Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Week 27 (Book 2): Eliyahu and Knowing One's Place


HAAZINU: Were it not that the enemy's wrath was heaped up, lest their adversaries distort; lest they claim, "Our hand was triumphant! The Lord did none of this!" (Deuteronomy 32:27)

HAFTORAH: With a pure one, You show Yourself pure; But with a perverse one, You deal crookedly. (II Samuel 22:27)

PIRKEI AVOT QUALITY: He Who Knows His Place (Hamakir Et Mekomoh)

PROPHET: Eliyahu

LEVITICAL CITY: Libnah (City of Refuge)

Week 27 is the second week of Nissan. Its verse in Haazinu makes reference to the theme of the previous week: the problem of haughtiness. Understood as a reference to the destruction of Amalek, the reason it has taken so long for it to come about is because of the haughtiness of the Jewish people, how their inflated ego would distort reality. Unfortunately, we saw some of this after the Six-Day War. The miraculous victory led to uncalled for exuberance and distortions by the Jewish people, which ultimately led to the debacle that took place during the Yom Kippur War. The Haftorah verse has a similar theme. G-d treats those that are pure with purity, while those that are crooked and distort reality, he acts accordingly. During the time before Passover, we try the utmost to purify ourselves, especially of our ego.

The quality of this week is “he who knows his place” (Hamakir Et Mekomoh). This perhaps is the ultimate description of what it means to be humble. Being humble is not about considering oneself to be meaningless, but rather to know one’s place: one’s responsibility and task in life. The word for place in Hebrew, Makom, is also one of the names of G-d. Hamakir et Mekomoh can therefore mean “he who knows his G-d.” That is also the message of Passover. Pharaoh, the ultimate example of an overgrown ego, did not at first release the Jewish people because he said he did not know G-d. Moshe, on the other hand, the most humble of men, knew G-d better than any other mortal.

This week’s prophet is Eliyahu. Eliyahu also was very humble, even though he did not hesitate in speaking up against the King of Israel at the time and rebuking all of Israel for their hesitation in choosing to serve only G-d. Eliyahu knew his place, and when he was asked, “Why are you here, Eliyahu?" Eliyahu responds, "I have acted with great zeal for Hashem, G-d of Legions…”  [Kings I 19:9] Eliyahu is also one of the best examples of someone who “knows his G-d.” Every Shabbat, we read, Eliyahu’s description and exaltation of G-d’s attributes, known as Patach Eliyahu. This prophet also plays a major role in the Passover Seder.


The levitical city for this week is Libnah, also a city of refuge. Libnah comes from the word, “Lavan,” which means white. It is perhaps a reference to the purification before Pessach, as well as one of the koshering processes for utensils, Libun, in which metals are heated until they are white hot. Lavan is also one of the main enemies of the Jewish people. In fact, the recounting of the Passover Seder begins with the phrase, Arami Oved Avi,” an Aramean tried to destroy my father, a reference to Lavan who tried to destroy Jacob. (See Book 1, which shows the connection between this week and Jacob)
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