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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Week 7 (Book 2): Hearing the Cry of Rachel

 
Remember the days of old; reflect upon the years of [other] generations. Ask your father, and he will tell you; your elders, and they will inform you. (Deuteronomy 32:7)
When I am in distress, I call upon the Lord, yes I call upon my G-d: and out of His abode He hears my voice, and my cry enters His ears. (II Samuel 22:7)
Fear (Yirah)
Pinchas
Golan of Bashan (also a city of refuge)
 
On the seventh week of the year, which almost always includes the yahrzeit of our matriarch Rachel,[1] Haazinu’s verse makes a reference to reflecting on the history previous generations, and asking our fathers and our elders. These words appear related to thinking of our matriarch, as well as of the Flood itself, which occurred in previous generations. In fact, Rashi makes a direct reference to the Flood in his commentary:
Remember the days of old: what G-d did to past generations who provoked Him to anger.  
reflect upon the years of [other] generations: [I.e.,] the generation of Enosh, whom [G-d] inundated with the waters of the ocean, and the generation of the Flood, whom [G-d] washed away. 
This week’s Haftarah verse, especially the line, “and out of His abode He hears my voice, and my cry enters His ears,” has an even greater connection to our matriarch Rachel. After all, the most famous line in perhaps all of Tanach regarding Rachel is found in the Book of Jeremiah:
A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping: Rachel is weeping for her children and refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are away. And G‑d will answer her: Restrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work will be rewarded, says G‑d; and they will return from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future . . . that your children will return to their own borders” (Jeremiah 31:14–16; Rashi commentary on Genesis 48:7)
G-d will ultimately listen to Rachel’s voice and her cry for her children in exile, just as He listens to King David. King David’s verse is also a reference to G-d’s abode, the Holy Temple, the third one which, as explained, will be inaugurated in the month of Cheshvan.
The quality for this week is fear, Yirah. As explained in the previous week, this is a feeling closely associated with the Flood, but also to the Third Temple.
This week’s prophet is Pinchas. As also explained in the previous week, Yirah is a quality very closely connected with Pinchas. His actions against the lack of fear of Heaven demonstrated by the Tribes in the sin of ba’al peor, ultimately made him worthy to become a Kohen, later a Kohen Gadol, and then Elijah the Prophet.
The levitical city for this week is Golan of Bashan, also a city of refuge. Golan comes from the word “Galut,” which means exile, a theme very much related to the above quotation regarding Rachel, our matriarch. Galut also contains also the same root as the verb “legalot,” to reveal. As we exert ourselves in exile, we come to great revelations. That is the reason why Abraham did not object to the fact that we would be exiled and then return with great possessions. These possessions were not just material, but spiritual as well – the Torah itself. The Hebrew word used for possessions, “Rechush,” has the same numerical value as the word “Torah.”[2]
An important lesson we learn from this week's quality to acquire the Torah is the need for proper fear when studying. The Alter Rebbe explains in Chapter 41 of the Tanya that fear of G-d is a key element not only in fulfilling the negative precepts of the Torah, but the positive commandments as well. It is often fear, not love, that gives us the initial push we need in order to get things done.
 

[1] In some years, the 11th of Cheshvan is the last day of the previous week, Week 6.
[2] Heard at Chabad of South Broward, in the name of the Rebbe.
 
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