Monday, August 29, 2011

#118 - Thanking HASHEM for Being ALIVE

It was only like an hour ago that good news came my way in time for this post. In Japan, a non-guilty verdict was laid down today for Yoel Goldstein, one of the three Hasidic boys who got arrested for unintentionally carrying drugs into that country thanks to a lowlife who used these boys as suckers due to his own greediness for money. While Mr. Goldstein is not totally out of the red yet, as first of all, prosecutors have up to 14 days to appeal a non-guilty verdict, and then he has to deal with immigration due to his long overexpired 90 day passport permission of stay in that country, it is clear that when we do our part with both prayers AND efforts, that Hashem helps out along the way. Even so, the fate of Yaakov Yosef Greenwald, the other Hasidic boy who has already been sentenced with eight years of prison along with harsh labor, is still heavily relying on others (with his full faith and trust in Hashem as evidenced by letters that he wrote) who are making every effort that he spend his prison time in Israel instead, but this has yet to be seen.

Indeed, as the first and last verse of Psalm 118 (and this is my 118th Post) states - "Give thanks to Hashem for He is good, for his kindness is everlasting". While there are a number of verses in Tehillim/Psalms that is this very verse; if I am not mistaken, Psalm 118 is the only chapter in the entire Tanach/Bible made up of 929 chapters in which the first and last verse consist of the exact same words.

To note, this psalm consists of 29 verses, and today is the 29th day of Av, near the conclusion of the month (the last date of the month, the 30th, only occurs in some months, and is already called the first day of Rosh Chodesh of the coming month). And as this month of Av is the month that the Jewish people mourned for Aaron the High Priest as he passed away on Rosh Chodesh Av, it's noteworthy to mention that in verse 3 of this psalm, it states "Let the House of Aaron now declare: For His kindness is everlasting".

As the 1st and 29th of any given month occur on the same day of the week; in this month, these two days fell out on the second day of the week. And as we see in the Torah about the creation of the world, of the six days of the work week, only for this day of the week is there no mention of the words Ki Tov "And G-d saw THAT IT WAS GOOD". The reason for this is since Hashem didn't finish His project on the waters on this day, and there was discord between the upper and the lower waters, He did not wish to state "that it was good".

The first letters of this phrase Ki Tov - Kaf & Tet - is the Hebrew number for 29. It makes sense, because just as Hashem declared whenever He finished a project "that it was good"; so too, as the month concludes, the number 29 - the concluding date of the month also declares, so to speak - Ki Tov - one more month that had a piece in the history of the world that was created by Hashem to accomplish a little more of what Hashem wants. This is most especially applicable to Jews who are the very reason that Hashem created the universe (a fact that non-observant Jews, as being assimilated in the non-Jewish world, may not want to admit, because they are afraid of showing that they are "racist" against non-Jews). And as we see that when it comes to time, Hashem handed over the power of declaring a new month to the Jewish
people - when it former times, it was dependent on the sighting of the new moon, while today is based on the Jewish calendar that was already determined by the Jewish court when it felt that due to the increasing troubles happening to the Jewish people, that there would a possibility that the sighting of the new moon was cease and so it felt that it needed to produce a Jewish calendar to insure that we would know when to observe the Jewish holidays.

And we see that just as today - the second day of the week which is not marked by the words Ki Tov in the Torah, is the date of Kaf Teit, the initials of Ki Tov; so too, the Hasidic young man Yoel Goldstein, though he seemed to be in not a very good situation as far as the circumstances that could have led to be given a harsh sentence, was given a non-guilty verdict, which will G-d willing be the end of his legal battle, and can continue on with his life in Israel and hopefully be able to marry like many if not most Hasidic people do at the age of 20. As it is, he already got wasted and snatched of over three years of young life in which are some of the greatest formative years in Yeshiva learning, while he had only a fraction of Yeshiva time learning all by himself with no study partner, no Rebbe, and not being in a religious setting of even praying in a synagogue.


Today, the 29th of the month being Erev Rosh Chodesh, the day preceding the beginning of the new month, is also known as Yom Kippur Kattan "Minor Yom Kippur", as there are those who fast and/or pray special Selichot prayers asking Hashem for forgiveness for sins, the same way that we do it on the annual Yom Kippur, as it is a matter of starting the new month with a fresh slate. This is especially so with this Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul, as the month of Elul itself is a month that we prepare ourselves spiritually, improving ourselves by making sure we do all the Mitzvot/commandments that we are supposed to observe and behaving better in our characteristic traits, before the High Holidays when we are annually judged by Hashem.

Historically, today's date of 29 Av was the day in between Moses' second 40 day period on Mt. Sinai asking Hashem for forgiveness for the Jews' participation in the worship of the Golden Calf and the third 40 day period on Mt. Sinai when Hashem rewrote the Ten Commandments on the tablets that Moses brought up with him, culminating with Yom Kippur when Hashem announced his formal forgiveness for the Jews. Similarly, today is a time to reflect on our past which may include sins and telling Hashem that we are sorry, and thinking of our future working on concrete steps to help prevent spiritual mishaps from reoccurring and finding ways to improve our lives spiritually, showing that while we may have failings here and there, in essence, we really want to do the right thing, making it all much easier for us in our judgement from Hashem on the High Holidays.


The month is not quite up yet. We still have the 30rd of Av, though it may be called the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, as we have two days of Rosh Chodesh this time. In fact, we will be saying the Hallel prayer tomorrow morning, which concludes with Psalm 118.

As I mentioned in Post 115 this month, this month of Av corresponds to the Tribe of Shimon. Moreover, the consecutive numbers - 115, 116, 117, 118 - add up to the total of 466, the Gematria of the name Shimon. As it turned out, I wrote my 115th through 118th posts in this month of Av corresponding to the Tribe of Shimon.

And as connected to the number 29, the number of today's date, it is on the fifth day of Chanuka, which falls out on the 29th of Kislev, that we read the offerings of that the leader of the Tribe of Shimon brought in the Mishkan/Tabernacle. Also, it was on the 29th of Tishrei that Shimon HaTzadik, the last of the 120 members of the Anshei Knesset HaGedola/Men of the Great Assembly and Cohen Gadol/High Priest for 40 years, that he passed away.

And with this, I have an amazing Gematria ride to offer you. If you have seen what I am about to write here in another source, please let me know, but I have something very original to offer here - exclusive on

First, let's take the FIRST word of the Torah - Bereishit.

Next, let's take the SECOND word of the SECOND verse of the SECOND Aliya of the SECOND Parsha (Va'era) of the SECOND Sefer (Shemot/Exodus) - Shimon (6:15).

Next, let's take the THIRD word of the THIRD verse of the THIRD Aliya of the THIRD Parsha (Shemini) of the THIRD Sefer (Vayikra/Leviticus) - M'Lifnei (10:2).

Next, let's take the FOURTH word of the FOURTH verse of the FOURTH Aliya of the FOURTH Parsha (Shelach) of the FOURTH Sefer (Bamidar/Numbers) - Figreichem (14:29).

Finally, let's take the FIFTH word of the FIFTH verse of the FIFTH Aliya of the FIFTH Parsha (Shoftim) of the FIFTH Sefer (Devarim/Deutronomy) - Acheihem (18:18). By the way, bear in mind, we began reading Parshat Shoftim - the FIFTH Parsha of the FIFTH Sefer/Book - at the end of the FIFTH month of the Jewish calendar, as we count the months from Nissan, the month of the Exodus marking the birth of the Jewish people.

Now, let's add up the Gematriot of these five words - Bereishit (913), Shimon (466), M'Lifnei (210), Figreichem (353), Acheihem (64) - and presto, the winning number is 2006.

As we know, we read the weekly Parsha in the synagogue on Shabbat morning between the prayers of Shacharit & Mussaf. Now, in some versions of the Siddur/prayer book, in the middle one of the seven blessings recited in the main prayer of Shemoneh Esrei on Shabbat, near the conclusion of this blessing, there is the word V'Yanuchu (they will rest) followed by one of three words. In the Arvit prayer of Shabbat night, the word is Bah/in it (feminine form), in the Shacharit & Mussaf prayers of Shabbat morning, the word is Bo/in it (masculine form) and in the Mincha prayers of Shabbat afternoon, the word is Bam/in them. Now, the letters that make up the word Bo in the Shacharit & Mussaf prayers of Shabbat morning are Beit and Vav. As a number, as the Beit becomes the numerical value of 2,000 at the beginning of a number, it is the number 2006 - the same exact number as the Gematria of the five above words in their respective number positions corresponding to the number of the book in the Sefer Torah from which the weekly Parsha is read on Shabbat morning! It is the very fact that the sole word that is changed in the ending of the middle blessing of the Shabbat Shemoneh Esrei is this very word of "in" - Bah, Bo, or Bam, that zeroes in on this amazing hint to the fact that part of the celebration of resting on Shabbat is reading the weekly Parsha from the Sefer Torah on Shabbat morning!

Of course, such a Torah thought as the one that I just mentioned here could only come from someone whose name is Shimon, as the name Shimon is one of these five words in the Parshiyot corresponding to their resective numbers. But in all seriousness, there is a lesson to be learned here - Hashem has amazing hints to show us, but we are the ones who have to take the initiative to show the beauty of Torah to others to show them that the Torah is much more than a history or factoid book. Hashem shows us all these hints to tell us that Hashem has a plan, and there is a purpose to what Hashem shows us. If a miracle - the word that we use for something that happens beyond the forces of nature - takes place, it is because wants to show us that the fact that G-d, so to speak, went out of His way for us, means that we have a purpose in life, and that the miracle that took place was in order that we can continue, or have a second chance, in fulfilling that purpose that we were born in this world to fulfill.

Along the above in reference to my name Shimon, speaking of reading the weekly Parsha in the Sefer Torah, the Gematria of Kriat HaTorah/Reading of the Torah, is the same as my full name Shimon Matisyahu (1327). Indeed, I was a Torah reader for many years in the United States - though at the time, I only had the name Shimon.

Until now, I wrote about my name in connection with the foundation of the Torah She'B'Ketav/Written Torah - the Chumash/Penteteuch, the contents of the Sefer Torah.
Now, I will write about my name in connection with the foundation of the Torah She'B'Al Peh/Oral Torah - the Mishna or Mishnayot. Perhaps the most popular worldwide Mishna study is the daily study of two Mishnayot a day, known as the Mishna Yomit. Now, the word Yomit/daily (feminine form) itself is the same Gematria as Shimon (466). The total phrase - Mishna Yomit - is the Gematria of my second name Matisyahu (861)! Along these lines, adding the Gematria of the word Mishna (395) to the Gematria of my first name Shimon (466), it also adds up to the Gematria of my second name Matisyahu.

But I'm not quite finished yet. Learning two Mishnayot a day, it takes a total of 71 months to learn the entire Shisha Sidrei Mishna, all six volumes of the Mishna. In fact, the first name of the founder of the Mishna Yomit program - Rabbi Yonah Stencil - is the Gematria of 71! Now, the Gematria of the word Mishna (395) plus 71 again yields the Gematria of my first name Shimon (466)! And speaking of the number 71, there are exactly 71 chapters of Seder Nashim, the third volume of the Mishna, and the name of this volume - Nashim (women) - has the same Gematria of my wife's full Hebrew name Yael Miriam (400)!

And in connection with the number of this post, the Talmud (Shabbat 31a) quotes a verse from Isaiah 33:6 in which six consecutive words correspond to the six orders of the Mishnayot in order. The word Hosen (strength) in Isaiah corresponds to Seder Nashim, and the Gematria of this word Hosen is 118, the number of this post (in the Talmud text, it is spelled with a Vav which would change the Gematria except for the fact that in the original text of the Tanach/Bible, it is spelled without a Vav). While there are reasons given for the connection between this word and Seder Nashim, it is true that the word Hosen, consisting of the letters Cheit, Samech, Noon Sofit, is similar to the word Hasan/bridegroom, both three letter words beginning with a Cheit and ending with a Noon Sofit; and indeed, the last tractate of Seder Nashim - Kiddushin, deals with the laws of getting married.

Now, the Gematria of the phrase Shem Shimon - the name Shimon - is the same as the word Mishnayot (806). And as per learning two Mishnayot a day, the Gematria of the phrase Beit (equals 2 as the numerical value of the letter Beit) Mishnayot is 808, and the phrase Yom Hei Kodoshim - Day Five (of Parshat) Kedoshim - the date of my birth - when spelled equidistantly in the Chumash which only occurs once - is spelled every 808th letter! In fact, this number has popped up in my life more than once, including the number of the condominium unit in South Florida that my late grandparents (my mother's parents) lived in.

And speaking of my birthdate - which on the monthly calendar, is Rosh Chodesh Iyar (1 Iyar), mentioned twice in the beginning of the 34th Parsha of the Torah - Parshat Bamidbar. Accordingly, as per my name Shimon being the combined Gematria of the word Mishna and the number 71, the 34th Masechta/tractate of the Mishna - Masechet Sanhedrin - consists of 71 Mishnayot, and as I had mentioned in my 71st Post (June '10), this is no coincidence, as there were exactly 71 members of the Sanhedrin, the (real) Jewish Supreme Court, as well as the fact that the 71st Mitzvah of the Torah is the prohibition of cursing the head of the Sanhedrin which consists of 71 members.
And the name of this week's Parsha, which is also the first word of this Parsha, is Shoftim, and the first Pasuk/verse of this Parsha is explained in the first chapter of Masechet Sanhedrin in the Talmud.


Indeed, as I just saw today at, Hurricane Jonah is headed towards North Carolina. And the reason given for this - Jonathan Pollard is being served major injustice by the United States government having him rot in a North Carolina cell. The name Jonah is quite similar to the name Jonathan. Moreover, it was none other than the prophet Jonah who was instructed by Hashem to warn the non-Jews of the big city Nineveh to repent or else they would have its city overturned in 40 days. In no time, the inhabitants of Nineveh did major repentance and so were spared of the potential punishment. Now, Hashem is sending Hurricane Jonah to the very state where the United States is violating its own laws of punishment terms for Jonathan Pollard who committed one count of handing over classified information to an ally country punishable with a 2-4 year maximum prison sentence, and has been wasting away for almost 26 years with no possible hope of Obama's pardon that would immediately free him once and for all. To this, I add that as the Gematria of Yonah/Jonah is 71, this is the number that represents the Sanhedrin consisting of 71 members, the highest Jewish court in power and numbers. And this hurricane taking place - in the week of Parshat Shoftim (judges)!

At our end, the Jewish people are compared to a Yonah/dove, and we are just about to enter the 40 solemn day period from the beginning of Elul until after Yom Kippur. It seems that one of the reasons why we reading the section of Tanach called Jonah on the afternoon of Yom Kippur is because it is at that time that we are close to the finish line of the 40 days, just as the people of Nineveh in Jonah were given 40 days to repent. And the number of this year - 5771, ends off wit the number 71. Indeed, there is no coincidence that Hurricane Jonah - on its way to wreak havoc and destruction around the area where a member of the Jewish nation which is compared to a dove - Jonathan Pollard, has been illegally being detained in prison for so many years, was named as such IN THIS VERY HEBREW YEAR THAT ENDS WITH THE NUMBER 71 - THE GEMATRIA OF THIS VERY NAME YONAH/JONAH! And as the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish Supreme Court, consisted of 71 judges, it is as saying that Hashem is now on the height of judging the United States for how it is treating Jonathan Pollard.

And while we are at the eve of the final month of the Jewish calendar year, let's note the number that is spelled as the reverse of the number of this Jewish year - 1775. In the beginning of the 23rd Parsha - Parshat Pekudei, it mentions that the silver money used to count the Jews at the time of the building of the Mishkan/Tabernacle came out to a total of 100 talents and 1775 Shekalim. Now, for whatever reason, the same word in Hebrew for silver - Kesef, is also the meaning of the word money (or the other way around, depending on what came first). And as we know, the highest priority of a person's physical survival is food and drink.

Accordingly, the 23rd chapter of Tehillim/Psalms, consisting of 57 words, bearing in mind that the word Zahn/sustains or nourishes is the Gematria of 57, is about how Hashem provides for us, and is customarily recited at a meal, especially on Shabbat. And as mentioned in Perek Shira, a list of verses recited by the various forces of creation, it is the Yonah/dove, quoting from the Talmud (Eruvin 18b), who states to Hashem, "Master of the universe, may my food come from Your hands though bitter as an olive leaf rather than through the hands of a creature of flesh and blood though sweet as honey". This was the very message that the dove conveyed to Noah after he sent it to check the world following the flood to see if the world was sufficiently dry to be inhabited once again, and returning with an olive leaf in its beak as an affirmative answer, the dove was saying the same thing to Noah, and shortly afterwards, it left the Ark for good, though Noah still had food for it, because the dove preferred to eat what Hashem would directly prepare for it. Bearing in mind that the Hebrew word for a dove is 71, we have the connection between the two numbers 57 - the number of words in Psalm 23 which is about Hashem's sustenance, and 71 - the Gematria of the word Yonah/dove which prefers sustenance directly from Hashem, and these two numbers put together spells our Hebrew year 5771!


While for some people, this may mean being alive in this world; for a good Jew who knows something of what the Torah says, the ultimate being alive is in the world of truth, the eternal world where we will receive our eternal reward. The life in this world is merely a means to reach this ultimate goal; and hence, while one may want to live a long life to enjoy their family, especially what is called "Nachas" or "Yiddishe Nachas", it is only in this world that we are able to do Mitzvot/commandments that will earn us the key to eternal life; and hence, the blessing of Arichut Yomim - long life in this world, takes on a whole another dimension.

While non-Jews may find happiness and find their lives to be fulfilling through certain ways, the ultimate life of a Jew is the Torah; and hence is called Torat Chaim - Torah of life. It is learning the Torah and following its laws that gives true meaning to the life of a Jew. Without out, many Jews, even without learning a word of Torah, feel that despite their materialistic success, feel that they are missing something, though usually, they can't quite pinpoint to the source of their awkward feeling. There are those Jews with these type of feelings who do some searching for something that they haven't come across before or haven't been open to before, and is at times the impetus of finding the Torah way of life, and then everything seems to click afterwards.

Taking the number of this post - 118, you first have the number one which represents Hashem as "The One", and then the number 18 - Chai, the shortened form of the word Chaim/life. In fact, in the long 51 verse chapter of Psalm 18, the 47th verse begins with the words Chai Hashem - "Hashem lives...". In fact, both Psalm 18 and Psalm 118 is about thanking Hashem for the things that He does for us - though in Psalm 18, it is King David who is personally thanking Hashem for the things that He had done for him during his lifetime, and in Psalm 118, it is basically us Jews who are thanking Hashem "Give thanks to Hashem for He is good, for his kindness is everlasting". And even at this, the last nine verses of this Psalm, as the conclusion of Hallel, are each recited twice in reminiscence of what took place leading up to the coronation of King David as the future king by the prophet Samuel when as far as even his own family was concerned, King David was not only expected to be the least candidate from the rest of his seven brothers to be the king, but his family, including his own righteous father Yishai, looked down on him so much that they didn't even think of calling him from the field where he was a shepherd, until Samuel the prophet asked King David's family if there was any other family member, as Hashem told Samuel to come to this family to annoint one of the family members as king, but Samuel knew that it was none of King David's brothers. It is these final nine verses that describe what took place in this story, ending off with the same verse that begins this psalm.

And as per the above about the five words in the Torah that added up the number 2006, it is the word from this week's Parshat Shoftim that is located in the 18th verse of the 18th chapter. While it must be borne in mind that unlike the Aliyot, the apportionment of the numbered chapters and verses were not put together from great rabbis, but from non-Jews, there is no such thing as coincidence. You see, the Torah, as represented by the Sefer Torah is our LIFE (Chai=18), and this week's Parshat Shoftim is always read on Shabbat in the beginning of the month of Elul, the preparatory month immediately preceding the High Holidays when Hashem judges us - which includes judging us for life if we so deserve it. While no doubt that this refers to physical life, as is clearly indicated in the famous U'Netaneh Tokef prayer listing the various ways that Hashem judges us, Hashem also judges us if we are worthy of the spiritual life - the ultimate life that counts, which is based on our weight of Mitzvot & Aveirot, commandments and sins. You see, if it was purely a physical life that Hashem judges us by; certainly, many if not most of the non-observant Jews would have died long ago. However, the biggest fear that we have to have is whether or not Hashem will forgive us for our sins. At the very least, we hope that we will have more in the weight of our Mitzvot than in our Aveirot, so we could be inscribed in the "Book of Life", which determines us to be like the Tzadikim, who are certainly worthy of the eternal reward.

And as we are speaking of the 18th verse of the 18th chapter of the FIFTH book of the Torah, we learn in Kabbalah that there are FIVE parts to the soul - Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, and Yechida. In fact, the fourth one Chaya, consists of the letters Chai and the letter Hei=5, for it is the soul that is the true living source of a human being, for unlike all other creatures when they die, they have no spiritual immortality, the living force of a human being is the soul, and so he or she lives on even after the physical death, except that it is at that time that it lives the real life, which is virtually not understood in our physical beings.

Indeed, we have much to thank Hashem for being alive. In my personal life, I had two close calls that happened to me in the coming month of Elul, one on the 3rd of Elul 5754/1994, in the week of Parshat Shoftim, when on my way to work driving on the highway, my car span out of control due to light puddles of rain that most fortunately did not roll over or hit anything, but made an eventual stop facing the side of oncoming traffic but having sufficient time to start my car, turn around and continue on, and the other on Shabbat Parshat Shoftim, the 4th of Elul in 5747/1987 (as it occurs this year) when on my way home from synagogue following Shabbat morning services, I was facing a huge dog out of the blues which was ready to attack me, but following me screaming and running across the street where cars where moving in opposite directions, and then the huge dog chasing after me got stuck between two cars facing opposite directions, I had sufficient time to run fast enough so that by the time the dog got out of its situation, I was too far for it to continue chasing me.

In both of these miracles, not only was my life spared, but aside from being hugely frightened, I was not even injured in the slightest way. While at the time that these events happened, it was hard for me to appreciate the fact that my life and health was spared as I was extremely frightened, Hashem, the Shofeit Kol Ha'Aretz - Judge of the world, clearly spared me of what He may not do at times for others.

Yes, we need to think of our purpose in life. If we think about it long enough, we will realize that with every breath, Hashem give us the chance to repent and better ourselves to earn our eternal reward. Yes indeed, we THANK HASHEM FOR BEING ALIVE.

29 Av, 5771 - Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul

P.S. The time of this post shows 7:17 AM. In Psalm 118, mentioned in this 118th post, the first and last verse which is the exact same words, consists of SEVEN words; and the word Tov/good, the least in Gematria numerical value in this verse, equals SEVENTEEN!

Monday, August 15, 2011

#117 - The Original Lovesong

Today's date - Tu B'Av (15 Av), means different things to different people. Known as Chag Ha'Ahava "Holiday of Love", bachelors and married people, regardless of being religious or secular in Israel, have no problem celebrating this day. On this date in former times, as recorded in the final Mishna of Tractate Ta'anit as mentioned by Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel, the unmarried women used to have dances in the vineyard in their quest of finding a guy to marry.

For those who are serious about Torah learning, our rabbis tell us to increase our learning at nights beginning with Tu B'Av, as it is around this time that the nights get longer, as mentioned in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch/Code of Jewish Law (71:1), which was learned a couple days ago by many Jews who learn a few chapters of Halacha/Jewish law a day in the cycle of Halacha Yomit.

More on this later, but first, let's talk about the number of this post - 117. As related to the Tanach/Bible, it is significant in two ways. The first is that the shortest of the 929 chapters of the Tanach is Psalms Chapter 117, consisting of two verses, 16 words, 62 letters. It states "Praise Hashem all you nations, praise Him all you assemblies. For He has strengthened His kindness over us, and the truth of Hashem is forever, Hallelujah!"

The question may be asked, why should the nations praise Hashem for what He had done for the Jews? If anything, the nations want to do away with us, let alone praise Hashem for the good that He does for a different nation?

In fact, a non-Jew once asked a rabbi this very question (at least the first sentence of the previous paragraph). The rabbi responded "If anything, you (non-Jews) are the very ones who know what G-d has done for us, because certainly there have been times that you attempted to plot things against us, but G-d prevented you from doing so. And when you will finally see the truth at the end when G-d will reveal Himself to the whole world, you will stop your anti-Semitism, at which point - all of you will praise G-d for the good that He has done for us".

There is no doubt that deep down inside, the non-Jews are jealous of us being G-d's Chosen People, and will look to blame us - logical or not - for what goes wrong. The fact that the Bible is replete with stories of those who attempted to do away with us didn't seem to help much throughout the ages, even as the Crusaders on the way to Israel stopped by hundreds of Jewish communities in Europe to murder and rape them, and Christians executed millions of Jews for nearly 2,000 years in the name of the Christian god in their attempt to "save our souls". And today's anti-Semitic shtick is to demand of us Jews to help the poor "Palestinians" - who by the way, with their Moslem religion, are for the most part disrespectful to Christians - by giving them a homeland, despite the fact that there is no such country as Palestine mentioned even in the New Testament, and that the boundaries of Israel for the Jews are well laid out in the Old Testament. And of course, we are accused of being the rich bankers of the world, even though the world's richest are not Jewish.

And this leads us to the second thing of the Tanach as related to the number 117, for Shir HaShirim/Song of Songs, a lovesong between G-d and the Jews, consists of 117 verses. It is this book of the Bible that has had much influence on romance, especially in Israeli culture (just ask my Israeli wife). If the Christians, who have a literal translation of the Bible, would have had long ago the translation of Artscroll on this book that is based on Rashi (whose name Shlomo is the same name as the author of Shir HaShirim - Shlomo HaMelech/King Solomon), displaying the great love between G-d and the Jews, no doubt that if G-d would have allowed it, we would have been decimated long ago from the great jealousy they would have had if they really knew what this book was saying.

One of the shortest books of the Tanach consisting of 117 verses, it is what we would call short and sweet, in a similar fashion to the shortest Bible chapter Psalm 117 which describes in 16 Hebrew words what the world will be like in the Messianic Era when even the non-Jews will be praising G-d for what He has done for us Jews. It is on this book that Rabbi Akiva states that the whole world was not worthwhile to be in existence until the day that Shir HaShirim was given to the Jews, for all of Scriptures are holy, while Shir HaShirim is holy of holies (Mishna Yadayim 3:5). While in the context of the Mishna, the Halacha does not follow Rabbi Akiva who mentioned this in asserting his position that the scroll of Shir HaShirim is not prone to spiritual impurity, his praise about this Holy Book was well received, mentioned by Rashi in his very first note on this book.

This book is recited by many on every Friday afternoon in spiritual preparation for the Sabbath, especially by Sephardic congregations, as the theme of this book relates to the Sabbath being a time that we show our love for Hashem as we have more time to devote to spiritual activities. It is also one of the five Megillot that are read by congregations during the course of the year, being recited on the Sabbath morning that falls out during the week long holiday of Passover, as it was a time that Hashem showed His love for us by redeeming us from the land of slavery, even though we were not so spiritually worthy, as we had yet to receive the Torah. And it was only seven weeks later when Hashem gave us the Torah, that Hashem so to speak wed us, as we see in this book that Hashem is compared to the bridegroom and the Jews are compared to the bride.


The Peninim Yekarim states that King Solomon, thinking that with his great Torah wisdom that he was invulnerable, did not observe what the Torah says about not having an excess of women, horses, and money. In general, the Torah doesn't give reasons for every single Mitzva/commandment, because if it would, some people would think that the reason doesn't apply to them and so they don't have to follow the particular commandment. For these three commandments for the king not to have these excesses, the Torah states that this is in order that his heart doesn't turn away from Hashem.
Hence, since for each of these three sins, he deserved a set of 39 lashes, coming out to a total of 117 lashes, he composed Shir HaShirim of 117 verses corresponding to this.

The question can be asked, he wrote three books during his lifetime - Shir HaShirim in his youth, Mishlei/Proverbs in his middle age, and Kohelet/Ecclesiastes in his old age (Talmud Bava Batra 15a). Though in fact, King Solomon lived only for 52 years, it is clear that he didn't get to the highlight of his accumulation of women and wealth when he began being king at the age of 12. So, if he wrote Shir HaShirim in his youth, how would this relate to being any type of atonement or realization of doing something wrong at a young age? If anything, it is the book of Kohelet that shows how King Solomon finally came to realize that everything is vanity of vanities except fear of G-d and observance of G-d's commandments. Shir HaShirim, on the contrast, shows that in the literal sense, you have two lovers who don't think much about the seriousness of life while enjoying their time together.

Some may want to answer that King Solomon prophetically wrote 117 verses of Shir HaShirim without realizing himself the significance of this number. But at a closer look, knowing Rashi's commentary on this book, as well as other Talmudic and Midrashic sources, this book also mentions the times when the Jews were in trouble for their sins; but nevertheless, G-d still was merciful to them. The point being made here is that indeed, the ride for the Jews wasn't always one smooth ride, for they fooled around with worshiping the Golden Calf, cried like babies believing the slanderous report of the spies about Israel for which they perished in the desert, and other no-nos along the way. It is clear even from this book that there is a price to pay for doing sins; and it is precisely as a parent that punishes a child for doing wrong to prevent that child from doing wrong in the future that would otherwise allow him or her to get into real big trouble later in life.

In King Solomon's case, he started off with the great frills of palace life, had the respect of all the world kings of the time who payed homage to him, had business dealings going for him right and left, and no wars to contend with unlike his father King David who lived a life of suffering and fought wars for many years. However, unfortunately, these luxuries paid on a toll on his spiritual life, following which, things did not come out quite rosy for him later on, and was warned by a prophet that his kingdom would not last in the future the way it was early on, and King Solomon refused to listen to this. Even of his 1,000 wives/concubines whom he married following the conversion of the non-Jewish ones to Judaism, many of them said "yes, yes, yes" to receive the Jewish certificate, but afterwards, it was back to idolworshiping; and even as King Solomon himself wrote in Kohelet, he did not find one woman who was right for himself (aside from what was under the sheets).

As it turned out, though he never reached the point of worshiping idols like some future Judean kings did, the Tanach testifies that in fact, he was influenced from his women and wealth. It reached the point that it states point blank that King Solomon built an altar for idolatry. While the rabbis explain (Talmud Shabbat 56b) that it means that he only thought of doing so, but didn't actually do it, the fact that he even thought of doing so, despite his great righteousness up to that point, his great Torah scholarship, and being the very one who had the First Temple constructed and led the Temple dedication ceremony, shows that when we don't follow the Torah like we are supposed to, there will be a breakdown in our level of spirituality.

And this is the ultimate lesson of Shir HaShirim. Yes, Hashem showed much love and mercy for us. Yes, we did accept the Torah with no strings attached. However, did we always keep up with our responsibilities as G-d's Chosen Nation? Can we say that we didn't deserve what bad things happened to us as a result of our shortcomings?

And so, what happened to the Jewish nation for thinking that they were smarter than Hashem happened in similar fashion to King Solomon who also thought that in certain ways, he was smarter than Hashem, smarter than the psychology of what happens to people when they get carried on with lust for women and greediness for money. But what he forgot while starting off with these frills in his younger years is that they would distract him to at least some extent from his purpose in life. While he may have thought while writing Shir HaShirim that perhaps only other Jews may not follow everything that the Torah says because they don't have the great wisdom that he had, it was just as important for him if not more so to understand this as well. He indeed knew what the Torah says and how important it is to observe what the Torah says, but his mistake is that he felt that he didn't need the safeguards that most other Jews need because he thought he had the weapons of wisdom to fight off the evil inclination. However, what he didn't realize early on is that in the heat of passion and blindness of money, people do things that may not be logical, being run over by their emotions, forgetting that despite their chances of being caught, demoted, or thrown in a prison cell, the animalistic part of them takes over, and many times, only after seeing that they will have to suffer the consequences of their foolish actions do they regret not behaving in a better fashion.

Speaking of King Solomon's women, the Talmud tells us (Berachot 8a) that as long as his Torah teacher Shimi was alive, he didn't marry the daughter of the Egyptian king.
It seems that his mind was set on marrying her one day, despite the fact that from the Torah, it is only the third generation of Egyptians and on following conversion to Judaism that a Jew who is not a convert can marry them. However, while he rationalized this, at least he waited until Shimi was no longer alive.

To understand the dynamics of this, Shimi wasn't always someone who loved King Solomon's father King David. Quite the contrary, when King David fled from his own son Absalom who claimed the monarchy; Shimi, who was related to King Saul who lost the kingship to King David as a result of failing to wipe out Amalek as he was told to do by the prophet Samuel, cursed King David while throwing stones at him calling him a bloody murderer. Though those close to King David suggested to do away with Shimi, King David would not hear of it. And when King David returned after his son Absalom was killed, ending the rebellion, Shimi came out to apologize to the king, begging him not to take revenge, upon which King David swore to him that he would not harm him. It seems that since then, King David hired Shimi to be the Torah teacher of his son, the future king.

No doubt that Shimi, despite his original opposition to King David, had to have been a brilliant Torah scholar to be hired by him to teach the son of the king. Indeed, the name of Shimi is the Gematria of 420, and the 420th Mitzvah of the Torah, which we just learned in last week's Parshat V'Etchanan, is learning and teaching Torah!
Nevertheless, on his deathbed, King David told King Solomon not to let Shimi get away with it, and when King Solomon told his own Torah teacher Shimi not to ever leave Jerusalem again and he didn't listen, the king had him put to death.

The point here is that even King Solomon needed a strong Torah environment, because without it, he was hardly less prone to making mistakes, or following what he thought was correct as being "the exception to the rule". But what he forgot is that if anything, as the king of the Jewish people, he had to set even a better example to teach the rest.

Continuing the story, he indeed married the Egyptian princess, who while she converted outwardly to Judaism, didn't wait long to show her true colors. The Talmud (Shabbat 56b) tells us that on the day that he married her, the sandbank that formed the eventual city of Rome, from which place the Romans came from and destroyed the Second Temple, was set in place. Anyways, on the day of the dedication of the Temple, King Solomon was quite late, because his Egyptian princess wife had a tapestry of stars with the darkness of black placed on the ceiling above King Solomon's bed, making him think that it was still nighttime when it was already day, in her vicious attempt to prevent him from leading the Temple dedication ceremony, as she still really believed in her Egyptian idolworshipping religion.


As the word Ahava/love, the description of the relationship between Hashem and the Jews, is the Gematria of 13, multiplying this word by nine also comes out to 117. And as we know, it takes NINE months of pregnancy for a baby to be born, the bridge between the intimate love of husband and wife and the life of a whole new being. Similarly, congregations read this book during the holiday of Passover, which marks the birth of the Jewish people as a nation, compared to a child of under Bar/Bat Mitzva age, except that this time period for the Jews was only seven weeks in contrast to 12 or 13 years for a child, until Matan Torah, giving of the Torah to the Jews, which was in essence, the Bar Mitzva/Bat Mitzva of the Jewish nation.

On a more positive note in relationship to King Solomon, as mentioned in the Zohar, he first recited Shir HaShirim on the day of the dedication of the Temple. And in relationship to the dating event of former times on Tu B'Av, the final Mishna in Tractate Ta'anit that I wrote about earlier in this post mentions the following verse from Shir HaShirim "Go forth and gaze, O daughters of Zion upon the King to Whom peace belongs (literally means upon King Solomon) adorned with the crown that His nation (literally means his mother) made for Him, on the day of his wedding, and on the day of the happiness of his heart" (3:11). The Mishna notes that "on the day of his wedding" refers to Matan Torah, and "on the day of the happiness of his heart" refers to the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash/Holy Temple that will be built speedily in our days, Amen. (It's interesting to note that Rashi does not bring this interpretation for the latter phrase at all, but instead states that this refers to the day of the dedication of the Tabernacle).

Getting back to what I wrote earlier about Rabbi Akiva's description of Shir HaShirim as "holy of holies", the Hebrew word used for the description of what takes place for a Jewish marriage to be valid is called Kiddushin, which is also the name of the Mishnaic tractate which is about this very subject. This word is based on the word Kadosh or Kodesh/holy, for it is not just a marriage ceremony like the non-Jews have to celebrate the happiest day of the couple's lives, but this marks the beginning of living a holy life together as a couple, which will result in bringing Jewish children infused with the holiness of a Jew into the world. And while the intimate act between the couple seems to be very animalistic, if done in the spirit of Halacha and right intentions, it is a most sanctified act, in keeping with the fulfillment of the very first Mitzva of the Torah - Pru Urvu "Be fruitful and multiply". It is in this spirit that Shir HaShirim, representing the romance between G-d and the Jews, was composed, as we use the physical in accomplishing the spiritual. And so, while there are deep meanings to the words of Shir HaShirim, it was written the way that it is written in Hebrew to denote physical acts, though representing the greatest and holiest spiritual concepts; the same way that this physical world is a mask of what reality is, but can be used for the greatest and holiest endeavors, being the means of us Jews gaining eternal reward, by following what Hashem tells us without getting sidetracked.

In a similar vain, whether it was the Tabernacle or Holy Temple - while built using much gold and made to look fancy shancy, it is the concept of using physical materials to create the holiest place on earth, and the holiest room of G-d's abode in this world is called Kodesh Kodoshim/Holy of Holies, THE VERY PHRASE that Rabbi Akiva uses to describe Shir HaShirim! And even at this, our rabbis tell us that in fact, the earthly Temple is a microcosm of the spiritual Temple in Heaven, as everything in this world is a reflection of what it's like in the next world.

And in conclusion about the lovestory of Shir HaShirim, mentioning about the Gematria of the word Ahava, the concluding word of the blessing that the Cohanim recite before the three verse fold blessing (Bircat Cohanim) is B'Ahava/with love, which is the Gematria of 15, following which they recite the Bircat Cohanim which consists of 15 words. And for the author of Shir HaShirim, King Solomon was the 15th generation from Abraham the first Jew by parental line, and it was his kingdom that was complete in every way, denoted by his name Shlomo which can also be read using different vowels as Shleima/complete, just as the moon which looks complete around the 15th of the lunar month, and it is Tu B'Av that combines these concepts of love and completeness.

Also to note, the very first verse of Shir HaShirim - Shir HaShirim Asher L'Shlomo which literally means "Song of Songs which is (authored) by Shlomo", begins with the letter Shin & ends with the letter Hei, just as with the name of Shlomo.

The tractate that concludes with the date of Tu B'Av is called Ta'anit, which means a fast (not eating). The idea of a fast in Judaism is to atone for sin or remembering our troubles which resulted from us sinning by abstaining from the physical. What the final Mishna is here to teach us is that it doesn't have to always be this way. It is true that to begin with, we have Yom Kippur to atone for our sins, and unlike the other fast days, Yom Kippur is in fact considered a day of happiness, as this is the day that our sins are atoned for if we won't repeat them, and it was the only other day of the year besides Tu B'Av that the unmarried women were out dancing to attract the men. The ultimate goal, as the Mishna teaches us, it to use the physical, and not have to need to fast all the time because we fall short of our responsibilities. Mentioning these two dates on the same line, we learn that whatever we accomplish on Yom Kippur through fasting on this date, we can accomplish spiritually no less on Tu B'Av through feasting and happiness, so long as we don't get carried away with the materialism of life and focus on using materialism to serve Hashem in the best way possible.


Mentioning earlier in this post from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch to start learning more Torah at nights beginning with Tu B'Av, it is interesting to note that the numbers of chapter (71) and paragraph (1), when put together as 711 and then read backwards, it spells the number of this post - 117!

On a personal note, as there is a custom for some to recite the Psalm of the number that corresponds to their age, as I am in my 42nd year of life, the corresponding psalm is Psalm 42. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch quotes the Gemara (Talmud Avoda Zara 3b) in reference to the above which mentions a verse from Psalm 42. Let's look at this:

"Reish Lakish (whose real name was Shimon, my namesake) said: "Whoever is occupied with learning Torah at night, a thread of kindness is drawn to him during the following daytime, as it says: "In the day, Hashem will command His kindness, and at night - His song is with me" (Psalms 42:9). What is the reason that "in the day, Hashem will command His kindness", BECAUSE "at night - His song (the Torah) is with me"." Others say that this is how Reish Lakish worded this: "Whoever is occupied with learning Torah in this world which is compared to night, the Holy One Blessed is He, will draw on him a thread of kindness in the World to Come which is compared to day, as it says: "In the day, Hashem will command His kindness, and at night - His song is with me""."

It is most fitting that this concept of Torah learning at night is hinted particularly in the 42nd Psalm. You see, the Mitzva of Torah learning comes from the verse - V'Shinantam L'Vaneicha V'Dibarta Bam "You shall elucidate them (the words of Torah) and speak of them..." (Deutronomy 6:7), coming from last week's Parshat V'Etchanan, and is also recited as part of the first paragraph of the Shema. While the Mitzva of Kriat Shema/reciting the Shema, the following Mitzva in the Torah, comes particularly from the words V'Dibarta Bam "You shall speak of them", the Mitzva of learning/teaching Torah starts off from the beginning of the verse, so the continuation of the verse also explains the Mitzva of learning Torah, as the primary part of the Mitzva of Torah study is to pronounce the words with the lips; and hence, includes the Mitzva of saying the words of the Shema which are also words of Torah.

In any case, the word Bam/them (literally "in them") is the Gematria of 42, and it has been said that this particular word consisting of a Beit & Mem (Sofit) are the beginning of the words Bereishit - the first word of the Torah She'B'Ketav/Written Torah or Bible and Mei'ei'Matai - the first word of the Torah She'B'Al Peh/Oral Torah
or Mishna. Additionally, multiplying this number 42 by 10 times, - noting that the Aseret HaDibrot/Ten Commandments (the real translation is Statements), as Rashi quotes the Sa'adya Gaon, are the basis of the 613 Mitzvot - results with the number 420, and the Mitzva of Torah study is the 420th Mitzva of the Torah!

And in this week's Parshat Eikev, we have a very similar phrase V'Limadtem Otam Et Beneichem L'Dabeir Bam "You shall teach them to your children to speak of them..." (Deutronomy 11:19), which is part of the second paragraph of the Shema. In fact, it is on the phrase here of L'Dabeir BAM "to speak of them" that Rashi goes into detail as to how a father gets his young son to start learning Torah. In any case, Tu B'Av - the time when we increase our Torah learning at night - always falls out either during the week of Parshat V'Etchanan or Parshat Eikev, the two Parshiyot that speaks of the Mitzva of Talmud Torah.

One of the phrases used in describing the Torah is the adjective HaKedosha/the holy in the feminine form, as the word Torah is also in feminine form, ending with Kometz (one of the vowels) and the letter Hei, calling the Torah - HaTorah HaKedoshah. To note, the Gematria of this word HaKedoshah is 420, going hand in hand with the 420th Mitzva of Talmud Torah! And as I wrote earlier in this post about the concept of Kiddushin as related to the word in Hebrew that means holy, as a Jewish marriage is one of holiness, the phrase in Shir HaShirim where it says "on the day of his wedding", refers to Matan Torah "Giving of the Torah", for now, the Jewish people would henceforth be sanctified by means of being given the Torah. In a similar vein, Rabbi Akiva described Shir HaShirim, in which this phrase is mentioned, as being Kodesh Kodoshim, and mentioned that the world wasn't worthy of being in existence until the day that it was given to the Jewish people, using the same phraseology of giving; and indeed, the world from its creation was dependent on continuing on only because the Jewish people accepted the Torah right before Matan Torah.

And in the Tefillin, which is also a concept of binding ourselves to Hashem compared to the binding of husband and wife, there are four sections of the Torah on scroll, which includes the first two paragraphs of the Shema, and the last two sections of Parshat Bo where the wording of Torah is mentioned, in an ironic sharp contrast to the paragraph(s) of the Shema where the Mitzva of learning/teaching Torah is derived from, but the word Torah is not mentioned even once!

To note, the name of Parshat Bo consists of the same letters as the name of this month Av, except that the Alef & Beit are in reverse. Also, this is the 15th Parsha of the Torah; hence, it seems that this is a special hint to the date of Tu B'Av as a date of beginning to increase our Torah learning which is usually done at night for people who normally work all day along, especially in the old days when clocks weren't available and find themselves plowing away in the field all day long. Another sign of the hint of the month of Av as related to this Parsha is where in this part of Parshat Bo, it describes the month of Nissan as Chodesh Ha'Aviv/Month of Spring (Exodus 13:4). While of course it literally refers to Nissan, if we dissect the word Ha'Aviv into three parts, we read this phrase as Chodesh Hei - Av "Month 5 - Av"! It seems that the connection between these two months is just like Nissan is the time that the Jewish people became born as a nation, starting off on a fresh start with the Exodus which took place on the 15th of Nissan; so too, with our start of increased Torah learning, we begin this on the 15th of Av.

With this said, let's take a close look on the continuation of this paragraph in Parshat Bo where it states L'Ma'an Tihyeh Torat Hashem B'Phicha "in order that the Torah of Hashem will be in your mouth" (Exodus 13:9). The word Tihyeh/will be is the Gematria of 420, and is immediately followed by the phrase Torat Hashem, the ONLY time in the ENTIRE Chumash where this phrase is mentioned! This is as if to say that the 420th Mitzva of the Torah is reciting the Torah of Hashem with our mouths, for the primary fulfillment of this Mitzvah is reciting the words of Torah, of course accompanied with the understanding of what we are saying. This verse concludes with "for with a strong hand, Hashem has taken you out of Egypt". In Hebrew, the word for "out of Egypt" or "from Egypt" is M'Mitzaryim, which is also the very last word of Parshat Bo, is also the Gematria of 420! Indeed, it was only because we left Egypt that we were able to get spiritually ready to receive the Torah only seven weeks later.


On a personal note, the very last word of Shir HaShirim is Besamim/spices, which consists of the first letters of my wife's and my name and family name, as my name is Shimon Matisyahu (Shin, Mem) & my wife's name is Yael Miriam (Yud, Mem) and the Beit is the first letter of my family name (which I don't reveal in this blogspot). Being in apropo to the Chag Ha'Ahava "holiday of love" of the FIFTEENTH of Av, I will also mention here where my wife's name Yael Miriam can be spelled in the shortest spacing of equidistant letters in the Tanach, spelling out her name in every third letter, in the first part of the FIFTEENTH verse of Psalm 66 - Olot Meichim A'aleh Lach Im Ketoret Eilim "I will offer up to you burnt offerings of fat animals with the smoke of rams...". Now, while the word Ketoret here is used as smoke in reference to an animal being offered as a sacrifice, the usual meaning of Ketoret as used in the Temple refers to the combination of Besamim/spices used as a separate part of the Temple service of being burnt twice a day.

And as the word Korban, referring to the offering of sacrifices in the Temple, comes from the word Karov/close for through serving Hashem, we become close to Him, so too, we do different things in a love relationship to maintain being close to one another. And as for everything in the physical, there is a parallel to the spiritual - though in reality, it is the reverse as it is the physical that parallels the spiritual - we say in reference to making things better between spouses or lovers to "SPICING up one's marriage/relationship", as indeed, the Zohar tells us that the most beloved of sacrifices in the Temple was the offering of the Ketoret! Hence, it is most fitting that the final word of THE ORIGINAL LOVESONG, which is Shir HaShirim, is Besamim, a synonym for Ketoret. And why particularly this word Besamim rather than Ketoret? If you take a look at the word without the vowels, you can also read this word as B'Shamayim "in heaven", for it is only in the world to come that we will feel the ultimate pleasure, intimacy, and closeness with Hashem that cannot even begin to be imaginable in this world; the place where we will have this special feeling for our Torah learning and good deeds for eternity.

Tu B'Av 5771

Monday, August 8, 2011

#116 - Years of Slavery

Writing now only hours before Tisha B'Av, and while the following contents of this post will be touching on the Jews being slaves or in exile, I may wind up studying certain things in Torah that are not for Torah learning on Tisha B'Av in writing up this post, since according to the Halacha/Jewish Law, except for the parts in the Torah that relate to misfortunes, exiles, the laws of Tisha B'Av or mourning, etc. that are not of a happy nature, we do not learn Torah on Tisha B'Av because it is something that makes us happy, and we need to be focused on this most tragic date in the Jewish calendar on the themes of this day. Hence, I want to write this now, even as I don't have a lot of time before the fast of Tisha B'Av starts.

If one was to take the Bible literally without knowing what the Talmud or even plain history has to say about the Exodus, he or she might would perhaps think that the Hebrew year of the Exodus was 2668 (approximately 1100 B.C.E.). Based on the years of the lives of the first 22 generations from Adam to Jacob as can be figured out from the mention of the ages of these people when they passed away, we know that the Hebrew year of Jacob's descent to Egypt was 2238, as the Bible mentions that he was 130 years old at the time.

Now, let's first turn to what Hashem told Abraham when He informed him of the bad news of the future slavery of the Jews in Egypt "Your descendants will be slaves in a land that is not theirs and they will be enslaved and afflicted for 400 years" (Genesis 15:13).

Next, let's see what the Torah has to say about the amount of time that the Jews spent in Egypt in its recounting of the Exodus "The Children of Israel lived in Egypt for 430 years. It was at the end of 430 years that they left the land of Egypt" (Exodus 12:40-41).

OK, so we know that Jacob came to Egypt in Year 2238, and that we lived for another 17 years, as the first verse in Parshat Vayechi states (Genesis 47:28); hence, Jacob's passing took place in Year 2255. Now, noting that taking the literal meaning of the Bible, the Jews lived in Egypt for 430 years, and were slaves for 400 years, which means that according to this thinking, the Jews lived in Egypt for 30 years before becoming slaves, after Jacob's passing.

Now, we do know that Joseph, Jacob's son and viceroy of Egypt, lived for 110 years as the Bible states at the very end of Sefer Bereishit/Genesis (50:26), and then in the beginning of Sefer Shemot/Exodus, it states that Joseph and his brothers died and then it mentions about the slavery beginning.

Although the Talmudic literature makes it clear, as Rashi details in his commentary on the Torah, that Jacob was 63 when he first left his parents' home, with a detour to the Yeshiva of Shem & Ever for 14 years - a fact that is not mentioned at all in the Bible, the Torah makes no mention of his age when he left his parents' home. But what we do know from the Chumash is that shortly after his arrival in Laban's home, he worked for Laban for seven years before marrying his daughters Leah & Rachel. Hence, even his oldest son Reuben at the time of Jacob's passing wouldn't have been older than Jacob's age when Jacob first left his parent's home. And we know that Levi, the third son born, was 137 when he passed away (Exodus 6:16).

For all that we would know from the Chumash alone, Jacob could have been a young man on his way to marry Laban's daughter(s), without ever knowing that he stopped by this Yeshiva for 14 years. So, if we were to take everything literally according to the Chumash's wording, we would think that the Jews were first enslaved in Egypt only 13 years after not only Jacob's passing, and that all of his children passed away within 13 years.

At the best assumption, we would assume based on the above that Levi was 124 at the time of his father Jacob's passing, which would mean that Jacob would have been 23 years old at Levi's birth. We would say that Jacob left his parents' home at the age of 13 right after his Bar Mitzvah, coming straight to Laban working for him for seven years, and then marry at the age of 20 (which by the way is the age that the rabbis of the Talmud expect men to be married by if not sooner), which would mean that his wife Leah would have been pregnant right away with hardly much time between pregnancies by the time that Levi the third son would be born.

These set of circumstances might sound a little more practical these days, but this didn't quite happen with Jacob - at least not at such a young age. As there weren't too many Jews living in those days, Jacob was severely limited as to whom he could marry, because even Laban's daughters, who weren't in the worse spiritually depraved environment, probably worshiped idols until Jacob came along and told them about the belief in one G-d and all, who then accepted what he said, also taking into account that they were related to Jacob via their great uncle and aunt Abraham & Sara. In any case, when Jacob was a young man of 23, Leah and Rachel were not even born, and so Jacob had to wait a long time before even the possible consideration of one of them, and so by the time he married them, they were way younger than him, and unless the Torah or Talmud tells us otherwise, we have to assume that no special miracles happened like it happened to Sara who gave birth to Isaac at the age of 90, and that Jacob's wives were of the normal child bearing age. In fact, Jacob was 84 when he married them; and hence, Levi was not older than 60 years of age at Jacob's passing.

Actually, there is one piece of information that will clearly prove that what I just wrote is the true version, even without any information from the rabbis. You see, when Joseph got hired as viceroy of Egypt, the Torah states that Joseph was 30 years old (Genesis 41:46), following which there were seven years of plenty and then two years of famine before Jacob's family arrived when Jacob was 130 years old. And so, after Jacob's passing 17 years later, Joseph lived for 54 more years before his passing at age 110, and in fact, he passed away before any of his brothers, and even brother Levi who was older than him by a few years, still lived for another 23 years until his passing at the age of 137. As you can see, the Torah doesn't just write peoples' ages as another piece of history, but to prove a point or teach a lesson.

With the above said, the Jews left Egypt in the Year 2448, 210 years after Jacob's family came to Egypt. So, if this is the case, then why did Hashem, so to speak, say an untruth about how long the Jews were to be slaves in Egypt, or how long they lived there?

Taking this literally, we can actually come to the truth - at least part of the way. You see, when Hashem told Abraham that his descendants would be slaves in a land that is not theirs for 400 years, He meant Abraham's descendants starting with his son Isaac. While in fact, Isaac was never a slave, and moreover, never did he step foot outside of Israel in his entire 180 years of life; since Israel was not technically owned by Abraham or Isaac at the time since there were various nations living there, despite Hashem's promise to Abraham that He would give Israel to his descendants, even Israel was considered "a land that is not theirs". And there were exactly 400 years from Isaac's birth on Passover until the Exodus on Passover.

OK, so we understand the 400 years business. But what is this 430 years of Jews living in Egypt? Well, at the time that Hashem told this bad news about Abraham's descendants being slaves, he was 70 years old, which was 30 years before Isaac was born. Since Hashem told Abraham at that time about the Jews living in "a land that was not theirs", this is where the 430 years from that point in time until the Exodus come into play.

So now, we have a question. How many years were the Jews actually slaves in Egypt?

The answer is - 116 years (and this is my 116th Post). While I don't know offhand the original source for this, bearing in mind that Levi lived for 137 years, let's subtract 116 years from the Exodus year 2448, which is 2332 - the year of Levi's passing according to this. Now, subtracting the year of Jacob's passing - 2255 from Year 2332, you have a 77 year difference. Hence, Levi was 60 years old at the time of Jacob's passing, as 60 plus 77 equals 137, the age of Levi's passing, and was the last of the sons of Jacob who passed away, following which the Egyptians starting enslaving the Jews after the "old men", brothers of Joseph, the late viceroy of Egypt, passed away.


We know that the three week period from the date of the fast of Shiva Asar B'Tammuz (17 Tammuz)- the date that the Babylonians breached the wall of Jerusalem, until Tisha B'Av, is called Bein HaMeitzarim, this phrase first coming from Megillat Eicha/Lamentations(1:3)that we read on Tisha B'Av, which literally means "Between the straights". In fact, the word Meitzarim, taking away the Hebrew vowels, is the same word as Mitzrim/Egyptians or Mitrayim/Egypt. Indeed, we are supposed to feel suffering and mourning during this three week period of the destruction of the Temples, though we are of course suffering most from the results of the destruction of the Second Temple.

While one can say that although Tisha B'Av is the 22nd day from Shiva Asar B'Tammuz, and so it is really a little more than three weeks, but this is rounded off to say three weeks since we all know about Tisha B'Av anyways, I have news for you. In the Midrash and the Zohar, it states very clearly that there are 21 days from Shiva Asar B'Tammuz until Tisha B'Av; hence excluding Tisha B'Av from this count. In fact, there is a comparison made between this and the almond tree that bears almonds in exactly 21 days.

So what is going on here? Why aren't we including Tisha B'Av in the count here? In fact, we know that Megillat Eicha hints to these 22 days ending with Tisha B'Av by the fact that the sections in this Bible book divided into sections of 22 verses each starting with another letter of the 22 letters of the Alef Beit, also hinting to the fact that the Jews violated the Torah that is made up of the 22 Hebrew letters, violating the Torah from Alef to Tav (as we say in English from A to Z).

While Tisha B'Av is in fact the saddest date of the Jewish calendar, we are also told from the Bible and the rabbis that this date, along with the dates of other fast days including Shiva Asar B'Tammuz, will one day in the Messianic Era will be days of feasting and rejoicing.

So now, the question is bigger. If this is the case, then what is the difference between these two fast days by excluding Tisha B'Av from the 21 day count when both of these days will seemingly be on the same footing in the future in becoming days of happiness?

In fact, we see that Tisha B'Av - unlike the other fast days - is called a Moed, as first noted in Megillat Eicha. While this seems to be the case about the other fast days from what we just noted earlier, we see in Halacha/Jewish law that in fact, since Tisha B'Av in particular is called a Moed/holiday, we do not say the usual Tachanun/supplicatory prayers on this date that we recite on a regular weekday. This is nice, but still, why the practical difference between Tisha B'Av and the other fast days?

It is noted in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Chapter 428 that Tisha B'Av will always fall out on the same day of the week as the past first day of Passover. In fact, there is a custom of eating an egg shortly before the start of the fast of Tisha B'Av
just like the custom of eating an egg on the Seder night which is on the first day of Passover.

As we know, the egg is part of the first meal that a mourner eats upon the burial of his close relative. The reason for this is because the egg, being round, symbolizes the circle of life from birth to death, but the circle never ends just as mankind doesn't end so long as it bears the next generation.

As we know, Passover marks the birth of the Jewish nation, and Tisha B'Av marks the ultimate attempt of the anti-Semitic nations to do away with the Jewish nation. However, as our rabbis tell us, the Messiah was born on Tisha B'Av.

While this has been taken to be literally true in the past, particularly about Shabbetai Tzvi, born on Tisha B'Av, who fooled much of his generation, whose rabbis felt powerless as a result, showing himself to be a con-artist by committing various sins, only to convert to Islam at the end; the meaning of this is that even at the destruction of the Second Temple on Tisha B'Av, the potential for the Messiah began at that moment, for if all the Jews were to repent, the Messiah would have come immediately, and is still applicable until today.

Practically today, it will not exactly happen this way, and there is in fact a time limit until how long we will be in exile until the Messiah shows up. While good deeds can speed his coming, we are assured that he will come eventually no matter what the situation of the Jews are at that time.

So in short, we know that the Jews were slaves in Egypt for 116 years. We also know that the three week period from Shiva Asar B'Tammuz until Tisha B'Av is a 21 day period called Bein HaMeitzarim, which can also be read as Bein HaMitzrim "Between the Egyptians".

The two major exiles that the Jews had since the Exodus, ending with the destruction of the Temple in each case, were the Babylonian exile and the Roman exile. In fact, the letters of the name of the month of Av - Alef & Beit - spell the words Edom (Rome) & Bavel (Babylonia).

As we know, there were 70 years of the Babylonian exile. And for the Roman exile beginning with the destruction of the Second Temple, it happened in the Hebrew year 3328. Up to date, it is exactly 1943 years since this happened on Tisha B'Av.

Now, add up 70 and 1943, and the total is 2013. And as I mentioned earlier of the connection between the Egyptian exile and these two exiles in terms of the "Three Weeks", let us take 21 days from each of the total of 2013 years from both exiles, which comes out to a total of 42,273 days. Now, dividing this number by the amount of days per year, based on a solar-lunar calendar, as every 19 years, the Hebrew calendar and the secular solar calendar coincide with the dating, with 365.2425
average days per year, we come out to this: 42,273/365.2425=115.73954.

My friends, do you see? Counting the 21 days of the saddest period of the Hebrew calendar each year - aside from Tisha B'Av - from the two exiles yields the total of 115.73954, COMES VERY CLOSE TO 116 YEARS, corresponding to the 116 years that the Jews were slaves in Egypt - both physically and spiritually.

Since the start of this count begins from Shiva Asar B'Tammuz in Year 3829, the year after the destruction of the Second Temple in 3828 on Tisha B'Av, and we just finished another period of three weeks in this year of 5771, hence 2013 years including the 70 years of the Babylonian exile, it will take like five more years until the count of 21 days per year add up to the total count of 116 years.

Also, it doesn't have to be exact. Bear in mind that although the slavery of the Jews began 116 years before the Exodus, our rabbis tell us in Tractate Rosh Hashana of the Talmud that the Jews in fact stopped slaving for the Egyptians from Rosh Hashana (1 Tishrei) of Year 2448, in the midst of the plagues visiting the Egyptians which made further construction impossible, a clear six and half months before the Jews left Egypt on 15 Nissan. In any case, if you are following the math here, you will catch on to what I am attempting to note.

This means that according to this, we have at most only a few more years until we yield a total of 116 years of 21 annual days in the two exiles to equal the amount of years of slavery in Egypt, though this count may technically already be over if the Jews stopped a little short of 116 years when they were no longer slaves on Rosh Hashana 2448. Is the exile just about to be over? (NOTE: I am not here to predict exactly when Moshiach is coming, but I am here to show a parallel of an equal amount of years based on the teachings of the Torah, Talmud, Midrash & Zohar). But while I am at it, one of the names in the Tanach given for Moshiach is Yinon, which is also the Gematria of 116, perhaps hinting to this fact about the 116 years as I demonstrated here. This name is mentioned in Psalms 72, which is King David's final composition in the Psalms, addressing his words to his son Shlomo/Solomon who was to succeed him, concluding the Psalm with "Ended are the prayers of David son of Jesse".
And this coming Hebrew year 5772 ends with the number 72.

Along these lines, the final word of the Tanach/Bible is V'Ya'al - "may go up" (Chronicles II 36:23) which is the Gematria of 116. Quoting the words of this verse "So says Koresh king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the world has Hashem, G-d of the heavens, given to me, and Has has commanded me to build a house for Him in Jerusalem which is in Judea. Whoever among you from among his people who wishes - Hashem his G-d is with him - may go up (to Israel)." Indeed, it is hardly coincidental that the very last word of the Tanach in which the king of Persia openly declares allowing the Jews to return to Israel to rebuild the Holy Temple, should have the Gematria of 116, as if to say that now, the Jews were finished with the exile (even though it wasn't the completion of the 70 years of Babylonian exile yet) and could return home and resume the spiritual life that they once had before the Temple was destroyed and being exiled to Babylonia.

But the ultimate punchline is Tisha B'Av. While it may be the saddest day of the year as this is when the actual start of the exiles began; ironically, we do not include this in our count here. You see, it didn't and it doesn't have to be the saddest day anymore. The potential of Moshiach began on this day - but only if we would listen to Hashem, and then our exile would be over. It is only if G-d forbid that we don't listen, that we will have to go through a lot of suffering as the Jews did in Egypt, but just as there was a time limit then, since although the Jews didn't suffer as slaves for 400 years - they were technically in exile for that long and so the Jews were not made to suffer anymore as slaves; so too, there is a time limit to our suffering, which also atones for sins by the way, so our suffering collectively as Jews will not last forever.

And as we compared Tisha B'Av to Passover a little earlier here, and Tisha B'Av is the 22nd day, the climax of the annual sad season, from Shiva Asar B'Tammuz, this date of Tisha B'Av corresponds to the 22nd and last letter of the Alef Beit - Tav, also bearing in mind that the name of this date also begins with a Tav. And as Tav is the numerical value of 400, it was exactly 400 years from Isaac's birth on Passover until the Exodus on Passover, and it was this period of time that Hashem referred to when telling Abraham that "your descendants will live in a land that is not theirs and will be enslaved for 400 years".

Perhaps in another sense, Hashem was hinting to Abraham about the future slavery and exile of the Jews that began on Tisha B'Av that corresponds to the letter Tav=400. Indeed, since our exile from Israel, we have been in virtually every country in the world, but none of these other lands are our lands. We have to remember that as long as we don't live in our own land of Israel, that we are truly in exile in every sense of the word, being enslaved to the temptations of the nations that contradict the Torah way of life. And while even in Israel, one can G-d forbid live a non-spiritual Torah life, a lifestyle that led to the destruction of the First Temple and exile to Babylonia, at least when he or she repents, one starts receiving the reward for living in the land that Hashem told us to live in, even without the presence of the Holy Temple. Indeed, we see clearly here that the "Three Weeks" or "Bein HaMeitzarim" corresponds to the years of Egyptian slavery of the Jews, and Tisha B'Av, as the date representing the future Redemption, corresponds to the Exodus.

Moreover, as the fast of Tisha B'Av is always observed during the week of Parshat V'Etchanan, the words from a verse in this Parsha - Avadim Hayinu "We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt, and Hashem took us out from Egypt with a strong hand" (Deutronomy 6:21) is the very beginning of the (long!) answer to the "Four Questions" that are asked at the Seder on Passover night.

Additionally, the daily Mitzvah in the 31st cycle of learning a Mitzvah a day for yesterday - the first day of the week of Parshat V'Etchanan and 7 Av, the date that the enemy entered the Temple right before destroying it, is the 42nd Mitzva of the Jewish court judging the case for a Jew to be a servant to pay for his theft. In cases where this Eved Ivri "Jewish servant" if married, was given a Canaanite maidservant to sleep with to bear children to be slaves for the Jewish servant's master, refused to leave after his maximum of six years of work as he had to leave behind his Canaanite woman and children for the master, the Jewish court bores his ear as a sign that he wishes to be a slave to a human master rather than to Hashem who took us out of Egypt to be His servants, and then the Jewish servant continued working for his master until the Jubilee year when he was then released permanently.

In conclusion, the reason why not only these fast days will cease to exist as fast days in the Messianic Era, but they will become feast days, is because we will see in the future that the suffering that we had which the fast days represent will have led to the future rejoicing in the Messianic Era. Then we will see that Tisha B'Av, while today may be the saddest day, representing the worst suffering of the Jews, was the BIGGEST factor in leading to the ultimate rejoicing of the Redemption, just as the verse states in Micha "Just as the days of your leaving Egypt, I will show you wonders (refering to the future Redemption)," for then we will see that the future Redemption as related to Tisha B'Av, more than just the symbol of the egg or falling out on the same day of the week as Passover - the date of the Exodus, will be compared to the rejoicing of the first Redemption - and even more so - that we celebrate on the first night of Passover, on which we recite the Hallel psalms that refer both to the Exodus (Psalms 113-114) and the future Redemption (Psalms 115-118), which we hope for very soon.

8 Av, 5771 - Erev Tisha B'Av

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

#115 - House of the Father

Yesterday - Rosh Chodesh Av - was the Yahrzeit of Aharon HaCohen/Aaron the High Priest. And while I have written about this Biblical figure in the previous two years pertaining to his Yahrzeit, each time comes with a new dimension pertaining to this very holy figure, not just because he was the first High Priest of the Jews, or was Moses' brother, but because he was the peacemaker par excellence, both for Jews fighting on the street and for spouses fighting at home.

In Hebrew, the phrase used for domestic tranquility describing a peaceful marriage is Shalom Bayit, which literally means "peace of the home". And so being that today's date is Beit Av (2 Av), as Beit and Bayit/home is the same word, just with different vowels, it is very appropriate today to write a little more on this subject of peace, Aaron's superior quality.

As we are find ourselves in the time frame of the Nine Days which concludes with Tisha B'Av, the date that marks the destruction of two Holy Temples, the Talmud (Yoma 9b) notes that while the First Temple was destroyed due to idolatry, adultery, and murder, the Second Temple was destroyed due to Sinat Chinam/baseless hatred for other Jews, which comes to teach us that this one sin is equal to the other three sins.

Sometimes, it's easy for some of us to loose focus of what it is all about. For example, when we fast on a Fast Day, especially like Tisha B'Av when we start the fast from sunset on one day and conclude it at nightfall the following evening, coming out close to 25 hours, just as it is with Yom Kippur, we may tend not to feel in such a good mood that could affect us with our relationship with other people. But perhaps the idea of this fast, besides the fact that we are repenting for the sins that caused us to fast to begin with, is that we should feel what it is like to suffer in some measure; and hence, we will feel for other people and be more understanding of who they are, even if we don't always agree with their viewpoint or if they come from a very different culture than we do.

It happened once back in Europe where a good percentage of Jews used to live that there was this fight going on in a Jewish home that took place on Tisha B'Av of all days. People witnessing this approached Rabbi Rephael of Barshid, may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing, to help out, "but", they advised the rabbi, "you probably will want to go tomorrow, since today is a fast day". However, the rabbi insisted on going to help out on the spot, as he put it, "The Temple got destroyed due to the sin of Sinat Chinam. Hence, it is most fitting that on this very day of the destruction of the Temple, that we are supposed to be involved with making peace".

Now, getting to the number of this post, and as related to Aaron, it is Psalm 115 that includes the phrase "House of Aaron" not once, but twice. In fact, since we do recite Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, which includes the Yahrzeit of Aaron since he passed away on Rosh Chodesh Av, since psalm is included in Hallel, consisting of Psalms 113-118. Now, it is true that on Rosh Chodesh, unlike with most other holidays, we do not recite Hallel in its entirety, leaving out the first half of both Psalms 115 & 116. Hence, when reciting the Hallel prayer yesterday, we mentioned the phrase Beit Aharon in Psalm 115 only once as the first half of it also mentions this phrase. However, we also mentioned this phrase in Psalm 118 of Hallel, so yesterday, we had the uniqueness of mentioning Aaron's name twice in celebrating Rosh Chodesh, as it so happens that Aaron passed away on a Rosh Chodesh.

But before we get stuck on saying that it "so happens", Aaron's passing away on this date is the furthest thing away from a mere coincidence. As I have mentioned in the past, including my previous post, Aaron's Yahrzeit is the ONLY Yahrzeit mentioned in the ENTIRE BIBLE! Moreover, of all days, he passed away on the beginning of a month. But even this is an understatement, because the phrase Rosh Chodesh literally means - Head of the month, as it isn't merely the beginning of something, or the first of something, but THE HEAD, which includes the rest of the month. In fact, at the recounting of Aaron passing away in Parshat Chukat, it mentions that the Jewish people mourned for him for 30 days. Hence, the Torah makes it clear to us that the ENTIRE MONTH OF AV is related to Aaron, though Rosh Chodesh Av is the date that he passed away on.

So the question can be asked, what does the month of Av in particular have to do with Aaron other than the fact that he passed away on the first day of the month, though it was on Rosh Chodesh Av? Perhaps it should be his birth month, or the month of Nissan, since Aaron began his Priestly duties on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. And also, why is it that only Aaron's Yahrzeit is mentioned in the entire Bible?

First of all, the date that a Tzadik/righteous person passes away marks the day that he completed a lifetime of righteous accomplishments. In the long run, though it may be hard for some to comprehend in this world, there is far more of a reason to celebrate the day of one's passing than one's birth (I have heard more than once from whatever rabbi who was officiating at a funeral saying that everyone has gathered for the celebration of the deceased's life); since after all, who knows how a person is going to behave during his or her lifetime? If a person will not live to contribute something to society, is there a genuine reason to feel happy about someone else's birthday? Perhaps for the person himself or herself, that person wants to annually celebrate it as a reason to party or have a good time with family or friends. But in essence, if a person fails in the mission of serving Hashem, then if anything, the birthday may be a reason to mourn, because if one fails to understand why a person became born in this world, then at the end of one's lifetime, it will be a true reason for mourning, not just in this world, but in the fires of hell for failing his or her mission of what Hashem as the Father or King asked this person to do.

While it is true that Moses, Aaron's brother, is considered the ultimate Tzadik, and so while the rabbis tell us in very clear terms as to what his birthday and Yahrzeit is, which is the same date of 7 Adar, not everyone could necessarily relate to him. You see, when Aaron passed away, the Torah makes it very clear that both men and women mourned him - "the ENTIRE house of Israel cried thirty days for Aaron" (Numbers 20:29), as he clearly was most appreciated for his peace making efforts between husband and wife. However, when Moses passed away, it was basically only the men who cried "The children of Israel cried thirty days for Moses". Of course Moses had nothing against women, but he had a very different role where he didn't directly relate to women as he related to men, unless he was approached as we see with the daughters of Tzelaphchad. However, the point here is that since Aaron was the greatest righteous person that EVERYONE could relate to - it was his Yahrzeit that is publicly displayed in the Bible. More than this, the Torah is not interested in jotting down dates or giving a history or social studies lesson. When the Torah does mention a date, it is obviously for an important reason, but for mentioning when people passed away in the Bible, the Torah found it necessary to mention only Aaron's Yahrzeit to teach us this lesson.

The name of the month of Av, though not the original name for this month as until around the time of the Babylonian exile, the Jewish months were only known by number - the first month, the second month, etc. beginning with Nissan, means "father". It is true that sometimes, this month is called Menachem Av, being that Menachem which means "comforter" is related to the theme of this month since we read Haftaras following Tisha B'Av which relate Hashem's comforting the Jewish people for the troubles that happened to them and that we will be redeemed one day, never to suffer again. But in any case, as Aaron, as the representative of Hashem was the FIRST Cohen Gadol/High Priest, the Av/father in fact refers to Hashem as Av.

And now another question. Why is it specifically the title of Av in describing Hashem, and not as Melech/king or some other title describing His G-dliness, rather than some other theme showing Hashem's mightiness. While it is true that a father is an authority figure that a child is expected to honor and fear, but a father, in contrast to a king who will sometimes have someone killed with no warning due to some infraction, usually loves his child unconditionally, though usually he will take steps for a child who disobeys him.

In fact, we are describing the very conditions of Tisha B'Av. True, Hashem as King made his point clear that the Jews as his servants disobeyed him and hence they were punished in various ways culminating with the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the Jews. However, if we were to describe Hashem particularly as king, this could denote G-d forbid that since now we disobeyed him, then we have no more rights to be his "Chosen Nation". Maybe some would think that now it is too late, and we will never again have another Temple or permanent homeland. However, despite all our shortcomings, Hashem behaved more like a father, who may punish a child, but will much more likely have it in the best interest of the child than a king would for a subject of his who punishes basically to show who is boss.

At times, a father will punish a child in some way which is in lieu of doing something much worse, not just to teach a lesson or doing it for his child's benefit, but to spare his child the worse. Similarly, Hashem punished the Jewish people with the destruction of the Temple, not just to teach a lesson or do it for our benefit, but to spare us the worse. In fact, Hashem's wrath on the Temple was in lieu of his full force wrath on the Jewish people; and hence, while all the other nations were lost in the due course of time - the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans who enslaved us, we are the only nation that has survived despite every reason according to the rules of nature as to why we should have disappeared long ago due to anti-Semitism.

And so, Aaron, representing Hashem who is the Av HaRachaman, "Father of Mercy" as we say in our prayers in his role of the FIRST Cohen Gadol in the Mishkan/Tabernacle - the forerunner of the Temple, passed away on the Head of this month called Av. Indeed we have a few things here beginning with the letter Alef - the HEAD of the letters. Aaron's name begins with an Alef, the date of his passing is Alef Av, and the name Av begins with an Alef. Accordingly, Hashem is called the Alufo Shel Olam - Chief of the World, as Aluf/Chief is related to the first letter of the Alef Beit. It was indeed most fitting that Aaron served in his capacity as the ultimate peacemaker, who had mercy on his brethren, looking on their good side rather than on their bad side; and hence, had the unique ability to make peace between everyone, even lying to both parties to make this happen.

It's also interesting to note that the word Av consists of the FIRST two letters of the Alef Beit, the same letters that are the name for the Hebrew alphabet. The connection here is that letters are used to put together a word; hence, showing a sense of unity, despite the differences of sound and looks. To note, the Vilna Gaon pointed out that you will never encounter a word in the entire Tanach/Bible where the letters Gimmel & Teit are together, since these two letters spell the word Get/Jewish divorce, as divorce is the opposite of marriage that binds two people together; and accordingly, the fact that these two letters will not be spelled together indicate this fact.

Though in effect, Hashem "divorced" us in the sense that he chased us from our land and destroyed the building that housed our main line of communication with Him, Hashem has promised us many times in the Scriptures that he will take us back once again. At the very least, He is still our Father if nothing else, and at the very least, we can still talk to Him in holy places such as in the synagogue; and as the Talmud (Berachot 3) states, when we answer in the Kaddish - Y'hei Shmei Rabba..."May His great name be blessed...", Hashem proclaims Ashrei HaMelech... "Fortunate is the King Who is praised by His children like this". Mah Lo L'Av... "Woe is to the Father
Who exiled His children between the nations, and woe to the children who were exiled form the table of their Father".

We see clearly here that when it comes to us praising Hashem, He is referred to as King, as we have shown that by serving Him, that we have in mind to Whom we are serving. However, when it comes to what Hashem did to us for not obeying him, He is calling Himself "Father", not once but twice! Hashem doesn't want to punish us as a king who does away with a subject of his when he disobeys orders, but rather as a father who is sometimes in fact hurt when he has to punish a child, but has every intention of continuing to love his child despite the wrongdoing that the little boy or girl has done.

And while Tisha B'Av may be the date that commemorates what happened to us and the Temple, the number Tisha/nine as the date that this happened isn't isn't only connection to the month of Av. In fact, we see kabbalistically, that of all the letters of the Alef Beit, it is the letter Teit=9 that corresponds to this month, for in essence, it is the ENTIRE MONTH OF AV - the very period of time for the Jewish people crying upon Aaron's passing - that is related to this concept of Hashem behaving towards us like a father, combining the actions of Chesed/kindness & Gevurah/strength or severity to yield the result of Rachamim/mercy as the Av HaRachaman/Father of Mercy.

And hence, the ultimate Shalom Bayit between Hashem & the Jewish people, compared to the bridegroom & bride respectively, is when we have peace amongst ourselves, just in a situation when a father wants to bestow goodness on his children, but the full force of this is only possible when there is peace between his children. It is then and only then when we work on peace between each other that we can expect Hashem to once again build the structure called the Third Temple - Beit HaMikdash HaShelishi - that will house our ultimate expressions of love for each other.

And as I mentioned just before, the letters Gimmel=3 and Teit=9 are never together in a word in the Bible, we know that the Third Temple will never be destroyed - connected with the letter Gimmel=3 beginning the words Gemilut Chasadim/bestowing kindnesses, unlike what happened with the first two Temples which are connected to the concept of a Father who shows both kindness AND SEVERITY, demonstrated by the letter Teit=9 or the word Tisha/nine, because unlike in most marriages that end off with divorce which is usually permanent, marked with a Jewish divorce called a Get where the permanence of the Gimmel is combined with the Teit of chasing away, Hashem chased us away only for a limited period of time, and thus has no permanence as connected with the letter Gimmel. And in the future when we finally have the Third Temple, only then will we see the full range of Hashem being the ultimate Merciful Father, as the word Av is the Gematria of THREE, the numerical value of Gimmel.

And relating Aaron further to the concept of the Beit HaMikdash/Temple, the Talmud (Berachot 58a) notes that Hod/splendor corresponds to the Beit HaMikdash, and of the seven active Sephirot, it is the FIFTH Sephira Hod that corresponds to Aaron, the FIFTH of the seven "Shepherds" or Ushpizin/Heavenly Guests of the Succah, bearing in mind that the first letter of Hod is Hei=5. Accordingly, Aaron passed away on the HEAD of the FIFTH month of the Jewish calendar that is most related to the concept of the Beit HaMikdash. And there is a custom among some Jews to learn a particular chapter of Mishna on each of the seven days of Succot as related to these seven Biblical figures; and for Aaron, the corresponding chapter is the FIFTH and final chapter of Middot, the tractate about the various dimensions of the Temple and its rooms and vessels, ending off with the qualifying of those deemed worthy to serve as Cohanim as Aaron's descendants in the Temple. And speaking of the Mishna, Seder Kodoshim, the volume of the Mishnayot that deals with the Korbanot/offerings or animal sacrifices and the Temple relating mostly to Cohanim, Aaron's parental descendants, is the FIFTH of the six volumes of the Mishnayot. And speaking of which, in the section about the Temple offerings and incense that we recite in our daily morning prayers, it is the FIFTH chapter of the first tractate called Zevachim of the FIFTH volume of the Mishnayot that we recite daily.

And just as we describe the Temple as BEIT HaMikdash or BEIT HaBechira - (The Chosen House as the Rambam describes it), so too does Psalms describe the Cohanim as BEIT Aaron; and unlike Moses where it says that it was the B'nei Yisrael - Children of Israel - who mourned him, of Aaron, it was that is the BEIT Yisrael - HOUSE of Israel, which not only hints to the concept of the Temple as related to the month of Aaron's passing, but also denotes a sense of unity, unlike with the phrase B'nei Yisrael which sometimes denotes the individuality, rather than just the totality of everyone, as demonstrated as the beginning of Sefer Shemot/Book of Exodus, where it states that "These are the names of the Children of Israel..." and then lists their individual names. However, a HOUSE or household denotes the entirety of a family, a tribe, a nation. And as I mentioned a little earlier about Hashem's response to us responding the phrase Y'hei Shmei Rabba... in the Kaddish, this response immediately follows the words (following stating that Hashem will reign and bring the Redemption) in our lifetimes and the life of ALL THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL...", the capitalized words being THE VERY WORDS describing who mourned for Aaron! And speaking of a Yahrzeit as related to Aaron, the Kaddish prayer is one of the prime ways that memorialize the passing of a loved one.

On a personal note, Rosh Chodesh Av - the Yahrzeit of Aaron - began my 511th month. You see, the number 511 is the Gematria of a very unique word in our prayers, which is especially related to Tehillim/Book of Psalms - Ashrei/fortunate. It is this very word that begins this most recited book in the history of the world - both as part of the Bible and as prayers. This word also begins the longest chapter in the Bible - Psalm 119, consisting of 176 verses.

And in our daily prayers, we also say a prayer three times a day that begins with the word Ashrei. There is a little irony here, because in fact, as we see in the Talmud (Tractate Berachot), this prayer is actually called Tehilla LeDavid - Psalm 145, but in time, there were two extra verses added to the beginning of this psalm and one verse at the end. Hence, the word Ashrei beginning this prayer actually comes from a different place in Tehillim (Psalms 84:5) - Ashrei Yoshvei Veitecha Od Yehalelucha Selah "Fortunate are the ones who sit in Your House, they will yet praise You forever". In my Kavanat HaLev prayerbook, it translates this as "Fortunate are the Cohanim & Levites in the Beit HaMikdash...". Indeed, I am a Levite, and the 511th month of my life is the month of Av that most relates to the concept of the Beit HaMikdash! And in terms of the Levites who sang in the Temple, the word for song in Aramaic is Shira, spelled with an Alef at the end (unlike the word Shira in regular Hebrew which is spelled with a Hei at the end), which have the same letters as the word Ashrei. By the way, I didn't have time to write this special post yesterday, since instead, I was at the Kotel HaMa'aravi/Western Wall, part of the environs of the Temple. Yes, it was a great way of celebrating Aaron's Yahrzeit yesterday, as well as the personal connection that I have with this month.

Moreover, I have another major connection with this month, since as mentioned in the Chasidic Sefer B'nei Yissaschar which correlates the months with the particular tribes, this FIFTH month of Av corresponds with the Tribe of Shimon, my namesake! In fact, a most worthy descendant of Aaron, the first High Priest was Shimon HaTzadik, one of the early High Priests of the Second Temple, who passed away on 29 Tishrei, which is the FIRST day of the FIFTH week of Tishrei, just like his ancestor Aaron the High Priest who passed away on the FIRST day of the FIFTH month!

We then see that regarding Tu B'Av (15 Av), at the middle of the month, that the Mishna (Ta'anit 4:5) tells us that among the nine dates of the year that there was a wood festival celebrating the times that wood was donated in the beginning of the Second Temple when there wasn't much wood at one time, becoming annual dates of celebration, one of these times was Tu B'Av, when along with the family who celebrated their ancestor's donating the wood on that date, THE COHANIM AND LEVITES also celebrated on this day as their personal Yom Tov. And then at the end of this chapter of the Mishna (4:8), it was none other than Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel, a Rabbi with my namesake, who stated that on this date (as well as Yom Kippur), the unmarried women danced in the vineyards with the hope of attracting men to marry. And the end of this Mishna, which is also the end of this chapter, as well as the conclusion of this Mishnaic tractate, ends off stating that the phrase "on the day of the happiness of his heart" coming from Shir HaShirim/Song of Songs, refers to the building of the Beit HaMikdash "that it will be built speedily in our days, Amen!" And it was on this date of Tu B'Av that Rabbi Shimon Lavie, the one who wrote the most popular song about Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, author of the teachings of the Kabbalistic book called the Zohar (who passed away on the FIFTH day of the FIFTH week of the Sephira - Hod She'B'Hod!) "Bar Yochai", passed away in the year 5348 - Hei Shin Mem Cheit, these letters when rearranged spell both the words Chamisha/FIVE & Simcha/HAPPINESS! (In another few days is the Yahrzeit of the Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Arizal) who opened up the teachings of Kabbalah to the world, who passed away on the FIFTH day of the FIFTH month - 5 Av). Also to note, this date of Tu B'Av - 15 Av is connected to the Sephira of Hod, as this word Hod is the Gematria of 15, the Sephira that corresponds to Aaron who passed away on the beginning of this month and the Beit HaMikdash.

To mention the number of this post - 115 - as related to all this - you can dissect this number into two parts - 1 & 15. Hence, you have the number one which is the numerical value of Alef that begins the words Aaron, Av & Alef; and 15 is the Gematria of Hod as well as representing the date of Tu B'Av. Also, when you add these two numbers together (1+15) yielding 16, and then you multiply this number by itself (16*16), the total is 256, both the Gematria of Aharon's name, as well as the name of this week's Parsha in which Aaron's Yahrzeit falls out on this year - Devarim.

And just when you thought it was over - the four consecutive numbers beginning with the number of this post, which are 115, 116, 117, 118 add up to the total of 466, the Gematria of the name Shimon! In fact, when reciting Hallel in the Seder of Passover night, we split up the Hallel into two parts - Psalms 113 & 114 at the end of Maggid, and then Psalms 115-118 at what is called Hallel near the end of the Seder. The reason for this division of Hallel into two parts at the Seder is that the first two psalms focuses on the redemption from Egypt while these latter four psalms focuses on the future Redemption. Hence, we have the concept of both the concept of the Temple & the Redemption all into one package.

A hint to the month of Av as related to the month of Nissan can be seen in the Torah which describes Nissan as Chodesh Ha'Aviv "Month of the Spring". If you dissect the word Ha'Aviv/the spring into a few parts, what you will see is that this phrase can be read as Chodesh Hei - Av "Month 5 - Av"! In fact, there is a source that states that the reason why this month is called Av/father is that in the future, this month will be the FATHER of the months. This is probably on the assumption that the future Redemption will take place in this month, just like the redemption of the Exodus took place of Nissan, giving it the reason of being the "head of the months".

Anyways, getting back to the Psalms 115-118, the phrase of Beit Aharon is mentioned in both psalms 115 & 118, the first and last of these four psalms, whose numbers add up to the total of the Gematria of Shimon, the name of the Tribe who corresponds to the month of Av that is also especially connected with Aaron. And to mention, the Radak on the first mention of Beit Aharon in Psalm 115 "House of Aaron, trust in Hashem" and the Malbim on the second mention of Beit Aharon in Psalm 115 - "He (Hashem) will bless the House of Aaron" as well as the mention of Beit Aharon in Psalm 118 - "The House of Aaron will now say - for His kindness is everlasting", refer to BOTH the Cohanim & the Levites, the same as referred to by the verse that begins the thrice daily recited Ashrei prayer.

May we merit and be fortunate to see the day that we will be able to see and experience once again what it means being both Beit Yisrael - House of Israel & Beit Av - HOUSE OF THE FATHER.

2 Av, 5771

P.S. A note to all commentors. While I have no objection to non-Jews writing comments on my blogs, this does not include comments talking about or leading to Christian theology. I just noticed today a comment about a link pertaining to Christianity that a guy named Erin sneaked like a month after a post which was also about Aaron that I wrote a year ago, which I deleted of course. In the future, G-d willing, I will be checking the comments periodically to see if there are any unwanted comments. THERE IS ZERO TOLERANCE for comments that are written that attempt to snare Jews away from Judaism or entice them to another religion. Period!