Sunday, February 21, 2010

#62 - The Blessing That FEEDS

Today was the birthday and Yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu - Moses, having lived exactly for 120 years. It's hard to want to pass by this day as just another day in the Jewish calendar. The fact that we know both the birthday and Yahrzeit of the greatest Jewish leader of all times - at least in terms of humbleness and prophecy, gives us a chance to reflect on where we stand spiritually, and how we can improve ourselves. As a Chasidic master named Zusha once remarked, "They won't ask me in Heaven as to why I wasn't as great as a Tzadik/righteous person as Moshe. But they will ask me why I wasn't as great as Zusha (meaning, why I didn't live up to my potential)".

Last year for this special date, I focused on the Mesirut Nefesh/self sacrifice that Moses had for the Jewish people upon their grevious sin of worshipping the Golden Calf. He was willing to be totally erased from the records of Jewish history, i.e., the Holy Bible, in order for the Jewish people not to be decimated.

This year, I will be focusing on another of Moses' accomplishments. But first, I would just like to relate that particularly in this year, this 7th of Adar had special significance to me. You see, the celebrated day of Moshe this year was in my 40th year of life (almost reached a third of Moshe's lifespan), and as we know, it is the letter Mem which equals 40 which is the first letter of Moshe's name. His name marks the very first word of Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers and the first word of two different chapters of the Mishne Torah, magnum opus of the Rambam/Maimonides, whose Hebrew name was Moshe Ben Maimon - Yesodot HaTorah (Foundations of the Torah) Chapter 8, and Hilchot Tefila (Laws of Prayer) Chapter 12.

As a sort of a continuation from my previous post that I wrote about the response to the Jews' request for their next meal, their answer came in the form of the manna, called Mahn in Hebrew. The Rabbis in Tractate Ta'anit of the Talmud note that the Jewish people in the desert were given three different gifts. The well of water was given in the merit of Miriam, the Clouds of Glory were given in the merit of Aaron, and the manna was given in the merit of Moses.

Now, Moses was the farthest type of person from one who pats himself on the back while feeling good that people are being benefited because of him. If anything, Moses wasted no time composing blessings for the Jewish people to bless Hashem with for the manna that they ate.

Now, there is a Mitzva/commandment of the Torah to bless Hashem after eating for the food that we ate. Today, we call the set of Berachot/blessings that we recite towards this end - Bircat HaMazon/Grace After Meals. However, the Torah itself didn't dictate what formula or at least didn't spell out how many blessings to recite. It is true that the Talmud show how the verse that commmands us to bless Hashem for the food hint to the four different blessings that we recite in the present formula. However, they weren't composed all at once; the last one of these would be composed only some 1,400 years since the Torah was given.

As a starter, Moses composed the first blessing, which is called Bircat HaZan, which literally means the blessing of The One Who Feeds. HaZan is the Gematria of 62, which comes in time for this 62nd Post. But Moses was more than just someone who dictated to the Jewish people as to what Hashem wanted from them. He didn't just say, "Well, they should be able to figure out what words to use to thank Hashem if they really enjoyed that manna". He felt that a specified text would facilitate the Jews' quick ability to be able to say the right words of thanks.


With the above being said, there is a unique use of Gematria that I will now demonstrate here using the word HaZan which I mentioned has the Gematria of 62. What I will do is to show the Gematria of each letter of this word, and then put the numbers together, like this. HaZan consists of the letters Hei, Zayin, Noon (Sofit).
Hei is 5, Zayin is 7, and Noon is 50. Hence, putting these three numbers together spells 5750. Twenty years ago, the Hebrew year was 5750. Any special significance to this year?

Well, the first is that it was around this time that the internet started taking off, perhaps less than 1% of American homes and businesses, but this is when it started. Also, Communism in various countries collapsed just around the time of this Hebrew year. This is all nice, but what does this have to do with Bircat HaZan?

The bottom line is that it is only Hashem who runs the world. Communism only existed because some people felt like taking control of things which would of course lead to having much more money. The long term results of this is that only a few would have everything that their hearts desired for while everyone else would have to live with just the bare minimum.

In a different way, people with access to today's Tree of Knowledge feel like in control and can take whatever fruit on this tree without anyone saying even as much as "Boo!" After all, it's all about gaining knowledge, so how can this hurt anyone?
But aside from the fact that people can be quite distracted, and not take care of what needs to be done outside of the world of the internet, it literally makes some people feel like they are in top of the world. Hence, the "world wide web" is not just some countries of which only a handful of people compared to the rest can control, but in fact one now has the chance to control in a far much bigger way - the ENTIRE world.

What I am trying to point out here is that around this year 5750 some 20 years ago, Hashem demonstrated His Mighty Power. Who would have dreamed way back in 1917 when the Bolshevik Revolution took place that Communism with its immense power would ever collapse, though totally ignoring the fair system of Capitalism being endorsed by the ultimate world power - the United States. True, so many millions of people would barely be able to make it with the food they could afford, even though they could have been hard working people who truly earned their pay. But the time had come for Communism to be put to an end.

In life, Hashem has it arranged that everything has a balance. It wasn't that now that less free choice existed once Communism had its big downfall. In place of this,
another big item of having big control of others or things had to be created in place of Communism to allow people to have the free choice of performing good or evil, because otherwise, there would not be a sense of having a world where people do not have a choice but doing good, but this is not what Hashem wants. We are in this world specifically in order for us to earn our keep, and we need to be willing to accept the fact that it is only Hashem who controls the world.

And so the temptation of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, like the original temptation for Adam & Eve, was created. There are those who know how to be responsible internet users, and have used this vehicle as a means of helping people worldwide. However, in the same time, many have abused this tree and controlled, or more like it, actually have found themselves being controlled by this most complex machine, due to their addiction to it. While thinking they are on top of the world, they miss the whole point of what the internet is supposed to be about as a new creation that Hashem allowed only for the purpose of serving Him, and exploit it for their own selfish use and reasons.

One remembering that it is Hashem Who feeds the world will take things in a very different perspective. It's true that Hashem has mercy over all his creatures, but even one who is not an athiest from Communistic ideas needs to realize that just like Hashem has the power of feeding the world if only everyone knows how to share (about which people haven't done such a good job when like half of the world is starving to death), so too does only Hashem have the power to do everything else. And so now on a much wider scale, people have the free choice to do good or evil. They can either choose to use modern technology to benefit mankind, or they can exploit it for their own pleasures and power like politicians who feel they are on cloud nine until caught for embezzlement of funds.

Hence, the year 5750 marked a major turning point in terms of how mankind can choose to serve Hashem, beginning with the concept of believing in Hashem for being able to provide for all if only we allow this to happen. We just have to open up our eyes and realize that there is something that can be done to benefit mankind, beginning with sharing Hashem's gift of food with those who can least afford it. While many will openly reject the theory of Communism, they behave as Communists in their own way - sometimes worse than Communists - when in control of a machine that they can manipulate with the click of a button when in reality, it is Hashem, and ONLY Hashem who can truly do things like this, and it is only granted to mankind on a superficial level to allow for good things to happen.


Now getting back on Gematriot on the word HaZan, there is another way of interpreting the Gematria on this word using the same method, but with one slight difference. Referring to the assigned Gematriot of letters, there are five letters of the Alef Beit that are shaped a little differently at the end of word, being given the title of Sofit - ending letters, which are Kaf, Mem, Noon, Pei, and Tzadi.
In this sense, though normally, the Gematria is based on the regular value of the 22 letters of the Alef Beit ending with Tav having the Gematria of 400, these five letters as Kaf Sofit, Mem Sofit, Noon Sofit, Pei Sofit, and Tzadi Sofit can in fact have the respective Gematriot of 500, 600, 700, 800 and 900. After this, higher values of numbers take place, starting with the Alef when spelling a number in the position of the first letters of the number having the Gematria of 1,000, Beit having
the Gematria of 2,000, etc.

With this being said, let's now try dissecting the letters of the word HaZan accordingly. Hei is 5, Zayin is 7, and the Noon Sofit is 700. Now, put these numbers together, and you have 57,700. Now, without the second zero, the number spells 5770, which is the number of this very year! As 57,700, it is 10 times the number that is the number of this Hebrew year from Creation.

The significance of this can be demonstrated by the 10 letter blessing that we recite before beginning to eat bread over which we recite Bircat HaMazon following this. This blessing in Hebrew is Baruch Atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam HaMotzie Lechem Min Ha'aretz - "Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the World, who brings fourth bread from the earth". With this blessing, we remind ourselves that it is Hashem Who is King of this world, and it is only Hashem - with our petty help -Who is ultimately responsible for the benefit of having bread in this world.

It is interesting to note that the original version of this blessing was slightly different. You see, it was Moses who actually composed the beginning blessing for eating bread, which would be accompanied with many more blessings to be composed by the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah, the Men of the Great Assembly, consisting of 120 board members who composed numerous blessings and prayers some 1,000 years later. However, Moses composed the blessing to end with the word HaShamayim/the heavens instead of Ha'aretz/the earth, because the manna indeed came straight from the sky instead of growing from the ground, though when the Jews came out for their daily manna, it was in a nice package waiting to be picked up from the earth it was resting on, being sandwiched with dew.

Now, there are a number of things that bread is associated with that has to do with the number 10. As we use our hands for work which helped toil the bread, our hands consist of 10 fingers. Interestingly, until Noah's time, people's hands were not created with separate fingers like we have nowadays, not making it as easy for people to work things properly. With Noah's birth, Lemech his father in naming him Noah, which has a connotation of Menucha, rest, as now it would make it a world difference to use fingers to help the world be able to work the field far easier and quicker, Noah as the 10th generation from Adam was the starting point of this revolution being the first to be born this way of having 10 separate fingers.

The Shulchan Aruch, Code of Jewish Law, brings a number of Pesukim/verses dealing wiht Hashem providing the world with food that each have 10 words to them. There are 10 Mitzvot that have to do with bread. Hence, the 10th and last word of the present blessing over bread is Ha'aretz, the earth, for this is the receiving end of Hashem's blessing being facilitated by our 10 fingers to help complete the process, and use them further to utilize the bread in various Mitzvot that allow the bread to then be eaten.

Now, we know that there are 6,000 slated years for this world's existance. Hence, Planet Earth, as associated with the number 10 as the l0th and last word of this blessing over bread, is demonstrated with the use of Gematria associating the word HaZan - The One (Hashem) who feeds the world - with the number 57,700, it is in fact 5,770 times 10; meaning, that it is presently the year 5770 of Planet Earth's existance which in turn has to do with the number 10.

For those who have an open eye on what is happening in this world in this stage in history, the United States as the world power is in the worse shape, especially in terms of the economy, more than ever. Just when people thought that the recession is starting to be over, in fact, what we saw until now in the last few years is just the tip of the iceberg. More jobs have already been commuted if not on their way out the door, and the unemployment lines keep getting bigger. The war that the United States is having seems to have no end in sight, costing so many billions of dollars to the United States. You would think that once and for all, the ones in power in the United States government would really do things that would help change the trend for the better. But ultimately, it is Hashem Who is pulling the strings, the same way as one moves puppets in a puppet show to make it look like that it is the puppets who are talking and moving about.

Hashem is preparing the world for Moshiach, and as I had mentioned in past blogs in more than in one context how this year of 5770 is a turning point in world history signaling the Birthpangs of Moshiach and the end of exile, things will soon change so drastically and dramatically that will change the world forever. There has been much more talk as of late about the Mayan calendar signaling the end of the world as December 21, 2012. Now, as we know from Jewish tradition, the world will still be in existance until the end of 6,000 years from Creation; however, with our knowledge about the war of Gog U'Magog, and the nuclear plant in Iran, it is just a matter of time before the world can change in a blink of an eye. Indeed, the Vilna Gaon of over two centuries ago noted that the final stage of the Gog U'Magog war will last for 12 minutes! Now, people knowing this in his time had no concept of the type of warfare that exists nowadays. Perhaps some thought of this as strictly a spiritual thing of sorts. But it is only now that we can see the potential literal meaning of the Vilna Gaon's frightening words, and even the Mayas who were very cruel people who performed human sacrifices for their gods had some sort of prophecy, though most certainly their prophetic visions came from the source of spiritual impurity, also known as the Sitra D'Achara (the other side); nevertheless, we can see how their vision and knowledge of the calendar can be proven to be true here, which is pretty close to our present year 5770.


In the two middle days of the last month of Shevat - the 15th & 16th of Shevat, the world lost two great Jews whose each bore the name Yosef (curtesy of

On 15 Shevat, also known as Tu B'Shevat, Reb Yosel Ryba, A Hasidic Jew who was a survivor of the Holocaust, passed away at the exact age of 91 as he was also born on this very date 91 years ago. After the war, he ran a kitchen that fed over 150,000 people! Later on, besides learning Torah and involved in business, he spent time collecting Tzedaka and helping others.

On 16 Shevat, Joel Gallis, whose Hebrew name is Yosef Ben Yaakov like the Biblical Joseph, passed away. Together with Dr. Robert Wolf, he helped prepare the world for Moshiach with inspirational messages of doing Teshuva/repentance through a number of ways. They co-authored a few books called Light out of Darkness & two volumes of Between the Lines, focusing on the Hidden Codes of the Torah and Gematriot pointing to current events and other matters happening in this world preparing the world for the big awaited moment of the redemption. Along with these, their website includes 18 radio broadcasts with their timely messages, as well as a blogspot which they started only several months ago.

Some of the material on my blogspot was either directly from Joel Gallis & Dr. Robert Wolf or based on their material. I called my 36th Post - "Light out of Darkness", which is the title of one of their books and the name of their radio broadcast shows.

Personally, I don't know what Joel Gallis of blessed memory even looked like. I never met him in person or even had a chance to speak to him by phone. I did communicate with him a bit via E-mail, as I E-mailed him a couple of years ago when I first discovered their website of findings that I had discovered through the Hidden Codes of the Torah as related to his and Dr. Robert Wolf's findings. He was quite happy to see what I wrote, and he even asked if I would want for him to mention my findings on a future radio broadcast. But as things turned out, it seems that he contracted an illness not long afterwards that hindered his activities, from which he eventually recuperated, or at least it seemed. However, the next thing I knew, he was ill once again, and now this big shock has come of his untimely passing, having left this world in the prime of his life, leaving behind a wife and three children, and a legacy of Torah thoughts and teachings to help Jews serve Hashem better and repent before Moshiach comes. He may have not had the title of rabbi, as he was a professional in the accounting field, but as per my recent blog #60 about rabbis, Joel Gallis of blessed memory did much more in helping Jews spiritually than many others with the title of rabbi.

Feeling the loss of Joel Gallis and wanting to do something in his memory, I turned to, and picked a tractate of Mishna to learn in his memory - Yosef Ben Yaakov, a customary thing to do for the benefit of the soul of the deceased. I chose the Tractate Sotah, which deals with a married woman who slept or confined herself with another man, who is then given to drink of "bitter waters" in the Temple to test whether she was innocent or guilty of committing adultery.

I chose this particular tractate because it has a connection with the Biblical Joseph bearing the same name of Yosef Ben Yaakov. In fact, there is a custom among some Sephardic Jews on Succot to learn a chapter of Mishnayot corresponding to the Ushpizin/Heavenly Guest of the day. As the Ushpizin for the 6th day of Succot is Joseph, they learn on this day - the 1st Chapter of Tractate Sotah that mentions Joseph in the context of the one who buried his father Jacob, and who in turn had his coffin removed from Egypt by Moses - whose birthday and Yahrzeit was today of 7 Adar - to be reinterred in Israel.

There are in fact at least a couple more connections between this tractate and Joseph. At the age of 17, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, and he landed up in Egypt, working for some guy whose wife kept attempting to seduce Joseph.
Though he came to a close call feeling the great temptation, having seen an image of his father warning him not to sin, as recounted in the Talmud on this very tractate (Talmud Sotah 36b)and mentioned by Rashi, Joseph passed his spiritual test, and hence is one of the few who is called with the title HaTzadik, the righteous one. As it relates to the theme of this Tractate Sotah, not only was the adulterous woman actually punished with the bitter waters tearing her insides until she died, but simultaneousy as this was happening to her, her lover met the same fate, except without the bitter waters doing the damage to him.

The final chapter of this tractate starts off with the words of Eglah Arufa, referring to a calf that was killed by an axe hitting its neck at the location of where a Jew was killed in Israel (not done these days with the absence of the Temple)
whose murderer was not known. It's interesting to note that when Joseph and his brothers got reaquainted with each other, and then the brothers returned to Israel after which their father Jacob and their entire families traveled to Egypt, it states that Joseph sent wagons with them. Question: It was Pharaoh who mentioned that wagons should be sent, so why does the verse then state that Joseph, rather than Pharaoh, was the one who sent the wagons? Answer: Rashi states that Joseph gave the brothers a sign for their father Jacob to take note that the very last thing Jacob & Joseph were learning together when they departed from each other right before Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery - 22 years earlier, was the section in the Torah about the decapitated calf, Eglah Arufa.

In conclusion of this tractate, it mentions the sad scenario that will be taking place before the Messianic Era. As the Mishna keeps stating, we will only be able to rely on our Father in Heaven to save us. Indeed, Joel Gallis, along with Dr. Robert Wolf, kept transmitting these types of messages through their books, radio shows, and internet. Additionally, some editions of the Mishnayot include a parenthesized piece at the very end of this tractate about various spiritual levels that a person can reach until attaining the level of what is called Ruach HaKodesh, a minor level of prophecy, which great righteous people of even today have, which in turn will lead to Techiyat HaMeitim, resurrection of the dead, when we will certainly see once again good Jews like the likes of Joel Gallis, Yosef Ben Yaakov, of blessed memory. (I should note that the book Mesilat Yesharim "Path of the Upright" by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato ZT"L is based on this very piece at the end of Tractate Sotah about these various spiritual levels)

Little did I know that there would be a premonition of Joel Gallis' passing in my blogspot. My FIFTY NINTH post entitled "To NET or not to NET" - following my previous post entitled "The GRACE of Hashem" - was dated 16 Shevat, even as I wrote the majority of that post into the next Hebrew date. As it turned it, this was the very Hebrew date of Joel Gallis' passing! In Joel Gallis' and Dr. Robert Wolf's LAST blogpost before Mr. Gallis's passing - and nothing new has been written as of today - it talks about the concept of Hashem granting GRACE. Pointing to a verse in Joel 3:5 which states that "Whoever calls in Hashem's name will escape" in the era right before Moshiach's coming, they point out that the first letters of the phrase in Hebrew - Vehaya Kol Asher Yikra B'Shem Hashem Yimalet - have the total Gematria of the number FIFTY NINE - as the word Achon - "I will be gracious and show favor".

Indeed, my FIFTY NINTH post is about whether the internet is allowed to be used or not in Jewish Law. Indeed, if used to spread Torah, it's a most meritorous thing to do. But if G-d forbid the internet is mishandled, and as I also mention along these lines in this post, then indeed it is a net that doesn't let the user escape, as it is both a physical and spiritual trap. Along the lines of those who call upon Hashem's name will escape in connection with the number 59, it relates very well with my 59th post about the net that can be used as useful internet or as a net in the form of a trap - which is dated 16 Shevat, the date of the passing of a co-author of the LAST blogspot of his that relates to the number 59!

And I see another hint within the above phrase in Joel 3:5 that hints to Joel Gallis' Hebrew name Yosef Ben Yaakov, as in the middle of this phrase - Yikra B'Shem YKVK (Hashem) "Will call in Hashem's NAME" has the same first letters as Joel Gallis' full Hebrew NAME Yosef Ben Yaakov. How timely! But remember, more than just a physical escape which will be for the ones who are still living when G-d forbid, a nuclear attack could strike, but ultimately, what will count most is the SPIRITUAL ESCAPE for those who used the world properly, and when using modern technology such as the internet, radio, etc, used these means as a way of spreading awareness about Hashem and following in his ways as Joel Gallis - Yosef Ben Yaakov - did. (In the Biblical Joseph's case, he both physically and spiritually escaped from his master's wife's seductive attempts for them to sleep together). This reminds me about Avraham Avinu/Abraham our Forefather, about whom it says, Vayita Eishel B'Beer Sheva Vayikra Sham B'Shem Hashem E-l Olam "He (Abraham) planted an Eishel (hospitality center - differences of opinion as to what this consisted of) in Beer Sheba, and he CALLED UPON THE NAME OF HASHEM, G-d of the world" (Genesis 21:33).

May the soul of Yosef Ben Yaakov find a resting spot among the righteous in the Garden of Eden, and merit to be resurrected with the other righteous in the time of Techiyat HaMeitim, resurrection of the dead. May this be the will of G-d, Amen!

Motzoei 7 Adar 5770

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

#61 - Where is my MEAL?

Ask the average observant Jew if he knows anything significant about the number 61 in Judaism. Chances are, he will think perhaps you are trying to play some kind of game, or that you have someone in mind who is 61 years old. Now, ask a Torah scholar the same question. Chances are is that if he recently learned Rashi on the Parsha or some part of the Mishnayot, he may have a flash in his mind as to some significance of this number.

Actually, there are two topics in Judaism that have to do with the number 61 - and in fact, seem to have some relationship with each other; though in one context - it has to do with a story, and in another context - it has mention in terms of Jewish law.

As recounted in Parshat Beshalach (and in the Midrash and other commentaries) that we read a few weeks ago, following the Jews' arrival at the Sin Desert, they woke up one Shabbat morning only to discover that they had no Matza to eat for the first time since Passover night, their last night in Egypt. Well, guess they didn't have too much to eat for Shabbat lunch, but in any case, they wasted no time complaining to Moses & Aaron about the mealless discovery. By nighttime, they already found themselves eating meat, and the following morning, they had the world's first heavenly food - the manna, the same thing that they would be eating for nearly 40 years.

In those days, two meals a day was the standard in society. It was very simple. People ate a good breakfast at the beginning of the day, they worked hard the whole day on the field or farm, perhaps munching on a bit of fruit and vegetables, and then ate a hard earned dinner when the sky turned dark. Perhaps they did a little reading by candlelight, and after talking whatever was on their mind, they slept for the night until the dawn of day invited them for another such day.

O.K., let's do a little counting here. Based on the calculations of the dates and events that took place from the Exodus to the Giving of the Torah in Tractate Shabbat of the Talmud, the month of Nissan, the month of the Exodus, consisted of 30 days. Now, as recounted in the Torah, the Jews arrived at Sin Desert on the 15th of Iyar. Thus, two meals a day for 30 days add up to 60 meals. Thus, if it was on Shabbat morning of the 15th of Iyar that they had no Matza, their main staple that filled them up. Hence, considering their last meal of Matza until it was gone, they had a total of 61 meals from Passover night when they were bidden to eat Matza for their historical Passover meal.

So what, you may ask? Well, don't ask me, ask Rashi, and the Midrashim that he quotes from (such as the Mechilta, but the Midrash Tanchuma says 60 meals). After all, it would seem to be enough to mention that the Jews had what to eat for a month, and then found themselves without food. Why mention exactly how many meals they ate?

Before attempting to answer this question, let's go straight to the Mishna. In Tractate Menachot (12:4), a tractate that discusses the details of the Mincha - singular for meal-offering, Menachot in plural, consisting of flour and oil, and sometimes eaten by the Cohanim, it mentions about a person who donated (in the times of the Temple) a meal offering consisting of 60 Isaron (unit of measure in the Torah) which can fit in one container. Now, if he vowed to donate 61 Isaron for the meal offering, that 61st measure of the meal offering had to be in a different container. Similar to this, when it came to the various Shabbat and holiday animal sacrifices which were accompanied by a meal-offering, the most ever that was brought on such occasions was on the first day of Succot when it fell out on a Shabbat, which also consisted of 61 Isaron of the meal-offering, requiring a second container.

So, it seems that the number 61 is associated with meals, especially as a maximum number. The difference between the two scenarios here - the Jews in the desert & the offering of the Mincha - is that in the first scenario, it is the food that Hashem provided the Jews, while the Mincha offering is what we provide to Hashem, so to speak (believe me, Hashem doesn't need our meals).

As we know about the Torah being a little more than being a story teller or a factoid base for Ripley's Believe It or Not, it is the latter part of that Mishna about the 61 Isaron measures of Mincha that is what will shed light on the matter here. Rabbi Shimon comments that "up to 60 measures, one can mix the meal offerings (brought for different types of animals)".

The other Sages asked, "Do you mean to say that you can mix together 60 measures, but not 61 measures"?

Rabbi Shimon replied, "All of the measures of the Sages are like that", and he proceeded to give examples of this.

There is a very good lesson we can learn from this. Sometimes, we think we know what the limits are to something - good food, good night sleep, good time hanging out with friends or surfing the web. However, how many times do you know of yourself or someone else suffering the results of these "good"ies? Yes, a good meal, but stuffing oneself without realizing there is a limit can lead to feeling overly stuffed, vomiting, not feeling well, stomach cramps, etc. Sleeping a little too much can cause one to feel real drousy instead of accomplishing to be fully alert during the day. Hanging out with friends until the post midnight hours will either waste half of the normal waking ours with sleep or if one needs to be at work the next morning, will have to force himself to get ready despite feeling dead tired or come late to work, and then not feeling right at work, and can make mistakes from not driving very well with the possibility of falling asleep on the wheel to making unnecessary blunders at work. Surfing the web shares these same basic qualities, in addition to possibly straining the eyes or back with prolonged use of the computer, quite often with taking no brake for several hours because we feel quite addicted to the Tree of Knowledge which is quite sinful for some who get addicted to the spiritual trash on it.

And this is the lesson of the limit of the amount of "meals" for one container. Sixty, a number that is associated with the name of the letter Samech, which is related to the word Semicha, such as leaning one's hands on the animal sacrifice, is the number that is related to fullness and completeness, such as the full circle of the letter Samech. One can go endless of times around a circular path, but he/she is limited to that circle. Hence, it is the number sixty that represents a boundary, a limit, such as this round world which kept expanding during Creation, until Hashem called out "Enough!", and then it stopped.

Thus, it is the number 61 which shows that now it is time for a new container, because the old container can hold only so much or everything that is in the container will either get smashed or the container will burst. Yes, it is ONLY one more, but it may be this ONLY one more that will ruin everything. It is worth getting a container for ONLY one more "meal". No my friends, it's not 30 in one and 31 in another. The meals are distributed particularly in this manner of sixty and one, respectively, because it is not about "even distribution" because in fact, this cannot happen with an even and odd number together. Don't expect for everyone to always be happy if there will be even a "little" difference as to the distribution of a meal in everyone's plates. There will never be a perfectly distributed meal - a little less chicken in someone's plate, or more gravy in another one's plate. However, when the person finishes his/her portion, he or she then realizes that despite the exact amount or taste, it accomplished its purpose of providing a satisfying meal.
And so for the Jews in the desert, what they needed to realize is that everything is from Hashem. True, it seems that they didn't have what to eat for the day, let alone for Shabbat. However, what was important for them to realize is that it was Hashem who provided them with the Matza, protection, and freedom to begin with. They started to take things for granted as if to say that the food should have been there automatically, being in a mode that despite Hashem feeding them until now, they expected it to be more than a full refrigerator.

And it was to this that Hashem had to put a stop. As it is, Hashem was not too happy for their request for meat, as Rashi continues points out; but their request for breakfast, which took place in the form of the manna, was a proper request. Why? What's wrong with a steak dinner? It wasn't costing a dime to Hashem anyways?

Meat represented more than just satisfying a bodily need of sustaining oneself. While in fact the Torah does not openly endorse being a vegetarian since Noah's days, but in fact gives various commands to eat meat, including the Paschal lamb which made up part of the first of the 61 meals that the Jews ate from that historical night in Egypt until their Matza supply ran out, this is supposed to be only in the context of serving Hashem. Craving for meat out of this domain is a pure lust for something that is not necessary. However, their request for normal breakfast food, though they didn't behave quite nicely in the way they asked for it, was indeed a proper request, because without basic nutrients, one cannot live for very long, and needs to live to serve Hashem.

And as we see about the story of the manna, its ultimate purpose was for the Jews to rely on Hashem on a daily basis for their food. No more taking food for granted. They didn't learn their lesson earlier from the 61 meals until their food supply was gone, that just like they were provided with what they needed to eat until then, so too it would be Hashem' s wish that it should continue like this. All they needed to do was to open their eyes and perceive that there is a limit to what one should desire to maintain a healthy and balanced living, and that extras are nothing but stand in the way of what really counts in life.

And speaking of the 61 measures of meal-offering on the first day of Succot that fell out on a Shabbat, we know about the Mitzva/Commandment of taking the Arba Minim/Four Species (citron, palm branch, myrtle leaves, willow branches) on Succot. According to the Torah, the Mitzva applies specifically to the first day of Succot, but in time, the rabbis rules that we should do this for the full week of Succot - except for Shabbat. Now according to the Torah, this first day of Succot is regardless of what day it is, even if it is Shabbat. However, as the rabbis were afraid that someone might come to accidentally carry these Four Species from a private domain
to a public domain on Shabbat when this is forbidden, even for a Mitzva, they forbade doing this even on the first day of Succot when it falls out on Shabbat.

We can learn a valuable lesson here. While the Torah made a clear cut commandment to perform a Mitzva - regardless of what day of week the first of Succot falls out on, the rabbis of 2,000 years ago were empowered by the Torah to change the rules of this for the sake of protecting the Torah, as worded in Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers, making a "fence for the Torah". The rabbis do not have the power to nullify Mitzvot or add on to them as a whole another type of commandment, except as a means of supporting the Torah that already exists. Hence, they had the power to extend the amount of time of fulfilling the Mitzva of taking the Four Species for the entire Succot (originally, it was done for a full week only in the Temple), and forbade doing a Mitzva that the Torah tells us to do specifically on the first day of Succot to protect one from the grave sin of carrying on Shabbat.

Thus, we see that the Torah trusted the rabbis with making limits - even when it comes to making limits on doing a Mitzva according to the Torah. And specifically regarding the Shabbat, the rabbis wanted to make sure that even when a Jew has in mind to do a Mitzva that he won't somehow find a way to justify doing a Mitzva by committing an Aveira/sin to accomplish this, though it would seem simple enough to understand that while taking the Mitzva of the Four Species is only one command, resting on Shabbat and not working on Shabbat are two commands, and so the Four Species is not able to overide the Shabbat with two commands. Forbidding taking the Four Species on Shabbat to prevent carrying outside of the permitted limits would limit the chance of doing the great sin of carrying from a private domain to a public domain, as it is forbidden to even carry a Sefer Torah on Shabbat in a public domain for the purpose of reading it in the synagouge as is done on Shabbat. While this may in a way be able to be far more justified since after all, the learning of Torah is the greatest of all Mitzvot, such fear of this happening was not expressed to this degree by the Sages, since after all, it is the Torah itself that forbids us to violate the Shabbat. However, this would not be so obvious with the Mitzva of the Four Species since after all, it is a timely thing for a limited time, so it is easy to justify with saying that it is only for that time that it is permitted and a must to carry the Four Species even outside of the Shabbat limits.

This is all fine and dandy. But, how did the rabbis know that it is O.K. to prevent a Mitzva from being done in the face of saving people from doing a sin? Maybe the Torah wanted it in such a way that one has to learn to be prepared properly before Shabbat of the first day of Succot, and
perform the Mitzva of the Four Species in such a way that no violation of the Shabbat will take place? After all, we see from the Mitzva of Brit Mila/circumcision which is performed on Shabbat if it is the baby boy's eight day of life that what could not be prepared before Shabbat can be done on Shabbat despite what is normally considered violation of the Shabbat, while what was able to be prepared for the circumcision before Shabbat but was not done, cannot be done now on Shabbat. So the question begs to be asked, why is it different with the Four Species?

It is the lesson of the 61 meal offering portions that are offered on the first day of Succot that falls out on Shabbat that teaches us this. The fact that one is doing a Mitzva of offering meal offerings did not justify stuffing everything into one container relying on any miracles. While miracles in fact happened in the Temple right and left, it was not up to us to decide what miracles these would be. It's only after doing our part the way we are supposed to do that Hashem could decide to do miracles. So as Rabbi Shimon said, "All the measures of the sages are like that"; meaning, that the Sages had the power to put limits on how Mitzvot are performed if they could possible endanger their own Mitzva or a different Mitzva. The fact that one is performing a Mitzva does not give him the right to decide how HE will do the Mitzva. After all, it is the KING OF KINGS that gives the orders, and is not left to our devices to decide what is the best way of doing it - EXCEPT THROUGH THE MEANS OF TORAH LOGIC, and it is the Sages who were empowered and trusted by the Torah to make this determination. As we see from the Karaites to the Enlightment movement that led to Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Humanistic "Judaism", these movements accomplished nothing except for watering down the basic tenents of Judaism, fitting Judaism to make it convenient for oneself, not treating it as something that was divinely ordained by the King of Kings, but misusing and mistreating His words of wisdom - the Bible, towards their selfish end and gain.

Perhaps a perfect example of this pertains to the concept of not carrying on Shabbat. To people with logic, it seems that moving furniture across the room is far more work than carrying a tissue in one's pocket when walking from one's house to another person's house across the street.
Yet when it comes to Shabbat, moving furniture in the house could be perfectly permissible so long as it is not being done in preparation for after Shabbat, but carrying even the slightest thing even in a pants pocket in the street where it is forbidden to carry anything on Shabbat unless an Eruv, which involves string around an area marking it as a private domain rather than a public domain, is a sin that is worthy of being stoned for by a Jewish court (as was done in the times of the Temple) if done willfully. And by the way, we see the prohibition of carrying in public on Shabbat mentioned specifically by the manna, as no manna fell on Shabbat so the Jews wouldn't carry it on this holy day.

As worded in the Mishna here, the measures of the Sages are called MIDOT Chachamim. Indeed, the introduction to the Sifra, the Midrashic work on the Book of Leviticus which begins with the sacrifices, what we recite in our daily morning prayers, lists the 13 MIDOT HaTorah, the measures through which the Torah is expounded to arrive at the proper Halacha/Jewish Law. (NOTE: In terms of the 70 bulls that were sacrificed on Succot, corresponding to the 70 nations; 13 of these bulls were brought specifically on the first day of Succot)

As I had mentioned at the end of my previous post, Halacha/Jewish Law is the Gematria of 60, which is either something that was already handed down to Moses, which is called Halacha L'Moshe MiSinai, or it is something that is determined by the rabbis who have come to a Halachic conclusion based on various Torah sources. Hence, declaring something extra in the name of Jewish Law without putting it in its proper perspective - such as (symbolically) stuffing 61 meals in a fixed 60 meal measure - is nothing less than adding something to the Torah, which is forbidden according to the Torah. Only the Sages who have a very keen understanding of the Torah know exactly how to "add" or "subtract", which are nothing but adjustments to maintain a proper balance for the totality of the Torah's 613 Mitzvot to be observed.

In the conclusion of my 61st Post, I would like to point out that as a way to remember how many meals the Jews had from the Seder night in Egypt until they ran out of their supply of Matza, the first letters of the phrase Seudat Ochel/Meal of Food are Samech Aleph - the number 61. So too, the first day of Succot which can be called Aleph Succot - (Day) 1 of Succot - also has the initials of the letters Samech & Aleph. And in terms of the Mitzva of Succah - dwelling in a Succa during the seven days of Succot, there is a special Mitzva of eating a minimum of an olive/egg sized piece of bread particularly on the first night of Succot (outside of Israel - also on the 2nd night of Succot) in the Succah, the same way that there is a special Mitzva of eating Matza particularly on the first night of Passover (outside of Israel - also on the 2nd night of Passover).

And as the seven days of Succot correspond to seven Ushpizin/Heavenly Guests who visit our Succot during the holiday, the first day of Succot corresponds to Abraham our forefather, who is especially known for his Hachnasat Orchim - inviting guests, sharing his scrumptions meals with non believers in Hashem, through which he used to bring them to believe in the existance of Hashem, in lieu of the worthless idols. Kabbalistically, it is the morning/early afternoon meal of Shabbat - of the three meals of Shabbat that correspond to the Patriarchs - that corresponds to Abraham, during the time of the brining of the Shabbat/holiday sacrifices and meal offerings, as well as the fulfillment of the Mitzva of the Four Species. And it is specifically the story of the three angels who appeared to Abraham who fed them that is mentioned as talking place specifically at noon time, just around the time that a good percentage of worshipping Jews in the synagogue on Shabbat morning are home in time for Shabbat lunch. And for another phrase whose initial letters are Samech Aleph is Seudat Orchim - meal of guests.

By the way, the Midrash tells us that the Four Species correspond to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob & Joseph. Particularly, it is the Etrog/citron - the only growth of the Four Species that is edible - that corresponds to Abraham, the early Biblical figure who specialized in physically and spiritually feeding his guests. Etrog is the Gematria of 610, which is 10 times 61. Hence, as Abraham is the featured Heavenly Guest for the 1st day of Succot, on which 61 measures of the meal offering was offered when it fell out on Shabbat, it should be noted that Abraham as representive of the number 61 here, passed all of Hashem's special 10 tests of his G-d fearing character. Hence, 61*10 adds up to the Etrog/citron which corresponds with Abraham, the father of "southern" hospitality (he lived for many years in the Negev, the southern part of Israel).

NOTE: My next post will, G-d willing, be written up this coming Sunday.

4 Adar 5770

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

#60 - Rabbi @ Gematriot Congregation

For someone who is quite intellectual, it is quite easy to learn for almost any college degree he/she wants. Yes, it may take time, effort, and preparation to learn the courses well, but it is easy because this is something that can be accomplished. Some degrees require internships, as a hands-on-experience, but once that title is earned - Dr., Esq., C.P.A., M.B.A., Professor, etc. - it is a lifetime title unless revoked by a legal board who have the power to take away the license or title from someone who behaved in a fashion not befitting the title, aside from what certificate may remain on the wall.

Perhaps this concept stands out far more when it comes to religion. After all, a man of G-d needs to protray himself/herself as someone of high moral standard and values, beyond the ritualistic aspect of that religion. This puts pressure on some clergymen, because they know that others look up to them, and don't want to do something that will change their image of being a spiritual leader. And if they are truly sincere in their beliefs, they don't want to do anything that will tarnish other people's beliefs of that particular religion.

In Judaism, the concepts of Kiddush Hashem/Sanctification of Hashem's Name & Chillul Hashem/Desecration of Hashem's Name come to mind. One can either behave in a fashion that will impress even non-observant Jews or non-Jews to have a good feeling about Judaism, even if these others people cannot imagine themselves being observant or Jews; or one can behave in a fashion that will give leave a bad impression on how Judaism looks, and it won't matter what the Torah or Bible says.

Until recent times, rabbis for the most part were highly revered, even by Anti-Semitic rulers at times. People understood that from the way that rabbis behaved, there was something to what these rabbis learned and represented. In a community where the rabbi was held supreme, anyone of the common populace who dared to oppose the rabbi's views either by word or action was ostracized by the community. As his financial position as a rabbi wasn't necessarily reflective of his standing, he wasn't influenced by gain or politics to do things that could be questionable, but his biggest concern was that everyone could grow spiritually and observe the Torah properly.

From the old Shtetel way life in Europe to the immigration of millions of Jews to the States, significant changes have happened within this past century. In a country where people came for financial stability and to make fortunes, the tide of how Judaism would be treated would never remain the same. Yes, there are still many rabbis out there who are truly sincere about making a spiritual impact as their primary goal. But within the realm of Orthodox Jewry as Jewish observance according to tradition is known as, there is a wide spectrum of how Judaism is viewed. This is of course not even talking about Conservative and Reform movements who are clearly not observant of Halacha/Jewish law, and not only their rabbi, but the cantor also gets a nice salary who both violate the Sabbath publicly by using a microphone, many if not most who also drive to and from their "religious" work on Shabbat.

Just about everything called religious in the United States today is an enterprise. True, people have to make a living, and certainly, it is nice if one needs to make money anyways that he is doing something constructive that helps Judaism. But that's it - if it HELPS observance of Judaism, NOT DESTROY observance of Judaism. From the pulpit to granting Kosher certification to giving emotional assistance to troubled women, there have been rabbis who have fallen astray for the sake of honor, money, power, had affairs or committed sexual molestations on children. Whether it is a small minority or a big majority, one cannot help but hear complaints from members of the Jewish community or the news when things go wrong.

In the old days, it was the rabbi who was in control. Few rabbis in Europe really had a half decent lifestyle just because of their title, when they were lucky if they could afford to eat a couple meals a day. For today's average pulpit, especially in Modern Orthodox circles, a rabbi can easily make if not a six digit figure, then close to it in a well established Jewish community. But while he may pay lip service once in a while by telling his congregation to "cut down on the noise" once he hears a room full of talking in the middle of services, he knows quite well that some of the ones who are guilty of making a desecration of G-d's name talking during the Torah reading or Kaddish - the big "machers" - are responsible for paying his salary. These days in the midst of the media rambling about Israel, the rabbi feels a need to say his opinion, and I will tell you for a fact folks, not all of them are saying things that are correct according to the Torah For example, the assasination of Yitzchak Rabin who gunned down some 16 Jews in the Altalena incident in 1948 bothers some of these well paid rabbis more than what he did in attempting to please our Arab enemies. The false claims of Meah Shearim residents throwing stones at drivers on Shabbat seems to be more of an issue to them than openly declaring that Rabbi Meir Kahane was right, let alone set an example of giving up their handsome position and not just talk the talk but walk the walk to Israel like Rabbi Kahane said to do.

The bottom line is that while today there are more people with the title of rabbi than ever before, the title is not so respected like it was at one time. The title only seems to be good as the one who owns the title. And even among those rabbis who are respected for deciding Jewish law,
there were and are unfortunately those who have made decisions that have if anything endangered the Jewish people, like for example, saying that it is OK to give away parts of Israel for the sake of "protecting Jewish lives", while experience has shown that by not following the Torah when it clearly states to drive out the enemy, that more trouble is bound to happen. And most unfortunately before the Gush Katif expulsion, there were those rabbis who either said that soldiers should not refuse orders to throw out some 9,000 Jews from their homes, making room for Arabs to get ever closer to murder more Jews, or they themselves worked hand-in-hand with the police and soldiers to ask residents with little children to exit their homes who would afterwards not have a half decent place to live or a means of living. Yes in Israel, there are these rabbis making these so called Halachic decisions who are well paid by the self-hating Jewish Israeli government committing these atrocities. Many other rabbis in Israel who are revered in the Yeshiva world were paid good money by this same government to keep quiet as the destruction of Jewish families, homes, synagogues, and Yeshivot took place. By the way, if anyone is interested in seeing the real picture of what happened in the Gush Katif expulsion exposing the real traitors of this fiasco, write to me in the comment section, and I will forward you a 10-minute video of this via E-mail.

So after all is said and done, one would hope for some stories of modern day rabbis who exemplify what a real rabbi is like. Fortunately, there is such a story that took place a few decades ago. Once, there was a gentleman who was visiting some Jewish patients in a New York hospital. Seeing someone's name on the bed, the gentleman started saying "Mr. ... " All of a sudden, the one addressed as Mr. started shouting "How dare you call me a Mr. when I am a rabbi!..." The nice gentleman then apologized, and the two spoke a bit. Then, when it came time for the nice guy to greet the person lying in the bed next to the one who said of himself that he was a rabbi, afraid of getting a similar reaction, he started saying "And you are" waiting for an answer. The person on this bed replied, "Miller, Avigdor Miller".

My friends, for those who may have not heard this name before, few rabbis in the United States scenary accomplished what this Avigdor Miller, a most revered rabbi, did. Rabbi Miller (passed away in '01) may have not been the most famous or popular rabbi, but few reached his stature of accomplishments without politics getting into the way. Early on, he strictly enforced a no-talking policy during prayers, and it was never mitigated in hopes for more money than the meager salary he began receiving. He didn't just "mind his own business" by giving a nice peppered sermon on Saturday morning. He sought to make Talmudic scholars out of congregants who knew little more than reading the prayer book. It took three years for him to teach a whole tractate of Talmud to 13 congregants who took up the challenge. Today, his synagogue which is more like a learning center, hosts daily classes on all different Talmudic tractates and other studies. He gave lectures on Mussar/Jewish ethics spanning thousands of cassette tapes. And in time, for those who learned some 500 Dafim/double-sided pages of Talmud, he verbally declared them as rabbis, and insisted on them putting that title on family invitations. For more on this non-political real Rabbi Avigdor Miller, you can check this link (NOTE: This is NOT to say that I agree with all of his viewpoints, such as on Zionism, as he never even stepped foot in Israel in his long life until he was buried there. However, in terms of not falling in for politics and his humble character, there are definitely things that many of today's rabbis can learn from).


Eleven years ago on this date - the 18th of Shevat, I received rabbinic ordination, known as Semicha in Hebrew. As a child, I must confess that I wanted to be a rabbi and a teacher. While for many years in my 20s it was something which I didn't know would ever happen, this dream of mine finally became a reality. How much it helped me in the long run or will help me, I don't know. Personally, I think it did more for others in my attempt to help those who needed assistance, than what the title actually did for me. And as far as teaching is concerned, it may be a possibility in a classroom arrangement in the near future now that I am married; but meanwhile, I am teaching Torah, at least through my blogspot here. I guess you can call my following, or my synagogue without walls, Gematriot Congregation. In case anyone here is interested or knows someone who is interested, in receiving rabbinic ordination without having to go out of your/his way to attend classes when busy working for a living, you can turn to this link, which is under the auspicies of Rabbi Mordechai Yitzchok Friedman, Shlita, the Tyrnava Rav, from whom I received Rabbinic ordination (This Rav also offers a variety of rabbinical services that may not always be available from other rabbis who don't have specialties in certain fields or don't have extra time, as you can check on this link

But aside from today's date of my anniversary of receiving rabbinic ordination, I am writing about this topic in my 60th Post. You see, the word Semicha is related to the word for the letter Samech, whose letter is the Gematria of 60. This brings to mind about the original Semicha which was conferred by Moses to Joshua upon Hashem's instructions V'Samachta Et Yadcha Alav - "You shall lean your hands on him", Vayismoch Et Yadav Alav - "He leaned his hands on him" (Numbers 27:18,23), and at the end of the Chumash - Samach Moshe Et Yadav Alav - "Moses leaned his hands on him" (Deutronomy 34:9).

As a side note, the Gematria of the word for the letter Samech is the Gematria of 120; and thus, this wording which is used for Moses giving the first ever human handed rabbinic ordination (which is not done by the hand today, but only in the form of a certificate) hints to the fact that Moses was in his 120th year, the last year of his life; and Moses ordaining Joshua was his answer to his request of Hashem as to who would lead the coming generation. And at Moses' passing at exactly 120 years old, the end of the Chumash once again mentions this very thing of Moses placing his hands on Joshua with the wording of Samech=120.

The truth is that the original Semicha as passed down from Moses to Joshua got lost somewhere along the way since the time that the Talmud was completed. Hence, the Semicha that we have nowadays is not part of that Semicha as it got broken, but it's the same idea of authorizing a new bidding Talmudic scholar to decide matters of Jewish Law. In earlier times, nothing less than knowledge of the entire Torah, which was basically the body of the Talmud and Jewish Law was required.

With the passing of more recent generations, the level of Torah knowledge isn't the way it used to be for the most part, and so in order that the Torah shouldn't be eventually lost due to not having many qualified people for the position, the official study for rabbinic ordination is limited to a basic Semicha package of the laws of Kashrut and ritual slaughter called Yoreh Yoreh, which is conferred to someone who has gone through several years of learning in Yeshiva, though not all Yeshiva programs will require many years, depending on the circumstances of the individual, as there are some who become observant Jews from non-observant homes, and want to go all the way to being an ordained rabbi, but aren't very young; however, they are quite educated to learn more at a faster rate than younger people. Following this, there is an advanced Semicha called Yadin Yadin which involves the laws of justice and courts in a Jewish setting.

These days in the Modern State of Israel, there is a separate Semicha called Rabbanut Reishit conferred on those who have the basic Semicha, who have to know like half of the Talmud and Shulchan Aruch/Code of Jewish Law to be qualified. They can then get a government appointed rabbinical position to be a rabbi of a synagogue or community, and are paid quite well for life as they can't get fired by the particular synagouge or community that they are appointed as rabbi of. Though some of these rabbis are truly devoted to their followings, and don't get swayed by the politics of this double sided government; many others would have been better off if they had a different type of government position than using their rabbinic position or the Torah for their selfish gain. For example, I know of a case where there is a government appointed rabbi of a Moshav whom - as the Rebbetzin/wife of a rabbi who truly deserves the title in whose home I have stayed for Shabbat before in this Moshav said - that in seven years "no one in this Moshav has seen the man, and just picks up his check every month", while her husband, who isn't paid a penny (oops, I mean a Shekel) for dealing with the residents there, makes friends with them all, gives Torah classes to them, and helps them with advice and other assistance in their time of need.

Near the end of Chapter 5 of Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers, it says Ben Shishim L'Zikna - "A sixty year old attains elderly status". Now, in the Torah that speaks of respecting a Torah scholar and old people, it says V'Hadarta Pnei Zaken "You shall honor the presence of a Zaken"
(Leviticus 19:32). Rashi notes that Zaken is a contraction of the words Zeh Shehkana Chachma - "This one who has aquired wisdom". While there may be a difference of opinion in Jewish Law as to what is the age of being elderly, a Torah scholar deserving of the title is respected at any age that he is of this status. In any case, the basic honor expected of anyone who is supposed to give this honor is to stand up for someone who is in the category of a Zaken when they walk into the room.

Hence, we have associated here the concept of sixty with wisdom. The Aramaic translation of Yonatan Ben Uziel translates the first word of the Torah - Bereishit - "With wisdom" G-d created the heavens and the earth. Now, in this first section in the Torah about the creation of the world, one can find every single letter of the Alef Beit, including what is called the final letters that only appear at the end of a word, except for the letter Samech, which is the Gematria of 60.
In case anyone was wondering why, it could be that it wasn't necessary to include the letter Samech, because this letter apparently represents the concept of wisdom, which was used to create the world. In a physical sense, the world that Hashem created is rounded, just like the letter Samech.

One more reason for me pointing this out about the section of the Torah about creation not containing the letter Samech is because it contains exactly 469 words (Genesis 1:1-2:3), and today - the 18th of Shevat which is the anniversary of my Semicha - is the 469th day from when I began Hence, I have given my 60th Gematriot class via this blogspot at the end of 469 days from when I began my classes, which correspond to the 469 words of the account of the first week of the world's existance that leaves out the letter Samech that is the Gematria of 60. (For more information on this, and on the letter Samech/number 60, you can check Post #s 10 & 11 - Nov. '08)

I should add that while most of today's Torah scholars are ones with rabbinic ordination, there have been quite a few big Torah scholars who for one reason or another, never got formerly ordained. For example, known as Reb Elchonon, Elchonon Wasserman, may G-d avenge his blood (he was murdered by the Nazis), was not only a most accomplished Torah scholar, but was also the Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva head of a Yeshiva in Branovitch (in Europe) where he taught Gemara to young bidding students. He also was very close with the Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, from whom he spent time with whenever possible. Unlike so many today with the title of rabbi - even if academically earned - aren't even worth the paper on which their rabbinic ordination is written upon, because of how they behave, or rather misbehave, giving a bad impression of Judaism; Reb Elchonon Wasserman was one who most deserved the title, though he never actually received the officially written title for it. In fact, the famed Chofetz Chaim himself didn't have it either for a long time until he saw it was necessary to have it for a specific purpose, and was able to get it on the spot because he was already well known to be a big Torah scholar.


And now that I am married, there are a few tidbits that I would like to bring here regarding Samech as it relates to marriage. First, as there are 469 words in the account of the first week of creation - the first seven days, so too is the word Chatuna/wedding the Gematria of 469, and it is customary for a first time bridegroom or bride to have Sheva Berachot - a weeklong celebration of their marriage with friends at which the Sheva Berachot/Seven Blessings that are recited at the wedding are also recited at these celebrations. Second, as illustrated in the wedding ceremony, the bride circles the bridegroom under the wedding canopy - seven times, and it is the letter Samech of the 22 letters of the Aleph Beit that resembles a circle, and in turn, the bridegroom gives the bride - a ring that is completely round. Third, when Hashem wished to create a marriage partner for Adam, He said, "It's not good for man to be alone, I will create a helpmate that is suited for him" (Genesis 2:18). As translated by Targum Onkelus, the word for helpmate in Aramaic is Sameich, which is very similar to the word Samech! Moreover, the Hebrew word for this - Ezer - has the same letters as the word Zera/children or descendants. Hence, husband and wife are helpful towards one another in accomplishing their continuity and potential.

Getting back to the lesson at hand, I want to point out is that Hashem created a beautiful world that resembles the letter Samech, but He left it a little incomplete - as it says at the end of the account of the week of creation Asher Bara Elokim La'asot - "which G-d created TO MAKE"; the word La'asot - "to make" being the 469th word. Hence, it's up to us to complete our mission, just like the letter Samech is the letter that denotes completeness as it is the only letter that is a full circle completely enclosing some space, unlike all the other letters (except for the Mem Sophit/Final Mem but it is not a circle the way that the Samech is though it has something in common with the Samech, but this is beyond the scope of this post). And in the Jewish world where it is the rabbi who teaches the Torah ensuring the existance of the next Jewish generation as observant Jews, the Semicha is the completion of studies that lead to being given a title that will now allow one to teach and decide matters of Jewish Law to others.

While I do not need Semicha to write a Gematriot blog, I do mention matters of Jewish Law where I give what you would call an opinion, but my opinion is based on Jewish Law, and as applicable in my previous post on the subject of the internet, I fairly presented both sides on the subject, presenting the issues involved and also used that post as a forum to discuss the details of the problems per se as it relates to Halacha/Jewish Law, while making clear how the internet can be used in a Kosher way. This is pretty much how the concept of Shehailot U'Teshuvot/Questions & Answers in the context of Halacha work. The Rav/Rabbi deciding what the Halacha should be does a deep analysis of the issues related to the question, quoting from various sources - from the Bible, Talmud, and Halachic sources, and gives his verdict based on everything he mentions, not because of how he feels the answer should be based on "common sense" or some convenient answer that will make the questioner happy to want to approach him the next time to make himself famous and popular.

And as this relates to this week's Parshat Yitro, the name of Yitro/Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, is the same Gematria as HaTorah/The Torah - 616. After all, one becomes a rabbi because of the Torah which he learns that qualifies him to have this title. It is in this very Parsha that the Torah, beginning with the Ten Commandments, was given. In connection with Creation, the world was created on condition that the Jews in that future time close to 2,450 years later, would receive the Torah; otherwise, Hashem would have destroyed the world right then and there. The Torah was received on Har Sinai/Mount Sinai - the name of the mountain beginning with the letter Samech. And the words Sefer Torah/Torah Scroll begin with the letter Samech.

As Matan Torah/Giving of the Torah is compared to a wedding - which was the spiritual wedding between Hashem and the Jewish people, the latter who received the Torah/marriage contract as a GIFT from Hashem, I would like to point out that after 55 days of marriage, G-d willing - and 55 is the Gematria of the word Kala/bride - on the following day which will be Shabbat Yitro, we will read this Parsha whose name is the Gematria of 616. Similarly, my Ufruf - reading of the Torah for the bridegroom on the Shabbat before marriage - was on the first day of Chanuka -the 616th day from when I gave myself a 2nd Hebrew name - Matisyahu, which means GIFT OF HASHEM, which took place nearly two years ago on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. On both of these days (1st day of Chanuka & Rosh Chodesh Nissan), we begin reading from the section of the Torah (on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, it's read outside of the Sefer Torah) called Bircat Cohanim (Numbers 6:22-27, as customary by Sephardim and in Israel by all), which is the very same thing that we recite immediately after the daily blessings for learning Torah called Bircat HaTorah. And it is the second of the two blessings that mentions that Hashem chose us from all the nations and gave us His Torah, which are the very events that are mentioned in this week's Parshat Yitro.

Along these lines, there are 55 days between my Ufruf day, which was the 616th day from when I received my second Hebrew name Matisyahu/GIFT OF HASHEM & the Shabbat when we read Parshat Yitro, the name of the Parsha having the Gematria of 616 in which we read of the GIFT OF HASHEM, the Torah, that the Jewish people received. And in the beginning of this Parsha, it is the only place in the entire Chumash where it mentions the names of Moshe's two sons - Gershom & Eliezer, whose names when combined add up to the same Gematria as Matisyahu - 861, and my father's Hebrew name is also Moshe. Moreover, my present full Hebrew name - Shimon Matisyahu - is the Gematria of Krias HaTorah/Reading of the Torah - 1327!


And now something as it relates to the number sixty regarding an area of Torah study, as per a verse in Shir HaShirim/Song of Songs, the lovesong between Hashem and the Jewish people.
The verse (Song of Songs 6:8) states - Shishim Heima Melachot "Sixty are the queens" referring to the sixty tractates of the Mishna - or Mishnayot in plural (though in time, it came to be divided into 63 tractates). The Mishna as the foundation of the Oral Torah represents the completeness of Torah study as something beyond the Bible. This work was the first written work in the format of Halacha, the word for Jewish Law which is the Gematria of 60, though we don't turn to the Mishna today as the source of how we decide Jewish Law, because of subsequent arguments of the Talmud as to what the Mishna really said or how it is applicable, and we have had several sources of Jewish Law composed in the last 1500 years. However, the Mishna as it represents the concept of 60, represents the concept of wisdom, which is ultimately the wisdom of Hashem, which we would never know from reading the Bible alone.

Along these lines, the 469th and last word of the account of Creation in which the letter Samech=60 is not written even once - La'asot - is the same Gematria as the word Mishnayot - 806, which originally consisted of 60 tractates. Hence, we see from here that the only way we can make the Torah complete is by our observance of the Torah in the 6,000 years of the world's existance through the aspect of the Oral Torah of which the Mishayot is the foundation, the first written guide of Halachic observance.

No wonder then that the very end of the first tractate of the Mishnayot - Berachot (means blessings) - mentions the verse Et LA'ASOT LaHashem Hefeiru Torateicha - "It is a time TO ACT for Hashem, for they have nullified Your Torah" (Psalms 119:126). The main commentator on the Mishanyot - Rabbi Ovadia from Bartenura (who incidentally made Aliyah at a time when few Jews lived in Israel, who became the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, and is buried in the Old City right near the Temple grounds), explains on this verse that there are times that we have to leave aside the words of Torah in order to act for Hashem. Aside from the original context for which this explanation is given, indeed the Mishnayot as the Oral Torah was not written down for some 1,550 because the Oral Torah was not allowed to be written down, but only as an oral tradition from generation to generation. It was only because the Jews were incurring various troubles from the Romans, and there was a great fear of forgetting the Torah as a result that the rabbis of the time decided that it was about time to disregard what the Torah says about not writing down the Oral Torah, and finally write it down - for the sake of Torah. However, we must bear in mind that this is NOT a carte blanche statement to decide things on our own like this L'Shem Shamayim "for the sake of Hashem", without getting prior approval from a competent Halachic decider, a decider of Jewish Law who is approved by major Torah scholars who are well known in the Torah world.

It's most significant to note that the very first Halachic debate that took place spanning centuries was centered on whether one does the traditional leaning on a sacrificial animal - also called Semicha - that is brought as a holiday sacrifice on Yom Tov. As recounted in Tractate Chagiga, Chapter Two of the Mishna, the two big Torah leaders in each generation were divided on this subject - one said yes and the other said no, until Hillel & Shammai who also said yes and no respectively, and since in matters of Halacha, it is Hillel whom we follow; it was then decided that the Halacha follows that we lean our hands on the holiday sacrificial animal.

As I am concluding my 60th Post, it is Halacha - the Gematria of 60 - which dictates how Hashem wants us to observe his commandments, which is what ultimately distinguishes a rabbi - particularly one who decides matters of Jewish Law - from everyone else who are bidden to follow what he decides what the Torah/Halacha says.

18 Shevat 5770