Wednesday, April 28, 2010

#68 - SECOND Chance at LIFE

In the second year of the Jews having left Egypt, in the month of Nissan, Moses was instructed by Hashem to tell the Jews to commemorate the first anniversary of the Exodus with the Pascal lamb as they had done right before the Exodus took place.

Following Moses' relating Hashem's instructions, there was a group of people who told Moses that they were not able to bring the Pascal lamb on time with the slaughter of it on the 14th of Nissan since they were impure due to contact with the dead; and hence, as it is forbidden for an impure person to bring sacrifices in the Temple or eat of their meat, they would not qualify in time to bring the Pascal sacrifice. Of course they knew that they would have no sin for not being able to participate along with the rest of the Jewish nation. However, they felt that they would be left out of performing this Mitzvah that most of the other Jews would be able to perform.

As Moses had no answer for them, he turned to Hashem, Who replied that indeed, these Jews who were presently contaminated with the dead would have a chance to offer the Pascal sacrifice - one month later with the slaughter of it on the 14th of Iyar. This would be the option in future years for those who were impure with whatever type of impurity from which they would not be able to get rid of in time or were too far from the Temple in the morning of the 14th of Nissan to arrive in time to bring the sacrifice.

The above is what makes up the section of the Torah in Numbers 9:1-14. But perhaps more than what is amazing that a holiday can be officially celebrated a month after the holiday has passed, is the fact that is seems that the only reason why there is such a concept as bringing up this make-up sacrifice that we call Pesach Sheni -
"Second Passover Sacrifice" is because of a small amount of Jews who felt that as a result of their impurity disqualifying them from being able to bring the Pascal sacrifice that they would be left out, that it was specifically because of them that Hashem added a whole section in the Torah, which encompasses four Mitzvot/Commandments of the 613 Mitzvot pertaining to this Pesach Sheni sacrifice.

Today is 14 Iyar, the anniversary of the date that the make-up Pascal sacrifice was slaughtered, and then eaten at night; the same way that the Pascal sacrifice in Nissan is brought - slaughter of the lamb on the day of the 14th, and eaten on the night of the 15th. While we have yet to bring the first sacrifice since the day that the Temple was destroyed nearly two thousand years ago; the Torah as an instruction guide, hence called Torah from the word Hora'ah/Instruction, has what to teach us from this whole concept of the Pesach Sheni.

As evident from here, you do not necessarily need to be a big Torah scholar or saint to have a positive, spiritual effect on others. Sometimes, it is precisely those who have some type of physical or spiritual disability who can make a difference precisely because of their disability. This is part of Hashem's overall plan of preparing something for everyone's benefit, and all of us have a chance in our own set of background and circumstances to make our unique, individual contribution.

Especially in these days when so many Jews have been brought back to the Jewish faith, it is often many of these Jews who are labeled as "Ba'alei Teshuva" - which basically means to some who have always been observant Jews that these are Jews who weren't always religious are now religious - who have made significant contributions to Judaism due to their professional careers and experience, and having been well colleged educated. While they may have had some exposure to some ideas that oppose Torah, they also have picked up concepts and ideas that relate to their profession that have helped Jews immensely, such as in psychology, health, marital issues, etc.

Anyways, why is it specifically Passover that there is this concept of "making it up"
as evident by the fact that the name of the sacrifice is called Pesach, just as the name of the holiday? Why don't any of the other Jewish holidays include this concept?

Passover marks the physical birth of the Jewish nation. What this means is that it was the first time since Jacob and his children and grandchildren came together to Egypt that the Jews were together as a nation which was a few million people. Now that the Jews were all together having left the womb of Egypt, they would be able to grow spiritually without the hindrance of physical and spritual slavery. It was the Pascal sacrifice that signified the birth of the Jewish nation.

One of the many Mitzvot that relate to the Exodus is Pidyon HaBen/the redemption of the firstborn by handing over five silver coins to a Cohen. This was to commemorate how Hashem saved the firstborn Jews from death when He smote dead the Egyptian firstborn. In any case, the Mitzva is performed only from the 31st day of the baby's life. Why? According to Jewish law, it is uncertain that the newborn baby will life, for after all, there are times, G-d forbid, that they may have complications that indicate that the baby may die. However, it is assumed that if the baby has lived for one month, that this baby has the status of a Ben Kayama/a being that is able to live.

Hence, why the make-up Passover sacrifice was performed only a month after the date of the anniversary of the Exodus, as the 14th & 15th of Iyar have no special significance otherwise, is that it represents the fact that the Jewish people have now shown that they could indeed exist as a nation after the challenges of Egyptian life - even before the Torah was given (though the first time that the Pesach Sheni sacrifice was brought was a year later). In fact, it was after a month that Hashem started raining down the manna that the Jews would subsequently eat until after the
1st day of Passover following their entry in Israel forty years later. As Rashi notes, the Matza that the Jews took with them from Egypt lasted until after the evening of the 15th of Iyar. From henceforth, Hashem arranged for them to continue their spiritual sustenance via the manna until they were ready to start eating from the produce of the Holy Land.

I should note that the very end of the Talmudic Tractate of Pesachim which is all about the holiday of Passover deals with the Berachot/blessings recited at the Pidyon HaBen ceremony. Perhaps the final message of this Talmudic tractate is that no matter how far we stray from Judaism, there is hope for us just like the concept of the Pesach Sheni, even though it is one month after the date of the real Passover, the same way that the Pidyon HaBen is performed one month after the baby is born. And as the baby is now termed a Ben Kayama - a being that is able to live, so too, we can always repent so long as Hashem grants us the breath of life, and we are able to use our mind to think.

Speaking of life, this is my 68th post, and Chayim/life is the Gematria of 68. For many, after a close call in their life - physically or spiritually (see the beginning of my last post) - they change over as a new leaf. Some may have messed up in life like marrying when not quite prepared in life to face the challenges in married life or didn't spend adequate time beforehand to see if one's mate would be good for oneself. Others may have been given a spiritual ride in the negative sense such as being enticed to be baptized or spending time at an ashram in India. While people in these circumstances may feel that now it is too late for them to have a second chance in life to get back on track, with some effort with the help of others,
and certainly help from Hashem, one can hope to have that second chance in life. Perhaps they will be at an older age than many others when it comes to marrying for good the second time around, or joining the fold of Judaism; but as we all know, better late than never. But on a more positive spin, it is precisely sometimes these type of people who messed up earlier in life who can have a positive effect on others who are going through troubled times in their life.

As the verse states U'Bacharta B'Chayim "You shall choose life" (Deutronomy 30:19). The Torah leading up to this tell us that we have the choice of life and death, the blessing and the curse. Why it may seem self evident to some that of course we should choose life, including spiritual life; there are unfortunately many others who have their own concept of what spiritual life is about. That is precisely why the Torah has to tell us to choose life - a life that will ensure the existance of our descendants as this verse concludes.

You see, a life without Judaism, G-d forbid, ends with that person who chose to live life the way that he or she imagines as a "Jewish lifestyle" such as "kosher style" food which give no long term meaning to living as a Jew. This does not prevent Jews from marrying out of the faith should they wish. After all, the nice Shiktza girl doesn't hate Jews (or so it seems) and will even sit down to a Passover Seder. But...the next generation has been shut out of Judaism or is not Jewish to begin with to be able to continue the chain that was unbroken for thousands of years. Without following the Torah manual of how the Torah is meant to be kept, there is no guarantee that Judaism will be kept alive in the next generation. Sure, there are individuals from non-observant homes who become observant, and individuals from observant homes who choose the carefree non-observant lifestyle; but as a rule, if we follow the rules, this will continue on with the coming generations to come.

To note, it was specifically the Jews who were impure from contact with the dead who approached Moses about their disappointment of being left out of bringing the Passover sacrifice. The siginficance of this kind of impurity, though having other types of impurity were also able to prevent one from bringing the Passover sacrifice, is that the concept of impurity of the dead represents the fact that once one no longer lives, he no longer serves a function in this world, and hence, there is a sort of spiritual impurity that the dead person gives to others.

In living terms, one either serves Hashem or does something that goes against serving Hashem. So long as one chooses the correct path of spritual life, he or she can have a positive, spiritual effect on others. However, by not observing this type of lifestyle; it's not simply that one chooses not to live a nice observant Jewish way of life - this person chooses to live an impure, spiritual type of life that can be very negative on others' spiritual wellbeing. There are indeed some Jews who aren't observant, who don't keep Shabbat, Kashrut or the laws of family purity who are truly good people in the sense that they want to be nice to everyone and aren't even prejudiced against observant Jews, and want to help Israel. The sad thing about some of these people is that indeed if they would have been shown the beauty of Judaism, especially in their younger years, many of them would have indeed took up on the offer. However, in spiritual terms, Judaism simply cannot remain among their future descendants if they don't have that Jewish pride and sense to stay married within the Jewish fold and at least give their children some sort of Jewish education that will at least raise a spark in some of them to want to grow more in Judaism. Once there is a want and need for spiritual improvement, such as the want of the Jews with the spiritual impurity of the dead who felt that there would be something missing from their spirituality if they wouldn't bring the Passover sacrifice, then there is at least hope that the torch of Judaism will continue in the coming generations.

As a tidbit to conclude this, the final word of the section of the Torah about the Pesach Sheni is Ha'aretz/the land. This is twice the Gematria of the word Pesach - 148*2=296, which hints to the Pesach Sheni, the second Passover sacrifice that is the subject of this portion of the Torah. As long as we are living on the land, which is Planet Earth, there is hope for us to repent and live a better spiritual Torah way of life, because once we pass away, we have no more opportunity to do so. Many are fortunate that Hashem allowed them to continue living despite having had a physical danger that could have snatched their life in a fraction of a second, such as a car accident, or shot point blank. And just as we praise Hashem at the Seder for all the miracles that He performed for us Jews to facilitate our exit from Egypt and our journey towards Israel, so should we thank Hashem everyday for giving up another opportunity to come closer to Him. In relating to other people, just as Hashem constantly does kindnesses to us - the biggest kindness allowing us to live one more day to have one more chance to earn eternal life in the world to come - so should we reciprocate to other people everyday in some way to have a positive compact on others, and in this way, we will bit by bit be able to bring other Jews closer to the fold of Judaism, so they too will not be left out from the spiritual benefits that observant Jews have.

14 Iyar 5770, Pesach Sheni

Friday, April 23, 2010


Here I am. Now that I am forty years old, I reflect back on what I went through during my life until now. I had a lot of close calls, including incidents where I could have, G-d forbid, lost my life or be seriously injured. Like the time that I was almost attacked by a huge dog at the age of 17 when I was walking a long way home from synagogue on Shabbat, from which I was spared only because I raced across the street of cars running in both directions and the big dog got caught between two cars going opposite ways, which gave me enough time to run far enough for the dog not to continue hunting me down. And then there was the time when I suddenly lost control of my car on the highway when it spun around until it suddenly stopped facing the opposite side of traffic instead of rolling over several feet down on the side of the highway. And for car accidents, I was very lucky among the number of times that I never even got injured. Indeed, miracles happened in my life.

It is true that many of us when much younger do stupid things that puts us at risk in life. Some live on while others aren't so lucky and either perish or their lives will never be the same again. But one thing is for sure. Many reach a level of maturity later in life with the understanding that we have only one life (I'm not going to get into reincarnations now) and that we need to make wise decisions while we still our in the prime of our life before nearing retirement age.

And so, Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers states at the end of Chapter 5 - Ben Arba'im L'Binah "Forty is the age of understanding". To note, Binah/Understanding is the Gematria of 67, and this is my 67th Post. And being that my birthday is Rosh Chodesh Iyar - 1 Iyar - the beginning of the month of Iyar, I would like to point out that as shown on the calendar chart displayed at, which focuses on kabbala, Gematriot, and other Torah secret goodies, Iyar is the very month that represents the Sephirah of Binah.

Indeed, the very first of the middle blessings of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer in which we request various things, is called the blessing of Binah. Before I go again, I want to mention that some of the things here about this blessing is taken from the book in English called "Shemoneh Esrei" authored by Rabbi Zev Leff, Shlita, Rav of Mashav Matisyahu, who was my first Gemara Rebbe.

There is something unique about this blessing that is not found in the subsequent middle blessings that are blessings of requests. Like the first three blessings of the Shemoneh Esrei that involve praising Hashem, so to does the blessing of Binah start off this way "You grant knowledge and teach understanding to mankind", instead of saying "Grant knowledge...". This is quite significant because on Shabbat, we do not recite these middle blessings, and instead we have one middle blessing which focuses on Shabbat. Then in the evening Shemoneh Esrei after Shabbat is over, we insert a paragraph within this blessing of Binah after the praise element of it before the request part of it, since it is only when we make a separation between Shabbat and the weekdays as the inserted paragraph is about, that we can begin making our regular requests once again.

It can be said that this blessing is the bridge between the first three blessings of praise and the following blessings of requests. Perhaps the same can be said about the age of 40, the age of understanding, reflecting on our past, and looking towards the future in terms of future accomplishments.

The last letters of the first phrase Atah Chonein L'Adam Da'at "You grant knowledge to mankind" can be rearranged to spell the word Matanah/Gift, since knowledge is the ultimate heavenly gift. As Matanah is the Gematria of 495, it's interesting to note that the beginning of being 40 years old began my 495th month - of course I mean months according to the Jewish calendar. For others who may have lived through another Jewish leap month of an additional Adar, they had lived 495 months to reach the age of understanding. Indeed, it is at this age of understanding that one realizes that life is a gift of Hashem, and we must be very careful to preserve this gift, both by living a safe life and making it a most productive spiritual life.

And not forgetting the women, especially as I am in my first year of marriage, the Talmud in Tractate Niddah 45b notes Binah Yeteirah Nitnah B'Ishah Yoteir M'BaIsh -"A woman was given more understanding than what was given to a man". While those men in the workforce may want to deny this fact, we do see that a girl matures mentally quicker than a boy from the fact that a girl becomes Bat Mitzvah at age 12, while a boy becomes Bar Mitzvah at age 13.

In Kabbalistic sources, the word Binah can be rearranged to spell Ben Yud Hei, which literally means the son of, or having the characteristic of Yud Hei, about which these two letters can spell one of Hashem's names or the first two letters of Hashem's main name. As pointed out by the Chasidic Master Rabbi Israel of Koznitz, this signifies that one needs to be a son to Hashem, as the verse states Banim Atem L'Hashem Elokeichem - "You are sons to Hashem your G-d" (Deutronomy 14:1) Bearing in mind that this name of the letters Yud Hei is the Gematria of 15, we can refer again to the list of ages in Pirkei Avot which reads Ben Chamesh Esrei L'Gemara, "Fifteen years old is the age of (learning) Gemara, which involves the very process of understanding the laws of the Mishnah as to how we learn them from the Torah, which is understanding one thing from another. And as Rashi explains the definition of understanding (on Exodus 31:3), it's understanding things on one's own out of things that he has learned.

In terms of being a good son (or daughter) to our parents, we have to know the rules of how to behave properly to them. And in terms of learning Torah which is supposed to teach us how to be good children to Hashem, it is the Gemara/Talmud which is the meat of Torah learning, based on which is the Code of Jewish Law which is the end product of what began in the Gemara.

And as this week's Parshat Kedoshim (the second of two Parshiyot that will be read this Shabbat) includes the most famous dictum of V'Ahavta L'Reiacha Camocha "Love thy neighbor as yourself", which is called the Mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael/Love for Jews, based on the count of the 613 Mitzvot as arranged by the Rambam/Maimonides, this is the 244th Mitzva that is listed in the Torah, and the word Gemara - another name for the Talmud - is the Gematria of 244. And the word Talmud is the Gematria of Ahavat Chesed/Love of Kindness - which is 480, and the 480th Mitzva of the Torah is giving Tzedaka/charity! This is similar to the concept that the words Torah & Gemilut Chasadim/Doing acts of kindness, have the same Gematria of 611. What we can learn from all this is that we need a balance in Judaism, and being a good Jew includes both learning Torah (to the best of one's ability), of which Gemara is the meat of Torah learning, and doing acts of kindess which is an expression of the Mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael. And for a blogspot that illustrates good examples of this, turn to

And speaking of loving Jews, the commentary of Ohr Torah on the Jewish book of Ma'alot HaTorah mentions that there are exactly 67 words of the last verses of the Chumash/The Five Books of Moses, which is related to Binah, as demonstrated as being the Gematria of 67. Now, the last of these 67 words, which is the concluding word of the Chumash, is Yisrael, referring to the Jewish nation. Now, to put a spin on this, Yisrael is the Gematria of 541. Add to this the number 67 being that this is the 67 word of the concluding verses of the five books of the Chumash, and being that this is at the end of the fifth book of the Torah, add five to this, and presto!
We have a total of 613, corresponding to the 613 Mitzvot And being that 67+5 equals 72 which is the Gematria of Chesed/Kindness, this most relates to the Mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael, of which Rabbi Akiva says that this is the big principle of the Torah, on which all the Mitzvot of the Torah are based, as we Jews are all one spiritual body, and so even our observance or non-observance, G-d forbid, of the Mitzvot that are related between oneself & Hashem, in contrast to the Mitzvot that involve human relationships, affect us all spiritually, which can signal either reward or punishment, G-d forbid.

To note, my birthday on 1 Iyar when I turned 40 - was the 541st day from when I began, which is a forum for me to write Chiddushei Torah -original or new thoughts on Torah, which is an aspect of the 613th & final Mitzvah of the Torah, which is to write a Sefer Torah/Torah Scroll; and the last word of the Sefer Torah is Yisrael, which is the Gematria of 541. Hence, in relationship to the previous paragraph, this is just one more show of Hashgacha Peratit/Divine Providence that has been quite evident in writing my blogspot on

The Vilna Gaon points out that the source of age 40 being the age of understanding is the verse in Proverbs 2:3 - Ki Im L'Binah Tikra "For only if you call out to understanding", being that the word Im (if) which is right next to the word L'Binah (to understanding) is the Gematria of 41, as the aspect of understanding begins in the 41st year. By the way, the word Im with a change of vowels can also be read to read Eim/Mother, as the verse in Psalms 113:9 declares Eim HaBanim Semeicha "Glad mother of children". To note, this is the name of the Sefer which Rabbi Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal, HY"D, may his blood be avenged which was spilled by the Nazi beasts, wrote about the Mitzva/Commandment and importance of living in Israel, which is something that he only realized so many years earlier in the midst of rabbis who were against having Jews moving to Israel in the wake of the secular Zionistic movement. Ironically, he himself never stepped foot in Israel as his life was snatched before he had a chance to make Aliyah. Indeed, it was following virtually 40 years in the desert that the Jews crossed the Jordan river to arrive in Israel under the leadership of Joshua, in the wake of their 41st year from the Exodus.

And as we already mentioned how Binah is related to the words Ben/Banim, it is also related to the word Binyan/building. With the proper frame of understanding we can build on our knowledge to derive at conclusions in learning and the daily way of living which includes the household and workplace.

To note, there are 39 major categories of work which are forbidden to be performed on Shabbat. The 12th Chapter of Tractate Shabbat of the Mishnayot begins with the word HaBoneh - "One who builds", as building something is one of these 39 categories of work. Also in this chapter is mentioned the category of writing, as writing is a form of building, as we use letters to build a word. It is most fascinating to note that in the Babylonian Talmud to this chapter, there is a section about the spiritual significance of the letters of the Alef Beit.

Now, combining these two definitions of Binah - understanding & building - as it relates to my 40th anniversary of my birthday, the Daf Yomi - worldwide daily study of a double sided page of the Babylonian Talmud on my birthday of 1 Iyar this year when I turned 40 - was Sanhedrin 62. On this very Daf, it mentions examples of the prohibition of writing on Shabbat - mentioning of all words - my first name Shimon!
In this context, if one wrote two or more letters to form a word without intending to do a sin on Shabbat, he or she is liable to bring a Korban Chatat/Sin Offering. Hence, one who writes, for example, the name Shimon, is liable as such. Now, the question can be asked, if one wrote only the first two letters of this name - Shin & Mem - as an abbreviation for this name, would one be liable since he didn't intend to write these two letters as a word?

The answer to this is that although normally, if writing the first two letters of a word as an abbreviation would not spell a word on its own; in this case, the first two letters of this name Shimon indeed spell a word on its own - Shem - either as the name of Shem the son of Noah, or as the meaning of the word name (NOTE: These letters - Shin & Mem - are the initials of my full Hebrew NAME Shimon Matisyahu!). Even though normally, one who does an action on Shabbat which results in a forbidden work on Shabbat which he or she did not intend by his/her action - is exempt, at least if it was not inevitable according to Rabbi Shimon (Bar Yochai) of the Mishna, which is the Halachic view that we normally follow (as opposed to Rabbi Yehuda who says that one is liable in any case); IN THIS CASE, one is nevertheless liable, though he or she did not intend to write the word Shem as referring to the name Shem or its meaning of the word name, but merely as an abbreviation of the name Shimon, since indeed it does spell a word, as it is an inevitable consequence of writing the abbreviation of the name Shimon.

Well, I have to admit that the fact that this worldwide study of this page of Talmud fell out on my 40th birthday discussing the name Shimon as a case subject is a real birthday treat! This is bearing in mind that the word Binah as it relates to turning age 40 can be rearranged to spell the words Ben Yud-Hei, which can be translated as a "fifteen-year-old", the age that Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers mentions as the time to start studying the Gemara/Talmud!

Getting back to the number 67 which is the Gematria of Binah - and the number of this Post - there is a most significant part of the Bible related to this number - Psalm 67. Unlike all of the other Psalms, this one was sent to King David by Hashem within the drawing of a Menorah which King David used in his battles (this means that this is the one psalm in the Book of Psalms that was composed by Hashem Himself!). We recite this psalm especially during the 49 days of the Sephira of which we are almost halfway at the time of this writiing, as there are 49 words besides the introductory verse, and the fifth verse contains 49 letters.

And being that I am writing this on the 24th day of the Sephira, I am reminded of the 24 Books of the Tanach/Bible (NOT 39 books as displayed in the "Old Testament").
It was just yesterday that I was reading in the Midrash Tanchuma on Parshat Ki Tisa where it comments on the verse "He (Hashem) gave to Moses when finished speaking with him (the words of the Torah)" (Exodus 31:18), which took place at the conclusion of the first period of 40 days that Moses spent with Hashem. There are in fact three statements on this verse that a rabbi of my namesake, Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish, states. Perhaps this is hinted by the fact that the beginning word of this verse Vayiten/He gave is the Gematria of the name Shimon - 466.

"When a teacher begins teaching Torah to a student, the teacher teaches and the student repeats after him. After being taught, his teacher tells him to recite the words of Torah together. Similarly, when Moses learned the Torah from Hashem, Hashem told him, "Come, let's recite it together" as it says, "When He finished speaking WITH him"."

About the word KeChaloto/When He finished, which can be alternatively be read without the vowels as KeChalato "like his bride" - "It's forbidden for a Torah scholar to teach Halacha/Jewish Law in public until the words of Torah are pleasing to the listeners, just as a bride that is pleasing to her husband who wishes to hear what she has to say".

"Just like a bride is decorated with 24 types of jewelry (as listed in Isaiah Chapter 3), so too does a Torah scholar needs to be well versed in the 24 Books of the Tanach. And just like a bride is modest in hter parent's home and doesn't publicize herself until she enters the bridal canopy as if to say "If anyone knows anything about me, let him come and testify", so does a Torah scholar need to be modest and well known for his good deeds".

Now for the connection of the number 40 with Matanah/Gift as I had mentioned earlier, the Midrash Tanchuma continues, "Rabbi Abahu said: "All the 40 days that Moses spent on the mountain, he learned Torah and forgot it. At the end, Moses said, "Master of the universe, forty days passed by and I don't know anything". What did Hashem do? At the end of FORTY days, Hashem gave the Torah to him as a GIFT, as it says, "He gave to Moses when He finished."""

Anyways, why did the Jews spend 40 years in the desert when they were almost ready to move to Israel early on? It was thanks to the 10 evil spies that Moses sent upon the request of the Jewish people who wanted to first know how Israel was like without having faith and trust in Hashem, who came back saying terrible things about Israel, declaring that it would be impossible to conquer the land with all the nations that were settled there. This resulted in the Jewish men (besides the Tribe of Levi who weren't enslaved in Egypt and hence didn't have the slave mentality like the rest of the Jews had, along with their full faith and trust in Hashem) crying that very night following the news. For this, Hashem declared that for the 40 days that these evil spies traveled, the Jews would be spending 40 years in the desert and the ones who cried would die out during their stay in the desert.

If the Jews would have realized that Hashem was in fact giving them a gift - the Land of Israel, perhaps they would have behaved a little more rationally. But since they saw this only as a challenge which they believed that even Hashem, so to speak, would not be able to overcome in terms of fighting the strong nations there, they obviously were not able to see this as a gift, let alone as Hashem's land in which it is only in this land that we can perform all the Mitzvot/Commandments that are possible to be fulfilled. And so, since the Jews who were cry-babies were not able to appreciate this gift, then Hashem figured, why give it to them? Certainly, it would be the next generation who would be raised in the spiritual environment while in the desert who would have a true appreciation of the gift that they would eventually receive. It would be this new generation that would have the proper UNDERSTANDING of how the Torah is our way of life. It is only when we trust in Hashem & in the Torah - Hashem's wisdom - that we can hope that we can overcome any and all challenges if this is indeed Hashem's will; and not give up hope because of a few rotten apples who as supposed leaders present "logic" as to why the Torah cannot work for us, G-d forbid.

To conclude, being that I am a Levite at the age of 40, I am halfway between the ages of 30 & 50 when the Levites performed certain tasks in the Temple which were only valid to perform during these twenty years. I certainly hope that the Temple will be rebuilt shortly and then I will have a chance to perform these duties sometime during this coming decade before I turn the age of 50, G-d willing.

G-d willing, I will be writing another post next week.

9 Iyar 5770, 24th day of the Sephirah

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

#66 - Just About COMPLETE

Have you ever waited for your computer to update or download the latest version of Internet Explorer or Adobe, and at the end of the download, the message reads something like "Download in now complete."? For all that you are concerned, as long as the system will have some added benefit for you, then that is all that matters.

Well, this is the type of message that is crossing my mind as I approach the end of the first 40 years of my life, as I am writing this within my last 24 hours before the 40th anniversary of my birthday, G-d willing.

Yes, I have made some decisions in my life which may have not been the best in my interest. After all, who doesn't make mistakes? But in the long term, I do look at my accomplishments, or at least the potential that I have utilized and what is yet to be utilized. While some may have not appreciated what I have to offer and turned me down from taking courses or being hired based on their narrow minded judgment even as of late today, I have to focus on what I have now and what I believe that I can be good at, and move full speed ahead.

Well, among my accomplishments, though perhaps at a little older age than for some other people, I earned my rabbinic ordination, I made Aliyah (five years ago), I started (a year and a half ago), and just four months ago...I married my beloved wife Yael. What seemed to me to be something that for all that I knew could possibly never happen for me, took place in a blink of an eye. It was a mere eight months ago when I first met my wife, and if you would have asked Yael or I at the end of our first date if we would consider marrying each other, either of us answering "yes" would have been saying more of a lie than the truth. But...the two of us focused on what really matters in life, and seeing each other for what we respectively represented, we started feeling a bond for each other. For this, it took a few meetings to realize that indeed, we had tremendous potential to have a good marriage, despite the challenges which we both knew would be involved.

While many potential marriage partners fuss about far more pettier things, as one of the two dating partners will fool himself or herself thinking that their relationship won't work, when the only reason he or she is right is because he/she tells himself/herself this but not because it would be true otherwise (and this is why I wasn't married for so many years until now - there are very few women today especially in their 30s and up who are truly open-minded), Yael and I both realized that the essence is how one deals with challenges rather than the challenges
"defining" who we are which is quite often not the case.

So, at the end of 40 years which is JUST ABOUT COMPLETE, while I have yet to accomplish much of my potential, the way I see it, the files of my brain (human computer) are just about completely downloaded.

And I will prove it. Near the end of Moses' life, he tells the Jewish nation "Hashem didn't give you a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear, until this day. I walked you for 40 years in the desert..." (Deutronomy 29:3-4). Nearing 40 years in the desert since the Exodus, the Jews did not have full comprehension of the message of the Torah until that point in time when Moses was about to pass away. Indeed, the Sages in the Talmud learn from here that one doesn't fully comprehend what one's Rebbe/Torah teacher teaches him until after 40 years. (NOTE: This is one out of many reasons why it is important to learn Torah as much as possible while one is young).

Following the beginning words of the first chapter of Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers which was learned this past Shabbat, "Moses received the Torah from (Mt.) Sinai, and handed it over to Joshua...", we see that Joshua (whose Yahrzeit of 26 Nissan fell out on this past Shabbat) was a devoted student of Moses right from the start, and hence, he was the most qualified person to be the next leader and Torah teacher of the Jewish people - not one of Moses' sons or nephew Elazar, who was the present Cohen Gadol/High Priest following his father Aaron's passing. It took Joshua just about 40 years as Moses' most devoted student to be qualified to step into Moses' shoes.

Yes, the first letter of Moses's name Moshe is a Mem which is the Gematria of 40, which was a number that kept popping up in Moses's life, including the fact that Moses spent three periods of 40 days each in Hashem's presence and Moses led the Jewish people for the last 40 years - the last of the three thirds of his life from the time of the Exodus, in the same way that he was the third and last one of his siblings following Miriam and Aaron. Along these lines, I am reminded of a good friend of mine, Rabbi Dovid Bryn of blessed memory, who sacrificed so much of his life bringing Jews closer to Judaism in a loving way despite his illness of 20 years until his untimely passing at the age of 40, about whom a friend of his remarked that he lived 120 years (as Moses physically lived) in a third of the time. I guess you can say that this is the positive side of the other side of the coin where criminals get out of prison after doing a third of the time for "good behavior".

And speaking of time, there is a Mitzva/Commandment that we perform for seven weeks every year called Sephirat HaOmer, which means counting 49 days from the 16th of Nissan when the Omer offering, consisting of barley flour, was offered in the Temple, following which is the holiday of Shavuot/Pentacost. The barley flour signified the aspect of animalism, a trait within human beings when we follow our "human" animalistic instincts rather than our HUMANE instincts, just like the Jews leaving Egypt needed a period of seven weeks to be spiritually prepared to receive the Torah, beginning with the Ten Commandments, which was given on Shavuot.

The source in the Torah for this Mitzva begins with the word Usphartem "You shall count" (Leviticus 23:15). What is most unique about this Mitzva is that based on the list of Mitzvot of the Rambam/Maimonides, this is the MIDDLE MITZVAH of the Torah.
Perhaps what is more significant than the fact that this is the MIDDLE MITZVAH is that the lesson we can learn from this is that it is time that is the center of everything and that time can either be our biggest friend or our biggest enemy, based on how we utilize time. Even time is a creation of Hashem, as Hashem is beyond time and Who always existed, long before anything else besides Him existed, but it is time that ultimately defines who we are as one who thinks about what is important in life, and it is only time that will motivate us to do the right things as we don't have so much time to get it all right and we don't even know how long we will actually life, when G-d forbid, our life can be over in a blink of an eye.

Hence, it is the MIDDLE MITZVAH of the Sephira that teaches us that our main spiritual goal is to work on our animalistic self until we reach the ultimate level of spirituality. While it is technically never too late to begin working on ourselves as long as we can breathe and move around, even as Rabbi Akiva who was one of the greatest Sages of all time only began learning Torah at the age of 40, it has been mentioned that our lifespan from 20 years old until our 70th year correspond to the 49 days of the Sephira. As physically, our animalistic hormones are at an all time high at the age of 20; and after our parenting and working years when coming close to being 70 years old, most of us don't quite feel the same even sexually; on the flipside, we hope that our spiritual level will be at an all time high by the time that we reach old age from our young adulthood when parenting and working posed challenges to improve on our own self, except that we learn to use the physical for spiritual purposes.

With the above being said, I would like to note that the first two letters of the verse beginning noting the Mitzva of Sephirat HaOmer - Usphartem - are Vav & Samech.
These two letters are the letters for the number 66, and this is my 66th post. And as we mentioned the Ten Commandments as what Hashem gave to us following the end of the Sephira period, it's interesting to note that when writing the number 66 in Hebrew in script letters as opposed to the standard block letters which we see in printed material in books and publications, it looks just like the letter TEN!

And there is a word that is the Gematria of the number 66 - Vayeilech, the name of the 52nd Parsha of the Torah, which is no stranger to the Gematria blogspot. You see, I had mentioned in the past that being that this Parsha contains 30 Pesukim/verses, which contains the least amount of verses of the 54 Parshiyot of the Torah, as the first 24 verses of this Parsha correspond to the 24 books of the Bible - the WRITTEN Torah (NOT 39 books as protrayed in the "Old" Testament) - as the 24th verse reads "When Moses finished WRITING the words of the Torah in a BOOK until their completion" (Deutronomy 31:24), and the last six verses correspond to the six orders or volumes of the Mishna or Mishnayot - the ORAL Torah - as the concluding verse of the Parsha reads "Moses SPOKE in the EARS of the entire congregation of Israel the words of this song until their conclusion" (Deutronomy 31:30). And indeed, the letter for the number 30 - Lamed, has the connotation of the words Lilmod-Lelamed, (to) learn - (to) teach.

As we note, the exact wording of the letter Lamed means teach, which is the greater aspect of Talmud Torah, which is not just learning, but teaching Torah to others, the greatest merit that one can have, and it was Moses who was the first to have this greatest merit, who is called Moshe RABBEINU, Moses OUR TEACHER, as he not only taught his own immmediate generation and succeeding generation, but in effect has been our teacher until this day, and the ultimate proof for this is that the Torah is called Torat Moshe, the Torah of Moses. While I am writing my words here rather than speaking them, this too is an aspect of teaching Torah, and is also a form of the LAST Mitzva of the Torah mentioned in Parshat Vayeilech of every Jew writing a Sefer Torah, which according to many Poskim/Halachic deciders, can be fulfilled by owing Jewish books, which includes the Bible, Talmud, and Halachic works.

Speaking of 40 years, the word Mishna is a contraction of the words Mem (the letter)
Shana - 40 years, or can be read as Shana Mem - Year 40. In connection to this, Pirkei Avot Chapter Six notes that there are 48 acquisitions or ways of acquiring the Torah, meaning, that through 48 various ways of working on ourselves, we can make the Torah part of us rather than something that is studied strictly on an "intellectual" level without treating it as Torat Hashem, the Torah of Hashem. Anyways, it has been pointed out that the 48 ways of acquiring the Torah correspond to the first 48 days of the Sephira, while the last day of the Sephira in effect corresponds to all the 48 acquisitions. In any case, bearing this in mind, as I writing my post on this 15th day of the Sephira, this day corresponds to the Torah acquisition of MISHNA! Yes, the last day of my 40th year corresponds to the Torah acquisition that means 40 years or Year 40! And by the way, the second chapter of Pirkei Avot which will be learned this coming Shabbat begins with Rebbe Omeir -
"Rebbe says..." referring to Rabbi Judah the Prince who compiled the Mishnayot.

And speaking of the last day of my 40th year in connection with the Mishna, it's most interesting to note that the final statement of the Mishna is mentioned by a Rabbi with my namesake Shimon - "Rabbi Shimon Ben Chalafta said: The Holy One Blessed Be He didn't find a vessel to hold a blessing for Israel except for peace, as it says "Hashem will give strength to His nation, Hashem will bless His nation with peace".

And it was in my 40th year that I married my beloved wife Yael. Her full Hebrew name is Yael Miriam which is the Gematria of 400, the same Gematria as the LAST letter of the Alef Beit - Tav. In relationship to the Mishna, there are two things that have the Gematria of 400. The first - HaMishna - the Mishna, in the definitive form, equals 400, and the first letters of the phrase Shisha Sidrei Mishna - Shin,
Samech, Mem - also equals 400.

Now the Mishna in connection with my name Shimon Matisyahu. The plural form for Mishna - Mishnayot, is the same Gematria as Shem Shimon - (the) name (of) Shimon - 806. And, if you add the word Mishna=395 to my name Shimon=466, this adds up to the Gematria of my second name Matisyahu=861!

On an incidental note, there are two names of Masechtot/Tractates of Mishnayot that have the same Gematria as my two names Shimon Matisyahu, Shimon=Makkot (another name for Malkot/lashes which used to be administered for certain sins by the Jewish court)and Matisyahu=Rosh HaShana (named after the New Year holiday which includes the history and laws of Rosh Chodesh, and I was born on Rosh Chodesh Iyar (1 Iyar), and the upcoming 1st day of Rosh Hashana will always fall out on the same day of the week as my birthday!)

In any case, as the Mishnayot concludes with the word BaShalom - with peace, the most crucial element that keeps a Jewish marriage together is called Shalom Bayit, marital peace, which literally means peace of the house. And as we know, the very first letter of the Torah is a Beit, the name for which is the same lettering as the word Bayit/house. In any case, the fact that the word BaShalom is a composite of the letter Beit & Shalom hints to the concept of Shalom Bayit, marital harmony that keeps a Jewish couple together. And just at the conclusion of 40 years, the Jews were able to fully comprehend how the Torah, the marriage contract, was able to keep them connected to Hashem; in the same way, it is Middot, character traits, literally meaning measures, beginning with the letter Mem, that is behind the concept of Shalom Bayit, as one's behavior and attitude towards one another is what ultimately determines whether a relationship will continue or fall apart.

Indeed, the word Middot is also the name of the Tractate of Mishnayot which focuses on the measurements of the different parts of the Temple or Beit HaMikdash (the same Gematria as the names Matisyahu & Rosh Hashana - 861). Perhaps it is not coincidental that it is the same meaning as character traits, as we know that the Bayit Sheni/Second Temple was destroyed due to Sinat Chinam/baseless hatred which is the reason why we have yet to have our Bayit Shelishi/Third Temple that we have been waiting for for nearly 2,000 years. Indeed, if one is on the correct path of Midot Tovot, good character, Sinat Chinam simply does not exist.

Unfortunately, it was during the Sephira period that Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students perished due to not giving the proper respect to one another. It was particularly during this period that these students perished, as they did not refine their character in sync with the spirit of the period when we are supposed to refine our animalistic or non desirable traits to the extent that we will be quite more prepared for the Torah on Shavuot with an improvement in some way that we can feel good about, even if we have yet a lot more to work on.

Indeed, the name of the Parsha that hints to the two Torot - Written Torah & Oral Torah - is Vayeilech=66 (in the same way that the first two letters of the verse of the Mitzva of Sephirat HaOmer are the letters that spell the number 66), "Moses went...I am 120 years old" (Deutronomy 31:1-2). Yes, Moses did not stop walking spiritually until his dying day, even though Moses was the greatest Tzadik/righteous person who walked this planet. He was never satisfied with his present spiritual level, as he knew that as long as he lived, it meant that there is always a higher level to strive for. And if this can be said about Moses, then the rest of us have to realize that there is always room for growth, as it is only Hashem who is truly complete. And if we are not constantly walking in spirituality and our characteristic traits, then it isn't simply that we are not improving, but that we are digressing.

And in case anyone should ask, "It may be true that Rabbi Akiva's students weren't exactly the most wanting in terms of behavior; but is this a reason why they should all perish? Imagine all the Torah that was lost as a result! After all, they weren't just anyone's students - they were Rabbi Akiva's students!" it should be noted that if Hashem simply wanted people to learn and teach Torah, he could have non-Jews do the same for that matter. has to be learned and taught through holy and proper means. After all, the Torah is HASHEM'S WISDOM, and cannot be treated like other wisdom.

Though technically, the sciences, mathematics, and the like all come from Hashem, it is only the Torah which has holiness which is most representive of Hashem's wisdom; in the same way that although non-Jews also have a soul even as they too can qualify to be in Heaven for living a righteous life, it is only Jews who have a holiness that separates them from the rest of mankind, even if they are only like a thousandth of the six plus billion people on this planet. It is not always quantity that makes the big chart - but quality; and if G-d forbid the quality of the Torah could be compromised, then it will not have the impact on people that Hashem wants it to be, and cannot continue having its proper spiritual effect without going through the refining process as demonstrated through the Sephira period in which the Jews waited seven weeks to receive the Torah.

And just when you thought it was over, there is another connection to the numbers 40 & 66 with this week's Parshat Tazria (actually, this is the first of two Parshiyot that we read this coming Shabbat).

Parshat Tazria begins mentioning that when a woman gives birth to a boy, then she is impure for seven days, and following this has a period of 33 days of purity (NOTE: As far as the laws of family purity is concerned, the Code of Jewish Law - and NOT the literal meaning of the Bible - have to be thoroughly learned, along with one's questions being answered by a rabbi or a woman trained to know these laws), thus adding to a total of 40 days, following which the mother brings special birth sacrifices in the Temple. For a female, the mother had 14 days of impurity followed by 66 days of purity following which she brought her birth sacrifices.

Little did I know that my last birthday anniversary (one is born only once so it is technically called a birthday anniversary, but I will use the word birthday for short) a year ago which would be the last one before marrying would hint to my upcoming marriage within this past year. You see, my birthday beginning my 40th year fell out on Shabbat when we read the Parshiyot Tazria-Metzora, the two middle Parshiyot of the Torah, which are the 27th & 28th Parshiyot. Adding 27 & 28 to equal 55, 55 is the Gematria of the word Kala/Bride. Now, my birthday fell out a number of times in the past on Shabbat when reading these two Parshiyot. However, being that this was the beginning or Rosh Hashana/New Year as you will of my 40th year, bearing in mind that the letter Mem is 40, the letter Mem with the word Kala/Bride spells the word Malka/Queen which is another name for a bride as well as the Shabbat, Shabbat HaMalka/Queen Shabbat (and yes, there is a real spiritual Shabbat Queen, besides the day of Shabbat, but I will not get into details in this post). Moreover, the word Malka/Queen is the Gematria of 95, and according to the Midrash, the 95th Psalm - which begins the Kabbalat Shabbat prayers - corresponds to the Tribe of Yissaschar, which in turn corresponds to the month of Iyar, on which I was born on the first day of this month! And if this was not enough, we got married on the 2nd day of Chanuka, on which we read in the Torah about the sacrifices that the leader of the Tribe of Yissaschar brought!

And as I mentioned earlier in this post, Parshat Vayeilech is the 52nd Parsha of the Torah. Accordingly, the word Ben/son is the Gematria of 52. And as mentioned near the end of the fifth chapter of Pirkei Avot - BEN Arbaim L'Binah, 40 years old is the time for understanding.

I am just near the conclusion of 40 years when as a newly married person, I will G-d willing be ready to offer spiritual sacrifices that will benefit the Jewish people as it is only when a person gets married that he becomes complete, as noted in Kabbalistic sources that a man and woman marrying becomes one soul. And as the end of the 52nd Parsha states, Ad Tumam "Until they (Moses' words of Torah) were completed" and the last two letters of Tumam spells the word for the letter Mem=40.

And as for 40 years old being the age of understanding, this will be the topic of my upcoming birthday post, G-d willing...

30 Nissan 5770 - 1st day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar & 15th day of the Sephira corresponding to the Mishna.