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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Week 14 (from the Book): To Believe in Our Own Strength, which Comes from G-d

The domestic goose is saying, "Give thanks to G-d and call upon His name, make His works known amongst the peoples, sing to Him, make music to Him, speak of all His wonders!" (Psalms 105: 1-2)

Rabbi Chanina, deputy high priest would say: Pray for the integrity of the government; for were it not for the fear of its authority, a man would swallow his neighbor alive.

Malchut shebeGevurah (kingship within the context of discipline and judgment)

In the fourteenth week, it is the turn of the domestic goose to sing: "Praise and proclaim the Name of G-d, disseminate His deeds among all nations, sing songs and hymns, narrate all His wonders" (Psalm 105:1-2). In addition toChanukah, this week also marks Rosh Chodesh Teveth.

Teveth is considered a difficult month, as it includes the fast of the 10th of Teveth, when Jerusalem was besieged. Teveth is represented by the tribe of Dan, which is characterized by strength and the ability to be fruitful and multiply. Dan himself had only one child, and was perceived as being at risk of extinction. However, Dan quickly became one of the largest tribes.[1]Samson was from the tribe of Dan, and he also is associated with the physical strength and the power of procreation.[2]

This week also marks the Chassidic holiday of Didan Netzach, "Victory is Ours," on the 5th of Teveth, also known as “the day of victory of the books.” On Didan Netzach, the Lubavitcher Rebbe won a great victory, maintaining the sanctity of the sacred books of the Lubavitch library. He earned the recognition of a non-Jewish secular court, which openly acknowledged the special relationship between a Rebbe and his Chassidim. As will be explained in more detail next week, the month of Teveth is very connected to the importance of valuing our sacred writings. Didan Netzach is also closely linked with the physical and spiritual victory of the Maccabees.

The song of the domestic goose is related to the mitzvah of publicizing the miracle of Chanukah, pirsumei nissa, mentioned last week. On Chanukah, we sing to Him, praise Him, and thank Him, through various songs.

Fourteen is comprised of the letters yud and dalet, which spells yad, meaning hand or arm. In the widely accepted version of the Order of the Passover Seder, attributed to Rashi or one of the Tosafot, fourteen steps are listed. That is because in the Torah it is written that G-d brought His people out of Egypt with a yad chazakah, a strong arm.[3]Fourteen is therefore associated with strength and firmness, as well as redemption. Such redemptive qualities are felt on Chanukah.

The teaching of Pirkei Avot for this week can be found in the words of Rabbi Chaninah, Deputy Kohen Gadol (High Priest): "Pray for the welfare of the government, because if it were not for fear of it, men would swallow each other alive." (III:2) Rabbi Chaninah is also speaking metaphorically, that without outside intervention, the strong exploit the weak both physically and economically.[4]
It is amazing that the Pirkei Avot teaching of the deputy kohen gadol falls exactly during the week of Chanukah, when the Jewish people celebrate their liberation from Greek dominance and exploitation, due to the heroic acts of a group of kohanim. During these days, we thank G-d for “delivering the strong into the hands of the weak,” as can be found in the additions made to the daily prayer (the Amidah) inserted during Chanukah.

This week, we complete another cycle of seven weeks, and the sefirot combination is malchut shebegevurah. The Maccabbees were tough and disciplined (gevurah) and after their victory even started a dynasty of kings (malchut). Like the Maccabees, we must take action within this physical and material world, with discipline and strength, which is also an attribute of the entire month of Teveth.

We learn from the domestic goose about the importance of acknowledging the miracles that occur all around us on a daily basis, and of publicizing these miracles as well. To recall and publicize miracles that occur throughout life is a great way to be more grateful in our day-to-day. In fact, it is a great source of blessing and happiness.



[1] Ryzman, p. 77.
[2] Talmud, Sotah 10a.
[3] Ki Yishalcha Bincha, Rabbi Bogomilsky, p. 56.
[4] Marcus, p. 82, citing Bartenura’s commentary on the Talmud, Avodah Zarah 4a.
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