Sunday, January 31, 2010

#59 - To NET or Not to NET

If you think about it, virtually everything can either be a blessing or a curse. Food can either be nutritious for the body if it is healthy food and not eaten to excess or can be harmful for the body if it is junk food that is consumed on a daily basis. Sleep can either be helpful for one to be restful to face a challenging day at work or harmful if one oversleeps which can weaken the body and waste one's day with little accomplishment. Friendships can either be a wonderful thing for people when one is respectful of one another and do things that are helpful for both themselves and others, or they can be disasterous if selfish motivation is involved which can G-d forbid lead to fights and bloodshed.

Now, what I had just mentioned are some of the most natural and necessary things that is required in one's life to be able to function both physically and emotionally. However, with modern technologies that we have been introduced to for over two centuries, the question can be asked - do we really need these things?

Personally, I don't know how well people managed before toilets and toilet paper, but other basic things in today's world such as electricity and gas are what you call necessities rather than luxuries. However, while other items such as automobiles and airplanes have helped people find work far quicker and meet relatives they may have never seen otherwise, many accidental casaulties have occurred. And then, there are other modern devices that have led people to addictions. Well, there are plenty of couch potatoes out there watching TV, some get addicted to playing video games, and now...the internet.

The internet, perhaps more than anything on this planet today, is the biggest controversial issue as to whether this is truly a blessing or a curse. No doubt - many people have been employed as a result, many people got married as a result, and many people have gained much knowledge as a result - especially for school assignments. But, it has also served as a curse to many - children getting raped or murdered by pedophiles, pedophiles looking for children online only to be caught later by an undercover cop, many get addicted to porn sites, and others are simply addicted to the internet that takes time from their daily work - from wasting and stealing employee time, to neglecting household chores or the young kids waiting to be fed or put to sleep to be ready for school the next day, and it has led to divorces.

While clergymen of other religions may not be so concerned about the internet as being a religious issue, this is a very burning issue among some big rabbis - especially when it comes to children. Regardless of how one feels religious wise regarding TV or computer games, the internet is ultimately not only a big time waster for some, but it has potential to introduce them to a world that will lead them astray from Judaism - especially porn sites, something that even on TV - and you have plenty of immodest looking women on TV about which there is a prohibition in the Torah to stare at them - you have to pay extra money to see spiritual filth, turning on the computer for the internet is only minutes away for even a young child without parental supervision to see things that even the average non-Jewish parent would not dream of letting their pre adolescent children watch.

Even if porn and other spiritual trash would not be an issue, some of the big rabbis who have spoken about using the internet are quite concerned about children wasting their time on such things that never existed before instead of learning Torah which would make some to be big rabbis themselves if only exposed to the right environment.

And for adults? Well, one can argue that there are indeed numerous Torah websites that can and have made a difference for many people, some of whom actually became observant Jews as a result. Many have found Shidduchim (though I didn't find mine this way, but I did communicate through E-mail when I dated my wife) and some big rabbis themselves have their own internet site offering Torah classes or information about their Yeshiva or synagogue, including that offers all sorts of rabbinical services for people who feel they may not have anyone else to turn to.

There are those rabbis who put their foot down, and forbid the internet even for Torah learning, for after all, the traditional way of learning Torah is to learn in a Yeshiva setting - with a study partner, or from a rabbi giving a Torah lecture in the study hall where there is holiness. They feel that the risks are too big to take a chance, especially for those who have children at home who will somehow sooner or later either sneak a peak on the net, or will want to do the same by going to an internet cafe where they are free to look at what they want without parental supervision, which indeed has happened.

And then the big question - is it permitted to use the internet to make a living?

Before I continue, I would like to point out that as the word net is short for internet, the word net in Hebrew in the context of the internet is spelled just as it spells in English - the letters Noon & Teit, which also spells the number 59 in Hebrew. Hence, in this 59th Post, I am here to talk about this most burning issue which is directly related to using the internet as I am writing on it this very second.

Some months back I saw big fliers promoting what is called by some rabbis the prohibition of using the internet. It seems that the word internet as it is spelled the same way in Hebrew, and the word Sartan/cancer have the same Gematria of 319. The way the ad was worded, it was made to imply that people get cancer, G-d forbid, as a result of using the internet, as though the disease didn't exist before the internet was started to be used.

It is true that I have read that there may be a link between using cell phones and a form of cancer, but I have never read anything to imply that the computer could cause this. In my opinion, it is wrong to use deceit, even in an attempt to prevent people from doing an Aveira, because it is called Geneivat Da'at - fooling the mind, which is an Aveira, a sin like regular stealing, by fooling people with information that can't be proven, and is like what is called a Mitzva Ha'Ba'ah Ba'Aveira - a Mitzva that is done through the medium of an Aveira, like stealing a religious item such as a Lulav to fulfill the Mitzva of taking/shaking it on Sukkot when in fact not only it is not a Mitzva, but an Aveira. However, I will agree that for some using the internet, especially for sinful viewing of spiritual trash, as well as being addictive preventing one from serving Hashem, it is indeed a spiritual cancer.

Now getting back to making a living on the internet, many make their money directly through using the internet, as a tool for advertising especially having one's own website, or is useful for one's current occupation that one may have had even before the internet began to go public (Note - the internet was begun to be used by the Pentagon in the 60s, but it only came into the public decades later).

Mind you, most of these big rabbis forbidding the internet under virtually any circumstances are living in Israel amidst very religious neighborhoods where virtually no TVs can be found. It may be easy for these rabbis to forbid everyone from even making a living using the internet, for after all they reason, if people have so much faith in Hashem, they will find a way to make a living without the internet. Yet, these same rabbis will tell you that now we are in the era right before Moshiach is coming, when many will have nothing in their pocket because they cannot find work. Meanwhile, they themselves obviously have a means of support, so their words forbidding the internet would not find very much favor with people who are a little above the naive level who will feel that it is hypocracy for those who make money easily to tell others not to make a living a certain way.

In all honesty, at least some of these rabbis have done a little more than just cry bloody murder. They do understand that there is a growing need for people to make a living via modern technology that replaces past methods of bringing food to the table. Of course, they have set certain rules to help best assure that the internet will be used particularly for making a living, and certainly not to be of access to their children who will see their parents using the internet sooner or later. This includes installing internet filters that will weed out non-Kosher sites and related items, so even if the children were to sneak behind their parents' back, they won't be seeing spiritual filth.

Now, getting back to the issue of learning or teaching Torah via the internet, while it may not be a true spiritual replacement for learning Torah in person and in a holy environment outside of one's home, the benefits of a host of Torah sites cannot be denied. The internet has been used to teach Torah to many who would otherwise not have learned much Torah or any, especially for people who were not raised as observant Jews, through written information, audios and videos.
Not so long ago, one who wanted to learn Daf Yomi, the daily page of Talmud, but could not always quite make it to the synagogue or Yeshiva every day, was able to listen to the daily Talmud page via telephone, for which there was a monthly fee. Now, presto! You have a choice of Daf Yomi lectures on the internet - for free! In fact, you can even see the Talmud page online without once ever opening a Talmud book, though for beginners, the Talmud from Artscroll will prove to be a tremendous aid in learning the meat of Torah.


Though it's not the first time I will be writing about this, the following will be a perfect blend for this post. For more details, you can check Post #19 - Making CHOICES Where It COUNTS.

There is a correlationship between the original Tree of Knowledge - the tree that Adam and Eve partook from despite Hashem's orders not to eat from it, and today's Tree of Knowledge - the internet. Basically, the Talmud in Sanhedrin 38 tells us that in the 12 hours of the daytime of Yom HaShishi/Friday, Adam sinned by eating its fruit in the 10th hour, that is, in the fourth quarter of the day. Now, being that the milleniums of the world correspond to the days of the week, it works out that today's Tree of Knowledge - the internet - began in public in the fourth quarter of this 6th millenium - the year 5750 (1990). No, I don't think I even heard of the internet back then, or at least I didn't understand what the news was really about if I heard about it, but there were a few savvy computer folks who already started using the internet in that year. As we know, many things can be used for good, or otherwise. Very unfortunately, untold much harm has been caused by the internet, but being that Hashem allowed it to be created, it was also meant to be used for good.

As this past Shabbat was Tu B'Shevat - the annual Rosh HaShanah/New Year for trees, it's interesting to note that according to Kabbalah, eating fruit on this day is a Tikkun/rectification for Adam's sin of eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. This is unlike some other types of rectifications that are offered in the form of fasting.

Now, the Torah tells us that when besieging the town of an enemy, that we are forbidden to cut down fruit trees, but only barren ones. As the verse words it "for is the tree of the field like a person that you have to besiege it"? (Deutronomy 20:19). As Rashi explains, we are not supposed to "starve" fruit trees the way that we besiege an enemy nation cutting off their food and water supply.

Now, noting the wording in the verse, the word for person used is HaAdam, as opposed to synonyms in Hebrew for the word person - Ish, Gever, or Enosh. So many times in the Torah, the word Ish is used, yet over here, the same word as Adam's name is used. Why?

Note the next words Eitz HaSadeh - "tree of the field". Yes, Adam's sin was involved with a tree, but more than this, this phrase in Hebrew is the same Gematria as the word Da'at/Knowledge - 474, for after all, Adam had sinned particularly with the Tree of Knowledge. While all this is fine and dandy, what is the connection here with the context of fighting the enemy is concerned?

As I am asking this online, the answer is coming to me. Everything in the physical world has its spiritual counterpart. So, just like there is a concept of having war and besieging an enemy nation, so too, there is a concept of fighting the big war - the Yetzer HaRah/Evil Inclination. There is actually an angel that works on the psychic to commit sins, and our job in this world is to fight this inclination for evils such as jealousy, lust, honor, and avoiding doing Aveirot/sins.

Hashem will always send things in our way as challenges in life. The ultimate purpose of being in this physical, base world is to use the physicality for the purpose of spirituality. So certainly, one who is able to avoid certain physical things in this world that one can truly do without, that certainly is an assured way of not getting swept away with physical matter versus spiritual matters. However, there are times that things beyond are control necessate us to use physical matters that will be helpful in life while bearing in mind our purpose in life.

For many, the internet is now an indispensable tool for making a living, communicating with certain people with whom alternate communication would otherwise be almost impossible or quite costly, especially when there is a time factor involved. To cut it out completely in this modern age when many things are based on using the internet could cause hardships to some who would otherwise have to do alternate means spending much more time to accomplish the same thing.

Look, for those whose rabbi whom one follows forbids using the internet, he/she has to deal with that. But then again, those people will never be reading this here, so this is their own business. But for people reading this here, no doubt that there is an understanding as to why I am using the internet to write blogs, if there is no cut clear sin of using the internet.

My point here is that the Torah tells us that generally, one is not supposed to completely cut out something needed in the physical world, so long as it will help one in some way to serve Hashem.
Of course, one needs to determine how the internet - Tree of Knowledge - helps one accomplish this; but this is just like the fruit tree, the Eitz HaSadeh whose Gematria is Da'at/Knowledge, which if chopped down, will no longer bear fruit for eating. If Hashem allowed something to be created in this world, and has potential to be used for good, it is something that needs to be addressed, and while controls may be required - especially for children, the internet can serve as a most helpful tool for Torah learning, making a living, finding marriage matches, sending messages of faith and encouragement via E-mail, finding old friends and rekindling relationships which is part of the Mitzva/Commandment of V'Ahavta L'Reiacha Kamocha - loving your fellow Jew as yourself.

Speaking of knowledge, the fourth of the blessings of the weekday daily prayer of Shemoneh Esrei is called Bircat Da'at - Blessing of Knowledge, in which we ask Hashem to grant us Chachma Bina V'Da'at "wisdom, understanding and knowledge" which are the spritual spheres or mental attributes of Hashem which is related to the holiday of Shavuot - called the "Fiftieth Day" - when the Torah was given following the Sephira period of seven weeks, which are connected to the seven "physical" attributes or spheres.

Accordingly, Tu B'Shevat is the 50th day from the beginning of Chanuka (in some years, it's the 49th day when the month of Kislev in which Chanuka begins consists of only 29 days unlike this year when it has 30 days), when the Maccabbes entered the Temple on the eve of the 25th of Kislev and lit the Menorah which was the result of their Mesirut Nefesh, their devotion and giving up of themselves fighting for their religious rights which were being challenged by the Syrian Greeks. It's interesting to note that Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried, author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch/Concise Code of the Jewish Law, in Chapter 139 which is on the laws of Chanuka, the last paragraph of it is about Tu B'Shevat, instead of being its own chapter. Whatever his reason was for doing it that way, Tu B'Shevat - which fell out this year on Shabbat - as the holiday of the rectification of Adam's eating from the Tree of Knowledge before its time which would have been on Shabbat (night), is at the end of or following seven weeks from the holiday which was the result of Mesirut Nefesh, the concept of working for spiritual accomplishent, and on Tu B'Shevat, we eat fruits which are the result of planting trees, the work needed to enjoy the fruit of one's accomplishment.

Speaking of work resulting with bearing fruit, near the end of Song of Songs (8:12), it mentions twice a similar phraseology relating the concept of fruit with guarding - ensuring that the fruit will remain available. LaNotrim Ish Yavie B'Phiro - "for those guarding, each one will bring for his fruit" & L'Notrim Et Piryo - "for those guarding its fruit". The first two letters for Notrim - guarding, are Noon Teit, which is the number 59, the number of this post. It is especially significant that it is this Hebrew word that is used for guarding, because the usual word for guarding is Shomrim.

There is another concept related to the number 59 as it relates to Tu B'Shevat in terms of Halacha. The laws of Orla, fruit of the first three years of a tree which are forbidden to be eaten, and Neta Reva'i - the plantings/fruits of the fourth year that can be eaten once they are redeemed with a coin, are related to Tu B'Shevat in that if a tree is planted anytime from Rosh HaShanah through Tu B'Shevat, it is already considered one year by next Rosh HaShana. However, trees planted after Tu B'Shevat are no longer considered part of this context, and require a full three years before being allowed to be eaten.

Following these three years, the fruits of the fourth year when once redeemed can be eaten and are "sanctified to laud Hashem" (Leviticus 19:24). The word Neta which means planting, as the original verse about this when it says in reference to coming to the land of Israel - which highlights the concept of the Holy Land as it relates to Tu B'Shevat - U'Ntahtem Kol Eitz Ma'achal - "You will plant all types of fruit trees". This wording of planting in Hebrew starts off with the letters Noon Teit - again as the number 59.

Based on this concept of not eating fruits of the first three years and then eating them following redeemning them in the fourth year, the custom of cutting a boy's hair for the first time at three years old came about, making sure to leave over his Peyot/sidecurls which marks the look of Chasidim and traditional Yemenite Jews. In the old days back in Europe, following the boy's first haircut, his father wrapped him in a Tallit/prayer shawl and carried him to the local Cheder/Jewish children school where the Melamed/Torah teacher showed and read for the boy a tablet of the Aleph Beit smeared with honey, which the boy licked.

Connecting these concepts with the "Tree of Knowledge", it's not only important to PLANT the seeds by instilling a Torah way of living into children, teaching them Torah, praying, doing deeds of kindness, and good character traits, but just as important is GUARDING them from evil influences which will otherwise negate the good Torah education that these youngsters are receiving. Just as it so crucial to water every day and take took care of a sapling which can one day become a bidding fruit tree, because one false move can prove fatal to it; so to, negative influences on a child as he/she is young, though they may seem minor, can have serious detrimental effects on these children's spiritual health. Today, the internet is believed to be THE single most factor of being able to have this negative influence - especially when it comes to living a Torah way of life - on a child. It is easy to turn on the switch, quick for the screen to turn on, and only G-d knows what will happen next. Even with porn filters, especially as children get older, they can, G-d forbid, be exposed to heretical ideas that are against the Torah. At best, internet video games will affect them no less than watching "monitored" TV soap operas, movies and sports where violence, bad manners, and mention of Christian holidays and themes can result in serious negative spiritual consequences. We have to remember that the children are the "fruit of our labor", and what a waste would it be if the "fruit trees" we want to blossom will not be instilled and installed with so much love for Torah because much of their interest is into nonsense such as getting excited how their "local" team (of their town in exile outside of Israel) scored points when the tall 6-foot & 3-inch black guy dunked the basketball right into the basket or the macho looking football player won a touchdown because he tackled the ball from some guy in the opposing team who is now all bruised as a result.

There is a story told of a father who once approached a Rabbi about his newborn child, and asked what he can do to give the right type of Jewish education for a baby. The rabbi answered, "You came to me nine months late". Yes, the baby in the womb is not only affected physically by how much and what type of food the mother eats; but even spiritually, the environment that the baby in the womb is around, especially as per how the mother behaves, has an effect on her to-be-born baby.

Hence, we see that both the words for planting and guarding as both beginning with the letters Noon and Teit, have to do with fruit, and as the phrase in English goes "the fruit of one's labor".
Now, counting the 22 letters of the Aleph Beit, the Noon is the 14th letter and the Teit is the 9th letter, adding up to 23. Similarly, the first letter Aleph is the 1st letter and the last letter Tav is the 22nd letter, also adding up to 23. In Gematria, Aleph is 1 and Tav is 400. As Hashem told Abraham, his descendants would be slaves in a land not belonging to them for 400 years. While the Jews in fact were slaves in Egypt for only 116 years, as Hashem gave them a brake since the Egyptians treated them with extra cuelty, this 400 year period began from the birth of his son Isaac on the future date of the Exodus, the first day of Passover.

In any case, the physical work was the preparation for the Jews to be ready for a new mission in life. Hence, after 400 years of sojourning in lands not belonging to them, as Israel had not yet officially been given to the Jews, it was immediately in the beginning of the 401st year, symbolized by the completion of the Gematria of the individual letters ending with a Tav, that the Jews began a new chapter in their lives, symbolized by returning to the beginning of the Alef Beit, in the same way that immediately upon concluding the Torah on Simchat Torah, we immediately begin reading the beginning of the Torah.

And to conclude connecting the dots of the correlationship of fruit to Torah, the word Pri/fruit consists of the letters Pei Reish Yud. When the words for these letters are spelled out, as Pei=81, Reish=510, Yud=20, the total Gematria is 611, which is the Gematria of the word Torah!
Hence, just like physical fruit is the result of planting and guarding the trees from being robbed of its fruit, so too, the Jews received the Torah following a period of 400 years - and Torah begins with the letter Tav which is the Gematria of 400 - of physical preparation, following which we received the Torah on Shavuot seven weeks following the Exodus on Passover - the spiritual preparation.

Accordingly, Tu B'Shevat - the time of eating the fruit which is compared to Torah, is seven weeks from the beginning of Chanuka, when we begin performing the LAST of the Sheva Mitzvot D'Rabbanan - seven Mitzvot of the rabbis, which is lighting the Menorah, just as Tav=400 as it relates to the concept of physical preparation, is the LAST letter of the Aleph Beit. It is now the Aleph, the FIRST letter - a new cycle of Mitzvot of which the FIRST Mitzva of the Torah is Pru Urvu - having children, but as the lesson of B'Shevat of having well developed fruit - not simply children of flesh and blood, but children whose raison d'etre is to serve Hashem following the ways of the Torah.


As you know, this blogspot is based on Gematriot. I began over a year ago immediately following the Simchat Torah holiday in Israel, which was the night of the 23rd of Tishrei (outside of Israel, this date serves as the 2nd day of Yom Tov when writing is forbidden there). Counting the days, this past Shabbat on which Tu B'Shevat fell out on was the 466th day from when I began this blogspot. Well, this number is very significant to me, because 466 is the Gematria of my first name Shimon. And along the above lines how the internet is parallel to the Tree of Knowledge as it relates to Tu B'Shevat, I see Hashgacha Peratit/Divine Providence over here, and while I couldn't write my 59th post - or my NET=59 post on Shabbat - I am writing this right afterwards (I think Sunday afternoon/evening is close enough).

And speaking of the Gematria of my name, the 466th word in the Torah begins the final phrase of the account of the days of the first week of the world's existance in which Hashem created the word - ASHER Bara Elokim La'Asot - "WHICH G-d created to make" at the end of the account for the day of Shabbat. Accordingly, the name of the Tribe of Asher has the exact spelling of the word Asher which means "which". Now, although the word Asher when it means which is mentioned countless of times in the Torah, I would like to point out that before the Jews came to Israel under the leadership of Joshua, there were leaders appointed from almost every tribe (except for Reuben & Gad) who were going to be in charge of helping their particular tribe inherit its specific portion of land. The leader of the Tribe of Asher was Achihud Ben Shlomi (Numbers 34:27). This full name is the Gematria of 466, the same as my name Shimon! And as it relates to Asher, the Tribe for the month of Shevat, in which the middle of the month is Tu B'Shevat, is Asher!

Tu B'Shevat happens to have a little more meaning to me. You see, it was the first holiday that I celebrated after I made Aliyah - having moved to Israel five years ago. A friend of mine from the States who moved to Israel a few years earlier invited me over to his place to celebrate the evening with his family eating various fruits. And this particular holiday relates most to the LAND of Israel, as it celebrates eating fruit that are grown ESPECIALLY in Israel, though those who live outside of Israel can technically celebrate it eating fruit growing from their backyard. But it should be noted that what is called the "Seven Species" is based on the verse that states "A land (Israel) of wheat and barley, and grapes, and figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive (oil)and honey (of dates)" (Deutronomy 8:8).

My friends, the holiday of Tu B'Shevat is simply not the same living outside of Israel. The whole theme of the holiday is intrinsically connected with the LAND, and only the LAND of Israel is holy. The Kabbalah goes into great length describing the significance of these Seven Species, and so if there is any question as to why particularly these ones are the Seven Species though they can be perfectly grown outside of Israel, and other kinds of fruits can be grown in Israel, this has everything to do with holiness and the HOLY LAND.

As I had mentioned in the past, while the division of the chapters and verses of the Bible was done by a non-Jew, various hints can be found with the number of the chapter and/or verse as it relates to the particular verse. Well, this verse of the fruits is Chapter 8, Verse 8. We know that it was Joshua, Moses's successor (who is mentioned for the very first time in Parshat Beshalach that we read this Shabbat Shira - Tu B'Shevat) who led the Jews to Israel following Moses' demise. We know that Moses was the 7th generation from Abraham in direct parental line. Hence, Joshua as the successor to the first leader of the Jewish nation, was leading the EIGHTH generation - regardless of his own ancestry to Abraham which was a few more generations - into the land of Israel. And as the Maharal of Prague - Rabbi Judah Lowe - mentions, the number EIGHT is above nature, which perfectly describes the Land of Israel, as mentioned later in the same Parsha (Parshat Eikev) as the land of these fruit, "Hashem's eyes are on it (Land of Israel) from the beginning to the end of the year", noting the special Divine Providence that Hashem gives to this land in contrast to other lands.

In my case, I made Aliyah on the 8th flight of Nefesh B'Nefesh, an organization that helps people make Aliyah financially and with other helpful advice to help those make a new life and get adjusted in Israel; and my name Shimon is similar to the number eight in Hebrew - Shemoneh. And as per the Tribe of Asher in reference to the Gematria of my name as above, its ancestor Asher is listed in the Torah as eighth of the 12 sons of Jacob, and this tribe's main quality of its portion in the Land of Israel was its oil, the Hebrew word for which - Shemen - is also similar to the number eight in Hebrew - Shemoneh.


Now that I made my point clear earlier as to what the status of using the internet is - as a Mitzva, an Averia, or simply a necessary thing for business, no doubt in my case that if it weren't for the internet, I would not be writing the information that I have written on Little did I know how my blogspot would turn out, and many Chiddushim, original thoughts about Torah especially in relationship to Gematriot, occurred to me as I was writing my blog, as one idea leads into another idea. Additionally, my ultimate purpose of my blogspot is to use it as a means to help others be better Jews through the use of Gematria.

The nay sayers who will still claim that it is forbidden for me to use the internet to write Torah thoughts, and that it is a Mitzva Ha'Ba'ah BaAveira - a so called Mitzva which is really an Aveira - when some of them are doing the very thing in an attempt to prevent people from using the internet using Gematria, will tell me that I can just write everything down, which would be the natural way of fulfilling the Mitzva of writing Torah rather than typing it, or even if I want to type it like on a computer, that I can do so without internet access.

All through the centuries, especially after the era of the Mishna & Talmud being written down after some 1500 years from when the Torah was handed down through Moses and the Oral Torah was transmitted by word of mouth for 40 generations (the Talmud part, the Mishna was written down a few generations earlier), countless rabbis wrote down their own original thoughts to the Torah and Jewish Law. There were times that writings got lost before they had a chance to have them printed, whether due to a fire or war. In fact, it is believed that a part of the Jerusalem Talmud was lost somehow. In any case, we have to bear in mind that it is only in the last around 60 to 70 years that we are using writing instruments that have automatic ink within the pen; but until this time, the feather was placed in an ink bottle and only then was it possible to write things down (this is without getting into the story about pencils). Hence, it took far longer in earlier times to write things down, and it was only in the 1500s that the printing press took off, which made copying writings far easier to accomplish, which would allow for less mistakes copying over writings, and many new books could now be published that would not have happened otherwise.

In more recent times, the typewriter could invented, and people with speedy fingers could jot down the information far quicker than writing. Then, when computers came out, it was even easier to type them faster on a computer machine than a typewriter because of its structure. Also, programs with information could now be saved, along with a backup on a soft disk in case the computer would break down, but at least it wasn't like a piece of paper that could get lost, wet, or burnt.

And here is the difference between writing into a computer program and on a website. You see, if the computer breaks down without being able to recover the information and something happened to the soft disks with the saved information, without a printout of the material, then tough luck. However, once the information is typed into a website, the only way that it is possible for the information to disappear without purposely deleting it is if someone else finds a way to hack into the website, or if the webmaster to whom a fee is paid for imputing the info is not paid his fee and then he removes the content from the site. Otherwise, the information that is on that website is permanently there, and perhaps the all time advantage is that you can access that information from virtually anywhere in the world - hence, this is why the internet is called the world wide web.

With this being said, I think it makes sense to say that for the easiest and safest place to write and store information is the internet. Hence, writing original Torah thoughts via this method is the most practical way of doing this.

Now, one could ask, "You know, you're writing very nice things here, but wouldn't your time be better spent learning more Torah from a Sefer/Jewish book, or even through the internet, let alone if you go to a Yeshiva or attend a Torah class along with other Jews? Do people really need your material anymore than anyone else's? Just jot down anything that comes to mind that you might think could be a Torah related idea if you feel you must write it down, but no doubt you are spending countless of hours typing. After all, how many people even read your blog, let alone leave comments?"

Well one thing off the bat - I know for a fact that quite a few people have read my blogspot at one time or another, because after doing a little research, I see websites quoting from my blogspot. Additionally, writing Torah thoughts isn't just a "nice" thing to do - it is in fact an OBLIGATORY thing to do.

Before getting into what some rabbis have said on this subject, I want to point out as I have done before on that writing original Torah thoughts is actually based on the LAST Mitzvah of the Torah - writing a Sefer Torah. Indeed, it was on Moses' LAST day on earth that he miraculously wrote 13 Sifrei Torah - one for each of the 12 Tribes, and the 13th was to be put in the Holy Ark. It's interesting to note that as the number 13 is related to the writing of a Sefer Torah - hence the Written Torah; so too, there are 13 principles of the Torah which make up much of the content of the Oral Torah, which we mention in our daily morning prayers following the section of the sacrifices and incense offering.

For several years, I had dreamed of having a Gematriot website, but I never got a chance to start one, nor did I know the best way of going about it. It was only some 466 days earlier that I got a sudden inspiration to start writing a Gematriot blogspot, which would be free to use, and I could write, add, or change information anytime I want to without being a maven in internet designing.

Now, the purpose of writing things in the form of a blog is like writing the latest news; and hence, it is the LAST thing written that will appear first on the screen. With this being said, the word blog in Hebrew - using the letters Beit, Lamed, Vav, Gimel - is the Gematria of 41. As everything is hinted in the Torah, bearing in mind that the internet corresponds to the original Tree of Knowledge, the LAST Parsha of the Chumash or Sefer Torah called Parshat V'Zot HaBeracha contains 41 Pesukim/verses! Unless the format of blogs changes one day where one can make the information be from oldest to latest on the screen, it is the LAST information that appears as the immediate reading material on a blog, the word for which in Hebrew is the Gematria of 41 corresponding to the LAST Parsha of the Torah. Amazing!

Speaking of LAST, the LAST Talmudic tractate in both the Babylonian & Jerusalem Talmuds is Tractate Nidah, which deals with the laws of a menstrating woman who must separate from all physical contact with her husband for nearly two weeks upon which she goes into a Mikva/ritualarium to clean herself from her impurity before resuming marital relations. Well guess what? The word Nidah is the same Gematria as NET in Hebrew in the context of the internet - 59! And as we know about a regular net, it is a trap commonly use to capture animals or fish. So, maybe the internet is nothing short of a trap and a spiritual impurity such as spiritual cancer like we mentioned earlier?

Forgetting about the concept of blogs, the fact that the word Nidah as in the name of the LAST Talmudic tractate is the same Gematria as the word NET as the internet seems to show that it would be at the LAST or end stage of exile right before our upcoming redemption that we would be using something called the internet - net for short. In fact, I wondered some 20 years ago how will everyone know where all their relatives and friends will be when the Messiah comes and there is a sudden rush of everyone coming to Israel. But now that the internet which includes E-mail has appeared, the answer is now obvious. Even for those who don't use the internet and thus do not have an E-mail address, other relatives and friends can communicate using E-mail tracking down the non-internet users. Hence, the internet is indeed a means of preparing the world for the era of the Messiah, and as it states about the Messianic era in the Bible, there will be a time that no one will need to teach one another because everyone will KNOW Hashem; and hence, the internet is indeed a taste of this.

The bottom line is that the internet is really a double edged sword. And this concept is nothing new. The Rabbis state that the Torah is a double edged sword - either a potion of life for those who learn and use the Torah properly; or G-d forbid, it can serve as poison for those who don't learn the Torah for the right reason or don't use the Torah properly by doing things that make people not like the Torah or not want to be observant Jews. Hence, we have to realize that whether it is something that Hashem Himself created or allowed others to create it, one has to realize that virtually everything in this world can be used for good or evil. The fact that something could be used for evil doesn't mean that it can't be used. Hashem gives us free choice for the tools that He gave us to serve Him properly. True there will be those who will eat food to stuff their faces, but this doesn't make food a terrible thing to eat, because there are others who eat food to survive while having in mind that they can serve Hashem easier with the strength they will have from eating the food.

The internet is really no different. It can be used either for the greatest good or the greatest evil. There may be times that for some, as well as for children, the internet indeed may not be a good thing to use at all. However, Hashem allowed modern technology to be created for the SPECIFIC PURPOSE OF SERVING HIM. Why is it that only now within the last few hundred years we have new technologies that weren't around for over 5,000 years? The answer is that Hashem is preparing the world for the Messianic Era, and various new tools have appeared on the scene to help facilitate the world towards this Era.


In the last section of Parshat Beshalach what we just read this past Shabbat, Amalek comes out of no where and starts up with the Jewish people; upon which, Joshua fights this nation until it is defeated. Following this, Hashem tells Moses to "write this as a rememberance in a book"
(Exodus 17:8-16).

Now mind you, we don't see that Hashem telling Moses after every Mitzva or event to write it down in a book. But this is one of the few times that we see that Moses wrote something down on the spot, even though it would only be at the end of 40 years in the desert that Moses finally wrote a complete Sefer Torah. So why this time?

The place where this war took place was in a place that is called Rephidim. In Hebrew, it comes from a word which means weak. The Midrash tell us that since the Jews were weak from the Torah, Amalek was able to come and attack them. Now mind you, this was only like a week before the Torah was given? So, even if the Jews had some Mitzvot from Hashem already, the Torah was not yet official. Why were they then held responsible.

The truth is that the Jews knew Torah since Abraham the first Jew. While the Torah was not officially given, they still were held to a certain standard as they already became an official nation with the Exodus. Interestingly, the Mitzva of recounting the story of the Exodus is called Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim - the word Sippur meaning saying the story or recounting, and is related to the word Sefer/book. Similarly, the period between the 1st day of Passover/the Exodus and Shavuot/Giving of the Torah is called the Sephira, when we count 49 days just as the Jews did before receiving the Torah. The word Sephira/counting is also related to the word Sefer/book.
In any case, a reason given for the Jews counting seven weeks of seven days each towards the big moment of receiving the Torah was because they were like a Nidah who also counts seven clean days of not seeing blood before entering a Mikvah to become pure for her husband once again, since the Jews were in the midst of shedding their impurity that they acquired from Egypt.

In more recent times, the Jews have been called the "People of the Book" - Am HaSefer. In contrast, Amalek consists of two words using its same letters - Am Kal - a nation that curses or makes light of (fun out of). Amalek was the first nation to attack the Jews shortly after the Exodus and the splitting of the Reed Sea after which the whole world was afraid to attack the Jews, even if they still had hatred for them. But Amalek, as descendants of the evil Esau, and hence from Isaac, ancestor of the Jewish nation, had tremendous hatred for its cousins; thus, their hatred for the Jews was way beyond whatever initial fears it may have had, and was determined to chop down this new formed nation at all costs.

It's too bad that Amalek's ancestor Esau blew it when he sold the birthright to his brother Jacob.
But their ancestor outright rejected and made fun out of the contents of "The Book". Hence, this nation, more than anyone else, knew of the contents of the Torah, as we see that an Amalekite descendant Haman knew quite a bit of Jewish history, including the month of Moses' passing, which is not mentioned in the Written Torah. However, not only did this nation not choose to join the winning side in hope of being able to join as descendants of Isaac, but chose to openly dare to fight this Jewish nation, and be rid of them for once and all, when all the other nations were still afraid to start up.

It was at this that Hashem told Moshe to write this down, as Rashi notes as to what exactly Hashem told Moshe to write. It would be a matter of time until this Amalekite nation would be rid of, but for the meantime, writing information in a book on the spot would ensure that the Jews would not forget to take care of getting rid of this evil nation as soon as possible.

Based on this verse about writing the story of Amalek in a book among other verses, Esther asked the sages of her time to consider her Book of Esther about the events of Haman, descendant of Amalek, attempting to rid the Jews, as part of the Tnach. In time, not only did it make it in the Bible Book of Records, it is an obligation to read this Book every Purim. Indeed, the word in Hebrew for stories is Sippurim, related to the word Seforim/books - as we mentioned about Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim, recounting the story of the Exodus - and in this word the remaining part of the word following the Samech is indeed the word Purim!

Indeed, it is Tractate Megilla of the Mishnayot that includes the laws related to the various readings of the Sefer Torah throughout the year. Moreover, the hint to Esther in the Torah - Haster Astir - "I will surely hide My face" is in the verse right before the LAST Mitzvah of the Torah of writing a Sefer Torah! (Deutronomy 31:18-19) And while we are at it, the hint to Haman in the Torah is where it says HaMin HaEitz where Hashem asks Adam about him feeling naked "Isn't it from the tree..." that he had eaten from when he was forbidden to eat from it, and it was on the tree that Haman, descendant of Amalek, prepared to hang Mordechai the Jew that he himself got hung on (see Talmud Chulin 139b). It's interesting to note that the end of Parshat Beshalach about Amalek - whose descendant was Haman who was hung on a tree - which we read this past Shabbat was also Tu B'Shevat this year, and as I had mentioned earlier in this post, we eat fruit on Tu B'Shevat as a rectification of Adam's sin from eating of the Tree of Knowledge. For more information on the concept of writing as it relates to Esther, you can check my last year's blog on Purim #22 - REVEALING TORAH SECRETS.

And REVEALING TORAH SECRETS is one of my goals here besides using Gematriot as a means of helping Jews be better Jews. Actually, revealing Torah secrets is a result of writing down Torah thoughts, because while saying Torah thoughts to other people is also a good thing, but how many will remember them later on, let alone write them down correctly for others to read in the future? While I am at this, I want to quote a few things that rabbis have said on this subject that I just came across in a certain Sefer unexpectedly this past Shabbat.

Rabbi Eliyahu HaCohen from Izmir in Shevet Mussar 22:15 - "One will have to give an accounting in Heaven for Torah thoughts that he should have written down but didn't, even if they didn't seem to be significant things to him. Therefore, one needs to write down all Chiddushim/new Torah thoughts that occur to him so he shouldn't forget them, even if it is a petty Chiddush. Through writing them, they will never be forgotten, and will accompany him upon his passing".

The Maharsha on the Talmud Bava Batra 10b: "The reason that the sages are called Sofrim/scribes is because learning that makes an impression is what is written down".

Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer in B'Derech Eitz HaChaim: "When it says in Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 2:2 - "All Torah that is not accompanied by work will end off being deserted", in this context, work - which is work of the Torah - is the writing. One should write the words of Torah that come as Chiddushim, his original thoughts. If one does not do so, he is liable to forget the words of Torah that he wants to say".

Various rabbis have pointed out that by writing down Torah, especially as thoughts that come to one's head as one is learning a particular piece of Torah, one will remember the Torah that he learned much better and will understand it easier. Just like the writing gets etched into the paper, so too, the learning which is written down is etched into one's mind.

As a "little" Chiddush, Torah thought that came to my mind, as I had mentioned before about the Sephira, the counting period between the 1st day of Passover and Shavuot, I would like to mention that Parshat Beshalach where Hashem tells Moses to write the story about Amalek in a book in the end of this Parsha is the 16th Parsha. And the Gematria of the name of this Parsha - Beshalach is 340, which also equals the initials of my Hebrew name Shimon Matisyahu - the letters Shin & Mem.

Accordingly, I was born on the 16th day of the Sephira, which is the 1st day of Iyar, the very date which appears twice in the beginning of Sefer Bamidbar/ the BOOK OF NUMBERS, and the Hebrew word for numbers, Misparim - is also related to the word Sefarim/books. It seems that one of my purposes in this world is to write these Gematriot that come to mind that will not only be written down as Torah thoughts which should be done anyways, but will also have the effect of Hora'ah/instruction upon which the word Torah is based, as Torah is an instruction book - both in teaching the Mitzva/commandment or Halacha/law; and in STORY form, not just to tell a nice story, but to learn a lesson from the story, something that Amalek refused to do unlike the other nations, but instead chose to attack the Jews, and so, a story was made out of Amalek, the end result of which will be that this nation will soon be rid of once and for all once the Messiah comes.

As the end of the Haftora for this Parshat Beshalach states: "So may all Your enemies be destroyed, O Hashem!..." (Judges 5:31).

And in our particular situation, our immediate enemy is the Yetzer Hara/Evil Inclination, the angel that attempts to do Aveirot/sins. Our ultimate way of fighting the battle is if we are going to use the internet - that it will be used only for good purposes, for Torah and good deeds, which includes supporting one's family. To avoid being tempted by immodest pictures and all, one can download internet filters to avoid these things the best possible. One way to assure this is or Or, type in Google "free internet filters for children", and you will be on your way to having kosher internet.

16 Shevat 5770

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