Monday, February 9, 2009

#19 - Making CHOICES Where It COUNTS

Yes, I am writing near the end of the day here on Tu B'Shvat and will soon be the next day on the Jewish calendar beginning at night. These two days in fact have something in common - the letter Teit. More on this a little later on.


The concept of Tu B'Shvat is first mentioned in the first Mishna of Tractate Rosh HaShana. You see, Tu B'Shvat is called the Rosh Hashana - The New Year - for trees. In modern times, this has been associated with planting new trees and other vegetation, especially in Israel; as well as eating new fruits over which one says the special blessing of Shehecheyanu - thanking Hashem for allowing us to live up to this time of eating the new fruit, as well as produce of the "Seven Species" that are associated with the land of Israel.

This is all very nice and dandy, but there are very important Mitzvos and Halachot/Jewish Laws that are associated with this date that is the cutoff date as far as when something was planted or fruit was picked. For example, it's forbidden to pick and eat fruit from a new tree for its first three years of its existance. Then, in the fourth year, the fruit have to be redeemed which can be done with a coin to be destroyed or discarded in order to be eaten. After that, they can be eaten without these restrictions. The basis of this is in Leviticus 19:23-25. (This is where the custom of cutting a boy's hair only after three years comes from). Other laws pertain to setting aside certain tithes (Terumot & Ma'aserot) depending on when the fruit was picked, which are applicable even nowadays in Israel. In any case, the years start from Tu B'Shvat, and in certain instances, part of a year can be considered a full year until the following Tu B'Shvat. (Before eating fruit in the above circumstances where restrictions or rules may apply, be sure that you know what the Jewish Law is from a Sefer/Jewish book that tells you exactly what they are or from your local Orthodox Rabbi - and how it works out with the dating of Tu B'Shvat as to when a year begins or ends).

Now with the date itself - we call it Tu (15) B'Shvat - in Shvat. Now normally, when spelling a number with two letters, it's with the higher unit where in English the number ends with a 0 - as 10, 20, etc., so it is Yud, Chof, etc. However, being that in spelling one of Hashem's names, it is Yud Hei or Yuf Vav, we don't want to have to spell it out on paper because it is forbidden to throw in the garbage or destroy one of Hashem's names (or holy writings/objects which if no longer will be used, have to be put in a container reserved to be buried in a cemetery), so we spell it instead using Teit - the previous letter/number to Yud, and Vov - the one after Hei - thus, adding to 15 like it would with Yud Hei (and so with 16 - Teit Zayin instead of Yud Vav).


With this being said, it's interesting how we can read the date another way. As it is spelled out in words - it's Tu and then the next word starting with Beit (Bi - in) and then the month Shvat. Now, if you rearranging the space, you take the Beit and place it immediately after Tu - Teit, Vav, and since it can also be read as a Veit (without the dot, as in the Sefer Torah, it doesn't have a dot in any case as no vowels may be written in the Sefer Torah), the word now reads as TOV - Good. That is the good (day) in Shvat. And indeed, as you will see in Blog #17, Tov/Good(ness) is very much associated with the land of Israel. And so we eat food of the "Seven Species" that are associated with Israel, as in this verse, "A Land of wheat, barley, grape, fig, and pomegranate; a Land of oil-olives and date-honey" (Deutronomy 8:8).

On a personal note, Tu B'Shvat was my very first holiday following making Aliyah some four years ago. Though I visited Israel before, I never celebrated this holiday in Israel before. Have to confess, didn't plant trees that day, but it's a Tu B'Shvat I'll never forget when a friend of mine invited me to his place to join his family in celebrating the day with the wide array of fruit.

Speaking of which, there is one other holiday that is associated especially with Israel - in fact, the only one with a historical background - of course, Chanuka! I should note that in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch - the Concise Code of Jewish Law - composed by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried ZT'L, at the end of the Laws of Chanuka in Chapter 139, he writes a short paragraph on Tu B'Shvat. While I don't know why he didn't make a separate chapter on this, as in fact, there is no Halachic significance or connection between Chanuka and Tu B'Shvat, these two holidays ARE connected with the concept of Israel. In fact, in the miracle of Chanuka, the Menorah was lit with olive oil, which come from the "Seven Species".

There is something else I would like to note here that I didn't mention before. I had mentioned in a Chanuka blog that this holiday corresponds to the Sefira/Spiritual Emanation of Hod/Glory.
Now, Hod is the Gematria of 15, and the Gemara notes that Hod refers to the Beit HaMikdash/Holy Temple. Now, Matisyahu - the original hero whose Macabee family brought the victory that led to Chanuka, when the Temple was once again accessible to the Jews following spiritual oppression from the Syrian Greeks, passed away on the 15th of Cheshvan. In other words, he passed away on the date of HOD/Glory in Cheshvan (there is a tradition that the future Third Temple will be dedicated in this month of Cheshvan), and as we just said, HOD refers to the Temple. Accordingly, both Matisyahu and Beit HaMikdash have the same Gematria (861). And so with Tu B'Shvat, the 15th of Shevat, which is the Rosh Hashana for trees, Rosh Hashana also has the same Gematria as 861!


Now, getting back to the verse about the Seven Species, the Hebrew for dates in this context is Devash/Honey. In fact, it's translated as date honey here just so you know what it is, but in fact in the original Hebrew, it doesn't mention the typical word for dates - Tamar. In fact, another one of the fruit - olives - is not mentioned just as the fruit itself, but more as olive oil, but at least it mentions olives as opposed to just oil, though with grapes - nothing is mentioned about wine. So, what's the deal here?

Never saw the answer, but let's figure it out here. First of all, wine is its own category, and the proof to this is that we say a special blessing just on wine or grape juice. With olive oil, it is also a very useful product in its own right, but it is not in fact consumed by itself like wine - far from it!
But it does enhance the taste of other food, and so it is recognized as such in the verse. So isn't it strange that the verse doesn't say the word at all for dates, but uses the word honey, which may make us think that it refers to bee honey? In fact, I never came across date honey in my life! For all that I know, it may be the sap from the date tree.

For the simple meaning of this, I admit that I will have to ask about this. But, there is a Gematria that I can point out here. Devash/Honey is the same Gematria as Isha/Woman. And the First Lady's name was Eve/Chava - whose Gematria is 19, the number of this blog post. Adam called his wife as such because Hee Haita Eim Kol Chai - she was the mother of all living beings. Now, the Torah compares mankind to a tree as in the verse -Ki HaAdam Eitz HaSadeh.
So on the holiday of trees, we speak of mankind - consisting of Adam/Man & Isha/Woman - as the one group of creatures, as opposed to angels or animals, who are able to grow and produce - both in the physical and spiritual senses. And this is the ultimate lesson of Tu B'Shvat - as long as Hashem grants life and health, we have the ability to grow spiritually like we do physically, for Hashem gives us the physical abilities to be used for spiritual purposes. And the ultimate place where Hashem was served was in the Holy Temple where the Kohanim, as the Macabee family was a part of, led the Jewish people in serving Hashem - including praying to Him. As we see in the beginning of Creation, Hashem created tree stubs, but it was left for Adam/Mankind to pray for rain in order that the trees can grow in full blossom. Hashem indeed created a beautiful world, but it's left for mankind to make or brake it.

There is a most significant event that took place in recent history that affected the world - the INTERNET. There is a correlationship between the original Tree of Knowledge - the tree that Adam and Eve partook from despite Hashem's orders not to eat from it, and today's Tree of Knowledge - the internet. Basically, the Talmud in Sanhedrin 38 tells us that in the 12 hours of the daytime of Yom HaShishi/Friday, Adam sinned in the 10th hour, that is, in the fourth quarter of the day. Now, being that the milleniums of the world correspond to the days of the week, it works out that today's Tree of Knowledge - the internet - began in public in the fourth quarter of this 6th millenium - the year 5750 (1990). No, I don't think I even heard of the internet back then, or at least I didn't understand what the news was really about if I heard about it, but there were a few savvy computer folks who already started using the internet in that year. As we know, many things can be used for good, or otherwise. Very unfortunately, untold much harm has been caused by the internet, but being that Hashem allowed it to be created, it was also meant to be used for good. Many Jews have became observant from learning Torah thru the net, many Shidduchim/marriage matches happened through it for those who may have not had a chance otherwise, and many people have been able to make a good living through it when few other choices were presented to them.


Speaking of making choices of good or evil, I want to tell you a word about tomorrow - Election Day in Israel. If one was looking in the street to see what the most "religious" Jews have to say (Yes, "religious" in quotes, because as far as I am concerned it's just a clinical word), one would have to juggle a bit to figure out who is saying the "truth". You see, you have the majority of what is called the Charedi world -the "very religious" world, most associated as those wearing black hats and hoods (think they are coats of some type) who can't seem to agree even amongst themselves who should be the party to vote for. You have Yahadus HaTorah - if you are Litvish/Yeshivish, Agudah - if you are Chasidic/Yeshivish, and Shas - if you are Sephardic. And then, you have the Satmar and Neturei Karta telling you that it is forbidden to vote in the secular Zionist elections, or you are taking a part in this evil setting.

Now, take it from me. I have been raised religious. I am very familiar with both the Chasidic and Litvish/Yeshivish worlds, and I'll tell you what this is REALLY about. True, there are different big Rabbis who seem to be saying a dozen different things here. But first a word about what goes in these Yeshivas supported partly by the Israeli government. Now, while many of the secular in the government hate the religious or what Judaism is really about, they know that they can't just do away with these religious institutions, and the government doesn't want a rebellion from a growing frum population. So, you know what works best in this world - MONEY! These Yeshivos are paid off with money from the government to shut their mouths so the government can continue doing its evil work - most notably in recent times - expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif. So frankly, the government doesn't really care all that much what religious party in the Knesset is what. The government knows that it's all a bunch of games when it comes to the religious parties - for after all, why isn't there one central religious party which would threaten the big parties Kadima, Likud, Labor, etc. It's ALL about politics, and everyone wants the piece of pie for themselves. Shas, as the so called "official" Sephardic party, has its own interests supporting its own Sephardic institutions (I have to admit though that there are many Sephardic individuals who give Tzedaka to people or institutions outside of the Sephardic world as well as they are well trained to give Tzedaka as a Mitzva to Jews in general who need money), when in fact, not all Sephardim are in agreement with this party such as Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, Shlita, former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel. Finally, the ones who say not to vote at all are in fact doing nothing but enforcing the parties that are enforcing the evils of helping the Arabs and expelling Jews, if there is in fact a party that can make a difference in reversing the helpless situation.

There is one gray area that I do have to touch upon. Within the Likud faction, you have what is called the Manhigut HaYehudit led by Moshe Faiglin, who is what you would call a "right winger". Problem is that even if this was a kosher way of being in the government, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu sized Faiglin down to a much lower ranking, to help prevent him being in the government. So, one has to realize that a vote for Likud is really nothing but just one more vote for Netanyahu who, while may seem big talk speaking of Anti-Semitic terror of Iran, has a track record of giving the Arabs control of Hebron, voting for the expulsion of Jews in Gush Katif, and gave in to the agreement in the Wye Summit after and despite President Clinton having reneged on his promise of freeing Jonathan Pollard as part of the original agreement which was to favor giving land/control to Arabs, and freeing many Arab terrorists.

So, are there any sane parties that actually care not just about religion, but about the future stake of Israel, and the safety of its Jewish citizens? A couple of months back - there seemed to be a possibility - HaBayit HaYehudi - the Jewish Home party. A seeming nationalistic religious party - it originally included some more of well known Pro-Israel personalities. But personally, I wasn't quite sure if this party was really on the right track. The next thing I know, the head of the party "Rabbi" Dr. (he's a professor) accepts an award from an organization that promotes co-existance between Jews and Arabs, which is the against the Torah/Kahane philosophy, and then when Baruch Marzel, a long time Kahane follower, who ran on his own as a party in the last election, attempted to be part of this party, he was rejected. Hummmph, my gut feelings proved right to me after all.

And then a true Chanuka miracle. On the last day of Chanuka, Ya'akov "Ketzaleh" Katz, a frum nationalistic Jew who not only showed much sacrifice on behalf of our people, but started Jewish settlements everywhere, including for the Charedi world despite much objectons and hardships, announced that he was leading the National Union/Ichud Leumi nationalistic religious party, which would include Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, a loyal Kahane follower in fourth place, and approved by Marzel instead of continuing to run his own party, I knew that this was it! Now mind you, I didn't vote for the National Union in the last election three years ago, because I knew that as the party it was then, it wasn't strong the way that Kahane was with NO COMPROMISE, and really didn't try stopping the Gush Katif fiasco very well to say the least. But now, this is a new nucleus of the finest who have shown that Israel truly means something to them. This party also combined a few small parties, which was a condition for Ketzaleh agreeing to head this party. But perhaps one of the biggest proofs to me of this party's credibility is Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu's blessings and request for Ketzaleh to head this party. In fact, Rabbi Eliyahu went out of his way this morning despite his illness to give a Beracha for Ketzaleh (Please continue praying for HaRav Mordechai Tzemach ben Mazal Tov). Now mind you, Rabbi Eliyahu was the former Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Israel. And who does he give his blessing to? An Ashkenazic Jew! It's actually no surprise, this rabbi has shown long ago how he relates to ALL Jews, regardless of affiliation here. He was on the forefront of attempting to prevent the Gush Katif fiasco from happening. He has offered himself to the previous U.S. presidents when Jonathan Pollard was in prison to take his place in the dungeon. Few rabbis have this kind of resume.

So my friends, unless you don't agree with the Torah or Kahane, or you don't care if rabbis or Yeshivos are stuffing their pockets with tainted government money, this is where the truth lies. I have already mentioned in a previous post whom I plan on voting for, but I feel that I have to outline what is really going on here, as there are some out there who get confused when attempting to sort out the truth from the politics. In the United States, I never voted, though if I would voted in the last couple of elections, it would voted just to put out the evil guy, but not because I thought that Bush or McCain would be lovers of Jews. But when it comes to voting for Torah, there is only one way - either one is for the Torah or against the Torah. Period! As far as I am concerned, with the Israeli parties - ALL other parties are against the Torah which includes pocketing government money to keep their mouths shut despite the "religious" garb, or will lead in that direction if the head of the party is not an observant Jew even if he is seemingly nationalistic pro-Israel. Thus, there is only ONE party who is pro Torah, pro Israel - 100% of the way, National Union as represented by the letter Teit. Indeed, the day following Tu B'Shvat should be called Yom Teit- the Day of the Teit, (the acronym of Yom Teit is Yud Teit, means the number 19, and this is my 19th post).

It may be Teit=9, as in the ninth plague that smote the Egyptians who enslaved the Jews, but that is what it is, darkness for the enemy but light for the Jews. It may be Teit, the letter that kabalisticly represents the month of Av in which the worst tragedies, including the destruction of the two Temples, have hit the Jewish Nation, but the middle of this month of Av - Tu B'Av, like the middle of our present month of Shvat as in Tu B'Shvat, represents some of the greatest happiness that has happened to the Jewish people, as when marriage matches were made, and other events representing Jewish unity; and while Shvat is Shevet, representing the Shevatim, the tribes of Israel - they will be united by their AV- true Jewish leadership which is ultimately under the leadership of our One and Only - Our FATHER in Heaven/Avinu Shebashamayim!

Tu B'Shvat & 16 Shevat 5769