Saturday, April 25, 2009

#27 - "But My REBBE Said..."

Welcome to my 27th Post. Speaking of which, what is special about the number 27? If you read my 22nd post, you will know that there are 22 letters of the Alef Beit/Hebrew Letters. Now, there are five other letters that are spelled only at the end of words, but are considered part of their respective letters among the regular 22 letters. The regular letters that I am referring to are Kof or Chof, Mem, Nun, Pei or Fei, and Tzadi. When spelling these at the end of a word, they are shaped differently and are called the same letter but ending with Sofit/End, that is - Kof or Chof Sofit, Mem Sofit, Nun Sofit, Pei or Fei Sofit, and Tzadi Sofit.

Now, in terms of Gematria, while generally the above five letters at the end of a word maintain the same numerical value as their respective letters when spelled elsewhere in a word, they are at times considered to have higher numerical values - 500, 600, 700, 800, 900 respectively. Otherwise, the end letter is considered part of its regular letter. The reason I am pointing all this out is for the following thing we learn from this.

The point of all this until now is to focus on the MIDDLE letter of the 27 letters - that is, when the five final letters are NEXT to their regular respective letters. Thus, as we count the letters this way, it is ...Kof, Kof Sofit, Lamed, Mem, Mem Sofit... Anyways, the middle letter in this configuration is MEM - the 14th letter in this order. Now, the first letter is Alef and the last letter is Tav. Thus, first-middle-last is Alef-Mem-Tav which spells EMET/True or Truth.

Yes, I wrote "to focus on the MIDDLE letter" which in this case is MEM. You see, I just entered my 40th year this Shabbat-Rosh Chodesh - in which, but the way, we read the two MIDDLE Parshiyot - Tazria & Metzora - of the 54 Parshiyot of the Torah. While I am age 39 as I finished 39 years of my life, I have now entered my 40th year. Mem is the Gemaria/numerical value of 40. And what is so special about the number 40?

Several months ago, I wrote about the significance of the letter Samech - having the Gematria of 60 - as it relates to Torah She'B'Al Peh/Oral Torah - but more specifically as it relates to Halacha/Jewish Law, as the word Halacha is the Gematria of 60, and towards this, I provided several examples using this letter. There are times that we say that an aspect of Jewish Law is Halacha L'Moshe M'Sinai - as transmitted to Moses on Mt. Sinai. However, there are other Jewish Laws that have been derived by the 13 ways, principles or rules of interpreting the Torah to learn out what the Jewish Law is from the verses of the Torah as recited in Shacharit/the daily morning prayers that includes a paragraph that begins with Rabbee Yishmael Omeir/Rabbi Yishmael Says. This is indeed related to the letter Mem as part of the regular 22 letters of the Alef Beit where it is the 13th letter. And indeed, it is the letter Mem that points out to learning all the Torah, and the Oral Torah of the Mishna and the Talmud or Gemara. It is particularly the Talmud that details the analysis of how we arrive at certain Jewish Laws using one principle or another of the 13 principles of interpreting the Torah based on the verses of the Torah.

LEARNING TORAH - Moshe Rabbeinu, whose name begins with Mem, following the giving of the Torah, ascended on Mt. Sinai to learn the Torah from Hashem for 40 days. The Torah that Moshe learned included both the Written Torah that is contained in the Bible and the Oral Torah which includes the Mishna, Talmud, and Halacha.

MISHNA - This is a contraction of two letters/words - the letter MEM and the word SHANA/year(s), that is 40 years. Moshe taught the Torah to the Jews for 40 years, and as the Talmud learns out from what Moshe told the Jewish people in addressing this fact to them in their 40th year of learning together in his concluding sermon(s) shortly before passing away, that it is only after 40 years of age or learning (there may be a difference of opinion as to what 40 years this refers to - one's age or period of learning) that one totally comprehends the teachings of his Rebbe (in certain instances of Jewish Law, part of a year is considered a full year. Thus, even though Moshe in fact passed away before the end of the 40th year, it was only then that the Jews truly comprehended what Moshe taught them). In any case, the foundation of the Oral Torah is/are the Mishna/Mishnayot - nearly 4,200 paragraphs of the basics of Jewish Law & Mitzvot, compiled together by Rabbi Yehuda the Prince, or known simply as Rabbee/Rebbe, the leading Sage of his generation. And most significantly, the Mishnayot begin with the letter Mem - May-a-mah-tai - "From when do we read the evening Shema" which is in fact the very first Mitzva that we perform at the beginning of the night, and accordingly is the very first Mitzva of a boy who becomes Bar Mitzva at the beginning of the day which begins at night according to Jewish Law. And the Mishnayot concludes with the letter Mem Sofit - "Rabbi Shimon Ben Chalafta says that the only vessel that contains blessing that Holy One Blessed Be He found is peace as it says "Hashem will give might to His nation, Hashem will bless His nation with peace"". With peace is in Hebrew - Va'Shalom. And as the letter Mem is spelled out as the word Mem as Mem-Mem Sofit; so besides the fact that the beginning letter and the ending letter of all the Mishnayot is Mem & Mem Sofit - these two letters can also be spelled together as the word MEM! Thus, the Mishna is most associated with this letter Mem that has the Gematria of 40.

TALMUD or GEMARA - The Talmud Bavli/Babylonian Talmud was compiled by Rav Ashi, who was the 40th generation from Moses, which is the meat of Torah learning in Yeshivot throughout the world, as it is this set of learning through which one applies himself to deep analysis of what the Torah is teaching us, especially as it relates to Jewish Law, because without this way of learning, we would not know what Hashem is telling us to do, besides the Mitzva of learning Torah in which applying ourselves diligently to the Torah is the makeup of becoming Torah scholars who will then be able to trasmit their Torah knowledge to the next generation. So it isn't that Rav Ashi happened to be the 40th generation from Moses - Rav Ashi exemplified how Torah is to be learnt as he recorded this in writing, and thus the number 40 becomes a most significant number. Indeed, with the writing of the Babylonian Talmud, Rav Ashi SEALED the Oral Torah, meaning, that no future Rabbi or Sage can contradict what the Halacha is as brought down or interpreted in the Babylonian Talmud, unlike earlier, when the Halacha, unless was specifically taught to Moses, was subject to interpretation without saying for example, whether something is considered kosher to eat or not. Now that the conclusion - what the Halacha has been decided - there is no turning back or recall on that Halachic decision.

Yes, Rav Ashi SEALED the Oral Torah. And there is a specific SEAL that Hashem has. The Talmud (Shabbat 55a) says that the SEAL of Hashem is TRUTH. The obvious connection is that the Torah is TRUTH/EMET - beginning-middle-end. This is illustrated by the Midrash which tells us that on Judgment Day for mankind, Hashem will be asking who has the Torah. The other nations will present the Bible - without the New Testament which will then be known as falsehood - as the Torah. Afterwards, Hashem will ask the Jews if they have the Torah. They will come forward with the Oral Torah as well as proof that the are the ones who have the Torah.
While the Bible or T'nach, especially the Chumash/Penteteuch/The Five Books of Moses, is indeed the foundation of the Oral Torah, in itself, one would not know how to properly be a good Jew, and if interpreted literally, not only will one not understand much of the Torah as presented in Jewish Law, but could in fact be doing major sins or blunders in attempting to lead a Jewish life. For example, there were groups of Jews such as the Karaites who interpreted the Chumash in this fashion. As it says in the Chumash that "You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwellings on Shabbat", in its literal meaning, it seems to imply that one should not have anything lit in one's home during Shabbat; thus, to spend Shabbat in darkness without any fire or light around. Sure, one will not commit the sin of lighting a fire on Shabbat, great. However, as instituted by Moses himself, we light Shabbat candles before Shabbat in order to have an enjoyable evening being able to see your way around and eat with light around without bumping into one another and starting fights. Yes, these type of Jews truly lived in spiritual darkness, as they refused to listen to the Sages and followed the Torah as how they themselves wanted to live a life of Judaism without regard of how Hashem really wanted them to live it. Indeed, the Talmud tells us that disobeying the Sages makes one worthy of death, something that they are not so quick about saying when one disobeys a Mitzva as recorded in the Chumash. So the ultimate TRUTH of the Torah is the Oral Torah, because without it, we cannot live Jewish lives according to the TRUTH of Hashem, and thus, it is the Oral Torah that is the SEAL of Hashem, exemplified by Rav Ashi SEALING the Oral Torah with his composition of the Babylonian Talmud.

On this past Shabbat, Jews learned the second chapter of Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers. It begins with "Rabbee Omeir" - "Rebbe (who is the one who compiled the Mishnayot) says: What is the proper path that one should choose for himself/herself? What is glorious to the one who does it and is glorious to mankind". Now mind you, Rabbi Yehuda the Prince who is known as Rebbe, no doubt had many lessons of Jewish ethics to teach the Jewish people in his long career of the leader of his time and put together the essence of Jewish learning. So, why this particular teaching among others as the first one?

In today's presentation of Judaism, there are many who claim that they are the only ones with the right way of Judaism or how to serve Hashem, and everyone is wrong or don't have it quite the right way. In short, everyone claims that they themselves are the only ones with the TRUTH. The truth is that while there are guidelines as to how Jewish Law is supposed to be, which will exclude what is known as Conservative or Reform Judaism because these movements do away with much of Halacha, there are other forms of practice which will involve differences of custom, as to whether between Ashkenazic and Sefardic, Hasidic and Litvish, Charedi and Modern Orthodoxy. But putting differences, there are basic guidlines as to how Jews are supposed to behave, especially as to how we present ourselves to others which will bring out either a positive or a negative result, which usually proves whether we are doing the right thing or not. Yet, there are times that even this may seem a little tricky with differences of opinion among Rabbis who seem to be making a Halachic decision based on how they see how the Torah is supposed to be interpreted or decided. But are they always right?

Rashi on Leviticus 26:1 points out the juxtapositon of the verse stating that one should not make idols next to the section in the Torah about the laws of a servant working for a master. "One should not say, since my master - using the Hebrew word Rebbe - has relationships with certain women (forbidden by the Torah)...worships idols...profanes the Shabbat, so will I". Question: Why in Rashi does it say "My Rebbe" as opposed to "My Adon", as the Hebrew word for master vs servant or slave is typically Adon, not Rebbe?

I never understood the reason for this, until...the Gush Katif fiasco. While there were few Rabbis who were outspoken against the upcoming Disengagement which is indeed shameful in itself, and very unfortunately, many rabbis of institutions in Israel were paid hush money by the Israeli government to keep quiet about the Disengagement, clearly there were very few rabbis in Orthodox circles who voiced their opinion of being in favor of it. But yes, there were a few rabbis in Israel who indeed said that the soldiers should obey the Israeli government orders to help throw their brothers and sisters from their homes, based on how they interpreted the Torah. Mind you, being paid hush money is automatically a disqualifier in terms of deciding Jewish law, and a Dayan/Jewish Judge is forbidden to take a bribe. There was one of these rabbis who was considered right wing who said this hocus pocus that the Disengagement is the sin of the Israeli government, and thus, one is not to disobey orders; because otherwise, one would be sinning and making things worse. Believe me, I would have no hesitation to mention the names of these mocker of the Torah rabbis if I wasn't afraid of the Mossad or Shin Bet knocking on my door, as the usual laws of not saying bad, known as Lashon Hara, about other Jews does not apply to speaking about those who are openly saying heresy that opposes what the Torah says. But the following is the point that I want to make here.

There is a significant percentage of Israeli soldiers who are observant of Jewish Law, despite the demands or challenges of being in an army, which is not always conducive of being able to practice Jewish Law very easily. However, these religious soldiers generally are in the army as wanting to help defend our nation from our Arab enemies, and all such soldiers regardless of religion who want to truly help defend our nation are heroes in Jewish history. Now, when the clock was ticking towards the time of the Disengagement, there were those among the religious soldiers who asked their Rabbi as to whether they should or should not participate in the government's orders of throwing out their Jewish flesh and blood kindred from their homes. Knowing that there were rabbis, especially Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, Shlita, former Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel (who still needs our prayers for a complete recovery - HaRav Mordechai Tzemach ben Mazal Tov) who spoke against the Disengagement in strong terms, these seemingly religious soldiers still had doubts in their minds.

Why? The root of this problem is that they didn't put themselves in the Gush Katif residents' shoes to feel how it would be like to be thrown from their homes, thus a lack of Ahavat Yisrael/love for Jews to begin with. Another aspect is that they were afraid of either being thrown in prison and/or lose their positions or pay in the army, showing their lack of self sacrifice and lack of trust in Hashem who is the provider of sustenance. Apparently, they weren't afraid of how life will be in Hell or if they will miss out in the Eternal Reward in Heaven.
And very unfortunately, some of their Rabbis told them that they should or must follow orders to do the despicable thing. And I have questions to ask these non G-d fearing rabbis and so called religious soldiers who followed in suit of the Nazi orders - "Did even one of you do anything for your Jewish brothers or sisters whom you threw out? Did you invite them over to your place at least for Shabbat after the trauma that you forced on families, including little children? Did you provide them with food or clothing after you did your evil deed? Did you do so much as to even visit these displaced families in their temporary quarters in their stuffed hotel room or half makeshift homes which don't provide adequate housing in the freezing winter? And perhaps above all, did you consider the fact that throwing Jews out of these homes would make room for Arabs to be ever closer to attack Israel, G-d forbid?"

On Judgment Day, no doubt that these so called religious soldiers will be asked to account for this. Some will blurt out "B...b...but my Rebbe said that it would be sin to disobey the Israeli government!" Did these soldiers or students really think that their Rebbe was the greatest Sage or Halachic decider of the generation when they clearly knew that there were "fanatical" rabbis who spoke against the Gush Katif fiasco? And there were some of their comrades in the army who did refuse orders, some of whom were in fact imprisoned and in some cases lost their Lieutenant or General status and lost their job while having mouths at home to feed. Yet, NOT ONE regreted their decision while in prison as they watched the TV seeing their fellow soldiers throwing out Jews. But among the "religious" soldiers who did the easy thing of wrecking Jewish lives, there was one after the fiasco who was crying while making Kiddush for his family, even as he had a 10 year old nephew who refused to speak to him after the despicable deed that he had done.

My friends, there was an earlier Rebbe who already decided what the Halacha should be in terms of the Disengagement. "Rebbe says: What is the proper path that one should choose for himself/herself? What is glorious to the one who does it and is glorious to mankind". Now, who is this mankind? Is it the corrupt government who constantly give the Arabs their baby bottle in their futile attempt to stop their crying? Or is it the general populace who were minding their own business living true Jewish lives as settlers, and bearing in mind, they settled in Gush Katif with the blessings of the Israeli government from decades earlier? Glorious to throw Jews out? Or glorious to have the courage to speak out against injustice and having what to be proud about, especially if thrown in the slammer but able to be able to sleep at night without a guilty conscience? And if some think that one has to give in at times to the Arabs, the descendants of Yishmael, there was a Rabbi Yishmael who outlined the 13 principles of how Jewish Law is to be derived from the Torah, not how mankind wants to interpret the Torah because it "sounds logical". It is the Torah that is truly logical, it is the ONLY TRUTH. If the Torah principles are applied properly, then even if Halacha does not follow a certain analysis as outlined in the Mishna or Talmud, it is still considered the TRUTH of the Torah, because the particular analysis was based on wanting to find out the truth of what Hashem wants, NOT because of what others will want or say in the government or other nations who will not be satisfied with us Jews no matter what we try to do to appease them.

Going back on the number 40 and Jewish Law, there are quite a few times where this number is mentioned in Jewish Law. In fact, in the very section that it mentions of not lighting a fire on Shabbat, we learn out through Gematria that there are 39 major categories of forbidden work on Shabbat. Eileh HaDevarim - "These are the things..." Eileh/These is the Gematria of 36, the word Devorim/Things is plural which is a mininum of 2, and the prefix Ha/The in HaDevarim implies 1 more - thus a total of 39. However, when the Mishna in Chapter 7 of Tractate Shabbat lists the 39 categories, it introduces this as Arbaim Chaseir Achat - 40 missing/minus one. Why?

Another parallel example of this are the amount of lashes that the Beit Din/Jewish court administers to a sinner for certain no-nos, as detailed in Tractate Makkot, which incidentally the name of the tractate which is Makkot begins with a Mem, and is the same Gematria as my name Shimon (466) (But please, no lashes for my birthday present). While the Torah actually declares 40 lashes per crime, the Rabbis interpreted the verses to imply that in fact only 39 are administered. So why did the Torah say 40 lashes when it meant only 39?

The Torah here teaches sensitivity. While in reality, someone who is a sinner may deserve a far worse punishment, and indeed, should technically be punished with death for disobeying even the slightest Mitzva that the King of Kings orders, it is not for us to judge a person in such a way, even as we ourselves are hardly less guilty. The only reason we have to punish is because the Torah tells us to do so, and even at that, the ultimate purpose of this is to provide punishment to the sinner in this world rather than him having to face a far worse punishment in the next world, as well as help him prevent from doing more sins, even if it is for him to fear punishment as opposed to fearing Hashem as the reason for not doing a sin. Thus, the Torah left it for the rabbis to teach us a lesson in having sensitivity towards other Jews, and it is only THESE TYPE OF RABBIS who are in a position to decide Jewish Law for others. There are stories told of rabbis who were approached by poor Jews who had a question as to whether something was considered Kosher, and these rabbis spent a long time finding in some cases - a loophole in Jewish Law permitting them the food even if these rabbis themselves would not eat such food.

And the same type of lesson can be learned in terms of the forbidden labors on Shabbat. While not doing some of these labors may seem to strictly restrict one's freedom of enjoying life; if this would be Hashem's really purpose, then He could have easily forbade other types of work that would accomplish this. The truth is that being forbidden to work with certain things on Shabbat in fact makes the "workload" easier, thus providing a TRUE sense of freedom of not being restricted in feeling free to do what one wants - and if following one's Jewish soul - its only want is to do what Hashem wants us to do. It is not as those who want to criticize Judaism, especially as proposed by "fanatical" rabbis, that we are making lives for ourselves and others unbearable, claiming that following the Torah as in the "old fashioned" days is not logical, while mocking Jews learning "Baba Ma'asays"/nonsense as in Baba Kama, Baba Metzia, and Baba Batra - the very tractates of the Mishna & Talmud that deals about proper relationships with others. If these mockers of observant Jews and Judaism really want to be honest about this subject, why don't they visit a Jewish home peacefully enjoying the Shabbat as in sharp contrast to what goes on in their own homes, a good percentage of such homes which are with divorce or broken homes without real meaning of what a Jewish family is like outside of the synagogue or Jewish school?

As this point, making a connection between a few things that I mentioned earlier in this post, Bircat HaChama took place on the date that is described in the very beginning of Mishna Pesachim as Ohr L'Arba'a Asar, literally means the "Light of the 14th" (of Nissan). This month of Iyar immediately following this has a connotation of the world Ohr/Light. Morever, the letter Mem=40 in the 27 letters takes its place as the 14th letter, and my birthday which begins on the first day of this month of Iyar was the beginning of my 40th year.

In conclusion, speaking of my birthday and Ahavat Yisrael/Love of Jews, especially as this Mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael is in the Torah reading of this coming Shabbat, there is an amazing find of the connection between the name of this Mitzva and the date that I was born - which I only discovered a few months ago. I believe that this Mitzva is my ultimate mission in life.

What are the Hebrew letters in Ahavat Yisrael? Alef, Hei, Vav, Tav/Sav, Yud, Sin, Reish, Alef, Lamed. Now, on what Hebrew date was I born on? On 1 Iyar 5730 (1970). The answer to the question are the SAME LETTERS as Ahavat Yisrael as this - B'(On) Alef (1) Alef, Yud, Reish (Iyar) Hei, Tav, Shin, Lamed (5730). TRULY AMAZING! (Note: The month Iyar is generally seen to be spelled with two Yuds. There are times though that Iyar is in fact spelled with only one Yud, as in this case).

2 Iyar 5769 - Motzaei Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Iyar

P.S. It happens time and again that the number of the time listed for a particular post has a connection with the subject within that post. Accordingly, at this post shows the time of 2:44 PM, the number 244 is connected with two things here. First is that the word Gemara, which I wrote extensively about in this post, is the Gematria of 244. And I had mentioned the connection of the Gemara or Talmud in terms of the Mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael. According to the count of the Mitzvot according to the Rambam/Maimonidies who qualifies his list of 613 Mitzvot based on 14 principles, what is the 244th Mitzva of the Torah? Ahavat Yisrael!

TRUE STORY: Today at the Kiddush which I sponsored at the Western Wall in honor of my birthday, I met an attendee who is a Sephardic Yeshiva Bachur who has the same exact Hebrew name as mine - Shimon Matisyahu! (Sephardim pronounce the second name as Matityahu). As it turns out, he was named Shimon after Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar whose Yahrzeit is celebrated in this month on Lag Baomer, and he was named Matisyahu after the hero of the Chanuka story as he was born on the 7th night of Chanuka. In my case, I was named only Shimon at my Bris, and I added the name Matisyahu naming myself after the same person as this guy was named after only 13 months ago on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Also, on this birthday, I began my 40th year, and the letter Mem has a Gematria value of 40 and is the first letter of the name Matisyahu. TRULY DIVINE PROVIDENCE!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

#26 - MOSES: The True Jewish Leader

On this Shabbat, as customary on the first Shabbat following Passover, we begin learning the weekly chapter in the "Ethics of the Fathers"/Pirkei Avot. This is actually a tractate in the Mishnah called Avot, which literally means fathers or patriarchs, which deals largely with moral behavior as defined by the Torah. In fact, the very first word of it begins with our ultimate spiritual father or patriarch - Moshe/Moses. It proceeds mentioning the chain of the Torah being passed down from generation to generation to the dynasty of the Nasi - the official leader of the Jewish nation, the position of which was passed from father to son beginning with Hillel.

Imagine. The very first word of one of the 63 tractates of the Mishnah begins with the name of Moshe Rabbeinu. His name also takes a unique place in the mandatory Kriat Shema that men are obligated to recite twice daily, the selected sections of the Torah declaring accepting Hashem's rule on us, His commandments, concluding mentioning Him as the One who took us out of Egypt - where Moshe's name is one of the 248 words which correspond to the 248 Positive Commandments and the 248 limbs of man. His name is mentioned twice in one of the Torah sections that are placed in the Tefillin - both for the arm & the head, in which if even one letter is messed up or missing, the parchment containing the error is invalid from further use. His name is also mentioned in the declaration that the bridegroom tells the bride as he puts the ring on her finger, "You are married/sactified (Mekudeshet) to me, with this ring, according to the religion of Moses & Israel".

But perhaps what is ironic here is where this name Moshe comes from. The Midrash tells us that in fact, he was given 10 different names. The name given to him at his birth or Bris was not in fact the name Moshe. This name was given to him by none other than the black Egyptian princess named Batya (literally means daughter of G-d), physical daughter of Pharoh who enslaved the Jews, who in fact had just converted to Judaism upon which she saw Baby Moses lying in a structure on the Nile River, and rescued him from death, and as a result, he lived to be the greatest Tzadik/righteous person to ever live in this world. Yes, believe it or not, like it or not, this name was given to him by a black lady, and it is THIS name that stuck with Baby Moses for all eternity!

Moshe's name is in fact related to Hashem's in some indirect way. You see, if you spell Moshe's name backwards, it spells Hashem! Now mind you, we say G-d's name as Hashem in lieu of saying Hashem's name that we normally pronounce as A-do-nay in prayers or Torah verses. The real name of Hashem where we pronounce it as A-do-nay is in fact usually a totally different name represented by the letters of Yud - Hey - Vav - Hey (which we do not pronounce even as the letters in this order, because of its great holiness - only as Yud Kay Vav Kay), which is in fact considered Hashem's ONLY name - like Moshe's name as the ONLY name that we refer to him by despite his nine other names - while Hashem's other names, including six others which are all included under the prohibition of erasing, destroying or throwing away such names, are in fact not Hashem's real names but only various descriptions of Hashem.

My 26th Post comes in time to speak about Moshe, who was the 26th generation from Adam & Eve, and Hashem's only real name, which has the Gematria of 26. Speaking of which, there is a letter in the Alef Beit that also has the Gematria of 26.

What? Isn't the Gematria system for the letters work like numbers 1 through 10, then 20,30,etc until 100, then 200, 300, 400 (and so fourth if the final letters as they are called are considered for the higher Gematria form)? So, is there in fact a letter that has such a Gematria of 26?

What is unique about the Alef Beit is that this is not man-made. The Alef Beis is in fact Hashem's creation no less than the Torah or the world for that matter. This is in fact why Gematria is so significant. If you were to say for example that in the English alphabet, A is 1, B is 2, etc., you may find matches between certain words at one point, but they would not necessarily have any real significance since these letters are not in fact part of Hashem's direct creation, but one of the multitude of languages that are all in fact based on Hebrew, the Holy Tongue that in fact was created by Hashem.

With this being said, all the shapes of the Alef Beit were also designed and created by Hashem. And so different parts of each letter of the Alef Beit are also letters of other Alef Beit. Hence, let's take a look at the first letter.

While so far, I haven't found an Alef here that I was able to copy and paste, you will have to trust me on this one - it is a sandwich consisting of two Yuds with the letter Vav in the middle. Well, two Yuds (10 each) and Vav (6) equals 26. O.K., so it doesn't look like your typical sandwich, but in fact, this is the root of all sandwiches. You see, this is the letter that in itself, is the representative of Hashem Himself, who is known as the ALUFO Shel Olam - the CHIEF of the world. Yes, Alef is the wording of the world chief. Sounds similar to the word chef, though the typical chef in a food eatery is not the one who prepares sandwiches.

The Midrash tells us that when Hashem was ready to create/write the Torah, the letters of the Alef Beit, starting from the bottom up, from Tav until Alef, came to Hashem, one by one, to tell Him why the Torah should begin with its first letter with that particular letter, but Hashem rejected them one by one for a different reason for each one...until the letter Beit. Among other reasons, Beit begins the word Beracha/blessing, and so it begins the word Bereishit. While this was all going on, the Alef was silent on the side, and didn't so much as to utter a peep. When Hashem asked Alef for an explanation, it replied that all the other letters represents plurarity, starting with Beit which is two, while the Alef is only one. Hashem replied that He Himself is One, and so is the Alef number one, and so the Aseret HaDibrot/Ten Commandments will begin with the letter Alef - Anochi Hashem Elokeicha - "I am Hashem your G-d". Subsequently, as the Midrash puts it, the Alef pestered Hashem for 26 generations about this until this was implemented upon giving the Torah to the Jewish people.

I had mentioned in a previous post about the letter Alef taking positions in the Torah as a small letter and a big letter. The big letter is the very first letter of the Book of Chronicles, the last book of the Jewish Bible/T'nach, which begins the word/name Adam. What I did not mention last time is how the big Alef is described. You see, the normal Hebrew word for BIG is Gadol or Gedolah. However, when you see the notation in some T'nach books, you will see that the word for BIG is Rahbahti. Rahbahti has the Gematria of 612, and so the letter Alef added to this - thus called Alef Rahbahti - makes it 613. Interesting - the LAST Mitzva - the 613th Mitzva - is the WRITING of a Sefer Torah. Though the Book of Chronicles is not one of the books included in the Sefer Torah, it is the LAST book of the T'nach, what is known as Torah SheBechtav/Written Torah (the Christians, L'Havdil, have a different order for the books of the T'nach) and the very first letter of it is known as an Alef Rahbahti, the Gematria of 613!

What else is 613? The Gematria of Moshe Rabbeinu, the one who transmitted the Torah with its 613 commandments told to him by none other than Hashem himself. Now mind you, what we call the Ten Commandments which in fact is a misnomer but should be called the Ten Statements, includes all the 613 commandments. And there is someone else who has the same Gematria - Rabbeinu Moshe, known as Rambam/Maimonidies, who wrote his list of 613 commandments (there were others before him who write similar lists), based on 14 rules to determine what these are, not haphazardly unlike others before him who also wrote lists of 613 commandments who did not use strict regimen to determine the correct listing, and it is based on this list that the Rambam wrote his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah.

The generation of Moshe Rabbeinu who gave them the Torah in fact is considered - read this - the 1,000th generation! And I'll prove it to you. It says in the T'nach, and as we say in our morning prayers - Davar Tziva L'ELEF Dor - the Word (of Hashem) that He commanded to the 1,000th generation. A little strange - we thought that the world was only in existance for 5,769 years. Maybe in nearly 2,450 years time, there were more than 26 generations, since the Jews in Egypt had multiple children (and were far more eager to have families than in today's generation) but how do we see that it was the 1,000th generation?

It seems that as we are told, that Hashem in fact created other worlds before ours and there were a total of 974 generations, but being that they were not worthy of the Torah, they were all destoryed and it was left for the generation of Moshe Rabbeinu to receive the Torah. Being that Moshe is the 26th generation from Adam, it was Moshe who represented the concept of the 1,000th geneartion. (It's most interesting to note the the Rambam - Rabbeinu Moshe - wrote exactly 1,000 chapters for his magnum opus - the Mishneh Torah!) And mind you, as I mentioned in a previous blog about the big Alef in Adam's name, it also represents the number 1,000 which is ELEF, the same letters as ALEF, just with different vowels. This was hinting to the fact that Adam was given 1,000 years to live (he wound up giving 70 years of this to King David). And this letter is a composite of other letters that have the sum Gematria of 26.

Thus, we see the connection between the numbers 1, 26 & 1,000 in a number of ways:

1) Hashem - who is One - whose real name is the Gematria of 26 and is the Alufo Shel Olam/Chief of the world, and the world Aluf is related to the words Alef/One & Elef/Thousand .

2) Moshe, whose name is Pirkei Avot is the FIRST word, is the 26th generation, who is also considered the thousandth from the original generations that Hashem created long before this universe

3) The letter Alef=1, has a shape of letters equalling 26 and the word Alef when spelled out can at times be read as Elef/Thousand.

4) In Maimonidies' Mishneh Torah consisting of 1,000 chapters, the beginning words of its first chapter is Yesod HaYesodot V'Amud HaChochmot, referring to the existance of Hashem, the topic of the FIRST Mitzva of the Rambam's list of Mitzvot - the belief in the existance of Hashem. The first letters of these first four words spells Hashem's real name YKVK, which is the Gematria of 26.

5) In the English alphabet which consists of 26 letters, if you spell out each number - one, two, etc., you will find that the FIRST time that the FIRST letter of the Alphabet - A, which corresponds to Alef, appears, is in the word THOUSAND!

It so happens that just hours ago, when I was looking up something totally unrelated in my Hebrew dictionary, I noticed an entry - Dag Moshe Rabbeinu, which literally means fish of Moshe Rabbeinu, or in English, it means plaice. I never knew that Moses loved to eat fish, but it comes out in time for this week's Parshat Shemini which its second half is all about the laws of kosher, including kosher fish. As it turns out, this kind of fish and the Jewfish are in fact kosher. But why is this particular fish named after Moshe Rabbeinu?

While I am attempting to find out an answer for this, it is true that Moshe was born and passed away on the seventh day of the month of Adar whose Mazal/constellation sign is Pieces/Dagim, and Dag, which is the singular for fish, is the Gematria of the number seven. But there is also a unique Gematria here, though I do not see a connection with the topic at hand. You see, Dag Moshe Rabbeinu is the Gematria of 620. And what else is 620? This is the number of letters in the 10 Commandments, as they represent the 613 Mitzvot of the Torah, and seven "additional" Mitzvot that the Rabbis instituted.

In the 40 years that the Jews were in the desert, after a month's supply of Matza that ran out, they were fed the daily manna, which they were fed in the merit of Moshe. However, there were some Jews who complained about the "same old thing everyday". "We remember the fish that we used to eat for free in Egypt". Guess fish was a major staple in the idol worshipping Egyptian society that worshipped lambs. But what these Jews forgot was that for 26 generations, corresponding to which are the 26 verses in Psalms 136 which all end with "for His kindness in everlasting", the world was sustained on Hashem's lovingkindess because without it, the world would not have been able to exist as the real purpose of the world' existance is because of the Torah that was finally accepted by the Jewish people nearly 2,450 years after the world was created. These particular nongrateful Jews felt it would be better to continue living in the land of slavery that they were used to and have their "gourmet" daily pick of a varieties of fish, than eat food that was directly rained down for them from Hashem Himself even as virtually whatever kind of food they wanted the manna to taste like, it would taste just like that food.

Actually, when it comes to Shabbat, there is a Mitzva to eat good food. Fish is considered one of the specialties of the special day. In fact, the Vilna Gaon points out that the word for Dag/Fish is the Gematria of seven, which is most appropriate to eat on the Seventh Day. With all this, we have to remember that we are not eating for our own pleasure, but because Hashem wants us to honor the Shabbat, and through eating foods that we enjoy, it helps us physically celebrate the Shabbat in a spritual way much better because we are put in a good mood to celebrate Hashem's holy day with special happiness.

Speaking of eating food as a Mitzva, we see an interesting story in this week's Parshat Shemini. Amidst the celebration of the dedication of the Tabernacle and the inauguration of Aharon and his four sons as Cohanim, Aharon's two oldest sons died suddenly in the midst of their service (they were actually making a fire which they were not supposed to be doing). In any case, the Halacha is that Cohanim who are in a state of being an Onein/mourner on the day that their dead relative is buried, are not allowed to eat of the sacrifices. Now, in this particular instance, there was sacrificial meat from the special inauguration priestly ceremony as well as the special sacrifices that Nachshon, the leader of the tribe of Yehuda, brought on behalf of his tribe. Both of these type of sacrifices were one time sacrifices, meaning, that these were special for that day and would not be brought again since, so these sacrifices were eaten by Aharon and his remaining two sons. However, this day was also Rosh Chodesh, the day of the New Moon, when a sin-offering sacrifice is brought for this day which the Cohanim eat. Since this is an ongoing thing, Aharon decided that as mourners, he and his sons could not eat this sacrifice, but would have to burned instead. Following this decision, his brother Moshe, though he knew that Aharon has just sustained a terrible loss of his two oldest sons amidst a family celebration, wasted no time berating him for not following Hashem's orders as Moshe thought was happening. Aharon then pointed out the Halacha of a mourner who is forbidden to eat sacrifices. Afterwards, Moshe admitted that indeed Aharon was correct, saying that he did not remember the Halacha. It happens, we all forget things, but Aharon would not have known to do this without Hashem's command unless Moshe would have told him before the laws that Hashem commanded when He dictated the Torah to him.

My point is, Moshe had no shame in admitting his mistake when he was wrong. Unlike some others who realize that they make a mistake and then attempt to cover it up by finding some other fault in the guy they are accusing or make it that they made no mistake after all for some other reason, Moshe openly admitted his error. Indeed, it is no wonder why Moshe, with all his other greatnesses of love, self sacrifice, humbleness, etc., should have his name as the very first word of the tractate of Mishnah that is all about real ethics and moral behavior as dictated by the Torah. Unlike philosophers such as Hypocrates who was questioned about his moral behavior following his tryst with a prostitute, said that normally he is Hypocrates the Philosopher, but now he is just Hypocrates the Man (This must be where the word "hypocracy" comes from); true Jewish leaders, such as Moshe who follow the Torah don't behave like this. Their moral standard of living reflects what the Torah demands of us 24 hours a day, and not just in the synagogue or study hall. Indeed, this year on the same Shabbat that we read this Parsha where this story took place, we also read Ethics of the Fathers that begins with Moshe's name. But it isn't just another book of ethics or etiquette that is man made. The ethics in this Book is what Moshe received as part of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, the beginning words of this Ethics of the Fathers. While the exact wording of the concepts as relayed by various rabbis wasn't necessarily handed down to Moshe word-by-word, these concepts are 100% in conformance with the dictates of the Torah, and not an ethical way of behaving that might in some way oppose the Torah to please the whims of society or serve one's best self interest.

While we may not be leaders ourselves in the sense of being a rabbi or with some other type of leadership within a Jewish community, all of us Jews are in fact in a sense leaders. We are supposed to be leaders, shining examples to other Jews who may not have yet had a chance to know what Judaism is all about, as well as to non-Jews. The Torah is not just all about learning and praying, it is DOING WHAT HASHEM WANTS. Hashem wants us to be His representatives. We have to behave in a way that others will have a good feeling about the Torah and say "It is good to be an observant Jew. You see, this is what the Torah is all about. It's not all about praying and reading all day after all." I don't want to have start writing the negative feelings of people who observe Jews who pose as observant or Orthodox Jews but are crooks in every sense of the word. We have a choice of doing what is called a Kiddush Hashem/Sactification of Hashem's name or Chillul Hashem/Desecration of Hashem's name. And this name that I am talking about is what is virtually Hashem's reputation, how people view Hashem as, whether it is in fact true or not. We are supposed to do what Hashem wants whether it is how we treat Hashem Himself directly or how we treat others, because this is what we are supposed to be doing anyways, but part of why this is so important is because how others will view us, justifiably or not, as this is how they view what Hashem really represents, and will themselves ultimately behave in a certain fashion, if not being "religious" in terms of ritual, then in behaving better towards others themselves, even if they are non-Jews. So the next time you see someone who may not be quite "religious", maybe it is because he or she just never had the opportunity to be that way, but he/she may very well be religious when it comes to loving other Jews or people, and give Tzedaka from the goodness and happiness of their heart, as I see such people on a regular basis in Israel, where all kinds of Jews who live near and work with observant Jews on a daily basis are living. (Speaking of Israel in my 26th Post - Tehilla, an organization that organizes pilot trips for Jews wanting to making Aliyah, is celebrating its 26th anniversary. For more information on its upcoming pilot trip, check out

23 Nissan 5769 - Erev Shabbat Parshat Shemini (next post is next week, G-d willing)

P.S. I was curious to know how many words (in Hebrew) are in the first chapter of the Ethics of the Fathers that begins with the name of Moshe - the 26th generation from Adam & Eve. Assuming that I counted correctly, I counted exactly 410 words. Amazing - this is the very Gematria of the name of this week's 26th Parsha - Shemini (Shin-300, Mem-40, Yud-10, Nun-50, Yud-10)!

NOTE: Note the timing of this post 7:28 PM. This is my first post since Bircat HaChama (Blessing of the Sun) of Passover Eve. It says in Isaiah 30:26 about the sun in future times "The light of the sun shall be sevenfold, like the light of the seven days". And the complete solar cycle is every 28 years. In connection with this post's Jewish Biblical figure - Moses, the Midrash and Zohar compares his face to the face of the sun "Pnei Moshe Kfnei Chama".

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

#25 - LIGHT

We are just about to enter the 207th 28-year cycle of the solar system of which the main physical benefit is the sun's LIGHT. The Hebrew word for Light - OHR - makes its first debut as the 25th word of the Torah, when Hashem said "Let there be Light". And Ohr/Light IS the Gematria of 207! Furthermore, as the very first words of Mishna Pesachim states - OHR L'Arba'ah Asar - At the beginning of the evening of 14 Nissan, when we search for Chametz/leavened substances that are forbidden on Passover, which we perform this evening by using candlelight, and what is found is burned or disposed of the following morning. But what is so significant here is that the new 28 year solar cycle BEGINS in this cycle at THE SAME TIME as the Chametz is supposed to be searched for as it falls out this time on 14 Nissan (during last century and last century, it falls out on the secular date of April 8 when we recite the special blessing for this in the morning)!

We are told that the reason that Ohr/Light first appears in the Torah as the 25th word, is because it hints to 25 Kislev, the date marking the first of eight days of Chanuka, the "Festival of Lights". This holiday started thanks to the bravery and heroism of Matisyahu, whose five sons he enjoined to fight the Syrian Greeks, four of the five who perished at one point or another while fighting. In any case, Matisyahu is the same Gematria as Tehillat YKVK (Hashem)/ Praising of Hashem (861) which appears among the concluding verses of the Ashrei prayer (Psalms 145) that is full of praise for Hashem. On Chanuka, we recite the Hallel prayers (Psalms 113-118) thanking Hashem for His miracles. Accordingly, we should have in mind when we say the Bircat HaChama - "Blessing of the Sun" on Wednesday morning that we are praising Hashem, not praying to the sun, but giving praise for the marvelous creation that Hashem made.

It's interesting to note that among the early writers of Jewish Law are Rabbi Yosef Karo, whose Yahrzeit is today - 13 Nissan, and Rabbi Moshe Maimonidies (Rambam) whose birthday is tomorrow - 14 Nissan - the date that we will be reciting the Bircat HaChama. Both of these rabbis write in their Halachic works of this rare event and saying the blessing for it.

Don't have more time - but I do want to conclude with my wishes for a new spiritual awakening that we hope for with the coming of Moshiach which we hope will happen no later than at this most momentous occasion. See you at the Western Wall (G-d willing)!

13 Nissan 5769 - Erev Bircat HaChama

Next time of posting will be after Passover, G-d willing.