Thursday, March 12, 2009

#22 - REVEALING TORAH SECRETS

Many years ago, I saw a Charlie Brown comic strip where Charlie pronounces the number 22 as "tootie two".

Hoped you liked this little Purim joke, but putting all jokes aside, the number 22 in fact plays a most significant role in the Megilla - and the Torah. While my last post stressed the number 21 as having significance with Megillat Esther, this book in the T'nach/Jewish Bible (as opposed to the Old Testament where some of the books are placed in a different order) being the 21st Book in today's order of books in the T'nach, including the Artscroll edition of the T'nach (Artscroll www.artscroll.com is supervised by some of the biggest Torah scholars today); the Talmud, Maimonides and the Shulchan Aruch/Code of Jewish Law in fact list the Book of Esther as the 22nd book of the 24 books of the T'nach. In fact, this Book of Esther ends with the number 22, which hints to a most significant Mitzva of the Torah. If you have found my past posts interesting, this 22nd post will be one of the most spellbound pieces of written information that you will ever have read.

One of the connections of Esther with the number 22 can be seen in the beginning of Psalm 22 - "For the conductor, on the Ayelet HaShachar, a psalm by David". Now, for a translation, Ayelet HaShachar can mean dawn in one context. In any case, there is a Midrash on Tehillim that says that this phrase refers to Esther. Thus, Esther is especially featured in the beginning of Psalm 22.

Besides this, I am referring specifically to a letter in the Megilla that is written larger than the other letters. The letter Tav - the first of the two - in the word VaTichtov- "She wrote" (Esther 9:29) is the big letter here. Mind you, there are many letters throughout the T'nach that are written either bigger or smaller than the other letters. Of course there is a reason for every single one like that. But this one has an unusual significance.

To bring up another point from my last post, this Purim was most significant because it fell out on the LAST solar month of the 28 solar cycle, which is the 336th month, and Purim is the Gematria of 336. Accordingly, Tav is the 22nd letter and LAST letter of the Aleph Beit.

Anyways, have another question on the large Tav here. Why is it specifically the first Tav, and not the second Tav in this word?

Now, in case any women reading my previous post may feel a little uncomfortable even though I was polite as I could be writing about the specific role of women, you will feel on cloud nine by the time you finish reading this post here. You see, Esther will soon be associated here with a most significant Mitzva of the Torah.

If you know a little Hebrew, you may be aware that it is a little different than English. You see, when you say a word in English that is plural, such as the word writings, there is no sense of masculine or feminine in this word. In Hebrew, it can be written as Ketuvim, ending with a Final Mem (Mem Sofit) which is masculine, or Ketuvot, ending with a Tav or Sav which is feminine. Another example, as referring to people themselves, is the phrase married ones. In Hebrew, it can be written as Nesuim, which is referring to married men; or Nesuot referring to married women.

So, the Tav at the end of certain words in Hebrew denotes a feminine aspect or the females themselves. Similarly, it is the first Tav in VaTichtov that is feminine, referring to Queen Esther; because if it is masculine, then the word would be VaYichtov - a Yud instead of a Tav.

Now, here is another question I will pose here. We said a moment ago that in masculine/feminine words - a word ending with a Mem Sofit is masculine and ending with a Tav is feminine. If so, there is a big irony here - the word for women in Hebrew is Nashim, ending with a Mem Sofit, as it does for men - Anashim! What's the deal here?!

The deal is Gematria. You see, the word Nashim/Women equals 400, the number for the letter Tav! This is why it is the letter Tav that is feminine, it equals the word the Hebrew word for women - Nashim - every time.

Now, there are Midrashim that mention that there are 22 righteous women who are mentioned in the Bible. The last one of these is Esther. Morever, King Solomon who was no stranger to women, concludes his Book of Proverbs/Mishlei with 22 verses beginning each with another letter of the Alef Beit in order of letters. Thus, it is the VERY LAST VERSE in Proverbs that corresponds to Esther: "Give her the fruits of her hands, and let her be praised in the gates by her very own deeds".

There are a number of other explanations given about this big Tav, including from a rabbi known as the Chida who points out that this hints to the miracles of the Megilla being the last ones mentioned in the Bible. However, I am going to give you an explanation that I am surprised I haven't seen before.

O.K. - The LAST letter, the LAST righteous woman mentioned in the Bible and...the LAST Mitzva of the Torah. And this is...the WRITING of a Sefer Torah! So, the last letter of the Alef Beit - Tav - is enlarged in the Hebrew word VaTichtov "She WROTE". And as I mentioned in my previous post, that there are halachic aspects of the Megilla that resemble a Sefer Torah such as the qualifications of the parchment.

Now, let's get to the actual verse that we have been touching on. "Then Queen Esther daughter of Abihail wrote, along with Mordechai the Jew...this second letter of Purim". In Hebrew, the normal word for "wrote" in plural is (Va)Yichtevu if it includes at least one male, or (Va)Tichtevu if only females. But here, it is in the singular for a woman - VaTichtov - even as it mentions Mordechai's name afterwards. What's going on here?

Yes, the Megilla is named after Esther, NOT Mordechai, as great as a Tzadik/righteous person he was and took a chance giving up his own life as well disobeying the king's orders to bow down to Haman. In fact, we don't see anywhere where a woman wrote any part of the Bible - that is, except for this Book. (The Book of Ruth was written by the prophet Samuel). It seems that Mordechai is just mentioned here as an accessory. And if it is true that Mordechai could have been the one to have written it, or part of it; well, the credit for it is given to Esther. And not only that, but she is also credited for the annual celebration of Purim, because as Rashi points out - what does it mean when it says "the SECOND letter of Purim"? She wrote it a second time with an enclosure of instituting Purim. So, she is in fact credited for everything, and not Mordechai, except as a lending hand to the matter. How come?

And here is where the uniqueness of women comes into place. As we know, just like the tribe of Yissachar learned Torah and the tribe of Zevulun supported his brotherly tribe - and as such, has an equal share in the Torah learning, the same it is with the women being supportive of their husbands and children learning Torah. Yes, the women have half of the reward of the men learning Torah (but don't think you can outsmart Hashem by staying single for this reason - Hashem sends curve balls, and if you get married and have children, you have eternal merits for all the Torah and Mitzvot that your children and descendants will perform). In fact, we see that in the blessings that Ya'akov and Moshe gave the tribes, Zevulun precedes Yissachar because Yissachar's learning Torah all day as opposed to working part of the time is only thanks to Zevulun supporting him.

Now, the Talmud (Chulin 139b) asks, "Where is Esther hinted in the Torah"? V'Anochi Haster Astir... "But I will surely have concealed My face on that day because of all the evil that it did, for it had turned to gods of others" (Deutoronomy 31:18) What we know about the miracles of Purim is that they happened in a natural way. There were no open miracles the way that it happened in the story of Passover. The events of Purim seemed to be like it was "just the way it turned out", not that anyone would be overwhelmed the way he/she would be when witnessing a miracle, because this was in fact a time when Hashem "hid his face" from the Jewish nation, as it didn't follow the Torah quite right at that time. Even after Mordechai warned them not to participate in the king's party, they didn't listen. It was only after it was made known to them of the possibility of being killed by the nations around them did it bring them to repentance mode.

Anyways, what is the VERY NEXT VERSE following this one that hints to Esther? "So now, write this song (the Torah) for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Israel, place it in their mouth..." (Deutronomy 31:19) We learn from this verse...the 613th Mitzva/commandment - the LAST commandment of the Torah! So indeed, Esther, the LAST of the righteous women mentioned in the Bible, is most connected to the LAST Mitzva of the Torah of writing a Sefer Torah, as hinted in the Megilla with the letter Tav - the LAST letter of the Aleph Beit, that means the word SHE in the context of "She (Esther) wrote". By the way, the word Torah is in fact a feminine word; as in many Hebrew words, if it ends with the vowel Kometz and letter Hei, it denotes a feminine word. And yes, the letter Tav begins the word TORAH and T'NACH.

(Wish to put this in parenthesis since the following doesn't have a direct connection with our topic but is related by the similar numbers. When Ya'akov was returning to Israel with his family, he sent a message to his brother Esav telling him that "Im Lavan Gartie" - "I have lived with Lavan". Rashi, who normally gives only the simple meaning of the verses, tells us that the word Gartie - "I have lived" has the same letters as Taryag, as in the Taryag - 613 Mitzvot, meaning that despite having lived with his evil uncle Lavan, Ya'akov still kept all of the commandments. In response, Esav got together 400 men to go fight Ya'akov. Anyways, just as we see a corelationship between the 613th Mitzva and the letter Tav which equals 400; so do we see a connection between the 613 Mitzvot and Esav's response to try to combat physically, and spiritually, Ya'akov with his 613 Mitzvot.)

And speaking of the Bible, the number of chapter and verse about Esther writing the Megilla is 9:29. Put the two numbers together - 929 - and it is the exact amount of chapters in the Jewish Bible! And while we are at it, let's note what the Gematria of the word VaTichtov is - 828, and so is the phrase Razei Torah - "SECRETS OF THE TORAH", so called because until one point, these secrets of the Torah - Kabbalah - was HIDDEN from most people, and so is the word HaOtiyot/The Letters - which can also be read as Hei=5 letters for the word V'Tichtov consists of 5 letters has the Gematria of 828, as we are indeed writing about the LAST LETTER of the Alef Beit. And counting the number of chapters in the Bible from Genesis to Chronicles (in the order that is found in virtually all standard T'nachs today where the Book of Esther is the 21st Book) - what number chapter is this wording about Esther in? It is the 828th chapter of the Bible! Indeed, the Bible, in our terminology, is called the Torah She'Bichtav - "The Written Torah". And while it is only the first five books of the Bible that is called the Penteteuch/Chumash that is written as a Sefer Torah as far as the Mitzva of writing a Sefer Torah is concerned, the rest of the Bible is an extension of this Sefer Torah. This explains why it says in the above quoted Talmud "Where is Mordechai hinted in the Torah?" "Where is Esther hinted in the Torah?" As the Vilna Gaon says, EVERYTHING in history, EVERY person, all that was and will be is hinted somewhere in the Chumash.

Along these lines, speaking of the number 828 & Esther, each of these are spelled out in the Chumash exactly one time - both within three verses of each other. Following Cain's murder of his brother Abel, Hashem tells Cain that among his punishments, Lo Tosef Teit Kocha Lach "The ground will no longer GIVE you its STRENGTH" - The letters Tav, Tav, Kaf, Cheit in Teit Kocha spells the number 828. And then in response to the punishments that Hashem outlined to Cain, he responded back among other statements that he made U'Mipanecha Esater - "I WILL BE HIDDEN from your presence". This word Esater - "I will be hidden" are the very letters that spell the name Esther. (See Genesis 4:12-14).

So what is the connection between the story of Cain & Esther? Cain performed the first murder and genocide ever in history, and thus the consequences of the murder of his brother was far worse than future murders in history because this was the beginning of time, so who knows how many billions of children were prevented from being born! And Haman attempted to perform genocide on the Jewish people - all on one day as though human life had absolutely no meaning when it came to Jews, and thus kill off the entire Chosen Nation of Hashem at one shot so there wouldn't be any Jews left and thus there would be no further reason for this world's existence if the Jews, as keepers of the Torah who cause the world to exist no longer exist themselves. It was just that Esther saved the day by having Haman killed, leading to avert the evil decree by allowing the Jews to legally defend themselves. In fact, it is in the 9th Chapter of the Book of Esther, the 828th Chapter of the T'nach/Bible, that the Jews defended themselves, thus allowing them to continue their existance and subsequently in the very same chapter, Esther writes down the miracle of Purim, as exemplified by the word Va'Tichtov which has the Gematria of 828.

Yes, the division of the chapters and verses, as arranged sometime during the Middle Ages, was in fact done by a non-Jew. So you may ask, how could there really be a significance here with the number of chapters, verses, etc, if it was a non-Jew who decided how they should be divided? But this is how Hashem does things sometimes - in HIDDEN ways. Hashem may use non-Jews to accomplish things for our benefit, as Hashem used King Achashverosh to help the Jews at the end of the Purim story. And if anyone thinks that he turned to a lover of Jews, our Rabbis in Talmud Megilla tell us that he was the same rotten king from beginning to end. Hashem just used him to help us - he was enthralled with Esther's beauty, he learned of Mordechai saving him from being killed by two guys who wanted to do away with the king, Esther told him of Haman's intentions of wanting to hurt the kingdom when the king was enraged as a result and then he saw Haman forcing himself on Esther when in fact, it was an angel that forced Haman on Esther so the king would do away with Haman. So truly, even what non-Jews do is ultimately Hashem's doing - even though non-Jews have free choice as Jews do, as in other situations when non-Jews hate and hurt us but Hashem allows this to happen to wake us and realize that we cannot forget who we are and our mission in this world.
(Anyone learning Daf Yomi, the daily Talmudic page that is learned worldwide, should realize that the setting of how the page format of the Talmud that we see it as today was in fact also arranged by a non-Jew!)

Now, getting back to the verse in the Chumash that hints to Esther - this is the 5740th verse of the Torah. The significance? In Hebrew, this number is spelled as Hei, Tav, Shin, Mem. Now, spell this word backwards - Mishteh, translated in English as feast, having a meal in celebration based on Shetiya, the root of this word, which means drinking, based on drinking wine. Anyways, this word is mentioned 40 times in all of the T'nach. Half of these times - 20 times - is mentioned in...Megillat Esther! From King Achashverosh's Mishteh/feast for the public to the Mitzva of having a Mishteh/Purim feast, this word seems to be a key theme in the Purim story. Indeed, it was the two times of Esther declaring a Mishteh for the king and Haman that brought Haman's downfall! (It is significant to note that the five times that this word is mentioned in the Chumash are all in Genesis, the period of time when the Torah was so to speak HIDDEN, that is, before the Torah was given).

The reversal of the letters of a number is a most interesting display of the concept of VeNahafoch - turning to the reverse, as in Esther 9:1 where it says that the situation of the Jews got reversed from the threat of total annihilation to the Jews having control over their enemies. And indeed, this is through what happened with the concept of Mishteh/feasting itself in the Megilla, as the Jews took of the forbidden feast of King Achashverosh which nearly caused their destruction as punishment for this, but as a result of them doing Teshuva/repentance and Esther holding two feasts to get rid of Haman - in fact called Mishteh Esther, it resulted that not only the Jews were simply saved, but that at the end, they GAINED a Mitzva of having a feast on Purim/Seudat Purim. This concept is in total consonance with a Ba'al Teshuva - one who repents, and does it out of love for Hashem, that not only does he/she have no more Aveirot/sins; but in fact, the sins turn into merits. And indeed, the 5740th verse in the Torah where it says that Hashem will hid His face from the Jews as a result of them sinning where it hints to Esther's name is the negative connotation, but...the Hebrew number for 5740 when in reverse became at the end a most positive thing - the Mitzva of Seudat Purim as a result of Mishteh Esther - what Esther did physically, and spiritually. It is at this feast that Jews (especially when drinking) want to show the most that they are proud of being Jewish, and are not looking to hide it. We have seen all too well what has happened in the past when Jews have tried to hide themselves from showing that they were Jewish which resulted in Hashem in turn hiding His face, especially in the era of before and during the Holocaust.

Speaking of LAST, on a Halachic note, the very LAST words of the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim - the Code of Jewish Law that deals with everyday life, including the holidays are (quoted from Proverbs 15:15) V'Tov Lev MISHTEH Tamid - "A good hearted person FEASTS continously" (Chapter 697=Brit Mila/circumcision, and 14 Adar was the date of the Brit Mila of Moshe Rabbeinu, and it is a strong custom to have a feast following the Brit Mila) dealing with the laws of Purim - and particularly - about feasting a little bit on the 14th of the 1st Adar in a Jewish leap year even though it is technically not Purim (as Purim is celebrated only on the 14th of the 2nd Adar), this part written by Rabbi Moshe Isserleis, known as the Rama, writing the differences in Jewish law as related to Ashkenazic Jews, as a comment to the body of the Shulchan Aruch written by Rabbi Yosef Karo.

And indeed, the above verse in the Chumash that hints to Esther and as related here to the Mitzva of feasting on Purim is followed by the VERY NEXT VERSE that mentions the LAST Mitzva of the Torah, which is writing a Sefer Torah/Torah Scroll! And just like this part of the Shulchan Aruch is called Orach Chaim - "Path of Life", so indeed is the Torah - as the Chumash - The Five Books of Moses - which is the wording of the Sefer Torah that includes the 613 Mitzvot, the "Path of Life". The Halachot/Jewish Laws of everyday living is the result of much learning and debate of the Rabbis in the Oral Torah basing many of their decisions on the wording of the Chumash to learn how to serve Hashem correctly. And even though Purim as a holiday did not exist in Moses' days, the enactment of this holiday with its special Mitzvot from reading the Megilla to feasting are what the rabbis enacted, and the Torah tells us to follow what the rabbis instruct us in Jewish Law.

(It is most significant to note that the Yahrzeit of the AUTHOR of the Shulchan Aruch - Rabbi Yosef Karo is 13 Nissan, the date that the scribes WROTE Haman's evil decree of annihilating the Jews - which in our present Jewish calendar setting - will always fall out on the same day of the week as the past Purim on 14 Adar, and the same applies to the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Moshe Isserleis which is 18 Iyar (Lag BaOmer). Additionally, the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (passed away in 5746/1986) who was the biggest Posek (decider of Halacha) of his time who is the AUTHOR of over 1,800 letters, comprosing his multi-volume Igros Moshe, dealing with all types of matters in Halacha, is 13 Adar, the date that the Jews faught back their enemies who were out there to fight the Jews based on the original letters written on 13 Nissan to annihilate the Jews, and whose birthday is the same as that of Moshe Rabbeinu - 7 Adar, as well as Moshe Rabbeinu's Yahrzeit, and on his last day of 7 Adar, Moshe Rabbeinu miraculously WROTE 13 TORAH SCROLLS!)

WRITING about the last letter of the Alef Beis and the Mitzva of writing a Sefer Torah, I would like to point out to our readers here about a most unique Sefer, "Understanding the Alef-Beis" by Rabbi Dovid Leitner, who has incredible information on the Alef Beis relating not only to Gematriot, as displayed by the Talmud and other rabbis, but also using mathematics and science as proof of the Alef Beis being a creation of Hashem the same way as the words of the Torah/Chumash are from Hashem, which is the source of what is known as the "Hidden Codes" of the Torah, proof that this is G-d made, NOT man made. Let me know if you are have trouble locating this Sefer in your local Judaica bookstore, and I will give you contact info about this most unique work. (In this Sefer, there is a section about the significance of the small and big letters in the Chumash)


PARSHAT PARAH

Of the four special Torah readings that we read from Adar (or the Shabbat before Adar) to Nissan; the third one, which we read after Purim, deals with the Red Heifer that was used to purify Jews from contact with the dead (Numbers 19:1-22). Note the Hebrew word for heifer - Parah, which is similar to the word Purim. Moreover, this section of the Torah has exactly 22 verses, as we mentioned before about the connection of the number 22 with Purim. Also, the whole essence of this Mitzva is HIDDEN, meaning, the real reason for this Mitzva is not revealed to us.

It's interesting to note that being that this section is in the beginning of Parshat Chukat, it is read additionally every year besides Shabbat morning; on Shabbat afternoon, Monday and Thursday - that is, the first 17 verses. Now, in Halacha, if one read only the first 17 verses when we are supposed to be having this special reading at this time of the year and the Sefer Torah was put back - the law is that the whole section of 22 verses has to be read, not just the last five verses seperately. In fact, there are other times when in similar situations, one does not have to take out the Sefer Torah again to even read the verses that were omitted. But here, ALL 22 verses must be read in one shot.


IN CONCLUSION

Since I started http://www.gematriot.blogspot.com/ on the evening immediately following Simchat Torah in Israel, we have had some amazing journeys. As in this blog, there were times that AS I WAS WRITING, I came up with sudden discoveries, such as now with the significance of the number 828. Perhaps my all time favorite is the one pertaining to the 669 divided sections/Parshiyot in the Sefer Torah, the 401st such section is the one mentioning the Korbanot/sacrifices that the leader of the tribe of Shimon, my namesake, brought following the dedication of the Mishkan/Tabernacle. Correspondingly, the 401th mention of the 669 times that Jerusalem is mentioned in the rest of the Bible (as the name of Jerusalem is ironically not mentioned even once in the Sefer Torah) is that of Psalms 147:12, the very verse that I recite daily at the end of the Shemoneh Esreh prayer that begins with the letter Shin and ends with a Final Noon/Noon Sofit, as my name Shimon does - Shabechi Yerushalayim Et Hashem Halleli Elokaiyich Tzion - "Praise Hashem, O Jerusalem, laud your G-d, O Zion"! This is bearing in mind that 669 is one of the Gematriot of the word Gematria, as I mentioned in my first two posts, and it is also the number of the chapter that is about Simchat Torah when we finish reading the Sefer Torah which consists of 669 Parshiyot - in the first section of the code of Jewish Law - Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim.

Sometimes I ask myself if this is all really worth it, after all, how many people actually read my blogs? And even when I have E-mailed to some rabbis or Jewish authors about my blogspot and if they don't seem to be interested reading it, I do know that a few people do; and though if I didn't do this, at times staying up hours past midnight, I would be spending some of the time learning Torah by myself instead. Then again, I think of all the great rabbis who wrote all kinds of Seforim/Torah books, and in some cases, they were lost to the public before they even had a chance of being published, and these rabbis felt real bad about spending their time writing instead of learning or teaching Torah, when their writings never even saw the light of day. But there is one comfort if nothing else - we are in fact enjoined by our rabbis to write Chiddushim - new thoughts in Torah learning, and is part of the fulfillment of the last Mitzva of the Torah, and we also get rewarded for learning Torah even if we are not pronouncing the words of Torah with our lips as Torah learning is normally conducted as such. And now with the internet, unless G-d forbid some bomb was able to destroy the World Wide Web, the writings are permanently stored without fear of getting lost. And with the right type of promotion (and you readers can perhaps help me find ways of doing this), this can be indeed be a website, blogspot, or whatever you like to call it, that can in the near future be read WORLDWIDE.

I have named this 22th blog - "Revealing Torah Secrets" as is the name of the subtitle of my blogspot http://www.gematriot.blogspot.com/, as this is Megillat Esther, which literally means "Revealing what I keep Secret". This is the essence of Purim - about which our rabbis tell us that even if all the other holidays were to be non-existant in the future, this holiday will be one that will forever be celebrated. People may joke about what is called "Purim Torah", and you will hear Yeshiva students when drunk on Purim joking around saying Gematriot whether they make sense or not - but indeed, Purim is ultimately the celebration of feeling free of revealing Torah secrets that Hashem wants us to reveal - because this is the ultimate "Praise Hashem" and "Laud your G-d", the Jerusalem and Zion of Torah learning. "For from Zion will the Torah come forth, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).

17 Adar, 5769

P.S. Note the timing of this post - 1:02 PM. As we spoke of the 828th chapter of the Bible, so is it the 102th chapter from the end of the Bible.

3 comments:

willis1217 said...

Another EXCELLENT POST Shimon-Matisyahu! Keep up the good work - (;}

shimonmatisyahu said...

Thanks for your online comment, Willie. We need to let the Jewish public be exposed to this type of information - especially what proves the Torah to be Divine, and that everything that is hinted in the Torah, as in Gematriot, serve a purpose by sending us a message.

Michelle said...

Thank you so much!

I looked up the meaning of 22, and this is the message I found. Exactly what I was searching for.

-Malkah Esther (a.k.a. Michelle, born: 22 Kislev)

P.S. I don't see any new posts. Do you not have any more secrets to share? If so, please do.