Looking at Intermarriage

Devarim 7:7 – “Not because you were more numerous than any people did God find satisfaction in you and choose you, for you were the fewest of all the peoples.”

Throughout history we have ALWAYS been in the competition for “fewest of all the peoples.”

And yet…

“The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew: all other forces pass, but he remains. WHAT IS THE SECRET OF HIS IMMORTALITY?”

~ Mark Twain, “Concerning The Jews”

The secret Mark Twain is looking for is not such a big secret. The secret is Hashem. It is Hashem’s mechanism for preserving His people. The secret is hard to see only until the secret is revealed. From then on it’s easy to see.

The Jews COULD BE as populous in the world as the Christians or the Muslims… IF our ranks had not been continuously thinned out and held in check by the rest of the world. We Jews have been subject to non-stop hatred and persecution. We have been tortured, and we have been murdered, and it has been neverending though history. That is half of the explanation to why we are few, the physical attacks against ourselves. It doesn’t tell us why we Jews still exist however.

Spiritual attacks are the other half of why we are few. Those attacks come in a variety of forms; forbidding Torah study, davening, Rosh Chodesh, Yom Tov, bris milah, tefillin, and so forth. All this reinforces our paucity, but still doesn’t tell us how we survived as a people.

Spiritual attacks today are not coming in forbidding adherence to Jewish law so much as something else, something far more insideous and more difficult to understand; enticements toward intermarriage and assimilation. These are the “nice” attacks, the “sweet” attacks, the “sugared-coated poison” attacks.

To keep this piece from going too long I will focus the rest of this narrative on intermarriage.

God forbids intermarriage. Nechemya (Nehemiah) 10:30-31 – “…observe and fulfill all the commandments of God, our Lord, and His laws and His decrees, and that we would not give our daughters (in marriage) to the peoples of the land (non-Jews), nor take their daughters for our sons…”

The prohibition against intermarriage is clear, yet intermarriage is now rampant within our ranks. A look at some statistics will be most helpful. For discussion purposes, I will use the “National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) Of Year 2000.” You can view the charts here.

The intermarriage rates stand at around 50% for reform and non-affilliated, around 32% for conservative, and around 6% for orthodox Jewry. At this rate we are looking at the death throes of the Reform and Conservative Movements right now. A generation or two more and they will be gone…poof!

To forstall the inevitable, drastic measures have been taken and more are on the way in order to hang on for dear…(cough) life. For example, the Reform rewrote God in their own image when they decided that patrilineal descent can also keep the children Jewish.

God demonstrates this fallacy in Ezra, Chapter 10, Verses 2-3 – “…We (Jews) have trespassed against our God, and have taken “nashim nachrios” (non-Jewish women)…Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all such women and all that are born to them…and let it be done according to the Torah.”

Jewish men must leave their non-Jewish wives. No “gett” (Jewish divorce decree) is required because God does not recognize Jewish intermarriage. AND, because the women were not Jewish, meaning the children were also NOT JEWISH, the children are being left behind as well. If you think that is harsh, understand that God expects His Jewish Covenant to be adhered to in every respect. God says it is life and death…”CHOOSE LIFE!” (Devarim 30:19)

If it was Jewish WOMEN who were married to non-Jewish MEN, the children would not have been left behind, because, being from Jewish mothers, the children would also have been Jewish.

Likewise, one of the examples of the Conservatives rewriting God in their own image happened when they VOTED that driving on Shabbos was now allowed…so long as they only drove to shul.

God is very clear about being rewritten. Many of the Taryag Mitzvos are dedicated to these kinds of infractions. This subject should be studied in depth from Devarim, Chapter 13. It isn’t pretty.

What is now clearly happening is that the current, less than 200 year old emanation of the Reform and Conservative Movements, are unraveling and on the road to extinction. As in the past, observant Jewry will repopulate the nation, only to begin the self-perpetuating cycle of Jewish collapse and renewal once again. We wait for Moshiach to straighten everything out once and for all, and this time…forever.

Judaism is like a tree with lots of dead end branches. It is our job as Jews to stay on the trunk and not get pushed off onto one of the dead end branches, or a leaf that goes brown and blows away. We need to be on the tree’s trunk, and that is where we want our progeny to be as the final act in God’s play unfolds.

Meanwhile, what is the attraction of intermarriage? Why do so many of us fall to its allure? I am going to throw some additional numbers at you and then make some points.

Jews are 1/4 of 1% of the world’s population. That is, for every Jew there are 400 non-Jews. To better understand what this means, I am going to focus on America, which entertains the world’s largest Jewish population. Still and all, Jews are outnumbered in America by around 50 to 1.

For many of those “50,” CATCHING a Jew is an prize of extreme value. The Jew is sought after for his mystique. He is vaunted for his intellect. They think the Jew is wealthy, and sometimes he is. The Jew is treasured in THEIR minds because he is the one who was chosen by God. Acquiring a Jewish mate for many of the 50 is as good to them as it is to a child acquiring his first bicycle.

Most of these 50 don’t have a clue that for the Jew marriage to them is a sin before God, and that if they help the Jew commit this sin they have earned a share in this very major transgression. For many of them they see only the opposite. If they can bring a the Jew even an inch closer to THEIR OWN beliefs, they are doing that Jew the biggest favor of his life, and they will be blessed by the Lord. They don’t view themselves as villains creating the means for sin. In their eyes, they are heroes, even saints.

Let’s say that 20% of those 50 would actually make the attempt to snare the Jew if they had the opportunity. Of that 20%, let’s say half at some point find themselves in close enough proximity to a Jew to have a shot at enticing him (or her). For every single Jewish man or woman out there, that means there may be 5 or more non-Jewish men or women after YOUR potential mate.

Think about this 5-1. Who are these 5? Look at it from the point of view of the girls: What is a Jewish woman competing with? These 5 non-Jews are ready to give YOUR guy whatever wants, whatever he is looking for. If he wants SEX, two or more of them will be glad to give it to him. If he wants intellect, one of more of them will have an ample supply. If he wants sweetness and charm, one or more will be there to oblige. If he wants gorgeous, a runway model, one or more will be close enough. Whatever he wants…it’s there, and they are YOUR competition for YOUR potential guy.

What are you going to do about it ladies? Are you going to give him sex because it’s the only way you think you can compete with your nemesis? Is it any wonder that Jewish tznius (modesty) and self worth have plummeted in recent times?

Why do these non-Jews have any capability of competing with you? It should be no contest. They have NOTHING to offer. YOU have everything. The problem is, too many of us have forgotten that we are Jews. To many of us no longer know how Jews are supposed to live. Too many of us have lost the meaning of being Jewish and the importance of our heritage.

This is why reform is intermarrying at 50%, conservative at 32%, and orthodox at 6%. When we stay with what God tells us, we stay Jewish. When we don’t, we get swallowed up like Yonah. It is because we are chosen and because we are the smallest of the peoples, that the today’s world is so divided on what to do with us: Kill us, or love us to death.

Adventures In Hachnasas Orchim

We travel back to the mid 1980s. A very important ingredient in my metamorphosis from assimilated to BT were the people from my chosen community, who ALWAYS invited me to one of their homes for every single Shabbos and Yom Tov meal. These meals were rich and very rewarding experiences, and as I transitioned to frumkeit, I was of the impression that this was how all frum communities worked all the time. If you are a Jew in shul, the community finds out if you are set up for meals, and if not, they do whatever is necessary to fill that void. I found out later with my wider experiences that I was sadly mistaken about this, but that is not the subject matter for this piece.

There came a point where I began feeling awkward about constantly receiving from the community without ever giving back. After I learned the ropes of what it meant to keep a kosher home — this didn’t happen overnight — I made a radical change in my modus operandi to rectify this situation. Every Shabbos I would prepare one meal at home and invite guests. That is, I would go to a community home for one meal, and I would stay in my own home one meal and invite guests.

Typically, I would invite one or two married couples along with a number of single people. I would also seek guests who were attending services but had no scheduled place for themselves for a Shabbos meal. Typically I would have 8-10 guests, with 15 being the highest on record.

The number of guests never really mattered to me. If people were available one way or another I would find a way to make it work. I was never short of food, so that wouldn’t be a problem. I always prepared plenty and then I lived on the leftovers for the rest of the week. I was single at the time and I never got tired of Shabbos leftovers. I still never tire of Shabbos leftovers, and I highly recommend the practice of overdoing your Shabbos food preparations. You carry Shabbos with you into the week with your cuisine, and you have that much less to prepare on a daily basis.

Back on subject however, I didn’t title this writing, “Adventures in Hachnasas Orchim” for nothing, so here are a few of the many adventures that live in my memory .. learning experiences one and all.

My entire community functioned pretty much the same way during Shabbos meals. The rabbi spoke both Friday night and Saturday and we would try to recall at our tables what the rabbi had spoken about, trying to remember all of his points as best we could. Some community members seemed to have total recall, and would literally repeat every single word. For those who could do so, this was especially nice for the wives who didn’t come to shul. We would add divrei Torah of our own — I myself would also be prepared with something — and then there would always be zemiros (songs).

We had a very nice bentcher that the whole community used, which included around 70 zemiros arranged and numbered. Someone would call out a number and we would sing the zemer (song) to one niggun (tune) or another. One of the favorite jokes of the community was that we didn’t have to sing the zemiros anymore. All we had to do is call out the number and it would be as if we had actually sung the song.

If any of the female guests joined in the singing, nobody stopped her or said anything to her. In no way would we embarrass a newbie in the process of taking in a beautiful Shabbos experience.

That was the thing about hachnasis orchim in our community. New people flocked to us, probably because of our cordiality in reaching out to them. It certainly helped with yours truly. We wanted our orchim to take home with them nothing but positive experiences. Of course we also have seichal and would speak to individuals privately about various things when we deemed it appropriate, but that’s another story and not for this article.

Kol isha was one issue we were very sensitive about, and hand shaking was another. Many times, for example, my guests would want to shake my hand before departing, and that of course included the ladies. Technically speaking, this is an halachic predicament. A man is not supposed to take a woman’s hand, but then again, a man is definitely not supposed to embarrass her. I would have to choose between the two, take her hand, or say something she could conceivably find offensive or uncomfortable. My choice was to smile and shake her hand.

Speaking of offensive or uncomfortable … and I’ll throw in embarrassing … I’ll dedicate the rest of this piece to a few “sensitive” moments in my hachnasas orchim career that I will never forget. Call them golden orchim oldies.

I once had a guest who was an aspiring professional comedian. He was a Jew with zero experience at any observant Shabbos tables. As he was used to livening up parties with his humor, he kept trying to crack jokes and make people laugh. The problem was that in the world he knew and loved, his jokes were funny, but in our far more spiritual world, his jokes were embarrassing and highly inappropriate.

Nobody knew what to say to this man. All we could do was be polite and smile. Eventually he realized that he wasn’t connecting at our table in any way. I could tell he was anguishing over this, and he started sweating profusely. Finally it looked like he just couldn’t stand it anymore. He simply stood up and walked out. It was one of the more helpless moments I have ever experienced. A rare moment I might add, where I was at a total loss for words.

Another time there was a young woman at the table who asked if she could turn off a fan. I told her that on Shabbos we Jews don’t turn fans off or on. I did not realize she was seething over my answer. At the end of the meal, she chastized me harshly for my lack of concern for her comfort, telling me that any sensitive person would have permitted her to shut off that fan.

I missed my cues on that one. I didn’t have an inkling how troubled she was that I would allow a fan to bother her meal. It never occurred to me the fan was really that disturbing. After all, I had Shabbos meals with guests in my home every week and nobody ever complained about the fan before. Had I understood better, I think I would at least have offered to find her a different seat at the table, even my own. To this day I’m bothered that I wasn’t sensitive enough to see that something was going on that needed my attention. I’m sure I would have tried harder to find a way to salvage the Shabbos experience for her.

Then there’s the story of my beef stew. My beautiful beef stew. One Erev Shabbos, I was following a recipe, preparing the ingredients, cutting the meat, slicing the potatoes, carrots, onions, and dropping everything in. Then I would add the spices, which included one simple tiny little teaspoon of salt. I picked up my large round box of salt, held the spoon over the pot, and began to pour the salt slowly into the spoon. What happened next is one of the reasons I have always felt certain that Hashem, besides being perfect in everyway, also has an infinite sense of humor.

For no reason the bottom of the salt container just fell off, and the entire package of salt fell into my stew, except for the little teaspoon of salt still in my hand. I panicked of course. I didn’t have time to make a new dinner. I removed the salt from my stew as best I could. Then I emptied the pot and washed everything including washing every single piece of meat individually.

How do you think my Shabbos dinner came out that night?

I’m glad you asked. I’ll tell you. Dinner that night was a disaster, and not edible. The salt had permeated everything, particularly the meat. Most of us could only look at the food. One of my guests however seemed totally oblivious to the pain of this meal, or of the discomfort felt by the others seated at the table. He actually seemed to be enjoying his dinner, AND HE REQUESTED SECONDS, which he also finished with relish.

Was he REALLY enjoying the meal, or was he merely the perfect guest capable of sugarcoating the salt if that is what it took to please his host? I don’t know the answer, but if it’s the latter … WOW!

By the way, that incident with the salt could never happen to me today. Way back when, I didn’t understand how kosher meat was prepared and salted. In fact, I would later learn that kosher meat was already the most salted meat on the face of the planet before you ever get it past the checker at the grocery, as a result of the kashering process.

Since I discovered this about Jewish meat, never ever do I add salt to ANY meat recipe. Even when I buy things like barbecue sauces, if I see salt in the ingredients, I don’t purchase it. I find some other brand or something else to buy instead. For the same reason, I don’t buy spices that are mixtures that include salt.

When God gave the Kohanim his “bris melach” (covenant of salt), BaMidbar 18:19, that was an indication that just as salt is a preservative, so would this relationship be eternally preserved. My stew didn’t need to be eternally preserved.

It’s Mashgiach, Not Moshiach

Among my regular Jewish activities, I work as a mashgiach. I thank Hashem for the opportunity to work within the needs of the Jewish community, and I involve myself with a considerable amount of kiruv. I’ll give you some examples.

This Shabbos I oversaw a luncheon in a non-observant (conservative in this case) temple. Here I want the people to notice that I will attend to the kashrus of their center, but they will never see me in their sanctuary during a service (that’s also kiruv). When I’m asked by the curious, “How do they conduct a bar (or bas) mitzvah at this conservative temple,” I reply that since I won’t enter their sanctuary during a service, I don’t know the answer to their question.”

While working such an event, I consider it one of my personal missions in life to help the Jewish attendees realize that Jews are to wash “al netilas yadayim” before eating bread. In this vein I make sure the caterer always prepares a complete and noticable washing station. I also place an easy-to-read sign that I made on my computer that contains the rules and brachos (in Hebrew, English, and transliteration) for washing.

At most conservative events, usually very people wash, and sometimes nobody washes at all, but at least people see the washing station, can read the informative sign, and can wonder about it all (that’s kiruv too).

At this particular Shabbos event no one at all was washing. I was disappointed. I actually get a thrill when I see a non-observant Jew wash before bread. That may not be YOUR definition of excitement, but for me it’s as good as a Disneyland adventure.

So no one is washing on this day, when suddenly a young girl, 12 or 13, began walking in a beeline toward the washing station. I was impressed with this young lady, as she was even carrying HER OWN empty cup. I observed from across the room as she stopped at the washing station, peered at the sign, took the water pitcher, and filled the cup she was carrying. Then she lifted the cup to her mouth, took a drink, and walked away. I was devastated.

Another of my favorite mashgiach activity, when in conservative temples, takes place with most Saturday lunches. The host or hostess of an event will usually ask the caterer to pack up any unused food for them to take home. They expect that they will put the food into their cars as soon as the event is over and drive it home.

NOT on my watch however. They are welcome to whatever food the caterer wants to give to them, but that food is not leaving the building until SHABBOS (not the event) is over. If the people want that food, they’ll have to come back for it.

Sometimes they become somewhat angry. That’s okay. To me, it’s a Kiddush Hashem, as well as an important teaching opportunity. The hosts might say, “Why are you letting us take the flowers home if you won’t let us take the food?” I answer, “I don’t have any control over the flowers, I only have control over the food. If I could stop you from taking the flowers, I’d do that also.” Or I might have occasion to say it somewhat akin to: “If you wish to violate Jewish law, that’s your personal choice, but I’m not going to participate in that choice by allowing you to take that food before Shabbos is over.”

I remember once someone called the headquarters of the kashrus agency where I work to complain about me. When informed of the complaint I asked, “So what did I do this time?”

“They said you helped their grandfather make the bracha over washing and motzi and he was greatly embarrassed that he needed the help.”

Well, I realize that it is a big aveira to embarrass a Jew, and I do attempt to be low key and tactful when I try to assist, but somehow I just don’t think this is the kind of embarrassment Hashem had in mind by this prohibition. (See Vayikra 19:17)

I also practice kiruv to the orthodox. It is my own opinion, perhaps the only such opinion in the world, that orthodox Jews need kiruv as much or more than non-observant Jews, and that includes the so-called FFBs.

I remember requiring at an orthodox event that a group of orthodox men desist from opening or using Canadian Club Premium scotch whisky. Oh they were MAD at me, but I stood my ground and they yielded…begrudgingly.

“All scotch is kosher,” they would say.

“Canadian Club Premium is a blend. Single malt is just scotch, but a blend has addititives, and in this case part of the additives include non-kosher wine,” I would respond.

“But Rabbi Moshe Feinstein allows up to 20% of non-kosher wine in a mix,” one man retorted (these are orthodox Jews remember, and much better equipped to look for argumentative ways to try and defeat me).

“Rabbi Moshe Feinstein made that teshuva about a mix of water containing up to 20% non-kosher wine. If you want to substitute scotch for water, then you had better ask Rabbi Feinstein, because I think it’s a stretch…unless there is more to the teshuva I am not aware of. Water damages the taste of wine which I believe is the basis for its Rabbi Feinstein’s bedieved acceptance. Do you really think that the scotch also damages the taste of the wine, or might the scotch even improve the taste?”

Do not now go out trying to figure ways to drink non-kosher wine. Halacha is a very technical field only to be decided by the experts. Consult your rabbi first and I hope he chews you out.

These guys weren’t finished with me yet. After all, Jews are a stiff-necked people. They named another kosher certifying agency that they said ALLOWS ALL SCOTCH, even when blended with non-kosher wine.

Here’s what I answered: “Gentlemen, whether that is true or not, this synagogue is not under the hashgacha of the certifying agency you are mentioning. This synagogue is under a different hashgasha that DOES NOT
permit such a blend.”

One of the main areas (not the only area) where kiruv is desperately needed amongst even orthodox Jews is that of accepting authority. Often we are too zealous to challenge rulings we don’t like. Rulings can be investigated and studied, but there is a process, and Jews need to be patient and pursue their ideas in a correct fashion, and swallow their pride if they don’t get their way.

All of this brings me to the one person who needs kiruv the most, in my humble opinion. It isn’t the non-observant, and it isn’t the observant, it’s ME, just ME. I’m always feeling inadequate in my Judaism and I know I need to search for ways to improve. My wife, Leah Hudis Esther, is tactful, but not shy in letting me know if she thinks I could or should be improving in one way or another. That is my definition of looking out for me, and I like her for that. I’d like to think that others are looking out for me in that way as well. That’s kiruv.

Let me make myself the subject of scrutiny for the sake of understanding. I think I am sometimes in danger of getting a swelled head (what, ME?). I think it’s fair to say that I usually (not always) have the upper hand when debating and discussing much due to the knowledge and experiences I have gained over the years. Although fair to say, it also places me at risk of being arrogant, condescending, and lacking in proper humility.

Hashem also does kiruv. It is no accident that I am a mashgiach. I am fully aware of Hashem’s guiding hand hidden in the background. Occasionally, I find myself washing and checking lettuce for bugs. For a mashgiach, it goes with the territory. Deep inside me however, I have an awareness that I consider this kind of work to be beneath me. It isn’t beneath me, and that’s the point. I feel it is, but I know it’s not, and this part of the job is a great help in reminding me that I am nothing more than a humble servant before Hashem. I cannot stress how important it is for us to understand this.

When I realize how valuable this activity is for my personal development I smile and thank Hashem for HIS kiruv.


Let’s switch gears for a minute, because I think this is a topic you would like to hear about. Checking lettuce has had other effects on me as well. When my wife, and/or myself, prepare a head of romain lettuce, we wash and agitate the lettuce in water with soap. We then rinse each individual leaf thoroughly, both front and back. Finally we check each leaf, againfront and back, very carefully, over a Logan Futura light box that we keep in our kitchen. You see, I have learned first hand that there are bugs in lettuce…often lots of them. You wouldn’t even know many of them were there if you didn’t know what you were looking for.

Knowing about the bugs in lettuce and what it takes to get rid of them has changed our lives in other ways as well. When friends invite us over for a meal, where kashrus is not in question, we will go to the meal. We will eat their main courses and their desserts. My wife and I however will not eat their salad, unless, we know that they know how to properly eliminate the bugs. (Note: Straight iceberg lettuce in bags that have a reliable hechsure would not be a problem.)

End of tangent.

Finally, whilst still on the subject of kiruv, I don’t want to leave out the non-Jewish world. Non-Jews need kiruv too. Call it Noachide kiruv, but it is kiruv nonetheless. Everybody needs kiruv.

BTW, to all those non-Jewish chefs and non-Jewish catering and service people, please be apprised when you are speaking to me that the word is MASHGIACH, not MOSHIACH!

The Omer (Part II) The Ultimate TS (Tinok Shenishba)

The tinok shenishba is the “kidnapped Jewish child”.

Question: Who is he kidnapped from, his parents?

Answering that question yes or no would be missing the point. After all,the parents might well be the kidnappers. The tinok shenishba is the Jew who has been kidnapped from Hashem, kidnapped from the vital knowledge requisite to understanding one’s role before G-d. In our day and age it is usually the case that the parents of a tinok shenishba themselves fall into the category of tinok shenishba. One cannot teach what one has never known.

At this moment I am thinking of a particular tinok shenishba. He is a baby, only months old. There is a blood lusting monster who wants this little baby dead and will stop at nothing to see him dead, and this is real. There is no stopping this monster and it intends to scavenge every cranny of every house until it finds this baby and murders him.

The desperate parents know the monster is coming. They take a gamble that offers the baby little hope for survival, but little is better than nothing. A broken-hearted mother waterproofs a basket, gently sets her baby inside, and places the basket amongst the reeds at the edge of a river. The mother’s neshama cries to the high Heavens as she turns around and walks away.

Who would have believed that the deadly monster had a daughter who would find the baby in the river, care for him, and raise him as her own?


The Omer period begins the night following the initial Seder and is designed for continuous movement up the 50 rung spiritual ladder between the impure and the pure. At the end of seven weeks, 7 x 7 days, the pinnacle of our journey is reached. Next stop: Day number 49 + 1: Shavuous.

Moshe Rabbeinu, the ultimate tinok shenishba, had ascended to the 49th level of purity during his lifetime.


The numbers 49 and 50 appear to be highly significant and closely related. I am going to speak briefly about Hashem’s Torah codings. First however I have to blow some chaff away from the grain. There are essentially two kinds of Torah Codes, esoteric and clear.

Too many times I have seen the people using esoteric examples to try and discredit the clear codings. One may as well use examples of lamb chops to try and discredit broccoli. They are not the same thing. An esoteric code, for a wild example, might be used to try and discover what color socks I’m going to wear next Tuesday. The clear codes are of a different ilk, as we shall see…and with an Omer bent.

One of the many varieties of Torah codes is known as ELS, or Equidistant Letter Spacing.

I hope you will participate in the rest of this post. Knowledge of the Hebrew alef-beis will be a prerequisite however. Take out a Chumash, and open it up to the first Verse of Bereishis (Genesis). Go to the letter “tav” in the very first word, which is Bereishis. NOW, keep your place, but turn to the first Verse of the second Book of the Torah, Shemos (Exodus). Again look at the “tav” in the beginning, in the word “shemos.”

From both “tavs” count 50 letters. Each time you will arrive on a “vav.”
From both “vavs” count 50 letters. Each time you will arrive on a “reish.”
From both reishes count 50 letters. Each time you will arrive on a “hei.”

Tav – vav – reish – hei spells Torah, and you used the Code of 50 to get there in each case.

I hope you agree when you look at this that there is nothing accidental here. It is clear. It should not be lost on anyone that 50 also matches the 49 + 1 count of the Omer period, as well as the 49 + 1 count that carries us to the Yovel (Jubilee year), when Eretz Yisrael is required to have a Yovel year.

The Code of 50 seems to be the key coding system in the Torah.


Now that you’ve seen the obvious, I’m going to paint a little picture. It’s my picture, so you can like it…or not like it…agree with it…or not agree with it. I think it’s flawless, but you are now the art critic, not me. Here we go.

I own an ELS computer program. Assuming I am using the program correctly, the WORD Torah is found IN THE TORAH 32 times in the Code of 50. 19 of those 32, Torah is spelled forward (Tav-vav-reish-hei), and the other 13 times, Torah is spelled in reverse (hei-reish-vav-Tav). That’s not very many, and we have already seen two of them in the first two words of Bereishis and Shemos.

I’d also like you to know that the word Torah is found only 15 times in the Code of 48, 16 times in the Code of 49, 15 times in the Code of 51, and 16 times in the Code of 52. It seems far more than coincidental that the Code of 50 doubles these numbers: 15 – 16 – 32 – 15 -16. There is much more I can write about this, but I’m trying very hard not to make this piece too


Let’s move on. We look at BaMidbar 8:1, concerning the Menorah in the Mishkan – “…kindle the lamps toward the face of the Menorah…”

That is, the flames on the right are to face toward the left, and the flames on the left are to face toward the right. The flame in the middle is not to join with either side, but acts to bring all the lights together as a unifying force.

I am going to apply this thought to our word Torah by the Code of 50.

The Book of Vayikra is the unifying force in the middle. Indeed, the word Torah is not encoded anywhere around the beginning of Vayikra, neither written forward nor in reverse.

In the next Book, BaMidbar, we return again turn to the very first Verse, this time to the word, “Moshe.” From the “hei,” in Moshe, count every 50 letters. You will again spell Torah, this time in reverse, hei-reish-vav-tav. This would be consistent with facing the middle flame.


This brings us to Devarim. Devarim has a unique and significant difference from the rest of the Torah. Sometimes the Torah is considered to be two volumes. Volume 1, the first four Books, the Word of Hashem, and Volume II, the fifth Book, Devarim, the word of Moshe Rabbeinu.

Devarim, Chapter 1, Verse 1 – “These are the words that Moshe spoke to kol Yisrael…”

You will not find the word Torah in the Code of 50 in the first Verse of Devarim, as you will in Bereishis, Shemos, and BaMidbar. It needs to be taken into account that Devarim is the BOOK OF MOSHE, and Moshe reached the 49th level during his lifetime, not the 50th.

As Moshe’s Book, the fifith book, we turn to Chapter 1 of Devarim, but Verse FIVE. The word Torah is found in the Code of 49, written in reverse, as with Bereishis, Shemos, and BaMidbar, this Devarim code is also facing the center flame. To find this code in Devarim, go the word HaTorah in the 5th Verse (naturally). Now count every 49 letters.

The Ultimate BT and The Omer

I am thinking of a man by the name of Ben Kalba Savua.

Ben Kalba was a wealthy Jew who made a fortune in both the meat and textile industries. One of his employees was a JFB, which means a John Fitzgerald…oops…excuse me..it means a Jew From Birth. I don’t know how frum this Jew could have been. He was the son of a righteous ger, but his knowledge of Yiddishkeit was severely lacking. He couldn’t even read the alef-beis. In fact, this man was not only an am ha-aretz by the standards of his day, he would likely be considered an am ha-aretz even by the vastly dimished standards of our day. On top of this, he had a genuine distaste for real Torah scholars.

With this information one should not be surprised to hear that Ben Kalba, who wanted to match his daughter with a Torah scholar, was not a happy camper on the day he was informed that she was intent on marrying this… nobody. Ben Kalba reacted by cutting his daughter off from inheriting any of his fortune.

What could have caused a child of the rich and well meaning Ben Kalba to make such an irrational and irresponsible decision? The answer is that her motivations were neither irrational nor irresponsible. Ben Kalba’s daughter was no ordinary woman. She understood that there were commodities in the world of far greater importance than wealth or luxury. In fact, for some people, wealth and luxury occupy a very low rung on their ladder of priorities.

On the outside, Ben Kalba’s daughter saw a man unique in his gentleness of manner and in his modesty, and she also saw an untapped wellspring of Torah potential inside the man. A wellspring that lacked only an avenue through which it could flow and flourish.

Against her father’s wishes they were married.

In case you haven’t yet figured it out yet, the subject of this piece is Rabbi Akiva along with his aishes chayil, the tzadekes Rachel. They married and had a son named Yehoshua. Part of the agreement that Rachel made with Akiva was that at an appropriate time, he would leave home in order to attend yeshiva and learn. In my humble opinion I don’t think very many Jewish woman would be willing to make such a demand upon their husbands.

Akiva took his son Yehoshua and they left for yeshiva together. In the beginning they even learned together, starting with the alef-beis. Soon however they had to learn separately as each would progress at his own speed. How wonderful it would be if yeshivos today would admit the sincere baalei teshuva to learn with the yeladim and bachorim, at whatever level they needed to help them catch up on what they missed growing up… AND allowing them to skip ahead according to the ability and perseverence of each individual. We might find mini versions of Rabbi Akiva suddenly appearing out of nowhere throughout the Jewish world. That is my personal definition of loving my fellow Jew, however impractical it may seem.

Akiva spent 12 years in concentrated study and came home having risen to incredible Torah heights and having established a large following of his own. After spending time at home with Rachel, it was the desire of his dear wife that Akiva again leave home to continue the rewarding work he had begun. Akiva departed for another 12 years.

What I have related is only one piece of the life of a Torah giant who not only reached for the stars…but actually touched them. Between purity and impurity there are 50 levels. Moshe Rabbeinu had ascended to the 49th level of purity during his lifetime. Rabbi Akiva had entered the realm of level number 50.

One of Rabbi Akiva’s life achievements was a sefer he wrote called, “Osios d’Rabbi Akiva,” in which he explained deep mystical understandings for each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alef-beis.


Up to this point I have brought out various insights and information. I am now going to attempt to take these ideas apart and reassemble into a new picture I’m going to call, “The Omer.”


The divisions of the Torah Verses, known as pasukim, come from Sinai. There are 5,846 of them. I verified this myself by counting and numbering every Verse from Bereishis 1:1 to Devarim 34:12. For example, ask me to cite Verses 2,447 and 2,448 and I should be able to do so in less than 30

Actually I already decided on those two Verses because they coincide with the timeline of the Makkos (Plagues), followed by Yetziyas Mitzrayim, the Omer period, and culminating with Har Sinai on Shavuous. Unfortunately the Egel Hazahav found its way into this time period as well. All of this occurred in the Hebrew years 2,447 and 2,448.

So let’s look at Torah Verse # 2,447 and Torah Verse # 2,448, which land us on Shemos, Chapter 32, Verses 11-12 – “Then Moshe supplicated before G-d, his G-d, and said: For what purpose, O G-d, should your wrath flare against your people who You have brought forth out of eretz Mitzrayim, with great power and with a mighty hand?…Turn back from your glowing wrath…”

I don’t know about you but I am startled by this seemingly uncanny synchronicity between the events of 2,447-48 and the Verses 2,447-48. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel compelled to tell you that matching up Torah Verses with Hebrew years has startled me many times.


The Omer period, which begins the night following the initial Seder, is designed to be a time for a continuous spiritual climb up the 50 rung ladder, away from all that is impure, and toward all that is pure. At the end of seven weeks, 7 x 7 days, the pinnacle of our journey is reached. Next stop: Day number 49 + 1: Shavuous.

If I have written understandably to this point and you are still with me, let’s now move into one of countless tangents which are found everywhere when studying the Torah. My rabbi once told me that of the 5,846 Verses comprising the Torah, only two contain all 22 Hebrew letters. I found this information very exciting, but that’s just me. If anyone knows of any other such Verses I would be most interested in hearing about them.

Here are the Verses:

VERSE 1 – Shemos (Exodus) 16:16 – “This is the thing that G-d has commanded, ‘Gather from it (the manna from Heaven), for every man according to what he eats – an omer per person – according to the number of your people, according to whomever is in his tent shall you take.'”

VERSE 2 – Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:34 – “Or has any god miraculously come to take for himself a nation from amidst a nation, with challenges, with signs, and with wonders, and with war, and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with greatly awesome deeds, such as everything that the Lord, your God, did for you in Mitzrayim (Egypt) before your eyes?”

Notice that these two Verses are directly linked. In the first G-d has just drowned the Mitzrim in the Yam Suf and the mon is about to fall from the sky. This will provide the Jewish people with the sustenance they will need for their sojourn in the midbar. In the second Verse Yetziyas Mitzrayim has become a memory. On the Seder night however we are to reminisce those events as if we were going through it at that very moment.


When I was first made aware of these two Verses containing all 22 Hebrew letters I felt compelled to do something. I couldn’t wait I raced to count how many letters were in each Verse. I don’t know why but I just had to know. To say that I was startled (again) would be an understatement. The Torah startles me all the time.

There were exactly 70 letters in the first Verse, the number given for the nations of the world. There were exactly 120 letters in the second Verse, the years of life for both Moshe and Akiva. The first Verse talks about the total reliance the Jews would now have on G-d. We add 50 letters, the number of rungs from the bottom to the top of the ladder, and we reach the 120 letters of the second Verse. The second Verse is a constant reminder to us of where we came from and where we have ascended. It is the central theme of Pesach. Dayenu!

Oh…and Ben Kalba Savua did teshuva and gave Akiva and Rachel half his fortune.

The BT, A Stranger In A Strange Land

I became a BT 24 years ago. Prior to that, I was strictly BLT.

Making the transition from BLT to BT was an adventure, filled with memories that profoundly embarrass me to this very day. After all, I didn’t know ANYTHING! I was raised in an assimilated home which spoke very little about G-d, Judaism, or anything even remotely Jewish. How I stumbled into REAL Judaism is another story, not for this post, but I will say that G-d reached out an arm and I latched on.

During my first year discovering Jewish observance, I drove to shul on Fridays and Saturdays. I would park my car blocks away and out of sight. One day, just as I was getting into my car to drive home, my rabbi walked by and saw me. He knew that I drove, how could he not? Still, I said to him, “Rabbi, I was really hoping you wouldn’t see me doing this.” My rabbi replied, serious, yet non-threatening, “What do you want me to do, hit you over the head with a stick?” That must have been a good line since I still remember it.

Then one day I received a phone call from a synagogue member who had an apartment for rent in the community. He asked me if I might be interested? I imagine he must have been shocked when I moved in the next day. Driving on Shabbos would now become no more than a faint memory of a past life. This is just one from a storehouse of retrospectives on how I found my way back to my Jewish roots. As I review the events which led up to my return, and to this very day, it isn’t hard for me to see that Hashem was leaving His business card every step of the way.

After moving into my new home in the community I recall the thrill of one day being invited to my Rabbi’s house for the first time. His father, another rabbi, was also there, a short, stout man harboring a full and neatly trimmed white beard. With a strong South African accent the father asked me, “How are you acclimating?” Too nervous to think with any clarity, I assumed he was talking about the weather, not about my new life’s direction. I told him I thought the climate in Santa Monica was outstanding.

I’m only telling you this little embarrassment in trust that you won’t repeat it to anybody. If we keep it just between you and me no one will ever have to know that it ever happened. In case you are interested, I’ll tell you what my acclimation was REALLY like. Something akin to thawing a caveman out of a block of ice and then dropping him into the house of Emily Post. I can tell you that It was difficult, and it took me a long time to adjust.

Speaking of my new and wonderful community, I would often be invited to people’s homes for Shabbos meals. A number of times, early on, I would use the bathroom of one of my hosts during Shabbos and by sheer force of habit, turn off the light on the way out. Then my reflexive actions would take over as I “quickly” flicked the light back on, hoping that no one would notice. Turning the light off was not really a difficulty since it was without thought. Turning the light back on was much more problematic because, reflexive or not, I knew what I was doing. Inculcating into myself the idea that Jewish law comes ahead of personal embarrassment was a level I had not yet attained.

We former BLTs can be very self-conscious, at least I was. In many cases, people such as myself are opening our eyes to this new and very different world for the first time in our lives. There is so much we do not understand. We don’t know the routines, people are using expressions that are totally foreign to us, and we are in constant fear of exposing ourselves as ignoramusses.

What I yearned for more than anything else was guidance. I wanted people to be sensitive to my situation, to read my mind, to stay one step ahead of me at all times and give me a heads up before I made a fool out of myself. Judaism has a lot of walls and a lot of holes, and I think I made a habit of bumping into walls and falling into holes. I needed a bunch of big brothers.

Here are a few more early recollections to give you an idea.

There was a non-kosher restaurant I used to frequent that had a weekly $3.95 steak and baked potato special…YUM! One evening, just as I was leaving my apartment for that favorite dinner of mine a friend walked over. I said hello, told him where I was going, and then I volunteered, “It may not be a kosher steak, but it’s not as bad as eating pork.”

I’ll never forget his reply, “I don’t know about that.”

Five words, and over 20 years later I’m still thinking about them. What reason did I have for believing that pork was worse than non-kosher steak? Maybe it’s worse, maybe it’s not, that’s not the point. I was making assumptions without any basis in fact to back them up. I wasn’t asking questions and I wasn’t looking for answers. I was making it up as I went along, because it felt right to me. At that moment I realized that my life up to that point had been guided by a secular outlook to the world. I knew what was right and what was wrong. I knew what was serious and what was minor. I knew because…well…I just knew, that’s all.

I was crushed by this self-revelation. I didn’t go to that restaurant that night. I missed out on my delectable steak and baked potato. In fact, as of that evening, never again, to my knowledge, have I ever eaten anything that wasn’t kosher, not at home, not with friends, not with family members…nowhere…ever!

All of this restaurant talk reminds me of the time I learned that I was supposed to have a six hour waiting period between eating meat and dairy. As I was now becoming truly observant, I would always wait six hours after eating meat before eating dairy, and I would also wait six hours after dairy before eating meat.

I did this for a year or two before learning one day that the rules for eating dairy after meat were not the same as the rules for eating meat after dairy. There is a particular reason why this discovery profoundly upset me. Why had no one realized that I was new to Jewish observance and that I needed somebody to come forward and provide me with this information? How can I ask people the appropriate questions when I don’t know what questions need to be asked?

Another example I remember which really bothered me was after tearing a paper towel one Shabbos.

“What are you doing?” someone asked me as if in shock.

“I don’t know. Aren’t I allowed to tear a paper towel?”

“NO! Not on Shabbos.”

The point is that many times we former BLTs really do not know what we are doing. We certainly don’t want to look foolish, and we absolutely need YOUR help and input. How sensitive are we, you and me, to the plight of those Jews who really need Jewish friends helping them along? That is the subject of KIRUV. Are we looking out for the genuine needs of our fellow Jews? Are we trying to be ahead of the curve, or are we simply following the curve, often after the curve has fallen off the cliff?

As I write this I realize that Pesach is almost upon us. Does not the son who doesn’t even know how to ask a question come to mind? Perhaps this year, as you read about the four sons at your Seder tables, you will give a bit of additional reflection to the plight of this child in need. I know I will, now that I have reminded myself of what it was like for me.

Eliyahu and his wife Leah run a forum called Observant Judaism HQ. Give it a visit when you have a chance.