Saturday, November 14, 2015
Week 10 (From the Book): To Trust in G-d’s Mercy
On the tenth week, the bat reiterates G-d’s words, asking that His people be comforted. (Isaiah 40:1) In this week, we fully enter into the month of Kislev, which is represented by the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin is known for its ability to preserve Jewish values for future generations and for its great capacity for self-sacrifice. The bat has the ability to see in the dark, an important trait in this month of long and cold nights. Yet it is also on this month, during Chanukah, that we feel that G-d does indeed comfort us. On Chanukah, the Jews defeat the spiritual darkness of the Greeks, and the light of the Temple is restored.
The number ten represents a complete unit, an intensification of the concept of unity reflected in the number one. Ten represents the Ten Commandments, the ten sefirot, as well as the ten Divine expressions. In Pirkei Avot, ten is also associated with mercy. G-d waited ten generations from Adam to Noah before punishing humanity. The generations after Noah also sinned, and G-d also mercifully waited ten generations from Noah to Abraham, who then began the process of returning humanity back to the belief in One G-d.
In Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Shimon states: "Be careful with the reading of the Shemah and with prayer. When you pray, do not act as if this were routine, but rather a plea for mercy and supplication before G-d… Do not be evil in your own eyes." The Shemah is the greatest expression of monotheism and of the acceptance by the Jewish people of G-d as One, and as the King of the Universe. Similarly, the prayer shows our intimacy with our Creator. These concepts are exactly what the Greeks wanted to destroy. They had a problem with the people’s monotheism. They even accepted the concept of a Cosmos - cold and indifferent to human behavior - but not of a G-d that was a Merciful Father and King.
For Rabbi Shimon, in order to follow a righteous path, it is very important to see what lies ahead, and to avoid not paying back loans. He states that one who borrows from his friend is as if he borrows from G-d. To be able to see what is about to happen (literally, “seeing what is being born”) is one of the Talmudic definitions of being truly wise, and achieving Chochmah. The Greeks were known for their wisdom. However, wisdom it and of itself, is not sufficient. Wisdom must be tied to the ethics of monotheism and to a firm relationship with a Merciful G-d. Not paying back loans, for example, is not only unethical, it is a rejection of the great mercy someone had towards us, an ultimate reflection of G-d’s mercy. Giving interest-free loans to our neighbors is a Divine commandment from the Torah.
The sefirah combination for this week is tiferet shebegevurah: beauty and balance within strength and discipline. As explained above, tiferet also is known as rachamim, mercy. While we are more distanced from Tishrei, we still remember the beauty of our Torah, we ask Hashem for mercy, in order for us to maintain our strong our dedication to the spiritual resolutions we had made on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
An important teaching of self-improvement to be drawn from the words of the bat is to always pray for mercy, and to remember to support our fellow, especially the needy and the oppressed.
 Ryzman, pp. 64, 232.
 Pirkei Avot, 5:1.
 Pirkei Avot, 5:2-6
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