Saturday, November 26, 2011

#126 - DREAM of a Lifetime

Shavua Tov & Chodesh Tov - Wishing you all a good week and a good month.

At this time, I am writing at a time of two firsts - Motzoei Shabbat, beginning the FIRST day of the week that immediately follows the conclusion of Shabbat; and Rosh Chodesh Kislev, which is only one day this year as opposed to some other years where it consists of two days - hence, today's date is the FIRST of Kislev and not the thirtieth of Cheshvan (the way it was one year ago on Motzoei Shabbat).

Both of these occasions - Motzoei Shabbat & Rosh Chodesh - are especially connected to King David. The Melave Malka (literally means escorting the queen, which is referring to the Queen Shabbat, a real spiritual creature like the angels) meal is called Seudat David HaMelech - King David's meal, which is called such for at least two reasons. First - kabbalistically, there are four parts of the Holy Chariot which correspond to the three Patriarchs and King David; and similarly, the three meals of Shabbat correspond to the three Patriarchs, and the fourth meal which is the meal eaten on Saturday night corresponds to King David. Historically, King David was once told by Hashem that he would pass away on a Shabbat. Hoping to avert dying on Shabbat, he figured that if he learned Torah for the entire Shabbat which would prevent the Angel of Death from taking away his soul, then he wouldn't have to die on this happy day of the week. Hence, following the end of every Shabbat, he used to celebrate living through another Shabbat by having a festive meal (after fasting the whole Shabbat!).

Rosh Chodesh is especially connected to King David because the Davidic dynasty is compared to the moon, the same way that the Jewish people are compared to the moon.
Just as the moon has its waxing and weaning periods, so it is with the Jewish people and the Davidic dynasty. To note, King David was the 14th generation on the parental line from Abraham the first Jew, bearing in mind that the Gematria of the name David is 14. Hence, his son King Solomon was the 15th generation from Abraham. Similarly, the moon reaches the status of a full moon at the 14th/15th days of the month. And indeed, in the days of King Solomon whose name Shlomo means complete(ness), it was the heighlight of the utopian state of the Davidic dynasty and the living standards of the Jewish people. And then, even in King Solomon's days already, his kingdom started going downhill beginning with challenges to his kingdom, and when his son Rehoboam became king, most of the Tribes of Israel deserted his kingship for Yeroboam Ben Nevat as the first king of Israel. Finally, Zedekiah of the 30th parental generation from Abraham was the final king of Judea in whose reign the Temple was destroyed and the Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia.

Bearing in mind that this is my 126th post, it would be most appropriate to mention Psalm 126 of Tehillim/Book of Psalms that was composed/compiled by King David. This is not just any one of the 150 psalms. This Psalm is recited immediately preceding Bircat HaMazon/Grace After Meals on a day or time that we do not recite Tachanun/supplicatory prayers, which include Saturday night & Rosh Chodesh. One reason given for reciting a psalm before the after meal blessings is because we are supposed to recite words of Torah at a meal, and so even if one did not remember or have a chance to do so, reciting a psalm which is part of the Tanach/Bible will fulfill this requirement.

I will be referring to this Psalm a little later in this post. But first, I want to write a little more about the siginifance of today being Rosh Chodesh Kislev. We see in the first chapter of the Mishnaic Tractate of Ta'anit of the breakdown of the various dates that we mention or request for rain. First, we begin the mention of rain on Shemini Atzeret (22 Tishrei). Then, there is a difference of opinion in the Mishna as to when we begin the request for rain - either 3 Cheshvan or 7 Cheshvan, of which we follow the latter view as the Halacha/Jewish Law.

Now, when we request a basic need for the Jewish people from Hashem but it doesn't get fulfilled on time, there is an obvious reason why it is so. No doubt, it is because we are not behaving right, and so Hashem is in no rush to fulfill our request. Hence, when rain doesn't come sooner rather than later, it means that we have to repent of our evil deeds, and especially in earlier times, fasting was a common occurance when things didn't happen right for the Jewish people.

Along these lines, if the 17th of Cheshvan (the date of the beginning of the Flood in Noah's time) arrived and no rain fell down yet, indiviual pious people would begin fasting. Then, if the beginning of the next month - Rosh Chodesh Kislev - arrived and still no rain in sight, then the community starts fasting. Thank G-d, it already started raining this season, which is thanks to a lot of good Jews doing the right things.

In earlier times, when Jews were expected to be on a much higher spiritual level but didn't behave accordingly, famines were not that uncommon. During one such year when it close to the month of Nissan when the rains in Israel are just about over, when it hadn't rained the winter season up to this point in time, the Jews were desperate and turned to a righteous and learned sage named Choni HaMeagel. He is called HaMeagel which literally means the one who makes circles, because in his prayers in which he pleaded with Hashem to send rain, he made a circle around himself and swore that he would not leave the circle until rain would come. As the story continues as recounted in Mishna Ta'anit 3:8, the rain finally came.

Speaking of circles, the letter of the Alef Beit that corresponds to the month of Kislev is Samech, which is the roundest of the Hebrew letters, and unlike all the other letters (except for the Mem Sophit/Final Mem), it is the only one in which there is a hole that is completely surrounded. We also see that the Mazel/constellation for this month is the Keshet/rainbow, and Hashem's speaking to Noah about His promise that He will never bring a flood for the whole world again which would be demonstrated by having a rainbow appeared took place in the beginning of Kislev which was shortly after everyone left the Ark a mere few days earlier. In any case, the rainbow has a circular appearance, in part resembling the round Samech.

With this said, perhaps there must be some kind of connection between the concept of circles, rain, and the month of Kislev, especially since we see that this month is represented by the circular letter Samech. And if there any connection, what is this supposed to teach us?

For this, we now refer to the Babylonian Talmud on Tractate Ta'anit which mentions another story of Choni Ha'Meagel. It is obvious that the origins of the Rip Van Winkle story comes from this original story, but let us recount the real story that took place.

As I promised, this is where Psalm 126 kicks in. You see, it all started when Choni HaMeagel had a question on the first verse of this Psalm - "A Song of Ascents: When Hashem will return the captives of Zion, we will be like dreamers". He wondered: "Is it possible to sleep for 70 years with one continous dream?" Now, the reason he noted 70 years is because there were 70 years to the Babylonian exile (although this verse/psalm also refers to the future Redemption). While he was thinking about this, he met someone who was planting a carob tree, and when Choni asked him how long it will take to grow, the guy told him that it would take 70 years, and that just like his ancestors planted carob trees for him, so he was also doing for his descendants after he would no longer live. The next thing Choni knows, he wakes up after 70 years of sleep, and then met the grandson of the guy who planted the carob tree 70 years earlier who was picking carobs off the tree at that very moment. Following this, since no one knew who he was or believed his story that he slept for 70 years, he realized that he could not go on living like this, and so he asked Hashem to take away his life and then he passed away.

While Hashem can do anything, some may doubt that the literal meaning of the story took place. After all, not all the Aggadic stories in the Talmud necessarily happened literally, but they can mean some spiritual, figurative meaning for us to learn from. In fact, not all the Biblical stories that we read in the Tanach necessarily happened either, such as where Hashem tells the prophet Ezekiel to revive the dead bones of a group of Jews that attempted to leave Egypt 30 years earlier before the Exodus. Some say that this was only a dream that Ezekiel had. In fact, believe it or not, but the Rambam/Maimonides believes that the story in the beginning of Parshat Vayeira of the encounter of the three angels coming to Abraham for a meal was only a dream that Abraham had, no less of a dream than the dream that the Torah explicitly states that Jacob had at the beginning of this week's Parshat Vayeitzei.

Whether this last story of Choni Hameagel was literally for real or was only a dream that he had, what is true is the Torah lesson that we can learn from this recounting.
The 70 years that Choni called a dream in fact echoes another part of the Psalms (90:10): "The days of our years in them are 70 years...", which is given as the average lifespan of mankind, which was also how long King David, composer of the Book of Psalms, lived. The point that Psalm 90 makes is that our lifespan is very short and that we need to make the best of it, and realize that this world is temporary and full of vanities, and only realizing our purpose in life and following in suit will make our lives worthwhile.

The problem with most people is that they live confused lives and don't realize what the real purpose of life is about, truly living a DREAM life. Perhaps some with religion will have a better answer for this, but it seems that even a good percentage of these people don't follow through with what they learned in the Bible and all. And even when it comes to acquiring materialistic items in life, so many have dreams of "having it all," but don't accomplish having the temporary "American Dream," and even when it seems that they have it all, this is quite often challenged by a change in the economy, losing one's dream job, divorce, loss of health, etc.

It is significant that there were 70 years to the Babylonian exile. You see, the word Bavel/Babylonia comes from the word Mevulbal "mixed up". Very unfortunately, most people are mixed up with what really counts in their average lifespan of 70 years, and for all practical purposes, are dreaming of a reality that does not exist.
They have no concept of why they were created, of why they are living, and if they are not atheists, virtually all of them think that they are going to Heaven for what they supposedly did right, forgetting all the wrong things that they did during their lifetime that they did not make amends for if they even realize or remember what they did wrong.

The Babylonian exile followed a long stretch of Jewish history of Jews living in Israel for 850 years. The reason why they became exiled from the Holy Land to begin with is because they were mixed up and confused of how they were supposed to live as Jews. They took it for granted that everything would be O.K., even as the prophet Jeremiah kept warning them of the doom that would take place if they would not better their deeds. They were truly living a false dream of a life in which they did things the way that they wanted to do them, regardless of how much this went against what Hashem said, even as Hashem explicitly warns us in the Torah time and again that if we don't follow His laws, then consequences, including exile, would take place.

And so, it only made sense that the Babylonian exile would consist of 70 years, to teach us that Babylonia was not our land and living there as Jews was for all practical purposes - a dream that Jews can live there in holiness just like in Israel but in reality could not be true, reminding the Jews that they could not continue behaving in this fashion, and it was only after 70 years that the Jews had a rebuilt Temple once more, showing that they are only living at home when they are both near the environs of the Holy Temple AND following the laws as Jews connecting ourselves to the holiness of the Temple.

It would seem a bit ironic that the main Talmud that Jews learn is called the Talmud Bavli/Babylonian Talmud, which includes this last story of Choni HaMeagel (Ta'anit 23a). It is true that this Talmud was composed in Babylonia, and was hence named as such. In another way of looking at this, perhaps we can read this as "Talmud for the confused", for unless we learn the meat of Torah learning, which is the Gemara/Talmud, we will remain confused about what the Torah teaches us, and even if we know all the laws of the Mishna, Shulchan Aruch/Code of Jewish Law, without knowing the Talmud, we will be at a loss as to where these laws stem from, or what they are based on. You see, without understanding what a Halacha/Jewish Law is based on, there is no way that someone who is "basically observant" without being knowledgable of the give and take arguments and reasonings of the Talmud will be able to come decide what the Jewish Law is, for the Talmud gives the reasons and sources for these laws.

It is the Talmud, especially the Babylonian Talmud, that gave reason for a Jew's existance in the Shteitel towns of Europe, mostly living in poverty, long after its composition a few hundred years after the Roman exile. It is the Talmud that especially demonstrates that the Torah/Bible was not a man made script, but a Divinely given set of laws which is interpreted by the teachings of the Talmud, the Oral Law, showing how Hashem was precise in His wording to teach a particular lesson or nuance. It is the Talmud which is "our life and the length of our days" both in this world and in the next, realizing that a material lifestyle doesn't quite fit in a Torah way of life except to the extent that is needed to maintain our health and the means to be able to observe the Mitzvot/Commandments.

Related to the letter Samech, there are 60 tractates of the Mishna, the foundation of the Oral Law (actually, we have them divided today as 63 due to technicalities), and Samech has the numerical value of 60. In this physical world, both beans and eggs are round objects, which are eaten by mourners as their first meal following the burial of their close relative. This is learned out from Parshat Toldot that we just read on Shabbat where Jacob served beans to Esau as on that day, their grandfather Abraham passed away, and so the meal of the day in the home of Isaac was beans. The reason for eating their circular types of foods is to remind us that life goes around in a circle - from birth to death, from riches to poverty. The world spins around, it is a new generation, and who was rich or poor in one generation may lead to descendants with the opposite financial circumstances, for life and wealth are not permanent fixtures in this world, and will change hands and families.

Hence, on Rosh Chodesh Kislev, the beginning of the month that is represented by the circular letter Samech, all Jews would fast for the lack of rain. The Hebrew word used for congregation is Tzibur, which is an acronym for the words Tzadikim Beinonim V'Reshaim - righteous, average, and wicked people. ALL SPECTRUM OF JEWS had to be aware that we must start getting together as a nation and do the right thing, and not just like indivuduals, as the individuals who started fasting on the 17th of Cheshvan, represented by the fact that only a few individuals were righteous enough to be spared from the Flood - which was Noah and his family, which begin on this date.

And so, Choni made the circle around himself, as if to say that even if there were wicked people among the Jews, and it is true that they need to repent of their evil deeds, but since part of the Tzibbur also consists of righteous people, he reasoned that it was only right to bring the rain in the merit of these people, for unless everyone would be evil, it would seem to be unfair to continue hurting the righteous ones among the Jewish nation, since the Tzibbur consists of one unit, and so it would not be fair to punish the righteous because of the wicked. It is this circle that marks the totality and completeness of the Jewish people, and instead of claiming that there are only individual righteous people, it would be much more fair to say that there are only individual wicked people, and hence, the circle of life should not be broken because of a few rotten individuals.

At this point, it would be most interesting to point out that both the word Toldot - the name of this last week's Parsha, and Ta'anit - the name of the tractate about rains, both begin and end with the letter Tav/Sav. But more than just this, these sections of the Chumash & Mishna/Talmud respectively have connections with each other.

Let's note the word Ta'anit, which means fast, such as not eating. To note, this word is the Gematria of 930 years, and as we know, Adam lived for 930 years. Originally, he was not supposed to have died had it not been for the sin of the forbidden fruit, so his life was shortened to 1,000 years, from which he gave 70 years of these to King David. As a result of his sin, he both separated from his wife and fasted for 130 years. The three middle letters of the word Ta'anit, which spells the word Ahni/poor person, make up the Gematria of 130, hinting to the fact that Adam considered himself as a poor person without the pleasures of physical life to atone for the sin that he committed.

Now, take the word Toldot, which means generations. Now, all of mankind are generations/descendants of Adam & Eve. The three middle letters of this word spell the word Vlad, which means child or embryo, having the Gematria of 40, and indeed, it takes 40 days for an embryo to be formed. The reason given for why there were specifically 40 days of the Flood is because Hashem so to speak was forced to give life to embryos from illicit unions as they take 40 days to be formed. Moreover, for certain sins, the atonement mentioned for these are 40 days of fasting; perhaps reminiscent of Moses' not eating for 40 days and nights at a time on Mt. Sinai.

In both sources of Parshat Toldot & Masechet Ta'anit, the concept of mourning is mentioned; in Parshat Toldot - as I wrote earlier pertaining to the passing of Abraham, and the fourth chapter of Ta'anit mentions the mourning for the saddest day of the year - Tisha B'Av, the date on which both Temples got destroyed accompanied with Babylonian & Roman exiles. In fact, when Esau requested Jacob to give him the beans, he asked "Dump into me this reddish food...therefore his name was called Edom", meaning, that Esau's family in the future became the Edomite nation. However, the English hardly does justice as for the translation; for in fact, the word Ha'adom "the red" in describing the beans is written twice in a row, indicating a double aspect of red. Now, the beauty of the Hebrew language is that in contrast to English in which some of the letters are vowels themselves, the vowels are separate from letters in Hebrew; hence, words without vowels can be read as different words at times. In this particular instance, one can read this word twice as Ha'Adam - the man or the Adam. It seems that the reason for this repetition of word is to hint to Adam, whose sin caused himself and the world to go into mourning, for now death was decreed upon the world.

We see that following his sin, Hashem appeared to him, and as the verse states "Hashem G-d called to HA'ADAM (the man) and said to him AYEKA" (Genesis 3:9 - Note: In Hebrew, the chapter and verse number here, when put together, reads the word Get/divorce, for in fact, Hashem divorced mankind from the Garden of Eden following the forbidden fruit sin, just as Hashem divorced us out of our land upon the destruction of the Temple). Now, note that I did not immediately translate this last word of the verse. You see, while it may literally means "Where have you been?" this is not a mere physical concept of place, but a spiritual concept of place, indicating that Adam had a major spiritual fall with the sin. In fact, one again, just as the word Ha'adom can be read without vowels to also read Ha'adam, as indeed the exact word in this verse in Genesis, the word Ayeka can also be read as different vowels to read Eicha - "How...", the beginning word of the book in Tanach that is also the name of this book that is read on the night of Tisha B'Av, the national day of mourning, the date marking the destruction of both Temples by Babylonia and Rome - the latter which is called Edom in Scriptures. Hence, there is a parallel connection here between the sin of HA'ADAM & the destruction of the second Temple by HA'ADOM/EDOM, as Edom is a nation descendant from Esau who was born as Admoni/reddish. And it was these reddish beans that were cooked by Jacob in a state of mourning, the death of Abraham being the bridgepoint between the decree of death on mankind and the destruction of the Second Temple by Edom.

The good news here is that King David & his descendant the Messiah are the rectifications for these sins. First to note, the letters of Adam's name are the acronym for Adam, David & Moshiach. By Adam giving 70 years of his original slated 1,000 years of life to King David, this gave him the power to help with Adam's rectification. In fact, King David just like Esau was born with a reddish complexion, resembling the sinful desires of the body. However, the difference is that while Esau did not control his desires, King David did. And even when he had a temporary lapse of this when it came to his strong sexual urges for Bath Sheba, he repented to such a degree that his fasting conquered his evil inclination for sexual temptations.

In time, King David merited to have the Messiah descend from him, and as mentioned by the Rambam/Maimonides, the Messiah is descended from his son King Solomon, which means that he is descended from Bath-Sheba; for in fact, King David's extreme sexual urge for Bath-Sheba became the springboard for his total repentance in the away of sexual temptations. And as based on holy sources, the United States is the Edom of today, and as we see, there are in fact 51 states in the U.S., for Washington D.C. as the capitol is an area of its own that is not included in the "fifty states", and the word Edom is the Gematria of 51. This is aside from the verse about the reddish beans that are described with the repetitive word Ha'Adom which is the Gematria of 50, bearing in mind that generally, the United States is referred to as having fifty states, and as this verse concludes "therefore, his name was called Edom." So indeed, Moshiach will be coming shortly at the end of the exile of Edom which began as Rome and ending as the United States, the current world power as Rome was at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple.

In connection to Jerusalem, the antithesis of Edom, we are currently in the midst of the 45th year from the liberation of Jerusalem - particularly the part of Jerusalem that includes the Holy Temple grounds, and the name Adam is the Gematria of 45, bearing in mind as to what the Midrash notes, Hashem created the head of Adam from the area of the Holy Temple grounds. And as we see the word for red(dish) mentioned in the verse Ha'Adom, without the prefix of the letter Hei, the word Adom being spelled as the same letters as Adam is the Gematria of 45, and as connected with Edom as mentioned at the end of this verse.

Yes, there will come a time that our DREAM OF A LIFETIME - the arrival of the Redemption, rebuilding of the Holy Temple, and Resurrection of the dead - will finally come to fruition. As per the 70 years of the Babylonian exile, we have a verse that also hints to the concept of 70 - "For EYE TO EYE - Ayin B'Ayin - will they see when Hashem returns to Zion", for the letter Ayin is the numerical value of 70. And as for the concept of a circle that in this physical world, denoting change in the sense of changing hands as people do not live forever in this world the way that it is created until the time of the Resurrection, we see that in the future, the concept of a circle will represent Eternity, as the conclusion of the Babylonian Talmud on Tractate Ta'anit states:

"Ulla Bira'ah said in the name of Rabbi Elazar: In the future, the Holy One Blessed Be He will make a circle for the righteous, and He will sit between them in Gan Eden, and every one of the righteous ones will point his finger towards Him, as it says: "He will say on that day: Behold (Note: In Hebrew - the word is Hinei which is the Gematria of 60, perhaps hinting to the concept of a circle which is resembled by the circular letter Samech that has the numerical value of 60) this is our G-d, we had hoped for Him and He has saved us, this is Hashem to Whom we had hoped, let us exalt and rejoice in His salvation." Amen.

Motzoei Shabbat Parshat Toldot/Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5772

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