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

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