Thursday, January 30, 2014

#208 - The first Jewish STRENGTH

Presently, we are in the midst of the week of Parshat Terumah, the first Parsha mention about the Mishkan (Tabernacle) for it is in this Parsha in which the details of the various measurements and placements are found.

Now, counting the 54 Parshiyot of the Torah, it winds up that Parshat Terumah is the first of the second of three sets of 18 Parshiyot each.  This means, that there are 18*3 Parshiyot, and as 18 is Chai (life) times three signifies the lives of our three Avot (Patriarchs) - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Hence, it winds up that Isaac is the corresponding Patriarch to the second set of 18 Parshiyot.  Moreover, being that Parshat Temurah is the BEGINNING of the second set of 18 Parshiyot, this corresponds with the beginning of Isaac's life.

This is all nice, but is the connection here between the Mishkan and Isaac, particularly the beginning of his life?  You see, we learn this from when the dedication of the Mishkan took place.  Now, the building of the Mishkan became completed on 25 Kislev, the future date of the first day of Chanuka.  However, Hashem wanted the dedication of the Mishkan to take place on Rosh Chodesh Nissan.  Why?  As the Midrash (Shemot Rabba 52:2) tells us, it was because Isaac was born in the month of Nissan.  Again, I say that this is nice, but what is the connection between the two, and why particularly in the month of the birth of Isaac, and not during the months of his father Abraham the first Jew or his son Jacob who is the "choicest of the Patriarchs" being that he was the greatest Torah scholar of the three?

Well first, Isaac was actually the first one to be born a Jew, unlike his father Abraham who only became this way when he repudiated the idolatry of the home and surroundings that he was living with.  And so, he was also the first to have his Brit Mila (circumcision) on the eighth day as proscribed by the Torah.  And as unique to Isaac, he was the only human being to be bound on the altar at the future site of the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) as per Hashem's instructions to Abraham, and until this day, is considered as though Isaac was offered as sacrifice, serving as a constant merit for his descendants the Jewish people.  And so, it was only fitting that the dedication of the Mishkan, the forerunner of the Temple, took place in the same month as the birth of Isaac took place as a symbol of how a Jew should live to begin with, including with Mesirut Nefesh (self sacrifice) that Isaac displayed in his willingness to be slaughtered and burnt for all he knew as Hashem's wishes until Abraham was told of a change of plans at the last moment when he was just about ready to end his son's life.  But one part of this emphasis relates to the month of Isaac's BIRTH, and accordingly, although Isaac himself was born on Pesach (Passover) in the middle of this month, the dedication was held at the beginning of this month, on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, which is called the head of the months - "This month (Nissan) will be to you the head of the months, it will be to you the first of the months of the year" (Exodus 12:2), the reason being is that the birth of the Jewish nation was to take place in this month on Pesach, Isaac's birthdate (15 Nissan), and so even though Rosh Hashana, the New Year, starts from the other half of the year at the beginning of Tishrei, we count the months - Month 1, Month 2, etc. - starting from Nissan.  This is also to note that the first letters of Rosh Chadashim "Head of the months" is Reish and Cheit, which spells the number 208, the Gematria of the name Yitzchak, which is also the number of this post.

And by the way, continuing on with the weeks of the Jewish calendar as they correspond to the 49 days of the Sephira, the 17th Sephira combination is Tiferet She'B'Tiferet, whose corresponding week includes Rosh Chodesh Shevat, which sometimes falls out during the week of Parshat Bo in which we read about the Mitzva of declaring new months as it does this year; or at other times, during the week of Parshat Vaeira (noting that when Rosh Chodesh Shevat falls out on Shabbat, we always read Parshat Vaeira); bearing in mind that the name of this Parsha - Vaeira - has the same Gematria as Yitzchak's name.

And there is another connection between the concept of the months beginning with Nissan and Isaac, or at least as related to the name Isaac (Yitzchak).  You see, the very first Rashi on the Torah (from Bereishit Rabba 1:2) begins with quoting a Rabbi Yitzchak (although he is quoting from the Midrash, interestingly, both Rashi's father and two of his Torah teachers' names was Yitzchak) of saying that really, the Torah should have began with "This month will be to you..." because this is the first Mitzva that the Jews were commanded.  It then proceeds with explaining why the Torah begins with Bereishit "In the beginning.." pertaining to the creation of the world; for although the Torah begins in order of history, the whole purpose of the Torah are the Mitzvot that we are bidden to follow as Jews, the purpose of our being in this world, and this world being created, to begin with.

Now, this Midrash continues with explaining why the Torah begins with Bereishit, by quoting a verse from Tehillim - Ko'ach Ma'asav "The strength of his actions He told to His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations" (Psalms 111:6).  Aside from today's date, which is 28 Shevat, being that the word Ko-ach (Strength) also spells the Hebrew number 28, it is interesting to note that this is the very FIRST FULL VERSE that Rashi mentions in his commentary, bearing in mind that there are 28 letters in the FIRST VERSE of the Torah.  And having mentioned here Rabbi Yitzchak, who has the same name as Abraham's son Isaac, it was Isaac who was Abraham's FIRST Jewish Ko'ach, as we see that Jacob, in the blessings to his children, calls his firstborn Reuben - Kochi "my strength" (Genesis 49:3).  This is to note that the Gematria number of the name Yitzchak is 208, which, when we remove the middle number zero, is the number 28.  Also, as we see with the Gematria of his name, it is composed of the sum totals of the number 28 and 180, the latter being the amount of years that he lived.

Another theme that relates to the number 28 is what we see in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), at the beginning of Chapter 3, that there are a total of 28 "times", the last one being "a time of peace".  However, this is not the first time that we see that the concept of peace is related to the number 28.  In the beginning of Parshat Pinchas, after Pinchas, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Aaron the first Cohen Gadol (High Priest) the master peacemaker, killed the evil Zimri who dared took a Midianite princecess in front of Moses to sleep with her, which afterwards warded off Hashem's anger at the Jewish people for falling into temptation with idol worshipping and sleeping with the Midianite/Moabite women, Hashem rewarded him with an everlasting Kehuna (being that beforehand, Pinchas did not have the status of a Cohen), stating "Behold I have given him My covenant of PEACE".  Now, while in this context, Pinchas is not mentioned here for the first time in the Torah, it outlines his geneology as "Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aaron HaCohen", since from here, we clearly see that Pinchas was the 28th generation in parental descent from Adam.

To note, both the names of Yitzchak and Pinchas have the same Gematria of 208, the latter who is first mentioned in Parshat Va'eira, the name of this Parsha which also has the same Gematria of 208.  Indeed, Pinchas showed fearless courage killing Zimri, not just because of taking a chance of Zimri fighting back, but being that the latter was leader of one of the Tribes, there was the chance of being majorly criticized for daring to kill a Jewish "leader" (in comparison to what even some Modern Orthodox rabbis will be quick to criticize a Jewish guy doing a little mischief against Arabs, or their insistance of Yigal Amir being the assassin of Prime Monster Yitzchak Rabin, when it is clearly shown in video that Rabin received the fatal shot by someone else who got away with it).  Certainly, if Pinchas would be living today, without Hashem's open approval of his actions killing Zimri, he would certainly be viewed as a fanatic even by some lip service practicing Jews.

And so, while Yishmael - whose mother Hagar's name is also the Gematria of 208 - ancestor of the Arabs, may have been Abraham's first physical son, his first physical "strength", it was Isaac who was Abraham's first spiritual "strength", for indeed, it was Isaac who ultimately represents the TRUE peace, and not what Yishmael's descendants want the world to think.  For it is ONLY when we Jews live on, and allowed to live on, the land on which Hashem has granted us that the non-Jews who read the Bible know very well, that there can a chance of TRUE peace.  And as we see with the Gematria of Isaac's name Yitzchak which is 208, it is composed of the sum totals of the number 28 and 180, the latter being the amount of years that Isaac lived.

However, the key to having true peace is certainly not concessions with our sworn Arab enemies or our so called allies such as the United States who are only keeping Jonathan Pollard in prison way beyond the legal amount of  years for which he is supposed to be in prison ONLY because he is a Jew, even as this country via the evil John Kerry have the Chutzpa to demand that Israel releases more and more Arab terrorists from the zoo jail (and of course, Prime Monster Bibi Netanyahu who paid lip service to JP's wife Esther not long ago that he would do his best to have him released after his failure to do so from many years ago at the Wye Accords continues releasing terrorists without making Mr. Pollard's release being a condition); but rather, by maintaining our Jewish STRENGTH, stepping up to the plate - NOT only with words such as the Prime Monster's lip service words - but rather with fighting back, beginning with the IDF immediately striking back at the Arabs following the first rock being thrown at them by the latter, rather than waiting "for orders" to defend their lives and the lives of the entire Jewish people.  For the only language that these Arab animals understand is strength, and AUTHENTIC Jewish strength, and NOT the image that the Israeli government wants the IDF to display to the world as having mercy on "poor" Arab families by sending them food and medicine especially during war time, although of course the Arabs are at constant war with us, being that they know that the IDF fighting them is for the most part a joke, so long as the dictatorship in Israel wants to show goodwill to our biggest sworn enemies to "show the world" that we are humane people after all, which in the long run not only does not serve this purpose, but if anything, gets the world to laugh at us, and still criticize us as being aggressors.

And so, if we are going to ultimately be blamed and criticized anyways, we might as well just fight it all out, we might as well just attack Iran, and we might as well just do the same thing that all other countries would do if and when threatened by their enemies, following in the footsteps of the first Jew born in Israel - Isaac, who was willing to sacrifice himself on the altar, even though he wasn't even commanded by Hashem to do so, and was only told so by Abraham who was the one given the order to bring Isaac up on the altar (and not Yishmael as the Koran wants us to believe), at the very spot in the midst of the present Temple Mount, the ultimate source of Jewish strength, and NOT Masada - the fortress that the IDF brings all the soldiers to - to swear their allegiance at, where the Jewish zealots in the times of the Romans committed suicide (which is an unforgivable sin especially since one cannot repent of this sin being that one is dead already), rather than using their remaining strenth in fighting the Romans, not trusting in Hashem to do the right thing (no wonder why the IDF has such problems!).  If we read the Tanach well enough, if we analyze authentic Jewish history well enough, we will realize the source of THE FIRST JEWISH STRENGTH.

28 Shevat, 5774

Thursday, January 16, 2014

#207 - Jewish EnLIGHTenment

Meant to have written this post a few days ago on 11 Shevat, but perhaps for good reason, it waited until today.  It is true that today is Tu B'Shevat; however, I am referring mainly to a very different reason.  In a way, both the 11th and the 15th of Shevat have something in common.  Both of these dates mark the birthdates of two great righteous people, scholars, and writers.  The date of 11 Shevat marks the birthdate of Rabbi Yisroel Meir HaCohen Kagan, who is famously known as the Chofetz Chaim, the title of his first Sefer (holy book), a composite of the laws of forbidden speech that are strewn in the Talmud and early Halachic works.  And the date of 15 Shevat (Tu B'Shevat) marks the birthdate of Rabbi Nosson Sternhartz (Reb Nosson), main disciple of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who was the main one responsible for spreading the teachings of Breslov Hasidism after the passing of Rabbi Nachman.

Both have quite a few things in common.  Both of their birthdates when they fall out on Shabbat, it is Shabbat Shira when Parshat Beshalach is read (Note: Reb Nosson was born on Shabbat).  Both of them passed away on dates on which Selichot (prayers asking Hashem for forgiveness) are recited - the Chofetz Chaim passed away on the first day of Selichot (according to Ashkenazic rite) of the last few days of the Hebrew calendar year immediately preceding Rosh Hashana in which they are recited, and Reb Nosson passed away on the fast day of Asara B'Tevet on which Selichot are recited. As it turned out, the Chofetz Chaim was born while still during the lifetime of Reb Nosson, with an overlap of almost seven years.  Both of them were prolific writers, each having written a Sefer with the name Likutei Halachot - the Chofetz Chaim wrote his as a composite of the Halachot of the Talmudic tractates, in the style of the Gemara, including Seder Kodoshim, that the Rif (an earlier Halachic codifier), in his composite of the Halachot of the Talmud that he didn't write his on; and Reb Nosson wrote his as a Hasidic commentary on the entire four volumes of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) which he wrote over a period of exactly 40 years.  Both of them placed special emphasis on Halacha - the Chofetz Chaim wrote his Mishna Berurah on the first volume of the Shulchan Aruch called Orach Chaim - whose halachic decisions are followed by Ashkenazic Jews worldwide, and Reb Nosson emphasized the importance of learning Halacha every single day as one of his three main pointers in the life of a Breslov Chosid.

Speaking of which, the Chofetz Chaim was once approached by one who was thinking of which of the many branches of Hasidism to join.  While the Chofetz Chaim himself was not related to the Hasidic world being that he was a Litvak, he told the guy that it would be best to be a follower of Breslov Hasidism, since as he put it, Breslov Hasidim observe the Shulchan Aruch and fulfill what is written in it.  Now mind you, the Chofetz Chaim was most careful in not speaking bad of other Jews, and certainly not of groups of G-d fearing Jews; and hence, was not trying to imply that other Hasidic groups do not follow Halacha.  However, knowing that Breslov Hasidim in particular were very careful about fulfilling Halacha, he felt that this guy who asked for advice could not go wrong in following this branch this branch of Hasidism, even though the Chofetz Chaim may have not necessarily been familiar with this branch of Hasidic philosophy, or with other such branches for that matter.

At this point, I am reminded of the verse: Beit Yaakov Lechu V'Neilcha B'Ohr Hashem  "O House of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of Hashem" (Isaiah 2:5).  Now, we see a double wording here - Lechu V'Neilcha, which is loosely translated in English as "Come and let us walk" - which is related to the word Halacha.  Now, the beginning of this verse - Beit Yaakov "House of Jacob" is found in this week's Parshat Yitro, noting that the birthdays of both the Chofetz Chaim and Reb Nosson, who are very much associated with Halacha, fall out in this week of this year, where Hashem first speaks to Moshe in His beginning words following the Jews' arrival at Mt. Sinai where they would receive the Torah days later "So shall you say to the House of Jacob" (Exodus 19:3).  Now, in the above verse from Isaiah, the words that follow the double wording of coming/walking (Halicha) are "in the LIGHT of Hashem".  Now, while this post in is not the first to be written on the concept of Ohr, especially as spiritual light, from when I wrote early on about Bircat HaChama "Blessing of the sun" taking place in 5769 ('09) as the beginning of the 207th cycle, noting the Gematria of Ohr as 207 to the beginning of Tractate Pesachim that begins with this word Ohr that mentions the date of 14 Nissan - the very date of the beginning of the 207th cycle of Bircat HaChama, it is THIS POST that is the 207th post, and hence, the concept of Ohr=207 takes on special meaning here.

Now, the Enlightment period in Europe, which encompassed the period of the lives of the Reb Nosson and the Chofetz Chaim, contained the philosophy that all people are equal.  Now, while this may have seemingly made this good for Jews within the seabed of anti-Semitism, giving the Jews equal rights as their non-Jewish neighbors, it did much spiritual harm, helping some Jews in the long run to assimilate and become the best Goy (literally means nation, refers typically to a non-Jew) possible.  And it was during this period that both of these great rabbis addressed Jews in their numerous writings to keep the Jewish faith despite the materialistic illusions of this temporary world, bearing in mind the ultimate goodness of the eternal world to come, which is symbolized by the spiritual LIGHT that we will bask in, the ultimate pleasure that is virtually unimaginable in this pleasure filled temporary world.

From henceforth in this post, I will be focusing mostly on the Chofetz Chaim, whose Hebrew name is Yisroel Meir.  Noting his two Hebrew names, Yisroel is the name of the Jewish people, and Meir literally means lights as the verb.  And indeed, the Chofetz Chaim lived his name very well, for he was among the top rabbis who enLIGHTened the Jewish people, both through his works and his good deeds, which included his high level of honesty and thoughfulness of other Jews, whose deeds impressed many a non-Jew, making a Kiddush Hashem "sanctification of Hashem's name", as related to the verse "ISRAEL through whom will I (Hashem) be glorified" (Isaiah 49:3), which is interpreted by our sages as referring to a Jew whose actions, and more specifically, his good interactions with people, along with his Torah scholarship, cause others to think highly of the Torah way of life, encouraging them to behave likewise.  And speaking of verses, the very end of the Chumash (Penteteuch) reads L'Einei Kol Yisrael which literally means "in front of the eyes of all Israel", and as obvious, of the various parts of the body, it is the light (aside from sunlight) that benefits the eyes the most, for it is through light that the eyes are able to see to begin with (even in a totally dark room, one who is not blind can still see, howbeit ever so vaguely, the makeout of what is in a room).

Perhaps the final phrase in the Sefer Torah, ending with the word Yisroel, is hinting especially to the Chofetz Chaim, who, while he passed away over 80 years ago, still has major influence on the observant Jews of today, especially through his works of the Chofetz Chaim and the Mishna Berurah, among his total of 21 compositions, in our last stage of our exile right before the coming of our final Redemption, that the Chofetz Chaim spoke and wrote about, and prepared for, including his emphasis on studying the laws of the Temple sacrifices, having a special suit set aside to wear for when Moshiach would come, and running up and down the stairs as a way of staying physically in shape for the possibility of being the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) assuming that Moshiach would come and the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) would be rebuilt.  But perhaps the most important part of this connection of the Chofetz Chaim with the final stage of our exile is that as he writes in the beginning of the introduction to his Sefer Chofetz Chaim, it is the sin of baseless hatred, which includes speaking bad about other Jews, that caused the destruction of the second Temple, and that by following the laws of being careful of not having baseless hatred and avoiding evil speech about other Jews, we will immediately bring the long awaited Redemption.

To note, his work Chofetz Chaim has been apportioned for daily study, to learn through this Sefer three times a year, being divided up for both a regular yea.r and a leap year.  While in any given year, one of the three cycles begins on Rosh Hashana, the following cycle begins on different dates depending on the year - in a regular year of 12 Hebrew months, it begins on 1 Shevat (Rosh Chodesh Shevat) - the same date on which Moses began his final series of discourses that take up the fifth and final book of the Torah - Sefer Devarim (Deutronomy), which begins with the words Eileh HaDevarim "These are the words", in which the letters of the first word Eileh (these) can spell the word Issur Lashon Hara "Prohibition of evil speech".  In a leap year of 13 Hebrew months, it begins on 11 Shevat - THE BIRTHDATE OF THE CHOFETZ CHAIM!  And it so happens that in this cycle, the portion that is learned today - Tu B'Shevat - is the part where the Chofetz Chaim mentions the reason that he named this book by this name, being taken from the verse in Tehillim (Psalms 34:13-14) "Who is the man who WANTS LIFE, loves days to see good. Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceipt".

Taking a close look at the first verse, let us note the words in Hebrew - Mi HaIsh HeChofetz Chaim.  The word Mi (Who) are the letters that begins the Chofetz Chaim's name Yisroel Meir (Yud and Mem), though in reverse order.  The next word is HaIsh (the man), and the letters of the word Ish begins the words that make up the Hebrew date of his birthday - Yud Aleph Shevat (when these letters are rearranged - Yud, Aleph, Shin), and then "the Chofetz Chaim", noting that when referring to the Chofetz Chaim as the person, in contrast to his word with this name, the word "the" is used.  And continuing on in this verse, we see that the Hebrew word for "days" is Yomim, in which the letters Yud and Mem that are the beginning letters of his name Yisroel Meir, is used twice in order as the makeup of this word.  Is all this coincidence as hinting to the Chofetz Chaim?  Moreover, the phrase HeChofetz Chaim has the same Gematria as the Chofetz Chaim's second name Meir - 251!

For indeed, this Sefer called Chofetz Chaim after which he would henceforth be known by, ENLIGHTENED the Jewish people with a new awareness of both the importance of the prohibition of this sin of speaking bad of other Jews, and perhaps most importantly, the detailed laws of this prohibition, many if not most was not known beforehand to non-learned Jews who didn't learn the Talmud and early Halachic writings to know what is sometimes forbidden to be discussed or mentioned, being that the Chofetz Chaim was THE ONE who gathered all these laws together, which was not done for some 1,500 years since the writing of the Mishna/Talmud which is in the category of the Oral Torah that was not written down beforehand.

It is also significant to mention at this point of mentioning the concept of ENLIGHTENING ("Meir"), the name of his very much studied Halachic work called Mishna Berura "CLEAR Mishna", CLARIFYING the Halachot of the section of the Shulchan Aruch that pertains to the daily life of a Jew as pertaining to prayers and blessings, and the various Jewish holidays, having sifted through numerious Halachic works in his commentary to this Orach Chaim "Way of Life" section of the Shulchan Aruch, so there would be no misunderstanding of the Halacha via his explanation of what is behind the makeup of the particular Halacha (Note: In similar fashion, Reb Nosson in his Likutei Halachot on the Shulchan Aruch emphasized the spiritual reasoning behind the Halacha, which is not meant to be followed merely as something that has to be followed without understanding the rationale behind it, but with the understanding of the purpose of why we observe particular laws and customs that would otherwise not be understood in terms of the purpose of observing them).

Among his 21 works, the Chofetz Chaim wrote Shemiras HaLashon "Guarding of the Tongue", among other Sefarim, consisting of the various statements from the Talmud, Midrash and Zohar about the evils of and punishments for forbidden speech  as well as the rewards for one who is careful of his speech, including a section about the importance of Torah study, for just as each and every word of forbidden speech is another Aveira (sin), each and every word of Torah is another Mitzva (commandment).

Another Sefer of his, among his shorter works, is called Torah Ohr "Torah of Light", about the importance of the study of Seder Kodoshim, the fifth of the six volumes of the Mishna/Talmud that pertains to the Temple sacrifices and other related works, being that now we are not able to offer sacrifices, our study of them serves threefold 1)It is considered as though we offered the sacrifices that we learned about, since it takes the place of offering them since we are not able to do so at this time, 2)Few others learn these parts of the Torah (Note: The Chofetz Chaim wrote this book and similar things before the Daf Yomi, the study of the daily page of the Talmud which includes this study of the Temple sacrifices, was instituted), and hence is considered what is called a Meit Mitzva (compared to a situation of an unattended corpse that one notices and is commanded to see to its burial, even if he is a Cohen who is normally forbidden to defile himself with the touch of a corpse), 3)We have to prepare ourselves to know these laws now so that when Moshiach arrives and the Temple is rebuilt, we will be familiar with these laws which are numerous, especially the Cohanim who are the main ones who serve in the Temple.  Ipso facto, this will show that we eagerly awaited the Redemption, as we will be asked one day by the Heavenly Tribunal following our life in this world if we did indeed antipicate the Redemption.

Now, the reason for the title of this Sefer is based on the Midrash Rabba (3:5) which states that the five mentions of the word Ohr (light) in the beginning of the Torah which is about creation on the first day - corresponds to the five books of the Chumash (Penteteuch).  Hence, the third mention of Ohr - Vayar Elokim Et HaOhr Ki Tov "G-d saw the light that it was good" corresponds to Sefer Vayikra (Leviticus), and as this Midrash notes, quoting Rabbi Simon, the significance of this mention of Ohr with Leviticus is that this Book contains numerous Halachot (laws).  In any case, it is particularly with this THIRD mention of Ohr of the five times that is particularly associated with the word "good".

And as connected with the number three, we see that it is particularly with the THIRD day of creation that the word Ki Tov (for it was good) is mentioned twice.  And why is the number three especially connected with the concept of good?  We see that when in Creation, it states "for it was good", it means that something in Creation was completed, and in Hebrew, the word for completion is Shleimut, which is very similar to the word Shalom (peace), for only with peace is there completion.  And sometimes, the mission of peace is to dissolve fights between two parties as what is called a THIRD party, and hence, when everything is peaceful, it is then and only then can a situation be considered truly good without anyone or something being out of place.  Indeed, it was Aaron, the ancestor of the Cohanim - after whom Vayikra, the THIRD book, is named Torat Cohanim being that it is full of Mitzvot/Halachot pertaining to Cohanim, the Korbanot (offerings) in the Temple that were brought by the Cohanim, etc. - who was the epitome of peace, who constantly between two Jews who were fighting with each other, to the point that they embraced each other following a fight as though you would think that they were always the best of friends.  And at the end of the Korbanot section of Shacharit (daily morning prayers), where is mentioned the introductory part to the Midrash called Torat Cohanim on Leviticus, which consists of the 13 Middot (literally means measures) through which the Torah is interpreted, it is the 13th and last one which is where there are two verses in the Torah that seem to contradict each other, but are resolved via a THIRD verse that solves the seeming contradiction between the first two verses.  This is also to note that 13 is the Gematria of the word Ahava (love), which is associated with the Mitzva of Bircat Cohanim, the THREEFOLD blessing that the Cohanim bless Jews with, with the introductory blessing that ends with "to bless His people YISRAEL with LOVE".

As for the word Tov (good), it is the Gematria of 17.  And as it turns out this year, the birthday of the Chofetz Chaim falls out on the FIRST day of the week of Parshat Yitro, the 17th Parsha of the Torah.  And if we look at the first verses of the 54 Parshiyot of the Torah, there are some with the mention of the name of Yisroel, but the ONLY Parsha in which its first verse mentions this name twice is the FIRST verse of this week's Parshat Yitro, which is the FIRST name of the Chofetz Chaim.  Moreover, noting the context from where the phrase Chofetz Chaim is taken from (Psalms 34:13), we see that the word Tov is used twice; first, in this same verse "Who is the man WHO WANTS LIFE, loves days to see GOOD?" The context continues like this "Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceipt. Turn away from evil and do GOOD, seed PEACE and chase after it".

But perhaps, at least for today, the last Sefer that I will mention of the many compositions of the Chofetz Chaim, is called Ahavat Chesed "Love of Kindness", which consists of three parts: 1)The laws pertaining to the Mitzvot of granting loans and paying wages on time, 2)The rewards and punishments of doing or not doing kindnesses, and various ideas as to how to implement doing kindness, 3)Discussions of the various types of kindnesses.  And as particularly connected to this year, the birthday of the Chofetz Chaim falls out on the FIRST day of the week, which corresponds to Chesed, the FIRST of the seven Sephirot (Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, Malchut).  Moreover, the Chofetz Chaim's name Yisroel Meir is the Gematria of 792, and is equally divided by 72 - the Gematria of the word Chesed, or 72*11.  (Note: The Chofetz Chaim passed away on the FIRST day of the week).

Now, though it may not necessarily be called a Sefer, but rather more like a pamphlet or a section in a Sefer, the Chofetz Chaim wrote a short five part essay entitled Ahavat Yisroel "Love of Jews", using the same first word Ahavat (love of) as in the title Ahavat Chesed.  Most interesting, if we add the Gematriot of the second words of these two compositions of the Chofetz Chaim that begin with the word Ahavat - Chesed (72) and Yisroel (541), the total is 613, as there are 613 Mitzvot.  As per the two compositions, the Gematria of the name Ahavat Chesed is 480, which is also the Gematria of the word Talmud.  Similarly, the Mitzva of Ahavat Yisroel is the 244 Mitzva of the Torah, and the Gematria of the word Gemara is 244.  Hence, we see that there is an equal balance between the concepts of the Mitzvot of Bein Adam LaMakom (relationship with Hashem) - the greatest of which is the Mitzva of learning/teaching Torah, of which the chief learning is the Talmud/Gemara, and the Mitzvot of Bein Adam LaChaveiro (relationship with people) of which the basis is loving our fellow Jews and doing all types of kindness.  In a similar vein, the words Torah and Gemilut Chasadim (benevolent acts of kindness) each have the same Gematria of 611.


O.K., this section of this post deserves its own subjected section.  I just ended the previous paragraph with the number 611, which ends with the number 11.  Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim, both in his writings and his personal life were full of the concepts of both Torah and Gemilut Chasadim.  In fact, we see many connections of the Chofetz Chaim with the number 11.

The Chofetz Chaim was born on 11 Shevat, which is the ELEVENTH day of the ELEVENTH month (counting the months from Nissan, the month of the Exodus which is the birth of our nation).  Moreover, the Gematria of the name of the month Shevat is 311, ending with the number ELEVEN.  And as for the Chofetz Chaim's name Yisroel Meir (total Gematria is 792), it is equally divideable by ELEVEN, or 792/72=11.  In fact, both of these names each include the letters Yud and Aleph, making up the number ELEVEN (Note: Both of these names also have the letter Reish, but the connection to the number eleven still applies no less).

And now, I will reveal a most fascinating thing that happened to mean conceptually on this 11 Shevat as per the Choeftz Chaim's name Yisroel Meir.  Counting the months from my birth (1 Iyar 5730), being that I was born in the beginning of the month of Iyar, the month of Shevat in this year is the 541st month from my birth, noting that the Gematria of the Chofetz Chaim's first name of Yisroel is 541.  Now, as per the Chofetz Chaim's second name Meir, which is the Gematria of 251, counting the first 251 hours of this month, it winds up that the ELEVENTH hour of the ELEVENTH day of the ELEVENTH month (Shevat) - the date of the BIRTH of the Chofetz Chaim - was the 251st hour of this month, which is the 541st month from MY BIRTH!  Luckily, I noticed this most amazing phenomenon shortly before in this month, so I took advantage of this most special hour, or amount of time, if we assume that the earliest time that night could possibly begin, accordingly to Halacha, which is sunset.  In this case, as sunset nearing the end of Shabbat, at least where I live in Israel, was 5:00 PM, the 11th hour from this time was 3:00 AM; though if one considers when it was for sure nighttime as when there are three medium stars appear, it comes out to be around 42 minutes, or if one follows the strict time of 72 minutes after sunset as definite nighttime (which is what the Chofetz Chaim holds in terms of when one is supposed to keep Shabbat before doing work), the end time would be like 6:12 PM, and considering even a later viewpoint of 90 minutes after sunset, the latest would be 6:30 PM; hence, giving a wide range of as much as two and a half hours in terms of the 11th hour.  In any case, as tired as I felt trying to force myself to stay awake (originally, I planned to go to be early, but circumstances didn't allow this to happen), I began the 11th hour at 3:00 AM with learning the short essay of the Chofetz Chaim called Ahavas Yisroel to commemorate this special moment of time in my life, falling out ON THE VERY DATE OF THE BIRTH OF THE CHOFETZ CHAIM! (Though the concept of the number 11 with the number of months in my life coinciding with the Gematriot of the name(s) of the Chofetz Chaim would still be very significant, even if the date wouldn't be the birthday or Yahrzeit of the Chofetz Chaim).  Moreover, it is particularly on this date of 11 SHEVAT IN THIS YEAR, being that it is a leap year, that the cycle of the learning of the Sefer CHOFETZ CHAIM began (three cycles in any given year, and divided up for learning depending on the length of a regular or leap year).  No doubt, Hashgacha Peratit (Divine Providence) has manifested here in a major way, for if Hashem shows this in even materialistic matters; most certainly, Hashem shows this in spiritual matters.  Indeed, Hashem has a most special message for me here.

As per the Chofetz Chaim's work entitled Ahavas Yisroel, I feel a special connection to this Mitzva of Ahavas Yisroel, though in this particularly work, he focuses more on the Mitzvat Lo Ta'aseh, Negative or Non-Action Commandment of not hating other Jews.  You see, the letters of this nine lettered phrase contains THE SAME LETTERS AS MY BIRTHDATE as this (Day) ONE IN IYAR - Aleph, Aleph, Yud, Reish (in this case, this month Iyar spelled with only one Yud, though usually, it is spelled with two of this letter) 5730 - Hei-Tav-Shin-Lamed!  In comparison, the letters in order in the phrase Ahavas Yisrael are Aleph-Hei-Vav-Tav (or Sav), Yud-Sin (like Shin)-Reish-Aleph-Lamed.

Considering the beautiful connections here of the number 11, birthdays, the Mitzva of Ahavas Yisroel and all, we must not forget that the ultimate purpose of Torah in this world is TO FULFILL WHAT THE TORAH SAYS, and at least half of it if not a major part of it is OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER JEWS. Now, many may boast of their communal activities of all types of kindnesses that they do for others, and they seem to have many friends and all.  However, this does not always reflect, most unfortunately, of other aspects of their relationships with certain other Jews, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO THE SIN OF FORBIDDEN SPEECH AND HATRED OF TYPES OF JEWS THAT THEY LOOK DOWN ON.  Of course, I am speaking of personal experience knowing of certain people, though thankfully, I think only a small amount whom I know to be this way, who show off as big "machers" giving much to Tzedaka, doing acts of good deeds or favors as per some Jewish organization, while they look down at other Jews who are not in the same financial standing as they are, even to the point (and yes, this is a true story that I personally know of) of not allowing children of one or more families who pay a limited tuition, to not begin the Yeshiva day school year until the first check of monthly tuition checks is paid as though the struggling parents - who sacrifice themselves for their children to learn Torah instead of going to public school - can't be trusted. Usually, these types of people are laymen, who while may have some knowledge of Torah as "Orthodox" (a label which should not really be used) Jews, either have hardly learned of certain basic Mitzvot or Sefarim such as the book Chofetz Chaim, or simply haven't applied what they learned to practice, some of whom may even pat themselves on the back for going to the daily Daf Yomi class of Talmud.  Oh yes, and among everything else, the ones who made that tuition decision of delaying the children from going to the Yeshiva day school, after their time in this world, will have to give an accounting to Hashem for each and every word of Torah that the children didn't learn as a result of their Aveira (sin) of Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred), looking down at others - a form of hating Jews for no justfiable reason - for not being as rich as they are in the guise of collecting money for the Yeshiva day school (the excuse from the Yetzer Hara - Evil Inclination) that they themselves would have a far easier time paying.

Among this, I have noticed a great irony.  I know of one synagogue with the name Ahavas Yisroel whose rabbi, while he may be into outreach and do good things for other Jews, doesn't always exactly behave nicely to others in the way that he talks to them.  I also know of an organization that uses the name Ahavas Yisroel that involves helping financially, and in other ways, Jews in need, whose boss thinks that it's only Lashon Hara when others say bad things about other Jews, but when it comes to himself speaking of others, well, that is another story, aside from his verbal abuse to those who don't do exactly as he says, be it employees or other people with whom he may seem to be friends with.  Of course, being that I am talking about the prohibition of forbidden speech, I am not going to mention anyone's names here.  But clearly, the general Mitzva of Ahavas Yisroel, while it most definitely includes doing kindness and charity, ALSO NO LESS INCLUDES THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR BEHAVIOR TOWARDS OTHER JEWS, which includes not insulting them, not shouting at them, not hurting their feelings, not fighting with them all the time, etc.   In fact, in the midst of the 17 Negative Commandments and the 14 Positive Commadments that the Chofetz Chaim lists in his Sefer Chofetz Chaim related to the Prohibition of forbidden speech, in the Mitzva about Ahavas Yisroel, he notes that one who speaks Lashon Hara or Rechilut (A telling B that C said something bad about B for example) or accepts/believes the Lashon Hara/Rechilut shows that one doesn't really love at all the Jew about whom he is saying bad about, and certainly, isn't fulfilling the Kamocha (like you) in the phrase V'Ahavata L'Reiacha Kamocha "You shall love your fellow (Jew) as yourself", for surely, one would not want others to speak bad about us, as though we are so much more holy than other Jews, when perhaps the opposite could be true.


It was only some five months ago that at the Brit Mila (circumcison) of my son that I named him Shevach Tzion Yisrael, the last name Yisrael being patterned after the name of my wife Yael, as both names begin with a Yud and end with a Lamed.  And so, noting that the name Yisrael is the Gematria of 541, my 541st month of life takes place within around half a year from the birth of my son.

While on a personal level, this month of Shevat in this year is Month 541 as pertaining to the Gematria of the name Yisrael; the Sefer entitled Bnei Yissaschar, authored by the Chasidic Master Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov, which includes many Gematriot pertaining to Shabbat, the months and the holidays, mentions that the Mazal (constellation) for the month of Shevat, which is Deli (Aquarius), is "the Mazal of Yisrael (Jews)". That's right my friends, it is this particular constellation, in contrast to all the others representing the other months of this year which includes the one for the month of Nissan, the timing of the birth of the Jewish nation.  And the question is why?

As the Chasidic author explains, this constellation (the word Deli means pail) is associated with water, and as the Talmud notes (Bava Kama 17a), water refers to the Torah, for after all, just as humans can's survive without water, so too the Jewish nation can't survive without Torah.  In fact, the name Moshe comes from the very phrase Ki Min HaMayim Meshitihu "For from the water did I pull him out" (Exodus 2:10), this coming from Batya, the princess of Pharaoh who converted to Judaism, who merited to be the very one to rescue Baby Moses from the Nile River after being left there by his family as the Egyptians were coming to all the homes with newborn baby boys to murder them on Pharaoh's orders after hearing the astrologers telling him that the savior of Israel was soon going to be born.  Ironically, Batya would latter raise him in her father's own palace, her father little knowing that it was going to be this very baby boy who would one day confront him on orders from Hashem to let the Jews leave Egypt.  Anyways, the reason that I mention Moshe at this point is because it was in the beginning of this month of Shevat, whose constellation represents water, the concept that Moshe was most connected to as demonstrated by the source of his very name, began his final series of discourses of Torah in the last 36 days of his life.

Anyways, the Gematria of the word Deli is 44, and presently, I am in my 44th year of life. Accordingly, the 541st Hebrew month always occurs within the 44th year.  Similarly, the constellation Deli=44 IS THE CONSTELLATION OF YISRAEL=541.

Aside from the birthday of the Chofetz Chaim, whose name is Yisroel Meir, in this month of Shevat whose constellation is the constellation of the Jewish people who are called Yisroel, there are two other great rabbis whose names are Yisroel who passed away in this month.

First is the passing of Rabbi Yisrael Abu-Chatzeira, or popularly known as the Baba Sali, hailing originally from Morocco and settled later in life in Netivot, Israel, on the 4th of Shevat, 5744 (1984).  Now, while many may know him particularly for his blesssings, miracles, and being a Kabbalist, he was already well versed in the entire Talmud and Halacha long before his own fame, aside from his already famous rabbinical familly, and was appointed Dayan (judge) in the Jewish court at a relatively young age.  Perhaps even a little less known is that there are collections of writings and teachings of his in a Sefer called Ahavat Yisrael.  The reason for this title is that this is a collection of hints of the Mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael in all the Taryag Mitzvot (613 Commandments) showing the letters the word V'Ahavta (You shall love) as acronyms of phrases in many of the Mitzvot and showing a connection between the two.  However unfortunately, his writings of this are presently available only on the first 127 Mitzvot of the Torah.  But perhaps the basis for this is the statement of Rabbi Akiva who says that "You shall love your friend as yourself" is the great principle of the Torah; hence, encompassing the entire Torah, or as Hillel the Elder put it to one who sought to convert to Judaism on condition to be told everything about Judaism during the time it takes to be able to stand on one foot, "What is hateful to you, don't do to others.  This is the Torah, and the rest is commentary.  Go learn it", and in time, converted to Judaism. Anyways, it's interesting to note that both the Chofetz Chaim and the Baba Sali wrote works whose title are the same based on the same name and the common Mitzva of loving our fellow Jew.

Next is the passing of Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, founder of the Mussar movement, on 25 Shevat 5643 (1883).
While a most brilliant Talmudic scholar, he is most popularly known as the one who introduced the study of Mussar, ethical instruction, in Yeshivot.  Now, while not all Yeshivot were receptive of learning other than the Talmud for the most part, neither was he banned and denigrated as has happened to rabbis in the past who seemed to have introduced something new that looked contrary to the Torah.  In fact, he had met with the Chofetz Chaim from time to time, and the Chofetz Chaim writes in his Mishna Berura that one is obligated to learn Mussar every day.

Basically, the purpose of Mussar is that a Jew realizes his mission in this world, and not to loose sight of it. The basic stepping stone of Mussar is Yirat Hashem (fear of Hashem), for without this Mitzva, this type of feeling that Hashem sees and knows everything, one could wind up doing what he or she wants thinking that one could always get away with doing something wrong without being caught.  Of course, the ultimate level of fear of Hashem is that one feels such awe of Hashem, that it is simply unthinkable to sin.

Now, while Rabbi Salanter himself didn't do much writing of his Torah discourses, his students gathered together his teachings from over the years, which includes five letters that he wrote to his students collected in a Sefer or pamphlet called Ohr Yisrael (Light of Israel).  Perhaps this was named as such because there are particular FIVE letters in this composition, just like the word Ohr is mentioned FIVE times in the first day of Creation.  In any case, this includes a special section called Igeret HaMussar (Letter of Mussar).


We are now up to the 16th Sephira combination of Gevurah She'B'Tiferet.  In the present Jewish calendar, it always falls out on the first of Iyar, which is my birthdate.  And having mentioned the concept of Ohr in this post, especially being that Ohr is the Gematria of 207, the number of this post, the name of the month Iyar is based on the word Ohr.  Aside from this, in order of the Jewish calendar from Rosh Hashana, the corresponding week to this Sephira combination is the week which includes the 21st of Tevet, the birthday of Shimon, the son of Jacob, my namesake.  It also falls out in or around the week of Parshat Shemot, in which Moshe Rabbeinu is born.  Rashi notes that when he was born, the house in which his familiy was living was full of LIGHT, which is of course spiritual light.  As for Shimon himself, together with Levi, whose great grandson was going to be Moshe, killed the residents of the city of Shechem in avengence of their sister Dina being raped by the son of the mayor of Shechem, hence displaying the atttribute of Gevurah (strength), being the son of Jacob, who especially corresponds to the Sephira of Tiferet; thus, highlighting the connection of this to Gevurah She'B'Tiferet.


Aside from the birthdays of the Chofetz Chaim and Reb Nosson of Breslov on the 11th and 15th of Shevat, respectively; there are other connections between these two numbers specifically.  Well first, dissecting Hashem's main name YKVK (K is substituted here for H in respect of His most holy name) into two parts, the first two letters Yud=10 and Hei=5 equal 15, and Vav=6 and Hei=5 equal 11.  Also, we see in the very beginning of Tractate Megilla where it starts off with "The Megilla can be read on the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th (of Adar)" which refer to all the possible dates that reading the Megilla was possible, particularly in earlier times when market day was Monday and Thursday making it easier for villagers who might not otherwise hear the Megilla reading would be able to do so.

As for the more spiritual or Kabbalistic reason, in the end of Parshat Beshalach, the last nine verses about Amalek's initial war with the Jewish people which is read on Purim before the Megilla reading - noting that Parshat Beshalach can be read on Shabbat at times on the 11th of Shevat or on the 15th of Shevat - the final verse states "For a hand is on the chair of YH, the war of Hashem against Amalek from generation to generation".  Now in Hebrew, normally the word for chair is Kisei with an Aleph at the end of the word, but in this instance, the word reads as Keis as meaning chair, utilizing just the letters Kaf and Samech, which is immediately followed by Hashem's name YH, just the first half of Hashem's main name.  Now, the basic meaning of this is that until Hashem finishes off Amalek once and for all, Hashem's name and chair is not complete (so to speak), as Rashi notes.  Now taking a closer look at this word Keis consisting of the letters Kaf and Samech, they are the 11th and 15th letters of the Aleph Beit, respectively.  This is immediately followed by Hashem's name YH which equals 15.  By the way, having mentioned a little earlier about the birth of Shimon the son of Jacob, this final verse of Parshat Beshalach is the 466th verse from the beginning of Sefer Shemot (Exodus), noting that the Gematria of the name Shimon is 466.

Acccordingly, Purim which celebrates our victory over the non-Jews who attempted to get rid of us thanks to Haman's attempt to annihilate the entire Jewish people on one day, is a step towards getting rid of Amalek once and for all, noting that Haman was a descendant of Amalek.  And so, the reading of the Megilla, which is akin to the Mitzva of remembering what Amalek did to us on our way out of Egypt, is slated for reading particularly through the timeframe of the 11th through the 15th of Adar.  Now, refering back to the final verse of Parshat Beshalach, noting that the Hebrew word for hand is Yad, which also spells the Hebrew number 14, this is the date of the month of Adar on which Purim is observed.  However, for the city of Shushan in Persia and walled cities from the time of Joshua such as Jerusalem, the reading of the Megilla take place on the 15th of the month, as it is the 15th that is on the highest level of holiness in this context, as we see in the words Keis YH, in which the word Keis includes the 11th and 15th letters of the Aleph Beit and is immediately followed by the name YH which also in Hebrew spells the number 15 (although typically, we refer to the number 15 with the letters Teis=9 and Vav=6 to avoid spelling Hashem's name YH on paper which could be thrown out afterwards accidentally).

And why the number 15?  You see, this is the Gematria of the Sephira of Hod, which represents the Beit HaMikdash (Temple).  And as connected to the Megilla, the middle verse is King Achashveirosh offer to Esther "What is your request?  Until half of the kingdom, and it will be done".  Now, noting that his kingdom was not limited to Persia but included a total of 127 provinces as stating in the very beginning of the Megilla, our rabbis tell us that the MIDDLE of his kingdom was...the Beit Hamikdash!  In another words, what Achashveirosh was telling Esther was that she could have whatever lands she wanted, so long as she would not be given the area (or the land) of the Beit Hamikdash (even though at that point, he didn't know as of yet that Esther as his wife and queen was Jewish; subconscioiusly, his evil soul knew that she was, being the big anti-Semite that he was from beginning to end.)  In fact,  not only did he not allow the Temple to be rebuilt that had begun around 15 years earlier in the days of a previous Persian King Coresh who stopped it when he believed the lies of the "good" Samaritans (yes, Good Samaritan is a phrase from the New Testiment which was purposely phrased as such to make us Jews look bad) about the Jews wanted to conspire against the king with the construction of the Temple, but he even celebrated the so called end of the 70 years of the Babylonian exile of the Jews, thinking that this prophecy of the length of this exile had passed without all the Jews returning to Israel (but he miscalculated the timing of the 70 years), which is the very subject at the beginning of the Megilla with his 180 days of feasting, followed by a special seven days; noting that this was a total of 187 days, bearing in mind that the number 187 is used as one of the measurements of the Temple as details in Tractate Middot, the tractate about the measurements of the Temple.

And as far as the number 15 is concerned in terms of the month of Adar, this number is indeed the MIDDLE day of the month of Adar that always consists of 29 days in our present calendar, noting that in Jewish leap year such as this year which includes two months of Adar, it is the second one consisting of  29 days in which we observe Purim.  And as future anti-Semites who did not and to this day, do not want us Jews to live in the land of which the Temple is the holiest point, and where the greatest resistance lies in terms of Jews even visiting as per the Temple Mount fiasco of the evil Israeli police who give in to the demands of the Wakf, Achashveirosh was willing to give Esther not as ONLY until HALF of the kingdom as 63 lands, but rather double that being 126 lands - just as long as Israel wouldn't be given back to Esther's people, being that they didn't want the Jews to especially get their holiest spot, the Temple back in their hands.  And so, it is particularly on the 15th of Adar, the MIDDLE day of the month, that particularly the residents of Jerusalem, the city of the Temple, the MIDDLE spot of Achashverosh's kingdom, which especially represents the number 15 as per the Gematria the name of the Sephira of Hod, celebrate Purim on this date.

And particularly for Mordechai and Esther, the heroes of the Megilla, who were descended from the Tribe of Benjamin, it was the land of this Tribe that merited to have the (majority of or the holiest part of) Temple be located.  And significantly, just as the very LAST part of the Orach Chaim section of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) consists of the laws of Purim, so is the Tribe of Benjamin descended from Benjamin, the LAST of the sons of Jacob.

Perhaps this would explain why the Rambam (Maimonides) in his Mishne Torah, places the laws of Chanuka, rather than the laws of Purim as the end of the volume of Zemanim (which consists of the laws of Shabbat and holidays), for Chanuka begins in the month of Kislev, whose corresponding tribe is Benjamin, since after all, this was the very holiday celebrating our return to our Temple in which the Menorah has begun to be lit once more, aside from the fact that it is particularly the holiday of Chanuka that corresponds to the Sephira of Hod as it most relates to the Beit Hamikdash; unless the Sephira of Netzach which corresponds to Purim and Jerusalem, which would explain why the residents of Jerusalem celebrate Purim particularly on the 15th of Adar, since Jerusalem retains its most holy status, even outside the immediate environs of the Temple, particularly because of the Temple.

One more striking connection between the numbers 11 and 15 pertains to the context of the Taryag Mitzvot (613 Commandments) in the Talmud (Makkot 24a) where it mentions that various prophets, so to speak, summarized all the commandments into a few basic principles - not to G-d forbid lessen the amount of Mitzvot that the Jews should observe, but rather, to emphasize a few matters that would help them stay on the right track.  The first of these to do so was King David who listed 11 such principles in Psalm 15 - the ONLY psalm that is written in its entirety in the Talmud (consists of five verses)!

And on a final note, noting that today marks the 15th of Shevat, we await for Purim which will arrive in a couple of months, the holiday which is associated with LIGHT, noting the verse in the Megilla "For the Jews there was LIGHT, happiness, gladness and honor" (Esther 8:16).  And as our rabbis tell us (Megilla 16b) "Light" is Torah, the ONLY authentic, and ultimate Jewish enLIGHTenment.

15 Shevat, 5774

Friday, January 10, 2014

#206 - A Taste of Lag BaOmer and Purim

This week's Parshat Beshalach, is no doubt, one of the happiest Parshiyot of the Torah, between the deliverance of the Jewish people from the Egyptians via the crossing of the Reed Sea to begin granted the manna, the heavenly food that sustained us for 40 years in the desert.  In fact, the Shabbat in which we read this Parsha is always good Shabbat Shira, for it is named after the Shira (song) that the Jews sang following their deliverance, which is also part of our daily morning prayers.

There is another very significant thing that took place this week; meaning, our present week in which we read this Parshat Beshalach, and is somehow connected.

Let us rewind to like a couple of years ago.  Aside from the Daf Yomi, there are many other study programs, some of which may be more famous than others.  But when you have two Torah study programs in which many Jews in Israel and around the globe study that begin the same time, it is hard to deny the Hashgacha Peratit (Divine Providence) in the matter.  And so, exactly 23 months ago, on 9 Adar 5772 ('12), cycles of two different Torah study programs began on the very same day, actually three to be exact.  It's like this. First, there is the daily study of either one or three chapters of the Rambam's Mishne Torah, a composite of the Halachot from the entire Torah, the study of which was implemented on 27 Nissan 5744 (1984).  Now, for those who study only one chapter a day as opposed to three, wind up finishing the whole Mishne Torah in three cycles of the daily study of three chapters.  In any case, on this date of 9 Adar two years ago, both the 31st cycle of three chapters a day and the 11th cycle of one chapter a day of the Rambam's work began anew.  However, the amazing thing that I am referring to here is that another Torah study program cycle began on this very date - the eighth cycle of the daily study of one chapter of Mishna, which is the original composite of the Halachot of the Torah and root of the Torah She'B'Al Peh!  I have a feeling that virtually nobody, if anybody, noticed this at the time, but I don't believe that this was mere coincidence, especially when it comes to the greatest Mitzva of the Torah - the learning and teaching of Torah.  (Accordingly, it could be said that the Siyum (completion) of the respective previous cycles of these works occurred the day before, but I am here to focus on the beginning of the new cycle for good reason).

Now, moving foward in this same Hebrew year, the 13th cycle of Daf Yomi of the daily study of a Daf of the Babylonian Talmud began on 15 Av, which is also known as Tu B'Av, a most happy day in the Jewish calendar due to various happy things having occurred on this date, as well as being a time to start increasing our Torah study at nights as the night starts increasing its time around this time of the year.  Now, it was on this day that within the 8th cycle of the daily Mishna chapter, that day marked the learning of the first chapter of Tractate Megilla, which is based on the Mitzva of reading the Megilla (Book of Esther) on Purim, at it begins with Megilla Nikreit "We begin the READING of the Megilla...", just as the beginning of the Mishna/Talmud starts with Tractate Berachot that begins with Mei'ei'matai Korin Et Shema B'Arvit "When do we begin READING the Shema in the evening?", both Mitzvot which involve the very concept of READING, and these respective Mitzvot are performed twice in the day - once in the evening, and the second in the daytime; although the Shema reading is performed daily while the Megilla reading is performed on Purim, one day in the year.

Now, let's fastforward to today.  Today - the 9th of Shevat - marks the BEGINNING of the 33rd cycle of the daily Rambam study of three chapters, and...the learning of the first Mishna chapter of Tractate Megilla - THE VERY CHAPTER of the 525 chapters of the Mishna - that was learned on the BEGINNING of the 13th cycle of Daf Yomi!  In any case, we see that there must be some special significance to Tractate Megilla in relationship to the general concept of Torah learning, especially its first chapter.

Actually, we don't have to go too far as far as numbers are concerned.  You see, Tractate Megilla consists of 33 Mishnayot, which will be learned in this study program in the course of FOUR DAYS, just as the beginning of this Rambam three chapter study includes the introduction and Mitzvot, before the main body of the Mishne Torah, during the course of the first FOUR DAYS, the beginning of the 33rd cycle.  So as you can see, the number 33 is very prominent here.

But this is not the end of the connection of the number 33 in this week's Parsha, or the concept of Purim for that matter.  You see, in the section of this week's Parsha about the manna, called Parshat Haman, in consists of 33 verses (Exodus 16:4-36), and the very end of this Parshat Beshalach, it consists of nine verses about Amalek attacking the Jews and us retaliating, which is read on Purim, the very day on which we also read the Megilla.  And when the 31st cycle of the daily study of three chapters of Rambam began exactly 23 months ago (which was also on the ninth of a month) on 9 Adar, it fell out on Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat before Purim, in which we read the special Torah portion that is at the end of Parshat Ki Teitze consisting of three verses which includes three Mitzvot pertaining to what Amalek did to us.

As far as the connection of Amalek in terms of Torah study is concerned, Rashi points out that when the hands of the Jews were weak from Torah study, as implied in the name of the place that they were at in Refidim, based on the word in Hebrew for weak, Amalek came and attacked the Jews.  And on a more positive note, the lesson to be learned here is that just as we are excited when it comes to Purim, feeling the special holiday spirit in the air as we hear the Megilla reading, so too, we are supposed to be excited when a new cycle of Torah learning begins - but not just for the first day as the Megilla reading is on one day a year, but just as the Mitzva of the daily recital of the Shema, the very first Mitzva mentioned in the Mishna and the Mitzva that begins the life of the Bar Mitzva boy (or man), to have the same enthusiasm in Torah learning, and reciting the Shema - each and every day as though it was the first time that we are learning any given piece of Torah or saying the Shema.

And as for the number 33, the 33rd day of the Omer is called Lag BaOmer, which is considered a happy day in the 7 week Sephira period, for it was on this day that the students of Rabbi Akiva no longer were dying in a plague as well as being the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, author of the teaching of the Zohar, who declared the day of his passing as an annual day of rejoicing.  To note, the 33rd and final verse about the manna mentions the word Omer, no doubt hinting to this special day of Lag B'Omer.  Moreover, in any given calendar year, Lag Baomer falls out on the same day of the week as the previous Purim in the year falls out on.

It's shortly before Shabbat, so have a Shabbat Shalom.

9 Shevat, 5774