Tuesday, December 10, 2013

#198 - Pesach 1 & Pesach 2

True, it is not Pesach (Passover) at this time of the year, nor is it mentioned in these weekly Torah readings. Actually, there is a hint to this holiday in Parshat Vayera, but I will address this a little later on in this post.

In this context, I am referring to Tractate Pesachim, which is all about the Mitzvot (commandments) and Halachot (laws) of Pesach.  Forgetting about the questions that are asked at the Passover Seder, but there is an obvious question here - why is the name of this tractate in the plural - Pesachim, rather than in the singular - Pesach?

The truth is that there could be a number of reasons for this.  But the most technical reason here is that believe it or not - this tractate used to be two tractates, called Pesach Rishon (First Passover) and Pesach Sheni (Second Passover).  Of the present 10 chapters of Tractate Pesachim, Pesach Rishon consisted of the first four chapters dealing with the prohibition of Chametz (leaven) on Passover and the 10th and last chapter which is all about the Seder, and Pesach Sheni consisted of Chapters 5 through 9 which is all about the Korban Pesach (Pascal Offering).

There are a couple of other things that the name Pesachim can hint to.  Pesach is the only Jewish holiday that consists of two days of Yom Tov (holiday on which most of the types of work that are forbidden on Shabbat are also forbidden on this day) (in Israel, while four days outside of Israel) that are non-consecutive, referring specifically to the first day and the seventh day, while the days inbetween are Chol HaMoed, in which certain works are permitted while others are forbidden.  Now, in case anyone thinks that I forgot about the holiday of Sukkot that seems to work out the same way, the truth is that the final day is technically a different holiday called Shemini Atzeret (which is sometimes referred to as Simchat Torah).  It is true though that if one were to only to study this tractate for one's source about the observance of the Pesach holiday, one would think that there is only one day of Pesach, or at least would not know that there is a seventh day that needs to be treated with the same laws of Yom Tov as the first day.

And finally, there is in fact another Pesach that is, or at least used to be observed by some during Temple times, in a different month - the following month of Iyar, by those who weren't able to arrive on time on Passover eve to offer their Pascal offering or were spiritually impure forbidden them to do so; and hence, they had a chance to make up for it exactly one month later.  In fact, it is the ninth chapter of Pesachim that deals with this makeup second Pesach.  However, in earlier times, this second Pesach was referred to as Pesach Katan (Small Passover), since it was observed by rather a small amount of Jews and only observed one day, aside from slaughtering the Pascal offering on 14 Iyar as most Jews did on 14 Nissan, and then ate it on that same evening of 15 Iyar, without the observance of Yom Tov of the cessation of various types of work.  But in time, this second Passover came to be known as just this - Second Passover, or Pesach Sheni, the very name of what used to be the second tractate about Passover dealing with the various Mitzvot and Halachot related to the Korban Pesach.

In any case, noting the name of Tractate Pesachim, this word Pesachim is the Gematria of 198, and this is my 198th Post.  And while I have nothing here to mention at this time about any other significance of this matter, I will be continuing to discuss about other numbers that I mentioned about - 14 and 15.

In this 13th cycle of the Daf Yomi, the learning of the Gemara Pesachim began on 14 Tammuz, which was on a Shabbat, and concluded on 15 Cheshvan, which was also on a Shabbat.  Accordingly, the tractate begins with the date of 14 Nissan, in the beginning of which we search for Chametz, and the tractate concludes with the chapter that is all about the Seder that begins Pesach at the beginning of 15 Nissan. Another amazing phenomenon here is that the date of 14 Tammuz on which the Talmudic tractate of Pesachim began to be learned fell out on Shabbat, just as the Rambam - as I mentioned in Post 196 which is also about Pesach - was born on 14 Nissan that fell out on Shabbat.

Now, while the month of Tammuz doesn't seem to have much of a connection particularly with the month of Nissan, the month of our first redemption, for in fact, the Bein HaMeitzarim (Three Weeks) period, the saddest period of time in the Jewish calendar year, begins in the midst of Tammuz, we do see here a connection via a Gematria.  You see, the name of the month Tammuz is the same Gematria as Melech HaMoshiach (453).  Moreover, noting the date of 14 Tammuz, the name of Dovid HaMelech (King David) from whom Moshiach is descended, is the Gematria of 14.  In fact, in certain contexts, King David is referred to as Dovid Malka Meshicha, the latter two words being the Aramaic translatioin of Melech HaMoshiach.  Also, we see an amazing resemblance of the word HaMeitzarim being used to refer to the saddest period in our calendar to the word HaMitzrim (the Egyptians), both words being spelled with the exact same letters in order, but just with different Hebrew vowels (which aren't letters which isn't the same as it is in English).  For in fact, we have a tradition that in the future, the communal fast days that we observe today, including the fast days of 17 Tammuz (Shiva Asar B'Tammuz) that begins the Three Week period and Tisha B'Av (9 Av) which ends this period, will be days of feasting.  And as mentioned in one source (can't remember or be able to locate the source at this time), in this Three Week period, 17 Tammuz will become the first day of Yom Tov, Tisha B'Av will be the last day of Yom Tov, and the days inbetween will be Chol HaMoed.  Indeed, this concept most resembles the holiday of Pesach whose first and last day are Yom Tov and the days inbetween are Chol HaMoed.

Having mentioned the Seder in this post, we also see a connection between the numbers 14 and 15.  As we see in the beginning of the Haggada, there is a phrase of words in which, each word (or individual phrase) names a part of the Seder - Kadeish, Urchatz, etc.   So, how many steps are there in the Haggada?  You might answer here 15, being that the word steps may help you recall the 15 steps in the Temple on which the Levites stood while singing, corresponding to the 15 Shir HaMa'alot (Songs of Ascents) that are Psalms 120-134.  But at the Seder this coming Pesach, you may want to ask everyone at the table as to how many steps there are in the Haggada?  Chances are, some will answer you 14, while others will answer you 15. Why?  You see, it seems that when it comes time for the Berachot (blessings) for the Matza that we will be eating for the first time at the Seder, it is introduced as Motzie Matza, these words referring to their respective Berachot for eating the Matza.  Hence, some will automatically read this as one step, just as the phrase Shulchan Orech, the part in the Haggada referring to meal time, may be two words, but are in fact one thing.

It seems that it is how we look at it.  If we are counting actions in terms of mandatory performance, then yeah, both words Motzie Matza are referring to eating the Matza, and we are saying two blessings beforehand, preparing us to perform the Mitzva of eating Matza, and so you can say that there are a total of 14 main steps.  However, in terms of the various significant parts of the Seder, there are 15, since the two blessings of HaMotzie and Matza are prefaced with different actions; for in fact, we hold all of the three Matzot that are in front of us for the HaMotzie blessing, and then afterwards, we let go of the bottom Matza, reciting the Matza blessing while holding the top two Matzot only, from which we will be eating from, unlike the bottom Matza that we will be eating from a little later on.

Now, let's take a close look at this phrase - Motzie Matza.  The word Matza, at least in its plural form as Matzot in Hebrew, can also be read as Mitzvot with different vowels.  However, the singular from Matza is also the meaning of a negative theme - fighting.  And hence, Motzie which literally means "takes out" in this context that I am attempting to imply as that the phrase reads as "takes out fights".  And while it may seem to be a little joking matter, or moot point, as to how many steps there are in the Seder, for some people, anything that doesn't look right can start fighting between them.  However, being that everyone is hungry by this time if they didn't eat too much during the day, they will be far more attuned to eating Matza that seems to be a novelty being that most haven't eaten it all year round, and then afterwards, more food is consumed, and by the time they are done eating, some will feel realistically a little more on the tired side, also considering the lateness of the hour for many.

Speaking of which, the Gematria of the phrase Motzie Matza is the same as the abbreviated name Rambam -282 (the intials letters Reish-Mem-Beit-Mem begins the words Rabbeinu Moshe Ben Maimon - Our Master Moshe the son of Maimon) or known as Maimonides, as well as the fact that both the Rambam's name and his father's name begin with the letter Mem, just as these words Motzie Matza.  Now normally, we don't say the word as Rambam but HaRambam (the Rambam), just like normally, we say the word in the blessing for bread as HaMotzie rather than Motzie.  Moreover, while we may take the wording of our blessings for granted, there was a debate at one time, as mentioned in the Talmudic tractate Berachot, as to whether the correct phrasing is HaMotzie or Motzie.  And speaking of fighting, a different word for fighting is Riv which is quite similar to the word Rav (rabbi or instructor) or Rabbeinu.

And as Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) Chapter Five teaches us, arguments for the same of Heaven, such as those between Hillel and Shammai, who truly wished only to arrive at the correct Halachic decision for this reason in itself, will wind up staying in existance, meaning in this case, that the respective words of these two great Sages, even though at differences with each other, will forever be part of our holy Torah, even though the Halacha can only follow one of them; but arguments that are not for the sake of Heaven, such as from Korach and his group who rebelled against Moses and Aaron, which was in essence rebelling against Hashem, who did so only for his own benefit wishing to be the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) like Aaron, got swallowed up in the world's first earthquake.

For in fact, the content of the Haggada, especially pertaining to the telling of the story of Exodus, may very well spark a little more than the mere reading of the Hagaddah, for in the midst of reading and discusssing it, one may come to have questions that can lead to a debate, similar to how learning takes place between learning partners in Yeshiva dissecting a section of the Talmud.  It is very interesting how the observance of the Seder is done especially in a family setting, representing not only the Jewish family as the individual, but representing the Jewish people as a whole, because Israel, as a newly formed nation, all left together in the Exodus, who literally Motzie Matza - brought out Matza, the one staple that they had time to prepare before leaving, and even at that, was at the rushing of the Egyptians for the Jews to leave following the death of the firstborn Egyptians, and it was then and only then did Egypt truly allow the Jews to leave the country that they lived in for 210 years.  And so, going through the story of the Exodus as told in the Hagaddah, is generally done in a very happy, festive atmostphere, rather than of fighting, and it is the Matza, which we call "poor man's bread" that reminds us to remain humble, instead of the inflated leaven that represents haughtiness, that we are most enjoined to stay away from.  Indeed, the Gematria of the word Ga'ava (pride) is 15, and the antithesis of this in terms of food is Matza.  In fact, one of the names in the Torah given for this holiday of Pesach is Chag HaMatzot (Holiday of the Matzot), which begins with the 15th of Nissan, but as a precautionary measure, the Torah forbids us to eat leaven already beginning while it is the 14th of Nissan from the afternoon (later on, the Sages made the start time for this at one third of the daytime, or after four hours into the day).

Now, continuing on with the Sephira combinations, we are up to the seventh one - Malchut She'B'Chesed (Kingship within Kindness).  For it was the King of kings, showing his strength to Pharaoh the king of Egypt, who brought us out of Egypt in His great kindness, even though we didn't have too much in the way of savings in our spiritual bank account, and towards this end, He gave us various Mitzvot pertaining to Pesach that prepared us spiritually to be worthy at least some minimal level to leave Egypt.

In terms of Kingship, one of the terms that we use to desribe our various exiles among the nations of the world is Malchuyot (kingdoms), the first of four being Egypt, which was the world power at the time of the Exodus, or at least it was until the Ten Plagues devasted the land.  And it will be Melech HaMoshiach, appointed by Hashem, who will take us out of our final exile, our final kingship of exile.

And speaking of exile, especially as it pertains to living outside of Israel (though today, one can truly live a spiritual exile in Israel, especially under the dictatorship of the anti-Torah Israeli government), the day that is represented by the Sephira of Malchut She'B'Chesed - 22 Nissan - is the last day of Pesach as observed outside of Israel, while in Israel, this holiday already concluded at the end of the previous day, but is rather celebrated as Isru Chag.   Those who observe this date as Pesach in the Diaspora read a special Yom Tov reading from the Torah followed by the Haftara, as done on every Shabbat and Yom Tov, the one for this day being the theme of how things will be in the future, including the coming of Moshiach.  Moreover, there was a custom of the Ba'al Shem Tov, founder of the Hasidic movement, to have what is called Moshiach's Seuda (meal of Moshiach) at the end of Pesach.

And the Sephira in terms of the Jewish calendar, it represents the week that includes 15 Cheshvan, or the second week of Cheshvan that ends with this date.  Now, aside from the fact that in this year, the Daf Yomi learning of the Talmudic tractate Pesachim ended on this date of 15 Cheshvan, it is also the Yarhzeit of Matisyahu of the Chanuka story.  Of all the Jewish holidays, Pesach was the first holiday to be observed, and Chanuka was the last holiday.  Moreover, Pesach is based on miracles that happened to the Jews in Egypt, while Chanuka is based on miracles that happened to us in Israel.  But in terms of similarities, the tractate begins with the word Ohr (light), a word that is most associated with Chanuka, being that the main Mitzva of  this holiday is lighting the Menorah.  Moreover, this tractate consists of a total of 89 Mishnayot, and the name of the holiday Chanuka is the Gematria of 89.

Now, the name Matisyahu, though the name of the one who was ulitmately responsible for the holiday of Chanuka, whose story is not mentioned in the Tanach (Jewish Bible), among the 24 Mishmarot (watches) of the Levites in the Temple, the name of the 14th one was called Matisyahu.  It is interesting that we are mentioning the number 14 here, because it was King David, whose name is the Gematria of 14, who set up the order of the watches.  And indeed, the very beginning of tractate Pesachim begins with Ohr L'Arba'ah Asar, "On the night of the FOURTEENTH (of Nissan), we search for Chametz."  And the name of the Sephira represented by the holiday of Chanuka - Hod - is the Gematria of 15, noting the various connections of 15 especially with the Seder that begins the observance of the holiday of Pesach.

And as the 15th of Cheshvan, the day that we concluded learning the Talmudic tractate of Pesachim, fell out on Shabbat Parshat Vayera, the beginning of this Parsha begins with the story of Abraham inviting three angels, in the guise of human beings, to eat in his home, which happened on Pesach, and then when two of these angles came to Abraham's nephew Lot, he gave them Matzot to eat, and as Rashi mentions, it was Pesach, which at that time, only meant that in some future time, the descendants of Abraham as Jews in Egypt were going to leave that country on Pesach.  And later in the Parsha, the birth of Yitzchak (Isaac) took place on Pesach, as mentioned by our Sages.

On a final note, today's date is 8 Tevet, which is marked in Jewish history with the story of King Ptolemy of Egypt, who gathered 72 Jewish elders (Torah scholars) and placed each one of them in a seperate house, ordering each one of them to translate the Torah into Greek.  The amazing miracle here is that each one of them came out with the exact same translation, particularly with a total of 15 changes from how it would otherwise be translated, in order that the king would not find fault with the Torah noticing discrepancies (Megilla 9a-9b).  Among the 15 changes is where in the Torah it states that we were living in Egypt for 430 years, which actually refers to the period of time from when Hashem told Abraham that his descendants the Jews would be enslaved in a land not belonging them.  In order that no discrepancy would be shown, they changed this to "The dwelling of the Children of Israel who lived in Egypt and other lands was 400 years", which in fact began with Isaac, Abraham's first descendant and ancestor of the Jewish people, which was in Israel, but did not belong to the Jews as of yet.  As for living in Egypt, the Jews lived there for only 210 years. and as Rashi notes, when Jacob told his sons to go to Egypt to buy food when famine began, he told them this use with the wording of Redu (go down), being that this word is the Gematria of 210.  And substracting this number 210 from the total of 400, the difference is 190 which is the Gematria of the word Ketz, which means end, referring to the end of exile or the beginning of redemption.  To be clear, the connection of this story with today's date is that the 72 elders completed the Greek translation of the Torah on this date.

To note, while one make think that this was a great day in Jewish history for the Torah, the first part of the Jewish Bible, to be translated for non-Jews who could for the first time see for themselves what the Torah is like, especially considering the miracle of the exact same translations with the 15 changes from each of the 72 elders, our Sages tell us that in fact, this marked a great day of tragedy.  For now, the words of Torah, so to speak, went into exile, as the Torah is the exclusive ownership of the Jewish people who are observing the laws of the Torah.  To non-Jews who have disdain for our religion and people, the Torah is at best just another book of wisdom, and indeed, the Greek word for Bible is biblos, which means book, that is, just one more book.  In fact, in the Chanuka story, the Syrian Greeks who forbade the Jews to perform key Mitzvot had no problem with Jews reading "the Bible", so long as they were learning it just as another book of wisdom, but not with the intention of performing the Mitzvot of the Torah, taking way, so to speak, the holiness of the Torah, G-d forbid.

Nevertheless, in Hashem's love and kindness for the Jewish people, so at least the Jews wouldn't be disrespected at that time, Hashem saw to it that the elders would translate the Torah in such a way that wouldn't look like it had mistakes in it.  True, Hashem had the Torah written a certain way, and for this, we have the Torah She'B'Al Peh (Oral Law) to explain what may not look write, this would be no excuse to tell the anti-Semitic non-Jews who wouldn't have the Oral Law in their hands to explain the Torah.  In any case, in relationship to the Sephira combination of this post - Malchut She'B'Chesed, it was KING Ptolemy who gathered 72 elders, bearing in mind that the name of the Sephira Chesed is 72.  But ultimately, it was the KING of Kings who utilized His KINDNESS to perform damage control at least for the short term by putting in the minds of the 72 elders to make 15 translation changes, which included the change about the amount of time and names of places that the Jews lived in before the Exodus that we recount in the Seder that is most connected with the number 15.  And in the correlationships between the various Jewish holidays and the Sephirot, Pesach corresponds to to Chesed, as indeed, Hashem took us out of Egypt, even though we were hardly worthy of redemption due to the 49th level of impurity that (some of) the Jews were steeped in.

And finally, noting the title of this post, Pesach 1 represents the first Redemption, and Pesach 2 represents our Final Redemption, for "He will save us and redeem us for a SECOND time...Behold I have redeemed you for the last time like the first time" and "Like the days that you left the land of Egypt, I will show wonders".  May this take place very soon in our time, and may we all merit to live to see this day that we have been waiting for in almost 2,000 years.  Amen!

8 Tevet, 5774

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