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

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