Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#104 - The Holy Ones

Today, I begin writing this post on the 5th day of the week of Parshat Kedoshim. The reason that I word it this way, rather than today's Hebrew date, is for more than one reason. Well first of all on a personal note, I was born on the 5th day of the week of Parshat Kedoshim, and it is the first time that this occured since I began, as in non-leap Hebrew years, Parshat Kedoshim is read together with its preceding Parshat Acharei-Mot on Shabbat, but on this leap year, these two Parshiyot are read separately.

Another major significance of the 5th day of Parshat Kedoshim relates especially to Seder Kodoshim of the Mishnayot. First to note, while normally, when people write the name of this week's Parsha in Hebrew, it is written with a Vav, but the truth is that in the Torah, the name of this Parsha is in fact written with a Vav. Thus, this is spelled the same way as the name of the 5th order of the Mishnayot - Kodoshim; it's just that they are pronounced differently because of their respective vowels. Also, according to Kabbalah, the six orders of the Mishnayot correspond to the six days of Creation. Hence, correspondingly to the fifth day of the week - which is today - is the Order or volume of Kodoshim, which is about the offerings and Temple service that the Cohanim performed in the Temple.

Another connection of the number five related to Seder Kodoshim is the 5th Chapter of its first tractate - Zevachim, which is all about the animal sacrifices. This Chapter, which is recited daily in the Korbanot/Temple Offerings section of our morning prayers, begins with Eizehu Mekoman Shel Zevachim - "Where is the location in the Temple of the (slaughtering of) sacrifices?" Kodshei Kodoshim Shechitatan Ba'Tzafon - The Holiest Sacrifices are slaughtered in the north side". The purpose of reciting a chapter of Mishnayot in our daily prayers is to ensure that we have a dosage of daily Torah learning, and as the Mishna Berura explains, this chapter of Mishnayot (one of the few in all of the Mishnah) does not contain any arguments or differences of opinion between rabbis about what the Halacha is, unaltered from how this was transmitted from Hashem to Moses on Mt. Sinai, calling this "Mishna Berura", a clear Mishna (or teaching). Hence, this chapter of Mishnayot represents the concept of Shalom/peace, without any arguments or differences - even when it comes to deciding what the Halacha/Jewish law is.

At this point, it's worthy to note that the name of one of the tractates of Seder Kodoshim - Tamid, which is all about the daily sacrifices, known as the Korban Tamid - is the same Gematria as the name of this order of the Mishnayot - Kodoshim. In fact, there are those who have a custom to recite daily one of its seven chapters, corresponding to the seven days of the week. This is the concept of learning Torah - Tamid, which means always, but in this context, the best translation is the word constantly or consistently, for just as there were two daily animal offerings in the Temple - one in the morning and the other in the afternoon - of which its Torah section is also recited in our morning prayers (some also recite this in the afternoon prayers), so too, the Mitzvah of learning Torah is a mandatory Mitzvah to be performed EVERY SINGLE DAY - daytime & nighttime.

You see, there are those who may be able to spend a lot of time learning Torah one day, but then they are all tied up to things the next day. It's very nice for some to learn a lot of Torah one day instead of doing trivial matters. However, what is of crucial importance is that we learn Torah - EVERY SINGLE DAY, even if we learn just a little bit of Torah one day, but it has to be a constant & consistent matter. Indeed, we learn this concept from the Korban Tamid which was brought EVERY SINGLE DAY - with no exception, even on the Sabbath & Jewish Holidays when it is forbidden to start a fire, but was done so in the Temple for certain sacrifices.

(middle of construction, come back later)

24 Nissan, 5771 - Fifth Day in the Week of Parshat Kedoshim

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

#103 - Mincha: The Ultimate Rest

Among the offerings mentioned in these last five Parshiyot that we have read or going to read this coming Shabbat (Vayikra, Tzav, Shemini, Tazria, Metzora)is the Mincha offering. While this word is used in connection to the Meal offering that the poor person brought in lieu of animal or bird sacrifices, the original meaning of this word is in fact the word GIFT. Makes sense, it was a gift from the poor person bringing a meal offering in lieu of a Burnt Offering - though to atone for certain sins, it is clear from the Torah that type of offering is not mandatory like a Korban Chatat (Sin Offering) or a Korban Asham (Guilt Offering).

This is nice, but today, the word Mincha seems to have the biggest use as refering to our afternoon prayers. So of course the question may be asked, why is this word used particular for the afternoon prayers as opposed to the morning (Shacharit) or evening (Ma'ariv or Arvit) prayers?

Before we answer this question, we have other business to take care of in this post. Well before I continue on, I want to point out that in fact, the word Mincha is the Gematria of 103, and this is my 103rd Post.

Another thing that I want to point out is that today - 2 Nissan - marks the day that Netanel Ben Tzuar, leader of the Tribe of Yissaschar, brought his offerings following the dedication of the Tabernacle that took place the day before (Note: See my latest post on my blopspot that I recently started - - #24).

With this being said, let's get right straight to the blessing that Jacob on his deathbed, conferred on his son Yissaschar. Among his blessing, it states - Vayar Menucha Ki Tov - "He saw rest that it was good..." (Genesis 49:15).

Now normally, as is spelled several times in the Tanach/Bible, including twice in the Chumash/Penteteuch, the word Menucha is spelled with the letters - Mem, Noon, Vav, Cheit, Hei. In this particularly instance however, this word is spelled without the letter Vav. Hence, this word without the vowels looks just like the word Mincha. Any relationship here?

Well, it is true that in fact, the word Mincha has been used to refer to the afternoon prayers. And speaking of the afternoon, in Latin cultures as well as in Israel, many people stop work in the earlier part of the afternoon as a siesta, so they can have a little rest from their workday activities. In a similar vein, the Mincha prayer interrupts the work of the day (especially in earlier times before the invention of the clock), especially in winter time when the day ends early, unlike the morning prayers that are recited before beginning work or the evening prayers after one has finished work for the day. In fact, this is why Mincha - the afternoon prayers - is considered to have the most merit in comparison with the prayers said at other times of the day.

Now that we making the connection between Mincha & Menucha, it is s small wonder then that it is particularly in the Shemoneh Esrei of Mincha of Shabbat, which is called Yom Menucha "Day of Rest", that the concept of Menucha is mentioned several times - Yom Menucha "A day of rest...Jacob and his sons rested on it (Shabbat), a rest of love and free-will, a rest of truth and faith, a rest of peace and tranquility, and quiet, and security, a complete rest that You desire. Your children recognize and know that it is from You that they receive their rest, and they sanctify Your name over their rest".

Also in relationship to Shabbat, we see in the Talmud (Shabbat 10) that Hashem tells Moshe "There is a gift in my treasure house, and its name is Shabbat. Go and tell the Jewish people about it". While in this Talmudic context, the Hebrew word for gift is Matanah, and not Mincha; perhaps it can be said that since this is a gift that Hashem is giving us, rather than the other way around, it has a differerent name for the meaning of gift. In any case, it has been said in a figurative sense that the Torah reading on Shabbat afternoon which begins from the Parsha following what was read in the morning time is called Torat HaMincha - the Torah of the Mincha, the very phrase used in the Torah referring to the laws of the Korban Mincha - Meal Offering. (For more on this, see my first two posts of my Shabbat blogspot -

And now moving on from the Written Torah as we read in the Sefer Torah/Torah Scroll when reading from the Parsha to the Talmud in the Oral Torah, we are currently in the midst of the worldwide Day Yomi learning of Tractate Menachot, which focuses on the meal offerings. Also to note in the midst of this month of Nissan, the special Omer offering brought annually on the second day of Passover, the 16th of Nissan, was in fact a Korban Mincha, as the grain for the Omer offering that was offered was grounded into flour.

Near the end of the first Talmudic Tratate of Berachot, it states that Torah scholars do not have rest - neither in this world, nor in the next world. Now, if it is true that we receive our ultimate reward in the Hereafter for our hard spiritual work in this world, then logically, this is indeed our rest to enjoy after our hard labor. In fact, at the end of Tractate Tamid, it states that the Sabbath represents the Sabbath rest of eternal life that will begin in the 7th millenium from the world's existance. If so, then why does it say that Torah scholars do not have rest in the next world?

As we know, the learning/teaching of Torah is the greatest of all Mitzvot, which includes the fact that the reward for learning one word of Torah is equal to ALL the other Mitzvot of the Torah COMBINED. Thus, it makes sense that as this world is a preparation for the next world, it is the learning of Torah in the next world that will be the ultimate bliss from which the righteous/Torah scholars will immensely enjoy.

On one hand, it seems very easy to rattle off words of Torah - which may includes the Psalms, which is part of the Written Torah. However, the ultimate level of Torah is where one toils over it very much to understand what it is saying - especially the hard parts of the Talmud that one has to do serious thinking on to understand its true meaning. And so, it is the Torah scholars who can honestly say that they made a big effort to understand what the Torah is transmitting to us. Thus, in this instance, the will not simply relax from the way they learned Torah in this world, but rather, will continue learning Torah the same in the next world that they learned it in this world.

And so, as we mentioned above about Yissaschar, the tribe of Torah, who was the Torah scholar among his brothers (though they all knew some Torah also being the sons of Jacob, who was the most learned of Torah of the three Patriarchs), whose leader brought offerings on its behalf on today's date, I would like to mention a couple of Gematria tidbits that I recently came up with, in time for Passover.

The last word of Parshat Bo - the Parsha of the Exodus - is M'Mitzrayim (from Egypt), where it says "for with a strong hand, Hashem brought us out of Egypt". This word is the Gematria of 420, and as mentioned early in this section of the Torah where it says L'Ma'an Tihye Torat Hashem B'Ficha "In order that the Torah of Hashem will be in your mouth", the word Tihye is also the Gematria of 420 when it mentions immediately afterwards "The Torah of Hashem", the SOLE mention of this phrase in the Chumash. And yes, the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah is the 420th Mitzvah of the Chumash. And as for the word M'Mitzrayim - it also mentions earlier when Hashem spoke to Moses at the Burning Bush "When I bring out the nation FROM EGYPT, they will serve G-d on this mountain" (Exodus 3:12) referring to Mt. Sinai where the Jews would soon receive the Torah.

In a similar vein, just as we mentioned leaving the country of the worst spiritual impurity in the world - "FROM EGYPT" in relationship to the Mitzvah of Torah learning/teaching, the word L"Yerushalayim "To Jerusalem" - going to the holiest city of the world - is the same Gematria as the word HaTorah (the Torah) (when the word Yerushalayim is spelled with only one Yud, the way it is spelled throughout Tanach excecpt for five times) -616.

Now back to Yissaschar, the name of the one who represented the pillar of Torah, his name is the Gematria of Lilmod Torah U'LeLamda "To learn Torah and to teach it" (830) - the name of the 420th Mitzvah of the Torah. To note, there were 200 heads of Sanhedrin who were descended from this tribe, and they were the ones who used their expertise to determine the calculation of the months and years of the Jewish calendar. The Talmud (see Tractate Berachot) notes that in reference to this, the Sanhedrin being in Israel, particularly in Jerusalem, did these calculations particularly in this area in the world, as it states "For from Zion, the Torah will come out, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).

And as we note near the end of the Seder on the first (or two) night(s) of Passover- L'Shana HaBa'a B'Yerushalayim "Next Year in Jerusalem".

Have a Happy, Kosher & Meaningful Passover!

2 Nissan, 5771 - Date that Netanel Ben-Tzuar, leader of the tribe of Yisasschar, brought his offerings on behalf of his tribe