CHANUKA: Jewish Activism - Part 1

Happy Chanuka!

On a personal note, this is my very first Chanuka since I gave myself my second Hebrew name - Matisyahu, the original hero of Chanuka. I already wrote up about him last month in my 8th post, so I won't be going into details about him per se. However, we have had fortunately quite a few other Jewish heroes which I will be mentioning shortly.

But first, I want to point out that this is my 14th post; and interestingly, as I wrote about in my 7th post - "Countdown to Bircat HaChama", the Mishna Tractate Pesachim starts off with "Ohr L'Arba'ah Asar" - "The night of the 14th" referring to the beginning of 14 Nissan, the night before Passover, when we search for the Chametz. Literally, the phrase can be translated as "The Light of the 14th". And indeed, Chanuka - the Holiday of Light - is what will be discussed in our 14th post. Indeed, the very first time that the word Ohr/Light is mentioned in the Torah "G-d said "Let there be light" is its 25th word - which corresponds to 25 Kislev - when we light the Menorah at the beginning of the night.


Last week, I came across an absolutely amazing thing. A 2,000 year old computer built by the Greeks! Basically, it's a astronomical time clock which includes a dial for the 19 year lunar cycle with a corresponding dial for 235 lunar months, allowing for the solar & lunar calendar to correspond to the same date, as reflected in our present calendars - Hebrew & secular. It's interesting to note that the Rambam/Maimonidies in his magnum opus Mishna Torah, has a whole section entitled Hilchot Kiddush HaChodesh - Laws of Month Sanctification, which consists of 19 chapters and 235 paragraphs (corresponding to the number of solar years & lunar months!), brings some information from the Greek astronomers about this subject which at times may have seemed even more correct in their calculations than figured out by the rabbis! This is nothing of such surprise since our sages have said that if one says that the non-Jews have wisdom, believe him, but that the non-Jews have Torah, do not believe him. By the way, you can check up on more information on this computer that is in working condition once again at

While the Greeks may have had great wisdom, it didn't do much good in terms of being humane or racism. They liked our Bible all right - they called it biblos, meaning book, just another nice book of wisdom on the shelf. But they viciously attempted to wipe out our religion. The three main categories they concentrated on attempting to prevent us Jews from practising was circumcision, Shabbat, and Chodesh-Sancification of the Month. The first two is quite understandable - at that time, virtually only Jews were circumcised, and Shabbat was no less of our marking as Jews. But what was the deal on sactifying the moon - when the Jewish court declared a new month based on the sighting of the moon? Certainly, Jews as any other culture have to have some system of determining time for their calendar? But this is the key - KIDDUSH HaChodesh - SANCTIFICATION of the month. The Hebrew word is based on the word KADOSH - Holy. The Greeks didn't care about us eating potato latkes or Sufganiyot (I forgot - they didn't exist before Chanuka - our holiday of defeat over the Greeks). Even Hitler had a Jewish cook whom he spared from the Holocaust. But what bothered them was that we are KADOSH - Holy People, installing Kedusha - Holiness into our daily lives, installing real Jewish meaning in our mundane practices, including our calendars. Hashem gave us - with the Jewish Court in charge - the great responsibility of having control over time for the purpose of serving Him. The Jerusalem Talmud tells us that a girl under three years old who somehow lost her virginity could regain it up to three years old; and if in the interim, the Jewish Court declared an extra month of Adar (as it done every two or three years), it could sometimes make the difference as to whether or not such a girl will regain her virginity. Such is the power of Jewish time - and the secret ingredient is KEDUSHA/HOLINESS!


Now that we have mentioned something about our Bible/T'Nach, let's turn to the very LAST verse in our HOLY Bible. While in our own Bible as finalized by the Sages does not include the period of history which led to Chanuka - the LAST holiday as mandated by the Sages, everything has its way of being hinted at. This is the verse:
"So says Coresh, King of Persia: Hashem the G-d of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the world, and he commanded me to build a house for him in Jerusalem in Judea/Judah; whoever among you among His people - Hashem his G-d is with him - can go up (make Aliya to Israel)." (Chronicles II 36:23)

Yes, the final message of our Bible is to move to Israel for the ultimate purpose of Jewish spirituality with is centered in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Indeed, it was Judah/Yehudah the Maccabbee with his army who entered the Holy Temple to light the Menorah once again following their conquest of the Greek army, which took place on the night of 25 Kislev. It was the following year when the Rabbis instituted Chanuka as a new Jewish holiday.

What (Hebrew) year was this? Look at the chapter number and verse number of the very last verse in the Bible (mind you, the Christians have a different order in their Bible), and you will have the answer - 3623! So, the LAST holiday mandated by the Rabbis - Chanuka, was instituted in the year that is hinted by the numbering of the LAST verse in our Jewish Bible.
Amazing! Additionally, this final verse in the T'nach has 30 words, and the name of Yehudah the Maccabbee is the Gematria of 30, as this name Yehudah is also one of the words in this final verse of 30 words. An additional connection of the number 30 to Chanuka is that the Psalm recited at the end of our morning prayers during Chanuka is Psalm 30.

It is actually ironic that the numbering system of the chapters and verses in our Bible has nothing to do with Jewish origin. This was actually done by Christians to make it easier to refer to a particular place in the Bible. However, Hashem definitely played a hand in this, as I have seen numerous examples of this. It's also interesting to note that this very last verse mentions the name of a non-Jewish king who granted the Jewish nation their religious rights once again following their exile and destruction of the first Temple some 52 years earlier. However, this verse also mentions Jerusalem & Judah. Perhaps the mention of Judah hints to none other than the time period of Judah the Maccabbee who returned to the rebuilt Second Temple in Jerusalem with renewed Jewish rights once more over two centuries after King Coresh's declaration. Mind you, the Temple/Beit HaMidash, has the Gematria of Matisyahu (861), the father of Judah the Maccabbe. It could very well be that Judah the Maccabbee came to the Temple to light the Menorah in the Temple, light it also in memory of his father Matisyahu- who inspired his son - who passed away before this took place. Perhaps this is where the concept of lighting a Yahrzeit candle in memory of a deceased relative comes from!


Now on today's special Torah reading for Chanuka (Numbers Chapter 7): We begin reading about the leaders of the tribes of Israel bringing Korbanot - animal sacrifices in the Mishkan/Tabernacle, the forerunner of the Beit HaMikdash/Temple. On all eight days of Chanuka, we read the breakdown of the sacrifices that different leaders brought. They all brought the exact same things - just with the particular intentions as related to their particular tribe. Today's reading for the 1st day of Chanuka includes the Korbanot of Nachshon Ben Aminadav, the leader of the tribe of Yehuda/Judah. Nachshon is no stranger to Jewish history. We are told in the Midrash that when the Jews came to the Reed Sea (not the Red Sea, a mistranslation from Christians), in hot pursuit of the Egyptians, they were afraid to get into their swimming trunks and dunk in. It was none other than Nachshon - also the brother-in-law of Aaron who married Nachshon's sister - who took the plunge. Thus, it made most sense that Nachshon who was the 1st to jump in - in self-sacrifice of the chances of being drowned, should be the 1st of the leaders of the tribes to bring his SACRIFICES. Indeed, he brought his sacrifices on the very day that his brother in law Aaron, began his function as the 1st Cohen Gadol/High Priest, the ancestor of the Hashmonaim/Maccabbees! Moreover, Judah the Maccabbee, a Jewish hero,bore the same name as the tribe of Judah, whose 1st leader was Nachshon, another Jewish hero. Morever, Nachshon was an ancestor of King David, whose name David has the Gematria of 14, which is the number of this post. On every day of Chanuka, we recite Psalm 30, which begins with Mizmor Shir Chanukat HaBayit L'David - The Song of the Dedication of the Temple by David. His tribe of origin Yehudah/Judah, as well as the name of Judah the Maccabbee, is the Gematria of 30, the number of this Psalm. King David himself was another Jewish hero - scholar and warrior. And our modern day Nachshon/Matisyahu/King David is none other than Rabbi Meir Kahane (as well as his son Rabbi Binyamin Kahane) ZTVK'L HY'D, whose middle name is David; and also a Cohen like Matisyahu and his sons were.

Speaking of which, Rabbi Kahane's name hints especially to the first day of Chanuka. You see, the Gematria of his first name Meir is 251, for which the Hebrew letters spelling this number is Reish, Noon, Aleph. Now, using these letters, the Noon & Reish spells the word Ner/candle and Aleph has a numerical value of one, so Ner Aleph in the context of Chanuka refers to the first night of Chanuka when we light one candle/light, marking the very evening that Judah the Maccabbee entered the Temple and lit the Menorah. And then, the first two letters of Kahane's family name - Kaf, Hei - is the number 25, hinting to the 25th of Kislev when we light the first candle, and the last two letters of the name - Noon, Aleph - begin the words Ner Echad, which means "one candle". Coincidence? Indeed, Rabbi Kahane, like the Maccabbees, was not just another Cohen, but a Jewish hero of the highest order.


The number 14, as per this post, is also the Gematria of Yad - Hand. This is the symbolism for two things - 1)The Cohanim who use their hands to bless the Jewish people, as you will see on tombstones of some Cohanim. 2) Jewish activism, which was the symbol chosen for the JDL, which was founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Speaking of Rabbi Kahane, this is where Jewish activism comes into play. I was just at a Shabbaton in Beit El where we had an activists' meeting pertaining to the state of affairs going on in Israel and what we can do about it, especially in terms of voting. The voting is the easy part, what we discussed doing is contacting the party we want to vote for and doing something on their behalf to make it easier to get their foot in the Knesset door to help reverse the crazy, evil decisions of the Knesset, among which was the recent expulsion of the rightful, legal Jewish owners/tenants from the Peace House; immediately after which, the Hamas was talking about resuming suicide bombings.

Well my friends, there is ONLY ONE party to vote for - the Jewish Front, headed by Baruch Marzel, now in corroboration with Rabbi Sholom Dov Wolpe, a Chabad rabbi who has been quite outspoken with his pro-Israel stance putting his reputation and security on the line. Three years ago before last elections in Israel, a group of rabbis went around to potential Knesset candidates asking them to sign to a statement that should there be a coalition in the Knesset which will allow concessions to the Arabs that they will not join; meaning, that they will resign from being a Knesset member (without continuing receiving a fat pay check, honor, and fame). My friends, there was ONLY ONE who signed this - Baruch Marzel. There were other "religious" people or parties that had excuses, or said that they will have to have a meeting. And yes, I voted for Baruch Marzel. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough votes to have even one seat in the Knesset. Too many wanted to vote for a more moderate "nationalistic party" under a "religious" control; but without getting into all kinds of details, there was a new party just the other week starting to form called HaBayit HaYehudit - Jewish Home who had good intentioned people on their list, but when Marzel applied to be a member - the ones in charge rejected him. Now, it seems like this potential party is falling apart as I am writing this.

The citizens in Israel are starting to get fed up once and for all with these games. NOW is the time to take action, and vote for someone who if will not be the next Prime Minister, will be able to make a difference WITHOUT COMPROMISE - what Kahane stood for. Enough for one blog, but you can contact the Jewish Front by E-mail at, and check on more information on this only real right-wing party at (you can press on the English button). For those who are living outside of Israel who want to vote if eligible, I will attempt to find out information on this, hopefully in time for my next blog. And especially for those who have relatives and friends in Israel, don't be afraid to tell them the truth as to who to vote for. Israel's security, and the security of Jews worldwide (not even a month since the Mumbai attack) is dependent on our Hishtadlut - our efforts to fight for our rights of the Land of Israel once more - and then Hashem will do the rest.

Stay tuned for part 2 of Chanuka: Jewish Activism. Expect to be posting on Thursday evening Israel time.

1st day of Chanuka - 25 Kislev 5769

Thursday, December 11, 2008

#13 - The MIDDLE Days

Yes - Lucky Number 13! That is, at least for Jews. So is Number 13 really an unlucky number for non-Jews. Believe it or not, it's no mere superstition for them, but more on this a little later on in this post.

But first, to take stock of what is happening - we are in between two periods. You see, Election Day was on Nov 4/6 Cheshvan & Inauguration Day is supposed to take place on Jan 20/24 Tevet (unless the Supreme Court does the right thing and forces Obama to reveal the truth about his forged birth records). In any case, the middle day is...actually, there are two middle days here. On the Hebrew calendar, they are the 15th & 16th of Kislev. These two days are ALSO the two middle days of Kislev. So you may ask, what is the connection here pertaining to the new presidency and the month of Kislev?

Drawing from previous posts - kabbalistically, the month of Kislev is represented by the letter of Samech. Now, we say in the Ashrei prayer Someich Hashem L'Chol HaNoflim - "Hashem supports all those who have fallen". So the word Someich - based on the root word of Samech - which means supports, is describing Hashem as one who is taking care of all those who have fallen - including financially, as Hashem is the one who runs the world. And similarly, the Bircat Cohanim which consists of 60 letters - as Samech is the Gematria of 60 - starts off with Hashem blessing us monetarily, as Rashi points out. Now, as you will see in my earlier post - TRUST in 2009, refering to the new era that Obama - may Hashem spare us - is planning to take charge, and those who lack trust in Hashem will for the most part turn their eyes to Obama to help them get through the tough financial crisis as though he will be the one "supporting" them - many of whom have fallen through this crisis (incidentally, Florida - the state that I come from - has been hit the hardest in terms of unemployment and foreclosures). Obama, now that he feels immune as he has already been elected, is now being honest, and saying to everyone that things will get worse before getting better. So the only question is, how many people are going to wake up and realize that at best, Obama is nothing but a puppet that Hashem is using to do what He wants, and people need to start taking control of their lives and turn to Hashem to get them through the hard times.

Now, there was a very holy rabbi who passed away in the middle of this month - in one sense, it was in the midst of two days even though it is only possible for someone to pass away only on one day, as the moment of death is an instantaneous thing. You see, it was Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (Judah the Prince), also known as Rabbeinu HaKadosh (Our Holy Rabbi) or simply as Rabbi/Rebbe, the one who broke the ice of writing down the Oral Law in the form that we know it today as the Mishna (Mishnayot in plural) who passed away on 15 Kislev - when, as it falls out this year, was on Erev Shabbat. When this happened, it was actually very close to Shabbat in Israel, where he lived all his life; but in Babylonia, the major area of Jews outside of Israel at that time, it was already the beginning of Shabbat. So in a sense, he left this world literally in the middle of the month (while not in all years does Kislev has 30 days, but at times only 29 days - in our calendar today - there are always 30 days when 15 Kislev falls out on Erev Shabbat).
Indeed, it's so interesting to note that this Rabbi's title was HaNasi, for he was the president/leader/head of the Sanhedrin - 7th generation leader going back on his parental side to the famous Hillel, who was the first leader in this dynasty. This is of course, L'Havdil Elef Havdalot (a 1,000x separaton), the Nasi of the other side - Obama the Nazi (he is hinted in the Bible as the Biblical Gog as mentioned in an earlier post). Thus, these opposing leaders are hinted in the MIDDLE days of Kislev!

This is all nice - but why should Rabbi Judah the Prince be hinted here with the middle of Kislev? O.K., this is where Gematria kicks in. Ready? Mishna - the Jewish literary work that Rabbi wrote down, has the same Gematria - 395 - as Parnassa/Livelihood! In fact, there is a verse in the Parshat HaMan - the section in the Torah about the Jews receiving the manna, the food that they ate 40 years in the desert, that hints to this very phenomenon. Exodus 16:5 - "It will be on the sixth day (Friday) - they shall prepare what they will bring (in preparation for Shabbat) and it will be double (Mishne, same wording as Mishna) of what they gather every day". (It is from here that the rabbis derive that we have two whole loaves of bread on our Shabbat table) Rashi points out on the phrase "and it will be double"-Mishne for today (Friday) and tomorrow (Shabbat). As in the physical sense, we also have to prepare ourselves spiritually for the big Shabbat day - the future era of eternity that we will be prepared for by gathering spritual food - especially Torah learning (women, though don't have the Mitzva of learning Torah as men do - only to the extent that they have to learn the laws to serve Hashem correctly - they have an equal share in the Torah when encouraging and making it possible for others - especially their husbands and children - to learn Torah). So indeed, there is the Mishna, the foundation of the Oral Law, consisting of 6 Sedarim/Orders/Sectioned Volumes as written down by Rabbi Judah the Prince who passed away on Erev Shabbat - Yom HaShishi - and as Rashi points out when it says Yom HaShishi - THE 6th day - by creation, hinting to THE 6th day of Sivan when the Torah was given, since the world's existance was dependent on the Torah being given to the Jewish nation on this date, the main focus being on the Oral Law, which the non-Jews refused to accept, though they didn't have a problem with our Bible as a "book of wisdom". And then, there is Parnassa, which we turn to Hashem for, in order to serve our ultimate purpose of serving Hashem when He give us what we need - the tools - to serve him properly, starting with food to give us the strength, energy, and fuel to accomplish this.

In a similar vein, we have another set of Gematria which is also a spiritual-physical aspect. Talmud, sometimes another word referring to the general Oral Law, and more specifically to the Gemara - which is the detailed explanation of how the halachic decisions of the Mishna are arrived - has the same Gematria - 480 - as Pat/Bread! And now, here is a real big crunch (of spiritual food) - both the words Parnassa & Pas begin with the letter Pey, having a Gematria of 80. Now, multiply this by 6 - as in the 6th day of the week preparing for Shabbat - it comes out to 480 - which equals Pat!

Now, this should be of no surprise to you. As we know, everything is derived from our Torah - and our Hebrew language. Isn't is interesting that the word money has a similar wording to the word Man - the manna?! Yes, in G-d we trust - not the food or money itself - they are only the means to reach our spiritual goals. Anyways, the Jews ate this manna for 40 years. Now, the word Mishna can be read as two words - Mem - the letter Mem having a Gematria of 40, and Shana - year(s). Thus, the word Mishna is indeed with a connotation of 40 years - for it was for 40 years that Moshe taught the Torah in detail with all of its Oral Laws as he received it from Hashem - to the Jewish Nation, who were being sustained daily by the manna. And Rabbi Judah the Prince, who wrote down the Mishna, was the 7th generation of the Sanhedrin Presidency parental family dynasty, as the Shabbat is the 7th day of the week, and so was Moshe the 7th of his parental line from Avraham Avinu - the first one who spread the belief in Hashem throught the world. Speaking of the number 7 - the word for this letter is Zayin. Zayin also means weapon. In contrast, the word Zayin is based on the word Zan, sustains as in the first blessing of bentching when we thank Hashem after eating bread - Hazan Et Olamo "Who sustains His world & Hazan Et HaKol "Who sustains everything". In a similar vein, weapons are associated with war/Milchama. In contrast, the root word of Milchama is Lechem/Bread. Thus, if we have true faith and trust in Hashem - Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha'aretz, the One who brings forth bread from the ground, then it is Lechem, in large part demonstrated by resting on the 7th day of each week, when we have Lechem Mishne - the double portion of bread on our Shabbat table - more food instead of working ourselves as if we are in a war zone to fight to survive.

Now, how does the lucky number 13 fit here? You see, this number represents the Oral Law. In prayers every morning right after the section about the animal sacrifices (includes a chapter of the Mishna - Zevachim Chapter 5), we mention the 13 ways that we learn out the Halachot of the Torah, the basic makeup of the Talmud - Oral Law, detailed in the Gemara. Thus, it is the number 13 that represents the spiritual survival of the Jewish Nation. However, for the non-Jews who didn't want to receive the Oral Law which shapes us Jews in serving Hashem in a very moral way, it is no wonder that this is a very unlucky number for them. For crying out loud, they refuse to call the 13th floor as the 13th floor - only as the 14th floor as demonstrated on the button elevators! (In Israel, the number 13 is on the elevator button). Also, it's fascinating to note that Ravina, who together with Rav Ashi put together the Babylonian Talmud - the main Gemara that Jews learn (in contrast to the Jerusalem Talmud which relatively few learn) - passed away on 13 Kislev! Also, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ZTVK'L, considered the foremost Halachic decider (Posek) for decades, whose writings are on the Talmud & Halacha, passed away on 13 Adar (5746/1986)! While it is a tremendous loss on one hand for the Jewish people when a great rabbi who has taught Torah passes away; for the rabbi himself, it is his soul's elevation when he goes straight to Heaven to reap his just reward. And what is left in this world are his teachings which are his ultimate legacy, even if we never had the chance to see him in person.

For those who are relatively beginners in Torah study, particularly in Mishna or Talmud, why not start from the English translation of the above chapter of Mishna about sacrifices that we say in the morning prayers every day? You can learn one Mishna at a time, and remember the key points about a set of sacrifices in a particular Mishna, and compare/contrast them with the next Mishna when it mentions a little different set of circumstances for other types of sacrifices (this will make more sense when you study these Mishnayot carefully). Part of learning Torah is also memorizing it - and Hashem ultimately rewards according to the effort. It is this particular chapter of Mishna that is included in our daily prayers because besides the special merit of learning about the sacrifices when we are not able to bring them these days, so it's considered as though we brought them when we learn the Torah about this subject; but this is one of the few chapters that has no arguments between rabbis - thus, this chapter is exactly how Moshe learned it from Hashem. And finally, there is a concept of learning Mishna in memory of a departed person, so in honor of the one who composed it - Rabbi Judah the Prince, this chapter would be a great place to start.

Coming up in our next post - CHANUKA.

Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi - 15 Kislev 5769

Thursday, December 4, 2008

#12 - SEVEN in SEVEN

With the challenges of this past week in the world, and the hopes for a bright future for the world, there is a prayer that is begun to be recited outside of Israel starting tonight. Starting tonight - Thursday night - we start praying for rain on weekdays, in the 9th Bracha of the Amida
(Shemoneh Esray) - Barech-Aleinu all over the world.In Israel we started 4 weeks ago. If you forgot to add "V'Sein Tal U'Matar L'Veracha"; "and bless us with dew and rain", then:- If you remember before you finish the 9th Bracha then you insert it and continue from there.- If you already said "Baruch Ata Hashem" of the 9th Bracha then you insert it into Shma-Kolienu - the 16th Bracha - before "Ki Ata".- If you forget to say it in Shma-Kolienu then you need to go back to the 9th Bracha - Barech-Aleinu.- If you didn't remember until you finished the Amida (defined as saying "Yihyu Leratzon") then you have to restart the entire Amida.Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 19: 5, 6. (For this, and other daily Halacha posts, check out

Now, according to Halacha, the above prayer is begun to be recited outside of Israel on the 60th day of Tekufat Tishrei - "cycle of Tishrei" which in this year, began on 8 Tishrei, Oct 7 at Tuesday 3:00AM. Each cycle is exactly 91 days, 7 1/2 hours. Thus, this Thursday night begins Yom Shishi (8 Kislev) - the next day beginning with the night time, thus being the 60th day from 8 Tishrei. This prayer is begun virtually every year sometime in the month of Kislev, which kaballistically is represented by the letter Samech=60.

This Shabbat, we will be reading the 7th Parsha of the Torah - Parshat Vayeitzei. This is a very unique Parsha, because this is one of the few Parshiyot (and Parshat Miketz) in the entire Torah/Chumash that has no stops or brakes of extra space in the Sefer Torah. Why is this so?

Perhaps the reason for this is because this is the 7th Parsha of the Torah, and it is the Shabbat that makes the number 7 so special. Unlike during the normal 6 days of the week when work is permitted, and naturally, we feel like taking a brake in between work, and it is only on Shabbat we have an automatic Menucha/rest without making time for it in the midst of work, so is this represented by this 7th Parsha without any necessary brakes - it is one long Parsha without any extra spaces.

In fact, this Parsha has quite a few 7s in it. The following is the list of the sevens:

1) Let's start from the very beginning "Vayeitzei Yaakov M'Be'er Shava" - Yaakov left Be'er Sheva. The name of the city that Yaakov left on his way to exile means "Well of Seven".
2) Yaakov agrees with Lavan, his future father-in-law, that he will work for seven years to marry Lavan's daughter Rochel.
3) Yaakov celebrates his wedding week of seven days when he married Leah (a last minute mixup). It is from here that we learn out that if either the bridegroom or bride have not been married before, then they celebrate their first week of married life.
4)Yaakov winds up working another seven years for Lavan to "justify" marrying Rochel when he already married Leah.
5)When Yaakov and his family after him staying with Lavan after 20 years to finally leave Lavan's home,
it took Lavan one day to catch up to Yaakov & family who traveled for seven days up to that point.
6)One of Yaakov's sons is named Gad, which has the Gematria of seven.
7)Gad is the seventh son listed of Yaakov's sons (Later on, Gad himself had seven sons)

Now, I want to elaborate on one of the above points. But first, another word on the letter Samech, the letter of the month of Kislev. Pertaining to the tragic Mumbai events that happened last week during the week of Parshat Toldot (one of the Jewish victims was the son-in-law HY'D of the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe of Yerushalayim, who is named as such as per the beginning verse of this Parsha that was read on Shabbat between the murder & burial), we see an incident in this Parsha where Yaakov was serving beans for dinner which was his father Yitzchak's mourning meal following the passing of his father Avraham. The reason that beans or eggs are served to mourners according to Jewish Law is because they are round symbolizing the cycle of life from birth to death. Accordingly, it is the letter Samech - the only entirely closed letter of the 22 Alef Beit - that represents this, and indeed in this year, the Mumbai tragedies began on the day (Erev Rosh Chodesh) before the new month of Kislev which is represented by the letter Samech.

Accordingly, the other side of the circle, as represented in this week's Parshat Vayeitzei, the second one that we read in this month of Kislev, is the part of life that deals with marriage - the foundation of the next generation. The first mention of a Jewish wedding (not just marriage) is in this week's Parsha. Remember when I mentioned last week that the letter Samech is the only letter that does not appear once in the account of the days of the creation of the world? Well, perhaps the following is another reason why. You see, the bride, which is Hebrew means HaKallah, having a Gematria of 60, walks around the Chatan/bridegroom in a circle for seven times when under the Chupa. The Hebrew word for wedding is Chatuna, which has a Gematria of 469. There are exactly 469 words in the account of the days of creation in the Torah - the beginning of the Torah - which concludes with the account of Shabbat when Hashem rested from the work that he did on the first six days of creation! Also, the words used for Hashem finishing his work is Vayechulu & Vayechal, both having a connotation of the word Kallah - bride. Indeed, the Shabbat is called a bride. Thus, we see a hint for the couple to celebrate their very first week of marriage, just like the Torah, which was given by Hashem to the Jewish Nation that is also called a bride, begins with a detailed account of the first week of the world's existance with Hashem creating the world. It's only in the 7th Parsha of the Torah, just like the word Kallah is hinted in the account of the 7th day of the week, Shabbat - that the first wedding is mentioned. It's also worthy to note that on each day of that first week of marriage, the traditional Sheva Berachot - the special seven blessings that are recited at the marriage ceremony, are also recited at the end of every meal that the new couple eat in public with other friends in their first week of marriage.

There is an factoid related to this Parsha - having no special spaces inbetween the verses - that will serve to be most fascinating in terms of Gematria. Counting the amount of verses in this Parsha - you will find two verses where the last word of the verse is the Gematria of the number of the verse in the Parsha. Thus, the 54th verse of this Parsha ends with the word Dan, having the Gematria of 54 - the name of one of Yaakov's sons. Interestingly, Dan is the fifth son of Yaakov that is listed, and there are 54 Parshiyot of the Chumash, which consists of five books, that we read during the Shabbatot of the year. Then, the 69th verse of this Parsha ends with the word Dina, having the Gematria of 69 - the name of Yaakov's daughter. Both names - Dan & Dina - connotes the word that means judgment. So, what's the connection of judgment as related to the birth of Yaakov's children? Well, the only thing I can think of offhand is that when Hashem created the world, He intended it to exist only on the attribute of justice, but when He saw that the world would not be able to survive this way - he mixed it with the attribute of mercy. Now of course, Hashem knew everything beforehand, we are just told that Hashem "intended" and "when he saw" to speak to us in human terms. But the bottom line is - the truth is that really, the world should be judged strictly according to its behavior, but being that there would hardly be any survivors based on virtually everyone's sins, Hashem brought mercy into the picture to give this world a better chance in making improvement and doing Teshuva/repentance. This indeed reflects a drawn out argument between two groups of Mishnaic rabbis. Beit Shammai held that it would have been better for a person not to be born, while Beit Hillel held that it was better for a person to be born. The ultimate verdict that was agreed upon by both groups is that indeed it would have been better for a person not to have been born; but now that he is born already, let him do it right by doing good deeds.

Some of the Jewish victims of the Mumbai tragedy led selfless lives helping others. What will we do to make this world a better place to live in? Well, I just discovered something today. You see, tomorrow, December 5 is International Volunteer Day in Israel. Of course, we are supposed to do good deeds and help others every day of the year. But in our regular routine in our weekday work and families, we don't always seem to have a chance to go out of our way for others. But sometimes, designating a day in our schedule forces us to brainstorm or push everything else out of the way to accomplish our desired goal. And in this year, it so happens that this day falls out on Erev Shabbat, when we are supposed to help get things ready for Shabbat. This may mean different things to different people. Some are gourmet chefs who know how to cook a storm for Shabbat. Others are always on the run, and are easily in a position to help others get things done, including helping others getting ready for Shabbat on time. Still others are in a position to give financial aid to those who will otherwise not have enough to eat on Shabbat. In any case, if you read this post at some later time - no need to dispair - think of something extra you can add into your schedule - every day, every week, every month, or on your own "Volunteer Day" when you have off from work to perform the special Mitzva of doing Chesed/kindness for others, included in the Mitzva of "V'Ahavta L'Reiacha Kamocha" - loving our fellow Jew, regardless of his/her observance, background, or beliefs - that you can befriend and in some cases, bringing him/her one step closer to the pleasant ways of the Torah.

P.S. The last word of this week's Parshat Vayeitzei is Machanayim - the place where Yaakov was in transit between exile and Israel. This is the last word of the 148th Pasuk of the Torah, which has a Gematria of 148. This comes to prove more than ever that the Torah wants to hint to us that this Parsha without interruptions of space in the Sefer Torah can be read as one long saga - to hint to us about Shabbat, the day of rest without interruptions of the busy daily life in this world, and the Shabbat of the future to come when we will have eternal rest from the labors of this physical world; and in reward for our good deeds, to bask in the spiritual delights that will be greater than any physical pleasure for all eternity.

NEXT TIME: What's significant about the MIDDLE DAY between Election Day & Inauguration Day?

8 Kislev, 5769

Saturday, November 29, 2008

#11 - Full CYCLE - Time To Go Home

With the events of the last few days, it's hard to pretend that nothing happened. But I will put things into perspective a little later on in this blog.

Meanwhile, I left off in my last blog of a couple days ago with a couple of questions. With no further introduction, they are:

Why do we read the Bircat Cohanim - Priestly Blessing as the first words of Torah every morning after the blessing on learning Torah?
What was the bridge between the slavery of the Jews in Egypt, and the Exodus?

Bircat Cohanim - It is called the three-fold blessing that the Cohanim bless the Jewish people. It consists of 3 verses, 15 words, and 60 letters. In the Ashkenazic Siddur, it is only these three verses that are recited, in virtually all other Siddurim, the whole section in the Torah about the Bircat Cohanim is included (Numbers 6:22-27). In this whole section of Parshat Bircat Cohanim, there are exactly 150 letters. There are likewise exactly 150 chapters of Tehillim, and exactly 150 words of the Aishet Chayil recited every Shabbat night at Kiddush, which are the last 22 Pesukim of Mishlei/Proverbs and one of two places in the entire T'Nach/Bible which follows exactly in Alef Beis order in the course of 22 verses.

Getting back to the actual blessing of the three verses, we said that they consists of 15 words and 60 letters. Likewise, the letter Samech - the 15th letter of the Alef Beit, has the Gematria of 60. That's nice - but you may ask - what connection does Bircat Kohanim have with the letter Samech aside from a number game? In fact, there is no Samech at all in these 150 letters section.

Actually, if you look in some Chamashim, you will see quite a few Samechs. However, these Samechs aren't actually part of the text. These Samechs in between verses just indicate that there is more space between these verses than usually. The Samechs stand for Satum - closed.
You may ask - closed? If anything, you just said that there is more space between the verses - not less? But there is also another kind of spacing which is even more space indicated in some Chumashim by the letter Pey - stands for Patuach - open, that is, wide open space.

The bottom line is as we said in our last post - the importance of Samech in relationship to the essential part of the Torah - the Oral Law - which sets the tone for a Jew to be a complete Jew from learning Halacha /Jewish Law- the word which has the Gematria of 60, as the Samech. Now, in these blessings of Bircat Cohanim, it seems to focus on the physical aspects of our lives, as Rashi points out. That's the point - in order to serve Hashem properly, we need Hashem's blessings to allow us to serve Him completely, as the shape of the Samech which is a complete circle - the only such one of the 22 Alef Beit. Thus, this is how we begin our day learning Torah - to be focused on what the purpose of learning Torah; not just for the sake of learning it, because a professor of Judaic Studies can also be teaching things from the Torah, but he may not be teaching it as a way of life, but as a mere text to analyze it and perhaps twist some of its teachings. However, one who learns Torah because this is what Hashem wants, and that we learn it to be a better Jew, this is exactly what distinguishes us from all the other nations of the world who may be good in swearing on the Bible, including on President Day, but to them it's just a formality. This explains why we say in the second daily Beracha/blessing of learning Torah "Who chose us from all the nations, and gave us HIS Torah". Hashem gave us the Torah to follow it according to how HE wants it to be learnt - to learn Torah L'Shema, Torah for its own sake, not for our gain or based on our own "logical" intellectual imput without a solid reason based on the rules of learning the Torah as given to Moshe on Mt. Sinai. (There is another reason given for why we recite particularly the Bircat Cohanim as the first words of Torah of the day, check out

Additionally, the letter Samech has a unique role in being the first letter of some major words refering or relating to the Torah - Sefer Torah/Book or Scroll of the Torah, Siddur - prayer book, Sinai - the mountain at which we received the Torah which we received during the month which is called by a word that begins with the letter Samech - Sivan, Seder - term used in Yeshivot to denote a schedule of learning Torah as well as the Passover Seder when we celebrate the birth of the Jewish nation, Siyum - the conclusion of a section of the Torah being learnt, Semicha - rabbinic ordination upon showing success in understanding how to learn Torah (in the old days, one had to know the entire Talmud at least to get this certificate - nowadays, much less is required to get the minimum rabbinic ordination).

Now, in the 15th Parsha of the Torah - Parshat Bo, which is the Parsha of the Exodus, we find the Samech playing a major role - in two places. First, the 60th letter of the 60th verse of this Parsha is the letter...Samech=60! (Exodus 12:21) This letter is where Moshe tells Hashem's commandment to slaughter the Passover sacrifice - the Samech is in the word Pesach/Passover. This holiday, commerated by slaughtering the Egyptian idol in front of the Egyptian nation - showed them that we Jews had no fear of them, freeing ourselves from mental slavery. Of course Hashem redeemed us so we can be free to serve him spiritually, but like the Bircat Cohaim promising good conditions, so was Passover the holiday of the birth of the Jewish nation and our physical freedom - thus, freedom from all sides - spiritually, mentally, and physically - thus a complete round of freedom as demonstrated by the shape of the circled Samech.

And here is another amazing role that the letter Samech plays in the Exodus. Samech, being one of the least letters written in the Torah, has only one place in the ENTIRE T'nach/Bible where you see three Samechs in a row - it is in the names of two cities as it says later on in the same chapter (Exodus 12:37) "The Jews traveled from Ramses to Succot". Ramses - ending with two Samechs - was the city of Egyptian exile from which the Jews left, and Succot - beginning with a Samech - was the 1st city that the Jews stopped at on their way to receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai and moving towards Israel. Thus, the Samech here is literally the spritial letter bridge that the Jews crossed on from exile to redemption! This is also reminiscent of the three Samechs you will see at the end of some Parshiyot in some Chumashim, indicating additional space between Parshiyot in the Sefer Torah (unlike three Peys which indicate an even larger space). Also, as the Exodus took place on the 15 of Nissan; and Succot, the name of the first place that the Jews stopped at from Egypt - is also the name of the holiday of Succot that begins on the other side of the year - 15 Tishrei. As mentioned before, the letter Samech is the 15th letter of the Alef Beit. And yes, the Passover ceremony that takes place in our homes on the first night is called the Seder, beginning with a Samech.

Additionally, there are 20 verses in the entire T'Nach that have two Samechs in a row (including the above which has three Samechs). In Psalms, you have exactly one place in its 150 Psalms or over 2,500 verses that has two Samechs in a row. It is in Psalms, Chapter 60! The Samech, with its numerical value of 60, appears twice in a row in the only place in Psalms that is particularly in Psalm 60 - Nes L'Hitnoses "A banner that it may be displayed/raised high" (verse 6). The two Samechs appear in the second Hebrew word or latter part of the phrase. Now, the first word Nes, in this context meaning banner is the same concept of what a miracle is, which is also called Nes. A miracle displays to the world of Hashem's wonders. On a subdued note - Rashi notes that this is also the terminology of Nisayon - trial or ordeal. Hashem sometimes puts righteous people through tests so they will be all spritually shaped right and also shows how Hashem runs the world which may not be very much to our liking at times.

By Divine Providence, I was thinking along these lines earlier this week having in mind that I was going to write a post (it turned out to be two posts) on the letter Samech. Little did I know earlier last week what 60 hours of terrorism (this is what the news said -60 hours!) was going to bring. Indeed, this began on the last day of the month of Cheshvan, which is represented by the letter "Nun", and the beginning of this month of Kislev represented by the letter "Samech". While these two letters together spell the word Nes which usually means miracle; indeed, as Rashi explains this word in the context of the above quoted verse from Psalm - these days were nothing short of trials and tribulations for the Jewish people at large.

I am very saddened by what happened to our Jewish brothers and sisters in Mumbai, India. Besides the tragedy to the Chabad couple in their 20s, there were two Kosher supervisors who had just came to the Chabad house on a job related mission when they came just in time to meet their untimely death as well. Sure, as with countless other Jews who have died Al Kiddush Hashem, in sactification of Hashem's name, these Jews are granted automatic arrival in a very special place in Gan Eden. But think of all the ones who have been affected by this. Even so, you see how Hashem does things to have a continuity, and while some came there just in time to meet their Maker, Hashem spares others to continue life. It is comforting to know that the one child that the Chabad couple had escaped without physical harm besides his bloodied pants. Indeed, the now orphaned child will now have to deal with life with a great emotional burden that he will need much help overcoming as much as possible. But he is his parents' physical continuity, and this is how Hashem allows things to happen.

While even Chabad on its websites seem to be at loss for an answer - without reservations, there is something that can be said to help put things in a bit of perspective. Surely it's emotional for any Jew with feelings to see and hear such tragic events. But when you are honest about what the Torah says - the answer is very clear. True, I don't know why the tragedy struck particularly at these people who were brutually murdered. But Hashem sends clear cut messages to the Jewish nation. Yes, I read of a modern Orthodox rabbi who wrote on the web when Hurricane Katrina struck the United States that we have no right to second-hand guess what Hashem tells us since we are not prophets like the ones we used to have. When I confronted this rabbi by E-mail telling him that it was very clear that Hashem punished the United States for pushing Israel to give away Gush Katif that happened right before the hurricane, he asked how come the hurricane didn't happen to Washington D.C.?
Well my dear friends, Hashem doesn't do things too drastically all the time, or there will be no free will left, and then everyone will do the right thing because they feel forced to. But that hurricane hit the oil refinery in New Orleans that consisted more than 50% of Arab imported oil.
And guess who payed for it? Every single vehicle driver in the United States!

What I will say is while I don't believe that the ones who were murdered were punished themselves as their Neshamot went straight to Heaven, it is everyone else who have been affected by this - largely by Chabad. While there is still much outreach work being done outside of Israel, which does bring Jews to Judaism, and some of these newly observant Jews do eventually move to Israel - for the rest of us outside of Israel not involved in outreach work - Hashem is telling us a message - it's TIME TO GO HOME! This is the title of one of Rabbi Meir Kahane ZTVK"L HY"D's books, exhorting Jews to follow the Torah, and return home to Israel.

According to Chabad philosophy - Jews live by the Parsha of the week, and the events happening in any particular week has to do with its Parsha - the Torah portion read on that coming Shabbat. Well my friends, observant Jews for the large part did not know what happened with the murdered Jews until after Shabbat. Thus, it is in THIS week's Parsha that we are confronted with the tragic news. And in my Kahane post that I wrote LESS THAN A WEEK AGO, which was BEFORE these events happened, what did I write about? About Ya'akov our forefather delaying returning to Israel which was the cause of his punishment of not seeing his son Yosef for 22 years - the same amount of years as he was in Beit Lavan - even before he was rolling in wealth! This happened in THIS week's Parsha.

Mind you, the Chabad couple were originally from Eretz Yisrael - born & raised (the husband when still a child moved with his parents to Crown Heights). Some people think we can escape terrorism by not being involved in the "war zone" in Israel. Others think that it's O.K. to live outside of Israel if they are living a very religious life, spreading Yiddishkeit in their town. Now for Chabad, as long as the Rebbe was physically telling his followers what to do - that was one thing - you have to follow what you Rabbi tells you (unless there is obvious concern that he is openly saying things against the Torah). True - Jews need to be reached out at wherever they live. They are our brothers and sisters at whatever level of Judaism or lack of it as they may be at. But...think of all the Jews living in Israel who don't even know how to even say Shema Yisrael or have NEVER been at the Kotel. Yes, there are 10s of 1000s of Israelis who are in this position - and very unfortunately, there are a few too many of them who have been swept with Christian Messianic cults, may G-d spare us. There are many English speaking secular Jews who live in Israel. Are there enough outreach people that are taking care of the youth of Israeli society who can ensure that at the very least, these youth will not at the very least turn to crime or substance abuse? Now for nearly 17 years, the Lubavitcher Rebbe has not been giving instructions to anyone as to where to call home. So for all those new Chabad youngsters out there who are looking to do the "Rebbe's Shelichut" - you have a guaranteed place for doing this - in our Holy Land!

The Halacha of keeping two days of Yom Tov does not change outside of Israel regardless of good intentions. If you live in Israel - you only keep one day, and if you live outside of Israel - you keep two days. Period! Either you live by the Parsha of the week as dictated by Chabad philosophy or you don't live by the Parsha of the week. Period! There's no inbetween - we see what happened to Ya'akov Avinu despite all his good intentions which didn't help him even though his living outside of Israel is what brought him to get married and becoming the ancestor of the Jewish people. In this week's Parsha - Parshat Vayetze - Hashem tells Ya'akov "Return to the land of your fathers" - Shuv El Eretz Avotecha. And my dear friends, what is the opposite of the word Shuv - Return - in Hebrew? Bush - as in President Bush!

Have we forgotten the three day progrom in Crown Heights in the summer of 1991 in which Yanky Rosenbaum HY'D, a Lubavitcher was murdered? So for all Jews who feel comfortable living in a "Jewish" neighborhood that is located in a Christian country filled with hidden Anti-Semitism which lurks out its ugly head at the first opportunity that there is an excuse to attack us, G-d forbid - even before Moslem Arab Obama - escape the burning BUSH in the States ( and RETURN to the land of the "7 Nations" which Hashem told us in Biblical times to conquer and do away with these nations, and be an example for the 70 Nations of the world who are living on their own land - by living on our OWN land as pointed out in the very first Rashi on the Torah!

Motzaei Shabbat Toldot/3 Kislev, 5769

Thursday, November 27, 2008

#10 - CIRCLE of Jewish Life

Chodesh Tov!

So, Chanukua is coming up in a few short weeks. While it is a holiday that is often treated with fun and games, the ultimate fun and games is what Chanuka really represents - Torah. And for those who really know the Chanuka story - the Syrian Greeks had no problem with our Bible - after all, it is a great book of wisdom. But to them, it was just another book of wisdom - calling it Biblos - meaning book - to be put on the shelf, but not to follow it as a religion or consider is a Holy Book. But my friends, when you take the Kedusha - the holiness - away from something G-d forbid - it defeats the whole purpose of what the item is supposed to truly represent. The Syrian Greeks in particular wanted us to abolish three particular Mitzvot - Milah, Shabbat & Chodesh. Milah - circumcision is our engraved Jewish binding to Hashem, Shabbat represents that Hashem rules the world - not needing to work when Hashem shows He can take care of the rest, and Chodesh represents the Jewish people power over time as when they used to declare the sight of the New Moon - Rosh Chodesh - which would set the tone for the holidays and other occasions of the coming month.

With the above being said - you will soon see what part of the Torah that the Syrian Greeks had a problem dealing with, if they indeed considered our Bible a book of wisdom. But first, I have a couple questions here - and see for yourselves if you can figure out the answer(s).

What is the one letter of the Alef Beit in the account of the Creation of the world mentioned in the beginning of the Torah that is not written even once - and why?
What is the number that represents the Oral Law - the part of the Torah that was originally not written down unlike the Bible?

There is one answer to the above questions. But first - as the Kabbalistic book called Sefer Yetzira (Book of Formation) tells us - each month represents another letter of the Alef Beit. So, the letter for this month of Kislev is the letter Samech - which bears the Gematria of 60. Samech is also one of the letters of the name of the month of Kislev. And, Rosh Chodesh Kislev - the beginning day of Kislev, is the 60th day from Rosh Hashana - the beginning of the Jewish year when the number of the year changes (even though we count the number of months from Nissan, any given year that is called 5769, 5770, etc, begins from Tishrei). Finally, Rosh Chodesh Kislev always falls out around the time that we read Parshas Toldos, where it states near the beginning of the Parsha that Yitzchak was 60 years old when his sons Esav & Ya'akov were born. For more information on this subject of letters and months, and their relationship with each other - you can check out

Now, our Rabbis tell us that Hashem created the world with the letters of the Alef Beit. However, in the account of the Creation in the first week of the world's existance, there is one letter that is not written even once. It takes over 2,000 letters in the Torah until it appears for the very first time in Genesis 2:11 - the letter Samech. So why? All the letters of the Alef Beis had a mission in the creation of the world. Well for one thing - think of the shape of the Samech. It is the ONLY letter that is completely closed (besided the Mem Sofit - that appears only at the end of the world and is a mutation of the regular letter Mem). And this world is a circle like the Samech, so on a simple level, this would seem to be the answer. But there is another answer that is a whole another dimension.

You see, there are two parts to the Torah - even though it is all Hashem's wisdom. There is Torah SheBichtav - Written Torah & Torah SheB'al Peh - Oral Torah. But for those who aren't familiar with the history of the Torah, this makes no sense since we have books on all types of subjects in Judaism. But thousands of years ago, things were different. Only the Bible was permitted to be written and publicly distributed. However, the detailed laws, as given to Moses at Sinai, was forbidden to be written down unless one wrote private notes for oneself. It was this second part of the Torah that the Syrian Greeks had a problem with because the detailed laws of how a Jew should behave was a problem to the Syrian Greek lifestyle of living a carefree life without disipline, morality, and proper sexual behavior. It was the Jewish consciousness of what is beyond the literal meaning of the Bible that put this foreign nation on their wits seeing Jews behave so differently that made them realize what was behind this.

The letter that represents this underlying consciousness of Judaism is the letter Samech - 60. When the Rabbis saw that the Torah was in great danger of being forgotten due to the increased troubles that were happening to the Jewish people, especially by the Romans and others who attempted to prevent Jews from learning the Torah, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (Rabbi Judah the Prince) wrote down the Mishna - the foundation of Talmudic learning. It originally consisted of 60 (Samech) tractates (Baba Kama, Baba Metzia & Baba Batra were originally one tractate, and so were Sanhedrin & Makkot originally one tractate), though now we see it as 63 tractates. Also, the word Halacha - Jewish law - which is the result of Talmudic learning figuring out what the Halacha should be in practice after much deliberation and debate is the Gematria of Samech - 60. Wow!

But there is more on the connection of the letter Samech to the Oral Torah or Law - speaking of debates or known in Hebrew as Machloket, there was actually not a single doubt in Jewish law for at least 1,000 years from when the Torah was given. This was truly incredible considering the fact that the Oral Law was not to be written down and spread en masse. This was until...the very first debate that plagued several generations came about. As recorded in Tractate Eduyot, the question was whether prior to slaughter of a holiday sacrifice, was there a Mitzva of leaning - placing one's hands - on the animal as required for other sacrifices, or was there no Mitzva of doing so? So it when on for a century or more. But here is the punchline - the Hebrew word for leaning as in the Mitzva of leaning on the sacrifice is Semicha (today it is the name of rabbinic ordination as the first one took place with Moses placing his hands on Joshua handing over to him the leadership) having the same root word as the name for the letter Samech!

Another instance of the connection of Samech within the Oral Law, there is a concept of learning something from the verses of the Torah in instances where one subject is next to another subject, something can be learned from this. For example - why does the Torah place the section about the Nazir - one who makes a vow not to drink wine - next to the section about the Sotah - the unfaithful wife? Our Rabbis tell us that one who sees the Sotah in her disgrace following her ordeal in the Temple of her drinking the bitter waters which resulted in her immediate death - should refrain from drinking wine (wine played a big factor in sexual immorality in the old days). Anyways, this type of Talmudic learning is called Semuchim - parts of the Torah placed next to each other - again have the same root word as the name for the letter Samech! This is based on the verse in Psalms 111:8 - Semuchim La'ad Leolam Asuyim B'Emet V'Yashar - "Hashem's commandments/strengths (Semuchim) will last forever, they are made with truth and straightforwardness".

So now, it makes sense why the letter Samech is left out of the account of Creation. The only purpose of Creation was the Torah, as we learn from the words that says Yom HaShishi - when the Torah tells us of what was created on the sixth day, unlike for the other days of creation, the Torah adds the letter Hey to the day of the week - HaShishi - THE 6th day, hinting to the slated 6th day of Sivan when the Torah was given, about which Rashi points out, the world was hinging on this one event - because if the Torah would not have been given then, the world would have ceased to exist. But it was particularly the Oral Law that was at issue here because even most non-Jews don't have a problem of having the Bible - the Written Torah - around, why - they even use it to claim that they themselves are the ones following G-d's word. But it is the Oral Law that differentiates us from the rest of the world who - push comes to shove - don't want to impose on themselves the discipline - the Torah way of life - on themselves. Thus, the fact that the letter Samech is not written even once in the account of Creation shows that the Oral Law - consisting of its foundation - the Mishna with its 60 tractates- to its debates starting with Semicha, its deliberations such as Semuchim - to its conclusion or end result - Jewish Law or Halacha - with a Gematria of 60 - as our Rabbis instruct us - were originally NOT written down either. Thus, the fact that the Samech is not written is something that is secret, hidden or closed is called Seiter, Sod, Safun, or Satum - all these Hebrew words connoting this idea begin with the letter Samech!

There is actually more material I have to write on the letter Samech, but so it won't be too tiring to read the whole blog, I will cut it short, leaving this for the following post. Since the ultimate purpose of my blogs is for everyone to learn something from them to be a better Jew, I want to place an emphasis on learning Halacha - Jewish Law - EVERY DAY. Yes, we are supposed to learn Torah every day as we are supposed to pray every day. The very end of the Gemara (the Babylonian Talmud) tells us that one who learns Halacha every day is assured of being someone worthy of the reward of the world to come. It is THIS part of the Torah that keeps us in line following what Hashem tells us to do. And while women are not obligated to learn Torah like men are, since the women have to devote much time to raising their children, they still have an obligation of learning the parts of Jewish Law that will teach them what to do as observant Jews - in fact, there are the laws of Niddah - a menstruous woman who must observe the laws pertaining to being in such a state if she is married, and is not considered pure to have physical contact in any way with her husband until she goes through the procedures that will permit her once again to continue married life without hindrances. Another major area in Halacha that everyone needs to know very well are the laws of Shabbat (and Yom Tov). There are numerous laws about what is not permitted to be done on Shabbat, and as the Chofetz Chaim in the Mishna Berura with his introduction to the Laws of Shabbat quotes the Ya'arot Devash, unless one learns all the laws of Shabbat very well, one can possibly always be doing something that is forbidden on Shabbat, even if he can be labeled as a "Shomer Shabbat" - one who keeps Shabbat without intentionally violating it in any way, certainly not in public.

So one may ask, where do I begin? Is there a particular book of Halacha that I can learn? And what if my Hebrew is not so good - what is available in English that I can learn on a regular basis? O.K. - you have a few options. For beginners - you have what is called the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch - the Concise Code of Jewish Law - the original Hebrew written by Rabbi Shlomo Gansfried ZTVK"L, and consists of 221 chapters, with over 2,500 paragraphs. Don't get panicky - you only need to start learning a bit every day so after all, you can properly digest what you learn and you should review what you read over several times to get it all pat down. There is a concept of learning particularly two laws in the daytime and two laws in the nighttime, as part of the fulfillment of daily Torah study. However, the main thing is to keep it at a pace where you can learn at your own speed that will ensure that you will not fall behind and skip some days. You have a few choices in the English version. You have the one which is just in English - translated by Hyman Goldin, and in more recent years, should come with another book of just the index of hundreds if not thousands of key words that will help you find out what the Halacha is in a certain instance (NOTE: this should NOT substitute asking a Rabbi well versed in Halacha as to the correct decision in some instances - if you are not sure - ask such a rabbi). There is also another one that comes in two volumes known as the Metzuda translated by Rabbi Avrohom Davis and is translated line by line - Hebrew on one side & English on the other. And just a couple of months ago - Artscroll came out with the first of five volumes that includes both Hebrew and English, and includes additional Halachic decisions from the Mishna Berura & Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ZTVK"L, whose decisions at times may differ from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.

As for the regular Shulchan Aruch - Code of Jewish Law - for the more advanced, you have in English the whole first section of the Shulchan Aruch called Orach Chaim ("Pathway of Life"), consisting of 697 chapters, which includes the laws of prayers, blessings, Shabbat & Jewish Holidays, along with the translation of the Mishna Berura, as published from Feldheim Publishers. Personally, I have found this English translation to be a big eye opener, even as I can understand the original Hebrew pretty well - but for one who has been raised learning English, this is absolutely crucial. Do bear in mind that there are three other parts of the Shulchan Aruch, and sad to say, I don't know of an existing translation though they may not necessarily be applicable in everyday living like the first section of the Shulchan Aruch - but include the laws of Kashrut, marital law, and judicial law.

Start with something easy. You know, Chanuka is coming up in a few weeks. Now is the time to learn the laws of Chanuka - one or two laws or paragraphs a day if you start now (from when the post is written) will ensure that you will know everything you are supposed to do by the time Chanuka comes along. Additionally, there is a blogspot on Halacha that I just discovered "accidentally" (from the hand of Hashem) last week, or where on this blog it shows the followers on the top righthand side, you can press on the smiling guy (a good example of what a religious Jew should look like) and check it out that way.

COMING UP: Why do we read the Bircat Cohanim - Priestly Blessing as the first words of Torah every morning after the blessing on learning Torah? And also, what was the bridge between the slavery of the Jews in Egypt, and the Exodus?

P.S. If you notice, this is the 10th blog that I have written on, and you see the time it shows that this 10th blog was posted: 10:10 AM! I truly believe that this is something nothing short of Hashgacha Peratis - Divine Providence. The letter Yud is the Gematria of 10. Another connotation of the letter Yud is Yid - Jew. Learning Halacha is learning to be a COMPLETE Jew, that is, a COMPLETE Yisrael - as the acronym of this word (the last word of the Torah/Chumash) can be read as Yesh Shishim Ribo Otiyot LaTorah - there are 60 myriads of letters to the Torah - corresponding to the 60 myriads or 600,000 male Jews from 20 years old and up, the ones who were able to fight in battle, who were present for the giving of the Torah, and a COMPLETE Yid, just like Yud=Ten (10) represents completeness - from the Ten Statements with which Hashem created the world to the Ten Commandments (actually means Statements in Hebrew) which are the basis for the 613 Commandments based on which we follow their details as described in Halacha. And just like word Halacha has the Gematria of 60, the number for Samech - the ideal of completeness is further demonstrated by the shape of the letter Samech which is a COMPLETE circle - the only one of the 22 Alef Beis which is shaped like this.

Rosh Chodesh Kislev (1 Kislev) 5769

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

#9 - Kahane CHAI - Kahane's Legacy Lives On

Here we are on our way to Chanuka, the holiday that celebrates our religious freedom in the Land of Israel; in fact, the only holiday that is Israel based - particularly free access to our holiest site in Jerusalem - until recent times when it became a reality once again with Yom Yerushalayim in 1967. And just like we had a few Jewish heroes in the Chanuka story, most notably Matisyahu the patriarch of the Maccabees; so in our time we had a modern day Matisyahu - Rabbi Kahane ZTVK'L HY'D. Actually, there were two Rabbi Kahane's - Rabbi Meir Kahane & his son Rabbi Binyamin Kahane - who were living Jewish heroes living each & every day with their self sacrifice knowing that any day could very well be their last as it actually happened.

Over a week ago, it was the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Meir Kahane - particularly his 18th or Chai "LIFE" Yahrzeit that is on Chai (18) Cheshvan. Thus, not only is the date of his Yahrzeit the 18th of Cheshvan when his life was brutally cut short by an accursed Arab, but this year it was the 18th memorial Yahrzeit. It is interesting to note that following his murder, his son and best follower, Rabbi Binyamin Kahane, took over the leadership of the Kahane movement - under the name of KAHANE CHAI. How fitting! Rabbi Meir Kahane was a man of no compromise - his word was the word of Torah with no politics or strings attached. Thus, after he was no longer in our immediate reach, his teachings which are the teachings of Torah LIVE ON. And while there were unfortunately supposed Kahane followers who for political reasons did not want to accept his son Binyamin Kahane as the next leader, this did not take away from the Kahane son's mission of continuing to spread his father's teachings which became much more relevant as time went on with the problems of the Israeli government who were all too eager to give more land away, and the Palestinian Intifadas. While I never had the merit to meet Rabbi Meir Kahane, I had the great fortune of meeting his son Rabbi Binyamin Kahane, who with his quiet nature, did not seem to have had the forceful personality of his father , but was very outspoken when it came to telling the truth that few had the courage to tell it as it is to the Jewish people.

While I live in Israel, I was not able to make it this year to Meir Kahane's burial plot in Har HaMenuchot or attend the annual memorial event held in Jerusalem in his memory. I felt bad in a way because after all, this was his CHAI - 18th - Yahrzeit. However, on second thought, the main thing Meir Kahane stressed in his lifetime was ACTION - not just attending memorial ceremonies of just another victim of Arab terror. Accordingly, the least I can do besides paying mere lip service to the memorial prayer though that is important too for the Neshama's Aliyah in Heaven, is to write to everyone a bit of Meir Kahane's teachings, especially as it relates to what we all need to do more than ever. This will be his ultimate Aliyah (hint, hint).

In Rabbi Meir Kahane's magnum opus called Ohr HaRahyon - or "The Jewish Idea" (one volume in Hebrew, two volumes in English), consisting of 39 chapters, he writes on a variety of topics that are essential to Jewish living. Being that this is his 18th Yahrzeit - I figured that it would be a good idea to check out the 18th chapter in this Sefer - holy book. Lo and behold - a topic I had mentioned in an early post - Eretz Yisrael - the Land of Israel! I think that this is no mere coincidence that Hashem allowed this topic to be the 18th chapter of this book. Jewish living has little meaning without living (and if G-d forbid not immediately possible, with the great yearning for) in the Land of Israel, where Jewish life - CHAI - is meant to be lived. Anyways, I wanted to see what I would write about from this chapter since it isn't exactly just a page or two, so I decided to first count the paragraphs. Very interestingly - this 18th chapter has exactly 19 paragraphs (in the Hebrew edition). This is just like the prayer of Shemoneh Esray - which means 18 - as it originally consisted of 18 blessings, but presently has 19 blessings. Now, the 14th blessing of this prayer is the blessing asking Hashem to rebuild Jerusalem, which is the capital of Israel. So, I figured that I would check out the 14th paragraph of this 18th chapter on Israel, and I will write here a loose translation of the Hebrew (I don't have the English version with me at this time)

Before I begin, in the parenthetical note of the next to the last Rashi on this week's Parshas Toldos, Rashi points out that Ya'akov missed seeing his son Yosef for 22 years as punishment for not having performed the Mitzva of honoring his parents for 22 years from the time he came to his uncle Lavan's place until he returned to Israel. Now, one may ask - wait a minute. I thought that his own parents told him to leave home as his evil brother Eisav wanted to kill him, and since he came to Lavan, he got married and had children who became the ancestors of the Jewish people, so what did Hashem want from Ya'akov when it wan't his fault? This bothered me for a while - at least in terms of some of the years when his wives were busy giving birth. But the following words of Kahane takes away all questions after this. Read on.

"Know, and don't ever forget - Israel was given to the Jewish nation not as rights that one can forgo saying "I don't want it", but as an obligation that is impossible for one to free himself from. But very unfortunately in recurring Jewish history, every time that the Jews reached exile settling into their comfort zone, they rejected the Coveted Land and wished to find rest in exile. It's only when Anti-Semitism showed its ugly head that there was an arousal of leaving exile."

"We find the above to be applicable to our forefather Ya'akov himself. After his son Yosef was born (Ya'akov knew prophetically from Yosef's birth that he would have the power to overcome Esav, and thus felt that he could now return to Israel even with the threat of Esav), the Torah writes "Following Rachel giving birth to Yosef, Ya'akov said to Lavan "Send me, so I can go to my place and my land (Israel)"". Mind you, this was after 14 years of Ya'akov working for Lavan and he was still poor. A Biblical commentator Seforno writes on Ya'akov's statement to Lavan - "Though Ya'akov did not own cattle, he certainly had enough to support his family - at least to buy food, clothing and provisions for his return home..." Additionally, while Lavan wished to deduct from Ya'akov salary, and told him what he was going to pay him accordingly, a miracle happened and Ya'akov became rich. SIX MORE YEARS passed since Ya'akov's informing Lavan of his wish to return to Israel, as evidenced from his own words "I was in your house for 20 years - 14 years for your two daughters, and 6 years for your sheep""

"QUESTION: Why did Ya'akov our forefather remain with Lavan for 6 additional years from the time that he wished to return to Israel? ANSWER: After acquring much property, he wanted to acquire more property until he became outstandingly wealthy, as the Torah attests "The man (Ya'akov) became very wealthy - he owned much sheep, maidservants, male servants, camels and donkeys""

"The evil inclination is very hard to conquer. A lion only roars following devouring a container of meat, and does bad things after having its fill. Similarly, since Ya'akov became a wealthy person, it didn't bother him that he living on in exile, so Hashem turned Lavan and his family's feelings against him, in order that the hatred would make Ya'akov understand that he needs to leave, as the Torah informs us "He (Ya'akov) heard Lavan's family saying "Ya'akov took all that belongs to our father (Lavan)...Ya'akov noticed how Lavan did not treat him like he used to" Despite all this, Ya'akov did not rise to return to Israel, so Hashem needed to tell him "Return to your forefathers' land - your birthplace, and I will be with you". Our Rabbis note on this (Bereishit Rabba 73:12) "Hashem said to him, "Your father-in-law (Lavan) doesn't treat you nicely, and you are remaining here? Return to your forefathers' land... We see from here that the plague of wealth and comfort in exile makes one forget the obligation of living in Israel"

Now my friends, picture the scenario. In Ya'akov's time, he didn't have any of the thrills of Jewish living that we have nowadays. There were no Shuls, Yeshiva day schools, Kosher supermarkets, Glatt-Kosher restaurants, gebrucht free Kosher for Passover hotels, JCCs, heimishe neighbors, etc. The only source of Jewish living was in Ya'akov's own home - the environment that his children - who were all righteous - grew up in, and had no Jewish friends from the outside idol worshipping environment. And yet, despite the fact that his childen did not have anything spiritually to look forward to outside the home, Ya'akov our forefather, as great of a righteous person as he was, and as our Rabbis tell us, he surpassed his Zeide Avraham and his Tatte Yitzchak in Torah learning, did not consider moving to the holy land of Israel anytime soon once he got busy acquiring wealth. Certainly, Ya'akov with his good intentions, realized that physical wealth only goes so far in this world, and you can't take it with you in the next. Certainly, he was hoping to have enough to amply support his righteous family, and wasn't looking to have a jacuzzi in his backyard. But...this was Ya'akov's BIG mistake - making the money itself wasn't his ultimate weekness - it was placing this as a priority over Eretz Yisrael. And while Ya'akov first came to Lavan with good intentions of escaping possible death from his brother, and marrying his wives - the only ones in the world he could marry because everyone else was busy worshipping idols, not even the first 14 years were excusable in Hashem's eyes, as this lead to a spiritual downfall of Ya'akov as he remained in Beit Lavan - can be retranslated as the "White House". the center of the United States & world power - thinking that he will have everything good when this was not supposed to be his purpose of being in Beit Lavan to begin with - becoming wealthy was a temporary thing from which Ya'akov should have immediately pulled himself away from and follow his original intentions. Thus, it is no wonder that Hashem punished him for the ENTIRE 22 years because now, if becoming wealth was his end purpose of not living in Hashem's land, then so too was he held accountable for the 22 years that he did not perform acts of honor for his parents had he been in Israel all this time.

So now, in the following week, when we will learn and hear the Torah reading of Parshas Vayetze , as it begins off with Ya'akov leaving Israel and ending off with Ya'akov finally returning to Israel - what will we be thinking about? You see, next week's Parshas Vayetze is the ONLY Parsha of the 54 Parshiyot that has no interruption of space in the Sefer Torah. Perhaps the Torah wants to point out to us that history would repeat itself and the Jewish people would do the same mistake as Ya'akov made - despite leaving Israel based on good intentions or thrown out of Israel, the Jewish people for the large part let itself forget the real purpose of living, and wealth in the United States has become the greatest deterrent in preventing Jews from making Aliyah. It will only be when Jews return to Israel, as Ya'akov finally returned to Israel, that we can have some real semblance of Jewish life, and all the fine Jewish dining of Boro Park, or the Shteiging in learning of Lakewood is not following what the Torah says that HASHEM COMMANDS US TO LIVE IN ISRAEL! Certainly, South Florida, where I come from - and believe me - was real paradise with half the days of winter not being cold as everywhere else in the States; but one day, Hashem woke me up when I saw the front cover of Israpost, a very pro-Israel newspaper based in South Florida, with an article of the latest chartered flight of Jews making Aliyah, and I found myself living in Israel in less than 6 months later.

Yes, following Obama's rise to power thanks to the liberal Democratic Jews feeling comfortable in exile, as predicted in the 5751th verse of the Torah, reminiscent of the year 5751 when Rabbi Meir Kahane was murdered who echoed the message of this 5751th verse, as I wrote about in a previous post, and in between Obama's successful election and upcoming (Nasi-Nazi) presidency was the 18th Yahrzeit of Rabbi Kahane, it is about time that Jews in the United States wake up (not like a Willamsburg Yungerman who recently said ''If Obama wins, I will move to Monsey, I don't won't to live in America any more'', thinking that Monsey is a holy place where "very religious" Jews live, even though it is also in the United States) and at very least, the ones who believe in Kahane's teachings, should follow his teachings once and for all - giving his Neshama the ultimate Aliyah - making Aliyah ourselves while Hashem gives us continued life to be able to make the big move - and by following Hashem's command, He will see to it that we will be able to survive and live in Israel, regardless of how the world economy is turning. It is Hashem Who ultimately runs the world, the economy, and will grant us the blessings mentioned in the Torah that Hashem promises us when we follow what He tells us to do as written in the Torah.

For more information on Rabbi Kahane's teachings and the importance of moving to Israel - especially from the United States, check out &

28 Cheshvan, 5769

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

#8 - MATISYAHU - "Gift of Hashem"

Welcome everyone to my 8th post. It certainly coincides - and I believe with Divine Providence - that this corresponds to tonight's Hebrew date of 15 Cheshvan. You see, this date marks the Yahrzeit of Matisyahu Ben Yochanan Cohen Gadol, the Jewish hero who was responsible for the 8-day holiday of Chanuka. I know, Judah the Maccabbe, one of his five sons, seems to be the hero of Chanuka, for after all, he fought in battle and after winning some wars came to the Beit HaMikdash - Holy Temple and lit the Menorah. In fact, four out of Matisyahu's five sons were killed fighting the enemy, including Judah the Maccabbee. But despite the nice "Biblical" story that those who don't really observe Judaism want to tell it the way they want to, giving Christmas looking "Hannuka" gifts, and pay mere lip service to lighting their non-kosher electric menoras (some accompany them with "Hannuka bushes") it was Matisyahu, the ultimate Chanuka gift - "Gift of Hashem" - who was the big hero here.

Yes, it bothers me to see a particular neighborhood in Tel Aviv, where while Judah the Maccabbe gets a nice one-mile business street named after him, his own father Matisyahu who started the revolution has his name attached to a tiny street tucked away in some residential corner. But the facts are what our holy rabbis, who don't rattle off biblical stories because they sound popular, convey to us. It was Matisyahu who had no fear killing a Hellenistic Jew who dared to sacrifice a pig on the altar. Matisyahu wasn't afraid of what the Syrian Greeks would do to him, or what the modern Jewish critics would be labeling him. He did what was right, declaring the same message as Moshe Rabbeinu did when Jews worshipped the Golden Calf "Mi LaHashem Eilai" -
"Whoever is for Hashem is for me" . It was none other that the Tribe of Levi who answered Moshe's challenge and had no hesistation killing some 3,000 Jews who worshipped their first idol since the Torah was given. As a reward, it was this very tribe of Levi who became the Cohanim & Levites. Matisyahu was a descendant of the Cohanim, who called out the same way following killing the idol-worshipping Jew, and his five sons plus a few others, called the Maccabbes, joined the call.

I know that if Matisyahu would have done the same thing today - there would be Modern Orthodox rabbis who would be banging on their pulpit stand (instead of banging their heart in confessing their sin of lack of trust in Hashem as I wrote in a previous blog) declaring the same rhetoric as they did following the assisination of Yitzchak Rabin, when they wasted no time denouncing Yigal Amir for committing murder when in fact he wasn't the one who actually pulled the death trigger, but this supposed murder coming from Yigal Amir bothered them more than what Rabin was doing in helping giving away our Holy Land. In fact, one rabbi wrote in a book that he published (I don't want to say what book it is because such Torah is not fit for anyone to read as you will see in a minute) that Yigal Amir murdered Yitzchak Rabin, when the context of what this rabbi wrote had nothing to do with whoever actually did the deed. When I E-mailed this rabbi about the findings of Barry Chamish and video proof that it was not Yigal Amir, which has been widely known for many years before this rabbi wrote his book, in his return reply to me, he refused to address these facts - he just wrote that he "feels sorry for Yigal Amir". If he truly felt so sorry for him, then why repeat the Loshon Hora - evil talk (actually he did something worse called Motzi Shem Ra, saying something false) about another Jew, especially in a published book- which is forbidden even if it is widely known, despite how people mistake this Halacha - Jewish Law?

Anyways, while Matisyahu never realized the results of his dream of religious freedom before he passed away as an old man, he will forever be the one responsible for the holiday of Chanuka. Imagine - 8 days of Chanuka every year. It's more than 2% of our lifetimes spent with this holiday. It may not seem alot, but you do the math. Indeed, throughout these eight days - we mention in the special Al HaNissim prayer at least 26 times in all Shemoneh Esrays that we pray, besides bentching - thanking Hashem for His miracles, we start the particular prayer of Chanuka with "Bimay Matisyahu" - "In the days of Matisyahu". It doesn't mention the names of his sons, just mentions that he had sons who helped him fight for the cause.

So you ask, any Gematrias here other than mentioning that this is the 8th post talking about the 8 day holiday? Well, we mentioned that after winning some wars, the Maccabbes came to the Beit HaMikdash and lit the Menorah. Indeed, Matisyahu has the same Gematria as Beit HaMikdash - 861. Indeed, Matisyahu was a Cohen, and it is the Cohanim who are the ones performing the daily service in the Beit HaMikdash.

Another major thing here is that while Hashem gave us 613 Mitzvot - the Rabbis over time gave us seven other Mitzvot. Now we need to point out here - the Rabbis did not intend to add to the Torah. When the rabbis instituted certain rules and regulations - this was simply to uphold the Torah so it would not be violated. Many things that we don't do today on Shabbat were in fact one time permissible, including business transactions (that don't involve writing of course), but the Rabbis, wanting to maintain the spirit of Shabbat and prevent violations, forbade things that according to the Torah would be permissible. They also instituted most of the blessings that we recite today. Reading the Megilla on Purim, and lighting the Chanuka candles were the last to be instituted of the "7 Mitzvot of the Rabbis". It is Chanuka -particularly lighting the Menorah - that is considered the 620th Mitzva. The number 620 is the Gematriya of Keter - Crown. This is the highest level of the Sephirot - Emanations of Hashem - in the intellectual aspect. So it was none other than Matisyahu who was responsible for this, even though he never got to live to see Chanuka be a reality.

There is in fact in the Hidden Codes of the Torah as to a hint to Matisyahu at the END OF THE TORAH - just like he was responsible for the END OF THE MITZVOT. (I didn't discover this, this is well known) In the verse that mentions that Moshe Rabbeinu died - Vayamat Shahm Moshe - it begins with the Mem in Moshe. Count every 50th letter following this Mem, and it will spell equidistantly the name of Matisyahu. In fact, the Hei in his name also coincides with Moshe's name with his Hei. The significance of number 50 is most related to Mattan Torah - the Giving of the Torah, when we received the Torah & Mitzvot - which was the 50th day from after the Jews left Egypt. Yes, the Torah is a gift to us from Hashem, and Matisyahu, whose name means "Gift of Hashem" was responsible for completing the manufacture of this Gift - since Hashem tell us to listen to the rabbis who uphold the Torah, which included instituting the Mitzva of Chanuka.

On a personal note, I was given only one name at my Bris - Shimon. It certainly is a most beautiful name, but growing up, I noticed that most of my classmates in whatever Yeshiva school had two Hebrew names. If I would have been named after a particular relative who had only one name, perhaps I would feel differently, but I felt at a relatively young age that something was missing. Some five years ago, in the midst of voice lessons from a very spiritual lady named Dr. Miriam J. Arman, who saved my voice when I was a Torah reader before I made Aliyah, (you can check her website or ( asked me one time if I had a second Hebrew name. While I didn't, I am a Levite, and as we know, it was particularly the Levites who sang in the Beit HaMikdash. She told me to use this as my strength in singing. However, it was right after this that a particularly name came to mind - not because of the name itself, but the one who had this name - the name of the Jewish hero Matisyahu Ben Yochanan Cohen Gadol. It took a long time for me to muster the courage to give myself an additional Hebrew name - this is usually only done when someone is G-d forbid very sick. But this past Rosh Chodesh Nissan - a time of new beginnings - I had myself given this additional name at the Keriat HaTorah of Rosh Chodesh. Now, I am called to the Sefer Torah as Shimon Matisyahu...Very interesting, because Shimon Matisyahu is the same Gematria as Keriat HaTorah (reading of the Torah) - 1327! I had no intention of this when I first wanted to give myself this 2nd Hebrew name, but in fact, I was a Torah reader for many years. (There are a number of other Gematrias related to the name Matisyahu that prove to me that it was meant for me to give myself this additional name, but is beyond the scope of our topic here - I hope to address this at another time) Additionally, in the Book of Chronicles, the 24th and last book in T'Nach, it mentions the list of the names of the 24 watches of the Levites who sang, like the 24 watches of the Cohanim. The 14th watch of the Levites was named after a Levi named Matisyahu (Divrei Hayamim I 25:21). As a Levi, I am greatly encouraged by this divine inspiration of giving myself this particular name for using my singing talents in reading the Torah. I hope that in the near future, I will B'Ezrat Hashem have the merit of singing in the Beit HaMikdash that we soon hope for.

Without me realizing this before I gave myself my second name Matisyahu, the historical hero of Chanuka was in fact the grandson of Shimon HaTzadik/Shimon the Just who was one of the first Cohanim Gedolim/High Priests of the Second Temple who was in his position for 40 years. He also was the last of the 120 members of the Anshei Knesset HaGedola/Men of the Great Assembly who instituted various prayers and Jewish laws to uphold Judaism. He is mentioned in Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers in which the second Mishna quotes him of saying "On three things does the world stand on: the Torah, the Avodah (prayer/sacrifices), and doing deeds of kindness".

There are a couple of famous people who have the name Matisyahu, and is also a name of a place. First of all, there is the famous singer named Matisyahu, just check his website at Then there is Rabbi Matisyahu Glazerson, Shlita who is famed for his findings of the Hidden Codes in the Torah. Virtually every Seforim store should have at least a few of his many books on his findings, some pertaining to recent events in Israel and around the world, pointing to the "End of Days" that we have to be prepared for doing repentance. And finally, there is a Moshav in Israel named Moshav Matisyahu ( whose rabbi is Rabbi Zev Leff, Shlita was my first Gemara Rebbe and spoke at my Bar Mitzva only months before he moved to Israel in 1983. You can check out his own website of Gemara Shiurim and his forum of questions and answers where you can pose a question to him at (if you are encountering problems with it, try it another time, but this is the correct website name).

By the way, my first name Shimon is similar to the number 8 in Hebrew - Shemoneh. Matisyahu of the Chanuka story, after whom I gave myself his name, was the one who is given credit by the Rabbis as the one responsible for the 8-day holiday of Chanuka. And the best way of fulfilling the Mitzva of lighting the Menorah is using olive oil - Shemen Zayit, the way that it was done in the Beit HaMikdash, in which Shemen, the Hebrew word for oil, is also similar to the number 8 in Hebrew. As the first letter of Matisyahu is Mem which is the Gematria of 40, his Yahrzeit - 15 Cheshvan - is either 40 days before Chanuka or the 1st day of Chanuka is the 40th day from his Yahrzeit (depending on whether Cheshvan has 29 or 30 days in the month). Also, the Sefer called Bnei Yissachar says that in the future - Cheshvan will be the month marking the dedication of the 3rd Beit HaMikdash. Matisyahu, whose Gematriya is the same as Beit HaMikdash (861), has his Yahrzeit right in the center of this month which in the future will mark the dedication of the upcoming Beit HaMikdash.

As the Maharal of Prague writes, the number 8 signifies Hashem's miracles which are beyond the regular nature of the world, the latter of which is signified by 7 as in the 7 days of the ordinary week. Matisyahu, who fought the potential spiritual genocide threatened by the Syrian Greeks, had no fear of the ordinary events around him - and thus this lead to the Jewish holiday marking our deliverance from spiritual genocide, having 8 days; just like the Sukkot holiday which concludes with Shemini Atzeret - the 8th day from the beginning of Sukkot, the day also being celebrated as Simchat Torah in Eretz Yisrael, when we conclude the Torah in which is hinted the name of Matisyahu.

Next time: Who in recent times followed in Matisyahu's footsteps and showed great bravery despite all odds? Stay tuned to a modern-day Matisyahu.

Yahrzeit of Matisyahu Ben Yochanan Cohen Gadol/15 Cheshvan, 5769