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".

No comments: