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New Year Blessings

5769: The Year of Kodashim

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In two weeks we will be celebrating the Rosh Hashanah of 5769. When writing the year out in numbers, we write the full value, in this case 5769. But, traditionally, when referring to the year using Hebrew letters, we only note the last 3 digits, in this case תשסט = 769.1 Therefore, (almost) all of the gematriot dealing with the value of the year will use the number 769 and not 5769.

Of the many verses and idioms that equal 769, here we will focus on one that we find in the Book of Psalms. In chapter 19 (verses 8-10), we find the following series of beautiful phrases extolling the Torah and its commandments:

God’s Torah is perfect, it restores the soul;
God’s testimony is faithful, it gives wisdom to the simple.
God’s statutes are straight, they rejoice the heart;
God’s commandment is clear, it enlightens the eyes.
The fear of God is pure, it endures forever.
God’s judgments are true, they are altogether righteous.

The gematria of the words, “God’s commandment is clear,” (מִצְוַת י־הוה בָּרָה ) is 769, or תשסט , the number of the upcoming year. The word “clear” (בָּרָה ) in this verse means that God’s commandment is spotless and clean without a blemish. This is a very rare word in the Bible. Its value is 207 and is equal to the gematria of “light” (אוֹר ). Let us see what we can learn from this verse.

We quoted all 6 phrases (that in Psalms are divided into 3 verses) because the sages explain that they correspond to the six orders (called sedarim, in Hebrew) of theMishnah, which are (in order):

  • Zera’im, which means “seeds” and deals with those commandments that pertain to agriculture and to the Land of Israel.
  • Mo’ed, which means “time” and deals with the commandments relating to time, such as the Shabbat, the festivals, etc.
  • Nashim, which means “women” and deals with those commandments relating to marriage and divorce.
  • Nezikin, which means “damages” and deals with the laws relating to property, possessions, and life.
  • Kodashim, which refers to those things that are “sanctified,” and deals with the commandments surrounding the Temple and the sacrificial service.
  • Taharot, which refers to those things that are ritually “pure” (and impure), and surveys the laws pertaining to them.

But the correspondence given by the sages is not in order of the Mishnah. Rather it is as follows:

God’s Torah is perfect, it restores the soul; Nashim
God’s testimony is faithful, it gives wisdom to the simple. Zera’im
God’s statutes are straight, they rejoice the heart; Mo’ed
God’s commandment is clear, it enlightens the eyes. Kodashim
The fear of God is pure, it endures forever. Taharot
God’s judgments are true, they are altogether righteous. Nezikin

What is the rationale behind each part of the correspondence?

  • That the Torah is perfect alludes to the perfection of man, which is only when he (or she) is married.
  • The faithfulness of God’s testimony refers to the faith needed by every farmer in order to cultivate the land and believe that God will bring rain and that he will be able to reap more than what he sows.
  • The special days of Shabbat and the festivals are days of joy just as God’s statutes fill the heart with joy.
  • Both the eyes and the word “sanctified” (קדש ) in Hebrew refer to the sefirahof wisdom.
  • The final two are straightforward, since the “purity” of the fear of God clearly suggests the order of Taharot and the judgments suggests the order of Nezikin.

If we look at the pattern of the correspondence in this case from a technical point of view, we see that the middle two orders (Nashim and Nezikin) were taken out and placed at the beginning and end.

The first thing we have gained from looking at this correspondence is that now we know that the upcoming year, (5)769, is related to the order of Kodashim.

Now, note that each phrase refers to a different aspect of the Torah or the commandments. In reference to Kodashim, and to our year, we find that the reference is being made to “God’s commandment” using the most well-known Hebrew word for “commandment”: mitzvah (מצוה ). The Ba’al Shem Tov explained that the word mitzvah is cognate to the word for “being together” (צוותא ), orzusammen in Yiddish. Thus, this year is also about connecting us with the Almighty.

Traditionally, children begin studying the Torah with the book of Leviticus, which contains all the laws of the sacrifices and the Temple service. This is the essence of the order of Kodashim. Indeed, to sanctify in Hebrew also means to dedicate. The idea is that the laws of the Temple and its sanctified service teach a child that the first thing we should do is dedicate ourselves to the service of the Almighty.

In the phrase “the commandment of God,” corresponding to Kodashim, the commandment appears in a singular form (some of the others are in the plural form). So what special commandment might the verse be referring to? We would say that just as the Book of Leviticus begins with the one commandment that includes all the other commandments that have to do with the Temple service, which is bringing a sacrifice from oneself, in this phrase from Psalms too, the commandment is to dedicate oneself to the service of the Almighty.

We mentioned that the word “clear” (בָּרָה ) is very rare in the Bible. One of the few times that it appears is at the climax of the Song of Songs: “One is my beloved, my dove, she is one to her mother, she is clear to her bearer.” The next verse is “Who is this that appears like the dawn, beautiful as the moon and clear as the sun….” This is the most magnificent description that the book gives of the bride. The word “as the sun” (כַּחַמָּה ) has the same letters as the word “wisdom” (חָכְמָה ), which we noted is the subject of the verse that the sages say corresponds to Kodashim in Psalms.

Notes:

1. Because there are no special letters that designate thousands, it would take may letters to write out 5000. Instead, when writing the full value of the year in Hebrew letters, we write ה'תשסט , where the ה with the apostrophe (ה' ) designates 5000.

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