Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Week 19 (Book 2): Jehu and "Minimized" Pleasure (Ta'anug)


And the Lord saw this and became angry, provoked by His sons and daughters. (Deuteronomy 32:19)
Positive light: And G-d saw this [the prayer], and became insulted with the anger against His sons and daughters.

They confronted me on the day of my calamity; but the Lord was a support to me. (II Samuel 22:19)
                               
Minimized Pleasure (Miut Ta’anug)

Jehu son of Hanani

Abdon

The nineteenth week of the year is the second in the month of Shevat. The verse in Haazinu continues to make reference to the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people as being one between a parent and a child. This week’s verse in Haazinu can also take on a more positive note. It could be read in such a way that would indicate that G-d took offense to the anger directed towards His children.

This week’s Haftarah verse is in line with this positive interpretation. It speaks of G-d’s support in times when we are attacked. The support comes from King David’s emunah, one of the themes of the month of Shevat, along with ta’anug, pleasure.

Quite appropriately, the quality of this week is minimized pleasure, miut ta’anug. Again, the idea is not to rid oneself of pleasure altogether, rather to do so with miut, smallness and humility. The idea is to enjoy the world’s pleasure in a way that elevates the world and connects us back to its Creator.

This week’s prophet is Jehu son of Hanani. Jehu spoke out against the corruption of both the kings of Israel and of Judah at the time. Interestingly though, in one of his few positive statements, Jehu praises Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, for his miut ta’anug - having removed idolatrous Ashera trees from his kingdom: “Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast put away the Asheroth out of the land, and hast set thy heart to seek G-d.” (2 Chronicles 19:3) Asherah trees were used for idol worship, as well as to beautify the places in which it was performed. Even though it was pleasing to the senses, planting such a tree near the altar is a violation of a Torah commandment.[1] In fact, Maimonides writes that Jews are forbidden from deriving any pleasure or benefit from such trees used for idol worship. (Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 7:10-11) Trees is the most prominent theme of this month.

The levitical city for this week is Abdon. It comes from the word eved, servant. It brings to mind the famous verse found in the Torah portion of Beshalach: "Vaya'aminu BaHashem ub'Moshe Avdo," and they believed in in Hashem and in Moshe His servant. Abdon was also the name of one of the Judges of Israel. The Tanach states that the sons and grandsons of Abdon rode on seventy donkeys. All of the above appears connected to the idea of taking upon oneself the yoke of Torah, particularly the Oral Torah, related to this month of Shevat




[1]  http://www.kolel.org/pages/5765/shoftim.html
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