Marc: I’m a bit embarrassed that Ben found this photo of me… but what can you do? Another milestone for the boys! Today marks the 200th post of Six Degrees Of Kosher Bacon. A Mazel Tov to each other… why not… to our brilliant Guest Bloggers, and to you, our actively involved readers. Your comments and dialogue have inspired and educated us!
Ben: Yes. Nina Litvak’s comments… and I think someone else commented once in 2015.
M: LOL. We’ve actually had some great comments. In fact, my whole notion of Fearing G-d came from one of our readers. I used to hate the idea of us trembling and cowering in fear… But it was explained to me that it is more about our fear of losing our connection with G-d… fear of the consequences of our actions. That transformed me… the way I think… the way I pray… Amazing!
So… In honor of our 200th post, we decided to look at the letter reish, the 20th letter of the alef-beis… whose numerical value, is… you guessed it… 200. Gematria is the Kabbalistic system and study of looking at letters and words, and determining their numerical values and meanings, both obvious and mystical. Each and every letter has a specific design that works to explain its meaning and understanding, as well as its own numerical value.
I was expecting something positive and wonderful for the letter reish and its number 200, but its meaning took me by surprise, and at least initially, I perceived it to be quite negative.
According to Letters Of Light, by Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin, its design is “bent over” and thus represents a poor person. And because it lacks a yud, “the speech and intellect of this individual are for his own gratification.”
So “the word reish stands for rash, one who is poor.” It can also stand for “the word rasha, which means an evil person.” I was about to tell Ben that we might want to rethink this… but then the Rabbi brings this powerful notion into the equation…
“The reish, at times poor and at times wicked, has the ability to do Teshuvah. It can awake from its slumber and repent. The reish can truly be transformed into the rosh: the head of the Jewish people.”
We live in a world of opposites… and Judaism is no different. By definition, we cannot have good without evil… wealth without poverty, etc. It is how we perceive, recognize, understand and define these things. It is also what gives the words their power.
“So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
Yes, I did bring Willy Wonka into a Jewish post. Boom! But the quote actually originates in Shakespeare’s Merchant Of Venice… And yes, I am aware of the play’s anti-Semitic overtones.
While I do not think of myself as evil, I do feel poor at times. Poor compared to others… poor in my Jewish education and knowledge. And yet, at least for me, that was the very purpose of this whole endeavor… to learn more about Judaism, to track my progress and advancement through this blog, and to grow as a human being and a Jew! Not to repent so much, but mostly to return…
This is the meaning of Teshuvah that really strikes a chord for me… really puts so much in perspective… A return. A return to what I already was… what I already had within me… and where I want to be and go!
Ben: And for me I have to speak to the idea of discipline and consistency. It’s far better to do a little writing everyday than to think you’re going to get a bunch done on a Sunday. Doing a post every week and holding myself to it has been so essential to my development as a writer. There’s a Hebrew phrase Lilmod Ulelamed. Which means to learn for the sake of teaching. It’s one thing to go to a class or read a book to learn an interesting idea. It’s something else entirely to sit in that class and try to master the information for sake of giving it over. This blog has put me in that mindset more than I ever expected.
M: Could not agree with you more on that. When I think I have not done enough and am not further along the path, I have to remind myself how far I’ve come since before I went to Israel. Consistency is key. We must always move forward, even if it seems like only a small step. We are all individuals and all on our own journey. And while we must learn and understand Judaism, for it does truly feed our souls… we will all do it as we are able. We will not try to change it, but respect it and do what we can within it.
And as you said, Ben… knowledge is always best incorporated when we teach it… Teachers learn from their students. It is a dynamic and symbiotic relationship. When students challenge teachers… ask questions… want clarification… it forces the teachers to really make certain they themselves get it… and it often brings new and deeper perspectives and understandings.
So a special thanks to those who teach and mentor us… For me it has been Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld, Rabbi Avi Rabin, Howard Witkin, Jason Katz (Partners In Torah), Rabbi Shalom Denbo, Rabbi David Aaron (though I wish in person), and Rabbi Noah Weinberg (OBM). I’d also like to throw some Jewish shout outs to AISH and the JMI Trip To Israel, the Happy Minyan and Jonah and Stacy Light, whose generosity and hospitality had Ben and I at the same Shabbat table and at a David Sacks lecture, which is where this whole blog was birthed.
Ben: Special thanks to Rabbi Shalom Denbo, Rabbi Ron Jawary, David Sacks, Salvador Litvak, Elchonon Cohen , and of course Jonah and Stacey Light.
Let me just recap on the significance of reish/resh… which for the record, auto-correct keeps wanting to change to relish… Mmm… a Kosher hot dog with onions and relish and deli mustard sounds soooo good right now… or NY Red onions and sauerkraut and… Sorry, I digress…
We all may have moments when we feel poor… when we feel the evil inclination… but this does not have to define us. This may be nothing more than a test…a challenge… a way for Hashem to get us to rise above… to move from being “bent over”… to being elevated…
We all have the ability and the power to go from rash and rasha… to Rosh and Rebbe!
So lift yourselves up my friends… rise and celebrate! Here’s to another 200!