Friday, December 27, 2013

#201 - Making the Best of a Situation

So now, on my 201st Post, I will begin the 3rd series of 100 posts.  The reason that I mention this is because I will mention something pertaining to the beginning of time, that is, pertaining to the creation of this world.

But first, I want to write about a rabbi who passed away exactly 201 years ago, as it coincides with my 201st Post.  I am referring specifically to Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, known as the first Rebbe of the Chabad movement, which eventually became synonamous with the name Lubavitch.

The truth is as an ex-Chabadnick or an ex-Lubavitcher, I didn't think that I would be writing anything pertaining to this, as I have my personal grievances that turned me off from the movement.  Since then, I connected with Breslov, the Hasidic movement that is mostly found in Israel, that is somewhat similar to Lubavitch, at least culturewise, both movements having originated from the Ukraine.  However, at least with the first Rebbe of Chabad, I have to give him credit for something.

Unlike most Hasidic Rebbes of his day who never even thought of the possibility of actually travelling to Israel - whether to visit or live, Rabbi Schneur Zalman actually started embarking on his way to Israel, as a present follower of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk following the passing of the founder of the Chasidic movement Rabbi Israel Ba'al Shem Tov's successor Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezrich's passing, of whom he was a past follower, joining his new Rebbe and other followers of this Rebbe making Aliyah to Israel.  However, early on, Rabbi Menachem Mendel told Rabbi Schenur Zalman to turn back, and not follow him to Israel. Good thing he listened, because a ship carrying some of Rabbi Menachem Mendel's followers drowned on their way to Israel.  Since then, Rabbi Schneur Zalman founded the Chabad movement.  To note, the word Chabad is actually an acronym of the letters Cheit-Beit-Dalet, which begin the words Chachma (wisdom), Bina (understanding) and Da'at (knowledge), describing this particular Hasidic philosophy.  The magnum opus of this philosophy is known as the Tanya; and hence, Rabbi Schneur Zalman is sometimes known as the Ba'al HaTanya (author of the Tanya).  And while he may be known as the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, the name Lubavitch actually came into play when his son and successor Rabbi Dov Ber established his Hasidic court in the town of Lubavitch.

Even as I believe in the Breslov movement, founded by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, there are undeniably connections of Lubavitch to the Breslov movement, other than their general location where these movements were founded.  First, Rabbi Nachman, when he returned to the Ukraine following his visit to Israel, he made a special trip to meet with Rabbi Schenur Zalman.  While the purpose of the visit may not be very clear, at least the two rabbis had an amicable experience.  Also, when Rabbi Nachman's successor student Rabbi Nathan Sternhartz came to him for the first time, Rabbi Nachman told him three stories of three different Hasidic Rebbes in the beginning of training his future successor, which included a story pertaining to Rabbi Schneur Zalman.  Additionally, in the Sefer Shmos Tzadikim, the Breslov book which is a list of the names of the righteous from the beginning of world history, the only Chabad Rebbe mentioned in this list is Rabbi Schneur Zalman.

And in the Litvish world (which is non-Hasidic), Rabbi Israel Meir of Radin, popularly known as the Chofetz Chaim, named after his first work which is a compilation of the laws of forbidden speech (Lashon Hara), mentions Rabbi Schneur Zalman various times in his Mishna Berurah, a halachic commentary on the first volume of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) called  Orach Chaim (Path of Life) which consists of the laws of the daily prayers and holidays, under the title of HaGraz, which is an acronym for "The Gaon Rabbi Zalman", as Rabbi Schneur Zalman wrote his own version of the Shulchan Aruch which is known as Shulchan Aruch HaRav.

While today, I no longer study the Tanya, whose study is part of being a Lubavitcher, there is one Lubavitcher book that I still refer to on occasion, being that it is not actual Lubavitch philosophy.  I am referring to Hilchot Talmud Torah "Laws of Learning/Teaching Torah" authored by Rabbi Schneur Zalman. It consists of 54 laws or paragraphs, which seem to correspond to the 54 Parshiyot of the Chumash (Penteteuch).  Also, there are exactly 54 words in the first paragraph of the Shema which include the verse from which is derived the Mitzva of learning and teaching Torah - V'Shinantam L'Vaneicha... "You shall enunciate them (the words of Torah) and speak of them, when you sit at home, when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Deutronomy 6:7).  In appropo to this, there are exactly 54 letters in the verse V'Limadtem Otam... "You shall teach them (the Torah) to your children and speak of them when you sit at home, when you walk on the way, when you lie down, and when you get up" (Deutronomy 11:19), which is also a verse in the 2nd paragraph of the Shema.  And finally, his son and successor Rabbi Dov Ber lived exactly 54 years, having passed away on his birthday.  And the connection between Rabbi Schneur's Hilchot Talmud Torah and his son Rabbi Dov Ber is more than the connection of the number 54, but that they correspond to the last and first Mitzva of the Torah, respectively, for writing a Sefer is akin to the last Mitzva of the Torah of writing a Sefer Torah, especially if the very Sefer deals all about the laws of studying Torah, and having a child is part of the first Mitzva of the Torah of Pru U'rvu (Being fruitful and multiply)

And as per the timing of the passing of Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the time of the week that he passed away on was on Motzoei Shabbat (Saturday night), beginning of the week of Parshat Vaeira, which is the 14th Parsha, just as the Gematria of the acronym Chabad, name of his movement, is 14.  Also, the last two letters of the name of Parshat Va'eira are Reish-Aleph, which spells the Hebrew number 201.

And before I forget, he is known in Yiddish as the Alter Rebbe (elder Rebbe), and the first letters of this phrase Alter Rebbe are Aleph and Reish, which spell the Hebrew number 201, bearing in mind that today is his 201st Yahrzeit, in time for my 201st Post.


We see a phenomenon in the Torah.  Throughout the description of the first week of the world's existance, including Shabbat, the Torah uses the word Elokim (G-d) to describe the Supreme Being.  It is only after this that the Torah starts using the phrase Hashem Elokim (the L-rd G-d).  This continues throughout the details of the creation of mankind until after the mention of Hashem chasing out Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden following their sin.  It is finally afterwards, when the Torah begins speaking of the first couple's children.
does the Torah use the usual Hashem name (YKVK in which K is substituted for H in honor of Hashem's holiest name) without the other name of Elokim.

Anyways, without waiting long, Rashi gives an explaination in the beginning of the Torah, stating that really, Hashem wanted to create the world with strict justice.  However, being that the world wouldn't exist for long under these circumstances, a better solution was implemented by Hashem, in which he gave precedence to the trait of mercy, denoted by Hashem's name YKVK; and only then attached it to the trait of strict judgement, denoted by Hashem's name Elokim.

So, as you can see here, this is a perfect illustration of the tenth Sephira combination - Tiferet She'B'Gevurah (Beauty within Strength), for Hashem took Tiferet, represented by the name of YKVK, and used it to mitigate Gevurah, represented by the name Elokim.

And in connection to the TENTH Sephira combination, there are TEN Statements that Hashem made in creating the universe.  Some say that the first statement, though we don't see it literally as something that Hahem actually spoke, is Bereishit, the first word of the Torah. In fact, this very fact, which begins as B'Asara Ma'amarot... "With ten Statements was the world created", which begins both the fifth chapter of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) and Yalkut Shimoni, a Midrash that covers the entire Tanach.

And now, a way to remember about the above as being part of my 201st Post.  The first two words of the Torah - Bereishit Bara, begin with the letters Beit-Reish-Aleph.  Now, let us do a little letter/number trick here.  Taking the first three letters of the word Bereishit, we can read this as "With Reish-Aleph (201)" and then the next three letters - Shin, Yud, Tav/Sav - which means the number six in Aramaic.  Now, multiplying 201 by six (201*6), the total is 1,206.  And in Hebrew, the letters that spell this number are Aleph-Reish-Vav, and when these letters are rearranged, they spell the word Ohr, which is a creation of the first day of creation, this word being mentioned five times in the mention of the first day of creation which consists of five verses.

Now, the second word in the Torah is Bara, which are the identical first three letters of the first word of the Torah.   Again, we can read this phrase as "With 201".  As you can see, the letters of the first word are used as 201*6, and this second word is strictly 201.  And the pattern here is that the first word Bereishit corresponds to the first six days of Creation, while the second word Bara corresponds to Shabbat; for after all, we see the pattern of the account of the first seven days of the world's existance, we see the details of the work that Hashem did on the first six days of the week, and then we see the contrast of how the day of Shabbat is presented, including the mention of Hashem having finished His work on this day.  In a similar vein, in the name of Parshat Va'eira, the first two letters are Vav=6 and Aleph-1, and the last two letters Reish-Aleph spell the Hebrew number 201.

As for the number 201 itself; well, the Hebrew letters for this number spell the first and last letters of the word Ohr (light), a creation of this FIRST day of the SEVEN days of the week mentioned in the beginning of the Torah.  And as connected to the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the FIRST of the SEVEN Rebbes of Chabad, his first name is Schneur, which is a contraction of the words Shnei Ohr "Two lights". And as connected to Shabbat, the minimum lights that are lit to begin Shabbat, known as Hadlakat Neirot, are two, which correspond both to husband and wife, as well as the two aspects of Shabbat - Zachor (Remember - using the day spiritually) and Shamor (Observe - avoiding forbidden work).  Moreover, the first letters of Rabbi Schenur Zalman's name are Shin and Zayin, which begin the words Shamor and Zachor, respectively.

And since it is nearing the time of Hadlakat Neirot, I must end my post here.  Will look forward to writing my next post; hopefully tomorrow evening on Motzoei Shabbat, B'Ezrat Hashem (G-d willing).

Shabbat Shalom and a Gutten Shabbos!

24 Tevet, 5774

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