Wednesday, September 18, 2013

#192 - And This is the Hidden Blessing...

Actually, the title of this post is very similar to the translation and opening words of the final Parsha of the Torah that is called V'Zot HaBeracha, except that in the original context, the word hidden is not included.
Had it been the exact translation, the title of this post would have been embraced with quotation marks.

As in the original context, Moses blessed the Jewish people as his final accomplishment in this world, as especially noted at the end of the first verse of this final Parsha "Moses the man of G-d blessed the Children of Israel before his death" (Deutronomy 33:1).  To note, while we are waiting until the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah to conclude the Torah with this Parsha, part of it is being read at this time in the Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) on Shabbat afternoon (except for when it falls out on Yom Kippur as it did this year) as well as Monday and Thursday mornings (if it is not Sukkot).

Having mentioned last week of the first of the 49 Sephirot combinations, the topic Sephira of this week is Gevura SheBeChesed (Strength within Kindness), the second of the 49 Sephirot.  And although I mentioned in last week's post of the concept of death being an actual kindness, it is actually this Sephira combination of Strength within Kindness that best describes this phenomenon of death, for strength is associated with strict justice.  And while on the surface, death seems harsh; in the long run, it is actually a kindness of Hashem, being that physical death is in reality the bridge between life in this world and life in the Hereafter.

As for Gematria, the name of this Sephira - Gevura SheBeChesed - is the Gematria of 590, which is the number of Mishnayot in Seder Kodoshim (holy or consecrated matters), the fifth of the six volumes of the Mishna, which is mostly about the offerings in the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) and the details about the various areas and measurements of the Temple, the latter which consists of Tractate Middot (measurements).
And this leads to this past week's date of 8 Tishrei, which marks the anniversary of the dedication of the First Temple by Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon) which marked the beginning of one week celebrating the dedication until the holiday of Sukkot.  In any case, it's most interesting to note that the name of the tractate that is all about the details of the Temple means measurements.  For after all, we would think that a more appropriate name for such a tractate would be something that means Temple or house.  But if we understand what measurements, we will know that this represents the concept of limitations, which is an aspect of Gevura, which means that there is a limit to something that we have or we receive.  For while in the spiritual words, there are no physical limitations when it comes to the concept of place, which is itself is a creation of Hashem, there were specified measurements that were laid out for the construction of the various rooms and hallways in the Temple, as we see in the latter part of the Book of Ezekiel, and beforehand, the various measurements of the Mishkan (Tabernacle).

And while as we see in the Talmud in Tractate Berachot, the Temple is represented by the Sephira of Hod, there is also an aspect of Gevurah that is associated with the Temple. For in fact, the continued existence of the Temple was dependent on the behavior of the Jewish people, and twice, following a period of disobedience of the Torah, the Temple was destroyed on the same date of Tisha B'Av (9 Av).  As we see, the Mazel (constellation) of the month of Av is Aryeh (Leo or lion), and this constellation name shares the same Gematria as the Sephira name Gevurah - 216, for indeed, Hashem showed His strength/strict justice in allowing  our enemies to destroy both Temples.  In a way, even  this was an aspect of "Strength within Kindness", for Hashem allowed His wrath to be wrought against wood and stones rather than at the entire Jewish people.  In any case, we see that there are exactly 216 hours in the first nine days of Av, which marks the saddest time of the Jewish year, culminating with the beginning of the burning of the Temple, which began at the end of the 9th of Av, hence, beginning in the 216th hour of the nine days that represents Gevurah=216.
And with this said, while I will not be going into details in this post, the Sephira Hod is closely related to the Sephira of Gevurah.

Now, getting back to the relatively happier date of 8 Tishrei, there is another significant thing about this date. In the Ashkenazic liturgy of Selichot (prayers in which we ask Hashem for forgiveness) that we recite at this time of the year until after Yom Kippur, there is a special poetical liturgy that consists of the Shlosh Esrei Middot HaRachamim "Thirteen Divine Attributes of Mercy", and in fact, this date is called "Day of the Thirteen Divine Attributes of Mercy" (if this date falls out on Shabbat, then this particular prayer with its accompanying Selichot prayers are recited the day before).  For while in fact, Hashem Himself is limitless, as we are human beings with limitations, Hashem deals with us accordingly, and will behave to us as a human ruler with limitations, so to speak; and it is particularly with His attributes that He accomplishes this.  Hence, these Divine attributes are called Middot, the exact same word that names the tractate that is all about the Temple whose first dedication took place on this same date on which we recite these Shlosh Esrei Middot HaRachamim.  And ultimately, since we are human beings with limitations and errors after all, we hope that Hashem will take this into consideration and forgive us, pending our future behavior in which we hope to improve our spiritual lives.

On the following day, 9 Tishrei, which is Erev Yom Kippur, we eat extra before the big fast of Yom Kippur, and as our Sages tell us, on e who eats on this day is considered as having fasted both on this day and Yom Kippur. However, though it is not part of Yom Kippur per se, we are bidden to stop eating for at least a little period of time before the end of the day of 9 Tishrei (as well as a little time on 11 Tishrei, the date that follows Yom Kippur).  Both of these aspects - eating extra and refraining from eating before the end of the day of 9 Tishrei - are based on the verse that states "It is a solemn rest for you and you shall afflict your souls, on the ninth of the month in the evening, from evening to evening you shall rest" (Leviticuss 23:32).  In fact, we see a similar parallel here to the end of the first nine days of Av in which the Temple started burning in the last hour - the 216th hour.  Similarly, it is during the 216th hour of the first nine days of Tishrei that are a preparation  for the big judgment day of Yom Kippur, the final hour of the date of 9 Tishrei, that we refrain from eating, showing an aspect of Gevurah, strength from our part even though it is not yet Yom Kippur (even though realistically, we probably already feel stuffed from eating and is thus not so challenging to call it a day on eating).

And then of course, then comes the big judgment day of Yom Kippur on which Hashem seals our fate (at least for the coming year if we will live another year).  And as especially related to the concept of Gevurah, this Yom Kippur marked 40 years since the Yom Kippur War (which fell out on Shabbat as it did this year).  Now, the number 40 is especially related to Yom Kippur, since in the story of Jonah that we read as the Haftara on Yom Kippur afternoon, Hashem  had the prophet Jonah warn the city of Nineveh that its inhabitants 40 days chance to repent.  Following this story, we conclude the Haftara with the concluding three verses from Micha that parallel the Thirteen Divine Attributes of Mercy, that begins and ends with the letter Mem, the numerical value of 40.  Moreover, the full name of Yom Kippur is Yom HaKippurim, which ends with a Mem Sophit.  And as this number relates to war, the Hebrew word for war - Milchama includes the letter Mem twice out of five letters, including its first letter.  And on this note, the name of the letter Mem consists of two of the letter Mem (the latter one being a Mem Sophiit), which is the Gematria of 80.  And as mentioned in Tehillim (Psalms 90:10): ''If one has strength, he lives for 80 years"

Now, while I am on the subject of the Yom Kippur, there is another number related to this which isn't good news.  You see, thanks to Prime Monster Golda Meyer's obedience to the United States government who ordered her not to start fighting the Arabs before they started fighting us, some 2,600 Jews were killed in this war, which could have been prevented for the most part had the Prime Monster lady took charge instead of caving in to pressure from the States.  In fact, while the sneak attack on the Jews in Israel was truly a surprise for most Jewish citizens and soldiers, the higher ups knew very well that the Arabs were planing their attack to begin on this day.  Truly, this was one instant in which restraint on our part was not supposed to be the order of the day, and instead of utilizing Gevurah, "strength" holding back from striking the first blow against our avowed Arab enemies, the real strength here was fighting our enemies.  Similarly, in our personal struggle with our Yetzer Hara (evil inclination), we will be far better off if we fight our spiritual war head on before being enticed into sin than having to fight our temptations after we have already been drawn into them.

Interestingly, the name Yom Kippurim can be read alternatively as Yom Ki-Purim - the day that is like Purim.  For on Yom Kippur, we reach our spiritual high through fasting the same way that we do on Purim through feasting.  And in sharp contrast to Yom Kippur when we eat extra the day before the big fast; on Purim, we first fast on the day before, the 13th of Adar, on which we fought a war against our enemies who were ready to fight us - offensively, rather than defensively; and then we have our big feast on Purim. Moreover, the names of all the Mitzvot of Purim begin with the letter Mem=40: Megillat Esther (reading the Megilla), Matanot L'Evyonim (gifts for the  poor), Mishloach Manot (food portions for friends), and Mishteh (feasting).  Additionally, the name of one of the main heroe of the Purim story - Mordechai, begins with a Mem.  And as for the name of the holiday of Purim itself, it ends with the letter Mem Sophit.

And having mentioned the above Sephira of Gevurah SheBeChesed as related to the number of Mishnayot in Seder Kodoshim, the fifth chapter of Tractate Zevachim (sacrifices), the first tractate of this Mishnaic volume, which we recite daily in our prayers, begins immediately after the question "Where was the place of the Temple sacrifices?" with the procedures of the bull and goat sacrifices of Yom Kippur.

Indeed, the Sephira of Strength within Kindness is THE HIDDEN BLESSING.  For as we know about Yom Kippur, while the most serious and solemn day of the Jewish calendar, it is also considered a day of happiness, being that it is on this day that Hashem grants us atonement for our sins, pending our future behavior.  And as mentioned in the last Mishna of Tractate Ta'anit, it was on this date and on Tu B'Av that the young maidens in Temple times danced in the vineyard in the quest of finding someone to marry.

And on this note, we will resume after the holidays that end with Simchat Torah "Happiness of the Torah" when we will end and begin the Torah anew.

Happy Holidays!

14 Tishrei, 5774

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