Thursday, March 25, 2010

#65 - Authentic Jewish TRADITION

Last that I knew, the famed "The Ten Commandments" movie is aired annually during the holiday of Passover on a Sunday in the United States. Sometimes, it's a bit ironic, because as I recall one year, I had to turn off the television in the midst of the movie because that evening marked the beginning of the last days of Passover when we are forbidden to do work as on Shabbat which includes not turning on or off electricity which includes television. Hence, it's the Jews who do not properly observe Passover by refraining from forbidden work who get to watch the whole movie.

No doubt that reading the Bible, today's original source of the Ten Commandments (the original source was G-d's announcement of the Ten Commandments which were afterwards engraved on the Tablets), will educate one more about what the Ten Commandments have to say than a movie that protrays a romantic scene between Joshua and Batya, daughter of King Pharaoh, who at one point converted to Judaism, though she later married Caleb and Joshua wound up marrying a different convert. With all respect due to Charlton Heston, who passed away a couple of years ago, though a non-Jew, well earned his pay for his role as Moses; Chaim Topol, born in Israel, protrayed more what the Ten Commandments represent as his role as Tevye the milkman in "Fiddler on the Roof" (his last appearance playing this role was just a few months ago).

Paraphrasing what Tevye said, Judaism is able to remain standing on an unbalanced roof due to one word - TRADITION. I must give credit to so many Jewish families in the United States, when a good percentage of them have never completely even followed the Ten Commandments such as observance of the Sabbath, besides other crucial commandments not mentioned in the Ten Commandments such as the laws of Family Purity (husband and wife separating from sexual relations and touching following the wife becoming menstrous until she enters a ritualarium close to two weeks later), the men donning Tefillin (phylacteries) on a daily basis except for Shabbat & Jewish holidays, and the biggest commandment of learning/teaching Torah; but these Jews, including in the United States, feel that they must have a Passover Seder.

Few of the non-observant Jews understand what the word Seder, which literally means order, truly implies. It's not the way that so many celebrate it with causually drinking some wine, enjoying a steaming bowl of Matza ball soup and then chanting a few Passover songs before eating the main course, curtesy of a "kosher style" eatery such as Wolfie Cohen's in South Florida, full of non-Kosher food excluding ham. The rabbis purposely chose to call our observance of the Passover laws at the Passover table with the word Seder, because there is law and ORDER as to HOW we observe this holiday celebrating the birthday of the Jewish nation according to AUTHENTIC JEWISH TRADITION. These are represented by the names of the 15 parts of the Seder.

We drink four cups of wine, but not just at any point during the Seder, or we have not fulfilled our obligation of drinking the four cups of wine, and it must be a certain amount drunk not to exceed a set period of time. The same goes for the Matza of which a minimum amount must be eaten not to exceed past so many minutes (there are varying opinions from two to nine minutes) which represent the fact that our ancestors had to leave Egypt in a haste. And just when you would think that after hearty eating, desert would be more like ice cream (Kosher for Passover) or fruit; guess what the real desert here is - Matza, with far less appetite than when first eaten during the evening. Oh yes, the wine and Matza (aside from eating the meal) must be consumed while reclining, or they have to be consumed once again in that position, reflecting how free we should feel on this night, just as our ancestors felt with their newly attained freedom from Egyptian mastery.

"So what's the big deal?", some will ask. "G-d understands", "G-d forgives", or does He? Is it Judaism the way that we feel good about, or how G-D WANTS US TO UNDERSTAND HOW JUDAISM IS SUPPOSED TO BE? And while this is how all of Judaism is supposed to be, when it comes to Passover especially, as the Mishnah notes, as we recite in the Haggada, each and every person is supposed to feel as though he or she himself/herself left Egypt on this holiday. And with understanding the significance of what we eat and drink in commemoration of the Exodus, doing so will help us put us in this frame of mind.

And one more question begs to be asked. So why put limitations as to a minimum amount to consume or a limit of how many minutes we have to do so? On the contrary, to feel we are free, we have to feel like we should eat or drink as little or as much as we can handle without having to keep looking at the clock. Is what we call the Halachic way of celebrating the Passover Seder called freedom?

Good point. But if we truly imagine ourselves leaving Egypt, we have to remember that our ancestors weren't simply given the green light to leave - they were pressured by the Egyptians to leave following the death of the Egyptian firstborn or head of the house in every Egyptian household. Hence, while Hashem told us beforehand not to consume leavened products and to eat Matza during Passover, the reasoning behind this only took place at the time that the Exodus occured, as the Jews quickly baked Matzas in lieu of taking more time baking bread for their upcoming journey in the desert as the Egyptians were hurring them to leave. Hence, eating a satisfying amount of Matza in a relatively short time helps us recall the exact details of how the Exodus took place.

The truth is that today, none of us follow - one hundred percent - the observance of the Passover Seder laws. After all, we are not observing the commandments of slaughtering and eating a Paschal lamb. And it was this lamb in Egypt that threw the Egyptians off base when they witnessed Jews tying these Egyptian lamb gods to their bedposts waiting for slaughter, the zodiac sign for the month of Nissan. It's true that we do not bring sacrifices in absence of the Temple (though rabbis in the last few years have attempted to get permission from the un"Sumpreme Court" in Israel to perform the Passover sacrifice but to no avail, but the halachic aspect of doing so when we do not have the Temple yet is beyond the scope of this post), and hence, we are not doing any sin by not bringing this most meaningful sacrifice; but in lieu of this, we have a representive shankbone that we show at one point during the Seder to recall the ancient Passover sacrifice.

Now, putting together Jewish tradition with the Passover lamb, there was a turning point in Jewish history from over 2,000 years ago as pertaining to Jewish tradition, which means the laws as transmitted to Moses on Mt. Sinai. As recounted in the midst of the Babylonian Talmudic Tractate of Pesachim (which consists of 120 Dafim/pages, just as Moses lived for 120 years), there were a group of scholars who were debating as to whether Jews would be allowed to slaughter the Paschal lamb in a particular year when the day preceding the first night of Passover was on a Shabbat; normally, slaughtering animals is forbidden on Shabbat. Though it's highly doubtful that they actually believed that there were years in the past when Jews did not offer the Passover sacrifice because of Shabbat, or they would have known this for a fact; however, they wanted to prove from the Torah that doing so is permitted. (NOTE:
The very first Passover that Joshua and the Jews celebrated upon their entry to Israel, which is recorded in the Book of Joshua, began on a Saturday night; hence, Passover eve when the Passover lamb was slaughtered took place on a Shabbat. Nevertheless, the above group of scholars were not content with this, as the Bible is not just a book of a bunch of stories, but comes to teach us how to live a Torah way of life, which is dictated on either oral tradition or how we learn out from the verses what the correct Jewish law is).

Without coming out with a definitive answer from the Torah that would give the Jews the green light to slaughter the Passover lamb that particular year, they asked around if there was any Torah scholar who would be able to provide the answer. After a little research, there was someone named Hillel, who made Aliyah from Babylonia, and learned Torah from the top scholars of his day, who offered a clear analysis of how we know that the Jews slaughter the Passover lamb even on a Shabbat. Following his brilliant explanation, he was voted to be the new Nasi/president of the Jewish court, a position that turned out to be a dynasty for many generations, including seventh generation Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi/Judah the Prince who formulated the Mishnah that we know it as such today, the foundation of the Oral Torah that was previously forbidden to be written down except for the fact that there was a fear that the Torah would be forgotten due to the excessive troubles happening to the Jewish nation from the Romans. A future descendant known as Rabbi Judah Nesiah formulated the Jewish calendar the way that we know it to be today.

So, a whole dynasty that would last for some 400 years happened because of a question that related to Passover (and Shabbat), the original holiday following a period of Jews "being a land that is not theirs" for 400 years. It would be Hillel, whose Gematria is 65 - and this is my 65th Post - that would take over the transmitting of the Jewish tradition. And why? As Hillel answered as to how he knew the answer to the question about the Passover sacrifice, he received the tradition from his teachers - Shemaya & Avtalyon - in turn.

We see from Hillel that if he had wanted to, he could have presented the facts as his own interpretation based on the 13 ways that the Torah is interpreted. However, as someone who breathed Jewish tradition, he would not dare present anything as his own "new" thought if he heard it taught by someone else who was part of the chain of the transmission of the Oral Torah.

And speaking of the Oral Torah, which is Torah She'Be'Al Peh, which literally means Torah that is via the mouth, the name of this very holiday, Pesach, is a contraction of two words - Peh Sach, the mouth that converses, which represents the ultimate Mitzvah of the Seder evening - the telling of the story of the Exodus. As in the format in the Haggadah of the 15 parts of the Haggadah, of which the storytelling (the fifth one) is called Magid, which means one who tells, which is similar to the word Haggadah, much of its style is the way that the Talmud is learned, besides the fact that some of the material comes straight from the Mishna or Talmud.

While the Jews would wait seven weeks until officially receiving the Torah following the Exodus, the Passover holiday would already show to be representative of the very concept that assures the transmission of the Torah from one generation to the next. As the Torah was given to the Jews before which the Jews' guarantee which Hashem asked for was the children, so is the very Mitzvah/commandments of the storytelling of the Exodus is based on the verse that begins with V'Higadta L'Vincha (L'Bincha) "You shall tell to your child on that day..."

And speaking of the Ten Commandments that formed the basis of the giving of the Torah, it is the TENTH part of the Haggadah called Corech that is based on the concept of the original sandwich, which consisted of the big mac of Paschal meat, Matza and Maror lettuce, that is based on how Hillel interpreted a verse from which he learned out in the context of the Oral Torah that the Passover Seder food is supposed to be eaten together, as opposed to the items being eaten separately.

Perhaps what the Haggadah wants to tell us is that only someone like Hillel who learned Torah the proper way by not only repeating over what he heard from his teachers, but learning to apply the way to learn Torah and what it has to say through one of 13 principals of how we learn what the Halacha, the Jewish law is supposed to be, is someone who can be trusted to transmit his interpretation of the Torah to the next generation. And while most of us do not pose as seasoned scholars, the least we can do is to quote the Sages and their teachings to our children demonstrating the need to learn the Torah the same way.

It's interesting to note that during the slaughter of the Paschal lamb in the Temple, the Hallel psalms (Psalms Chapters 113-118) were recited. In Hebrew, the letters for Hallel are spelled the same way as the name Hillel, without the vowels, which is one of the synonyms for the word praise, which is also something related to the mouth. And indeed, the 14th part of the Seder, is called Hallel, which includes the Hallel psalms (the last four chapters, while the first two chapters are recited at the conclusion of Maggid) among other prayers of praise and thanksgiving to Hashem. And to note, the Hallel psalms form part of the Book of Psalms which were put together by King David, whose name David is the Gematria of 14.

And as the end of the 15th Parsha of the Torah (like there are 15 parts of the Seder), the Parsha in which the Exodus took place, mentions among many other places in the Torah, that it was with a strong hand - the word in Hebrew for hand which is Yad, which is the spelling for the number 14 - that Hashem took us out of Egypt. (NOTE: There are technically 14 parts of the Seder, but with 15 names, as the names of Motzie Matza, the part of the Seder referring to the Matza is in essence one thing, but has two names as we recite two blessings as represented by the names over the Matza. According to this, Hallel would be considered the 13th part of the Haggadah, having the same letters as Hillel, who represented part of the transmission of the Torah that can be interpreted through the 13 methods of how the Torah is learned, part of the Oral Torah).

In another context, the word Seder is what the Yeshiva (Jewish college) curriculum is called. While in colleges, the main structure of learning consists of professors lecturing, and then the students spend time in the library, lab, etc. working on assignments; the majority time spent in a Yeshiva consists of study partners learning Torah together, with a lecture which is sometimes not more than an hour from their Rebbe/Torah teacher from anywhere from once a week to daily. The Seder in a Yeshiva, an ORDERLY PROGRAM, assures that the Yeshiva students will be focused on the set learning that is assigned for them to discuss with their respective learning partners, who are expected to be on time and learning for a few hours with a few brakes during the day.

It's interesting to note that one of the main books of Jewish law is called Shulchan Aruch, which literally means "a set table", representing how a dining table is supposed to look like right before eating. Indeed, one of the parts of the Passover Seder has a very similar name - Shulchan Oreich, which basically means the same thing, which is the key phrase for the part of the Seder when we eat the main course between the Coreich sandwich invented by Hillel and the Afikoman - the final Matza eaten that evening. In any case, it's called a Passover SEDER primarily because it is an order that relates the story of the Exodus which are words of Torah learning using food items to help us experience and remember what is being discussed, in an orderly fashion.

Speaking of Hillel in this post, I must note that the name Hillel is no stranger to Jews on college campus life where the Hillel organization helps Jews identify with their Jewishness. While I am not here to endorse any organization per se as a teacher of Torah, for those Jews who are in a non-Jewish environment, I feel that it is very crucial that such an organization exists which will help Jews feel proud about being Jewish and hopefully will be more of an opportunity for many to celebrate Judaism in a gathering of unity among other Jews than they had in high school. Indeed for some, this may make the difference when it comes to choosing between marrying a Jewish spouse or a non-Jewish spouse, representing the theme of the climax of "Fiddler on the Roof". For more information, you can check out

Yes, let us get back to the REAL Jewish Tradition, the way that Torah scholars such as Hillel showed us, via the Oral Torah. As the name of Hillel, the sage who formed part of the 40 generations of teaching the Oral Torah before written down, is the Gematria of 65; it was Rav Ashi of the 65th generation - as Moses who was the 26th generation descended as such from Adam, and Rav Ashi was the 40th from Moses to have received the Oral Torah/Tradition as dictated by Hashem, who wrote down the Oral Torah in the form of the Babylonian Talmud, which has since formed the crux of Jewish learning for the last 1,500 years.
Then, and only then, will we be in the proper frame of mind of telling over the story of the Exodus and teaching the proper way of keeping the Torah to our children which will guarantee the continued existance of Judaism the way that is meant to be.

Wishing you all a happy and KOSHER Passover!

NOTE: Will post next after the Passover holiday.

11 Nissan 5770

P.S. The timing of this post is 3:17 PM. And indeed, the first word of the reading of the Torah for the first day of Passover is Vayikra (He called), which is the Gematria of 317. In this context, Moses related over to the Jews the very first Torah which included the laws of Passover that Hashem related to him, representing the concept of the Oral Torah.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

#64 - A FORTUNATE Time

So you may ask, how is this a fortunate time? Things are becoming worse than ever in this world. The United States economy is getting worse and worse, earthquakes and hurricanes have made a sharp rise in the last several years, and who knows what will be next with terrorism, including the nuclear threat from Iran. Things have certainly not become better in the Mideast, when even the various Arab factions can't seem to quite agree, if not fight, one another.

Well, it depends how you look at it. For those who include G-d in their lives - and I don't mean just saying that you believe in Him - but make a concerted effort to show this to be the case, with one's full faith and trust in Him without being swayed by materialistic desires or gains to be "ahead of the game" while pushing others down; certainly, G-d will have a special treat for these good people at the end of time. These people know that what is happening in this world these days is a test of what will separate the men from the boys. These people indeed know that it is G-d Who is running the show, even when it seems that good people are being affected. After all, believers know that there is Heaven at the end of one's life of good accomplishments; though G-d does spare many others because they have something to accomplish; and even evil people whom G-d knows will not repent may live
to serve as a punishing rod for others.

We know based on our Jewish history, and on what the rabbis have told us from the Talmud, Midrash, and Zohar, including today's Kabbalists, that it is just a matter of time now before the show in the exile is over. But what is more practical than knowing what is going or supposed to happen is that now is the time to make a serious effort to better our ways before the Messiah comes; because once the Messiah comes, the games are over and repentance that will help us gain our entry in the door will be a thing of the past.

In Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers, we are told "One moment of repentance and good deeds in this world is worth more than all the life in the World to Come"; meaning, our opportunity is in this world only to make the best of our time for our spiritual benefit which is eternal, and once one passes away, there is nothing more he or she who passed away can do to make up for lost time or better one's ways, and enjoying the tube in the comfort of one's high rise condominium in South Florida will not help a senior citizen reach that eternal goal, even though he or she is not "hurting anyone", except maybe himself or herself if not focused on what is supposed to be the ultimate focus in one's life.

The bottom line here is that the window of opportunity to gain for the long term, which in our case, the chance in this world to acquire eternal spiritual points for how much real pleasure - which far exceeds the greatest pleasure of this material world - we will experience forever, is the fortunate time for us to be given a chance to do it right, unlike an animal who perishes forever once its life is over, because we humans have souls, which is who we really are, as our bodies are just vessels for our souls.

Similarly, this period of time right before the Messiah's coming is a most fortunate time, because NOW is the time to do it right, especially now that we know that we have only so much time left, and so it's not like we continue living our lives without putting thought into what will happen next. Despite the various tragedies, upheavals and economic setbacks which is affecting virtually everyone in one way or another without getting into details in this post, we must remember that it is the spiritual opportunity that we have now to be the very ones who will finalize the preparations for the big moment when the Messiah comes, something that previous generations did not have the opportunity as they already passed away, and it is we - this generation - who has that chance to do this.

With this understanding, I would like to note that this Rosh Chodesh Nissan which just passed, was the 511th day from when I began You see, the word Ashrei - which means fortunate - is the Gematria of 511, and is the beginning word of the Likutei Moharan, the magnum opus of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, whose birthay was Rosh Chodesh Nissan some 238 years ago. Moreover, the same letters as the word Ashrei form to make the word Reisha, which is Aramaic for the word FIRST. And indeed, Rosh Chodesh Nissan is the FIRST day of the count of months from Nissan.

Anyways, the beginning word of this holy book begins a Pasuk/verse that is quoted from the beginning of Chapter 119 of Psalms, the longest chapter in the Tanach/Bible. This chapter is most unique because there are eight verses beginning with each of the 22 letters of the Alef Beit - 8 verses beginning with Alef, 8 verses beginning with Beit, etc. In fact, this chapter is given a special name in Aramaic called Temania Apin - "Eight Faces", just as our Rabbis tell us that there are 70 faces to the Torah, meaning 70 different ways of explaining it.

So, who is fortunate? "Fortunate are the ones whose way is wholesome, who walk with the Torah of Hashem". Now, there are other translations given for the word Ashrei - happy, praiseworthy. These are also good translations of this word, but I have in mind the root word for Ashrei - Osher/fortune, as spelled in Hebrew - Alef, Shin, Reish, which is similar to the word Osher that begins with an Ayin instead of an Alef which means wealth. It makes sense, wealth and fortune. While following in Hashem's ways isn't just a matter of fortune, as it is something we are supposed to be doing as opposed to something that we win as a lottery, we are most fortunate to be given an opportunity - especially as the Jewish people - to have a chance to serve G-d. As some Chasidic masters exclaimed, the only reward they wanted for doing a Mitzva was doing another Mitzva, for they truly felt that doing what Hashem wanted was their only desire. While we may not be on a spiritual level anywhere near these great sainted people, at the very least, we should have an awareness of what truly counts.

The next word in the verse is Temimei - based on the word Tamim, which can be translated as blameless or perfect. I chose the word wholesome, that is, the ways of the ones who are truly serving Hashem are wholesome. It is more of a positive spin than using the word blameless; and for the word perfect, only Hashem can be described as perfect.

And now for the last part of the verse - the Torah OF HASHEM. It is not as conceived by many in the Torah world who perform actions in "the name of Torah", when they make compromises with a government over Israel, who as a whole (except for certain individuals) not only do not make any sincere effort to follow in the ways of Torah, but work against it, and pays money to those who pretend are following in the ways of Torah to keep their mouths shut, so that thousands of other Jews who are truly following in the ways of Torah can be kicked out of their homes, most of whom still do not have permanent housing after almost five years. Yes, while some 9,000 Jews were suffering with poverty, instability, marital problems, divorces, and numerous other dilemmas as a result of being thrown out of their Gush Katif homes, there were those who are looked up in the Torah world while looking down on these Gush Katif "Zionists", who pocketed hundreds of millions of Shekalim (Israeli currency) for their Yeshivot and other Torah institutions, stamping their silence as "kosher".

Some of these rabbis who took the hush money may be teaching physical words of Torah, but they are not teaching the "Torah of Hashem" because their way is not wholesome. Money, greed, power, and politics got in their way, and they forgot along the way what the rabbis state in the Talmud that a Mitzva/commandment that is performed via the means of an Aveira/sin is an Aveira. Period! It's not enough that many of them have the attitude that one should not be in the Israeli army but only learn Torah; but that they took money for themselves to ignore other Jews - many if not most who served in the Israeli army at one time or another to defend the entire nation which includes these Torah institutions.

Speaking of the number eight, there is a connection between the number eight and Rosh Chodesh Nissan. In fact, Parshat Shemini, which we will be reading on the Shabbat after Passover is named as such because it was on the EIGHTH day from the Kehuna/Priesthood training for Aaron and his sons, that the Mishkan/Tabernacle was dedicated. This day was Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the official start of these Cohanim serving in the Sanctuary of Hashem. As the Maharal of Prague states, the number eight represents what is beyond nature - the aspect of what we call miracles, even though nature is a constant miracle from Hashem which exists every moment only because of Hashem's will. And indeed, the very name of this month Nissan is based on the word Nes/miracle or Nissim/miracles. Hence, it was in the very beginning of this month that the Cohanim, led by the Cohen Gadol/High Priest with his eight priestly garments, began their service in the holiest place in the world (eventually, it would be the Temple in Jerusalem), where miracles were bound to happen.

Along these lines, as this is my 64th post, it's noteworthy to mention that the square root of 64 is eight. Actually, there is a very famous game that represents this concept - chess (and checkers, but chess is a far greater intellectual game). In case anyone wondered where the word chess came from, no doubt that it is based on the name of the letter Cheit, which is the Gematria of eight, as a chess board consists of 8*8 squares.

Perhaps what is most fascinating about this game is that virtually no two games are alike, which is similar to the Torah - Hashem's wisdom - which is never ending. The goal of this game is to capture the king in which the king is not able to escape without being taken off the board, signaling the end of the game. Perhaps what we can learn from this game is that we need to behave in such a fashion that we will "capture" the heart, so to speak, of the King of Kings, which is fulfilling our mission in life for which we were sent to this world for. That is, there are two hearts - the Jewish people's and Hashem's.

This is most eloquently described in Shir HaShirim/Song of Songs - the ultimate lovesong between us & Hashem, consisting of eight chapters. And as Lev/heart is the Gematria of 32, two hearts means that 32 times two is 64, the square root of eight! Hence, it is through miracles which is represented by the number eight that Hashem shows His love and affection for us. Similarly, the holiday that represents this in contrast to the other nations is called Shemini Atzeret - the vacation of the EIGHTH (day) from Succot - as we offer 70 sacrifices in the Temple corresponding to the 70 nations on the (first) seven days of Succot, and then on Shemini Atzeret as a separate holiday, though immediately following Succot, Hashem wants a special day just with us so to speak. In turn, we reciprocate this by our joyous celebration and conclusion of the Torah.

As we know, Shir HaShirim was composed by King Solomon. And as we are talking about chess, perhaps it would be nice to mention a fable mentioning King Solomon playing chess, though I don't know that it actually happened. Well, the story goes that King Solomon used to play chess, and being that he was the wisest person in the world, no one could him beat him in a game. One time, he was playing with his main general Benayahu Ben Yehoyada. At one point in the game, King Solomon excused himself for a bit of time, during which time Benayahu cheated by making a move. When King Solomon returned, they continued playing as though nothing happened during the king's break. As it turned out, Benayahu won the game; and at a later point, he confessed that he cheated in the game.

Get the point? Some people think that by doing a little cheating in life, often times with money but with other ways as well, they in effect think that they are smarter than Hashem. After all, they did what is called a Mitzva, supporting Torah institutions, supporting their family that they obligated themselves in the Ketuba/marriage contract to support, they told a lie that ruined someone else's job but allowed their own to stay on. Whatever the justification, one thing is for sure.
They do not have faith and trust in Hashem that He can take care of them just the same without their cheating and lying. Perhaps it may take a little longer for Hashem to take care of them just the same, or if it's not meant for them to have that "extra" gain, then they will loose it some other way - sometimes in very painful ways, such as with doctors, major damage to the home, etc. And if they think that they really gained without any noticable downfall, they should realize that perhaps they ultimately cheated themselves from some brownie points of their eternal reward, if they even have any left after not quite following in Hashem's ways.

Now speaking of wealth coming from Hashem as earned the right way, at the end of the 3rd Aliyah of Parshat Vayetze, Leah names Zilpa's son Asher with this name "In my good fortune, for women have considered me fortunate." As connected with the number eight, Asher was the eighth son mentioned of Jacob's 12 sons. And is physical fortune came from oil; hence, in Jacob's blessing of Asher, Jacob states MeAsher Shemaina Lachmo - "From Asher, his bread will have richness". The word for richness here is Shemaina, related to the word Shemen/oil. But also, this word Shemaina has the same letters as the word for eight - Shemona.

In Moses' blessing for Asher, the last one of the Tribes that Moses blessed, there is a question as to where the blessing for Asher ends. The verse in question begins with "Iron and copper is your seal..." The Hebrew word for iron is Barzel. It's brought in Kabbala that this word make up the first letters of the names of the four wives of Jacob - Bilha, Rachel, Zilpa, Leah, as the Jewish nation descending from these four mothers had to go through the IRON crucible as the slavery in Egypt in order to be purified. As I mentioned that Rosh Chodesh Nissan is the birthday of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, it is the beginning of the 239th year from his birth, and Barzel/iron is the Gematria of 239.

As a side note, it's interesting to note that in Rabbi Nachman's book Likutei Moharan, he mentions his birthday of Rosh Chodesh Nissan as the date of the dedication of the Tabernacle at the end of the 70th Torah of the first part of his book, prefaced with the first verse of Parshat Shemini referring to this date as the "eight day". Having mentioned now about the number 70 and mentioning earlier about the 70 nations and the 70 faces of the Torah, I should mention that the number of this Hebrew year ends with the number 70. We sure hope that the joyous redemption with its miracles (and miracles are especially related to the number eight) for the Jewish people will take place in this year of 5770.

One of Rabbi Nachman's key points in his Chasidic teachings is one's strong faith and trust in Hashem. Indeed, whatever questions that one has about spirituality can be found in his teachings. There are several books of Breslov Chasidut that have topics arranged according to the letters of the Alef Beit, including the very first book that he authored called Sefer HaMiddot - Book of Characteristic Traits. In the last many years, many Jews have been brought back to the fold of Judaism thanks to this movement. Many of these followers of Breslov Chasidut, known as Breslover Chasidism, can be found especially in Israel with vans displaying Rabbi Nachman's name as Na Nach Nachman Nachman Meuman, based on a note written by Rabbi Nachman that a Breslov Rabbi named Rabbi Israel Odesser discovered and given an approbation by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.

By following the teachings of the righteous, following in FULL faith and trust in Hashem, without cheating others pocketing materialistic gain that hurts others, we can hope to be saved both from the IRON crucible and the IRAN(ian) crucible, which is part of the birthpangs of the Messiah and the end of the war of Gog U'Magog (which is the Gematria of 70). While the Israeli government fears what the world would say if it would attack Iran MORE than the attack from Iran itself, Jews who fear Hashem versus the world can hope for Hashem's salvation and miracles which will be performed specifically for them, as they know that what is going on in the world now is nothing short of a test and the final pains before the birth of the revelation of Mashiach which will be the ultimate fortunate time - for those who consider this time now to be a fortunate time to be utilized in spreading the glory of the King of kings.

NOTE: G-d willing, I will be writing a post as related to Passover next week which will be followed by another following the Passover holiday.

2 & 3 Nissan 5770

P.S. Noting the time of this post 8:06 AM, the number 806 is the Gematria of the word Mishnayot, and the first word of the Mishnayot is Mei'ei'matai which is the same Gematria as Asher - 501, who is discussed in this post.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

#63 - World Peace

Though Purim was almost two weeks ago, some are still reminded of this very joyous holiday with some of the Mishloach Manot goodies - gifts of food given to one's friends in celebration of Purim - that are still left over. Between what my wife and I received, we have a challenging two weeks before final cleanup for Passover to eat the remains of the Chometz (leavened food forbidden on Passover) that make up much of these goodies.


But don't worry, it's not too late to talk about Purim, even after it's over. Purim has everything to do with Passover from even before Day One. You see, in the Book of Esther that we read on this holiday, when Haman had King Ahasuerus seal his decree to have the Jews wiped out, Queen Esther declared a three day fast that included the beginning of Passover; hence being the only Sederless Passover in history since Passover began in Egypt.

In terms of Halacha/Jewish Law, the very first thing we learn in the laws of Passover in the Shulchan Aruch/Code of Jewish Law (Orach Chaim, Siman 429) is that we begin learning the laws of Passover - 30 days before Passover. And my friends, on what date does the 30 days before Passover begin? On the 14th of Adar - the date of Purim!

And yet another connection. While I was at someone's house on Purim night, waiting a while until everyone began eating, I was looking at a couple of Seforim/holy books that both mentioned the same thing about Purim which I never saw before in all my years of learning since I was a young boy. In Hebrew, the word Purim is spelled with the letters Pei, Vav, Reish, Yud, Mem. Now, each of these letters begins the name of another holiday. Pei - Pesach/Passover, Vav - V'Sukkot (and Sukkot/Feast of Booths, which falls out on the opposite side of the year when Passover begins), Reish - Rosh Hashana, Yud - Yom Kippur, Mem - Matan Torah/Giving of the Torah, one of the names for the holiday of Shavuot. There is a significant connection between Purim and these holidays, which I will not get into detail now, but one obvious thing is that Yom Kippur as the full name of Yom Kippurim is Yom Ki-Purim, which literally means, a day that is like Purim! Though the observance of Yom Kippur predated Purim by nearly a thousand years, the Torah hints to Yom Kippur(im) as being compared to a holiday that had yet to exist! More on this later, but meanwhile, notice that the letters of the word Purim does not include Hanukka as this was a holiday of which the events that led to it occurred after the events the led to Purim.

Speaking about the word Purim, as a side note, it's most interesting to note that for the National Spelling Bee in the United States in 1983, the very word that ended the contest was PURIM!

Anyways, as the letter Pei is the beginning letter of the word for the holiday of Purim, so is it the beginning letter of the word for the holiday of Passover. And indeed, the Talmud on Tractate Megilla brings a debate about a situation when there are two months of Adar in a Jewish leap year, as to which Adar is the month that Purim is celebrated on. The view that holds that it is the 2nd Adar which is the view that we follow in Halacha, gives the reason for his opinion which is that we observe Purim which involves the aspect of redemption next to the month of Nissan when we observe Passover which also involves the aspect of redemption.

I find it to be by Hashgacha Peratit/Divine Providence that it was only in my 40th year that I discovered for the first time - not in one book, but in TWO books, in one sitting on the night of Purim - about the letters of the word Purim beginning the words of the names of the other holidays.

Indeed, the letter Pei beginning the word Purim is the Gematria of 80, which is the same Gematria as the word for the letter Mem - Mem Mem-Sofit (final Mem), of which the letter Mem is the Gematria of 40, hence a double 40.

As for Yom Kippur(im) which is compared to Purim as its very name denotes, the first Yom Kippur that the Jews observed as a nation was the 40th and final day of a period of Teshuva/repentance that began on Rosh Chodesh Elul - the 3rd and final period of 40 days that Moses was on Mt. Sinai, ending with G-d's forgiveness for the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf and Moses coming down with the 2nd set of the Two Tablets consisting of the 10 Commandments (which happened on the 10th of Tishrei).

And for the final letter of the word Purim which is the Mem=40 that begins the name for Shavuot - Matan Torah, unlike the other letters beginning the words that are most commonly used for their particular holiday, this one begins a surname, as you will, for the holiday of Shavuot, focusing on the aspect of the Giving of the Torah. Indeed, the rabbis point out that unlike when the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai - it was forced upon them, at the time that Purim began - the Jews willing accepted the Torah. On a personal note, I got married in my 490th month, as the word Matan (giving) is the Gematria of 490, and the Torah is compared to a woman (as I mentioned in Blog #53), and Matan Torah - Giving of the Torah - is considered the spiritual marriage between Hashem and the Jewish people.

Perhaps this explains why Yom Kippur(im) is compared to the holiday of Purim which had yet to exist. As Yom Kippur was a day of reconciliation between G-d and the Jewish people which basically meant that the Jews were given a second chance, symbolized by Moses' coming down with the second Tablets after messing up by worshipping the Golden Calf upon which Moses broke the first Tablets containing the Ten Commandments which was pronounced by G-d on Shavuot; so too, Purim was the second chance of the Jewish people accepting the Torah - but this time doing so willingly, unlike the first time when the Jews were forced to accept the Torah which was to be officially given on Shavuot.


As I celebrated Purim in my 40th year, it was the 310th day from my birthday of Rosh Chodesh Iyar (1 Iyar). Reminiscent of this, the very last Mishna of the Mishnayot - of the 63rd tractate called Uktzin (and this is my 63rd post), as the word Mishna is a contraction of the words Mem (the letter Mem) Shana, which means "40 years", or in reverse "Year 40"- mentions the concept of 310 worlds granted in the future to all the righteous ones. It is also significant that the last chapter of Mishnayot of which this Mishna appears begins with the words YESH Tzerichin Hechsher - "THERE ARE those items that can be prepared for impurity" which occurs through the item being wet by water. Meanwhile, let's note the full text of this very last Mishna (Uktzin 3:12):

"Rabbi Joshua Ben Levi said: In the future, The Holy One Blessed Be He will cause each and every Tzadik/righteous person to inherit 310 worlds, as it says: "So that those who love me may inherit substance (YESH=310), and I will fill their storehouses" (Proverbs 8:21). Rabbi Shimon Ben Chalafta said: The Holy One Blessed Be He didn't find a vessel holding blessing except for peace, as it says: "Hashem will give strength to His people, Hashem will bless His people with peace" (Psalms 29:11).

While we have no concept of what it means by "worlds", there is a question that begs to be asked. We see in the Zohar (Volume 3, Page 128b) that the righteous will in the future inherit 400 worlds, as hinted in the verse "400 shekels of silver" (Genesis 23:16). So, who is right, the Mishna or the Zohar?

Rabbi Shimon Maryles, The Yoruslaver Rebbe (1761-1851), answers that there is a practical difference between the 310 worlds, and the 90 worlds that make up the difference. The Tzadik, whose word begins the word for the letter Tzadi which in turn is the Gematria of 90, earns 90 worlds for his good deeds (NOTE: This Rebbe lived 90 years, far longer than most Tzadikim of his time in an era of disease, poverty, wars, and progroms against Jews!). Following this, Hashem will grant an additional 310 worlds to the Tzadikim as a gift. Hence, they indeed inherit a total of 400 worlds. (NOTE: As the beginning of this last chapter of Mishnayot mentions impurity as it relates to water, the Hebrew word for water - Mayim - is the Gematria of 90!)

The number 400 is music to my ears. The Gematria of my wife's name Yael Miriam is 400, and it was in my 40th year - bearing in mind that the word Mishna is a contraction of the words "40 years" or in reverse "Year 40", that I married her. (NOTE: The name of the 3rd of the six orders of the Mishna is called Nashim/Women which is also the Gematria of 400!) Her first name Yael has the same first & last letters - Yud & Lamed - as the LAST word of the Torah/Chumash Yisrael/Israel (Deutronomy 34:12) of the Parsha that is named V'Zot HaBeracha/This is the BLESSING. Her name Yael also spells the LAST three letters of the Tanach/Bible (Yud, Ayin, Lamed) - V'Ya'al "and let him go up (to the land of Israel)" (II Chronicles 36:23). (NOTE: My wife is Israeli). And her second name Miriam has the same first & last letters - Mem & Mem Sofit - as the FIRST letter of the FIRST word of the Mishnayot - Mei'ei'matai (From when) & the LAST letter of the LAST word of the Mishnayot - Va'Shalom (with PEACE).

What keeps a marriage lasting a lifetime is the concept of Shalom Bayit/marital harmony, which literally means "peace of the home/house". The Talmud on Tractate Shabbat mentions Rabbi Yose calling his wife "my home", because it is the wife/mother who is the mainstay of the home raising the children physically and spiritually while her husband is at work. Indeed, the very FIRST letter of the Torah/Chumash is Beit - and as an enlarged Beit, the same wording as the word Bayit/home, rather than the first letter Alef, because as the Midrash & Zohar state, the letter Beit begins the letter Beracha/BLESSING, which is part of the very LAST message of the Mishnayot (and the name of the FIRST tractate of the Mishna is Berachot/BLESSINGS). Another way that this phrase - Shalom Bayit - can be read, is Shalom Beit (the letter Beit), which are the very letters of the concluding word of the Mishnayot!

It should also be noted that in both Rabbi Joshua Ben Levi's statement & Rabbi Shimon Ben Chalafta's statement, Hashem is referred to as "The HOLY One BLESSED Be He". In Hebrew, Kadosh/holy is a connotation of the word Kiddushin, used for the word marriage, and is the final tractate of the volume of Mishnayot that is called Nashim/women, which in turn is the Gematria of 400, the same as my wife's name Yael Miriam. And as part of the marriage ceremony that allows the husband and wife to live together, there are seven BLESSINGS that are recited under the Chupa/wedding canopy, called Sheva Berachot/"The Seven Blessings".

And as a connection between the Chumash and the last word of the Mishnayot - V'Shalom "with peace", each of the 54 Parshiyot of the Chumash is divided into SEVEN Aliyot. Hence, there are a total of 378 divided Aliyot. Correspondingly, this last word of the Mishnayot - V'Shalom (B'Shalom), is the Gematria of 378! And as I had mentioned in a previous blog, the last word of the account of the SEVEN days in which Hashem created the world and rested on Shabbat is La'asot "to make", having the Gematria as the word Mishnayot - 806!

Similarly, as in connection with Purim, the last verse of Megillat Esther speaks of Mordechai's praise, where it concludes with V'Doveir Shalom L'Chol Zar'o - "He spoke for the welfare - literally means peace - of all his seed (the Jewish people)". And in the Jewish calendar, Purim is the last holiday in the year when counting the months from Nissan, the month in which we observe the holiday of Passover, celebrating the birth of our nation.


As I had mentioned the final Mishna of the Mishnayot which consists of 63 Tractates in my 63rd Post, as well as the Land of Israel in a parenthetical note, there is in fact a significant fact about the number 63 in relationship to the Land of Israel.

It has to do Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, who was among those rabbis who encouraged Jews to make Aliyah, and Jerusalem Day. It was on 28 Iyar 5664 (1904) when Rabbi Kook first arrived on the shores of what was then known as Palestine to be the Chief Rabbi of Jaffa, who later on became the Chief Rabbi of Israel for the final 16 years of his life. And it was on 28 Iyar 5727 (1967) that the holiest area in the world was liberated, including the Temple Mount & the Western Wall, which became known as Yom Yerushalayim/Jerusalem Day. Yes, it was exactly 63 years from when Rabbi Kook who was responsible for much of the religious life that goes on today in Israel (though sadly not acknowledged to say the least by many in the "Ultra-Orthodox" camp who look down on Rabbi Kook as a "Zionist") took his first steps in the Holy Land to be a rabbi of a city of Jews in Israel until the Jews had full access to the holiest area in the world - both events occuring on the special date of 28 Iyar.

And this would not be complete without mentioning that the very name of Jerusalem includes the connotaion and letters of the word Shalom/Peace. Indeed, the conclusion of the final blessing that we recite before the Shemoneh Esrei on Shabbat night concludes with "The One Who spreads the booth of PEACE over us, over all of Israel (the nation) and JERUSALEM".

For those who reading this and feel offended by me writing good things about Rabbi Kook - a true main of PEACE who not only didn't start fights or take revenge against even enemies of his who hated him for his views, but he treated them as friends - because they don't like him for having associated with the secular "Zionists", I want to let them know something right here and now. In the biography of Rabbi Kook called Malachim K'Venei Adam "Angels Among Men" written by Simcha Raz (there is also a translation of this in English), (NOTE: My wife introduced this book to me) there is a story about the Chofetz Chaim (Rabbi Israel Meir HaCohen Kagan) who attended the first Agudat Yisroel convention. Upon hearing some rabbis bad mouth Rabbi Kook, the Chofetz Chaim protested their Lashon Hora/evil talk of the "Chief Rabbi of Israel", and stormed out of the room, and refused to attend the rest of the convention meetings for which he had made a special trip in his advanced age of over 80 years old. When these rabbis later came to meet with the Chofetz Chaim, he refused to even greet them.

And then there is mentioned in this book - a story about Rabbi Kook who granted a letter to help a known opponent of his. When his family, including his own father who was a rabbi in his own right, protested his action, Rabbi Kook declared, "In order to show that I am not putting my honor in front of Hashem's (which he was falsely accused of in terms of his Zionist activism), I want to show that I am not concerned with my own honor". The late Rabbi Isaac Hutner, head of a Yeshiva called Yeshivas Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn, N.Y., who heard this story, commented at a later time that he gained much fear of G-d as a result of this story.

Shortly before being introduced to this book, I came across a website from someone who calls himself a rabbi (I never heard of him before) as a result of a past blog that I wrote abour rabbis. I do not want to write here any key words that will lead to anyone finding this guy's website, because in it, he writes Lashon Hora, evil talk of various rabbis who were associated with Zionism, including Rabbi Kook. Following writing to him protesting what he wrote in his website, he responded to me claiming that certain rabbis considered Rabbi Kook to be evil. You see, anyone can claim that such and such a rabbi said that someone else is evil, but even if it were to be true and saying this would not be considered Lashon Hora, this guy has yet to mention even ONE source to back up his vicious claims, as he does with other writings about his very religious sounding opinions claiming that he doesn't have the time to bring sources.

Well, if you know whom you are that I am talking about and you are reading this, I have one thing to say to you. If you do not have the time to show sources to back your hocus pocus claims, then stop writing your spiritual filth spewing venom on anyone whom you call a "Zionist"! And stop showing your Sinat Chinam/baseless hatred for types of Jews whom you consider as "not as religious" as those who have been in college level Yeshiva for many years, by mentioning stories, for example, of such Jews who have been looked down upon by a certain rabbi for not wearing the type of head covering that those in the Yeshiva world wear, and didn't receive his blessing!

While I myself come from a more religious type of background that didn't delve into the Zionism that Jews who are looked down upon by some in the Yeshiva world are into, one thing that I have learned from the Torah about Ahavat Yisrael/love for a Jew and Ahavat Chinam/loving a Jew just because he is a Jew, is just that. One who wants to fool himself thinking that because he is leading a more "religious" life by wearing a black Kipa instead of a Kipa Seruga/knitted Kipa, and a black hat and jacket looking like a rabbi, while looking down at Jews for not looking religious as he does or believe in what is known as religious Zionism, has completely missed the boat. In fact, he is one who is causing the delay of Moshiach coming if anything, because it was due to hating other Jews for racial and biased reasons that caused the destruction of the Second Temple, and it is this very Aveira/sin that is keeping back the works. Oh sure, there is a deadline for Moshiach to come, regardless of what is happening at that time, but the ones who held Moshiach back from coming sooner because of these types of reasons are ultimately the ones who are just the opposite of what is called religious or frum.

While I cannot say that I agree with everything that what is known as the religious Zionist camp has to say, I can assure you that many of these good Jews, most of whom live in Israel, are very sincere Jews, many of whom have shown self sacrifice either moving to Israel or fighting for their right to live on every inch of the Holy Land that is possible. Yes, the qualities of Ahavat Yisrael & Mesirut Nefesh, sacrificing of oneself, are the very ingredients of what will bring our along awaited redemption . Yes, both Rabbis Meir & Binyamin Kahane, may G-d avenge their blood, living each day knowing that that day could have been their last, were Jews who truly understood what Hashem REALLY wants, and unlike many in the Yeshiva or Ultra-Orthodox camp who have taken hush money from the Israeli government giving land to our Arab enemies, the Kahanes position was NO COMPROMISE.

When both of these rabbis were brutually murdered by Arab beasts, in each case, some 100,000 Jews of all sectors of religious and policital streams attended their funerals, which can be said of very few other rabbis of today. Why? Because deep down in their hearts, Jews know who are the REAL representatives of Torah, the Jewish people, and the Land of Israel. Some Jews, while they may not want to think or talk about it, know that Kahane and the likes of Kahane are the true ones who love Jews, and feel the pain of the Jewish people when suffering at the hands of our enemies to whom a Jew is a Jew - regardless of religiousity or political stream.

Yes, Binyamin Kahane who attended the Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav which was founded by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, knew what the true meaning is of Jew who lives as a Jew, which isn't necessarily represented by color of skin or clothing. Yes, Yeshivat Merkat HaRav was the very Yeshiva in which two years ago, eight Yeshiva students were brutually murdered by an Arab in the Yeshiva, which ironically should have been the last Yeshiva that damned Arab should have started with, because students in that Yeshiva also get training in the army to fight Arabs, unlike most Yeshivot who would never be prepared for such an onslaught. Yes, even an Arab can understand where the crux of a Jew is at. Yes, the Arabs knew that the assassination of Kahane was killing "the BIG Jew".

And the liberation of the holiest area in the world, which took place on the 43rd day of the Omer almost 43 years ago, was the BIG miracle that took place in modern times when we truly "had it all", until Moshe Dayan who failed to see the BIG picture, started the process of giving back land by handing control of the Temple Mount to the Wakf.

Yes, the word Gadol/BIG is the Gematria of 43, and is also the Gematria of the word Gam/also, beginning the word Gamliel/G-d provides. And it is G-d who provides the BIG miracles, giving us things beyond our wildest expectations - "ALSO" - following an attack of 31 million Arabs who, for all that the world believed, was going to wipe out Israel; but unfortunately, most fail to see the big picture - including those who pretend to be so religious mocking those who don't look quite the same as they do, not looking at Jews as one BIG family. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes tragic events for us to remember this; but hopefully, when we have reasons to celebrate as one BIG family, and we can start having peace among ourselves, then the ultimate peace will come, and after the final war of Gog U'Magog, there will indeed be at the END of time, as hinted in the LAST Mishna that mentions the final two words of this 63rd blog - the title of this post -in the respective last two comments of the rabbis of the Mishnayot - WORLD PEACE.

26 Adar 5770