Thursday, May 21, 2009

#29 - JERUSALEM: The END of Our Journey

We have finally arrived at our destination - Jerusalem. Though we have yet to experience the redemption with the coming of the Messiah and witness the rebuilt Temple, a tremendous miracle happened to us despite all odds. For all that everyone knew, it was just a matter of time before Israel as a place for Jews lived would be a thing of the past. It was 42 years ago when in the Six Day War, some 31 million Arabs were attempting to wipe us Jews off of the map in Israel. However, while we Jews, consisting of no more than a few million, incurred some losses; with the help of Hashem, we defeated the Arabs to such an extent, that we regained key parts of the land - including the holiest area in the world, which includes the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. In celebration of this, the day that Israel regained control of this area became know as Yom Yerushalayim - Jerusalem Day, which occured on 28 Iyar - which was the 43rd day of the Omer.

What makes this year's Jerusalem Day so special is because as the 43rd day of the Omer, it begins its 43rd year from that historical moment in time. As hinted to in my last post, the number 28, as Jerusalem Day is the 28th of Iyar, is the Gematria of Ko-ach/Strength which was Hashem's doing of giving us the Land of Israel, which we wrestled from the nations that were living in it at the time we first came to the land as a nation which was led by Joshua. As Jerusalem is called "The City of Peace", as in my previous blog, the last of the 28 "times" as mentioned in the Book of Ecclesiastes/Kohelet is the time of PEACE. In any case, what is the connection - if there is any - to the fact that it Jerusalem Day is the 43rd day of the Omer?

Perhaps the bridge that will shed insight to this is the 43rd Parsha of the Torah - Parshat Mas'ai.
While many other Parshiyot either talk about our ancestors living in Israel, or Hashem's promise to us that we would soon enter the land of Israel, this Parsha is a most unique Parsha. It begins listing the 42 places that the Jews traveled to from Egypt, following which we would travel to Israel. It then tells us that we need to get rid of the evil inhabitants of the land or they will be "snares in our eyes". This is followed by a detailed description of the borders of Israel.

There is in fact to parts to this year's Jerusalem Day celebration - celebrating 42 years since that most momentous day, and beginning its 43rd year since we had victory.


As we just mentioned, the Jews traveled to 42 destinations before their final destination of Israel. To note - the very first place they traveled to leaving Egypt was called Sukkot, the very name of our holiday on the opposite side of the year from Passover - the day that the Jews traveled to a place named Sukkot. More on the significance of this name as connected to Jerusalem Day later on.

The number 42 is most unique. You see, it technically refers to two different Mitzvot. The first is Talmud Torah - learning & teaching Torah, the greatest Mitzva about which each word of Torah is equal to all other Mitzvot in terms of eternal reward. As the verse says - "You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them..." (Deutronomy 6:7). The first part of this phrase is the actual source of this Mitzva, and it is the next part of the phrase that is describing the first part - "You shall speak OF THEM" - the Hebrew word given for the capitalized words here is BAM - which is the Gematria of 42. Significantly, the two letters of this word hints to the beginning words of the Written Torah & and the Oral Torah respectively - the Beit for Bereishit - the beginning word of the Bible, and the Mem (Sofit) for Mei'ei'matai - the beginning word of the Mishnayot.

Now, this phrase including this word as its own independent part in the verse also refers to the Mitzva of Kriat Shma - reciting three paragraphs of the Toraht that we begins with the words Shma Yisrael- "Hear O Israel"- and includes the paragraph that includes this phrase of "You shall speak of them". This is a most special Mitzva, because unlike most other Mitzvot, the Shma paragraphs is also saying words of Torah. In any case, the very last verse of the Shma paragraphs is "I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt to be a G-d for you - I am Hashem your G-d" (Numbers 15:41). Thus, there is an intrinsic connection between the number 42 as the Gematria of BAM referring to the Mitzva of Shma, and the content of its final verse mentioning the Exodus which was a process of 42 places that the Jews traveled to between Egypt & Israel.

Later on in the above mentioned Parsha of Mas'ai, it speaks of the cities of refuge that someone who killed another accidentally can run to. There were six main cities and 42 other cities in this regard. Without getting into details about the difference between the 6 & 42 cities, we see an amazing parallel to the first paragraph of the Shma as written in the Torah that includes mentioning the verse that tells us to fulfull the Mitzva of saying the Shma (The inbetween sentence of Barach Shem... "Blessed is the name..." is in fact not in the Scriptures at all). The verse of Shma Yisrael has six words, and the remaining part of the paragraph has 42 words.


I could speak so to speak volumes on this as there is much significance to the number 43 as related to Israel & Jerusalem. Let's take this step by step.

The Hebrew word for ALSO is GAM. This is the Gematria of 43. Indeed, when it comes to some of the birth of the Tribes of Israel, this word is used specifically in connection with Hashem hearing cries and prayer. When Leah gave birth to her second son Shimon, she says "Hashem HEARD that I am hated, and he gave me ALSO this one", and indeed the name Shimon is based on Hashem's "hearing". When Rachel's maid Bilha gave birth to Dan, Rachel said "G-d judged me and he ALSO HEARD my voice and he gave me a son". In any case, we see a connection between the word GAM/Also and hearing - SHAMA/He Heard, in fact the very same letters as the word for Shma, the name and beginning word of the Mitzva of saying Shma which is done once in the night and the second time in the first quarter of the daytime! Thus, both the numbers 42 & 43 have a connection with this concept of hearing or more specifically to this Mitzva of Shma which ends off with the verse mentioning the Exodus. And in terms of the tribes of Shimon & Dan in relationship to Israel which was divided up according to tribes, the boundries of Israel as described seven times by the books of Judges, Samuel & Kings is "from Dan to Beer Sheba" - that is, from the tribe of Dan's territory to Be'er Sheba, which was a city among others that the tribe of Shimon lived in.

There are quite a few words that begin with the letters of Gimmel & Mem which make up the word GAM having a Gematria of 43:

GEMATRIOT - To begin with, I had mentioned in my previous blog that in the end of Ethics of Fathers Chapter Three, that Gematriot are considered deserts or additions to wisdom. Thus, as GAM means also, as in addition or adding on to something, this Hebrew word consisting of Gimmel & Mem are also the first two letters of the word Gematriot. If this was not enough, though we have the 13 Middot of the Torah/principles of the Torah as we mention in our daily morning prayers, there is in fact another set of such principles. Rabbi Eliezer Ben Rabbi Yosi HaGelili mentions a list 32 Middot of the Torah. And the 29th on the list is Gematriot, which comes in time to mention this in my 29th post here.

We have mentioned before that this word - the name of this website which is the basis of myblogspot - is the Gematria of 669 when without a second Yud between the letters Gimmel & Mem. Indeed, there are exactly 669 mentions of the word Jerusalem in the Bible - and while not mentioned even once in the Chumash/Penteteuch/Five Books of Moses - there are exactly 669 sections or paragraphs of the Chumash, as can be seen in a Sefer Torah. And it is Chapter 669 of the first part of the Shulchan Aruch/Code of Jewish Law that is about the holiday of Simchat Torah when we conclude and begin anew the reading of the Sefer Torah. Thus, just like the Mitzva of Shma, both the numbers 42 & 43 have a connection with the Mitzva of learning & teaching Torah. Significantly, while the holiday of Simchat Torah is in fact the holiday of Shemini Atzeret when only one day in Israel - it was only in perhaps around the last 1,000-1,500 years that this official conclusion of reading the Sefer Torah took place on this holiday. In fact, in Tractate Megilla Chapter Three, in its list of Torah readings for the holidays, it makes NO MENTION of the reading for Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah! Thus, this is a concept of GAM - also, in addition. Thus, in connection to this, the recent holiday, as you will, of Jerusalem Day, while not celebrated like the Yomim Tovim - Jewish holidays in which we don't do most kinds of work, this day is an ADDED day of celebration for the Jewish people when we regained the holiest area in the world, truly a reason to celebrate! And when did this day fall out on? The 43rd day of the Omer - in relation to which 43 is the Gematria of GAM. This leads to the second part of the Torah - the Oral Torah (in contrast to the Written Torah or the Bible), which is represented by the...

GEMARA - This is another name for the Talmud, the detailed explanation of the Mishnayot. The first two letters of this word are also Gimmel & Mem. There are in fact two parts to the Talmud - the more popular Babylonian Talmud & the Jerusalem Talmud. In fact, it was first the Jerusalem Talmud that was composed. But perhaps what is ironic with the name of this part of the Talmud is that is was not composed in Jerusalem at all, but in Tiberias! Yet, in honor of Jerusalem, it was named as the Jerusalem Talmud, showing the special significance of Jerusalem as the city of the Holy Temple. Anyways, in relationship to the Oral Torah, that is what it really is, the part of the Torah that was orally transmitted to us from generation to generation. Yet, when the Jewish people were going through hard times following the destruction of the Second Temple, and there was fear that the details laws of the Torah would be forgotten, the rabbis decided to transmit these teachings down in writing.

Now, the Oral Torah is called in Hebrew Torah Sheh-be-al Peh. The last word PEH/Mouth is the Gematria of 85. Now, the MIDDLE number between 1 & 85 is 43! Indeed, the Gemara as the detailed explanation of the Mishnayot, was an added - as signified by the word GAM/Also=43 - piece of Torah that was written down to preserve the contents of the Torah for the future generations. On top of this, the Torah says very spefically "You shall SPEAK of THEM". Thus speaking using the mouth is associated with the word BAM referring to Torah, having a Gematria of 42, thus 42+43=85!

Speaking of the MIDDLE number, the Talmud (Berachot 58a) tells us that the word NETZACH, which means eternity or victory, in a certain verse, refers to Jerusalem. Now, of the seven Sefirot/Emanations corresponding to which we have seven weeks of counting the Omer - it is Netzach that is the MIDDLE Sefira. Now, the specific Sefira combination for the 43rd day of the Omer - Jerusalem Day - is Chesed She'bi'Malchut - Kindness in Kingship. Kindness & Kingship are at opposite ends of the Sefirot. Indeed, Hashem did a tremendous Chesed/Kindness in helping us regain the holiest area of the world, displaying Hashem's Kingship. "Hashem gave me ALSO this one" "Hashem ALSO heard my voice" the comments being made upon the births of Shimon & Dan respectively. Giving is the display of the following...

GEMILUT CHASADIM - Granting of Kindnesses, this phrase beginning with the letters Gimmel & Mem. Indeed, this phrase is the very Gematria of the word Torah (611), which we already showed has a connection with the number 43. We had mentioned in a previous post that while the Talmudic Sage Rava who lived to age 40 focused primarily on learning Torah, another Talmudic Sage Abaye who lived to age 60 also spent a considerable amount of time doing kindness. Thus, it was in the merit of this ADDED Mitzva that ADDED years to Abaye's life. (Both of these Sages were from a family that were cursed with dying young and only in the merit of these Mitzvot did they have a chance to live longer). Ultimately, we have to remember that while the greatest Mitzva is indeed learning and teaching Torah, one does not get the corresponding reward without following its Mitzvot, Hashem's commands of what he tells us to do in the Torah. Speaking of which, the Talmud in Tractate Sota tells us that the Torah begins with kindess - Hashem clothing Adam & Eve, and ends with kindness - Hashem burying Moses.
Indeed, it was Abraham, the ancestor of the Jewish people who spread the belief in one G-d in an idol worshipping universe, who brought people close to the teachings of the Torah through his act of Gemilut Chasadim - doing kindness especially through inviting people to his home for a steak lunch in the midst of the Hebron & Beer Sheba deserts. Thus, while teaching Torah to others in itself is in fact the ultimate giving of eternity to other people as its greatest Mitzva, there are times that this can only be accomplished through doing acts of kindness like providing free meals to accomplish this, not strictly as a Yeshiva just giving Torah lessons. Thus, we are using some physical such as food to bring Jews to come to observe Judaism who would not otherwise have done this by seeing an advertisement of a Torah class in the neighborhood synagogue. Speaking of food, there is a type of food that is especially related to Israel which is called...

MIGDANOT - Never heard of this word? Well, this is a word in Parshat Chayei Sara which means delicious fruits, and begins with Mem & Gimmel When Eliezer, Abraham's servant traveled to find a wife for Isaac and discovered Rebecca, he gave these fruits, which Rashi points out as a wording of dainties, were fruits from Israel, to her brother and mother. Now, the question could be asked "O.K. - these fruits were from another country? But what's the big deal of calling these fruits as special treats just because they were grown in Israel?" But that's it, these fruits are something physical coming from a holy environment, a display of Abraham's act of kindness of providing food in an act of spirituality, and no doubt was the cause of Isaac marrying Rebecca who epitomized the behavior of Gemilut Chasadim in her own way by providing water not only to Eliezer who asked for it, but on her own initiative - GAM LiGemalecha Esh'av - "ALSO for your camels will I draw water for". It's interesting to note that the Hebrew word for camels here is Gemalim, a connotation of Gemilut, also beginning with Gimmel and Mem.

MIGDAL EIDER - In the Midrash HaGadol, Jerusalem has 70 names. The 43rd name listed is Migdal Eider, beginning with the letters of Mem & Gimel adding up to 43! It's based on this verse "And you, Migdal Eider - Tower of the Flock - Ophel of the daughter of Zion, they will come back to you; and the original kingdom will arrive, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem" (Micha 4:8)

MAGID - Literally means telling or teller, this is the name of the 5th of the 15 parts to the Passover Seder as laid out in the Haggadah, which is the basic requirement of the Mitzva to tell over or recount the story of the Exodus. In the midst of the text for Magid, we mention another list of 15 items, which are the various favors that Hashem did for us, beginning with the Exodus and culminating with the building of the Beit HaMikdash. In short, the beginning of our spiritual journey as a nation began with the Exodus leaving Egypt, and at least in a physical sense, ended when we finally able to come to the Temple in Jerusalem, the holiest place in the world, in sharp contrast to the 49 levels of impurity that the Jews were steeped in while in Egypt, and had we waited just a little longer, we would have already sunk into the 50th level of impurity which would have made it impossible for us to ever recover from our spiritual impurity, let alone be able to attend the Holy Temple where one is forbidden to be on its holy grounds if one had an impurity which at the very least required going to the Mikvah/ritularium before being permitted to enter the Temple environs.

In terms of Mishnayot...

MEGILLA - There are in fact five Megillot in the Bible, but when we talk about reading the Megilla without specifying the name of it, it refers to the Book of Esther that we read on Purim. Indeed, one of the 63 Tractates of the Mishnayot is called Megilla, also beginning with a Mem & Gimmel. Now, the Vilna Gaon says that it is Purim that corresponds to the Sefira of Netzach. As we mentioned earlier from the Talmud, the word Netzach as written in a particular verse refers to Jerusalem, thus highlightening the connection between Jerusalem & Purim. And as Tractate Megilla begins with "We read the Megilla on the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th or 15th (of Adar)". The Megilla is read specifically on the 15th of Adar in Jerusalem having the status of a walled city as Shushan where the Jews were able to rest from fighting on the 15th of Adar. In any case, this holiday of Purim was an holiday ADDED on to the other holidays of the Torah as instituted by the Sages. Now, there are in fact two places where Jerusalem is mentioned in this tractate. The first is at the end of the first chapter where it outlines the halachic differences between the cities of Shilo -where the Tabernacle used to reside, and Jerusalem - where the Temple used to reside. The second mention of Jerusalem in the tractate is the last word of this tractate!

In the first volume of the Mishnayot called Zeraim/Seeds which mostly consists of tractates dealing with the laws of the land of Israel, there is one tractate called Challa - refering NOT to what we eat - today's delicious Challot that Jews immensely enjoy eating especially on Shabbat, but to what we DON'T eat - the portion extracted from dough that is prepared in making bread and was given to a Cohen in Temple times but is burnt today. The word Challa is the Gematria of 43! And guess what - this tractate mentions Jerusalem in its very last Mishna in a couple different scenarios, ending off with this word in this very last Mishna of the Tractate!

In Tractate Avot - Ethics of the Fathers that is learnt on Shabbat afternoons from after Passover until Shavuot or Rosh Hashana - Chapter Five from last Shabbat, the Shabbat before Jerusalem Day, and Chapter Six of this coming Shabbat immediately following Jerusalem Day, make mention of Jerusalem. In Chapter Five - it mentions 10 miracles that occured in the Temple. Among these, it mentions that no snake or scorpion ever injured a person in Jerusalem. The question can be asked is what does this have to do with the Temple, because this was something that was in all of the city of Jerusalem? It seems that it was in the merit of the Temple that was in Jerusalem that no one ever got injured from these creatures in all of the city even if not on the Temple grounds. (It also mentions that no one ever complained from a lack of room while staying as a guest at a home in Jerusalem, but while this is not talking about the Temple per se, but this refers specially to when all Jews came to the Temple three times a year when this could have been an issue but never was the case). In Chapter Six, Rabbi Shimon Ben Yehuda quotes Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai of good qualities that are befitting the righteous and the world, and brings a few verses in support of this. One of these verses is "The moon will be humiliated and the sun will be shamed, for Hashem, Master of Legions, will have reigned in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and there will be honor for His elders."

Now, getting back to the 669 mentions of Jerusalem in the Bible, the very first mention of this word is ironically in reference to an evil person who was the king of Jerusalem at the time that Joshua led the Jewish people to Israel (Joshua 10:1), and started war with the Jews in an attempt to prevent them from conquering Jerusalem. While it would be some 400 years before King David would call this city the capitol of the country, and it was almost another 50 years before the Temple would be in operation, it was a key city that Joshua came to conquer from the start. Then, in the verse of the very last mention of Jerusalem in the Bible (II Chronicles 36:23-last verse in the Bible), Koresh the king of Persia gives permission to the Jews to return to Israel "Hashem has commanded me to build Him a Temple in Jerusalem, which is in Judah". Thus, in a very similar vein, we see here the attribute of Chesed She'Bi'Malchut - "Kindness in Kingship" - a kindness being performed by a king in a similar fashion to Hashem as King of the world, doing a kindness for us in reclaiming the holiest part of Jerusalem of the Temple grounds.

Making a connection between concepts we had mentioned earlier, in the beginning of the Book of Judges, the tribe of Judah asks the tribe of Shimon who had portion of land among's Judah's land, to help him fight the nations living in the land, upon which they joined forces. The combined Gematria of the names Shimon (466) & Judah (30) is the same as that of the word Malchut (496), Kingship. Speaking of the Book of Judges, which is the SEVENTH book of the Bible, we have another SEVEN to talk about...


Being that the seven weeks of the Sefira correspond to the seven days of the week, there is a deep connection between the two concepts of time here. This is perhaps most demonstrated by our prayers. You see, the blessing of Hashkiveinu that we recite following the evening recital of the Shma, ends off in one way during the week. However, on Shabbat night (as well as Yom Tov night), it ends off in a very different wording - Ufros Aleinu Sukkat...Hapores Sukkat Shalom...V'Al Yerushalayim. "Spread upon us the protective covering...The One who spreads the protective covering of peace...and on Jerusalem". (Note that Jerusalem is the last word of this blessing) Now mind you, there is NOT ONE word about Shabbat. So, while are we changing the ending part of this blessing just because it is Shabbat?

In fact, Jerusalem has everything to do with Shabbat. As the Sefirot weeks correspond to the days of the week, it thus follows that the last week of the Sefira which begins with the 43rd day of the Omer corresponds to Shabbat. Thus, the 43rd day of the Omer which is Yom Yerushalayim corresponds to the beginning of Shabbat when we recite this prayer ending off with the word Jerusalem, the only time of the week when we say this! I should note that I saw in a Breslov publication, that in the beginning verse of Psalm 92 that the Levites sang as the Song of the Day/Shir Shel Yom for Shabbat in the Temple Mizmor Shir LeYom HaShabbat "A Psalm, a song for the Shabbat Day", the middle two words Shir LeYom "Song for the Day" has the SAME letters as Yerushalayim! (This includes a second Yud though it is written this way only five of the 669 times that Jerusalem is mentioned in the Bible) This is the sole mention of Shir LeYom in the entire Bible!

(There are unfortunately "religious" sects among Jews today who ban going to the Western Wall claiming that the victory happened through the "irreligious" Zionists, claiming to be the work of Satan. After 42 years of access to the Western Wall, there have been literally THOUSANDS of Jews who have come closer to Judaism because of this victory, nothing short of Hashem's miraculous intervention of not only regaining land we had no access to for 19 years, as well as other parts of Israel which were newly reconquered, but we Jews were literally saved from a quick annihilation of the kind that Haman planned on doing which resulted in the end in the holiday of Purim. It should be noted that it is specially at the BEGINNING of Shabbat - corresponding to the 43rd day of the Omer - that Jews visiting the Western Wall who are not yet observant of Judaism are invited for a Shabbat meal - the beginning of their spiritual journey that leads them to becoming fully observant Jews!).

Remember when we mentioned that the Jews' very first stop from Egypt was a city called Sukkot? No coincidence. The holiday of Sukkot represents Hashem protecting us in the desert with the Clouds of Glory surrounding us from all sides of dangerous nature. This represents the concept of Chesed She'Bi'Chesed - Kindness within Kindness - Hashem doing kindness for us within the kindness of Hashem taking us out of Egypt, and is the first Sefira combination of the 49 days of the Omer that we count starting from the day after the Exodus from Egypt. Thus, we used the word Sukkat - the very same letters (Samech, Kaf, Sav/Tav) used for the name of the first arrival city of the Jews on their way to the 43rd place - Israel, of which Jerusalem eventually became the capital - in the blessing of Hashkiveinu that ends off with the word Jerusalem.

Now, in terms of the last week of the Sefira having a connection with the last day of the week - Shabbat, the Sefer Yetzira, a kabbalistic book describing how Hashem created the world using the letters of the Alef Beit, notes that there are seven letters - Beit, Gimmel, Dalet, Kaf, Pei, Reish & Tav that correspond to the seven days of the week. Thus, the letter Tav, also the last letter of the Alef Beit, corresponds to Shabbat. Now, if you recall in a previous blog where I wrote about the BIG letter Tav in the word VaTichtov - "Esther wrote" referring to the Megilla that Esther wrote to be read on Purim, you will see an intrinsic connection here of the letter Tav as it relates to both Purim, the holiday corresponding to the Sefira of Netzach according to the Vilna Gaon & Yom Yerushalayim which is Netzach according to the Talmud (In the Kedusha prayer for Shabbat morning, we ask Hashem when He will be "King in Zion...within Jerusalem Your city and for all eternity" - U'leNeitzach Netzachim). Thus, Tav is intrinsically related to the last week of the Sefira (Also, there are 49 letters in a verse in Psalms 67:5) that correspond to the 49 days of the Sefira. The 43rd letter of this verse is a Tav - corresponding to this 43rd day of the Sefira - Jerusalem Day!)


Technically, this phrase is mentioned not once, but twice in the Bible.

Samuel II 24:8 - Following a census that King David ordered his main general Joab to perform which resulted in a plague among the Jewish people since it is forbidden to count them directly, it says "they (Joab and his entourage) came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days". In Hebrew, it's worded as Tisha Chadashim V'Esrim YOM YERUSHALYIM. Question: Why wasn't it worded as such that it should read "They traveled throughout the land for nine months and twenty days and then they returned home to Jerusalem"? In another words, why focus the period of time as when they returned rather than the amount of time they spent on the road, the usual way of wording the time on a trip?

Pertaining to a regular Jewish year without an extra Adar added making it a leap year - let's count 9 months & 20 days starting with Tisha B'Av, the sadest date in Jewish history marking numerous tragedies, most sadly the destruction of both Temples, and the murder of many Jews, indeed a most sad day for Jerusalem. The date is 9 Av. Count nine months from this until 9 Iyar. Now count 20 days from 9 Iyar, and the last of the 20 days is...28 Iyar - Jerusalem Day! Joab and crew returned home "at the end" of 9 months and 20 days. Mind you, there is one more word that begins with Gimel (3) & Mem (40) - GEMAR - conclusion. Indeed the concluding day of this period falls out on the 43rd day of the Omer.

While the Bible does not specify what time of year the census actually occured, no doubt that this hints to this happy day. You see, while most of the destruction of the Temple took place on 10 Av; since it began on 9 Av, this was the date chosen by the Sages to be the fast of Tisha B'Av. Thus, while we have a sad beginning here, it started to become a very happy time for Jerusalem -though the Temple has yet to be rebuilt- at the END time of our exile starting on 28 Iyar! And as we see that during the plague that claimed the lives of many Jews following the census, King David follows the prophet Gad's orders to build an altar on the future Temple grounds and he brought sacrifices on it following which the plague stopped, the concluding verse of the Book of Samuel.

It should be noted that while Samuel the prophet passed away as recorded in the middle of the Book of Samuel, in contrast to Joshua whose passing is mentioned in the end of the Book of Joshua, the following explains why the history of King David's kingship is recorded in the Book of Samuel following Samuel's passing instead of being included in the book of Kings which basically begins with his son King Solomon's kingship even though King David was the ancestor of the Davidic dynasty. It was the prophet Samuel & King David according to the Talmud who together mapped out exactly where the Temple would be built. And indeed, Samuel's Yahrzeit is on...28 Iyar - Jerusalem Day! Speaking on this note, King David passed away on the holiday of Shavuot, the culmination of the Sefira period, which is exactly one week later than Jerusalem Day. Additionally, it was the prophet Samuel who wrote the Book of Ruth that is read on Shavuot, ending off with the last word David, mentioning his lineage, and he also was the one who anointed David to be king, the ancestor of the Davidic dynasty and the future Messiah! (It's interesting to note in relationship to the word Peh as we mentioned before having a Gematria of 85, there are exactly 85 verses in the Book of Ruth, the shortest of the 24 books of the Bible! And the Zohar equates Peh/the mouth, the part of the body that corresponds to Malchut - kingship, the Sefirah corresponding to Shabbat and the last week of the Sefira count beginning with the date of Yom Yerushalayim!)

Psalms 137:7 - "O Hashem, remember about the Edomites - THE DAY OF JERUSALEM - who said "Raze it, raze it, to its very foundation". Ironically, in this verse, the "Day of Jerusalem" refers none other than to the day of the destruction of the Temple when the Edomites/Romans of the Second Temple, as prophesized by the author of the Psalm, would destroy the Temple. Indeed, as we mentioned Jerusalem Day in refering to a period of time that begins from Tisha B'Av and ends with Yom Yerushalayim, this makes perfect sense!

Speaking of Edom, the Edom - the world empire of today - is the United States. It consists of its 50 states and Washington D.C., making it a total of in fact 51 states, corresponding to the name Edom which is the Gematria of 51. Mind you, Alaska & Hawaii became the final states of the United States in 1958 less than 10 years before the Jerusalem Day victory in 1967! At one point since, beginning with peanut farmer, failure United States President Jimmy Carter who shows his ugly Anti-Semitism to this day, who pushed for the Camp David Accords to give away the Sinai part of Israel to the blood thirsty Arabs. Now, Binyamin Netanyahu who really isn't supposed to be Prime Minister of Israel since it was the opposing Kadima party that actually won the Israeli elections by a majority vote, is continuing his agenda of giving away parts of Israel which started with giving the Arabs control of Hebron and voting to give away Gush Katif, made a special trip to the United States to speak to Muslim Arab Obama, illegal president of the United States who was not born in the U.S., to talk about giving away more land in a creation of a "Palestinian State", thus continuously caving into world pressure which is nothing new about Netanyahu, instead of following his own name of BINYAMIN - Ben Yamin "Son of Eretz Yisrael" (according to Rashi's explanation of Binyaimin's name, the only one of the tribes who was born in Israel) NETANYAHU - Hashem has given it - Israel - to the Jewish people. Very unfortunately, many Jews - including Shomer Shabbat Jews - voted for him this time instead of the real "Ben Yamin Netanyahu" party of Ichud Leumi - forgetting about his bad track record of giving Holy Land away to the blood thirsty Muslim Arabs - and only remembering his "bold" statements about the dangers of Iran developing nuclear weapons to attack Israel, G-d forbid, and now he is not even standing good by this, afraid to attack Iran because of what the United States and the rest of the world "might" say and do as a result, instead of practicing our own MIGHT fighting for our Holy Land displaying Hashem's MIGHT of His kindness displaying his Kingship, which He performed through thousands of Israeli soldiers who put their lives on the line winning the battle against 31 million Arabs from countries surrounding Israel.

In terms of Obama himself, I had mentioned in the past that Obama was politically born on Tisha B'Av of 2004 when he gave a speech of endorsing then Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. While Obama himself may have not thought of becoming president of this country at that time, this public political speech of his opened the door to where he is at today - like it or not, legally or not. And it has been pointed out before that the middle letters of Jerusalem are USA as in JerUSAlem. Apparently, there are unfortunately many Jews who think of the United States as their Jerusalem. Well, my message is - either it is the United States or Jerusalem/Israel. Period! Yahudut/Yiddishkeit/Judaism only has true meaning in our Holy Land - NOT in Boro Park, Flatbush, Crown Heights or Williamsburg.

We are at the end of our journey - as symbolized by the 42 stops that the Jews made from Egypt on their to Israel - and after 42 years since the liberation of the holiest area in the world and what is going on in the United States which is already starting to sink financially with Obama's vein attempt to keep that country above water, it is about time that Jews in the United States realize that the comforts of exile are over, and is gradually turning to discomfort, so it is about time to leave for the PROMISED land by Hashem while it is still possible to leave the United States BEFORE marshal law sets in; and its citizens, especially Jews, won't be allowed to escape that country, G-d forbid.


Very fortunately, the verse I recite at the end of the Shemoneh Esrai prayer that begins with a Shin and ends with a Nun Sofit like my name Shimon, is the verse of Shabechi Yerushalayim Et Hashem "O residents of Jerusalem, praise Hashem..." This mention of Jerusalem is the 401st such mention in the Bible. The 401st section of the 669 sections of the Torah as can be seen in the Sefer Torah is the section of the sacrifices that the leader of the tribe of Shimon brought on behalf of his tribe. The Midrash Rabba tells us that the leader of this tribe had in mind that the sacrifices that he brought corresponded to different aspects of the Tabernacle, the forerunner of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. May we merit to shortly regain PERMANENT access and control of the Temple Mount which was the initial announcement of Jerusalem Day "The Temple Mount is in our hands" and have the Temple rebuilt and bring sacrifices once more. And in conclusion of my 29th blog, I want to bring here the conclusion of the 29th Psalm in honor of Jerusalem - among its meanings "The City of Peace" - "Hashem will give might to His nation, Hashem will bless His nation with PEACE." Yes, the real peace - which can only be guaranteed NOT by nations who only want our demise and ALL our Holy Land - but guaranteed ONLY by Hashem, King of the world. And indeed, the letters Mem & Gimmel begin two related words - Mashiach & Geula/redemption, which will lead to the REAL New World Order.

NOTE: Check out the beautiful life of Jerusalem at
And speaking of beautiful Jerusalem, I would like to relate here a short story from the Aish HaTorah website as posted on

The story is told of the great sage of Jerusalem, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. One evening he asked his congregation to wait to begin prayers until the street sweeper had arrived. Rabbi Auerbach explained: "This man is totally devoted to beautifying the streets of Jerusalem. I only wish that my own work would be performed with such pure intentions!" So before we look down on another person, let's remember that every human being has an important contribution to make. And in life, the only thing we truly earn is our own good name.

28 Iyar 5769, 43rd day of the Omer - beginning of the 43rd year from the victory of Yom Yerushalyim

P.S. Will post, G-d willing, about Shavuot before Shavuot. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

#28 - PEACE: The FINAL Frontier

The title may remind you of Star Trek, and one of its goals is maintaining peace. Now, let's get to the real reality here.

The beginning of Kohelet/Ecclesiastes - Chapter 3 - lists 28 times of various actions. Let's list this here:
To every thing there is a season, and time to every purpose under the heaven:A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

There are a total of 28 "times", and the last of these times is the "time of peace". And so for our 28th post - peace will be the key theme here.

The connection of peace to the number 28 is nothing new. Following Pinchas' bravery of killing Zimri, leader of the tribe of Shimon (hopefully, I will be able to place my name in a better light in the future) along with his new lover the Midianite princess, Hashem rewarded him and his descendants with the Kehuna/Priesthood, something that he was not entitled to some 38 years earlier at the time that his father Elazar along with his brothers and their father Aharon were consecrated with the Kehuna which meant that only Elazar's future sons that would be born from him would be entitled to being a Kohen, but Pinchas who was alive at the time was not included. It was only through this brave action of killing a leader of one of the Jewish tribes due to his sinfullness (today, modern Orthodox Rabbis would be banging their fists on their podium denouncing Pinchas' "radical" decision of "murdering" a prominent Jewish leader of the community) that Pinchas merited the REAL peace prize - "Behold" did Hashem inform Moshe, Pinchas' great uncle "I give him My covenant of peace".

So, what does Pinchas or "covenant of peace" have to do with the number 28? As you will recall from Post #26 about Moshe, he was the 26th generation from Adam & Eve. Accordingly, his brother was Aharon, whose son and successor to the High Priesthood was Elazar, and his son and successor to the High Priesthood was Pinchas. Thus, Pinchas was the 28th generation from Adam & Eve. (There are exactly 28 words between Pinchas' name and the word Shalom/Peace in the Torah about rewarding Pinchas for his act of bravery (Numbers 25:11-12))

Now, we see here quite a few connections of peace with the number 28. There must be something going on here that the Torah wants to tell us.

As we had mentioned before, in the very first Rashi, the foremost commentator of the Bible & Talmud, his very first quoted verse as an answer to a question is Ko-ach Ma'asav Higid LeAmo Latet Lahem Nachalat Goyim "The strength of His deeds he declared to His people, to give them the heritage of the nations". This refers to the Land of Israel that was granted to the Jews upon conquering the land following their mass Aliyah with their leader Joshua. And the very first word of this verse - Ko-ach/Strength - spells the number 28 (Kof is 2o & Cheit is 8).

So in case anyone thought that giving pieces of the Land of Israel is the key to peace, we see from here that Shalom/peace that is connected with the number 28 is in fact the Ko-ach/Strength of the Land of Israel that we conquered - from the days of Joshua when the wall of Jericho fell down on 28 Nissan, shortly after the Jews' Aliyah, through the Six Day War when it included regaining our holiest site in the world, most importantly the Temple Mount, when on 28 Iyar 5727 (1967), the announcement was made "Har HaBayit Beyadeinu" - "The Temple Mount is in our Hands". And as Hashem tells us for our reward for following what Hashem wants "And I will put peace in the land" (Leviticus 26:6). Thus, it is HASHEM - not the United States, United Nations, or united nothings who aren't even capable of financing or guaranteeing their own statements - who will bring peace to Israel - if we just trust in Him which includes not giving away any piece of our Holy Land to anyone who is not a member of our faith, and certainly not to those who have more than proven and been outspoken about not recognizing Israel as a Jewish land or state.

So, why is our strength of the Land of Israel threatened? The problem is that Hashem has been virtually been left out of the picture in the 61 years since Israel's "Independence". The problem with this is that it that the Israeli government has not lived up to this "Independence". It has turned to the United States for money, recognition, and hopes that the United States will place Israel on stilts when it is just a farce, because the United States under the leadership of the last few presidents have put much pressure on Israel in giving in to the Arabs for their dreamland of Palestine, when they have 20+ countries to pick from instead of insisting on Israel giving away its land. The ultimate problem is when Kochi V'Etzem Yadi Asah Li Et HaChayil HaZeh - "MY strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth" (Deutronomy 8:17) - when the Israeli government wants to show what it perceives as its own strength as in Kochi - adding a Yud to the end of the word Ko-ach, which makes it MY strength - instead of Hashem's strength, Whose name begins with a Yud, as it is Hashem Who created the world with 10 Statements, thus placing Hashem so to speak on the back burner. It is so ironic how the Israeli government wants to show "its strength" to the world by giving in to the Arabs for "peace" in the form of a PIECE of paper, when instead it has very unfortunately resulted in many PIECES of body parts as a result of suicide bombings. Indeed, in the double Torah portion of Acharei Mot-Kedoshim that we just read this past Shabbat - both of these portions tell us to behave while living in Israel or "the land will vomit us out, just as it vomited out the nations before us". Thus, if we have to be afraid of anything, it's our sins - not the Arabs or world pressure - about which we have to worry about and improve our ways if we don't want continued pressure of giving away our G-d given land.

The Vilna Gaon notes that the 28 times mentioned in Kohelet can be divided into the 6000 years alloted to this world's existance. Thus, every period would be a total of 214.28 years. Accordingly, we are still in the 27th of the 28 periods of history - and as we see in Kohelet - this is the period of war. World War I & World War II, the names of major world wars is nothing coincidental - Hashem runs this world and names are a way showing His manifestation. And so, the final war of Gog U'Magog, which began on the night of Hoshana Rabba (7th day of Sukkot) in 5762 (2001), shortly after 9/11, as its starting date of Hoshana Rabba, was predicted by the Vilna Gaon. This war not only is its not on its way of ending, contrary to the Democrats' promise of taking the United States out of its war that President Bush of the Republican Party began and continued, but Obama just invested tons of additional money into this war even as the economic crisis of the United States is getting continously worse despite Obama's supposed efforts of "cutting back".

According to one version in the Zohar, Techiyat HaMeitim/Resurrection of the Dead - which will take place some time after the coming of Moshiach - will be 214 years before the end of the 6000 years of the world's existance. Thus, it will only be in this era that the 28th and final period of 214 years that peace will reign, because before this, Moshiach will be fighting the nations who will make one last attempt to wipe us Jews off the map knowing that with Moshiach around, we Jews will reign forever, and so the nations will desperately attempt to stop this. Indeed, as I mentioned in my previous post - the Mishnayot ends with the word B'Shalom - "with peace".


As Rabbi Akiva comments on VeAhavta LeReiacha Kamocha - "You shall love your fellow as yourself" - one of the main Mitzvot that were included in this past Shabbat's Torah reading, this is the "great principle" of the Torah. Indeed, if we love our fellow Jew as we are supposed to, then we will have the ultimate peace.

Before I proceed, I want to point out that my previous two posts were based on the first Mishna of the weekly learning of Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers. Well, the very last Mishna of this past Shabbat's Ethics of the Fathers concludes with saying that the calendar cycles and Gematriot are Parperaot - can be translated as additions or deserts - to wisdom. While these bodies of wisdom are not what you would say Jewish Law or ethical instruction, they "whet the appetite" or "give the final touch" to learning wisdom, thus keeping one in the loop of Torah learning, which is supposed to be an exciting venture.

Now for a special treat, I will point out a Gematria in a way that I never saw it done in all my years of learning Torah, yet it is fully based on how the Parsha is learned every week - literally. You see, the Code of Jewish Law of the Section of Daily Conduct - Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim - on the laws of Shabbat (Chapter 285) mentions learning the weekly Torah portion learning it as reciting the original text of Hebrew two times, and its Aramaic translation, known as Targum Onkelos one time, which is preferably done on Erev Shabbat or can be begun on Sunday to be concluded before Shabbat. Now for those who aren't used to the Hebrew, and certainly will not understand what it is saying - learning it in English, especially with the Rashi commentary (Artscroll has virtually the best translation of Rashi) is a good start. In any case, using this method, I discovered something absolutely amazing, something that I never tried before. So, the Gematria of V'Ahavta LeReiacha Kamocha/"You shall love your fellow as yourself"- the phrase in the Torah referring to the Mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael/Love for a fellow Jew - is 820. As we read the original text twice, 820x2=1640. Now, the Aramaic translation for this is U'terachem LeChavrach Kevatach which equals 1360. Thus, the total Gematria of this phrase of "You shall love your fellow as yourself" - twice the original Hebrew text and its accompanying Aramaic translation is exactly three thousand (3,000)!

I have been fortunate a number of times when my birthday of Rosh Chodesh Iyar (1 Iyar) falls out on Shabbat - that when it falls out on Parshat Kedoshim, which includes this phrase, that I have been able to have this Aliyah for my birthday (it's the 2nd Aliyah of this Parsha when read alone, and the 2nd Aliyah is reserved for the Levite, and I am a Levite). While there are parts of the Torah/Chumash that are read in the Sefer Torah more than once every year, this is read ONLY ONCE A YEAR. Now, there are other years when my birthday when it falls out on Shabbat, that we read the two middle portions of the Torah - Tazria & Metzorah which was the case this year. Except for once, I had Maftir - the reading assigned for the one who will read the Haftara- section of the Prophets as it relates to the Parsha or festive occasion. The Maftir in this case is the section about the Korbanot for Shabbat & Rosh Chodesh, and the Haftara is the final chapter in Isaiah as it specially relates to Rosh Chodesh. For the one time that I didn't have Maftir/Haftara for my Shabbat birthday, I had the regular Levite reading. Why I say this is because there is in fact a letter found in this reading that is of a bigger size, a topic that I have written about before. This is in the first word of Leviticus 13:33 - VehitGalach - "he shall shave himself" where the letter Gimmel of the word is unusually BIG. The original context is referring to a situation where there is an infected spot that is suspected of being Tzara'at - a spiritual malady resembling leprosy, around which the hair is shaven, but not the area of the Tzara'at itself and the one having this is quaranteed for a week and is inspected afterwards for the outcome. Anyways, I have mentioned before, as in the big letter Alef in the very first letter of the Book of Chronicles where the letter in Adam's name is unusually big, referring in Gematria to 1,000 in contrast to the usual Gematria of 1, hinting to the 1,000 years alloted to Adam (he actually lived for 930, because he gave 70 years as a gift to King David). Thus, the BIG Gimmel in this case can be considered to be the Gematria of 3,000.

So, what's the connection here between the BIG Gimmel here and the Gematria of 3,000 as it relates to the phrase "You shall love your fellow as yourself" as the total of twice the original text and once its Aramaic translaton?

The Ba'al HaTurim, a commentary on the Chumash that points out many interesting Gematriot, tells us that this BIG Gimmel hints to three categories of people whose shaving is a Mitzva - the Nazarite, the Metzora (one inflicted with Tzara'at), and the Levites. The Nazarite shaved his hair of his head once his Nazarite vow is completed, the Metzora shaved off all his hair during his purification process after being healed, and the Levites who shaved off all their hair when they were first consecrated on 3 Nissan following Aharon's consecration of being the Kohen Gadol/High Priest.

Now, we have here three types of Jews. The Levites attained their position through being Hashem's devoted servants when Moshe commanded them to kill the Jews whom they knew to have worshipped the Golden Calf, and approximately 3,000 Jews were killed. The Nazarite is one who took on a vow in a quest of feeling more spiritual. Now doubt that if he was doing everything right that he wouldn't have felt a need to take on such a vow, but at least he realized his shortcoming on his own before Hashem would have to punish him to mend his ways. And then we have the Metzora who was punished by Hashem, usually for his lack of good behavior for speaking bad about other Jews, and was thus inflicted with a skin malady that sent him to be quaranteed from the rest of the Jewish people until he realized that he had been punished and resolved to mend his ways. So basically here, you have here the righteous, middle-class, and the wicked. And it is interesting to note that while the middle class of Jews, as represented by the Nazarite, had to shave off only the hair on his head, both the righteous and the wicked had to shave off ALL their hair with a razor - even though normally it is forbidden for a man to shave his beard off with a razor or entirely cut off his Pei'ot - sideburns/sidelocks. What can we learn from here?

It is very easy for some to judge others with a scrutinizing eye at times without knowing all the facts. Let's take a scenario of someone who is a regular worshipper in a synagogue who observes the behavior of various people who attend synagogue services. About a "half-observant" Jew, he says - "Well, this guy at least is nice to others, though he doesn't quite keep Shabbat the right way", and then about the rabbi of the Shul with whom he finds fault with "He didn't seem to talk so nicely this morning. I wish I had a better rabbi that I could turn to". And then commenting on how some young Jewish outlandish looking guy, "What nerve does he have coming to the Shul with a ponytail and an earing, and he didn't even have the decency of wearing a Kipa on his head or asking for one which was right there at the Shul entrance, until someone had to bring one to him. Doesn't he have any respect for a holy place?!" Besides the horrific sin of Lashon Hara for which one was afflicted with Tzara'at, which actually consists of up to 31 sins for EACH WORD spoken, amounting to hundreds if not thousands of sins in any given conversation, the narrator is judging people the way he wants to perceive them, whether right or wrong. O.K., the nice guy who doesn't quite keep Shabbat right is still a nice guy - maybe it will take just a little time until the narrator's fellow congregant will keep Shabbat the right way, which could be accelerated if instead of criticizing the half way observant congregant, he would invite him to a Shabbat meal to encourage him to be a fully observant Jew. And then for the rabbi who didn't seem to talk "so nicely" one morning, could it be that the rabbi was awake all night visiting with a family of a dying member of his congregation in the ICU unit of the hospital? And for the new young visitor to the synagogue, one's attitude can either make or brake this visiting Jew who might very well be a rabbi one day who will one day be into reaching out to other Jews becoming observant in turn, but it can be ruined by a few nasty words or nasty stares instead of making him feel welcome in the synagogue.

Yes, Hashem rewards or punishes according to His judgement, but if we want Hashem to judge us in a favorable light, we have to make an effort to judge others accordingly. If we have to take action against others like the Levites killing the 3,000 Jews who worshipped the Golden Calf, or Pinchas killing a Jewish leader to save the rest of the Jewish people from being killed by a plague, it is only because Hashem wants us to do so, not because we judge others as "not religious as we are". Indeed, it has been said that the word Tzibur/Congregation consists of the letters Tzadi, Beit, Vav, Reish - stands for Tzadikim - Righteous, Beinonim - Middle class, V - and, Reshaim - Wicked. The key here is the Vav - the letter for AND. Yes, AND even the wicked - even they are considered part of a Minyan - the necessary quorum of 10 men needed for certain important prayers in the synagogue, including the Kaddish, which are not recited when you do not have 10 Jewish men. There are times that people have to be reprimanded for their actions, and for which, a Beit Din/Jewish Court even today has power to declare excommunication on certain people who are not on the right track until such time that they improve their ways or agree to abide by the decision of the Beit Din. But otherwise, we have no right to judge as to who makes that Minyan. And yes, even the "wicked" Jews who don't have it quite right when it comes to Judaism, who haven't learned yet to even put on a skull cap when entering a synagouge, are included in the most fundamental Mitzva of "You shall love your fellow as yourself", represented by the BIG Gimmel equalling 3,000.

On a simple level, Gimmel equals the number 3. In fact, this is the number of peace. You see, when two are having an argument; quite often, it is a 3rd person or 3rd party that attempts to resolve the issue, and while Pinchas, who received Hashem's "covenant of peace" was the 28th generation from Adam and Eve, he was the THIRD generation from his grandfather Aharon, who was the epitome of peace, who lied to two parties not talking to each other to make peace between them, and after whom 80,000 Jews were named Aharon after him during his lifetime! Hillel, in the first chapter of Ethics of the Fathers, has this to say "Be of the students of Aharon. Love peace, pursue peace, love mankind and bring people close to the Torah". Indeed, the last of the 13 principles of how the Torah is interpreted, as I mentioned in my previous post, is when there are two verses in the Torah that seem to contradict each other, it is a THIRD verse that will shed light on the subject in question which will resolve the seeming contradiction. Indeed, the word ECHAD which means one, and is the root word for Achdut/Unity, is the Gematria of 13, so it is most fitting that this Torah principle is the 13th and FINAL one of the Torah principles of how the Torah is interpreted, as though it is in fact the NUMBER ONE in importance, but can be fully appreciated ONLY when everything else seems to be in order, but cannot be completed without the aspect of peace, the happy ending of how things our conducted in this world. And indeed, the word Gematriot begins with the letter Gimmel, the leading letter in this word. Perhaps, it is this finishing touch, the desert, that makes one feel that everything was worth it - the proof in the Gematria, the extra tip for a nice job done, the delicious little piece of chocolate or mint at the end of a meal.

Speaking of meals and priesthood, one of the types of sacrifices brought in the Temple was the Shelamim/Peace animal-offerings. Rashi comments on the wording of the name of this type of sacrifice as it places peace on the world, and that there is peace with these sacrifices that parts of it are eaten by the altar (meaning, being burnt as an offering to Hashem), by the Kohanim, and by the owners of the sacrifice. Thus, there are THREE different groups that are involved with consuming this PEACE-offering. This is unlike most other types of sacrifices where the owners did not have a part to eat in their own sacrifice unlike the Kohanim who ate them to atone for the owner's sin.

As I am writing this blog for this day - the 25th day of the Sefira - the count of 49 days from after the first day of Passover until Shavuot/Pentacost, it's most noteworthy to mention a theme that we recite for the very first words of Torah that we recite every morning - the portion of the Mitzva of Bircat Kohanim - the Blessing of the Kohanim, of which the blessing itself consists of THREE verses. Hashem instructs Moshe to speak to his brother Aharon and his sons starting with KO Tevarchu Es Bnei Yisrael - "SO shall you bless the children of Israel." The very first word of Hashem's spoken instructions here - KO, can spell the number 25, as Kof is 20 and Hei is 5. And how does the THREE verse blessing end with? Veyasem Lecha Shalom - "I will place upon you - PEACE".

And being that I just began my 40th year last week on the previous Shabbat on Rosh Chodesh Iyar, there is a direct connection between the number 40 and the Torah command of V'Ahavta L'Reiacha Camocha. You see, if you add the first 40 numbers - 1 through 40 - they add up to 820 - the Gematria of this very phrase V'Ahavata L'Reiacha Camocha.

As I had mentioned in my previous post right after my birthday about my name Shimon being the same Gematria as Makkot, the name of the Mishnaic tractate of which part of it writes about the Beit Din/Jewish court administering lashes to certain sinners,
the Torah itself says to give 40 lashes; though in time, the rabbis somehow interpreted the verse to mean that only 39 lashes are administered. In any case, the Torah that mentions the 40 lashes notes following the lashes punishment session "You shall not add to them, in order that your brother does not become disgraced in front of your eyes". Since it's easy for good people to look down on a sinner, the Torah had to make very clear that it is FORBIDDEN to add to the number of lashes prescribed by the Torah for the sin that he committed, and that the only reason he was given the lashes to begin with was because the Torah said so. After this, the Torah declares that we have no right to disgrace him; but if anything, to treat him afterwards as any other Jew in society that we treat as a brother and friend. In fact, even these 40 lashes is actually a favor for the sinner, whether he will admit it or not, to first of all, help prevent him from sinning again, and also, to shield him from worse punishment, especially from Hell in the world to come.

Thus, it is the number 40 - as used by the Torah - that actually demonstrates this very Mitzva of V'Ahavata L'Reiacha Camocha - even in the face of punishment, that is actually to serve as a beneficial service for the momentary sinner. Indeed, the first 40 numbers adding to the same Gematria as the part of the verse telling us to love Jews - 820, is most exemplified in a Mitzva that is supposed to place a sinner back in the right track, so he can be eligible for eternal reward, as it is doing a spiritual favor for someone causing him to keep Mitzvot that is the biggest favor and love that one can express towards another Jew.


Seven years ago, the world, especially the Jewish community in South Florida, lost a very special person - Rabbi David Bryn of righteous, blessed memory. As quoted by a friend of his, he lived 120 years in a third of the time. Indeed he made more use of his 40 years than many who would have to live many such lifetimes to reach a fraction of his accomplishments. And it wasn't just that he had such Ahavat Yisrael - love of other Jews that motivated him to reach out to so many people. He lived the second half of his life as a very sickly person which included a heart condition and poor eyesight, who under normal circumstances did not have a whole lot of Ko-ach/Strength. Yet. he went way beyond the extra mile that few others even touch upon in the height of their strength. Knowing him personally along with thousands of others, I felt like he treated me as a most special friend, as hundreds if not thousands others felt the same way. A member of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, he was inspired to do outreach work immediately following his rabbinic ordination. While a most beloved rabbi of his congregation that grew virtually completely due to his outreach, not just as a synagogue that people felt that they had to attend as the only one in the immediate vicinity, his pet project was his organization called Chabad Chayil, his own outreach system in which he spent countless of hours visiting others without being able to physically drive a car on his own, relying upon and paying drivers to drive him around; yet, he knew better than most drivers where certain destinations were because this is where lost Jewish souls were waiting for him to be lit.

The date of his passing - 6 Iyar 5762 (2002) - can actually be remembered in another way. As it was this year, he passed away on a Thursday of the week of the Torah portions of Acharei Mot-Kedoshim. The 5th Aliyah of these portions, falling out in the portion of Kedoshim, corresponds to the 5th day/Thursday of the week. And guess what it says in the midst of this portion - you guessed it...V'Ahavta LeReiacha Kamocha - "You shall love your fellow as yourself"! (Many Jews learn the Aliyah of the Torah portion corresponding to the day of the week - so the 5th Aliyah of the Torah portion was learnt on the 5th day of the week - Thursday.)

In an act of Divine Providence, like my story of the previous Shabbat of my birthday at the Kotel, I spent this past Shabbat in the holy city of Tzfat/Safed. Lo and behold, on my way back from eating Shabbat lunch to where I was staying, I saw a flyer about...Rabbi David Bryn! The flyer was about a memorial festive gathering of his 7th Yahrzeit in this learning center established in this rabbi's memory. While I missed the event as I don't live anywhere near Safed in any case, I wanted to talk to the organizer of this. As it turns out, it was someone from my hometown of North Miami Beach, Florida with whom I had met perhaps only a couple of times, but who knew Rabbi Bryn from the time that he was fresh from receiving his rabbinic ordination, and had a very outstanding relationship with him over the years. To make a long story short, I spent two and half hours in this guy's place in Safed on Saturday night talking about Rabbi Bryn's life, this guy's own life, and his learning and prayer center, called the Bayit Tzfat - Kollel HaRav Dovid Bryn. For more information, check out, and yes, if you know of a Sefer Torah that is available, please contact Daniel Pozner, executive director of this place at the contact information on the website, as this is the only thing that is missing, and Shabbat morning services cannot take place without reading of the Sefer Torah.

There are those who are rabbis of synagogues or head organizations having nice sounding names such as the words Ahavat Yisrael, and seemingly do all kinds of favors for people. It's nothing new, doctors also do all kinds of "favors" for their patients, but a good percentage of them are helping their patients only to the extent of getting well paid; after that, they have no use for them. However, what both of these types of groups forget is around where it says to "love your fellow as yourself", there are basic acts of loving another Jew -not just by doing favors, but by NOT doing what one does not want done to oneself. Such as, not being a talebearer -going around saying bad about others to people, not taking revenge, not being a grudge, etc. Rabbi David Bryn was not only virtually the furthest removed from making trouble for others; but if anything, helped work out other people's problems, and kept plowing through time, not wanting to miss a single Jew whom he thought could come closer to the Torah, coupled with a deep psychological understanding of his or her needs. Indeed, he was the ultimate man of peace as Hillel described Aharon, and how we are supposed to emulate him.

The contrast of these two types of people running Jewish organizations reminds me of the story that took place in the times of the Second Temple when once the High Priest after the conclusion of Yom Kippur was being escorted to his home by the Jewish Nation. In the interim, the leading Sages of the generation who happened to come from a family of converts to Judaism- Shemaya & Avtalyon - appeared. It seems that almost instantly, everyone was turning their eyes to these Sages. Meanwhile, the Sages approached the High Priest and gave him greetings. The High Priest who was not exactly thrilled with the change of honor from the people, replied sarcastically, "Greetings of peace to the sons of converts". Upon this, these Sages replied, "Indeed, may peace be bestowed on the sons of converts who follow in the ways of Aharon, the man of peace. But for one who doesn't follow his ancestor Aharon (the ancestor of all Kohanim/Priests) in the ways of peace, may there not be peace for him."

I will conclude with a couple of stories about Rabbi Bryn, one of which was told to me from a good friend of mine showing Rabbi Bryn's non-judgemental stance. Once, he met a "Messianic" Christian Jewish lady who informed him of her status while passing by the synagogue. Now, how would we react to such a person who is not only not observing Judaism, but is following a religion and way of life that contradicts Judaism? Well, this is how he reacted to such a person. He told her, "Imagine how you can reach even greater spiritual heights if you come to our synagogue!" Not only did he not criticize her for her errant lifestyle, but he phrased himself in such a way to make this lady feel good pertaining to her issue of reaching spiritual heights!

Another story that comes to mind is pertaining to the time that a new attendee to the synagogue, who may not have been quite observant of Judaism as of yet, was talking with Rabbi Bryn when another person commented to the attendee that he must be an Orthodox Jew because he is coming to a synagogue of such a denomination. Upon hearing this, Rabbi Bryn was quick to respond "Maybe I am not an Orthodox Jew". Now, how many rabbis do you know would say such a thing about themselves? In foresight, this rabbi wanted to make sure that this new attendee would not feel being put on the spot and have to perhaps admit that he really wasn't all that observant of Judaism, so the rabbi commented that maybe even he himself, as the rabbi, isn't so much that way himself. Truly, a rabbi who put other people's feelings above his own!

10 Iyar 5769, 25th day of the Sefira - midway point between Passover and Shavuot.

Expect to have my next post, G-d willing, before Yom Yerushalayim/Jerusalem Day that will begin on the evening of May 21.