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.

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