Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Week 20 (Book 2): Azariah and "Minimized" Sleep


HAAZINU: And He said, "I will hide My face from them. I will see what their end will be, for they are a generation of changes [reversals]; they are not [recognizable] as My children whom I have reared. (Deuteronomy 32:20)

Positive light: And He said, “I will hide My face from [their sins]. I will see [focus] on how they will come be at their completion. They will be a generation transformed [by teshuvah]; they are my children! No! There is faith in them [or I have faith in them!]

HAFTORAH: And He brought me forth into a wide place; He delivered me because He took delight in me. (II Samuel 22:20)

QUALITY TO ACQUIRE THE TORAH: Minimized Sleep (Miut Sheinah)

PROPHET: Azariah son of Oded

LEVITICAL CITY: Helkath

On Week Twenty, Tu B’Shevat, Haazinu’s verse speaks of how G-d will hide His face from the Jewish people, because their sins had corrupted His children. Although the verse appears to be very negative, there are quite a few parts that can be understood positively. For example, G-d’s hiding His face and seeing their end can be understood as G-d focusing on future, mercifully awaiting their repentance. The second part of the verse can be read to show that G-d cares about his children and about their faith in Him that needs revealing. This is also the message of the Haftarah’s verse: once we are taken out of our confines, then our true nature comes out, our essence, which G-d so much desires.

This delight and desire are also connected to Ta’anug and the month of Shevat. The original Hebrew phrase for “generation of changes” is Dor Ta'apuchot, which sounds very much like Tapuach, which means apple or esrog. which is connected to Tu B’Shvat. Furthermore, the overriding theme is emunah, faith, which also means the ability of being able to change for the better - to celebrate the New Year of the Trees in the middle of winter, knowing the the spring will one day come, that is the ultimate message of Tu B’Shvat.

The quality for this week is minimized sleep (miut sheinah). Sleep is a state of confinement, in which our our consciousness and ability to serve G-d is significantly reduced. Nevertheless, sleep is also a moment of increased faith. We have faith that we will wake up in the morning.This is also one of the themes of Tu B’Shvat mentioned above. We celebrate it when the trees’ vitality is still dormant. However, the fruit is already there in potential.

 It is better not to “sleep” (slacken) in our service of G-d. However, even in such “sleep,” in moments in which we are not as focused, not as attuned to G-d, we have to act with miut, smallness and humility, hoping to serve Him better in the near future.

This week’s prophet is Azariah son of Oded. Azariah’s prophecy to King Asa also exemplifies the above notion of “minimized sleep. Azariah warns Asa not to slacken, but also informs him that in the days in which the Jewish people were “asleep” in their service, once they returned to G-d and sought Him, they found Him:

1. And the spirit of G-d was upon Azariah the son of Oded.
2. And he went out before Asa and said to him, "Hearken to me, Asa and all of Judah and Benjamin; the Lord is with you because you are with Him, and if you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.
3. Now there were many days for Israel without a true G-d and without an instructing priest, and without the Torah.
4. And they returned to the Lord, the G-d of Israel, when they were in distress, and they sought Him, and He was found by them.
5. And in those times, there was no peace for anyone going or coming for there were great turmoils upon all the inhabitants of the lands.
6. And nation was crushed by nation and city by city, because G-d discomfited them with all troubles.
7. But you be strong and let your hands not slacken, for there is reward for your work."
8. And when Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he strengthened himself and removed the abominations from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities that he had captured from Mount Ephraim, and he renewed the altar of the Lord, which was in front of the vestibule of the Lord.
9. And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin and those dwelling with them from Ephraim and Manasseh and from Simeon, for many of Israel had defected to them when they saw that the Lord their G-d was with them.[1]

The levitical city for this week is Helkath, which means comes from the word “chelek,” part. This is also reminiscent of the theme of tithing of produce, to be performed on Tu B’Shvat. (See Week 20, Book 1).

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