Monday, December 6, 2010

#89 - The Days of Matisyahu: Goodness & Kindness


While this is not my first post about Chanukah on (see #14 & #15 - Dec. '08 and #53 - Dec. '09), this Chanukah post is and will always be unique in at least one way. You see, this post is Post #89, and the word Chanukah is the Gematria of 89.

To be sure, the Gematria of the name of this holiday is not the only connection of the number 89 to Chanukah. To begin with, the raison d'etre why Chanukah came into being is due to the triumph of the Jews over the Syrian Greeks, the latter who attempted to get the Jews to be part of their Hellenistic culture, which was based on worshipping the body, which included the original Olympic games which consisted of people running the race while naked. Their ultimate goal when it came to us Jews was to strip us of our lifestyle of holiness, which includes having a sense of modesty for the body, even for men. In any case, the Hebrew word for body - Goof - is also the Gematria of 89.

While we see examples of Gematriot where you have two words which are like antonyms to each other having the same Gematria; in this case, it doesn't necessarily have to be viewed as such. You see, the body is not be viewed as a mere shell for the live person, only to be cremated when one is finally deceased, which is by the way against Judaism, and one willing to have such a thing done to him and gets cremated as a result does not even have Kaddish said over him. The body is in effect created in G-d's image, descended from the original creation of G-d - Adam & Eve. But even more importantly, the body - while encompassing the soul - serves in itself as a means of serving Hashem, beginning with circumcision on his eighth day. In fact, the 613 Mitzvot/commandments correspond to the various parts of the body that perform their respective Mitzvot, as outlined in the Sefer/Jewish book called Sefer Chareidim.

Also, the longest chapter in the Chumash - Numbers 7 - consists of 89 verses, which makes up most of the Torah reading for Chanukah, which includes the details of the offerings that the leaders of the tribes of Israel brought in the Tabernacle in the course of 12 days. More on this later on.

And then, you can play with the number 89 itself, and not just with the Chanuakah toy called dreidel. Add the numbers 8 plus 9, and your total is 17; and as we see, we say a total of 17 Berachot/blessings at the lighting of the Menorah over the course of Chanukah - three the first night, and two for each of the remaining nights. And by the way, 17 is the Gematria of the word Tov/good, and the very first time in the Torah that the word Tov is used is in reference to light - "G-d saw that the light was good." And as we say near the beginning of Psalm 92 - "It is good to give thanks to Hashem and to sing for Your exalted Name." This is similar to what we say in the paragraph declaring our lighting the Chanuakah Menorah beginning with "These candles..." which includes the statement " order to give thanks and to laud Your Great Name..." Moreover, the last two or three days of Chanukah begin the month of Tevet, the name of the month being cognate with the word Tov.


Now that I have mentioned giving thanks in relationship to Hashem's Name, let's write here about other names. As on each of the eight days of Chanuka, we read in the Torah of the offerings that a leader of his particular tribe brought in the Tabernacle, until the eight day when we conclude with the last five, today's special Chanukah reading is about the offerings that the leader of the Tribe of Shimon brought. In fact, I was called up for the Levite portion of this reading today; but what was ironic is while the first and last part of today's reading included my namesake Shimon, my own portion did not include my name (NOTE: This is how it is read in Israel, the land that we Jews are all supposed to live in. Jews living outside of Israel read from the following portion for the third/last reading).

Today, the fifth day of Chanukah, my two Hebrew names - Shimon Matisyahu - share a special connection with each other, more than any other day of the year. Matisyahu, the ancestor of the Maccabees, who started the revolution that brought about the existance of this holiday of Chanukah, is the very one whose name is mentioned in every Shemoneh Esrei - the main prayer recited three times minimally, and in Bircat HaMazon/Gracd after Meals, during the eight days of Chanukah - "It was in the days of Matisyahu..."

Sorry Bible story tellers who don't believe in following G-d's word in the Bible, but it was Matisyahu - not Judah the Maccabee, though he may have been the one who faught fierce battles and entered the Temple with the relighting of the Menorah - who is the one who is given the credit for this holiday. My point here is that it wasn't just a war that Jews strategically won which we celebrate today by eating latkes and lighting menoras which are not kosher - if they are electric or the candles are not in a straight row. It was Matisyahu who saw the need to fight when he saw how a Hellenistic Jew dared to offer a pig on an altar, and wasted no time in calling a revolution that few Jews cared to perform. While Matisyahu passed away as an old man before Chanuakah was to be, it was his foresight and bravery that transformed eight days annualy to be special days of holiness, just as we transform our physical bodies into something spiritual when we perform Hashem's Mitzvot.

And so while the holiday of Chanukah itself is not mentioned directly in any part of the Chumash, or in the rest of the Bible for that matter, for the conclusion of the Bible took place before the story of Chanukah, we read the portion of the Torah that is written about the offerings of the leaders of the tribes of Israel who brought them in the Tabernacle for the first 12 days since its dedication, concluding with the commandment of lighting the Menorah, just as the Temple was rededicated with the lighting of the Menorah that brought about Chanukah. And on the fifth day of "the days of Matisyahu," - today - we read the offerings brought by the leader of the Tribe of Shimon. And speaking of reading the Torah, the Gematria of Kriat HaTorah/Reading of the Torah is my very Hebrew name(s) Shimon Matisyahu! (Note: I was a Torah reader for many years).

And being that the fifth day of Chanukah is always on the 29th of Kislev when we read the offerings as related to the Tribe of Shimon (unlike the last three days of Chanukah that do not always fall out on the same dates in the Jewish calendar), I should note that there is another Shimon who is very related to the number 29. Two months earlier, the 29th of Tishrei marks the Yahrzeit of Shimon HaTzadik, the grandfather of Matisyahu, whose words in Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers - I had quoted at the very beginning of my recent post #87. While I haven't seen anywhere any discussion about the connection of the number 29 with the name Shimon, I should tell you that I was born on the 29th day from my mom's birthday (and no, I will not reveal how old my mom was when I was born because then you will figure out her age from my age). Also, I was born on the fifth day of the week (Thursday), which was also the same day of the week that the offerings of the Tribe of Shimon were brought (Note: When it says "on the fifth day," it refers to the fifth day from the dedication of the Tabernacle, but it also happens that it did in fact take place on the fifth day of the week (Thursday)).

And what makes the number 29 especially significant to Chanuka is that the letters of the number in Hebrew - Chaf Teit - are the very letters that begin the names of the months - Kislev & Tevet - respectively, the two months in which Chanukah occurs.
In fact, Chanukah is unique of all the holidays in that it is the ONLY holiday that is celebrated in two different months. These two letters also the beginning letters of the phrase - Ki Tov "for it is good," (and the name of the month of Tevet is related to the word Tov/good), a recurring phrase in the Torah describing the various creations that Hashem made when creating the world. In fact, the very FIRST time in the Torah uses this phrase is with the creation of light, which is most associated with the holiday of Chanukah, the "Festival of Lights." And it is the
29th of any given month that is what is called Erev Rosh Chodesh - the eve, or the day preceding the New Moon, hence, the bridge of the two months, making the connection between the end of the current month, and the beginning of the following month.

It is no wonder then that the name Shimon of the tribe whose leader brought his offerings of which we read about on the 29th of Kislev - has another special connection to the name Chanukah, and the number of this date being the acronym for the months on which Chanukah occurs. You see, it is the only name of the 12 Tribes that consists of the letters that spell the word Shemen/oil: Shin-Mem-Noon, the substance used to light the Menorah. And to note, relating the tribe of Shimon to "the fifth day," the name Chanukah - consisting of the letters Cheit-Noon-Vav-Kaf-Hei - has five letters, and the fifth letter is Hei=5. With this being said, the letters of the word Shemen form the basis of the word Shemonah/eight, especially since we light the Menorah - preferably with olive oil - over the course of eight days.

As another connection between the two names Shimon Matisyahu, Shimon is the Gematria of Har Moriah/Mt. Moriah = 466, and Matisyahu is the Gematria of Beit HaMikdash/Temple = 861, which was located on the grounds of Mt. Moriah. Accordingly,
the selected verses for my two names respectively are "Praise, O Jerusalem, the L-rd;
laud your G-d, O Zion" (Psalms 147:12)- and Mt. Moriah is the selected area of Jerusalem where the Temple is supposed to be located, and "Who will ascend the Mountain of the L-rd; and who will arise in the place of His holiness" (Psalms 24:3)-
this verse emphasing the place of the Temple as Hashem's holy place. (Note: These selected verses of mine are based on the fact that they each begin and end with the same letters that my respective names begins and ends with, customarily recited at the end of every Shemoneh Esrei). And in light of the above in terms of numbers, these two names are especially connected with each other with the number eight - the number representing what is ABOVE nature, just like Jerusalem is ABOVE all other cities in the world in holiness, and the Temple is ABOVE all other structures or other areas in the world in holiness.


The Mitzvot that the Syrian Greeks especially atttempted to prevent to Jews from performing was circumcision, the Sabbath, and the sanctification of the New Moon. From this, it seems that they weren't so concerned about us celebrating the Jewish holidays, but that we should not have the means to declare a new month, meaning Rosh Chodesh. The reason for this is simple. You see, they knew that unlike the Sabbath, the Jewish holidays on fixed days of the calendar were based on when Rosh Chodesh was declared. So, they worked on what was the "root of the problem."

While the Syrian Greeks too would not have had a problem with us taking a day of work every week to refresh one's body to be ready anew for the coming week, the problem of them seeing us keep the Sabbath is that we kept it AS A DAY OF HOLINESS. Just as the Mitzvah of declaring the New Moon is called Kiddush HaChodesh/SANCTIFICATION of the month; so too, they would have none of it as far as us declaring Shabbat as holy, starting off with the Mitzvah of Kiddush, which literally means sanctification, delaring the Sabbath as Hashem's day at the beginning of the Shabbat meal with a cup of wine. And of course along these lines, circumcision for Jews was tabboo, because this rite is performed specifically to mark ourselves Jews as HASHEM's nation, not just as some sanitary process the way that is performed in hospitals in the United States for non-Jews.

Anyways, I would like to note that the fifth day of Chanukah is the ONLY day of Chanukah that can NEVER fall out on the Sabbath (though in earlier times when the New
Moon was declared by the Jewish court after witnessing it, it was possible). It seems a little ironic for this particular day to happen, especially as it relates to the name Shimon which consists of the letters Shemen/oil, which is reminiscent of the one seal of oil of the Cohen Gadol/High Priest that was untouched by the spiritual impure Syrian Greeks that was able to be used to light the Menorah by the Maccabees on the night of 25 Kislev that resulted in the holiday of Chanukah starting the following year. It was this only little pack of oil that was only able to last being lit for one day, but miraculously lasted eight days, that represented this concept of holiness vs. impurity, as exemplified by the Sabbath that this foreign nation attempted to oust from Jewish living.

But perhaps it is precisely this point that brings a challenge here for the fifth day of Chanukah never falling out on the Sabbath. The idea here is to use the mundane, the six work days in the week, towards serving Hashem (NOTE: Any given day particularly in the month of Kislev - when Chanukah begins - can fall out in today's Jewish calendar on any one of six days). It is not like, L'Havdil, the way that some Christians behave when they go to church on Sunday, behaving like a perfect angel in their house of worship, and then the rest of the week, behave like every one else, following their base desires and habits. While certainly, it is far easier on Sabbath to pray, learn, and sing hymns to G-d, we have to serve Hashem - SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.

Similarly, as Goof/body is the Gematria of Chanukah - 89, while we don't see our inner self - the Neshama/soul, whose letters also consist of the word Shemen/oil, as the name Shimon as exemplified on this fifth day of Chanukah - (NOTE: The combined Gematriot of Shimon=466 & Neshama=395 is the same Gematria as Matisyahu=861!), we have to utilize our mundane body in the service of Hashem - not just being
"spiritual" by repeating mantras and being deep in meditation (while the house is being robbed and everyone's mouths are duct taped, as I once saw in a movie), but being physically active - when it comes both to performing ritual AND our
behavior towards others - not just because it it "nice" to do good things for others,
but also, because HASHEM SAID SO.

This last point may bother some "ethical" people; but speaking of ethics, what happened to the "ethical" professors when Hitler started his annihilation of Jews. Did their ethics all of a sudden tell them that they must go against the present trend of society, and do everything within their means to save Jews? Or, because they felt they since we Jews were sub-human, it was OK to treat us differently - from silence to being active in wiping us out - since practicing ethics only applies to treating others who are genuinely called humans?

Actually, believe it or not, there is one difference between these anti-Semitic German professors and the Syrian Greeks. You see, the ones who sought our destruction in the Holocaust only cared just to get rid of us once and for all. This means that even if G-d forbid, Jews would have converted to Christianity, it would have made no difference to Hitler, because he simply hated us as that "Chosen Nation," as opposed to the "Aryan race."

In stark contrast, the Syrian Greeks felt that we Jews had something to offer with our wisdom, as our Bible after all is a book of wisdom. However, this nation had a worse plan for us - unlike Hitler who just wanted to kill us physically in this world, but did not prevent us from being part of the eternal spiritual world, the SGs looked to annihilate us from the eternal spiritual world, as it was only the body that mattered, but not to have anything to do with holiness. Of course, non-observant Jewish Holocaust survivors may disagree on this point, but the rabbis in the Talmud make it crystal clear that one who causes someone to sin is worse than one who kills him, for the former only takes the victim away from this temporary world, but the latter removes him eternally from benefiting of the eternal bliss.

Along the lines that the only day of Chanukah that never falls out on the SABBATH is the FIFTH day, the day related to the Tribe of Shimon in the Torah reading, since this day is connected with this tribe of Shimon particularly through the Torah scroll - which consists of FIVE Sefarim/books (popularly called the Five Books of Moses), about which the last of the 613 Mitzvot of the Torah is to WRITE a Torah scroll for oneself, the Tractate Shabbat in the Babylonian Talmud, following the Mishnah that mentions examples of abbreviated words of a minimum of two letters over which one is liable for punishment if WRITTEN on the SABBATH (according to the Torah, writing only one letter on the Sabbath is exempt from punishment in this world, though it is still forbidden to be done), the first of these examples being the name/word Shem (which literally means "name" and also the name of Shem son of Noah) from the name SHIMON. Hence, being that this is the first example mentioned in the Mishna, the Talmud mentions this particular example again and again in its explanation of how we know from the Torah that one is liable even for writing an abbreviated word in short for the longer word that one has in mind. In relationship to this, it is interesting to note that in the blessings that Jacob gave to his children before he passed away, Rashi notes that it was this tribe of Shimon, among other things, was more concentrated with scribes (who write Torah scrolls) more than all the other tribes. Truly amazing!


Today - 29 Kislev - is the 89th day from the beginning of the New Year. Noting earlier about the special significance of this fifth day of Chanukah, the name of the holiday that begins the New Year - Rosh Hashanah - is the Gematria of the name of the ultimate hero of Chanukah - Matisyahu=861. By the way, speaking of the FIFTH day, Matisyahu had FIVE sons who were all active in the fight against the Syrian Greeks, four of the five who perished in war at one point or another. One of his five sons was named Shimon, the only one of the five who didn't perish in battle. (NOTE: In some years, the fifth of Chanukah is the 88th day from the New Year since sometimes, the month of Cheshvan has only 29 days, unlike this year when it had 30 days).

In some years, the first day of Chanukah - and as the name itself denotes that the Jews rested on the 25th of Kislev which was the beginning of Chanukah (Chanu Kaf Hei)
-is the 89th day from the 25th of Elul, the date on which the creation of the world began, which included the creation of light that hints to the light of Chanukah, as the 25th word of the Torah is the first mention of the word Ohr/light (see the parenthetical note in the previous paragraph). As it turns out, this year, the 89th day from 25 Elul was the 24th of Kislev. While this is only the day before Chanukah, and not Chanukah itself, there is a special connection of Chanukah to this date as well, at least in terms of the Second Temple that the Jews had free access to once again in the miracle of Chanukah. I am refering specifically to Haggai 2:10-19, in which the Cohanim were given test questions to prepare them to serve in the newly built Second Temple. It is most significant that the date "the twenty fourth of the ninth month (Kislev)" is mentioned TWICE in this section, and note the wording of the second mention of this date, "Set now your hearts from this day, the twenty fourth of the ninth month, back to the day when the foundation of the sanctuary of Hashem was laid." And speaking of the FOUNDATION of the Temple - in relationship to the 24th of Kislev - which is a spiritual replica of the world, the FOUNDATION of the world took place on the 25th of Elul!


Yes, the only Verse 89 in the ENTIRE Chumash, the conclusion of the longest chapter in the Chumash, is the last verse of Parshat Naso, which is included within the reading for the eighth and last day of Chanukah. As I noted in an earlier post, this
verse demonstrates an example, as mentioned specifically in the introduction of Torat Cohanim, a Midrash specific to Sefer Vayikra/Book of Leviticus, of the last of the 13 ways through which the Torah is interpreted to arrive at the decision of a Jewish law, as handed down from Hashem to Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) - "When there are two verses that contradict each other, there is a third verse that comes along and makes sense between them." This verse iThs that verse that solves the contradiction between two other verses that mention the area where Hashem spoke to Moses. Today, I am not going to go through this again, but this is Numbers 7:89 - When Moses came into the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him (Hashem), he heard the Voice speaking to him between the two cherubs, and He spoke to him."

Along these lines, the real celebration of Chanukah is the triumph of the ORAL TORAH/LAW, which spells out how to live a REAL Jewish life, which is the very part of the Torah that the Syrian Greeks had a problem with us believing and following in.
Hence, it is this LAST verse in Parshat Naso Verse 89 read on the LAST day of Chanukah, that represents the LAST of the 13 principles of Torah interpretation as per the Oral Torah - of which the Mishna & Gemara/Talmud form the basis of this. And speaking of last, one of the connotations of the word Gemara is finishing/concluding, for it is the Oral Torah that has the LAST word - not what the Bible critics want everyone to believe about us Jews, mocking us based on the literal meaning of the Bibl; for example, such as an "eye for an eye", which really means according to the teachings of the Talmud, paying money for damaging another's eye as opposed to knocking out the eye of the one who did the eye damage.

The Hasidic book called B'nei Yissaschar - so named because the author of this book felt a special aura of holiness during Chanukah that he didn't feel the rest of the year about which his Torah teacher told him that it's because the root of his soul is from the Tribe of Yissaschar - which is full of Hasidic thoughts on the Sabbath, Rosh Chodesh, and holidays, notes that the 13 ways through which the Torah is interpreted, corresponds to the 13 Divine Attributes of Divine Mercy. The Arizal (Rabbi Isaac Luria) the great Kabbalist of the 1500s, notes that when we light the Menorah on each of the eight nights of Chanukah, we illuminate another one of the 13 Attributes - on the first seven nights, the respective first seven attributes, and on the last night - the 8th through the 13th attributes. Also, there is a book on Mussar/ethics called Kav HaYashar in Chapter 96, that points out that the first two blessings over lighting the Chanukah lights each consist of 13 words, each representing the 13 Divine Attributes of Mercy.

While I am not here to point out the connection between each day of Chanuka and the particularly Divine Attribute, let us point out to the first one. The first one (and this list is according to the Arizal, the correct way, as opposed to other versions of the 13 Attributes) is E-l/G-d, Hashem's name as related to His kindness.
In any case, E-l consists of the letters that spell the number 31. This is the Attribute that we light up on the first night of Chanukah. As we read about the offerings that the leader of the Tribe of Judah brought on the first day of Chanukah,
and Yehudah/Judah is the Gematria of 30, Psalm 30 which is recited especially on Chanukah (perhaps also hinting to Judah the Maccabee who lit the Menorah in the Temple following the victory) ends with the word Odeca - "I will give thanks to You,"
and this word is the Gematria of 31, the same as the name E-l corresponding to the first day of Chanukah.

And just as on the eight/last day of Chanukah, we conclude the reading of the offerings of the tribal leaders from the "eighth day" through the "twelfth day," so too, we illuminate the 8th through the 13th Attributes of Mercy on the eighth/last night of Chanukah. Now, adding these six numbers pertaining to this: 8+9+10+11+12+13
equals 63. Now, the Hebrew word for eight is Shemonah, which is sometimes spelled without a Vav, hence, having the same letters as Neshamah, and Mishnah, and there are exactly 63 tractates to the Mishnah, the foundation of the Oral Torah!

It seems ironic that hardly any mention of Chanukah is made in the entire Mishnah, unlike the holiday that started shortly before - Purim, gets its attention by having an entire tractate - one of the 63 - devoted to the Megillah reading, the main Mitzvah of Purim. Yes, there are no laws devoted to the lighting of the Menorah on Chanukah. What's the deal here?

You see, Rabbi Judah the Prince, known as Rebbe (as referred to at the beginning of the second chapter of Pirkei Avot), was very upset at the Maccabees, who were Cohanim, who utilized their status as kings, which was only supposed to be a temporary thing. So, what was it to Rebbe? Rebbe was descended from King David, the ancestor of the Davidic dynasty, the only dynasty from King David's time with the true authority of being king. While for the moment, the Maccabees/Hasmonian dynasty may have been necessary in establishing law and order, they should have handed over the authority as soon as possible to King David's descendants, or at least to King David's tribe Judah. Eager for power, they maintained their kingly position, and ultimately, their whole family got wiped out. Hence, Rebbe refused to give Chanukah, the result of the Macabeean victory, any serious space in the pages of the Mishnah.

On a more positive note, just as there are 36 candles that we light during the course of Chanukah (besides the Shamash which serves merely to light the other lights); so too, there are exactly 36 Babylonian Talmudic tractates on the Mishnah, which is another key proof to the celebration of the Oral Torah that is so connected with Chanukah.

Perhaps what we can learn from this is that when we follow what the rabbis in the Talmud tell us, then we are on track. However, when we start doing things our way, no matter how noble our intentions are, even "for the sake of Heaven," without consulting rabbinic authority, declaring ourselves as "kings," it is precisely this that starts leading things into the wrong direction. A case in point, it is the result of fighting between two brothers in the Hasmonian dynasty that eventually led to Roman control of Israel, which in turn eventually led to the destruction of the Second Temple, in effect, undoing the results of its own family that originally restored law and order in the Temple.

The 13 ways through which the Torah can be interpreted is a very disciplined way of learning what the Torah is telling us, these principles handed down from Hashem to Moses. Just as its final principle in which a third verse/party comes in to solve the contradictions/disputes between two other verses, to make clear what really happened; so too, in learning Torah for the right reason, we sift through what is false to arrive at the truth. And just as Verse 89 - the LAST verse of Numbers Chapter 7- demonstrates this very point, being that the number 89 is the Gematria of 89, so too, of the seven Mitzvot D'Rabbanan - the seven commandments of the rabbis as an appendix (not addition - as I wrote about in the past) to the 613 Mitzvot of the Torah, the Mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles is the LAST of these Mitzvot. In one sense, this is the 620th Mitzvah, and the word Keter/crown, the highest of the Sephirot/Divine Emanations, is the Gematria of 620, as placing the crown on the king's head is the LAST act of declaring him as king.

As a side note related to this, the LAST of the 613 Mitzvot is writing a Sefer Torah for oneself. As I mentioned similarly a little earlier in this post, Rashi points out about the tribe of Shimon in the midst of Jacob's blessings of his sons, it was the tribe of Shimon especially who were poor, scribes, and teachers of children. A Sopher/scribe fulfills a very important function in Judaism, because he is the one who writes the holy articles - writing the Biblical words on parchment for the Torah scrolls, phylacteries, and mezuzot. And for Jewish kings, the had to have two Torah scrolls written for themselves, one of which they had to go around with at all times, the purpose being is that they always remember to fear Hashem, and not be haughty as kings.

Hence, it is my first name Shimon that is especially related to the LAST of the
613 Mitzvot of the Torah, and it is my second name Matisyahu that is especially related to the LAST of the seven Mitzvot of the rabbis (and as I mentioned earlier of the word/name Shem being an abbreviation as the first two letters of the name Shimon in relationship to the prohibition of writing on Shabbat, the letters of Shem - Shin & Mem - are abbreviations as the first letters of my respective Hebrew names Shimon Matisyahu). Also, as I had mentioned in past blogging, it is near the END of the Sefer Torah that the name Matisyahu is spelled equidistantly - in relationship to the Hidden Codes of the Torah - every 50th letter, hinting to Matisyahu being the one who was responsible for the CONCLUSION of the total of the 620 Mitzvot of the Torah & the rabbis.

One thing that I will mention for the first time is that Matisyahu's name being spelled equidistantly uses Moshe's name twice among the letters. And as the Gematria of Moshe's name as his full title - Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our teacher) - is the Gematria of 613, since after all, he was the one who handed us the teachings of the Torah consisting of the 613 Mitzvot, perhaps Matisyahu's name crossing into Moshe's hints to the fact that what are the seven Mitzvot of the rabbis aren't per see additions to the Torah, because in fact, it is forbidden to add to the Mitzvot of the Torah - but that they are in fact INCLUDED among the 613 Mitzvot, as the Torah tells us as one of the 613 Mitzvot - not to turn aside from what the rabbis/Jewish court tell us to do.

We must always remember Who is the ultimate King. While we may have positions of importance and honor, we must remember that it is an appointment from Hashem to serve the people - not oneself. And the sole purpose of a Jewish king is so that the people can learn from him how to be in the mode of serving the ultimate King of Kings, as well as the Jewish king being in a position to teach the people how to serve Hashem. King David was unique in that he had something unique to offer - Sefer Tehillim - Book of Psalms. Of the psalm that we recite three times a day in our prayers - Psalm 145 - the LAST verse begins with the words Tehillat Hashem - "My mouth will speak the PRAISE OF HASHEM and all flesh will bless His hallowed Name forever and ever." Tehillat Hashem is the Gematria of the words Beit HaMikdash/Temple - the LAST of the 15 steps of spiritual accomplishment as mentioned in the midst of the Haggadah of Passover. And as the Talmud tells us, the fifth (active) Sephirah, which is Hod/glory - the Gematria of 15, refers to the Beit HaMikdash. And adding the numbers one through FIVE, the total is 15.

And speaking of the number 15, in connection to the 15th of Av, when the virgin Jewish girls were dancing to find someone to marry, which is mentioned by a rabbi with my namesake - Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel, the LAST Mishnah on Tractate Ta'anit concludes with the verse that ends with "on the day of the happiness of his heart," which refers to the rebuilding of the future Temple.


The second day of Chanukah - 26 Kislev - of this year marked my first wedding anniversary. My first year of marriage was quite a happy time in my life - and a very challenging time in my life, but with no regrets at the end of the day. Speaking of the number 13 in this post, as related both to the 13 ways through which the Torah can be interpreted in the context of the Oral Law & the 13 Divine Attributes of Mercy, the number 13 is the Gematria of Ahavah/love. It is also the Gematria of the word Echad/one. And the number of the date of the month - 26 - is twice the number 13, just like the first two of the three blessings (the third blessing is recited just on the first night) are said on the last seven nights beginning with the date of my marriage, consist of a total of 26 words. Well, I did survive Year One of my marriage with my beloved wife Yael.

As a side note, the connection between the words Chanukah & Chatuna/wedding, the first, third/middle, and fifth/last letters of these two words are the same: Cheit-Vav-Hei. Also, the Rambam/Maimonides in his magnum opus Mishnah Torah, which encompasses the laws of the Torah as exemplified by the 613 Mitzvot, places the laws of matrimony right right after the laws of Chanukah. Certainly, not a better time to get married, eh?

Now, getting back on track, making the connection between the numbers 13 & 15, the beginning of the reading of the Torah for the first day of Chanuka (in Israel and for Sephardim outside of Israel) is the portion of Bircat Cohanim (Numbers 6:22-27). The blessing itself consists of 15 words. And before reciting the words of the three versed blessing, the Cohanim say a Beracha/blessing for this, concluding with the word B'Ahava - "...He commanded us to bless his nation Israel WITH LOVE," this word being the Gematria of 15, hinting to the 15 words of the Priestly Blessing.

Though the following does not relate per se to Gematria, there is a very fascinating story about this. Someone once approached a rabbi in a Spanish community, asking him
as to where in the Torah we see that Hashem commanded the Cohanim to bless the congregration WITH LOVE. In the literal words of the Chumash, in fact we do not see this.

The rabbi answered, "Right before the words of the blessing of Bircat Cohanim, it says Amor Lahem, which literally means "say to them," but as we know, the word Amor in Spanish means "love." Hence, Hashem commanded the Cohanim to say the words of Bircat Cohanim WITH LOVE."

In conclusion, as the Gematria of Chanukah is 89, there are a few mathematical tidbits that I want to note related to this number. Early on, I noted that adding the numbers 8 & 9, the add up to the number 17, the Gematria of the word
Tov/goodness. In a similar vein, multiplying these two numbers add up to 72, the Gematria of the word Chesed/kindness. And now - here is the big Gematria trick. Add these two totals - 17 & 72 - and the TOTAL TOTAL is 89 - the number we started with!
(To my knowledge at this time, only the numbers that end with a nine, from 19 through 89, work like this) Indeed, the holiday Chanukah is Hashem's great display of goodness and kindness towards us, the word kindness being mentioned TWICE within the 13 Divine Attributes of Mercy. Moreover, the word Chesed=72 begins with the letter Cheit=8, and the word Tov=17 begins with the letter Teit=9 - returning to the Gematria of the word Chanuka putting the numbers beginning these words of Chesed & Tov - 8 & 9 - to read 89!

Chanukah - the holiday of EIGHT days - whose name is the Gematria of 89 - which when written individually - EIGHT, NINE - teaches us a lesson towards everyday life. First we have the number eight. The Maharal of Prague notes that the number eight is a number that denotes the way Hashem runs the world beyond nature, beyond the regular seven day week, signifying miracles, things that normally do not happen; hence, Chanukah being an eight day holiday, when we have the concept of Pirsumei Nisa - revealing the miracle of Chanukah, the holiday of lights. And then, we have the number NINE, which denotes the opposite concept of light - darkness, the NINTH plague of the Egyptians, and the darkness of Tisha B'Av/NINTH of Av - the month that is kabbalistically related to Teit, the NINTH letter (See my 36th Post - Jul '09, which shows the contrast between Chanukah & Tisha B'Av).

You see, we first celebrate the miraculous holiday of Chanukah - in the midst of the work week, few taking off for this holiday, as it is not a mandated holiday from the Torah/Chumash. And then, we are supposed to take the lessons and the feelings of holiness from this holiday, and apply them immediately to the day after Chanukah, the "ninth day", back to the "regular schedule," but this time, infuse the regular work week with a little extra punch of holiness and Hashem's kindness and goodness. Perhaps this is why that not in all years, do the last three days of Chanukah fall out on the exact same dates, unlike the first FIVE days. When Kislev has 30 days - the last three days fall out on 30 Kislev, 1 & 2 Tevet. When Kislev has 29 days - the last three days fall out on 1-3 Tevet. The point here is that some years 3 Tevet is Chanukah, and some years it is not. Meaning, whether it is a "special" day or not, whether it is the "EIGHTH Day" or the "NINTH Day," we still have to serve Hashem. For better times or worse, we have to pull through.

And my friends, this is the same lesson that we can apply to our marriages. Just as literally, when last year in my first week of marriage celebrating Sheva Berachot, the week ended with the end of Shabbat Chanukah on 2 Tevet; and then immediately afterwards on 3 Tevet - when Shabbat was over, Chanukah was over, and my marriage celebration week was over (all at the same time) - it was back to regular life, the only difference before & after that Chanukah is that after that Chanukah, I was married; so too, there will be better days and worse days, but in order to maintain our marriages, we have to remember what our better days were like to pull through during the worse days and not give up on marriage. ALL marriages have some type of challenge or challenges. In the long run, no one escapes the curve balls that Hashem give him or her, and the only question is how we will deal with them. It is certainly better to have to deal with them in this world, in our physical lifetime, then deal with them when it is a little too late, when we will be asked one day in the Heavenly court as to why we didn't make a supreme effort for that short period of time of so many decades compared to eternity to do what we needed to do.

Life is too short for fighting for all of our rights, too short for showing who is boss, too short for divorces. While divorces are inevitable in certain cases, they don't get rid of everyday problems. If we want a happy marriage, it is up to us to see to it that it is so; whatever advice others tell us towards this end, the advice only goes so far as to the effort we display with the information that we are given; things just don't happen by magic. Then, if we sincerely play our part in maintaining Shalom Bayit - "peace of the household", Hashem will play His part in turn, and do the miracles necessary for our marriages to be full of love and be everlasting.

NOTE: G-d willing, plan on writing my next post in the midst of next week.

29 Kislev/5th Day of Chanukah - Day of the Reading of the Offerings of the Leader of the Tribe of Shimon - 5771

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