Tuesday, February 8, 2011

#97 - TIME 4 the Sacrifice

As we get older, it seems that time runs quicker than we can at one point. We look back at the years we have already lived, thinking about the goals we wanted to accomplish - hopefully including spiritual goals - and we ask ourselves as to how much so far we have accomplished. Of course, things sprang up over the years, including having a family, which no doubt took up a good chunk of spare time we could have used otherwise for other ideals. But then again, we always read or hear about others, who despite having a family or some time of handicap, managed somehow to find the time to accomplish things that most other people only dream about for the most part.

Sometimes, we may not realize until much later in life as to why we didn't quite find the time to do the things we really needed or wanted to do. When it comes to the root of the issue, it usually boils down to one thing - a matter of setting priorities. Perhaps we may not realize this until later in life, but typically, while there are obviously certain things that we do because we must, such as a hard job, because it is inevitable to manage without out as far as we are concerned, people typically spend what they call their spare time on sometimes trivial matters when they could have instead spent at least some of that time on far more useful matters that could have made a difference in this world - for themselves and others.
No doubt, while the internet, for example, has made a very positive impact on some people's lives - both materialistically & spiritually, for others, it is a way of spending time that they so called didn't have before, but now, it is the priority of so many people, some of whom truly spend on absolute nonsense if not forbidden things per se according to the Torah.

Perhaps for some, this post will be a wake up call to change certain things in their lives that will make a much more positive impact on their own lives and others. Indeed, the Gematria of the word Zeman/time is 97, which is the number of this 97th post.

There is one matter which is not bound by time - Hashem. Hashem was always around, something which is beyond human comprehension. Everything else - INCLUDING TIME - was created by Hashem at one point or another. And while in fact, the Torah - Hashem's Wisdom - is timeless like Hashem (Hashem always had wisdom obviously, but the Torah as we know it is also a creation of Hashem) and there is no end to the wisdom of the Torah as Hashem's Wisdom, which is also a Mitzvah/Commandment to learn and teach, applicable for 24 hours a day, some of its Mitzvot are applicable with a time limit. There are obvious ones such as Shabbat & Jewish holidays, and then there are other Mitzvot which have a time limit.

Straight from the very first Mishnah, we see that we don't do Mitzvot when we "feel like it". Everything has its time and place, and in fact, there are times that not only certain Mitzvot are no longer Mitzvot, but in fact they could be Aveirot/sins. A prime example of this is the prohibition of eating certain offerings in the Temple beyond their alloted time for eating them. In fact, the Torah goes so far as to tell us that when the offering was in the midst of being brought, one had an intention to eat it beyond its alloted time, it is forbidden to be eaten - EVEN WITHIN ITS ALLOTED TIME. In fact, the same type of condition is applicable if one had in mind to eat it beyond its alloted place for eating it. However, there is a major difference in the punishment for these two scenarios. Eating the animal sacrifice when it was messed up about thinking about eating it beyond its time or for actually eating it beyond the prescribed time limit deserved the punishement of Karet - spiritual extinction, which was not quite the case for one who ate it due to thinking about eating it beyond its alloted place for eating it or for actually eating it beyond its alloted place.

In any case, one can ask, what's the big deal? As long as one actually ate the sacrifice during its alloted time slot, why fuss about what was thought about it? After all, if we are forbidden to eat it beyond a certain time limit, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks about it, such as thinking about eating it after a certain point forbidden by the Torah, as it is no longer a Mitzvah anyways to eat it then. Or, does it matter, even though one cannot change the Torah mandated conditions for eating the sacrifice?

The Torah wants to teach us something very fundamental as we learn from the animal sacrifices. You see, some of us would like to accomplish certain spiritual goals in life. However, you know how it is, especially to the things that are challenging to us, it is quite easy to procrastinate and say that we will do them another time. However, there are two major problems with this. First, we could have already accomplished something a most important spiritual goal already, which either has a direct or indirect impact on others. Secondly, who knows how long we will be living in this world to accomplish them. We think that when we REALLY have time, after the children are out, when we retire, etc. that THEN, we will fulfill our dreams. While for some, this does in fact become a reality, such as moving to Israel, I think we can agree that the younger we are when we accomplish these important goals, the better we are off in the long run, such as where we raise our children, and whether they will follow in our desired footsteps. You see, when you raise a family outside of Israel, you can't necessarily expect all of your children to rush to live in Israel if they were used to living elsewhere. Few may luck out, but thinking long term of what life will be as retirees, will our children live near us?

And so, it is our THINKING PROCESSES that play the major role here. True, there may be times or factors that are indeed beyond our control, such as aging parents, a health factor that is only treatable in certain places, etc., but clearly a good percentage of observant Jews living outside of Israel, despite other relatives or friends living in the Holy Land, justify where they live so they can make a "good living" for the family. When it boils down to it, most of them are working hard just to maintain their high maintenance homes and cars. Living on a simpler scale, one would not need to work any harder for the same basic things - perhaps a little less fancier, but with a piece of mind that the bills are able to be paid on a monthly basis.

Hence, when one even THINKS about eating a sacrifice beyond the permitted time period for eating it, even if one would wind up eating it during the permitted period - THIS OFFERING IS COMPLETELY FORBIDDEN TO BE EATEN! We see from here that when time is treated as a game, it boomerangs and before one knows it, it is too late for certain things to be accomplished, or will be much harder now to perform, especially when one does not have the strength of his/her youth, assuming that one will even be alive to think back about one has or has not accomplished. Once we leave this world, it is too late to do anything about our lack of spiritual accomplishments. While some may luck out having children who can raise the spiritual level of their parents to a higher plateau in Heaven by doing certain Mitzvot in memory of their parents such as giving Tzedaka/charity, the only way that one can assure for things to be accomplished is if one does them themselves.

We see in the very beginning of the Mishnayot, where the opening statement is "From when do we read the evening Shema?" that from the varied answers provided, while technically, the Mitzvah from the Torah of reading the Shema at night is all throughout the night, the Rabbis declared that one should say this before midnight, in order that one will not delay saying it, and before knowing anything, will fall fast asleep until it is morning.

Noting the various animal sacrifices, there are some that were granted two days and one night, others for one day and one night, and finally - the Pascal sacrifice which had to be finished eaten by midnight following that day that it was slaughtered. Most sacrifices that were considered the holiest sacrifices could be eaten for only one day and one night, while the lesser holy sacrifices could be eaten for two days and one night.

There is one exception to the above besides the Pascal sacrifice which was one of the lesser holy sacrifices. In this category of sacrifices, while the Shelamim/peace offerings were able to be eaten for two days and one night, the Todah/thankgiving offerings, also under the category of Shelmaim, could only be eaten for one day and one night. Why the difference?

In order to answer this question, we have to examine the reason why a person brought the thanksgiving offering to begin with, which is for being saved from dangerous situations, and now he/she wants to thank Hashem for the deliverance or miracle that happened to one. Unlike the Shelamim which was brought as one's free will offering or does so as commanded by Hashem such as pertaining to the holidays, this thanksgiving offering was brought especially by one who presently better sees how life can be gone in a fleeting moment, and it is only due to Hashem's kindness that one lives in this world to have the chance to earn eternal reward.

And so for this, though the thanksgiving offering is not one of the holier sacrifices, it is treated just as the holier sacrifices which were only able to be eaten for one day and one night, with the realization that in fact, time is most sacred, and in this world, the most valuable asset - far more valuable than money and materialistic possessions. One needs to think of only TODAY as the day to accomplish everything necessary as if it were one's last day in this world. If one were to already think in terms of two days, it would defeat the whole purpose of thinking of how fleeting life can be. The timeframe of two days and one night may be good for the regular peace offerings when eaten under happy circumstances rather than bringing the holier sacrifices to atone for one's sins, since one needs to feel relaxed to be in a peaceful mood and not to rush with something; but when it comes to specifically thank Hashem for one's time in this world, it is crucial that this point is driven into oneself to realize that time is not a game or a siesta. This may be good for Spanish countries where they took off in the midst of the afternoon from work as a brake period, but when it comes to serving Hashem in this world - THERE IS NO BRAKE PERIOD, except for the daily routine of sleep, and even at that, only to the extent that one will be able to refresh one's spiritual batteries for a fresh day of serving Hashem.

I named this post - "TIME 4 the Sacrifice". While using the number four in lieu of the word "for" may be a bit cute, the truth is that in this case, the number four is very connected to the concept of thanksgiving and Korban Todah/Thanksgiving Offering.
First, based on Psalm 107, one is supposed to publicly thank Hashem for four particular situations - surviving the wilderness, surviving prison, surviving illness and surviving the seas. While offerings are not brought today, one says the blessing of HaGomel, thanking Hashem for all the good that He has done for himself or herself. And then is what involves the thanksgiving offering, which not only includes an animal, but also a total of 40 loaves of Matza or bread, consisting of four different types - three of Matza & one of bread, which is 10 of each kind. Indeed, the number four is no stranger to thanksgiving. You see, when Leah gave birth to her fourth son Judah, he named him as such saying "This time, I THANK Hashem", the Hebrew word for thank being Odeh, based on which is Judah's Hebrew name Yehudah. (Perhaps it is of no coincidence by Divine Providence that the annual Thanksgiving Day in the United States is celebrated on a Thursday, since with most Christians who treat Sunday as Sabbath, and thus as part of the "weekend", their new week as far as they are concerned begins on Monday. Hence, Thursday is the fourth day of their week.)

Our Rabbis tell us that there will be a time in the future when all offerings in the Temple will no longer be applicable - except for the thanksgiving offering. The reason for this is that while all the other types of offerings - Burnt, Sin & Guilt Offerings were brought due to sins, once the evil inclination for sinning is gone, these other sacrifices will no longer need to be brought. However, we will always have reason to thank Hashem for what He constantly does for us.

Now, here is where the meat of Gematriot comes in. First to note, the thanksgiving offering is actually a type of Korban Shelamim - Peace offering. The reason why this is called a peace offering is that while the other types of offerings were not able to be eaten by everyone, except for the Cohanim if anyone, this type of offering was able to be eaten by everyone. Hence - there was no room for jealousy here coming from other Jews of the Cohanim. As I had mentioned in previous posts, the concept of Shalom/peace is very related to the number three; in fact, the first two letters of these words in Hebrew - Shin & Lamed, are the same. In this case, the Korban Shelamim was shared by three groups - Hashem (in the form of the fire on the altar), the Cohanim, and the rest of the Jews who normally don't eat other types of offerings. Additionally, unless it was a Korban Torah, unlike virtually all other offerings that were only able to be eaten for one day and one night, this type of offering was able to be eaten for two days and one night; hence, three periods of time during which one was able to eat this - one day, one night, and then a second day.

Now, in the chapter of Mishnah that is located in our daily morning prayers - the fifth chapter of Tractate Zevachim, the tractate that is all about animal sacrifices, there are two Mishnayot in a row where one Mishnah begins with the word HaTodah - the thanksgiving offering, and the next Mishnah begins with the word Shelamim - Peace offering. Noting the fact that the word for the thanksgiving offering begins with the letter Hei - which means here "the", we see that both of these words here have the same Gematria - 420. Noting in Post #90 about the 420th Mitzvah of the Torah which is the Mitzvah of learning & teaching Torah, and writing about the uniqueness of this particular peace/thanksgiving offering, there is an obvious connection between these two factors. You see, the ultimate purpose of Torah is the concept of peace, for in the world of eternity, that is what will exist for all the righteous, and as we see, the very end of the Mishnayot ends off with the concept of peace; and needless to say, the righteous will be able to see the full picture and be full of thanksgiving for Hashem. And as mentioned about the thanksgiving offering being the offering that will always remain, the words Todah & Torah are very similar except for the Dalet & Reish respectively.

So, the question begs to be asked. True, aside from the Korban Todah, the holiest sacrifices had a time limit of eating for one day & night, while the letter holier offerings had a longer time frame of two days and one night. But, thinking of the reason for the particular offerings being offered, it seems ironic where one would think that the offerings brought due to one's sins would not be on a high spiritual level as the offerings brought due to love and appreciation of Hashem that the reverse seems to be the case. And as per the above Gematriot of the connection between the Korban Shelamim/Todah to Torah, why is it they as the lesser holier offerings that are the ones who are especially connected to the Torah?

To note, in Parshat Mishpatim that we read a couple of weeks ago, it was particularly the Korban Shelamim that was offered by the Jews on the day before the Torah was given. The Torah, after being in the exclusive domain of the Heavens for nearly 2,450 years of the world's existance (though Adam, Noah, the Patriarchs and the Jews in Egypt learned Torah before it was officially given, but this beyond the scope of this post), was about to be given over to mankind. After all, mankind - and not angels, are the ones to whom the Torah is most applicable, for they are the ones who are fallible and are quite likely to sin. To atone for sin, people need a special high holy power to help atone for their sin and get them back on track. The ultimate level for people is to feel such love and thanksgiving for Hashem, that there is no room to sin to the King of Kings. Hence, just as the Torah was brought down from a higher spiritual source to benefit the Jewish people; so too, the peace and thanksgiving offerings, as lesser holy sacrifices, are so to speak offered on a lower level of holiness, but as it can relate easier to people, so that even those who are not Cohanim can have a chance to relate to holiness without getting harmed.

Thus, it made only sense that right before the Torah was given, the Jews brought Shelamim offerings. By personally experiencing a taste of the holy sacrifices, they would feel a little more closer and ready for the Torah that was just about to be brought down to their level. In fact, the famous line that the Jews proclaimed declaring their acceptance of the Torah - Na'aseh V'Nishma - "We will do and we will listen" began with the doing part, for the Torah has to be experienced, and not thought of merely as an intellectual way of thinking; otherwise, we would be no better than the other nations who also have wisdom, philosophy, etc., but behave as animals, nay, even worse than them. But what I want to especially point out is that this declaration is mentioned specifically in Parshat Mishpatim, and not in Parshat Yitro where the detailed giving of the Torah and the Ten Commandments is written up.
Why is this so?

While the second half of the Ten Commandments does mention Mitzvot/Commandments that relate to human relationships, it is the bulk of Parshat Mishpatim that relate a good number of Mitzvot that relate to this, as well as such issues that are brought in a Beit Din/Jewish court. Rituals themselves don't explain everything about Judaism; Judaism, the Torah, has to be felt also on a very human level, and not merely as a means like a mantra or sitting in silence for many hours at a time. We have to be able to influence other Jews in a loving way, in a peaceful way, that shows that we Jews are one big community who live with love and peace with each other.

Along these lines, I want to mention a few other Gematriot tidbits that relate to the concept of kindness, and how this relates especially to prayers and the Temple service. In Hebrew, we call the prayerbook - Siddur, which is based on the word Seder/order, as the prayers are placed in a certain order. This especially pertains to the blessings of the main prayer recited three times a day - the Shemoneh Esrei, though while this phrase means 18 as originally there were 18 blessings in the Shemoneh Esrei, eventually another blessing was added now making it 19 blessings. But the point here is that the blessings are all placed in a certain order. Accordingly, the final blessing is called the blessing of peace, just as the Mishnayot conclude with the wording of peace.

In the midst of this final blessing, we begin with "Place peace, goodness and blessing, life, grace, kindness, and mercy on us and on all of Israel your people..." In Hebrew, the words for "kindness and mercy" is Chesed V'Rachamim. Now, looking at the final two letters of the first word, and the first two letters of the second word, this spells the word Siddur! This seems to be telling us that ultimately, as we turn to Hashem for all our wants and needs, the formula for making this all happen is kindness and mercy. In fact, in the entire Tanach/Bible, the letters in a row that spell the word Siddur can be found only twice - both times that are in the midst of the words Chesed V'Rachamim.

Now, I had mentioned in the past extensively about the Sephirot - Chesed/Kindness & Hod/Splendor as they relate to Chanuka and to Cohanim who correspond to the Sephira of Chesed in comparison to the rest of the Jewish people, and of the Seven special Heavenly Guests for Succot, it is Aaron the High Priest, parental ancestor of the Cohanim who corresponds to the Sephira of Hod. With this being said, the word Avodah, which normally means work, refers in the spiritual sense to either the prayers, or the Temple service which involved bringing offerings, corrsponding to which today we recite our daily prayers. Now, take the word Avodah with its letters.
The first two letters are Ayin & Beit, which spell the number 72. It is this number which is the Gematria of the word Chesed. Then, looking at the last three letters - Vav, Dalet, Hei, they can be rearranged to spell the word Hod. Hence, the Avoda, the work that the Cohanim had to do in the Temple, is related especially to these two Sephirot of Chesed & Hod. Coincidence?

In life, we want Hashem to do all kinds of things for us. In fact, chances are, most if not all of us probably had one or more things in our lives that Hashem saved us from that we probably aren't aware of until today. Yet, how much do we really show that we love Hashem in return? How much are WE willing to sacrifice? How much do we feel the love for one another and really want to do kindnesses to the next person? In fact, it is largely based on the Mitzvah of giving loans to another Jew, mentioned in Parshat Mishpatim, that the Sefer Ahavat Chesed was composed by the Chofetz Chaim. In every prayer service, we ask Hashem for Tzedaka, as we recite in the final blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei. Do we give sufficient Tzedaka to others? Even if we don't give to every beggar in the street for after all who knows if they are all for real or what they use the money for like for cigarettes when you have babies in Israel who are crying because their mothers add water to the formula because they literally have virtually no money, how much do we attempt at least to find out what are the organizations who help the truly poor in need?

While the animal sacrifices in the Temple that were brought due to sins were supposed to remind a person that in fact, he was supposed to be the one killed, but Hashem in his great kindness and mercy allows him to live so he can repent and get back on the road to serving Hashem, the peace animal sacrifices - though also were killed the same basic way, gave us the same message in a more loving way; meaning that not necessarily we deserve to die because we have sinned but Hashem pitied us, but far more than this, that Hashem WANTS us to live, and to make the spritual best of life in this world, in our community of other Jews, to live in harmony without fighting or saying Lashon Hara/evil talk about others. These animal sacrifices were brought out of a pure love for Hashem. In Hebrew, the word love is Ahava, which is the Gematria of 13; and as we know, the Oral Law, of which the foundation is the teachings of the Mishna and Gemara/Talmud, is based on 13 principles, corresponding to which are the 13 Divine Attributes of Mercy, of which the first one is Hashem's name E-l, the name of Chesed/kindness.

And as I began off a previous post, I wish to conclude the same with the statement from Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers - "Shimon HaTzadik (the righteous) was from the remaining ones of the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah. He used to say: The world stands on three things - on the Torah, on the Avodah (prayers/Temple offerings) and on granting kindnesses". Yes, the word stands on THREE things, for the number three stands for the quality of peace, as the conclusion of this first chapter of Pirkei Avot notes a similar statement from another Sage who also has the name Shimon, my namesake - "Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel says: On three things does the world exist - on the truth, on the justice/law, and on the PEACE (the third & last mentioned in this list), as it says: "Truth and justice of peace shall you judge at your gates"".

5 Adar I, 5771

P.S. To note, the time of this post is 6:42 PM. As we know, there are six orders of the Mishnayot, and the Mitzva of learning & teaching Torah, comes from the verse "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and speak of them". The word THEM in Hebrew is Bahm - consisting of the letters Beit & Mem, which in reverse spells the number 42. Indeed, many people have memorized various sections of Mishnayot to "speak of them...when you walk on the road". This verse is also the source of the Mitzvah of reciting the Shema, which is mentioned in the very beginning of the Mishnayot which was mentioned in this post.

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