Wednesday, March 16, 2011

#101 - Judaism 101

"The Megilla is read on the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, (or) 15th (of Adar), no earlier and no later."

Thus begins Mishna Tractate Megilla, where the main subject is about the laws of reading the Megilla on Purim, as well as the annual readings in the Sefer Torah/Torah scroll. While there was a time, as the Mishna proceeds to explain, that the Megilla was read in towns of market places earlier than the date of Purim out of convenience; these days, it is either read on the 14th in most places, or on the 15th in Jerusalem and in the town of Biblical Shushan in Iran (any Jews left there today?), unless the 15th of Adar falls out on a Shabbat/Sabbath in which case everyone reads it on the 14th.

As we know, we read the weekly Parsha in the Sefer Torah every Shabbat. In addition to this, the men have an obligation according to Halacha/Jewish Law to review the weekly Parsha in time for the Shabbat reading in the synagogue by reading each verse twice along with reading its Aramaic translation of Onkelos once (some say that Rashi can be learned instead, though kabbalistically the Aramaic translation of Onkelos is a must). For those not that familiar with Hebrew, perhaps reading the English translation three times or twice with the English translation of the commentary of Rashi probably suffices (I am not here to decide Jewish law, just to facilitate it. Any and every question in Halacha should be directed to your local Orthodox rabbi or renown Poseik (decider of Halacha).

In any case, we see that for the reading of the Megilla on Purim, there is an obligation to read it twice - once in the evening, and a second time in the daytime.
And nowadays, there are two available days for celebrating Purim, either the 14th or the 15th; and in some cities in Israel where it is not known if it was a walled city from the time of Joshua son of Noon or not, the Megilla is read on both days.

On closer examination, it seems that there are quite a few things in the Megilla of which there are two. Let's tour the Megilla.

Chapter One: In the very first verse, King Achashveirosh's name is mentioned twice - and as our rabbis explain, this tells us immediately that this king was the same rotten individual from beginning to end, even in his gestures of behaving good to the Jews. The king makes two different parties - the first one lasting 180 days for the higher ranking people, and the second one lasting seven days for the general populace.

Chapter Two: Esther has two names - Esther & Hadassa. There are two main heroes in the Purim story - Mordechai & Esther. During his reign, the king had two wives - Vashti & Esther. Esther in effect had two husbands - howbeit for a short while - Mordechai & Achashveirosh (according to Jewish law, a non-Jewish spouse is not a legal husband so under normal circumstances, this would disqualify the woman from remaining with her present Jewish husband). There were two guards who plotted to kill the king.

Chapter Four: When Esther spoke to Mordechai about her planning to speak to the king unannounced and hence taking a chance of being killed, she used a double wording describing her situation - Avadti Avadti "I will surely be lost". One loss referring to taking a chance being killed now, and the other loss is that she would no longer be able to live with Mordechai, since earlier - she got married to Achashveirosh against her will so she was considered someone like being raped which does not disqualify a woman to her husband unless he is a Cohen. But now, Esther would on her own be approaching the king taking a chance of being killed, and if her life would be spared, then she would be in a position of having further sexual relationship with the king, now disqualifying her from being allowed to live with Mordechai in the future, even though her mission was to save the Jewish people.

(Note: If even for Esther in her mission of saving the Jews from a real threat, she was forbidden to continue living with her husband Mordechai as she was allowing herself to continue being intimate with the king, what does this speak for everyone else who have excuses "my husband doesn't treat me right" for cheating on their spouses? No doubt that there are irreligious Jewish married women living a non-Jewish lifestyle, though married to a Jewish husband, who cheat on their husbands, some of whom will bear children belonging to a different father with whom one of these irreligious Jewish mothers slept with, and hence children born from this union are considered Mamzerim "bastards" who are forbidden to marry most Jews except for others with the same status or converts to Judaism. In the future, Elijah the prophet will identify all the mamzerim so everyone will know who they are and stay away from them in terms of marriage with the general Jewish population).

Chapter Seven: Esther makes two parties, inviting only two people - the king & Haman.

Chapter Eight: There were two letters from the king regarding the Jews - the first one endorsing Haman's plan for total extinction of the Jews, and the second one allowing the Jews to defend themselves (since the first letter wasn't able to be legally abolished)

Chapter Nine: The Jews had two days of fighting; hence leading to "two days" of rejoicing, though all Jews kept one day or another as Purim.

So, how many instances of the number two being used did you see here? I listed a total of 13.

Mind you, this is all within a span of the 167 verses of Megillat Esther. Personally, I think you will be hard pressed to find another set of 167 verses in the Tanach with this many amount of items that comes in two-s.

Actually, there is one other thing in the Megilla that is connected with the number two. Just as the very first verse of the Megilla has an instance of the number two, so does the last verse of the Megilla, howbeit in an indirect way. This final verse mentions Mordechai being the Mishneh/viceroy to the king. This word is based on the word Sheini/two, as this is the number two position compared with the kingship, just as it was with Joseph in relationship to Pharaoh.

With all this being said, there are in fact special laws relating to the Megillat Esther scroll in comparison to a regular Torah scroll, howbeit with some differences.
In any case, the reading of Megillat Esther is a mandatory public reading from a scroll just as it is reading from the Torah scroll. In fact, none of the other four Megillot of the Tanach are mandatory as far as reading them from a scroll, though it may be preferable. However, one only fulfills the reading of Megillat Esther by reading or hearing it from a scroll.

In short, we see the concept of repetition or the use of the number two in a high ratio rate in contrast to other parts of the Torah in Megillat Esther. Of course the question may be asked, why?

There is something else in the Megilla that I did not mention, and while it is not obvious offhand that is has anything with the number two, this is the bottom line as to why we have all these other things related to the number two in the Megilla.

The verse states (9:27): "The Jews fulfilled and observe these two days according to their writing and their times, in each and every year." Our rabbis tell us that they fulfilled what they accepted - the Torah. Since when they first received the Torah, it was done in a spirit of being forced to accept it, now with the events of Purim, the Jews formally willingly accepted the Torah. So much so, that there those who state that Purim "is the day on which the Torah was given". While ironically, Purim is not mentioned in the Torah/Chumash, it is the rabbis who gave the power to observe Purim, even though it would seem otherwise that this something that was added to the Torah. But the whole essence of Purim is to reconfirm the giving of the Torah, in fact, this time to be done willingly, and hence, making Purim a crucial part of the Torah forever; so much so the effect, that it says that in the future, even if all other holidays were to be cancelled, Purim will always remain - because it was on THIS holiday that justified the Jews being the nation to receive the Torah, not just because they were forced to accept it, because if that were to be the case, why should the Jews be any better than the non-Jews who weren't given the Torah? It took some 3,400 years of the world's existance for this to happen, but better late than never, because it was Purim that REVEALED the HIDDEN essence of the Jews, just as the name of the Purim scroll is Megillat Esther, which can be translated based on similar etymology as "REVEALING the HIDDEN."

Yes, it's that hidden spark of the Jew that arouses him or her to make that change to be a better Jew. How do you explain how so many Jews who truly had a good materialistic way of life feel like there is something empty going on, and go on to discover Judaism as an essential part of life? While too many Jews celebrate Yom Kippur, only knowing Jewish events to be times of suffering whether suffering in the Holocaust or fasting on one day of the year (if they even keep this), so many of them have never in their life been in the synagogue to witness a Purim celebration, to see the true joy of living Judaism. Everything seems to be forced on them, a heritage that they do not know how to handle except to avoid Anti-Semitism at almost every cost but. Ironically, it is the very name of Yom Kippur - "Yom KiPURIM", where the Torah hints that this day is Ki "like" PURIM, the Torah openly hinting to the future holiday of Purim - the difference being that one reaches a high spiritual plateau on Yom Kippur via fasting while on Purim, the high spiritual plateau is festing.

So, you have it - the TWO times that the Jews accepted the Torah - unwillingly and now willingly. We have Yom KiPURIM & Yom PURIM. I would love to tell some of these Jews - "Yes, the essence of Judaism is Simcha/HAPPINESS! Psalms (100:2) tells us straight out "Serve Hashem with HAPPINESS..." And in the Megilla, where it states "For the Jews, there was light, happiness, joy and honor" (8:16) Light refers to the Torah, and happiness refers to the Jewish holidays, and specific to Purim, to the Purim meal. Yes, feasting on Purim is accomplishing the same spiritual aspect for ourselves as much as fasting on Yom Kippur.

So, we see here the concept of repetition, which is constantly REPEATED throughout Megillat Esther. So seemingly, since the concept of repetition is ultimately shown through the fact that the Jews REPEATED their committment of observing the Torah, there must be a big connection here between Torah and the concept of repetition.

And so just as we keep repeating - going over again and again over a piece of learning, a piece of Torah, which not only helps us remember and retain the information, but at times brings us to think of ideas not presented in the immediate open text; so too does the name of Megillat Esther, whose text represents the concept of a Sefer Torah/Torah scroll, and means in similar etymology "revealing the hidden", for with constant repetition, this is bound to happen.

Is there in fact a certain amount of times that one is obligated to go over one's Torah learning?

The truth is that there is a concept of going over a piece of Torah at least four times initially. We see that when Hashem taught Moses some Torah, Mosse then transmitted this to his brother Aaron, Aaron's two youngest sons, and the 70 elders, and then the rest of the Jews. Hence, Moshe taught the Torah that Hashem taught him - four times (Eruvin 54).

The above is for starters. For more advanced, there is a minimum of 101 times. As noted in Talmud Tractate Chagiga 9b, quoting from a verse in Kohelet/Ecclesiastes stating that there is a difference between one who serves G-d and one who doesn't. On this, the Talmud asks "Is this asking an obvious thing as if to say what is the difference between a righteous person and an evil person?" The Talmud then goes on to state that what King Solomon is noting here is that there is a difference between one who learns a piece of Torah - 101 times, and one who learns it only 100 times.

While one may think that the Talmud just gave an example of numbers, but that this is equally applicable to let say the difference between learning something 50 or 51 times, think again.

But why this number? Isn't the number 100 a pretty nice amount of times to learn something? Well, it is true that the number 101 is a number that can be read forward and backwards. In fact, I will dare say that in fact, Hashem uses numbers, even though these are numbers the way we see them today that even Moses would not recognize if he were to wake up from the dead today since these types of numbers didn't exist in his day, to show us lessons. The number 101 is the FIRST of a hundred 3-digit numbers that can be read - FORWARDS & BACKWARDS. This, my friends, is EXACTLY how we are supposed to be learning Torah - so well that literally, we know it FORWARDS & BACKWARDS, the same way that one should be able to say the Aleph Beit or alphabet backwards AS QUICKLY AS THE LETTERS IN REGULAR ORDER.

There is also mentioned a hint about learning Torah - 101 times with the difference of Gematriot of two words - the verbs of remembering & forgetting. The base verb of forgetting using the letters Shin, Kaf, Cheit is the Gematria of 328, and the base verb of remembering using the letters Zayin, Kaf, Reish is the Gematria of 227; so 328 minus 227 is 101!

Morever, in the book of the Tanach called Trei Asar, particularly in the last section named Malachi, name of the final prophet of the Jewish people, it states "REMEMBER the Torah of Moses my servant" (Malachi 3:22). In fact, the Gematria of the name of this prophet Malachi is 101! By the way, there are those who say that this prophet Malachi was in fact Mordechai himself.

But don't give up learning Torah just because you don't think this is possible. Hashem does not judge everyone equally, as everyone comes from a different background. Not everyone is born to an observant Jewish family having a good Jewish education, not everyone has the same type of G-d given skills, and not everyone has the same type of job. Certainly, those who are loafing around doing nothing else but learning Torah have no excuse to apply themselves accordingly.

In sharp contrast, one who teaches Torah to youngsters, needing to go over the material himself to be able to present it well, and spend sufficient time for them to comprehend it, needing sufficient amount of sleep in order to teach them without feeling too tired from teaching properly as mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch/Code of Jewish Law; hence, not having sufficient time himself to learn the whole Torah 101 times - as a rabbi who decides what the Halacha/Jewish Law who must be crystal clear with what he learns - during his lifetime, will not be judged for not having that sufficient time since he spent his valuable time teaching Torah properly to the next generation, and will be granted to be able to learn the same Torah in Heaven as the biggest scholars who are masters of their Torah learning and had enough time to learn the Talmud and Halacha - 101+ times.

Well, maybe not many of us will be able to learn Torah this well. The truth that amazes me about the big Torah scholars is not the fact that they are able to learn and understand everything, but how they can retain such a memory to remember virtually everything that they learn. It is true that with most if not all of them, they in fact have Divine Assistance for having the top brains that they have, because also of their good character traits, and so Hashem is willing to help them walk the extra mile. There are those people who may have encyclopedic knowledge of something, but this does not determine per se how they behave or treat other people. With most of the great Torah scholars, their Torah not only taught them knowledge, but also how to behave properly, with Derech Eretz/manners that will give a good impression to people who will exclaim that indeed, Torah or Judaism is indeed a wonderful thing, even if some of these people are themselves very lax in their observance of Judaism, but will at least have a good feeling about it, whether this will be translated into sending their own children to a Jewish school, supporting Jewish education, or starting to learn Torah in a Yeshiva program themselves.

Along the lines about the Megilla that I wrote about two years ago in my 22nd Post - "Revealing Torah Secrets", I have quite a few here in relationship to the Megilla.

To begin with, as I am in my 41st year of life, I noticed quite a few Jewish holidays that are directly related with the number 41. Perhaps the secret to this is that the last Parsha of the Torah consists of 41 verses, which is read on Simchat Torah. On Rosh Hashana, we blow the Shofar, which is a ram's horn. In Hebrew the word for ram is Ayil, which is the Gematria of 41. And then for Purim, the first letters of the phrase Megillat Esther/Scroll of Esther is the number Mem, Aleph - 41. Also, the first letters of the two big heroes of the Purim Story - Mordechai (Mem) & Esther (Aleph) also spells the number 41.

Perhaps it is no wonder that the very first piece of Torah that we recite daily following the daily blessings for learning Torah - Birchat HaTorah - is the section in the Torah about Bircat Cohanim, which is about the Mitzvah of the Cohanim to bless the congregation (Numbers 6:22-27). Indeed, this sectiion of the Torah consists of exactly 41 words.

And so with this being said, I have a few more goodies to reveal.

Before I forget, in this particular year, the eighth day of Moses' life from his birthdate of 7 Adar is 14 Adar, the future date of Purim, was presumably the date of Moses's Brit Mila, circumcison. In this year, this day of 14 Adar - Purim is the first day of the week of Parshat Shemini, the name Shemini which means the EIGHTH, in this context referring to the eighth day from the training of Aaron and his sons for the priesthood in the Tabernacle, and it was on this day that the Tabernacle was dedicated and the beginning of the official Divine Service of Aaron and his sons (Note: The beginning of the Megilla mentions King Achashveirosh who made a party, who, accordiing to the Sages, wore at this party - the same type of Priestly Garments that were worn by Aaron!)

I have mentioned in quite a few posts in the past that the Mitzva of learning & teaching Torah is the 420th Mitzvah of the Torah as per the count of the Rambam - and not the 419th Mitzvah as per the list of the Sefer HaChinuch. While I am not here to present all my proofs to this in this post once again, one thing I will mention is that the one time in the entire Chumash that the phrase Torat Hashem (Hashem's Torah) is mentioned (Exodus 13:9) follows the word Tihyeh (will be) which is the Gematria of 420. Well, right here in Megillat Esther, we have a very similar thing. The verse that I mentioned above "For the Jews there was light..." where "light" refers to Torah, this word immediately follows the word Haitah(was) - having the same letters as the word Tihyeh - hence having the same Gematria as 420! Coincidence?

Speaking of words, I figured to myself, since the name of Megillat Esther is in fact the name/word Esther, I figured that I would look up in my Hidden Codes program - as Esther is the Gematria of 661 - as to what the 661th word is in this Book. No, it is not the name/Esther, but it is also a name - Mordechai! In fact, this is in Esther 2:15, where it states "When the turn came for Esther, daughter of Avichail uncle of Mordechai who adopted her (Esther) as his daughter (who later became his wife)...". The question can be asked, how come only after many verses when Esther is first mentioned does it list her genealogy, especially after the Megilla had already mentioned Mordechai a little earlier than this in Chapter Two?

So here, we see that there is a very intrinsic connection between Esther and Mordechai. It wasn't that these two righteous people happened to connect with each other. It was the combination of these two that brought about the miracle of Purim. And so, the word Mordechai - being the 661th word in the Book of Esther - in this particular instance showing Esther's family relationship to Mordechai shows this very concept. Moreover, it was in this very verse that it was Esther's turn to actually meet the king with whom she would be married to, which was part of the Purim play that brought about the salvation of the Jewish people, while obeying whatever Mordechai told her to do regardless of personal cost and sacrifice. Amazing!

In another discovery that I made in my 41st year as it relates to Megillat Esther, this involves the Hidden Codes of the Torah. While this is not the first time that I looked up the phrase "Megilat Esther" in the Chumash, this is the first time that I spent an amazing hour plus to discover more this in this matrix than I have virtually ever discovered in my life! OK - the eight letters of this phrase - Mem, Gimel, Lamed, Tav/Sav, Aleph, Samech, Tav, Reish - can be spelled equidistantly exactly once in the Torah - every 424th letter! Perhaps what is truly amazing here is that the odds of this happening are very much odds. Two of these eight letters have letters that are among the least used in the Torah - Gimel & Samech. Moreover, my program was showing me that the chance of this happening even once was a HALF OF A TENTH PERCENT CHANCE! So, the fact that this occured even once is truly amazing!

With this being said, of all places in the Torah, where is this code spelled? In Parshat Balak - the very Parsha where Balak king of Moab & the magician Bilam make a vicious attempt to have the Jews cursed time and again. Of course, this is just like Haman who came to king Achachveirosh to circulate a letter with the king's signature to have all the Jews murdered.

But wait, this is just the beginning! As we know, one of the purposes of the annual reading of Megillat Esther is the rememberance of what Amalek did to us, and as Amalek's descendant Haman attempted to do to us. Now for Parshat Balak, the last two letters of Bilam's & Balak's names respectively spell the name Amalek! In fact, after Bilam's failed three times attempt to curse the Jews, he ranted a bunch of things about other nations, including where it says "He saw Amalek, and he raised his parable saying "Amalek is the head of the nations, and his end is that he will be destroyed forever"" (Numbers 24:20). Aside from these two mentions of Amalek, there are two more times of this name being spelled in this section in consecutive letters using two different set of words!

It would take a whole separate post to mention all the discoveries I found here that show beyond a shadow of a doubt that indeed, the Torah is not written by humans, but is nothing short of the wisdom of Hashem who is able to hint everything that ever happpened or exists in this universe, quoting from the Vilna Gaon. But one thing I will mention is that it mentions the phrase "three times' right near the code of "Megillat Esther", in the context of Balak calling Bilam to task for the three chances that Bilam had to curse the Jews, but was forced from Hashem to bless the Jews instead. Also earlier on, the donkey on which Bilam was riding on his way to curse the Jews made three attempts to prevent Bilam from continuing on his journey as it is mentioned also by this "three times".

This is most relevant to the writing of Megillat Esther to begin with. Based on a verse in Tanach, we see that the mention of wiping out the memory of Amalek is mentioned THREE times in the Tanach. Now technically, aside from Megillat Esther, there are three times - Book of Exodus, Book of Deutronomy & Book of Samuel. So, when Esther wanted to submit her book - Book of Esther - to be included in the Tanach, the Sages of the time argued that the three times of the mention of erasing the memory of Amalek has already been fulfilled - not four times. Esther argued back that in fact, the Chumash is considered as only one time for in fact, the Torah is considered as only ONE book, since it is not considered a Sefer Torah without all of the five comparmental books - the Five Books of Moses - being together as one. Moroever, there were only two stories about Amalek in the Tanach up to that point - for it was only in Exodus that the first incident took place, and Deutronomy merely reminds us of what took place in Exodus. Hence, there was yet to be a third story pertaining to Amalek via Amalek's descendant Haman. Subsequently, the Sages acquiesced to her, and the rest is history.

This is all very nice, but although Haman was Amalek's descendant, we do not find Amalek's name mentioned - NOT EVEN ONCE - in the Book of Esther. Haman is described at most as "Haman the son of Hamdasa, the Aggagite, oppressor of the Jews" but no mention of Amalek.

Perhaps it can be said that the fact that Amalek's name isn't mentioned at all actually is a fulfillment or a reminder of the fulfillment at least of wiping out Amalek's name. In any case, I decided of course to do a Hidden Codes search within the Book of Esther to see about Amalek's name being spelled equidistantly.

As it turns out, there are a total of 99 such times. Focusing on the least amount of letters to spell this name, it is where it is every seventh letter spelling it. And take a guess where it is spelled? In the very verse that I mentioned earlier pertaining to the Jews reacceptance of the Torah (9:27)! Yes, this certainly included the Mitzvot pertaining to Amalek - remembering what this nation did to us, not forgetting what this nation did to us, and wiping out this nation's memory.

Yes indeed, this is Judaism 101. For professors who don't learn Torah for the right reasons but use it merely to use it to make a good living for themselves, and have a good reputation for themselves, while spurting heresy that goes against the Torah in their critical analysis of it, are hardly better than Haman who knew some Jewish history who used it in his vicious attempt to make it worse for the Jews, calling their course with names like Judaism 101 to make it sound like these professors are going to teach the world what Judaism is. But for those who truly believe in the Torah - and they don't have to be rabbis either, but Jews who want to learn Torah because this is what Hashem wants us to do and learn from it how to be a good Jew observing Halacha, indeed it is Judaism 101, or perhaps better put - Torah 101, as a goal to learn the Torah, or at least a part of it 101 times. But regardless of the goals that one reaches in learning and teaching Torah, one thing is clear: This is the TORAH OF HASHEM, to which nothing else in the world compares!

11 Adar II, 5771

1 comment:

Moshe Sharon said...

In Parsha Tzav, we can understand that when we face difficult times, it's not a punishment; it's G-d helping us to achieve that cleansing that removes the impurities from our souls. Why does G-d consider the sin offering as being the “Holy of Holies?” Because when we Jews repent with a broken heart and ask HaShem to help us to live a life of righteousness, we fulfill the purpose of creation. More at