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

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