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