Tuesday, January 11, 2011

#95 - HaMan or Haman?

There is a custom among many Jews every year on the third day of the week of Parshat Beshalach to read the section in this Parsha about the manna (Exodus 16:4-36), the heavenly food that the Jews received for 40 years in the desert, reading each verse twice followed by its Targum, the Aramaic translation. This custom claims its origins to a Chasidic Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rimanov.

While we don't dare knock down Jewish customs that don't contradict Jewish law, there have been questions as to if and what this Chasidic Rebbe actually said in terms of declaring this a custom. It is true that he wrote extensively on this portion of the Torah and the general topic of receiving Parnassa, substance from Hashem. There are those who question if he said to follow this custom particularly in the week of Parshat Beshalach, or if he had just mentioned about reciting this part of the Torah which comes from Parshat Beshalach - on Tuesdays - but not that it is recited particularly only in the week that this is read in the Torah. And then of course the question is asked as to why we would read this particularly on a Tuesday, and among other reasons given, this is the day of the week that Hashem brought forth vegetation which is a main healthy staple of people's food intake.

The truth is that it is mentioned in the very first chapter of the Shulchan Aruch/Code of Jewish law about reciting this section about the manna every day as an expression in one's faith in Hashem who provides sustenance, based on the statement in the Jerusalem Talmud that one should recite this every day to ensure that one's sustenance doesn't get decreased. Though not per se mandatory as other parts of our daily prayers, it doesn't mention anything in the Talmud or Halacha/Jewish Law about reciting this as twice the verse and then once the Aramaic translation. Also, it is not what is called a magic formula for becoming rich. Regardless of one's custom, the main thing is that we have to always remember that while we are supposed to do our part in making a living, it is ultimately Hashem Who runs the show, and it is the section in the Torah about the manna that reminds us of this.

With this being said, it is worthwhile to write about this part in the Torah about a food that was existance for only 40 years, wondering if we will have a chance to have this same food in the future during the Messianic Era. The Talmud in Tractate Ta'anit notes that the manna rained down on the Jewish people in the merit of Moses. In spiritual terms, it was Moses who transmitted to us the ultimate Jewish food - the Torah, and its counterpart in physical terms was this manna.

When did the manna actually begin raining down on a daily basis, except for the Sabbath and Jewish holidays? It was one month after leaving Egypt when the supply of Matzah ran out for the Jews in the desert. Following the Jews' complaint of being left with no food left, Hashem responded that he would start giving them their daily dose of heavenly food.

Perhaps in spiritual terms, it can be said that the manna replaced the Matzot. What I mean by that is that in Hebrew, the plural for Matzah is Matzot, which essentially spells the same letters of the word as Mitzvot - Commandments. In fact, on a play of words, the rabbis learn out a lesson about doing Mitzvot, is that when a Mitzvah comes your way, do not let it ferment, using the same basic Hebrew word for ferment using the word Chametz/leavened food as a verb. While this is a most important lesson about doing Mitzvot, not to delay doing them when the time comes for their performance, what is the special connection of Matzot, about which one of the 613 Mitzvot in the Torah to eat Matzot on the first night of Passover, with the general concept of Mitzvot, just because the two words can be spelled the same way?

While Hashem already commanded the Jews to eat Matzot on that last fateful night for them in Egypt, even naming a whole week of Passover as Chag HaMatzot, the festival of Matzot, the reason for this only became evident during that final night following the death of the Egyptian firstborn when the Egyptians rushed the Jews to leave the country following being enslaved by them for 116 years. As it turned out, the Jews didn't have the luxury time to wait until their baked product would turn into bread, but were finished being baked in a form that didn't allow the yeast to rise.

It is in this spirit that the rabbis want to remind us - based on a play of words - that this whole concept of the Jews eating Matzah on Passover which turned out to be a historical reminder of what happened, that in a similar vein, we are supposed to feel rushed, and not delay doing G-d's commandments. It is true that when actually fulfilling Mitzvot, that we don't rush doing them to get them out of the way as if to fulfill some obligation, and then when finished, to sit at the tube as though nothing happened. This certainly would defeat the whole purpose of doing a Mitzvah. The idea here is to JUST GET STARTED. Hashem, our King, has ordered us to do so many Mitzvot, and whenever they are applicable, not to first of all forget about them, and ultimately, that they should be performed with great joy and dedication to doing Hashem's will.

And so, while the replacement food of the manna was a most heavenly food, about which their body didn't need to get rid of bodily waste as done for other food, Hashem made it clear right from the start that this would test the Jews if they would follow Hashem's Torah or not. There were quite a few things pertaining to this that would separate the men from the boys, if you will. For example, the Jews were not to leave any of it over for the next day, but trust that Hashem would provide them with manna each and every day. On Friday morning, they beheld a double portion of manna, one of the portions to be saved for the next day of the Sabbath, during which it is forbidden to walk beyond a certain distance or carry things outside of the private domain. As it turned out, there were Jews who proved their lack of faith in Hashem in both of these matters.

During the course of this section of the Torah, the Jews did not know what to call this special food, about which the Torah gives it its name - Man(na), based on the fact that the Jews asked one another Man Hu "What is it"? for they didn't what it was.

Now, let's fast forward to the last couple of verses of this Torah section. It states that the Jews ate HaMan "THE MANNA" for 40 years, they ate HaMan "THE MANNA" until they became settled in Israel. And the Omer - the measure of manna per person daily - is one tenth of an Epha.

So for the first time, it is mentioned not once, but twice, calling the manna as THE manna, and in a very unusual deviation in the Torah, it devotes an entire verse, concluding the section about the manna, with a definition for what an Omer is, not including it earlier in mentioning the measure of manna that the Jews received. Is there a connection between these last two verses?

To answer this, we need to know a couple of dates here. Based on tradition, the manna first came down on the 16th of Iyar, the day after the 61 meals of Matzah that the Jews ate from Passover night became finished. And while in fact according to the Rabbis, the last day that the manna actually came down was on 7 Adar in their final year in the desert, the day on which Moses passed away; miraculously, their manna supply would last for over a month, the last day being the first day of Passover that the Jews were celebrating in Israel already. It was on the morning of the second day of Passover - 16 Nissan - that the Jews woke up to the reality that there would be no more manna, but instead, eating of the crops of the land.

Now my friends, as we know, the special barley offering, of which an Omer measure of it was brought in the Temple, was cut in the field on the night of the 16th of Nissan, and then that barley amount, along with animal offerings to mark this Mitzvah
of offering the barley offering, were brought on the following day during the daytime of the 16th of Nissan. Based on this, there is another Mitzvah of what is called counting Sephirah, counting 49 days from the date of 16 Nissan until the holiday of Shavuot. For this Mitzvah, we conclude the blessing "for counting the Omer", and then we state that today is so many days to the Omer.

This is all very nice, but the question that begs to be asked is, why name this Mitzvah, and making part of the Mitzvah, of counting the amount of days using the particular term of Omer, rather than the mention of the barley offering? An Omer is just a name of a measure of something after all, not an actual substance? And then of course another question can be asked, are we really counting the 49 days because we are supposed to remember this particular offering (some say that though there is a Mitzvah in the Torah to count the Sephira, we do it today only as a rabbinical Mitzvah since we presently do not have the Temple where we can bring the offerings), or is it really for the spiritual reason of preparing ourselves for the Torah, which seems to be the real reason because the Jews after leaving Egypt also counted 49 days until they would receive the Torah, showing their preparation for that most unique day in world history in which the world waited nearly 2,450 years for the Torah to be accepted by the Jews?

The answer to all this seems to have surfaced in the times of Mordechai & Esther when the holiday of Purim began. As a result of the Jews enjoying themselves stuffing their face at the feast of the non-Jewish anti-Semitic King Achashverosh, the fate was sealed against them to be destroyed, whose fate seemed to have been sealed thanks to Haman's suggestion to the king, who agreed with him wholeheartedly. In Megillat Esther/Book of Esther, this took place on the 13th of Nissan. Wasting no time, Esther declared a three day fast, which took place from the 14th to the 16th of Nissan. Now as we know, even in the absence of the Temple, anyone who has some sort of Jewish pride has a Passover Seder at least on the night of the 15th of Nissan, when it is in fact a Mitzvah among other Mitzvot of that night to eat Matzot. However, because of the severity of the situation, the first day of Passover was included in this three day fast.

Meanwhile, Haman wasted no time setting up gallows in the luscious garden of his own home with the intention of hanging Mordechai, the big Jew whom he loved to hate. As it turned out, on the night of the 16th of Nissan, which would mark the date that he himself would be hung on his own gallows the following day, he came to King Achashverosh during the middle of the night (how did he know that the king would be awake at that hour?!) with the intention of getting the king's green light to allow Mordechai to be hung. Instead, Haman received orders from the king to honor Mordechai for a past favor that Mordechai did for the king.

Meanwhile, Haman set out to find Mordechai. What you will not find in the Megilla, but from what our Rabbis tell us, is that when Haman arrived to where Mordechai was, he was in the midst of teaching his students, who were children, about the Mitzvah of the Omer offering that was brought on this very date of the 16th of Nissan. For all they knew, this was their end. Mordechai even told the children to escape; however, so strong was their devotion and dedication to the Torah, they refused to leave him, regardless of what Haman could have immediately done to them. Now it must be remembered, Haman knew more about Jewish history than unfortunately so many assimilated Jews in the United States who don't even know that the National Spelling in 1983 ended with the name Purim, let alone know the significance of this most special joyous day for Jews, who wish instead to view Judaism as a religion of only fearful days as the High Holidays and of sad occasions such as the Holocaust. In any case, Haman understood enough of Mordechai's lecture to ask him questions about the Omer. Upon Mordechai's reply, Haman declared that Mordechai's small Omer offering - which wasn't even offered then as the First Temple had been destroyed not long earlier, but it was the learning about it - overpowered his own 10,000 Shekels that he offered the king to destroy the Jews.

In this Gematria post, I didn't mention anything about Gematriot until now, but instead, I threw a few Jewish dates. Now, you will see that everything will come into play here.

The Torah, only at the end of the section about the manna, calls it THE Manna. In Hebrew, it is HaMan. In a play of words, just as I mentioned earlier about the Matzot-Mitzvot wording, so too here, the word HaMan can literally spell the name of this most evil person - the notorious Haman. To note, HaMan or Haman is in fact the Gematria of 95, and this is my 95th Post.

In any case, Haman and HaMelech/the king, referring in Megillat Esther to King Achashverosh about whom the Rabbis note in the Talmud of Tractate Megilla that he was the same rotten individual from beginning to end, who just did good things for the Jews at the end because of his Jewish wife Esther, but refused to allow the Temple to be rebuilt which had been started years earlier by a different king, but was stopped thanks to "good" Samaritans (the real ones), each have the same Gematria. In a spiritual sense, the mention of HaMelech in the Megilla refers to Hashem, who performed the miracles of Purim in a hidden way.

It seems that the portion about the manna in the Torah in fact hints to what would happen in the future about the date of the 16th of Nissan - the date that the manna was no longer available for the Jews to eat. In a similar vein, Haman would be hung almost a thousand years later on this very date, also disappearing from the Jews on the 16th of Nissan upon his demise on the gallows. And this resulted from...as Haman admitted it himself, in the merit of the Torah learning that Mordechai taught the children, which symbolically was about the Mitzvah of the Omer offering brought on this very day. Yes, it was this very Mitzvah that saved the day, and indeed, HaMan/Haman ceased to exist on this anniversary date of 16 Nissan on which the Jews started eating of the produce of the land of Israel in lieu of the manna. And this explains why the final verse about the manna mentions "THE Omer", for it would be in the merit of this very Mitzvah that Haman would be sent to the gallows, who is hinted to in the immediate preceding verse.

According to Halacha, once the new grain grows, we are forbidden as part of the 613 Mitzvot to eat of the new grain until after the Omer offering is brought on the 16th of Nissan. While the Rabbis extended this to the following day now that we don't have the Temple in existance where we can bring this Omer offering, there have been allowances of eating the new grain beforehand, especially outside of Israel, in European times where and when Jews were relatively poor, and it was hard enough as it was to find basic food supplies to eat (sorry, they didn't stuff their faces with all the "heimishe" food that Boro Parker Jews have plenty of instead of moving to the land of Israel which is a real Mitzvah; at least these poor Jews didn't have a good time suffering under the rule of anti-Semites even if they never made it to Israel).

To note, this Omer offering was a public Mincha offering (offering consisting of flour as opposed to animals or birds). The word Mincha itself means gift, and it has been used as the name for the afternoon Mincha prayers. In any case, it's interesting to note that in mentioning the Omer offering in connection with the manna, the first two letters of the word Mincha spells the word Mahn/manna. And as for the last two letters of this word Mincha - the Cheit & Hei add up to the Gematria of 13. In the Mishna of Tractate Menachot 10:4, in describing how the Omer offering was prepared in the Temple, it mentions that it went through 13 siftings. The fact that this took place on 16 Nissan - the counting of the first day of the Omer is most significant, because we count the first day of the Omer as Hayom Yom Echad L'Omer - "Today is the first day of the Omer" where the word Echad/one is indeed the Gematria of 13! And as a further connection between the manna and the Omer offering, both of these were items were ground up before eating.

In any case, why name this Mitzvah of the Omer offering with this Omer name, and why is the ending of the manna section about the Omer measure of manna as the concluding verse? The Omer, as mentioned by the Torah, is indeed a measure - nothing more, nothing less. The Torah is telling us to measure ourselves. Hashem provided an Omer's worth of daily manna for the Jews. In turn, He expected for them to measure themselves accordingly, and behave as Jews - measure for measure, for the great kindness that Hashem did for them. In fact, the first day of the Sephira, of counting the Omer, corresponds to the Sephira combination of Chesed She'Be'Chesed - Kindness within Kindness. (And Chesed is most associated with Ahavah/love, which in turn is the Gematria of 13, as is the word Echad when we count this first day of the Sephira as Hayom Yom ECHAD LaOmer) Regardless of what food fills us up - the manna or the grain, everything is in fact from Hashem. And it was in Hashem's great kindness and love for the Jewish people as a result of the learning about the Omer offering, which is supposed to remind us not to behave as animals fressing at parties that have no connection to us that distract us from Hashem, which saved the day that sent Haman hanging from the gallows. Bearing all this in mind, we are supposed to immediately waste no time following Hashem's Mitzvot, and remember that we are supposed to demand from ourselves our measure of availability of following the ultimate King of Kings.

To note, the emphasis here was on LEARNING about the Omer offering, NOT bringing the Omer offering itself. Similarly today, when we are not able to bring the offerings in the Temple, learning about them is considered as though we brought them to the Temple. The Chofetz Chaim, based on Talmudic & Midrashic sources, emphasized the special quality of learning this section of the Torah about the offerings in the Temple, as in Seder Kodashim of the Talmud. Presently, the Daf Yomi learning is in the first Tractate of this order of the Talmud - Masechet Zevachim, which is exclusively about the animal (and bird) offerings in the Temple.


Speaking of spiritual food known as HaMan/manna which is the Gematria of 95, the name of one of the 12 Tribes of Israel is also the Gematria of 95 - Zevulun. It seems hardly a coincidence that both of these words share the same Gematria. You see, it was the manna that sustained the Jewish people for 40 years in the desert so they were able to learn Torah without needing to work. Similarly, it was Zevulun of all the tribes who supported his brother - the Torah scholar Yissachar, so the latter was able to learn/teach Torah all day without the need to interrupt with working. It was since then that the descendants of Zevulun supported their cousins the descendants of Yissachar. In more recent times, this idea spread to others who agreed to this type of arrangement, known as the Yissachar-Zevulun partnership. And consolidating this concept in relationship to Masechet Zevachim; as I had mentioned in a previous post, Shimon Achi Azariah is quoted in the first chapter of Masechet Zevachim. As pointed out by commentators, Shimon "brother of Azariah" was the one who learned Torah, while his brother Azariah (which incidentally means G-d will assist) assisted him with his financial needs.


The word manna is actually related to the word Emunah/faith, as it was the manna that tasted the faith of the Jewish people. As mentioned by the prophet Habakuk, as a summary of the 613 Mitzvot (see Talmud Makkot 24a & Midrash Tanchuma on Parshat Shoftim), V'Tzadik B'Emunato Yichyeh "The righteous person lives by his faith". This is his ultimate spiritual food.

The last word of this phrase is Yichyeh - the Gematria of 33, which is also the number of Pesukim/verses in the section in the Torah about the manna, which is related to Emunah/faith. And being that the 33rd and final verse about the manna is about the Omer measure, this reminds us of the 33rd day of the Omer - Lag B'Omer, the anniversary date of the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), author of the teachings of the Zohar. In his personal life, he showed that he had total Emunah/faith in Hashem, as we see that he had no hesitation about denouncing the ruling Romans of the day, when other rabbis either were silent about this or were quick to fall for the political correctness of making them sound good. As a result of this, he had to hide 12 years in a cave, learning Torah all during this time, living on carobs and water. As Rashbi's faith in Hashem was complete, it didn't matter so much what he had to eat - Hashem saw to it that what he would eat would be what would sustain him during his trying period of 12 years.

Indeed, only such a person such as Rashbi who displayed such Emunah without fear of what others would say or do, can truly be called a Tzadik/righteous person. Only such a rabbi such as Rashbi was worthy of learning and teaching the holiest, esoteric parts of the Torah, something that most other rabbis of his day, as great as they may have been otherwise in Talmudic learning, were not worthy enough to learn. Only one who doesn't stoop to politics such as Rashbi can receive the great revelations of Torah learning that he received.

And as connected to Purim, the holiday that resulted from Haman's downfall, it was thanks to the Emunah of Mordechai and Esther who realized that the real reason for the threat to the Jews wasn't because of Mordechai's refusal to bow down to Haman, which was the so called reason given by the very Jews who stuffed their faces at King Achachverosh's feast, but because of their very sin, who didn't have the faith that Mordechai and Esther had, but only because of their repentance with fasting at the end as well that averted the evil decree pronounced against them. It's interesting to note that in fact, Lag BaOmer will always fall out on the same day of the week as the past Purim (14 Adar), for in fact, the lesson of Emunah is applicable to both of these situations. (According to the Chasam Sofer, the manna actually began to fall down on 18 Iyar/Lag Ba'Omer, a couple days after the generally suggested date of the manna beginning to rain down).

Another key factor here regarding the connection between the manna & Haman is that as the manna rained down for the Jewish people particularly in the merit of Moses, when Haman was figuring out as to which month would be best to destroy the Jewish people, his decision was the month of Adar, as he knew that this was month of the passing of Moses, the greatest Tzadik who ever lived (another proof as to Haman's extensive knowledge of Jewish history). It seems that he didn't know that Moses was also born on this month, as attested to in the Midrash that recounts this part of the Purim story; however, it is clear from here that his ultimate fight was against the greatest righteous people of the Jewish nation; and that in his particular generation, it was Mordechai who was the Moses of that generation who refused under any circumstances to bow down to Haman.

Indeed, in the Talmud Tractate of Chulin (139), when it mentions a list of people whose names are hinted in the Torah/Chumash, it mentions Mordechai, Esther, Haman, and...Moses (though Moses is the Biblical figure with the most mention in the Chumash, the focus is on the hinting part about Moses if his name would never be mentioned in the Torah for whatever reason which in fact almost happened). Why these four in particular? But as the name of the Megilla for Purim is called Megillat Esther, which literally means revealing the hidden, which is the concept of Purim revealing the hidden miracles that Hashem did for the Jewish people that led to this holiday, the Talmud illustrates this concept with the very people who are associated with the Megilla.

Regarding Moses, it was particularly because of his passing in the month of Adar that Haman chose to use this month to destroy the Jews. And if this would not be enough, as Moses was born on 7 Adar, his Brit Mila/circumcision assuming that it was on his eighth day (especially being the great Tzadik that he would become, it would be highly improbable that Hashem would allow him to be sick and not be able to have his circumcision done on time on the eighth day) was the very day of Purim - 14 Adar! And as our Rabbis tell us that Moses was born circumcised, according to Halacha/Jewish Law, if a baby who was born circumcised is born on Shabbat, the circumcision (which would be just drawing some blood from the member) does not take place on his eighth day - the following Shabbat, but can only be done the day after. Accordingly, if we would be technical about Moses, and say that if he were born on Shabbat, then his circumcision ceremony would have taken place only the following day on Sunday, then that day would be 15 Adar, which is Shushan Purim that is celebrated in the town of Shushan in Iran, as well as in Jerusalem. Hence, the circumcision of Moses, the greatest Tzadik, as an official member of the Jewish nation indeed took place on Purim!

And as a further connection of Haman to this Parshat Beshalach, the last section of this Parsha, consisting of nine verses that is read on Purim, is about Amalek, ancestor of Haman, who started up with the Jews resulting in a war destroying the strong elements of this most evil nation. This section in the Torah follows the story of the Jews complaining that they didn't have water to drink (by the way, Mahn/manna & Mayim/water, the eating and drinking elements respectively, both have the Gematria of 90!) and then being provided with water, where as a result of their lack of faith in Hashem, they got attacked by Amalek, which in turn immediately follows the section in the Torah about the manna, which also involved the concept of Emunah/faith. Yes indeed, Haman is very much hinted in this Parsha (Note: in the Talmud Chulin, there is a different hint in the Torah mentioned about Haman, but it doesn't mean that someone cannot be hinted to in the Torah more than once, especially in Haman's case, as he was the backbone for the cause of the holiday of Purim for the Jewish people coming into being).

Before concluding about a famous "Haman food", it was recently brought to my attention that this section in the Torah about the manna consists of 485 words. While the source didn't mention the following, you will be amazed to know that the word Tehillim/Psalms is the Gematria of 485! Is there a connection here between the manna & Tehillim?

Let's quote two verses from Tehillim to help answer this question: "You paid heed to the earth and watered it, You enriched it abundantly from G-d's stream filled with water; You prepare their grain,for thus do You prepare it. To abundantly water its ridges, settle its furrows; with showers You soften it, You bless its growth" (Psalms 65:10,11). There are two Hebrew words in a row here - the last word of the first verse and the first word of the second verse - each consisting of the same Gematria of 485. Techineha - "You prepare it" & Telameha - "Its ridges". In fact, the word Telameha has the same letters as the word Tehillim! Anyways, as you can see in the two verses here, Hashem cares for everyone to be sufficiently satisfied from the food and drink that Hashem provides for the world. In a similar fashion, Hashem provided the manna to the Jewish people so they could be satisfied from it, and then be able to learn Torah and keep His commandments. In another way, it can be said that Tehillim is food for the soul.

And bearing in mind that the manna rained down for the Jews in the merit of Moses, it was Moses who composed the Psalms 90-100. The median number of the chapter numbers of these psalms is 95 - the Gematria of HaMan - the manna!

Today, we have on the food market what is called Oznei Haman, in Yiddish - Hamentashen, and translated in English as Haman's ears. There are theories about why they are called as such, but no doubt that this Jewish food in fact mocks Haman, for now, we are enjoying the fruit of Haman's downfall, in the form of pastries. Regardless of the actual origins of the name of this food, what we should remember is that while Hashem's mercies is on "all His creatures", the ultimate purpose of food is in order that we can stay alive in this world to serve Hashem, even as there are Mitzvot that are associated with food. Bearing this in mind, if we do our part of measuring ourselves to the plate, doing Hashem's Mitzvot while having faith in Hashem, as well as doing some sort of making a living without relying on miracles, He certainly won't allow us to be deserted, and He will give us all of our basic needs; the only difference is that some have much more than others, but the ones who will shine the most in the future are the ones who had very little, but nevertheless served Hashem to the best of their ability with happiness, surviving on the handouts of none other than those of Hashem Himself.

7 Shevat, 5771

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