Friday, June 26, 2009

#33 - Life in the Jungle

Yes, I found out the tragic pop news - for a lack of better words - only hours ago on the net, as nobody as of yet had called me to let me know. It seems that it happened all of a sudden during my sleeping hours in Israel, but the music industry got hit by a bolt of lightning - one of its biggest shocks in the last 50 years. Without need of mentioning his name, while he indeed may have broke down the race barriers in the music industry; ultimately, the mark of a person is whether he/she behaved more like an angel - and not just by his/her name and the name of that person's children - or behaved more like an animal. It may not matter so much to the non-Jewish world who cares mostly about their idol's music/movie/sports talent, even if this "superhero" is a wife beater or got into some stupid fight while drinking alcohol at a night club; but Judaism has a very different way of defining how a person's actions, especially as he/she relates to others, define that person. And especially as Jews who are the PRINCES of Hashem the KING, we have a special responsibility to maintain our special position and aspire to be on the same level and perhaps even higher than an angel, at least as much as Michael the official angel of the Jewish nation maintains his behavior as an angel.

And so we begin with the Alef Beit. For example, the word for the letter Gimel is similar in wording to the word Gamal/camel. And the word for the letter Kuf or Koof means monkey.And so with Hebrew/Yiddish names - Tzvi Hirsch, Aryeh Leib, Dov Ber, Zev Volf - the first in each set is Hebrew and the second is Yiddish - mean deer, lion, bear, wolf respectively.What is going on here? Besides the deer, all the other animals that I mentioned with the Hebrew letters and names are non-Kosher animals. Yet, they seem to be a mainstay in our Hebrew alphabet and Jewish names! Are we in a jungle or safari here?It is the summer when kids in camps like to go on trips and they love seeing animals! But all kidding aside, everything in the physical realm has its spiritual counterpart.

First things first - the upcoming Parsha that will be read in Israel this Shabbat - Parshat Chukat, and will be read on the coming Shabbat outside of Israel, begins with how the ashes of a Para Aduma - red cow/heifer will purify a person from impurity of the dead, which would afterwards allow him/her to enter the Holy Temple which is off grounds for someone who has an impurity. With this being said, one might think that in order to purify oneself to be ready for spirituality, that one should simply be purified by waters that a blessed by a holy person, similar to L'Havdil how Christians may think - and not with something that has to do with an animal - even a kosher one like a cow (I have lived in Israel for a number of years now, yet I have never heard of a female with a name of Para). Yet, it is specifically through a cow, as well as the one who actually sprinkles the ashes on the impure person - that then and only then can that person attain purity. And at that, why specifically a RED cow?

There is another special thing about this coming Shabbat on 5 Tamuz that coincides this year with the reading of Parshat Chukat in Israel. It was on 5 Tamuz that the Navi/prophet in the beginning of the Book of Ezekiel received his prophetic/kabbalistic vision - the very Haftara that is read on Shavuot (outside of Israel where this holiday is observed for two days, it is read on the first day when the Torah portion of the Ten Commandments is read). As I mentioned in my 30th Post (and this Haftara begins with "It was in the 30th year..."), this Haftara reading is all about angels. Now, as the Rambam/Maimonidies notes in his writings, there are 10 types of angels. One of these are who are called the Chayot. Chayot in every day usage refers to animals - specifically wild animals at that. The prophet Ezekiel describes four of these Chayot. Each of these angels had four faces - the faces of a human, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. In fact, these were the first set of angels that he encountered among others. Anyways, it is this section of the Torah named as Ma'aseh Mercava that the Sages of the Mishna & Talmud were most cautious about teaching, and is quoted quite often by the main book of Kaballa - the Zohar (its author, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, passed away on Lag Baomer - the 33rd day of the Omer, and this is my 33rd Post).

So, what do animals have to do with holy matters, when animals are just the opposite of angels who don't even eat or sleep?It has to be remembered that everything in nature in this world is Hashem's creation. Every creature - regardless of how it looks, behaves, or smells - is how Hashem intended it to be. The only variable here is mankind. Why? Because Hashem gives free choice to a person, and can behave like an angel or behave like an animal. For example, Hashem tells us in the Torah that it is forbidden for a Jew to get a tattoo. However, animals don't do anything to change their looks, they could care less, as long as they don't have to wait for their next meal. Only if it is in their nature to do something will they do it - killing another animal for its prey, mating in public, etc., but in fact are limited in certain ways that humans are able to perform, including speech (it's still amazing to me until today how certain parrots are able to do some talking).

Becoming more popular in recent years in the religious Jewish world is what is called Perek Shira - a compilation of verses from the Bible that all facets of creation say in song & praise of Hashem. There is in fact a difference of opinion among rabbis as to whether is it the creations - including the animals - who themselves praise Hashem, or that it is the different parts of creation that show a uniqueness about that particular creation that Hashem made. In any case, it's most interesting to note that at midnight in Heaven, the righteous in Gan Eden have "happy hour" praising Hashem. Correspondingly on earth, it is the rooster - the 33rd on the list in Perek Shira (and this is my 33rd Post) who calls out with seven voices. Each voice is represented by a different verse. (There is a custom among pious Jews who are awake at midnight to learn Torah and/or say special prayers asking for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple).

Ultimately, the world was created for mankind. You see, all the rest of creation follows its natural instincts and automatically recognize that there is a Creator who is in charge and generally follow their natural instincts that Hashem created them with. But the main one in creation - mankind - is the one with free choice. True, man more than anything else should be most grateful to Hashem and show the prime example of how Hashem is to be served, as the angels created with their natural instinct and in a very holy abode behave, and can reach even a higher spiritual level than them. However, if one follows his/her animalistic desires and behaviors, he/she can stoop down way below the most lowly animal creature that exists on the face of this earth. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 38a) tells us that one of the reasons that mankind was created last was so that if a person becomes conceited, he can be told that even a gnat - a lowlife insect - was created before him. In fact, in another part of the Talmud (Eruvin 100b), we are told that if the Torah had not been given, we would have learned modesty from a cat, prohibition of stealing from an aunt, prohibition of sexual immorality from a dove, and proper manners related to sex from a rooster.

Aside from the animal sacrifices that used to be brought in the Holy Temple, and which we will bring with the upcoming Holy Temple, G-d willing; we use animal products in some of our holiest rituals - including Tefillin/Phylacteries and the Sefer Torah/Torah scroll, both manufactured from animal hide. Thus, these animals whose hide is being used serve a most vital function in serving Hashem. It may be quite mind boggling - but imagine that the holiest object on this planet, a Torah scroll - at least outside of the Holy Temple - can only be considered with such holiness if the words of the Torah is written on animal hide!

Yes, Hashem teaches us how to behave - through animals, who are part of Hashem's creation. Their very creation should inspire us - the superstars - to automatically sing and praise to Hashem for His wonderous works and thus inspire us to want to serve Him the correct way. And if even animals who have natural instincts who are not commanded by Hashem to keep his Torah or else will do things that are above their natural behaviour instincts, then we human beings can at least aspire to that level even without knowing what the Torah tells us. And the Rabbis themselves tell us Derech Eretz Kadma LaTorah - proper manners/behaviors come BEFORE the Torah. Now, this is not to say that children have to be perfectly behaved before they ever learn Torah in school. However, besides keeping the 613 commandments - there is also a sense of behaving like a PRINCE, that befits the title of such a person, and it is only through that that others who will be impressed by such good behavior and will follow suit or at least admit that the Torah way of life is a good and blessed way to live.

Now, speaking of a tale of two brothers - Jacob & Esau, while Yaakov/Jacob was an Ish Tam (NOTE: Today - 4 Tamuz - is the Yahrzeit of Rabbeinu Tam, grandson of Rashi, whose name was Yaakov, and was named as such from “Yaakov Ish Tam”, whose view on the order of the Parshiyot in the Tefillin is followed by pious people who put on this Tefillin after donning the Tefillin according to Rashi’s view), a “simple” person, meaning, without shticklich, tricks or cleverness up his sleeve, learning Torah all day, while Esav/Esau is described as a hunter in the fields. Now, while not everyone is into learning Torah all day, some make out to be very honest business people who make a Kiddush Hashem/Sanctification of Hashem’s name, when others outside of the Torah or religious world observe those who follow Judaism and can see that the Torah is a very beautiful thing (as I wrote about in my previous blog about the brothers Yissachar & Zebulun). However, Esav was not about ready to be a Zebulun to support his brother learning Torah. His reason for leaving Yeshiva was because he wanted to follow his base desires like an animal, and as in the cruel business world - animal fights animal until the winning hunter finds a prey.

Anyways, Esav who was of reddish complexion representing his desire for sins, came home one day totally famished and begged Yaakov to feed him red beans in return for the birthright service - equivalent to the priesthood - which at the time was reserved for the firstborn as Esav was. Yaakov agreed as he knew that Esav was not worthy of being the man to have the special privileges of priesthood in serving Hashem considering his current behavior. It was on that day that their grandfather Abraham passed away. Our Rabbis tell us that Abraham passed away five years earlier than he would have otherwise thanks to Esav’s behavior, as Hashem promised Avraham that he would live to a “good” old age, and if he would learn of Esav’s behavior, it would have been aggravating to him.

In terms of Gematria, the letter Hei - speaking of which is the date of this coming Shabbat - Hei (5) Tamuz - is the letter, as mentioned by Rashi, that Hashem used in creating this world, as it says (Genesis 2:4) B’Hibaram - B’Hei Bra’am “With the Hei, He created them (heaven & earth)”, while Hashem created the world to come where the righteous are with a Yud. This is the only letter - besides the Kuf - which has an opening in it (that is, between the top & the bottom). The Talmud (Menachot 29b) tells us that this indicates that this opening is for one who wants to repent will have a way to re-enter so to speak, thus giving hope to someone who wants to repent can realize that he/she has the chance as long as one is living in this world. Now, another way of reading the above word is when the letters are rearranged, it reads B’Avraham - through (the merit of) Abraham. That is the world was created in Abraham’s merit. Now mind you, in this word, the letter Hei is small. This also indicates that Abraham’s original name was Avram/Abram, but the letter Hei was added to his name when he was ready to have his circumcision at the age of 99, or in his 100th year.

Now getting back to Esav, on the day that he came back from the field feeling faint and his grandfather Abraham died, he committed five sins, and thus as a result of beginning his public sinful life, Abraham died five years earlier than he would have had Esav not been this way. Thus, the sharp contrast here is that one can either use materialism - as this world which was created with a Hei=5 - for spiritual pursuits like Abraham did in feeding his guests with the finest foods in the desert leading them to believe in Hashem (we see that the story of his feeding guests came right after his circumsion when the letter Hei was added to his name) or like Esav who sold his soul for even the most plain foods. And in case anyone feels sorry for Esav because he came home extra tired and hungry from a hard day’s work, our Rabbis are quick to point out that he was faint from doing sins - the FIVE sins that began his materialistic life.

Yaakov and Esav were now 15, and as Pirkei Avot tells us, one starts learning Talmud/Gemara at this age (why children in Yeshivot these days learn Gemara years before they turn 15 is beyond the scope of this blog). So, since Esav walked away from Yeshiva, Yaakov was on his own
without his twin brother Esav as his Chavrusa (learning partner, as is customary in Yeshivot), but with Hashem’s help, he won the award of Bechir ShebeAvot - the “chosen one” of the patriarchs as the one who was most learned in Torah compared to Abraham & Isaac.

Now, I don’t remember where I saw this, but it is written that out of 1,000 children who learn Chumash, only 100 will learn Mishna. Out of these 100 who learn Mishna, only 10 will learn Gemara. And finally, out of these 10 Talmudic students, only one will be a teacher of Torah. This was apparently the common scenario in the early days - and indeed there is a connection between Alef (1) and Elef (1000) as I wrote in previous blogs, but my point today is to focus on the numbers 100 & 10. You see, the letter Kuf whose word means monkey is the numerical value of 100. It’s also interesting to note that while the Talmud talked about the open space of the letter Hei as pertaining to the repentant, it does not mention this about the Kuf. You see, a monkey stays being a monkey. (It's noteworthy to note that contrary to the belief of the scientists who don't believe in G-d who maintain that humans came from monkeys, the truth is that the opposite is true. The Midrash tells us that as a punishment for building the Tower of Babel to fight Hashem, one third of the builders became monkeys; hence, the reason for the similarity of monkey's faces to human faces). And so Esav, not utilizing his choice properly, chose not be different from the 100 who learn Mishna, and instead of continuing his learning at age 15 when one begins learning Gemara, he chose a materialistic lifestyle. And in case you think he didn’t have examples to learn from, Abraham gave himself a circumcision at his old age in his 100th year, not having the same strength as a 15 year old. Accordingly, even if he didn’t want to live a life as a rabbi or teacher of Torah, Esav could have still aspired to be like the 10 who learn Gemara, who at least make an attempt to make it to the top spiritual level, as the letter Yud has a numerical value of 10, and is the letter that Hashem created the world to come for the righteous.

Now, there was an early indication of Esav’s sinful life. He was born with a reddish complexion with a head full of hair, and then when he came home from his first day of sinful life, he asked for red beans. Now, we see with the Red Cow that it had to be full of red hair. Rashi quotes Rabbi Moshe HaDarshan who says that the color red represents sin, and that it was a cow because it represented atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf. Again, Esav may have wanted to excuse his behavior since it was part of his nature - like an animal. But he could have used his desires for good behavior instead of evil behavior, but don't feel sorry for him for selling his privileges of the birthright-priesthood service as the firstborn so that Yaakov would give him beans to eat. Abraham’s spilling of blood, which is red, came in the form of the blood of circumcision and killing evil people in war, but Esav murdered people strictly for his own benefit. And then we see in the Midrash that when Samuel the prophet was ready to annoint King David as king, he noticed he was of reddish complexion. Hashem assured Samuel that while this was true, he conquered his evil inclination unlike Esav. (King David did have sexual desires that led him to the mess up pertaining to Bath Sheba, but he was a mentsch to admit he did wrong when confronted by a prophet for his misdeed, and he did much fasting and crying, eventually leading to totally conquering his evil inclination).

And it is on this note about blood being used for good or evil that I end this post. G-d willing, I will pick up from this point on my next post which will be around the time of the fast of Shiva Asar B’Tamuz (17 Tamuz).

4 Tamuz 5769, Erev Shabbat Chukat

Saturday, June 13, 2009

#32 - Mitzvah from the HEART

As you may have noticed by now, there are some Mitzvot that are defined by a particular number. For anyone who is somewhat familiar with the contents of the Haggada, the number four plays a very significant role - four cups of wine, four questions, four sons, etc. Bar Mitzvah kids who don Tefillin/phylacteries on a regular basis will know that there are four sides to the Tefillin, there are four Parshiyot/sections of the Torah that are encased inside, and on one side of the head Tefillin - the letter Shin has four lines to it.

Parshat Shlach - just read on this Shabbat, and will be read on this coming Shabbat outside of Israel, as something in common with Kriat Shema, which includes a few sections of the Torah reminding us of our allegience to Hashem and his Mitzvot. Both conclude with the same section of the Torah whose theme is the Mitzva of Tzitzit - having strings or fringes hanging on each corner of a four cornered garment. Now mind you, I did not say that one is commanded to wear such a garment - there is technically no sin involved unless one wears a four cornered garment without the strings attached, though we do accumulate more brownie points by doing more Mitzvot. In any case, there are two types of garments involved here - the prayer shawl that is usually worn during the morning prayer services - known as a Talit Gadol, and then there is a regular piece of clothing worn where a shirt is worn with a big hole in the middle to insert the head through it - known as a Talit Katan.

Now before I continue, for all the women who enjoy my reading my blogspots, while women do not have to observe Mitzvot such as Tefillin or Tzitzit, the purpose of my blogspots is to teach the "moral of the story". Accordingly, while we do not bring animal sacrifices on the altar at this time as our ancestors used to do in Temple times, we learn quite a few lessons from the sacrifices - for example, when a sin-offering was brought by a someone who committed a sin, the animal being sacrificed was to remind him/her that really he/she should have been the one killed; but because Hashem gives us human beings a chance to repent, He allows us to sacrifice an animal paid from our own pocket to teach us this lesson.

Indeed, the very word Torah is actually derived from another word Hora'ah, which means instruction. The Torah is not just another nice story or history book, or a list of commandments though we are supposed to follow what Hashem tells us to do. The ultimate purpose of the Torah is that it should shape us to be what Hashem wants us to be - a refinement of character, not to be robots with built-in commands. Even as the greatest Mitzvah of the Torah is learning & teaching Torah, Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers reminds us "Great is Torah for it leads to action". If Hashem just wanted us to learn Torah, we could have done that with our souls in Heaven. But Hashem put us in this mundane world for us to earn our keep, and use the materialistic items in this world to serve Hashem. Accordingly, the only way we will know what Hashem wants from us is if we learn the Torah to know what the Mitzvot are and how to perform them.

Speaking of Mitzvot, our Rabbis tell us that the Mitzva of Tzitzit is equal to all the Mitzvot/Commandments of the Torah. Now, if you remember what I have written before, you will ask "I thought you wrote before that it is the Mitzva of Torah - in fact, every word of Torah is equal to all the 613 Mitzvot?"

You are right. Indeed, only the Mitzvah of Torah learning & teaching has this unique quality. However, there are a few other Mitzvot about which the Rabbis seem to say the same thing. No doubt that if the Rabbis say this about other particular Mitzvot - they must be most unique Mitzvot. However, they have to be understood in a different context.

First of all, the Rabbis of the Mishna & Talmud just don't say things out of thin air. The original source for Tzitzit as in the final section of Parshat Shlach, tells us not once but twice that this Mitzva of Tzitzit will remind us of all of Hashem's commandments. Moreover, this can be derived through Gematria. The word Tzitzit - Tzadi, Yud, Tzadi, Yud, Sav - has a numerical value of 600. It includes 8 strings on each of the four corners, and there are 5 knots to every set of strings. Thus, 600+8+5=613. Now, if you are looking at the original text, you will see that in fact the word Tzitzit is lacking a second Yud, thus it equals 590, not 600. But it has been explained that as there are three mentions of this word in this Torah section, and the letter Lamed - with a numerical value of 30 - is a prefix for the third mention of Tzitzit. Thus, redistributing the number 30 evenly with the three mentions of Tzitzit make them all have the value of 600.

Now, focusing on the number four, you have in fact four strings - but doubled into two making them eight ends of strings hanging down - on each of the four corners of the garment. In any case, you see a total of 32 strings hanging down - even though in reality they are 16 uncut strings.

OK, so ultimately, it seems that with the discussion of the essence of Tzitzit reminding us of all of Hashem's commandments, what an outside observer will see are 32 strings. And what word equals 32? The word Lev/Heart, which consists of the letters Lamed & Beit, which also spells the number 32 in Hebrew; and to note, this is my 32nd Post. Indeed, between the two mentions of "remembering all of Hashem's commandments", the Torah tells us not to stray after our hearts and eyes. The Talmud in Tractate Berachot 12b tells us that straying after our hearts refers to heresy, which is twisting what the Torah says to proclaim mistaken things, using one's intellect.

Now, the question can be asked here - are Tzitzit, the 32 strings, related more to the heart or the head? It's interesting that in the English language, we mention the concept of remembering when we say "memorizing by heart", when in fact, we are craming our brain to remember plenty of information the night before a major examination. Now, it seems that we have a similar concept here that the word heart in the context of Tzizit refers to an intellectual challenge to what the Torah says.

There are a few concepts as it relates to the entirety of the Torah that is related to the number 32. In Kabbalah, there is a concept of the "32 pathways of wisdom". And then, while those who say all the morning prayers will be familiar with the 13 Midot/13 ways that the Torah can be interpreted within the context of Talmudic reasoning as I had mentioned in previous posts, there is in fact another set of ways of interpreting the Torah - 32 Midot/32 ways outlined by Rabbi Eliezer son of Rabbi Yosi the Galilean. It seems that this is an enlargement of the first list of ways. Without getting into details about the similarities or differences between the two lists -the 29th on this list is Gematria (Check Post #29 about this).

There is another aspect of the number 32 that relates to the Torah - in fact, this connects the end of the Torah to the beginning of the Torah. You see, the last letter of the Torah or Chumash is Lamed (30), and the first letter of the Torah is Beit (2), and it is on Simchat Torah when you celebrate concluding and beginning the Torah anew. Indeed, this holiday which is in fact another name for Shemini Atzeret means Happiness of the Torah, when we express our happy feelings for the Torah that Hashem gave us, thus relating most to the heart of all the parts of the body, even though we express our happy feelings on this holiday through dancing and singing. Indeed, it was immediately after Simchat Torah when I began, when I felt a happy and certain urge to act on my happy feelings which included receiving the Chatan Bereishit Aliya, the portion of the Torah that is the beginning of the Torah recounting the Creation of the World. Thus, between the aspect of Gemaria as the 32nd and last on the list of the 32 Midot of how the Torah is interpreted, and the number 32 - Lamed Beit - that connects the end to the beginning of the Torah, this number 32 serves a most vital role in Torah learning, as the heart serves for the body to be alive and active,
virtually just as important as the head/brain, because, G-d forbid, without either of these two parts of the body being active within a few minutes, one's life is over. In fact, both the first word of the Torah - Bereishit, and the last word of the Torah - Yisrael, have the same four letters - Reish, Alef, Shin, and Yud. The first three letters listed here spell the word Rosh/Head. Hence, our relationship to Torah is a Head-Heart relationship. Learning Torah without feeling or happiness is hardly better than learning a college course strictly for the good mark on the test; and celebrating the Torah is a good reason to celebrate as a Jew rather than hanging out in a night club with blasting music, but does not satisfy a Jew's requirement alone without learning what the Torah wants to tell us to do to serve Hashem besides the greatest Mitzva of learning & teaching Torah in itself.

Tikunei Zohar tells us that the Sefira of Bina/Understanding is related to the heart. Now, understanding is getting into the "heart of the matter" in analyzing a concept in wisdom. Understanding in fact involves some form of emotion, as opposed to pure brains like a robot or computer with information, demonstrating that one is in fact interested about a concept, a point in wisdom, attempting to make sense of what one hears or learns. Hence, one who learns Torah but twists it to how one wants to understand it is not simply providing an innocent way of offering one's own opinion which may be OK in a democratic society in the non-Jewish world, but in fact is using one's emotion in attempting to change the Torah to one's own tastes, and in fact spits on the truth of the Torah.

It's interesting that the phrase in Hebrew for good character traits is Midot Tovot. The word Midot, as used when we say the 13 or 32 Midot HaTorah, does in fact also bear of connotation of character - and in particular - good character, because without refinement of one's being, one is hardly better than a professor of Judaic studies who teaches Torah either strictly for money and/or teaches it from an intellectual point of view that reflects how he/she wants to teach it rather than how the TORAH wants to teach it. This in no doubt is a reflection of one's character, and so one who speaks heresy twisting the Torah for the way that he/she understands it ultimately shows that he/she does not in fact care about what Hashem wants but only for the wants of oneself.

The word Mida in singular or Midot in plural in fact literally means measure(s). A synonym for this word - calculation - is in fact a translation of the word Gematria. Thus, how one interprets the Torah is in fact a MEASURE of one's character, how one feels about the Torah - is it a mere intellectual exercise as the Syrian Greeks felt about it, and thus threatened the Jews not to observe the commandments of the Torah but only to keep the Bible on the shelf as merely another book of wisdom, or is it a way to find out the truth and behave accordingly as Hashem wants us to be as shining lights to the world and give even non-Jews a good opinion of us when we behave appropriately, thus touching their emotional side feeling good about us Jews?

Thus, the 32 Tzitzit, as can be seen by anybody even without understanding the mystical secrets behind this Mitzvah, remind a Jew that he is in fact a soldier in Hashem's army in special uniform, and thus has to be on his best behavior (according to Jewish law, women don't fight in war like men do; so likewise, the Mitzvah of Tzitzit seems to be a concept to be related specifically to men). Anything short of good character will G-d forbid give a bad impression to others who observe Jews with their unique dress who don't behave any better than anyone else without such special uniform. Thus, we are exhorted not merely once for ourselves to remember all of Hashem's commandments by merely wearing this clothing, but that it should also serve as something that others will observe who will appreciate our unique status if we behave accordingly.


You may not see too many Jews in the United States wearing blue strings among the Tzitzit, but you will see a percentage of Jews in Israel who have one or two of the strings on each corner of the garments having a blue rather than a white color. While this color in the Tzitzit was quite common in earlier times of Jewish history, for a long stretch, no on in fact had this since the blue dye for this comes from a rare fish not seen often, called the Chilazon. It is so ironic that so many Jews through many centuries have not done this even as there are six words of Hebrew in the Tzitzit portion of the Shema that is said twice daily that tells us to do this "They shall put a fringe of blue on the corner of the Tzitzit". Luckily, we know from the Rabbis that one who doesn't do this in fact still fulfills the basic Mitzvah of Tzitzit. But the recent discovery of the fish happened only some 120 years ago discovered by the Radziner Rebbe - Rav Gershon Henoch Lainer, who "incidentally" passed way on the 4th of Tevet, which is the 4th month from the beginning of the New Year that starts in Tishrei. In any case, the fish which contained this blue dye in Temple times was particularly in the portion of the land of Israel that was occupied by the Tribe of Zebulun, who is the corresponding tribe for this month of Sivan, in which we always read Parshat Shlach which ends with the section about the Tzitzit.

While we are at it, as we know that the Torah was given in the month of Sivan, how come the corresponding tribe for this month of Sivan is Zevulun, the working tribe who supported its brethren from the tribe of Yissachar to learn Torah, rather than the tribe of Yissachar itself? Certainly, the scholars of Torah are the ones who have the knowledge of Torah and to whom everyone is supposed to turn to for Torah guidance?

Perhaps the answer can be found particularly in the blessings that Jacob gave to his son Zevulun. We see from Rashi that among the blessings is the fish containing the blue dye. In the same line, the text of the blessing hints to the future that when this tribe will do business with the non-Jews on their sea voyage to Israel, the latter will get a good impression of how Jews practice their religion, and will convert to Judaism bringing sacrifices in the Temple. Thus, we see a clear connection between the Mitzvah of Tzitzit and non-Jews having a good feeling of how we keep the Torah, as we mentioned earlier! Indeed, it is ultimately the practice of the commandments of the Torah that shows everyone the PURPOSE - as the word Techeilet refering to the blue dye, is similar to the word Tachlit, PURPOSE of something - of what the Torah is all about, because learning and teaching Torah alone will just not cut it for a lot of people who want to get a feel of what Judaism is about- which is ACTION which is learned from the Torah, as opposed to the view of the Syrian Greeks that one does need to follow the actions of Torah as a mere book of wisdom. It is in this world - the "four corners of the earth", that we have to perform action that will allow us to receive reward in the next, which cannot be accomplished by learning Torah alone. Thus, it is Zevulun who ultimately demonstrates this, and is the tribe who brings more people to observe Judaism, which would not have happened otherwise if Zebulun stayed home learning Torah all day. Yes, Yissachar had its specific mission to learn and teach Torah all day to instruct others on how to observe the Torah, and so did Zevulun have its specific mission of bringing newcomers to observe the Torah, very similar to how Abraham our forefather who brought people to believe in the one G-d and serve Him by his act of inviting guests to eat his delicious stake & wine meals in the Beer Sheba desert.


As mentioned earlier, the Torah tells us in relationship to the Mitzvah of Tzitzit "You shall not stray after your hearts..." Rashi point out that the word for straying or exploring - is the same wording in reference to the Meraglim/spies that Moshe sent to check out Israel before the Jews would enter, who explored the land of Israel. Now immediately following this upon their return, 10 out of the 12 spies gave a bad report about Israel to discourage the Jews from wanting to enter the Promised Land. The next thing you know, everyone is crying and some are devising a plan to "appoint a head and return to Egypt". Rashi points out that the Rabbis say that this head is refering to idol worship.

Now, among this evil report that these spies gave, they mentioned that there are giants in the land whom they are called Anshei Midot - "Men of measure". Interestingly, the word Midot here is the LAST word of the 32nd verse of this Parsha! Yes, these men existed, and the spies didn't just make up stories, but the way they presented the story was in such a way to arouse the Jews' feelings of fear, thus twisting their hearts which were previously filled with hope to enter the long awaited Promised Land. So, as Lev/heart is the Gematria of 32, we see how the spies used clever tactics to change the feelings of the Jews' heart which led to them wanting to have a change of what the Torah says and thus were thinking, using their heads differently than how they were supposed to use them, go so far as to wanting to worship new leaders instead of Hashem or following what the true head Moshe was telling them, as Hashem's faithful messenger.

Remind you of anyone? Yes, the one & only...Obama. Only Obama, who cannot even prove that he was born in the United States, got to be the HEAD of a country which is represented by a Constitution who forbids non nuturally born citizens of the United States to be the head or president of its country, thus in fact idol worshipping, following in effect a different set of rules or in effect a religion, than what the Constitution espouses. Yet, isn't it ironic that in fact, his full name in Hebrew equals the Gematria of ROSH/head (501). But yes, Obama as such head, in fact, ultimates represents the concept of idolatry.

Now, when the Jews cried at night following the report of the spies, our Rabbis tell us that this was the night of Tisha Bav. Amazingly, Obama's political birth, which was an address endorsing then Democratic candidate John Kerry, happened on Tisha B''av of 2004!

Let's backtrack to Parshat Tetzave. The word Tetzave is the Gematria of 501, the Gematria of Rosh/Head, and the 44th verse of this Parshat Tzetave - as Obama assumed the role of the 44th head of the United States - which consists exactly of 44 letters! This verse (Exodus 28:42) is Hashem instructing to manufacture for the Cohanim "pants of linen" among other clothes that they were to wear in the Tabernacle/Temple, and that this is supposed "to cover the flesh of nakedness", which includes the reproductive organ. The Hebrew phrase for the description of the pants is Michnesei Bahd/Vahd. The word for linen/Bahd as a number where the Beit is the first letter, assuming a number in the thousands unit, has the Gematria of 2004, which is the secular year of Obama's political birth on Tisha B'Av! And indeed, the Talmud (Erchin 16a) when listing the clothes of the Kehuna/Priesthood as atoning for different sins, it mentions that the pants atoned for sexual immorality. And for the ultimate phenomenon, John Kerry's family name in Hebrew is the very word that describes sexual impurity!

It seems that it is clothes that teaches us a lesson about staying away from sexual immorality. When the Torah mentions in connection with the Tzitzit "You shall not stray after your hearts, or your eyes", the phrase of "your eyes" refers to sexual immorality. Indeed, it was a result of the snake that first saw Adam & Eve together without any clothes (which wasn't necessary at first) that made the snake jealous, and as a result caused Eve to sin, who in turn caused Adam to sin, which resulted feeling the need to wear clothing now that they felt shame as a result of their sin which allowed them to now have base physical feelings which they didn't have before their sin.

Now, the private parts include the reproductive organ, about which its circumcision is called Brit Mila or Brit for short, which started when Hashem told Abraham to circumcise himself as part of Hashem's Brit/Covenant to him, and in return promised him and his future descendants - the Jewish people, the land of Israel. In relationship to Brit, the United States are called in Hebrew Artzot HaBrit, which literally means the "lands of the covenant". So, it is Obama, as the 44th head of the Artzot HaBrit, who is challenging the rights of Jews living in Israel which is a result of Hashem's Brit to Abraham as a reward for his circumcision which included giving up a little blood/Dam which is the Gematria of 44! Now mind you, Obama is not the first president of the United States to challenge our right to live in our land, even as I just saw on the news of Arutz Sheva that past president Carter is still working hard to challenge our rights to live in Israel in favor of the Palestinians. But, Muslim Arab Obama is a descendant of Yishmael, Abraham's son, whom Abraham himself circumcised, and thus Obama/the Arabs are holding on to their last straw of stronghold of power over our country of Israel in this merit which will G-d willing soon be a thing of the past when Mashiach will show up at the door very shortly and show who is the real HEAD.

Thus, the three big Aveirot/sins that caused the destruction of Bayit Rishon/the First Temple which occured on Tisha Bav are hinted here. ROSH/Head refers to idolatry and is the same Gematria as Obama's full name in Hebrew, Michnasayim/Pants is coverning the reproductive organ which is supposed to be protected from Giluy Arayot/Sexual Immorality, mentioned in the 44th verse of Parshat Tetzave consisting of 44 letters, in converse to which Obama is challenging our right to live in Israel which was promised to our forefather Abraham in the merit of the Brit Mila/Circumcision, and Obama as the 44th president of the U.S.A. - legal or not - but whose process began on Tisha Bav of 2004 - corresponds to Shfichut Damim/Murder, literally means spilling of blood, about which the singular word for blood in Hebrew is Dam=44.

At this point, I am reminded of Obama's ancestor Yishmael who was a problem child when his half brother Yitzchak was a young boy. Yitzchak's mother Sara noticed that Yishmael was "playing around" (Genesis 21:9). Rashi gives three interpretations as to what this playing around was about, which are these very three sins that we just mentioned, about which Sara was afraid would be spiritually and/or physically harmful to her son Yitzchak. As a side note, we read about this in the Torah reading on Rosh Hashana, which means literally "Head of the Year", NOT "New Year" as the non-Jews call their beginning of the year. And just like Obama pretended through his clever words, especially when he was first campaigning that he was a friend of the Jews & Israel, this is nothing new in Jewish history. When the Babylonians exiled the Jews following the destruction of the First Temple that happend on 9 Av, there were some Jews who begged their captors to bring them to "our uncle Yishmael". The Yishmaelim/Arabs had no problem pretending to want to help the Jews, providing them with meat and salty fish, following with bloated containers, which gave the appearance that these containers were filled with water. However, when these Jews put these containers to their mouths, it was nothing but hot air that they received, and being so dehydrated, they immediately died. And so was it the case when Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt, may his name and memory be erased, following his sneak attack on Israel in the Yom Kippur War, pretended that he was a friend of Israel when he sought to have a "peace treaty" with Israel. But perhaps the most tragic part besides the Sinai being given away to the bloodthirsty Egyptians was that many Jews were dupped into thinking that Sadat became a real friend to the Jews, after all, he even spoke in the Knesset. It boggles my mind that there was even a rabbi , who ironically came from a family of a Chasidic dynasty of Rebbes, brought his daughter to Sadat to receive his "blessing"!

Back to Parshat Shlach, when the Jews who looked to appoint a Rosh/Head and "return to Egypt" apparently forgot that Hashem sent 10 plagues on the Egyptians to allow our ancestors to leave Egypt. The first of these ten plagues was the plague of Dam/Blood! Yes, these Jews forgot Hashem's loving kindness to us, and thus automatically were committing idolatry, meaning, that for all practical purposes, Hashem as their Head meant nothing to them, and thus were looking for a new "head" that would suit their selfish wants. And it isn't that these Jews simply were afraid to live in the real Land of the Covenant - but they wanted to return to the land of Egypt about which Hashem want out of his way, so to speak, by performing miracles defying the norms of nature to get the Jews out of that country. And indeed, this is exactly the type of "head" that Obama is and for whom 78% of voting Jews in the United States voted for, who could care less if it's even legal according to the laws of the United States for Obama to be its president. And yes, the United States is today's idolatry of the Golden Calf, the original one which was worshipped on 17 Tamuz, which ultimately led to the events of Tisha Bav following the Jews' decline of spirituality, and the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 fell out on that very same date of 17 Tamuz! Thus, the three week period from 17 Tamuz to 9 Av which is the saddest time in our calendar is hinted within the history of the United States which officially began with a written document on 17 Tamuz, and has ended all hope of recovery with Obama's rise to power, the process of which began on 9 Av. And mind you, Rashi points out that the very same three sins of idolatry, sexual immorality, and murder were committed at the sin of the Golden Calf which occured on 17 Tamuz. And the same basic Hebrew wording used by Yishmael for playing around is used to describe the sins of the Golden Calf -Tzachek.

Let's not repeat history. For Jews living in the States, NOW is the time to leave a country which is already 30% controlled by Obama (ask GM Motors for example), and move to Israel, where good Jews having faith in Hashem WILL have His protection. But don't need to take my word for it, check out, & I don't think that anyone can describe Obama better than what an autistic person did. Yes, this is the REAL news of Obama, and we need to get real about what is REALLY happening in the world, and follow faithfully in what Hashem wants to tell us to live in His Holy Land, and for anyone who thinks that the United States is still a better place of refuge, check out

In conclusion, I want to point out to one more Mitzva mentioned within this Parshat Shlach. I am referring specifically to the Mitzva of Challah. This is NOT refering to what we eat as "Jewish" food, but to what we do NOT eat - a portion of the dough whch we remove and burn, which used to be given to a Cohen in Temple times. In any case, Rashi learns out from the phrase in reference to this Mitzva when it says "when you come to the land" that the way this is worded, this "coming" to Israel is different from all other such comings in that as soon as the Jews start eating bread grown in Israel upon entry to its land, that they are obligated to immediately start with this Mitzva of Challah unlike many other Mitzvot which the Jews were not obligated in until they conquered and divided the land over a period of 14 years.

As I mentioned in my previous post about Jerusalem Day, Challah is the Gematria of 43, corresponding to which Jerusalem Day is on the 43rd day of the Omer, and in this particular year, it began the 43rd year since the events of Jerusalem Day happened in 1967. Thus, let us get a HEAD start - and before the 44th U.S. HEAD Obama starts controlling the other 70% of the United States, let's begin our journey home to Israel - the 43rd stop of the Jews following their exodus from Egypt.

22 Sivan, 5769

Saturday, June 6, 2009

#31 - Kindness & Mercy on BOTH Sides of the Street

We all want Hashem to be kind and merciful to us, even if we are not deserving of this. After all, praying for kindness & mercy is part of our obligatory prayers. The Hebrew words for kindness & mercy are Chesed VeRachamim. If you combine these two words together, you will notice an absolutely amazing phenomenon. You will notice that the word Siddur/Prayer Book is spelled within this combination!

Small wonder then that there is in fact a very special piece about Kindness & Mercy that we pray for in a biblical formula known as the Yud Gimel Midot HaRachamim/13 Divine Attributes of Mercy. Hashem revealed this to Moshe upon his 3rd ascent to Mt. Sinai following Moshe's 40 days of intense prayer following the sin of the Golden Calf. Hashem promised Moshe that whenever Jews pray this in public that Hashem will listen to them (assuming that they are sincere in their prayers). This is recited during the Selichot prayers, many of which are recited during the High Holidays. This is also recited (except for Nusach Ashkenaz) in the midst of the Tachanun/Supplicatory Prayers in the morning and afternoon prayers following the Shemonei Esrei.

According to Rabbi Isaac Luria, or known as the Arizal, famed Kabbalist of the 1500s, the first of these 13 attributes is the word E-l, one of the seven names of Hashem that is forbidden to be erased, and represents Kindness. E-l is the Gematria of 31, and this number is a common theme in Parshat Beha'alotcha, which was just read this past Shabbat in Israel, and will be read this coming Shabbat outside of Israel. I will be talking more about this attribute a little later on here, and how it relates to one of the Tribes of Israel. This comes in good timing with this blog piece, as this is my 31th Post.


In the midst of this Parsha, you will notice in most Chumashim where there are two verses that are preceded and followed by inverted Nuns. It's interesting to note that these two verses consist of exactly 85 letters, and in one sense is considered a seperate Book in the Torah, making the Book of Numbers into three books so to speak, and which would theoretically make it the shortest Book in the Bible. And in a more global sense when we say that there are 24 Books in the Jewish Bible, the Book of Ruth which is the shortest Book, consists of exactly 85 verses. Anyways, these two verses are the very verses that are first recited when the Sefer Torah is brought out of the Holy Ark in the synagogue and when returned, respectively. The very first word of this section is Vayehi which is the Gemtria of 31. The Ba'al HaTurim which brings Gematriot and comparison of similar phrases in the Bible, points out that the first two letters of this word is Vie - which means "woe", that is, woe to the nations when the Jews traveled with the Holy Ark and upon entry to Israel, Joshua who was divinely commanded to conquer the nations who were living in Israel as the time, knocked down a total of 31 kings, which subsequently allowed the Jews to inherit the Land, which was part of Hashem's great kindess to us as he first promised their ancestor Abraham, the epitome of kindness who brought many people to believe and serve Hashem through his hospitality, to whom Hashem promised that he would give the land of Israel to his future descendants.


In the following section in this Parsha, we see that some Jews complained about the daily manna that Hashem provided them, and demanded meat. In response, Hashem said that he would send quail meat to them on a daily basis for 30 days until it would "come out of their noses". Many of them in fact died from this. But my point is that following this, only then would the remaining Jews realize that Hashem is in fact the one who provides the ultimate kindness, and only He knows what is best for them. Thus, it was on the 31st day that the Jews no longer suffered the results of overabundance, but were able to continue and appreciate the daily kindness that Hashem provided them with the daily manna.


When Miriam was stricken with Tzara'at (a spiritual disease that is similar to leprosy) as punishment for her critique of her brother Moshe's marital status as a result of his exalted relationship with Hashem which meant that He could receive prophecy at any time, Moshe prayed to Hashem a prayer which is the shortest prayer recorded in Bible history, and perhaps in world history: "Please G-d, heal her now" - without even using his sister's name within the prayer, which is common in our prayers today when he pray for particular sick people to be healed. The Hebrew words for Moshe's prayer is "E-l Nah Rephah Nah Lah". As we see, Moshe - to whom Hashem already revealed the 13 Divine Attributes of Mercy, began his prayer with the word E-l, the first of these Divine Attributes.

According to the Chasidic book Bnei Yissaschar, the Yud Gimel Midot HaRachamim have a correlationship with the Yud Gimel Midot HaTorah, the 13 ways that the Torah can be interpreted within the confines of the Torah She'be'al Peh/Oral Law. Corresponding to the Divine Attribute of E-l, the first of the 13 ways of Torah interpretation is called Kal VaChomer, which literally means "Easy & Strict", that is, from an easy scenario to a strict scenario. Without explaining this in a 100 words, let me illustrate this with an example which is followed as a response to Moshe's prayer.

Hashem replied to Moshe, "If Miriam's father would have spat at her, she would have hidden out of shame for seven days (easy scenario); then certainly, Miriam with her Tzara'at which is visible to everyone should be quaranteed from the environs (though the real reason that one with Tzara'at is quaranteed is because he/she has impurity that can contaminate others, and serves as a punishment to better his/her ways) of the Jewish Nation for seven days" (strict scenario) The Talmud in a particular context wants to attempt to prove that really Miriam should have quaranteed for two weeks or 14 days, a much more visible and shameful thing than being spat at; but as the Talmud puts it "It's enough that the applied case - Miriam's Tzara'at - should be like the precedent - the hypothetical case of Miriam's father spitting at her, and thus she was quaranteed only for seven days." But there is a question that remains, how does the Talmud assume that Hashem really wanted to quarantee Miraim for 14 days if the Torah if in fact Hashem never mentions this in the Torah?!

The above book Bnei Yissaschar quotes Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezritch, who took over the mantle of leadership of the Chasidic movement following the passing of Rabbi Israel Ba'al Shem Tov, founder of the movement, who points out that Hashem's response to Moshe's prayer was in fact Midah Knegged Midah/measure for measure. Hashem responded to Moshe's request calling out to Him asking Hashem for kindness to Miriam using the word E-l, which denotes kindness. Hashem in turn responded to him to the Torah way of interpretation that corresponds to this as saying that if Miriam would have hid a week for being spat at, then Hashem can't do anything less than put away Miriam for a week. But the question begs to be asked, where is Hashem's response of kindness here?

But this is the point. The Talmud that is largely comprised of the 13 ways of Torah interpretation understood well what Hashem was really telling Moshe. To show that Miriam's present scenario was a far worse case than Miriam's father spitting at her which in fact never happened, that by the strict rules of justice, Hashem would need to show that nothing less than two weeks, twice the amount of time would prove that this is really what the Torah required (This was in fact the exception in Miriam's case. But in general, once a person was confirmed to have Tzara'at - not simply if there was a question about it - he/she was quaranteed until such time that the Tzara'at disappeared and only then could atonement be attained in the Temple)But in Hashem's great mercy, He showed kindness in providing only one week of Miriam being quaranteed, as this is part of Hashem's Torah also. Indeed, quite often, the Talmud refers to the Torah when making a point as saying Rachmana - "Merciful One" refering to the Torah, Hashem's wisdom as such, since the Torah in fact wants to be merciful, though it has to be within certain confines of Jewish Law so the Torah won't be taken lightly, which would otherwise would lead people to do what they want without being disciplined by the Torah. We do see that in fact that the Torah in the week of creating the word uses only the name of Elo-him (G-d), denoting Hashem's strict justice; but as Rashi points out, the world would not have been able to be tolerant with only justice, since after all, if everytime a person sinned he would die, there would be no human existance left, so Hashem had to add mercy to the equation, as demonstrated after the account of the days of creation when Hashem's name is written as YKVK (Hashem) Elo-him, the name YKVK denoting mercy; and eventually, this name alone is mentioned quite often in the Bible.

Among the many reasons listed for the Temple being destroyed, the Talmud mentions that Jews followed the Halacha. So nu, isn't this what a Jew is supposed to be doing; halevei - if only all Jews would follow the basic Jewish Law, so what does the Talmud mean? It's very simple - everyone insisted on what they were entitled to according to Jewish Law, being very strict about for example what someone else owed them. Yes, the Torah will not lie as to what the law is; but sometimes, a Jew is expected to have sensitivity, and has to be willing at times to be understanding of other peoples' situation. There are times that a poor person who could barely feed himself will owe money to a rich person for doing accidental damage to him. But, if we put ourselves in someone else's shoes, how would WE would like to be treated, despite what the law would be? Indeed, if we want Hashem to treat us with kindness and mercy, it makes only sense to treat others in like kind. The book Tomer Devorah written by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero of the 1500s is based on the 13 Divine Attributes of Mercy demonstrating by each one of these how we could apply it in our daily lives in treating others. In fact, not only has this been translated into English, but is now even apportioned for monthly study (divided into 30 sections) which will be a definite help in receiving Divine assistance.


Today - 15 Sivan - is a very special birthday, the birthday of one of the most distinguished of the tribes (following the tribe of Levi from last post) - Judah. This may remind some of Judah the Maccabbe, but Judah the son of Jacob & Leah who had the original name also showed leadership qualities. He didn't always make the right decisions such as when he decided to sell Joseph rather than return him to their father, but at least he was a man enough to admit when he made mistakes such as in the incident of Tamar with whom he had an intimate relationship with, and put his spiritual future on the line when he promised his father Jacob to come back with Benjamin after the tribes' second visit to Egypt to get food, saying that he will be in eternal excommunication if this were not to happen. At the end of Jacob's life, he blessed Judah with a number of blessings, including being the ancestor of the dynasty of King David & the Messiah.

Judah's descendant King David showed exceptional kindness. When he judged a case and ruled for one person to give money to another, he gave money from his own pocket to the one who owed money to the other person whose case he just tried. This is certainly an example that everyone can think about when it comes to dealing to people, especially as it pertains to financial issues.

So now that we have learned a lesson about being a better Jew - especially to another Jew - we can note a correlationship between the months and the tribes and divine attributes of mercy. Don't remember the original source for this, but there is in fact a correlationship between the 13 Divine Attributes of Mercy and the months. Yes, there are usually 12 months in the Jewish calendar, but in a Jewish leap year - there are 13 months. Indeed, in Hashem introducing the divine attributes to Moshe, it says "Hashem passed in front of him (Moshe) and He called out:
E-l..." - Vaya'avor Hashem... The word Vaya'avor (He passed) has the same letters as Ibbur, which literally means pregnant, and is the root word used to describe the leap month of a second Adar, or the leap year. And according to the Bnei Yissaschar, the Tribes of Israel correspond to the months according to the order of the leaders of the Tribes bringing Korbanot/sacrifices on behalf of their tribes following the dedication of the Tabernacle. Thus, Judah corresponds to the first Jewish month of Nissan (though Tishrei begins the Jewish New Year, the months are counted the 1st month, the 2nd month from Nissan, the month of the Exodus, the birth of the Jewish Nation). It was in this month that Hashem showed His great kindness to us despite the Jew's low spiritual standing in the impurity of Egypt and had yet to receive the Torah, thus displaying the Divine Attribute of E-l, which denotes kindness.

In Psalm 30 that is recited during Chanuka when we read about the sacrifices that the leaders of the tribes brought in the Torah, it ends off with "I will thank you", the last word in Hebrew is Odeka. This is the Gematria of 31, the same as that of the attribute of E-l denoting the Sephira of Chesed/kindness. That is, thanking Hashem for His great kindness, as King David, Judah's descendant thanked Hashem. And indeed, Judah's very name is based on the word Thanksgiving (don't worry, we have several months for that in the States if it will still stay in one piece by then), as Leah thanked Hashem for granting her with a 4th son, which was more than her equal share of 12 sons of Jacob as she prophetically knew as Jacob had four wives; and as the Talmud states, Leah was the first person to thank Hashem. And yes, Yehuda/Judah is the Gematria of 30, as it relates to Psalm 30.

The number 31 is also related to the other end of the active Sephirot - Malchut/Kingship, for when the first 31 numbers - 1 through 31 - are added, they equal 496, which is the Gematria of Malchut, and it is the Malchut Beit David/the Davidic dynasty, which will last forever - echoing the ending of Psalm 30 that was composed by King David for the occasion of the dedication of the Temple "forever will I thank You" - which is descended by parental line from Judah.

Judah's birthday is on the 15th of this month. It is this time of the month when the moon is full. And as I mentioned in my last post, King Solomon being the 15 generation from Abraham was the one king in whose reign that peace and completeness was reached as his name Shlomo implies, corresponding to the full month of the 15th of the month, very appropo to the fact that King Solomon is a descendant of Judah. Speaking of kingdoms in the Davidic dynasty, we know that King David was born and passed away on Shavuot. Before the established Jewish calendar of today, Shavuot could have fallen on the 5th, 6th or 7th of Sivan. In any case, that year Shavuot fell out on a Shabbat; and while there are certain law as far as taking care of the dead that are permissible on a holiday, it is clearly forbidden to remove a deceased on Shabbat, and King David was no exception, so his funeral could not be held until the next day, when only at that time could King Solomon assume the full mantle of the kingdom (he was in fact anointed while still in his father King David's lifetime, but this was done to stop his older brother Adoniya from attempting to be king). Now according to the custom of the majority of Jews, the prayers of Kiddush Levana, thanking Hashem for the moon, are recited during the 2nd quarter of the month, starting usually from the night of the 8th until the night of the 15th of the month.

So, the fact that King Solomon began his full reign from around the 2nd quarter of the month when we mention among the "moon" prayers "David, King of Israel, lives and exists" was to serve as a reminder to him that only if he would follow in the footsteps of his father King David could he hope for an everlasting reign of peace and completeness; not being satisfied with status quo, but fulfill the dictates of Psalm 72 (Chesed/Kindness is the Gematria of 72), King David's final psalm that he composed for King Solomon instructing him on how to be a good Jewish king which includes serving justice to the people and the poor; and then and only then could he hope to be in par with the complete moon which is compared to the Jewish people as signified by the birth of Judah, his ancestor, at the heighlight of the month of Sivan in which King Solomon took over the reigns of kingship, and Judah's name as Yehuda became adopted in time as one of the official names of Jews - especially as Yehudi in singular or Yehudim in plural. And as per Psalm 30 which was composed for King David for the future dedication of the Temple, it would be his son King Solomon who would be the actual king presiding over the Temple dedication.

Getting back for a moment to Moshe's prayer on behalf of Miriam - he starts with "E-l Nah" E-l equals 31, and Nah equals 51. Indeed, the Levites began their physical work in the Tabernacle/Temple after 30 years of age, beginning their 31st year, and ended after 50 years, which began their 51st year. Though Moshe of the Levite family was far above the working age, he never forgot even in a moment of personal distress - even as he was forgiving of Miriam's critique of Moshe, but rather remembered how Miriam waited by the Nile when Moshe, as Baby Moses, was placed in a little boat on that river - that he was nothing more than a servant of Hashem as his fellow tribe, the Levites were in serving Hashem, and thus didn't expect anything more from Hashem than anyone else just because of how great he was himself. He knew that nothing short of relying on Hashem's mercies would be the key to having his prayers answered. Along these lines, the 13th month of the Jewish leap year - the 2nd month of Adar - corresponds to Shevet Levi/Tribe of Levi, according to some.

Thus, the Divine Attributes start off with the special qualities of the Tribe of Judah, and ends off with the special qualities of the Tribe of Levi. Regardless of Jewish leadership - whether a king from the Tribe of Judah, or a Cohen or Levite from the Tribe of Levi, ALL were to remember that the ONLY reason they were priviledged to be in their special position is because this is what Hashem wanted - NOT because they were necessarily anymore worthy than anyone else - and thus outside of serving Hashem in their special position, each Jew is considered equal; and if anything, one of Jewish leadership or scholarship is expected to go beyond the letter of the law in treating other Jews with kindness and mercy.

Accordingly, Moshe narrates to the Jewish people in the Book of Deutronomy that the Jews were coming to Israel not because they were necessarily greater than the other nations because in fact some Jews sinned also, but because of Hashem's great kindness to them and he swore to their ancestors that He would bring them to Israel, and it was only because of this that in fact they were given Divine assistance to conquer the nations living there at the time. Even when they were fed the manna, there were some who complained that they didn't get enough meat; so after a whole 30 days of meat, they were so sick of it that it was only through this that their appreciation level of what Hashem provided for them was able to come back to normal. And so too with Miriam's situation, she felt as a prophetess that Moshe had overstepped his boundaries in leaving his wife in justification for being close with Hashem.

But what Miriam didn't realize is what Moshe did was only because this was what Hashem wanted or agreed to, and if she wasn't on that level, that was because this is how Hashem wanted it. After all, if we all work for the same boss; even if the boss doesn't give the exact same directions or priviledges to everyone, it is because this is what the boss wants, not because any employees decide that things should be different or better for some of their own; and thus, there is no room for jealousy here; but if anything, there should be a mutual respect of love and respect for each other if they want the same treatment from their boss.

Though the word for "No" in Hebrew is Lo - Lamed Alef, also equaling 31, we should realize that sometime a "No" as an answer to our prayers can also be part of Hashem's kindness even though we don't realize how this is possible. And if we are truly worthy enough, especially if we show kindness to one another, perhaps we can change the "No" to a "Yes" - through the Divine Attribute & Name E-l denoting kindness, and then indeed we will have plenty of kindnesses to thank Hashem for.

The names Judah - refering also to Jews in general as Yehudi - and Jerusalem are often together in the Bible and in our prayers. As the seven Sefirot from Chesed/Kindness to Malchut/Kingship correspond to the seven days of the week, so too, there are seven years to the Sabbatical cycle. I didn't mention this in my previous post about Jerusalem Day, but both the year of the events of Jerusalem Day in 1967 and in this year which was the beginning of the 43rd year since the holiest area in the world became available to Jews were the first year of the Sabbatical cycle corresponding to the attribute of Kindness, and that day of the Sefira - the 43rd day - is that of Chesed She'be'Malchut/Kindness within Kingdom. And in this year following Jerusalem Day, Judah's birthday falls out on the first day of the week, the same day of the week in which the Nachshon, the leader of the Tribe of Judah brought his sacrifices on behalf of his tribe - on a Sunday - the only leader of the leaders of the other tribes that brought his sacrifices on the very day of the dedication of the Tabernacle, which was the start of the official service in the Tabernacle by Aaron (his brother-in-law) and his sons from the tribe of Levi.

Judah was Leah's 4th son, and was the 4th generation from Abraham from whom was descended King David - whose name begins & ends with Dalet, which is the numerical value of four - and the Messiah. As the theme of this posting is about kindness & mercy, it's interesting to note that the each of the letters of the Alef Beit are related to one or another of the Sefirot, which besides the ones that we had mentioned in terms of the Sefira period, it also includes Keter/Crown, Chachma/Wisdom & Bina/Understanding. Anyways, it is the letter Dalet that is related especially to the Sefira of Chesed/Kindness. Additionally, for the Shir Shel Yom, "Song of the Day" that the Levites sang in the Temple and that we recite daily, Psalm 94 is recited for the 4th day of the week (Wednesday) which begins with the word E-l, denoting Hashem's lovingkindness. And finally on the subject of the number four for this post, according to Halacha/Jewish Law, there are four types of situations of being saved from danger for which one is obligated to give public thanks to Hashem, and thanking Hashem is the root meaning of the name Yehuda - 1) Recovery from illness, 2) Returning from a sea voyage, 3) Leaving prison, 4) Leaving the desert.

Next week, G-d willing, I will be writing about a Mitzva that also relates to two aspects of number four. You know of more than one such Mitzva? You are right, but we will be focusing on one Mitzva particularly. Stay tuned.

15 Sivan 5769 - Birthday of Judah son of Jacob

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

#30 - TRUE Freedom

In life, we all have our ups and downs - our moods, family life, friendships, finances, health, etc. Well, spiritually, it is the same thing. Sometimes we feel like praying today, and sometimes we don't. Sometimes we feel like listening to the rabbi's lecture; while othertimes, we feel like playing ball. While certainly we need some sort of recreation or relaxation once in a while to recharge our spiritual batteries, the general mode that Hashem expects us to be is to improve ourselves bit by bit - not too quickly or we will loose it all, but working on ourselves with our relationship between ourselves & Hashem, between ourselves & others, and allowing ourselves time to others to think how we behaved until now, repenting for our past misdeeds, and moving forward without giving up hope no matter how many times we have fallen.

According to Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, even if one fell down spiritually thousands of times, even the beginning attempt of doing the right thing is precious to Hashem. Most significantly, the theme of repentence - which begins with admitting to our wrongs - is one of several themes in Parshat Naso, read this past Shabbat in Israel, and will be read this coming Shabbat outside of Israel (as Shabbat of last week outside of Israel coincided with the second day of Shavuot as celebrated there, so the regular reading of the Parsha was postponed until this coming Shabbat).

And so, right from the start in Parshat Naso, continuing from the end of the previous Parshat Bamidbar, are the details of the work that the three major Levite families were to perform in the Mishkan/Tabernacle - from ages 30-50. The Torah considers this age range to be the prime of their physical life to be able to perform duties in the Tabernacle quite proficiently without being too slow or not having enough strength to perform their tasks. Indeed, it is from here that Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers at the end of Chapter Five listing the stages of the ages of a person's life, learns out that 30 is the age marking Ko-ach/Strength.

But before moving on to other places in the Bible showing the significance of the number 30 (and 50), as the timing of this coincides with my 30th Post, I would like to translate the meanings of the names of the three Levitical families - which were the names of the three sons of Levi, the son of Jacob. While I am a Levite, I do not know which one of the three Levite families that I am descended from; as there are others not coming from the Tribe of Levi who do not even know what tribe they are from (especially as it pertains to the parental line especially in terms of inheritance in the land of Israel as it was thousands of years ago). However, the meanings of the names of the three Levitical families have a common theme.


Parshat Naso begins with the details of work for the B'nei Gershon - descendants of Gershon. The name Gershon has a connotation of being chased away, or divorced. Next are the B'nei Merari. Merari is in fact similar to the word Maror/BITTER herbs that are eaten alongside with the Matza on the Seder night, thus signifying the concept of bitterness. And as the end of the previous Parsha mentions, the B'nei Kehat. Kehat has a connotation of bashing, as phrased in the Tnach/Bible as bashing teeth. So you wonder, how come the names of the heads of the Levitical families have such negative connotations?

I believe that the Torah wants to teach a crucial lesson here. You see, Bnei Gershon can signify the children of divorced parents. In whatever way their situation is bandaged - parents remarrying, having a chance to see both of their parents, etc., no doubt they are affected by their parents being divorced - for some, it may not be so traumatic, but it is not something that the children are always comfortable talking about to their friends. In any case, many may not feel the same level of confidence of being something in life like their other friends. Then you have the B'nei Merari - children coming from bitter homes, and while their parents may be married, they are certainly not in a very happy atmosphere to say the least and unless are physicologically helped or given a brake in life, no doubt they will carry on a bitter legacy that they will not be happy with. And then there are the B'nei Kehat - children from violent homes that includes physically and/or verbally being beat up.

My point is that while individually, we may not exactly come from the best of circumstances, we all - particularly Jews as descendants from our Avot &
Imahot/Jewish patriarchs & matriarchs as mentioned in the Book of Genesis have tremendous potential. True that we may have setbacks, unpleasant memories, and some of us may not want to talk much about our childhood days, but if Hashem allowed us to be Jews, and especially knowing that we have a Torah that transmits to us what Hashem wants us to do, that we have a mission to do. There will be certain things in the Torah that will indeed be more challenging for some than others - but our mission is to eventually overcome these challenges and perhaps rise even greater than most others who have been challenged far less.

It is the tribe of Levi who was eventually chosen to be Hashem's servants in His holiest place in the world. While then, the Levites had a pretty good background in terms of family and serving Hashem, as they were never enslaved in Egypt, and the entire tribe was very faithful to Hashem without serving idols, at least through Joshua's period of leadership; today, Jews have been dispersed throughout the world and come from virtually every type of background possible. Even so, there are many if not most Jews from non-observant homes who know if they are in fact Cohanim or Levi'im/Levites. Being a member of this tribe was such a privilege, that it seems that most who are from this tribe know this to be a fact until this day, despite the challenges of the exile that were imposed on Jews throughout the centuries, while so many other Jews until this day - regardless of religious background - do not even know what tribe they come from. Thus, we see how lively the Torah is until this day keeping the awareness of the privilege of being Hashem's special servants, even after almost 2,000 years since the Levite tribe have not been able to serve Hashem in the Holy Temple.


On Shavuot (first day outside of Israel), for the Haftara/readings from the Prophets following the Parsha, we read from the beginning of the Book of Ezekiel. It is this very Haftara that talks about concepts that are discussed in Kabbalah. The beginning words are "It was in the thirtieth year...and I (Exekiel) was among the exiles..." Rashi, the number one commentary on the Bible & Talmud, begins commenting that the prophet sealed/hid his words without explaining the meaning of this, that is, what he means by the 30th year as from what event or period in time. At this point, Rashi in fact does not explain what this 30th year is. It is only on the wording of the second verse, mentioning the period of time as the fifth year from the exile of Joyachin, one of the last kings in Judea before the destruction of the First Temple, does Rashi explain what the 30th year means - the 30th year following the last Jubilee, which was the 50th year following seven Sabbatical cycles of not working the land. But the question begs to be asked - how come Rashi didn't IMMEDIATELY explain what it means when it says the 30th year, or at least say that he will explain this a little further on when more details are mentioned about this period in time?

Much earlier on in history when Jacob with his family - children & grandchildren, came to live in Egypt in the midst of a world famine where they would be amply supported by Joseph, the Torah ends off Parshat Vayigash with saying that they were living in Egypt with a stronghold in the land. Then, in the beginning of Parshat Vayechi, it starts off mentioning how long Jacob lived for. Rashi on the beginning of this Parsha points out that in the Sefer Torah, you do not have the usual spacing that you see at the end of a Parsha before proceeding to the next one, but only as the usual spacing between sentences. He explains using the same terminology as he used in the beginning of the Book of Ezekiel, "Why is this Parsha SEALED? Because since Jacob's passing, the eyes & hearts of the Jews were HIDDEN from the troubles of the slavery, that they were begun to be enslaved. Another reason: Jacob wished to reveal the date of arrival of the Messiah, but this was HIDDEN from him".

There is something to be asked on this. What does it mean that the Jew's eyes & hearts were hidden from the "troubles of slavery" while saying at the same time that they enslavery began?
Does this mean that they kept themselves shut from the reality that was happening to them? It's true that Jacob passed away already, but we know for a fact that the slavery didn't actually begin until after all of Jacob's sons passed away, and Joseph, Jacob's son, as second in power to Pharoh, was still in power for over 60 years?

There seems to be a common theme here between the context of the life of Jacob's family in Egypt and the time period of Ezekiel when he among many other Jews were in exile. First of all, in terms of Jacob's family, especially with their physical & spiritual patriarch Jacob, not knowing when redemption would come at hand, were in spiritual limbo. And while they may still have had the comforts of Egyptian life as they were well provided for by Joseph, the reality of an upcoming period of slavery was already starting to take root. The realities of being an exile didn't quite hit home unfortunately, and so it lead to the reality of their children and grandchildren being enslaved in Egypt down the road. The Jews in this inbetween stage - the time period between living in Israel and being slaves were indeed living in a very dark period in Jewish history, because their eyes and hearts were shut from a reality that they should have envisioned but let the comforts of exile make them forget that Egypt was just a temporary place.
The only difference between the Jews in those days and now is that at least then, they really didn't have anyone to learn from and hadn't even received the Torah yet, but today's Jews have much to learn from, and if not from the Torah per se if they haven't learned quite much about what Judaism is about, then at least they have what to learn from in Jewish history.

And so it was the case in Ezekiel's days. It was close to the period prior to the destruction of the Temple, but the exile in fact already began when Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who ordered the Temple's destruction, exiled a segment of the Jewish population in Judea. Yes, another dark period in Jewish history, even though there was still a fair sizable Jewish population with the Temple still standing. But very unfortunately, the Jews kept their eyes & hearts shut from what was really happening, and since they refused to repent as the prophets kept warning them to do, it was just a matter of time before the Temple would be destroyed and most of the rest of the Jews would be murdered, die from starvation, or exiled.

And so it was the 30th year since the last Jubilee, a year in which inherited land returns to its original owners and Hebrew servants return homes from serving their master; and the next generation of Jews didn't know of how Jewish life was supposed to be lived, and that it is only "freedom for the land", as the Jubilee year dictates, when Jews follow the law of the land, the Torah of the Land of Israel, not their way of how they view Judaism to be or be under the guise of a Jewish or Israeli government that quite often spits on Jewish Law. And so, indeed as Rashi points out at the beginning of the Book of Ezekiel, the prophet sealed/hid his words and didn't immediately explain the details as Rashi himself didn't immediately do, because this signifies that the fact that the Jews hid themselves from the reality they were presently living in compared to how it was some 30 years ago was a true dark period, because it wasn't what was happening itself or what was going to happen that was so terrible, it was the fact that the Jews didn't repent from their evil ways and lived quite comfortably without worrying about what Hashem wanted that made it a dark time. It was just that Ezekiel recognized the reality - and so Hashem wanted to give him a vision of the REAL REALITY - what goes on in Heaven - how the angels look like and their method of operation. This is the part of Tnach that forms the basis of the concepts of Kabbalah, and is read publicly on the day that the Torah was given on Shavuot.

And the reason that Kabbalah is considered a "hidden" subject, understood properly by very few, is because it is these very few that truly know what reality is. This world is indeed one big exile -not so much because it can be spiritually degrading - but because the world is viewed as the real reality with all its comforts, making people forget the purpose of our life in this world. It didn't just appear from the "Big Bang", and we don't descend from monkeys or apes, which would otherwise excuse our animalistic behaviors. Thus, even if we don't understand the details of the Haftara with its kabbalistic vision, it should put us in a frame of mind that makes us think of our purpose in life which is dictated by the Torah that Hashem officially gave us on this day, commencing with the Ten Commandments, paralleling the Ten Statements through which Hashem created this world for the purpose of us Jews serving Hashem.


On Shavuot (outside of Israel, it's the 2nd day), we read the Book of Ruth, the shortest of the 24 books of the Tnach, which consists of 85 verses. The star of this book is Ruth, princess of a Moabite king who converted to Judaism, and after living a period of poverty and humbleness in Israel, married Boaz, the Jewish leader at the time, and from whom was descendant the royal line of King David from whom the Messiah will be a descendant. We read this especially on Shavuot because the events that took place in the Book of Ruth happened around this time of year, and King David was born and passed away on Shavuot.

Without going into all kinds of details, Ruth, daughter-in-law of Naomi whose husband was a relative of Boaz, was instructed by Boaz to marry him to keep Naomi's ancestral land as inherited from her deceased husband to stay in the family as Noami had no living descendants. Ruth came to Boaz in the midst of the night telling him of the situation. Boaz replied to Ruth - Lini HaLayla - "Stay here overnight" (Ruth 3:13)- and then Boaz would see would be as there was a relative of his that was closer to him by blood relationship who would be the "land redeemer". As it turns out, this relative appeared from the blues, and at first agreed to do as Boaz requested, but then reneged, so Ruth wound up marrying Boaz and the rest is history.

As I have mentioned before, there are certain letters in the Bible that are unusually large or small. In this word LINI - "stay here", there are actually two different versions as to what the large letter is. Some have it as the letter Lamed, others have it as the letter Nun. Interestingly, these letters have the Gematria -numerical values of 30 & 50 respectively which we will discuss a little later on with the connection of the Levitical families serving in the Tabernacle from ages 30-50. But first, there are in fact explanations for BOTH of these letters being large even though in any given text, only one of these will be big.

One common theme among the explanations between the two big letters is about generations. LAMED - It was in the 30th generation from Abraham, as King Tzikiyahu, as the last king of Israel and 30th generation in parental line from Abraham, that the Temple was destroyed. These 30 generations are compared to the cycle of the moon, which represents the Jewish people. It is significant to note that King David was the 14th generation from Abraham, as his name David is the Gematria of 14. And then it was his son King Solomon as the 15 generation when it was the highlight of Israel's history with everything in place living in peace and completeness, as the meaning of King Solomon's name Shlomo, which corresponds to the 15th day/night of the Jewish month that the moon appears whole. But then, the generations of Jews were in a spritual downslide partly in thanks to some of the future kings who sinned that led to the end of their life as it was then in Israel. Corresponding to the waning of the moon as it disappears from sight at the 30th & last day of the month, King Tzidkiyahu's eyes were blinded by Babylonain king Nebuchadnezzar.

NUN - It was the 50th generation from Adam (& Eve) that the Jews were exiled to Babylonia. And indeed, in the word LINI, the letter LAMED can be read to mean "for" Yud (10), Nun (50), Yud (10), adding up to 70, meaning that the Jews were exiled in Babylonia for 70 years. This is followed by the word Haleila - "the night", as exile is compared to night.

Now, something doesn't quite seem to add up. We know for a fact that Abraham was the 20th generation from Adam. And we said above that it was the 30th generation from Abraham that was exiled. So, it seems that in fact that it was 49th generation - NOT the 50th generation that was exiled. So, while 49 is next to the number 50, it is not the number 50. What's the deal here?

For one thing, it was Abraham that made the bridge from the past to the future. There were in fact two periods in his life - the period before he knew Hashem, and the period afterwards. In a more universal way, our Rabbis tell us that is was in the Year 2000 after after the world was created (See my 3rd blog "What happened in the Year 2000?) that Abraham spread the believe of one G-d in this world, as the first 2,000 years signify a period of chaos without much significant sprituality being accomplished in this world, besides a select few who didn't worship idols, and then the second period of 2,000 years until the Mishna was written down was the period of Torah, even as the Torah would not be given to the Jewish people for almost another 450 years. And so, whether you look at it in a personal or universal way, Abraham represents two different generations - two different periods of time that reflected the difference between spiritual exile & "freedom for all".

And so indeed, while in fact, King Tzidkiyahu, as the last king of Israel/Judea, was the 49th generation from Adam; and indeed, the Sefira - spiritual count of the last of the 49 days of the Sefira is Malchut She'bi'Malchus - Kingdom within Kingdom; King Tzidkiyahu's generation is considered to be the 50th generation, as signified by the fact that Shavuot, the holiday of the giving of the Torah, is called the "50th day" from the Sefira count of the Omer, but we don't officially count this day - it is only the Torah that counts this. Siginificantly, we think sometimes that the Torah has to be according to the way that WE want it to be to fit our lifestyles - when we forget that it is our lifestyles that have to fit the way the Torah wants it to be. And so we see historically, the Babylonian exile happened in the "50th generation" to remind us that it is Hashem through his Torah who calls the shots, and that we can only have freedom - as opposed to exile - if we follow in the Torah's footsteps.

In connection with the Book of Ruth which ends with King David's name as its last word, and interestingly, the Talmud in Tractate Berachot states that Ruth was so named because her name is a terminology of the word saturation, as King David saturated Hashem, so to speak, with his praises in his Book of Psalms, so along these lines, I would like to point out Psalms Chapter 30. The opening verse tells us that this psalm was especially dedicted to the upcoming dedication of the First Temple, of which the preparations were begun by King David, hence called HaBayit LeDavid - The House of David. This is the very psalm recited on Chanuka when we read about the Korbanot/sacrifices that the leaders of the tribes brought during the first 12 days from the dedication of the Tabernacle, which makes up the second half of the above discussed Parshat Naso, the name of the Parsha literally meaning "lift up". Interestingly, the first word of the second verse of Psalm 30 following the introductory sentence is Aromeemcha - "I will exalt You", the terminology of the word which literally means raising up. Thus, through serving Hashem, we are raised up spiritually; and indeed the name of the next Parsha is called Beha'alotcha, which literally means "when you will go up", referring to lighting the Menorah.


We see that the number 30 has a common theme through the Bible - it represents the choices that we make in life. The Levites after living 30 years are most ready to serve in Hashem's Holy Place. It was in the 30th year following the Sabbatical/Jubilee cycle that Ezekiel received a most divine prophetic vision to remind the Jewish people of their mission in life before they would be totally swept by their spiritual & physical exile. And that indeed was the 30th generation from Abraham, who started the process of spreading the Torah way of life in the world, and indeed in the verse immediately following the Days of Creation - it says "These are the accounts of the heaven and earth WHEN HE (Hashem) CREATED THEM" (Genesis 2:4). The Hebrew word for the words in big letters here is B'Hibaram - rearranged to spell the word B'Avraham - "through Abraham", meaning that it was Abraham who gave meaning for the world's existance, and indeed, the Torah begins with a big Beit, signifying the Year 2000 (the TRUE Y2K) when Abraham started the world's true mission. However, unfortunately, the 30th generation in the "30th year" from the Jubilee, spiritual freedom, forget what their ancestor Abraham's mission was, and so without spiritual continuity not matching with their physical continuity, were doomed to exile. They acted more like being the 50th generation from Adam who failed in his mission as he ate from the tree that Hashem ordered him not to eat from. Thus, the number 30 signifies the potential of doing their mission, thus the Levites began their holy work with 30 years of spiritual background based on Abraham's spiritual mission; and the number 50 signifies the end of the accomplishment that was done or was supposed to be done, but the waning period following the 50 years corresponds to Adam's failed mission. It was just that with the Levites after turning 50 years old, that they resumed their singing duties so long as they still had a voice, as music represents a very spiritual thing, it was just the physical labor, representing the hardships of life in this world as challenges in the midst of serving Hashem that they stopped doing, and the Levites could still serve Hashem focusing more on the spiritual aspect while being able to look back on their spiritual accomplishments performed while in their harder years of their life.

Pirkei Avot, in speaking about the verse that says that the Tablets of Stone on which the Ten Commandments were "engraved" - Charut, says that don't read it in interpreting the verse as "engraved" - Charut, but freedom - Cheirut, as "there is no freedom but Torah". Today, we don't have to be blind to see what happens in the non-Jewish world of drugs, alchohol, uninhibited sex, and all else that the comfortable American life has to offer that is clearly waning with its flag of 50 stars is hanging. Whatever people want to criticize about the Hasidic lifestyle, in sharp contrast, VERY FEW in comparison or in contrast in the Hasidic world and other religious Jewish sectors get caught up with the temporary frenzies that wind up enslaving them.

Before concluding, there are a few tidbits from other sources about the number 30 that I want to relate:


The 30th Tractate in the Mishnayot is called Kiddushin - the tractate that is all about the laws of marriage. It was indeed on Shavuot when the spiritual marriage of the Jewish people to Hashem took place. Very interesting, this tractate concludes with a whole long segment on the importance of learning Torah, the theme of the holiday of Shavuot.


Among the various topics of the above mentioned Parshat Naso is a whole section on the Nazirite, one who vows not to drink wine, which also comes with a package deal forbidding him to contaminate himself with the dead or to cut his hair. The minimum amont of time for his Nazirite vow is 30 days. The Talmud in Tractate Nazir teaches us through the verse - Kadosh YIHYEH - "He (the Nazirite) shall be holy" where the word Yihyeh has the Gematria of 30 - hinting to the minimum 30 day time period of a Nazirite vow.


In the Tikunei Zohar about the spiritual significance of the Alef Beit/Hebrew alphabet, it mentions about the verse that states about the dream that Jacob had at the future site of the Temple that the "angels were going up and down (the ladder)". The Zohar on this comments that the angles go up with the letter LAMED which equals 30, and come down with the letter NUN, which equals 50. How fascinating! The Levitical tribe - including the Levites - serving in the Tabernacle/Temple resembles the angels of above who serve Hashem, go up the Temple ladder so to speak beginning their physical service from 30 years of age until after 50 years of age when they come down this ladder, as mentioned in the above Parshat Naso, and indeed angels are mentioned in the Haftara for (the first day of) Shavuot.

Next week with G-d's help, I will be mentioning about Judah, Jacob's son. Indeed, in terms of generations from Abraham, Judah - the ancestor of King David and the Messiah, was the 4th generation from Abraham, and was the 4th son of Leah. And indeed Yehuda/Judah is the Gematria of 30, the number of this Post.

11 Sivan 5769, 40th Day of my 40th Year