Monday, January 23, 2017
Week 18 (Book 2): Achia HaShiloni and "Minimized" World Activity
On Week Eighteen, Rosh Chodesh Shevat, Haazinu’s verse speaks of how the Jewish people forgot about G-d, who bore and delivered them. Shevat is a month very much connected with nature – it includes the New Year of the Trees. It therefore seems appropriate that the verse speak of G-d’s relationship to us using the “natural” metaphor of giving birth. However, Shevat also represents the idea of being above nature, as well as the Oral Torah; it represents the idea of taanug (pleasure) and emunah (celebrating Tu B’Shvat in the midst of winter).
This week’s verse in Haazinu can also be understood more positively, as a prayer. “Rock [or Creator], they are your children; forget completely [our sins]; G-d delivers you.” The Haftorah’s verse also appears to continue the theme of prayer. The verse describes G-d’s intervention in the world in a way that is above nature.(See below about the Levitical City of Mishal, below, as well as the Grasshopper in Week 18 of Book 1).
The quality for this week is minimized world activity (miut derech eretz). This seems to be a direct parallel with the Pirkei Avot teaching for this week in Book 1. When all of one’s affairs in this world are in a way of miut (humble and "minimized"), we see much more the Hand of G-d in all of our affairs.
This week’s prophet is Achiah HaShiloni. He, perhaps more than anyone, represents the idea of acting in a way that is above nature. He lived longer than any of the other prophets (as recorded by Maimonides, and taught Eliyahu HaNavi as well as the Ba’al Shem Tov. It was because of both men's minimized world activity that they merited to have Achiah HaShiloni revealed to them.
Achiah also told the Ba’al Shem Tov that he needed to reveal himself to the world. He directed him to be involved in the world, but in a way of miut, "smallness." Additionally, the Baal Shem Tov spoke of the importance of being a genuine and good person and having a simple connection to G-d. This seems related to both the idea of “Derech Eretz” – having good behavior and being a mentch, as well as the idea of taking care of the “Amei Ha’Aretz,” simple folk.
The levitical city for this week is Mishal, which means prayer, request. This is related to the song of the Grasshopper (Week 18, Book 1) , and to the Shmoneh Esreh, which has eighteen blessings. It is also related to ta’anug and to emunah, qualities of the month of Shevat. Mishal also has the same letters as Moshel, to rule. In prayer, we accept the notion that G-d is the ultimate Ruler.
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