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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Week 25 (Book 2): Micah the Morashite and "Faith in the Sages"


From outside, the sword will bereave, and terror from within; young men and maidens, suckling babes with venerable elders. (Deuteronomy 32:25)

Positive light: [The Purim decree will be turned on its head, regarding Amalek…] From outside, the sword will bereave, and terror from within; young men and maidens, suckling babes with venerable elders.

And the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness; according to my cleanness before His eyes. (II Samuel 22:25)

Faith in the Sages (Emunat Chachamim)

Micah the Morashite

Jerusalem

The twenty-fifth week of the year is the last week of Adar. The verse in Haazinu continues to make reference to the destruction inflicted on the Jewish people, this time describing how they will be decimated regardless of age or gender. This was the decree that Haman imposed on the Jewish people in the times of Purim.

Again, if understood more positively, the verse is a reference to the destruction of Amalek. The Jewish people are commanded to wipe out all of Amalek, including women, the elderly and the babies. When killing Agag, the king of the Amalekites, Samuel exclaims: “As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women.” See Samuel I, 15:33:

The Haftorah continues its positive tone, and like in Week 23, again the term Leneged (before or against) is used. The term in this verse is Leneged Einav, “before His eyes,” which in this case can mean “for the one against His eyes.” Amalek is not only against the Jewish people, but against G-d Himself. It is like a thorn in His eyes. Amalek is very much associated with keri, a source of impurity. Cleanness or purity in this context might also mean fulfilling G-d’s commandment to destroy Amalek unquestioningly, correcting King Saul’s mistake.

The quality of this week is faith in the sages, emunat chachamim. This quality is certainly a central theme of the message of Purim, when the Jews showed faith in the actions of Mordechai and Esther. At first glance, Mordechai could even be blamed for starting the persecution against the Jews by not bowing to Haman. However, we see that the Jewish people did not blame him. On the contrary, they had full faith in him, stood behind him, and followed his directives. Haman saw the Jews as an “Am Mordechai,” a nation of Mordechai(s).

This week’s prophet is Micah the Morashite. Much of Micah’s prophecy is directed towards the heads of the Jewish people, its sages:

1. And I said: Hearken now, you heads of Jacob and officers of the house of Israel! Is it not incumbent upon you to know the judgment?
2. Those who hate good and love evil-who rob their skin from upon them and their flesh from upon their bones,        
3. and who ate the flesh of My people and flayed their skin from upon them, and opened their bones and broke them, as in a pot, and like meat within a cauldron 
4. then they shall cry out to the Lord, but He shall not respond to them; and He shall hide His countenance from them at that time, as they wrought evil with their works.  
5. So said the Lord concerning the prophets who mislead my people, who bite with their teeth and herald peace, but concerning whomever does not give into their mouth, they prepare war.
6. Therefore, it shall be night for you because of the vision, and it shall be dark for you because of the divination, and the sun shall set on the prophets, and the day shall be darkened about them.      
7. And the seers shall be ashamed, and the diviners shall be disgraced, and they shall all cover their upper lips, for it is not a statement of G-d.      
8. But I am truly full of strength from the spirit of the Lord and justice and might, to tell Jacob his transgression and Israel his sin.    
9. Hearken now to this, you heads of the house of Jacob and you rulers of the house of Israel, who condemn justice and pervert all that is straight.         
10. Each one builds Zion with blood and Jerusalem with injustice.          
11. Its heads judge for bribes, and its priests teach for a price; and its prophets divine for money, and they rely on the Lord, saying, "Is not the Lord in our midst? No evil shall befall us."         
12. Therefore, because of you, Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the Temple Mount like the high places of a forest.

The above text also echoes a very strong theme of Purim and the month of Adar: the fact that Hashem is hidden. In the Book of Jeremiah, the connection between Micah and emunat chachamim is even more obvious:

Then certain of the elders of the land rose and said to all the congregation of the people, saying: Micah the Morashtite was prophesying in the days of Hezekiah the king of Judah, saying: So said the Lord of Hosts: Zion shall be plowed for a field, and Jerusalem shall be heaps, and the Temple Mount as the high places of a forest. Did Hezekiah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the Lord? And he entreated the Lord, and the Lord renounced the evil that He had spoken concerning them. But we are doing great harm to ourselves [if we kill him]. (Jeremiah, Chapter 26, 17-19)

The levitical city for this week is Jerusalem, since the Temple was also considered a city of refuge. For now, half rests in the tribe of Judah, while the other half rests in the tribe of Benjamin. (See Week 9) In the future, Jerusalem will have its own territory, separate from those of each tribe. This week is the last opportunity of the year for contributing the half-shekel for the upkeep of the Temple in Jerusalem. In the Megillah, Achashverosh says that he would be willing to give Esther up to half his kingdom, which the sages learn to mean, up to Jerusalem.
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