Wednesday, December 18, 2013

#199 - Quality TZEDAKA

Following my previous Post #198 which focused on Tractate Pesachim, whose name is the Gematria of 198, this post will be focusing on the following Tractate Shekalim, which is about the annual donation of half a Shekel (Note: Not necessarily the same value as today's Israeli Shekel) donated during the month of Adar for sacrificial funding in the coming year beginning with the month of Nissan.

Now, while there is a Mitzva in the Torah to give Tzedaka, which is loosely translated in English as charity, the giving of this half a Shekel was also an aspect of Tzedaka, an aspect of giving a part of one's money towards a worthy cause.  With this said, the Gematria of the word Tzedaka is 199, which is the number of this post.

As for the Gematria of the word Tzedaka, it seems that it is not mere coincidence.  Let us take a look at a Mishna in tractate Peah (8:8): "One who has 200 Zuz should not take Leket, Shichecha, Peah, or Ma'aser Ani (various gifts of grains from the field alloted to the poor).  Should he have 200 (Zuz) minus one Dinar, even if he is given 1,000 (Zuz) at one shot, he can take it..."  So as we can see here, one who has a little less than 200 Zuz, thus having 199 Zuz - even with a little change that is less than Zuz, he is considered to be in the category of needing financial assistance, and can take whatever he is given as having a Halachic status of being a poor person, which is termed Tzedaka, this word being the Gematria of 199.

Now, note what the Mishna says in terms of this person having a little less than 200 Zuz "minus one Dinar". Most interestingly, if we look at this Hebrew word Dinar, we can dissect it into two parts - Din Reish, which literally means "Law of 200 (the number Reish)".  In other words, the Mishna can be read to mean that if one has 200 (Zuz) minus the status of having the law of one who has 200 Zuz which would otherwise disqualify him from receiving Tzedaka; in this case, even though he has a little more than 199 Zuz, but still, LESS THAN 200 Zuz, he qualifies for Tzedaka, for indeed, in accordance with the Gematria of the word Tzedaka, he technically has 199 Zuz, and not 200 Zuz; and hence' the LAW OF 200 Zuz is not applicable to him.

Noting that this Mishnaic statement hinting to the Gematria of the word Tzedaka is in the EIGHTH Mishna of the EIGHTH chapter of Tractate Peah, I should note that tractate Shekalim, which represents among other concepts the Mitzva of Tzedaka, consists of EIGHT chapters.  And if you thought that there were no more connections of the number eight with the Mitzva of Tzedaka, the Rambam (Maimonides) comes along and tells us that there are EIGHT levels of giving Tzedaka (Laws of Gifts of the Poor 10:7-14).  So, without further ado, let's list these here, from best to worst:

1)Offering work to one, which is also fulfillment of the Mitzva of "You shall strengthen him... and he shall live with you"; meaning, helping one be self-supportive, especially in a dignified manner.
2)Giving Tzedaka to one, where neither one knows who the other is.
3)Giving Tzedaka to one, where the one who receives it doesn't know who the giver is.
4)Giving Tzedaka to one, where the one who gives it doesn't know who the receiver is.
5)Giving Tzedaka before being asked for it.
6)Giving Tzedaka after being asked for it.
7)Giving less Tzedaka than one should, but at least done in a cheerful way.
8)Giving Tzedka grudgingly.

Actually, there is another connection of the number eight here, particularly with the word Shekalim (which by the way is the plural for Shekel) which is the Gematria of 480, for 480 divided by EIGHT (480/8) yields an even 60.  And as we see with the shapes of the letters of the Aleph-Beit, the letter that looks closest to a circle is the letter Samech, having the numerical value of 60; and as we know, coins, which in this context are called Shekalim, have a circle shape.

Now, the original source for this Mitzva of Shekalim is the beginning of Parshat Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-16), which is also read, besides the regular Parsha reading, on the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh Adar, or if Shabbat falls out on Rosh Chodesh Adar, on this day itself, for it was on this date that the announcement of the requirement of giving a half a Shekel was made.

There are quite a few interesting factoids pertaining to this section in the Torah about Shekalim consisting of six verses.  This consists of 90 words, and the word Tzedaka begins with the letter Tzadi, which has the numerical value of 90.  This is especially illustrated in the word Machazit of the phrase Machatzit HaShekel "HALF a Shekel", in which the middle letter is a Tzadi which begins the word Tzedaka, for as the Vilna Gaon notes, the letters in the word that are next to the Tzadi are Cheit and Yud, which together spell the word Chai (live), while the outer letters - Mem and Tav - spell the word Meit (dead), for as it is written in Mishlei (Proverbs 10:2): "Tzedaka saves from death".

Now, in the part that states "Each person shall GIVE..." the Hebrew word V'Natnu - consisting of the letters Vav-Noon-Tav-Noon-Vav - can be read forwards and backwards, which in English is called a palindrome. The Ba'al Haturim, in explaining this phenomenon, tells us that we can learn from this that whatever a person gives to Tzedaka comes back to him.   As for who is required to give this Machatzit HaShekel, the Torah states, unlike for most other Mitzvot that are applicable from the age of Bar (or Bat) Mitzva, it is mandated particularly for those (men) who are 20 years old and above.  Moreover, as a further connection to the number 20, we see that in measuring what a Shekel is, the Torah tells us that it is worth the value of 20 Gerah. even though in fact, one gives a half Shekel; and hence, one is really giving a half Shekel that is worth 10 Gerah.  But perhaps, the Torah is hinting to what what would be the current money being used at one time, which in Mishanaic times, was called a Zuz, this word being the Gematria of 20.

And, just as shown with the word Dinar, a type of value for coins, how it can be dissected into two words, we will do the same now for the word Zuz, which is also a type of value for coins, for this can be read as Zu Zayin "This is a weapon", for the name of the letter Zayin also means weapon, except that in this instance, it is only the actual letter Zayin that is spelled here and not the full word Zayin.  And while the word Zuz itself isn't mentioned in the Torah, being that it is the Gematria of 20 which is the number of Gerah   for the value of a Shekel as mentioned in this Torah section about Shekalim, the word Zuz can theoretically come into play here.  Additionally, the word Zuz, just like the word VeNatnu "They shall give", is a palindrome, consisting of the letters Zayin-Vav-Zayin.  In any case, one may wonder what weapons have to do with coins here.

For this, we turn to the story of the Megilla - Megillat Esther - that we read on Purim, the holiday that is celebrated in the midst of the month of Adar, the month during which the half Shekel is contributed.  When Haman, who hated the Jews so much that he just wanted to have them murdered without even giving them a chance to convert to a different religion (which is actually even worse, but what Haman wanted to do to us just shows how much he couldn't stand us), played the dice to decide on what month he would murder us, which was Adar, he then appeared to King Achashveirosh with his evil plan, offering the king some 10,000 talents of silver, which the king turned down, but not Haman's offer to murder all the Jews.  Now the Hebrew words for talents of silver are Kikar Kesef, both words starting with the letter Kaf, the numerical value of 20, and in the word Kikar (talent) - the letter Kaf is spelled twice consecutively.  And for additional math, let us divide 10,000 by 20 (10,000/20), and the answer is 500, which is the Gematria of the word Natan "he gave", which is the root word of the palindrome VeNatnu, and is itself a palindrome - consisting of the letters Noon-Tav-Noon.

So, as per the words Natan and Zuz, these refer to the giving of both the Jews and Haman.  As for us Jews, it was the GIVING of the Shekalim, our spiritual WEAPON (Zayin), which is called the Kesef HaKipurim, using the letter Kaf in both words, including the word that includes Kipurim (atonement), the last part of this word that is pronounced the same as the name of the holiday of Purim, that saved us from Haman's offer of Shekalim, which he used as a WEAPON to have us murdered, even though he didn't actually accomplish giving them to the king since the king turned them down, as the king himself was all to happy to get rid of of the Jews in his own bitter hatred of them, which resulted at the end of us having the holiday of Purim.  In any case, it is still considered as though Haman actually give the 10,000 talents of silver, since as our rabbis tell us, the evil thoughts (or plans) of non-Jews, even though they never come into fruition, are considered as though they performed them, and are punished accordingly.

And speaking of HALF, since this portion of the Torah is called Shekalim, we see that half the Gematria of the word Shekalim (480) is 240, which is the Gematria of the name of Amalek, the first nation who dared attack the Jews since the Exodus, from whom Haman was descended who was defeated in the merit of the Jews giving the annual half-Shekel during the month of Adar, the month that Haman planned to murder all the Jews in.  In fact, the exact date that this was planned for was 13 Adar, just as in the dissected word Zuz which can be read as Zu Zayin, Zu is the Gematria of 13 and Zayin means weapon; but instead, the Jews, with their physical weapons as well, defeated their enemies on the 13th of Adar, who came to fight the Jews as a result of the original letter that the king sent out for them to fight the Jews upon Haman's advice. Moreover, Haman's name can be read as Ha-Man "the Mahn" referring to the manna that the Jews ate in the desert for 40 years (I explained the connection between the two in a past post), but the point here is that the letters of Mahn - Mem and Noon - together is the Gematria of 90; hence, "the ninety".  Meaning, in the merit of the half Shekel that the Jews gave that is based on the Torah section consisting of 90 words, Haman - whose name can be read as "the ninety" was defeated.

Another connection here between the concept of Shekalim and the ultimate defeat of Amalek, which will happen soon in our days, G-d willing, is that in the section of the Torah about the half Shekel, the wording of Terumah is mentioned THREE times right next to Hashem's name (Terumah LaHashem or Terumat Hashem), hinting to the three types of donations that the Jews gave pertaining to the Mishkan (tabernacle) or the Korbanot (sacrifices).  Accordingly, there are THREE Mitzvot pertaining to how to deal with Amalek - 1)Remembering what Amalek did to us following the Exodus, 2)Erasing the memory of Amalek - leaving not a trace of this evil nation alive or in existance, 3)Not forgetting what Amalek did to us following the Exodus.

As for symbolisms, the popular baked good called Hamentaschen, named ironically after our arch enemy, which probably is named as such to denote defeating, in the symbolism of eating, our enemies, consists of THREE sides or corners, in contrast to most other baked goods that are either round or sqaure.  Now, this is good for food as per ourselves.  However, we must not forget the poor, not only when it comes time to give the annual Machatzit HaShekel on 13 Adar (or if we didn't have a chance to before, on Purim) in the synagogue, which is today a symbolism rather than the Mitzva - though you still fulfill the Mitzva of Tzedaka (Note: Actually, as of a few years ago, this Mitzva is now in existance once again, thanks to the Temple Institute.  To donate your annual Machatzit HaShekel during the month of Adar, contact the Temple Institute via the contact form at or by phone at 972-(0)2-6264545).), but also, when it comes to the Mitzva of Matanot L'Evyonim "Gifts for the poor", one of the four special Mitzvot of Purim, consisting of giving money (equivalent to at least the value of a satisfying meal) to (at least, but the more the better) two poor people, each.  In fact, the section in the Rambam's Mishne Torah about the laws of Tzedaka are included in what is entitled Hilchot Matnot Aniyim "Laws of Gifts of the Poor".

And as for the Mitzva of Machatzit HaShekel in relationship to the list of the Taryag Mitzvot (613 Commandments), it is Mitzva 106.  Now, the name of the letter NOON, consisting of the letters Noon-Van-Noon, is the Gematria of 106, which begins and ends with a NOON, just as the word Natan (wording meaning gave or giving, from the midst of the word VeNatnu which is mentioned in the midst of the section of the Torah about the Machatzit HaShekel, noting that all of these three words - Noon, Natan, and VeNatnu - are palindromes.  And perhaps the biggest surprise here is that the Mitzva of Tzedaka is the 480th Mitzva of the Torah.  That's right, the word Shekalim, which in the Torah context, refers to the Mitzva of Machatzit HaShekel which is also a Mitzva of Tzedaka - Mitzva 480, is the Gematria of 480!  Coincidence?!

Now, getting back to the Talmud as per Tractate Shekalim, the name Shekalim has the same Gematria as a most famous word - TALMUD!  Ironically, of the twelve Mishnaic tractates in the second of the six volumes of the Mishna that is called Moed (Holiday), the only tractate that doesn't come along with the explanation of the Babylonian Talmud is Tractate Shekalim, whose name is the same Gematria as Talmud.  However, it does come along with the explanation of the Jerusalem Talmud, just as the other tractates of the volume of Moed.  While at one time, the Daf Yomi of the learning of the Babylonian Talmud didn't include the learning of this tractate, it was decided at one point to include the learning of the Jerusalem Talmud for Tractate Shekalim; thus, giving a taste of the Jerusalem Talmud to those who are accustomed to the daily learning of the Babylonian Talmud, being that the Jerusalem Talmud way of explaining the Mishna is a little different than the typical way of its counterpart Talmud.  In any case, there is a practical difference in terms of Dafim between the two Talmuds pertaining to Tractate Shekalim.  You see, in the regular Jerusalem Talmud edition, it consists of 33 Dafim; while in the edition as printed in the Babylonian Talmud volumes, it consists of 21 Dafim.  The way to remember the number of Dafim in the Babylonian Talmud is that the section of Shekalim in the Torah is the beginning of the 21st Parsha, Ki Tisa.

Now, having mentioned this concept in quite a few of my past posts, we see here a correlationship here between learning Torah and doing acts of kindness or Tzedaka.  You see, the words/phrases of Torah and Gemilut Chasadim (providing kindnesses) have the same Gematria of 611.  Accordingly, both the words/phrases Talmud and Ahavat Chesed (love of kindness) have the same Gematria of 480, and the 480th Mitzva of the Torah is giving Tzedaka.  And accordingly, the word Gemara is the Gematria of 244, and the 244th Mitzva of the Torah is Ahavat Yisrael (love of Jews).

And getting to the corresponding Sephira as per the Jewish calendar, the EIGHTH Sephira combination is Chesed She'B'Gevurah, the beginning of the second set of the Sephirot combinatons that are under the category of Gevurah (Strength), which represents Hashem's Din (strict justice).  Yet, there is an allowance at times for good points within this strict realm.  With this said, giving Tzedaka is in essence performing a Chesed (Kindness) to those who are affected by Gevurah.  This is not to say that all poor people are punished by Hashem, G-d forbid.  If anything, there are some righteous people who are also very poor.  However, we have to remember that in essence, Hashem is all good, and that is why our rabbis enjoin us in the last chapter of Tractate Berachot in the Mishna that one is obligated to bless Hashem for the bad just as we bless Hashem for the obvious good.  And even if this bad is actually a punishment from Hashem, the good part of it is that it is an atonement for us in this world, so we won't be punished by the far more severe punishment in the next world, aside from allowing us to be worthy of our share in the world to come for our good deeds.  Accordingly, even for those who live in poverty not due to punishment, they are also affected by this Divine trait of Gevurah, so unless the reason why they are poor is because they are too lazy to work, they are in this situation because at least outwardly, it seems to be strict justice for them, though in the long run, it paves the way for them to be ever more worthy of the eternal bliss following this short transitory life.

Accordingly, in the first Aliyah of Parshat Chayei Sara, we see the story of how Abraham transacted a business deal to purchase the Mearat HaMachpeilah in Hebron to bury his wife Sara.  We see that Abraham paid the purchase price of 400 Shekel pieces of silver to Ephron, whose name, when spelled without the letter Vav following the transaction due to his greediness, is the Gematria of 400, as well as the phrase Ayin Ra (evil eye), which Ephron, who boasted of how generous he was to Abraham, was in effect quite the opposite.  In any case, in the various Jewish calendar years, the week of Chayei Sara can begin as early as 16 Cheshvan on the first day of the week, and in other years, can end on 27 Cheshvan on Shabbat.  This means that in all years, the dates of 21 Cheshvan and 22 Cheshvan will always fall out during the week of Parshat Chayei Sara.  And as I mentioned in my previous post, the Daf Yomi learning of Tractate Pesachim in this 13th Daf Yomi cycle ended on 15 Cheshvan, and the beginning of the Daf Yomi learning of Tractate Shekalim, which consists of EIGHT chapters, began on 16 Cheshvan, the first day of the week of Parshat Chayei Sara, which begins with the purchase of the Mearat HaMachpelah, where there are a total of EIGHT people buried (Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah).  And while Abraham's giving of the 400 Shekel was not in the context of Tzedaka which is very related to the number eight; nevertheless, the fact that the words Shekel and Kesef (silver) mentioned here are the same words that are mentioned in the section of the Torah about the Machatzit HaShekel that teaches us things about the concept of Tzedaka brings us to mind of this concept, which was a part of Abraham's life, which was especially focused on Hachnasat Orchim (inviting guests), giving them both physical and spiritual nourishment without expecting any financial returns.

In any case, the giving of Tzedaka, which is very related to the number EIGHT, represents the EIGHTH Sephirah combination of Chesed She'B'Gevurah; corresponding to which is the third/fourth week of the month of Cheshvan when we read Parshat Chayei Sara which begins with the story of Abraham purchasing a burial plot for Sara with Shekel coins.  For in fact, burying someone is what is called Chesed Shel Emet "Kindness of Truth", for one is doing a kindness for someone who is now deceased, who obviously will not be able to physically return us a favor, hence, this being Tzedaka given to someone who is deceased, which is not a loan to him, as loans are not considered Tzedaka which is giving something to someone without expectation of being paid back.  The only practical difference between giving Tzedaka to someone who is living and one who is deceased is that at the very least, the one who is alive who just received your kind generous donation of money, food, or clothing will most likely show some short of appreciation, which is absent with one who is now deceased, but is in effect relying on the Chevra Kadisha "Holy Society", the group of people who see to it that the deceased is taken care of properly, including being cleaned, washed, dressed in shrouds, and finally placed in the coffin.

And so, the next time that we give Tzedaka, we should ask ourselves - why we are giving it.  Do we do this because we want to show how kind we are, to make ourselves look good, or...because first of all, it is a Mitzva in the Torah, and it is also a fulfillment of the Mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael, not wishing honor or fame for ouirselves, or even to pat ourselves on the back; but rather, that we are giving it strictly as the Mitzva of Tzedaka, knowing that it will make some positive difference in another's life, just as we would wish for ourselves if we were to be in that same situation.  Hence, the next time that we give Tzedaka, bearing in mind the right reasons for doing so, which by the way maximizes our eternal reward for this Mitzva, it should be what we call QUALITY TZEDAKA.

16 Tevet, 5774

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