Friday, June 28, 2013

#181 - Seeing the LIGHT of the Son

While the subject of light, referring to both spiritual and physical light, is no stranger to my Gematriot blogspot, those who learn the worldwide daily Daf Yomi of the Babylonian Talmud will know that this past Shabbat, Tractate Pesachim - the tractate about the laws pertaining to Passover - was begun, which commences with the opening words of the Mishna: Ohr L'Arba'ah Asar, which literally means "Light of the fourteenth".  In this case, light refers to night, that is, the night of the fourteenth of Nissan, when our Sages bid us to search our homes for Chametz (unleavened food), which is supposed to be burned in the daytime if not eaten within the first third of the daytime before the start of the Passover holiday.

The Gemara/Talmud begins asking on the Mishna: "What is Ohr?"  Rav Huna says that it means light, and Rav Yehuda says that it means night.  Following this, the Gemara, for over a Daf, goes back and forth attempting to disprove one rabbi or the other.  Eventually, the Gemara comes with the conclusion that "light" refers to night; and that in fact, these two rabbis don't argue about this, but simply are mentioning what night is called in their respective locations - meaning, in Rav Huna's location, night was called "light", while in Rav Yehuda's location, night was called "night".  However, the reason that the Mishna uses the word "light" to refer to night, is because it wants to use nice language, and the Gemara brings several proofs from the Torah where nicer language is used instead of using the regular terminology, as for example, "not pure" instead of "pure".

Now, while night itself is not a bad or evil thing per se, at least in contrast to day, night represents a darkened  state.  Perhaps those who frequent night clubs won't quite agree with this, especially in South Beach of "sunny" Florida where it seems to be bumper to bumper traffic at 2:00 AM "in the morning", but perhaps, this is one of the best illustrations of how what is in this world is actually a reflection of what it is really in the spiritual world.  For in fact, spiritual night is darkness that attracts the forces of evil, and accordingly, our mission in this world is to conquer these forces of evil.  Indeed for some, nighttime is the time for sinful fun and all, but this type of lifestyle is devoid of spiritual meaning and purpose in life, not connecting directly with the Source of all vitality.

In stark contrast, our Sages tell us that if anything, nights were created for the study of Torah.  Perhaps until recently with the invention of the light bulb, nighttime study was a bit challenging dealing with candles, oil, and of course, upfront money to purchase these "light" items, or one would have a problem learning at night, pending the Torah committed to memory.  In any case, as we see in Kabbalistic and Hasidic writings, getting up at midnight to study Torah, as King David did, is a big thing for righteous people, for in Heaven, this is called prime time when it is especially bliss.

So as we can see, the ultimate challenge in this world is to take something devoid of holiness, and use this very thing for the greatest spirituality possible.  For while certainly, many Mitzvot are only performed in the daytime, including wearing Tefillin (phylacteries), Brit Mila (circumcision), and offering Korbanot (sacrifices); however, the study of Torah, as the greatest Mitzva (commandment), is eternal; and hence, is beyond time, and thus can conquer the evil forces that are associated with time, thus shining the brightest where there is the greatest darkness.  For indeed, we see that the Torah is called Ohr (Proverbs 6:23); and even though the official giving of the Torah took place in the daytime, there is a custom to stay awake all night on Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates this event, demonstrating our love of learning the Torah, keeping us awake the whole night.

Now, addressing the significance of the timing of the beginning of learning the Talmudic tractate called Pesachim, we will need to rewind the tape just a bit  You see, four years and three months ago in 5769 ("09), the ceremony of the recital of Bircat HaChama "Blessing of the Sun" (actually we thank Hashem for creating the sun, aside from the fact that the blessing itself mentions nothing about the sun, but rather, acknowledging Hashem as the One "Who does the actions of creation"), took place on the fourteenth of Nissan, Erev Pesach, a ceremony that takes place once in every 28 years.  Now bearing in mind that the timing of the recital takes place based on the spring equinox, one will notice that the recital of this blessing takes place on the same date on the secular calendar, until we pass the beginning of the secular century if there is no leap day when the year ends with two zeros making the following few times for its recital on the following calendar day.  Thus, the falling out of this past Bircat HaChama on the fourteenth of Nissan is coincidental - or so it seems.

Speaking of light, it is the sun of all the planetary system that gives off the brightest light.  And as the Mishna associates the concept of light specifically with the fourteenth of Nissan, even though it actually refers to night, the fact that at times, the Bircat HaChama ceremony takes place on this very date cannot simply be dismissed as "coincidental".  Moreover, this past recital that took place on this date - the very last time that it will ever be recited on this date in the 6,000 slated years of this world's existence, took place at the beginning of the 207th cycle of 28 years, noting that the Hebrew word for light - Ohr - is the Gematria of 207!

At this point, I should point out that in the past Mishna Yomit cycle, in which two Mishnayot are learned daily, the learning of the Mishnayot of the beginning of Tractate Pesachim, beginning with the word Ohr, took place on the first day of Chanuka in 5766 ("06).  As we know, the holiday of Chanuka is most associated with light, and in Israel, it is called Chag HaUrim "Festival of Lights".  And as well known, the 25th word in the Torah is the first mention of the word Ohr, corresponding to the 25th day of Kislev, the date of the first day of Chanuka.  And this past Bircat HaChama was in the midst of this same cycle of Mishna Yomit as it was 1,200 days earlier when the beginning of Tractate of Pesachim - Ohr L'Arba'ah Asar "Night of the fourteenth (of Nissan)", bearing the same date of this past Bircat HaChama, was learned on 25 Kislev/First Day of Chanuka that is most associated with Ohr.  Moreover, there are 89 Mishnayot in Tractate Pesachim which begins with the word Ohr - LIGHT, and the name of the holiday Chanuka - the Festival of LIGHTS - is the Gematria of 89.

Now, noting the amount of Hebrew months from this past date of Bircat HaChama until this past Shabbat Parshat Balak on 14 Tammuz when the worldwide learning of Tractate Pesachim in the Talmud in the Daf Yomi cycle began, there were exactly 52 months, for indeed, we see that this tractate beginning with "Night of the FOURTEENTH" began on the FOURTEENTH of a month, howbeit a different month than the one that the Mishna is referring to, but it doesn't specify that it is the month of Nissan.

Now, there is a question to be asked here.  We see that sometimes, the Mishna specifies the month associated with the date, and sometimes not.  For examples, we will refer to the beginning of three tractates.  The beginning of Tractate Shekalim begins with "On the 1st of Adar - we announce about the giving of Shekalim and getting rid of the mixed seeds in the fields".  As we see here, the month of Adar is specified.  However we see that in the beginning of Tractate Megilla, it states "The Megilla (Book of Esther) is read on the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, or 15th..." without mentioning the month of Adar in question.  And the same thing applies with our Mishna here "On the night of the fourteenth, we search for Chametz", which doesn't mention the month of Nissan.  So first, why do some of these sources not even mention the month in question; and second, why is it that some sources mentions the month while others don't?  We will address these questions a little later on.

As the months of the year each have a corresponding Tribe of Israel, the tribe for the month of Tammuz, as noted by the Bnei Yissaschar, is Reuven.  And in Kabbalah, the letters of his name can be rearranged as the words - Ohr Ben "Light of the Son".  Now, this may sound the same as the "Light of the Sun", and one may even want to make a connection here that just as Reuven was the FIRST SON of Jacob, so is Sunday the FIRST day of the week - if the context of a Jewish calendar in which Shabbat is the end of the week - named after the SUN, but the main connection in this case is the fact that the sun is the biggest resource of OHR (light) in this world.  However, the main point that I want to make here is that the word Ben (son) has the same letters as the Hebrew number for 52, just as there were exactly 52 months from this past date of Bircat HaChama - 14 Nissan until 14 Tammuz of last week when the Daf Yomi of Tractate Pesachim began, which begins with the word Ohr, in the midst of the month that corresponds to the Tribe of Reuven, whose name is a composite of the words Ohr and Ben!  And as for Reuven, the firstborn son of Jacob, himself, he was born on the FOURTEENTH of a different month, the month of Kislev.  So as you can see here, Reuven is very strongly connected to the number 14.

Now, even if one were to be skeptical about the points that I made in this past paragraph, thinking that there a few nice "coincidences" here, I'm not quite finished.  You see, the beginning of the previous 28 year cycle as related to the recital of Bircat HaChama took place on the date of 4 Nissan in 5741 (1981), which on a personal note, I remember this day very well when I was close to 11 years old, when the classes of the Yeshiva day school that I attended walked to the nearby beach grounds in gathering together for this day's special prayers of Bircat HaChama.  Anyways, as we know in Jewish history, the first 12 days from the dedication of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), during which time, one leader from each of the 12 tribes offered sacrifices on behalf of his respective tribe on a specific assigned day, which took place during the first 12 days of Nissan.  Now, this was not done in order of the birth of the Tribes, but rather, in order of the encampment of the Tribes in the desert beginning with Judah.  With this said, on 4 Nissan, it was the leader of the Tribe of Reuven who offered his sacrifices.  Moreover, just as it was both the FOURTH of Nissan and the FOURTH day of the week, being tha the dedication of the Mishkan took place on the first day of the week, so too, being that the Bircat HaChama ceremony, being that the planetary system which is chiefly ruled by the sun and moon was placed into orbit on the fourth day of Creation, always takes place on the fourth day of the week; in 5741, the FOURTH day of the week was also the FOURTH of Nissan.  And this is bearing in mind that this is related to the beginning of Tractate Pesachim, whose Gemara of the Babylonian Talmud is the FOURTH of the Talmudic tractates, whose subject Pesach takes place in the midst of the month of Nissan that is Kabbalistically represented by the Tribe of Judah, whose ancestor Judah was the FOURTH born of Jacob and Leah.

Now, this previous Bircat HaChama ceremony on 4 Nissan, 5741 began the 206th cycle of the 28 year cycle of Bircat HaChama.  Yes, this number 206, the number before 207 that is the Gematria of Ohr, is also very significant.  As we know according to Halacha, we learn the Parsha every week by reciting each verse twice followed by the Aramaic translation of Targum Onkelos once.  With this said, I have a quiz question.  What is the very first word of this Aramaic translation on the Torah?  Answer -  The word is BeKadmin, based on the word Kedem, which can mean early, as in the phrase used in the Tanach - Yemai Kedem "in the early days (of history)"; thus, the word BeKadmin implying that the creation of light (not necessarily the heavens and earth per se as implied by faulty translations that don't take the commentary Rashi into account) took place in the beginning of Creation.  And what is the Gematria of BeKadmin?  You guessed it - 206!

As you just read here - the very FIRST Aramaic word of the Torah, which also BEGINS with the account of the CREATION OF LIGHT, is the Gematria of 206, and parallel to this, the BEGINNING of the 206th cycle of Bircat HaChama took place on the same date and day of the week as it was back in the Hebrew year 2449 on which the leader of the Tribe of Reuven, whose ancestor Reuven was the FIRST one born to Jacob, offered sacrifices on behalf of this tribe.  Moreover, when we add the Gematria of the word Chama (sun) - 53 to the number 206, it adds to the Gematria of Reuven's name - 259!

Now, as related to the 28 year Bircat HaChama cycle, the number 28 in Hebrew - consisting of the letters Kaf and Cheit - it spells the word Ko'ach (strength).  Indeed, in Jacob's blessings for his children on his deathbed, he starts off for Reuven "Reuven, you are my firstborn, my STRENGTH.." (Genesis 49:3).  And in Moses's blessing of the Tribe of Reuven, he states "May Reuben live and not die; and may he be counted/numbered with the others (the other tribes)" (Deutronomy 33:6).  Now, the first word in Hebrew - Yechi "may he live" is the Gematria of 28.  And as we see here, the last word in Hebrew is Mispar, which literally means number, which is most significant here.  As we know, we count 49 days of the Sephira between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Pentecost).  Correspondingly, there are exactly 49 times that this word Mispar is mentioned in the Chumash (Penteteuch), and this word in this context about Reuven is the LAST of these 49 times! (Note: There are 34 mentions of the word Mispar (NUMBER) in Sefer Bamidbar (NUMBERS), nearly 70% of the total times being mentioned in the Chumash).

In fact, there is a special connection between Reuven and the concept of NUMBERS.  You see, the Haftara (selected portion of the Prophets as related to its corresponding Parsha read in the synagogue following the reading of the Parsha) for Parshat Bamidbar, the FIRST Parsha of Sefer Bamidbar - NUMBERS - is from the Prophet Hosea, the FIRST OF TWELVE parts of Trei Asar "Minor Prophets" (literally means twelve in Aramaic) who was descended from Reuven, the FIRST OF THE TWELVE sons of Jacob to be born.  And
this Haftara immediately begins with "The NUMBER of the Children of Israel will be like the sand of the sea which won't able to be measured or counted..." (Hosea 2:1).

It is at this point that I must point out the context of this verse.  As the Talmud tells us, when Hashem complained to the prophet Hosea that the Jews were sinning, Hosea's quick reply to Him was they should be punished.  Hoping that Hosea would speak a little more favorably about the Jews, such as past Prophets, especially Moses, had done when Hashem was ready to punish/annihilate them, He instructed Hosea (commenting to Himself "What am I going to do with this old man?") to take a harlot for himself and bear children with her.  He complied, and after the harlot had a few children, Hashem instructed Hosea to get rid of the children from the house.  As any normal father would do with such a confrontation, Hosea could not see himself doing this.  Upon this, Hashem replied, "Look, you don't even know if these children are really yours from this harlot, and nevertheless, you don't want to chase out whom you think are your children.  Then, how do you expect Me to want to be rid of My children?"  Realizing his mistake, Hosea recanted, blessing the Jews to be so numerous that they can't be measured or numbered.

Now as related to strength, as most indicated via one's hands, the Hebrew number for 14 also spells the word Yad (hand); and thus, twice the word Yad - denoting both hands - is the Gematria of 28=Ko'ach.  And as related to time, in the beginning of Chapter 3 of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), we see that there is a list of 28 "times", denoting that any given action has its own time - "A time to be born, and a time to die...A time for war, and a time for peace."  But it isn't simply that 14 is half of 28, but in the series of verses on the 28 times, we see a total of 14 opposite parallels.

Mind you, Reuven is not always put in the best "light" in the Torah, if you will.  Well first, it was the incident with Bilhah (while the Talmud doesn't believe that Reuven actually had an affair with her but his political moving of the beds for Jacob not to be with Reuven's mother's co-wife's maidservant, but rather with his own mother Leah; the Book of Jubilees, which is a source that Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, ZT"L, translator of The Living Torah, quotes - mentions the details of the story of his one night stand with Bilhah) for which his father never totally forgave him for as indicated in Jacob's "blessing" for Reuven, noting that he lost the privileges of the birthright as a result of this, despite his Teshuva (repentance) which including fasting and wearing sackcloth. along with Reuven's foolish comment to Jacob that he would give him his two children to kill if he would not return Jacob's youngest son Benjamin from Egypt as a result of the Egyptian viceroy's demands that Benjamin would come with the rest of the brothers if they were to receive food the next time in the midst of a famine; and then some of his descendants in the time of Moses weren't exactly very good "Jewish boys", including the infamous Dathan and Abiram, the main troublemakers both in Egypt and in the desert, who perished along with Elitzur Ben-Shdei'ur, leader of the Tribe of Reuven who fell for Korach's
rebellion against Moses and Aaron, being swallowed alive by the earth as punishment for their evil deeds.  Hence, Moses gave a special blessing for this tribe as the end of his life that this tribe should be sufficiently numbered in comparison with the other tribes.

Nevertheless, Reuven is still treated with respect in the Torah.  In a number of times, including in this week's Parshat Pinchas, Reuven is called Bechor Yisrael (firstborn of Israel), just as in Egypt in Hashem's address to Pharaoh to let the Jews go, He calls the Jews - B'ni Bechori Yisrael "My son, my firstborn Israel" (Exodus 4:22).  Now, the first letters of Reuven Bechor Yisrael - Reish, Beit, Yud - are the same letters as the Hebrew number 212, the Gematria of the word Ohrah (feminine of the word Ohr), which the Gemara in the context of the debate as to what Ohr refers to, states that it refers specifically to the daytime, which is ruled by the sun, and as especially related to Reuven.  Moreover, the word Ohr, which is the Gematria of 207, is mentioned FIVE times (207+5=212) in the FIRST day of Creation, which consists of five verses.  And as for the latter phrase that refers to the Jews, the total numerical value of the first letters of this phrase - Beit, Beit, Yud - is 14; thus this being a recap, so to speak, of Ohr L'Arba'asar Asar "Light of the fourteenth".

Having mentioned both the fourteenth of the months of Nissan and Tammuz, it is mentioned in Kabbala that the months of the year also have corresponding letters.  With this said, Nissan's letter is Hei, and Tammuz's letter is Cheit.  Noting that on Pesach, we don't eat Chametz, but rather, Matza; the difference between these two words - Chametz and Matza - is that the word Chametz contains the letter Cheit while the word Matza contains the letter Hei.  Now, one of the privileges of the firstborn that Reuven lost as a result of his sin was the loss of kingship, which was transferred to Judah.  Thus, while we see that at times in the Torah, Reuven is still mentioned first among the Tribes, including in Parshat Bamidbar and Parshat Pinchas; however, in term of the order of encampment and the order of the offerings of the leaders of the tribes, Judah  was the first, while Reuven was the fourth - in reverse order of the birth of the first four sons born to Jacob and Leah - and accordingly, the months of the Jewish calendar correspond to this order (as detailed in the book Bnei Yissaschar, unlike different orders mentioned in other sources which aren't correct as they oppose what it really is according to Kabbalah).  Hence, Nissan's tribe is Judah and Tammuz's tribe is Reuven.  And so, on the 14th of Nissan, the month of Judah, we are supposed to get rid of the Chametz, as especially related to the letter Cheit that corresponds to Tammuz and Reuven, the letter that also begins the word Cheit (spelled Cheit, Teit, Aleph; unlike the word for the letter Cheit that is spelled Cheit, Yud, Tav/Sav ) which is sin; which will then allow for the eating of Matza, as especially related to the letter Hei, the letter of the month of Nissan, as well as being written twice in Judah's name Yehuda - Yud, Hei, Vav, Dalet, Hei, as it is also written twice in Hashem's name as the second and fourth letters.

As for the questions earlier as to the lack of the mention of the month in particular contexts of the Mishna, bearing in mind that some mention the month while others don't; at least in terms of the beginning of Tractate Pesachim, while the actual context refers specifically to Nissan, it seems that the mention of this month is left out to hint to other months as related to Reuven in connection to Ohr (14 Tammuz), which aside from the start of the learning of this tractate in Daf Yomi, was also virtually the longest daytime of this year, relating to the LIGHT of the sun, in the month that corresponds specifically to Reuven; and in connection to his birth (14 Kislev).  Additionally, as the beginning of the 14th tractate of the Mishna, this refers to the beginning of the 14th year of a Bar Mitzva boy being that he has lived 13 complete years, and now, he needs to especially be careful of sins, for from this point on, if G-d forbid, he does perform sins, his soul will be majorly spiritually affected by them, and will be held accountable for them, unless he totally repents of them.  As the Mishna then instructs - "We search for Chametz by the light of the candle, which the soul is compared to; and hence we need to get rid of whatever spiritual particles, the Chametz, that cause us to sin, and prevent our spiritual growth, G-d forbid   As for why the month of Adar is not mentioned in the beginning of Tractate Megilla, perhaps we will address this in a future post, but is beyond the scope of this post.

And, this would not be complete without mentioning the connection between this first chapter of Pesachim with the number of this post - 181.  You see, every chapter of Mishna that is explained in the Gemara is named usually after the first words of the particular chapter.  Hence, this first chapter of Pesachim is called after the first few words of this chapter - Ohr L'Arba'ah Asar.  With this said, it is technically called Perek Ohr L'Arba'ah Asar "Chapter Ohr L'Arba'ah Asar" - and the numerical value of the first letters of this phrase - Pei=80, Aleph=1, Lamed=30, Ayin=70 add up to 181, the number of this post!  Another way of looking at this, is that instead of the letter Pei of the word Perek (chapter), we can use the letter Pei as the first letter of the name of this tractate - Pesachim; hence, noting that the name of this chapter is also the beginning of this
tractate Pesachim.

Perhaps the lesson that we can learn from this second way of looking at how we arrive at the number 181 is that in attaining good and righteousness, one must first focus on getting rid of the Chametz, the negatives that prevent us from moving forward, as mentioned in Tehillim (Psalms) - "Turn away from evil, and do good"; for otherwise, it is like someone who is holding something spiritually impure in the Mikva (ritualarium) that defeats the whole purpose of dipping in the Mikva to be rid of the spiritual contamination of the impure item; and that the only way of getting spiritually pure is first to let go of the impure item, and only then can dipping in the Mikva help him attain spiritual purification.  And as especially related to Pesach, in the times of the Beit HaMikdash (Temple), it was forbidden to own Chametz already from the afternoon of the 14th of Nissan preceding the first night of Pesach, and one who still owned Chametz while having his Korban Pesach (Pascal sacrifice) being offered was liable to be punished with lashes, for owning Chametz on Passover eve (Erev Pesach), in total contradiction to what Pesach ultimately represents, the spiritual freedom from our bondage of sins, was totally incompatible with the Korban Pesach that we ate (and will hopefully eat this coming Passover if the police in Jerusalem stop their evil of violating the Supreme Court allowance of offering the Pascal sacrifice on the Temple Mount, unless Moshiach comes first) that is the greatest Passover symbolism of our past physical freedom from Egyptian slavery that alludes to our freedom from spiritual slavery.

Having said this, the letters of the Hebrew number for 181 are Koof, Pei, Aleph.  The first two letters Koof and Pei are the letters that begin the words Korban Pesach, which is the subject of the fifth through the ninth chapters of Pesachim, half of the 10 chapters of this tractate, following the first three chapters about getting rid of the Chametz and the fourth chapter dealing with what kinds of work were permitted or forbidden on the 14th of Nissan and until when in the day; and followed by the 10th and final chapter about the finale - the Seder.  And as for the letter Aleph, this is the first letter of this tractate, beginning the word Ohr.  Hence, we see how the number 181 is related to Tractate Pesachim in at least three ways.


After what I wrote above, one may wonder "This is all very nice.  But aside from the fact that the Daf Yomi for Tractate Pesachim began on the 14th of Tammuz, is there actually anything significant about this date that is of Halachic or of Jewish historical importance?"

Believe it or not - the answer is both, both in Jewish history and in Halacha, at least at one time.  You see, there is a Baraita (set of teachings that are similar but not included in the Mishna) that is called Megillat Ta'anit, with a list of dates and historical background in all 12 months of the Jewish calendar in which happy events happened to the Jewish people for a period of time beginning after the destruction of the first Temple.  These were days on which were forbidden to fast or hold eulogies.  Eventually, most of them were dropped from observance, except for Chanuka and Purim.

However, the record of these happy days is not obsolete, and this unique collection of teachings from our Sages paints a picture of how Jewish life in the midst of observance of Judaism, or being challenged of it in various forms, was like.  Among the challenges, there were groups of Jews who challenged the words of the Sages, holding strictly according to the literal meaning of the Tanach (Jewish Bible).

Anyways, there were a group of these wayward Jews called Tzadokim (Sadducees), named after the founder of their anti-Torah movement called Tzadok, who came out at one point with their "Talmud" consisting of decrees based on how they interpreted the Torah.  For example, they had their version of what kind of death from the Jewish court that violators of the Torah received.  For payment of knocking out someone's eye or tooth, they ruled that the same thing is done back to the one who did it, as it says "An eye in place of an eye, a tooth in place of a tooth", which our rabbis explain refer strictly to monetary payment.  In the due course of time, the rules of the Sadducees were questioned, not making quite sense to the general populace, and on the fourteenth of Tammuz, their book of decrees was abolished, which made this day a Jewish holiday of celebration.

In connection with Pesach, it is perhaps the most celebrated holiday as one of "tradition", the real tradition, as most exemplified at the Seder - the topic of the final chapter of Tractate Pesachim - at which the parent relates to the child the history of the Exodus as per the Mitzva of recounting the story of the Exodus on the first night of Pesach.  As we see in the Haggadah, the official text of the Seder, it is replete of teachings from our Sages that represent Torah She'B'Al Peh - the Oral Torah that explains in detail how the Mitzvot are supposed to be performed, and how we learn out various details of the Mitzvot or Halachot (Jewish laws) from various Pesukim (verses); and not simply the literal way of reading the Bible.  For if it were left to us to interpret the Torah that way that we like it, like how a food is prepared in a restaurant to the liking of one's taste buds, we would never have any sort of agreed set of laws to be observed by all Jews, even if were to follow the "simple, literal meaning" of the verse, the same way that the Sadducees interpreted the Torah that led to nothing but confusion.  After all, we have seen the tragic results of the Conservative and Reform movements among Jews of recent times (there is really no such thing as Conservative Judaism, Reform Judaism, or even Orthodox Judaism; there is only a halachic Judaism) that have led to massive assimilation and intermarriage, with the biggest irony where the non-Jewish woman fiancee goes through a phony Jewish conversion and/or the children who aren't Jewish are given a lavish "Bar-Mitzva" or "Bat-Mitzva" celebration, complete with non-kosher food for all the Jewish guests and immodestly dressed, or "dressed to kill" women dancing with men.  Oh, by the way, a Haggadah from the Conservative or Reform movements don't necessarily have the same text material as a Halachic Haggadah, including leaving out the parts of washing the hands, just as animals who come to their place to eat as soon as the food appears without any spiritual preparations beforehand.


As mentioned in the Mishna (Ta'anit 4:5), there were nine times a year that one family or another had a personal Yom Tov (Jewish holiday) because their respective ancestor had donated wood to the Temple following the Jews' return to Israel following the Babylonian exile and rebuilding of the Temple.  Today's date - 20 Tammuz - was one of them.  But perhaps what makes this date unique is that this day was celebrated by Bnei David Ben Yehuda, which is in fact the family who were descendants of King David, as they had contributed wood on this day, making this an annual date of celebration for them.

As the Daf Yomi is currently in the midst of the first chapter of Tractate Pesachim, the FOURTH Talmudic tractate and the FOURTEENTH Mishnaic tractate which begins with "On the night of the FOURTEENTH (of Nissan)", it is highly significant that King David's name is the Gematria of FOURTEEN, and the first and last letter of his name is the FOURTH letter Dalet which is the numerical value of FOUR.

There is in fact a direct connection between King David and the 14th of Nissan.  In the Talmud (Berachot 3b), Moses addresses Pharaoh for one last time, relaying to him Hashem's message of the upcoming plague of the death of the firstborn the following night "around midnight".  As the Talmud tells us, Moses' address took place on the night of the 14th of Nissan.  Anyways, the Gemara asks "We see that Moses was in doubt as to exactly when midnight was, but how did David know as per the verse in his Psalms "At midnight, I get up to thank you for the judgments of your righteousness (the Torah)"?"  Since David always woke up at midnight to learn Torah, obviously, he had to have known somehow when it was exactly midnight.  The Gemara tells us that exactly at midnight, the north wind blew at David's harp, waking him up.  A little later on, the Gemara tells us that Moses (the most righteous human being) certainly knew the exact time of midnight, which was also the time that Hashem told him when the final Egyptian plague would take place; however, Moses worded his message as "around midnight", so the Egyptians shouldn't come to even possibly think that Moses would be wrong about the exact timing.  In any case, we see that the Gemara's account of Moses address to Pharaoh on the night of the FOURTEENTH of Nissan is due to mentioning King David's rising up at midnight to learn Torah, whose name is the Gematria of FOURTEEN.

Now, looking in the Chumash as to where King David's name is spelled, well, he was born long after Moses' time.  However, there are two places in the entire Chumash where his name is spelled in consecutive letters within a word.

The first occurrence of this is the story of the young boy Reuven bringing mandrake flowers to his mother Leah.  In Hebrew, the word for mandrakes is Duda'im, in which the first three letters of this word can also spell the name David.  In this context, the wording of Duda'im is written five times (Genesis 30:14-16), which perhaps correspond to the five books of the Sefer Tehillim of King David.  Also, as the Torah tells us, this story took place during the "wheat harvest", which occurs around the holiday of Shavuot, the traditioal date of King David's birth and passing.  Anyways, as a result of these mandrakes, it somehow caused Jacob to spend the night with Leah of his four women, resulting with the eventual births of Yissaschar and Zevulun from Leah.

Noting the strong connection of the number 14 with both Reuven and King David, we see that there is a connection between Reuven the firstborn and royalty, for in fact, as his father Jacob told him, he had lost the royalty due to his misdeed with Bilhah, which was hence passed to Judah whose parental descendant was King David, head of the Davidic monarchy.  But more than this, we see that Reuven had good qualities about himself from the story of the mandrakes, and it could have even been in merit of this that he was qualified to be the ancestor of the Jewish royal line; for after all, it would be a good reward for causing the births of his brothers Yissaschar and Zevulun (Note: Even though it was meant from Heaven for Jacob to have 12 sons who would be the 12 Tribes and the only variable was from which wife, Reuven even as a boy had a share in the process in the formation of the Jewish people who are "kings, sons of kings" (See Mishna Shabbat - Chapter FOURTEEN, Mishna FOUR!), and so, Mida Kneged Mida "Measure for measure", as Hashem  rewards or punishes, Reuven should have rightfully been the ancestor of Jewish royalty, as well as the fact that he was the firstborn.  However, by the same token, due to his later misdeed that caused a breach in Jacob's family, he lost this eternal opportunity.

Now, the only question was, which other brother, who would also be a son of Leah (after all, why should Leah loose out, aside from the birthright that Reuven  lost to Joseph son of Rachel, but this is due partly with Jacob wanting to marry specifically Rachel in the first place) would be the ancestor of the royal line.  It wouldn't be Yissaschar or Zevulun, despite their loyalty to Torah learning or support of it, because they were born in the first place thanks to Reuven.  For the brothers next in line of birth - Shimon and Levi - they had their own faults that didn't allow them to be worthy of royalty (as far as Levi being the ancestor of the Cohanim, this was a special spiritual gift given to him from birth, which would have been from Reuven along with the birthright and royalty had he not messed up, but Hashem already knew what was going to happen).  And so, the most one worthy of royalty was Judah, who may have also had faults, but at least when he realized when he did something wrong, he admitted it, a trait that Jacob mentioned to him in his numerous blessings to him, and a trait that his most worthy descendant King David also had.

The only other time in the Chumash that King David's name is spelled within a word is in Jacob's blessing of Gad - Gad Gedud Yegudenu V'Hu Yagud Akeiv "Gad wll provide a troop and he will return on the same path" (Genesis 49:19), where the name David can be spelled within the word Gedud (troop).  And indeed, just like the Tribe of Gad which was in the forefront of fighting on behalf of the Jewish people in the conquest of the Land of Israel under the leadership of Joshua; so too, King David was in the forefront of fighting various battles for the Jewish people in Israel.

With this said, we see King David's name spelled in the Chumash within words related specifially to the Tribes of Reuven and Gad.  We see in Parshat Matot that will be read in the following week that they had requested Moses to remain where they were at the time in Transjordan as it was an area of wide, good pasture for their numerous cattle.  While at first, Moses was most suspicious of their intentions, remembering well the disastrous results of the Spies' evil reports which were believed by most of the Jewish men who consequently perished in the desert as punishment for this.  In response, these two Tribes promised Moses that they would cross over the Jordan to the Promised Land per se to fight on behalf of their brethren, and only then would they return back to continue living in Transjordan.  Moses accepted this deal, and the Tribes kept their part of the bargain.

This is all very nice, but what does this have to do particularly with King David?  Actually, I thought of a couple of connections.  First, King David had conquered certain areas which acquired certain aspects of laws as related to Israel, but never acquired full halachic status of the holiness of Israel, because there was land within Israel proper that he hadn't conquered as of yet   Similarly, while Transjordan inherited the holiness of the Land of Israel, even as three of the six major Cities of Refuge as related to Israel were located in Transjordan; but it still was not Israel proper; and hence spiritually, the Tribes of Reuven and Gad, who decided to remain in Transjordan due to materialistic reasons to begin with, didn't feel the holiness of Israel as much, thus falling into evil ways, and were eventually the first Tribes to be exiled as a result.

On the positive side, Moses had passed away in the portion of land belonging to Reuven, and was buried in the portion of land belonging to Gad; and as we know from Kabbala, the gravesites of the righteous have the holy status of the Land of Israel, even outside the land of Israel.  In a similar vein, King David's Sefer Tehillim has its unique status - both as part of the Tanach being words of Torah and as prayers, the only book of the Tanach with this status (there are sections of other parts of the Tanach that make up a part of our prayers, but are brought partly in due as proof of certain things that we mention in our prayers, or are Mitzvot of themselves such as the three paragraphs of the Shema from the Chumash, but most of the verses in these other sources in the Tanach are not verses of prayer addressing Hashem per se).

The ultimate lesson that we can learn from this post is that while we are supposed to inspect ourselves for the hidden "Chametz", the spiritual flaws that stain our souls and hinder our spiritual progress, making room for repentance and good deeds; we are supposed to look favorably towards other Jews, and look out for their welfare despite their shortcomings.  If we bear this in mind, just like King David who was quick to admit to mistakes, but in judging other Jews in court, reimbursed the loosing party in a lawsuit from his own pocket; we will indeed be worthy of seeing the ultimate LIGHT, the spiritual light that Hashem hid away from the wicked in the beginning of Creation, but will grant the righteous in the future world.

20 Tammuz, 5773

Friday, June 21, 2013

#180 - Isaac our Father: The Unexpected Hero

Had quite a busy week for the most part being a busy fater, including Sunday, which was Father's Day in the States, though I live in Israel.  However, it's not too late to write this post, especially since this involves words of Torah which are eternal.

As it turns out, I will be writing today about Yitzchak Avinu - Isaac our Father, the second of the three Avot (Forefathers), which parallels my second Father's Day.  Additionally, Isaac lived for 180 years, and this is my 180th Post.

But more than this, the following will involve the concept of years as it relates to Isaac - not to his years per se; but rather, to the years of the Jewish people.  For this, we turn to the Talmud (Shabbat 89b):

"Rav Shmuel bar Nachmani said in Rebbe Yochanan's name, 'In the future, Hashem will say to Abraham,  "Your children have sinned against Me".  Abraham will reply: "Master of the Universe, let them be erased for the sanctity of Your name"...

Hashem will say to Jacob,  "Your children have sinned against Me".  Jacob will reply: "Master of the Universe, let them be erased for the sanctity of Your name"...

Hashem will say to Isaac, "Your children have sinned against Me".  Isaac will exclaim: "Master of the Universe, MY children and not YOUR children?!  Excuse me, but when the Jews, upon being asked if they wanted the Torah, they said "We will do" before "We will hear" (showing their great willingness to observe the Torah), and You called them "My son, My firstborn".  Now You tell me that they are MY children and not YOUR children?!  Anyways, how much have they sinned? How long is the average man's life-span? Seventy years. Subtract twenty, for until this age, You don't punish (Hashem is very lenient with the young, due to their lack of maturity), thus remain fifty years. Subtract twenty-five which comprise the nights (when one sleeps and does not sin), thus remain twenty five years. Subtract twelve and a half years for prayer, eating, and restroom, and there remain only twelve and a half years that they could have sinned.  If You will bear them all, then good.  Alternatively, You and I will each bear half.  However, if You want me to bear them all; don't forget, I already went through the ordeal of being offered up on the altar."

Upon hearing this, the Jewish people will exclaim (to Isaac), "You are our Father!"  Isaac will reply, "Instead of praising me, praise the Holy One Blessed Be He, Who is your (true) Father."  The Jews will then exclaim, "You Hashem are our Father and Redeemer!""

Now, there seems to be an irony here.  We know that Abraham is the epitome of kindness, even as he presented a whole conversation of defense for the evil people of the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, begging of Hashem that they shouldn't be killed if there were at least ten righteous people among them.  We know of Jacob for his characteristic trait of mercy, as he applied it for the sheep that he took good care of; and even for his evil, cunning father-in-law Laban, when Laban complained to him that his idols were stolen, Jacob cursed whoever would have stolen them (not knowing that it was his wife Rachel who took them, and died as a result of the curse).   However, Isaac is known for his trait of strictness, pertaining to which, some say that it was due to this that the ones whom his father Abraham embraced towards monotheism didn't stick around; leaving only Isaac's family as virtually the only believers in the one G-d.  So, how come in the time to come, are the Patriarchs going to behave the opposite?

The truth is, if we read our Bibles carefully, along with a little Rashi, the answer will be quite obvious.  The truth is that in the future, they will be behaving the same way as they were in the past.

It is true that Abraham loved both his children - Ishmael and Isaac - as recounted in the Midrash in which when Hashem told Abraham to offer up on the altar "your son...whom your love" before saying Isaac's name, Abraham said that he loves them both.  However, this depends on what period that we are talking about.  You see, earlier on when both children were living at home, Ishmael's behavior got way out of hand, and Isaac's mother Sara feared for both Isaac's spiritual and physical safety, and wanted Ishmael to be booted out the door.  Now, while it is true that Abraham did not want to do this until Hashem told him to listen to Sara, we do see, as Rashi points out when the Torah notes that Abraham sent Ishmael away with bread and water, that he did not give him gold and silver - which Abraham had some of as he was already wealthy at this time - "BECAUSE HE HATED HIM FOR HIS BAD BEHAVIOR".  Now mind you, Rashi doesn't simply say that Abraham no longer loved his son Ishmael, but writes point blank that he hated him, despite the fact that Abraham was not ready on his own to throw out Ishmael from home.  However, when it came to realizing Ishmael's evil behavior, he hated the evil doer as he hated evil itself, and it didn't matter if it was his own son in question.

As for Jacob, on his deathbed, the Torah states that he blessed his children - not only individually, but also in a general blessing for all his children, as Rashi makes clear.  However, in terms of blessing his children individually; well, that's another story.  When it came to his first three children, he clearly castigated them for their misdeeds, if he didn't curse them.   Perhaps he felt that as the oldest children of Leah, the co-wife of his true love Rachel, they should have set better examples for the rest of his children.  It seems that it was only when the next child of Leah in line, Judah, started walking out of the room seeing how his older brothers were castigated (see Rashi), that Jacob changed his tune and called out to Judah in a loving manner, the only one to whom he gave blessings comparable to the ones he gave to his favorite son Joseph.

In sharp contrast, Isaac never hated or showed hatred towards his evil Esau even when he later realized that he wasn't exactly the Tzadik'l, the good boy that he used to think he was.  At worst, when Esau cried blood murder following his brother Jacob receiving their father's blessings that Isaac originally intended for Esau, even though Isaac realized why Hashem arranged this the way that this happened, he simply told Esau that Jacob took his blessings so he had nothing left to bless Esau with; and even at that, following Esau crying bitter tears, realizing what he truly lost - which were the spiritual blessings, that Isaac blessed him with materialistic blessings.

And so, it is no wonder after all as to how our Forefathers in the future will react to Hashem telling them that their children, the Jews, have sinned.  True, our love for our children should not blind us as to their misdeeds,  and both Abraham and Jacob should be given credit for this.  However, by the same token, we need to learn
a lesson from this, as Isaac did, to put ourselves in other people's shoes, and feel both the physical AND spiritual pain of OUR children, rather than just feeling justified criticizing them without showing our love for them; for at least then, there will be a fighting chance that they will better their deeds.  And while we may see the opposite as to actually what happened with Ishmael having repented since Abraham kicked him out, while Esau never gave up his evil lifestyle despite Isaac's love for him; we have to remember that our actions towards our children also effect ours/their future generations.  We know that the Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael are as a nation, are today the most dangerous group of people - at least among the ones who observe Islam - both to Israel and the rest of the world.  And as for Esau's descendants, it has been noted that the majority of converts of Judaism are from Esau.  And so, as long as we are still in love touch with our children, there is always a hopeful chance that they will better their ways.

There is a point that I want to make based on the end calculation of twelve and a half years that Isaac mentioned in terms of sin.  As we know, a boy becomes Bar-Mitzva at age 13 and a girl becomes Bat-Mitzva at the age of 12.  As far as the percentage of males and females being born, what I can tell you that there was a study a while back of the percentage of baby boys and baby girls being born in a number of hospitals in South Florida.  The percentage rate was very close to 50%-50%, which seems to tell us that Hashem makes things quite equal in this world, which also shows that there is one mate for everyone just as for Adam and Eve.  With this said, the average of the ages between Bar-Mitzva and Bat-Mitzva is twelve and a half years - the exact amount of time that Isaac mentioned as to the maximum amount of time sinning in life.  And so, if Hashem were to so to speak rearrange the time as such that it would be considered for us that we sinned particularly in the early part of our lives, then certainly, we would be totally forgiven, because a child before the basic age of responsibility is not considered as having done any sins since his time until that age is considered only as preparation for doing the Mitzvot (commandments) and not doing the Aveirot (sins); and hence, his soul is not sullied by sins until then.  Ultimately, it seems that it will be Isaac's hope that Hashem will look at us as His cute little children, as children in this category who like to be mischievous at times but will otherwise do what daddy and mommy tells them to do.  After all, Isaac's own son Esau turned to evil ways only at the age of 13, so Isaac is looking for Hashem to treat us the same way as Esau would be treated as long as he was not Bar-Mitzva yet.


Our Rabbis tell us in the Talmud in Tractate Berachot, there are only three in the Bible who are called Avot (Fathers) in terms of the Jewish people - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, while there are four in the Bible who are called Imahot (Mothers) in terms of the Jewish people - Sara, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.  Noting that the last two were both wives of Jacob, one would wonder why there are only three Avot but four Imahot.  It's true that according to the Torah, a man can have more than one wife while a woman is forbidden to have more than one husband.  But in this particular context, Jacob had intended only to marry Rachel, and it was only thanks to the trickery of Laban, his father-in-law to be that he married Leah first.

The truth is that in fact, Leah was the Basherte (Heaven intended mate) of Jacob's brother Esau, aside from the fact that people used to say, knowing that they were cousins, that Esau the older brother would marry Leah the older sister and Jacob the younger brother would marry Rachel the younger sister.  However, due to Esau's evil ways, he lost his Basherte, and Leah - after hearing from others what Esau was like, prayed to Hashem with bitter tears that she should not fall into the lot of Esau.  In reward, Hashem granted Leah to Jacob instead; and in fact, wound up being married to Jacob even before Rachel.  (Note: It is forbidden according to the Torah to be married to two sisters when both of them are alive; but Jacob lived before the Torah was officially given, aside from the bizarre set of circumstances in his situation).

As it turns out, the Hebrew singular word for father - Av - is the Gematria of three, the word with the least Gematria value.  Aside from the connection of this to the three Avot, the first letter of the name of the first of the Avot - Abraham - is an Aleph, and the last letter of the name of the last of the Avot - Jacob - is a Beit/Veit, the very two letters, and in order, to spell the word Av.

In today's Hebrew, the word used for father is Abba, with the addition of the letter Aleph at the end, making the total Gematria of this word to be four.  However, this is kind of ironic, because in fact, the word Abba is technically an Aramaic word, just as the phrase Bar-Mitzva "son of the commandment", uses the Aramaic word Bar for son, rather than the standard Hebrew word Ben.

In understanding Aramaic in relationship to Hebrew, while Aramaic uses Hebrew letters just like Yiddish, it is not the Lashon HaKodesh "Holy Tongue" that only Hebrew is referred to as, being the basic language of the Chumash/Tanach.  However, Aramaic is not only the key language in both the Gemara and the Zohar, but is also the language of the Onkelos translation, or the Targum, of the Chumash, being used in the weekly review of the Parsha, in which each verse is recited twice followed by its corresponding Targum once.

As related to Esau, while he may not have had the ability to sit still learning Torah as much as his most studious brother Jacob, neither did it mean that he was automatically damned to be an evil person.  In fact, he could have easily used his work in the fields to serve Hashem, if he really would have wanted to.  After all, as their father Isaac aged and eventually became blind, Esau could have been the breadwinner, especially to support his brother Jacob to learn Torah all day; the same way that Zevulun worked and supported his brother Yissaschar to learn Torah all day, and split the reward of Torah learning between the two of them - 50 % each.  And even with Joseph's two sons - Menashe and Ephraim - in which Jacob gave the greater blessing to Ephraim being that he was the Torah scholar, both of them merited to be separate tribes just as Jacob's own children.  Hence, had Esau would have at least been a good example of a Jewish layman in terms of Torah learning, he too would have merited to be among the Avot, would have married Leah, and could have even retained the spiritual service of the Bechor, having the status of a Cohen, even as his brother Jacob was the Torah scholar par excellence; just as Moses was the Lawgiver after whom the Torah is named - Torat Moshe, while his brother Aaron was the Cohen Gadol (High Priest).

Hence, the Aramaic word for father - Abba - hints to this concept in which Aramaic, though not called the Holy Tongue as Hebrew, at least serves as an accessory to the Holy Tongue, as with the weekly review of the Parsha, as well in time being the key language of the Gemara and the Zohar, being essentially commentaries of the Chumash/Tanach, the Written Word of G-d.  However, Esau completely missed the boat, and so, this aspect of the physical support of holiness, which would earn equal spiritual reward in the Hereafter, was not included among the Avot; unlike with the Imahot who automatically served as the spiritual counterparts of their respective husbands, even though as it is with women, they are not obligated in the
 Mitzva of Torah learning like men are (Note: Women are still obligated to at least learn the basic laws of
Jewish observance, but not as a Mitzva to learn Torah per se), but they do share 50%-50% of the reward for Torah with their husbands if they willingly helped and encouraged their husbands and children to learn Torah.


Today - 13 Tammuz - marks the Siyum (conclusion) of the study of Tractate Eruvin (plural for the word Eiruv which means merging, referring to ways that the rabbis instituted to permit carrying or walking in certain circumstances on Shabbat which would otherwise be forbidden) of the Babylonian Talmud in the worldwide daily study of Daf Yomi.  It consists of 96 Mishnayot and 104 (one hundred and FOUR) Dafim, both numbers beings multiples of FOUR.

One of the concepts discussed in this tractate is the labor of transferring an item from one domain to another.
In the Halachic sense, there are FOUR domains:
1)Reshut HaYachid (private domain) - Has minimum dimensions of FOUR Tefachim (fingerbreadths) by FOUR Tefachim.
2)Reshut HaRabim (public domain) - Minimum of 16 (FOUR times FOUR) Amot (handbreadths) wide.
3)Karmelit (refers to an area that is not of either of the first two categories) - Has minimum dimensions of FOUR Tefachim (fingerbreadths) by FOUR Tefachim.
4)Mekom Petur (exempt area) - Not in the above three categories being that its width is less than four Tefachim.

The tenth and final chapter of this tractate is named HaMotzei Tefillin, named after the beginning words of this chapter, which means "One who finds phylacteries".  As we know Tefillin is most connected with the number FOUR. for both Tefillin of the arm and head consists of boxes that are perfectly square, which consists of FOUR sides/corners, each consisting of FOUR Parshiyot (sections) of the Torah that are written on parchment.  In this particular context, one who finds old Tefillin in a field on Shabbat, considering the fact that this is an area where it is forbidden to carry on Shabbat, but are in danger of being destroyed or desecrated, though normally, one is forbidden to wear Tefillin in Shabbat, in this instance, according to one opinion, he wears one pair (for arm and head) at a time, bringing each one to a house in the city.  Now, the Hebrew word for pair is Zug, and in this Mishna, the wording is Zug Zug (pair by pair), and the word Zug is the Gematria of 16, of which the square root is FOUR.  The other opinion, which is Rabban Gamliel, holds that two of each kind of Tefillin are worn for this purpose, as there is technically room for two of each on the arm and head.  Now, the Hebrew word for two as used in this Mishna is Shenayim, being used here as the wording Shenayim Shenayim (two by two), aside from the fact that a total of FOUR different Tefillin boxes are being worn, the word Shenayim is the Gematria of 400, a multiple of FOUR (times 100).

Having said this, in this 13th cycle of Daf Yomi, and noting the conclusion of Tractate Eruvin on the 13th of Tammuz, the one Daf in the entire Babylonian Talmud which is entirely about the subject of Tefillin which is most connected with the number FOUR - Eruvin 96, whose number - which is also the number of Mishnayot in this tractate - is a multiple of FOUR, was learned worldwide on the FOURTH day of the month of Tammuz, which is the FOURTH of the Jewish months (counting from Nissan, the month of the birth of the Jewish nation with the Exodus)!  And if this was not enough, the FOURTH day of the FOURTH month marks the Yahrzeit of Rabbeinu Tam (Rabbi Yaakov Ben Meir) in 4931 (1171), grandson of Rashi, among the ones who compiled the Tosfos commentary on the Gemara, and one of the foremost Halachic decision makers in his day.  But one thing that he is famous for is his opinion pertaining to the order of the Parshiyot in the Tefillin, holding that the second paragraph of the Shema comes before the first paragraph of the Shema; unlike the opinion of his grandfather Rashi who holds that the Parshiyot are arranged strictly according to their order in the Torah.  Now, according to Halacha, we cannot fulfill the Mitzva of Tefillin unless we wear it according to the opinion of Rashi.  However, many pious Jews, including all Hasidim, as well as some Sephardim, wear another set of Tefillin that follows the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam, hence wearing a total of FOUR boxes of Tefillin daily.  And as for Rabbeinu Tam's title, which is based on the description of his namesake Yaakov Avinu who is described as "a man of simplicity (TAM), who would sit in tents (referring to his diligence in studying Torah)" both words in the title of Rabbeinu Tam are the Gematria of multiples of FOUR (Rabbeinu: 67*4=268, Tam: 110*4=440).

While we are on this subject, I should note that while one may get the impression from Halacha that one wears the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam only to make sure that one fulfills the Mitzva of Tefillin just in case Rabbeinu Tam is correct (seeming to imply that perhaps Rashi's Tefillin may not be the correct way even though it is clear in Halacha that one cannot fulfill the Mitzva of Tefillin wearing Rabbeinu Tam's Tefillin alone but rather Rashi's Tefillin), the truth is that Eilu V'Eilu Divrei Elokim Chayim "Both these and these are the words of the Living G-d", and there are Kabbalistic reasons for wearing both kinds of Tefillin, and is mentioned by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov as "hastening the Redemption".  In fact, there is a Sefer (Jewish holy book) called Sa'alot U'Teshuvot Min HaShamayim "Questions and answers from Heaven", pertaining to
Halachic issues that were asked from Heaven as to the correct ruling using some Kabbalistic means of finding out, even though in fact, we are supposed to follow the decision of the rabbis in this world, since Hashem left it to the Torah scholars to make these decisions since the Torah was given.  In any case, the question was asked as to what is the correct Tefillin - Rashi or Rabbeinu Tam.  The answer given - as Hashem, so to speak, decides - is the Tefillin according to Rabbeinu Tam; however, it is Hashem's wish that we fulfill the Mitzva according to the decision of the rabbis.  So, the bottom line here is that while we DEFINITELY fulfill the Mitzva of wearing Tefillin as per the opinion of Rashi, wearing the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam afterwards is fulfilling our inner spirituality as reflected by Hashem's OWN decision, which is ultimately on a greater spiritual level than the Tefillin as worn according to the opinion of Rashi; and as mentioned in reference to putting on the arm Tefillin first and then the head Tefillin which is holier, since "we go up, and not down, in holiness", so too, we wear the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam after the basic Tefillin of Rashi since (the spiritual source of) the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam is in fact holier, and NOT that we wear two types of Tefillin "since only one of them is correct, so we wear both to be on the safe side".

Now, one more thing about Tefillin, particularly the head Tefillin.  We see on this Tefillin that on the right side of it (that is, on the right side of the person wearing the Tefillin), there is a three-headed letter Shin - the usual shape of a Shin - embossed on it, and there is a four-headed Shin embossed on the left side of the Tefillin.  Now, Kabbalistically, the male corresponds to the right side, which represents Chesed (Kindness), while the female corresponds to the left side, which represents Din (Strictness).  While I won't be getting into this today, as per what I wrote earlier pertaining to the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, there are three Avot and four Imahot.  And with this said, only men have the Mitzva of wearing Tefillin, and not women, since women themselves emboss the concept of what they are called - the Bayit (house), the name of the boxes of Tefillin, and as I mentioned earlier, the Bayit of the Tefillin has FOUR sides/corners, and the Jewish woman who is the Bayit is represented by the first FOUR Imahot, Jewish mothers.

Having mentioned earlier being in the midst of the 13th cycle of Daf Yomi, the number 13 is related to both the concept of the father - and the mother.  You see, there are 13 Divine Attributes of Mercy (Yud Gimmel Middot HaRachamim), which are recited especially in the Selichot prayers, praying to Hashem to forgive us in His mercy for us.  In other prayers, we address Hashem as for examples, Avinu Av HaRachaman "Our Father, the Merciful Father" in the blessing immediately preceding the Shema in the morning, and Av HaRachamim "Father of Mercy", the opening words of the prayer that Ashkenazic Jews recite before the Mussaf prayer on Shabbat and following Yizkor, asking Hashem to have mercy on us in merit of the Jews who died for the sanctification of Hashem's name from the hands of the murderous Anti-Semites.  And as pertaining to the mother, the womb is Hebrew is called Rechem, having the same letters in order as the root word for mercy, such as the beginning word of the third blessing of Bircat HaMazon (Grace after Meals) and the beginning word of the second blessing following the recital of the Haftara (selected portion of the Nevi'im (Prophets) part of the Tanach following the reading of the Torah on Shabbat mornings and Jewish holidays) -  Racheim (Have mercy).

Now, the word Racheim has the same letters as the Hebrew number 248, and there are 248 Positive/Active Mitzvot (Commandments), which are related particularly to the Sephira of Chesed, which in turn is most related to the icon of Chesed - Abraham, FIRST OF THE AVOT, whose name is the Gematria of 248, and both this number, as well as the Gematria of the word Chesed - 72, are multiples of the number FOUR.  And as per the 13 Divine Attributes of Mercy, perhaps the greatest visual example of what a parent can do for a child showing mercy for one's child, especially if a baby, despite the mess, is cleaning up the baby after making a mess in the diapers, illustrating the concept of the 13th and final Divine Attribute of Mercy - V'Nakeh "He cleanses", the context of Hashem cleaning us from our sins.

Now, if you add the numbers one and three in the number 13, the total is FOUR, the Gematria of the word Abba, the word that is used in today's Hebrew for father.  However, looking in the Bible, particularly in the story of Abraham bringing his son Isaac to the future Temple grounds to offer him up on the altar, we see that Isaac addresses Abraham as Avi "my father", this word being the Gematria of 13 (Note: This exact Hebrew word is commonly used as a nickname for the name Avraham).

And as for Isaac himself, the Gematria of his Hebrew name Yitzchak - 208, or FOUR times 52, noting that the word Ben (son) has the same letters as the Hebrew number for 52, for he was the first son/child in the world born to Jewish parents, as well as being the first to have his Brit Mila (circumcision) at the age of eight days according to Hashem's commandment, and the Gematria of the common word used for circumcision - Brit (covenant) -  612, is a multiple of FOUR.  And, dividing the Gematria of the word Ben itself as THIRTEEN times FOUR, this further illustrates the concept of a parent's mercies for one's child, as Tehillim (Psalms) states K'Racheim Av Al Banim "Just as a father's compassion for his children..."

Moreover, Yitzchak's name consists of FOUR letters.  And while almost every other Hebrew name consists of four letters, Rashi notes the significance of each of the four letters of his name -  YUD=10 - number of tests that Hashem gave to Avraham (culminatinating with Avraham offering Yitzchak on the altar), TZADI=90 - age of Sara when she gave birth to him, CHEIT=8 - as per his circumcision on his 8th day, KOOF=100 - age of Avraham when he was born.  And mind you, usually Rashi sticks to the simple meaning of the verse without these types of Gematriot or number interpretations, but it seems that this was in honor of his own FATHER whose name was Yitzchak; just as we see in the very first Rashi on the Torah in which he immediately begins mentioning a Rabbi Yitzchak from the Midrash.

Now, getting back to the study of the conclusion of the Talmudic tractate of Eruvin on today's date 13 Tammuz, the very ending of this tractate is about a Halachic decision from Rabbi Shimon, my namesake.  And lo and behold, the Gematria of this date - 13 Tammuz (Tammuz=453) - is 466, the same Gematria as the name Shimon!

And how can I forget about the name of this tractate - Eruvin?  You see, the Gematria of Eruvin is a multiple of the numbers THREE and FOUR.  Now, the tractate Eruvin in the Babylonian Talmud is the THIRD such tractate, which focuses on concepts - especially in the beginning and the end, as related to the number FOUR, encompassing both the concepts of the Gematriot of Av=3 in Hebrew and Abba=4 in Aramaic, as well as the number three representing the Avot and the number four representing the Imahot.

With this, we will now begin to connect this with the next Talmudic tractate Pesachim, the FOURTH tractate in the Babylonian Talmud.  But first, as per Yitzchak, the hero of this post, he is the SECOND of the Avot, and the word Shenayim, which means TWO, is the Gematria of 400, and as mentioned, there were exactly 400 years from the birth of Yitzchak on the 15th of Nissan, 2048 until the Exodus on the 15th of Nissan, 2448.

Next, as per the names of the first holiday for the Jews, both the Gematriot of the names Pesach (Passover)=148 and Chag HaMatzot (Holiday of Matzot)=552 each are multiples of FOUR.

On an elementary level, we know that this holiday is very associated with the number four, as we see in the Hagaddah that there are FOUR cups of wine, which in turn correspond to the FOUR terminologies of redemption that Hashem mentioned in the beginning of Parshat Vaeira, the 14th Parsha of the Torah, just as tractate Pesachim is the 14th tractate of the Mishna and begins with Ohr L'Arba'ah Asar "On the night of the 14th (of Nissan)"; FOUR questions in the Mah Nishtana, FOUR types of sons that correspond to the FOUR mentions of the word Baruch (Blessed)=228, whose Gematria is a multiple of FOUR (as well as the fact that the Gematria of the singular word for son - Ben=52 is a multiple of FOUR) the three Matzot becoming FOUR so to speak when the middle of the three Matzot is split into two in the FOURTH step of the Hagaddah called Yachatz, and the Gematria of this word - 108, is a multiple of FOUR.  Moreover, the Gematria of the word Matzot itself - 536, is a multple of FOUR.  And before I forget, the Gematria of the phrase Korban Pesach (Pascal Offering)=500, naming among the most important parts of the Seder in the times of the Beit HaMikdash, is a multiple of FOUR.  And the Gematria of the word Seder itself - 264, is also a multiple of FOUR.

Having mentioned above that the word Yachatz, the FOURTH step of the Seder, is the Gematria of 108 and a multiple of FOUR, there is a most famous and popular tractate of the Mishna that contains 108 Mishnayot (includes six chapters, the last chapter not actually part of the Mishna but from what is called Baraita, teachings similar to the Mishnayot that weren't included in the Mishna proper) - Avot (which literally means fathers) or sometimes called Pirkei Avot "Ethics of the Fathers", which is part of the FOURTH volume of the Mishna, even though this is the sole tractate of the Mishna that consists of non-Halachic material, and doesn't seem to be directly related to the theme of this volume which is called Nezikin (Damages).  But what we do see are the beginning words of this volume (beginning tractate Bava Kama) - Arba'ah Avot Nezikin "There are FOUR categories of damages", using particularly the word AVOT referring to categories.

And let me not forget about the Tefillin, part of the name and one of the topics of the last chapter of Tractate Eruvin, as it relates to Passover.  While it is very associated with the Exodus of Passover, most Jews do not wear Tefillin during the week long holiday.  In fact, the first two of the four Parshiyot in the parchment of the Tefillin, comes from the end (the seventh Aliyah) of Parshat Bo, the 15th Parsha of the Torah, just as at the end of the Talmudic tractate of Eruvin, in the chapter that is named after the Tefillin, Rabbi Shimon mentions that even if one is 15 Amot away from the city's Techum boundary, he may enter it on Shabbat, aside from the 15 steps of the Hagaddah and the list of the 15 kindnesses that Hashem did for the Jewish people, beginning with the Exodus that took place on the 15th of the month that is called Aviv (spring) which is the Gemaria of 15, and is a composite of the words/letters Av Yud-Beit "FATHER of 12", for this month that we now call Nissan is the first of the 12 months of the Jewish calendar.

Anyways, in these two sections of the Tefillin, consisting of 16 verses, bearing in mind that the square root of this number is FOUR, it makes mention of the Exodus as well as a few related Mitzvot, including eating Matzot on Passover - having already relating the Gematria of Matzot as a multiple of FOUR, and telling the story of the Exodus on the first night of Passover, which is based on the verse V'Higadta L'Vincha "You shall tell your children", being that the primary part of this Mitzva is for the father to tell the story of the Exodus to one's childen, bearing in mind that the Gematria of the word Abba (father) is FOUR.  In fact, it is from this very source that the word Hagadda being used for the official text for the Seder is derived from.

And as for the other two Parshiyot of the Tefillin, let us focus on the first verse of the Shema, in which the last letter of the first word Shema - Ayin and the last letter of the last word Echad=13 - Dalet, are spelled bigger than usual in the Sefer Torah.  Now, the four Parshiyot are both in the arm Tefillin and the head Tefillin.  Hence, taking these two letters - Ayin and Dalet, spelling the Hebrew number 74 and multiplying these by two, the total amount is the same Gematria as the word Pesach - 148.  (The same thing can be worked out in terms of saying the Shema twice a day).

In conclusion, one more way to remember the theme(s) of this 180th post, is that the number of this post - 180, bearing in mind that this number marks the amount of years that Yitzchak lived in this world, is that this number is also a multiple of FOUR.

Stay tuned shortly for my following post, which will focus on the beginning of Tractate Pesachim, the FOURTH tractate of the Babylonian Talmud.

13 Tammuz, 5773

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

#179 - Breaking the Trend: THE LIVING TORAH

Today's date of the 3rd of Tammuz marks a very joyous occasion in recent history for the Jewish people.  Perhaps some may think of this date as the Yahrzeit of one Tzadik (righteous person) or another, but virtually all dates of the year mark the Yahrzeit of some Tzadik, though the one joyous Yahrzeit of the year is that of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, whose passing is celebrated annually on Lag BaOmer (33rd day of the Omer).

As it turns out, the following as it pertains to today's date is also connected to the number 33 - at least this year.  You see, exactly 33 years ago, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, may the memory of the righteous may for a blessing, completed his English translation of the Chumash (Penteteuch), called The Living Torah, on 3 Tammuz in 5740 (1980), as well as the fact that this date in this year falls out on the same day of the week as  it did in 5740.

Though many may admit about the good translation of Rabbi Kaplan, a few words have to be noted about the significance of the timing of this translation - including the Haftarot (selected portions of the Prophets corresponding to the weekly Torah reading or holiday), aside from the various charts, maps, and the numerous notes that he assembled, which was all done in a period of nine months.  To appreciate this, we have to note how it was a mere 35 years ago.  There were few half-decent translations of the Chumash/Tanach in English, most of which were the old English style, which has long since been abandoned in daily speech, at least in the United States, but the old timer translators thought that it would be "more impressive" if the old English was used, without hardly giving any thought about how well their translation would be understood.  Personally, I don't even remember seeing a normal modern English translation until The Living Torah came out, because I remember reviewing my Chumash studies from school in some old English translation Chumash until I was around eleven when The Living Torah was brought home.

Moreover, this translation of The Living Torah was not just another translation translating literally verse by verse.  You see, if you notice in the Chumash, not all verses sounds exactly like one sentence.  Some verses may technically according to the standards of sentences, be only like half a sentence, while other verses can consists of two or more sentences.  Indeed, it was in this fashion that Rabbi Kaplan, in his vision of an understandable translation, followed; truly a revolutionary idea in his time.

Another distinguishable feature that Rabbi Kaplan used was to divide the amount of verses as paragraphs based on how it is done in a Sefer Torah.  As I had spoken of in the past, especially in my very first post on, there are 669 such divisions in the Torah.  Though others may not necessarily see the Torah to be divided this way, including the early Christians who divided the books of the Tanach according to chapters which have no reflection on the Mesoretic (traditional) way of how the Tanach is divided, the ultimate purpose of this is to reflect on the orderly fashion of how the Torah is meant to be presented by Hashem.

Since the publication of The Living Torah, other very good translations of the Torah/Tanach have come out, including the famous Artscroll, along with its excellent notes and commentary.  But clearly, it was Rabbi Kaplan who broke the ice, breaking the trend of the same type of English translation that did little more good than to remind a child student of what certain words mean in order to ace it on the test, giving little joy in reviewing one's studies.

If this literary work of Rabbi Kaplan would have been the sole authorship of his, calling it his "tenth child", being that he already had nine children, he would still be famous and well appreciated.  Interestingly, in his 15 some years of authorship between original compositions based on the Talmud, Midrash, Kabbalah, Chasidism, etc. and translations, most of which he authored before The Living Torah, he was already well famed for many other fine works, including being a key translator of the Me'Am Loez - the 45 volume The Torah Anthology commentary on the Tanach, which was originally written in Ladino (language iin the Sephardic world like Yiddish combining Hebrew with other languages) by Rabbi Yaakov Culi along with other Torah scholars since his passing.

It was only two and a half years after Rabbi Kaplan's authorship of The Living Torah that he passed away from a sudden heart attack at the age of 48.  Imagine if he were to have lived until now in good health; no doubt, we would have seen at least three times the amount of Torah works from him as he composed and translated.  To note, he was born on 14 Cheshvan 5695 (1934) and passed away on 14 Shevat 5743 (1983).  As you can see, he was born and passed away on the same date number of a month.  But especially specific to him, the Hebrew number for 14 - Yud, Dalet - also spells the word Yad (hand), for indeed, the hand is the part of the body that writes.  As it can be said of Rabbi Kaplan, he was born to write books on Torah.

Noting that Rabbi Kaplan's mission in life was to write Sifrei Kodesh (Torah/holy books), this is comparable to writing a Sefer Torah, which is the 613th and final Mitzva of the Torah.  This is most reflected in the Gematria of his full Hebrew name - Aryeh Moshe Eliyahu, which is 613!  Whether he realized this earlier or not; no doubt that his name either had a spiritual influence on him, or was a hint of Divine inspiration of his destiny in life, fulfilling his particular life's mission.

Interestingly, it was his studies in physics, following his rabbinical studies, having received a Master's Degree, that helped him focus on systemizing concepts from something abstract into easy digestible parts for people's understanding in his numerous literary works.  No doubt that many in his position would have opted for the lucrative promising career following receiving a Master's Degree, especially in those days some half a century ago when one had it very easy finding work and being paid well in these circumstances.  However, with a Torah background that he was raised with, he knew that at most, secular things are meant at best to serve Torah, which he was a master example of, the same way that Rabbi Meir Kahane, may Hashem avenge his blood, used his law degree to benefit Jews more than a professional lawyer career for Milton Kahane, Esq.

Speaking of the Chumash, the very end of it is about the passing of Moshe Rabbeinu and his accomplishments, which begin with the final eight verses that start with - Vayamat Sham Moshe Eved Hashem... "Moses, servant of Hashem, died there..." (Deutronomy 34:5).  There is an issue that is debated in the Talmud (Bava Batra) as to who wrote these final eight verses, since it was Moshe who wrote the entire Torah as per Hashem's dictation (which means for those who don't want to believe in the authorship of the Torah, that it was not man made, but all from Hashem), and it would not make sense that Moshe would write something that had yet to take place - his passing away - as though it already happened.  Some rabbis say that he wrote these final verses in tears, while others say that it was his successor Joshua who wrote these verses.  In fact, as I had mentioned in a past post, the Chasam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer) asks why this debate is not centered from the beginning of Chapter 34 where it begins with VaYa'al Moshe "Moses went up on Mt. Nebo..." since it was at that point that Moshe went up to the place where he was just about to pass away, which he would not have written as something that happened already.

Anyways, I had my thoughts on the Chasam Sofer's unanswered question in the past.  But today, I will present a hint that the Chasam Sofer could not have thought of.  You see, the Gematria of Vayamat "He died", beginning the final eight verses, is the same as the date 3 Tammuz (the name of the month Tammuz being the Gematria of 453) - 456.  And as we know, Moshe Rabbeinu wrote 13 Sifrei Torah on the day of his passing.  And though the date of his passing was on 7 Adar, and Rabbi Kaplan - whose middle Hebrew name is Moshe - did not pass away on 3 Tammuz, the fact that he completed his unique and revolutionary translation in the universal language of English of the very part of the Torah that is contained in a Sefer Torah on this date is no doubt hinted in the word Vayamat as the same Gematria as this date of 3 Tammuz.  Hence, it was specifically on the last eight verses beginning with this word, rather than the beginning of Chapter 34 in Deutronomy where Moshe went up Mt. Nebo only to die there, that the rabbis were debating as who wrote this.

There is a rule in the Torah that states about the various debates between rabbis - Eilu V'Eilu Divrei Elokim Chayim "Both these and these are the words of the LIVING G-d".  Although typically, this refers to the halachic debates between the rabbis, and though the opinion of only one side is possible to be followed, though there is a spiritual reason for the other opinion though not followed in Halacha (Jewish law); this rule can also be applied in historical fashion.  You see, chances are is that if Rabbi Kaplan would have lived much longer, he would have wound up translating the rest of the Tanach in like fashion.  But since he did not have a chance to do so, it was eventually left for others to translate the rest of the Tanach, beginning with Sefer Yehoshua (Joshua), in like style.

Now, we can see the two opinions of the rabbis as to who wrote the final eight verses in a new light.  Some say that Moshe wrote these verses in tears.  I won't get into the literal meaning of this, whether Moshe had tears in his eyes writing these verses or whether he wrote the words in tears rather than in ink.  But as per Rabbi Kaplan, there is a hint in these rabbis' words to the fact that it would only be his translation of the Chumash, which he completed on 3 Tammuz, that would take place.  In the words of the other rabbis who state that Joshua wrote these verses, this hints to the fact that there would be a successor that would translate the rest of the Tanach, beginning with the Book of Joshua, in the same style as Rabbi Kaplan's translation.

Speaking of Joshua, there is in fact another special thing that happened on this date of 3 Tammuz in benefit of the Jewish people.  As mentioned in Joshua (10:12-14), he was in the midst of war fighting some kings in the midst of conquering Israel, when shortly before becoming dark (some say that it was shortly before Shabbat), he ordered the sun and moon to seize moving "Be silent, O sun in Gibeon, and O moon in Ayalon Valley", hence ordering a cessation of the planetary system allowing the day to continue without the sun setting.  Some say that this was for 24 hours, others say for 36 hours; but the important thing here is that this was not a miracle noticed just in the immediate area where it was called for, but a worldwide thing that everyone could see was most unusual; hence, eventually spreading the news of the Jews fighting and winning a war as Hashem's Chosen People in His Chosen Land.  But perhaps even greater than this was the fact that this miracle was not called for by Hashem Himself, but rather, on Joshua's initiative, in fighting a war that was called a Milchemet Mitzva - a war as a commandment of Hashem, in eradicating the Canaanites of the land as Hashem already ordered in the Torah.

In short, we see that Rabbi Kaplan, in following suit as Joshua who took a bold step to help complete a war successfully, was not afraid to translate the Torah the way that he felt should be done, even though he could have possibly expected objections to it for more than one reason.  For example, if a verse of the Torah is set as the verse is, how could anyone dare to translate it differently by dividing it as two verses, or as half a verse?  Or, how could he refer to non-Jewish sources to identify certain places for example, when it could be argues that non-Jewish sources have no place in a book of holiness.  In fact, major Torah works, such as the Mishneh Torah, a composite of the laws of the entire Talmudic literature, compiled by the Rambam (Maimonides) were severely objected to by some rabbis, and at one point, were even subject to book burning.  Luckily, for Rabbi Kaplan, his well needed and overdue translation was most welcomed in the Torah world, as he was already long known for his mastery of Torah through his multitude of compositions and translations up to this point in time.

Just one example of his notes, showing his collected information from numerous sources - where it states
Vayigdal Moshe "Moses grew up", following which, he ran away to Midian after Pharaoh's attempt to have him beheaded upon hearing of him killing an Egyptian taskmaster, Rabbi Kaplan brings as many as nine different suggested ages as to when this happened.  Now, in what other commentary on the Torah will you see such varied notes on one phrase of the Torah?


Having already mentioned that the total Gematria of Rabbi Kaplan's three Hebrew names is 613 in reference to the 613th and final Mitzva of the Torah, which is the writing of a Sefer Torah, we also see a hint to this via his three individual names.

Aryeh, which means lion, was the name that Rabbi Kaplan used all the time.  It is true that in some synagogues, one will see the design of two lions on the curtain covering the ark of the Sefer Torah.  We know that Hashem is compared to a lion in terms of strength, and is mentioned in Kabbala in terms of the Holy Chariot, in which of the four directions, the lion is on the right side.  And we see in the encampment of the Tribes in the wilderness, it was the tribes of Yehuda, Yissaschar, and Zevulun that were on the right side, and were especially associated with the knowledge of Torah, and were the closest tribes to the residences of Moshe and Aharon.  Moreover, in the list of verses that the various facets of creation recite in song to Hashem as found in Perek Shira (Chapter of Song), the lion states "Hashem is like a warrior...He will be strengthened over His enemies" (Isaiah 42:13).  The final word of this verse Yitgabar "He will be strengthened", can be rearranged by its letters to read B'Taryag "With 613", which is a most similar word to the very first word of the Shuchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) - Yitgaber "One should strengthen himself like a lion..." in reference to getting up in the morning to serve Hashem with enthusiasm.  For in fact, the Halachot (Jewish laws) in the Shulchan Aruch that are the details of the Mitzvot (Commandments) that we are to perform, though we may not be able to fulfill all 613 of them, but by studying even the ones that we are not able to fulfill, it is considered as though we fulfilled them.

Moshe - It was Moshe Rabbeinu who was the very first one who wrote a Sefer Torah.  Moreover, his full title as Moshe Rabbeinu is the Gematria of 613, reflecting both the fact that he was Rabbeinu - our teacher of the Torah that consists of 613 Mitzvot both in his generation and in all future generations, as well as having been the FIRST one to fulfill the LAST Mitzva of the Torah, on the LAST day of his life.  Similarly, Rabbi Kaplan can rightfully be called Rabbeinu, at least for the English speaking population, even if his only Toral literary composition would have been The Living Torah translation, but having written and translated numerous other writings, reaching both the seasoned Torah scholar to the beginner in Judaism, including a few Breslov Hasidic book translations, he indeed reached numerous Jews from all walks of life teaching Torah to them via his writings Torah books, which is a segment of the Mitzva of writing a Sefer Torah.

Eliyahu - First, we see in the conclusion of the Nevi'im (Prophets) section of Tanach in Malachi where it states - Zichru Torat Moshe Avdi "Remember the Torah of Moses My servant" and shortly after this, it mentions Eliyahu (Elijah) as being the heralder of the Redemption "on the great and awesome day", continuing with "He (Eliyahu) will return the hearts of fathers with the children, and the hearts of the children with the fathers", which indeed reflects the Ba'al Teshuva (return to Judaism) movement in which not only individuals become observant Jews from non-observant homes as individuals, but many times influence part or the entire family to do likewise, at least to some extent, something that has not happened in mass numbers in Jewish history until very recently.  In similar fashion, Rabbi Kaplan was involved as well in outreach, despite his most busy schedule of writing Torah books which was his means of support of his wife and nine children, including his affiliation with the well known outreach program NCSY and had an open house for guests eating at his home on Shabbat.  Moreover, the Gematria of this name Eliyahu is 52, and lo and behold, the last Mitzva of the Torah of writing a Sefer Torah is in Parshat Vayeilech, the 52nd Parsha of the Chumash!  In fact, though I have seen different numbers given for the amount of works that Rabbi Kaplan wrote, according to Rabbi Pinchos Stolper, who sponsored him to write a Sefer for NCSY, he wrote 52 compositions during the LAST 15 some years of his life.  Truly amazing!

We see another phenomenon pertaining to Rabbi Kaplan's full Hebrew name.  You see, the first letters of his three names - Aleph, Mem, Aleph - spells the word Imma, which means mother.  Accordingly, the name of the one who wrote down the teachings of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) as recorded in the Zohar is Abba, which means father.  In a sense, just as the sage Abba was Rashbi's secretary; so was Rabbi Kaplan one of the secretaries of Moshe Rabbeinu, or actually, technically one of Hashem's secretaries, for in fact, the Chumash is really totally the words of Hashem, and it was Moshe Rabbeinu who simply wrote it down.  And in Kabbala, there are mystical concepts that include Abba and Imma, but the explanation of these concepts is beyond the scope of this post.

Now that I have mentioned the source of this last Mitzva of the Torah, let us note that the verse in which it is mentioned (Deutronomy 31:19) is the 5741st verse of the Chumash.  Noting that there are hints to the number verse in the Chumash as corresponding to its respective Hebrew year, though Rabbi Kaplan wrote The Living Torah translation particularly in 5740 from the beginning of this year for nine months, we have to admit that this is pretty close in terms of the number verse in the Torah, as well as his passing which was not long afterwards in 5743, and in the midst of the 5743rd verse, it states in reference to the Torah "for it will not be forgotten from his descendants" (in similar fashion to what I mentioned above "Remember the Torah of Moses My servant"), and in the next verse, the 5744th verse, it is written "Moshe wrote this song on that day and taught it to the Children of Israel".

Now, "this song" refers to Shirat Ha'azinu, which is the first 43 verses of the following Parsha named Ha'azinu, and noting the amount of verses in "this song", Rabbi Kaplan passed away in 5743, noting that the last two digits of this Hebrew year is 43, in which his life of writing Torah ceased!  Moreover, the Gematria of the name of the Parsha - Ha'azinu is 79, which spells the Hebrew number Ayin-Teit, which can also be read as Eit (pen), the instrument used in writing, which consists of exactly 613 words in its 52 verses!  And as mentioned above in reference to Rabbi Kaplan's LAST Hebrew name Eliyahu which is the Gematria of 52, the 613rd and LAST Mitzva of the Torah is in the 52nd Parsha of the Torah; hence showing that there is a unique connection of the number 52 with 613 in quite a few ways.

Having said this, the FIRST word of Parshat Ha'azinu is the word Ha'azinu, whose Gematria word equivalent Eit (pen) hints to the LAST Mitzva of the Torah, and the LAST word of this Parsha - Yisrael, which is also the LAST word of its following Parsha, V'Zot HaBeracha, the LAST word of this Parsha, and hence, the LAST word of the Sefer Torah - hints to the FIRST Mitzva of the Torah - Pru Urvu "Be fruitful and multiply", which is hinted by the name Yisrael, as also in the phrase the way it is at the end of Parshat Ha'azinu - B'nei Yisrael "Children of Israel".  And as we know in Kabbala, "the beginning is rooted in the end, and the end is rooted in the beginning".

Now, as I mentioned earlier that Rabbi Kaplan wrote The Living Torah translation particularly in Year 5740, let us note the its corresponding 5740th verse "I will hide My face on that day..." Now, while this verse may seem to be noting a rather negative connotation as to what will happen with the Jewish people, if G-d forbid, they don't follow in Hashem's ways, the Talmud notes in Tractate Hullin that this is the very phrase - Haster Astir - that hints to the name of Queen Esther, whom Hashem used in His hidden ways by having certain things happen - as HIDDEN miracles - to bring about the events that led to the holiday of Purim, on which we read Megillat Esther.  Now, while there are five different Megillot that are read on various holidays of the year, this phrase Megillat Esther can be translated to mean "revealing the hidden", as indeed very aptly describes Rabbi Kaplan's multiple compositions that indeed involved taking abstract and composite subjects, breaking them down into easily understood ideas that ordinary people could relate to, even in Kabbala.

And speaking of Kabbala, let's turn to the 5743rd verse, being that Rabbi Kaplan passed away in Year 5743.  Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (who passed away on the 4th day of Succot that celebrates Moshe Rabbeinu of the Ushpizin, the Heavenly Guests of the Succah, and some of his writings were translated by Rabbi Kaplan) mentions in the immediate introductory paragraph to his magnum opus, the Likutei Moharan, that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), author of the teachings of the main book of the Kabbala, the Zohar, is hinted in the phrase Ki Lo Teshachach MiPi Zar'o "for it will not be forgotten from the mouth of his children", in which the last letters of these five words - Yud, Aleph, Cheit, Yud, Vav - can be rearranged to spell the name of Rashbi's father Yochai, and it was his child Rabbi Shimon, who stated in the Talmud (Shabbat 138), in a debate among the rabbis, that the Torah will not be forgotten in the future, quoting this very phrase, which is found in the midst of the 5743rd verse of the Torah.

And speaking of letters, we see that Rabbi Kaplan is especially related to the FIRST letter Aleph.  Both his FIRST and third Hebrew names begin with Aleph, and as I noted earlier, as pertaining to his middle name Moshe, it was Moshe Rabbeinu who wrote the FIRST to write a Sefer Torah.  However, there is major difference between Moshe Rabbeinu and Rabbi Kaplan - pertaining to their burial plots.  Unlike Moshe Rabbeinu about whom it is written that "no one knows where he is buried until today", Rabbi Kaplan's burial spot is not only known, but can easily be remembered.  You see, he is buried on Har HaZeitim (Mt. of Olives) in the section that is named Agudas Achim Anshei America - Cheilek Aleph.  As you can see, besides the immediate burial grounds which is termed Section Aleph (One), each of these four words in Hebrew - Agudas Achim Anshei America begins with the letter Aleph!  As it turns out, Rabbi Kaplan was no stranger to Israel, as he learned in Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem in his rabbinical learning days, and though he spent most of his life in the United States, it is most fitting that someone like Rabbi Kaplan who contributed so much in the way of the greatest Mitzva of the Torah - Torah learning via writing numerous Seforim, should be buried in such a hallowed area, the most respected burial site for Jews which is located on the grounds of Jerusalem, close to the site of the grounds of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple).

As I mentioned earlier, Rabbi Kaplan called his The Living Torah his "tenth child".  As related to the 613rd Mitzva of the Torah as well as the Gematria of his name, the number 613, when adding the individual numbers 6,1,3, this adds up to TEN, (known as the Mispar Katan "small number" in Gematria) bearing in mind that the Aseret HaDibrot "Ten Commandments", as mentioned by Rashi and shown by the Sa'adya Gaon, includes ALL 613 Mitzvot.  Moreover, the very first letter of the Aseret Hadibrot is an Aleph, which begins the word Anochi "I AM Hashem your G-d..."

And as related to the number of this post - 179, while in fact, the Aseret HaDibrot contains 172 words, the introductory verse "G-d spoke all these words saying" contains seven words; hence a total of 179 words as immediately related to the Aseret HaDibrot.  And while this introductory verse is not part of the writen Aseret HaDibrot on the Luchot (Tablets), it is compared to the FIRST verse of the Torah - Bereishit "In the beginning of G-d's creating the heavens and earth", as both consists of seven words and 28 letters.  And speaking of the number 28, there are 22 regular letters of the Aleph-Beit, and five letter forms that are spelled specifically at the end of a word, making the total of 27 different letter forms, and in terms of Gematria, in one sense, the five ending letters have the corresponding numerical values from 500 to 900; and following this, the letter Aleph becomes 1,000, also pronounced as Eleph; noting the special significance of the letters of the word for the letter Aleph that are the same, only changing its vowels for pronounciation when the number ONE becomes ONE-THOUSAND as Eleph, being so to speak the 28th letter, but still looking as the same letter ALEPH.

In connection to the above concepts of the Chumash and the Aseret HaDibrot, there is one more thing to note about Rabbi Kaplan's full Hebrew name.  Each of these three names have one letter in common - the letter HEI, the numerical value of five.  We see something very similar in Parshat Naso, pertaining to the identical Korbanot (offerings) that each of the 12 Nesi'im (leaders) of their respective tribes brought on behalf of their tribes - "FIVE rams, FIVE goats, FIVE sheep".  Rashi notes from Rabbi MOSHE HaDarshan that each of these three FIVEs hints to one of three things as related to the Torah - FIVE books of the Chumash (or known in English as the FIVE Books of Moses), FIVE of the Aseret HaDibrot written on one side of the Luchot, and FIVE of the Aseret HaDibrot written on the other side of the Aseret HaDibrot.  And of course, the FIRST letter of both the name of Parshat Ha'azinu and the first letter of this Parsha (which is the same word), as related earlier to Rabbi Kaplan, is the letter HEI.

And before concluding this post, especially in terms of names, let us note Rabbi Kaplan's family name, which in fact was a different name before his grandfather came to the States.  In Hebrew, the name Kaplan begins with a Koof, which is the numerical value of 100, and the name of the writing instrument - Eit, which spells the Hebrew number 79, as especially related to Rabbi Kaplan, together spells the number 179, the number of this post.  Moreover, if we dissect the number 179 as One (1) and Seventy-Nine (79), this can be used as a way to remember Parshat Ha'azinu, as the FIRST word of this Parsha - consisting of 613 words as especially connected to Rabbi Kaplan - is Ha'azinu, the Gematria of 79.

Indeed, it was Hashgacha Peratit (Divine Providence) that saw to it that Rabbi Kaplan's The Living Torah took exactly nine months to be composed, comparable to the nine months that the fetus spends in its mother's womb.  As our rabbis tell us, the fetus learns the entire Torah, only to be forgotten upon birth, and is one of the reasons why the baby cries at birth, in effect mourning its loss of his memory of the Torah, and is only regained when we learn the Torah as soon as possible in our youth.  Moreover symbolically, Rabbi Kaplan dispelled the darkness of the good-for-nothing past English translation, noting that the number nine especially connotes darkness, such as the ninth plague of Egypt which was darkness, and the darkness of the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, the ninth of Av (Tisha B'Av), when we are forbidden to learn most parts of the Torah as they lead to happiness, except for a few things such as Eicha, one of the Megillot of the Tanach whose name is also the first word of this book, which begins with the letter Aleph.  On the contrast, darkness is dispelled by Ohr (light), which also begins with the letter Aleph.  And as I mentioned earlier about the connection of the number FIVE as related to Rabbi Kaplan, in the FIRST FIVE verses of the Torah which is the account of the FIRST day of Creation, the word Ohr is mentioned FIVE times, which correspond to the FIVE books of the Chumash.

And as Rabbi Kaplan first had NINE physical children, noting that the fetus spends NINE months in the womb, and Rabbi Kaplan's "tenth child" also took NINE months in formation; at least symbolically, we have a total of 90 months.  Accordingly, the name Mahn (manna), the spiritual food in the desert that the Jews ate for 40 years, which rained down in the merit of Moshe Rabbeinu, is the Gematria of 90, bearing in mind that "the Torah was given to those who ate the Mahn".  And the day on which Rabbi Kaplan passed away, which was the sixth day of the week of Parshat Beshalach, corresponds to the sixth Aliyah of Parshat Beshalach, which mentions the very events of the giving of the Mahn to the Jewish people!

As per the Hebrew year 5740 in which Rabbi Kaplan wrote The Living Torah, his "tenth child", it was a Shemitta year, a year in which the land in the Land of Israel is not worked on as per Hashem's commandments to us to let the land rest and not work on it every seventh year as a Sabbatical; hence, being a holier year in terms of the Holy Land.  And as connected to the number 10, we see in the Mishna (Keilim 1:6), there are ten levels of holiness as related to Israel, going up the ladder to Jerusalem, the Temple, and the holiest being the Temple room of the Kodesh Kodoshim (Holy of Holies) in which only the Cohen Gadol entered on Yom Kippur, the TENTH day from the beginning of the year, aside from being the TENTH day of the SEVENTH month when counting the months from Nissan.  We also see that the concept of holiness is related as well especially to the number seven, aside from the fact that the root of it all is Shabbat, the holiest day of the week as the SEVENTH day, as per Parshat Kedoshim - the SEVENTH Parsha in Sefer Vayikra (Leviticus) in which there is a parallel to the "TEN Commandments", and Tractate Kiddushin - the SEVENTH and last tractate in Seder Nashim, the third volume of the Mishna, whose final chapter begins with the word TEN - "Ten groups of lineages..."

On 3 Tammuz, 5740, the final stroke of Rabbi Kaplan's pen as the finishing touches on the English translation of the Chumash may have been sounded quite silent.  But in the heavens, it made a major impact on the Jewish people eternally, read and learned by English speaking Jews worldwide for the last 33 years.  If only we most appreciated this major breakthrough work, which was Rabbi Kaplan BREAKING THE TREND of the old standard English translations, perhaps this date of 3 Tammuz would be celebrated in similar fashion to Simchat Torah, the holiday on which we rejoice over the completion of the reading of the Sefer Torah, only to begin it anew, paralleling the happiness of the holiday of Purim and that of Lag BaOmer - 33rd day of the Omer, the Yahrzeit of one of the biggest Torah mystics and Kabbalists of Jewish history - Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.  There is in fact a basis for me writing this, because typically, when a Yeshiva or synagogue purchases or has written a Sefer Torah, there is what is called Hachnassat Sefer Torah, which literally means "the entry of a Torah scroll", with festivities similar to those performed on Simchat Torah, and is accompanied under a Chupa (wedding canopy) following the completion of the writing of the Sefer Torah if it is a new one, being escorted to its destination in the holy ark to be read in the future.

It is with the help of Torah scholars like Rabbi Kaplan that the Torah will never be forgotten from the Jewish people - as per the words of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai - who was among the foremost Torah scholars who showed the Torah to be a most practical way of life, exemplifying the Torah as THE LIVING TORAH.

3 Tammuz, 5773 - 33 years from the completion of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's The Living Torah