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January 21, 2017 / 23 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘numbers’

The Numbers Don’t Lie: Balance And Symmetry

Friday, May 27th, 2016

There is perhaps no greater cultural image of Jewish life than the “fiddler on the roof.” In him we see ourselves seeking to find the balance between the beauty and grace of our tradition and the challenges and seductions of the world around us.

The truth is, we all seek balance in our lives. As we rush around, negotiating the competing demands of our home lives, our professional lives, and our communal lives, we try to balance it all. Otherwise, like that fiddler, we run the risk of toppling off. To where, I can’t say. But the sensation of falling off is real just the same.

If you ever doubt the importance of balance, just glance in the windows of the many gyms and exercise studios that exist throughout the country. You will see people working desperately – to do what? To strengthen their cores. Why? That balances them and minimizes the risk of injury.

There was a time when non-Jewish ancients envisioned the universe to be made up of a series of concentric circles or nestled spheres. When those circles were in perfect balance they created a symphony of beautiful sound, called the music of the spheres.

Balance is essential to our psyches, to our emotional health, and our physical and communal selves. Balance, like harmony, is dynamic. It is not a static state. Finding balance or harmony requires our constant attention.

As challenging as it may be to constantly seek balance, we can be sure that creation structurally tends toward balance. How? Numbers.

Numbers have power and significance. While all numbers are important, some have greater significance, often due to their properties as primes or unique, or their role in anchoring our numbering system. The number one is unique. By definition singular, it is the identity number. “Who Knows One?” goes the Passover song. “One is our God Who is in the Heavens and on Earth.” The number two defines the concept of evenness. Three, an ideal balance, whether in geometry or the world. Ten is the basis for our numbering system.

These numbers resonate in our consciousness and our world but no number has the power and significance of the number seven. It is the perfect number. More than that, it is Judaism’s most sacred number. Seven is completeness and wholesomeness.

My uncle Rabbi Alexandre Safran, z”l, concludes his prolific discussion of “Jewish time/Sabbath time” in his Israel in Time & Space by noting that the number seven “joins for all eternity the Creator and His Creation, God and His people; and the hyphen uniting them is the holy Shabbat.” For as we know, the Sabbath is the seventh day. Shemittah, the seventh year. Yovel, the culmination of seven cycles of seven years.

Rabbi Shraga Simmons underscores the power of seven when he considers Shavuot. He finds “Shavuot” – literally, “weeks” – to be a curious name for the holiday. While the name does highlight the seven-week period between Passover and Shavuot in which we count each day (and week) in anticipation and preparation for re-living the Sinai revelation, he remains troubled by the name. “Why not call the holiday ‘Torah’ or ‘Sinai’ or ‘Commandments’ or ‘Tablets’?”

He asks a good question.

He writes, “Time contains many different entities. Nearly all of them are related to natural phenomena. Days, nights, months, seasons, and years are all directly determined, in some way, by the constellations. There is one exception – the week. The formulation of a week seems to be totally arbitrary. Who needs it? Let one day just follow the previous one. Why seven days?

“The concept of a week and its constitution of 7 days is one that is strictly God-invented and human-adopted. While we may argue about creation – how, when, by whom, why – the world has consensually agreed to the concept of a week.”

The significance of “seven” is woven throughout our lives and experience. The seven branches of the Temple menorah. The sprinkling of blood seven times in the Temple. The seven days of shiva. The seven days of celebration for chattan and kallah. Seven aliyot. Seven mitzvot required on Sukkot. Seven major days of celebration in the Jewish calendar. Seven days of nidah…and on and on.

Seven completes a cycle fully and wholly. Brit milah, which lifts the newborn son from a mere physical existence into a meaningful, goal-oriented Jewish life, takes place on the eighth day. As Rav Hirsch explains, eight days because the “young being must pass through a full period of seven days as a creature perfect in body; and only on the eighth day must the seal of Israel be impressed upon him.”

Rav Kook finds in shemittah and yovel a completeness of life’s spiritual qualities. Too soon, the fruit is not ripened. Too late, it is overripe and rotted. Without the fullness of seven there is an emptiness, an “unripeness,” still awaiting its time. “Quality of life can be improved through the affording of a breathing space from the bustle of everyday affairs…. What the Sabbath achieves regarding the individual, the shemittah achieves with regard to the nation as a whole.”

Shemittah and yovel are not mere mechanisms of ensuring equality, freedom from poverty and slavery. More important, they are a means of attaining a fullness and wholeness, a holiness complete.

In Nitzavim, the parshah read on Shabbat Shuvah or the Shabbat prior to Rosh Hashanah, the word shuv, “to turn” or “to return” occurs seven times in various forms, all underlining the theme of repentance, of teshuvah (itself, a form of shuv). This speaks to the deep relationship between the number seven, connoting completeness, and teshuvah, repenting and returning.

The Torah source of teshuvah, “You shall then return to God your Lord, and will obey Him,” is one of these seven verses.

Because God’s creation tilts toward balance and man has free will, the choice of attaining wholeness and completion or remaining incomplete, the Rambam writes one “should strive to repent” of all sins, as well as investigate and repent of any evil disposition. “Great is repentance, for it brings man near, back to the Divine Presence.”

Teshuvah turns back to completion, to a state of wholeness and completeness. To perform teshuvah is to arrive at one’s full potential and real self. Without teshuvah, one’s life is lived as a series of discrete moments, with good and evil, success and failure intimately related. Without teshuvah, the week is seven days, not a grand march toward the glory of Shabbat.

Marriage is nothing but a cohabitative partnership without the fulfillment of the sheva (seven) berachot ideals. Faith, without the completeness of the seven mitzvot enunciated in the Shema, is an empty proclamation. Agriculture is backbreaking labor without the peace and tranquility of the shemittah year.


Even before the great brit between God and the Jews, before the Ten Commandments, before the mitzvot were enumerated, there were seven foundational laws that defined behavior and the correct balance in life and spirit. These were the Noahide Laws.

These, we transgress at our peril. Why? Because these are the laws are the pillars upon which all else rests. One can build a house a thousand feet tall and it will withstand any storm so long as it has a solid foundation. But even a single-story home will fall to the merest breeze if its foundation is not strong. The seven Noahide laws form the foundation upon which meaningful and significant human life rests.

The costs of ignoring them were plain at the time of Noah. And yet in our own time we are ignoring them as well. Consciously, deliberately, and with eyes wide open.

Who could have imagined a time when national headlines would report about bathrooms! But they do. Perhaps most people would like to remain unaware of the “bathroom wars” in North Carolina. What does it matter?

What does it matter than the Supreme Court has proclaimed same-sex marriage the law of the land?

What does it matter that the White House has essentially proclaimed transgender bathrooms to be the civil rights issue of our times?

What does it matter?

What does it matter if a foolish fiddler – who shouldn’t be up on a roof anyway – topples off? What does it matter if there are four days this week and eleven next?

It matters because balance matters and no amount of Pilates will strengthen your core enough to provide balance when the foundation cracks. We rely on balance to live lives of meaning and significance. We each build our own homes but we rely on a communal foundation for our houses and homes to stand.

One can make any argument he pleases to suggest otherwise but the numbers don’t lie. Five cannot be seven. Fourteen cannot be ten.

And one can never be any other than Our God in Heaven and on Earth.

Rabbi Eliyahu Safran

IDF Account Sheet, Operation Protective Edge

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Every war has its price, economically, emotionally, politically and spiritually.

Few nations consider the latter – but the Israel Defense Force has never ended a war without taking that into account.

Tonight, members of the media each received the account sheet from the IDF, showing the “up to date figures of Operation Protective Edge.”

They speak for themselves in the starkest of terms, across all spectrums. Behold.

Up to Date Figures – Operation Protective Edge

    3,356 rockets fired at Israel

2,303 hit Israel 356 intended at IDF forces operating in Gaza 116 of which hit populated areas (3.45%) 578 were intercepted by Iron Dome 475 landed within the Gaza Strip Prior to the operation, the IDF estimated the Gaza rockets arsenal at approximately 10,000 rockets. 1/3 of which were fired at Israel, and an additional 1/3 was demolished by the IDF.

    Geographic Breakdown

69.4% fired from the northern Gaza Strip 12.9% fired from the central Gaza Strip 17.3% fired from the southern Gaza Strip

    597 rockets were launched from civilian facilities abused by terrorists (18%)

Approx. 260 launched from educational facilities (schools) Approx. 127 launched from cemeteries Approx. 160 launched from religious sites Approx. 50 launched from hospitals

    4,762 terror sites struck across the Gaza Strip

: 1,678 rockets launching capabilities 977 command and control centers 237 militant wing government faculties 191 weapon storage and manufacturing facilities 144 training and militant compounds 1,535 additional terror sites

    Eliminating Mission – Gaza tunnel network

32 Terror tunnels neutralized 14 crossed into Israel 2 tunnels had shafts located 300-500 Meters from Israel

    750- 1,000 militants targeted

At least 253 Hamas operatives At least 147 Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives At least 65 operatives of various organizations At least 603 operatives whose affiliation is unknown In addition, 159 suspected terrorists have been questioned by Israeli security forces, 25 of which are currently imprisoned.

    Israeli Casualties

3 civilians killed 64 IDF soldiers killed in combat 83 Israeli civilians wounded 463 IDF soldiers wounded

    1,856 trucks of Humanitarian aid supplied to Gaza, carrying 40,550 tons

1,491 trucks with 37,178 tons of foods 220 trucks with 1,694 humanitarian supplies 106 trucks with 1,029 tons of medical supplies

82,201 IDF Reserve Duty Personnel

Hana Levi Julian

Turtle Washed Ashore

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

My friend David Goldberger sent me this image of an sea turtle that was washed ashore Monday on the Netnaya beach, just south of the Carmel Hotel.

Is the water polluted? he wanted to know. Does this pose dangers we are unaware of?

According to Yaniv Levy, manager of the Israeli Sea Turtle Rescue Center at Michmoret, a few miles north of Netanya on the Mediterranean coast, some 2,000 to 3,000 turtles used to nest along Israel’s shores at the turn of the 20th century. Now the numbers are down to about 180 loggerheads and fewer than 20 green turtles, and he estimates that only 10 green females in Israel are capable of egg laying.

According to Levy, the turtles face many dangers: pollution, plastic bags and other litter; outboard motors and fishing nets; jeeps hurtling along beaches. About 50 injured turtles are brought to the Rescue Center every year, most of them victims of human activity.

“We treat injured turtles and return them to the sea, gather and incubate eggs before returning the hatchlings to the beaches, raise public awareness of the issue and help preserve the coastline and establish coastal nature reserves,” Levy says.

(Source: A battle of survival for the Med’s sea turtles)

Yori Yanover

IDF: Haredi Yeshiva Deans Cheat, Covering for No-Show Students

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Yesterday, during an in-camera session of the Knesset committee preparing the “equal burden” bill for its second reading before the plenum, the IDF representative at the meeting, Brigadier-Gen. Gadi Agmon, launched a vehement attack on the deans of Haredi yeshivas, accusing them of outright lying and covering up for students who are registered but do not show up for classes, Ma’ariv reported.

The legal arrangement between Israeli governments and Haredi yeshivas over the years, known as the “Torato umnuto” (his Torah study is his occupation) deal, recognized that young men whose only engagement was Torah scholarship would be absolved from enlisting in the army so long as they continue their studies. To be fair, the IDF has been giving similar deals to young men engaged in secular studies, but in many cases those deals involved attending students technical schools who went on to serve a longer stint, often using the skills they had learned.

The “Torato Umnuto” soon became a blanket covering the vast majority of Haredi young men, whether they were actually studying or not. It also turned out to be a two-edged sword, as those young men were barred from legal employment because of their military status, and so many were condemned to a life of dead-end jobs paid for illegaly.

This was the main purpose of the Tal Committee Law, which, back in 2002, was attempting to interject fairness and honesty into a seriously broken system. Many in the Haredi world have pointed to the steady stream of recruits, as well as the steadily rising numbers of Haredim both in the job market and in academic institutions as signs that the Tal law was working. But the Supreme Court, ever eager to equalize the country, was dissatisfied with what it considered lukewarm results and eventually killed the bill in the winter of 2012.

The new law, hammered out by the (Yesh Atid MK and Minister) Jacob Perry committee over the past six months, is a more sweeping version of the Tal law, calling for larger numbers of Haredi recruits in a shorter period of time. But while on paper the numbers might please the high court—in the Haredi world the Perry effort (which they usually pin on Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett’s back) is tantamount to at least the Russian Czar’s conscription of Jews, if not an outright holocaust.

This is the background of Brigadier-Gen. Agmon’s assault on the yeshiva deans, whom he sees as saboteurs of all the arrangements ever reached between the Zionist establishment and the Haredim, whether the Haredi representative were inside or outside the coalition government.

“It is inconceivable that deans of yeshivas would lie knowingly and sign for their students as if they’re present full time in the yeshivas, while in reality they’re not there,” Agmon, who serves as head of the Planning and Military Personnel Dept. in the IDF. “There are thousands who don’t study in the yeshivas [while stating that they are], but we don’t have the apparatus to enable us to identify them and enforce their enlistment,” he added.

Agmon’s appearance marked a distinct change in the IDF’s approach to the new draft legislation being cobbled in committee, this time headed by Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked. Until yesterday, the army stayed away from the discussion, essentially committing to carry out whatever the political echelon would decide. But the gloves were taken off yesterday, and all the spades were called out by the general.

MK Shaked decided to keep the session closed to the media, most likely to enable the Haredi committee members to speak frankly, away from their own newspapers which have been frothing at the mouth over the new bill for six months now. According to Ma’ariv, MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) and MK Ariel Atias (Shas) both agreed that a yeshiva boy who comes of age and is not attending classes should be drafted. Gafni went as far as to say that, should it be needed, those students should go to jail if they refuse to serve.

The problem is that that, too, is part of the Haredi parties’ kabuki theater, whereby they talk a good line, but when it comes to anyone actually encouraging those young men to inject a measure of honesty into their lives and go serve in the army – everybody is collaborating to keep them in the black garb, hat and all.

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/idf-yeshivas-cheat-covering-for-no-show-students/2013/08/06/

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