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Friday, July 12, 2013

Week 44, Zechariah and Settling the Heart (contd.)

Week Forty-Four is the week of Tisha B’Av. The quality necessary to acquire the Torah for this week is, “deliberates in one's study” (mityashev liboh betalmudoh). Great part of the destruction of the Temple was due to to the hot-headed behavior of the zealots at that time. The Torah scholars had always sought calm and compromise.

A more literal translation of the quality is, “settles one's heart with one's study.” The Midrash states that Mashiach is a Metzorah, someone who suffers from a form of spiritual skin disease. Mashiach remedies himself in a very deliberate, settled fashion, unwrapping and wrapping one wound at a time. The Alter Rebbe explains that the cure for the metzorah is Torah. That is why the verse in the weekly portion of Metzorah states that “Zot Torat HaMetzorah, (this is the Torah of the Metzorah),” when it would appear to have been more logical for the verse to state, "Zot Tehorat HaMetzorah" this is the purification of the Metzorah. The Metzorah is someone whose heart is unsettled. It is the Torah that settles his heart.

The above statement can also be read to be referring to the heart of his friend – a continuation of the qualities of the previous weeks. Mashiach will be someone known for his Torah and his speech. The word Mashiach is spelled the same as Mesiach, one who speaks, converses. Through his Torah, Mashiach will bring peace to the whole world. 

This week’s prophet is Zechariah. We read about a previous prophet Zechariah in the kinot (dirges) for Tisha B’Av, and about how he was killed during the time of the destruction of the First Temple and his blood avenged:  "Nebuzaradan, the Babylonian general who conquered Jerusalem at the time of the destruction of the first Temple, saw blood seething on the floor of the Temple. The Children of Israel did not want to tell him whose blood it was. In the end they admitted that it was the blood of the prophet Zechariah, whom they killed for having rebuked them. Nebuzaradan then had all the members of the Great and Minor Sanhedrin killed, along with hordes of men, women, and children, more than 94,000 in all. However the blood did not stop seething, and Nebuzaradan said: 'Zechariah, Zechariah, I have killed thousands of your people. Do you want me to kill them all?' Only then did the blood stop seething, and at that instant Nebuzaradan repented." (Gittin 57b; taken from http://www.hevratpinto.org/pahad_eng/vayikra/b_tzav_03.html )
Zechariah’s prophecy also makes some of the most direct references to Mashiach, and how he will speak of peace. In the tale of Rabbi Akiva, in which he laughs while the other rabbis mourn the destruction of the Temple, it is through the prophecy of Zechariah that Rabbi Akiva brings consolation: “Old men and women shall yet sit in the streets of Jerusalem.”[1]
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