Saturday, November 12, 2011

#124 - The Eternal Song of Hashem

As it turns out, I am writing this post on the 17th Yahrzeit of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach of blessed memory. While there may be those who will bring up controversial issues pertaining to him, it cannot be denied that he has had a tremendous positive influence in the Jewish world, relating to Jews of all parts of the spectrum. It wasn't just his songs that so many loved; it was his words and the personality that reflected the preciousness of every Jew - regardless of his or her spiritual level. Many can attest to the fact that they are either closer to the Torah or observant of Judaism today thanks to him. And almost unprecedented, he distributed charity to the poor like water; in fact, so much so, that one time, even after he gave some charity to a lowlife beggar who responded to him by spitting in his face, Rabbi Carlebach immediately gave him more charity. So, unless any of us would do the same exact thing as he did - instead of more like giving the beggar a nice tongue lashing to say the least - we probably are not in a position to criticize Rabbi Carlebach anymore than we are in a position of needing to criticize ourselves.

On a personal note, I happened to have met Rabbi Carlebach nearly 22 years ago. My first time was on the first night of Chanuka that fell out on Shabbat. The following evening after Shabbat, he gave a concert at which I was at attendance. Little did I know then that exactly 20 years later, I would have my Ufruf (the Aliyah to the Torah on the Shabbat before getting married) on the first day of Chanuka that again coincided with Shabbat, and that I would get married the next day on the second day of Chanuka.

Though Rabbi Carlebach is not the only Jewish singer who has had the name Shlomo, it is not surprising that he is the ultimate legend of Jewish music today. You see, the very first verse of Shir HaShirim/Song of Songs that was composed by Shlomo HaMelech/King Solomon is Shir HaShirim Asher L'Shlomo "The Song of Songs that is composed by Shlomo." While the inner meaning of this verse points out the name Shlomo to be refering to Hashem as Melech SheHaShalom Shelo "King to whom peace belongs"; no doubt that Shlomo HaMelech also began this holy Sefer/Book with this verse as refering to himself. In fact, noting that there is a custom to recite at the end of every Shemoneh Esrei prayer - a verse from the Tanach/Bible that begins with the same letter and ends with the same letter as one's name. As it turns out, this first verse of Shir HaShirim begins with the letter Shin and ends with the letter Hei, just as the name Shlomo.

While it may be possible that since King Solomon wrote this book with Ruach HaKodesh/Divine Inspiration, that he was hinting to Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, one thing is for sure is that the Shlomo of today most certainly lived up to his name, using songs to bring Jews closer to Judaism. For after all, not all Jews who have been brought closer to Judaism became this way because "the Torah says so." Perhaps to intellectuals, professors or scientists, it was the teachings of Judaism per se that convinced them that Judaism is meant to be practiced, and not merely to be studied just as another course in college. However, to many others, it is what we call the external matters in life that help bring Jews to want to know more or practice more of Judaism. To some, it was the weekly Kiddush at the synagogue that gave them good feelings, while meeting others of similar background, forming good friendships. To others, it may happen as a result of needing to say Kaddish following the passing of a close relative, and then little by little, they get more involved in the synagogue activities, until they do much more that will be a meaningful way of memorializing their departed relative. But one thing is for sure - it is song, a spiritual force, that cannot be denied being a factor for many Jews to come closer to Judaism.

And this takes us to the duties of the Levi'im/Levites in the Holy Temple, which included daily morning singing during the offering of the Korban Tamid, the daily burnt offering sacrifice. In our prayers, we recite the daily song that is called the Shir Shel Yom "Song of the Day" for the respective day of the week, comprised of one or another of the Psalms - 24,48,82,94,81,93,92 for Sunday through Shabbat respectively. While we recite these same psalms throughout the year regardless if they fall out on Jewish holidays; in the Temple during holidays, the Levites recited a different psalm as per the particular holiday.

On a personal note, adding the above number of the psalms of the seven days of the week, they add up to the total amount of 514; and presently, I am in the midst of my 514th month of life, also noting that I am a Levite! You may not believe it, but writing the topic of this post today had nothing to do with this numerical fact, I literally did the calculation not even five minutes ago. This comes to show you that at times, it is clear that there is Hashgacha Peratit/Divine Providence in what I write in my Gematriot blogspot.

Today, on the first day of the week, we recite Psalm 24. Looking at the seven psalms of the Shir Shel Yom, this is the only one that is attributed to King David, the author of the Tehillim, himself. Moreover, while it is not spelled this way in this Psalm, we see that in Divrei Hayomim/Chronicles, his name is spelled with a Yud in the midst of his name, making his name to be the total Gematria of 24. Coincidence?

These Shir Shel Yom psalms aren't just any psalms that are recited for the days of the week; but rather, they each touch on some theme corresponding to the day of the week in which the creation for that day of the week as written in the beginning of the Torah is mentioned. Accordingly, the first verse of the psalm for Sunday mentions that the whole world belongs to Hashem, as when Hashem first created the world on this day, He was the sole Being in existance.

As it turns out, I have a special connection to this very Psalm - as least for the last three and a half years since I added my present second Hebrew name Matisyahu. In my search for a verse in Tanach which would begin and end with the letters corresponding to my new name, I was looking at a total of 98 verses, some having good meaning to them. The winner was the verse in Psalms 24:3 - Mi Ya'aleh V'Har Hashem U'Mi Yakum B'Mekom Kadsho "Who will ascend the Mountain of Hashem (Mt. Moriah which is the Temple Mount) and who will arise in the place of His holiness." As it turned it, it was on a Sunday morning that I had my name Matisyahu added, the day on which we recite the Shir Shel Yom of Psalm 24.

As you can see, this verse poses a challenge, which is something that I liked about it, quite similar to the message that Matisyahu of the Chanuka story, after whom I named myself, posed - Mi LaHashem Eilai - "Whoever is for Hashem, come to me", which began the official war on the Syrian Greeks attempting to prevent the Jews from practicising Judaism, leading to the holiday of Chanuka following the Jews being able to re-enter the Temple which was located on the Temple Mount, and lighting the Menorah with pure olive oil that was not spiritually contaminated by the Syrian Greeks, as this was preserved with the seal of the Cohen Gadol/High Priest.

It's interesting to note at this point that the Yahrzeit of Matisyahu was just yesterday on Shabbat - 15 Cheshvan. In fact, it is significant to note that Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's Yahrzeit follows on the next day of 16 Cheshvan. You see, another one of Rabbi Carelbach's accomplishments was the founding of the city of Modi'in in Israel, around the same city grounds as Matisyahu and his family were living which was the city of Modi'in! In any case, many of Rabbi Carelbach's song are songs to words that are sung especially on Shabbat. In fact, the first letters of the words of the first verse of the Shir Shel Yom of Shabbat - Psalm 92 - Mizmor Shir L'Yom HaShabbat "A psalm, a song for the day of Shabbat", when rearranged, spells the name Shlomo! So, both the first verse of Shir HaShirim, and the first verse of Psalm 92 each contain four words, both hinting to the name Shlomo in one way or another. Coincidence?

In the writings of the Sages, Rabbi Akiva notes that while all of the books of Ketuvim/Scriptures are holy, Shir HaShirim is the Kodesh Kodoshom/Holy of Holies. And as we know, the Cohen Gadol was permitted to enter the Kodesh Kodoshim room of the Temple, the holiest room in the world, only on Yom Kippur. And we see that the Torah calls Yom Kippur - Shabbat Shabbaton "Sabbath of Sabbaths", even though this holiday does not necessarily fall out on Shabbat every year. So in effect, Shabbat being a time that we are not involved in the mundane affairs of the week is a time that we can devote ourselves to the "Holy of Holies", which is increased Torah learning, praying, and singing Shabbat songs at the table. Additionally, many Jews, including all Sephardic Jews, recite Shir HaShirim at the onset of every Shabbat.

But before we get back about Psalm 24 for Sunday, it is also significant to note that among the many Shabbat songs of Rabbi Carlebach, was the second and third verses of Psalm 92 starting with Tov L'Hodot LaHashem "It is good to give thanks to Hashem..."
And as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, today is the 17th Yahrzeit of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, and the word Tov/good is the Gematria of 17.

Now back to Psalm 24, there is a connection between this Psalm and King Solomon, and not just because it was his father King David who composed it. You see, at the dedication of the Temple that King Solomon built, our Rabbis tell us that King Solomon was addressing the gates of the Holy Temple "Lift up your heads, O gates, the openings of the world shall be lifted, and the King of glory will enter (verse 7)." Now, bearing in mind that ALL of creation have life forces, and most certainly the spiritual ones, the Holy Temple gates were ready to attack King Solomon, because from the words that he used, the gates got the impression that he was refering to himself as king in this verse, asking in demand, as the next verse states "Who is this king of glory?", to which King Solomon replied "Hashem Who is strong, Hashem who is strong in war," making it clear to the Holy Gates that this King was none other than Hashem.
The following two verses in conclusion of this psalm is almost a repeat of these two verses just quoted, in which King Solomon reiterates himself to make it crystal clear that he is refering to Hashem for Whom he is asking the gates to make room for (even though Hashem is everywhere without needing anyone to make "room for Him", it is the sense of spiritual readiness to accept Hashem as King), and instead of refering to Hashem at the end as someone who is a mighty warrior, King Solomon refers to the King of glory as "Hashem of Hosts, the King of glory, Selah."

To note, this psalm has the unique privilege of being recited in our prayers on two other types of occasions. Except for the Torah reading on Shabbat morning, this psalm is recited on every occasion that the Sefer Torah/Torah scroll is returned to the Holy Ark. Also, this psalm is recited on the nights of the High Holidays. To note, this psalm consists of 10 verses. As the Ramak - Rabbi Moshe Cordovero - notes in his Kabbalistic writings, the Aseret Y'Mei Teshuva "Ten Days of Repentance" from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur correspond to the 10 Sephirot/Divine Emanations. The last of these 10 Sephirot is Malchut/Kingship, and it is the 10th and final verse of Psalm 24 that mentions the word Melech/King not once, but twice. In any case, this psalm is recited on any given week at least four times - as the Song of the Day for Sunday, and on Monday morning, Thursday morning, and Shabbat afternoon when the Torah is returned to the Holy Ark following the Torah reading; hence, this psalm is recited over 200 times a year.

It is interesting to note that the word Holy is being repeated in this post in different phrases - Holy of Holies, Holy Temple, Holy Ark, being one of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's quite often used words, especially in describing Jews and the Sabbath.

The truth is that all time is holy and sacred, as Hashem gives us the time in this world to serve Him, and we are supposed to use even the mundane activities in serving Hashem, working in order to be able to support our families as is our obligation, to make a good impression of Judaism at the work place, and the work in itself to be done in honesty and be of good offering in helping others. As we know, there are 24 hours in a day, and inevitably, some of this time is spent on eating, sleeping, and using the restroom. While some things may seem to be wasted time, this is how Hashem wants us to serve Him in this temporary, physical world; for if it was all about just learning Torah and praying to Him, we could do these same things in the other world where the angels are serving Hashem only in strictly spiritual ways.

In fact, even our time that we need to relieve ourselves in the restroom is serving Hashem, believe it or not, for first of all, this is supposed to humble ourselves and not grow haughty being that we are similar to animals in some respects, and also, we are commanded by the Torah not to disgust ourselves with keeping bodily wastes in our system, and then after we finish in the restroom and wash our hands (by the way, washing our hands with soap, especially after defacating and all is part of cleaniness in keeping with what the Torah says that we are supposed to watch our health), we recite a blessing thanking Hashem for allowing our system to get rid of our wastes, noting the complex body that Hashem created for our system to work correctly or we would die in no time, constantly reminding ourselves of the great kindness that Hashem does for us. In fact, if I am not mistaken, this is the one Beracha/blessing in our prayers that the Shulchan Aruch/Code of Jewish Law explains in great detail; for after all, aside from the important message of this blessing, this is a blessing that most of us that have our bodily functions working right, recite a number of times every day.

And so, I believe that it is hardly coincidence that the number of the psalm for the Shir Shel Yom for the first day of the week is Number 24, for since we have now concluded the holy day of Shabbat, we are now supposed to be cognizant of the fact that "to Hashem is the world and its fullness", as this Psalm begins, and that everything that we do, even the mundane matters of the week that we are forbidden to perform on Shabbat, has its place in serving Hashem - 24 hours a day.

Noting the number of this post - 124, when we dissect this number in two parts, we have one (1) and twenty-four (24). Indeed, for the FIRST day of the week, we recite Psalm TWENTY FOUR as the Shir Shel Yom. And in the Tanach, there is a strong connection between the FIRST of the books of the Tanach - Sefer Bereishit/Genesis and the TWENTY FOURTH and LAST book of the Tanach - Divrei Hayomim/Chronicles - for both of them mention Adam, who is called Adam HaRishon (literally means Adam the FIRST) at the beginning of their respective books; and in fact, the word/name Adam is the very FIRST word of the TWENTY FOURTH and LAST book of the Tanach.

And as the Midrash tells us, after Adam sinned with the eating of the forbidden fruit, he was condemned to die, since after all, Hashem said straight out "on the day that you will eat of the (forbidden) fruit, you will die." However, the day of Shabbat appeared to Hashem, arguing that it wouldn't be nice to kill Adam just as Shabbat was supposed to begin. As a result, Hashem reinterpreted, so to speak, what He said "on the day..." to mean that since one day is considered in Hashem's eyes like a 1,000 years, He would allow Adam to live 1,000 years, as hinted to the big Alef of the first word Adam of the Book of Chronicles (as it turned out, Adam gave King David 70 years of his life since he saw that King David with was he was supposed to accomplish was meant to live for only three hours). Subsequently, realizing that the Sabbath pleaded on behalf of Adam, and saved his life for 1,000 years, Adam started offering praise to Hashem, with the beginning of Psalm 92.

And as for this psalm, the Shir Shel Yom for Shabbat, the conclusion of Tractate Tamid of the Mishna states on this "A psalm, a song for the day that will be entirely Shabbat and rest for the Eternal Life." Indeed, just like in the early reign of King Solomon, whose name Shlomo make up the initial letters of the first verse of this psalm, it was the utopian state of the Jewish people both spiritually with the building of the First Temple and physically with the prosperity of the times, signified by the name Shlomo that has a connotation of the word Shleima/completeness and Shalom/peaceful; so too, the future state of the Eternal Life will be just the same in terms of completeness and peacefullness with Eternal Bliss. Indeed, the Shir Shel Yom of Shabbat, in view of what it represents, is the Eternal Song - ending with the verse L'Hagid Ki Yashar Hashem Tzuri V'Lo Avlata Bo "To tell that Hashem is straightforward, my Rock Who has no flaw within Him." To note the word Yashar/straightforward has the same letters as the word Shir/Song, as if to read this verse as if to say "To tell that the Song of Hashem Who is my Rock with no flaws" - as Hashem is the ultimate completeness, represented by the words of THE ETERNAL SONG OF HASHEM.

16 Cheshvan 5772

1 comment:

ariela said...

Very good study I really appreciate all your insights.