Thursday, August 27, 2009

#41 - Holy Marriage

It's the marriage season now - at least as far as the Torah is concerned. You see, the Mitzva/Commandment of marriage is in this week's Parshat Ki Teitzei, particularly in the beginning of the 6th Aliyah which is learned on the 6th day of the week, which is today - Ki Yikach Ish Isha - "When a man will marry (literally means take) a woman" (Deutronomy 24:5).

In today's Hebrew, the word for "marriage" is Nisuim or Nisuin, and the word for "to marry" is L'Hitchaten. In fact, this latter is related to the word Chatuna, which means wedding, the ceremony that celebrates a new marriage, and the word Chatan which means bridegroom. In fact, this latter word is used for the ones who are called up for the Aliyot to the Torah of the conclusion and beginning of the reading of the Sefer Torah/Torah Scroll on Simchat Torah who are called Chatan Torah & Chatan Bereishit respectively.

In any case, we do not always see these Hebrew words used in Biblical or Mishnaic Hebrew for marriage or marrying. The Bible uses the word Yikach - "will take" and the name of the Mishnaic tractate for marriage is Kiddushin, which is in fact related to the word Kedusha/Holiness or Kadosh/Holy. Is there a reason for these particularly choice of words?

The word Yikach as used in the Bible consists of the letters Yud, Koof, Cheit. Indeed, it can be said that each of these letters stand for words that are related to marriage. The Yud begins the word Yochasin/Genealogies as discussed in the beginning of the 4th and final chapter of Tractate Kiddushin, which begins with the words Asara Yochasin - "There were TEN groups of genealogies of Jews who returned to Israel from Babylonia" (following a period of exile which began in the era of the destruction of the First Temple). This means to say that some of these groups could not marry into others. For example, Cohanim are forbidden to marry those who come from unions that are forbidden to them, for example if a woman is a daughter of a Cohen who married a divorcee who is forbidden to him, then that daughter is forbidden to be married to a Cohen. Another example is someone who is born from a union of which his mother was not previously divorced from someone else other than his father, which renders him a Mamzer, born of an illicit union (the typical translation for this word - bastard - can be misleading if one does not know the halachic meaning of a Mamzer), and thus is forbidden to marry a woman of non-tainted lineage, and can only marry a woman from the same type of family background or one of a lower status. Anyways, continuing on with the letters of the word Yikach, the Koof stands for Kiddushin, and the Cheit stands for Chatuna or Chupa (typically translated as wedding canopy, but also refers to a Halachic aspect of the marriage).

Now, before we continue with the significance of the number 10 as it relates to marriage and holiness, I should note that this month of Elul is represented by the letter Yud according to Kabbalah. Thus, it is most fitting that we always read about the Mitzva of marriage in the Torah during this month. Additionally, as I mentioned in my previous post, the letters of the month of Elul are the first letters of the phrase in Song of Songs - Ani L'Dodi V'Dodi Lee - "I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me" representing the love relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. With this being said, there are 10 groups of Jews in terms of Halachic marriage, and while we are all Hashem's children, there are guidelines in terms of maintaining a Jewish family sacred, and even if the previous generation sinned in terms of marrying someone whom they were not supposed to, it is the present generation who has to fix up things. Hence, Kiddushin which is based on the Hebrew word for Holy or Sacred, is the process of having a sacred Jewish marriage and family.

Continuing on with the connection between the number 10 and holiness, we learn in the Mishnaic Tractate Keilim (1:6) that there are 10 different levels of holiness in the Holy Land of Israel. The 10th and holiest part is the Kodesh Kodoshim - Holy of Holies - the holiest room in the world about which even only the Cohen Gadol/High Priest can enter only on Yom Kippur - the holiest day of the year. And the beginning words of Parshat Ki Tavo of the coming week begins with "It will be that when you come to the land (of Israel)"...and then proceeds talking about the Mitzva of Bikkurim - First Fruits brought to the Cohen. Accordingly, the first of these 10 levels of holiness in Israel is that Israel is more holy than all other lands for we see in the Mishna that we bring the Bikkurim among other things that are brought as offerings in the Temple, and were offered only in this land.

And we can learn a good lesson from the similarity of marriage and the Land of Israel. Just like a Jew cannot be complete in serving Hashem without living a married life, so too a Jew cannot be complete in serving Hashem without living in Israel. True that one can still live a Jewish life, including learning Torah day and night, but if he/she thinks that one can be an "accomplished" Jew without being married or living in Israel, they are missing key points about how a Jew is supposed to live. Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad in his Sefer called the Ben Ish Chai, says that even an unmarried Torah scholar and righteous person is not able to be a COMPLETELY righteous person. So too, living a Jewish life outside of Israel without being concerned that the Torah speaks many times of telling us to live in Israel is one who picks and chooses as to how to serve Hashem; but however, he/she is hardly better than a Conservative or Reform Jew who only keeps some of the Mitzvot at best; but instead of living a real Jewish lifestyle, this type of Jew wants to make Judaism a bit of his own to fit into his personal lifestyle on his/her terms rather than on Hashem's terms. The problem with this is that besides not living the full benefit of what a Jewish lifestyle is really supposed to be about, what he/she does not realize is that it is the real King who COMMANDS us as to how to serve Him, and that Judaism is not a mere schmorgasboard in which we get to pick and choose as to what we like to eat. In an ordinary scenario when the king orders a subject of his to follow his orders, one deviation from his commands can carry the penalty of death - no questions asked. And while Hashem is a loving and forgiving Being, ultimately, we can expect Hashem's forgiveness ONLY if we make a sincere change, but not if we wish to observe Judaism on our terms.

In terms of marriage, it is quite easy to understand as to why one cannot live as a complete Jew without living a married life and giving life to the next generation who will serve Hashem. If anything, we are given a unique opportunity to be the cause of the creation of people that is promoting Jewish continuity. The fact that the very first Mitzva/Commandment of the Torah is having children tells us that everything in Judaism starts with this Mitzva because without it, there would not be a next generation that will continue the Jewish legacy. And indeed, this command which was given to Adam & Eve on Day One of mankind's creation took place on a Friday - the 6th day of the week, just like the beginning of the 6th Aliyah of this week's Parshat Ki Teitze which many Jews learn correspondingly on the 6th day of the week. While any part of the Torah or Aliyah to the Torah is equal in terms of the value of Torah and its reward, Rabbi Isaac Luria or known as the Arizal of the 1500s tells us that there is a special spiritual benefit of being called up to the 6th Aliyah of the Parsha as it corresponds to Adam & Eve who were created on the 6th day of the week (Cohanim or Leviim are not able to get this Aliyah but only the 1st or 2nd Aliyah, Acharon or Maftir or if there is no one else left in the Minyan/quorum of 10 or more men who are not Cohanim or Leviim). This reminds us that the ultimate purpose of Torah is to bring life to others - physically and spiritually. The Torah comments on Abraham & Sarah at the time that they made Aliyah to Israel, those who joined them were "the people that they made in Charan (where they lived before moving to Israel)" (Genesis 12:5). Now wait a minute - what does it mean that they "made people"; only Hashem can create a person who will function in every way as a human being? But as Rashi points out - Abraham & Sarah brought these people under the "wings of the Shechina/Divine Presence", bringing them into the fold of serving Hashem (much later on it became known as Judaism which is based on the word Judah, the son of Jacob who was not yet born). Thus this first Jewish couple gave birth spiritually to others, even as they themselves were not physically capable of having physical children at the time. It is interesting to note that the Torah connects these two concepts - a married couple having children and living in Israel because in fact, these two concepts are related to each other as far as serving Hashem in a COMPLETE manner.

Hence, on Simchat Torah, the one who has the Aliyah of the completion of the Torah is called Chatan Torah, which mentions Joshua as being successor to Moses to continue the leadership of the Jewish people taking good care of them in helping them serve Hashem so the Jewish legacy could continue on in future generations, and the one who has the Aliyah of the beginning of the Torah is called Chatan Bereishit which includes the first Mitzva of the Torah - having children -which was originally given to Adam & Eve on their day of creation following Hashem's creating the world. Both of these people called to the Torah are called a Chatan/Bridegroom. Typically, though it's not a standard carved in stone, it is the rabbi or a great Torah scholar who is called for the Chatan Torah Aliyah which includes the spiritual aspect of having children, which is Joshua taking over the leadership of the Jewish people from Moses to ensure the continuity of Judaism; and it is a well respected layman of the Jewish community who financially supports Torah learning who is called for the Chatan Bereishit Aliyah which includes the physical aspect of having children, causing them to be able to learn Torah as a result of being physically created in this world.

As I had mentioned in my 38th posting, the Chatan Bereishit Aliyah - the first Aliyah of the Torah which speaks of the first week of Creation consisting of seven days - consists of exactly 469 words, and Chatuna/wedding is the Gematria of 469. Indeed, the bride surrounds the bridegroom, going around him for seven times under the Chupa, seven special wedding blessings known as Sheva Berachot are recited for them, and they celebrate their marriage for seven days. I had also mentioned previously that the number 469 is evenly divided into seven which equals 67, the Gematria of the name of the letter Zayin - Zayin (7), Yud (10), Noon (50), which itself as a letter is the Gematria of the number seven. But what I didn't mention last time is something that I will mention only now that we are presently in the month of Elul, because the name of the month of Elul, which represents the concept of marriage as I mentioned earlier in this post, is also the Gematria of 67! Hence, what better time is it than in this month when we read about the Mitzva of marriage in the Torah?

And this is my 41th post. Now, guess how many Pesukim/verses there are in the last Parsha of the Torah - V'Zot HaBeracha - that we read in its entirety on Simchat Torah? There are 41 verses! (And believe it or not, it was only a few minutes ago that I even thought of this connection). While we are at it, the name of this Parsha - the LAST Parsha of the Torah - is called "This is the BLESSING". Now, the very FIRST words of Torah that we recite following the daily blessings recited for learning Torah is the section in the Torah about the Mitzva of Bircat Cohanim - the Cohanim BLESSING the Jewish people. (Aside from those who pray using Nusach Ashkenaz which includes only the 15 words of the actual blessing, everyone else says the entire Torah section pertaining to this). And guess how many words there are in this section of the Torah. You guess it - 41 words! To note the 41st and last word of this section is Avarcheim - "I will bless them". And as I wrote in this 41st posting about the concept of creating children, the number 41 is the Gematria of the word Eim/mother, who is the parent who bears the child for some nine months until delivery. And the name of the Parsha which includes this section of the Torah is called Naso - which is a terminology of the word Nisuin - another word for marriage, and also for the word bearing, as in bearing a child. And speaking of the connection between marriage and Torah learning, the name of the Mishnaic Tractate that deals with Jewish marriage is Kiddushin which is the same Gematria as the word Talmud, which is 480. As we also recite a Mishnah following the section of Bircat Cohanim in our daily recital, it includes two times the phrase Talmud Torah.

By the way, as per the connection between marriage and the Land of Israel in relationship to the beginning and end of the Torah - the very first Rashi on the Torah mentions the reason why the Torah begins with Creation as opposed to first writing the Mitzvot of the Torah is to show Hashem's power in the world which includes taking the Land of Israel away from other nations and giving it to the Jewish people. The last Parsha of the Torah is about the blessings that Moses gave to the Jewish tribes, much of which involves the particular territories of the Land of Israel that the tribes would be awarded in the future. The last Aliyah of the Torah mentions Hashem showing Moses the Land of Israel that he would not merit to cross over to, but was the closest thing to Moses being in this holy land as he wished so much to enter into. If we want to follow the leader - Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses our Teacher - if G-d forbid we are not yet living in Israel, the least we can do is to have a great yearning for the Land, which will motivate us to the next step of making ALIYAH, paralleling the last ALIYAH of the Torah.

And now for another surprise here - there is a new Gematria here that would never have been thought of until quite a few years ago - and this is since the beginning of use of internet by the masses. You see, the concept of blogging on the internet began only in 1998. As quoted from - "Blogging began in 1998 as a from of online journal - a frequently updated site in reverse chronological order to discuss whatever was on the author's mind". Now note what it says here - "in REVERSE chronological order". Now, the Hebrew word for blog can be spelled in Hebrew with the letters - Beit (2), Lamed (30), Vav (6), Gimel (3). This is the Gematria of the number 41! And speaking of reverse in terms of a blog posted on the internet which is LAST first - the LAST Parsha of the Torah consists of exactly 41 verses!

Yes, it was on the evening immediately following Simchat Torah - the day that we read the last Parsha of the Torah consisting of 41 verses - that I began my blog on Gematriot at this site of While I think of much I want to say before starting to type, there are things that pop in my mind while I am typing that sometimes are the very glue of the concept that I am writing about. A perfect example of this is about the 41 verses of this last Parsha of the Torah called V'Zot HaBeracha in relationship to this 41st BLOG (and the word BLOG in Hebrew having the same Gematria as 41) which I did not even think about writing in this blog until the middle of writing this post. And speaking of LAST and the first Mitzva of the Torah in this post, the LAST Mitzva of the Torah is writing a Sefer Torah. While it is most noteworthy if financially possible to do such a thing or pay a Sofer/Scribe to write a Sefer Torah which is the literal fulfillment of this Mitzva; according to some Rabbis, there are other ways that we can fulfull this special Mitzva, especially nowadays that we are permitted to write down the Oral Torah, unlike until almost 2,000 years ago when this was not permitted. This includes owning Seforim/holy books, buying them and making them available for use to the public, and writing Chidushim/Torah thoughts - concepts of Torah learning that come to mind and shedding a NEW light to something that is mentioned in the Torah. The truth is that if this is Torah, then it is not entirely new as far as Hashem is concerned, because this is something in the Torah already - but we are so to speak giving birth to something that is Torah that may be one's original idea or never mentioned before by anyone. Hence, this is the ultimate connection between the FIRST & LAST MITZVOT of the Torah - WRITING Chiddushim - Torah thoughts that are new to the public - paralleling the LAST Mitzva of the Torah of writing a Sefer Torah, which is essentially giving birth to these Torah thoughts in this physical world, which parallels the FIRST Mitzva of the Torah of having children (as they are already Torah in the spiritual sense, but it is just us people who are first bringing out these Torah thoughts to the public)! Similarly, on Simchat Torah, we combine the reading of the end of the Torah - the LAST Parsha of the Torah (though it does not include the last Mitzva of the Torah which is mentioned a little earlier on) - with the beginning of the Torah, which includes the FIRST Mitzva of the Torah.

And before I forget, I read somewhere a few months ago that in a Ketuba/marriage contract, the first letter starts with a Beit, which is also the first letter of the Torah, as the Ketuba represents the Torah, since the Torah was given to us as a Ketuba from Hashem to us Jews, as the event of Matan Torah, giving of the Torah was the spiritual marriage ceremony between Hashem who is compared to the bridegroom and the Jews who are compared to the bride, and thus Hashem gave the Torah as a Ketuba to the Jews, the same way that the bridegroom gives a Ketuba to his bride. Also, the word for the letter Beit can also be pronounced as Bayit/House, and as mentioned in the Talmud, the woman is called a Bayit. Similarly, the Aishet Chayil paragraph that we recite before Kiddush on Friday night, which are the last 22 verses of Mishlei/Book of Proverbs, where the beginning letters of the verses are the 22 letters of the Alef Beit, can be interpreted as referring literally to the Jewish woman of the home - the Aishet Chayil - woman of valor, as well as to its spiritual connotation - the Torah. And must we not forget to mention, just like we love and respect the Torah, it is no less different as far as loving and respecting one's wife, who in fact teaches their young children to say Berachot/blessings and verses of the Torah such as the beginning verses of the Shma, while the husband is away at work.

And here is something that I just thought of in relationship to this. As we mentioned that the last Mitzva of the Torah is writing a Sefer Torah, there are six words during the course of writing a Sefer Torah that a scribe writes at the very beginning of a column. The first of these six is - you can probably guess - the word Bereishit -the very first word of the Torah, and at this, the first letter Beit written as a LARGE Beit, ending off the verse with "the heavens and the earth". The last of these words is V'Ah'ida - "And I will testify...the heavens and the earth" (Deutronomy 31:28), which is written shortly after the last Mitzva of the Torah which is the writing of a Sefer Torah. As we know, in a Ketuba, it ends off with the signature of two witnesses. And as brought down by the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Concise Code of Jewish Law authored by Rabbi Shlomo Gansfried, we are accustomed to make the Chupa/wedding canopy under the heavens/sky as a sign of a BERACHA/BLESSING - "So shall your children/seed be like the stars of the HEAVENS/sky" (147:1). And as we know, we plant seeds in the EARTH. Thus, we have here a resemblance of the heavens and the earth in a marriage ceremony - both in terms of the witnesses who sign the Ketuba at the end of this marriage document, and the symbolism of having the Chupa outdoors. And perhaps the significance of the LAST of the SIX words that the scribe is accustomed to write at the beginning of a column in a Torah scroll which begins with the letter Vav, which is the Gematria of SIX, signifies the very FIRST wedding that ever took place in history - the wedding of Adam and Eve which took place on the SIXTH day of the week - the very day of their creation - and it was Hashem who was the Master of Ceremonies.

In my next post, G-d willing, I will be writing about the Mitzva of Torah learning - the most important Mitzva of the Torah.

8 Elul 5769, SIXTH day of the week of Parshat Ki Teitze - "When a man marries a woman"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

#40 - Magic MEM


Today is the first day of the 3rd and last 40 day period that Moses or known as his full title in Hebrew as Moshe Rabbeinu spent in Hashem's presence. It's interesting to note that we know for a fact that Moshe ascended Mount Sinai for the 40 day retreat on a Thursday morning, the way that it is this year (it also happens to be the time of week that I was born). Corresponding to this, the month of Elul is a month of introspection and retrospection of our past deeds or misdeeds, and a resolution to be better people both in our relationship to Hashem as well as our relationship to others, followed by the 10 Days of Repentence culminating with Yom Kippur, the day on which Hashem told Moshe that he forgave the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf.

Perhaps the most famous hint for the name of the month of Elul is the phrase Ani LeDodi VeDodi Lee - "I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me" (Song of Songs 6:3), describing the love relationship between Hashem & the Jews. The first letters of these four words in Hebrew spell the name of this month of Elul. As we know, the most effective repentence is when it is done out of love, rather than from fear, although it is also an acceptable means of repentence, but ultimately, we should be motivated mostly in serving Hashem through love, the same way that a relationship between husband and wife works. In any case, what you might not have seen is that the last of the four words in the above phrase "Lee", consisting of Lamed=30 & Yud=10, correspond to the 30 days of Elul (there are technically 29 days in Elul, but can be considered 30 days because there are two days of Rosh Chodesh Elul, beginning today with the 30th of Av), and the 10 Days of Repentence, respectively; as Elul is the big preparation month for the crucial 10 day period during which Hashem judges us based on our deeds.

The connection of the month of Elul with the number 40 goes much further. You see, Elul & Bina/Understanding have the same Gematria of 67. And in Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 5 states, the age of 40 years is a time of understanding. This is based on what it says in Parshat Ki Tavo which is always read during this month of Elul: "Hashem has not given you a heart to know...until today. And I led you for 40 years in the desert" (Deutronomy 29:3-4). In this context, Moshe is noting that it is only after 40 years of teaching the Jews in the desert that now they have a sense of understanding that they did not have earlier. And as noted in the Zohar, the heart is associated with understanding. Perhaps it can be added that before the giving of the Torah, the Jews immersed in water as they were like converts to Judaism who do likewise as a step of becoming Jewish as in both cases they were/are considered like a newborn child; hence, the Jews were now spiritually almost 40 years old.

There are those who might reason, "Well, who is fooling who? Am I really going to try to fool Hashem that I am a little better boy now when I know that after Yom Kippur, I am going to be the same type of guy as I was before this month?" Good point. But to every good question, there is a good answer - in this case, more than one. For this, we first need to turn to the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, to whom some 30,000 Jews of all walks of life travel to be at his gravesite in Uman every year for Rosh Hashana, beginning exactly 30 days from now.
He says that a Jew should never give up hope. No matter how many times one may fall down spiritually, or does the same sin because he lacked the willpower to withstand temptation or whatever other reason it may have been, one should always attempt to be better next time. Even the slightest startup or effort in doing the right thing is precious in Hashem's eyes, and makes an impression in the spiritual worlds.

Several years ago, I heard a rabbi during the High Holidays recount a story that took place at his work before he became a pulpit rabbi. There was a company named Texaco which looked at one point to decrease the number of employees to save on some money. Towards this end, inspectors were sent to see how the employees were performing. It seems that while virtually everyone else were sure to behave very well, and not slack off with all kinds of chatter and breaks, there was this one employee who did nothing different and took his usual coffee breaks and all. His fellow co-workers asked him, "Don't you see that the inspectors are looking at us to see how we are performing?" He answered, "Look, I am no hypocrite. Do you really think that these inspectors are going to be fooled that we just work all the time?" As time went on, the inspectors made their decision - only one employee would need to be booted. Who was that? You guessed it - the guy who didn't want to be a "hypocrite". They told him, "You think we don't know that the employees are not always in their best behavior? But at least when we inspectors were around, they showed that they cared about the company, and they put in their best effort to do the right thing. But as for you, not only did you show that you didn't care about the company, you didn't even have respect for yourself."


Speaking of this 40 day period, I am writing this in this 40th blog in On a personal level, I am in my 40th year, and so for the remainder of this blog, I will write interesting factoids about the letter Mem, which equals the Gematria of 40, especially at it relates to Moshe, whose name begins with a Mem. Just to mention about my name, the letter Mem is the second letter of my first name Shimon, and the first letter of my second name Matisyahu. In more than one post in the past, I have mentioned a bit about Mem. But when everything is put together, it will be a perfect Mem jigsaw puzzle.


First of all, I want to make a relationship here between the three 40-day periods that Moshe Rabbeinu spent in Hashem's presence, adding to a total of 120 days, and the 120 years of Moshe's life, whose name begins with a Mem. First things first - Moshe ascended Mount Sinai for his first retreat on 7 Sivan, immediately following the giving of the Torah which included the Ten Commandments, which took place on that very day (the only reason that we start observing Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on 6 Sivan is because the holiday is actually dependent on being the 50th day from the offering of the Omer barley in the Temple which took place on 16 Nissan), hence being the first of the 40 day retreat. Now, as we know the story about Baby Moses (the Christians took their phrase of Baby J**** from us) who was placed in a basket on the Nile River when three months old to escape the Egyptians who otherwise would have drowned him. As we know from tradition, he was born on 7 Adar. Exactly three months later, on 7 Sivan, was the date that this happened. We also know this for a fact because when the Egyptian princess Batya (who in time converted to Judaism) rescued Baby Moses and attempted to nurse him, he refused her breast milk. The Midrash tells us that since Moshe was going to be the one to be Hashem's messenger in the future to give the Torah to the Jews which was going to be on this very date 80 years later, even as a baby, he refused to defile himself drinking milk from the body of a non-pure person, as Batya had not yet converted to Judaism. Thus, in his very first year of life - of 120 years - at the tender age of three months, Moshe showed signs of being a spiritual person, and in the future, he ascended for his retreat with Hashem on the first day of 120 days which took place on the day that the Torah was given.

Now fastforwarding in Moshe's life, he basically spent his life in three different places - Mitzrayim (Egypt), Midian, and the Midbar (desert), all three words starting with a Mem. The only question is how much time did he spend in each? We know that the last 40 years of his life, or the 3rd and last period of his life, was in the desert, and corresponding to this, we can see a relationship between this and the 3rd and last period of 40 days that Moshe was in retreat with Hashem. Indeed, it was on this first day of these 40 days that Moshe came up on Mount Sinai, coming up with the stone tablets that he carved together for the Ten Commandments in lieu of the first ones that he broke following the first 40 day period of his retreat when he saw the Jews worshipping the Golden Calf. This was also the very date that Hashem revealed to Moshe the 13 Attributes of Divine Mercy/Midot HaRachamim that Hashem promised would facilitate His answering the Jewish peoples' prayers in the future. Indeed, Sephardic Jews begin the special Selichot prayers (where we ask Hashem for His forgiveness) starting on the beginning of this month (the day after Rosh Chodesh, and in this year - on Sunday following Shabbat when we don't say such prayers) and continue doing so through Yom Kippur, unless it is Shabbat (but are said on Yom Kippur even if it falls out on Shabbat). (Ashkenazic Jews begin the Selichot prayers later this month). Also to note, of the 22 letters of the Alef Beit, the Mem is the 13th letter on the list. In any event, this special day of Rosh Chodesh Elul of Moshe's ascent on the first day of the 3rd period of 40 days or the 81st day of his retreat, indeed took place in his 81st year of life, which included the Exodus - Yetziat Mitzraim, when the Manna (Man in Hebrew with the vowel of a Patach) first started falling, giving of the Torah - Matan Torah of which includes the 613 Mitzvot/Commandments (which is mentioned specifically at the end of the Talmudic Tractate named Makkot, which begins with a Mem), the 13 Midot HaRachamim, and construction of the Mishkan/Tabernacle, all of these events having to do with words that start with a Mem. And of course, this was also his year of his total of 120 days of retreat with Hashem.

Now getting back to Moshe in Egypt, how many years was he living there before his run to Midian? Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan of righteous blessed memory in his Living Torah, a flowing English translation of the Chumash with notes showing his extensive research which includes places mentioned in the Torah, notes as many as nine different opinions as to Moshe's age when he was on the run. One of these opinions notes that he first left Egypt at age 40. This opinion would fit well if we were to match 40-40-40 between his years of life and his three periods of 40 days each of his G-dly retreat. We know that immediately following his first 40 day period with Hashem learning the Torah from Him, he came down back to Planet Earth only to see the Jews having chased away the Shechina/Divine Presence by worshipping the Golden Calf. Accordingly, Moshe was chased away with a threat to his life following his first 40 years in Egypt according to this opinion.

Now, some of you may have a question. Doesn't it say in the Torah itself that Moshe was 80 years old when he first appeared to Pharaoh before the 10 plagues started? And in fact, as we know from the Midrash, this was a year's process. And we know that his birthday was 7 Adar, in the month just prior to the Exodus. If this is the case, then he would have been 81 when the Exodus took place, and we know that the Jews spent 40 years in the desert, which would have made Moshe's age at 121, and not 120, when he passed away. The answer: The correct translation in this case would have to be that Moshe was in his 8oth year, rather than say that he was 80 years old; the same way that I say that I am now in my 40th year, as I am 39 years old, having completed 39 years already, so now I am in my 40th year. This is in fact the correct way of saying one's age, because to say that someone is so many years old doesn't take into account as to how many days, weeks, or months one has lived after one's "current age". I am also pointing this out, because it was in his 80th year, and the beginning of his 81st year when at least the last plague of the death of the firstborn Egyptians took place, that most of the plagues visiting the misbehaving Egyptians took place, the same way that in was in the 2nd period of Moshe's 40 day retreat when he prayed to Hashem to forgive the misbehaving Jewish people, concluding on the 80th day of Moshe's total amount of days of retreat with Hashem up to that point. And then it was on his 81st day of retreat, the 1st day of the last 40 day period, that Hashem revealed to Moshe the 13 Divine Attributes of Mercy/Midot HaRachamim, which talks about Hashem having patience, which includes giving time for a sinner to repent, the same way that Hashem gave much time to the Egyptians to repent and let the Jews leave free from their country, and especially before the death of the firstborn, but they failed to capitalize on that opportunity, so Hashem used his mercies specifically for the Jewish people, even if they weren't so worthy themselves, but Hashem gave them Mitzvot to perform so they would be deemed worthy of leaving Egypt and receiving the Torah.

Now, let's get to the final day of Moshe's retreat, his 120th such day - Yom Kippur. As we see in the Torah, it was his brother Aharon, the first Cohen Gadol/High Priest, who was the star of the day of Yom Kippur when it came to doing the service of this most holy day in the Tabernacle or Temple. Yom Kippur was the only day of the year that even the Cohen Gadol was only allowed in the Holy of Holies, which was off limits to everyone else at all times (The ones who had to do repairs and all came inside in special boxes lowered into this room) Indeed, it was during Moshe's 120th and final year of Moshe's life, that his brother Aharon passed away. (Note: Today is the last day of the 30 days of mourning that the Jews had for Aharon, whose Yahrzeit is Rosh Chodesh Av). Besides being Moshe's only brother, they had tremendous love for each other, the Torah equates them being equally righteous (though they each had unique qualities in which they excelled - Moshe with his humility, and Aharon with his peacemaking), and Aharon was in fact Moshe's top Torah student until he passed away (it was only after Aharon's passing that Yehoshua who served Moshe was elected to be the next leader of the Jewish nation). And it is on Yom Kippur that we make our best effort to be pure from sin, and even dress in white like the angels who don't have sin; and accordingly, as Yom Kippur was the last of Moshe' 120 days of retreat in Heaven where the angels reside, we want to leave this world when it is our time to be pure from sin, and accordingly to Jewish Law, a person is buried in white shrouds to commemorate this point. Certainly, we know that Moshe left this world pure from sin, and whatever few shortcomings he may have had during his lifetime were most certainly atoned for in this world, so he could go straight to Heaven following his 120 years of life, in which he passed way on his birthday of 7 Adar, exactly 120 years to the day.


As I mentioned a little earlier, there were a number of occurences in Moshe's life that have to do with the letter Mem, some of them ending as well with a Mem Sofit/Final Mem (Note: when I list the words in this paragraph ending with a Mem, I am referring to the final Mem, but essentially is the same letter as the same pronounciation) as the letter Mem itself begins and ends as such. To begin with, his very name Moshe was named after the fact that the Egyptian princess Batya drew his out of the water on which the basket in which he lay was floating. Water in Hebrew is Mayim, beginning and ending with a Mem. On the downside, Hashem refused to allow his entry to Israel because in attempting to bring forth water for the Jews, he hit the rock instead of speaking to it as per Hashem's commands. His sister's name was Miriam, beginning and ending with a Mem. His childhood years were in Mitzrayim/Egypt, beginning and ending with a Mem. Moshe received the Torah, the bulk of which and ultimately what teaches us how to observe the Torah is the Oral Torah, the foundation of which are the teachings of the six orders of the Mishna (also starts with a Mem), which begins with a Mem and ends with a Mem. Interesting to note, Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers begins its very first word with Moshe's name which begins with a Mem, in the context of his receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai, and that first chapter in that tractate ends with a Mem. (Also, the foundation principles of the Torah through which the Torah is interpreted as to how we learn out the Halacha/Jewish Law are known as the 13 Midot of the Torah, the word Midot beginning with a Mem). And then it was on this first day - Rosh Chodesh Elul - that Hashem revealed to Moshe the 13 Midot HaRachamim, the phrase which beings with a Mem and ends with a Mem. This would not be complete unless I would tell you that the first day of the first period of Moshe's ascent is called the day of Matan Torah/Giving of the Torah, beginning with a Mem, and the last day of the last period of Moshe's ascent was Yom HaKippurim (the full name of Yom Kippur), ending with a Mem.

It seems that virtually all the major important events of the Jewish people in the Chumash begin with the letter Mem, as I had mentioned earlier about Moshe. Also, the 10 Plagues visiting the Egyptians are known as the Eser Makkot, the latter word beginning with a Mem, and plagues also visited the Egyptians at the Reed Sea (NOT the mistranslation of the Red Sea) as foretold in the Haggada. The Manna - the Hebrew word for which starts with a Mem - was provided for the Jews during their 40 years in the desert was in the merit of Moshe.

In summary - the themes in Moshe's life beginning with a Mem
Mattan Torah
Mikra (represents the Written Torah that Moshe gave over to the Jewish people)
Mishna (teachings of foundation of Orah Torah that Moshe gave over to the Jewish people - which begins and ends with a Mem).
Midot HaTorah (the 13 principles of the Torah)
Midot HaRachamim


Speaking of Rosh Chodesh Elul and water, the 51st day from now is called Hoshana Rabba, the seventh and last day of Sukkot, when we have special Hoshanot prayers evoking Hashem's merices pertaining to Mayim/water. The special name given to this day is given as such, as the last syllable of the first word Hoshana is Na, consisting of the letters Noon (50) & Alef (1), adding to 51. This day is most siginificant following Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippur, because on Rosh Hashana - the decree is written, on Yom Kippur - the decree is sealed, and on Hoshana Rabba - the decree is mailed. If G-d forbid it is a bad decree, there are chances of it being revoked, put on hold, or torn up, depending on our future deeds and heartfelt prayers.

In relationship to the month of Elul and these solemn holidays, the month of Av - of which today is the last day of the month - the month in which both Temples were destroyed because of the Jews' misdeeds, is represented in the zodiac by the Mazal/constellation of Aryeh/Leo. The letters of Aryeh - Alef, Reish, Yud, Hei - begin the words Elul, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Hoshana Raba. The word for the month of Av itself means father, and indeed Hashem wants to be a Merciful Father to us. However, though our ultimate relationship to Him is through love - Ahavat Hashem, we also have to have fear - Yirat Hashem, and the most fearful and king of the animals is the Aryeh/lion; and thus, without Hashem judging us on a timely basis, we could, G-d forbid slack off to the point that we will be too far spiritually from Hashem to be able to return to Him by doing Teshuva/repentance.

Now it the time to beef up on the Mitzvot as well as with good Middot/characteristic traits, the same name given for the principles of the Torah and Hashem's merciful traits. This includes being happy for others rather than being jealous, willing to help others or give things to other when needed rather than focusing on one's own wants all the time, and being humble giving attention to others rather than having everyone else focusing on onself. Behaving in these good ways are not just nice ways of being a good person, but this is in fact what the Torah expects of us, and so Torah learning coupled with these good character traits make a Kiddush Hashem/sanctification of Hashem's name when other people - whether children, non-observant Jews, or non-Jews, will be impressed about how a Jew can live a good, moral life, thus making a good impression on them to want to live such a life as well, the ultimate solution of getting rid of Anti-Semitism, because nothing else will work in the long run. Taking out either the Torah or good Midot, G-d forbid, only leads to increased Anti-Semitism, as past history has shown. But if we behave in the correct way; ultimately, Hashem will have all the more reason to want to treat us with mercy if we cause others to love and fear Hashem as well.

There are two sources of teaching children (and also adults for funny entertainment and being mindful of living as good Jews) how to observe the Mitzvot and having good Midot. I'm referring specifically to Uncle Moishe & the Marvelous Midos Machine both having audios/videos teaching about Mitzvot & Middot (you can see samples of these on To order these, you can either go to your local Judaica store or order them online, such as These are excellent tools for teaching Jewish children how to be better Jews and better children. The small monetary investment is worth all the money in the world; for after all, this is our whole purpose in this world, serving Hashem and transmitting this to the next generation who is our continuity. It was the guarantee of our Jewish children that Hashem accepted for giving us the Torah.

For adult learning in books, to learn more about what the Torah has to offer, one of the top websites I want to suggest is To learn more about the 613 Mitzvot, there is the Sefer HaMitzvot by the Rambam/Maimonidies, or known as Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, of which there are translations in English, and then for learning Mussar - Torah ethics for good Midot - one of the best books on this subject is first of all, Mishlei/Book of Proverbs of the Bible, composed by none other than the wisest men of all time, King Solomon. In Mishnaic literature, there is what we had mentioned earlier in this post - Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers, which is commonly learned on Shabbat afternoon between Passover and Rosh Hashanah. And then of books of more recent times, there is a Sefer called Mesilat Yesharim/"Path of the Just", authored by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato of the mid 1700s, which focuses of good character traits, of which there is a translation printed by Feldheim Publishers. Again, refer to your local Judaica store or internet to purchase.

IN MEMORIAM: In relationship to what I just wrote, I want to dedicate this 40th post of to a dear friend of mine - Rabbi Moshe Chaim Horn of blessed memory - who passed on in his 40th year (like Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato who also passed away in his 40th year) some five years ago on 16 Tamuz - the 40th and last day of Moshe Rabbeinu's first 40 day retreat in Heaven. Rabbi Horn was an accomplished rabbi, lawyer, family man, and a true friend in need to all who needed assistance in life. His Ahavat Yisrael - love for Jews, accompanied with his friendly smile and Midot Tovot - good character traits were an inspiration and a Kiddush Hashem - sanctification of Hashem's name, to all who knew him.


Just remember, today, the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul - is the first day of Moshe's 3rd ascent of his Heavenly retreat corresponding to Moshe's 81st year when most of the spiritual gifts were given to the Jewish people. Today is an excellent time to begin doing something more in coming closer to Hashem. And if you are reading this at a later time, especially before Rosh HaShana or Yom Kippur, you can still have your foot in the door before the end of the day...

G-d willing, will post in a week from now, and the topic will be about marriage.

First Day of Rosh Chodesh Elul 5769, First Day of Moshe's Final 40 Day Retreat with Hashem

Sunday, August 16, 2009

#39 - Teaching Hashem's Children How 2 Behave

In Parshat Re'eh that we just read this past Shabbat, the beginning of the 4th Aliyah reads: Banim Atem LaHashem Elokeichem - "You are children to Hashem, your G-d..." (Deutronomy 14:1). If you count the number of verses in Parshat Re'eh, you will see that this is the 58th verse of this Parsha. In Hebrew, the number 58 is is spelled Noon Cheit, which also spells the name Noach/Noah, the ancestor of all mankind like Adam was, since only Noah and his immediate family survived the world flood.

While the generation of the flood did all types of sins, our Rabbis tell us that it was particularly the sin of stealing that sealed their fate. Following the year that Noah's family and the lucky surviving creatures were living in Noah's Ark, Hashem spoke to Noah about various things that mankind is supposed to be careful about, which are known as the Seven Commandments of the Children of Noah (Sheva Mitzvot B'nei Noach). Since they are only seven, it is worthwhile to mention what they are:
1) Prohibition of eating a limb severed from a live animal.
2) Prohibiton of what is known as Bircat Hashem "Blessing Hashem" used as a euphamism for the opposite as we do not want to associate cursing in reference to Hashem.
3) Prohibition of stealing.
4) Establishing a justice system to enforce the Seven Commandments of Noah.
5) Prohibition of murdering.
6) Prohibition of idolatry.
7) Prohibition of sexual immorality, which includes adultery, homosexuality, and incest.
(I put this in this specific order only because there is a memory trick in Hebrew using the first seven letters of the Alef Beit to remember the list in this order)

Anyways, it's interesting to note that the beginning letters of the 58th verse in Parshat Re'eh begins with the letters Beit, Noon, Yud spelling the word B'nei and 58 is the number and Gematria of Noach. Thus, although the verse in its literal meaning is addressing specifically the Jewish people, this verse seems to also hint to the Sons of Noah or Noahides, which is a nice terminology to call non-Jews. While non-Jews do not have the holiness that Jews have, they also have Neshamot/souls, something that animals do not possess who have only a spirit that keeps them alive only in this world. Non-Jews, as Jews, are in fact, according to our Rabbis, also assured a share in the world to come if they but keep the above commandments that Hashem commanded to all mankind; it's just that the Jews as Hashem's Chosen Nation have the potential to be shining examples to the rest of mankind.

Indeed in recent times, there has been a movement among non-Jews not looking to convert to Judaism who want to live as Noahides who observe the "Seven Commandments". While all other religions encourage converting other people to their specific religion, and oftentimes using threats, tourture and murder, while claiming that those who don't convert will go to hell; Judaism is the ONLY religion that does not seek to convert people from outside its religion, and leave room for the possibility of people outside of Judaism to have reward in Heaven. In fact, a non-Jew who wants to convert to Judaism is initially discouraged and refused for a total of three times, thus qualifying only those non-Jews who are sincere in joining the Jewish religion. The reason this is so crucial is because once a non-Jew becomes Jewish, there is no way ever to get rid of this Jewishness, since he/she henceforth remains with the holiness of a Jew, and has an immense responsibility to keep the Torah/Mitzvot/Halacha the way that Hashem wants us to keep them, and not observe them merely as a nice Jewish "lifestyle" to pick and choose as one pleases. This may be fine in other religions as long as one believes in Jesus or Mohammed, may their names and memories be erased; but as members of Judaism, we treat Hashem as our Father and King who gives us orders and we have to follow them regardless of the challenges involved, and it is not enough to merely say that we believe in Hashem, while not following what Hashem tells us to do.

Speaking of following orders, there are consequences that happens when one does not follow orders. On the lighter side, for certain Aveirot/sins, the Beit Din/Jewish court until almost 2,000 years ago used to administer lashes. The minimal amount of lashes administered at any one time pending one's health and body condition to be predetermined (which may then be less than the typical amount of lashes) is 39 lashes (and this is my 39th post). It is interesting to note that the Torah mentions 40 lashes and that "one should not add" to this amount for any one sin. However, our Rabbis tell us that it is indeed only 39 lashes. However the Rabbis learn this out or if they decided to make the amount one less than what the Torah says may not be clear. However, there must be a connection between the concept of the punishment for lashes and the number forty or its Gematria as the letter Mem, which I discuss later on in this post. In any case, three different verses denoting Hashem's mercies, atonement for sin, and observance of Hashem's Mitzvot, each consisting of 13 words, were recited during the lashes administration, to match one word per lash, thus showing that the lashes were not administered simply as punishment, but as a way of learning a lesson for doing a sin and to be an atonement for that sin.

In the Mishna of Tractate Sanhedrin (1:2), there is a difference of opinion as to how many judges were to make the decision of administering lashes to a sinner. One opinion says that there were three judges, while Rabbi Yishmael says that there were 23 judges. Indeed, Tractate Makkot of the Babylonian Talmud, (Makkot literally means hittings, and this tractate discusses the lashes administrating in its 3rd chapter) consists of three chapters, and has a total of 23 Dafim/pages!
On a personal note, the word Makkot is the same Gematria as my name Shimon (466), but no lashes please!

Speaking of the above, I want to address a most unfortunate event that occured a few weeks ago on the morning of July 23/2 Av. The FBI arrested 44 people in connection with a major operation of money laundering. It is most significant to note that 44 people were arrested that Thursday morning during the week of Parshat Devarim, which is the 44th Parsha of the Torah, in the first year of the presidency of Obama, the 44th President of the United States. And this happened on the 2nd day of the month of Av that corresponds to the Tribe of Shimon, whose name is the same Gematria as Makkot. Among the arrested were five rabbis. Whether these rabbis were aware of the details of their involvement is not something that I wish to discuss here, because I do not have all the facts, and if we are to start judging them, we have to ask ourselves what we would have done if we were in their position, besides the sin of Loshon Hora/evil talk if we are going to judge them as doing something wrong whether they did or not.

There are three parts to this whole thing that happened here that I want to discuss: 1) Stealing 2) Informing on others 3)Anti-Semitism.


As I mentioned a little earlier, stealing is a universal sin that is a prohibition to both Jews and non-Jews, and was the final cause of the deathly fate of the generation of Noah. Stealing comes in many different forms, and in the world of politics, there are a significant percentage of politicians who use their power to make money as if they are above the law. And a Jew who lives in a country outside of Israel is bidden by Halacha/Jewish Law to pay income taxes according to the rules of that country as one who lives in someone else's territory is bound by the rules of its owner as the conditions to be allowed to live on it; otherwise, one is stealing from that owner. (This is NOT applicable to today's modern "State of Israel" which is run by a government that goes against the Torah, it's just that people pay taxes to avoid going to prison, and hopefully, some of that money will be used to the betterment of the Jews living in Israel). Thus, a Jew hiding from revealing the money that he made to avoid paying taxes or misappropriating money is not only stealing which is forbidden even from non-Jews, but also creates a Chillul Hashem, a desecration of Hashem's name about which non-Jews will G-d forbid say that Jews love money, and will even steal, even though our Torah forbids us to steal from anyone. Anti Semites have already used the word Jew as a verb to describe someone stealing money from someone else as "Jewing" someone.


How did the FBI have information on the rabbis whom they arrested? Very unfortunately, and this is not the first such case, an "observant" Jew - particularly one whose father is a rabbi of a synagogue who denounced his son's actions - to avoid some punishment as a result of money laundering of his own - acted on behalf of the FBI to trap these rabbis into a money laundering scam. It's not that these rabbis were already involved in something non-kosher, but it was this creep that initiated the whole thing to get them in trouble with the law to begin with. Our Rabbis make it clear that one who informs on other Jews resulting in them being killed, imprisoned, or their money taken away, loses his share in the world to come. Certainly this is applicable in this case, where this lowlife did the whole nine yards, and not merely snooping on what some rabbis were already doing, thus assuring himself a "prize" in the "informers' hall of fame". The only reason why I will not mention this guy's name is not because there is a problem of mentioning this evil man's name because according to the laws of the prohibition of Loshon Hora, it is in fact permitted if not a Mitzva to mention who this informer is, but because I am not looking for a lawsuit or a price on my head. My only intention of even mentioning this part about the informer is to put things in perspective here, and to teach others what is permitted or forbidden according to Jewish Law.


Today, I am not talking about Anti-Semitism from Arabs, Neo-Nazis, or Obama, even though plenty of this disease is abound in these three groups of people. However, I am talking about the FBI. Now first of all, I want to mention up front that in all fairness, there are, in fact, Jews who work in the FBI, so when I mention the FBI in relationship to Anti-Semitism, I am not refering to Jews who work in this so called law enforcement agency if they themselves are not working in a position that is specifically targeting Jews to get them in trouble. On the other hand, I do not have the slightest fear of what the FBI will want to do to me if they catch hold of this blog, because first of all, I no longer live in the United States as I made Aliyah a number of years ago, and I am not suggesting to do any kind of harm to the FBI. I am simply mentioning facts about the FBI of their double standards that they have displayed against Jews more than once in recent history.

Questions need to be asked here. First of all, how come did the FBI wait 10 years until it was able to arrest 44 people, instead of arresting some of the same people years earlier? I won't forget how one of the FBI members who spoke to the United States nation (and the rest of the world - as watched on the internet), having an Oriental look, outlining the group of people that the FBI arrested, and then he proceeded on by saying, "and, OF COURSE (emphasis is mine) there are the five rabbis..." So, Anti-Semitic FBI agent, let me understand what you are saying here. Are you saying that OF COURSE Jews, and most certainly rabbis, are bound to steal? Or are you saying that you waited so many years until you were able to find an informer to get some rabbis in trouble, which means that OF COURSE the FBI were not going to end this money laundering operation until some rabbis would be part of this also? And what also bothers me is that the FBI allowed more people over time to steal instead of nipping this sin in the bud. OF COURSE the FBI will claim that they needed "sufficient evidence" before they could make their big move. But as far as I am concerned, the only difference between the FBI and the criminals in prison is that the FBI is not in prison. After all, if people didn't commit crimes, I guess the policemen wouldn't have too much left to do in terms of making a living.

Now, let's backtrack to quite a few years earlier, when Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel of the JDL were arrested by the FBI for supposedly planning on planting a bomb in a mosque. After a year in prison, Irv Rubin was dead, and the FBI claimed that he committed suicide. The problem with this report is that the story that the FBI delivered didn't quite add up. For all we know, the FBI itself could have arranged for his death, and then had it committed by criminals locked up in the system in return for earlier release. And then the following year, Earl Krugel was dead for no explained logical reason; though this time, the FBI was a little smart not to claim the same phoney excuse that it was a suicide like they used the first time.

And then there was the incident in the El Al airport of Los Angeles, where an Egyptian guy shot dead a few Jews until he was gunned down by others. This included a woman who worked for the airline, and an observant Jewish passenger who had a wife and seven children. Leaving it to the media, not everyone was thrilled to say that it was an Arab that did this most henious crime. In fact, the day after, the Miami Herald claimed that maybe this was done by a Hispanic guy, when there were those who knew immediately about the nationality of the terrorist. But if you thought that at least a law enforcement agency would behave better, think again. The FBI refused to ever consider this a terrorist act, despite pleadings from the Jewish community!

Thus, it comes with no surprise that the FBI can present itself as a law enforcement agency while actively helping others to commit crimes just so that it can be "doing its job" when its job is in fact is supposed to prevent further crimes from occuring, and not just catching people after committing a crime. And as that Anti-Semitic Oriental looking guy in the FBI claimed in his speech, "What these people did is not about religion or politics, it's about crime". What this Anti-Semite did not mention is that the FBI is also a practitioner of crime who didn't follow the "Seven Commandments of the Sons of Noah", who are supposed to IMMEDIATELY arrest anyone whom they know is performing a crime, and don't need 10 years waiting for this to be able to prove that SOME of the 44 people whom they arrested one morning did something wrong. While the FBI is not a court, ALL non-Jews who have the physical strength as adults have the choice of doing the right thing, and do their part in bringing someone who is in violation of the Seven Commmandments of the Sons of Noah to the court, and unlike today in the United States who only execute a handful of convicted murderers on Death Row (as well as the Rosenberg couple in 1953 for espionage even though they didn't commit murder, but only OF COURSE because they were Jews), ALL crimes that a non-Jew is forbidden to commit are punishable by IMMEDIATE death upon evidence that the crime was committed, and is supposed to be executed specifically by the SWORD. Executions done in any other way is in violation of how a criminal is supposed to be executed, and those in charge of the executions performed in ways other than the sword are no less guilty of the death penalty for non-Jews according to the Torah. (NOTE: Believe it or not, the Arabs in some countries such as in Saudi Arabia may very well be rewarded with great wealth from Hashem for following the laws for non-Jews much more precisely according to what Hashem commands to non-Jews when executing criminals by the sword, and I know that executions take place in Saudi Arabia as someone who once worked there told me of such an execution that he personally witnessed).


So if it was ultimately meant for the Jewish court to administer 39 lashes instead of 40 lashes to a sinner, then why did the Torah mention 40 lashes? Well, if you count the number of letters of Alef Beit that include five shapes that are only at the end of a word, you will have a total of 27 letters. The five letters of the word endings are similar with five of the regular 22 letters of the Alef Beit, and if included next to their receptive letters, it turns out that the letter Mem=40 is the MIDDLE letter of the Alef Beit. With this in mind, we know that Alef is the first letter and Tav is the last letter; thus Alef, Mem, Tav - beginning, middle, end - are the letters that spell the word EMET/Truth. As the middle letter Mem, which begins the word Moreh - teacher or instructor, one is surrounded by Hashem who is the Alef or Aluf/Chief of the world tells us to, and the Torah that begins with the letter Tav which indeed is based on the word Ho'ra'ah - instruction, as the Torah is not just a nice Bible stories book, it is an instruction from which we learn how to serve Hashem. And it is particularly the Oral Torah - the part of the Torah that outlines in detail HOW to observe Hashem's commandments, that begins with the letter Mem, as in Mei'ei'matai - "FROM WHEN do we read the Shema in the evening", the first commandment to be performed in the night, which is the beginning of the day according to Jewish Law, and is indeed the very first commandment that a boy who becomes Bar Mitzvah performs as he enters his 14th year, and Mem as the middle letter of the 27 letters of the Alef Beit is the 14th letter.

On the flipside, the letter Mem can stand for the word Moreid/rebellious, which is in effect just the opposite of an instructor who faithfully transmits over to others the instructions of his own instructor. One who is rebellious goes against the instructions that he/she has been instructed with. "You have been rebellious against Hashem since the day that I have known you" (Deutronomy 9:24), says Moses to the Jewish nation. In this verse, the first word is Mamrim, a biblical form for the word rebellious in plural. Indeed, the first two letters of the word are both a Mem, the concluding letter of this word is a Mem Sofit/Final Mem, thus this word beginning with the same letters as the word for the name Mem, and the final letter of the verse also ends with a Mem Sofit - Etchem/you (in plural). In the very next verse, Moses narrates how he pleaded with Hashem for 40 days and 40 nights not to destroy the Jewish Nation following its sin of the Golden Calf. It is along these lines that the Rokeach and Ba'al HaTurim, commentaries on the Torah, comment that we learn out from the verse of the Jews' rebelliousness beginning and ending with a Mem (40) that they rebelled against Hashem doing the course of their 40 years in the desert. Additionally, you will see in some Chumashim that the Mem as the first letter of this verse is small. Rabbi Abraham Bick explains that this letter is small to signify that though they indeed rebelled all those 40 years, they were considered as Ketanim - like children who are not yet Bar Mitzva to be responsible for the Mitzvot - so Hashem was not so strict with them. According to Rabbi Eliyahu Munk, the reason for its smallness is that in reality, they didn't rebel for all 40 years, but when the rest of the word as read as a word by itself, it can be read as Marim/teachers, as the Jews are teachers for the rest of the nations of the world. So as I mentioned before that the Mem begins word the word Moreh, we Jews have to show an example to the non-Jews as to how one is supposed to live ethically and morally, making a Kiddush Hashem/sanctification of Hashem's name instead of a Chillul Hashem/desecration of Hashem's name, G-d forbid, which means that instead of Anti-Semites saying "OF COURSE...", at least the good non-Jews should be able to say, "Let us follow the COURSE of the Torah/Bible that the Jews observe in treating mankind with ethics and respect".
It's interesting to note that that the word Mem in the above verse as I described is spelled three times. Correspondingly, Moses ascended Mt. Sinai three times to be in Hashem's presence, each time for a period of 40 days and 40 nights. The first period was when Hashem transmitted the Torah to Moses following the momentous occasion of the Ten Commandments, the second period was when Moses prayed to Hashem to spare the Jewish nation from destruction, and the third period was when Moses received the wording of the Ten Commandments from his own carved stone tablets and received Hashem's forgiveness for the Jews following their repentance during the period of the month of Elul and the Ten Days of Repentance concluding with Yom Kippur.

The point that I want to bring up here is that the punishment of lashes that the Beit Din/Jewish court administered was for sinners who committed an act of rebelliousness, who still did the sin as they wished despite being previously warned. Though the Mishnaic word for lashes is Makkot, beginning with a Mem, the general Hebrew word for lashes is Malkut, also beginning with a Mem. The letters of the word Malkut can in fact be rearranged to be read as Mavet Kal/light death - this phrase also beginning with a Mem; that is, the pain of lashes is a substitute for the real punishment for doing a sin, which is death. However, Hashem knowing human nature has great mercy for us, and besides the fact that if every time we did a sin we would die and then there would be no human beings left, Hashem has his ways of reminding us to better ourselves and that really we should have died for sinning, but instead, we are given reminders to this effect. Sometimes, this is accomplished as in the times of the Temple to offer an animal sacrifice with one's money, and seeing the animal being slaughtered reminds one that really he/she should have been the one to die, but instead it is the animal who is being killed here. From this stems the custom of performing what is known as Kaparot on the morning before the start of Yom Kippur, in which a chicken, rooster, hen, etc. is ritually slaughtered. However, before the slaughter, one swings the fowl around one's head saying that this is a Kappara/atonement for oneself, while he/she can remain living. (For those who oppose the custom of Kapparot because of "animal cruelty", and claim to stick to the custom of giving money instead, are missing the whole point of what Kapparot is supposed to represent. We should be thankful to Hashem that we have reminders for us to better our ways, and that Hashem gives us plenty of opportunities to better ourselves instead of killing us with no warning only to be in Hell for eternity).

Anyways, this Kapparot ceremony is performed on the 39th day of the 40 day period of repentance, the very period of time that Moses was in Hashem's presence for the third time. There is in fact also a custom on the day before Yom Kippur starts when there are those who administer lashes to others (though not quite as strong as the lashes that the Beit Din used to administer), happening on this 39th day of the 40 day period. It's significant that I am mentioning this today, because today - 27 Av - is the 39th day of the 2nd period of 40 days that Moses was in Hashem's presence praying for the Jewish nation not to be killed, writing this in my 39th post (which I originally planned to write a few days ago, but things happened beyond my control) that we are talking about this timely issue.

Perhaps then what Hashem is telling us through the Torah that really, we deserve full punishment for any sin that we do - as signified by the Torah saying 40 lashes. You see, when one is rebellious and disobeyes the king, especially in earlier times, his/her punishment was immediate death/Mavet as beginning with a Mem (40) - no questions asked. However, Hashem in His great mercy, stops one step short of killing us, and as represented by the number 39 as our Rabbis tell us, Hashem gives us an EASY way to atone for our sin and for us to learn our lesson not to do it again so we can continue living and get back on the right track.

There is in fact a connection of the number 39 to Parshat Re'eh. The very first verse reads "See that I have given you today, a blessing and a curse", the text going on to say that the blessing or curse depends on whether we follow what Hashem commands us to do or not, respectively. The Midrash tells us that upon the first sin committed by mankind of eating the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, there were a total of 39 curses or punishments - 10 for the snake who enticed Eve to eat of the fruit, 10 for Eve/women, 10 for Adam/men, and 9 for the ground. The flipside of this is that on Jewish holidays before the Sefer Torah is brought out to be read, we recite three times the 13 Attributes of Mercy, which in effect countereffect punishment as represented by the number 39, as we pray to Hashem to have mercy on us, despite our shortcomings which we admit to. This special prayer was in fact first taught by Hashem to Moses upon meeting with Him for the 3rd time.

In any case, the 39th verse of Parshat Re'eh reads "Observe everything that I am commanding you - do not add to it or substract from it". Indeed, it was specifically 39 lashes - and as the Torah tells us, it is forbidden to add to the number of lashes for any one sin, and the amount was not reduced unless the Jewish court determined beforehand that the particular sinner would not be able to live if administered the total 39 lashes.


I want to mention of an event that happened back in 1991 pertaining to the Persian Gulf war in relationship to the 39 lashes. Even though it was the United States that was fighting Saddam Hussein, he took of his vengence on Israel as though it had something to do with the war. Indeed, there were exactly 39 scud missiles that he fired towards Israel. In Hashem's great mercy, not a single Jew died or got injured from the attacks (except for one who died for not putting on the gas mask on correctly). However, some of today's rabbis made it clear that 39 scud missiles were fired because of the Jews in Israel who did not keep Shabbat, on which 39 major categories of work is forbidden to be done. One proof of this is that at least two times - there was a Super Farm pharmacy, which was open on Shabbat, was hit. In terms of free choice, there were actually secular Israeli reporters in the papers who claimed that Saddam Hussein was actually prejudiced against Super Farm, rather than admit that at least just MAYBE this happened through Hashem's hands for whatever reason! Yes, some people will just never learn, but typically in times of tragedy -though it should happen because of better times - there are those who shape up their ways and treat other people more kindly or look to follow what Hashem wants at least a little better for a little while.


The following is a special addition to this blog as we are talking about lashes, scuds or whatever else you may want to call them that were directed against Jews. As we know from the Talmud, Midrash, Kabbalah, there will be a period of time of suffering that has already begun or will most likely begin right before Moshiach's coming even as other painful things will happen even after Moshiach comes, and the only question is who will survive. The reason why I word this as "has ALREADY begun or will MOST likely begin right before Moshiach's coming" is because the truth is that for all that we know, Moshiach can come at any time, something that we have to all believe in. It's just that the way things are happening, we see that there is a period of time based on this that will be the most painful right before Moshiach's coming. This period of time in our literature is called Chevlei Moshiach - the birthpangs of Messiah. This is just like a woman who feels the most suffering of birthpangs shortly before her baby is born.

With this being said, I discovered a few weeks ago something absolutely phenomenal in the Hidden Codes of the Torah. I spelled in Hebrew this phrase Chevlei Moshiach - Cheit, Beit/Veit, Lamed, Yud, Mem, Shin, Yud, Cheit - and can be spelled only once in the entire Chumash as every 11,427th letter. Now, a couple of words before the word Yaakov which includes the letter Veit as part of the phrase, we see the word Sukkot. In the original context, this was the name of the very LAST place that Yaakov was BEFORE returning to Israel after being away for 36 years. This was also the name of the very FIRST place that the Jews came to immediately following their REDEMPTION of the Exodus. And this is also the name of the holiday of Sukkot, which is exactly six months apart from the holiday of Passover, celebrating the redemption of the Exodus, at opposite ends of the year. Now, above the letter Samech in the word Sukkot, you will see four letters spelled vertically as Hei Tav Shin Ayin, the number of this coming year - 5770! Now, reading backwards of the immediate letters surrounding the word Sukkot, if you take out the word Sukkot, you will read B'Yom Vav - On Day 6 (just the letter Vav, not the word Vav)! Now, look at the vertical letters above the letter Vav of the word Sukkot - but read upwards instead of downwards again is the word B'Yom - On (the) Day. And using the letter Sav/Tav of the word Sukkot, the letter above it is Mem and the letter below it is Yud - reading Ma'tai - When.

But perhaps what may be most startling is the word Matchil - BEGINS/STARTS - as spelled in this matrix. The five Hebrew letters of this word are Mem, Sav/Tav, Cheit, Yud, Lamed. This is spelled here like this. Going up vertically three letters from the first letter Mem, then the 13th letter from this spells the next letter Sav/Tav, and so on. But a few important points here. The words IMMEDIATELY preceding the Mem is the phrase Goh'ol Yigal Ish, literally means "A man will surely redeem" using a double expression of REDEMPTION (in the original context, it's refering to redeeming tithes), similar to another phrase refering to the redemption from Egypt as the sign that it would be for real Poh'kod Pokadti Etchem "I will surely remember you...", so when Moses told Hashem's message to the Jews, they knew that the message of the upcoming redemption was real, originally transmitted by Joseph to his brothers. As we know, there are seven Heavenly guests that are in the Sukka during the Sukkot holiday corresponding to its seven days, and it is Joseph who corresponds to the 6th day of Sukkot, the date that I had just mentioned! Now, the letter Cheit in the word Matchil is also the LAST LETTER of the phrase Chevlei Moshiach! And finally, the Lamed in the word Matchil appears a few words before the word Sukkot on that same line!

O.K., this is it. WHEN does the Chevlei Moshiach, the birthpangs of Moshiach - the final stage of the exile leading to the REDEMPTION (or the after effects of the REDEMPTION) - BEGIN? During the daytime of the 6th day of Sukkot in the coming year 5770. less than two months from now! Now again, I am not here to predict when Moshiach is actually coming. The truth is that Moshiach may be here by the time you are reading this, but as we know, women who have just given birth still suffer the after effects for at least a little while even after giving birth - some have an easier or harder time than others. And while we have had the Holocaust, constant attacks from the Arabs on Jews in Israel since the inception of the State of Israel, and the Israeli government turning against its own people it is supposed to represent, it seems that the worst is yet to come - G-d spare us - especially from what we hear of threats from the Arab world, and Obama as displayed in the Hidden Codes as being Gog U'Magog who will create the final war. And yes, spread this part about the Hidden Codes of Chevlei Moshiach to everyone you know, because if you do not have a Hidden Codes program or know enough Hebrew to figure this out, chances are is that someone else you know will. And just remember - living outside of Israel rather than inside of Israel will not protect you in the long run, as our best chance of survival is repenting of our past misdeeds and doing what Hashem wants - including living in Israel.

Before concluding, there is a similar word in Hebrew in relationship to the word begin, HATCHALAH - Beginning/Start. Amazingly, this word can be spelled backwards - on the line following the last letter of the phrase Chevlei Moshiach - where the words are HALUCHOT HArishonim - "The first tablets"! In the original context, Hashem tells Moses to carve out new tablets to inscribe the Ten Commandments like the first tablets that Hashem gave him which he destroyed following witnessing the Jews worshipping the Golden Calf. A similar wording in Hebrew of this is without the beginning letter Hei, and thus a few words earlier mentioning the second tablets that Moses was to carve out is spelled backwards TECHILAH of the word HALUCHOT/The Tablets, thus connoting a double wording of beginning/starting as the double wording of the redemption phrases!

Anyways, this event took place at the beginning of the 3rd period of 40 days of Moses being in Hashem's presence, which was Rosh Chodesh Elul, which will come up in a few days, when we begin blowing the Shofar everyday except for Shabbat and Erev Rosh Hashana during the month of Elul, a special time to repent, to CARVE out our bad behavior, and come closer to Hashem before the New Year. Perhaps this signifies that Hashem will weed or CARVE out the bad people - though we don't wish this on any Jews - from the world in BEGINNING of the final preparation for Moshiach's coming or of how the world will operate spiritually in the future through the medium of Chevlei Moshiach, may Hashem protect us. And then, Hashem will treat us as His Chosen Nation like Hashem treated us at the time that the Ten Commandments on the original tablets were given when we received the Torah on Mt. Sinai with the blowing of the Shofar. And it will be the blowing of the Shofar that will herald the arrival of Moshiach.

Coming up in a few days - G-d willing this coming Thursday, we will discuss more about the significance of the number 40 as especially applicable at this time of year.

27 Av 5769

P.S. The time noted for this post is 4:49 PM. The square root of 4 is 2, and the square root of 49 is 7. Add the letters 2 and 7 together to read 27, and presto! As we mentioned, there are 27 letters of the Alef Beit when the five letters especially written at the end of a word are included, and today's date is the 27th of Av.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

#38 - What is this LOVE?

The title of this blog is the translation of the Hebrew - Ma Zot Ahava - the title of a small booklet that was just published this year, authored by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, based on Kabbalistic & Hassidic sources. I purchased this booklet for 10 Shekel today at a place where booths were set up. There were other books at the booth stand authored by the same author on this basic topic of love & marriage that were relatively more expensive, but I had another reason for wanting to buy this particular book besides the reason that I am still single. I will tell you a little later on.

But first, I want to continue on from something that I mentioned in my previous post. You see, I wrote about the events that led to Yissaschar's birth. I had mentioned that this name can be read as two words - Yesh Sachar - "There is reward", which is in fact a phrase in the Book of Jeremiah. As Yissaschar's birthday of 10 Av always falls out during the week of Parshat Va'etchanan, there is a connection of his name's meaning to the very last words of this Parshat Va'etchanan. The last verse reads, "You shall observe the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments that I have commanded you TODAY TO DO THEM" (Deutronomy 7:11). On the capitalized words, Rashi comments that (today - in this world - we do the Mitzvot/commandments) tomorrow - in the world to come - we come to take the REWARD.

So indeed, the name Yissaschar denotes the concept of reward. But why is it Yissaschar in particular that denotes this concept?

We know that Yissaschar learned Torah all day, while his brother Zebulun supported him so he could learn Torah uninterruptedly. In this kind of relationship, Zebulun had an equal share in the reward for Yissaschar's Torah learning, because otherwise, Yissaschar would have had to find something else to do to make a living, at least for part of the time. And indeed, as the Mishna states (Peah 1:1), what we mention every day following the daily blessings that we recite before learning Torah, "The study/teaching of Torah is equal to all of them (that is, all the other commandments of the Torah)". The Chofetz Chaim notes that EACH AND EVERY WORD of Torah equals ALL the other commandments of the Torah COMBINED! Surely, if we knew what this eternal Heavenly reward was like, chances are is that most of us what spend quite a little more time learning/teaching Torah every day to say the least. Now, as I have also mentioned before, you can't get ahead of the game if we have other Mitzvot to fulfill - whether it is praying, putting on Tefillin, giving charity, doing favors for other people when needed - especially if there is no one else around at the time, fulfilling timely commandments by eating Shabbos meals or Matza on the Seder night, etc. as all of these Mitzvot are in fact time consuming, but the ultimate test of a person learning Torah for its sake, that is, because Hashem commanded us to learn Torah rather than just study it for receiving reward, is if we fulfill what the Torah tells us to do when it is the time to do so. Ultimately, the greatest reward that Hashem gives is to those who looked to serve Him not for ulterior motives, or even to receive Heavenly reward - though those people who fulfill Hashem's Mitzvot not for the right reasons also receive some reward - but because Hashem told them to serve Him in what ever manner that is commanded, regardless of how many brownie points any particular Mitzva may have.

Now, I also mentioned in my previous post about the 12 Tribes, whose common father was Jacob. However, four different mothers shared the pie in giving birth to them - 8 Tribes from Jacob's wives, and 4 Tribes from Jacob's maidservants. Now, let's fastforward to Jacob on his deathbed. He wanted to tell his children certain things, but he felt that his Divine Spirit had left him, upon which, he questioned his children thinking that maybe one of them were not believers in Hashem. All of Jacob's sons replied in unison "Hear, oh Israel (Jacob's other name), Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is ONE." This is the beginning verse of the Shema that we recite twice daily, and is found in last week's Parshat Va'etchanan.

Now, note the Hebrew word for One - ECHAD, consisting of the letters Alef (1), Cheit (8), Dalet (4). Indeed in that room, in Jacob's last hour, there were exactly 13 people. Jacob as the HEAD of the family - as the letter Alef is the HEAD of the letters, there were 8 sons from Jacob's two wives, and 4 sons from Jacob's two maidservants.

So the question may be asked, what's the big deal here? Who cares who were the sons' mothers? These 12 sons were equally all Jews so why even point out that a few of Jacob's sons were not from his regular wives, but from his maidservants. Presumably, these latter mothers were also righteous women to be worthy of having a part in the birth of some of the righteous 12 Tribes, even if these maidservants would have been slaves?

And this is the point - even if some of some may have come from rather a more humble background - in Jacob's eyes - they were all equal in terms of being part of the Jewish people. The only difference perhaps that Jacob related to what his sons' accomplishments. For example, his favorite son in fact was Joseph, but not because he came per se from a special Yichus/background, but because of his high spiritual level that he worked on.

Thus, we can learn a couple of things from here. First of all, someone should be looked up - not mainly because of the family that one comes from, but from his accomplishments. Some people may boast of descending from great rabbis from the past, but that does not necessarily indicate their own greatness, even as there are some who aren't even observant Jews. If anything, the fact that they may be descended from righteous and learned people should hold them MORE responsible for doing the right thing. Now, take the famous Rabbi Akiva as a classic example of who he was compared to his background. His father was a convert to Judaism, thus, half of his immediate ancestry was not even Jewish. And at that, Rabbi Akiva was a total ignoramous until the age of 40. In fact, he confessed much later on that he used to hate the rabbis very much. However, because of his committment to Torah learning thanks to his wife Rachel who saw his potential, he became among the greatest Sages of all time, who was responsible for much of the teachings that were later recorded in the Mishna, the foundation of the Oral Torah!

Secondly, it is the concept of Achdut/Unity, the Hebrew word coming from the word Echad/One. It isn't just that the 12 Tribes admitted to Hashem being One. It is that they had total unity among themselves, realizing at that point their unique mission in being the founders and ancestors of the Jewish people, who were later categorized to live in the Land of Israel according to their particular Tribe.

Now, there is another word that has the same Gematria as the word Echad (13) that shares a common theme - AHAVA/Love. Of course, this is the heartbeat of any loving and romantic relationship. Right? Well, at least when it comes to Hashem. You see, as Jews, there are times that we have to face reality. Hashem tells us that at times, we have to be willing to give up our lives in keeping the Torah, even if it means that we are ordered by non-Jews to disobey what the Torah says and that we would otherwise follow the non-Jews' orders only because we would be afraid of being killed. This is the Mitzva of Kiddush Hashem - Sanctifying Hashem's name, and those who have indeed being killed in this way, even though it is most tragic for another Jew to have to leave this world in this way, causing grief to his/her living relatives and friends, go straight to Heaven, and have a reward that the rest of us will not even be able to touch. In any case, part of a Jew being willing to give up his life for Hashem's sake is done out of love for Hashem. In fact, there are at least two times in our prayers where we have in mind to give up our lives for Hashem's sake would it be necessary, in which in itself is considered as though we have done this, and we also fulfill this Mitzva to a degree. This is particularly during the first verse of the Shema, ending off with the word Echad; and the other place is in the first blessing of the main prayer of Shemoneh Esrei, during the words Lema'an Shemo B'Ahava - "for the sake of His (Hashem's) Name with love", and as we said earlier Ahava is the same Gematria as Echad.

Now, note the actual wording in the above phrase in the Shemoneh Esrei - B'Ahava/with love. This word with the prefix of the letter Beit/with, makes this word to have a Gematria of 15. In relationship to this, there is in fact a blessing that is recited by Cohanim, which is a regular Beracha/blessing that precedes the special three verse blessing that Hashem commands the Cohanim to bless Jews with. "...He has commanded us to bless His people Israel WITH LOVE" - B'Ahava. Bearing in mind that everything is hinted in the Chumash/Five Books of Moses, there is a true story of someone asking a Rabbi as to where it is hinted in the Chumash that the Cohanim have to bless Jews "with love". The Rabbi answered quite simply, "The verse states, "Thus shall they (Aharon & his sons) bless the Children of Israel, SAY to them". (Now, the word "say" in Hebrew in this context is AMOR.) Now in Spanish, the word Amor means love. Hence, this is where this concept is hinted." Now, those who know Spanish culture, will know that love/romance plays a big part in it. But perhaps what leads to this explanation in the Torah is the fact that Hashem already said "Thus shall they bless the Children of Israel". The word Ko/thus already indicates that the Torah is ready to proceed with the blessings in the following three verses. So technically, the words "Say to them" are really superfluous. Yes, even other languages than Hebrew are hinted in the Torah! (The Mitzva of Tefillin consisting of four Torah sections is also hinted using other languages). And before I forget, the threefold blessing uttered by the Cohanim have a total of 15 words. By the way, this very section of the Torah about this commandment is the very first piece of Torah that we recite following the daily blessings that we recite before learning Torah.

I should point out that the last word of the 15 word threefold blessing is Shalom/Peace. In Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers, there is a statement from Hillel that begins like this "Hillel says: Be of the students of Aharon, love peace and pursue peace, love creatures (human beings) and bring them close to the Torah". Now in Hebrew, this phrase is also exactly 15 words. The whole theme here is about peace, which is due in part to being a "student of Aharon", who was the peacemaker par excellence, who brought many pairs of fighting Jews to love each other once again through his tactful words. Indeed, his Yahrzeit -the only one mentioned in the entire Bible -is the 1st of Av, and today is the 15th of Av, perhaps corresponding to the 15 words of the priestly blessing that was begun by Aharon, as indeed, the 15th & final word of this blessing is the word Shalom, which has much to do with the concept of Tu B'Av, as it is Shalom-peace, that keeps a marriage together, which of course has to start WITH LOVE - B'Ahava=15, but can only be maintained through the medium of peace.

Certainly, it is no mere coincidence that it is the 15th of Av, known as Tu B'Av, today's date, that has been singled out, along with Yom Kippur, to be a day of Shidduch hunting. Let's turn to the very last Mishna of Tractate Ta'anit (4:8): "Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: "There were no festive days like the 15th of Av & Yom Kippur when the dauhters of Jerusalem...would go out and dance in the vineyards, and they would say "Bachelor, lift up your eyes and see whom you will choose for yourself..."""

Furthermore, in terms of the number 15, King Solomon - who was the 15th generation from Abraham, the physical & spiritual father of the Jewish people, thrown in a fiery furnace for refusing to worship idols and was miraculously not even hurt - composed Shir HaShirim/Book of Song of Songs, which describes Hashem's and the Jewish people's love relationship with each other. If the words in this Book were to be taken literally, it would sound like a very romantic relationship. Indeed, without the commentaries, especially Rashi, to this Book, what this is saying would not be understood by anyone even by someone who knows perfect Hebrew (Artscroll presents a translation that incorporates Rashi's explanation to this Book Have to admit that King Solomon ironically admitted at one point in his life that he could not find true love in any of his 1,000 women. Guess it pays to stick to one woman.

Perhaps an interesting observation that will spice up Tu B'Av is that the first word "Tu" is the number 15, as the letters Teit (9) & Vav (6). Now, usually after the number ten, which is Yud, the numbers continue as Yud Alef (11), Yud Beit (12), etc. However, for the numbers 15 & 16, the Yud is not used because it's following letter to equal 15 or 16 forms Hashem's name or part of it, and have to be careful not to spell Hashem's name on paper that could be thrown out, as it is forbidden to throw out Hashem's name or Torah writings in the garbage, but only in a container that will be buried instead, giving them respect like we do for the deceased. Thus, instead we spell the number beginning with a Teit, and for the number 15, we put a Vav instead of a Hei. Now, the number "Tu" sounds just like a different number in English - the number 2. After all, Tu B'Av IS a time for two - man & woman - to meet, hopefully it will lead to marriage! However, in the marriage, the man is called an Ish, and the woman is called an Isha. Both words have the same letters Alef & Shin, spelling the word Eish/fire. The difference between the two words is that Ish has a Yud=10, and Isha has a Hei=5. Thus, if the TWO of them have peace and harmony between them, known in Hebrew as Shalom Bayit, then the Shechina/Divine Presence, indicated by the name of Hashem spelled as Yud & Hei, which equals 15, will rest among them. However, G-d forbid, there is fighting amongst themselves, then there will be Eish/fire; and if it's not in its literal meaning, then it's the spiritual effect as a result of their bickering which prevents the Divine Presence from resting among them.

It's interesting to note that there are six orders or volumes of the Mishnayot. The third one of them is called Nashim/Women. Imagine, while some who are not observant Jews mock "Orthodox" Jews as being prejudiced against women, one of the six volumes of the foundation book of the Oral Torah is called WOMEN! Of course it shouldn't be of a total surprise - a person is born as a Jew ONLY because of his Jewish mother. Anyways, this volume of the Mishnayot begins with the words "Fifteen women..." (in Tractate Yevamot) pertaining to the list of women who are exempt from levirate marriage (Deutronomy 25:5-10). Thus, the number 15 is most related to women, as exemplified by the Oral Torah, and thus it was on the 15th of Av when the young women were out looking for men. (These days, it is usually the opposite, and speaking as a single guy looking for one woman willing to get married, it is quite the opposite trend today).

Getting back to the love relationship between Hashem & the Jews, Hashem is the Chatan/Bridegroom, the Jews are the Kallah/Bride, and the Torah is the Ketuba/marriage contract. It is interesting to note that earlier on in Jewish history, first timers under the Chupa got married particularly on a Wednesday - the 4th day of the week. Without getting into details as to why this was so, it's interesting to note that this year, Tu B'Av also falls out on the 4th day of the week.

Now that I mentioned that the Jews are compared to the Kallah, let's make a very interesting observation of the two dates mentioned pertaining to when the Jewish girls used to be out looking for mates - Tu B'Av & Yom Kippur. Now, counting the number of days from Tu B'Av through Yom Kippur - you have a total of 55 days. And guess what? This is the Gematria of the word Kallah/Bride! And if this is not enough, the most number of days that is possible to be in a Jewish calendar year (there are six different amounts) is 385, which is a total of 55 full weeks. As per the 385 days, the word Shechina/Divine Presence is the Gematria of 385. As we had just mentioned of the Shechina dwelling among a peaceful couple, it is a feminine word describing the feminine aspect of Hashem, so to speak. In the Zohar, the Shechina is called a Betula/virgin which describes a bride who was never married or intimate before, and thus a Jewish bride receives her blessings from the Shechina, which is demonstrated by the Sheva Berachot - seven blessings - that are recited at a wedding; and in reference to this, the Shechina is also called Bat-Sheva, which literally means daughter of seven. The name Bat-Sheva is also the name of the wife of King David, who was born and passed away on Shavuot, name of the holiday which is also based on the word for number seven. And as per the 55 weeks, the word weeks in Hebrew is Shavuot, which is also the name of the holiday in which the Jews, compared to the Kallah=55, received the Torah! Shavuot is so named because the Jews counted seven full weeks from after leaving Egypt in anticipation of receiving the Torah, and since then, we count seven full weeks "from the Omer (barley offering), after which we observe the holiday of Shavuot, which means weeks, also having a connotation of the number 7, as a week consists of 7 days. Similarly, we recite the Sheva Berachot for the Chatan & Kallah, on each of the 7 days of their first week of marriage (if either of them was never married before). If this is not enough, the beginning of the Torah which consists of the account of the week of creation has a total of 469 words, and Chatuna (or Chasuna in Ashkenazic pronounciation)/wedding is the Gematria of 469! Indeed, the very first word for the section about Shabbat is the word Vayechulu - "The heavens, earth, and their hosts WERE FINISHED" (Genesis 2:1). Indeed this Hebrew word has a similar connotation to the word Kallah/Bride. And wait, there is more! Divide the number 469 by 7, and the result is 67. In Hebrew, the letter for the number 7 is the word Zayin - consisting of the letters Zayin (7), Yud (10), Noon (50), which equals 67!

Speaking about Torah, both in last week's Parshat Va'etchanan, and this week's Parshat Eikev, (both of these Parshiyot mention of the events of the Torah being given which happened on Shavuot) consisting of the first two paragraphs of the Shema respectively, each consist of a verse regarding teaching Torah to our children. The first verse consists of 50 letters, and as we know, Shavuot, the holiday celebrating receiving the Torah, is the 50th day from the beginning count of the Omer, and the second verse consists of 54 verses, corresponding to the 54 Parshiyot/Torah portions of the Chumash, which we conclude on Simchat Torah, the holiday in which we celebrate the Torah ending the Chumash, and beginning it anew. In a way, as we always learn something new when we review a piece of Torah that we have learned before, beginning the Torah - the Chumash - is in effect like learning the 55th Parsha of the Torah, and as we mentioned earlier, Kallah/Bride is the Gematria of 55, and the one who is called for the beginning of the Torah that is a special Aliya on Simchat Torah, or the Aliya itself, is called Chatan Bereishit - The Bereishit Bridegroom!


Getting back to where I started in this 38th post, the title of the book just published this year of 5769/2009 is called Mah Zot Ahava - What is this love? Here is the second reason (actually the third reason - it was the cheapest priced books of all the others there) why I purchased it - the title "Mah Zot Ahava" is the Gematria of my name Shimon (466)! Indeed, this is what you call literally a Siman Tov - Good Sign, and indeed, the last two letters of this Hebrew year - Samech & Teit, when this Sefer was published are the beginning letters of these words Siman Tov! These are the beginning words sung at Jewish weddings. I sure hope that this is indeed a sign from Hashem that even if I am not going to get married is this auspicious year, that I will soon find myself a Shidduch while still in this year - perhaps on this very date of Tu B'Av! (The best things have happened to me in the past when I least expected them). Also, it was the first time in many years that I received the Chatan Bereishit Aliya on this past Simchat Torah - called up to the Torah for the very first part of the Torah which consists of the account of the week of creation, being in this year of 5769, denoting Siman Tov, as I had just mentioned! It was immediately after this holiday at night when I began Anyways, these good signs pertaining to my personal life, reminds me of the signs of redemption that have happened recently to the Jewish people signaling the fact that Moshiach will be coming very shortly.

Tu B'Av in fact has a big connection to the name Shimon. As we mentioned earlier, it was none other than Rabban SHIMON Ben Gamliel who was the one who mentioned the date of Tu B'Av as a time when Shidduchim were made. Moreover, this date is in the midst of the month of Av, which corresponds to the Tribe of SHIMON (as I mentioned in my 36th post)! And just when you thought this was all...

Just about anyone who knows something about Lag Baomer has heard of a most famous song about Rabbi SHIMON Bar Yochai , also known as Rashbi, author of the teachings of the Zohar, who passed away on this date, who declared before his passing that the day of his passing should be celebrated as a day of happiness. Now, the name of this song is called Bar Yochai, called as such because it is the beginning phrase of every stanza in this song. And wait until you hear this, this was composed by another Rabbi with the same name - Rabbi SHIMON Lavi!

Who was this rabbi? A Kabbalist in his own right who lived mostly in the 1500s, he composed a commentary on the Zohar called Ketem Paz. At one point, he decided to make Aliyah. However, he came to the community of Tripoli, and seeing the poor spiritual state of the Jews living there, he decided that he was needed by them, and thus, he never wound up coming to Israel. However, of the several songs composed in honor of Rashbi, it is the composition of this rabbi in particular - whose name was also Shimon - that made the number 1 spot on the Rashbi song list, even though ironically, he never visited the gravesite of Rashbi - where a probably nice 6-digit number of Jews these days sing this very song as his gravesite every Lag Baomer. In fact, there are those who sing this song every Shabbat night - or at least during the Sefira - the count of the 7 weeks to Shavuot.

Now, guess the Yarhzeit of this Rabbi SHIMON Lavi. It is Tu B'Av! The Hebrew year of this rabbi's passing was 5348. In Hebrew, these are the letters Hei, Shin, Mem, Cheit. Rearranged, these letters spell the word SIMCHA/Happiness! Remember, Rashbi, in whose honor Rabbi SHIMON Lavi composed the song Bar Yochai, said that his day of passing should be marked as a day of SIMCHA/Happiness! And this day - Tu B'Av - the passing of the composer of the song Bar Yochai is indeed a great day of happiness to begin with!

Now, a Jew's ultimate happiness is the Torah. Our Rabbis tell us that at the time of Tu B'Av, as the nights start getting longer towards winter, we are supposed to increase our amount of Torah learning during the night. Now, the word Simcha in Hebrew has the same letters as another word - the Hebrew word for the number 5 - Chamisha. Well, we know that the foundation of the Torah is called the Chumash, also known as the Chamisha Chumshei Torah - "The Five Books of the Torah", as this word as based on the word Chamisha. Similarly, there is a piece in the Zohar that is called Sifra Ditzniuta - "The Book of Hidden Matters", which consists of 5 sections, corresponding to the 5 Books of the Chumash! And indeed, the name SHIMON in Hebrew consists of 5 letters.

Speaking of the name SHIMON itself, there is ONE place in the ENTIRE T'nach/Bible where the name Shimon, as the first letters of five consecutive words in the same verse, can be spelled forwards or backwards. This one time can be found in the 38th Chapter of Psalms. And yes, I am talking about this in my 38th post! Imagine just one time - in verse 9, it says Nefugoti V'Nidkeiti Ad Meod Sha'agti - where the first letters of these five words spells the name SHIMON backwords. These words mean, "I am faint and exceedingly crushed, I roar..." Now, the last word of this verse is Libi/my heart. Now, the first word of the next verse - verse 10 - is A-do-noy/L-rd (literally means "My master"), where the first letter is an Alef. Put this Alef next the last word of the previous verse - Libi - spelled Lamed, Beit, Yud, and together - presto! It's the word Lavi, the family name of Rabbi SHIMON Lavi! Anyways, as I mentioned, the number of these verses - 9 & 10 - both have to do with the name SHIMON. For the month of Av, its corresponding Tribe is SHIMON and its corresponding letter is a Teit=9. And for the letter Yud=10, the name of the letter when spelled out is the Gematria of Shimon (466), like this: Yud - Yud (10), Vav (6), Dalet (4); Vav - Vav (6), Vav (6); Dalet - Dalet (4), Lamed (30), Tav (400). A little arithmetic will reveal that this all adds up to exactly 466!

Another thing on the family name of Lavi, which means big lion. (The regular word for lion, Aryeh, is the Mazel/constellation for the month of Av.) In Gematria, this equals 43. As you will recall from my 29th post on Yom Yerushalayim/Jerusalem Day, the miracles that led to this special day, which included access to the holiest place in the world, occurred on the 43rd day from counting the Omer. Also, we are currently in the 43th year from the miracles that led to Yom Yerushalayim. And my Pasuk, verse that I say at the end of Shemoneh Esrei that begins with the letter Shin as the name Shimon, and ends with the letter Noon Sophit as the name Shimon, is Shabchi Yerushalayim - "Praise Hashem, O Jerusalem, laud your G-d, O Zion". And as I quoted the Mishna before in regard to Tu B'Av, the Yahrzeit of Rabbi SHIMON Lavi, it were the "daughters of Jerusalem", meaning, the Jewish girls living in Yerushalayim, who used to go out dancing in the hopes of meeting a guy. And there are exactly 33 times in the T'nach where the letters of Lavi - Lamed, Veit/Beit, Yud, Alef - is spelled consecutively forwards or backwards; and Rashbi, in whose honor Rabbi SHIMON Lavi composed his song Bar Yochai, passed away on the 33rd day of the Omer! And as we mentioned about Yissaschar earlier in this post, this Tribe corresponds to the month of Iyar, the month in which Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai passed away, on the 18th of the month.

Now, for those who have read my blogspots in the past, will see that I have written about my name and rabbis who have this name quite a bit. People may get the impression that I just like to talk about myself. But I have to tell you, if you have followed by blogspots carefully, you will have noticed a lot of Divine Providence here. Take these last three posts here #s 36, 37 & 38 - the number 36 is relationship to the Gematria of Eicha that is read on Tisha B'Av, then the number 37 that coincided with two events - the 37th flight of Nefesh B'Nefesh & the passing of Rabbi Moshe Chait, whose family name in Hebrew equals the Gematria of 37, the latter that happened just this Tisha B'Av, and the number 38 in relationship to my name Shimon which is spelled as the beginning letters of five consecutive words in a verse which is found only once in the entire T'nach in Psalms Chapter 38 - and particularly to Rabbi Shimon Lavi who passed away on Tu B'Av. In the song that this rabbi composed in honor of Rashbi, the first letters of the nine basic stanzas of this song indeed spells this rabbi's name - Shimon Lavi. So as you see, there is a concept of marking Chidushei Torah - new insights in Torah learning - in connection to one's name, the same way that one writes one's name in a book showing that he/she is the owner of that book. In a spiritual sense, marking something in Torah in relationshp to one's name also helps bond one's Neshama/soul to that piece of Torah that one thought of or composed. There have been many rabbis that named their Seforim/holy books that they composed using their name, or a hint to their name, including giving their book a title that has the same Gematria as their name. And indeed, as I mentioned about reciting a verse from the T'nach corresponding to my name, this is a very strong custom that Jews have throughout the world. The reason given for this is that after our time in this world, and we are summoned for judgment in the next world to give an accounting of our deeds, our Neshama may become very frightened and even forget its own name. So in order to ease its transmission so to speak, we associate our name with a piece of Torah - a verse from T'nach (or two verses if we have two names and so on, but not our family name). Thus, associating our name with a spiritual accomplishment serves as a merit for us showing our Torah learning and good deeds that we have accomplished. This is pretty much like a painter who signs his name on a drawing so that not only people will know who it is that painted it; but also, so that the credit won't go to someone else who can stealthily sign his name on it pretending that he was the one who painted it.

Speaking of both Rabbi Akiva & Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in this post, I saw somewhere pertaining to the beginning words of this week's Parshat Eikev - VeHaya Eikev Tishme'un - "It will be if you will listen...", Eikev is related to the word Akiva, and the next word Tishme'un is related to the word Shimon, hinting to these two rabbis, as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was in fact one of the top students of Rabbi Akiva, who are both frequently mentioned in the Mishna, the foundation book of the Oral Torah; and later on in life, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai had his own group of students to whom he taught the teachings of Kaballah which were assembled to become the book of the Zohar.


So, what is this love? Love for Hashem, love for the Torah, and if we truly love Hashem and the Torah, we will also understand what TRUE love is for one's wife, who is not someone to love merely for one's pleasure or convenience, but also respect for her, just like we are supposed to have respect for Hashem and the Torah.

I would like to conclude with the conclusion of the above Mishna of the conclusion of Tractate Ta'anit: "Go forth and gaze, O daughters of Zion, at King Solomon, with the crown that his mother crowned him with on the day of his wedding and on the day of the happiness of his heart" (NOTE: The last word in Hebrew for "his heart" is Libo, which is the Gematria of 38, as the number of this post!) (Song of Songs 3:11). "On the day of his wedding" - this refers to the giving of the Torah. "And on the day of the happiness of his heart" - this refers to the building of the Holy Temple. May it be rebuilt speedily in our days. Amen!

Tu B'Av 5769 - Yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Lavi, composer of the song Bar Yochai in honor of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai

NOTE: More amazing Divine Providence! The timing of this post is 4:21 PM. Well, guess the number of the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Lavi - that is, how many years is it from when he passed away in 5348 (1588)? It's the 421th Yahrzeit, meaning, it is exactly 421 years from when he passed away! And this is also the Gematria of the words Zot Ahava - This is the Love.

P.S. G-d willing, will post around a week from now. Will be focusing on recent events that have happened to the Jewish community, including Anti-Semitism from not just plain thugs, or Arabs, but from...Stay tuned!