The Sacred Hebrew Tongue Teaches Us!
Hebrew is lashon ha-kodesh, the language in which Adam named all around him. We shouldn’t be surprised to find answers to ideational questions in its structure and even in its grammar.
It is a distinctive feature of lashon ha-kodesh that numbers between two and ten are generally used with a plural noun. Arba imahot are our four matriarchs, Shisha chadashim are six months. Aseret haDibrot are the ten statements better known as the Ten Commandments.
However for numbers above ten, a singular noun is routinely used. The eleventh and twelfth days of the tribal princes dedicatory offerings are strikingly recorded as ashtei asar yom and sh’neim asar yom. (Num 7:72,78). The approximately 3,000 men who died as a result of the golden-calf episode were ki-sheloshet alfei ish (Ex. 32:28).
We know exegetically that an eda, a congregation or minyan consists of at least ten. A tsente (“tenth man”) converts nine individuals into a constituted unified group which can daven together responsively in public prayer.
Now we are confronted with a puzzling question. It is for numbers above ten, i.e. eleven or over, that the singular noun kicks in. Why not for numbers ten and above? Why does eleven, not ten, mark the change?
Pirkei Avot (3:7) furnishes us with a stupendous answer. If ten people sit together for a Torah-related purpose, the Shechina (Divine Presence) rests among them!
Here’s the lesson. Unity is only possible with G-D, not without Him. If you want to create an assembly, the minimum is ten – but if it is convened for a worthy purpose, G-D will reside among you and that makes a united gathering of eleven, meriting a singular noun!
Fascinatingly, the Mishna in Berachot (7:3) also speaks of ten-plus-one and then goes on to say that the formula is the same whether it is that minimum or “ten myriads”, i.e. 600,000! If the gathering is for a worthy end, the Shechina will reside among the group and it will be a unified whole!
How can we as a people, Am Yisrael, achieve unity? It is a particularly poignant question in Israel today as her Jewish population is divided as never before.
The answer has to be – without G-D in the picture, unity will never be achieved, Only if G-D is allowed into our innermost beings is unity achievable!
We live in a secularised age as never before. Man imagines he is in control of his destiny. Norms bequeathed to the world by Judaism in particular and the Abrahamitic faiths in general have been jettisoned. G-D has been excluded from the picture. How can we expect to achieve any form of togetherness? Without Him, we cannot!
A Century-Old Vision
This upcoming Rosh HaShana sees a special anniversary – besides commemorating the creation of Man as it does every year. It marks a century since the worldwide Daf Yomi program – a page a day of Talmud – was first instituted in 1923 at the visionary initiative of HaRav Meir Shapiro.(1887-1933). It had the immediate effect of uniting the hitherto diverse strands – Chasidic, Lithuanian, Sephardic, Hirschian, Zionist, non-Zionist – of the Torah-observant community throughout the globe. Today, a century later, the Daf Yomi movement embraces women as well as men, not-yet-observant as well as observant. I will wager that not one Daf Yomi Jew would have attended any of the hafganot (political demonstrations) that have been dividing Israeli society these past few months – neither those that were anti–judicial reform nor pro-. These Jews had far better, more productive things to do with their time.. They were busy demonstrating their united allegiance to Torat haShem! They are demonstrating on a daily basis that unity need not be an empty dream.
Change for Good – and for G-D!
As fly-in-fly-out rabbi of Adelaide, I am in Sydney airport fairly often. As I board my plane, I often notice a UNICEF stand with a box and the caption “change for g