Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Week 12 (Book 2): Nathan and Friendship



HAAZINU: [So] the Lord guided them alone, and there was no alien deity with Him. (Deuteronomy 32:12)

HAFTARAH: And He fixed darkness about Him as booths (lit. Sukkot); gathering of waters, thick clouds of the skies. (II Samuel 22:12)

QUALITY TO ACQUIRE THE TORAH: Bonding of Friends

PROPHET: Nathan

LEVITICAL CITY: Anathoth

On Week Twelve, that of Yud-Tes Kislev, the Rosh Hashanah of Chassidut, Haazinu’s verse speaks of how G-d guided the Jewish people alone, with no foreign gods. One of the basic principles of Chassidism is to understand the concept of Hashkachah Pratit - that everything that happens in the world is directly from Hashem, without interference of any foreign influences are powers. Everything is from Him, and everything is for the very best.

Furthermore, one of the main actions that led to the rededication of the Temple on Chanukah was clearing it of foreign gods that had been placed there by the Greeks and their sympathizers.

The Haftarah’s verse also appears to continue the theme of Yud-Tes Kislev and Chanukah. Chassidut is about transforming the darkness into light. Furthermore, as mentioned previously, darkness is a symbol of the exile of Greece. Chanukah has a very deep parallel with Sukkot. In fact, Chanukah is eight days long in order to parallel the eight days of Sukkot.

The quality necessary for acquiring the Torah for this week is “bonding of friends.” This is perhaps the main principle of Chassidism – that all Chassidim are one family, and that all Jews are one. 

This week’s prophet, Nathan, very much illustrates what is meant by this week's quality. First, he reprimands King David and shows him through a metaphor how his actions regarding Batsheva represented the very opposite of such "bonding of friends." 


Furthermore, is exactly through the "bonding of friends" that Nathan acts on Batshevah’s behalf in order to stave off Adonyah’s usurpation of the throne. Adonyah himself had brought all his friends and allies to declare himself king. King David therefore commands Nathan to join Benaiah Ben Yehoyada, Zadok the Kohen, and other friends/allies in order to declare Solomon the king. (Kings I 12:1-4)


This week’s levitical city is Anathoth. Similar to Book I, where the Raven was the animal for Week 12, Anathot seems to be the darkest of levitical cities. The Zohar explains that Anathot means “poverty.” It was a city of Kohanim gone awry, whose residents wanted to kill the prophet Jeremiah, who himself came from there. G-d speaks to Jeremiah to prophecize against the city, and its prospects are quite dim. Chassidut came to teach us that even Anathoth can be elevated.

Anathoth comes from the word, “Anat,” the name of a Canaanite pagan warrior-goddess, which seems to be related to the Greek pagan goddess Athena. Perhaps this is related to the idea of fighting the Greeks both culturally and militarily, during the times of Chanukah. The name Anat also has a deeper, positive side: it is the name of the parent of Shamgar, one of the judges and redeemers of Israel mentioned in the Book of Judges. It is also the name of one of the members of the Tribe of Benjamin, and of the signers of a covenant with G-d referenced in the Book of Nehemiah. (I Chron 7:8; Nehemiah 10:19) 

An important lesson we learn from this week’s quality for acquiring the Torah is similar to last week's, "ministering the sages." One of the first statements in Pirkei Avot is "Make for yourself a rabbi, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every person favorably." Acquring a friend immediately follows making for oneself a rabbi. The Talmud (Taanit 23a) also states, "oh chevruta, oh mituta," either companionship or death. Studying with a partner brings clarity and also allows you to better gage one's progress.
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