Wednesday, February 29, 2012

#137 - Tribe of Levi: Life of a Levite (Part 5)

As our Rabbis tell us: Acharon Acharon Chaviv "The very last is the most beloved". And so, in the finale of my five part series on the Tribe of Levi, I will reveal the best and the rest on this most special tribe of the Jewish people. While in my previous post, I focused much more on Moshe - whose birthday and Yahrzeit is today, 7Adar - than on his brother Aaron; as a play on the above Hebrew phrase, perhaps it could be said as Aharon Aharon Chaviv "Aharon is the most beloved", for indeed, Aaron was the one chosen by Hashem to be the Cohen Gadol/High Priest, rather than Moses, whose genealogy and age at passing is no less known than Moses' in the Torah. Imagine, Aaron became the first Cohen Gadol of the Jewish people, and all Cohanim today after over 3,300 years later know that they are Cohanim because they are descended by parental line all the way back up to Aaron. In fact, there are some Cohanim today who can trace their ancestry knowing the exact number of generations back up, some tracing their lineage to Pinchas, Aaron's grandson.

In fact, in this week's Parsha, Parshat Tetzaveh, the stars of the week are Aaron and his sons, as the first half of the Parsha mentions the details of the various Priestly garments, and the later half mentions the details of the dedication ceremony for this family to become consecrated as Cohanim, without a single mention of Moshe's name in the entire Parsha! In fact, it has been said that it is no coincidence that 7 Adar, the date of Moses passing away, falls out every year during or around the time of the reading of this Parsha.

Anyways, getting back to the theme of the title of this particular post, I will be mentioning about the lives of the father and great-grandfather of Moses and Aaron - Amram & Levi, respectively, who both lived to the age of 137, the number of this post. As it turns out, there are quite a few other things related to the number 137 that has to do with the Levites.

Amazingly, the phrase HaCohen V'HaLevi "The Cohen & the Levite" is also the Gematria of 137! For after all, the Tribe of Levi, whose ancestor is Levi, consists of both Cohanim & Levites. And noting the connection between Levi & Amram as regards the age of their passing at 137, Amram's sons were the only brothers of the Jewish people of whom one was a Cohen and the other a Levite, even as both had the same father. This phenomenon did not ever exist in any other family of the Jewish people.

Now, as you may have noticed, in my last several posts, I mentioned the psalm corresponding to the number post. This post will be no exception, even though you will not see one word about the Levites in this psalm. However, we know by tradition that the narrators are the Levites who were told by their captors at the river of Babylon to sing "the songs of Zion" that they used to sing as Levites in the Temple, some even having their harps with them, to which they replied "How can we sing the songs of Hashem on foreign soil?"

As relevant in our daily lives, we are living in a world, in fact, also on foreign soil, in sharp contrast to where we all originate from - the world of truth where the real stuff is located. Our brief sojourn in this world - whether a few more years, or a few less years, is nothing compared to the eternity that we are here to earn. The fact that the conversation between the Levites and the enemy captors, the scene of the exile of Babylonia immediately following the destruction of the First Temple, takes place in Psalm 137 reminding us the years of the life of Levi, ancestor of the Levites, in this world, should remind us of our time and place in this world, of which the Temple is a microcosm - which in turn is a microcosm of the Temple in Heaven - to serve Hashem as our only opportunity to accomplish spiritually as much as possible.

And this leads to the next thing - the section of the Mishneh Torah, the magnum opus of the Rambam/Maimonides that is about the laws of the Temple that is called Beit HaBechira "The Chosen House". If you recall from Part 2 of the Tribe of Levi series (Post 134), I had mentioned this as being the beginning of the eighth of the 14 volumes of this work of the Rambam, consisting of eight chapters. Well today, I am mentioning this section about the Temple for another reason. You see, it has been pointed out that this consists of 137 laws or paragraphs. You read right - the Rambam's section of the Temple called Beit HaBechira consists of 137 laws, as this number relates to the fact that Levi, ancestor of the Tribe who served in the Temple, lived for 137 years.

And since it semms that the number 137 is a hot number to discuss, there is a very famous and popular word, even among non-Jews, which has the Gematria of 137 - Kabbalah. Yes, this word is used usually refering to the secrets of the Torah, much of which is found in the Zohar, the teachings of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. And so in a way, it can be said that just as the Temple, as very related to the number 137, is the holiest place in the world; so too, the teachings of Kabbalah, the name which is the Gematria of 137, are the holiest or highest teachings of the Torah, for only one who is already well versed with the entire Oral Torah, especially the Talmud, is allowed to delve deeply into Kabbalah, and understand it well.

While I can easily spend the next few paragraphs attacking one or more recent groups who supposedly promote Kabbalah, using it for monetary gain and doing things that go completely against Judaism/Jewish Law, I think that it would be a little more useful today to relate what the word Kabbalah originally referred to. To begin with, the word Kabbalah means something this is received, just as written in the very beginning of Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers - Moshe Kibel Torah M'Sinai "Moses RECEIVED the Torah from Mt. Sinai". And so, as we see here, the word Kabbalah in its orignal meaning as related to the Torah refers to the Torah that Moses received,
which is basically the Oral Law, as the phrase that is mentioned in Torah wriitngs - HaKetav V'HaKaballah - The Written and the Received (Torah). And so, while the mystical or secrets of the Torah that we call the Kaballah today are also part of the Oral Torah, as this was not written down anymore than the teachings of the Mishna or Gemara/Talmud, when people used to use the word Kabbalah, it automatically referred to the Oral Torah in its entirety.

Now, before concluding the basic topic about the Levite tribe, I would like to mention something that recently took place. Being that today is the birthday and Yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu, I would like to mention of a well noted rabbi whose name is also Moshe. I am referring to Rabbi Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, Mashgiach of Yeshivat Torah V'Da'at in New York. One rabbi who isn't swayed by politics, he gives Torah lessons that hit the core as to what the Torah is truly about. He always gives his discourses on Shabbath and Jewish holidays, both in New York and when he visits yearly in Israel. However, in a rare weekday address last month, speaking to nearly 1,000 people, he talked about the dangers of the threat of Iran wishing to attack Israel, G-d forbid, and mentioned reciting every day Psalm 46. Now, in case anyone is wondering as to why this particular psalm, one look at it will tell you that this is basically about G-d taking control of what is going on in the world, and when nations start up in war, G-d will be around to show who is the Big Boss. In any case, it is most interesting to note that the number 46 is the Gematria of Levi. And as we know from history, following the sin of the Golden Calf, when the original Moshe called out Mi L'Hashem Eilai "Whoever is for Hashem, come to me", only the Tribe of Levi, the only Tribe who didn't participate in the Golden Calf, heeded the call, fighting Hashem's war, killing even non-Levite relatives who had something to do with the worship of the Golden Calf, not being swayed by politics. In fact, it was this very act that earned this tribe to be the ones to serve in the Temple, replacing the firstborns who were the ones originally slated to be the ones to serve in the Temple.

Before concluding the whole Levite topic, there is someone else in the Torah who also lived for 137 years - Abraham's son Yishmael. Now, it is true that though Yishmael did not exactly live a very righteous life, being drawn to idol-worship and robbing people as part of his wild nomadic life, being first thrown out of Abraham's home after taking a "fun" arrow shot at Isaac, his half-brother who was the heir to the Jewish people, he in fact did do repentance later in life, and died as a righteous person, being influenced by his loving father Abraham who only looked to attract people to Hashem's service through love. However, he is the ancestor of the Arab race, which includes many of them being Moslems, most of whom today only wish for Israel's destruction. But one thing that we do see is that there are parallels between the side of holiness and the side of impurity. Hence, just as the Cohen Gadol, the leader of the Cohanim, the holiest part of the tribe of Levi, whose ancestors Levi & Amram lived for 137 years, led the service on Yom Kippur, the one day of the year on which we pray five obligatory prayers; the Moslems, in their show of devotion to Allah (which by the way is not the same as Hashem as many mistakenly think, but is based on the pagan Babylonian moon god as the Moslem calendar is strictly a lunar calendar, unlike our Jewish calendar with is a solar-lunar calendar) pray five times daily.

Indeed, the very name Yishmael means "May G-d hear". Moreover, just as the Tribe of Levi was the only tribe both in Egypt and in the wilderness who were not afraid of doing circimcision; so too, the Yishmaelite race, as their ancestor Yishmael did, perform circumcision as well when they turn 13. So basically, Hashem listens to the prayers of the nation who has the upper hand (seemingly, even if the one god that they worship isn't Hashem, via the powers of spiritual impurity) based on our spiritual performance. This explains why today, being that an unfortunate significant percentage of Jews in Israel are secular, the Moslem Arabs have the power to twist the arms of the Israeli government, and get away with things that no other nation or country on earth would even dream of. And besides this, if the Israeli government would at least have a little more faith in Hashem rather than being so quick to give in to terrorist demands, things would be a lot better, as Rabbi Meir Kahane, may Hashem avenge his blood, a Cohen, said "It will be either Kahane or Arafat." Don't think that I need to explain more.

Technically, this concludes my five part series of the Tribe of Levi. Now, I do have an addendum here that especially relates to today's date. Yes, tonight is 7Adar, whose significance I mentioned in this post. However, I am refering rather to the date of the secular calendar - the once in a four year date of February 29. Some my ask, who cares, this is a "goyishe" date, why even mention it? Well, I have a big surprise for you all, as believe it or not, this is hinted in the Torah, and at the end, I will also relate this to the Tribe of Levi, so hang on a bit longer...


If I had been writing this blog 12 years ago, the title here would be February 29, 2000. You see, I am implying here that the leap day has a connection to the number 2,000. Of course I will prove this from the Torah. But in order to appreciate this fully, it is important that I bring a little history behind the making of this date.

To note, in our Jewish calendar, which is partly lunar based, the majority of the years consist of 353-355 days, based on the annual cycle of the moon. However, since the seasons are based on the sun's annual cycle of 365.2425 days, and the Torah wants us to observe the Jewish holidays at certain seasons, beginning with Passover to be celebrated in Chodesh Ha'Aviv "Month of Spring", referring to Nissan, a leap month is added (nowadays, every two or three years), in order that this can remain possible.

Now, noting that the total cycle of the sun comes out to 365 and close to six hours, that is 365 days 5 hours 49 minutes 12 seconds, or 365.2425 days, one leap day is added once in every four years in the secular calendar. In practical terms, every year that is exactly divisible by four is a leap year, except for years that are exactly divisible by 100; the centurial years that are exactly divisible by 400 are still leap years. For example, the year 1900 is not a leap year; the year 2000 is a leap year. This was instituted by Pope (I mean poop) Gregory XIII (and Catholics wonder why for them, the number 13 is a bad luck number) in 1582.

And so, February 29, 2000 was a leap day. And aside from the fact that after Moshiach's coming, this secular calendar will be obsolete with the fall of Christianity once everyone sees the truth of G-d not being a "Trinity" and who the real Messiah is, the world's 6,000 year existance is only another like 228 years, so even according to the secular calendar, this world will end around the secular year of 2,240, so in fact, the last time that this 400 year phenomenon of February 29 falling out on a double zeroed year will happen has already happened in the secular year of 2,000.

Now, let us open the Chumash, which, in honor of Moses' today's special date of 7 Adar, we will call the Five Books of Moses, let us turn to near the end of the Book of NUMBERS (Sefer Bamidbar) in Chapter 35 about the LEVITE cities, which were cities given to the Levites to reside since this tribe did not have land of its own, which were also the cities to which accidental killers could escape to, it mentions about measurements as related to these cities, "You shall measure outside the city 2,000 cubits of the east corner, 2,000 cubits of the south corner, 2,000 cubits of the west corner, and 2,000 cubits of the north corner... (verse 5)"

Now, for those who know about the cantillation notes that are used for reading the Torah, there is one place in the entire Chumash were distinct cantillation notes are used, and this is for the Hebrew words for the first mention of the words "2,000 cubits" in this verse - Alpayim B'Amah, the word Alpayim has the cantillation note that is called Yareach Ben-Yomo, and the word B'Amah has the cantillaton note of Karnei-Farah. The point that I am making here is that the Torah doesn't do things at random, and the fact that the once time in the entire Chumash, in the entire Sefer Torah, Judaism's holiest object, that a cantillation note is sung on the word that is a number - particularly the number 2,000, there is a sure reason for this.

Now, there is another distinct cantillation note that is used for the word B'Amah, literally translated as "by cubits". To note, this subject of 2,000 cubits is mentioned in another area of the Torah as it relates to Halacha/Jewish Law, though you will not find this in the Chumash. You see, in the story about the manna - which by the way came to the Jews in the merit of Moses - the Jews are told not to leave their places on the Shabbat day. We learn from this that this meant that the Jews should not leave the Israelite camp which consisted of 12 mil (a measurement that is similar to miles), and hence, according to the Torah, we are not allowed to walk 12 mil beyond our immediate city limits. However, the rabbis felt that a limitation should be placed on the amount of walking on Shabbat (since the whole idea here is that Jews should rest on Shabbat rather than exert themselves so much), and made the limits to 2,000 cubits outside city limits. Now obviously, the rabbis didn't make up just any figure, and no doubtedly derived this measurement from this part of the Torah about the Levitical/refuge cities.

So, aside from the number 2,000, what does this have to do with February 29, 2000?
OK, so first I have to mention another Halachic aspect about this 2,000 cubits on Shabbat. Sometimes, a person can walk more than 2,000 cubits outside of one's city limits - if one establishes a spot anywhere within 2,000 cubits from the city limits as his "spot for Shabbat", if one designated that spot before Shabbat by being there until after the beginning of Shabbat, or placing food there before Shabbat. These loopholes, as you will, is what is called an Eiruv Techumin, which literally means merging (refering to the ways that the rabbis permitted these type of activities) of boundaries. Hence, once can then walk 2,000 cubits from that spot in addition to the walk that one is permitted from the city limits to that spot, hence, up to 4,000 cubits for him is permitted on Shabbat.

Now, in connection to leap years, the words EIRUV and IBUR, the word used for a leap year, which literally means pregnant implying something extra in the body for a period of time until the baby is born, share the same five Hebrew letters! Hence, we see that there is an intrinsic connection between these two concepts via the number 2,000; the word Eiruv representing the concept of place and the word Ibur representing the concept of time. And as related to the Levite tribe, the tribe that represented the Jewish people in serving Hashem in the Temple, we have here the three dimensions of this world, known as Olam/world, Shana/year, and Nefesh/soul, or place, time and people, as discussed in Kabbalah.

So, even as a Pope who was part of the vicious anti-Semitic Vatican system who until this day are holding on to Jewish items from the Temple and Jewish holy books for which G-d will exact vengence shortly upon the real Messiah's arrival, was the one responsible for setting up the calendar the way that it is used universally until this day, nothing is in fact a coincidence, and is hinted in the Torah in some way. For to begin with, it is the Jewish people who were commanded to uniform our calendar according to the seasons that are based on the sun's cycle, and so the non-Jews doing the same is in fact only copying our system. Indeed, this Pope is known as Gregory the THIRTEENTH, and L'Havdil (to make a seperation between him and the Jews), our leap year consists of a THIRTEENTH month. And so, there is no doubt in my mind noting the connection between the Hebrew words having the same letters that refer to Shabbat/Levitical-refuge city boundaries and leap years, as well as the fact that the sole appearance of certain cantillation notes in the entire Sefer Torah is at the very mention of the words "2,000 cubits", is hinting to this phenomenon about a leap day in the secular calendar that normally does not fall out on a double zeroed year falls out on every 400th year, and that the last one to ever fall out on was the secular year of 2000.

As we live in a world that is not only controlled by this secular calendar, but with the use of modern technology, business transactions including in Israel are using the non-Jewish secular calendar, we have to bear in mind that this is strictly for business purposes, but in no way does this mean that we have to treat this calendar as related to personal matters, such as birthdays. Yes, I was born on the secular date of May 7, but as far as I am concerned, I have nothing to do with this date as far as celebrating my birthday, except to mention this for legal or business purposes. Otherwise, when people ask me what my birthday is, I ONLY mention my Jewish birthdate of 1 Iyar, and especially when this is Rosh Chodesh, a little more reason to celebrate than most other days, so why should I wish to mention a date on the Poop calendar as my birthday, or "another" birthday? Everytime that I answer with my Jewish birthday, I am fulfilling the command of "In their (non-Jewish) statues, you shall not follow".

As per our Jewish calendar of months, each of the months correspond to one of the Tribes. Now, while the original 12 Tribes included the Tribe of Levi strictly as the 12 sons of Jacob; considering the special status of Joseph's two sons Menashe & Ephraim as two distinct Tribes, and the Tribe of Levi as a unique Tribe, the months of the year correspond accordingly as such that two of the months correspond to Josephs's two sons in lieu of Joseph per se and Levi.

Along these lines, the question is asked, when there is an extra Jewish month of Adar, corresponding to which tribe does the extra month of Adar correspond to, or is there a corresponding tribe to begin with? Actually, it could be possible that this extra Adar month - Adar Sheni (Adar II) could correspond to all of the tribes. But there is this view that this month corresponds to the Tribe of Levi.

Indeed, as mentioned here about the 2,000 cubits in relationship to the Levitical cities, and for the 2,000 cubit measurement of Shabbat boundaries for which one can use the Eiruv Techumin method, and the word Eiruv & Ibur (word refering to a Jewish leap year) have the same letters, we can see the connection between the Tribe of Levi and a leap year. And for the inner meaning, just as a leap month or day, depending on the type of calendar, serves the purpose of conforming the calendar with the seasons; so too, it is the Tribe of Levi who conforms the Jewish people with the service of Hashem, so that even if not all the Jews aren't always up to par with doing everything right, coming to the Temple with their animals for atonement, let's say, which was then handled by the Cohanim, led the Jews to be more spiritually attuned to mend their ways and come closer to serving Hashem.

Yes, everything in this world needs a balance. And if anything is amiss, it is our responsibility to see to it that we provide the necessary balance. Boundaries or limits are needed in our lives if we want to function normally. Any good parent, even if they give sweets to their children that could possibly causes cavities in the teeth, will set some sort of limits as to how much they allow their children to this type of food. In our adult lives, especially in our family lives which involve th spouse and children, we have to limit ourselves as to how much extra curricular actiivity we allow ourselves without interfering with our family lives, as well as getting some sleep instead of watching the tube or internet if we need to get up early for work the next morning. Even Moses was limited with the amount of years that he lived - only 120 years, less than what his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather lived, even though he was the greatest righteous person to live on this planet. And so it is with numbers, the whole idea about numbers is that they limit the amount that something is supposed to measure - in place, in time, but for the ultimate good that it serves us, for all numbers too, just as all other creatures - spiritual or physical - serve the One Above all.

7 Adar, 5772 - Birthdate & Yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu

P.S. The time of this posting is 1:33 PM. As this post included the mention of Levi & Amram living 137 years, Levi's son who is also Amram's father - Kethath, lived for 133 years.

#136 - Tribe of Levi: The Levite VOICE (Part 4)

It can clearly be said that the most distinguishing service of the Levites in the Beit HaMikdash/Temple was their singing. In fact, taking the word Kol/voice, spelled Koof-Vav-Lamed, contains the first two letters of the name Levi.

And since this is a Gematria blog, it is worthwhile to note that in many if not most Machzorim (prayerbooks for the High Holidays), where it states at the highlight of the Unetaneh Tokef prayer "Repentence, Prayer, and Charity remove the evil decree", you will notice tiny words on top of these three live saving features as the words Tzom/Fasting, Kol/Voice, and Mammon/Money. While it is quite obvious that there is some connection between the features of repentance, prayer, charity and their respective parts of fasting, voice, money; the punchline here is that all of the three words that are brought to translate or explain the meaning of the factors that remove the evil decree have the same Gematria of 136, which is the number of this post. So as we see, the Kol/voice is very related to Tefilla. And in turn, Tefilla has the same Gematria as Shira/song (515), for song was indeed the distinguishing factor of the Levi, the Levites who were not Cohanim, in the Temple.
And as the uniqueness of the Gematria number of 136 to the Hebrew word Kol, it is comprised of the same letters that spell the number 136 in Hebrew.

Today, we recite the daily Shir Shel Yom/Song of the Day that the Levites used to sing in the Temple for the corresponding day of the week. We introduce the daily psalm with "Today is the _________ day of the week on which the Levites would recite in the Temple". Question: If the Levites sang the psalm then why do we merely state that they recited, as though it were another prayer. Wasn't the whole idea that the Levites would SING the psalm?

As we see in the beginning of the fifth chapter of Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers, as well as the very beginning of the Midrash that is called Yalkut Shimoni - "With 10 statements was the world created". You see, Hashem was able to create everything in the days of creation with mere statements, rather than needing to physically, if you will, create the objects that He wanted to appear and exist. In Hebrew, these statements are referred to as Asara Ma'amarot. The word Ma'amarot is the noun for the verb say, or to say. Hence, when we mention in our prayers that the Levites SAID these psalms, rather than sing them, it is hinting to the fact that Hashem created the world with statements, rather than some other way of the Bing Bang Theory (which should really be uncapitolized as bing bang theory, because it clearly denies G-d as the Creator of the Universe). This is especially relevant to the Temple, because the Mishkan/Tabernacle or Temple was built as a microcosm of the world that Hashem created with ten statements.

Now, let's turn to other numbers. We see in the section of the Torah about the consecration of the Levites (Numbers 8:5-26)
that there is a verse that mentions the phrase B'nei Yisrael/Children of Israel five times (verse 19). Rashi notes that the five times of this mention shows how beloved the Jews were to Hashem, as these five mentions correspond to the five books of the Chumash.

Now as we know, the Chumash is what comprises the Sefer Torah/Torah scroll, which we read from throughout the year. However, the words are not merely recited, but they are sung with a tune that are indicated by cantillation notes, which is based on the tradition that Moses received from Hashem on Mt. Sinai.

We see in the Talmud another connection between the concept of the voice and the number five. It mentions (Berachot 6b) that whoever partakes of a wedding feast and doesn't gladden the bridegroom and bride (which is typically performed by dancing at the minimum when the newly wed couple enters the room) violates the five voices that are mentioned in Scripture - the voices of joy, gladness, bridegroom, bride, and people thanking Hashem (Jeremiah 33:11). In fact, the word Simcha/joy, one of these five voices, when its letters are rearranged, spells the word Chamisha/five, speaking of which, we are presently in the month of Adar of which the Halacha notes "When Adar enters, we increase with joy".

There is a uniqueness of the number five to the voice in other ways. As we see in the Kabbalistic writings about the Alef-Beit, there are five phonetic divisions that help us pronounce the 22 letters of the Alef Beit - throat, lips, palate, tongue and teeth (Sefer Yetizra 2:3). And in secular knowledge about using the voice, there are five dimensions of voice, using the acronym of the word VAPER - volume, articulation, pitch, emphasis, and rate. Also, of all the 22 letters of the Alef-Beit, the letter Hei - whose numerical value is five - is the lightest of the letters in terms of pronunciation, for though this letter shares the same part of the speaking area - the throat - as the letters Alef, Cheit, and Ayin, this letter Hei is pronounced as a mere breath, which is Ruach in Hebrew, name of one of the five parts of the soul, and as we see in the Torah about Hashem bringing life to mankind "He breathed in his nose (nostrils) the breath/spirit of life" (Genesis 2:7).

The voice in connection with a wedding is also hinted as such in Psalm 29 where the word Kol/voice is mentioned seven times, and as we know, there are seven times that the bride circles encircles the bridegroom, the Sheva Berachot/Seven Blessings that are recited under the Chupa/wedding canopy, and the seven days of feasting for the newly wed if at least one of them was never married before to a Jewish spouse. To note, Psalm 29 refers to the alarming events that took place at Matan Torah/Giving of the Torah, which was the spiritual wedding day between Hashem and the Jewish people when He gave them the marriage contract - the Torah. In fact, every Shabbat, we recite this psalm twice; once - in the Kabbalat Shabbat prayers on Friday evening when right afterwards, we chant the song called Lecha Dodi stating "Come my beloved to greet the bride, we will receive the countenace of Shabbat", and the second time on Shabbat morning when the Sefer Torah is returned to the Ark following the Torah reading, bearing in mind that it was on Shabbat morning that the Giving of the Torah took place.

And making another connection between the numbers five and seven in relationship to the voice, of the different parts of the body that cause one to speak that correspond to the four letters of Hashem's name YKVK, it is the mouth that corresponds to the last Hei of Hashem's name, which has the numerical value of FIVE. Also, as we see in the Tikunei Zohar, the Sephira that corresponds to the mouth is Malchut/Kingship, the SEVENTH and last of the active Sephirot.

And finally, let's note Psalm 136 which is most unique because this 26 versed psalm is the only one in the entire Tehillim where all the verses end with the same words, and these words are "for His kindness is everlasting". It has been mentioned that these 26 verses correspond to the 26 generations that had yet to receive the Torah, and it was only in the midst of the 26th generation after nearly 2,450 years from the creation of the world that the Torah was finally given. For in fact, the world only exists in the merit of the Torah; however, Hashem in His great kindness allowed the world to exist despite the fact that the Torah never was obligatory on people until He finally officially gave it to the Jews. As we see, the three worded phrase that ends all 26 verses come out to a total of 78 words, and the last word of each verse Chasdo/His kindness is the Gematria of 78. Moreover, the word Lechem/bread is also the Gematria of 78, as it was only the physical sustenance and substance that allowed people to exist until the spiritual aspect of the Torah came into being, as the verse states "for not by bread alone will mankind live, for on all that will come out of the mouth of Hashem will mankind live" (Deutronomy 8:3).
And while in the immediate context of this verse, the last part is referring to the Manna that the Jews ate in the desert for 40 years, the rabbis tell us that the Torah was given to those who ate the manna, being that it wasn't merely another type of physical food, but also some sort of spiritual food.

The Chida on Tehillim (Psalms) quotes the Sefer that is called Reishit Chachma about the verse that states Zecher Rav Tuvcha Yabiu V'Tzidkatcha Yeraneinu "The remembrance of Your goodness will they enunciate, and Your righteousness will they sing" (Psalms 145:7) (the verse beginning with the letter Zayin=7 of the psalm that each begins with another verse in order of the Alef-Beit), the first letters of the last three letters of this verse (Yud-Vav-Yud) add up to the Gematria of 26, hinting to the fact that when they enunciate with their mouths to sing, they have in mind to unite the name of Hashem (YKVK=26) Blessed Be He whose name is etched in the voice (as the various parts of the body that allow the voice to speak or sing correspond to the four letters of Hashem's name). Thus, it is hardly coincidental that Psalm 136, as the letters of the Hebrew number 136 having the same letters as the word Kol/voice, consists of 26 verses, whose theme which is repeated in each of the 26 verses is that Hashem's kindness is everlasting.

Now, the question may be asked, what is the determining factor of what was 26 generations? At best, we know that at the flood where Noah and his family were the only survivors, we can say that it was the 10th and 11th generations who survived. However, beyond that, there could be a number of generations in existance based on when people got married, had children, etc.? So, who is this 26th generation in which the Torah was given?

While in Divrei Hayomim (Chronicles), the final book of the Tanach, we see many genealogical listings of various tribes of the Jews; in the Chumash, the foundation of the Torah, or at least the Written Torah, we are able to trace generation after generation starting from Adam until people living at the time that the Torah was given through only one set of generations. We see that the first 10 generations are listed in the first Parsha of the Torah that ends with Noah, and the next 10 generations are listed in the second Parsha of the Torah that ends with Abraham. Following this, are the generations of Isaac, Jacob, and then we see especially listed for the Tribe of Levi, more than any of the other tribes, the following few generations following Levi the son of Jacob - Kehath, Amram, and...Moses & Aaron (as well as Miriam, but her age at passing is not mentioned). Yes, in no other family except in the sibling family of Moses, the Lawgiver, the ONLY ONE in his generation - where the word generation refers to the group of people living at any given time even if made up of a number of generations in their family trees - whose lineage in the Torah can be traced WITHOUT INTERRUPTION all the way back to Adam, or of more recent generations, to the ancestor of the particular tribe that he belonged to. Additionally, every single generation through Moses in his parental ancestry is mentioned with the amount of years that they lived. Even though Joseph, the only other son of Jacob whose age is mentioned in the Torah, the ages of his children and on are not mentioned. Hence, Moses is the 26th generation that is referred to when mentioning the amount of generations that passed before the Torah was given. Moreover, the Gematria of Hashem's main name - YKVK - is 26, and the surname that we use to refer to this name as Hashem, when spelled backwards, spelled Moses' name Moshe, the 26th generation, in whose merit the Jewish people were fed the manna, the spiritual bread, which was a preparation for the Jews to receive the Torah "the Torah was given only to those who ate the manna".

In conclusion, the Levite VOICE represents much more than just a Jewish choir of heimishe songs, but more like heimelshe (heavenly) songs, for the idea of the Levites singing in the Temple was to highlight the awareness of Hashem's kindness to us both in physical and spiritual ways. In a similar vein, we see that the offering of sacrificial animals also represented both aspects, of which the animal that was slaughtered, especially to atone for one's sin, was to have to have the effect of reminding one to repent of one's ways, for in fact, the guy who brought the animal as a sinner really should have been the one to have been killed. However, Hashem in His great kindness allowed a person to make amends in various ways, part of which is reminding a person of what he was spared, and instead, the animal was the one that was killed, skinned, burned, eaten, etc., using a very physical object to accomplish major spiritual goals and ways of improving one's relationship with Hashem.

On a personal note, I will always be grateful to Hashem for sending me Dr. Miriam Arman, Ph.D, for saving my voice at a time when I began to notice myself sounding hoarse when reading the Torah. It was totally by "accident" that I discovered her, and unlike most other instructors who blindly teach their students to breathe via the abdomen when singing, having them swallow raw eggs, etc., I had none of this nonsense from her. Right from day one, she made it very clear that singing is a most spiritual activity, and as such, we need to open our mind for the voice to go up - rather than go down. I actually thought of becoming a public singer until I moved to Israel, but aside from saving my voice, I learned practicalities of how we open our voice to Hashem. We just have to open our minds, our hearts, and hear what Hashem is telling us without our own ideas of what we think is the best way of relating to Him. For more information, you can check up her website

And in my upcoming final segment of the Tribe of Levi series, I will spill the rest of the beans about this unique tribe, and Gematriot never beforehand seen, at least not all in one place, as well as a unique addendum which will be exclusive to

6 Adar, 5772

P.S. As per the timing of this post 4:26 AM, I mentioned in this post about Hashem's main name YKVK which consists of FOUR letters (Yud, Hei, Vav, Hei) and is the Gematria of TWENTY-SIX.

Monday, February 27, 2012

#135 - Tribe of Levi: Levite MATZA (Part 3)

Korach had it all. He was an accomplished Torah scholar, one of the wealthiest people who ever lived, related to the greatest righteous people of all time, and was a Levite. Now, someone in his position would be crazy to throw this all away, or would he?

Was it his Torah scholarship, his wealth, his claim to fame, his genealogy, or something else, or a combination of things that got to him? Whatever the case, what we do know for sure, aside from the Midrash which states that he had an evil wife who encited him to start up, that he felt he was no less worthy of being a Cohen Gadol as Aaron. Perhaps if he would have been elected to a certain position, a leadership position that a son of a younger brother than his father wound up being elected to, he never would have proceeded with his claims against his cousins Moses and Aaron. You see, Kehath son of Levi had four sons - Amram, Yitzhar, Chevron, and Uziel. Now, Korach was never simply greedy or stupid. He would have accepted the fact that Moses and Aaron, sons of Kehath's son eldest Amram, became the leader of the Jewish people and Cohen Gadol respectively, even if Hashem never would have said a word as to who should have what position. However, as the son of Kehath's second oldest Yitzhar, he wouldn't stomach the fact that Elitzaphan, son of Kehath's youngest Uziel, became a Levite leader as instructed by Hashem or Moses, rather than himself. You would think that with his kind of money, aside from his spiritual connections, that Korach would be happy enough. However, this was not to be.

I am not going to start to get into all kinds of details of what took place in the ensuing argument between Korach and Moses/Aaron. Actually, it was a one-sided argument, because Moses merely appointed the positions based on Hashem's words, and not his own decision, so as far as Moses was concerned, Korach was messing with the Big Boss. Now, I should not in relationship to my previous post of the Tribe of Levi series about the watches of the Tribe of Levi, that Korach had Divine Inspiration and foresaw that all 24 watches of the Levites would be descended from him. This was one among other reasons why Korach felt that he was special enough to be no less worthy of being the Cohen Gadol. And while Korach claimed "all of the nation is holy", he chose to believe that Moses, rather than Hashem, called the shots about the leadership positions.

The Zohar compares the fighting or decisiveness of Korach to what took place on the second day of Creation when there was a squabble between the higher waters and the lower waters. You see, following Hashem asking for the firmanent to split the waters up to higher and lower, the lower waters felt that they weren't spiritually lucky as the higher waters who were closer to Heaven, and hence were jealous. Addressing this issue, Hashem assured the lower waters that they would be used for the festivities of the water drawing in the Temple during the Succot holiday. However, because of the discord that took place on this day of the week, unlike all the other days of Creation in the Torah where it states after a stage of creation that "it was good" at least once, this phrase isn't mentioned even once for this day of Creation. To note, the Shir Shel Yom/Song of the Day for Yom Sheni/Monday that the Levites sang in the Temple was composed by the three sons of Korach who repented from the erroneous beliefs of their father at the last minute as the earth started swallowing people.

On Passover at the Seder table, we have three whole Matzot one on top of the other. One of the spiritual reasons given for particularly three Matzot is that they correspond to the three divisions of the Jewish people - Cohanim, Levites, and the rest of the Jews. Anyways, soon after the Seder begins, the middle Matza - that corresponds to the Levites - is divided into two parts; one part which stays with the other two Matzot which will be first eaten when Matza will be eaten for the first time this evening, and the other part is stored elsewhere until it's time to eat the final Matza of the evening. However, when splitting this Matza, we do not attempt to necessarily to split it evenly; rather, we purposely split it unevenly, and it is the smaller piece that stays sandwiched with the other two Matzot, and the bigger piece is saved for later.

So why is this middle Matza split into two in this fashion? It is true that the Matza is the bread of affliction, and hence splitting the Matza is a symbolism of this. But isn't this the precise time, the holiday that celebrates the birth of the Jewish nation being united upon leaving Egypt, that we look for the best way possible to maintain this level of unity rather than making splits, especially uneven splits? For after all, actions represent what we want things to be. We see that the prophets in the Bible at times did certain actions to symbolize an event that was to take place in the future, the action having some resemblance or obvious connection to the event-to-be. So, why would we want to make such an uneven split with the Matza, when unity for Jews is the name of the day?

Sometimes, things happen in life beyond our understanding. We are quick to say that it is no fair. After all, why should rotten people in the government have the big bucks while good, hard working, abiding citizens have to struggle to barely be able to pay the rent or mortgage? This is just one out of so many examples that can be brought that shows what we perceive as "injustice" in this world.

However, each and every one of us are responsible to an extent of what goes around us. To begin with, it starts with the family; and for many, it's the spouse. Many claim that in order for a marriage to work, it needs to be 50-50. This may kind of work in a divorce, which is something that the now exed couple should have practiced a little earlier in their withered marriage. However, upon closer examination, attempting to figure out what is 50-50 itself can lead to arguments because no two people perceive the exact same thing as to what is fair. In fact, only Hashem can know exactly what is truly 50-50. And so, not in all successful marriages will the 50-50 rule work. As a good friend of mine told me, it's what works. For some, it may be 60-40, 70-30, 80-20, or 90-10. You see, both have to be willing to give. But at times, it may be necessary based on certain circumstances to be a bigger giver than the other party. However, what should be the common goal of both spouses or business partners, or whatever other type of relationship is what is for the common good. And so, this is the lesson of the middle Matza, for the small piece of Matza is needed as an accessory to the Mitzva of eating the first Matza of the eating along with the top full piece of Matza, and the bigger piece that is set aside not remaining on the Seder table with the rest of the items gets to be eaten at the end of the meal.

And so, the fact that the middle Matza, representing the Levites, is the one that is chosen to be split, reminds us of what took place with Korach, who felt that the apportionment of leadership positions was done "unevenly". Perhaps if Korach would have looked at his own accomplishments, he would have come to realize that Hashem didn't want him to have a leadership position because he had other accomplishments to make instead, for not everyone can be an efficient leader, or be the type of leader that people will want or be able to relate to. Perhaps being such a wealthy person, people would not feel that he could relate to their physical or spiritual needs for that matter, even if he himself had the kindest soul in the world. And so, the lesson of the unevenly split Matza teaches us this very lesson.

However, this would not be complete if I were not to mention that the word Matza itself technically has the definition of decisiveness, or arguing. However, it won't take long to understand that there are times that fighting for the sake of Heaven can be a good thing; but that's it, if it's for the sake of Heaven. As we see in Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers (5:20), an example of an argument for the sake of Heaven were the arguments between Hillel and Shamai, while an example of an argument not for the sake of Heaven was the argument of Korach and his cohorts. Now, note that the Mishna does not say - the schools of Hillel and Shammai, for Hillel and Shammai themselves only had a handful of arguments between them. And note that it doesn't say the argument between Korach and Moses. You see, for the first case, even though the disciples of Hillel and Shammai were learning Torah and were in the midst of searching for what is the correct Halacha/Jewish Law, it wasn't 100% of the time for "the sake of Heaven". There were some of them who wanted to best the other party for their own benefit or political reasons, and so, it could only be said of Hillel and Shammai, who were great righeteous people, that their arguments between themselves were truly for the sake of Heaven. And as for Korach, Moses wasn't looking for a fight, as I mentioned earlier.

And speaking of Matza, this word is the Gematria of 135, the number of this post. And Chametz, which refers to leavened food that is forbidden to be eaten on Passover, represents what Korach became at the end from such an accomplished person to someone who became leavened, spoiled, soured, and wound up at the end being swallowed alive by the earth. To note, the Gematria of Chametz is 138, one more than the number 137 which represents the Tribe of Levi as the same age of the passing of Levi, ancestor of this tribe, as well as the age of the passing of Amram, father of Moses and Aaron. Hence, Korach in essence attempted not to simply be even with Moses or Aaron, but TO SURPASS THEM, due to his own status which he didn't realize was status enough for himself, along with being a Levite serving in the Mishkan in contrast with the rest of the Jewish people; however, he didn't realize his limits and instead sought to be ahead of everyone else. And even if for whatever reason, Korach would have been satisfied with Aaron being the Cohen Gadol, since after all, he was the son of the older brother of Korach's father, Korach certainly would not have put up with Aaron's son Elazar being the next Cohen Gadol based on Korach's rationale, since Korach, as Aaron's first cousin, would have felt that at the very least, he should be the next one in line pending Moses still being alive. You see, the names of Elazar, Aaron's son and Korach have the same Gematria of 308...

Ultimately, Korach's big problem was his Ga'avah/haughtiness, which is represented by the Chametz, the symbolism of Ga'avah, as the composite of Chametz is dough that rises, which we totally avoid on Pesach, the holiday on which the Jewish people became a nation, who are supposed to be subservient to Hashem as one united nation. Korach with his haughtiness behaved just the opposite of his first cousin Moses, of whom Scripture attests "The man Moses was humble more than anyone on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3).

One more thing before concluding Part Three of the Tribe of Levi series. Speaking of Number 135, let's turn to Psalm 135. OK, as I just mentioned in the previous paragraph that Matza is the Gematria of 135, in Psalm 135, the events of the Exodus that caused the celebration of Passover, the Feast of Matzot (Chag HaMatzot) are mentioned. But perhaps more importantly, bearing in mind the lesson of the LEVITE MATZA, we see that at the concluding verses of this psalm, it mentions in one verse "House of Aaron - Bless Hashem" and then beginning of the next verse, it states "House of Levi - Bless Hashem". I think this says it all.

And for our next post- Part Four, we will examine another of the Temple duties of the Tribe of Levi, particularly the Levites. Stay tuned.

5 Adar, 5772

#134 - Tribe of Levi: The 24 Watches (Part 2)

Without further ado, let's begin this post with Psalm 134, bearing the same number as the number of this post, the final one of the 15 psalms called the Song of Ascents (Psalms 120-134), recited by the Levites on special occasions in the Temple, such as at the water drawing festivities during the holiday of Succot. These psalms when recited in the Temple were recited one psalm per step from the Ezrat Nashim (women quarters) to the Ezrat Yisrael (area where only the men entered). It wound up being that the final Psalm 134 of the 15 Song of Ascents was recited on the top step, following which the Cohanim entered to do their priestly services, and the Levites resumed their singing when daylight would break. With this, we can understand the meaning of this psalm which consists of three verses "A Song of Ascents. Behold, all you servants of Hashem, who are standing in the House of Hashem at nights, bless Hashem. Raise up your hands in holiness and bless Hashem. May Hashem bless you from Zion, the One who makes heaven and earth".

A couple of questions can be asked on this last verse. Why is Hashem described particularly here as the "One whom makes heaven and earth" rather than some other type of description; for example, the holy One, the great One, or the One who took us out of Egypt as mentioned many times in our prayers and the Tanach/Bible? Also, what does it mean as "makes" in the present tense as though this is something that Hashem presently does when He already created the world some 5,772 years ago?

As we see in the Midrash, the Mishkan/Tabernacle or Beit HaMikdash/Temple is a microcosm of the world; meaning, the different parts of the House of Hashem corresponds to the various parts of creation. And practically speaking, just as people, especially the Jewish nation, are expected to behave a certain way in serving Hashem in the world at large; in the Temple, the place where the Divine Presence can be felt the most, there are special types of ritual that highlights the concept of serving Hashem, for outside the grounds of the House of Hashem, offering sacrifices for instance is forbidden, even if one has the best intentions in the world to serve Hashem, for this is a type of service of the King of Kings that is exclusive in His palace.

And while it is true that Hashem constantly renews the world since the time of creation as we say in our daily morning prayers "Who renews the work of creation in His goodness every day, always", so when we say in this psalm "the One who makes the heavens and earth"; as it relates to the Temple, performing the service in the House of Hashem is in effect renewing creation, for without the concept of serving Hashem, there would have been no useful purpose of Hashem creating this world. As mentioned in the Talmud (Tractate Ta'anit), if it weren't for the Ma'amadot "Posts" (as explained eloquently by the Jastrow dictionary - "A division (for the singular use of the word) of popular representatives deputed to accompany the daily services in the Temple with prayers, and also a corresponding division in the country towns, answering to the divisions/guards of Cohanim and Levites"), heaven and earth would not be in a state of existance. Of course one may ask that if the Temple with the Divine Service is presently not in operation, then how does the world still exist. For this, we have a verse that tells us how it's still possible for this world to continue to be in existance "...if not for My covenant day and night, I would not have places the statues of heaven and earth" (Jeremiah 33:25), and covenant refers to the Torah which is clearly the life force of this world's existance.

It's interesting to note that the concept of worshiping Hashem in the House of Hashem, in the context of the Beit HaMikdash/Temple, is mentioned especially in the FIFTEENTH and LAST psalm of the Song of Ascents. We find similarly in the Haggadah of Passover that there is a list of 15 things that Hashem provided us, beginning with the Exodus. The final one of this list is the Temple, because this is the final step for the ultimate spiritual state of the Jewish people to be able to serve Hashem in fulfillment of the Taryag Mitzvot/613 Commandments in their entirety. And speaking of serving Hashem, the first three generations of the Jewish people who served Hashem - our Avot/Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, lived in this world at the same time for 15 years. In fact, we see that on the day of Abraham's passing, who passed away five years earlier than he was supposed to thanks to his evil grandson Esau who turned to doing evil so Abraham would not die being aggrevated knowing this, that Esau, in order that his brother Jacob would give him beans that Esau was famished for following a day full of tiring sinful activities, sold his birthright, which was the service of the Kehuna/Priesthood which he initially entitled to as the firstborn, to Jacob. In this way, there was not even a day present since the day that Jacob, future ancestor of the Jewish people, was born, that went by without either the trio forefathers being alive simultaneously representing the concept of service of Hashem in groups of three as we will see shortly with the three posts of the Cohanim in the Temple, or that the rights and responsibilities of the Kehuna were in the right hands, when handed over from the forces of evil to the forces of good which was Jacob, the third of the Patriarchs.

Now, there was one type of service in the Temple that both Cohanim and Levites performed, unlike virtually the other types of services which were only performed by Cohanim or Levites. This is the Mitzva of guarding the Temple. Now, this was not done in order to prevent robbers, thieves, or unwanted people from entering, for in the early times, if a non-Cohen would walk in an area that was forbidden to him as a Cohen zoned area, he would immediately die by the hands of Heaven. Rather, the guarding that was performed was to show to the Temple and ultimately, to Hashem by standing at some area as a guard, the same way that is done in a palace as part of the respect shown for the king. As per the verse in the psalm "who stand in the House of Hashem at nights", this Mitzva of guarding was done specifically at nights, at a time when sacrifices were not offered.

Tractate Middot, the tractate that describes the details and measurements of the Temple, wastes not time immediately beginning off with the mention of Cohanim watching post at three areas, and the Levites at 21 areas. Without getting into detail of the exact places here, let us briefly examine the significance of the number of posts here. Yes, we count a total of 24 posts, but let us note the amount of posts per group. We see that the Cohanim performed watch at a total of one-eighth of the posts, and the Levites performed at watch at a total of seven eighths of the posts. Hence, we see here the concept of the number eight, which is the number that represents miracles that happen beyond nature, for as we see in Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers (5:8), a list of 10 miracles that took place in the Temple. Similarly, the Cohen Gadol, the ultimate representative of both the Cohanim and the Jews in the service of the Temple, wore a total of eight garments, and it was only with the Cohen Gadol that the breastplate that he wore was used to ask questions from Hashem, and the answer would light up among the letters that were etched in the stones of the breastplate, a phenomenon that existed nowhere else. It's also interesting to note that the Rambam/Maimonides begins the EIGHTH of the 14 volumes of Mishne Torah, his magnum opus which includes the laws of the Torah, with the laws of the Temple, consisting of EIGHT chapters.

Now, as far as the Ma'amadot were concerned, there were also a total of 24 watches, dividing up the amount of Cohanim and Levites into 24 respective groups, who served in the Temple, as well as 24 selected groups of non-Cohanim/Levites (some of whom officiated with their respective duties in Jerusalem, and others in other parts of Israel), as listed in Divrei Hayomim (Book of Chronicles) the 24th and final Sefer of the Tanach. Now, in the early days in the history of the Cohanim, there were only two existing sons of Aaron - Elazar & Ithamar, and hence only three Cohanim in the beginning (this is where it is learned out that Cohanim watched at three posts of the Temple, guess Aaron and his two sons didn't have too much sleep or time with their families between their day and night jobs in the Mishkan!). Meanwhile, Moses designated a number of watches from the future families of Elazar and Ithamar, which is subject of a difference of opinion in the Talmud (Ta'anit 27a) as to how many watches from each one that he designated. Some say that he designated four watches from each of the two sons of Aaron. Others say that he designated eights watches from each of the two. Whoever is correct, one thing that we do see that the number eight again stands out, also related to the concept of 24 watches, so in effect, the number eight was not related just to the Cohen Gadol especially, but to the Cohanim as well.

Now, we see that aside from the watches - the Cohanim and Levites had their respective duties, and if was a sin for either a Cohen or a Levi to perform a service that is the exclusive Mitzva of the group to whom were commanded to perform. However, it wasn't long after the Torah was given, that none other than a Levite cousin of Moses and Aaron would dare to challenge this. Stay tuned for Part Three of the Tribe of Levi series...

4 Adar, 5772

Saturday, February 25, 2012

#133 - Tribe of Levi: The 3 Levite Families (Part 1)

My dear friends, these five posts - #133 through #137 - will be a five part series pertaining to the Levitical tribe of which I belong as a Levi/Levite. I hope to keep each post relatively short, because what one post won't explain in its entirety will be explained in one or more of these other posts, as they will be related, but just differing with the focus of the particular post.

We see that in Exodus Chapter Six (in Parshat Va'era), seemingly out of nowhere, following Hashem telling Moses and Aaron to command Pharaoh to let the Jews out of Egypt, that the families of the first three tribes of Israel - Reuben, Shimeon & Levi - are mentioned. The bottom line reason for this was to trace the ancestry of Moses and Aaron, but this begins with Reuben being that in Jacob's blessings to his children on his deathbed, he had castigated these first three sins for their shortcomings. Hence, to make it up to them, as they were righteous people after all, the Torah allowed a special section to mention them alone. Now, although Levi was one of these three children, the end result is that his great grandchildren were the greatest Tzadikim/righteous people of all time - Moses & Aaron. But meanwhile, leading up to these two, the Torah mentions the ages of three generations before them - Levi, Kehath & Amram - with their respective ages at their passing as 137, 133, and 137. Why Hashem wanted it this way, I don't know. But what we do see is that Levi lived the longest of the tribes (aside from Joseph whose age of 110 is also mentioned in the Torah, we have a Midrashic tradition of the ages of the other tribes). But more on Levi and Amram of their age of passing in 137 in a future post. Today, in my 133rd Post, I will focus on the sandwiched Kehath whose age of passing was 133.

Kehath was one of the three sons of Levi, the other two being Gershon and Merari. Now, I should note that although almost all Jews who are Cohanim and Levi'im today know their tribal status, unlike most other Jews in the civilized, mainstream Jewish community (there are segments of peoples in particular places in this world who claim to be of some of the other tribes, no doubt being part of the Lost Ten Tribes, but this post is not the time to discuss this), I don't think that there are two many Levites today (not including the Cohanim who know for a fact that their parental line is from Kehath since they know they are from Aaron) who know which of these three Levite families they are descendants from. While among the Taryag Mitzvot/613 Commandments, this makes no practical difference, even in the times of the Temple, since there are specific commandments for all Levites across the board, Cohanim, and Cohen Gadol/High Priest, we do see that there were practical differences of those descended of one of these three Levite families in the times of the Mishkan/Tabernacle who performed one or another type of holy work.

While the other two Levitical families of Gershon & Merari were involved in the more physical type of labor related to the Mishkan, the Kehathites were considered more special in that they were the ones designated to carry the Holy Ark, which represents the Torah, as it contained both the Sefer Torah and the Ten Commandments tablets.

Now note, the truth is that this particular service was really meant for the Cohanim. In fact we see that nearly 40 years later, when the Jews came to Israel under the leadership of Joshua, it was the Cohanim who carried the Holy Ark. But since at the dedication of the Mishkan, the only Cohanim available were Aaron and his two sons Elazar & Ithamar (while his first two sons Nadab & Abihu perished on that very day), and they were busy enough as it is with the Priestly service in the Mishkan, it was this particular Levite family who held this responsibility. In fact, in the Maftir of Parshat Bamidbar, Hashem warns Moses and Aaron to see to it that the Kehathites don't screw up and not perform the service the right way so they wouldn't die, since the Holy Ark was the holiest object that existed in this universe.

OK, so Kehath son of Levi apparently must have been a greater Tzadik/righteous person than his two brothers to have merited to have the two greatest righteous men to be his grandchildren. In any case, since I mentioned that until the Cohanim became more numerous, the Kehathites performed certain duties that were in essence Priestly duties that later were only permitted for Cohanim exclusively, there must be some special connection with the whole Kehathite family as related to Aaron.

Actually, we are not far off. One need only look to Psalm 133, the number of the psalm that is the same age of Kehath at his passing, to see this connection in one of the shortest psalms in Tehilim consisting of three verses - "like the good oil on the head, going down on the beard, the beard of Aaron..." What does this supposed to mean? Well, we know that Aaron, as mentioned in the Parsha of this very week - Parshat Tetzaveh, was anointed with the anointing oil, which was applied on his head. So, who cares if some of it dripped on his beard? It doesn't mention anything in the Parsha of this oil as pertaining to his beard.

There is a very interesting Midrash on this. When Moses annointed Aaron with this oil, some of it wound up dripping on his beard. Aaron became frightened from this, because as we know, if one benefits from holy Temple objects without the permission of the Torah, one has committed the sin of Me'ila, desecration of such objects, and one is obligated to bring a guilt offering as well as paying not just the principal amount that one benefited from, but an extra fifth of it. Hence, Aaron worried that he committed a sin from benefiting from the oil that some of it dripped on his beard, even though he physically didn't even apply the oil himself. However, he felt that nevertheless, he still could have been responsible, since after all, he accidentally helped the Golden Calf be created, which caused the Jews to be punished for idolatry. Hence, Aaron felt that maybe this happened to him now, because really, he wasn't so worthy due to a past sin, even though that was unintentional.

To this, Moses assured him that he need not worry. If anything, this was a sign of blessing being that extra oil was dripping showing Hashem's abundance "for there, Hashem commanded the blessing".

And speaking of abundance, I want to show a unique Gematria as related to Kehath's name - in Hebrew as Kehat, the letters being Koof, Hei, Tav/Sav. Now, rearranging these letters, making Hei the first letter to spell a number as Hei-Tav-Koof, this spells the Hebrew number 5,500; being that Hei becomes a unit of thousand as 5,000 rather than its usual or plain Gematira as five when place in the beginning of a number (Hei:5,000, Tav:400+Koof:100=500). Yes, I am referring specifically to the Hebrew year 5,500, which was 272 years ago. Any connection here?

There is a most interesting piece of Zohar on Parshat Noach that notes that in the sixth century of the sixth millenium of the world's existance, there will be a flood of wisdom, paralleling Noah's age of 600 at the Flood of Noah. Indeed, we see that basically between the years 5,500-5,600, both major spiritual developments - the Hasidic & Yeshiva world as we know it today, as well as major materialistic developments - inventions that changed the world, took place.

Kehath, as the holiest of the three Levite families, was a spiritual depository of what was needed for the Mishkan, which paralled Hashem's creation of the world. Additionally, this family, highlighted by Aaron as the first Cohen Gadol, represented the ultimate spiritual service to Hashem, which is called Avodat Hashem. And the concept of Avodah in the materialistic sense is applicable particularly to the first six days of the week, in which we prepare for Shabbat. Similarly, the 6,000 years of the world's existance is a preparation for the ultimate Shabbat that the righteous will enjoy forever.

Hence, when dividing the 6,000 years into 12 parts, the time period of Years 5,500-5,600 represent the first part of the 12th and final 500 year period of the world's existance (we see in Kabbala that 500 years is used as the measurement of time between one spiritual world and the next). Accordingly, this period of time corresponds to the beginning of the daytime of the sixth day of the week, about which we see that the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Siman 250) tells us to arise early on Friday morning to make the preparations for Shabbat. Coincidence?

Another connection as related to the 12th and final period of the world's existance is that the Beit HaMikdash/Temple, successor of the Mishkan, was located mostly on the territory of the Tribe of Benjamin, the 12th and last of Jacob's sons. Hence, it was only fitting that the corresponding period of time should start off with major developments of the fountain of wisdom which ultimately comes from Hashem.

And speaking of the Temple, today - 3 Adar - marks the dedication of the Second Temple - Bayit Sheni.

That's it for Post 133. My next post, G-d willing, will be dealing with the various watches of the Tribe of Levi in the Temple, so stay tuned...

Third of Adar, 5772

Sunday, February 19, 2012

#132 - Are we in Hashem's Holy House or in a Club?

Today, we begin the week of Parshat Terumah, the Parsha in which the construction of the Mishkan/Tabernacle is described in detail. While Jews whose observance of Judaism is very minimal, and looking at this Parsha, will wonder how reading this Parsha is relevant in our lives when we no longer have the Mishkan or Beit HaMikdash/Temple for that matter, reading all the numbered measurements, not understanding how this is relevant in their lives, a Jew who learns Torah understands that first of all, everything in the Torah is somehow relevant in our lives; and even if we don't understand how it does, we know for a fact that the Mitzva of learning Torah alone is the greatest Mitzva, but between Rashi, the Talmud, the Midrash, the Zohar, etc., one cannot help but see that we have plenty to learn from Parshiyot such as this one.

I will get back to this topic a little later on in this post. But first, I want to mention something in the way of Gematriot that I was well able to relate to, especially this year.

As an introduction, these past six weeks, the weeks of the Parshiyot Shemot through Mishpatim, are known in Kabbalistic circles as the weeks of Shovavim, this word being the acronym of the first letters of the names of these six Parshiyot - Shemot (Shin), Va'era (Vav), Bo (Beit/Veit), Beshalach (Beit/Veit), Yitro (Yud), Mishpatim (Mem). Now mind you, the word Shovavim isn't just a word as an acronym of these Parshiyot - this is an actual word that you will find mentioned three times in the entire Tanach/Bible, particularly in Sefer Yirmiyah/Book of Jeremiah (3:14,3:22,50:6), which means wayward or faithless, in the context referring to the Jewish people who were well misbehaved in the times of Jeremiah, who was the prophet that announced and was around for the destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash. The particular place in Jeremiah which is quoted as per the weeks of Shovavim is where it states "Return, O wayward sons, I (Hashem) will heal your waywardness..." (3:22). While it hardly did any good in Jeremiah's days, the Tanach, especially the prophecies of the Tanach, are no less relevant in our days, both in the way of learning how to be better Jews and in terms of the prophecies that were stated then are prophecies for the End of Days, which has already begun with the present war of Gog U'Magog, which I have mentioned before in this Gematriot blogspot.

This is all very nice you may note, though the word Shovavim is a negative connotation, and in fact, may be of a wonder to some, being that some of the greatest accomplishments of the Jewish people took place in these Parshiyot - the Exodus and the Giving of the Torah. But when we start reading the beginning of Parshat Shemot, we see that it didn't take long for the Jews to become slaves, which didn't involve just physical slavery, but also was a spiritual slavery. In fact, the spiritual slavery began before the actual physical hard work, because the Jews to begin with, aside from the Tribe of Levi who were always involved with learning Torah and hence never became slaves to Pharaoh, were looking more or less to be part of the cultural Egyptian society. This mistake cost them 116 years, and it was only thanks to Hashem's graciousness that He freed them as early as He did, for technically, they were really supposed to be slaves for 400 years according to the literal Divine decree.

In our own lives, we also experience the slavery of Mitzrayim, as we read this word as Meitzarim, the same word but just with different Hebrew vowels, which means straits or limitations. When we don't live our spiritual lives properly, as we let distractions get in the way, we are indeed enslaves to our base desires and temptations. And as the Kabbalists note pertaining to these six weeks of Shovavim, this is especially an opportune time to repent especially of our sins that are related to sexual immorality, not only in deed, but also in speech and even - and especially - thought, for it is the thought that brings us to do either good or evil to begin with. And hence, it is only when we take the step of our own personal Exodus from our spiritual slavery, and make a concerted effort to do better, it is then and only then that we are truly accepting the Torah on ourselves, though we in fact did accept the Torah thousands of years ago (even the souls of those who weren't born yet were present at the Giving of the Torah).

There have been many Gematriot noted in relationship to this whole Shovavim period. However, a few key ones will highlight the points that I want to make today.

To first note, in Jewish leap years, the "Shovavim" weeks are extended for two more weeks. What I mean by this is that although the entire year is a time of repentance at any time that we want to seriously repent of any and all sins that we may have committed, though the Ten Days of Repentance beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur is the most important time because this is the period that we are judged in, these Shovavim weeks are practical to people who also fast, give extra charity, learn extra Torah, etc. Now while I don't quite get the extra two weeks in terms of being a leap year, for if Shovavim is the acronym for the Parshiyot of six weeks, then this is the way it should be for every year. In any case, since this year was not a leap year, the total amount of days in this auspicious period were 42 days.

With this said, the Shovavim period of this year was in my 42nd year of life. And so, there is something that I have to offer to the table here. You see, to begin with, the very first word of Parshat Shemot, the word that precedes the word Shemot, is V'Eileh ("these"), which is the Gematria of 42. Moreover, the first word of the last of these six Parshiyot - Parshat Mishpatim, which precedes the word HaMishpatim, is also V'Eileh. As especially pertaining to yesterday, Shabbat Parshat Mishpatim, the 42nd and final day of this Shovavim period, the Torah reading began with the word V'Eileh which is the Gematria of 42.

Perhaps one lesson that we can learn from here is that regardless of what point in our lives we decide to do the right thing and get rid our desire for sins that only hold us back spiritually, which could be something eternal if they don't repent, even if it is late in our short and fleeting lives, as long as we can still breathe and are conscious, we can still repent. Each and every day of this 42 day period is not only part of one set of time, but each and every day of this period has its own unique qualities as part of this period of time, and so even the last day of this period if one hasn't done anything sooner, especially with the holiness of Shabbat, can be a springboard for one to resolve to repent.

Now, in earlier times, the typical expression of repenting of certain sins, especially for sins related to sexual immmorality, was fasting. According to Kabbalah, one needs to fast 84 times for each such sin committed. However, in the more recent generations when our strength isn't the way it was for people at one time, fasting in the sense of not eating can be more spiritually harmful than helpful, for if one doesn't have the strength that one has on regular days from eating, then one may be lax in doing Mitzvot/commandments, or not doing them so well or properly, including learning Torah. Around a hundred years ago, a Sephardic rabbi instituted what is called Ta'anit Dibur, fasting through speech, that is, not talking anything mundane other than words of Torah. In fact, there are booklets of various prayers and Torah passages to be recited when a Ta'anit Dibur is observed, in repentance for one's sins, aside from the positive benefit of holding back from saying Lashon Hara/slander or Rechilut/gossip, among the worst of sins. Other forms of atonement in lieu of not eating is giving extra Tzadaka/charity, and of course Limud HaTorah, learning Torah, especially when one learns the parts of Torah that help one quick his bad spiritual habits, being made to realize that this world is a temporary place, and whatever one accomplishes spiritually good is what he takes with him forever, and nothing else.

More on this last point shortly, but I do want to point out to an amazing find in relationship to Shovavim that I discovered in the Hidden Codes of the Torah. Spelling the word Shovavim equidistantly in the Chumash, the SHORTEST spelling of this word in the Chumash is in the first Aliyah of Parshat Shemot, which is customarily learned on the first day of this week (Exodus 1:11-14), every 29th letter being spelled to form this word (spelled in reverse). Taking a closer look, these are THE VERY VERSES DESCRIBING THE DETAILS OF THE HARD BREAKING WORK OF THE JEWS' EGYPTIAN SLAVERY! Hence, the message of Shovavim is loud and clear for all to hear - and see. For in fact, the Torah is telling us that the Egyptian slavery that the Jews endured is a hint to the spiritual slavery that we find ourselves in, and so right from the first day, as soon as we realize this message, we need to immediately start internalizing it, because after all, we never know what day will be our last in this earth, and then, all the excuses in the world won't help upstairs if we didn't even begin to do something towards the righteous path.

In terms of the shortest equidistant spelling of the word Shovavim in all of the Tanach, we see that this occurs in Psalms 97, verses 6-8 (also spelled in reverse), being spelled every 14th letter. As we know from a Midrash, the Psalms 90-100 were composed by Moses, each psalm in honor of one of the tribes. Psalm 97 corresponds to the Tribe of Joseph. And as we know about Joseph himself, he avoided a major sexual temptation, and hence, earned the title of HaTzadik - The Righteous, as a result of this. Coincidence?

Now, getting back to learning of Torah that can have an influence on us to better our ways; while in fact, ALL parts of the Torah is supposed to influence us in some way to better our spiritual lives, whether it is Chumash with Rashi, the Tanach, the Talmud, Halacha - Jewish law in which we learn how we observe the Mitzvot the proper way, etc., the part of the Torah that teaches us how to live our Jewish lives spiritually, more than just mere ritual, but getting rid of our bad habits, and working on acquiring good habits, realizing that this world is temporary, that we can be either lower than animals or higher than angels depending on our actions, and that we have to realize that we have to live with the realization that there is another world, which is eternal, where we will live according to our actions in this world, is called MUSSAR. This is often translated as ethical instruction or chastisement.

In the entire Chumash, this word Mussar appears exactly one time "the Mussar (chastisement) of Hashem your G-d" (Deutronomy 11:2). In the entire Tanach, Sefer Mishlei/Book of Proverbs mentions this word some 30 times, more than all of the other books of the Tanach, for indeed, this book, a composition of the wisest of all men - King Solomon, makes us aware of the futility of life, instructing us on how to better ourselves, in effect, is the first Mussar Sefer in existance. Since then, many are what called Mussar Seforim (Mussar books) have been written.

This concept of Mussar is especially relevant to this Shovavim period. But more than just this, I want to point out to a Gematria find that I found in Parshat Mishpatim. But first, I want to note that this year, Shabbat Parshat Mishpatim, the last day of the Shovavim period, fell out on the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yisroel (Lipkin) Salanter - 25 Shevat(5643/1883), founder of the Mussar movement, who emphasized the study of Mussar in Yeshivot whose primary learning was the study of the Talmud. However, while all parts of the Torah help us become better Jews, Rabbi Salanter realized that without the study of Mussar, one could study the Talmud merely as an intellectual exercise without thinking of the ultimate purpose of learning Torah as the Torah of Hashem, rather than some findings as of some professor or scientist. In fact, he said that it is easier to master the entire Talmud than changing one character trait.

With this said, let's turn to the seventh Aliyah of Parshat Mishpatim, which many learn on Shabbat as the seventh day of the week. Now, while Matan Torah/Giving of the Torah, took place in the previous Parsha of Parshat Yitro, the end of Parshat Mishpatim relates some more details surrounding this period of time. The day before the Torah was given, it mentions at one point that "He (Moses) took the Sefer HaBrit (Book of the Covenant) and he read it for the nation to hear, who declared (after hearing this) "All that Hashem has spoken, we will do and we will hear"" (Exodus 24:7). While various rabbis and commentators debate as to exactly what this Sefer HaBrit consisted of, the fact that this book was called "The Covenant", the same wording as used not only for the Torah, but also for the Brit Milah/circumcision, highlights the point that in fact, one of the requirements that the Jews needed before the giving of the Torah was circumcision, just as a non-Jew who converts to Judaism goes through circumcision as one of the ways of becoming officially Jewish.

Along the lines of repenting of sexual sins is the concept brought of Shemirat HaBrit "Watching the Covenant"; for while the beginning of this process is circumcision which curbs a bit of the sexual desire, this is done to us when are only eight days old. However, our life long job is to maintain our level of purity and go even higher, instead of doing things that will contaminate the spirituality as related to our sexual organ which, aside from our restroom needs, is supposed to be used solely for being with one's mate primarily for the purpose of having children. Aside from this, satisfying our sexual lust in other ways are strictly forbidden, however tempting it may be. However, even for those who have sinned in these matters, there is also room for repentance, not only in making the change for oneself, but to spread this awareness to others to counter effect, and at times, to convert to good, the spiritual damage caused by such sins.

So, in terms of Mussar and the Brit, the word HaBrit "The Covenant", has the same Gematria (617) as one of the Mussar Seforim that is called Sheivet Mussar (Rod of Mussar), authored by Rabbi Eliyahu HaCohen. And believe it or not, this author's name and title Eliyahu HaCohen is the Gematria of the number of this post - 132! As far the name of this Sefer, this is a phrase that appears once in the entire Tanach - in the Biblical Book of Mussar - Sefer Mishlei (Proverbs 22:15). In fact, the Sefer "Sheivet Mussar" mentions this verse in Proverbs once in his Sefer, so let me quote here the paragraph in this Sefer that quotes this verse from which he derived the name of this Sefer, which will also, by the way, give you a taste of what this Sefer is like:

"Some say that one's evil nature rules; and hence, Mussar won't do any good for a person! However, this is nothing short of vain words and falsehood. Addressing this very issue, King Solomon, may peace be upon him, stated (Proverbs 22:15): "Foolishness is tied up in the heart of a lad, but the ROD OF CHASTISEMENT will keep it far from him". This means to say that even though this evil nature (of foolishness) is tied up in the heart of a lad; nevertheless, all it takes is a little rod of chastisement to keep it far from him. It is also mentioned (earlier in the same chapter in Proverbs 22:6): "Educate/Train a lad by his way, for even when he gets old, this education/training will not depart from him". Similarly, we see many places in Proverbs where King Solomon warns about chastisement of children. If so, what we see that it is habit that is the ultimate thing that controls a person - not nature. For if one will not be trained with awe of authority and chastisement when young, then even when he grows up (physically, but not necessarily with maturity or spirituality), he won't grant awe and honor either to his Father in Heaven, or to his parents, so how will he merit length of days (Note: this could possibly refer to both in this world and the next)" (Shevet Mussar 17:4)

Anyways, we see that with the word Sheivet, aside from the Hebrew vowels, it is the same word as the name of this month Shevat in which we always read Parshat Mishpatim, the conclusion of this Shovavim period (in a non-leap year such as this one), the month in which the founder of the Mussar movement passed away. And so, perhaps the Torah is hinting to this very Sefer via Gematria when it mentions the Sefer HaBrit.

Another point as related to the Gematria of the name of this Sefer relates to the dual parts of human beings - man and woman, which in Hebrew is Ish & Isha. As it turns out, these two Hebrew words, which are related to each other as we see in Genesis Chapter when Adam's wife Eve was created from his rib, are the respective Gematriot of the two words of the name of this Sefer: Sheivet-Ish (311) & Mussar-Isha (306). But perhaps what is even more amazing is that these two words Ish-Isha are written as consecutive words exactly three times in the entire Tanach - and of all places, in Parshat Ki Teitze, the Parsha with the most Mitzvot of the Torah - 74, which mentions various Mitzvot as related to marriage. Additionally, Parshat Ki Teitze is the 49th Parsha of the Torah, and the day that Moses read the Sefer HaBrit, whose phrase is the Gematria of the Ish-Isha wording, took place on the 49th day of the original Sephira count of the Jewish people following the Exodus (the date of 5 Sivan)! And what is so special about this number 49? It is the square root of the number seven. Accordingly, just as the Jewish people counted seven weeks following the Exodus in their preparation of receiving the Torah when they went to the Mikva (ritual bath) right before the Torah was given in their final purification process, so too does a Niddah (menstruant woman) following the days that she is bleeding, count afterwards seven clean days, following which she goes to the Mikva to be pure once again for her husband, resuming the full Ish-Isha relationship.

In terms of repenting of sexual sins and attaining sexual purity in the terms of Shmirat HaBrit - watching of the Holy Covenant, the Brit Mila, and Shmirat Einayim - watching of the eyes from seeing things that tempt us to sin, the only permitted type of sexual activity is between the Ish & Isha, who are called particularly with these wordings for man & woman rather than other terms in Hebrew, because it is these terms specifically that refer to the husband and wife, as we see with the first marriage of the first couple in the world - Adam & Eve.

We see that the Mitzva of learning/teaching Torah comes from the phrase of V'Shinantam L'Vaneich V'Dibarta Bam "You shall teach them diligently to your childen and you shall speak of them", where the word Bam (of them) consists of the letters that spell the number 42 in Hebrew. And so, it is this last day of the Shovavim period, the 42nd day, on which Parshat Mishpatim ends about some of the details pertaining to the Giving of the Torah when we mention this Sefer HaBrit and the famous declaration that the Jews made with their official acceptance of the Torah "Na'aseh V'Nishma" - We will do and we will hear (Note: The word V'Nishma "we will hear" has the same letters as my first name Shimon), that especially relates to the Mitzva of Torah learning. In fact, the word Shovavim itself is the Gematria of the acronym Shas (360), which are the letters for Shisha Sedarim, the Six Orders (of the Mishna) which is used primarily in reference of the Talmud, which includes the Gemara. Moreover, on Shabbat Mishpatim of this year, we especially read for the Maftir, the section of the Torah called Shekalim (Exodus 30:11-16) referring to the half-Shekel that every Jew gave for the needs of the Mishkan, which is always read on Shabbat Mishpatim in a non-leap year except when Rosh Chodesh Adar falls out on Shabbat when we read this special section then after the Torah reading of Parshat Terumah. And as we know, Torah study in this world survives thanks to the generous donation of other's monies. Accordingly, the word Shekalim is the same Gematria as the word Talmud (480).

Now, aside from the fact that the Shovavim period is now over, though it is never too late to repent as long as we are still breathing and conscious in this world, you may ask, "This is all very nice. But, what does it have to do with the title of this post?

For this, let's take a look at the first Rashi of last week's Parshat Mishpatim: Wherever in the Torah - it states the word Eileh "These" without the prefix Vav (which literally means "and"), it doesn't relate to the previous subject just mentioned. V'Eileh "And these" on the other hand, adds to the previous subject, telling us in this instance that just as the Mitzvot from the end of the previous Parsha - Parshat Yitro - was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, so are these Mitzvot that will be stated here. More particularly, why are the laws of justice in this Parsha placed next to the laws of an altar in the previous Parsha? To tell us that the Sanhedrin (the Supreme Court of Justice) is located on the Temple grounds".

So as we see, there is an intrinsic connection between the Temple and Torah learning, as indeed, the verse tells us "for from Zion will Torah will go out forth, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem" (Isaiah, 2:3; Micah 4:2). And as far as atonement of sins is concerned, we see that both Torah learning and the Temple were in the forefront of this. Torah learning: When the sons of Eli the High Priest were misbehaving with the Divine Service in the Tabernacle, Hashem announced that never again would they or their descendants be atoned for through the sacrifices that they so despised, using them for their own pleasure of eating rather than follow the Jewish laws carefully pertaining to the meat of these sacrifices. However, the rabbis learn out from this that they can be atoned for through Torah learning. The Temple: We see in the Passover Hagada in the list of favors that Hashem did for us from time of the Exodus, the final one of the 15 is the Temple "to atone for our sins".

Getting back to our Parsha which is about the details of the building of the Mishkan, the verse states "You shall make for Me a Sanctuary so I can live within them" (Exodus 25:8). Question: What does the verse mean by the word "them"? Is the Sanctuary a plural type of building that this is referred to as "them"? Or, perhaps the Torah is referring to something else that means "them"? And to the rescue, the Midrash states that Hashem will live "within the midst of each and every Jew". Yes, we may have the physical Sanctuary, as nowadays, our synagogues and study days have the classification of being called a mini-Sanctuary (Tabernacle, Temple) "Mikdash Me'at", but the ultimate place of Hashem's holiness has to be felt within each and everyone of ourselves. To illustrate this a bit, once the Ba'al Shem Tov, among his many journeys with his disciples, chanced upon a big synagogue smack in the midst of a town. However, though it was time to pray, the Ba'al Shem Tov would not step foot in it. (Nowadays, this may happen with some "Orthodox" Jewish rabbis who won't pray in a Conservative or Reform "temple" being that their structure and basis of their existence is based on going against Jewish tradition and laws). So of course his disciples asked him why we wouldn't enter this big synagogue. The Ba'al Shem Tov replied: "It is full of prayers that never made it upstairs as they were not proper prayers".

Now, a Jew who learns Halacha/Jewish Law, will know that there are several qualifications for both preparedness for prayers and the prayers themselves. Needless to say, or rather, we need to say, that if we are talking to the King of Kings, we should be well aware of what we are saying to him when we pray - to both understand and thinking of what we are saying to Him, and not speaking as robots without any feeling or meaning of these words just because they happened to be the words presented in the Siddur/prayer book. Of course, as human nature may seem to dictate, we don't always get it all right, and we let ourselves get distracted from various factors in life, thinking of what's going around us. However, along the lines that I mentioned a little earlier about habit vs. nature in training youth to follow the right way, we can hope that eventually, we will get it right for the most part, but it starts with the belief that we can make the change if we sincerely believe that it is possible. While we may not have full concentration on our prayers 100% of the time, certainly some of the time is better than none of the time.

In terms of communal prayer in a house of worship, there are very strict rules about not talking - especially in the midst of these prayers. While occasionally, we may forget ourselves for a moment, especially when we see a good friend of ours enters the synagogue, whom we haven't seen in a while; blatant talking to another not only is sinning oneself, but is causing the one to whom he is talking to also sin by causing him to talk, as well as distract other worshipers who are attempting to hear the cantor or Torah reading, when at times, certain holy words such as Amen, Yehei Shemei Rabba, etc, are recited. Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) states outright (Orach Chaim Siman 127) about such a person who has total disregard of Hashem's house of worship "his sin is greater than can be borne, and we shout at him to stop". Now normally, it is forbidden to shame a Jew in public, even if he committed a sin such as eating non-kosher, and need to be approached rather in a way that won't be embarrassing to him so long as he doesn't show to be openly mocking the Torah. However, someone who talks freely as if in a social bar or club openly mocks the Torah, having the great Chutzpa to be behaving the way as he is in Hashem's Holy House in public preventing not only himself from being attentive to the prayers or Torah reading (which is in effect Hashem speaking to us), but preventing one or more people from doing the same. And along these lines, the Chofetz Chaim notes that quite often, these types of conversations are not merely just any words, but words that are the greatest of sins - slander and gossip about other Jews, in which each and every word is anothe sin, or rather, consists sometimes of many sins (up to 31 sins! - See the beginning of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim). And so, the ultimate Chutzpa of such a guy causing not only himself, but at least one other Jew with speaking and hearing conversation in the midst of prayers that are often filled with slander on the holy Shabbat; indeed, there is no end of Gehinom/Hell for such a person. Of course the guy didn't just murder someone, but in certain ways, he is even worse than a murderer who just took someone else's physical life; for causing others to sin, murdering someone spiritually is EVEN WORSE than murdering someone only phsyically.

Many years back in South Florida, I was the Torah reader for a synagogue that was called the "California Club Shul", for although this was in Florida, the area in which this Shul was located was called California Club. I'll never forget the time that an elderly cantor who performed services for this Shul during the High Holidays commented that we should change the "numen" (means name in Yiddish) of the Shul, for it is not proper that such a place should be called a club. Don't know how aware he was of the reason why this Shul was named as such, but certainly, better that a Shul that is named "Club" where there is respect for a Shul, then a Shul with some "heilige numen" (holy name) in which big "Machers", the ones who support the Shul with their big money feel that because of their financial status, it is OK for them to say what they want and when, since after all, so one will "dare tell them" to keep quiet during the prayers. Very unfortunately, this is what happens in some synagogues, but in Hashem's eyes, it is the simple Jews, the ones who care about Halacha who have respect for a Shul, who while they don't have a whole lot of money to give to help support Hashem's Holy House, their respect for the Shul means MILLIONS OF TIMES MORE to Hashem than the easy money that these Machers throw for the Shul's upkeep and the herring Kiddush at which they stuff their faces and speak freely about other Jews who aren't of their financial standing.

Interestingly, the word CLUB in Hebrew can be technically spelled as Koof, Lamed, Beit, the very number in Hebrew for the number of this post - 132! In fact, this was the very spelling of this word on the Sefer Torah cover for the first Sefer Torah that was donated to the California Club Shul. In another use of this number, some recite the following verse as the first thing that they recite as they enter a synagogue "How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel" which are rabbis say refer to the synagogues and the study halls. But what is ironic is that this verse was recited by none other than the evil Bilam, who sought to curse the Jews; but instead, found himself blessing the Jews, as Hashem directed his mouth. And this takes place in Parshat Balak, a Parsha that is named after Balak, the Moabite king who hated the Jews so much, that he hired Bilam to curse them. Anyways, the name Balak, when spelled backwards in Hebrew, also spells the number 132! Perhaps Hashem is hinting to us that the synagogue and places where Torah is learned are supposed to be just the opposite of what a club represents which is total looseness of oneself, laughing and mocking of others. In short, it has to be one or the other - you can't have your cake and eat it too, not if you want to treat a house of prayer and Torah learning as a holy place, for there is nothing holy or spiritual about the behavior of a "club" type of life.

But this is not the end of Balak. You see, he had a descendant named Ruth who converted to Judaism, whose story is the Book of Ruth, the shortest of the 24 books of the Tanach, and her great grandson was Dovid HaMelech/King David. And of the 150 psalms of Tehillim/Psalms under his authorship, what is Psalm 132? It is one of the few psalms in Tehillim that show his unique relationship with Hashem, including his quest for finding Hashem's House and resting place, which of course refers to the future Temple that he sought to build. As it turns out, it was meant for his son Shlomo HaMelech/King Solomon to be the one under whose kingship it would be built, but we see that credit is still given to King David for being the one responsible for the building of the Temple, since after all, it was him and Shmuel HaNovi/Samuel the Prophet who together discovered exactly where the Torah wanted the Temple to be built. To note, this psalm is the longest of the 15 Song of Ascents (Psalms 120-134).

Now, on a personal note before I conclude this post, being that my daughter whose Hebrew name Tamar Tzadika was born just like a couple months ago, I have been using the Hidden Codes of the Torah to see about any hints regarding her or her name. Knowing that the name Tamar in Hebrew which consists of only three letters, can be spelled equidistantly tens of thousands of times, I figured that I would play a bit with her second name Tzadika which consists of five Hebrew letters, and additionally, the letters Tzadi, Dalet, and Koof are among the lesser used letters in the Torah; hence, zeroing on a possible place in the Torah where an equidistant spelling of this name can be found. In fact, it can't be found even as a consecutive letter spelling in the entire Chumash. So, using the Chumash, I found an amazing discovery.

I looked for the least spelled equidistant spelling of this name. And where is this? In the seventh Aliyah of Parshat Mishpatim (in verses 6-12 of Exodus Chapter 24), the major subject of this post in relationship to the 42nd and last day of the Shovavim period! In my case, my daughter Tamar Tzadika was born in my 42nd year. Is this coincidence? Certainly my daughter's name is not, and the proof is that the one thing that people have Ruach HaKodesh/Divine Inspiration for nowadays, as our rabbis tell us, is for naming their children. But wait, this is not all. Her name Tzadika spelled equidistantly in the least amount of letters is spelled every 81st letter. And mentioning a little earlier here about square roots, the square root of 81 is nine. And Yesod/Foundation, the ninth Sephira of the 10 Sephirot, represents sexual purity as well as the righteous person/Tzadik, and the feminine form of this word is Tzadika! This is found in the very section of the Torah which speaks of the final preparations that the Jews made in their readiness of receiving the Torah, representing the concept of being Tahor/pure, and the sixth and final volume of the Mishnayot is called Taharot/Purities, which corresponds to Yesod as the sixth of the active Sephirot. Speaking of which, within the midst of these verses, read what it says (verse 10) - K'Ma'asei Livnat HaSapir U'Chetzem HaShamayim LaTohar "like the work of a sapphire brick and like the purity of the midst of the sky", the description of what the elite of the Jewish people saw when they were starting to ascend Mt. Sinai with Moses. As we see in the Hebrew, the words Sapir and Tohar are very similar to the words Sephira/Sephirot and Tahor/Teharot.

However, this would not be complete without noting the following in relationship to this. The letter Tzadi of the name in the equidistant spelling is found in the very verse in which the various parts of the Torah that Hashem says that He will give to Moses, is mentioned (see Talmud Berachot 5a). The letter Tzadi is found particularly in the word V'HaMitzva "and the Commandment", which our rabbis tell us refers to the Mishna, noting that my daughter Tamar Tzadika was born on 15 Kislev, the Yahrzeit of Rebbe, the compiler of the six orders of the Mishna! (Note, the Mishna that Hashem gave over to Moses was not allowed to be written down but only to be passed orally from one generation to the next. It was only in Rebbe's time when he feared what would happen to Torah learning with the suffering of the Jewish people, that based on a verse, knew that it was the correct thing to write down the teachings of the Mishna at that point and time to prevent the Torah from being forgotten).

And as connected with the following Parsha, which is called Parshat Terumah, my daughter's first name Tamar are all in the name of the Parsha of this week, immediately following the end of Parshat Mishpatim with the closest equidistant spelling of my daughter's second Hebrew name Tzadika. Coincidence? We know that everyone and all events, as mentioned by the Vilna Gaon, are hinted to somewhere in the Chumash. Indeed, the words Terumah/donation or contribution - which includes the letters of the name Tamar, and Tzedaka/charity which is closely resembled by the name Tzadika which just includes the Yud in them middle of this name, are most related to each other to the concept of donating charity, and are used very frequently when speaking of Tzedaka in Israeli society today. Truly amazing! And as mentioned earlier, Tzedaka is mentioned as one of the ones of atoning for sexual sins, mentioning earlier about giving charity in lieu of 84 fasts, and the number 84 is twice the number of 42. Moreover, we call giving Tzedaka in lieu of fasting as a substitution, which in Hebrew is called Temurah, using the same letters as the word Terumah. In fact, the word Temurah is even closer to the name Tamar because it is using the same letters as Tamar - in order of its letters.

So, now that we are in prepare mode of praying in a holy place, my next five posts will be dealing with the group of Jews who are the role models for the rest of the nation serving Hashem in the House of Hashem - the Tribe of Levi which includes both Cohanim and Levites. Stay tuned shortly...

26 Shevat, 5772