Sunday, August 4, 2013

#186 - "U R CHILDREN 2 Hashem Your G-d"

This past Wednesday morning, my wife gave birth to a baby boy in Jerusalem at 8:38 AM.  The chances of this happening was 50%, because the baby could have been a girl, like my first one is.  The reason that I say this is because the very first Mitzva (commandment) of the Torah is to have children, and the minimum fulfillment of this is to have at least one son and one daughter.  Hence, I am very fortunate that I already have been able to fulfill this Mitzva in its basic entirety, considering the fact that there are those who only wind up having only sons or daughters; and though of course, each Jewish child - regardless of gender - is adding more holiness into this world, bringing more people and future descendants to serve Hashem, it still does not fulfill this Mitzva in its entirety.  Of course one may ask, "How can Hashem expect us to fulfill a Mitzva if there are circumstances that are beyond our control?  We can't control if the child will come out to be a boy or girl, can we?"  It is true that both the Talmud and science offer suggestions to cause the outcome of the gender, but for a philosophical discussion of this subject, I highly suggest that you contact your local rabbi.

Of course, if we want something in life, one sure way of the possibility of having our wish granted is to pray to Hashem. And so, wishing to fulfill this Mitzva after first being the father of a baby girl, I prayed to have a son, especially in the prayer taken from the Zohar that is recited when the Holy Ark is opened right before taking out a Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) to read, which includes a passage - though absent from many if not from most prayer books for understandable reasons - requesting for male children "who will do Your will". Now personally, even though this part is also mentioned in the Zohar, and I understand that it is the men who are the Torah scholars as the role of women is to help their children become Torah scholars and be observant Jews, I don't otherwise say this part of the prayer, aside from the fact that it is absent from many prayerbooks, since to me, women have their own unique way of serving Hashem, just as the men have their way of serving Hashem, which may not be equal, but that is strictly for Hashem to judge and to decide as to who receives what reward.

And the truth is that as per this Mitzva, at least according to the Rambam (Maimonides), it is only fulfilled in its entirety when both the son and daughter each have a minimum of one child when one of the two has a son and the other has a daughter; but if only one of the two has children, even if that one has both a son and a daughter, the Mitzva is not completely fulfilled.  Now, while it may not be certain if this is treated by Hashem to be the case; as far as the first father, or head father, is concerned, his personal part in the completion of the Mitzva at the minimum level ends with his own participation of causing the creation and ultimate birth of one son and one daughter.  Moreover, while the opinion of the Rambam may be questioned, there is a practical application in terms of one's grandsons as per Halacha (Jewish law), based on the verse "You shall instruct your sons and your sons' sons in the knowledge (of the Torah)"  (Deutronomy 4:9), as the Mitzva of teaching Torah is specifically applicable to one's sons and one's grandsons if they are from one's sons; but not including one's grandsons from one's daughter or one's great grandsons for that matter, being applicable to teaching only one's first two generations of boys, while teaching other descendants not included in the mandatory category is considered the same as teaching non-relatives.

As for teaching girls, while there is no specific Mitzva to teach them Torah, there is still a Halachic obligation of training them in the Torah way of life, especially modest dress and speech as befitting a daughter of the nation of Israel as opposed to non-Jews where as evidenced in their celebrations, the men are dressed to the tee, while the women are dressed maybe half way, a far cry from the modest way of dress, aside from how
some of the women behave, including getting drunk as times, and then they wonder why they are prone to being raped and receiving sexual harassment, which is virtually absent with observant Jewish women who dress quite modestly.

Now, getting to the title of this post, which in Hebrew is Banim Atem LaHashem Elokeichem (Deutronomy 14:1), it begins the 4th Aliyah of the 4th Parsha of Sefer Devarim, the book of the Torah whose name Devarim begins with the letter Dalet, the 4th letter of the Aleph-Beit and the numerical value of four.  Now, even without the connection of the number four here, it was most unique to me that on the 4th day of the week of Parshat Re'eh, corresponding to which is the 4th Aliyah of the Parsha (and as many who learn the Aliyah of the seven Aliyot of the Parsha on the corresponding day of the week), that begins with the very word Banim (sons/children), that my son was born, which completed my basic requirement of fulfilling the first Mitzva of the Torah of having children.  Moreover, this word begins with the letter Beit, which is the 2nd letter of the Aleph Beit and the numerical value of two, bearing in mind that my son is my 2nd child.  Of the 378 Aliyot of the Chumash (Pentateuch), there are only a handful of Aliyot that begin with this letter, including the very beginning of the Torah which begins with the letter Beit, that also begins the account of the creation of the world, which includes Hashem's command to Adam and Eve, the ancestors of all mankind, to have children, which is the source of this first Mitzva of the Torah.  In my personal happening, I find this most phenomenal!

Indeed, as on the national level, it was the Jews who was the only nation who accepted the Torah which begins with the letter Beit.  This is why the Jews in particular are called Hashem's children, such as "My son, My firstborn Israel" (Exodus 4:22), even though ironically, the Jews became the youngest nation following not only the formation of the general 70 nations, but following the formation of the Jews' cousin nations Amon, Moab, Ishmael, Edom, and Amalek. This is supported by the fact that when we fulfill Hashem's will, we are called His children; but when we don't fulfill Hashem's will, we are called His servants. Ultimately, the word for the letter Beit is very similar to the word Bayit (home/house), for the home is where one's family is raised.

Now, getting back on a personal level as per the number four in terms of my baby boy as related to the Parsha, this also relates to the timing of my life.  You see, his birth occurred on the 4th day of the week (Yom Revi'i) in the midst of the 4th week of the 4th month (Av) of the 44th year of my life.

At this point, I am reminded of another place in the Torah where the number four has a particular connection to the concept of having children - at least in an indirect way.  In Parshat Balak, in which Bila'am desperately attempts to find a way to curse the Jews despite Hashem having already attempted to dissuade him from doing so in more than one way, he finds himself at the end blessing the Jews being obviously forced to do so by Hashem.  In the midst of this, he stated "Who will count the dust of Jacob or numbered a quarter of Israel?" (Numbers 23:10).  Now, the word Rova (quarter) - which by the way is prominently used in the name of the Jewish quarter section of the Old City of Jerusalem that is among the closest of the Jewish neighborhoods to the Temple area, the holiest area in the world - is obviously associated to the word Arba (four), and as mentioned by Rashi in explanation of this verse, there were four camps of Jews in the desert, each consisting of three tribes.  Following this, Rashi points out to another meaning of the word  Rova - matings, as in this context, this word refers to the children that result from their matings, that is, their marital relations, among the Jewish people.  In short, the Jews here are being honored here as Hashem's children as His chosen nation, via the number four; just as the phrase "You are children to Hashem your G-d" begins the fourth Aliyah of Parshat Re'eh.

Now, this is all very nice, but why is the number four the number that is especially associated in terms of mating and numbers of Jews?  Of course, as we mention in the song Echad Mi Yodea that is located near the end of the Haggada of the Passover Seder night, there are four Imahot (Matriarchs) - which refer specifically to Sara, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah - the wives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob respectivally. Also, Jacob who is the father of the 12 Tribes, were born to him via his four wives/women - Rachel, Leah, Bilhah, and Zilpah.  After all, it is thanks to the mother who had to go through nine months of pregnancy with all of its challenges, who actually is the one who gave birth to our precious cute baby.

And for fathers, we always read Parshat Re'eh in which we read "You are children to Hashem your G-d" during the month of Av, whose name means father.  And as especially related to me as per my name, the corresponding tribe of the month of Av is Shimon.  Moreover, the month's corresponding letter is Teit, the ninth letter of the Aleph-Beit and the numerical value of nine, which of course is most related to the mother who gives birth following nine months of pregnancy.

And our ultimate father is our Father in Heaven (Avinu SheBaShamayim) who is also called "Father of Mercy" (Av HaRachamim or Av  HaRachaman).  The Hebrew for mercy is based on the word Rechem (womb), the source of the development of a human being, after which, its parents are especially happy to attend to his/her needs, having the natural mercy for their newborn.  Accordingly, we hope that Hashem will treat us the same way.  However, there is one practical difference.  A baby, at least for the first several months or year, is hardly expected to do anything for us in return for all our kind deeds for him or her, since this is beyond the immediate capabilities of the newborn   But as for the Jews as a nation, we are expected to do plenty in return for what Hashem does for us.  The only variable with this is that as individual Jews, children become responsible for observing Hashem's Mitzvot (commandments) at the Bar Mitzva age of 13 or at the Bat Mitzva age of 12.

Oh, before I forget, I want to comment on the number of this post - 186.  You see, this is the Gematria of the word Makom (place), and this word is used in Parshat Re'eh referring to the Beit HaMikdash (Temple), the place of the Shechina (Divine Presence).  Now, to make things clear, Hashem is everywhere, and that is why He too is called Makom.  However, it is particularly in the Temple that Hashem's presence is felt the most by us, because it is specifically in this place that He reveals Himself to the maximum for us to be able to bear in our physical states.

As a side note, looking at the word Makom, the letter with the highest Gematria value is Koof, which is 100. And as for the name of this letter, it contains the same letters as the Gematria of the word Makom, which are Koof (100) - Vav (6) - Pei/Phei Sophit (80).  This number 100 is especially significant as related to the Temple, for it was 100 cubits high.

And as for all human beings, our original place in this world is in the womb (except for Adam and Eve who were created by Hashem Himself).  Now, as related to our number 186, it can be dissected into two numbers - One (1) and Eighty-Six (86).  The first Mitzva of the Torah - Mitzva One - is to "Be fruitful and multiply", which in Hebrew is Pru Urvu.  The first letters of these two words spells the Hebrew number 86 - Pei and Vav.

Stay tuned for my following post which will focus on the Brit Mila of my son and the significance of his name that is given following the circumcision rite.

29 Av, 5773


e^2 said...

China's one-child policy all ready puts them at a disadvantage, based on what the Rambam says about being fruitful and multiplying (which also alludes to the ark of Noach; Noah by Darren Aronofsky is slated for worldwide release 2014, The Year of the Horse). There are certain forecasters that predict India will supersede China's achievements. China is on course to eclipse America as the most prosperous country, by 2015.

BestMake said...

Mazel Tov to you and your wife, wishing you a healthy baby and good health, happiness and only good things for you and your whole family always. Your divray Torah are very deep and a big inspiration, thank you so much for what I have learned from you through these amazing posts.