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 www.gematriot.blogspot.com (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. But...it 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.

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