Monday, April 30, 2012

#140 - TWICE the Deal

While today is not necessarily a date that I especially celebrate in public, it does mark a special event that took place in my life exactly 42 years ago. If you read my previous post, you will probably have figured out by now that today is the day of my Brit Mila/Circumcision.

While girls get named in the synagogue usually at the first occasion that the Torah is read like it was with my baby daughter, circumcision day for boys also means that this is the day that their Hebrew name is given. So, while I was born a week earlier, today's circumcision day also celebrates the day that I was given my name Shimon.

As you can see in the title of this post, I have intent to focus on the number TWO. However, before I get into this part, I should note something about the number eight, since after all, it is on the eighth day of a Jewish baby boy's life, as it was with me (only if the baby is not healthy or strong enough as determined by a physician to be able to have the circumcision on time is it delayed) that the circumcision is performed. In my case, there are quite a few more eights as related to myself, and I truly believe that the number eight is my lucky number: 1)My EIGHTH DAY was also the EIGHTH DAY of Iyar. 2)The phrase Yom Shemini "EIGHT DAY" is the Gematria of my name Shimon - 466, which was given to me on my EIGHTH DAY - the EIGHTH DAY of Iyar. 3)My name Shimon itself is quite similar to the words Shemoneh (eight) or Shemini (eighth). 4)I began learning in a Yeshiva day school in my EIGHTH year. 5)I made Aliyah on the EIGHTH official flight of Nefesh B'Nefesh (at the end of '04). 6)I felt a special spiritual urge to give myself my second Hebrew name Matisyahu, naming myself after the one in the Chanuka story who was responsible for the EIGHT day holiday. 7)I had my Ufruf (being called to the Torah on the Shabbat before the wedding), my wedding, and my Sheva Berachot all during the EIGHT day holiday of Chanuka.

Now, the full phrase in Hebrew for the word circumcision is Brit Mila, it is often referred to simply as Brit, which seems to be literally translated as covenant, which is also used in the Torah to refer to the Torah, the Sabbath, and Israel. Before anything else, I want to note that on a personal level, being that it was exactly 42 years ago since my Brit Mila on this date, the initials of the phrase Brit Mila - Beit, Mem - spells the Hebrew number 42. With this said, the word Brit begins with the letter Beit, which is the numerical value of two. This is most appropriate, because the Mitzva of Brit is the SECOND Mitzva/Commamdment of the Torah. Moreover, dissecting the word Brit, you have the first letter Beit, and then when you rearrange the remaining letters, they spell the word Trei which means two. This is very similar to the word Totafot that the Torah uses to refer to Tefillin/phylacteries, on which Rashi at the end of Parshat Bo notes that this unusual word is composed of two words from two different languages that both mean the number two, since the Tefillin Shel Rosh that is placed on the head is composed of four (two & two) compartments each containing a section from the Torah that includes the Mitzva of Tefillin.

Now, while we are on the subject of Tefillin, both the ones for the head and hand each contain the same four sections from the Torah (except that the Tefillin that is put on the arm has only one compartment in which the parchment of the Torah sections is placed in). Additionally, the box part of the Tefillin, which is supposed to be perfectly square, and hence containing four sides (aside from top and bottom) is called a Bayit/home, which is etymologically related to the word for the letter Beit which is the numerical value of two, And in the Talmud, we see that the word Bayit can also refer to the woman of the home.

With this said, we know that women are exempt from the Mitzva of Tefillin. The basic reason given why women are exempt from performing many Mitzvot of the Torah is because these Mitzvot that woman are exempt from are based on a time frame (though there are exceptions to this where women are obligated like all the Mitzvot related to Passover), and as we know, Tefillin can only be worn during the daytime, because women have a most important role with their time to raise their Jewish children while their husbands are out working or learning Torah. But as especially related to Tefillin, it is not necessary for women to wear Tefillin because they already embody the spiritual concept of a Bayit, being on a higher spiritual level (though I am not going to get into detail on this in this post), and it is the men who need to fill their spiritual needs with wearing the Bayit of the Tefillin. And as also related to the number four, as we see in the song Echad Mi Yodea in the Haggadah, there are Arba Imahot - the Four Matriarchs who are Sara, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.

Hence, the fact that only baby boys have a Brit and not baby girls means that the girls are on a higher spiritual level that doesn't require them to have a Brit (Note: Unlike circumcision for boys that is also performed by some in the non-Jewish world which has been proven to have health benefits, what is called female circumcision is a most barbaric act that has long term/lifelong damages, and is performed by some in the Moslem world claiming it to be a religious practice when this is not even mentioned in the Koran!). And as notes by our rabbis, Hashem purposely left the body uncomplete with the membrum needing to be cicumcised, though logic - without knowing scientific knowledge on this subject - may seem to dictate the opposite with claims (which seems to actually be true) that it curbs the sexual appetite. And as we know, even people who are circumcised seem to sometimes have a problem controlling their sexual drives; imagine what it would be like if everyone was left uncircumcised!

Now, furthering the connection of the Mitzva of Brit Mila to the number four, there are times that the male membrum in Hebrew is called an Amah, which is similar to the word Imahot, and as we already mentioned, there are four Imahot. Moreover, each of these two words - Brit Mila - in Hebrew (which also works out in English) has four letters, having a total of EIGHT letters in the phrase describing a Mitzva that is performed for the baby boy on his EIGHTH day of life. So too, each of the two Batim (boxes) of Tefillin contains four sections of the Torah.

In this year especially, the number two in terms of my Brit takes on a special significance. To begin with, my Brit took place on the SECOND day of the FOURTH week of the Sephira, and the spiritual aspect of this day of the Sephira - the 23rd day of the Omer - is Gevurah She'B'Netzach (Strength within Victory). And as we know, it is Isaac - Yitzchak Avinu - who is especially related to the Sephira of Gevurah (strength), and he was the FIRST Jew in history to have his Brit on his EIGHTH day of life, and as mentioned as a hint in the letters of his name Yitzchak - the Cheit, as the numerical value of eight, hints to this fact, as well as the fact that the Gematria of his name - 208, ends with the unit eight.

Noting that I was born on the FIRST day of the SECOND month of the Jewish calendar - Iyar, as we begin to count the months from Nissan, the month of the Exodus and birth of the Jewish nation, my Brit was on the FIRST day of the SECOND week of the SECOND month.

And as related to this year, the anniversary date of my Brit falls out on a Monday - the SECOND day of the week, which is the first time that this occurred in 14 years, and this year - the number of the Hebrew year having the letters Hei-Tav-Shin-Ayin-Beit, ends with the letter Beit which is the numerical value of TWO.

In fact, a number of other significant events happened in my life that is related to the number two. In fact, not having to go far back in my life, I got engaged to my wife Yael on the night of the SECOND day of the SECOND month (Cheshvan) of the year 5770, and our wedding took place on the SECOND day of Chanuka. And the very first Gemara that I learned in Yeshiva was the SECOND chapter (Perek Eilu Metziot) of the SECOND tractate (Bava Metzia) of Seder Nezikin.

Perhaps this is no surprise being that in fact, the name Shimon has a special connection to the letter Beit, aside from the fact that the first person to have the name Shimon was the SECOND son of Jacob & Leah (in case you are wondering, in my family, I was the firstborn). You see, on the 12 varied stones of the Choshen HaMishpat, the breastplate that the Cohen Gadol/High Priest wore, each had inscribed on them one of the 12 Tribes of Israel, and as we see written as such in the Torah. However, what some may not be aware is that each of these 12 stones had a total of six letters, containing between them all - the words Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya'akov, Shivtei Yeshurun (tribes of Jeshurun). Hence, the first stone containing the name of the Tribe of Reuven, having five letters in the name, contained a sixth letter which was the letter Aleph from Avraham's name. Next, the second stone containing the name of the Tribe of Shimon, having five letters in the name, contained a sixth letter which was the letter Beit, the next letter in Abraham's name. So as you can see, the name Shimon is related to the number TWO in more than one away, aside from significant incidents in my life that were related to the number TWO.

Of course this does not take away my special connection with the number eight as I wrote in the beginning of this post. As you see, the numbers 2 and 8 can sometimes work hand-in-hand when it comes to weeks, for the first day of the second week of the month is also the eighth day of the month.


Though the following is somehow related to the concept of Brit, the following needs to have its own title. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes that while a woman in giving labor shouts 70 screams, when it comes to a livelihood - a person shouts twice the amount of screams - a total of 140 (and this is my 140th post). Now, while there are definitely people out there who are struggling to even find work, let alone be happy with the work that they are doing that sometimes doesn't even pay all their basic bills, I think that you and I will agree that no too many men will start screaming the way that women in childbirth do, except maybe for those who scream at their wives when things aren't doing financially too well to say the least. However, what I think can be agreed upon is that aside from the fact that the agonies related to a livelihood, or looking for one, is far longer term than a woman in labor pains for around 24 hours.

Look, there are many out there who will do virtually whatever it takes to make enough out there for their families to survive half decently. Some will be happy to endure whatever if when they come home, they will meet an appreciative wife with dinner ready to eat, and the children eager at the door to kiss their father whom they haven't seen in 12 hours. But there are others, even if they make a heck a lot more money, who are simply not happy with the work that they are doing, not happy with their screaming or nagging boss, not happy about the long commute to work, aside from the not so stable marriage in which the working guy doesn't feel much appreciation for, especially when his professional wife is also working making a half decent living.

And so, while it cannot be denied that people struggling to find work or not making enough at work doesn't exactly help matters; but sometimes, it this these very people who aren't feeling so depressed, since they realize that ultimately, Hashem is in control of matters, so there is nothing more that they can do other than what they are doing already other than praying to Hashem to help ease their situation. However, one who is already making the money that is paying not only the bills, but also the piano lessons for his spoiled brat children, the monthly swimming pool cleaning guy, the extra $500 rent a month for a Rolls Royce instead of a far cheaper vehicle that would accomplish the same purpose of driving him from point A to point B indeed has problems - major problems. Because in fact, these luxuries merely hide the not-so-happy situation at work for which he has to force himself out of bed each morning to another lousy day. Indeed, statistics have shown (at least in the United States) that more people have heart attacks on Monday morning than at any other time of the week, because some simply don't want to have to face another week of misery at work after the weekend of being off from work.

As Jews, when we pray for a livelihood, we ask for a Parnassa Tova - a GOOD livelihood, not just the word livelihood. The question can be asked is if indeed we are asking Hashem for livelihood, isn't it obvious that we want a livelihood that will pay for what we need, for otherwise, why ask for something that won't help us sufficiently? But as we see, a GOOD livelihood isn't just about making money though of course everyone works to make money - no questions asked. However, it is SEEING THE GOOD in what we do, in SEEING THE GOOD in our relationships with others that involve our livelihood, in SEEING THE GOOD that we are set out to support our families, and if things don't always go so well at work, it is because it is something that we have to look into in terms of ourselves instead of blaming it on the boss, or co-employee, though of course there will always be obnoxious people in one place or another. Yes, there will be times that a person will need to make a change as far as where he works or what he works for a living. However, the bottom line is that if we realize that Hashem is the One in control - aside from the fact that we chose what type of work to do, especially if we studied in school for it, then ultimately, we won't feel the need to scream, for we can understand that whatever happens at the end is for the best.

Noting the number of this post - 140, it mentions as the end of Sefer Iyov (Book of Job) that Iyov lived for 140 years following his period of suffering after the loss of all his children, wealth, and health. After a few friends coming over to comfort him and his questions to G-d as to why he was suffering so, despite his basic righteous life, Hashem explained certain things to him to understand His ways, or more like in the sense that His ways are unfathomable. In time, Iyov learned the lesson, and he was returned to his former status, became well, saw a blessing from some money that his friends gave him before returning to their homes, and found himself with a brand new family of seven sons and three daughters, living to see great-great grandchildren. Interesting, the English translation of his name is Job. There are those out there who seem to be obsessed with what are called Segulot - charm luck things, that will help to make good money, finding someone to marry, having children, etc. Now don't get me wrong, a lot of Segulot do work. However, there is not necessarily a magic/Kabbalistic formula that will get a person what he or she wants at any given time. What does bother me is that there are those out there who just want blessings or do whatever Segulot for the materialistic thing that they wish, but when it comes to doing Mitzvot - well, that's another story. Little do they realize that if they would start doing more Mitzvot, perhaps things would come to them a little easier - for example, if they would start keeping Shabbat the proper way, more than just having a Friday night meal together wishing each other "Shabbat Shalom", and then after dinner to watch the Shabbat night special on T.V. (unfortunately, T.V. in Israel is mostly geared towards the secular public, targeting violating the Sabbath by having special shows on this holy day when it is forbidden to watch television). True, not everyone who keeps the Mitzvot the right way all the time have a magic life either - but then again, one who is truly observant of Judaism understands that if things aren't so pleasant, it's for a reason - sometimes as a wake up call if he was lax with some Jewish law, or as an atonement for past sins. The ultimate Segulot are the Mitzvot about which Hashem does tell us that if we observe them, then things will go good for us.

Aside from a Jew having a Brit Mila, there is also the concept of Shemirat HaBrit - observing the Brit, by not getting swayed by forbidden sexual passions or trysts. We see that with Yosef HaTzadik, son of Jacob, that he overcame a major sexual battle from the wife of his master in Egypt at the age of 18; and hence, is called with the title of HaTzadik - the righteous one, for this is a major step in being a righteous person. And as we see in the introduction of the Tikunei Zohar, the Sephira of Yesod/Foundation corresponds to the male membrum part of the body, which is also the concept of a Tzadik, and corresponds particularly with Yosef HaTzadik. And what do see that happened in his life? It is true that he languished in prison for 12 years following the scandal of his master's wife. However, at the end, the way it is with righteous people after they have suffered for a while, they have it good at the end; and at the age of 30, despite the Egyptian Constitution which would forbade Joseph from holding a government position, was appointed viceroy - second to the king - by King Pharaoh himself! In his new position, for the next 80 years, Joseph was in charge of the living needs of the Egyptian population as well as his family consisting of his father and brothers when they eventually moved to Egypt. Indeed, the Gematria of the name of the Sephira of Yesod, which corresponds to the holy Brit and concept of Tzadik, is 80; and as we know, Hashem pays back Midah K'neged Midah - measure for measure - for what a person does right or wrong.

And so, if someone wants to be saved from the agonies pertaining to a livelihood, his best shot is to be careful about Shemirat HaBrit - to avoid looks at women that will otherwise entice him, to avoid seeing things on the internet - if one has to use it - that would otherwise entice him towards sexual thoughts, and of course, we need to work on our thought processes to think only of good and holy things to avoid thinking of opposite matters - whether during prayers or any other time. Ultimately, we have to remember that we all have a Boss that wants certain things from us - and is willing to pay us back not only in the World to Come, but even in this world for certain good things that we do, especially if this will aid us in serving Hashem further.

To end off on a Gematria note, the initial letters of the phrase Parnassa Tova are Pei-Teit, which in Hebrew spells the number 89, which in turn is the Gematria of the name of the holiday Chanuka. And as we know, this holiday resulted from the battle between us and the Syrian Greeks, beginning with their decrees against us, forbidding especially to observe the Sabbath, Jewish holidays and circumcision. And as I mentioned earlier about the concept of performing a Brit as a perfection that we do, instead of Hashem so to speak, on the body; the Syrian-Greeks considered the body as the main thing in life, so much so to the extent that they even ran naked in their Olympic running contests. And so to them, the body was already perfect, and it was just a matter of keeping it perfect by "staying in shape". But on our end, keeping it in shape begins with the spiritual, making our body spiritually fit, and then to maintain our health which is a Mitzva, we are supposed to take good care of our body to make sure we stay healthy, though weight training exercise is not necessarily the answer for everyone. And as we see, the Gematria of Guf/body is 89, and so the anti-thesis of the philosophy of the Syrian Greeks which was centered around the body is what Chanukam, whose name is the Gematria of 89, represents.

And as related to myself, I was born on the 1st day of the month of Iyar, and my Brit was on the 8th day of Iyar. Now, the word Iyar is etymologically related to the word Ohr/Light. Similarly, Chanuka is called Chag HaUrim "Holiday of lights", and consists of eight days.

That's it for my Brit Mila Day. Stay tuned shortly for my next post about the general concept of Mitzvot.

8 Iyar, 5772

Friday, April 27, 2012

#139 - Beginning the SEVENTH Period

Having celebrated my annual birthday anniversary a few days ago, I was mindful of the significance of my age. Well, for one thing, this was my first birthday that I was able to say that I am now a parent, and I will mention something more on this a little later on in this post. But more than referring to my past 42 years of life on this earth, the significance that I want to highlight today on is having begun entering my seventh period of seven years.

This sounds something similar to a couple of Mitzvot/Commandments in the Torah. Well first, we are presently within the midst of the Sephira period in which we count each day for a total of 49 days beginning from the second day of Passover when the Omer barley offering was offered in the Beit HaMikdash (Temple), hence, being called Sephirat HaOmer - counting of the Omer, after which we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, the annual anniversary of Matan Torah/Giving of the Torah, as well as the annual wheat offering. And then, there is the Shemitta cycle in which for six years, we work the land in Israel, and then in the seventh year - we are commanded to let the land rest, the same way that we work for six days a week and then we observe the Sabbath with the cessation of work. However, in Temple times, the Shemitta cycle paralleled the Sephira period in that there were seven such cycles of six years work and one year rest, and then was the 50th year - the Jubilee year, which meant two consecutive years of not working the land, and then a new Shemitta/Jubilee cycle began.

Presently, I am writing this on 5 Iyar, which while may sound like music to some who celebrate the annual Yom HaAtzmaut/Israel Independence Day which in fact was first declared on this date on a Friday the way that it is this year; though presently, it is celebrated the day before to have an extra day of vacation since many if not most don't go to work on Fridays in Israel anyways, this date - or rather the 20th day of the Omer (since before our fixed Jewish calendar nowadays, there were times that the previous month of Nissan could have had 29 days instead of the fixed 30 days nowadays), is exactly 30 days before Shavuot. You see, we learn in Hilchot Pesach/Laws of Passover, that we are supposed to learn the laws of the holiday starting 30 days before the holiday. Now, this is well understandable for Passover, since there are numerous laws related to making Matza, getting rid of Chametz (leavened products) and preparing & performing the Seder. However, as for other holidays, we don't necessarily have so many laws, at least as far as Shavuot is concerned, as well see in the Shulchan Aruch/Code of Jewish Law, there is only one chapter consisting of three paragraphs for the laws of this holiday (Orach Chaim Chapter 494). But as with almost everything else in Judaism, there is a difference of opinion as to how long before the other holidays, at least as far as Shavuot is concerned, we are supposed to learn the laws of that holiday. There are some who don't require a lengthy period, but only from Rosh Chodesh Sivan, beginning the month in which we celebrate Shavuot a few days later. However, others require 30 days before every holiday across the board.

Of course, the question that may be asked it, "Well, if there aren't many laws about this holiday, then how much time does it take to learn how to observe this holiday. Certainly, it would be better to learn these laws shortly before the holiday rather than 30 days before so we will have a more refreshed memory as to what to do when the holiday arrives?" Well, it is true that there are various customs and words of Torah as related to this holiday, and a quick stop at the local Judaica bookstore will make you wonder as to what is the best book on the holiday to spend your money on. But just as there are numerous laws about observance of the Sabbath, which if we don't learn all of the laws to ensure that we will not be in violation of this holy day even by accident, so too there are laws about the observance of Yom Tov/Jewish holiday, so while other holidays involve the special commandments of the particular holiday that we have to annually refresh our memories on, including Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur & Succot, there are those who especially learn the laws of Yom Tov at this time of year to be prepared to celebrate the upcoming holiday of Shavuot properly, since there are no special Mitzvot to study about attached to this holiday.

Actually, this holiday is unique, because is actually celebrates the GREATEST Mitzva of all - the learning and teaching of Torah. In fact, the men have a custom to staying up all night long (outside of Israel where the holiday is celebrated for two days, this is done on the first night) learning Torah, and there is even a collection of Torah learning that is especially meant to be learned on this night, called Tikkun Leil Shavuot, which includes for the most part, the first three and last three verses of the 54 Parshiyot of the Chumash as well as of the remaining books of the Tanach, the first and last Mishnayot of each of the 63 Tractates of the Mishna, and the Taryag Mitzvot/613 Commandments.

Interestingly, one of the 63 Mishnaic tractates is named Shevuot, which in Hebrew, aside from the vowels, is spelled the same way as the name of the holiday Shavuot. In fact, there is a custom among learned Jews to learn the Babylonian Talmud on this tractate, which consists of 48 Dafim (double sided pages) - which begins with Daf 2 like the other Babylonian Talmud tractates, and ends with Daf 49, during the Sephira period which consists of 49 days. However, believe it or not, this tractate doesn't discuss the holiday of Shavuot, except to mention the third of the Ten Commandments that were given on Shavuot - the prohibition of saying Hashem's name in vain, in reference to oaths, the subject of this tractate, the meaning of the name of Tractate Shevuot.

As far as the meaning of the name of the holiday of Shavuot is concerned, it means "weeks", the plural of the word Shavua, which in turn is based on the word Sheva/Seven, for as we all know, a week consists of seven days. This is especially illustrated in our count of the 49 Sephira days, in which we not only count how many days from the beginning of the Sephira count, but we also count weeks, starting from the seventh day of the Sephira when we state "Today is seven days which is one week from the Omer", and then the next day, aside from the number of the total amount of days, we also mention that this is one week and one day, continuing on to the end of the Sephira accordingly. With this said, the first time that we mention the word Shavuot in the count of the Sephira is on the 14th day of the Sephira when we mention that this is two weeks from the Omer, as Shavuot means weeks in plural form, and the minimum number for the plural form is two.

While mentioning this, perhaps there is a hint here to the holiday of Shavuot in the fact that we mention this word - howbeit in a little different meaning than the name of the upcoming holiday per se - for the first time on the 14th day of the Sephira. You see, the name of King David, who was born and passed away on Shavuot, is the Gematria of 14. Moreover, the spiritual aspect of this 14th day of the Sephira is Malchut She'B'Gevura - Kingship within Strength. And while Malchut is especially related to King David, the Sephira of Gevura is also related to King David in a way, for as we see in the introduction of the Tikunei Zohar, Gevurah corresponds to the left arm of the body, the arm on which the majority as righties put on Tefillin/phylacteries, which is called Tefillin Shel Yad (phylacteries of the hand), and the word Yad/hand is the same Gematria as King David's name. Also to note, this 14th day of the Sephira is virtually at the end of the month of Nissan, which corresponds to the Tribe of Judah, the parental ancestry of King David. Moreover, when the 14th day of the Sephira falls out on the Sabbath as it did this year, being that is is Erev Rosh Chodesh - the day before the new Jewish month, the Haftara that is read on this Sabbath is not the usual one for the Parsha, but rather is a special one for the Sabbath that is immediately followed by Rosh Chodesh/New Month. This is the Haftara about the story about King David's concern of not being found by King Saul who was on a witch hunt to do away with him due to jealousy. Luckily for King David, King Saul's son Jonathan was best friends with him, and when Jonathan saw how his father King Saul had vengeful feelings for King David, Jonathan informed King David saw he would know to now escape. So as we see, the 14th day of the Sephira is connected to King David in more than one way, especially when it falls out on a Sabbath, aside from the fact that of the seven days of the week, the Sabbath is connected especially with King David via the Sephira of Malchut; and also, King David passed away on a Sabbath.

With this said, the word Shavuot in the counting of the Sephira from this 14th day and on continues until the end of the count of the Sephira, making this a total of 36 days of mentioning the word Shavuot. And as the holiday of Shavuot is when the Torah was given, there are 36 tractates of the Babylonian Talmud of the Gemara, the hardcore of Torah learning, the explanation of the Mishna being the foundation of the Oral Torah without which, we would be, G-d forbid, no different than the non-Jews who only know Judaism via the prism of the Bible, from which the practice of Judaism would not be understood with the explanations of the Oral Torah. And since we accepted the Torah with its 613 Mitzvot for us to receive the Torah on Shavuot, I should mention that via the Gematria method of Atbash, in which the first letter Alef is exchanged with the last letter Tav, the second letter Beit is exchanged with the next to the last letter Shin, etc., it turns out that when we take the word Gemara (Gimel, Mem, Reish, Aleph), and exchange the letters of this word accordingly, when rearranged, we see that we have the very letters of the Hebrew number 613 (Tav, Reish, Yud, Gimel)! For indeed, the Gemara is the details explanation of the Mitzvot of the Torah - the detailed explanation of how we perform these commmandments, explaning the various verses of the Torah from which we derive the 613 Mitzvot.

This would not be complete without mentioning that the connection between King David and the holiday of the Giving of the Torah goes way beyond the fact that he was born and passed away on this special Jewish holiday. The Talmud in Tractate Berachot notes how King David used to arouse himself at midnight to learn Torah until the morning. Elsewhere, the rabbis note that King David learned more in one night than what a Talmid Chacham/Torah scholar learns in an entire lifetime (they said this during the Talmudic era)! While we are at it, unlike my usual style of translating Hebrew words for the masses, I didn't mention the usual given English translation for the holiday of Shavuot in this post until now. OK, the word is Pentecost, which is based on the number 50, as it is the 50th day from the beginning of the count of the Sephira/Omer period, but I have a good reason why I didn't give this translation until now. Giving credit to Jews who don't know much about their own heritage, many of them will at least minimally celebrate certain holidays, such as Passover and the High Holidays. However, the holidays that ultimately represent the most important gift that the Jewish people has ever received - the Torah, are either hardly known to some of these same Jews, or they don't feel a special need to commemorate these days. It is true that for some non-observant Jews who go to the synagogue or temple for Yizkor services on four times every year, one of these days is the second day of Shavuot, though it is not the day of Shavuot on which we read of the Giving of the Torah, which includes the Ten Commandments, in the Sefer Torah/Torah Scroll. However, in terms of celebrating the essence of our Jewish living, few non-observant Jews who don't keep the Sabbath, keep Kosher or observe the family laws of purity have a clue of what it is really all about.

As a good rabbi friend of mine, Rabbi Dovid Bryn of blessed memory, whose 10th Yahrzeit will be on this Shabbat (6 Iyar) used to say in his sermons, he would rather see everyone come to his synagogue for Simchat Torah (the final holiday following Succot when we celebrate the conclusion of the reading of the Sefer Torah) than for the High Holidays. You see, Judaism is all about learning the Torah, being happy that we are Hashem's Chosen People to serve him rather than speaking endlessly about being the Chosen for the Holocaust. For it is the Torah, and the celebration thereof, that highlights our purpose as the Jewish people, and not simply perform a few rituals to satisfy our guilty conscience as Jews when we aren't doing more or looking to understand our purpose. There is one practical difference though between how we celebrate Shavuot and Simchat Torah, which literally means "Happiness of the Torah". On Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates having first received the Torah, we learn all night to show our eagerness of wanting to learn Torah, even at the expense of our usual sleep time. On Simchat Torah, when we conclude the Torah by reading the last Parsha in the Sefer Torah, instead of sitting in one place to learn what the Torah says, we dance all around the synagogue to celebrate this most special day. Now mind you, both of these customs on these respective holidays were not always around, at least when we first received the Torah. However, the fact that at one point, having accepted these customs shows that we don't just do mere rituals the way that we celebrate the other holidays with their particular Mitzvot, but that we don't take the Torah for granted, and on our own, we adopted practices showing how much the Torah means to us. And so, it is crucial for secular Jews especially in the United States, most of whom sadly know more about the Ten Commmandments from the Ten Commandments movie than from the Bible, to learn first hand what these Ten Commandments are saying, following which perhaps some of them will at least make some effort to observe the Sabbath to some extent, for after all, it is mentioned in the Ten Commandments, aside from the fact that the Giving of the Torah took place on the Sabbath.

Now, getting back to where I am holding in my life, having already began my 43rd year of life, it is reminiscent to the 43rd day of the Sephira, when 45 years ago on this day, the holiest area in the world was regained under Jewish sovereignty once again; and today, this day (28 Iyar) is known as Yom Yerushalayim/Jerusalem Day. Three years ago, I wrote a post about Jerusalem Day when it was the beginning of the 43rd year, titled Jerusalem: The END of our Journey (May '09). While I am not going to rehash everything from that post over here, one thing that I do want to mention as far as my special connection to Jerusalem is that the verse corresponding to my name Shimon that I recite at the end of every Shemoneh Esrei that begins with the letter Shin and ends with the letter Noon Sophit as does my name is Shabechi Yerushalayim Et Hashem Haleli Elokayim Tzion "Praise Hashem - O Jerusalem, laud your G-d - O Zion" (Psalms 147:12). While I presently don't live in Jerusalem, I lived in Jerusalem for two and a half years when I first moved to Israel some seven years ago.

And as related to King David, one of the many names of Jerusalem is called Ir David - City of David, since he was the one who declared it as the capitol of Jerusalem with him move to Jerusalem as king; and subsequently, his son King Solomon built the Jerusalem Temple. Moreover, Jerusalem day is the beginning of the SEVENTH week of the Sephira, and King David was born and passed away on Shavuot, the wording of the holiday that is based on the wording of Shiva Shavuot - SEVEN WEEKS, since it immediately follows the seven weeks of the Sephira that the Jews originally counted following the Exodus until they received the Torah seven weeks later.

With this said, I want to mention something that I came across a while back. The Shir Shel Yom (Song of the Day) that was sung by the Levites (and I am a Levite) for the Sabbath was Psalm 92. To note, the beginning verse of this psalm is the ONLY place in the entire Tehillim/Book of Psalms composed by King David that mentions the Sabbath. This first verse is Mizmor Shir L'Yom HaShabbat "A psalm song for the day of the Sabbath". Now, let's take the two middle words of this verse Shir L'Yom, and you will see that when the letters of these two words are rearranged, it spells the word Yerushalayim! Now, as this city is especially related to the number SEVEN as we see that Jerusalem Day is the beginning of the SEVENTH week of the Sephira, the last word of this verse HaShabbat - The Sabbath, is the Gematria of 707, which is certainly no coincidence with the fact that the Sabbath is the SEVENTH day of the week, which was the day of the week that the Giving of the Torah took place and the passing away of King David which both occured on Shavuot, This is also noting that the word Shabbat is included in the word Shavuot being spelled in order of the word. Also by Hashgacha Peratit (Divine Providence), the Talmud Yerushalmi (JERUSALEM Talmud) on Tratate SHABBAT consists of exactly 92 Dafim (double sided-pages)!

To note, the number 43 is related to Shimon in another big way. When mentioning the birth of Shimon of the 12 Tribes of Israel, his mother Leah notes that "He (Hashem) gave me ALSO this one", being Leah's second son following Reuven's birth. In Hebrew, the word GAM for "also" has the same letters as the Hebrew number for 43. And as I noted, a verse in the Tanach that begins with the letter Shin and ends with the letter Noon Sophit as does the name Shimon mentions the word Jerusalem, and Jerusalem Day is on the 43rd day of the Sephira - the beginning of the SEVENTH week of the Sephira.. And as related to the word Shabbat, Shimon is the only one of the 12 Tribes whose name begins with the letter Shin as does the word Shabbat, the SEVENTH day.

Another connection pertaining to the letter Shin deserves its own paragraph. The paragraph Ana B'Koach that is recited among the prayers following the counting of the Sephira consists of 42 words, and at the end of every sentence that consists of six words, as shown in the Siddur (prayer book), it shows the mnemonic of the six word sentence. Thus, for the 49 days of the Sephira, one has in mind - including the mnemonic which is the seventh "word" of each line of the Ana B'Koach prayer, one word per day of the Sephira. At it works out, the one letter SHIN in this entire prayer corresponds to - the 43rd Day of the Sephira! I sure hope that I am in for some good look in my present 43rd year!

And as pertaining to this Hebrew year 5772, which is spelled with the letters Hei-Tav-Shin-Ayin-Beit, both words HaShabbat (the Sabbath) and Shiva (seven) can be spelled from the letters of this year, which is including the letter Beit (2) of this particular year which won't end with this letter again until the next decade. Moreover, aside from the letter Hei from the year, and aside from the one or two letter Vavs of the name of the holiday Shavuot, the word Shavuot and the Hebrew year also share four letters. And in this year, THE FIRST TIME IN 14 YEARS, the final day of the Sephira will fall out on Shabbat, and when counting the weeks of the Sephira, we state that they are SHIVA SHAVUOT - SEVEN WEEKS, hence combining ALL three words as related to this Hebrew year. Coincidence?

Additionally, adding up the numerical values of the letters of this year, bearing in mind that the letter Hei that is used at the beginning of the number of the year as the numerical value of 5,000 is the normal numerical value of 5, adding this up with the rest of the number of this year - 772, the total yielded is 777. Hence, this Hebrew year that is related to the words Shabbat, Shiva, and Shavuot is hinted to by the regular Gematria of the letters of this Hebrew year as well as connected particulary with the number SEVEN.

Being that this is my 139th Post, I would like to make mention of another psalm - Psalm 139. This psalm gives an account of Hashem's wonders in the creation of mankind. In the midst of this psalm in psalm 16, it states "the days were formed, and for Him was one of them". One of the explanations for this as given by Rashi is that this is the day of Shabbat, which is Hashem's special day.

And before I conclude, as I promised in the beginning of this post, I have something to mention pertaining to my baby daughter. Well first, she was born on the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (Judah the Prince) - 15 Kislev, who was the SEVENTH generation in parential line from Hillel, the patriarch of the dynasty of Jewish leaders in Israel, who in turn was descended from King David. And as connected to Shavuot, there are quite a few connections. First, as I had just noticed the other day, Tamar - the one who had the one night stand with Judah from whom is King David and Moshiach descended, after whom I named my daughter, is also mentioned in Megillat Ruth that is read on Shavuot, being that Boaz who consummated the marriage with Ruth as the end of this Megilla was descended in parental line from Judah and Tamar. Also, the initials of my daughter's name Tamar Tzadika - Tav & Tzadi - spelling the Hebrew number 490, is the Gematria of the word Matan as in the phrase Matan Torah - Giving of the Torah. And as connected with the day of Matan Torah, as I have mentioned before, there are three verses in Psalms (19:8-10) that speaks in praise of the Torah, starting with the words Torat Hashem..., which consists of six phrases corresponding to the six orders of the Mishan, and the first letters of these six phrases add up to the Gematria of my daughter's first name Tamar. This is along with the fact that the letters of the name Tamar are the initials of the phrase Torat Moshe Rabbeinu.

And with this, I end my first post of my 43rd year.

5 Iyar, 5772