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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Week 21 (Book 2): Jahaziel and "Minimized" Speech


HAAZINU: They have provoked My jealousy with a non G-d, provoked My anger with their vanities. Thus, I will provoke their jealousy with a non people, provoke their anger with a foolish nation. (Deuteronomy 32:21)

Positive light: They have been zealous for me against a non-G-d; have been angered for me against the vanities [of the nations]; Therefore, I will be zealous for them against a non-people; I will be angry for them against a foolish nation.

HAFTORAH: The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He recompensed me. (II Samuel 22:21)

QUALITY TO ACQUIRE THE TORAH: Minimized Conversation (Miut Sichah)

PROPHET: Jahaziel the Levite

LEVITICAL CITY: Rehob

The twenty-first week of the year is the last of the month of Shevat. The verse in Haazinu makes reference to the closeness in the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people, and how the Jews really upset G-d with their idol worship.

Understood more positively, G-d is in fact praising the Jewish people for their zealousness against idol worship. G-d promises to respond in kind, showing His zealousness for His people. This in fact is the exact meaning of the Haftorah’s verse for this week. G-d rewards us according to our righteousness and our (moral) cleanliness. Zealotry (when performed correctly) stems from the very depths of our faith, as exemplified by Pinchas and Eliyahu. These verses come to teach us that will ultimately be rewarded for our emunah. (Vanities appears related to the idea of focusing on what is not essential, such as the statement “How beautiful is this tree,” explained in Week 21 of Book 1).

The quality of this week is minimized conversation, miut sichah. (Idle talk is also the quintessential example of “vanity.”) Conversation is often a source of distraction, and can lead to unintended consequences. Therefore, the sages warn men not to engage in too much conversation with women, even one’s own wife. However, while idle conversation is frowned upon, purposeful conversation, with miut, humility and smallness, is a very positive quality. Prayer itself is called “conversation,” as the Torah tells us that Isaac went to “converse in the field.” Rebbe Nachman believes “Hitbodedut,” conversing with G-d, to be the highest of all levels. Such conversation in the field seems quite appropriate for the month of Shevat, when we find ourselves focusing so much on nature (See Book 1).  

This week’s prophet is Jahaziel the Levite. His prophecy recorded in the Tanach also demonstrates the power of miut sichah, humility in speech:

14. And Jahaziel the son of Zechariah the son of Benaiah the son of Jeiel the son of Mattaniah the Levite of the sons of Asaph-the spirit of the Lord was upon him in the midst of the assembly.
15. And he said, "Hearken, all Judeans, inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat, so said the Lord to you: You shall not fear, neither shall you be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the war is not yours but G-d's.
16. Tomorrow, descend upon them; behold they are ascending on the ascent to Haziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley, before the desert of Jeruel.
17. It is not for you to fight in this [war]; set yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem; fear not and be not dismayed. Tomorrow, go forth before them, and the Lord will be with you."[1]

The Tanach continues its account with a description of the salvation that takes place that is full of humility, including singing and praising of Hashem. When we are able to simply do our part, and then step back and let Hashem do the rest, incredible miracles happen. Sometimes it is best for us to be quiet, such as at the time of the splitting of the Sea of Reeds: “The Lord will fight for you, but you shall remain silent.” (Exodus 14:14)
The levitical city for this week is Rehob, which means street. It comes from the word rahav, which means wide. A similar word, merchav (wide place), is used in last week’s Haftarah verse. When we are in dire straits and call out to G-d, He responds in a “broad” way. This is the essence of emunah, the theme of the month of Shevat

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