Friday, July 25, 2014

Words in the Desert: The Journey as the Cure and the Torah Portion of Ma'asei

This week's Torah portion speaks of the 42 journeys of the Jewish people in the desert. The second Rashi's opening comments make a parallel between Hashem and the Jewish people and a king that is taking his son back from a journey to find a cure for him:

1. These are the journeys of the children of Israel who left the land of Egypt in their legions, under the charge of Moses and Aaron.

RASHI: ... It is analogous to a king whose son became sick, so he took him to a far away place to have him healed. On the way back, the father began citing all the stages of their journey, saying to him, “This is where we sat, here we were cold, here you had a headache etc.” - [Mid. Tanchuma Massei 3, Num. Rabbah 23:3]

What is the cure and what is the illness? The Jewish people had not entered the Land yet. They were now at its border, ready to enter. Wouldn't it be more appropriate for Rashi to speak about an upcoming cure? And why are they on their way back?

The answer is that coming to Israel is the way back. The cure was the exile itself. Rebbe Nosson of Breslov speaks of how the exile took place because of a lack of faith. The exile and the wondering in the desert made it possible for that faith to be restored.

Similarly, the Counting of the Omer represents a period in which we cure ourselves. The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that 49 is the gematria of Choleh, sick. Only after we are cured can we receive the Torah.
    
49 also equals the number of journeys (42) plus the number of Cana'anite nations to be conquered (7). The first 42 days of the omer, as well as the 42 journeys, are about internal rectification, the sefirot of Chesed through Yesod. From 43 to 49, we tackle our outwardly behavior, in dealing with the reality of the world around. That reality must be conquered, and that requires "curing" the Sefirah of Malchut, kingship. Don't be afraid to show the world who's Boss.

Week 43 (Book 3): Facing Esau (Edom)

 
BESHALACH: 33. And Moses said to Aaron, Take one jug and put there an omerful of manna, and deposit it before the Lord to be preserved for your generations. 34. As the Lord had commanded Moses, Aaron deposited it before the testimony to be preserved. 
 
HAFTORAH: dyed garments of embroidery for the neck of the spoiler.' So may perish all Your enemies, O Lord; but they that love Him (should be) as the sun when he goes forth in his might."

TALMUD SOTAH: DAF 43 – Pinchas, Mashuach Milchamah
 
GENERATIONS FROM ADAM TO THE LAST KING OF JUDAH: Amaziah
 
SEVEN CANA’ANITE NATIONS: Chittites         
 
Week 43 is the week of Rosh Chodesh Av, and begins the more intense part of the Three Weeks. Rosh Chodesh Av is the yahrzeit of Aharon, one of the few yahrzeit dates specifically mentioned in the Torah. The Torah section for this week is the first one to mention Aharon since the week of the yahrzeit Moshe, in Adar. Here again the focus is on the preservation of the omer, which, as previously explained, is connected to the times of Jeremiah and the destruction of the Temple.
 
The Haftorah verses once again speak of the enemy dividing spoils. Devorah then switches directions, praying that this shall be the fate of G-d’s enemies. This is similar to Av, which is to be transformed from being a month connected to Jewish suffering, to be one of Jewish triumph. Devorah sings that those that love Him should be as the sun when it goes forth in its might – Av is the hottest summer month – and the sun is usually associated with the gentile nations, not the Jewish people, who are associated with the moon. Devorah is hinting at the transformation of Jacob into Israel, who also represents the sun. (See Likutei Moharan)
 
Daf Mem Gimmel (Folio 43) of Sotah speaks of Pinchas as the Mashuach Milchamah in the war against Midian. The daf also discusses the cases of those people that are exempt from fighting a milchemet reshut, an non-mandatory war, and is devoted primarily to the case of a man that planted a vineyard and had not redeemed its fruit. The discussion of Pinchas could not be more appropriate for this week, since he is a Kohen (grandson of Aharon), and is connected to Mashiach (born on Tisha B’Av) both by being a Mashuach Milchamah in the last battle described in the Torah as well as being the same person as Eliyahu HaNavi (who will accompany Mashiach). Furthermore, the daf discusses how he is a descendant of Joseph. The Torah makes clear that it is the strength of Joseph that is able to defeat Esau. Pinchas appears to be the ultimate archetype of Mashiach ben Yosef. 
 
Amaziah the son of Yehoash began his kingship being very righteous, and his righteousness earned him a tremendous victory again none other than Edom (Esau). (See Book 1, Week 43, about how this week is related to Edom) His treatment of the Edomites is particularly severe. Amaziah’s counterparts in Israel were Jehoahaz (3 years), Jehoash (16 years), Jeroboam ben Jehoash (10 years). Amaziah’s victory against Edom led to haughtiness as well as idolatry, and he ends up being castigated by his own brother Amoz, the father of the prophet Isaiah. Amaziah’s haughtiness leads to a disastrous war against the King of Israel, Jehoash. Because of this loss, Jerusalem itself is looted, and even Amaziah himself is taken captive. Again, the destruction of Jerusalem is the main theme of this week. Another theme is sinat chinam (baseless hatred).
The forty-third week is connected to conquering the Chittites. The word “Chittites” comes from the word Chet, which means sin. The Chittites are connected to the negative side of Chesed, which expresses itself primarily in improper sexual relations. An example of such behavior is the story of David and Batsheva, who was married to Uriah HaChiti, Uriah the Chittite. Esau himself married two different Chittites (“Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite”) and made life bitter for Isaac and Rebeccah. (Genesis 26:34-35)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Week 43 (Book 2): Destruction that Leads to Peace


HAAZINU: Sing out praise, O you nations, for His people! For He will avenge the blood of His servants, inflict revenge upon His adversaries, and appease His land [and] His people. (Deuteronomy 32:43)
HAFTORAH: Then I ground them as the dust of the earth, as the mud of the streets I did tread upon them, I did stamp them down. (II Samuel 22:43)
PIRKEI AVOT QUALITY: Places Him [in The Path of] Peace (Ma’amidoh Al Hashalom)
PROPHET: Haggai
LEVITICAL CITY: Jattir

The forty-third week of the year is that of Rosh Chodesh Av. Av is connected to the Tribe of Shimon, while  Rosh Chodesh  itself is the yahrzeit of Aharon the Kohen. It is the month of Tisha B’Av, which marks the destruction of the First and Second Temples, and also the day in which the Messiah is born.

In the verse of Haazinu, the theme of Divine retribution continues, although there is now a greater emphasis on praising the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. The Haftorah’s verse also continues the same theme, although here too there is a focus on the physical Land, and the mud of its streets.

The quality of this week is “places him [in the path of] peace” (ma’amidoh al hashalom). Aharon is very much associated with peace. Hillel states that we should all be students of Aharon, who “loves peace and pursue peace…” As explained in the previous week, the verb “ma’amidoh” is connected to raising students. This is hinted to in the lighting of the menorah, in the beginning of the Torah portion of Beha’alotchah, in which Aharon it told to “raise” the lights of the Menorah until they could stand on their own.

This week’s prophet is Haggai. His prophecy is very much connected to the theme of the destruction of the Temple, as well as its rebuilding. His words are also connected to peace:

1. In the seventh [month], on the twenty-first of the month, the word of the Lord came through Haggai the prophet, saying:

2. Say now to Zerubbabel the son of Shaltiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak the High Priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying:          

3. Who among you is left, who saw this house in its former glory? And as you see it now, is it not as nothing in your eyes? 

4. And now, be strong, Zerubbabel, says the Lord; and be strong, Joshua the son of Jehozadak the High Priest; and be strong, all the people of the land, says the Lord. And (for I am with you, says the Lord of Hosts) do      

5. the thing that I set up with you when you left Egypt. And My spirit stands in your midst; fear not.           

6. For so said the Lord of Hosts: [There will rise] another one, and I will shake up the heaven and the earth and the sea and the dry land [for] a little while.           

7. And I will shake up all the nations, and they shall come [with] the precious things of all the nations. And I will fill this House with glory, said the Lord of Hosts.         

8. The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, says the Lord of Hosts.

9. The glory of this last House shall be greater than the first one, said the Lord of Hosts. And in this place I will grant peace, says the Lord of Hosts.

(Chapter 2:1-9)(emphasis added)      

 

The levitical city for this week is Jatir. Jatir, comes from the word Yeter, which means the remains, what is left over after destruction. The name is very appropriate for the month of Av. Yeter can also mean “an addition,” which is related to the word Yoter, which means “more.” In the future with the coming of the Mashiach, Av will be a month of added importance and celebration.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Week 43 (From the Book): To Pursue the Enemy and to Pursue Peace

The cat is saying, "If you rise up like a vulture, and place your nest among the stars, from there I shall bring you down, says G-d." (Obadiah 1:4) (…) And when the cat catches [the mouse], the cat says, “I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them, and I did not return until they were destroyed. (Psalms 18:38) 

Rabbi Yehudah [Bar Ilai] would say: Be careful with your studies, for an error of learning is tantamount to a willful transgression.

Rabbi Shimon [Bar Yochai] would say: There are three crowns--the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood and the crown of sovereignty--but the crown of good name surmounts them all.

Chesed shebeMalchut (kindness within the context of kingship)

Week forty-three is the week of Rosh Chodesh Av, when in Perek Shirah it is the turn of the cat to praise Hashem. At first, the cat sings that although the enemy may rise as high as the eagle and make its nest among the stars, G-d will bring it down. (Obadiah 1:4) After catching the mouse, the cat declares that it pursued its enemies and seized them, and did not return until they were destroyed. (Psalm 18:38) During this week we begin counting the Nine Days leading up to Tisha b’Av, a period of mourning over the destruction of the Temple that is even more intense (and requires greater hardships) than the rest of the Three Weeks.

The cat is like a miniature lion. On this month, we all have the potential to be like lions. Mashiach will be born in the month of Av, and will reign on earth like a lion. Rosh Chodesh Av is the yahrzeit of Aaron, one of the few yahrzeit dates mentioned explicitly in the Torah. Aaron was known for his incessant pursuit of peace.

The month of Av corresponds to the zodiac sign of Leo. The Midrash Yalkut Shimoni, quoted in Week 38, shows the clear relationship of the month of Av with the lion. This month is represented by the tribe of Shimon, who was known for its attribute of severe judgment. This month is also related to the tikkun, repair, of the sense of hearing. The name Shimon comes from the Hebrew word Shmiah, hearing, and this month is also connected to the tikkun of the sin that took place when the Children of Israel listened to the report of the spies.

It was in Av that the spies returned from the Land of Israel and described it to the people. Instead of focusing on Kalev and Joshua’s positive account, the people focused on the negative account of the other ten spies and wept bitterly. Our sages teach us that because the Jewish People cried for no reason, Hashem would now give them a reason to cry for generations to come. The night the Jewish people cried was Tisha B’Av, the day in which both the First and Second Temples were destroyed.[1]

The relationship between the cat and the mouse in Perek Shirah can be interpreted (at least) in two different ways. First, throughout history, the Jews played the role of the mouse, serving as prey for our enemies inside the nations in which we were exiled. For approximately the past two thousand years, we have been in the exile of Esau/Edom (Rome). However, in messianic times, these roles will be reversed. We will be the ones to pursue our enemies, specifically, the nation of Amalek, a descendant of Esau, who represents the height of immorality and G-dlessness.

The song of the cat comes from the prophet Obadiah, a convert from the nation of Edom, and whose entire prophecy is directed against it. Edom represents Rome and its descendants, and it was Rome which caused the destruction of the Second Temple. The prophet predicts that one day Edom will be punished for its actions.

The number forty-three is formed by the Hebrew letters gimmel and mem. These letters appear to reference the war of Gog uMagog, the two root letters of these words. According to Jewish tradition, Gog uMagog will be the final war before the coming of Mashiach. This war is believed to involve the descendants of Esau and Yishmael.

Mem and gimmel also form the Hebrew word gam, which means “also.” This word appears prominently in the Psalm most connected to Aaron, whose yahrzeit is this week: “Hineh Mah Tov uMah Naim Shevet Achim Gam Yachad... “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers also to dwell together!  / As the good oil on the head runs down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron...”[2] Rav Ovadia Yosef asks why the word gam (also) is included in this verse, as it seems to be completely superfluous. He explains that when brothers sit together usually family problems come to the surface. Nevertheless, this also is for the good; we should also sit together despite such problems, and do our best to solve them.

There is also a similar connection here with the song of the cat, Aaron’s yahrzeit, and the tikkun of the month of Av. Like the cat, Aaron also pursued enemies, but only did so in order to achieve peace between them and to bring them closer to the Torah. As Hillel states in Pirkei Avot, “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving your fellow creatures and bringing them closer to Torah.” This is how we transform the negative forces of this month into positive ones. As previously mentioned, the Temple was destroyed due to Sinat Chinam, baseless hatred, and will be rebuilt through Ahavat Chinam, baseless love.

This week in Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Yehudah Bar Ilai warns us to be cautious in our study because an inadvertent error (due to insufficient study) is considered a voluntary transgression. It is well known that the cause of the destruction of the First Temple was due to the lack of importance given to Torah study.
Moreover, Rabbi Yehudah is a perfect example of the possibility of peace between Jacob and Esau, the Jewish people and the Romans. Once Rabbi Yehudah encountered a Roman stranger, who had just experienced a shipwreck and was its only survivor. Despite not knowing who this stranger was, Rabbi Yehudah immediately gave the man of his own clothes. It was later discovered that this man was a powerful Roman legislator, and that due to Rabbi Yehudah’s kindness he annulled all the harsh decrees that were about to be imposed on the Jewish people at that time.[3]

This week also includes an additional statement by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who teaches that there are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood and the crown of the kingship, but that the crown of a good name surpasses them all. (IV: 13) The crowns mentioned by Rabbi Shimon are also all closely related to the major figures of this week and this month: Aharon HaKohen (priesthood) and Mashiach (kingship), as well Rabbi Shimon himself (Torah).

It is fascinating that additional words of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai are included along with Rabbi Yehudah’s statements. Unlike Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Shimon initially did not get along well with the Romans. When Rabbi Yehudah once praised the Romans for building bridges, etc., Rabbi Shimon stated that he should not praise the Romans, because all that they do is for their own benefit. When the Roman emperor heard of this, Rabbi Yehudah was honored with a high position, while Rabbi Shimon was forced to flee and famously spent the next 12 years inside a cave with his son, Rabbi Elazar.

There is a tradition that Rabbi Shimon is a descendant of the Tribe of Shimon, the tribe of this month.[4] Rabbi Shimon’s own life reflects a transition and tikkun of Shimon’s strict justice. While in the cave, along with his son, he was concerned with pure spirituality. After leaving the cave, he could not understand how people were spending so much time with material concerns, to the extent that everything that he and his son saw would be consumed by fire. He was therefore sent back to the cave, and stayed there for another year. When he came out of the cave the second time, he understood the value of being involved with the material world, which is related to his problems with the Roman way of doing things. 

Rabbi Shimon’s sayings in Pirkei Avot also appear to reflect this transition. Rabbi Shimon’s previous sayings strictly focused on the importance of Torah over material things, while these additional sayings include the importance of other qualities other than Torah. It is quite appropriate that his sayings here are juxtaposed with Rabbi Yehuda’s.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s additional words also seem to be literally complementing his saying in Week 16. There he mentions “three,” but does not specify to what exactly three is referring. It is assumed that it means "three people." This time, he states, “there are three crowns.” (It is interesting that both his sayings start with the word shloshah, three, and that the number he is most associated with is thirty-three, as Lag Ba’Omer is the 33rd day of the omer). This could also be read as "the three [mentioned previously] are the crowns (shloshah, ketarim hem). His previous saying can then be understood as follows: if a person has all three crowns “on his table,” meaning he has the qualities of Torah, priesthood, and kingship, such a person should be praised by others and seen as a true example of a “Torah lifestyle” (i.e. given the crown of a “Good Name”).

There is a well known story in which Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai gave an interpretation of “Hineh Mah Tov uMah Naim Shevet Achim Gam Yachad...” and ended a drought. Again, Rashbi now understood the need for material concerns as well.

When each rabbi of Pirkei Avot represents a day of the omer count, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's words span approximately the entire month of Iyar, the month of Rabbi Shimon's yahrzeit (as well as Rabbi Yehudah's).  His first saying falls on 16th day of the omer, the 1st of Iyar, and his additional words are on the 43rd day of the omer, 28th of Iyar, Yom Yerushalayim. In terms of weeks, they span from the week after the Tenth of Teveth, to the week before Tisha B’Av.

This week, the combination of sefirot results in chesed shebemalchut, kindness within the context of kingship. Like Rabbi Yehudah Bar Ilai, we strive to do good deeds that have a direct impact on this material world. (This week would also represent the “eighth week,” the “Shavuot” and “Shivah Yemei Miluim” of the cycle of Yesod)

Similarly, the lesson we can draw from the cat is that just as it chases after the mouse, we should be like Aaron and "pursue" those around us in a positive and friendly manner, to bring them closer to the path of unity, love, peace, and truth, all of which are quintessential “Torah values.”



[1] Talmud, Ta'anit 29a
[2] Psalm 133
[3] Marcus, p. 138
[4] Ryzman

Friday, July 18, 2014

Words in the Desert: Verbal Agreements and the Torah Portion of Matot


This week's Torah portion contains a striking parallel between how it begins and how it ends. The portion begins as follows:

2. Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel, saying: This is the thing the Lord has commanded. 3. If a man makes a vow to the Lord or makes an oath to prohibit himself, he shall not violate his word; according to whatever proceeded from his mouth, he shall do.
ב. וַיְדַבֵּר משֶׁה אֶל רָאשֵׁי הַמַּטּוֹת לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר זֶה הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהֹוָה

ג. אִישׁ כִּי יִדֹּר נֶדֶר לַיהֹוָה אוֹ הִשָּׁבַע שְׁבֻעָה לֶאְסֹר אִסָּר עַל נַפְשׁוֹ לֹא יַחֵל דְּבָרוֹ כְּכָל הַיֹּצֵא מִפִּיו יַעֲשֶׂה:
 
Towards the end of the Torah portion, the tribes of Gad, Reuven, and half of Menashe ask Moshe to dwell on the other side of the Jordan, not in the Land of Israel proper. They promise to join the rest of the people in conquering the land, and "build sheepfolds for our livestock here and cities for our children." Moshe responds:
 
24. So build yourselves cities for your children and enclosures for your sheep, and what has proceeded from your mouth you shall do."

כד. בְּנוּ לָכֶם עָרִים לְטַפְּכֶם וּגְדֵרֹת לְצֹנַאֲכֶם וְהַיֹּצֵא מִפִּיכֶם תַּעֲשׂוּ:
 
Rashi famously comments on how Moshe changes the order of the Tribes' promise. He states as follows:
 
We shall build sheepfolds for our livestock here: They were more concerned about their possessions than about their sons and daughters, since they mentioned their livestock before [mentioning] their children. Moses said to them, “Not so! Treat the fundamental as a fundamental, and the matter of secondary importance as a matter of secondary importance. First ‘build cities for your children,’ and afterwards 'enclosures for your sheep’” (verse 24) - [Mid. Tanchuma Mattoth 7]
Another comment made by Rashi, perhaps not as famous, is on the phrase that links the beginning of the Parasha to its end:
 
and what has proceeded from your mouth you shall do: for the sake of the Most High [God], for you have undertaken to cross over for battle until [the completion of] conquest and the apportionment [of the Land]. Moses had asked of them only “and… will be conquered before the Lord, afterwards you may return,” (verse 22), but they undertook,“until… has taken possession” (verse 18). Thus, they added that they would remain seven years while it was divided, and indeed they did so (see Josh. 22).
 

Moshe is holding the Tribes accountable for an additional condition, which Moshe himself had not asked of them. Moshe asked that they stay until the Land be conquered, but they vowed to stay until the Land had been properly apportioned, which required that they stay an additional seven years. 

The question is: how could Moshe hold them to this requirement if in fact they did not pledge to this in the form of a vow. All they said was, "We shall not return to our homes until each of the children of Israel has taken possession of his inheritance." One could even argue that they were still "negotiating" with Moshe.

From here we learn again, what is the main theme of the Book of Bamidbar: the tremendous power of words. (Midbar means desert, but has at its root Davar, word). One has to be so very careful about what one says, certainly involving the bad, but regarding the good as well. In Jewish law, any expression of willingness to perform a mitzvah or good deed brings upon an obligation.


Moshe is therefore able to take something that seemed abstract and perhaps even out-of-place in the outset of the parashah, and drive it home in the most practical of ways: a few added words led to a commitment to stay seven more years away from their families and livestock, and as Rashi concludes, "indeed they did so."

Week 42 (Book 5): Reviewing the Last Week of Tammuz - Psalms 124-126; 105:27-29; 89:43

PSALMS (Introductions and Translations from Chabad.org):






Chapter 124

1. A song of ascents by David. Were it not for the Lord Who was with us-let Israel declare- 2. were it not for the Lord Who was with us when men rose up against us, 3. then they would have swallowed us alive in their burning rage against us. 4. Then the waters would have inundated us, the torrent would have swept over our soul; 5. then the raging waters would have surged over our soul. 6. Blessed is the Lord, Who did not permit us to be prey for their teeth. 7. Our soul is like a bird which has escaped from the fowler's snare; the snare broke and we escaped. 8. Our help is in the Name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Chapter 125

1. A song of ascents. Those who trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion which never falters, but abides forever. 2. Mountains surround Jerusalem, and the Lord surrounds His people from this time and forever. 3. For the rod of wickedness will never come to rest upon the lot of the righteous; therefore the righteous need not stretch their hand to iniquity. 4. Be beneficent, O Lord, to the good and to those who are upright in their hearts. 5. But as for those that turn to their perverseness, may the Lord lead them with the workers of iniquity. Peace be upon Israel.

Chapter 126

The psalmist speaks of the future, comparing our Divine service in exile to one who sows arid land, then cries and begs G-d to send rain upon it so that the seed not be wasted. When he merits to reap the crop, he offers thanks to G-d.

1. A song of ascents. When the Lord will return the exiles of Zion, we will have been like dreamers. 2. Then our mouth will be filled with laughter, and our tongue with songs of joy; then will they say among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for these.” 3. The Lord has done great things for us; we were joyful. 4. Lord, return our exiles as streams to arid soil. 5. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. 6. He goes along weeping, carrying the bag of seed; he will surely return with songs of joy, carrying his sheaves.



TIKKUN HAKLALI

Chapter 105


27. They placed upon them the words of His signs and His miracles in the land of Ham.
28. He sent darkness and it darkened, and they did not disobey His word.
29. He turned their water into blood, and it killed their fish.
 

 



PSALM 89


43. You raised the right hand of his adversaries; You caused all his enemies to rejoice.
 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Week 42 (Book 4b): Faithfulness in Exile

 
SONG OF SONGS: 4. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem; why should you awaken, and why should you arouse the love until it is desirous?"
           
70 SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Asher and Rosh
                                                                                               
TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 42 – Paying Back Loans
 
BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 42

 Week 42 in the Jewish calendar is the last week of Tammuz, and the first of the three weeks of mourning over the destruction of the Temple. In the verse of Shir HaShirim of this week, the Jewish people call out to the other nations, adjuring them not to interfere in its relationship with G-d. It brings to mind the song of the Hound in Book 1, and how the Jewish people maintain their loyalty to G-d despite the difficulties of exile, and how G-d maintains his faithfulness to us. This is also captured in Rashi’s comment on the above verse: “Now the congregation of Israel addresses the nations, “Even though I complain and lament, my Beloved holds on to my hand, and He is my support in my exile; therefore, I adjure you.”

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the forty-second mentioned is Asher. Asher means “happy.” This week is also connected to Rosh, son of Benjamin, whose name means “head,” a reference to how Joseph was Benjamin’s superior. When Mashiach comes and the Temple is rebuilt, this week will be one of happiness, one in which we will feel like a “head” and not a “tail.” Both Asher and Rosh contain the same letters, Reish and Shin, just in reverse. With the slightest of variations, these letters spell Rash, poor. These weeks tend to be difficult times as well.

Daf Mem Beit (Folio 42) of Shevuoth continues to discuss the repayment of loans. It discusses the case of someone who is established as a liar, as well as questionable documents, and other cases of breaches of trust. Again, this is related to the 17th of Tammuz, in which payment is exacted for our spiritual “debts.”
Chapter 42 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter mentions faithfulness and G-d’s help during exile.

5. And they said to Jeremiah, "May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not do according to the entire matter that the Lord your God shall send you to us. 
 
6. Whether good or bad, we will hearken to the voice of the Lord our God, to Whom we are sending you, in order that it be good for us, for we will hearken to the voice of the Lord our God.

(...)

10. If you dwell in this land, I will build you up and I will not pluck you up, for I have repented of the evil that I have done to you. 

11. Fear not the king of Babylon whom you fear; fear it not, says the Lord, for I am with you to redeem you and to save you from his hand.

 
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Rabbi Daniel Kahane and Ann Helen Wainer have recently launched a new book, which promises to change the way scholars and laymen understand the Jewish calendar as well as the structure of central Jewish texts. 

The book shows how the 52-day period spanning from Passover to Shavuot (Pentecost) is in fact a microcosm of the 52 weeks of the year. Additionally, it demonstrates how 52 rabbis and 52 animals listed in the sacred works Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”) and Perek Shirah (“Chapter of Song”) parallel the year’s weeks as well. Finally, the book explores the kabbalistic meaning behind the numbers and divine attributes (sefirot) related to each day from Passover to Shavuot known as the Counting of the Omer.

The Counting of the Omer has always been one of the key tools used by the Jewish People as a basis for spiritual development. The book expands its use to the entire year and shows amazing and eerie connections between how the weeks of the year and the days of the Omer parallel each other. “The basis for the entire book is one simple idea,” Rabbi Kahane says, “Just as the culmination of the Counting of the OmerLag Ba’Omer, falls on the 33rd day of the Omer, so too the week of Lag Ba’Omer falls on the 33rd week of the year. 

“The book’s use as a weapon against sadness should also not be underestimated,” exclaims Ann Helen Wainer, “its uplifting ideas and its connectedness to the song and harmony of nature, as well as the wisdom and foresight of our ancestors, is a true gift.”
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