Tuesday, June 19, 2012

#147 - My First Father's Day

Hardly saw anything this year in the Jewish blogs about what is known as Happy Father's Day in the United States, aside from the fact that some Jewish bloggers are either living in other English speaking countries, or presently living in Israel where this day is not celebrated. But in my case, being that it took too many more years than necessary for me to finally find a Shidduch to lead to becoming a parent, I certainly did not take this past Father's Day Sunday for granted after being 42 years of age, which finally happened thanks to my daughter Tamar being born some six months ago.

OK, so some reading this may tell me that this is not a Jewish holiday, this is based on the non-Jewish calendar, really every day is Father's Day since we are always supposed to honor/respect and fear our parents from the Torah, etc. In fact, some will even claim that this occasion is based on some Christian source.

True, we are supposed to honor/respect and fear our parents, as per two Mitzvot (commandments) from the Torah - 365 days a year/12 months a year/7 days a week/24 hours a day. However, a special day or two a year devoted to honoring our parents helps us not take granted the ones who are supposed to mean most to us, aside from the families that we have started on our own. This is hardly different than the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which are not days of celebrating some miraculous event such as Passover, Chanuka, or Purim; but rather, holidays of reflecting on our purpose in life, giving us a yearly opportunity to do repentance and finding ways to improve our relationships between ourselves and other people and Hashem, instead of continuing in our daily routine taking for granted what Hashem gives us without realizing the real purpose of what we have received, even though in fact, on every day of the year, we are supposed to reflect on the past day's events, repent of what we did wrong, and resolve not to repeat our mistakes in the future.

Now note, in the United States, there are certain days that are called legal holidays that have no special significance of being celebrated in a church anymore than in an atheist home, which basically means that for most people, these are days for taking off from work. Then you have other days that are obviously religious in significance that are also legal holidays. And so, if one is honest about it, there is nothing about Happy Mother's Day or Happy Father's Day that can be pointed out in the New Testament of giving us a reason to celebrate these days. OK, so I saw something as of late about some claimed basis of having Chrsitian roots as per Mother's Day, although the real reason is based on this guy owning a card business who convinced Congress to enact Mother's Day to promote his business, from which he had since made a fortune. And so for Americans, this means for many to pick up their mama on the 2nd Sunday of May or their papa on the 3rd Sunday of June, and celebrate going to some restaurant and the like. One cannot help see advertising like the week before between the newspapers and internet of sales taking place in physical and virtual department stores.

Personally, being the firstborn causing my parents to be parents, my Mom and I as a newborn first came home from the hospital on Mother's Day, so for one thing, I am not going to let anyone boss me and tell me getting away with it that if I am truly an observant Jew and follow the Torah the correct way, that I have no business celebrating a day that helps me connect to my Mom in one more way. While it may be true that the days picked to celebrate these occasions are based on the non-Jewish calendar, the bottom line is that celebrating a day devoted to our parent(s) helps us retain consciousness of a most important Mitzva (or Mitzvot) that some of us may tend to overlook, especially when we have our own families and our old parent may now not be able to actively or physically do much in helping us in our daily family lives.

Now, aside from our own parents, or specifically as related to Father's Day, our fathers; we have what is called the Avot, which literally means "fathers". In fact, this word in the context of Judaism can mean any one of a number of things. Let's list what these are:

1)Our Patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

2)Name of the first blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, based on the words "G-d of Abraham, G-d of Isaac, and G-d of Jacob". According to Halacha (Jewish Law), one cannot fulfill the obligation of prayer for the evening/morning/afternoon without having concentration on this first blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei.

3)Defines the 39 major categories of work that is forbidden to be performed on Shabbat, based on what was performed as work in the building of the Mishkan/Tabernacle, also called "principals". And then we have what are called Toladot "generations" or derivatives, which are types of work similar to what are called the Avot, the major categories of work, as listed in Tractate Shabbat, Chapter Seven.

4)Word used describing the four major categories of damages - ox, pit, tooth/foot, and burning, as mentioned at the very beginning of Seder Nezikin, the fourth Volume of the Mishna in Masecta (Tractate) Bava Kama.

5)Word used describing the various level of spiritual impurity, forbidden one to eat holy food or being able to enter the Temple, described in detail in Seder Teharot, the sixth Volume of the Mishna.

6)And speaking of the Mishna, is the name of one of its 63 tractates, the only one not devoted to a halachic topic, but rather, containing gems of exhortations of following the Torah and Mitzvot, ethics that aren't merely observed as nice things to follow, but rather, based on what Moses received from Hashem on Mt. Sinai, this tractate beginning "Moses received the Torah on Mt. Sinai..." It is so named because in fact, our rabbis are also called fathers, being that they are our spiritual fathers. In fact, according to Halacha, unless one's parent is also one's Torah instructor, precedence is given to certain matter to one's Rebbe (Torah instructor) before his father, like it or not, because "one's father brings him into this world, while one's Rebbe brings him into the world to come".

With this said, I would like to put focus specifically on who is called the Bechir Ha'Avot "Chosen one of the Patriarchs", who is Jacob. As this is my 147th Post, I want to note that Jacob lived for 147 years, a fact that is mentioned in the first verse of the last Parsha of Sefer Bereishit (Genesis) - Parshat Vayechi. Now, the reason why it is Jacob, rather than his father Isaac or his grandfather Abraham, who is called with this title, is that he is the one of the three Patriarchs who specialized in learning Torah. Of course his most righteous father and grandfather also learned the Torah and followed its Mitzvot even though the Torah had yet to be given to their descendants a few hundred years later. However, since it was Jacob who was most devoted of the three Avot to learning Torah, he is the one who is the Chosen of the Patriarchs.

OK, so we know that the greatest of Mitzvot is learning/teaching Torah, even though secular Jews will have a problem with this and exclaim that doing good deeds, as part of "Tikkun Olam" which literally means perfecting or rectifying the world, is the main thing, and not some old guys with long beards praying or "schuckling" over some ancient texts all day long.

In fact, some may claim that Abraham should be awarded the title. After all, he became the first Jew after coming to his own conclusion that even the sun and moon could not be gods after disappearing for half the time and so there has to be a Being who is always around, and nearly sacrificed his life for his beliefs when was thrown into a fiery furnace due to his beliefs but was miraculously saved. Towards this end, he wasn't satisfied with knowing this for himself as some of his ancestors who while righteous on their own in an idol-worshiping world, didn't do much in the way of convincing others of the truth; but rather, Abraham went traveling around to spread what we call monotheism, as well as inviting people to his scrumptious meals without taking an Abraham Lincoln penny for his stake meals in Hotel Abraham in the midst of the Be'er Sheba desert, provided that they would thank the One who was the real One responsible for the food to begin with. And so, you would think that Abraham, who wasn't satisfied with his own religious observance, looked to bring newcomers to the fold of serving Hashem as well, would be most worthy of the Chosen title.

Perhaps today, it can be said that the ones who brings others to observe Judaism, which will most likely include those who will not only be merely Sabbath observant, but learn and study Torah, are the greatest in Hashem's eyes, for after all, if one who learns Torah himself is fulfilling the greatest Mitzva, then certainly, causing others to do the same as well is the cause of so many other people fulfilling the greatest Mitzva. However, in the times of Abraham, things were a little different. You see, learning Torah then was just a way of finding out what G-d's will was. However, without spending serious time learning the Torah, the ones whom Abraham brought closer to Hashem in lieu of the worthless idols remained devoted for only so long. The proof - by the time that Jacob and his family came down to Egypt, it was only them, including the ones whom the tribes married who automatically learned to believe in one G-d, who were following in the ways of the Torah even before the Torah was officially given to the Jewish people. But since learning Torah was not yet any more of a special command than the other commands and wasn't officially what we call Judaism as of yet, the people or the families of the people whom Abraham befriended to Hashem's service didn't stick with it. Very simply, Torah is knowledge, and knowledge is power. Without learning Torah the way that Abraham did, those outside of the immediate families of the Patriarchs did not know the importance or details of living a monotheistic lifestyle, and were surrounded by their other friends who were still worshiping the worthless gods.

And so, while Abraham as the first Jew is someone from whom anyone who is in Jewish outreach can learn from, and is not for naught that his name in Hebrew as Avraham is a contraction of the words Av Hamon Goyim "father of a multitude of nations", having both physical and spiritual connotations; it was Jacob, who specialized in Torah learning - unlike Abraham who specialized in doing deeds of kindness, and Isaac who specialized in prayer - who is crowned with the Chosen title, for it is the Torah, as Hashem's wisdom, that encompasses everything else. And in case anyone should claim that Jacob was just another good "schuckler" and didn't care all much about interacting with the outside world and behaving on the outside like the inside, one look in the Torah will tell him/her of how careful Jacob was in taking care of the flock of his crooked father-in-law Laban, suffering from the elements in his zeal of responsibility of livestock not belonging to himself. Few outside of the Torah world would go to the lengths of treating another's property as one's own as Jacob did.

And so, before some non-observant Jew who stuffs his mouth with shrimp dinners at non-kosher eateries, criticizes observant Jews exclaiming "what comes out of the mouth is what counts" and helps unfortunate (poor, sick, or handicapped) Jewish children celebrate Christmas by giving them toys as part of "Tikkun Olam", perhaps if he really cared of doing the right thing, and reflect on what it really means to be a Jew, or ask a rabbi who is supposed to represent Judaism about how to be a good Jew, he would be beginning to perform the TRUE Tikkun Olam, the way that HASHEM wants him to do it, and not his own warped sense of what he thinks Tikkun Olam is.

Believe it or not, bringing Jewish children into the world is part of Tikkun Olam, contrary to what some would want us to think that having more than three children is stretching the limits and being "selfish". I am amazed at some of the comments that people make on articles on the web of Christians who have 10 or 12 children, accusing these truly devoted parents who more than most, raise their children to be givers rather than takers, of "not being responsible". I guess that according to them, bringing a few more children into the world who will be good United States tax-paying citizens is virtually committing a crime without being written on the books. And you know what the ironic thing is? It is these same people criticizing those who are following a path of Tikkun Olam (some Christians are FAR MORE MORAL AND DEVOTED TO GOD than irreligious, liberal Democrat Jews who are pro gay and pro abortion rights) who are either now or later will be complaining that they aren't receiving as much in the way of Social Security, or not being able to retire at age 65 as they used to until a few years ago, thanks to THEIR OWN SELFISHNESS of not bringing a few more children into the world who could have made a greater positive impact in society, as well as bring more money to the social security tax that could have benefited these baby boomers (born between 1946-1964), not following their parents' example, who would have otherwise been retired by now, or would not need to worry of what may happen in another 10-20 years as the Social Security funds have already started draining down the tube, (my parents being born before the baby boom era had no problem receiving social security at age 65) who were more concerned instead of watching their own tube consisting of every Nareishkeit one could think of, including violent movies that caused some of their children to not grow up with moral values to say the least, getting some of them into other major troubles from the four Ds: Disease from unprotected sex, Divorce, Drinking and Drugs.

But there is one word in English beginning with a "D" that can be a very positive word - Daddy. Perhaps I personally won't being called this word much, for I am living in Israel, and having an Israeli wife, my children will be calling me "Abba". But to come to think of it, the Gematria of Abba is FOUR, just as the letter FOURTH letter of the alphabet "D", that not only begins the word "Daddy", but is used THREE times in the word (how many other words in the English language has the letter "D" used three times?) similar to the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet - Dalet.

The truth is the word Abba, though used as the word in today's Hebrew langauge for father or daddy, is technically the Aramaic word for the Hebrew word Av, which is the word in Hebrew with the lowest Gematria of the number three.

But there is truth to the common word Abba being used to call one's father rather than the Hebrew word Av. You see, had Esau - born as the twin of Jacob chosen to be righteous like his brother Jacob, he would have been considered as one of the Avot, which would have meant that there would have been FOUR Patriarchs of the future righteous Jewish nation, just like there are FOUR Matriarchs of the Jewish nation - Sara, Rebecca, Rachel & Leah. The proof - he was meant to have married Leah as Jacob was meant to marry Rachel. However, because of Esau's wickedness, he lost his "Basherte" Leah, who prayed and cried her tears out that she should not fall into the hands of the wicked Esau. In time, not only did she wind up marrying Jacob before his main love Rachel, but in addition to the six out of the 12 tribes (half of the tribes!) that Leah bore to Jacob (which includes the Levite tribe and the Davidic dynasty which includes Moshiach), it was she - rather than Rachel - who wound up being buried next to Jacob in Me'arat HaMachpela "Cave of the Patriarchs" in Hebron. And so, there are only three Patriarchs of the Jewish nation, just as the Hebrew word Av is the Gematria of three.

Another concept related to the number three in Judaism - and as related to Jacob, the THIRD of the Avot, is the THIRD Mitzvah of the Torah (and is the first Mitzvat Lo-Ta'aseh (Non-Active/Negative Commandment) of the Torah) which is called Gid Hanashe, the prohibiton of eating the sinew of the thigh bone of an animal, which begins with the letter Gimmel whose numerical value is THREE, which resulted from the wrestling match that Jacob's brother Esau's guardian angel had with Jacob, in the midst of which, the angel injured Jacob's thigh.

There is a seeming cryptic statement about Jacob that I wish to write about. Rashi, quoting the Talmud in Tractate Ta'anit, states that "Jacob our Father did not die". Now, whether this is meant to be literal, or mean to be in a physical state that he didn't actually die but just having appeared to die, or not; one thing that this statement does mean is that Jacob, who most represented the concept of the Torah of Life, as the father of the Twelve Tribes, is most alive in Judaism. We mention his names - Jacob and Israel - numerous times in our prayers and Torah study, on a daily basis. This is just like the true story of someone who asked a noted rabbi if he knew the Yahrzeits of the rabbis of the Talmud. "Yahrzeits?" the rabbi questioned, "Why, these rabbis are very much alive! I study their teachings every day. They are far from dead."

And so, observing the Torah and Mitzvot enlivens our Avot (and Imahot) on a daily basis. Indeed, the 365 Mitzvot Lo Ta'aseh of the Torah correspond to the 365 days of the year (although this fits easier with the solar/secular calendar, the Jewish/Hebrew calendar winds up being 365 days when the typical 354 day calendar is adjusted every 2 or 3 years with an extra month) and the first Mitzvat Lo Ta'aseh of Gid Hanashe corresponds to Tisha B'Av (9 Av), the date of the month of Av (which means father), on which both Temples were destroyed, just as Esau's guardian angel damaged Jacob's thigh, representing the damage that the non-Jews would do to Jews in the future. And as connected to the month of Av whose name means father, the VERY FIRST MENTION in the Torah (376 times in the Chumash, 637 in all of the Tanach) of the phrase Bnei Yisrael "Children of Israel", Israel being the new or added name of Jacob told to him following his fight with Esau's angel, is mentioned in the VERY VERSE mentioning this FIRST Mitzvat Lo Ta'aseh - "Therefore, the Children of Israel don't eat the sinew of the thigh..." (Genesis 32:33).

Now, just getting back for one more moment on Mother's Day & Father's Day, we notice that Mother's Day is around the middle of spring, as the spring equinox begins on March 20 or 21, and the summer solstice begins on June 21 (applicable in the Northern Hemisphere which includes the United States and Israel), and Father's Day is always celebrated in the last week of spring. Now in Hebrew, the word for spring is Aviv, which is the Biblical name for the month of Nissan, the 1st of the 12 months of the Jewish calendar, for indeed, the word Aviv can be read as two parts Av (father) and the letters Yud-Beit spelling the Hebrew number for 12, describing both the month of Nissan as being the FATHER (1st) of the 12 months, as well as Jacob - who was literally the father of the TWELVE Tribes (but the difference is that unlike the month of Nissan which is actually just the first of the 12 months rather than being in a different category; Jacob was actually the father while his 12 sons were in the next generations, themselves representing the 12 months of the Jewish calendar). So, it seems that it isn't such a coincidence that Happy Father's Day is celebrated in the United States at the conclusion of the AVIV season.

And the ultimate father is - Ovinu Malkeinu...of course, our Father in Heaven. Indeed, it is no coincidence that one of the 12 months of the year is called Av, the month on which the worst tragedies happened to the Jewish people, but in the future, as our prophets tell us, will be among the greatest days of celebration, and perhaps, the very date that our long awaited Moshiach will arrive. Indeed, it has been mentioned that the reason why this month in particular is called Av is because in the future, it will be this month that will be the FATHER, or head of the months.

And as related to myself, the month of Av corresponds to the tribe of my namesake, my first name Shimon. And as I conclude my 147th Post on www.gematriot.blogspot.com, the verse from the Tanach (Bible) that I recite at the end of every Shemonei Esrei prayer, beginning with the letter SHIN & ending with a NOON SOPHIT as does my name Shimon, is in PSALM 147 (verse 12) - Shabechi Yerushalayim Et Hashem Haleli Elokayich Tziyon "Praise Hashem, O Jerusalem; laud your G-d, O Zion".

30 Sivan, 5772


Tzvi Bar-Rashbi said...


ilana ddias said...

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ariela said...

Funny thing I totally got the day wrong this year and gave Zev his fathers day a week early. The girls rushed out to buy a gift and I made one of his favorite meals. Then after all the celebration we figured out it was not Fathers day but you know it taught us its not the date its the honor and its the love. Rabbi you are a true blessing to this family for sure. We love you!

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