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

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