Tuesday, March 3, 2009

#20 - Letter of SELF SACRIFICE

Today - 7 Adar - is the birthday and Yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu - Holy Moses. Despite all his accomplishments - there is perhaps one that reveals what he was truly about. Yes, there was the incident in his youth when he boldly struck dead the Egyptian taskmaster who was beating a Jewish slave. Indeed, he showed his Ahavat Yisrael - love for Jews, right from the getgo. But perhaps his biggest sacrifice was when Hashem wasn't exactly ready to forgive the Jews for the sin of the Golden Calf/Cheit Ha'Eigel. Even though in fact it was only a small amount of Jews who worshipped the god of gold, the rest of the Jews were held accountable for not stopping the evil deed.

Anyways, Moshe told Hashem that if in fact He would not forgive the Jews, then "erase me from Your book that You wrote" (Exodus 32:32). Yes, he asked Hashem to take out his name - Moshe's name - from the Torah. But I believe that this is more than just a name. Obviously, Moshe had a major play in the history of Jews even until just this point, so history couldn't exactly be rewritten. But we do know that the Torah represents eternity - those who follow the Torah assure themselves that they will live forever basking in Hashem's Presence. What I believe is that in fact Moshe was asking Hashem to remove him from existance if the Jews' existance was to be no more, for he felt that he shouldn't have it any better than they. In fact, when Hashem first confroted Moshe about what happened and offered to start a new nation from him, he refused to consider it.

Now, when Hashem or a Tzadik/righteous person says a promise or statement that is able to be potentially fulfilled, even if the condition for it no longer applies, what he says still will happen. Thus, even though Moshe refused Hashem's offer of being an ancestor of a new nation, the Bible and confirmed by the Sages - tells us that Moshe had numerous descendants come out from him. And similarly, even though Hashem in fact forgave the Jewish people from annihilation, still Hashem fulfilled Moshe's request from being left out from the Sefer Torah in some way. You see, virtually every Parsha from the birth of Baby Moses in Parshat Shemot except for a few Parshiyot in Deutronomy where Moshe speaks in the first person, has mention of his name. That is, except for this week's Parshat Tetzave, around which Moshe's day of birth & death always falls out. Now, there is a hint given to this that this is the Parsha that his name is left out. You see, the Hebrew word for M'Sifrecha "from Your book" can be read as M'Sefer Chaf - "from Book 20". The 20th Parsha is indeed Parshat Tetzave which is absent of Moshe's name. Now, a Parsha isn't exactly what is called a Sefer/Book as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deutronomy. It's a section of a book. So, it may sound like a nice piece of Torah here, but since when is a Parsha - a Sefer/book?

The question can be asked - when did Jews start reading from the Torah every week? The Talmud and Maimonidies both tell us that is was none other than Moshe who instituted reading the Torah on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat. Thus, reading the Torah every week is in fact the legacy of Moshe Rabbeinu/Moses our Teacher. Now the word Sefer/Book has the same Gematria as Shem/Name, both equalling 340. Thus, it is the 20th part of Moshe's name/legacy as represented by the SEFER TORAH - BOOK of the TORAH - that does not mention his name even once.

Speaking of Mesirut Nefesh - self sacrifice, the number 20 in relationship to this in fact had earlier roots. You see, Avraham Avinu/Abraham our Forefather of the 20th generation in parental line from Adam & Eve, was the first to show self sacrifice in willingness to give up his life when it came to a choice between worshipping the gods of the Chaldeans or having himself being thrown into a fiery furnace. As it turned out, even as he was in the fire that he was thrown into, he was not harmed or burnt even in the slightest.

In the Torah, while this story is elaborated in the Midrash, there is only a hint to this with a few words. If this is such an important story to teach us a lesson about sacrificing ourselves for our Judaism if need be, then how come the Torah/Chumash itself doesn't relate this story of Abraham's self-sacrifice unlike other stories of him serving Hashem?

Perhaps this hints to the fact that Abraham in fact could have justified himself paying "lip service" to the idols so he could be saved from being killed and then escape that country to spread his message about serving only "One G-d" elsewhere. But in this instance, Abraham didn't try to fool the ones who wanted him to worship idols to avoid being thrown into the fiery furnace or justify doing something wrong to do a lot more good later. He didn't spend time figuring out what the best choice would be - he was a servant of Hashem, and he knew exactly what Hashem wanted. There was no time for long stories or learning a piece of Gemara to figure out what the correct thing would be to do. It happened very quickly, and then after Hashem saved him, it was time to move on to the next stage in life. After all, to some who mockingly view the Bible as "Bible stories", there is no point in writing such a "fictitious tale" of someone who wasn't burnt in the slightest in the midst of a fiery furnace, unlike other more
"logical" stories about Abraham. For those who truly want to know what the Torah has to say, and have complete faith like Abraham who wanted to know what the Torah has to say, turn to our Sages of blessed memory who instituted different things to uphold and keep the Torah. They are the ones to whom we turn to for learning details of what the Bible tells us to do or what happned in the course of history.

This is my 20th post. I hope that through my 20 blogs that I have helped influence at least one Jew in some way of being closer to Hashem, to Eretz Yisrael, to love other Jews who may be of a different following, to have a little more self sacrifice to be in Hashem's army and respond to the call of Mi L'Hashem Eilay - "Who is for Hashem come to me" declared by Moshe at the sin of the Golden Calf, and Matisyahu, leader of the Maccabbes, following killing a Hellenistic Jew who dared to offer a pig on an altar to an idol. And indeed, from the Torah, male Jews from the age of 20 and up were the ones recruited in the Jewish army.

And speaking of Matisyahu whose actions eventually led to the miracle of Chanuka, this 20th Parsha begins with Hashem telling Moshe to instruct the Jews who will "take for you, pure olive oil beaten for light to be lit as an eternal lamp". Now, the question can be asked, what does it mean when it says "take for you". Why didn't Hashem simply have Moshe to instruct the Jews to light a lamp in the Tabernacle without saying "for you"?

It has been said that this Parsha which is always read within a week of 7 Adar, the Yahrzeit of Moshe, hints this to us by mentioning lighting a lamp "for you", that is, in memory of Moshe, whose name is not mentioned in this Parsha even once, which also hints to the fact that he passed away at this time of the year.

It can also be said that this also hints to the Mitzva of lighting the Menorah on Chanuka. As this subject of lighting the lamp in the Tabernacle begins the 20th Parsha, the word for the number 20 in Hebrew is Esrim, which in turn is the Gematria of 620. While there are 613 Mitzvot of the Torah, the Rabbis instituted a number of additional things which are called the Sheva Mitzvot D'Rabbanan/seven commandments of the Rabbis. While the Torah enjoins us not to add or subtract to the Mitzvot, these commandments or institutions of the rabbis are not considered as additions per se, because the Torah also tells us not to "turn aside from what they (the rabbis) will tell us" in the original context referring to what the Beit Din, Jewish court tell us to do. Thus, in this context, these Sheva Mitzvot D'Rabbanan when added to the 613 Mitzvot add the total of 620 Mitzvot. With this being said, the very last Mitzva to be instituted was the kindling of the Menorah lights on Chanuka, which came into being due to the Mesirut Nefesh of Matisyahu and the Maccabbes. Hence, from Abraham to Moses to Matisyahu, the number twenty is a number most related to the concept of giving of oneself for the ultimate cause of Hashem's will.

The concept of Mesirut Nefesh, giving of oneself, illustrates the ultimate level of work on behalf of others as opposed of doing things for one's own self or pleasure. When it came to the work of building the Tabernacle, Hashem told Moshe of the appointment of Bezalel to be the chief architect, who had the three qualities of wisdom, understanding and knowledge for this task. In Hebrew, the phraseology of this is Chachma, Bina, V'Da'at (mentioned in the fourth blessing of the weekday Shemoneh Esrei, the main daily prayer, except for Nusach Ashkenaz) which is the Gematria of 620, which in turn is the Gematria of the word Esrim, the word for the number 20.
And as the Midrash tells us, the Tabernacle was completed on the 25th of Kislev, but Hashem wanted the dedication to be at another time on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. However, Hashem made it up to the date of 25 Kislev which would be the future date of the 1st day of Chanuka when the Maccabbes came into the Temple and lit the Menorah, which was the result of their Mesirut Nefesh of fighting for their religious rights which were challenged by the Syrian Greeks.

The above concepts of Chachma, Bina & Da'at are the intellectual Sephirot, spiritual spheres or emanantions. The concept of Keter/crown, whose Gematria is also 620, is immediately above these three intellectual components. The word Keter, besides having the same Gematria of 620, also contains the letters of the very number of 620, which are Kaf-Tav-Reish. These three letters themselves are all related to the number 20. The first letter Kaf is the Gematria of 20, the Tav is 400, whose square root is 20 - i.e. 20*20, and the Reish is the 20th letter of the Alef Beit.

Touching on the number 400 as being the square root of 20, this number is also associated with work. Getting back to Abraham, Hashem told him in a vision that his descendants would be strangers in a land not theirs where they will be enslaved for 400 years. While the slavery part didn't actually happen for 400 years, but only 116 years in Egypt, the 400 years countdown did begin with the birth of his son Isaac, who was included in his descendants, as even the land of Israel where Abraham was living to whom it was promised to his descendants was inhabitated by other peoples at the time, so in fact, his descendants beginning with Isaac lived in lands not belonging to them until their exodus from Egypt when they then lived in the desert which didn't belong to any one people but free for all until their Aliyah to Israel. Perhaps when Hashem began off telling Abraham in this scenario by promising him the land of Israel by saying "I am the one who took you out of Ur Casdim", He was implying that Abraham's descendants would have to also go through the concept of work/slavery in Egypt, the same way that Abraham was willing to give up his own life having Mesirut Nefesh in his hometown of Ur Casdim. In fact, Hashem used the same language here of "Who took you out of" with Abraham leaving Ur Casdim as He used in the Ten Commandments where Hashem says that He is Hashem "Who took you out of" Egypt.

In any case, we see that this number 400 as the makeup of 20*20 is also associated with work, with the physical preparation, concluding with the Exodus, that it took for the Jews to receive the Torah in their 401st year from the birth of Isaac their ancestor, which took place on the date of the Exodus who was the first Jew to be circumcised at the age of eight days, the makeup of the Mitzva of Brit Mila/circumcision. The number 401 which is Tav Alef, are the beginning letters of the words Torah & Orayta - the Aramaic word for Torah.

It's worthy to note that there is a custom to read a special poem about the beauty of the Torah right before the reading of the Torah on (the first day of) Shavuot, called Akdamut - literally means introduction, the language of which is in Aramaic, which is also the same language of the Talmud and Zohar. Each of these stanzas end with words ending with Tav/Sav and Alef. The reason for this is because these are the last and first letters, respectively, of the Alef Beit. And the reason why it is first the last letter and then the first letter is because it hints to the concept that when we conclude the Torah as we do on Simchat Torah, we immediately begin it anew.

Thus, in order for us to achieve spiritual accomplishment, we have to work at it, and not wait for spirituality to come to us. It's very easy just to sit at home, or in the nice fluffy chair in one's spacious office where he is graced as the president/CEO of a company, or as a rabbi of a congregation who makes a six digit figure a year. But ultimately, in order to accomplish what it takes for a spiritual enterprise or workplace to be successful, much devotion and living out of one's comfort zone will be needed for the end result of one's full potential being actualized. Hence, this was the ultimate purpose of the slavery in Egypt, though Hashem was merciful to the Jewish people, and didn't have them being enslaved for the full 400 years as it originally would have been had the Egyptians not treated the Jews so cruelly. This was to prepare the Jews for the Torah, instilling within them the concept of needing to work for one's spiritual accomplishments, not just to read the Bible as a nice fluffy book, and then fulfill their physical appetites from food to sex, as many Christians do, who read the Bible daily at work as a cover up for what they are really like.


The 7th of Adar is the conclusion of Moshe's final set of sermons, comprising the book of Deutronomy, that began on the beginning of the month of Shevat. I had mentioned previously of the first Parsha of this book which is the 44th Parsha of the Torah, relating this to the 44th President (or Unpresident) of the United States - who took office within a week before this month. But significantly, it was in this month that his long talked and awaited bogus stimulus plan was voted in. As we know from today's biggest Kabbalistic rabbis and autistic children, this will not help; and if anything, Jews will be blamed for the United State's financial downfall.

A few months ago, I had talked about the year 2009, and how it relates to Bitachon/Trust, as the first two letters of the Hebrew word can spell the secular year of 2009 - Beit (as in the beginning of a number) and Teit. I had mentioned then that either Jews trust in Hashem "In G-d we trust", or in Obama - Period. Amazingly, this past month of Shvat can be read as an acronym - the letters of Shvat - Shin, Veit/Beit, Teit - can be read as Shnat Beit Teit - The YEAR 2009!

Hold on, folks! In the 44th Parsha of the Torah that started being narrated in the beginning of Shvat, we have hint to a different secular year - 1789. Remember that year (well, we weren't living in a physical plane then, but hopefully, we remember a little American history)? Yes, it was the year that the FIRST President - George Washington (incidentally, he was one president who was good to Jews) - took the oath of office. Now, get out your Hebrew Chumash - Deutronomy 1:16 - V'Atzave Et Shofteichem - "I (Moses) commanded your judges". The letters in the word Et Shofteichem - Your judges - start spelling out at Alef (1,000) , Tav (400), Shin (300), Fei/Pei (80), Teit (9)- the number starts with Alef which becomes a 1,000 (Incidentally, Elef - thousand - is the same lettering as Alef) - and is indeed the NUMBER 1789! Continuing on in the verse, Moshe exhorts the judges "Listen to your brethren and judge righteously, whether brother or stranger". Amazing!

Remember, it is only a leader who follows in Hashem's footsteps - Jewish or not - that can help bring Hashem's prosperity. But a leader who is NOT following in the Holy path - such as Obama who is not even qualified to serve as President as per the most important United States document of justice - the Constitution, will only lead the country to failure. And the now UnSupreme Court who denied the petition of Berg vs Obama about Obama's ineligibilty to serve has paved the way for the ultimate downfall of a country that may have started on the right foot, but we are about to see the breakdown of its society - and I can tell you, more and more Anti-Semitism IS PRESENTLY HAPPENING in the United States.

Purim is coming around the corner, and I hope to tell you better news next time - but keep up the self sacrifice that will make a difference for the eternity of the Jewish people.

Expect to post next - hopefully before Purim.

7 Adar 5769 - Birthday & Yahrtzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu

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