Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Week 12 (Book 3): Arpachshad and the Fiery Furnace




SONG OF THE SEA: Who is like You among the powerful, O Lord? Who is like You, exalted in the holy place?      

HAFTARAH: that offered themselves willingly among the people, (saying,) 'Bless the Lord.' 10. The riders of white donkeys,

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 12 - Miriam and Moshe

GENERATIONS FROM ADAM TO THE LAST KING OF JUDAH: Arpachshad

JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Rephidim and camped in the Sinai desert.

On Week 12, week of Yud Tes Kislev, the verses of the Song of the Sea include the rhetorical question: “Mi Chamocha Ba’Elim Hashem,” Who is like You among the powerful, O Lord?  This phrase is the acronym for the name of the Maccabees. The repetition of the question, “Who is like You?” is also reminiscent of the “two lights” the Alter Rebbe brought to the world, in Halakha (nigleh) and Chassidus (nistar). The verse first talks about Hashem’s revealed greatness (Elim means forces of nature), the second about His hidden one.

The Haftorah’s verses speaks of self-sacrifice for G-d’s sake. It also speaks of “riders of white donkeys.” This appears to be a reference to Mashiach, who will arrive on a (white) donkey. The Alter Rebbe’s work, the Tanya, is connected to Yud Tes Kislev. R. Zusya of Anipoli is said to have predicted: “With the Tanya the Jewish people will go out to greet the righteous Mashiach.”

Daf Yud Beit (Folio 12) of Sotah is primarily about Miriam and Moshe. The Talmud relates that Moshe’s name was also Tuviah, because of the great light that was revealed about him when he was born. This is related to the Alter Rebbe, who was named Shneur because of the two lights he brought to this world. The discussion of Miriam is also pertinent. The Talmud speaks of how Miriam spoke to her father, and how by doing so she convinced him, and consequently all the Jewish people, not to divorce their wives. The Alter Rebbe’s daughter, Devorah Leah, had a similar discussion with the Alter Rebbe about giving up her life in order to add years to her father’s, so that the work of spreading the light of Chassidus could continue.

This week's link in the chain from Adam to the last king of Judah is Arpachshad, the son of Shem. His name in Hebrew can be divided into three words: “ohr” (light), “pach” (vial), “shad” (related to “Sh-dai,” one of G-d’s names, which stands for Shomer Daltot Yisrael,” Guardian of the doors of Israel. This is also the of G-d name placed on each Mezuzah). All three words are all clearly connected to Chanukah. Chanukah is the festival of light. We light the Menorah in honor of the small vial (pach) of pure olive oil that lasted eight days instead of one. According to Jewish law, the Menorah should be lit next to the Mezuzah. The Mezuzah is a symbol of dedication, like the name of Chanukah. In fact, when the Mezuzah is first placed, it is common to ceremony known as Chanukath HaBayit, an inauguration/dedication of the home. 

The Midrash states that the name Sh-dai stands for, “The One who told the world ‘dai ‘(enough).” (Chagigah 12a and Midrash Breishit Rabbah 5:8) The name reflects the fact that when Hashem created the world, set limits and boundaries, while He Himself is limitless and inifinite. This is very much the message of Chanukah as well, which we say how G-d can make miracles that are above nature.

In the twelfth week, the Jews journey from Rephidim and camp in the Sinai desert, where they gather around in unison in order to receive the Torah. The journey of this week is understanding that the weakness that comes from the lack of water comes about only in order that we gain even greater levels of Torah knowledge, such as on Yud Tes Kislev is when we receive the Toras HaChassidus, and Chanukah.

Another important lesson in prayer and Divine service that we learn from Arpachshad is his association with Ur Chasdim.[1] This is where Abraham was thrown into a fiery furnace for his defiance of Nimrod and belief in One G-d. Abraham’s great self-sacrifice and willingness to be thrown into the fire brings to mind the self-sacrifice of the Alter Rebbe, the Maccabees, and the Jews of the times of Chanukah. It also brings to mind the meditation technique of the great rebbe, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhenk:

Every moment that you are not learning Torah, especially when you are idle and you are alone in your room or lying in bed and unable to sleep, your thoughts should focus on the positive commandment: “V'Nikdashti besoch bnei Yisrael" –I will be sanctified among the Jewish people” (Vayikra 22:32). You should think in your heart and conjure up in your mind there there is a great and awesome fire burning in front of you reaching up to the heavens, and for the sake of the holiness and sanctity of Hashem you are going against your nature and throwing yourself into the flames in sanctification of His Name. “And HaKadosh Baruch Hu joins good intentions with great deeds” (Kiddushin 40a). By doing this, you are no longer sitting idle but rather you are fulfilling a positive Torah commandment.[2]




[2] MiPeninei Noam Elimelech, Tzeitzel Katan, translated by Tal Moshe Zwecker

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