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

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