Mazeltov to the Jewish News on reaching its 800th edition!
In the manner customary among contributors to this Torah For Today column, I will ask: what is the significance of the number 800 in the Torah?
Both Adam and Enoch lived 800 years after fathering their firstborn sons.
These two men are distinguished by the concept of eternity. Adam was supposed to live “forever”, but his life was cut short by disobeying God and eating from the Tree of Knowledge.
Enoch is supposed to have never died, and the Torah merely says: “And he (Enoch) was not, because God took him”.
His disappearance is seen as becoming immortal. Enoch thus becomes a mystical figure and is featured in the post Biblical Apocrypha as the knower of secrets and what will happen at the end of time.
Talmudic Jews view the Book of Enoch as extra-Canonical, but the Jews of Ethiopia revere the book. The Book of Samuel mentions the three mightiest of Kind David’s warriors. Their leader, Yoshev Bashevet, used his spear to single-handedly confront 800 enemy warriors. A second version of this episode in Divrei Hayamim (Chronicles) records that the number killed was no more than 300.
The two versions are reconciled by the classical commentator Radak, who says that David’s chief warrior killed 800 in one battle and 300 in another.
Compare this with exploits mentioned by the Judges of Israel of the 600 killed by Shamgar and 1,000 by Samson – with no conventional weapons at all!
Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak, quoting the Chafetz Chayim, says that when reading out a piece of Torah study, a person utters a total of 200 words. If a word on average comprises four letters, a person learning Torah achieves 800 mitzvot per minute, one per letter.
The value of study further multiplied if one learns in company, or on Shabbat.
Imagine, then, the power of a newspaper to affect its public in the space of one minute! This is why a newspaper should inspire and inform. The fact that the Jewish News is probably mostly read on Shabbat makes it even more important not to miss the Torah and sedrah commentary page!