Tuesday, November 26, 2013

#196 - The BIG Hand

While the concept of a Bar Mitzva seems to be associated with the number 13, for after all, a boy becomes Bar Mitzva (NOT Bar-Mitzvahed as though the ceremony makes someone a man, a misconception that is perceived by some non observant Jews), meaning, that he automatically becomes obligated to fulfill the Mitzvot (commandments) when he is 13 year old, or in other words, when he has lived 13 complete years; this period of responsibility technically begins in the beginning of the 14th year of the boy's life.

A hint to this can be found at the beginning of the Mishnaic tractate Pesachim, the tractate which is all about the Mitzvot and laws of Pesach (Passover), which begins Ohr L'Arba'ah Asar "(On the) night (literal translation is light) of the FOURTEENTH (of Nissan), we search for Chametz (leaven) by the light of the candle", which begins this FOURTEENTH tractate.  As we can see in this Mishna, the month in question is not mentioned, although at other times, such as the beginning of the following tractate Shekalim, the month is mentioned "On the first of Adar".  So we see here that the fact that the month of Nissan is not mentioned tells us that there is a lesson to be learned here, the ultimate "Bar Mitzva lesson", for it isn't just a nice hint that the anonymous number FOURTEEN here refers to the year of the boy beginning his life as a Bar Mitzva, but that he now needs to be serious about his Judaism, and search for whatever may lead him to do sins, G-d forbid, and get rid of it; for from this point onward, one is rewarded or punished based on one's actions, as opposed to before the Bar Mitzva age when he was just in training.

Anyways, as you can see here, there is a double FOURTEEN associated with this tractate Pesachim, particularly the beginning of it.  Accordingly, fourteen times fourteen (14*14) is 196, and this is my 196th post.

In Jewish history, there was and is a famous rabbi associated with the number 14 in more than one way - the Rambam (Maimonides), who was born on Shabbat afternoon of the 14th of Nissan.  He is most famous for his magnum opus - the Mishne Torah, consisting of 14 volumes, which also has the name of Yad HaChazaka "The strong hand", this phrase borrowed from the context which describes how Hashem took out out of Egypt, the basis for the holiday of Passover; and Yad, which means hand, also spells the number 14 in Hebrew.  In fact, he has a unique monument that no other rabbi has at their graveside.  On the way to his actual grave, there are seven pillars on each side on which each are written - the name of one of the 14 volumes of his Mishne Torah.  Also, he had a brother named David - whose name is the Gematria of 14 - who supported him as a merchant until he sunk in a ship on a business trip; but though the Rambam didn't have the financial support that easily enabled him to learn Torah since this tragic event, it didn't stop him from contributing to Judaism via his writings.

With this said, there are two other phrases of  "hand" in the Torah that are associated with the Exodus in the context of the Jews being saved once again from the Egyptians chasing them leading to the events of the miracles of Kri'at Yam Suf  "Splitting of the Reed Sea" that allowed the Jews to walk through following which the sea that split for the Jews to walk on dry land returned to drown the Egyptians.  Immediately after stating that Pharaoh chased after the Jews and immediately before stating that the Egyptians chased the Jews with the details, the verse reads "The Children of Israel left with a RAISED HAND" (Exodus 14:8).  And then later, following the miracles and right before the Shirat HaYam "Song of the Sea", it states that "Israel saw the BIG HAND" (Exodus 14:31).  In any event, the date that the miracles at the Reed Sea took place was on 21 Nissan, which is the seventh (and in Israel, the last) day of Passover which is observed as a Yom Tov (Jewish holiday with working restrictions similar to Shabbat except for certain work related to preparing food) just as the first day (and outside of Israel, also the second day) of Passover.

In any case, this date of 21 Nissan or the seventh day of Passover is also the sixth day of the Omer; and hence, the combined Kabbalistic Sephira of this date is Yesod She'B'Chesed (Foundation within Kindness). And as we know in Kabbala, it is Joseph (son of Jacob and Rachel) who is most associated with the Sephira of Yesod, as Yesod is associated with the male organ (refered to as the Brit) part of the body, and Joseph withstood a most sexual tempting situation that earned him the title of HaTzadik (the righteous one).  And having mentioned the Rambam here being born on 14 Nissan, presumably, his Brit Mila (circumcision) was held a week later on this date of 21 Nissan (though I don't think there is historical recording of this, and pending how his health would have been before the circumcision).  Indeed, it is most fascinating that the very first word of his magnum opus, the Mishne Torah, a compendium of the laws associated with the Taryag Mitzvot (613 Commandments) where he begins with the laws related to the Mitzva of believing in the existance of Hashem (the first of the "Ten Commandments"), is YESOD, in the words Yesod HaYesodos V'Amud HaChachmot "The foundation of foundations and the pillar of wisdoms", refering to believing in the existance of Hashem, in which the first letters of these beginning four words make up Hashem's main name YKVK (K is substituted here for H to avoid spelling Hashem's exact name in respect of His most holy name).  And if you noticed where I wrote the words Ten Commandments in quotation marks in parenthesis, the reason for the quotes is because actually, this is a misguided translation for the phrase in Hebrew that really means the "Ten Statements", for in fact, the "Ten Commandments" actually consists of 14 Mitzvot which begins with the Mitzva of believing in the existance of Hashem with which the Rambam begins his Mishne Torah.  Moreover, the first and last letters of the word Yesod spells the word Yad (hand) as well as the Hebrew number for 14, the first word of the 14 volume Mishne Torah, written by the author who was born on the 14th day of the month of Nissan.

And as per Joseph, it was in his merit that the Sea of Reeds, which consists of a life force (as all particles in this world consists of, even inanimate objects such as rocks), initially refused to split for the Jews to walk through on dry land, until it noticed Joseph's coffin being carried by the Jews, as noted in the Midrash.  The reason for this is because it felt the holiness of Joseph who merited this as a result of his righteous, and the sea, being awed by it, agreed to follow Hashem's wishes and orders to split.  And thus, this happened in the merit of Joseph who especially represents the Sephira of Yesod, and thus allowed Hashem's kindness for the Jews to be shown, saving them from the hot pursuit of the Egyptians who wanted to return the Jews to Egypt to enslave them once more.

And though it may not seem of significance to Jews, at least to those who can be called religious Jews, spelling the word BIG in Hebrew letters as Beit-Yud-Gimmel also spells the number 2013, the number of this secular year.  And while this secular year has not yet concluded to know what was the BIG universal event of the year in this world whether pertaining to a disaster of nature or of a political nature, especially as related to the Jewish people, there is a verse that can prove this theory of Hashem relating to the world as per the secular year Hashem Yispor B'Chetov Amim "The L-rd will count according to the writing of the nations" (Psalms 87:6).  And in world news as per the Mideast, Egypt seems to be one of the countries that gets worldwide coverage almost as much as Israel (Israel only gets such big publicity because of the world's hatred of Israel wondering why Israel hasn't tried hard enough to make the "peace process" move forward).

In any case, this day of this Sephira combination of Yesod She'B'Chesed is the only day in the Sephira period (and outside of Israel, the following day as well) which is a Yom Tov.  And hence, it makes this sixth day of the Omer count a most significant day, which Hashem ordained as a Yom Tov even before the events of the Yam Suf.  Speaking of which, the Gematria of Yam Suf (Sea of Reeds) is 196, the number of this post!  And so unsurprisingly, we see that in relationship to the events of the Yam Suf, there are two different mention of the word Yad which also spells the Hebrew number of 14, hinting to the fact that the square root of the Gematria of Yam Suf is 14.  No mere coincidences here!

Indeed, the Torah reading for this Yom Tov day is the events of the Reed Sea that makes up like the first half of Parshat Beshalach.  And the Haftara following the Torah reading is the Song that King David, whose name is the Gematria of 14, sang towards the end of his life, acknowledging the various kindnesses that Hashem did for him, especially in fighting wars against the various nations surrounding and near the Jews.  In fact, consisting of the first (two) day(s) of Passover and the last (two) day(s) of Passover as Yomim Tovim (holidays) correspond to the first Redemption (the Exodus) and the final redemption that will be led by Moshiach who is to be a descendant of King David, respectively.

And not to forget the corresponding date or time of week in the Hebrew year to the date of the Omer or the Sephira combination, this corresponds to 7 Cheshvan, the date on which (in Israel) we begin requesting Hashem to send us rain in the ninth Beracha (blessing) of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer that begins with Barech Alenu "Bless us..."  And the reason that this date was chosen to begin the rain prayer for the season is because in Temple times, the last of the Jews who made the pilgrimage to the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) for the Succot holiday had already returned home, and thus, would not need to worry about traveling in the rain, especially after having fulfilled Hashem's will to travel to the Temple for the holiday.  In any case, one connection in terms of numbers here between this date and the 21st of Nissan on which the Reed Sea miracles took place is that they are both associated with the number SEVEN, being that the 21st of Nissan is the SEVENTH day of Passover, as both of these date have a special connection with the force of water.

However, there is a stark contrast between the timing of these two dates.  You see, it is on the first day of Passover (starting with the Mussaf prayer) that we cease requesting for rain, while the month of Cheshvan is called the name Bul in the Tanach (Jewish Bible), based on the word Mabul (Flood), referring to the Flood of Noah that began in this month.  But it is precisely what makes the Reed Sea miracles stand at; for in fact, the date of the Reed Sea miracles was already in the start of the period when the forces of water is supposed to stop coming down (as it does at least in the Mideast) which is normally a sign of blessing for the time of year when it does rain.  Hence, it wasn't a prime time for the blessing of water to be present; but nevertheless, Hashem caused the Reed Sea to go against its normal nature, and be of major benefit to an entire nation.  This is in stark contrast to the month of Cheshvan, when though the big miraculous Flood of Noah took place, it wasn't too surprising in terms of water coming down because this is the time of year that rain is supposed to come down anyways, representing Hashem's regular nature, though nature itself is ultimately the greatest miracle, for in fact, Hashem renews the world every moment with His constant giving life force to this world to continue existing.

It is significant that I am writing this post today - 24 Kislev.  You see, there is a Mishna learning program in which a chapter of Mishna is learned daily, which takes like a year and a half for a full cycle, and is presently in its 9th cycle since its inception on 27 Shevat 5762 (2002).  In any case, the chapter for this day is the first chapter of Tractate Pesachim that I began this post with.  And among its chapters, the fifth through the ninth chapters are all about the Korban Pesach (Pascal sacrifice).  In any case, the first word of the fifth chapter that begins the tractate laws of the Korban Pesach is Tamid, which generally refers to the two daily burnt offerings in the Temple, of which one was offered in the morning as the first offering of the day and the other was offered in the midst of the afternoon as the last offering of the day.  In this context, the word Tamid refers specially to the afternoon offering, but the rules change a bit about this offering on one day of the year - Erev Pesach which is the 14th of Nissan.  Why?  The basic answer is that since there were numerous Pascal sacrifices offered on behalf of the entire Jewish people for their consumption that evening, the Cohanim (Jewish Priests) wanted to make sure that the Korban Tamid would be offered, and would not be skipped over, and so, it was the one time in the entire year that it was not the last offering of the day.  But, is there a more deep significance to this fact?  And also, why is the timing of this Korban Tamid of the afternoon discussed only here and not even a word of the timing of this afternoon Korban Tamid mentioned in the tractate that bears the name Tamid, which seems to focus on the morning Korban Tamid?  Stay tuned for my next post...

24 Kislev, 5774

Monday, November 18, 2013

#195 - Righteousness Ends with Kindness

Continuing on with the time of the year on the Hebrew calendar, the 29th and end of the first month of the Hebrew year - Tishrei, marks the Yarhzeit of Shimon HaTzadik "Simeon the Righteous", who was the last surviving member of the 120 members of the original Knesset and served as Cohen Gadol (High Priest) for 40 years in the Second Temple.  He is perhaps most famous for his statement, recorded in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), where he states "On three things does the world stand - Torah, Avoda (prayers or Temple service), and Gemilut Chasadim (performance of deeds of kindness)" (1:2).

And as righteousness (Tzidkut) follows in the heels of justice (Tzedek), noting the similarity of these Hebrew worlds, so too, does the Sephira Hod, the theme of this post as Hod She'Be'Chesed, the fifth of the 49 Sephira combinations, serve as a companion to the previous Sephira of Netzach, the Sephira of my previous post.  For in fact, Netzach represents the right side of the body and Hod represents the left side of the body.

We see an amazing parallel between the Biblical Aaron, the first Cohen Gadol, and Shimon HaTzadik, one of the few righteous Cohanim Gedolim (High Priests) in the times of the 420 years of the Second Temple's existance.  Aaron passed away on the FIRST day of the FIFTH month (Av), and Shimon HaTzadik passed away on the FIRST day of the FIFTH week of the Hebrew year that begins with Rosh Hashana.  It is hardly of any surprise, for Kabbalistically, Aaron - as the FIFTH of the Seven Shepherds (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, David) - especially represents the Sephirah of Hod.  Moreover, we see in Kabbala that the Cohen is dubbed Ish Chesed "personage of kindness".  In another way of looking at this, in the seven Aliyahs, the seven people who are called up to the Torah reading on Shabbat morning (aside from Maftir which is based on the honor of reading the Haftara), the first one who is called up is a Cohen, just like Chesed (kindness) is the first of the seven Sephirot.  Hence, both the Sephirot of Chesed and Hod are espeically related to the concept of the Cohen.

Now the truth is, mentioning by both Aaron and Shimon HaTzadik being that they passed away on the FIRST (day) of the FIFTH (month/week), in one sense, the particular Sephira combination would seem to be Chesed She'Be'Hod.  But, in terms of the order of the Hebrew year, it seems that at least for Shimon HaTzadik, the particular Sephira combination seems to be the opposite way - Hod She'BeChesed, that is the FIFTH Sephira of the FIRST Sephira, rather than the FIRST Sephira of the FIFTH Sephira.  In any case, we see that indeed, Shimon HaTzadik mentions particular the concept of Chesed among the things that keep the world standing, that is, the raison d'etre of the world's existance, for otherwise, there would be no reason for this world to continue existing as for the reason that Hashem created it to begin with.  In fact, the very last word of this statement of Shimon HaTzadik is Chasadim (kindnesses), as indeed, the first week of the seven weeks of the Sephira period leading to Shavuot is indeed the week of the Sephira of Chesed, hinting to this by the word for Chesed in plural.

While we are on the topic of Hod and the number five, we see another amazing parallel in terms of the Yarhzeits of two of the early Kabbalistis - Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) who is the author of the teachings of the Zohar, and Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Arizal).  Rashbi passed away on Lag Ba'Omer, which is the FIFTH day of the FIFTH week of the Sephira period leading to Shavuot, representing the Sephira combination of Hod She'Be'Hod; and the Arizal passed away on the FIFTH day of the FIFTH month (Av).

And we see another amazing thing here.  Both Aaron whose parallel here is Shimon HaTzadik, and the Arizal whose parallel is Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, passed away in the month of Av, which is represented by is corresponding Tribe of Shimon, noting how my namesake is especially connected to the number FIVE, being that the months corresponding to the 12 Tribes, as correctly pointed out in the Hasidic Sefer Bnei Yissaschar (unlike other sources who claim other orders of the tribes in relationship to the months), is based on the concept of the order of the 12 Tribal princess who brought offerings in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) during the respective first 12 days of Nissan, being that the dedication of the Mishkan took place on the first of the month of Nissan; and hence, the leader of the Tribe of Shimon brought his offerings on the FIFTH day.  And while we are at it, being that Shimon HaTzadik mentions that one of things that cause the world to continously stand is the Avoda, which includes the interpretation of Temple service, the leader of the Tribe of Shimon brought his offerings based on themes related specific to the Mishkan, the forerunner of the Temple, in which the Cohanim were the main ones who served in the Temple Service, headed by the Cohen Gadol. Indeed, of the six volumes of the Mishna, it is the FIFTH volume, called Kodoshim, which is all about the various holy offerings and the details of the building of the Temple.

And this leads to another parallel of Hod and the number five.  In Tehillim (Book of Psalms), it is divided into five Sepharim (books) parallel to the Chumash (Penteteuch) which consists of five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deutronomy), which is also known as the Five Books of Moses.  On this note, Psalm 107 is the beginning of the FIFTH book of Tehillim.  Now, turning to the FIFTH psalm of this FIFTH book, it is Psalm 111.  This is one of the psalms in Tehillim that is based on the order of the Aleph Beit.  In this particular psalm, every half verse begins with another letter of the Aleph Beit in order.  And so, the beginning of the third verse (111:3) begins with the word HOD - Hod V'Hadar Pa'alo V'Tzidkato Omedet La'ad "Majesty and spendor is His work, and His righteousness stands forever."  Indeed, we see a similar parallel of this verse to the statement of Shimon HaTzadik and what he represents.   First, Hod that represents Shimon HaTzadik as Cohen (Gadol) begins this verse, and we see that he is called Shimon the RIGHTEOUS, and his statement in Pirkei Avot mentions three things upon which the world STANDS.  By the way, this verse in Tehillim begins with the letter Hei and ends with the letter Dalet, just as the name of the Sephira HOD, the very word that begins this verse.A

In fact, in terms of Gematria, the word Hadar (splendor), the companion word to Hod (majesty) which corresponds to Shimon HaTzadik, is the Gematria of the word HaTzadik (the Righeous) - 209. Coincidence?  And while we are at it, the Parsha of Vayikra, the first Parsha of  the THIRD book of the Chumash - Vayikra (Book of Leviticus) which is also called Torat Cohanim (Laws of the Cohanim) being that most of this book contain Mitzvot (commandments) and Halachot (laws) that are related especially to the Cohanim, consists of 111 verses - which is the Parsha that is a composite of the various types of offerings - noting that the connection of this verse in Tehillim about Hod is in the THIRD verse of the 111st chapter of Tehillim.  Moreover this verse consists of 24 letters, just as Parshat Vayikra is the 24th Parsha of the Chumash.   And after all, the number 24 is very connected to the Cohanim, for there were 24 watches of Cohanim who rotated their turns serving in the Temple every week, as well as the 24 Matnot Kehuna (Priestly Gifts), consisting of various alloted food portions from the various Mitzvot which materialistically benefit the Cohanim who served as teachers of the Jewish people instead of regular work that most other Jews performed to make a living.

And so is the number 15, the Gematria of the word Hod.  For first of all, we see in the Talmud (Berachot 58a) where Rabbi Akiva notes that the Sephira Hod represents the Beit HaMikdash (Temple).  And as we see in the Haggada of Passover that is recited at the Seder, there is a list of 15 things that Hashem granted us, and the 15th and last one on the list is granting us the Temple "to atone for all our sins".  Moreover, in our daily morning prayers in the section of the offerings, there is a section from the Talmud (Yoma 33a) which begins off with Abaye having made a Seder (true!) which in this context means order of the various daily services in the Temple, which were a total of 15 different things.

So as we can see here, the 15 spiritual gifts that Hashem has given us is from His bountiful kindness, which is the ultimate representation of Hod She'Be'Chesed; and accordingly, Hashem wants us in return to reciprocate His kindnesses, which are also the means through which, we can serve Him in the Temple, the ultimate representation of the number 15, the Gematria of the name of the Sephira of Hod that represents the Temple.  And while presently, the Temple has yet to be rebuilt (which by the way, is not necessarily dependent on the coming of Moshich, but could have happened already had the religious world took advantage in 1967 when the Temple Mount returned to our hands, but since it didn't, it was allowed to be returned to the Wakf by the traitor Moshe Dayan, who is certainly burning in hell until today for giving back to the Arabs the most holiest spot in the world), our prayers and study of the Temple service substitute the Temple service until we have our Temple rebuilt shortly.  May this happen in our days.  Amen!

16 Kislev. 5774