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  • Torah Reading: Naso
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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Taking Codes Seriously

I am impressed by the Torah Codes, but one thing I cannot understand: If they are so amazing and true, why doesn't the whole world take them more seriously? Why aren't people dropping everything and running off to Jerusalem to study in yeshiva?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Your question is very logical. But unfortunately most people make decisions based on emotion, not logic. (Any salesman will confirm this.)

Human beings tend to get into a lifestyle mode, where changes are uncomfortable. So we employ a wide variety of rationalizations to convince ourselves why the proposed change is really not worthwhile.

I imagine this is why some people stay in abusive relationships, or continue to work at dissatisfying jobs.

Another reason why some people may not be “open” to hearing the truth of Torah Codes is because science has given us a very satisfactory feeling of being able to understand and control our world. Acknowledging the existence of a Creator demands an investigation of what that Creator wants from us. This has vast implications – such as acknowledging absolute standards of behavior, accepting ultimate responsibility, humbling oneself before an Infinite Being, etc.

We say in the Aleynu prayer, that "You shall KNOW this day, and understand it well in your HEART, that the Almighty is God, in Heaven above and Earth below, there is none other" (Deut. 4:39). This tells us that it is not enough to simply know God in your head, you must also understand it in your heart.

Here's hoping that we all can get our head to speak to our heart, and live with what we intellectually know to be true.

Court Punishments

I recently heard a rabbi speak about returning stolen funds. He said that rather than calling the police, the money could be returned anonymously. What is wrong with facing any criminal charges that you may deserve? Isn't that a part of repentance?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Excellent question! The idea is like this:

Since a human court cannot determine what is in the heart of man, they have to punish according to the rules of the book, irrespective of regret.

God, on the other hand, knows what is in the heart of man, so He allows for sincere repentance that literally wipes the slate clean. In the event that a person admitted their mistake voluntarily, they clearly have remorse - and the matter can remain between himself and God, as long as the proper financial restitution is made.

But taking your principle to an extreme, I should turn myself into the police station every time I exceed the speed limit!

Of course, there is the concept that suffering helps achieve atonement. The reason this works is that when a person inclines too far to their physical desires and transgressions, the natural reparation is to lose some measure of physical comfort.

In this case, I think it is more productive to make amends privately and resolve not to do it again.

Names of Hebrew Months

How did the Hebrew months get their names? When did the names of the months come about and to whom are they attributed?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

If you look in the Bible, you'll see that the Hebrew months don't have names. Rather they have numbers, counting from the month of Nissan, which is described as "the first month" (Exodus 12:2).

In 1-Kings 6:2 the month of Iyar is referred to as the "month of Ziv." The word "ziv" is an adjective and means "radiance." Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov explains that it is called "radiance" because in this month the sun is in full radiance. Similarly, the Jewish people came into full radiance in this month, for they were made ready to receive the Torah during this month.

1-Kings 6:38 refers to the month of Cheshvan as "the month Bul," related to the word "baleh" which means, "withers," and the word "bolelin" which means "mixed." It is described in this fashion since the grass withers in this month, and the grain is mixed for the household livestock. The Radak explains that the word "bul" is related to "yevul" which means produce, since plowing and planting begins in this month.

Other names we use today are Babylonian in origin, adapted by the Jews some time during the Babylonian Exile, circa 400 CE. Ironically, the month of Tammuz is the name of an idol which appeared (via optical illusion) as if it was crying. This was achieved by putting soft lead into its eyes, and by kindling a small fire inside, which would melt the lead. This explains the reference in Ezekiel 8:14: "There were women sitting, causing the Tammuz to cry."

There are other opinions about the name of this month. Rashi says that the name Tammuz is an Aramaic word meaning "heat," since it is a hot summer month.

Another interesting note: Tammuz-17 was the name of the Iraqi nuclear reactor destroyed by Israel in 1981. It was so named because the 17th of Tammuz is the day that Jerusalem was sieged prior to the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, and Saddam Hussein was known to fancy himself as the heir to Nebuchadnezzar's fallen dynasty.

It's not any more unusual than the Western world whose months are connected to pagan practices: March is named after Mars, June is named after Juno, etc. Furthermore, even the days of the week - e.g. Sunday, Monday - are called after "sun" god and the "moon" god. The name Tuesday is connected to the Norse god of war.

Even though the names of the months are linguistically speaking Babylonian, they were adopted by the Jews with the understanding that they were Divinely inspired names, and are laden with kabbalistic nuances. Based on this, the Sages expounded the names of the months - e.g. Elul is an acronym for "ani ledodi vedodi li" (I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me”), and Nisan is the month of "nissim" (miracles).