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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Week 31 (From the Book): To Be Proud of Our Humble Connection with G-d

PEREK SHIRAH: The horse is saying, "Behold, as the eyes of the servants to the hand of their master, as the eyes of the maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so are our eyes to G-d our Lord until He will favor us." (Psalms 123:2)

PIRKEI AVOT: Ben Azzai would say: Run to pursue a minor mitzvah, and flee from a transgression. For a mitzvah brings another mitzvah, and a transgression brings another transgression. For the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah, and the reward of transgression is transgression.

He would also say: Do not scorn any man, and do not discount any thing. For there is no man who has not his hour, and no thing that has not its place.

SEFIRAH: Tiferet shebeHod (beauty and balance within the context of glory and gratefulness)

The thirty-first week of the year is the week of Rosh Chodesh Iyar. It also includes the day of remembrance of the fallen soldiers of Israel and victims of terror, as well as the fifth of Iyar, which marks the miraculous victory of Israel in its War of Independence. In this week, the horse in Perek Shirah sings about how like servants, our eyes are fixed on the Lord our G-d, until He has compassion over us. (Psalm 123:2) From beginning to end, during this month we are involved in the mitzvah of counting the omer. As mentioned previously, this month is also known as a month of healing, and is formed by the Hebrew letters alef, yud, and reish, which serve as an acronym for the verse “Ani Hashem Rofecha,” "I am G-d your Healer," in which each word begins with one of these three letters.

The month of Iyar is represented by the Tribe of Issachar. The Torah describes Issachar as, "a strong-boned donkey" (similar to the horse), which takes upon itself the yoke of Torah study. Issachar and Zevulun had a partnership in which Zevulun was involved in commerce and supported Issachar in its total dedication to Torah. This dedication to Torah is symbolized by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, whose yahrzeit is in this month, and of whom it is said, “Toratoh Emunatoh,” that his Torah study was his profession.

There is a clear connection between this week, the fifth of Iyar and the War of Independence. The horse, especially in ancient times, symbolizes military might. An example of this is found in the Song of the Sea, which describes how when Pharaoh came with his chariots to attack the Jewish people, G-d threw “horse and rider into the sea.” (This is actually the song of the ox, later this month, in week 34)[1]

Despite being a symbol of power, the horse sings of constantly looking to Hashem for mercy. During the War of Independence, the Jewish people truly fought mightily and heroically, like horses, and yet their victory was only possible due to its miraculous nature, a product of Hashem’s great mercy.

A horse loyally follows the directions of its rider. Like the horse, the Jewish people waited a long time and suffered greatly until Hashem showed us favor and made it possible for us to live in our Holy Land again.
The horse’s song also reflects the feelings of one who is ill or injured and prays to G-d for healing. This is connected to the day of remembrance, as well as to the fifth of Iyar itself. One must not forget that the miracle of Israel’s War of Independence occurred shortly after the Holocaust, when the Jewish people as a whole was like a sick person in urgent need.

The number thirty-one contains the same numerals as thirteen, which, as explained above, represent G-d’s thirteen attributes of mercy. Furthermore, the number thirty-one is also connected to the conquest of the Land of Israel. At the end of the conquest of the Land in the times of Joshua, the Tanach lists all the kings that were defeated at that time, thirty-one in all.[2]

The number thirty-one is formed by the Hebrew letters lamed and alef, which in turn spell the word E-l, one of the names of G-d. The name E-l is an expression of infinite power, but also of infinite mercy.[3] The word el appears many times in the horse’s song.

In the Pirkei Avot for this week, Ben Azzai teaches that one must be fast to perform a mitzvah and to flee from a transgression; for a mitzvah draws another mitzvah, while a transgression draws another. The reward for a mitzvah is a mitzvah, while the reward for a transgression is a transgression. Similarly, just as one mitzvah leads to another, physical and spiritual healing also comes slowly, one step at a time, like the Counting of the Omer.

Furthermore, Ben Azzai teaches not to scorn anyone and not to reject any thing, because there is no one who does not have his moment and there is no thing that does not have its place. This teaching’s connection with Yom Ha’Atzma’ut is similar to that of the song of the horse: the Jewish people and the Land of Israel finally had their moment!

This week’s sefirot combination results in tiferet shebehod. With patience and balance, step by step, we serve G-d and climb the ladder to spiritual fulfillment, getting closer and closer to Hashem. In order to perform this task, we inspire ourselves in the horse’s example, understanding that despite our strength we are nothing more (and nothing less) than servants of G-d. We should be proud of our humble connection with G-d and know that the journey towards Him may at times be slow, but that the arrival at its destination is certain.




[1] See also the last chapters of the Book of Job.
[2] Book of Joshua, Ch. 12
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