Tuesday, September 10, 2013

#191 - The Ultimate Kindness

Happy New Year to you all!

A great way to start off the new year on the right foot is to write about something positive.  In this context, the word right has more than one meaning.  You see, this week's topic is all about kindness, and Kabbalistically, kindness is associated with the right side.

I will get back to this subject momentarily.  But first, I want to tell you something that I discovered early this summer, kudos to www.shiratdevorah.blogspot.com.  There recently came out a new Torah book in English called The Kabbalah of Time, which relates the 52 weeks of the year to the Sephirot that are divided up into 49 individual classifications of such - based on the seven active Sephirot of Chesed/Gevurah/Tiferet/Netzach/Hod/Yesod/Malchut during the seven week period of Sephirat HaOmer (counting the days from the 16th of Nissan when the Omer offering was brought in the Beit HaMikdash (Temple), and concluding with the three Sephirot as relating to the brain - Chochma (Wisdom), Bina (Understanding) and Da'at (Knowledge) or Keter (Crown).  It also relates the 52 weeks to the 52 creatures, in Perek Shira (collection of verses of praise of Hashem that are recited by the various elements of creation) who "sing" their individual Biblical verse, as well as statements from 52 rabbis in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers).

Actually, in the Jewish calendar, in a regular year, there are between 50-51 weeks, and in a leap year, there are up to 55 complete weeks, as it is this year.  In any case, while I am not here to endorse everything in this book, which can be purchased to download to a Kindle app via Amazon, or as a regular physical book, one thing that is amazing is that the weeks corresponding to the individual Sephirot are based on the day of Lag Ba'Omer (33rd day of the Omer), Yarhrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, author of the teachings of the Zohar (main book of the Kabbalah) whose Sephira is Hod Shebahod; and hence, beginning the weeks from Rosh Hashana, the 33rd week as detailed in this book is the week of Lag Ba'Omer.

And so, my goal for this year of 5774, G-d willing, is to focus on the weekly Sephira, one per week, and assuming that I write around the same time of the week every week, there will be only three weeks that I won't be writing something - the week of Sukkot, the week of Passover, and the week of Shavuot (the holiday itself falling out on the same day of the week as I am presently writing my post), leaving me with exactly 52 weeks out of this 55 week year.  To make it clear though, what I write here isn't necessarily material from this book, per se, unless I indicate as such; but rather, my own take, based on the Torah, of the Sephira that is based on some theme during its corresponding week, which may not even be mentioned in this book.  And of course, there will be some theme of Gematria that I will be mentioning in each post.

Now, getting back to the theme of this post, everything in this world begins with Hashem's kindness.  As stated in Tehillim (Psalms 89:3), "the world was built with kindness".  For in fact, the only reason why the world is able to exist is because of the acceptance and learning of the Torah by the Jewish people, which officially would not happen for nearly 2,450 years.  And so, it was only because of Hashem's kindness that the world was able to exist to begin with.

Elsewhere in Tehillim, we see that Chapter 136 consists of 26 verses in which each verse ends with "for Hiss kindness is forever".  The significance of this psalm consisting of 26 verses is that they correspond to the 26 generations from Adam to Moses via parental line, and it was Moses of the 26th generation who transmitted the Torah to us after learning it from Hashem.  Moreover, the number 26 is the Gematria of Hashem's main name YKVK (K is substituted for H in respect of this most holy name), which we never pronounce it the way that it is written, but rather as A-do-noy (my Master); and even at that, when we refer to Him when not praying or saying a Biblical verse, it is as Hashem, which literally means THE name.  Most strikingly, Moses' Hebrew name Moshe spells the same letters as Hashem, but backwards, which comes to show the special relationship that Moshe as the greatest Tzadik (righteous person) had with Hashem; for it was only Moshe who learned the entire Torah from Hashem Himself.

And having mentioned Hashem as per this word being used to refer to Him, in the blessing that immediately follows the evening Shema, we say Hasam Nafsheinu BaÇhaim... "WHO HAS PLACED our soul in life, and didn't let our feet to falter", which of course refers to Hashem, but the first word in Hebrew Hasam "
Who has placed", is spelled with the exact letters in order, and of course, this is one out of many praises of Hashem of the various kindnesses that He does for the Jewish people.

In any case, this is not to say that the Torah is something different from kindness.  In fact, the entire Torah is full of themes and stories and Mitzvot (commandments) about kindness.  Morever, teaching Torah, or supporting Torah - which I will write more about momentarily - is the greatest kindness that one can do for someone else, for while feeding the poor is certainly a great act of kindness in keeping people physically alive, it is not necessarily keeping them spiritually alive.  For it is only the Torah, which is a spiritual and eternal matter, which benefits us the most, granting us eternal life in the Hereafter.

In the beginning of the first blessing of Bircat HaMazon (Grace After Meals), this particular blessing which was composed by Moses himself, it states HaZan Et HaOlam... "Who nourishes the entire world with grace, kindness, and mercy".  Now, the word HaZan, particular the syllable Zan (nourishes), is most related to the name of the letter Zayin, which is the numericial value of seven and the seventh letter of the Aleph Beit.  It is this letter that Kabbalistically is related particularly to the month of Sivan, the month on which we received the Torah, which actually took place on the SEVENTH day of the week (Shabbat) and on the SEVENTH day of the month (see the Talmud in tractate Shabbat 87-89 of the details of how this is derived), highlighted with the giving of the Ten Commandments, which includes the Mitzvot of Shabbat which begins with the word Zachor (Remember) which begins with the letter Zayin.  Moreover, the corresponding Tribe to this month of Sivan is Zevulun, whose name begins with the letter Zayin.  And to top this off, his birthdate is THE SEVENTH DAY OF THE SEVENTH MONTH (Tishrei, counting the months beginning from Nissan, the month of the Exodus marking the birth of the Jewish people as a nation)!

In short, it was Zevulun who provided sustenance to his brother Yissachar to be able to learn Torah all day. The ultimate result of this was that there were some 200 members of the Tribe of Yissachar at one point who were responsible for the detailed calculations of the Jewish calendar on behalf of the Sanhedrin (The Supreme Jewish Court).  And as we see in both the blessings of Jacob and Moses for these tribes, even though Yissachar was the older brother and the Torah scholar, Zevulun is mentioned first because the Torah learning of Yissachar was only made possible due to Zevulun supporting him financially.  And indeed, the name Zevulun, the name of the letter Zayin, the word Zan (nourishes), and the verse of Jacob's blessing for Zevulun have one striking thing in common - they all begin with the letter Zayin and end with the letter Noof Sophit!  But wait, there is more.  In the higher Gematria values in which there are five letters that only appear at the end of a word, each one of these letters being given the last name Sophit (end) and appear as a little different letter from, which are Kaf, Mem, Noon, Pei, Tzadi, their corresponding numerical values are 500, 600, 700, 800, 900; the numerical value of the letter Noon Sophit is 700.  And so, the letter Zayin and the letter Noon Sophit add up to the total of 707, which is SEVEN hundred and SEVEN, which is the Gematria of HaShabbat (the Sabbath), which is the SEVENTH day of the week.

The whole concept of Shabbat as it relates especially to Zevulun, who had to work for six days as his specialty of supporting Torah, may sound ironic; but as we know from Halacha (Jewish law), we are dutybound to honor the Shabbat according to our financial means by having the finest foods and clothing especially on Shabbat, which is only possible by working during the week.  In fact, it is particularly related to the concept of Zachor, the beginning word of the fourth of the Ten Commandments which is about Shabbat, which begins with the letter Zayin=7, in contrast to the word Shamor (observe) which relates specifically to resting or not working on Shabbat.

The bottom line here is that this is ultimately related to the Kabbalistic Sephira of Chesed SheBeChesed (Kindness within Kindness), for the ultimate kindness is teaching Torah or supporting it, for the Torah is what sustains one spiritually and eternally.  And having mentioned earlier of Hashem's most holy name being the Gematria of 26 as related to Moses of the 26th generation who was the Lawgiver, Hashem's longest name is the 72 word name, and the word Chesed is the Gematria of 72.  And relating Hashem especiaaly to the number seven, there is a Mitzva in the Torah not to erase any one of Hashem's seven Biblical names.

In any case, having related above as per the connection between Chesed and the number seven, The Kabbalah In Time book mentions for the first week of the year that corresponds to Chesed SheBeChesed, of the first of the 52 creatures in Perek Shira, the rooster, who makes a total of SEVEN statements, among them, arousal to learn Torah, especially at midnight,as King David did.  As per my take on this, the rooster is virtually the only non-human creature that openly encourages Torah learning; and in essence, fulfilling its role of encouraging Torah learning, as does Zevulun who encourages Torah learning through financial support. And speaking of midnight as a most opportune time for learning Torah, midnight begins the SEVENTH hour of the day (in Jewish law, the day begins from the nighttime).

And as for the date of the Sephira period - the 1st day of the Omer, whose Sephira is Chesed SheBeChesed, it was on this date that the Omer offering, consisting of barley, was brought in the Temple; and hence, the counting of the Omer, counting 49 days to Shavuot, is named after the offering of the Omer, and it was this Omer offering that allowed the barley from the new crop, part of Hashem's bountiful kindness to us, to be eaten.  Correspondingly, this date was the first day of the Jews who left Egypt to begin purifying themselves for a seven week period in preparation to receive the Torah.

In Gematria, Chesed SheBeChesed has the same numerical value as the word Mavet (death) - 446.
On one hand, some will be quick to suggest that these two are opposites, for after all, life is Hashem's great kindness to us, or is it?

At the end of the account of the creation for the week, at the end of the section of the sixth day, one of the meanings of the phrase "very good" in "G-d saw everything that He made and behold it was very good", as offered in the Midrash, as that this refers to death.  Of course, for those who believe in eternal life, and doing what G-d wants, they aren't too puzzled or disturbed by this, because after all, this is a world that is full of suffering and all while the world of bliss is just that.  But as far as Hashem is concerned, if we were to live
 a very long life, as the generations before the Flood used to live, like them, we wouldn't take life seriously, thinking that we have all the time in the world, and hence, live a life of sinful pleasure and all, which would ultimately lead to our eternal spiritual death or punishment..  And so, in Hashem's ULTIMATE KINDNESS for us, he gives us rather a far shorter life to live in this world, in order that we realize that life is too short to fool around with, and hence, we won't take our time accomplishing things in life, including having a family.

And ultimately, while our fate as to what will be with us in this coming year is decided by Hashem
during this time of Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur, when we pray that we will be inscribed in the Book of Life, the main meaning of this is our eternal life, which is called the Book of the Righteous; because in terms of physical life, there are plenty of evil people who live happily to a ripe old age, while many good people live a
short life of much suffering.  So obviously, we are mainly praying for our eternal life, where our good life will be forever, if we behave good in this world of preparation, for this world is not an end in itself, but rather prepares us for a far better world, which is part of Hashem's ultimate kindness for us.  And as for Grace After Meals in which we spend time thanking Hashem  for physically sustaining us, the ultimate purpose of Hashem giving us physical sustenance is in order that we will have energy to serve Him properly.

Until my next post, may you all be sealed in the Book of Life!

7 Tishrei, 5774 - Birthdate of Zevulun son of Jacob

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