Saturday, November 24, 2012

#160 - The MONEY Difference

As it goes in this world, there are pros and cons to everything.  Even something good that happens can make people complacent about possible dangers; and even a tragedy, no matter how tragic, can bring out the best from people when they help one another.

When it comes to money, there are very obvious good results and very evil results.  Among the good results, it helps the poor, establishes educational systems, and gives incentive to people to help in society.  And among the evil results, it causes jealousy, fighting, stealing, bloodshed, undue power, and wrecks family life.

And writing on the internet, we know that it comes with its blessings and curses.  Its blessings include finding spouses, friendship, and work.  Its curses include addiction to general prolonged use, and sometimes more specifically such as money scams, porn, and being caught as a result of following through on an undercover child sex set-up by cops.

Having just read Parshat Vayeitze this past Shabbat, we see a prime example of jealousy pertaining to wealth coming from cousins.  Yeah, we know that while cousins sometimes may be beloved relatives, cousins such as the Arabic race, and Lehavdil (to separate), the Jewish race aren't necessarily the best of relationships, but have proven quite the opposite.

Well first, when it comes time for Uncle Laban to figure out Jacob's wages, he himself admits that since Jacob's arrival some 20 years earlier, he had brought blessing to him.  The Midrash explains that until Jacob arrived, he didn't have the riches that he acquired later on; and that until 20 years earlier, he only had daughters and no sons.  Being the evil idol-worshipper that he was, Laban was not so quick to rush out and offer a thanksgiving offering to Hashem, but rather, he knew the reason for his upgraded lifestyle and family due to his divining with black magic, and hence "Hashem has blessed me on your account".

As the story continues, Laban kept changing the terms of payment on Jacob, and so, Jacob came up with a unique plan for increased cattlehood, as detailed in the text, and it worked most successively.  The real problems for Jacob, however, began after this, which resulted in Laban's children being jealous of their cousin Jacob, accusing him point blank of taking EVERYTHING that belonged to their father Laban, and that Jacob made a fortune off of this.

Actually, this is not the first instance of Jew hatred being aroused by wealth.  Jacob's father Isaac incurred the jealousy of Avimelech, king of Gerrar and his town from Isaac becoming so wealthy, that people were contrasting the wealths of Isaac and the king.  Now of course, Isaac did nothing illegal, and it was only thanks to Hashem that the king didn't harm him.  However, the king did ask him to leave, and after some time, the king had guilt feelings about having chased him from town, and he himself came to where Isaac was presently residing admitting that Isaac's wealth was due to Hashem blessing him.

Ironically, even though Avimelech had some type of logical reason why Isaac's wealthy status was bothering him so people were contrasting the wealth of the two, and certainly, the king didn't want to loose his respectful status in front of his nation; Laban's sons, who had just barely grown into manhood, despite their cousin Jacob being a good relative and being a very devoted shepherd to Laban's flock, aside from the fact that they should have had the greatest gratitude to Jacob for even being in existance since they were only born due to Jacob's arrival though they probably wouldn't have believed it or want to deal with it even if their father Laban would have told them as such, were only looking for an excuse to hate the Jew, even though Jacob did not actually steal anything, but simply employed methods that created wealth for himself without taking anything from Laban.  And of course, these sons of Laban totally ignored the fact that is was their father, if anyone, who attempted to rip off Jacob of 20 years of hard labor worth of hard earned money.

Now, there is more than one terminology for money in Hebrew.  Now in the Bible, the word for money is Kesef, which for some reason, is the exact same word used particularly for silver.  In any case, the Gematria of this word is 160, and this is my 160th post.

I will get into more detail about the significance of this number 160 a little later on.  But first, let us continue on in this Parsha, in which Jacob, seeing how Laban and his sons were looking at him with disdain, knew that this could not continue, aside from the fact that Hashem told him to leave Laban's quarters.  And so, after a talk with Laban's daughters who were his wives, Jacob and his family packed up, and left - without informing Laban.  Of course it was O.K. for Laban to play tricks on Jacob, from lying about whom Jacob was going to marry, using him to work more years unexpectedly, and the various changes of wages, which interestingly, though according to the text, it mentions that it was 10 times that Laban changed the terms, the Midrash states that it was 100 times.  However, it apparently wasn't O.K. as far as Laban was concerned for anyone to play tricks on him.  Of course it would have been nice if Jacob would have let Laban know beforehand of leaving; but Jacob, whether it was the mentchlich thing or not, felt that under the circumstances, that it was just best not to let him know.

And so, Laban, upon finding out what happened, wasted no time, energies, and resources to track down his nephew, daughters, and grandchildren.  For after all, Laban was not only Jacob's uncle, he was also his father-in-law and ex-employer.  And then, it was confrontation time.  In any case, among Laban's words to Jacob, he makes it aware knowing that Jacob was desirous/longing to go to his parents' home.  Now, the wording used for desirous/longing in the text is Nichsof Nichsafta.  We see from this double wording here that Laban, though he was a most shrewd and selfish person, himself well understood that Jacob hadn't seen his parents for a few decades, which at this time was a good 34 years, and so he expressed this using a double wording showing this.  But as we see in the Hebrew, both words have the root word that also spells the word Kesef.

Coincidence?  You see, as Rashi translates this wording, he translates the word Nichsafta as "you have desired".  The Torah could have used a different wording based on the translation that Rashi suggests, so why particularly the wording that is related to money?

Apparently, Laban's whole life was based on money, even when he didn't have much.  Way back when Eliezer, Abraham's servant, came to fetch a marriage partner for Isaac, and wound up taking Laban's sister Rebecca for this purpose, Laban as a young man "ran out to the man", and as Rashi explains, when Laban saw the jewelry on Rebecca that was just placed by the servant, he said to himself  "This guy is rich", as he set his eyes on money.  Now, nearly 100 years later, when Jacob arrived, the Torah states once again that Laban "ran out to greet him", and Rashi again wastes no time to state that Laban though that Jacob was loaded with money, since after all, if even a servant of the family came with some wealth, all much the more so would be the case with the family itself.  Theoretically, Laban was right.  However, the problem with Jacob is that while he left with some money obviously since he needed money to travel from his parents' home, he was robbed by a different family member - Nephew Eliphaz, whom Jacob's brother Esau sent as his son to kill Jacob due to Esau's jealousy of Jacob having received the birthright blessings instead of him.  Now, Eliphaz, though was not raised Jewish by his pop Esau, did have some good influence from Zaide Isaac, and so in lieu of outright killing Uncle Jacob, thought it would be justifiable instead to rob him of whatever he had on him.  And so to Laban's great disappointment, following Laban's hugging and kissing Jacob for the real purpose of checking if Jacob would have snuck a few bucks in his bosom or a little change in his mouth, realized that this was not the case, and the rest is history.

And so, the Torah teaches us that Laban, though we know that he was idol worshiper and had disrespect for his papa, his biggest weakness was his desire for money, whether he had much or little, and accordingly, related everything in terms of money.  And so, the only way he was really able to understand Jacob's longing for home was Laban's own longing for more money, and based on this, Laban was the big trickster that he was, including as the Midrash notes, he found a ploy to use on the townspeople to give him food supplies for the wedding feasts that he threw for Jacob marrying his daughters, and then when it came time for the town asking him to pay them back, he squirmed out of doing so. And hence, it is of no big surprise that raising his children obviously with his philosophy about money, that his sons felt that if someone in the family had more than they had, regardless of who earned what or if Jacob was so much older than they, that automatically in their minds, Jacob was nothing but a crook and a highway robber, which is exactly what they would be themselves being that Laban trained them the way that he was himself.  This is of course aside from the fact that it was none other than a Jew who made all this big money, regardless of how he earned it.

I had a good friend of mine who passed away a decade ago, who, as a young rabbi, when he was a patient in the hospital for the first time for the sickness that he was diagnosed with, found himself in the same room as a black minister.  Now, my friend didn't exactly look like someone who had big money, even as he looked more dressed up as a patient than one with suit and tie.  In any case, the minister, at one point, told my friend, "It's true that both the Jews and blacks have suffered much.  But you know, there is big difference between the two of us - it's the money," moving his hand to demonstrate this.  Perhaps if I would be this minister, I would feel the same way.  After all, no doubt that there were quite a few slave owners in the earlier part of the United States history who were Jewish, even as the big financier of the Revolution War was a Jew named Hyman Solomon.

The truth is that anti-Semitism wasn't necessarily or always caused by money.  Even when the Jews were for the most part poor, as it was the typical situation in Europe, the Jews were hated with the excuse that they were primates.  And of course, there were the blood libels, which was based on something that totally opposes Judaism - accusing them of using human blood for Matzot, but that was all that was needed to start a riot among the ignorant masses of thugs to murder Jews.  Or, blaming the Jews for the black plague which was really caused by lack of sanitation; but ironically, the Jews were the highest among the level of sanitation, being that our religion requires washing of hands at various times during the day, bathing for Shabbat, women going to the Mikva (ritualarium) once a month, etc.

But there is a special significance between money and anti-Semitism.  Now, I did write about this in a previous post (#152).  And as I wrote in this post about the Torah using the terminology of money in Laban's words for the definition of desiring or longing, so was the word Jew used by anti-Semites in the past to indicate that someone "Jewed" another, referring to taking money from someone else.  Now though partly due to the fault of anti-Semites that Jews weren't able to find easy employment, some Jews who were looking a way to make a living, lent money on interest to non-Jews, but this was the perfect excuse for non-Jews to be jealous of Jews, even as the majority of Jews were lucky  for their little ones to have even one half-decent meal a day.

Now, getting back to Gematria, the word Kinah (jealousy) is the Gematria of 156.  Now, in terms of Gematria, one out of many methods used is to count the word or the amount of letters added up to the total Gematria sum.  Though I rarely use this method, I think that based on what I wrote here, it would be hardly far fetched to say, that when you add the four Hebrew letters of the word Kinah, the total amount is 160, the same Gematria as Kesef, for as I mentioned earlier about the word Kesef as related to desiring or longing, that is exactly what jealousy is, for one is desiring or longing for either oneself to have the same thing, or wanting what the other person has.


As vivid readers of my Gematriot blogspot will know, the letter MEM has been a hot topic.  And so, being that the numerical value of Mem is 40, four times this is 160.  Now, there is good reason for me to mention this.  You see, as in the song Echad Mi Yodea  "Who knows one" near the end of the Haggada of Passover, there are four Imahot (Matriarchs) which are Sara, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah; and for practical purposes, many bless their daughters, as I do for my daughter, every Shabbat night, that G-d should bless them like these four Matriarchs.  Another connection of the number in connection with women are the four women that Jacob was intimate with (only two were his wives, the other two were maidservants) from whom the Jewish people via the Twelve Tribes issued forth.

Now, the Hebrew for mother is Eim, which consists of Aleph and Mem; and the Aramaic for mother is the same except it ends with an additional Aleph.  In any case, we see that aside from the silent letter Aleph, which is the head of the letters, just as the mother is the head of the family - as well as the father for which the word in Hebrew begins with an Aleph as well, and in Aramaic also ends with an Aleph - being that both parents are in a way compared to the Alupho Shel Olam  "Master of the World", since just like Hashem, howbeit in a very physical way, created a whole new being.  But the bottom line here is that the mother is particularly represented  by the letter Mem, just as the father is particularly represented by the letter Beit (as we see in the Torah - Beit Avicha  "House of your father", while we don't see it saying Beit Imecha "House of your mother").  And so, when the letter Mem, representing the woman, the mother, is multiplied by four, it yields the Gematria of the word Kesef (money), for in fact, in the very beginning of Tractate Kiddushin which is all about the laws of marriage, the Mishna, a woman is acquired in marriage via three ways: money, marriage document, and conjugal relations; using particularly the Hebrew word Kesef, as opposed to the usual Mishnaic terminology of the word Mammon, and mentioned as the first of these three ways.


Perhaps a parallel can be made here in terms of major Jewish leaders whose names beginning with Mem.  Well first, the first leader of the Jewish people was Moshe Rabbeinu, and then for the Purim story - the leader was Mordechai, and then for the Chanuka story - the leader was Matsyahu, and finally - Moshiach will be the leader ushering into the final Golden Era of the Jewish people, though it is his title, rather than his name, being that this is what he has been referred to for thousands of years.  Hence, the first letter Mem of these four pivotal leaders adds up to the sum total of 160.

In addition, we see other major Tzadikim (righteous people) and leaders whose letters also start with a Mem.  In the Ashkenazic world, Rabbi Moshe Isserleis is the author of the notes, noting the difference of laws and customs between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews, in the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) that was composed by Rabbi Yosef Karo who was Sephardic, and before a quarter of a century ago, the leading Halachic authority was Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.  And then of course, we had the number one outspoken, fierce leader Rabbi Meir Kahane, without whom, despite the sad plight that Israel is in today with  both the lack of good leadership and dictators, we would not have at least a small group of people who bravely fight for our rights in following Kahane's teachings.  And in terms of the Western Wall since its liberation over 40 years ago, the first rabbi of the Wall was Rabbi Meir Yehuda Getz.

In the Sephardic world, we have the Rambam (Maimonides) who is Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, and the Ramban (Nachmanides) who is Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman.  Now for the name Mordechai, we have had in more recent times - Rabbi Mordechai Sharabi and Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, both among the greatest of Sephardic rabbis in recent times.

In the Hasidic world, there have been quite a few Chasidic Rebbes with the name Menachem Mendel, a double name that both start with a Mem, and the first name Menachem also ends with a Mem (Sophit).

And let me not forget, the women need representation here too.  In fact, the name of Miriam, sister of Moshe and Aharon, begins and ends with a Mem, who was rewarded with being the ancestor of King David and Moshiach in terms of royalty, being that together with her mother Yocheved while in Egypt, helped Jewish babies being born virtually around the clock, despite the danger of being punished by the Egyptian Pharaoh.  As the Midrash notes, this physical task on the young Miriam made her rather not look pretty, and so was most unattractive to the young bachelors, and it was only at a much older age that Caleb, like 40 years younger than her, married her as we would say "for the sake of heaven", accompanied with his general righteousness of staying steadfast of insisting that Israel was a good place to move to, in sharp contrast to the 10 other spies, aside from Joshua, who lured the Jewish people with their gossip of the land into wanting to enter it, resulting in rewarding him to live long enough to live for some time on the Hebron land that he inherited in his mid-eighties.  In any case, I must mention here that my wife's second Hebrew name is Miriam.

Now, as Hashem made this world, there is a parallel between two different, or more specifically put, opposite realms - between heaven and earth, between land and sea, between good and evil, and between Jews and non-Jews.

While non-Jews don't use Hebrew for their names, they can be spelled in Hebrew just the same and be hinted to in the Torah as such - first names and/or last names.  And as I have just mentioned here some of the greatest Tzadikim of all time whose names begin with the letter Mem, so do we find a parallel among non-Jews leaders too.  But according to the dictates of Judaism, we are supposed to say L'Havdil between the mention of Jews and non-Jews.  But more than just that, I will demonstrate just that, and my topic of non-Jewish leaders with the connection of Mem will not be in this 160th post, but will be the topic of my next post, which G-d willing, I will be posting within the next 24 hours, so stay tuned...

Motzoei Shabbat Parshat Vayeitze 5773

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