Sunday, March 13, 2016
Week 23 (Book 2): Hosea and Slowness to Anger (Erech Apayim)
The twenty-third week of the year is the week of the seventh of Adar, which is both the day of Moshe’s birth as well as of that of his passing. The verse in Haazinu continues to makes reference to the destruction inflicted on the Jewish people, and the passing of Moshe is perhaps one of the greatest examples of such loss.
Again, if understood more positively, the verse could be a reference to the destruction not of the Jewish people, but of Amalek, a continuous theme of the month of Adar. Rashi’s commentary hints to such an understanding, since it notes that the arrows that attack the Jewish people are the ones that are diminished, not the Jews. The Haftorah continues its positive tone, showing how we actually maintained our faith and obedience to G-d’s laws. Interestingly, the word for “before me” used is Lenegdi, which can also be read as Lenegdai, “towards those against me.” The verse therefore can be read as stating that the Torah’s commandments are a protection against the attackers of the Jewish people, such as Amalek.
The quality of this week is slowness to anger, erech apayim. This is a very appropriate quality for the week of Moshe Rabbeinu’s yahrzeit, because it was through his pleading on behalf of the Jewish people that G-d revealed this quality of His, one of the thirteen attributes of mercy. During his plea to Hashem, Moshe stated that if G-d would not forgive the Jewish people, “erase me from Your book.” Because of this statement, Moshe’s name does not appear in the Torah portion of Tetzaveh, which usually occurs on the week of his yahrzeit.
It was also due to Moshe’s lack of this attribute, a relative quickness to anger (at Moshe’s level, of course, which is something we cannot even fathom), that led to his castigating the Jewish people and striking the rock instead of talking to it. This mishap is what prevented Moshe from entering the the Land of Israel and passing away.
This week’s prophet is Hosea. Hosea’s prophecies recorded in the Tanach center around G-d’s unending mercy and slowness to anger, his love for the Jewish people despite their sins.
The levitical city for this week is Hamoth-Dor, which means the springs of Dor. Interestingly Hamoth has the same root as the word Hamath, anger. Springs represent the idea of anger/heat being contained, just as the springs of Tiberias are said to come from an opening in the gates of Gehinnom ("hell") created in the time of the Flood. It was an opening that came from anger and was now contained and turned to positive use. (Dar comes from the word for home, a “domesticated” anger).
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