One of the popular berachos to wish someone is עמו”ש whose acronym stands for עד מאה ועשרים שנה may you live to be one hundred and twenty years old. First of all when was last time you heard of someone living up until that age? That is pretty indicative that way before one hundred and twenty years old, the aging process has severely taken its toll on all human systems of the body. After stopping and realizing this thought, one might now react to his well – wisher with the response, please don’t do me any favors. At such an age of even ninety, one is already besieged with home care or in an old age home. Adding another twenty five years to his life at this rate might easily turn his remaining years into a curse chas veshalom being hooked up to tubes, pacemakers etc. So why then do we keep writing and benching people with this beracha?
There are two types of fire, earthly and heavenly. Earthly fire consumes as it burns, for the consumption of the physical material is its fuel. The human body possesses an earthly fire within that burns food called metabolism. What is metabolism? It’s all the various chemical reactions that happen inside your body, 24-7, that keep you alive. It’s food being turned into energy and that energy being burned off to keep your hair growing, your heart beating, your liver pumping out bile, your lungs transferring oxygen into your bloodstream etc.
Without the ingestion of food the earthly fire inside will begin eating your muscle and body which will lead to death. Before the chait of Aitz Hadaas one was sustained with a heavenly fire that connected the body and soul. Eating was not necessary for the heavenly fire sustained and nurtured Adam. However after the chait one must sustain the connection of the body and soul with food otherwise the earthly fire will consume the body and destroy itself.
This is in contrast to heavenly fire which does not need fuel to burn. Such a heavenly fire we first encountered at the Burning Bush at which time Hashem initially appeared to Moshe Rabbeinu. “The bush was on fire but the bush was not consumed”. This first revelation of the Torah that was eventually to be given at Sinai, appeared to him in this form of a heavenly fire in order to teach Moshe Rabbeinu that unlike earthly fire that consumes, the nature of heavenly fire is that it sustains, supports and enlightens.
The Sefer Ori Veyishee elaborates on this thought. Hashem was conveying to Moshe that just like heavenly fire does not require “food” to exist, so too you Moshe does not need food to exist when becoming one with the Torah. As the passuk states that Moshe was on Har Sinai for one hundred and twenty days and did not eat or drink.
Moshe Rabbeinu was on Har Sinai for 120 days which corresponded to the 120 years that he lived. The gematriah of הסנה is also 120. The quality of Moshe’s life was that of the Burning Bush. From his first contact with it, he continued to infuse himself with that energy of spiritual fire which was the very reason why his body did not age at all (Devarim 34,7). Aliyahu Hanavi is also gematriah 120. He also ascended with his body to the heavens and did not die. He also led a סנה life. Rav Yochanan Ben Zakai also lived 120 years. In Berachos 28 his talmidim call him with honorary titles such as נר ישראל עמוד הימיני פטיש החזק . Note that עמוד pillar is gematriah 120, ימיני is gematriah 120, החזק is also 120! He is theנר of Yisrael which stems from the fire of the הסנה which is gematriah 120. For it was Rav Yochanan Ben Zakai who secured the city of Yavneh with its Chachamim because of which, the learning of Torah is still flourishing today. The quality of 120 symbolizes something or someone who is eternal and non-withering.
There is yet another place in the Torah whereסנה is mentioned and that is by the berachaof Yosef in Parshas Vezos Haberacha. ורצון שכני סנה תבואתה לראש יוסף. The passuk is telling us that Yosef’s land should be blessed from the will of Hashem who appeared to Moshe in the סנה (Rashi). What connection is there to benching Yosef with the revelation of Hashem to Moshe Rabbeinu at theסנה ?
We do find a relationship of Yosef to the סנה. Yosef married אסנת whose root name is סנה. Rabbeinu Bachya writes a more definitive pashat in her name from the Medrash that after Asnas was born from Dina and Shechem, Yaakov chased her away from his house and placed her by a סנה that is why she was called אסנת. Furthermore Yosef was to live one hundred and twenty years the gematriah of הסנה but he lost ten years because he heard Yehudah and the translator call his father עבדך your servant ten times while pleading for the release of Binyomin, yet Yosef did not stop them. We therefore see that Yosef like Moshe possessed this quality of הסנה 120 which describes the heavenly fire of the Torah that nurtured both of them.
Yosef merited the heavenly fire by fighting his yetzer harah with the test of Potifar’s wife who attempted to seduce him. The word יצר is gematriah אש. The יצר possesses a potential fire from Gehenim. If this fire remains only a potential and it is not activated by following one’s yetzer harah, then one is connected to a heavenly fire and remains with vitality till death. If however, one follows the passions of his yetzer, then the earthly fire consumes his body and he ages and withers until his demise (Shabbos 152 זקנה קופצת עליו ). Yosef is called Yosef Hatzadik because he overcame hisיצר , his fire, aroused by his body and lusts. By doing so, he connected himself to the heavenly fire of הסנה to which Moshe merited through his midah of עניוות extreme humility.
This same connection between Moshe and Yosef of 120 and הסנה can be seen at Yetzias Mitzrayim. It was Moshe who retrieved the bones of Yosef and took them with him ויקח את עצמות יוסף עמו . The first stage of the Exodus was facilitated by Moshe Rabbeinu who as the messenger of Hashem smote Mitzrayim with the Ten Makkos alluded to in the acronym of דצך עדש באחבThe seal on these Ten Plagues came about with the Crossing of Yam Suf which the merit of Yosef was instrumental in the splittingof its waters and the drowning of the Egyptians. הים ראה וינוס בגזירה שוה וינס ויצא החוצה. It is not anymore a mere coincidence that the gematriah of משה יוסף both of them together equal דצך עדש באחב .
This relationship is further seen from the stone of Yosef’s shevet which is called שהם which shares the same letters of משה.
The Yom Tov of Chanukah is associated with Yosef as seen from the gematriahs of מלך יוןand אנטיוכס which each one is gematriah יוסף. What is the underlying depth of this association? On the first day of Creation Hashem created light and then concealed it in the Torah. That is why the wordאור is mentioned five times in its creation paralleling the Five Books of the Torah. This light does not originate from the sun or any other celestial body. In fact the heavenly bodies originate from its light as they are called מאורות from the light and not אורות lights. This hidden light is the heavenly fire that sustains and nurtures the universe. It is the same light that appeared in the Burning Bush. It enlightens but does not consume. The Menorah shone with this light and fire.
When Yosef confronted his brothers and accused them as spies they responded with the declaration (Bereishis 42,11) we are all the sons of איש אחד and כנים אנחנו we are truth sayers. We can interpret this to mean that they were connected to the Hidden Light. For the mefarshim explain the passuk ויעש כן אהרן (Bamidbar 8,3) that by lighting the Menorah with such deep devotion, Aharon reconstructed the כן ויהי that was omitted in the creation of the First Day Light since it became concealed. The Menorah manifested that original light of truth and oneness that existed on theיום אחד of creation (Rashi). The Shevatim declared that they were connected to that same light of the Menorah and therefore called themselves כנים alluding to individuals who brought about and lived a כן life. With such a connection one can only relate the truth for falsehood does not exist. Yaakov Avinu was their father who possessed the ultimate midah of emes. The filler letters of אמת לף מ ו add up to the gematriahיוסף . When they said כנים אנחנו they unknowingly included Yosef in their statement. If anything, it was יוסף who transmitted to them the concealed light since he was the essential offspring of Yaakov. Note that כנים is also gematriah 120.
The Torah She’be’al Peh contains this concealed light. The first word of the Oral Law is מאימתי which is the same gematriah of משה יוסף who both embodied הסנה. The Greeks with their secular knowledge were against the Oral Law and the heavenly fire. The Chashmonaem waged war against them and their legacy of secular wisdom with great mesiras nefesh. When they won the war, they immediately purified the defiled Bais Hamikdash and lit the Menorah which symbolized the victory of the wisdom of the Torah She’be’al Peh. Hashem was so pleased with their mesiras nefesh for Torah that the miracle of Chanukah and the Menorah occurred even on the first day. The oil was not at all consumed for they astoundingly merited that the heavenly fire of the concealed light manifested itself in the flame of the Menorah similarly to that in the סנה incident. Meriting the revelation of this heavenly light and fire of the Torah in the Menorah is the reason of our celebration of this Yom Tov.
Now we can understand the berachah so freely given, may you live to 120. It is not a wish and beracha to live that amount of years. Rather, it is the beracha to live with the true quality of life that stems from a connection to the heavenly fire of הסנה which does not allow one’s body and mind to age and wither. It is a wish for a life that has a deep connection to the heavenly fire that is in the Torah and the neshamah of a Yid. It is with this light of the Chanukah Menorah that we wish and seek to enlighten ourselves in order to help carry us through the darkness of the Galus night, and bring us to greet the Moshiach who will be a light even to the Nations of the world.
Gut Shabbos, Lictigin Chanukah