Saturday, March 9, 2013

#171 - End of Shabbat on Shabbat

For some, the title of this post may appear to be a little strange.  After all, if I want to talk about the end of Shabbat, why don't I just indicate it as "End of Shabbat" which automatically means that it is the end of Shabbat, without repeating the word as though we wouldn't know that it is the end of Shabbat unless I add "on Shabbat"?

For those who learn Daf Yomi, the worldwide daily study of the folio or double sided page of the Babylonian Talmud, it makes much sense, because on this past Shabbat, the final Daf of the 156 Dafim of this large Talmudic tractate (only second to Bava Batra which consists of 175 Dafim) was learnt.  Now, to understand the significance of this, being that it takes nearly seven and a half years in the Daf Yomi cycle to learn the entire Talmud of 2,711 Dafim, and that every cycle, it begins on a different day of the week, the next time that the final page of Tractate Shabbat of Daf Yomi that will be learned on Shabbat will be in the Hebrew year 5825, nearly 52 years from now.  Oh sure, there is a chance that I could still be hanging around in this world in my nineties, but for many, this will happen once in a lifetime, unlike for those who recently passed away under the age of 52 who never had the chance of this happening in their lifetime.

As it relates to both Tractate Shabbat and Shabbat itself, the number 52 is a bit significant.  As I have just mentioned that there are 156 Dafim in Tractate Shabbat, there is a similarity in time as it pertains to Shabbat. You see, in some groupings of three years in the Hebrew calendar in which there is only one leap year consisting of an extra month of Adar, the same date can fall out on the same day of the week three years apart, which means that there are exactly 156 weeks.  Thus, in this pattern, if one were to learn a Daf of Tractate Shabbat every Shabbat, he will learn the exact same Daf on the same date that he learned it three years earlier.  Now, while the Hebrew calendar consists of 353-355 days in a regular year, and 383-385 in a leap year, it conforms closely with the solar calendar of 365-366 days in the year.  And so, if one were to all of a sudden declare 364 days/52 weeks in the Hebrew calendar, it would always work perfectly for learning the same Daf of Tractate Shabbat three years later on the same date, except for the fact that it doesn't always work out this way because there are times that there will be a few more days in a three year cycle, so to speak, to be closer to like another day or two to match the solar calendar of 365.2425 cycle days in a year.

Now in Hebrew, the letters for the number 52 is Noon-Beit.  Now, we see an interesting phenomenon.  There are various names of Hashem that are associated with various numbers depending on the number of certain letters or words.  In one category, the numbers are 45, 52, 63, 72.  Now, unlike the other numbers that in indicating the letters of the number, the letter of the higher Gematria is mentioned first as is done typically - just as I just mentioned the Noon (50) before the Beit (2) - in various Kabbalistic writings, for the number 52, the Beit is written before the Noon, which in this case, is spelled as a Noon Sophit, the form of the Noon that is spelled as such only at the end of a word.  So the question is, why are the letters for this number transposed.  True, the other numbers don't have letters that have a similar match that is spelled only at the end of a word, but still, why does this Hebrew number not conform with the others in terms of Hashem's various names?

Well first of all, the letters for the number 52 as spelled as Beit-Noon Sophit is also the word Ben (son), but then again what does this have to do with Hashem or Shabbat for that matter?

In another form of Gematriot in which there are five Hebrew letters that are spelled only at the end of a word, being nicknamed Sophit, and have a little different shape than the usual form for the letters Kaf, Mem, Noon, Pei, Tzadi, these five letters take on a higher Gematria value than the regular letter, corresponding to the the respective numbers 500, 600, 700, 800, 900.  Thus, the Noon Sophit is the numerical value of 700, and so the way that in the Kabbalistic sources, the number 52 is spelled, it actually connotes the Gematria of 702, which is the exact Gematria of the word Shabbat!

Now, in realistic terms, the Shabbat, while known as the holiest day of the week, has another side to it.  Spiritually, it is also a queen, called Shabbat HaMalka.  While the question may be whether the day itself is a queen or is a separate entity, while is certain is that we Jews are called Hashem's children - Banim Atem L'Hashem Elokeichem "You are children (sons in masculine form) of the L-rd your G-d"" (Deutronomy 14:1), and the singular form of this is the word Ben.  For in fact, the Shabbat as a day of rest was given to us as a gift from Hashem, which forbids non-Jews from resting on this day, for it is on this day that we have an exclusive relationship with Hashem, even though we are supposed to serve Him on every day of the week.  However, the difference is that while on other days of the week, when we are in work mode "Six days a week, you shall perform all your work", which corresponds to the aspect of us being categorized as servants to Hashem during the week, it is on Shabbat that it is most evident that we are Hashem's children.  After all, not only do we not report to work on this day, but we are able to spend the most time with our family, which highlights what means to be children of Hashem, for that is exactly how we are supposed to raise our children, aside from the physical bond of our children to us as parents.

And as put by Rabbi Shimon at the end of Chapter 14 of Tractate Shabbat in the Mishna "All Jews are the sons of kings (or princes)", which we said in reference to the allowance of using a type of oil that typically princes use for all Jews on Shabbat, as opposed to his opponent who only allows Jewish princes to use this type of oil on Shabbat as befitting their stature.  And even though in Halacha (Jewish Law), we don't follow the view of Rabbi Shimon, our rabbis tell us in reference to differences of views in Halacha - Eilu V'Eilu Divrei Elokim Chaim "Both views are words of the Living G-d", meaning, both view are words of Torah - even though the Halacha can only follow like one of them - for even the non-winning view has a lesson to teach us in Torah.  Because even though we may not be living a wealthy lifestyle, we are supposed to feel on Shabbat that we are Hashem's children, since after all, Hashem is the King of kings, and so, we are in turn the Prince(s) of princes.  But the question can be asked, if this is how we are supposed to feel - at least on Shabbat, then why can't the Halacha follow Rabbi Shimon who allows all Jews to use this type of exotic oil to rub ourselves?  It sounds like the Halacha is catering especially to the most rich of people.

Yes, we are spiritually Hashem's children.  However, in order to be deserving of remaining being called this, we have to behave accordingly.  We have to work on our relationship with Hashem, we have to learn the laws on how to observe the Shabbat quite properly - which is not possible without serious study of its laws.  And so, if we were to start to pampering ourselves because we are "Hashem's children", we could easily loose sight of the purpose of being "Hashem's children", because unless we are seriously involved in spiritual pursuits, why should we be better than non-Jews who weren't given the various Mitzvot (Commandments) that Hashem gave us?  And so, unless one happens to be in a high ranking physical status where certain high quality things are the norm and expected, we have to care to focus especially on our spiritual needs, referring to our physical needs only as such that they will help our spiritual needs.  Hence, it is then and only in this fashion that we can view ourselves as Hashem's children.

There is one more reason to be given for why the number 52 in Hebrew for Hashem's name is in reverse letters.  You see, this number is also the Gematria of the word Beheima (animal).  It is true that even Hashem Himself is compared to a lion in Tanach, but this comparison is made strictly for us to have a glimpse of His strength.  However, in stark contrast to a human being who has been endowed with the power of speech and serves Hashem, an animal is on a low spiritual level.  You see, it is OK for an animal to behave like an animal, not having control of its instincts, and certainly not practicing any self-control because it is the right thing to do (though it will do favors for other creatures at times), because this is how it was created.  However, a human being who behaves like an animal stoops down lower spiritually than an animal.  And so, it wouldn't be very appropriate for Hashem to be compared, so to speak, to an animal via the Gematria of one of his names.  And so, by reversing the two letters to be Beit-Noon Sophit, the Gematria for the Noon Sophit when considering the higher values of the five letters that are only at the end of a word, it becomes the same Gematria as Shabbat, the one day of the week that is totally spiritual, or uses the physical to be spiritual, including our eating on Shabbat; as well as the number being spelled as such to spell the Hebrew word for "son", denoting the opposite end of the animalistic spirit that we are supposed to control and use for the spiritual as sons of Hashem, a title that is granted to us when we serve Hashem.


On Shabbat, we just concluded the SECOND of the five books of the Chumash (Penteteuch) - Sefer Shemot (Exodus), with the conclusion of the reading of the combined Parshiyot of Vayakheil and Pekudei.  Accordingly, on this same day, we concluded Tractate Shabbat -the SECOND tractate of the Daf Yomi.
Moreover, we see another very close resemblance here.  BOTH the names/words Shemot (which means names by the way) and Shabbat begin with a Shin and end with a Tav/Sav.

Moreover, all five Mitzvot as related to the observance of Shabbat as kept at all times, regardless of where and when in history, are mentioned in Sefer Shemot: 1)Not walking past 12 Mil (or rabbinically as we now have to observe - 2,000 Amot) beyond the city limits (Mitzva 24), 2)Remembering the Sabbath by making Kiddush at the beginning and Havdala at the end (Mitzva 31), 3)Not working (Mitzva 32), 4)Resting (Mitzva 85), 5)Not kindling a fire (though the literal meaning of the verse, refers also to the Jewish court not putting someone to death, which includes burning) (Mitzva 115).

Now getting back to the letters Shin and Tav, these are the last two letters of the Aleph Beit.  And in the entire Tanach (Bible), there is only one time that these two letters are the initials of four consecutive words as two of the letter Shin and then two of the letter Tav - Sheva Shabatot Temimot Tihyehna "They shall be seven complete weeks" (Leviticus 23:15) referring to the count of the seven weeks between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Pentacost) as the Mitzva of Sephirat HaOmer, counting these 49 days/7 weeks, which is in fact, the middle Mitzva of the Torah (see Post #141).  And speaking of Talmudic Tractates, Tractate Shevuot (similar to the name of the holiday, but means oaths) is customarily studied by some scholars during this seven week period, being that this tractate ends with Daf 49 (it actually has a total of 48 Dafim, being that all Talmudic tractates in the Babylonian Talmud begin with Daf 2), noting that the name of this tractate, just as the name of the holiday Shavuot and the word Shabatot as mentioned in the above verse, which is translated in this context as weeks, all begin with Shin and end with Tav.  And noting the numerical value of these last two letters of the Aleph Beit - 300 and 400, the total is 700, which is 100 times seven, which denotes the completeness of the seven times seven days period leading to Shavuot, about which both letters are noted twice as the beginning of their corresponding words - denoting completeness both in the form of seven days in the weeks and seven times of the same day of the week.  Speaking of which, according to the Zohar, one is only called complete in spiritual preparation for the holiday of Shavuot, if one did not miss a single day of the Sephira count.

Moreover, these last two letters of the Aleph Beit in fact spell someone's one - Sheit (Seth), which was the name of one of sons of Adam and Eve, the first generation of children in world history.  And while Adam had a few sons, it was Seth who - via from father to son through the various generations that the Jewish people are descended from, himself being a righteous individual (in fact, his burial place in Israel is even known), thus representing the concept of Ben (son) in relationship to Shabbat, both names beginning with a Shin and ending with a Tav, as it was specifically the Jewish people as descended from Seth who were given the Shabbat to observe.  In fact, the name Shabbat may hint by its middle letter Beit (2), to Seth being the SECOND generation of mankind.

In fact, the very Hebrew word for the "SECOND time" is Sheinit, which also begins with a Shin and ends with a Tav/Sav!  This word can be found in the Kedusha (sanctification prayer) of the Mussaf Shemonei Esrei for Shabbat and Jewish holidays in the context of stating that Hashem will redeem us for a second time, just as He originally redeemed us from Egypt, with the coming of Moshiach.

Now, getting back to the conclusion of Sefer Shemot, which in this year, were the combined Parshiyot of Vayakheil-Pekudei (unlike in leap years, and occasionally in a regular year, they are read on separate Shabbatot), the first three verses of the day's reading is about Shabbat.  In fact, this is the very source of the number of the 39 categories of work, as the first verse states in preparation to mention Shabbat  - Eileh HaDevarim "THESE ARE THE THINGS that Hashem commanded to do them..." The word Eileh (these) is the Gematria of 36, the word Devarim (things), being plural, denotes the minimum of two, and the prefix HA-Devarim - THE things, denotes another one; hence a total of 39 categories of work forbidden on Shabbat, the very categories of work that were employed in the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), as the reason that Shabbat is mentioned in this context right before the details of the building of the Mishkan is to denote that the building of the Mishkan was not to overide Shabbat, during which it is forbidden to build.

Anyways, this section concludes with "You shall not kindle fire in all of your habitations on the Shabbat day".  While there is a whole Talmudic discussion as to the meaning of the particular category of work as kindling a fire being specified out of all of the 39 categories of work, one thing that can be noted is that the Shabbat at home begins upon the woman of the house kindling the candles for Shabbat, the purpose of which is that there will be light in the house for Shabbat, especially for eating, and for the general reason of Shalom Bayit, tranquility in the home, something that may be taken for granted today being that we have electricity galore.  With this said, the Hebrew word for fire is Eish, consisting of the first two letters of the word/phrase Eishet Chayil "Woman of Valor", the theme of the final 22 verses of Mishlei (Proverbs), each beginning with another letter of the Aleph Beit in order of the letters, that we recite before making Kiddush (sanctification of Shabbat day which is recited over a cup of wine), noting that the topic of Shabbat is mentioned in Parshat Vayakheil - the 22nd Parsha of the Torah.  And the Aramaic word for fire is Eshata, in which the middle letters are Shin and Tav, and the word is also the Gematria of the word/name Shabbat!

As we know, fire represents the concepts of warmth and passion.  However, when fire is not handled responsibly, it can G-d forbid, cause some of the worst tragedies, which  includes the burning of the Bet HaMikdash (Temple).  Similarly, the very last act of work performed by the woman ending the six days of work; however is forbiden to be created or handled on Shabbat.  In a simlar vein, one can either use Shabbat just a means of "resting up" without giving much though to the spiritual  acts; or rather, enjoy the full range of the holiness of Shabbat via the warmth of learning Torah and praying with passion.


Just one acronym?  Recently, I saw a Sefer (holy book) which is all about explanations of over 700 phrase acronyms just from the three letters of the Hebrew word Shabbat (Shin, Beit, Tav)!  In any case, there is a famous one as it relates to Tractate Shabbat - Shabbat B'Shabbat Tilmod  "(Tractate) Shabbat on Shabbat you shall learn".  This Mishnaic tractate consists of 24 chapters, which correspond to the 24 adornments of a bride that used to be worn at a wedding. for  The connection to Shabbat is that the holy day, or more specifically the Shabbat Queen, is called a bride, as we chant in the midst of the Shabbat night prayers - Lecha Dodi Likrat Kala Pnei Shabbat Nekabla  "Come my beloved, let us greet the bride, let us receive the countenance of the Sabbath".

Additionally, the number 24 in terms of time, since the concept of Shabbat is a unit of time, represents the amount of hours in one full day.  And though in fact, we observe this holy day more like 25-26 hours (depending on various views as to when it is night time), it is based on the technicality since we don't know the exact moment that night begins, since for all that we know, it may begin as early as sunset, and so we make sure not to do work past sunset on Friday evening, and we wait on Saturday evening until what is called nightfall (Tzeit HaCochavim) with the appearance of three medium stars before beginning work, aside from the observance of refraining from work for at least a little period of time before Shabbat and after Shabbat to make sure that we will not even come to the possibility of working on Shabbat, aside from showing our enthusiasm of wanting to bask in the holiness of Shabbat.

And of course, in our Jewish literature, there are 24 books of the Tanach (Jewish Bible).  And though through the course of the year, we focus on learning the first five books of the Tanach called the Chumash (Penteteuch or The Five Books of Moses), we see a connection of the Torah She'B'Ketav (Written Torah) to Shabbat, as it relates to a story that happened long ago when the Jews were in Egypt in their slavery days.
You see, Moses, raised as a prince in Pharaoh's palace, when he went out and saw how his brethren were suffering, he came up with an idea to make it a little easier on them.  He told Pharaoh that in order that the Jews won't be totally worn out from working without any rest, it would be a good idea to give them one day in the work for this purpose, so they can then be refreshed to work good in the following week.  Since Moses knew how to make it sound like it would a benefit for Pharaoh, the Egyptian king agreed, and so for the next few decades, the Jews got to rest on Shabbat.  But it wasn't just that they simply didn't work on this day, but take advantage of the time to read scrolls of Torah (though not exactly what we call the Tanach as most of the history of the Tanach had yet to happen) to read; thus representing the concept of the 24 books of the Written Torah.  In fact, speaking of the 24 chapters of Tractate Shabbat, the 16th chapter begins with the words Kol Kitvei HaKodesh "All holy writings..." in reference to what we are allowed to save on Shabbat should there be, G-d forbid, a fire, where it says that we save these holy writings, regardless of whether they have been read or not.

And now, getting back to our acronym for Shabbat, we see an interesting thing here.  The second word - BaShabbat (on the Sabbath), is in fact the last word of this tractate.  So indeed, it isn't just another nice sounding acronym phrase playing with words, but in fact mentioning the last word of the Mishnaic tractate.  This is similar to the conclusion of the Chumash in which the last word is Yisrael, the main name referring to the Jewish people, for the Torah was created to begin with in order that we Jews observe the Torah and its Mitzvot.

With this said, what is the very last topic of this tractate?  It is in reference to measuring on Shabbat, which is at least permitted if it is for the purpose of a Mitzva, such as measuring the length of the Mikva (ritualarium).  Now in Hebrew, the word for measure is Midah, which is the Gematria of 49, and in turn, the square root of 49 is seven, representing the Seventh Day - Shabbat.

And in terms of Passover in this coming month of Nissan, we see a strong correspondence of Shabbat with the number 49.  Whenever Sabbath falls out on one of the intermediate days of Passover or Succot  (called Chol HaMoed), we read from the midst of Parshat Ki Tisa where these holidays are mentioned.  In any case, let us turn to the 7th Aliyah of this reading which begins saying that we are to observe the holiday of Matzot (Exodus 34:18).  Now, counting the words of this seventh Aliyah, we find that the 49th word is HaShevi'i "the Seventh" the middle of nine Hebrew words in verse 21 where it states "You shall work for six days, but you shall desist on THE SEVENTH day, desisting from plowing and reaping".  And mind you, during Passover, this is read during the beginning days of the 49 days of Sephirat HaOmer (counting the days from when the Omer offering was brought on the 2nd day of Passover).  Coincidence?

Another significant thing about this last word of the tractate - BaShabbat, is that in could be read as Beit - two and Shabbat.  You see, the Talmud in Tractate Shabbat (118b) mentions two opinions as to how many times Shabbat has to be observed by the entire nation in order for the Redemption to take place.  One rabbi says that it is one Shabbat, and another rabbi says that we have to observe two Shabbatot (plural for Shabbat).  Now, regardless of how they came to their opinions or who is right, since it isn't simply a matter of what is the law when it comes to a difference of opinion, but rather, what will actually happen -will it happen according to the specifications of one opinion or those of the other?  In any case, the fact that the last word of the Mishnaic tractate has the implication of two Shabbatot reminds us of this concept of the Redemption coming in the merit of Shabbat, for indeed, as noted at the end of Tractate Tamid, this holy day is compared to Olam HaBa, the word of eternity - without further need of our physical, mundane needs as especially related to the work week - which will forever be Shabbat.

Motzoei Shabbat Vayakheil-Pekudei 5773