Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Eliyahu HaNavi

This post is in honor of my brother's first yartzheit. May his neshamah have an aliyah today. Moshe left us too early. May his zechuyot stand for his toddler daughters forever.

While my brother was on his deathbed on Shabbat Ki Tisa, already in a coma 7 days, I leined for him the parshah from a Chumash. The last Divrei Torah that entered his ears were the Haftarah of Eliyahu HaNavi at Mount Carmel. The last verse of the Haftarah serves to teach us about Eliyahu HaNavi's role.

מלכים א יח:לט - וירא כל-העם ויפלו על פניהם, ויאמרו ה' הוא האלקים ה' הוא האלקים

Melachim 1 18:39 - And the nation saw and they fell on their faces and they said Hashem is the Elokim, Hashem is the Elokim.

Eliyahu HaNavi's actions at Mount Carmel had a profound response. Hashem is the Elokim.

The name Hashem is representative of the Right, Spiritual Reality.

The name Elokim is representative of the Left, Physical Reality.

The Gematria of my name, son of my father's name, is equal to a single verse in the Torah.

שמות ו:ב - וידבר אלקים אל משה ויאמר אליו אני השם

Shemot 6:2 - Elokim spoke to Moshe and he said to him I am Hashem.

Perhaps it was fitting that he passed away davka on that Motzaei Shabbat, leaving Ki Tisa as his last parshah, with me in that hospital room leining for him. But alas cheshbonot are for Hashem.

It is the lonely job of Eliyahu HaNavi to make people realize the folly of turning Hashem and Elokim in to two separate domains. Eliyahu HaNavi is said to come between Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben Dovid. He comes between 2 different Geulot. It is his job to teach us that we are to appreciate both, to strive for perfection in both. If we write off one, we are not truly ready for the other. There is so much in this world that tries to convince us otherwise, but we must remain steadfast in our advance in both worlds.

We are in the final footsteps, and we must be careful not to go astray.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I'm Back

This last week I was hospitalized with pneumonia, and Baruch Hashem, I am doing much better now. I hope to have something to post here in the coming days.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Shmitah & Yovel - Sefirat HaOmer & Shavuot

(For more on the subject of Yovel, click here to return to the Table of Contents.)

The parallels between the 50 year cycle and the 50 days of Sefirat HaOmer and Shavuot are obvious due to the numeric similarity. So let's examine them in light of what I wrote before.

Vayikra 23:16 states that we are to count 50 days. However, as halachah states, we only count 49 days. We do not count the 50th day on the night of Shavuot. One explanation that I've heard is that after Am Yisrael has worked to get out of the 49 levels of Tum'ah over the 49 days of the Omer, there is no more effort necessary, and therefore no work is necessary after the 49th day to move in to the 50th day. This would parallel what I have written, there are 49 Yovel cycles for Am Yisrael to count, and it is proper for us to take charge and count the 49th cycle ourselves before we effortlessly enter in to the Yovel of Yovels.

But let us look back over the entire period. Fifty Yovel cycles, some 50 years, most 49 years, is between 50 * 49 years (2450) and 50 * 50 years (2500 years). Let us picture this period of time as paralleling the Kabbalistic Sefirah-development of the Omer period: Each week is one overriding Sefirah, each day is an aspect thereof.

For this analysis, a day of the Omer is 1 Yovel cycle, a week is 7 Yovel cycles.

Chesed - 3416 - 3765 (-345BCE - 5CE)

  • According to Daniel 9, there were 490 years decreed from the destruction of the 1st Beit HaMikdash to destruction of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash. The period that the Beit HaMikdash stood, therefore, can be understood to be a decree in and of itself, a gift from Hashem. The 2nd Beit HaMikdash stood throughout this period. Chesed she'b'Chesed contained the founding of the Knesset HaGedolah.

Gevurah - 3766 - 4110 (6CE - 350CE)

  • This is a period of increasing persecution at the hands of the Edom. The period of Gevurah she'biGevurah covers the destruction of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash. This period ends at approximately the time that the Talmud Yerushalmi was sealed. It was sealed prematurely due to Roman persecution. This period saw a steep decline in the number of Jews in Eretz Yisrael.

Tiferet - 4110 - 4453 (350CE - 693CE)

  • Tiferet represents Torah, and as such the Talmud Bavli was finished during this period. Torah finished getting ready for the long exile. Torah is Truth. The final decade of this period saw the building of the Dome of the Rock, for the age of Truth ended.

Netzach - 4453 - 4796 (693CE - 1036CE)

  • Netzach is a lower level of Chesed. In this week of Yovels, Har HaBayit was free from idolatry.

Hod - 4796 - 5139 (1036CE - 1379CE)

  • The 33rd of the Omer, Lag Ba'Omer commemorates the revelation of the Zohar by Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai. The 33rd Yovel period, Hod She'b'Hod, parallels the time that the Zohar was revealed in the days of Rav Moshe DeLeon (approximately 5020-5030, 1260CE-1270CE). Hod is also a lower form of Gevurah, the Jewish population of Eretz Yisrael (as well as Europe) suffered much during the Crusades.

Yesod - 5139 - 5482 (1379CE - 1722CE)

  • Since Yesod is the Sefirah directly below Tiferet, it is to be expected that there be an intricate relationship between the periods of these two Sefirot. Yesod has many meanings, including Moshiach ben Yosef, the revealer of the Torah's secrets. This is the age of the major revelations in Kabbalah, namely from the Ariza"l.

Malchut 5482 - ~5826 (1722CE - ~2066CE)

  • Starting 2 years after the GR"A's birth, who came down from Heaven in order to start the Geulah process, this period of time sees the rebirth of Am Yisrael as a nation in Eretz Yisrael. We will soon enter Malchut she'b'Malchut.

Yovel of Yovels ~5826 - ~5876

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Recent Yovels

(For more on the subject of Yovel, click here to return to the Table of Contents.)

This is a continuation of the post "Yovel Count of Rebbi Yehudah."

As the Steps of Moshiach advance, they become louder, to the point that they are apparent to all.

Yovel Year 46 - 5678

  • Dated November 2, 1917 (17th Marcheshvan 5678), the Balfour Declaration is one of the biggest steps towards gaining international recognition for the Return to Eretz Yisrael.

Yovel Year 47 - 5727

  • In Iyar 5727 (June of 1967), Yerushalayim, Yehudah, Shomron, the Golan, and Gaza came under Jewish control for the first time in centuries, and the move back to these areas began.

May Yovel Year 48 bring Am Yisrael even closer to Eretz Yisrael.

Galut Bavel in Tanach

In order to shed further light on the 163-year discrepency, I will be examining the different books of the Tanach that were written in this period.

Namely the books: Chagai, Zechariah, and Malachi

But more time will most likely be spent examining: Esther, Daniel, Ezra, and Nechemiah

Conclusions will (likely) be drawn in a post after discussing these different sefarim.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Yovel Count of Rebbi Yehudah

(Click here for an in depth discussion of Yovel in the online book "Yovel & Geulah".)

According to the Rambam, Yovel is counted as follows:

There are 7 Shmitah cycles, followed by a Yovel year. The year after Yovel is year 1 of the next Shmitah cycle. This is the opinion of the Chachamim brought in the Gemara. Yovel occurs every 50 years.

However, that is not the only opinion. Rebbi Yehudah says that we count this way:

There are 7 Shmitah cycles, followed by a Yovel year. Yovel counts as the 50th year of the prior cycle, and the 1st year of the next cycle. The year after Yovel is the 2nd year of the Shmitah cycle. Yovel occurs every 49 years.

Perhaps it is not that the Geonim held that we don't count Yovel when the Beit HaMikdash isn't standing, but that the halachah is to use the counting system of Rebbi Yehudah in times of Galus, when Shmitah is on a sort of autopilot, which on the outside (for halachah) seems as if we count Shmitah alone.

So while the 2nd Beit HaMikdash stood, Yovel years were:

3415 + 50n where 1 <= n <= 9 (3415 was the year before the counting of Yovel began in the time of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash)

However, when the 2nd Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, Yovel switched to:

3816 + 49n where 1 <= n <= 44 (3816 was the year after the last Yovel counted of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash)

By this, we find that the last Yovel year was 5727 (1967CE), the year of the 6-Day War. This was the 48th Yovel year starting from the time of Ezra in 3416. The Yovel year which is 49 years later is 5776. Perhaps the year following would be a fitting time for the Sanhedrin to assume/resume its role in counting of Shmitah and Yovel, to assume its role of leadership of Am Yisrael. This next Yovel would start the 49th Yovel period. Rather fitting that the Sanhedrin would count the last Yovel before the 50th Yovel, a Yovel of Yovels.

It is nearly time to take Am Yisrael off of autopilot.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Rambam - Why Don't We Count Yovel?

(For more on the subject of Yovel, click here to return to the Table of Contents.)

Am Yisrael first started counting the years of Shmitah and Yovel after the division of the land in the days of Yehoshua bin Nun. There have been since this time, as we learned from the Rambam, 2 periods wherein Am Yisrael didn't count Yovel: Galut Bavel and Galut Edom, or alternatively, when the Beit HaMikdash was not built.

If we look closely at the Rambam, we find a difference between the Rambam's relationship to Galut Bavel and Galut Edom. By Galut Bavel, he says they didn't count (both Yovel and Shmitah - but it should be noted that the Rambam says later on in the chapter that the tradition of the Geonim is that Shmitah was counted), for the land was nullified. What was nullified? Kedushah Rishonah of Kibbush Yehoshua (The Holiness of the Land which was imparted upon it by Yehoshua capturing the land) was nullified. But, as it says in the Gemara, Kedushah Shniyah, imparted by the settling and acquisition of the land in the days of Ezra, is eternal. Therefore, when the 2nd Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, the count continued. This is why the Rambam brings the entire calculation of what the year count should be, he assumes that we should still be counting the Yovel. He then nullifies his own opinion for halachah, saying we should rely on the tradition of the Geonim.

Conclusion from the Rambam is as follows:

  • Yovel is a mitzvah from the Torah only in times when certain criteria are met, per the Yerushalami Shvi'it chapter 10.
  • Regardless of this, counting of the Yovel is dependent on the Kedushah of Eretz Yisrael being in force. This was nullified with the destruction of the 1st Beit HaMikdash in 3339 (per Rambam), and reinstated in the days of Ezra, and the count resumed in 3416.
  • Since, per the Gemara, the Kedushah imparted in the time of Ezra is eternal, the count of Shmitah including Yovel should continue regardless of whether or not the Beit HaMikdash standing. This is akin to the fixed calendar of Hillel HaKatan, which continues regardless of whether or not the Sanhedrin declares the new month. We follow for halachah, however, the tradition of the Geonim, despite the fact that it contradicts this.

The question that this raises is as follows. According to a continuing calculation from the year 3416, the year 5765 was Yovel. When the Sanhedrin begins counting the years of Yovel, will they pick up from this count or start over from year 1? Or more imminently, will they pick up on the Shmitah count, where either 5772 (instead of 5775) or 5779 (instead of 5782) is Shmitah?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Commentary on Rambam

(For more on the subject of Yovel, click here to return to the Table of Contents.)

This is a commentary on the post "Rambam on the Year Count".

Let's start with Halachah 2. Am Yisrael left Mitzraim in 2448 after the birth of Adam HaRishon, entered Eretz Yisrael 40 years later in 2488, spent 14 years in conquering and dividing the land, leaving us in 2502. Therefore the next year, 2503, was the first to be counted towards Shmitah. If 2503 is the first year, then that makes 2509 the first Shmitah. However, the Rambam brings a chidush (per the GR"A there, see the Frankel edition of the Rambam here). It is 2503 from the birth of Adam HaRishon, which is the beginning of year 2, therefore if we are counting from Creation, we push everything back 1 year. The first Shmitah ever was in the year 2510.

Halachah 3 states that Am Yisrael counted 17 Yovels. They were not 17 complete Yovels. There were 16 complete 50 year periods, and another 36 years. That is to say 2503 is year 0, add on 16 * 50 = 800 years, and add another 36 years, and you arrive at the year 3339, the year the 1st Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, 1 year later than the Seder Olam Rabba brings, due to the different starting point.

Halachah 4 states that the 50 year cycle which started in 2504 ceased altogether in the year 3339, and for 70 years, there was no such cycle. Then we count the years following the building of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash in 3409, so 3409 is year 1. It was 7 years after that when Ezra arrived. The counting restarted the following year, since Shmitah and Yovel counting is from Rosh HaShanah (see the Radbaz there). Therefore the count for the 2nd Beit HaMikdash period started in the year 3416. The Rambam states that even though there was no Yovel during the period of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash, nonetheless, they counted the Yovel anyway.

Halachah 5 tries to resolve a difficulty. Our tradition says that both of the Batei Mikdash were destroyed in the year after Shmitah. The Rambam is basically saying that the 2nd Beit HaMikdash was destroyed during Shmitah, but since it was so close to Rosh HaShanah of the next year, it counts as being part of the next year.

Halachah 6 comes to tell us that if we were to continue the count of Shmitah and Yovel onwards, then the year that he is writing would be considered Shmitah, year 21 of the Yovel cycle.

Halachah 7 tells us that what we actually count is different from this; there is no 50 year cycle. Basically, when the Beit HaMikdash is not standing, we count only the 7 years of Shmitah, but not the 50 years of Yovel. This is a nafka minah. Yovel is only in full effect when the majority of Am Yisrael are in Eretz Yisrael, and the land is divided among the tribes (per the Yerushalmi Shvi'it chapter 10, and the Rambam). But we still count the cycle if the Beit HaMikdash is standing. If not, the cycle goes away altogether and there is only the 7-year cycle.

Halachah 8 shows us that when we get down to it, the cycle the Rambam brings is the same one that we keep today. If the Rambam tells us that 4936 is the year after Shmitah, then that means 4935 was Shmitah. 4935 / 7 = 705, an integer, just like this year 5768 / 7 = 824. It is not taught as a direct relationship with Creation but rather a count from the Destruction of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash. Nonetheless, the formula works. Shmitah Year = 3829 + 7n where 0 <= n <= 310.

According to what we do today, the year preceding Birkat HaChamah is always Shmitah. From the above, it would seem that there is no inherent relation between the two at all. The question remaining is what year does the Rambam hold we should use to make the brachah? No formula is given in Hilchot Brachot chapter 10.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Rambam on the Year Count

(For more on the subject of Yovel, click here to return to the Table of Contents.)

There are a few halachot from Rambam Hilchot Shmitah v'Yovel chapter 10 that are relevant to the chronology.

(Translation and division of halachot is according to this page)

2. We see from this that in the year 2503 from the Rosh Hashanah after the birth of Adam HaRishon, which is the 2nd year of creation, they began to count. And they did the year 2510 from creation, which is the 21st year from the time they entered Eretz Yisrael, Shmitah. And they counted 7 Shmitah years and sanctified the 50th year, which was the 64th year from the time they entered Eretz Yisrael.

3. Am Yisrael counted 17 Yovels, from the time they entered Eretz Yisrael to the time they left, and the year they left, in which the 1st Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, was the year after Shmitah, and year 36 of the Yovel, for the 1st Beit HaMikdash stood 410 years.

4. And due to the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, this count ceased, for the land was nullified. And the land remained destroyed, 70 years; and the 2nd Beit HaMikdash was built, and stood 420 years. And in the 7th year from its construction, Ezra came up to Eretz Yisrael, and that is the Bi'ah Shniyah, and from this year a new count began. And they made the 13th year of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash Shmitah, and they counted 7 Shmitah years and sanctified the 50th year, even though there was no Yovel during the time of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash, they would count it in order to sanctify the Shmitah years.

5. We see from this that the year that the 2nd Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, whose start is from Tishrei after the destruction by 2 months, for it is from Tishrei that we count Shmitah and Yovel, that year was the year after Shmitah, and year 15 of the 9th Yovel.

6. And according to this calculation, this year, which is 1107 of the Destruction, which is 1487 to the count of Shtarot, which is 4936 to Creation, is a Shmitah year, and it is year 21 from the Yovel.

7. However, all of the Geonim said that it is a tradition in their hands, from one generation to the next, that they only counted Shmitah during the 70 years between the Destruction of the 1st Beit HaMikdash and the Building of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash, without Yovel, and thus it is since it was destroyed this last time, we don't count the 50th year, but rather just every 7 years alone, from the the beginning of the year of the Destruction. And thus is the conclusion from the Talmud Avodah Zarah, according to this calculation, which is a tradition.

8. And the year of Shmitah is well known by the Geonim and the people of Eretz Yisrael, and all of them counted only from the years of the Destruction, and removing the remainders of 7. And according to this calculation, this year which is 1107 to the Destruction, is the year after Shmitah. And this is what we rely on, and according to this calculation we teach for the matter of Maaser, and Shmitah, and Shmitat Kesafim, for the tradition and the deed are great pillars for instruction, and upon them it is proper to depend.