Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Week 22 (Book 2): Adar, Eliezer son of Dodavahu, and "Minimized" Laughter
Week Twenty-Two is the week of Rosh Chodesh Adar. This month is connected to the tribe of Naftali and the attribute of desire (ratzon). It is also the month of Purim. Haazinu’s verse for this week speaks of how G-d’s wrath burned and led to the destruction of the land and its surroundings.
A positive interpretation is that the wrath spoken of here is not against Israel, but rather against the “foolish nation” that attacks it: Amalek. The Hebrew word translated at first as “lowest depths” is Sheol, which can also be read as Shaul, the first king of Israel who failed to wipe out Amalek, and G-d’s anger against it continued since. In Adar, we read Parashat Zachor, in which we remember to destroy Amalek, and everything it represents. The Purim story itself is a contrast between Mordechai, a descendant of Shaul, and Haman, a descendant of Hagag, the King of the Amalekites. Ultimately, Mordechai defeats Haman, who is killed along with this sons.
The Haftarah’s verse also appears to point to this contrast between good and evil. The first half of the verse affirms good behavior, while the second rejects negative behavior. Interestingly, the part about good behavior, “I have kept the ways,” Shamarti Darchei, contains the letters of Mordechai. The second half, “have not wickedly” Veloh Rashati, is likely a reference to Haman who is called Haman HaRashah. Veloh Rashati is reminiscent of the name, “Vashti,” King Achashverosh’s evil wife, prior to Queen Esther.
The quality for this week is minimized laughter (miut schok). Laughter can lead a person to frivolity, and to ultimately being dragged in to the wrong circles. Laughter is certainly not bad per say – it can have mind expanding qualities, it is even a custom, based on the Talmud, to begin each lesson with a joke - nevertheless such laughter has to characterized by miut, smallness, humility. This is true of the month of Adar, when we are Marbim B'Simcha, we increase in joy, and true for Purim itself, when it is a mitzvah to get drunk and act in a way of schok; we just have to remember to do it with the right intentions.
This week’s prophet is Eliezer son of Dodavahu. His words to King Yehoshaphat incorporate the above idea of being careful in ones social interactions. King Yehoshaphat was righteous, but at one point he associated himself with King Ahab. The prophet rebuked King Yehoshaphat for his actions, and he was punished. The ships he had made with King Ahab were broken, and they were unable to sail them. This is the last event described in the Tanach prior to the King Yehoshaphat’s death.
The levitical city for this week is Kedesh, which is also a city of refuge. Its name comes from the Hebrew word Kadosh, which means “holy.” It is also related to the word Kiddush, which is the blessing over wine. It appears related to the drinking that takes place in Adar, which as superficially frivolous as it might seem, is in fact tremendously holy, in many ways even holier than Yom Kippur.
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