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 www.echoditto.com/blogging - "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 http://www.gematriot.blogspot.com/. 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"

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