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

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