Sunday, May 30, 2010

#71 - Jewish Representation

Leaving off from my last post #70, the largest group of Jews who decide matters of the Torah is called the Sanhedrin. For the definiton of this word Sanhedrin, I refer you to the definition as I quote from

"P'siqta D'Rav Kahana (chapter 25), teaches that the first part of the word, "sin," referring to the Torah that was received at Mount "Sinai," was combined with the second part of the word, "hadrin," meaning, "glorification," to express the Great Court's role, the glorification of G-d's Torah through its application. Rabbi Ovadia Bartenura suggests an alternative meaning (commentary on Mishnah Sota, chapter 9, Mishnah 11). Also taking the term as a combination of two words to mean, son'im hadarath pan'im b'din, "foes (opposing litigants) give respect and honor to its judgment." Other commentators confirm his interpretation, suggesting further that the first letter was changed from "sin" to "samekh," at a later date (Tosofoth Yom Tov and the Maharal)."

Being that this week will be the conclusion of Daf Yomi, the daily Talmud study of a double sided page of Tractate Sanhedrin, and that the first Sanhedrin is mentioned in last week's Parshat B'Ha'alotcha, as well as Rashi's mention of "Sanhedraot" on this week's Parshat Shlach, it is a most opportune time to mention its unique role in Judaism.

Technically, there were two types of Sanhedrin. The "lower" Sanhedrin consisted of 23 judges, and the "higher" Sanhedrin consisted of 71 judges (and this is my 71st Post). As mentioned in Mishna Sanhedrin 1:5, only the Sanhedrin of 71 judges could serve the following functions:

*Judging a tribe, false prophet, high priest
*Giving a permit to fight a discretionary war
*Allowing an addition to the city of Jerusalem or the halls of the Temple
*Legalizing Sanhedraot for tribes
*Proclaming the status of a city that is called an Ir HaNidachas, in which the majority of its population worships idols, warranting its residents to be killed

Before getting into the technicalities of 71 judges of the Sanhedrin, it is most interesting to note that there are exactly 71 Mishnayot, or alternatively put as 71 Mishna paragraphs, of Tractate Sanhedrin!

Now, it seems that according to how the Torah describes the first Sanhedrin in last week's Parsha, there were 70 judges rather than 71. But our rabbis explain that in fact, there were 71, because "Moses was above them" meaning, that he was the head judge, making a total of 71. The reason why there had to be an odd amount of judges was so that if there was a difference of opinion deciding a case of Jewish law, there would not be the chance of being an even amount making it possible to be problematic to make a decision without a majority vote for either way.

The question can be asked, how come that when the Sanhedrin is being described, it doesn't make it clear from the start that in fact, Moses was the head judge over 70 judges. In fact, from the literal meaning of the Chumash that describes what took place here, they were in fact granted the status of prophets, rather than mentioning one word of them being judges. Moreover, when the rabbis describe this first Sanhedrin, they say "Moses was above them", rather than saying that he was the head or leader of them, as is normally mentioned in the Torah when someone is the Nasi, leader of a tribe?

As mentioned in the Rambam/Maimonides in the very first section of his magnum opus Mishne Torah entitled Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, the Laws of the Foundations of the Torah, a prophet had to be of impeccable character before being granted a state of prophecy. And so while even as our rabbis state, "One who is wise in Torah is better than a prophet (who isn't quite in par in Torah learning)", encyclopedic knowledge of Torah in itself doesn't automatically qualify one to be a judge, to decide matters of Torah law, because without the proper character traits that the Torah demands of a person, he is liable to make the wrong decisions in Jewish law because he truly has no fear of Hashem, and will for power, money or political reasons, make the wrong decision sooner or later.

Thus, the Torah is telling us that this was not just a random group of learned Jews, but Jews who could display the right way of being an authentic Jew, to set a prime example of following Jewish law as part of Hashem's Torah. And if this was not enough, Moses - the ultimate role model par excellence - was the leader of THESE group of judges. Indeed, the word used for "(above) them" is Gabeihen, which is the Gematria of 70, as they were exactly 70 judges!

And now for a double wammy of Gematriot for the numbers 70 & 71 in the same Pasuk/sentence, a verse in Shir HaShirim/Song of Songs reads, "Your eyes are (like) doves", in literal translation. Based on Rashi's explanation, this is referring to the righteous leaders - the "eyes" of the generation - who are loyal as a dove, who have cleaved to Hashem like doves, who are faithful to their mates. The same word used for eyes, or eye in singular - Ayin - is also the name of the letter Ayin, and in turn, the letter Ayin is the Gematria of 70; and so while there were in fact 71 members of the Sanhedrin, the extra one was due to the fact that the amount of judges had to be an odd number. Bearing this in mind, the Gematria of Yona/Dove is 71! In fact, the Midrash Tanchuma (Parshat Tetzaveh, Paragraph 5) on this verse in Shir HaShirim states that the Sanhedrin is compared to a dove (using the single form which is the Gematria of 71, in contrast to the plural form), "just like the EYES about which the entire body follows the EYES, so do all the Jews follow the Sanhedrin who instruct them on what is impure or pure". And as we also know, the Jews are compared to a dove, as it is the only nation that is faithful to Hashem like a dove. Also in terms of Gematria, as there are 70 nations of the world, the Jewish nation is the 71st nation which was formed as a nation long after the 70 nations became formed.

Along these lines, just like the Jews are the superior of all the nations, so too, Moses was the superior of all the 70 judges, "and Moses was above them". It isn't that Moses simply had a nice honorary title of president like the way that one is elected to be a president of a company (unless he founded the company) or a country.
As great as the 70 judges of this first Sanhedrin was both in Torah learning and character traits, Moses excelled them all not only in Torah learning as he in fact learned everything from Hashem Himself, both also as "the most humble of people" (Numbers 12:3) as mentioned at the end of last week's Parsha immediately following the incident that included the appointment of these judges, as Miriam his sister questioned him being superior to other prophets.

And in another sense, the name Yonah/dove is also the name of one of the "Minor Prophets"/Trei Asar, the final book in the Nevi'im/Prophets section of the Tanach/Bible, which is read on the afternoon of Yom Kippur as the Haftora. Though Yonah originally disobeyed Hashem's orders to go to the city of Ninveh to warn the non-Jewish residents there to repent by running away on sea, his intention of not wanting the Jews who weren't on their best behavior at the time to look bad cannot be denied, because of an earlier incident in history when a non-Jewish king offered his oldest son as a sacrifice to his god which prompted Hashem to be angry at the Jews for not having that same level of self sacrifice of following the Torah. After all, the Jews are compared to a dove, so Yonah the prophet having this very name had strong feelings of love for his people as Moses was, who was willing to be erased from the entire Torah if the Jews would not have been forgiven for the sin of the Golden Calf.

Getting back to what I mentioned that the Sanhedrin are the EYES of the Jewish nation, the word for eyes in the singular form - Ayin - is the same Gematria as Sinai - 130, as indeed, the first part of the word Sanhedrin as part of its definiton is based on the word Sinai. Along these lines, we see that it was at the very next place immediately following the Jews leaving Mt. Sinai is where this first Sanhedrin was first appointed. Now that the Jews left the environs of Mt. Sinai where the Torah was given, showing their immediate misbehavior of complaining, showing their lack of faith in Hashem, it was imperative that they would be reminded that it is ONLY when following the laws of the Torah that were given at Sinai that they can hope that in turn that Hashem would follow their wants and needs.

If all the Jews would have been more concerned about following the laws of the Torah as following the orders of a king whom no one dares to question on pain of death, they would not have dared complained about Hashem having them travel or demand meat after already being granted Hashem's special daily ration of manna. Apparently, Moses' leadership didn't make enough of an impression on some of these Jews, in fact, some went so far as to suspect him of wrongdoing if not openly rebel against him. Hence, what they immediately needed was a major judicial system, who with Moses' leadership, would show that Hashem means business. They needed to show the people that as the Ayin/Eye=130 of the nation, the nation could see that these laws weren't just a way that Moses would have control over them, but that these laws came straight as Halacha L'Moshe M'Sinai - the Law of the Torah as Moses received it from (Mt.) Sinai=130. Then, and only then, as a total of 71 judges, as Yonah/dove is the Gematria of 71, the Jews who are compared to a dove would recall their relationship with Hashem as a dove's faithful relationship to its mate by following the laws as dictated by the Sanhedrin which is also compared to a dove.

One more question can be asked here. How come when the Midrash mentioned the Jews following the dictates of the Sanhedrin, it mentioned only the aspect of impure or pure which relate to the laws of purity, and not other examples such as permitted or forbidden which relate to the laws of the Sabbath for example, or kosher or unfit as pertaining to the laws of kosher food or sacrifices?

As we know, the Jews were given a period of seven weeks from after the Exodus until Matan Torah/Giving of the Torah to properly prepare themeselves to receive the Torah on the "fiftieth day" (when actually, they had 50 days to prepare since the giving of the Torah was delayed by one day). As our rabbis tell us, if the Jews would have remained in Egypt just a moment longer, they would have reached the 50th level of impurity, which would have made it impossible for them to ever get out of their impure state. Indeed, the word Tamei/impure is the Gematria of 50; and while the Jews did not reach that 50th level of impurity, they needed to rid themselves of their 49 levels of impurity - one level per day which would then qualify them to receive the Torah. As indicated by the letters of the word Tamei - Teit, Mem, Aleph
- the last letter of this word which is Aleph is the Gematria of one, signifying that it is this last 50th step of impurity which makes an impure state be permanent, G-d forbid. As we count the days of the Omer signifying this period between the first day of Passover - Exodus Day - until Shavuot - Giving of the Torah Day, the way we count the last day of the Omer - "Today is NINE & FORTY days, which is SEVEN WEEKS of the Omer", as the letters in Tamei is in order of Teit=NINE & Mem=FORTY.

Hence, it was imperative that this first Sanhedrin that Moses formed would immediately remind the Jews that leaving the area where they received the Torah would not signal the end of their schooling - the "graduation", but rather, their stay in this area was just the beginning of their new role as a Jewish nation which received the Torah for which they prepared themselves spirituality knocking off their levels of impurity and purifying themselves to receive the Torah. As Hashem's Chosen Nation, the Jews could only justify this title by remaining faithful to Hashem and His laws, like a dove is to its mate.

While unfortunately, Jews in the past thought that by imitating and being "friends" with the 70 non-Jewish nations, they would be treated well, only to learn the hard way, even at which some looked to blame G-d for what happened to them, denying His existance, it is only when Jews as the 71st nation who are compared to a Yonah/dove whose Gematria is 71 are faithful to Hashem and His laws that the nations have respect for us, and even when they try to harm us, Hashem is quick to stop them. And when we Jews set the example for the rest of the world, the non-Jews will themselves also adopt a better lifestyle of living a life of righteousness and justice.

And now for the Gematria of the word Sanhedrin, I had begun on my very first post with the mention of 669 Parshiyot or paragraphs - of the Chumash - with a division of space inbetween (Actually, as outlined in The Living Torah, an English translation on the Tanach, there seems to actually be 670 such Parshiyot, unlike the 669 number that will be found at the end of some Chumashim, but it seems to refer to the amount of spaced sections inbetween one such Parsha and another, but the end of the Chumash has no need for such spacing because it is the end of the scroll). There are two such spacings - one that is called Petucha - "Open" spacing which is a minimum of space of the equivalent of nine letters, and the other type that is called Setuma - "Closed" spacing which is a minimum of space of the equivalent of three letters. There are a total of 290 "open"
spacings and a total of 379 "closed" spacings.

In relationship to this, the Gematria of Sanhedrin is 379, the same number of the amount of "closed" spacings in the Chumash. As we know, the role of the Beit Din/Jewish court, of which the Sanhedrin was the highest form, was to clarify the laws of the Torah which were "closed" or "sealed" beforehand, since it was not clear beforehand was the correct Jewish law was in any given case. The Torah in Parshat Shoftim (Deutronomy 17) makes it very clear that we are supposed to follow the rulings of the Sanhedrin which was located for a long time in the Beit HaMikdash/Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Among the type of Halachic aspects mentioned about which the Sanhedrin decided on, was "between blood & blood", and as Rashi notes, this refers to the difference between impure blood and pure blood, like that of a woman who might be considered a Niddah, being menstrous, depending on the color, size, and type of cloth that the blood fell on.

In the Tachanun or supplicatory prayers that we recite every Monday & Thursday, we mention that the gentiles have "treated us detestable as the impurity of a Niddah". Of course when something happens to us Jews that is not pleasant, G-d forbid, we need to trace to the root of the problem. If we feel that we are treated as impurity, this means that we have been impure in our thoughts, speech, or actions, as Hashem pays everyone Midah K'neged Midah - measure for measure - which is both reward or punishment, and if we are lucky to be alive and breathing, to have a chance to see where we went wrong and to rectify it. As I had mentioned in previous blogs, including my recent post (#69), Obama being the 44th president of the United States has to do with Dam/blood(shed, being that Dam is the Gematria of 44. And a few weeks ago on Jerusalem Day, we entered the 44th year from the liberation of the holiest area in the world that is located in Jerusalem, which included the Temple grounds. And to note, this Jerusalem Day fell out in the midst of learning the Daf Yomi of Sanhedrin.

As we know, the Beit Din/Sanhedrin is the representation of Hashem being judges and deciders of Halacha/Jewish Law. If we obey or disobey the orders of the Jewish court, then this is how we are treating Hashem accordingly. And so, the only way we can hope - at least on an individual basis - of not being majorly affected by the dooming prophecies of Zechariah 14 which describes what will happen to the residents of Jerusalem in the war of Gog U'Magog, a.k.a. Obama, is to work on purifying ourselves spiritually from all the sins that we accumulated, the same way that people looking to get back to health from a disease do by purifying their bodies from all the toxins and waste that they accumulated over the years clogging their intestines which is the root of their illness. Hence, just as we purified ourselves for seven weeks from the Exodus until the day that the Torah was given, so too do we need to purify ourselves especially at this time which is more crucial than ever, before the gates of repentance are G-d forbid sealed, when the war of "impure blood" which is Obama will soon be fighting "pure blood" which refers to Jews, during which time, the ones who unfortunately behaved with the impurity of impure blood will be weeded out as fortold by today's Kabbalists and autistic people.

On a concluding note, the last chapter in the Talmud Sanhedrin which is currently being learned in Daf Yomi begins with Kol Yisrael "All Jews have a share in the world to come...", this phrase which precedes the learning of Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers when learned on Shabbat afternoons between Passover & Rosh HaShana, which begins with "Moses received the Torah from Sinai". This chapter is one of the most popular parts of the Talmud as it includes whole pages about Moshiach - who he is, when he is coming, etc. In any case, the question can be asked, is it true that ALL Jews have a share in the world to come? What about those Jews who lived a life of doing evil without repenting? Why should they get reward, even if it won't be the same amount of reward as a righteous person receives?

First of all, almost all Jews have some good deeds on their record. While some Jews may unfortunately be sent to Gehinnom/Hell for their evil deeds if they weren't punished in this world, oftentimes, they then are eligible to receive their reward following their punishment. As is explained, ALL Jews indeed have a share in the reward of the world to come. However, the only question is - will they wind up with less of their share, or if living a most righteous life, receive an even greater share than what they have already by receiving the reward of other Jews who unfortunately were too evil to retain any of their original alloted share of that eternal bliss.

It's interesting to note that in fact, this last chapter of the Talmud is placed as the next of the last chapter in the Mishnah, the original set of learning before the Talmud, as the last two chapters of this tractate are in reverse. Perhaps the rabbis who formed the Talmud wanted to remind us that we have to remember our ultimate purpose in life, and that we have only until Moshiach comes to repent and better our ways, because once Moshiach comes, it will be too late. We have to remember that it is our ETERNAL reward that we are talking about, and whatever troubles and aches we have along the way, or what we feel we are missing, should not bother us if we keep in mind what really counts in the end, unlike the ones among the Jews who complained about traveling in the desert and demanded meat, instead of realizing that they were traveling to the Holy & Promised Land, and that they were eating manna, spiritual food.

Yes, the true life for a Jew isn't making a six-digit figure as a doctor or lawyer in the United States, to enjoy the pleasures of life from fine "kosher" dining to owning two of the lastest car models. At times, even those who supposedly are living a Torah way of life - including some rabbis who are living quite comfortably in the United States as pulpit rabbis - can loose track of what the Torah way of life is all about. Rashi on this week's Parshat Shlach points out in the story of the Meraglim, the evil spies who came back from visiting Israel who gave a scary report, that it was the Sanhedraot, the justices of Jewish law who raised their voices complaining of their "terrible" situation as per the spies' report, causing the Jews to be cry babies, which resulted in them dying in the desert instead of entering the Land, and that night that they cried - Tisha B'Av - became the date of some of the worst tragedies of the Jewish people.

True JEWISH REPRESENTATION is following what the Moses of the generation says, because unfortunately, there were times in Jewish history when even what was supposed to be a group of authentic Jewish judges misled the Jewish nation. It is the true Jewish leader, the Moses who doesn't attempt to be different in the guise of outward appearance, who truly represents what the Torah tells us to do. And just as the dove who showed Noah when coming back to the Ark with an olive leaf signifying that it would rather have bitter food from Hashem than good tasting food from people; so too, Jews as compared to the dove need to realize that it is only in Israel that one can truly live as a Jew, even if one will not live quite financially in G-d's Land as well as in one's birth country, for it is only in Israel that one truly lives in the proximity of Hashem, away from the 70 nations who attempt to divert us from our true mission in life. And as the recent Sanhedrin of 71 rabbis in Israel which was formed five years ago, (check out has not been afraid to address issues which may not be to the liking of a government that attempts to rule Jews with its anti-Torah laws and decrees, we are living closer than ever in this period of exile from nearly 2,000 years ago when the Romans burnt our last Temple, to the time when Hashem will return us to our former state of spirituality and glory, as we say in the daily Shemoneh Esrei (except for the Sabbath and major Jewish holidays) "Return our judges as it was originally (in our Jewish history)..."

18 Sivan 5770

P.S. The timing of this post is 3:58 PM, and Moshiach, a major topic discussed in the chapter of Daf Yomi which is currently being learned worldwide, as mentioned in this post, is the Gematria of 358.

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