Maharsha Sanhedrin 12a

I was revisiting an old post of mine, which was a really mind-blowing piece in the maharsha in Sanhedrin. As I was looking it over, some cool ideas came to mind which wanted to share. The italics are the original post, and the stars are my current thoughts.

Recently, in the daf (Sanhedrin 12) we were offered a look into the concept of Moshiach ben Yosef, which is discussed in the Maharsha. The gemara itself speaks of a ‘news brief’ that was given to Rava. Due to the sensitive nature of the briefing, it was said to him in a code that could only be deciphered by a serious talmid chacham. Literally, the code looked like this:

A pair came from Rekes, and was grabbed by an eagle. They had things in their hands made in Luz. In the merit of Mercy and their own merit, they left in peace. Furthermore, the loaded thighs of Nachshon wanted to set an appointee, but the known Edomi would not permit. But those who gather gathered and set this appointee in the month of the death of Aharon Hacohen.

Hard to crack?

Rashi cracks it like this:

A pair of Torah scholars came from Rekes, and was grabbed by an eagle, that is, Persian soldiers. They had things in their hands made in Luz – Techeles [which it seems was forbidden to be producing]. In the merit of Mercy and their own merit, they left in peace, and were able to escape. In another event, the loaded thighs of Nachshon – this refers to the Nasi, who was like a descendant of Nachshon, the first Nasi – wanted to “set an appointee” – this refers to the fact that he wanted to add a second Adar to the year, but the Roman government would not permit this to be done. The sages were able to gather together privately, at a very early time, in the month of Av, when Aharon died, to determine that they would indeed add a month.

When we get to the Maharsha, things start to get very interesting.

First, he asks some questions.

Why was it necessary to send this information in code form? What is the idea that they had Techeles which was made in Luz? What is the language of “in the merit of Mercy?” What is the concept that the Romans did not let them add the month? What is the significance of the fact that they gathered in the month of Av?

He begins by explaining that the Yishmaelite princes numbered twelve, as the Torah states at the end of Chayei Sarah. Nevertheless, the princes of the Jewish people are on a higher level than them. This is because the Yishmaelite princes do not have proper lineage on the side of Avraham, rather, a lineage that derives from their mother’s side, and she was a maidservant{*}. This is why it says “שנים עשר נשיאים לאמותם” – this refers to the side of their mother. The Jewish princes, however, have proper lineage from their father’s side, as the verse says “למשפחותם לבית אבותם” – each to their family, to their fathers’ house. Therefore, the firstborn rights come through the lineage of the father. This entitles them to thirteen princes. This is a result of the firstborn rights of Yosef, who was split into two tribes with two princes. This is the secret of the עיבור (the added month in a leap year), where the Jewish people enumerate twelve months, corresponding to the twelve tribes, and another leap month, which corresponds to the tribe of Yosef which was split into two tribes. This corresponds to the two months of Adar, whose Zodiac sign is the fish, like the bracha of Yosef “ידגו לרב” – and proliferate like fish.

{*} The male represents the higher aspect of reality that impregnates the female, that is, the aspect of reality that is below it. This is the עיבור, which only applies to the Jewish people, not to Yishmael, who is not connected to Avraham. Since Avraham was not yet מהול when he had Yishmael, there was a barrier between himself and Hagar, and Yishmael did not receive the higher aspect of Yisrael. They are limited to the twelve edges that define physical reality. They do not have access to the higher thirteenth aspect. It is interesting to note that although they do not have that access, Yishmael himself did do the bris – which is the removal of the separation, on the aspect of yesod – at the age of thirteen! He was so close, and yet so far. The klipah (ערלה) of Yishmael gets removed at the same time as the preparation for Yitzchak’s birth is prepared. Yishmael is also involved in serving the angels that give Avraham the good news. Yishmael is an integral part of the Moshiach process. He is sent away by Sarah for his meddling in the life of Yitzchak, but ultimately returns and repents, admitting to Yitzchak’s superiority.

This is why we find that our sages said that the offspring of Esav is solely given over to the offspring of Yosef, as the verse says [in Ovadiah], “[And the house of Yakov will be fire, and the house of Yosef will be a flame.] The house of Esav will be [like straw, and will be lit and consumed].” By Esav selling the first born rights to Yakov, and by Yakov taking the brachos, he was given the right to rule over his brother Esav{*}. Yakov gave this ability to Yosef, as the passuk says, “And I have given you one more portion [over your brothers].” This is explicitly stated in chapter יש נוחלין. Therefore, even Yishmael, who has twelve princes לאמותם, and in their wars conquer Esav, they will nevetheless not completely finish Esav off. In the future, the offspring of Yosef and his Moshiach will become great, and Esav will be vanquished through him. This is because the people of Israel will be on a more exalted level than Yishmael, as they will have thirteen princes as a result of Yosef who was split into two tribes. This is the secret of the עיבור (the added month in a leap year), as we mentioned earlier, such that there are thirteen months on the calendar of the people of Israel, which is greater than the solar calendar of Esav, which only consists of twelve months. [It’s interesting to note that Yishmael also has a lunar calendar, but without the leap month. -ag]

{*} Esav originally represented the aspect of עיבור in the Jewish people, because he was the first born, with the double portion. His job was to infuse the physical with spirituality, but he failed and lost those rights to Yaakov, who then gave them to Yosef.

Based on this, the message was that ‘a pair came…’ This is because the people of Israel are compared to a pair of doves that only need their respective mate{*}. This was said because of the two ruling powers, Edom and Yishmael. Yishmael is compared to an eagle because of the great power of its rulership, and because just as an eagle is an impure, carnivorous bird, so too, Yishmael has an aspect of impurity from his mother’s side. We also find that the gemara in החובל refers to Yishmael as an impure bird.

{*} The pair could also be reference to MBY and MBD. This would explain the continuation of the Maharsha, because MBY corresponds to Esav, and MBD corresponds to Yishmael.
{**} It is interesting that Rashi says that the eagle refers to Persian soldiers, and the maharsha says that the eagle is Yishmael. In light of current events, the two opinions are easily reconciled, as Persia (Iran) is trying to take control of the Arab world (Yishmael).

It then states that the pair came ‘from Rekes.’ This is reference to the city of Teveria (Tiberias), and it was referred to as Rekes because of the people there who were empty there [rek = empty]. That was where the secret of the leap month was [as it would seem that the great court which decided on it was there at the time].

Then it says that they were caught by an eagle. This is referring to the fact that most of the Jewish people in ex
ile are under the domain of Yishmael. It then says ‘they had things made in Luz.’ Luz is the city where the angel of death has no power, as it states in the gemara in Sotah. This represents the concept of the עיבור that is an eternal and unending power that will be used in the future to destroy the progeny of Esav and the power of the ס”מ (Satan). This is what the gemara means when it points out that Techeles was made in Luz, because the blue of the Techeles is reminiscent of the sea, which is reminiscent of the sky, which is reminiscent of the Throne of Hashem’s Glory. The throne will be complete at that time. This is what is meant when it says ‘in the merit of Mercy,’ that the name of Hashem’s mercy will then be complete, as we find that our sages say that Hashem’s name and throne will not be complete until that time. In this merit, the Jewish people will leave the hands of Yishmael in peace [as is hinted in the code] {*}.

{*} This is interesting because most of the Arab countries have already kicked out their Jews. This aspect of the code would seem to have been almost completely fulfilled already. 1967 would seem to be a year that is intimately connected to the idea of the completion of Hashem’s throne.

“The loaded thighs of Nachshon{*}” also refers to the secret of the עיבור, as it refers to the princes and kings, as well as Moshiach the king, who are descended from him. “They wanted to set an appointee” refers to the extra month of the עיבור, which hints to the offspring of Yosef which was split into two tribes like the two Adars whose Zodiac sign is represented by fish – plural [meaning, more than one fish]. And being that Esav and his power [which stems from the forces of evil] will fall at his hand, the ‘known Edomi did not allow.’ This is reference to the Roman rulership and the powers of the ס”מ (Satan).

{*} Nachshon was the first to jump into the Yam Suf. The thighs are Netzach and Hod, the root of prophecy. The Jewish people experienced the most intense prophecy at Yam Suf. This is also the concept of the sod ha’ibur, where a higher reality is impregnated into this lower physical reality.

“Those who would gather gathered,” however, in the areas under the rulership of Yishmael to set the ‘appointee’ [i.e. the leap month{*}], and this was necessary to be done in a hidden and secretive manner so that Esav and the powers of the ס”מ would not realize. Therefore they did this in the month that Aharon Hacohen passed away [i.e. Av], to prevent Esav from realizing that they were gathering to add a month to the year. This subterfuge would be accomplished because it was the month that Esav and the forces of evil had succeeded in destroying the Temple.

{*} This could very well be a reference to MBY, not a leap month. Perhaps he is appointed in Av. This would explain the simcha of Av in the times of Moshiach. I would guess that he must be appointed in Av, like the Maharsha says, in order to trick Esav and the Satan, who believe they have power then. Moshiach is born from the ashes of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash; Israel is born from the ashes of the Holocaust. Esav believes he is destroying, and Hashem uses his destructive acts for building.

Based on this, the gemara had said earlier, in regards to the secret of the leap month (עיבור), that a month was added when the young birds were still small, the sheep were still thin, and the spring had not yet arrived. The young birds are reference to כנסת ישראל [lit. the gathered of Israel, but actually refers to a deep kabbalistic concept], who are compared to a dove. The fact that they were young refers to the concept that they have no strength. [Perhaps this refers to the fact that the Jewish people are compared to the moon, with no light of its own. -ag] The sheep also refer to the people of Israel who are compared to a שה פזורה (spread out sheep). These sheep are thin, like the Jewish people who are in a weakened state in exile. The time of spring{*} refers to the beginning of the sprouting and development of the redemption, which has still not arrived. For this reason it was necessary to add on a month of thirty days – this refers to the secret of the leap month, which corresponds to the offspring of Yosef who will destroy the offspring of Esav. Then the Throne of Hashem’s Glory, and His name [of Mercy] will be complete, may it be speedily in our days, amen.

{*} The time of spring is Nissan, when MBD reveals himself, with open miracles. Adar, and more specifically Adar Sheni, is the thirteenth month from Nissan. If not for the fact that it was a leap year, that month would have been the following Nissan. Instead, the higher aspect of Nissan is hidden within Adar Sheni, the month of Purim and hidden miracles. This month is added when the Jewish people are in exile – in a state of lack of tikkun. In their spiritual weakness, the only way they can access the higher reality is through עיבור, where the higher dimension is brought down and enclothed in the lower dimension. This is Yosef, who is the leader of Egypt, but at the same time is a מושל, completely in control of himself, the greatest צדיק of all time. Yosef’s power is secretly coronated in Av, and is revealed in Adar – to the greatest extent that is possible for it to be revealed. Whatever began in Av of 5770 is currently being revealed in Adar of 5771. This explains the worldwide turmoil as we move closer to the revelation of Moshiach ben Yosef. It could be that it will reach a crescendo as we enter into the month of Adar Sheni, and the higher aspect of what-would-have-been-Nissan is brought down into the reality we can perceive. It is also not a coincidence that the downfall of Haman (Amalek/Esav) was in Adar, and that all the evil one’s of Shushan, the capital of Persia, also experienced a great downfall at that same time.


There was another thought that I wanted to share, which had to do with another old post, which was the Leshem piece on בעתה אחישנה. Go back and check it. There he mentions, at the end of the piece, that the passuk in Zechariah hints to when Moshiach will come in the passuk (14:7)”והיה יום אחד הוא יודע לה’ לא יום ולא לילה והיה לעת ערב יהיה אור” – “And it will be one day that will be known to Hashem, neither day nor night, and it will be at the time of erev, there will be light.” As I mentioned in the comments there, the word erev means sunset, which happens twice – once when it sets below the horizon, but once earlier, when the sun sets from its peak in the horizon. That is at midday, and it becomes apparent at 12:30. The reason I went back to this piece in the Leshem was because I was discussing it with my chevrusa last night, and we took a look at it. I said that I believe that this could be a reference to the current time period we are in, which corresponds to 12:30 on the cosmic clock. As I was looking at the the words “לעת ערב” I noticed that the gematria of those two words is תשע”ב.


  1. Anonymous on January 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    An intresting thought came to me about greece/ rome / america / 288 sparks. yavan is 3 straight letters they were enamored by philosophy /science / sport ie the beauty of yavan which rome adopted . jews elevate the sparks from this klipat nogah ie a torah can be written in greek . but the danger is seeing it as an end to itself ! thats where we are trapped in israel and america ! this is tikkun chatzots tears this is the exile . Pure klipah is xtianity 2 vavs blocking each other we CANT elevate anything good from here this is caiss Yah. This is another trap assimilation it feels good but your elevating cloom ! As rav nachman says life is a narrow bridge and the talmud tzaddik falls 7 times and gets up parralleling the 7 kings of edom the trapped sparks in klipat nogah that ruled before israel .

  2. Anonymous on January 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    On the erev rav the tikkunei zohar says remember reading that when the erev rav rules the jews remember that includes sadly the erev zeir the shema yisraerl 12 words we say 4 times a day doesnt reach shomayim because of a greeat metal barrier the erev ravs calf I guess preventing it to get through . Thats why I think the gra says in kol hator mby is debased and hell reveal sod because I guess he uses kabbalah . This is also maybe why the kabbalists from the arizl on were so meticulous in telling the rabbis to teach kavanot especially of keriat shema for it elevates m'n and the 2888 sparks but only if you know the kavanot .

  3. Anonymous on January 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    the gematria edom 51 erev rav 474 = 525 tefillah . there neged true jewwish yearning tefillah for geulah , thats why theyre caise yah as in amalak is burnt in fire the difference between israel 541 and amalak 240 aish 301

  4. Ari Goldwag on January 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    interesting point. Maharsha doesn't get involved with the Erev Rav.

  5. Anonymous on January 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    lot of nice stuff but erev ravs joining edom destroys mby not edom alone !

  6. Ari Goldwag on January 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Thanks for the good words. As I mentioned previously, Rosh Chodesh Av was uncannily significant in my life. It was a point of the beginning of some significant challenges in my life, one of which just came to a climax, strangely, on Purim Katan. I see myself as an aspect of MBY, so that is one of the places I see it. To me, the fact that the Jonathan Pollard case has come into the public eye now in a serious way, unprecedented, for really the first time since he was incarcerated – this is also a sign of the serious tikkun of MBY being moved forward during this period of time. We will see how events progress, but there is so much going on now, it is extremely hard to ignore. Also, remember, MBY by definition is hidden. Whatever happened on Rosh Chodesh Av (assuming that something really did) would have been completely hidden. Moshe Rabbenu is appointed by Hashem to be the MBY of his generation – and that occurs in the wilderness, where no one sees. He only steps forward later and reveals himself. This parallels Yosef himself, who provides for the needs of the Jewish people before he reveals himself. Esther is also the queen without revealing her identity at the beginning, and only later does she reveal that, and reveal her relationship with Mordechai. This is the way of MBY.

  7. Devorah on January 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Do we know what happened in Av 5770?

  8. yaak on January 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    יישר כחך, Ari. Beautiful stuff.

  9. Anonymous on January 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    this is by far your best piece and ive been reading you since you began this joshua piece several years ago . I highly recomend this particular piece is sent to all the beit medrashes , yeshivas litvak , chassidish , sefardic , baal tshuvah asap ! in israel and diaspora. The world is shaking internaly and externaly . finally as the zohar says when will mashiach come ? When Hashem decides to bring him !

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