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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Week 33 (Book 2): Chabakuk and Torah that Comes from Suffering



HAAZINU: Their wine is the bitterness of serpents, and the bitterness of the ruthless cobras. (Deuteronomy 32:33)

Positive light: Their deep Torah wisdom came from the bitter serpents [enemies/exiles], and their ability to be a head (and to have a deep mind), from dealing with ruthless cobras [enemies/exiles].

HAFTORAH: 33. G-d is He who has fortified me with strength; and He looseth perfectly my path. (II Samuel 22:33)

QUALITY FOR ACQUIRING THE TORAH: Loves the creations/people (Ohev et HaBriot)

PROPHET: Chabakuk

LEVITICAL CITY: Jarmuth


The thirty-third week of the year is the week of Pessach Sheini and Lag Ba’omer. In Haazinu, the verse speaks again of the bitter punishment faced by the Jewish people, comparing it to wine. Wine is also a known metaphor for the essence and the hidden part of the Torah, associated primarily with the works of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. The joy of Lag Ba’omer comes in contrast to the suffering and the mourning that took place during omer period, with the passing of 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai himself acquired this “wine” through much suffering. In the end, he said that the sufferring he endured was very much worth it.


In the Haftorah verse for this week, King David exclaims that G-d is his strength. The word used for strength is chayil. As explained in the beginning of this book, chayil is a known reference to the Torah, the source of King David’s power. The second part of the verse contains a word that is written (the ksiv) differently than how it is verbalized (the kri). The word written is darchoh (His way) not darchi (my way). The verse would therefore read, “G-d makes clear to me His perfect way.” The word for perfect used is tamim, which is also a reference to the Torah, as King David himself says in the psalms: “Torat Hashem Tmimah Meshivat Nafesh,” the Torah of G-d is perfect, it restores the soul.

The quality of this week is “loves the creations” (Ohev Et Habriot), the third term used by Rabbi Meir in the description of those that study Torah for its own sake (Lishmah). The first day of this week, Pessach Sheini, is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehuda Bar Ilai, and, as already mentioned, Lag Ba’omer is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi). Rashbi is the quintessential example of someone who studies Torah Lishmah. The quality Ohev Et Habriot is also the term used by Hillel in Pirkei Avot to describe Aharon. Aharon is the leader of the Jewish people associated with the sefirah of Hod, and Lag Ba’omer represents Hod shebeHod in the omer count.


This week’s prophet is Chabakuk. Just as Lag Ba’omer is about the revelation of the essence of the omer itself, Chabakuk was the one that prophecized the verse in which to encompass all of the Torah: Tzadik be’Emunatoh Yichyieh, "the Tzadik lives by his faith." (Chapter 2:5) This verse also perfectly describes Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, as well as Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehuda Bar Ilai, and all the other tzadikim connected to this week. Chabakuk also represents the concept of the revelation the deep secrets of the Torah, as we find in the end of Perek Shirah:
Rabbi Yeshayah, student of Rabbi
 Chanina ben Dosa, fasted eighty-five
fasts. He said, Dogs, about which it is
written, “The dogs are brazen of spirit;
they do not know satisfaction” (Isaiah
56:11) – shall they merit saying a song?
An angel answered him from Heaven and
said to him, Yeshayah, until when will
you fast over this? It is an oath from the
Holy One, Blessed is He; from the day
that He revealed His secret to Havakuk
the prophet, He has not revealed this
matter to anyone in the world.


The levitical city for this week is Jarmuth. It appears that this city is also called Ramoth and Remeth, which mean "height" or "heights." However, Ramoth and Yarmuth contains the letter Mem Vav Tav, which spell Maveth, death. Interestingly, Ramoth in Chronicles is spelled with an alef. Alef Mem Tav spells Emeth, truth (similar to Remeth, another spelling for this city). The name of this city seems to encompass the themes of Lag Ba’omer discussed above, heights and truth in the context of suffering and death.

The Tanach recounts that the city was conquered miraculously by Yehoshua (Ramoth with an alef  contains the word Re’em, perhaps a reference to Yehoshua himself,  who is compared to an animal called a Re'em).
The city was abandoned during the first exile,  but the Jewish people returned to the city in the times of Nechemia. Tel Yarmuth is an important archeological site in Israel today.


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