Sunday, December 25, 2011

#129 - Tractate Chanuka

Happy Chanuka!

Yes, my favorite time of the year is back, this year celebrating my second wedding anniversary on the second day of Chanuka.

But before I continue on with the theme of Chanuka, I have to announce that great news happened a couple of weeks ago on my wedding month of Kislev - my wife Yael gave birth to our baby girl, who is named Tamar Tzadika. We expected this to happen more like after Chanuka, rather than before Chanuka. Anyways, I have amazing information pertaining to my daughter's birth, her name, her date and time of birth, about which I will devote my following post, which will (of course) include Gematriot, so stay tuned shortly for a most unique post.

While I think that there must be like a hundred Torah based Gematriot about Chanuka, I am about to show you something that I doubt you will ever read anywhere else but at one place of course -

Well, this has to do with Daf Yomi, the study of the double sided page of the Babylonian Talmud that began almost 90 years ago. To be exact, this worldwide study began on the beginning of the Hebrew year 5684, having commenced on Rosh Hashana. Hence, we are presently in the midst of the 89th year from when this study of this most important Jewish learning began.

As some may have guessed, the Gematria of the name of this holiday Chanuka is 89. Now unlike the title of this post, there is in fact no tractate of the Mishna/Talmud that is called Chanuka. In the Mishna, you will be hard pressed to find eight mentions of the name of this holiday. In the Talmud/Gemara, there are like three and a half Dafim (double sided pages) in Tractate Sabbath (21a-24b) devoted to the history, laws, and discussion of Chanuka, but no mention is made of it in the Mishna on which this piece of Gemara is based on.

While it is true that unlike the holiday of Purim, Chanuka is not mentioned in the Tanach/Bible, since the story of Chanuka took place since the last events of the Tanach took place, this is not the reason, or at least not the only reason, why there is no tractate in the Mishna that is devoted to Chanuka. You see, it seems that since Rabbi Judah the Prince, also known as Rabbeinu HaKadosh or Rebbe, the compiler of the Mishna was a descendant of King David, while the Hasmoneans/Maccabbees, the ones who introduced Chanuka to the Jewish people, were from the tribe of Levi, in the due course of time, they ruled in Israel as kings, this upset Rabbi Judah as we see in the Tanach that the Jewish kingdom was permenantly granted to the royal line of King David. Hence, save for only so many times of the mention of Chanuka in the Mishna in the way of passing, not even one Mishna is devoted exclusively to Chanuka, in sharp contrast to the Rambam/Maimonides and the Shulchan Aruch/Code of Jewish Law who devoted whole chapters or a whole section to Chanuka as they do for Purim.

Whether Rabbi Judah's grudge was justified or not according to the Torah, Hashem has his ways of making it up to those good boys who were left out in the cold. You see, it has been pointed out that there are 36 tractates of the Babylonian Talmud (Note: Tractate Tamid of the Mishna also includes Gemara, but only on three of its seven chapters unlike the other tractates of the Talmud which have Gemara on the entire tractate), corresponding to the mandatory 36 lights of Chanuka that we light during the course of the eight-day holiday (Note: This does not include the Shamash candle that is lit as an accessory candle on each of the eight nights). On a more esoteric level, the lights of Chanuka represents the light of Torah that guides the Jew in the right path, preventing him from steering towards the darkness of the spiritual exile. In fact, it is a bit ironic that the main body of Torah learning is named after Babylonia, though it was compiled in Babylonia in contrast to the less studied and harder to learn Jerusalem Talmud that was composed in Israel. But the fact that this is called the Babylonian Talmud shows that it is the light of the Torah, the light of the Talmud, that has saved the Jews from spiritual extinction, even in the darkness of exile, which included Babylonia from the era of the destruction of the First Temple when mass amounts of Jews were exiled there by King Nebuchadnezzar.

With this said, let us imagine that we are presently in the Hebrew year 5684, when the learning of Daf Yomi began. The first tractate Berachot, consisting of 63 Dafim, has ended on 4 Kislev, and Tractate Sabbath has begun on 5 Kislev. (Note: In both years 5684 & 5772, Cheshvan consists of 29 days, unlike in some other years when it consists of 30 days). As those who have learned some Babylonian Talmud know, the Talmud page of any given tractate begins on Daf 2. As the Talmud on Chanuka in Tractate Sabbath is found on Dafim 21-24, Daf 21 has been learnt on 24 Kislev - Erev Chanuka, and the following three Dafim on the first three days of Chanuka.

Coincidence? Mentioning earlier of the special connection between the number of Talmudic tractates to the number of Chanuka lights, the fact that the learning of these pages of the Talmud on Chanuka coincided with the timing of this holiday IN THE VERY FIRST YEAR OF THE DAF YOMI STUDY is hardly coincidental when the concept of Hashgacha Peratit/Divine Providence exists. And especially as related to Chanuka, this holiday was the result of the independent spiritual freedom that took place following an era of the Syrian-Greeks attempting to do away with our Jewish practices and beliefs, treating our Tanach as another book of wisdom that they called Biblos, attacking particularly the teachings of the Talmud that is not seemingly included in the Bible except for the fact that the Talmud is also G-d given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and the rabbis through many centuries learned what the Halacha/Jewish Law is based on the rules of the Torah as to how we apply the learning of the verses of the Torah that teach us the Halacha.

Back to Year 5772, this is the 89th year from when the Daf Yomi started, and we are presently in the midst of Chanuka whose name is the Gematria of 89. And so, in honor of this special timing, I would like to mention a piece on the importance of Torah study as related to Chanuka from Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam, the Sanz-Klausenburger Rebbe, may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing, which he related on the eighth night of Chanuka, 5742. While much is to be mentioned about this special rabbi's life, this post would not be complete without mentioning that he founded a program called Mifal HaShas in which thousands have become Torah scholars from learning 30 pages of Talmud a month on which they get tested and are helped financially being rewarded for doing well on the Talmud tests.

The Rebbe made a very interesting point on the reason for why, according to Halacha, we don't need to relight the Chanuka light that we are supposed to allow to burn for a minimum of half an hour, if it gets extinguished unexpectedly. The idea is that once one lights the Menorah, one can get back to learning Torah without interruption. Similarly, the rabbis who enacted the observance of lighting the Menorah on Chanuka did not institute this holiday as "days of feasting and happiness" as Purim is designated, in order that the focus of the eight day holiday will be on Torah learning.

"For it is only in the merit of the Torah, in the merit of Matisyahu and his sons the holy Cohanim and in the merit of their Torah that Hashem saved us from the Greeks, for the Torah is our protection. This explains the mention in the Al HaNisim prayer of the miracle happening "in the days of Matisyahu Ben Yochanan Cohen Gadol, Chashmonai and his sons" for the Cohanim are the teachers of the Jewish people, as the Torah writes (Deutronomy 17:9): "You shall come to the Cohanim...and they will instruct you of the word of judgment (Halacha)", teaching us that the Chanuka miracle happened ONLY in the merit of the Cohanim who learn Torah"."

"Indeed, the days of Chanuka were NOT set aside as a time to celebrate the miracle of the victory of the war against the Greeks, but solely as a remembrance of the miracle of the Menorah, for this matter which "for the Jews was light" (Book of Esther)", and as our rabbis tell us, light is Torah, which is more important to us than even saving Jews from dying in war, as mentioned in the Talmud (Megilla 16b), Talmud Torah is greater than saving lives."

The Rebbe gives a fascinating explanation for why the last day of Chanuka is dubbed Zot Chanuka. It is true that this phrase comes from the reading of the last day of Chanuka, and hence is used as a nickname for this final day. But the Rebbe has a unique take on this as related to Torah. As on every day of Chanuka, we read from the portion of the Torah regarding the Korbanot/offerings of the leaders of the tribes following the dedication of the Mishkan/Tabernacle. On the seventh day of Chanuka, we read the offerings of the leader of the tribe of Ephraim; and on the eighth day of Chanuka, we begin the Torah reading with the offerings of the tribe of Menashe. As we know from Talmudic literature about these two sons of Joseph, Ephraim was the Torah scholar par excellence, while Menashe was the overseer of his father Joseph's life saving activities in the famished Egypt in which Jacob's family lived for some of those famine years. Hence, the eighth day of Chanuka, on which we read of the offerings of the tribe of Menashe who is related to life saving activities, is dubbed with the name Zot Chanuka "This is Chanuka", to remind us that this eighth day of Chanuka is part of the holiday that represents Torah via the miracle of the Menorah rather than the victory of the war against the Greeks.

On a personal note, I received a special Aliya to the Torah on the fifth day of Chanuka of this year. As we know, the special Torah reading for Chanuka is mostly about the offerings of the leaders of the Tribes of Israel who offered them on the altar in the Mishkan/Tabernacle. Accordingly, on the fifth day of Chanuka, we read the section about the offerings of the leader of the Tribe of Shimon (my namesake). Now, the way that the daily three Aliyot of this Torah reading is divided, the Cohen is called up for the first three verses that mention both the name of the Tribe and its leader, the Levi is called up for the last three verses that mention the name of the leader of its Tribe, and the final person is called up for the whole section that was read for the Cohen and Levi (in Israel where the miracle of Chanuka took place; outside of Israel, its the whole next section that is read for the third person).

Anyways, when I was in synagogue on the morning of the fifth day of Chanuka; for some reason, the Torah reader read the whole section for the Cohen. Did he do this accidentally or purposely? But what was even more strange is that no one signaled him to stop the Torah reading at the usual place for the Cohen. Next, as I am a Levi, and I don't think there was another Levi at that Minyan, I was called up for the Levi Aliyah, and the Torah reader read the same exact thing. This means that unlike usually where the Levi Aliyah does not consist mention of the name of the Tribe but only the name of its leader who brought the offerings, this Aliyah that I was called up for was the entire section of the offerings of the Tribe of Shimon, mentioning Shimon's name. Good music to my ears! And as for the last few years, my full Hebrew name is Shimon Matisyahu, this Aliyah was most significant to me this Chanuka, which I hope is a good sign from Hashem for good things to continue happening for me.

Just as the mention of Chanuka is included within the midst of the tractates of the Mishna without being its own section; in a similar vein, the cities of the inheritance of the Tribe of Shimon in the Land of Israel was not its own section of land, but rather included within the territory of the Tribe of Judah. This is due to what Jacob decreed for his sons Shimon and Levi for their trait of anger that they had in their wiping out the city of Shechem and their treatment of Joseph that lead to him being sold, and hence, neither did the Tribe of Levi have its own inheritance. And then later on, following the sin of the idolatry and immorality of the Tribe of Shimon at the site of the idol Ba'al Peor, Moses refused to bless this Tribe individually, though hinting to his name within the blessing of Judah. And so, while Chanuka does not have its own Tractate, ALL OF THE TRACTATES OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD CORRESPOND TO THE LIGHTS OF CHANUKA; similarly, while Shimon was castigated or ignored between Jacob and Moses - and hence, was only able to take part within the land belonging to the Tribe of Judah, Hashem made it up to Shimon as He did for Chanuka. You see, some of our greatest rabbis/Torah teachers of all time was named Shimon - including Shimon HaTzadik and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

And so, while I am on the topic about my name Shimon, I would like to mention a bit what the Midrash Rabba has to say about the inner meaning of the offerings that the leader of the tribe of Shimon brought. Now, bearing in mind that all the 12 tribal leaders had a specific theme in mind based on which they brought their offerings, what was unique as related to Shimon is that the offerings for this tribe was based on the theme of the Mishkan, as all of the tribal offerings were brought celebrating the dedication of the Mishkan, was were spaced out in a period of 12 days.

Anyways, as we know, the Menorah was one of the major features of the Mishkan. This is hinted where it states about some of the offerings "filled with flour mixed with OIL for a meal-offering", for it was the oil that caused the Menorah to be lit. Hence, there is a direct hint to Chanuka in the mention of the offerings for the tribe of Shimon. This is not so surprising; for you see, the word Shemen/oil is spelled in order within the name of Shimon, both words beginning with the letter Shin and ending with the letter Noon. Also, both the name Shimon and the word Shabbat begin with the word Shin. This is bearing in mind that Shimon is the only one of the tribes who name begins with Shin.

Now, you may ask, why did I mention about Shabbat at this point as related to Shimon, as though there is a special connection here just because both of these words begin with a Shin? Actually, there are a couple reasons here. The first involves an irony which involves the Jewish calendar. You see, the way that our present calendar is set up, all the days of Chanuka can fall out on Shabbat on one year or another except for...the fifth day of Chanuaka, on which we read of the offerings for the Tribe of Shimon. Perhaps this is related to what I wrote earlier here about the exclusion of Shimon from the blessings of Moses on his dying day.

Now, for the second reason, there is something fascinating that I will mention here that you probably never came across before. Going back to the Midrash Rabba about the offerings for the Tribe of Shimon, the mention of Asara Zahav "ten (shekel weight) of gold" hints to the ten Torah sections of the construction of the Mishkan. Now, aside from the 12 mentions of this phrase Asara Zahav of the offerings for the 12 Tribes, the only other mention of this phrase in the entire Tanach/Bible is in the story of Eliezer traveling on behalf of Abraham to find a marriage match for his son Isaac, and upon discovering Rebecca, Eliezer gives her two bracelets worth ten shekel weight of gold (Genesis 24:22). Rashi notes on this that this hinted to the Aseret HaDibrot/Ten Commandments.

With this said, of the ten Torah sections about the construction of the Mishkan, the section about the Menorah is the fourth of these ten sections. Hence, corresponding to this, the fourth of the Ten Commandments is about Shabbat. And as we know, one of the essential commandments that the Syrian Greeks attempted to prevent the Jews from performing was Shabbat, and the Menorah is the ultimate object that represents Chanuka that celebrates our freedom to learn Torah and practice its commandments. Moreover, as mentioned earlier in this post, the section in the Gemara about Chanuka is mentioned specifically in the second chapter of Tractate Shabbat which deals about what type of materials can or cannot be used for lighting Shabbat candles. And so, while the fact that the section of the offerings for the Tribe of Shimon is the only one of the 12 tribes which is never read on Shabbat Chanuka; in a deeper meaning focusing on the positive side, the Menorah in itself represents Shabbat, and hence, there is no special need of mentioning about it on Shabbat, when aside from lighting the Menorah in the Temple, lighting a fire is forbidden on Shabbat, and hence, we light our home Menorahs before Shabbat, allowing enough time for it to be lit a minimum of half an hour after Shabbat begins in order to fulfill the Mitzva of Chanuka lighting for Shabbat.

Now, the beginning of the section about the Menorah within the construction of the Mishkan reads V'Asita Menorat Zahav Tahor "You shall make a Menorah of pure gold" (Exodus 25:31). Note that the word Tahor/pure is used here. And as we know, the sixth and last volume of the Mishnayot is called Teharot, plural for pure. The largest of the six orders of the Mishna, it contains 1,003 Mishnayot. And having mentioned Tahor in relationship to the Menorah, the words Menorah=301 and Shabbat=702 add up to the Gematria of 1,003! Moreover, as the leader of the Tribe of Shimon was the fifth in line of the 12 tribes to bring his offerings, the fifth of the 12 tractates of Seder Teharot is also called Teharot! It would be quite hard to dismiss all of this as mere coincidence!

And while we are at it, as the 12 months of the Jewish calendar have their corresponding tribe and their corresponding letter of the Alef Beit, the month of Av corresponds with the Tribe of Shimon and the letter Teit, the letter the begins the word Teharot. Accordingly, both the name of the letter Teit & the word Teharot, begin with a Teit & end with a Sav/Tav! Now, looking at the remaining letters of the word Teharot, they are the same letters as the word Torah! And as we know, a baby learns the whole Torah during its NINE month sojourning in the mother's womb. Perhaps this is hinted where it mentions in the Torah about a woman being pregnant VaTahar "she was pregnant", this Hebrew word having the same letters as the word Torah.

On a personal note, I must mention that Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Shlita, Chief Rabbi of Safed, son of the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing, for the Parsha sheet for Shabbat Parshat Vayeishev, #611 (Note: The number 611 is the Gematria of the word Torah!), writes all about Chanuka. But what is most significant here is that instead of beginning writing about the Maccabees or Matisyahu whose courageous acts lead to the holiday of Chanuka, Rabbi Eliyahu devotes more than one of the four pages of this theme to Shimon HaTzadik, whose righeousness shielded his generation from the evils of the Syrian Greeks, as noted in the Talmud (Megilla 11a), where his name and immediately his grandson Matisyahu's name (just as my name is Shimon Matisyahu!) is mentioned side by side (Note: In the Gemara text, Matisyahu's name is spelled without a Vav at the end of the name, though in reality, his name did have a Vav at the end, and also in the English text of Artscroll on the Talmud, they write Matisyahu's name in Hebrew with a Vav at the end). While I am not going to start quoting from what the Parsha sheet mentions about Shimon HaTzadik, one of the key points mentioned is that Shimon HaTzadik, Shimon the Righteous who was the Cohen Gadol/High Priest of the Jewish people for 40 years in the time of the Second Temple, lived what he preached in the second Mishna of the first chapter of Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers "the world stands on three things: Torah, Avodah (prayer service or Temple offerings), and Gemilut Chasadim (acts of lovingkindness)".


Having just mentioned words that have the same letters as the word Torah, let us take a fascinating look at words of related themes.

As we know, there are Taryag Mitzvot- 613 Commandments. Taking the Hebrew number for 613 which we pronounce as Taryag, consisting of the letters Tav, Reish, Yud, Gimel, let us use a form of Gematria called Atbash, in which a letter is exchanged so to speak with its opposite side of the 22 Hebrew letters. As hinted with the word or acronym Atbash, the first letter Aleph corresponds with the last letter Tav, the second letter Beit corresponds with the next to the last letter Shin, and so on. Hence, when substituting the four letters for the number 613, the corresponding exchanged letters are Aleph, Gimel, Mem, Reish. Well, it won't take long to figure out that these four letters ARE THE SAME LETTERS THAT SPELL THE WORD GEMARA! Yes, it is the Gemara, the meat of Torah learning that develops Torah scholars, that is the explanation of the Mishna. As the Talmud (Berachot 5a) notes on the verse on what Hashem says that He will give Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:12), HaMitzva "The Commandment" refers to the Mishna. Hence, we see very clearly that the Gemara is the detailed explanation of the 613 Mitzvot (though there are some tractates of the Mishna that do not have Gemara explanation, there are quotes of Mishna strewn throughout the Gemara/Talmud), hinted via the Atbash Gematria of Taryag/Gemara! And while we are at it, the final word of the mentioned verse here is LeHorotam "to instruct them" which the Talmud says refers to the Gemara. Now, the middle four letters of the word LeHorotam are the same letters as the word Torah. Thus, we see from here how crucial Gemara learning is.

But wait, I am not quite finished! As I have mentioned in the past, the 420th Mitzva of the Taryag Mitzvot is learning and teaching Torah (Talmud Torah). But what I didn't mention before is that this is the 174th Mitzvat Asei, the 174th Positive/Active Mitzva of the Torah. You see, I didn't have a reason to mention this earlier, but now I do because today, we will use the same Atbash method for the four letters of the word Torah - Tav, Vav, Reish, Hei. The corresponding Atbash letters are Aleph, Pei, Gimel, Tzadi. These four letters add up to the Gematria of 174. Yes, there is indeed no coincidence that the Mitzva of Talmud Torah is the 174th Mitzvat Asei listed in the Torah!

Speaking of the 613 Mitzvot, let's focus for a moment on the 613rd Mitzvah, which is the writing of a Sefer Torah/Torah Scroll for oneself. While today, this is done by relatively few people, as first of all, it is quite expensive to buy a Sefer Torah, even if writing a Sefer Torah which is quite time consuming and every one of its 304,805 letters has to be written correctly or the whole Sefer Torah is invalid to be read in public, can be performed by hiring a Sofer/Torah Scribe.
Also, today's books come in the form of paper rather than the old fashioned scrolled parchment. This is where the Chofetz Chaim quotes the Rosh pertaining to this Mitzvah, that nowadays, this Mitzvah is basically fulfilled by purchasing the basic books of the Tanach and Talmud (includes Mishnah and Gemara) and learning them, since after all, the whole idea of this final Mitzvah of the Torah is to learn the Torah that we write and/or purchase, though of course, the Mitzvah can also be performed literally.

Perhaps it is of no coincidence that the final Mitzvah of the Torah, at least in its literal sense, is the most expensive Mitzvah. It is of no surprise that the holiest object that exists is also the most expensive Mitzvah, for as we know, the physical is a reflection of the spiritual. But in any case, as I just mentioned here about how the number 613 in Hebrew makes up the letters that spell the word Gemara via the Gematria method of Atbash, we learn from here that indeed, the ultimate purpose of this last Mitzvah of the Torah is to be well versed in the Torah which is most represented by the learning of Gemara. For in fact, the Gemara is part of the Oral Torah which was originally forbidden to be written down unlike the Tanach which is called the Written Torah. However, since the rabbis of some 1,500 years ago saw that with the increasing troubles that were happening to the Jewish people that included exile and foreign rule, they were afraid that the details of the Torah which is the basic makeup of the Gemara would be forgotten, and hence, they ruled that for the sake of preserving the Torah, the basic contents of the Oral Torah had to be written down.

Imagine what Torah learning would be like today if we had no Gemara text to learn from, and no Daf Yomi - which would not be possible without a printed text and learning schedule. For even if Torah scholars would be able to learn as much without the written text of the Gemara, how much or how well would laymen or people who are no longer learning in Yeshiva and busy making a living would be able to commit to so much Gemara learning without a basic text of the Gemara in front of them (hearing a Shiur/Torah lesson on Gemara only makes sense if one is already familiar with the Gemara being discussed; otherwise, there won't be a fluent cohesiveness of understanding of the subject being discussed, especially when give and take discussions and arguments are a good part of Gemara learning).

Speaking of the Atbash method of Gematria, we see this being used in Chapter 428 of the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim. Now mind you, the Shulchan Aruch is a basic text of Halacha/Jewish Law, and NOT a Torah book full of interesting Gematriot. Occasionally, a Gematria is mentioned in reference to why a Halacha or Minhag/custom is observed. But for the most part, this is not the norm in the Shulchan Aruch. However, in this particular chapter, the final chapter of Hilchot Rosh Chodesh/Laws of the New Moon (by the way, I was born on Rosh Chodesh), there are various codes of letters/numbers that are mentioned to remember different aspects of the Jewish calendar. On this note, this chapter mentions how the first six days of Pesach/Passover correspond to the various Jewish holidays based on falling on the same day of the week in the same year being hinted in the Gematria method of Atbash. However, the one holiday that is not mentioned in reference to all this is Chanuka (Note: The truth is that Succot isn't mentioned either, though Simchat Torah, the final day of holidays beginning with Succot, though its own holiday is mentioned. Also, the first day of Succot falls out on the same day as the first day of Rosh Hashanah which is mentioned in the Atbash equation). It is true that there is a technicality regarding Chanuka because there are two months of the Jewish calendar that aren't always the same number of days in the month as in some years, they are 29 days and in other years, they can be 30 days - which is Cheshvan, the month before Chanuka, and Kislev whose ending falls out after the beginning of Chanuka.

Perhaps this is not a coincidence. You see, Chanuka represents the concept of what is beyond time, unlike most of the months of our present Jewish calendar which are always either 29 or 30 days - except for the months that surround Chanuka. For as we know, the Tanach - the Written Torah, is a fixed text. However, even though the Mishna and Gemara are also technically fixed texts today, these latter texts that are basically mentions of Halachic disputes throughout these texts shows that there is no necessarily "one right way". True, only one opinion can be followed as far as following what Halacha we hold by.
However, there is also the concept that Eilu V'Eilu Divrei Elokim Chaim "Both opinions are the words of the Living G-d", and so why physically, only one way can be followed; in the spiritual world, both opinions can be true, even as both rabbis who are arguing with each other base their opinion on how they read the verse in the Torah.

One who has learned the spiritual significance of Chanuka will know that this holiday represents the ultimate spiritual light that Hashem hid for the righteous in the future. It is through this light that one can see past and future the same way, which the infant in the womb has a taste of. This spiritual light goes beyond the physical limitations of this world. Similarly, Chanuka is the only holiday that is not mentioned in the Tanach, as demonstrated in not being mentioned in the Atbash formula of the holidays corresponding to the first six days of Pesach. For as the first six days of Pesach correspond to the six days of the work week in the materialistic world, Chanuka is all spiritual, not limited by the amount of days in the Jewish calendar beginning with Rosh Hashanah, and not necessarily ending on the same Jewish date every year. Chanuka is ultimately represented by the Oral Torah which hints to the whole concept of not sticking to the same words, but allowing for varied interpretations of the Torah that ultimately translate what the Halacha should be; however, Halacha in its spiritual sense is not bound by limitations except for how we observe it in this physical world. This is bearing in mind that the word Halacha is the Gematria of 60, the numerical value of the letter Samech, which is shaped virtually like a circle, just as this finite world which is round, but following the 6,000 years of this world's existance, the seventh millenium will be the display of pure spirituality when we will be beyond the physical limitations of this present world in which we are bound by Halacha without openly showing how both views of which only one view can be followed in the form of Halacha, can be true.

Now, while the number eight is what represents the concept of what is beyond nature as related to this finite world, just as the light that Hashem created at the beginning of time which will be use of use for the righteous in the future is what is beyond time, not differentiating between past, present or future. In fact, we see that the phrase Beit HaMikdash/Temple is the same Gematria as the name Matisyahu (861) whose heroic actions led to the eight day holiday of Chanuka. Also, the Rambam/Maimonides laws about the Beit HaMikdash which he calls Beit HaBechira (House of Choosing) consists of eight chapters.
However, unlike outside of the Beit HaMikdash where we light up to eight lights on Chanuka; in this holiest place in the world, only seven lights were lit. The difference is that in the Beit HaMikdash which is a reflection of the Beit Hamikdash in the spiritual world, it is very much related to the concept of the number eight, and as we see mentioned in the fifth chapter of Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers, there were 10 miracles related to the Beit HaMikdash. Hence, only seven lights were needed to relate to what is beyond the finite world of six work days and of six thousand years, since it is true that in the seventh millenium, it will be time of total spirituality without the physical restraints of this world. However, outside of this holiest abode on earth, where even the number seven is still within the realm of nature being that while we observe the seventh day as Shabbat, we start once again after Shabbat into the six day work week so we need something more tangible that is related to the concept of what is beyond nature, of what is beyond time, and it is only this concept as related specifically to the number eight that helps us reach this goal, and it is the eight day holiday of Chanuka that accomplishes this.

Noting above about the 613 Mitzvot of the Torah, we also have what are called the seven Mitzvot of the Rabbis. While the Torah forbids us to add to the Mitzvot of the Torah, what are called the Mitzvot of the Rabbis weren't invented as all "new" concepts but are already related somehow to other Mitzvot of the Torah. Without getting into a whole discussion about this, these Mitzvot of the rabbis include the Megilla reading of Purim and the lighting of the Menorah of Chanuka. However, there is a fundamental difference between Purim and Chanuka. Even as Purim is a Mitzva of the rabbis, it is a holiday that is mentioned in the Tanach, in fact, the Book of Esther which is devoted exclusively to this holiday, though it is not a holiday mentioned in the Sefer Torah. However, Chanuka has NO DIRECT CONNECTION WITH THE BIBLE OR WRITTEN LAW.

With this said, adding the seven Mitzvot of the Rabbis with the 613 Mitzvot of the Torah, the total is 620 Mitzvot. And it is Chanuka which is the LAST of these Mitzvot. In fact, while the last of the 613 Mitzvot is the very Mitzva of WRITING Torah, the last of the seven Mitzvot of the Torah especially relates to the concept of the ORAL TORAH, for lighting the Chanuka Menorah is not mentioned in ANY of the 24 Books of the Tanach, unlike Purim. Now, mentioning earlier of the connection of the word Teharot, the name of the sixth and FINAL volume of the Mishnayot as related to Chanuka, this word is the Gematria of 620, and as I just mentioned, lighting the Menorah on Chanuka is the 620th and FINAL Mitzva to be enacted. And as I mentioned earlier about the letters Teit and the remaining letters that spell the word Torah within the word Teharot, the letter Teit represents the concept of darkness as we see that the ninth plague of Egypt was darkness and it is the letter Teit that represents the month of Av, the month that includes the darkest period of the Jewish calendar in which on the ninth day of this month (Tisha B'Av), both Holy Temples got destroyed. Hence, the concept of Chanuka as related to Torah is learning Torah even in the darkest of times, as this is the light that lights up the spiritual darkness. Indeed, Chanuka falls out during the winter when the nights, the time of physical darkness, are longer; and as our rabbis tell us, the nights were created for Torah learning. In fact, the Talmud learns out about the amount of oil used for the kindling of the Menorah in the Temple from the amount that was needed for the longest of nights which are typically during the month of Tevet, on which the last few days of Chanuka occur. Moreover, the first letter of the month of Tevet is a Teit=9, further representing this concept of spiritual light in the long periods of spiritual darkness in exile.

And as for the month of Kislev on which Chanuka begins, let's dissect the letters of the name of this month. The first letter of Kislev is a Kaf, and as we know, this is also the first letter of the word Cohen. Now, the next letter is a Samech
which in itself is the letter that represents the month of Kislev. Also, the letter Samech as related to Cohanim reminds us of the Bircat Cohanim (blessing of the Cohanim) which consists of 60 letters. And then, the final two letters Lamed & Vav are the first two letters of the word Levi from whom the Cohanim are descended. Moreover, these two letters spell the number 36 in Hebrew, and as we know, we light a total of 36 lights on Chanuka (aside from the Shamash candle).

And in connection with the number of this Post, the number 129 can be read in two parts - one (1) and twenty-nine (29). The letter Aleph=1 begins the word Ohr/Light, and the first letters of the months (Kislev & Tevet) during which Chanuka occurs spell the number 29. And as I have mentioned in the past, the number 29 is connected with the name Shimon, my namesake, in more than one way - first, as mentioned here, the 29th of Kislev is the fifth day of Chanuka on which we read the offerings of the leader of the tribe of Shimon that he brought on the fifth day from the dedication of the Mishkan. And as pertaining to Shimon HaTzadik as I mentioned earlier in this post as related to Chanuka, he passed away on the 29th of Tishrei.

Think this post is long enough. Stay tuned shortly for my next special post about the birth of my baby daughter.

Sixth Day of Chanuka/First Day of Rosh Chodesh Tevet/30 Kislev, 5772

Saturday, December 3, 2011

#128 - Our Reaction to G-d Given Talents

As we know, pride in the form of haughtiness is virtually the worst characteristic trait that the Torah condemns. This has caused the downfall of many with good spiritual qualities. And on the other side, humility is considered the greatest characteristic trait that one can possess. The Torah makes it very clear about Moses, who despite his great love for his people and was even willing to give up his spiritual benefits to save the Jews from perishing following their sin of worshipping the Golden Calf, is ultimately praised in the Torah for his humility "The man Moses was very humble, more than anyone living on earth" (Numbers 12:3). Hence, it was to Moses of all people that Hashem wished to transmit the Torah to, earning him the title of Rabbeinu "our teacher", for it wasn't only the Torah that Moses taught the Jewish people which he didn't actually learn all on his own, but all taught to him in the course of 40 days by Hashem; but it was his own example of being someone who was so worthy of being the one to teach the Torah to the entire nation that is part of why he is called Rabbeinu. Additionally, he wasn't the teacher of just his immediate generation, but the teacher of all future generation of Jews, partly in due to his desirable character traits that everyone could learn from.

There is one tractate of all the 63 tractates of the Mishnayot that does not deal with Halacha/Jewish Law per se. It is called Avot ("fathers") or Pirkei Avot/Ethics
of the Fathers. What distinguishes this ethical work from all other ethical works of the non-Jewish world is that the teachings about ethics in Avot, just as Halacha, are all part of the Torah that Hashem transmitted to Moshe; as indeed, the very first word of this tractate is Moshe's name, mentioning that Moshe received the Torah from Mt. Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua...

The question can be asked - Isn't there ever a time that you need a little pride or haughtiness to accomplish something good, just like for example, anger or hatred is needed at times to protest evil that is used to hurt good people? Otherwise, people with no sense of self worth will at the very least be taken advantage of, and will feel useless at the end, not wishing to contribute to society.

Before I answer this question, while a person who is humble is far more liked in society in the long run than someone who is haughty, regardless of their accomplishemnts, a person does have to have a balance that won't throw him off base of being taken advantage of. While it may not always be obvious where to draw the line, it can be agreed upon for the most part that self-worth and haughtiness are in essence two different creatures.

Actually, it is the Talmud (Sota 5a) that answers this question: "Rav Chiya Bar Ashi said in the name of Rav: A Torah scholar needs to have within himself an eighth of an eighth of haughtiness" The reason for this is so that he can maintain his respect as a Torah scholar by not being made fun out of and having his teachings accepted. This is of course assuming that beyond this, he will not let haughtiness get to his head.
Even at this, not all the rabbis agree with this. "Rav Nachman Bar Yitzchak said: No part of it whatsoever, as the verse states: "All haughty of heart is an abomination of Hashem" (Proverbs 16:5)."

Regardless of whose opinion we follow, the obvious question here is - What is the particular significance of an eighth of an eighth? The Vilna Gaon comes to the rescue and points out to us the eighth Pasuk/verse of the eighth Parsha of the Torah - which is this week's Parshat Vayishlach. The verse reads "I have been made small of all the kindnesses and truth that You have done for Your servant..." (Genesis 32:11) which what was Jacob was saying to Hashem in his request to be saved from his evil brother Esau. The lesson that we can learn from this is that although we feel humble from all the things that Hashem has given us as truly we are not really worthy of all the goodies that we receive in life, especially as virtually all of us have sins due to which not only are we not really worthy of anything good, but according to the strict measure of justice, we are worthy of death. However, the fact that Hashem does provide us with various measures of good means that we are worthy to some extent, however small it may be; and hence, rather than feeling so proud and haughty about it, we should rather be most grateful to Hashem, in fact recognizing that Hashem found favor in us to grant us the good that He showered on us. It is only based on this type of way of thinking that we will not loose focus on our purpose in life is.

Of course, the lesson that we learn from the EIGHTH verse of the EIGHTH Parsha is ultimately the most important thing here. However, perhaps the fact that the number eight, or more particularly, an eighth of an eighth, has something to do with permitted haughtiness, must mean that this number or fraction of a number has some significance here, more than just the fact of the position of what number verse of what number Parsha sounds kind of catchy.

The secret here is the number 64, or more specifically, a sixty-fourth piece of the pride pie. With this said, making the connection between this number or fraction number with the concept of humbleness/haughtiness, I saw two different Torah factoids on this.

One involves the time when the Torah was going to be given to the Jewish people as to which mountain on which it was going to be delivered. Various mountains argued to be THE mountain to be the one to have the Torah given on (yes, inanimate objects also have a life force, which is of course given to them by Hashem). However, Hashem chose the lowly looking mountain Mt. Sinai for this unique honor. Anyways, one of the high mountains is Mt. Tabor. The Talmud (Bava Batra 73) mentions this mountain as four Parsaot or 16 Mil tall. Now, the maximum amount that a person is allowed to walk outside of town on Shabbat is one Mil, or 2,000 Amot/cubits; hence 16 times 2,000 Amot yields the total of 32,000 Amot, the total amount of Amot of Mt. Tabor.

Now, bear in mind that Mt. Sinai where the Torah was given was not located in the Holy Land of Israel. And so, while the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai, it could not be
selected as the mountain on which the Beit HaMikdash/Holy Temple would be built on. The lucky mountain chosen for the Beit HaMikdash was Mt. Moriah, or known as the Har HaBayit/Temple Mount, bearing in mind that the Great Sanhedrin's headquarters was located in a room of the Beit HaMikdash, who taught the Halachot of the Torah that was originally given on Mt. Sinai. With this said, the Har HaBayit, as we see in Mishna Midot (2:1), is 500 Amot tall. And as 500 times 64 is 32,000, the Har HaBayit is one sixty-fourth of Mt. Tabor.

Another connection of the 64 number is what the Maharsha mentions that the Gematria of the Hebrew word Gas/arrogance, is 63. Hence, only if we have 1/64th of arrogance, and not 1/63rd of arrogance, can we hope to maintain our healthy spiritual balance in the humbleness/arrogance scale.


The Pool Game

As Jews who believe in Hashgacha Peratit/Divine Providence and that there is no such as coincidences, as even the Hebrew word for coincidence or happening - Mikreh, spelled with the letters Mem, Koof, Reish, Hei - when its letters are rearranged, reads as Rak Mei'H' (Hei (H) spells short for Hashem) - Only from Hashem. In fact, the word Mikreh itself is the same Gematria as the name/word Hashem (which literally means the Name which we say in lieu of pronouncing Hashem's real name except in prayers and in full verses from the Torah) - 345!

With this said, let's turn a moment to the game of pool. No, not swimming pools, but the game pool in which balls are hit with large sticks in order for them to enter the hall. Now, in a game of 15 balls, the ball that is used to hit other balls is the EIGHT ball. Perhaps the reason this number ball was chosen among the others is because eight is the middle number of the first 15 numbers, or because the way that the number eight is shaped, it is a never ending number (just like the number zero which isn't the number of one of the 15 balls) that can be continously written without interrupting the flow of the pen as it is with the other numbers. In any case, the bottom line is that it is the ball with the number eight that is always used to hit the other balls.

While I don't know all the varied forms of ball games on the pool table, from what I do know is that as long as there isn't a winner of the game yet based on the amount of total balls that were knocked down into the hole, the game is not over. However, if a player, in his attempt to knock another ball down the hole, pushes the EIGHT ball which itself falls down into the hole, the game is over, which means that the other player wins.

With what I wrote about pertaining to the number eight, perhaps what we can learn from here is that as long as we know how to utilize our position of self worth in accomplishing what we need to in life without letting pride/haughtiness/arrogance get into our way, we can hope with G-d's help to be successful in life, since it is G-d' wish after all that we use our G-d given talents to benefit the world - and this is applicable both for Jews and non-Jews, just as we constantly use the EIGHT ball to hit the other balls in our goal to win the game without letting the EIGHT ball itself go down the drain. On the other hand, when we forget that our talents are nothing less than G-d given talents and instead associate these talents as OUR talents as the verse describes "my strength and the power of my hands have accomplished these things", this is hitting the EIGHT ball right down into the hole, loosing the game. For that matter, if Hashem wants something accomplished, He can find numerous ways of doing this. However, it is His will for whatever reason that a certain person or people are the one(s) picked by Him to be in essence His messenger(s) to accomplish certain things with the G-d given talents given to him/them.

Imagine that an earthly king appoints certain people to be in charge of certain things on his behalf. While certainly, the ones that the kings appoints feel most privileged to be in the positions that the king placed them at, and would be more than happy to do what the king says to do even for no financial recompensation feeling lucky to be able to do something for the king, it is almost certain that they won't feel such pride to the extent that they are better than anyone else, for first of all, they realize that they themselves are hardly considered in worth in sharp contrast to the king. Also, they realize that with privileges, they also come with immense responsiblities, and that any deviation from what the king orders them to do will result from being fired, to being thrown into prison, to being executed. And so, bearing this in mind, the uppermost thought in the minds of these people hand picked by the king is that while they may be luckier than some other people, they hardly have any reason to be any more proud than anyone else because ultimately, it is about servicing the king, and NOT servicing themselves.

This is exactly how we have to view ourselves in our observance of Judaism. Of course we feel most privileged to be Jews as a small percentage of this world population. However, the purpose of the talents that Hashem has provided us is not in order to service ourselves, to make ourselves look important in front of other people, but ONLY to service Hashem. Of course down the road, people will respect us for our good service to Hashem, for our knowledge in the Torah, for our fine characteristic traits. In fact, one of the 613 Mitzvot/Commandments in the Torah is to fear/respect Torah scholars, and another one of the Mitzvot is attaching ourselves to Hashem by following in the footpaths of Torah scholars. However, this is not a reason for a Torah scholar to grow haughty. What a Torah scholar must remember is that he is supposed to be example of a servant of the King of Kings, a soldier of the Top General in His army, in order that other Jews will emulate his example so they too can follow in Hashem's ways the proper way following Halacha. Yes, a Torah scholar has to use his EIGHTH of an EIGHTH of haughtiness (and not all rabbis agree with this by the way) in order to maintain his basic dignity so he won't loose respect, but not because he feels that he is better than anyone else to the point that he uses his position to G-d forbid step on other people towards his own benefit, for ultimately, all the benefits belong to Hashem, and if one is entitled to any benefits, it's only because Hashem chooses this as such, but not because one "deserves" it per se.


There is hardly an adult in a normal civilized society that does not know that a chess board consists of 64 boxes, which when measured by the number of boxes on any given side, is eight by eight. But perhaps what is striking here is that the word chess is very similar to the name of the Hebrew letter Cheis (or Cheit as pronounced the Sephardic way) which is the numerical value of eight. In similar fashion, the popular Japanese food called Sushi is called by this name, as the meaning of this word which means six, was called as such because the original sushi consisted of six pieces, noting that the Hebrew word for six is Shishi, similar to the name Sushi.

The popular story that goes about the person who invented chess about what he requested as his reward from the king, whether is actually happened or not as such, perhaps describes the depth and breadth of what seems to be the countless amount of different game positions that exist with this most mental sports game, which echoes the Torah which is limitless, as it is Hashem's wisdom.

In recent times, chess has become a professional sport, and no doubt has changed the lives of many who made a living out of being professional chess players. With this said, some consider Bobby Fischer, a Jewish American, to be the greatest chess player of all time. However, he is not the only Jewish chess player to have played as a champion. Chess history would certainly be incomplete without the mentions of Samuel Herman (Shmuel Chaim) Reshevsky, who was an observant Jew throughout his life until his passing at the age of 80 in 1992, and Daniel Abraham ("Abe") Yanofsky (who passed away at the age of 74 in 2000, and has a street named after him in Jerusalem). In fact, the only one who ever beat Bobby Fischer after becoming a chess champion was the observant Jew Reshevsky, as in one game, Fischer walked out on Reshevsky not wishing to take a chance loosing a game, making Reshevsky the winner.

As with anything else, chess brings out the best or worst out of everybody. You see,
there are major differences between Fischer and these other two Jewish chess champions. First, Fischer was a professional player, as he never worked as any other profession or job, as he quit school at the age of 16, the end of his formal education. The other two Jewish champions, however, while they certainly had great talents for being professional players, didn't let chess be the overriding factor in their lives, who both went to college and became professionals in other fields of study while still playing chess on the side, both having accomplished things in their lives other than what related to the chess world.

Secondly, while Fischer didn't have a stable life when it came to having a family, and even after his death, it took a while for the courts to figure out who was to inherit him, only at the end to award his Japanese wife his estate; both Reshevsky and Yanofsky were married (both to Jews) and had children, showing that family was an important factor in their lives.

But perhaps most importantly here, we see the end results of these chess players. While Reshevsky and Yanofsky didn't at least seemingly become haughty from being master chess players, Fischer clearly showed plenty of his haughtiness - both in playing chess and his general outlook in life. To him, chess was the end of a means.
Few other things mattered to him if he couldn't be the top chess player in the world, and he showed how much it bothered him if he thought that there was even a possibility that someone could beat him on the 64-boxed game.

In time, he became anti-American, anti-Jew i.e. anti-Semitic, and a Christian as a Seventh Day Adventist. It's interesting to note that two Jewish players would not play chess professionally on the Sabbath/Saturday - Reshevsky because he always kept Shabbat, and Fischer because he was a Seventh Day Adventist. But on a more universal level, while I don't blame Fischer for being anti-American to an extent, as it is true that he was once arrested for something that he may not even have been guilty of, and then he fled the States, what is true is that if he would have been around in Hitler's time in Europe, Hitler probably would have hired him to be his mouthpiece instead of sending him to the concentration camps, as virtually no one spoke against Jews the way that Fischer did it.

While there may be questions as to what motivated Fischer following stopping his playing chess for a while to become the monster that he became, which included him praising the terrorist actions of 9/11 only hours after it happened, there is no doubt that this is related to the haughtiness that he developed as the chess professional that he became. While he may never have been aware of what the Torah says about the "eighth of an eighth" or "one out of sixty-four parts" of haughtiness concept, the chess game of 64 parts eventually became an evil force for Fischer, who used haughtiness in the most evil way instead of feeling humbled about having had the great privilege of the G-d given talent that he attained. Perhaps Fischer had a mental illness, but it wasn't something that he always had, or at least wasn't developed in his system until much later in life. Certainly in his case, the mental illness mostly developed as a result of his actions and warped thinking processes earlier in his life, rather than the other way around.


Anti-Semitism from Jewish Origins

Having mentioned the self hating Jew Bobby Fischer, who spoke such anti-Semitic statements that would have blown off Adolf Hitler's mustache, it is actually hardly of much surprise after reading Parshat Vayishlach. You see, it is in this Parsha that mentions the birth of Amalek, the name of the nation who was the first to attack the Jews shortly after the Exodus, when the rest of the world was too frightened to take up arms against the Jews following the Egyptians drowning in the Reed Sea. You see, baby Amalek's grandfather was Esau, who was born and raised in the most holy and righteous family in the world at the time - with parents Isaac & Rebecca and brother Jacob.

We see that pertaining to the seven Canaanite nations, Hashem is clear when He tells us "Do not let a soul of them remain, utterly destroy them" which was what the Jews were supposed to do upon entry to Israel being led by Joshua. However, we see that Joshua gave these nations a menu of choices - 1)Run away, 2)Agree to servitude and taxes, 3)Fight it out. In fact, the Girgashites, one of the seven Canaanite nations, took up the first offer, and picked up their tents for pastures outside of Israel, while the other Canaanite tribes decided to fight it out. However, when it comes to Amalek, there are three Mitzvot about getting rid of this evil nation - 1)Remember what they did to you, 2)Erase the memory of Amalek, 3)Don't forget what they did to you.

Now, the question can be asked. As we know from our Sages, one who causes others to sin is worse than a murderer who only takes away a physical life, for one who makes other sin murders one's soul, one's spiritual life. Hence, the Caanaite nations, about whom Hashem makes very clear that they have a terrible spiritual influence with their idols and immmorality, were actually given a chance by Joshua to stay alive; while with Amalek, who merely wanted to kill the Jews without attempting them to change their religion, is eternally hated by Hashem, and not given any chance to repent or move elsewhere. Isn't this a cotradiction to what the Sages said?

True, the Canaanites had a terrible spiritual influence, and in fact, we see this to be the case later on when the Jews worshipped idols, as the Canaanites weren't all wiped out. However, they didn't necessarily go out of their way to entice Jews to another religion. They didn't hate the Jews per se, so long as they could also live in the land and do as they pleased. However, Amalek with pure hatred for the Jews, went out of its way to reach the Jews in the desert to fight them, and didn't even maintain the fear of the Jews as the other nations had at that time. While there is discussion among the Sages about the Amalekites mocking the Jewish religion, and attempted to "cool off" the Jews' enthusiasm for the Torah, the bottom line is that whatever the Amalekites did in relationship to the Jews was pure hatred and was determined to get rid of the Jew. Period.

So, why did Amalek hate the Jews so much, even before the Torah was given which in itself was a reason for the world to hate us after we were the ones chosen to receive the Torah? Well, we know that Amalek is directly descended from both Abraham & Isaac (unlike the Arab descendants of Ishmael who are only descended from Abraham) and as such, knowing that the Jews had unique spiritual status, was most jealous of the Jews carrying bitter hatred, just as their ancestor Esau had for Jacob following the latter's receiving the blessing from their father Isaac instead of Esau. And so, bearing this in mind, nothing would stop Amalek from advancing their hatred towards the Jews. It is for this reason that Hashem made it clear that for Amalek, there would be no exceptions made, not even with the deal that Joshua made for the Canaanites.

From Eight to Eight in the Eighth Parsha

Well, we already established that Parshat Vayishlach is the eighth Parsha in the Torah, as well as the significance of the eighth verse of this eighth Parsha. Now, turning to the end of this eighth Parsha, we see that there were a total of eight kings of the nation of Edom before there were kings of the Jewish people, which began with King Saul.

We see something amazing here. The Torah is not speaking of current events or what the Torah wants us to do in the future. The Chumash is relating something that would occur in the future, writing exactly what would happen not in the times of the Chumash itself, but hundreds of years later after Moses' death mentioned at the end of the Chumash.

We see another thing here. While it mentions at the end of this Parsha about the death of the first seven kings, it doesn't mention the death of the last king named Hadar. What made this eighth king of Edom so special that the Torah doesn't mention his death even though he eventually died just like the first seven kings?

As the Maharal of Prague mentions in his writings, the number eight is the number that represents what is above nature. For while the number seven represents the concept of Shabbat as the Seventh Day, the Shabbat of today is within the natural order of things in this world, and it will only be in the future that the number seven will be associated with eternity (see the end of Tractate Tamid of the Mishna).
However, the number eight to begin with is goes beyond the natural order of this physical world to begin with. And as such, a Torah scholar who lives a righteous life, relating basically to spirituality, knowing his purpose in life, can afford to have an "eighth of an eighth" of haughtiness, for he knows that the little haughtiness that he needs to use is in order to maintain the other 63 parts of humility. He knows that the Hadar - name of the eighth Edomite king - which means splendor or glory, the results of one's accomplishments if merely a prototype of the orginal Hadar - splendor/glory of Hashem. We are merely messengers of Hashem who do our best to replicate in our own way the amazing tapestry of Hashem's wisdom through the G-d given talents that He gave us. Then and only then can a Torah scholar be able to show himself as a Torah scholar that will attract honor, as ultimately, it is the honor of Hashem that is the focus, that will bring other Jews to the splendor and glory of the Torah.

Intersting to note, we always read Parshat Vayishlach, the eighth Parsha of the Torah, in the month of Kislev that we begin celebrating Chanuka, the eight day holiday that celebrates our freedom of practicing Judaism from the vicious attempts from the anti-Semitic Syrian-Greeks who attempted to prevent us from observing the Torah. Moreover, we begin the holiday with lighting one light/candle on the first night of Chanuka, concluding with the eighth night lighting eight lights. To come to think of it, there were also Hellenistic Jews who betrayed the Jewish faith and attempted to stop other Jews from observing the Torah. But thanks to the Maccabbees, we won at the end. However, the main emphasis of the observance of Chanuka came about not due to our physical victory of winning the war against the Syrian-Greeks, but our spiritual victory, for at the end, victory belongs to Hashem, and we are only soldiers in Hashem's army, who are doing our job not because it makes us look better, but because
this is Hashem's will, and we are only worthy of being Hashem's Chosen Nation when we behave as the Chosen Nation, not just because we have the title of Jews who have brains and win international championships in the fields of science and sports, for ultimately, even the secular accomplishements are based on the talents that Hashem gave us, but they only mean something if we use these talents in serving Hashem and setting an good example for the rest of the world to have everyone want to emulate the Jews when we behave as good Jews.


Regarding the number of this post - 128, it is the EIGHTH generation of numbers when added to themselves. Hence, one added to another one is two, two when added to itself equals four, etc. The following demonstrates this:
1+1=2+2=4+4=8+8=16+16+32+32+64+64=128. So, as you can see, the eight numbers in this equation are: 1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128.

Regarding the SEVENTH generation of these numbers - the number 64, this is the amount of boxes on the chess board. And as per the number seven, I had mentioned earlier that both Sherevsky and Fischer would not play chess on the Seventh Day - though for diametrically spiritually opposite reasons. Coincidence? This surely resembles the opposite spiritual lifestyles of the twins Esau and Jacob.

And at a close examination of this number 128, we see that it consists of two numbers: one (1) and twenty-eight (28). As we know about the Alef-Beit, there are 22 basic letters, and five of these letters take on a little different looking shape that are used exclusively at the end of a word; hence making a total of 27 different shapes in the Hebrew alphabet. And as used in Gematria sometimes, these five letters that are used as the end of a word have the respective numerical values (in order of the letters) of 500, 600, 700, 800, 900. Following this, the "28th letter" is the letter Alef once again, but instead of having the numerical value of one, it now has the numerical value of 1,000 - demonstrated by the fact that the word for the letter ALEF, can also be read as ELEF - which means one-thousand - using different vowels.

Parallel to this, we see in the chess game that the chess pieces represent people of various ranks from the plain soldiers - the pawns, to the king and queen. However, unlike the ones with positions inbetween the soldiers-pawns and the royal couple, the pawns, if they advance all the way to the other side of the board, then can become queens themselves. Of course, this is another example of chess that is based on a concept in the Torah. You see, the angels are very spiritual beings who are very close to G-d, while human beings are very material and physical people. However, if people overcome their physical temptations, urges, and addictions while looking to be spiritually close to G-d, they can potentially be even on a higher spiritual level than the angels. The difference reflected between these two groups are represented by the name of two Parshiyot that are read just around the time of the Jewish New Year, and in some years, they are read together on one Shabbat rather than on two separate Shabbatot: Nitzavim - which means standing as the angels are in the same spiritual position without moving ahead or backwards, and Vayeilech - which is related to the word Halicha/walking, for people have the freedom of choice to walk closer to G-d or G-d forbid away from G-d, but as the pawns in the chess game, people have the chance of reaching the highest spiritual heights possible, even higher than the level of the angels who may be compared to the other pieces of the chess game between the pawns and the king/queen.

Looking forward to writing my next post around Chanuka time which will of course be about one of my favorite Jewish holidays...

Week of the EIGHTH Parsha Vayishlach/EIGHTH of Kislev, 5772