Friday, August 20, 2010

#77 - The Right SERVICE

When it comes to writing a composition, there are times that the hardest part for me is designating the name for it. Especially in this case, as I will be writing about negative issues, I wanted to name this post with a rather positive connotation. On a more universal level, it is quite important to give one's child a name that he or she will be proud of one day, whether it is because of the meaning of the name itself, or after whom one is named.

Ironically, when it comes to various names of Parshiyot of the Chumash/Penteteuch and tractates of the Mishna/Talmud, some names are either names of evil people, such as Korach & Balak, or names of negative topics that are named as such. Indeed, the fourth Seder/order or volume of the Mishnayot is called Nezikin/damages, which includes a couple of tractates whose names also have negative connotations - Makkot, which literally means beatings as it refers particular to lashes as administered by the Jewish court, and Avoda Zara, one of several names or phrases used to refer to idolatry, which literally means "strange service".

Now one may ask, true that the Torah needs to clear on what its laws are and that it means serious business. But at the same time, doesn't it need to set a prime example, and instead of naming Parshiyot after evil people and tractates after sins, especially the sin of idolatry that repudiates, so to speak, G-d as the sole ruler of the world, shouldn't the Torah instead give alternate names that will at least help avoid mentioning names of sins and evil people any more than necessary, and perhaps give a more positive spin on the topic being studied, as the Torah is supposed to be something that can attract people to G-d in a loving way?

Perhaps part of the answer can be found in the above question that was just asked here. More than once, the Psalms exhorts us to "Turn away from evil and do good". You see, one can believe in G-d and still worship supposed deities as gods, as the Jews in the times of Bible did. While denying G-d as the sole power of the world, some Jews still justified worshiping idols believing that Hashem is also G-d. You see, "doing good" isn't simply enough at times. Without removing the evil, the spiritual disease, from amongst ourselves and our immediate surroundings, the good that we perform will G-d forbid be tainted with the sins that beclouds us and prevents us from focusing on the ultimate good that we need to strive for. This is why Psalms prefaces its statement with "turning away from evil" and only afterwards "doing good".

As a prime example of this in everyday living, at times we find ourselves facing a sign that reads "Danger!" or "Poison!" Indeed, when someone of a half decent rational thinking is truly alarmed about the dangers about something via a harsh warning such as a sign like this, there will be no questions as to what he or she will do, or rather, not take part in whatever the dangerous situation may be.

On the second day of this week, on 6 Elul, the worldwide study of Tractate Avoda Zara of the Daf Yomi, daily study of a double sided folio of the Babylonian Talmud, began. Oftentimes, the name of this tractate, Avoda Zara, is marked by the first letters of these words - Ayin Zayin - which also spells the number 77 in Hebrew, and this is my 77th Post.

There is other names for idolatry, one of which is Avodat Cochavim U'Mazalot, which literally means service or worship of the stars and constellations. It seems that the reason for this terminology being used is because in fact, this is how idolworship began. As related by the Rambam/Maimonidies in the beginning of Hilchot Avoda Zara in his work Mishneh Torah, people started getting into this bad habit of worshipping so called deities other than Hashem, because they felt that as the planetary system consists of servants of Hashem, especially the sun and the moon, they should also be worshipped. Though this may have begun with good intentions, besides the fact that it was wrong itself to worship anything other than Hashem, the next generation who were raised worshipping the planetary system only know of this as gods which led to worshipping non movable items consisting of wood and stone. To note, the singular for the word Mazalot/constellations is Mazal, which in today's terminology is translated as good luck, or in wishing someone Mazal Tov. In any case, the word Mazal is also the Gematria of 77.

If this was not enough, there is something else this week that is also related to the number 77. The Maftir, the end part of this week's Parshat Ki Teitzei which is read for the one who receives Haftara, a selected portion of the Prophets as related to the Parsha, and also read as the Maftir on Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat before Purim, is about remembering the evil that the Amalekite nation did starting war with the Jewish people following the Exodus, and erasing this evil nation's memory. This involves three of the 613 Mitzvot/Commandments of the Torah - remembering the evil that Amalek did to us, erasing his memory, and not forgetting what he did to us.

Today, in the absence of the Holy Temple, we are unfortunately left with far fewer Mitzvot to perform. Whether vegetarians like it or not, there are many Mitzvot pertaining to the animal sacrifices that were brought in the Temple. Additionally, there are also many Mitzvot related to ritual purity that we are not observing today, as they also relate to the Temple where being free of spiritual contamination of the dead and non-Kosher animals was a must. And while indeed there is a special thing about studying particular the laws of the Divine Service in the Temple and the sacrifices, for which one is credited not only for the greatest Mitzva of Torah study, but one is considered also as though he performed these very Mitzvot, even the ones that only Cohanim could perform, since the Cohanim performed the Divine Service in the Temple which was also on behalf of the entire Jewish people, as we are all in fact one spiritual body.

This section of Torah study was especially promoted over a century ago by the world renowned Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, known by the title Chofetz Chaim which he named his first Sefer, Jewish book, a compilation of the laws of the prohibition of forbidden speech. A most worthy Cohen in his own right, he felt it his was obligation to exhort Jews worldwide with studying the Talmudic tractates on these subjects in preference before other tractates , and suggested that the Cohanim to get together to study these sacrificial laws, since if the Temple were to be in existance at any time following the coming of the Messiah, they would have to be ready immediately to follow what these laws are, and if they wouldn't know how to perform the Divine Service in the Temple, who would?

With this being said, aside from the Mitzvot that are related to Eretz Yisrael, our homeland country where even today in the absence of the Temple, there are still some Mitzvot that are performed such as the famous Mitzva or Mitzvot of Shemitta, allowing the land to rest and not working the land every seventh year; according to the count of the Chofetz Chaim, there are only 271 Mitzvot, which he compiled together under the name Sefer HaMitzvot HaKatzeir "The Concise Book of Commandments", the last Sefer that he composed in his lifetime of his writing numerous literary works.

This Sefer is divided into two parts - 77 Mitzvot Asei/Positive or Active Commandments and 194 Mitzvot Lo Ta'aseh/Negative or Non-Active Commandments. Ah, so we mentioned here 77 Positive Commandments. And what is the final one of these?

Before answering this question, I would like to note that Tractate Avoda Zara of the Babylonian Talmud is related to the consecutive numbers 75, 76 and 77. There are 75 Dafim/double sided pages of this tractate, and being that each such tractate begins with Daf Beit/Two, the tractate ends on Daf Ayin Vav - Page 76, and the first letters of the name of this tractate spells the number Ayin Zayin - 77. We will get back to the number 75 a little later on.

With the above being said, the final two Mitzvot of these 77 Active Commmandments as listed by the Chofetz Chaim is - remembering the evil deed that Amalek did to us Jews
and wiping out his descendants. Let's write here what the Chofetz Chaim has to say on these two Mitzvot:

#76 - Remembering the deed that Amalek did to us, as it says: "Remember what Amalek did to you", meaning, to mention orally - his evil deeds and his ambush of us, in order to arouse our hearts to hate him. This applies in all places and all times for both males and females.

#77 - Wiping out the descendants of Amalek, as it says: "You shall surely erase the memory of Amalek". We don't know who is Amalek until Elijah the Prophet comes and informs us as to who this is, and then we will wipe out his memory from this world (literally "under the heavens"). May Hashem cause us to merit to see the coming of Elijah the Prophet and our righteous Messiah speedily in our days. Amen.

Now, one may ask, what in the world does Amalek have to do with idolatry. True, all the nations of the world worshipped idols besides Jews in those days. So, it's nice to play games with the numbers 76 & 77 and say that both of these topics have to do with these numbers. It's also true that both the names Amalek & Avoda Zara begin with the letter Ayin. Also, Amalek & El Acher, which means another god - as opposed to Hashem, have the same Gematria of 240. But, how do these two topics directly relate to each other?

To begin with, the reason why the Jews were attacked by Amalek is because Amalek, as cousins to the Jews as descendants from Esau, brother of Jacob, patriarch of the Jews, were most jealous of us and was the very first nation to attack us when we were freshly redeemed from Egypt. As far as Hashem was concerned, the reason why He allowed Amalek to begin attacking the Jews was because as Rashi notes, it says right before the attack as originally recorded in the Bible that there were Jews who doubted among themselves "Is Hashem among us or not"? To answer this question, Hashem sent Amalek to remind the Jews that nothing happens without Hashem calling the shots. Along these lines, the word Safek/doubt also has the same Gematria as Amalek & El Acher.

At one level, it's not that the Jews doubted if Hashem exists or that if there other gods to turn to. Their problem was that they had a doubt as to what extent Hashem was in control of the universe. Hence, even when the Jews did worship idols within two months following this with the Golden Calf, the root of their problem was not that they didn't believe that G-d existed to begin with; but rather, they doubted G-d to be in total charge and control of everything. With that being the case, perhaps then there could be other spiritual forces for all that they knew, that could also have a say as to how things are run in this world.

Getting back to the name of the current Talmudic tractate being studied, this is indeed the most often name used to refer to idolatry. But, when translated literally, it doesn't mean idol worship, or worshiping of other gods, but rather "strange worship". In fact, there are at times other phrases used that means
"idol worship", such as Avodat Elilim, so why use an obscure meaning?

Why I wrote a little earlier about the concept of removing oneself from evil before focusing on the good, the name given to something by the Torah can teach more than one lesson. You see, idols don't have to necessarily take the form of a statue, a part of the planetary system, or even flying angels. One can be obsessed with money, television, smoking, fancy vacation packages, or other distractions taking our mind off of what our purpose of being in this world is for. One may seem to lead a fine "religious" Jewish life - going to synagogue in the morning and evening making the Minyan, quorum of 10 male adults which allows for certain prayers to be said that aren't said with less than this. One can be very strict about eating only in restaurants that are certified as being "strictly kosher". One may even pat himself on the back for attending the daily Daf Yomi class. But...one can entirely miss the boat of what it is really about.

The proof, what is one's mind preoccupied about all the time? Is it about what one's children are doing aside from homework - anywhere from studying a Sefer outside of obligatory studies to watching T.V., or about raising prices in one's set of chain stores which are above the prices that are permitted according to Halacha/Jewish Law? Is one thinking about how one's Tzedaka/charity can benefit the most for the Jewish people, such as supporting the good Jews in Israel and Jewish education instead of the big plaque in one's synagogue showing off his name, or how to make the most of the left over food not even served on the guests' plates from one's catering business for which the family of the Bar Mitzva or wedding paid in full - only to be used as part of the next catering event for which the second family is also paying for, that is, payment from two families for some of the same food - which I highly doubt is permitted according to Jewish law, after both families have already paid top bucks for their catered occasion?

Indeed, one who is supposed to be an observant Jew can truly live a double standard life, when one's thoughts are far more occupied with materialism than spirituality, as illustrated by the loud voices of congregants talking about anything from business affairs which are forbidden to be spoken about on Shabbat to saying Lashon Hara/evil things about another Jew or community of Jews while the Kadish is being recited or when the Parsha is being read on Shabbat morning. Indeed, why bother going to synagogue if one will walk out of there full of Aveirot/sins instead of Mitzvot/commandments? Indeed, the term Avoda Zara - "strange worship" most aptly describes these very scenarios. Yes, Hashem is treated as a total STRANGER by some of these congregants who are going through the motions to maintain that "Modern Orthodox" title and lifestyle while boasting of their master's degrees from Yeshiva University (some of whom will not even marry a woman without a "good" college degree, showing their lack of faith and trust in Hashem) which while it may be a college where Talmud is taught, it has openly approved forums of gay issues and rights. How disgraceful!

I'll never forget one Purim when I was young when I heard the Megilla, or whatever part of it without excess noise, in a synagogue packed with people of all ages. As is customary when the name of Haman, a descendant of Amalek, is mentioned in the Megilla reading, all kinds of noise was made to booo this lowlife creature. Anyways, there were this group of Modern Orthodox teenagers or college students that were echoing over and over again "Where's the beef?", mimicking an old lady in a then recent commercial who made this remark in the midst of it. Perhaps even more than the fact that NO TALKING IS PERMITTED whatsoever according to Halacha in the midst of the Megilla reading as one is not allowed to speak anything even if there is a break in the Megilla reading until it is over, "Where's the beef" represents the materialism that many get caught up with despite their observant background with keeping Shabbat and avoiding eating non-kosher food. After all, this is hardly different than the Jews in the desert who asked for meat despite their daily dose of manna. As I heard one young Modern Orthodox professional talk about himself, gone are the years where he has concentration in his prayers.

While I can't say of myself that I am a perfectionist in concentrating on my prayers, not even trying to get closer to Hashem than one's present level - at least on Shabbat when one isn't supposed to be talking or even thinking about his business affairs - while focusing on making a good living to maintain the lifestyle of two cars and a swimming pool is just one more example of what can truly be called Avoda Zara, strange worship, strange service, estranged from what Hashem wants from us, because if we can't even put Hashem's wishes on our regular what-to-do list, let alone on the priority list, why should Hashem do anything special for us, unless we feel that whatever we earn is because WE earned it, when we forget that it is HASHEM who has given us everything up to today? The LEAST we can do is to thank Hashem for His past favors, and perhaps we will then be motivated to do a little more than what we have been doing until now, especially in this month of Elul, the month immediately preceding the High Holidays, described by the phrase Ani L'Dodi V'Dodi Li, the first letters of this phrase spelling this month of Elul, saying "I am to my Beloved (Hashem), and my Beloved is to me". Then, at least we have a fighting chance of doing things right, even if we don't get everything right the first time, even if we loose concentration during one point of our prayers, but at least we are keeping in mind that we have to make some effort, and that Hashem is not just another part of the day, but that He is the One we look forward to meeting with every day.

There is one more connection to be noted here between Avodah Zara & Amalek. The Tribe of Dan, who looked to conquer additional territory in Israel, were much more into idolatry than other tribes. Perhaps due to their nature from day one, it was especially this tribe, as our rabbis tell us, who was attacked by Amalek. While there was nothing wrong in itself to conquer more territory in Israel - in fact, not doing so was a shortcoming in other tribes that led to all kinds of troubles for them; the Tribe of Dan was apparently more of a materialistic type of group. As evident from Sefer Shoftim/Book of Judges, they stole an idol for worship on their way to conquer more land.

And in case anyone thinks that I am just trying to pick bones with anyone without knowing what I am talking about, we see in the Torah that the term Zar/stranger or Zara/strange is describing the models of these above situations. In the Temple, there were certain areas that were off limits to anyone who was not a Cohen. In fact, the Holy of Holies was off limits to anyone but the Cohen Gadol/High Priest and even he was only allowed in there only at certain times on Yom Kippur. In any case, in the context of those forbidden to enter certain parts of the Temple, the Torah calls someone of this category which is anyone who is a non-Cohen, a Zar/stranger; and any such person - and it doesn't matter if he is the greatest Torah scholar alive - who dares enter such areas in the Temple is liable to death by the hands of Heaven. In another context, when the two older sons of Aaron, on the day that their family was inaugurated as Cohanim, made a fire on the altar which was not included among Hashem's orders as it was supposed to be a fire coming from Hashem, their were immediately smacked dead like if it was a bolt of lightning that would have struck them. About this, the Torah says that they brought an Eish Zara/strange fire.

My point is that even when someone is trying so to speak to get closer to Hashem or do an action that shows his or her devotion to Him, BUT...not done according to the way that Hashem wants it, he or she is following a STRANGE path, a path that goes contrary to what Hashem wants, which will result sooner or later with going completely against the Torah. Some who are not observant may not quite understand this when they say "G-d understands" or "G-d will forgive". However, in following the ways of the Torah, we have to realize our place and position, and not attempt to change it, the same way that if one is given a part in a play, attempting to play the part of someone else or substituting/adding words that he or she feels will be (more) appropriate without the approval of the writer of the play can ruin the entire play by this one change and throw the audience totally off base.


WHO BEGINS WITH THE LETTER AYIN?

Soon, I will get back to write about serving Hashem, but first, there are amazing similarities between evil nations and people whose names begin with the letter Ayin.
Actually, I've written in the past in my blogs about the 70 nations, and the letter Ayin is the Gematria of 70. But today, especially as I mentioned Amalek & Avoda Zara as both beginning with this letter; it's noteworthy to at least briefly mention the list of evildoers beginning with this letter.

AZA & AZAEL - The fallen angels who boasted to Hashem that if they were to live on earth, the wouldn't sin with the women like people do. Hashem took them up on this challenge, resulting in them bearing children who became the world's giants. One of these famous descendants was...

OG - A survivor of Noah's flood, he lived on for many hundreds of years. He informed Abraham of the capture of his nephew Lot in the hopes that Abraham would die and then he would marry his wife Sara. His evil intentions to Abraham didn't stop there, because when his descendants the Jews were travelling in the desert at one point, Og came out to fight them, and Moses ended Og's life by hitting him in his ankle.

EPHRON - Pretended to be nice to Abraham by what seemed to be his generous offer of land which would allow Abraham to bury his wife Sara. When it came to the price, he demanded 400 coins of a grade that few could afford. While Abraham was happy to pay for what he knew was far spiritually more than mere burial plots, we see in the Torah that unlike before the transaction took place, his name was last spelled without a Vav, making his name spelled last to be the Gematria as the phrase Ayin Ra/evil eye - 400, which Ephron displayed towards Abraham. It's interesting to note that the phrase Ayin Ra both begins and ends with the letter Ayin.

AMON U'MOAB - Amon & Moab were two seperate nations, descended from Lot's two daughters. More than just cousin nations, both of these nations hired Bilam to curse the Jews. Though Bilam didn't quite accomplish what he was hired to do, the Torah in this very week's Parshat Ki Teitzei forbids a Jewish woman who is not a convert to marry a male from either of these nations even if he converts to Judaism.

ESAU - Born into the holiest family in the world at the time to his parents Isaac & Rebecca, along with his twin brother Jacob, he prefered the wild life. Part of his evil behavior was pretending to his father Isaac that he cared about performing Mitzvot very meticulously by asking seasoned questions, but they were just a front for his real way of life. Among his many evil descendants who followed in his evil footsteps, it was his grandson...

AMALEK, ancestor of the first nation who dared attack the Jews, making it easier for other nations to want to attack the Jews in the future. For this, Hashem gave this nation the worst treatment of all. Hashem gave especially three of the 613 Mitzvot devoted to remembering & not forgetting his surprise attack on the Jews, and wiping out his every last descendant, even the "innocent" babies. Saul, the first king of the Jews, had his chance to have the tremendous merit to fulfill these three Mitzvot once and for all, but he blew it when he left its very king alive who slept with a woman that one night between his capture and being killed by Samuel the prophet. This resulted in numerous evil descendants, including Haman. It will only be in the future, as mentioned earlier, when we will be able to fulfill these Mitzvot in their entirety.

ARAVIM - Yes, our distant related cousins through our great, great uncle Ishmael, half-brother of Isaac. While they were a long nomadic Arabic race, it was in the latter part of history that they became unusually violent thanks to their Koran, calling them to punish the infidels, especially the Jews. Of course, what is so surprising when the first script of the Koran was written by a Jew who was forced to write it by Mohammed and his followers, only for his body be cut into pieces by these sub-human creatures afterwards? It includes the account of Abraham attempting to sacrifice his son, as it is in the Bible or Old Testament, but with one difference - the Koran claims that it was Ishmael - not Isaac - who was the one to be sacrificed. I guess this says it all.

As a side note, the Jews in its early history were known as IVRIM, the Hebrews, using the same letters in fact as the Hebrew word for Arabs, also beginning with an Ayin. This was taken from Abraham's original title - HaIvri, coming from the word Eiver, the other side; meaning, that when the whole world was worshipping idols, he was on the other side of what they were doing, believing in only G-d, the only G-d. In time, this title to describe the Jews at one time when Hashem wanted Moses to tell Pharaoh time and again "the G-d of the Hebrews", was dropped once the Jews left Egypt, as now, it wasn't simply that they were of a different religion, but that they had a unique way of life, being a "Holy nation". We see that since then, the same letters of the word is written in the Torah as a verb - Ovrim/crossing over, where we see especially in Deutronomy over and over again where Moses addresses the Jewish people, telling them about how things will be when "you will cross over the Jordan", that is, when they come to Israel to live as a nation.

EREV RAV - "Mixed multitude" The term given to insincere converts to Judaism who joined the Jews in the Exodus wanting the benefits of being Jewish, but not living up to its demands. Moses pleaded with Hashem to let these people be included in the Exodus, and though Hashem tried dissuading Moses from letting them go, Moses insisted on bringing them "under the wings of the Divine Presence". This resulted in making major trouble for the Jews, resulting in the first official idolatry that the Jews worshipped called the...

EIGEL HAZAHAV - "Golden Calf". It even seemed real as it was moving around, a result of a trick of the black magic that the Erev Rav performed. The Sages tell us that the impurity that left the Jews right before they received the Torah which as a result would have allowed the Jews not to ever die, returned to them when they worshipped this, besides the immediate deaths that resulted among the Jews. Also following this, they weren't able to see Moses' face for the rest of his life, as they were now in a far less spiritual level to be able to see Moses' holy face. Also, unlike before when it would have been just Hashem who was going to travel with them to Israel, He sent an angel instead to directly travel with them. Finally, any punishment that befalls the Jewish people includes a little bit of the punishment that was not used for this sin.

AZAZEL - Yes, the famous scapegoat. While this term has been used in post Biblical times to refer to the Jews who were blamed for the non-Jews's and world's problems, it was a goat especially designated in Temple times that was thrown off a cliff on Yom Kippur to atone for the Jews' sins.

ARAFAT - Spelled in Hebrew beginning with an Ayin, though not his actual last name but referred to as such by the public, he wasn't a leader of any country, or even leader of whatever he called Palestine, but only president of an organization called the Palestine Liberation Organization, with the sole intent to throw Jews into the sea to declare Israel as Palestine. But perhaps what is more shocking is how the world viewed him as an important leader, honoring him the same way as they would for a president of a country. I'll never forget the time when they spent time in the news (tell me one non-Jewish news outlet that is not anti-Semitic) talking about the birth of his so called daughter (as he was a homosexual, and having a wife in France when he didn't live there was just a cover up of his base lifestyle due to which he died of AIDS), as though it was a major accomplishement for an older man like Arafat, giving the impression that he was a very important person. While the Israeli government was covering its eyes from reality as he shook hands at the Oslo Accords, he said straight out from day one that ALL of Israel is really Palestine; and as far as he was concerned, he attempted to get what he could through the means of "peace", and then he would fight for the rest.


THE PROBLEM OF AMALEK & AVODA ZARA IN ISRAEL TODAY

Now, let's get to what all the letters of the name Amalek stand for. A few years ago, as I was walking on the street in a very religious section in Jerusalem, I saw on some sort of poster as to what this name of Amalek alludes to. Each of its four letters - Ayin, Mem, Lamed, Koof - begins the name of one of the political parties in the Knesset. They are Avoda - Labor, Mem - Meretz, Lamed - Likud, and Koof - Kadima.

While this is not a blogspot to get into detailed discussions about each of these left-wing parties in the Knesset, because as far as I am concerned, even ALL of the "religious" parties - with the exception of the present HaIchud LeUmi/National Union party that follows in the footsteps of Kahane - are ALL against the Torah, because they let money and politics get into the way without focusing on the root issues that can change the Knesset into a Beit HaKnesset, which literally means a synagogue. In more practical terms, without all of the "religious" parties if they can really be called as such would truly want to do the right thing, they would all get together to be one big party, which would eventually lead to being the majority in the Knesset, and then once and for all, there would be a leadership that would be based on Torah, and we would have none of these problems with the Arabs, just as it was between wars in the earlier history of the Jewish State.

However, to seperate "the men from the boys" so to speak, the above four parties which are represented by the letters of the name Amalek represent four different tactics of how to give the land away to our present biggest enemies who can well be compared to Amalek. And while Jews let themselves be naive or be ignorant of the facts until today when it comes to Likud, still thinking that it is a right-wing party, and even some who call themselves religious Jews voted for its leader Bibi Netanyahu despite his past, tarnished record of giving in to the Arabs, Rabbi Meir Kahane, may Hashem avenge his blood, warned how this party is in fact the WORST party. It's very simple - as it seems to be a right-wing party with its clever tactics which include the typical promises to the people who vote for the politicians solely on their promised word, Likud with its Mr. Netanyahu has done terrible damage, including the latest of a 10-month curfew of construction in Israel,
which of course is for "its benefit", to show the Arabs that we are "sensitive" to their complaints, while we - the ones who believe in the truth - know that ALL of our Land belongs ONLY to us.

But what is most significant here is that it was only nearly five years ago that we finally realized what the letters of Amalek stand for. You see, the Kadima party, represented by the last letter of Amalek's name - Koof, was founded by none other than past Prime Monster Ariel Sharon, who may have shown vistages of being right-wing even as of just a few years earlier when he assisted with putting down the foundation stone for a synagogue in Gush Katif which would be declared "Ground Zero" by him only a few short years later; but as evil as he did with throwing some 9,000 Jews from 25 communities, his biggest Chutzpa was that SINCE THEN, he founded a clear cut left-wing party with the name Kadima, which in modern Hebrew, is used to mean "Let's go forward", adding insult to injury to most of the former residents of Gush Katif and four other towns in Gaza who were not even left with half-decent temporary dwellings, who were clearly punished by the evil Israeli government for not leaving their hard worked for homes before their expulsion, who would have otherwise received good benefits like the few who did leave beforehand. We see that Hashem allowed Mr. Sharon to found this party in the short period of time between the Disengagement and his sudden stroke a few months later.

To understand why the Kadima party started this way, it was Hashem who was attempting to awake the Jewish people to realize that by allowing money and politics - today's Avoda Zara - to get in the way, which included rabbis in what is called the Charedi world to be paid hush money for their Yeshivot, while they scream about every other injustice that affects their immediate community, or cry bloody murder about Jewish graves elsewhere being dug while maintaining absolute silence when it came to removing the Jewish deceased from the Gush Katif graveyards. It was through this indifference that the ultimate fulfillment of Amalek came to be. It doesn't have to be the literal meaning of the actual nation of Amalek, but imitating this nation's evil deeds. Former Prime Monster Ehud Olmert, who quickly grabbed hold of Kadima's reins the moment that its founder Sharon received his stroke, wasted no time in confiscating all sorts of items from Kahane books to dogs trained to save Jewish lives from Kahane followers who are based in Kfar Tapuach and an office of theirs in Jerusalem -the very day that Olmert started being dictator. This was followed shortly with the bloody bath of some 200 protestors in Amona when he sent armed police and soldiers to empty out nine homes from there while beating up men, women, and children, including two Knesset members. He felt that this would help him get elected as the official Prime Minister of Death as he was showing "strength" which very unfortunately proved to be correct.

And as in this case, the Ayin in the name of Amalek begins with the word Avoda, referring in this case to the Labor party, its ultimate fulfillment of it is allowing what is called Avoda Zara, which as I wrote, literally means "strange service". In this context, it means "foreign service", being peformed by our Arab enemies, who are making a living by being paid a little less money by their Jewish employers than supporting our own flesh and blood. But this is not only being done by the government who are currently employing Arabs to build this railroad trick in the midst of what was at one time the beautiful street of Jaffa in the heart of Jerusalem, the lunatic idea of Prime Monster Ehud Olmert when he was the crooked mayor of Jerusalem, shedding Jewish blood when a couple of Arab employees used tractors to murder and injure Jews. This is being done even by some so called Charedi Jews who think that they will save a few Shekalim by hiring Arabs, or once in a while will do a favor for their own click, but would hire Arabs anyday BEFORE hiring observant Jews who don't look as "religious" as they are, because they don't dress in black and who what they are called Tziyonim/Zionists with a philosophy that differs from the views of the Charedim. which is also a violation of the Torah's command of "Thou shalt not hate your brother in your heart", which we call in short Sinat Chinam/baseless hatred, hating another Jew simply because he is or looks different from you in some way, the very sin that caused the destruction of the Second Temple, and it is this very Aveira/sin that has been holding back the arrival of the Messiah and the rebuilding of the Temple until today.

The prime fault of these so called religious Jews hiring Arabs is that they lack the Emuna/faith and Bitachon/trust in Hashem that He can provide the same amount of livelihood - if not more so - if they would hire ONLY Jews, even those who are called Chilonim, secular Jews (and yes, it is a Mitzva to support and hire even non-observant Jews, so long as they do not openly look to mock Judaism). Besides, by hiring Arabs, while concerned about their own immediate pocket, they will forever loose out in the eternal reward for hiring needy Jews - the highest of the eight forms of Tzedaka/charity, some of whom are begging for Tzedaka in the form of free handouts in the Jerusalem streets as a result of the evil of these so called religious Jews, as though you and I reading this are supposed to be the ones to support these Jewish beggars when it is others who clearly have the Mitzva to support them by providing them with a livelihood. The truth is that at the end of the day, you see that the Arabs take their time working, and the ones hiring them are paying them for more time than necessary as a result, which means that had they hired honest Jews instead, even if paying them more money per hour, the work would have been completed sooner, showing that in fact, one does not make one penny or Agura more if what one is doing goes against Hashem's wishes.

Indeed, Avoda Zara, while not in the literal sense of idols today for the most part, is allowed to be performed in the sense of "foreign work" in Israel, for in fact, as Rabbi Meir Kahane put it best, ALL of the Arabs - including their babies - are trespassers when living or working in Israel. According to Halacha, we have no right to allow the Arabs, who not only do not accept the seven Noachide laws on themselves in lieu of the Koran, but openly have shown as an entity that they only wish for our destruction, to live - and certainly not to work for us - ANYWHERE in what is called Eretz Yisrael. Period!



WHAT WAS SPECIAL ABOUT LAST SHABBAT?

Well, it is true that I received an Aliyah this past Shabbat Parshat Shoftim - the
2nd or Levite Aliya. This is all about the rights, rules and responsibilities of a Jewish king, including having written on his behalf an additional Sefer Torah/Torah scroll to the one that all Jews are commanded to have written, and it is this second Torah scroll that is supposed to be with him at all times outside of impure places or when asleep. This is called Mishne HaTorah "second Torah". Interesting, as the sole mention of this phrase in the entire Tanach/Bible, it is also the alternative name of Sefer Devarim/Book of Deutronomy, and ALSO, the name of the very work (but without the prefix Hei of the word HaTorah), the magnum opus of the Rambam/Maimonides, which is a compilation of all the laws of the Torah, much more detailed than the Mishna, which is supposed to serve the same purpose.

It's interesting to note that of the fourteen volumes of the Rambam's work, the name of the last volume - Shoftim, is the same name as the name of this Parsha in which this phrase Mishne HaTorah is mentioned, and the last section of laws of this volume is entitled Hilchot Melachim, the laws of kings. And as I had mentioned in previous blogs, in the Hidden Codes of the Torah, the phrase Sefer Rambam "Book of Maimonides" is spelled equidistantly only once in the entire Chumash - every 5770th letter, as the number of this Hebrew year 5770! How interesting to note that this phrase Mishneh HaTorah, located in the Levite portion of Parshat Shoftim, is read only once a year in the Sefer Torah, and as a Levite, I was lucky to receive this Aliyah in this year of 5770.

There is one more special thing that happened to me on this very Shabbat. You see, noting that my second Hebrew name Matisyahu is the Gematria of 861, this past Shabbat Parshat Shoftim was the 861th day from when I gave myself my second Hebrew name Matisyahu on Sunday, Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5768. It was also on a Sunday, Rosh Chodesh Nissan that Aaron and his sons became inaugurated as Cohanim, and I named myself after Matisyahu Ben Yochanan Cohen Gadol, the post-Biblical hero who was responsible for the holiday of Chanuka.

Believe it or not, the two things that happened to me this past Shabbat - are related to each other.

First things first - the worldwide daily study of one chapter of the Mishne Torah of the Rambam on this past Shabbat was the very chapter about the role of the Levi'im/Levites in the Temple! Moreover, in this chapter studied on this Shabbat Parshat Shoftim, it mentions the very source of the Levites singing in the Temple from this very Parsha that was read on the same day, "He (the Levite) shall serve in the name of Hashem his G-d" (Deutronomy 18:7) "What is the type of service that is in the name of Hashem? This is song." (Laws of Sanctuary Vessels 3:2). (Though a parenthetical note, Tefilla/prayer and Shira/song have the same Gematria - 515). Now, turning to Divrei Hayomim/Book of Chronicles where the list of the 24 watches of the Levite singers are mentioned (I Chapter 25), we see that there was a Biblical Matisyahu, the name of the fourteenth watch! Yes, there was an earlier Matisyahu was who a Levite, as I am. (I mentioned my story of how I got to name myself Matisyahu as relating to singing on my 8th Post).

To note, the following two chapters in this section of the Rambam is about the services of the Cohanim and the Cohen Gadol/High Priest in the Temple, respectively. As it turns out, the very first word of this chapter about the Cohen Gadol is the word Cohen - the Gematria of 75, which was learned on the day that the Daf Yomi of Tractate Avoda Zara - consisting of 75 Dafim, began! It should be noted that this section of the Rambam is in the midst of the eighth volume that is called Avoda - (Divine) Service, referring spefically to the service that was performed in the Temple. Indeed, the verb for the word Cohen is L'Chahen - to serve, being like a synonym for the word Avoda or L'Avode - to serve.

Shimon HaTzadik/Simon the Just, who was one of the few righteous Cohanim Gedolim/High Priests of the Second Temple, who served in his post for 40 years, notes that there are three pillars on which the world stands - the Torah, the Avoda, and doing acts of loving kindness (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 1:2). Avoda in this instance can refer either to the Temple Service or one's prayers. Now, the main prayer that we say at least thrice daily is called the Shemoneh Esrei, which literally means eighteen, as there used to be 18 blessings that were recited until an additional one asking Hashem to obliterate certain evildoers was added, making this presently nineteen blessings. In any case, the 17th blessing that begins with Retzei "Be pleased..." asking Hashem to be satisfied with our prayers and a request to return the Divine Service in the Temple. You see, our Torah learning about the sacrifices and our prayers today take the place of the Temple Service, since it is not around presently, but we still want and yearn for the real thing - the Mitzvot that Hashem gave us pertaining to the Divine Service. And it was the Cohen Gadol, the head of the Cohanim, who was the Jews' representative to have everyone's prayers answered. And as connected with the name Shimon, my first name, the name of the previous blessing in Shemoneh Esrei is called Tefilla/prayer, as we tell Hashem, Shma Koleinu "Hear our voice", bearing in mind that Shma is the root word of the name Shimon, and as we continue in this blessing, we ask Hashem to accept our prayers. And it was another Shimon in Pirkei Avot - Shimon Ben Netanel, who says that we should be especially careful with saying the Shma (starting with Shma Yisrael "Hear, O Israel") and the Shemoneh Esrei.

And in another special connection to this Hebrew Year 5770, the title of the EIGHTEENTH chapter of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch/Concise Code of Jewish Law, composed by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried, is Hilchot Tefillat Shemoneh Esrei "Laws of the prayer of Shemoneh Esrei (literally means EIGHTEEN)". This chapter details the manners that we are supposed to display when saying this most important prayer as imagining speaking to a king of flesh and blood, certainly we we approach the King of Kings. In any case, the first letters of the name of this chapter - Hei Tav Shin Ayin - spells this very Hebrew Year 5770!

Now, getting back to the Aliyah that I received this past Parsha (Deutronomy 17:14-20), there are exactly 137 words. Accordingly, there are exactly 137 laws in the Rambam's Hilchot Beit HaBechira (Laws of the Temple), the first section of his volume called Avoda, and it has been said that this corresponds to the 137 years of the life of Levi, the ancestor of the Levite tribe who served in the Temple. The connection between these two concepts of 137 seems to stem from the reason that Levi's mother Leah named him as such - Atah Ha'Pa'am Yilaeh Ishi Eilai "Now this time, my husband (Jacob) will attach himself to me, for I bore him three sons". On a spiritual level, serving Hashem, as represented by the Tribe of Levi, is attaching ourselves to Hashem. And though the Rambam uses the term Beit HaBechira for the Temple, the usual term Beit HaMikdash is indeed the same Gematria as the name Matisyahu - 861!

Moreover, in the midst of counting the words in this Aliya, the words Mishne HaTorah are the 88th & 89th words respectively. Kabbalistically, a Chatan/bridegroom is compared to a Melech/king, the theme of this very Aliyah. With this being said, as a Chatan/bridegroom is supposed to receive an Aliyah both on the Shabbat before and after marriage - the 88th & 89th Shabbatot from when I was first named Matisyahu were the very Shabbatot before and after my marriage, respectively. The 88th word of this Aliya is Mishne, the Gematria of 395, and adding this number 395 to the Gematria of my first name Shimon - 466, is presto! - the Gematria of the name Matisyahu - 861! And indeed, the name together Shimon Matisyahu is the same Gematria as Kriat HaTorah - reading of the Torah (1327)! Now, noting that the 88th Shabbat from when I was given the name Matisyahu was the Shabbat before my marriage, it was the 616th day from the day that I was given this name, and the 89th word of the Aliyah that I received last Shabbat - HaTorah, is the Gematria of 616! This is also bearing in mind that that 616th day was the first day of Chanuka, and the name Chanuka is the Gematria of 89.

Noting this, the day that I gave myself the name Matisyahu - on a Sunday, Rosh Chodesh Nissan - was the very day and date that the Inauguration of the Tabernacle and Cohanim began. But also, it was the first of 12 consecutive days that one leader or another of a tribe brought sacrifices on behalf of his tribe. On this very day of the inauguration, Nachshon Ben Aminadav, brother-in-law of Aaron, leader of the tribe of Judah brought the sacrifices on behalf of his tribe. And the Maftir for the 1st day of Chanuka which fell out on the Shabbat before my marriage - which I was called up for - ends off with this very section of the Torah about the sacrifices of the leader of the tribe of Judah. And in reference to the Aliyah in Parshat Shoftim about the Jewish king, it is the Davidic dynasty descending from the Tribe of Judah that is supposed to be the ruling kings of Israel for the rest of time, including the Messiah.

Now, on the 89th Shabbat from when I was given my name Matisyahu, I was given the Aliyah - Maftir for the last day of Chanuka, the name Chanuka having the Gematria of 89 - beginning with the section in the Torah about the sacrifices that the leader of the Tribe of Menashe brought. Now, the name Menashe and the word Mishne - the 88th word of the Aliya that I had last Shabbat, have the same letters! Hence, you can see that there is a fusion here between these two words - Mishne HaTorah, and the number position of these words - 88th & 89th - in more than one way.

And as I mentioned the years of Levi's life, I should mention that Aaron, from whom Matisyahu was descended from parentally, lived 123 years. Correspondingly, Matisyahu's Gematria of 861 is a multiple of 7 & 123 which equals the sum total of 861. Hence, being on this Shabbat, the 123rd Shabbat from when I was named Matisyahu, representing the aspect of Cohanim from Aaron to Matisyahu, on the day that the chapter of Rambam was about the Mitzvot of the Levi'im, and the Aliyah that I received is all about the Mitzvot of the Jewish king or Melech, we can take the first letters of these words - Melech, Levi'im, Cohanim - which spells Melech/king. And by the way, the ancestor of the Jewish kingdom which is supposed to be eternal was King David, whose name David is the Gematria of FOURTEEN, as the last of the FOURTEEN volume of the Mishne Torah of the Rambam is about the laws of Jewish kings, and was the one responsible to setting up the 24 watches of the Cohanim and Levi'im, and the ancestor and name of the FOURTEENTH watch of the Levite singers was Matisyahu!

In connection with the about, our Rabbis tell us that when the Jews came to Israel, they were given three special commandments related to the establishment of the REAL state of Israel - appointing a king, wiping out Amalek, and building the Temple.

Ultimately, this leads to remembering the King of Kings, and the sole purpose of the respective positions of the Jewish king, Cohanim and Levi'im was to represent Hashem and set a prime example for the rest of the Jewish people, NOT as a means of its own.
Unfortunately, there were some Jewish kings who worshipped idols, and some Cohanim Gedolim/High Priests of the Second Temple who paid for the high status as Cohen Gadol
even if not worthy and was proven by the fact that they died in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur as they were not worthy High Priests. We have to always remember that if we have a position of power, that this power is SOLELY from Hashem for the SOLE purpose of serving Him, and it's only an honorable position if we remember that it is to Hashem that we give the honor to and not to ourselves; and as related to a position in the community, as a means to serve the people, even those who are supposedly less than ourselves, NOT as a means to use the people to make ourselves look taller. Though the letter Ayin is the beginning letter of major evil people and nations, this letter as the Gematria of 70 is the number of the years of King David's life, who made use of every day of his life that was given to him as a gift from Adam, who saw that it was destined for King David to live for only three hours.
And my name Matisyahu, which means GIFT OF HASHEM, represents the continuance of life and my wife Yael that Hashem has given me as I am still in the midst of my first year of marriage, which was last represented by the Aliyah that I received this past Parsha about the Jewish king, which is today represented by the Chatan/bridegroom. And to note, the letter Ayin is the middle letter of the first names of my wife & mine.

And speaking of Parshat Shoftim and Sefer Shoftim of the Rambam, I would like to point out to the beginning of Sefer Shoftim/Book of Judges of the Bible, where in the beginning of it, the Tribe of Shimon, as having a portion of the land of Israel within Judah's territory, joined with the Tribe of Judah in fighting the nations around to conquer the land.


Today, I declare my thanks to Hashem. Twenty three years ago, on Shabbat Parshat Shoftim, the 4th of Elul, the same as it was this year, Hashem performed a big miracle for me. I was walking a long distance from synagogue towards home, when in the midst, I was met up by a huge dog ready to attack me. My immediate response was to scream "Help me, Hashem!" and I ran across the street where cars from opposite ends were driving. As I could see behind me, even as I was running for my life, I could see the dog attempting to cross this wide street. In the middle of this happening, it somehow got stuck for at least a few moments between two cars travelling in opposite directions. By the time that the dog was out of that situation, I was way ahead, and the dog not seeing where I was stopped attempting to chase after me. Yes, I lost my Kippa/skull cap, and though I wasn't too happy either about the tremendous scare that I received, Hashem clearly saved my life, at well as whatever injuries that could have resulted G-d forbid, as I heard a few years back of a boy around town whose leg was amputated because he was bitten by a dog with rabies.

And today - 10 Elul - I am up to reading the middle chapter of the Chumash/Penteteuch - Leviticus Chapter 4 - of its 187 chapters, which I began on Shavuot, celebrated in the month of Sivan, marking exactly 1,000 years from when the first Tanach, complete with vowels and singing notes, was completed during the month of Sivan, over 500 years before the Bible would first touch the printing press. This very chapter speaks of the various sin-offering sacrificial animals brought in the Temple, a reminder to one who sinned that really, he should have been the one killed, but Hashem in His infinite mercy rather wishes for one to realize to better his ways when he sees what happens instead to his sin offering that he brings to atone for his sin. Interestingly, it mentions the sacrifices when a High Priest or Jewish king brings when they sin accidentally, who take responsibility for their sin rather than placing the blame on others. Today's Jewish leadership, or whatever is left of it - which is supposed to be "without turning from the right or left" (and I don't mean literally right-wing or left-wing politics in this quote), has much to learn from this middle chapter of the Five Books of Moses.

As a quick note on Sefer Vayikra/Book of Leviticus, it is called Torat Cohanim, the Torah or laws of the Cohanim, making up the majority of this Sefer, the THIRD of the Five Books of Moses, consisting of 27 Chapters, which is most significant, because the number 27 is THREE times THREE times THREE, and as represented by their ancestor Levi, whose name has THREE letters, and the THIRD son of Jacob and Leah! And as the number three represents the concept of peace as being a third party to resolve a fight between two parties, which the ancestor of the Cohanim - Aaron, displayed so well, the THIRD word of the THIRD Chapter of Leviticus is Shelamim - PEACE offerings, and the THIRD word of the THIRD verse of the THIRD Chapter of Leviticus is HaShelamim "The PEACE offerings"! And as the concluding verse in Psalms 29 states, "Hashem will give strength to his people, Hashem will bless his people with peace." The Hebrew word for strengh is Oz, also spelling the number in Hebrew for
77, and in this context, Oz/strength refers to the Torah, which is the ultimate guarantee for peace.

And today being the sixth day of the week of Parshat Ki Teitze, corresponding to which is the sixth Aliyah of the Parsha, this section begins with the verse "When a man marries a new woman, he shall not serve in the army or do anything related to it, but be free for his household for the first year, and make happy the woman whom he married" (Deutronomy 24:5). The underlying purpose of this is there should Shalom Bayit - translated literally as "peace of the home", tranquility in one's marriage, starting off on the right foot with their marriage, giving considerable time to one another, which will set the tone for their lifetime marriage. Indeed, this verse is most appropriate for my first year of marriage.

Concluding my 77th Post on the note of Chai=EIGHTEEN, which is life, mentioned in this Post as the 18th Chapter of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch about the laws of Shemoneh Esrei, which literally means EIGHTEEN; as the Chofetz Chaim, at the conclusion of his list of the 77 Active Mitzvot writes as a sign to remember that there are 77 such Mitzvot that we observe today as the Gematria of 77 - V'Chayu Bahem, "You shall live by them" with Hashem's Mitzvot which give us eternal life, and as the concluding verse about the Jewish king states "Without turning his hear aside from his brethren, and without turning from the commandment - right or left, in order that his days will be prolonged for his kindgom - he and his children in the midst of Israel." Yes, not necessarily as the right service as opposed to the left service; but as opposed to the WRONG service of Avoda Zara as unfortunately quite common today without physical idols, the RIGHT way of performing Avodat Hashem - the SERVICE OF HASHEM.

P.S. In this coming week, I plan, with G-d's help, to write more about the subject of Jewish marriage, though it is most related to this week's Parshat Ki Teitze, but enough writing for one post.

10 Elul, 5770

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Your hard work and learning to put out this blog is immensely inspiring. May Hashem HaKodosh Boruch Hu grant you and your wife a year of blessing, good health, success in all of your endeavors. May you continue to be a source of inspiration to all of your readers.
Thank you. Sarah B.