April 14, 2024
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The Words of the Torah Provide Illumination in Many Ways

When I was in sixth grade, my friend, Meir Tannenbaum, would often share a gematria (the significance of the numerical value of words) or a “Torah code” (an embedded message) from the Baal HaTurim. I remember thinking, “That’s cute”—but nothing more. Years later, I heard a class from the Aish Discovery Program on Torah codes. One really blew me away: In Megillas Esther, the 10 sons of Haman, who were hanged, are listed prominently. Within those names, three letters are written much smaller than the rest: tav, shin and zayin. For thousands of years, this remained a mystery—until 1946.

On the day of Hoshana Rabbah (a day of judgment for Jews and non-Jews alike) in 1946, 11 Nazi war criminals were to be hanged for war crimes. The night before the execution, one committed suicide. On the morning of October 16, 1946, the 10 remaining Nazi criminals were hanged. The last one on the gallows, Julius Streicher, exclaimed, “And now I go to God,” and then shouted, “Purim Fest, 1946!”

What was the meaning of this enigmatic outburst and reference to Purim? Rav Michoel Dov Weissmandel connected the significance of the three small letters in the Megillah to the hanging of these 10 Nazis. The 10 Nazis who were hanged correspond to the 10 sons of Haman who were hanged. The 11th Nazi who committed suicide correlates to the daughter of Haman, who also committed suicide. What about tav, shin and zayin? The combined numerical value of these letters is 707. The Hebrew calendar year of the execution was (5)707. Purim once again… in our times!

My friend, Dovid Gurvitz, told me about a fascinating remez (hint) regarding a pasuk in parshas Beha’alosecha. The midrash says that the pasuk in Tehillim, “Peisach devarecha ya’ir … —The opening of your words shall illuminate … ” corresponds to the pasuk at the beginning of parshas Beha’alosecha. The verse says, “… ya’iru shivas haneiros—the seven lights of the Menorah shall illuminate.”

The Vilna Gaon explains that the components of the Menorah allude to the first pasuk of each sefer in the Chumash: The seven branches of the Menorah correspond to the first pasuk in Bereishis, which has seven words. The 11 knobs allude to the 11 words of the first pasuk in Shemos. The nine flowers refer to the first pasuk in Vayikra, which has nine words. The height of the menorah was 18 tefachim—corresponding to the first pasuk in Bamidbar—which has 17 words, plus the pasuk itself equals 18. And the 22 cups depicted on the Menorah refer to the first pasuk in Devarim, which has 22 words!

The Ramban says that Aharon felt left out of the korbanos of the Nesiim (the offerings of the tribal princes) described at the end of parshas Naso. Hashem comforted Aharon, telling him that he would be assigned a greater “offering:” the lighting of the Menorah. This alludes to the lighting of the Chanukah menorah, which—unlike korbanos—would be performed even when there is no Beis Hamikdash.

The Rokeach notes that there are 36 candles lit during the eight days of Chanukah. They correspond to the 36 hours in which the great light which Hashem created at the beginning of creation shined. Hashem felt that this light was too special to be available for mankind, and after 36 hours, He put this light away and reserved it to be enjoyed in Olam HaBa by tzaddikim. The Bnei Yissaschar says that on Chanukah, all Jews are elevated to the level of tzaddikim, and we can all enjoy the special light via the 36 Chanukah lights.

During the rest of the year, this light is hidden inside the words of the Torah. The commentaries explain that the light of the menorah represents the illumination provided by the Torah shel baal peh (oral law). The oral Torah provides a deeper meaning, which illuminates the words of the Torah. Furthermore, when we learn Torah carefully and properly, it shines light and meaning into our lives.

Let us seek counsel and guidance from our great Torah luminaries, who delve into this special light which guides us in our own Torah journey!


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com 

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