Wednesday, January 27, 2010

#58 - The GRACE of Hashem

When it comes to words like love, peace, harmony, etc. - we can pretty much define the meaning of these words. After all, these kinds of words are used in everyday speech for some people. But, unless you constantly read your Bible, the word GRACE may not be part of your everyday speech. So anyways, what is the definition of grace?

According to the "Free Dictionary" online, the following definitions are offered:
1. Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion.
2. A characteristic or quality pleasing for its charm or refinement.
3. A sense of fitness or propriety.
a. A disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill.
b. Mercy; clemency.
5. A favor rendered by one who need not do so; indulgence.
6. A temporary immunity or exemption; a reprieve.
7. Graces Greek & Roman Mythology Three sister goddesses, known in Greek mythology as Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia, who dispense charm and beauty.
a. Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people.
b. The state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God.
c. An excellence or power granted by God.
9. A short prayer of blessing or thanksgiving said before or after a meal.
10. Grace Used with His, Her, or Your as a title and form of address for a duke, duchess, or archbishop.
11. Music An appoggiatura, trill, or other musical ornanment in the music of 16th and 17th century England.

Personally, the first three definitions are what I feel define this word the best. I should know because in my dating days (i.e. many wasted years of not being married or having children), some of the women I dated told me that I am a "nice guy" or a "sweetheart", but didn't feel that it would "work out" or had some imaginary strange feelings that supposedly didn't go away. Apparently, at least in their opinion, I didn't have the GRACE that they could be attracted to. You see, if you have this grace, or as it is called in Hebrew in this context Metziat Chen/finding favor or grace in one's eyes, then hardly anything else will matter, even if you are not making as much money as a rocket scientist or neuro-surgeon.

Bearing in mind that more than quite a few today are very picky when it comes to finding love, some fool themselves thinking that if it's a doctor, then they will have no worries in life - especially when it comes to having money. Then, the only factor for a woman deciding which one of two doctors to marry is either which one of them makes at least $10,000 more or if they are both making competitive money, then who is the more "cute guy". But as truly realistic people realize, this is not the way to find true love or grace.


And then there is Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin"Bibi" Netanyahu who spoke yesterday (Wednesday) in Germany speaking in eloquent terms about Israel needing to remember "never again". One hearing him would think that he sounded just like Moses, but in fact, Bibi spoke just the opposite from what Moses preached. For example, he claimed that the IDF is the strongest force that Israel has, when it is really Hashem and keeping His commandments. Bibi also said that we have to remember from the Holocaust that we always need to defend ourselves. Hello, Bibi, that is the whole problem! You are hoping to find grace in the eyes of the world. But guess what? Nobody cares, because everyone hates us Jews! If we wait to defend ourselves, Iran will then attack us, G-d forbid, and it will be a little too late to even fight back, because you will then be busying burying the dead and treating those who became sick or injured from the nuclear attack if you are even alive at that point, let alone be able to move around.

Remember almost 30 years ago when Israel attacked a nuclear plant? Sure, the world screamed at us, but NOT ONE ISRAELI SOLDIER GOT KILLED. This is unlike the other times when Israel waited - because they knew ahead of time that a war was coming - until the Arabs attacked because the United States promised Israel some goodies or threatened not to continue helping if Israel would attack first, and hence, many Israeli soldier casualties resulted which could have been prevented had Israel attacked first - NOT DEFEND itself!

What Israel needs is to be PROACTIVE or OFFENSIVE, and not care what the world will or will not do to or for us. Stop attempting to find grace in the world's eyes! No country will be afraid of Iran just because you are telling the world that Iran is dangerous for everyone, because Iran will butter up everyone else first with money or words, and then will go straight for Israel, G-d forbid. Wake up, Bibi! You are more afraid of the world's reaction than an actual attack from Iran that the world doesn't care about because it is all about attacking Israel. Stop misusing and abusing your plagarized Kahane's & the JDL's slogan of "Never Again", because you have no concept of what this slogan really means!

And your mention of the Kaddish words had no more meaning either because your concept of what the Kadish represents, which is really a sanctification of Hashem's name, is the furthest thing from your political stance which is so called pleasing the non-Jews. The beginning words of the Kaddish is actually based on a verse (Ezekiel 38:23) "And I (Hashem) will be made great, sanctified and known among the nations" which is quoted by Rashi on this very week's Parshat Beshalach in reference to Hashem avenging himself on the Egyptians for chasing the Jews until the Reed Sea. It may sound most politically incorrect, but revenge on non-Jews who seek to hurt us is a very Jewish concept, about which Rabbi Meir Kahane, may G-d avenge his blood, attempted to instill into the Jewish mentality of today, as Rashi begins commenting on the words "I (Hashem) will strengthen Myself against Pharaoh" - "When the Holy One Blessed Be He avenges himself against the wicked, His name is made great and honored".

Bibi, forget about even giving supposed honor to Hashem by your lip service - you can leave the prayers for the rabbis to recite. You want to honor the Jews who perished in the Holocaust? Be honest about it, and just start fighting our enemies; and while you are at it - and not stop a war at midpoint like Olmert did twice - you may even accomplish the safe return of Gilad Shalit which Olmert failed twice to do due to his quick fix of pleasing the wicked nations of today, instead of your most dangerous attempt to release nearly a thousand terrorists from prison, something which is nothing new to you after you failed to have Jonathan Pollard released by releasing a "different" set of terrorists than the original slated terrorists for JP's release; and then Ehud Barak, the Un-Defense Minister when he became Prime Minister after you left office the first time, released the original slated terrorists for the release of JP which never happened, resulting in a total of 650 terrorists being released, and Jonathan Pollard who risked his freedom by helping your country Israel, remained rotting in a United States prison.


Today, we will examine the concept of grace from a Torah prospective. As it relates specially to this post, the Hebrew word for grace - Chen - is the Gematria of 58, as this is my 58th Post. Both the Hebrew and English words are names given to people, and this has been a very useful product throughout the centuries, beginning with Biblical days. For example, the very last verse of the first Parsha of the Chumash - Parshat Bereishit - is "Noah found grace in the eyes of Hashem" (Genesis 6:8), the first such mention of grace in the Bible. Hardly surprising then, Noah's name in Hebrew - Noach - can read the word Chen backwords. In Noah's case, grace was most useful, because according to the Midrash, even the righteous Noah was meant to have been destroyed along with the rest of the then evil mankind, but since Noah had this grace, Hashem spared him and his immediate family. (Additionally, the names Chanan, Chananya, Chanina, and Chana/Hanna are all based on the word Chen).

We see that this grace helped the Jews more than once when it came to being treated right by the Egyptians. First, Joseph found grace in the eyes of his Egyptian master following being sold as a slave thanks to his jealous brothers, and was trusted to be appointed over his master's affairs. And then in last week's Parshat Bo, the Jews found favor in the eyes of the Egyptians when the Jews requested goodies from them, and received twice the amount of what they asked for (see Rashi on this). In fact, the verse continues to inform us that even Moses - who had come time and again to warn the Egyptians of impending punishment which they received - was well respected by Pharaoh's servants and the Egyptian nation.

Now think for a moment. Who cares what the Egyptians thought of us or Moses for that matter? They only did anything for us only once they felt defeated and didn't want the rest of their nation to die once all the firstborn died. But the Torah wants to teach us that grace and respect isn't necessarily bought by doing the popular or cool thing. Whatever honor one receives for being "politically correct" is only momentary, and will disappear the moment that the politician will say or do something that people don't like, and then he will soon disappear from history and won't be remembered or known by the next generation except for his immediate family, unless he was a former president, vice president or governor. However, one with high moral values who doesn't compromise or bend to the momentary pressures of what will make everyone happy if it really isn't right may at first feel challenged, even to the point of being thrown into prison; however, he will alway be remembered for what he stood for, even hundreds of years later.

Moses of all people could have had it easy. He of all Jews was raised in Pharaoh's palace, and while he certainly wasn't expected to turn against his own people in favor of the Egyptians, nobody told him to help a Jew who was beat up by an Egyptian taskmaster or prevent a fight among Jews. Being nearly executed, Moses fled Egypt, not to be seen again for some 40 years, and then returned to Egypt to face Pharaoh with his continous warnings of punishments which came true with no fear of being imprisoned or executed. His words always came true, though they weren't the type of promises that politians speak for popularity or monetary gain. Yes, Moses indeed earned the respect of the Egyptian nobility and populace, not because he needed it, but the fact that the Torah tells us this shows that we need to always speak the truth and not be afraid to say it - especially in the face of tempting temporary gain. And for words of truth without fear (besides my blogs of course), turn to

At this point, I would like to point out that my wife's full Hebrew name Yael Miriam can be found in this week's Haftara & Parsha respectively. Yael is a hero as depicted in the Haftara taking the courage to kill Sisera, the chief general of the army which came to fight Israel; and Miriam as the sister of Aaron, is mentioned for the very first time in the Chumash in this week's Parshat Beshalach. Incidentally, this coming Shabbat, which is also called Shabbat Shira - the Shabbat of the Song (named after the song sang following the crossing of the Reed Sea) - also coincides with Tu B'Shevat - the New Year of Trees - in our first year of marriage.

There is another place in the Bible where the name Yael is mentioned, but in a little different context. It reads like this - Ayelet Ahavim V'Ya'alat Chen - "A beloved hind INSPIRING GRACE" (Proverbs 5:19). The word Ya'alat over here is cognate of the word/name Yael, the root word of which means going up, being elevated, such as the word Aliyah, which is used in reference to both moving to Israel and being called for a reading to the Torah in synagogue, as both of these things are spiritual elevations. Hence, being translated as inspiring, this means that this "hind" is inspiring, or in other words, having a positive influence on others to feel elevated spiritually through the vehicle of grace. Rashi comments on this phrase that just as a hind remains beloved to her mate, the Torah is most beloved by those who study it. Hence, the Torah elevates others who study it, helping them to have grace in Hashem's eyes.

Now, fastforwarding to the Likutei Moharan, Chasidic teachings from Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, this phrase is the very first Biblical verse mentioned in his work following an introductory verse. The first paragraph reads like this:

"Know that through the Torah, all prayers and requests that we request and pray are accepted, and the GRACE and importance of Jews are elevated and raised up in front of all those who are in need of spiritual or physical matters. For these days with our many sins, the GRACE and true importance of Jews fell, as now the main importance and GRACE can be found with non-Jews. However, through Torah, the GRACE and importance of Jews are elevated, for the Torah is called "a beloved hind inspiring GRACE" (Proverbs 5:19), which elevates GRACE on those who learn the Torah (Talmud Eruvin 54b). Through this, all the prayers and requests are accepted." (Likutei Moharan 1:1)

This first chapter in Likutei Moharan examines the ingredients of this Chen/grace, as its Hebrew letters consisting of Cheit & Noon represent the concepts of wisdom and kingship respectively. In any case, the Midrash Zuta mentions that King Solomon called the Torah with 70 names (NOTE: this Hebrew year 5770 ends with the number 70), among which is the name Ya'alat Chen/Inspiring Grace. Perhaps Rabbi Nachman was hinting to the first half of his own name, having the same letters as the word Chen, like Noach's name.

Speaking of prayers, the prayers or blessings that we recite following eating a meal consisting of bread are called Bircat HaMazon - mentioned in my previous post - , which is typically translated in English as Grace after Meals, consistent of the ninth of the above definitions of grace. While one may be wondering why it's typically not translated as Blessings of the Food, you don't have to go far to understand why the translation of Bircat HaMazon is associated with grace. The words shortly after the beginning of this blessing reads, "The One who feeds the entire universe with His goodness, GRACE, kindness and mercy". While one may be wondering why it is specifically the word grace that got to be picked up being used as the definition of these blessings, after what I wrote in this post about grace, one will realize that grace is the ticket that lets you in the door to receive what you want, even if at times we are not all that worthy.

Small wonder then that the main student of Rabbi Nachman, known as Rabbi Nosson of Nemirov(whose birthday is Tu B'Shevat on this coming Shabbat), in the very first chapter of his respective work called Likutei Halachot, a Chasidic commentary on the entire Shulchan Aruch/Code of Jewish Law, he points out the importance of a Jew finding the Nekuda Tova, the good point(s) among himself/herself, even if most of his behavior or religious way of life is most wanting of improvement. Hence, one will not only be encouraged to live as a better Jew, rather than giving up on trying to be better; but also, it helps one to establish a better connection with Hashem, thus being the GRACE & IMPORTANCE (as mentioned in the first paragraph of Likutei Moharan) that we need for Hashem to give us what we request, even if we are far from worthy compared to many others.

Sometimes, it is one thing that a person does that makes so much of a difference to others, and for some is the winning ticket to the Garden of Eden Eternal Hall. For example, making a Kiddush Hashem, Sanctification of Heaven's Name, by doing an act which will inspire other Jews to be better Jews, to show them what the purpose of living in this world is all about. Unfortunately, too many Jews gave up their lives, but had done so making a Kiddush Hashem, when faced with a choice between converting to another religion or giving up their lives. Many simple, ignorant Jews passed the test, dying for the sake of Hashem, realizing what the main purpose in life is - because without doing what Hashem wants, everything else is meaningless, as it is the next world that counts the most, since our reward will be basking in Hashem's glory with the righteous - forever.

13 Shevat 5770

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