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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Week 35 (Book 2): Uriah and Loving the "Just"


HAAZINU: Vengeance is poised with Me, and it will pay at the time their foot stumbles. For the appointed day of their reckoning is near, and what is destined for them hastens. (Deuteronomy 32:35)

HAFTORAH: 35. He trains my hand for war, so that mine arms do bend a brass bow. (II Samuel 22:35)

QUALITY TO ACQUIRE THE TORAH: Loves Justice (Ohev Et HaMeisharim)

PROPHET: Uriah

Levitical City: Jokneam

The thirty-fifth week of the year is the week of Yom Yerushalayim and Rosh Chodesh Sivan. Sivan, the month of Shavuot, is represented by the Tribe of Zevulun. Zevulun was known for its ability to combine the study of Torah with making a living, supporting not only itself, but also the Tribe of Issachar, which was totally immersed in learning Torah.

The verse of Haazinu speaks of vengeance and reckoning again the Jewish people. Again, however, there appears to be a very positive message. The vengeance could be interpreted to be against the enemy of the Jewish people, and the payment be for the positive deeds of the Jews and their suffering. On Rosh Chodesh Sivan, we feel that the day of “payment” for our efforts during the counting of the omer, Shavuot, is fast approaching. Upon receiving the Torah, the Jewish people collapsed as they felt their soul leave their bodies and then return. The revelation to take place in the final day of judgment, will be one in which we will be overawed by G-d’s kindness towards His people. A glimmer of this kindness was seen during the Six-Day War, and the conquest of Jerusalem, on Yom Yerushalayim. Similarly, the conquest of the city was one into which we “stumbled” to victory.

In the Haftorah verse for this week, King David writes of how G-d is the one that trains his hands for war. This is yet another reference to Hashem’s kindness on Yom Yerushalayim, in line with a positive interpretation of the verse in Haazinu.

The quality of this week is “loves justice” (Ohev Et HaMeisharim). As like the previous week, Meisharim, is not the standard Hebrew word used for justice. Meishar means to be leveled or plowed, a leveled plain or field. It also comes from the word yashar, straight, and denotes a straight and righteous path. A tzadik is called by this name regarding the fulfillment of positive behavior, while a yashar is so called regarding his fulfillment of the negative mitzvot. (Hayom Yom, 14th of Kislev

Working towards becoming a tzadik and a yashar is part of the preparation for receiving the Torah. On Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the entire people was able to be “like one man, with one heart,” because of the harmony these two characteristics (and especially fulfillment of the negative mitzvot, in not harming one another). This is the final preparation for the receiving of the Torah. 

Yashar is also the root of the word Yisrael and Yeshurun. The period of the counting of the omer is a time in which there is a personal transformation from Ha’Akov l’Mishor,[1] from Yaakov to Yisrael, as also described in these weeks in Book 1.

This week’s prophet is Uriah, whose prophecy is deeply connected to the above quality of the week and to Jerusalem. It was Uriah who said in the name of G-d that, “Zion will be plowed like a field.” As explained above, “Meishar” means a leveled, plowed plain or field. As explained by Rabbi Akiva, based on the verse in Isaiah 8:2, Uriah’s prophecy is linked to positive outcomes for Jerusalem as well. Just as the prophecy of Uriah had been fulfilled, so too would the positive prophecy of Zechariah also be fulfilled" (Makkot 24b).[2] 

Chassidic thought explains that sometimes a descent is necessary for their to be a greater ascent (Yeridah L’Tzorech Aliyah). Because of the corruption and crookedness at the time, it was necessary to make Jerusalem plowed and straight, and upright again. From this plowed field, would sprout forth the foundation of Jerusalem today, and the Jerusalem in the Messianic times, with the reconstruction of the Temple, may it be speedily in our days.

Uriah’s personal story is also quite tragic. Because of his negative prophecies, he runs away to Egypt, only to later be brought back and killed by the king of Judah. It is interesting that his message is included, not in a separate book of his own, but in the Book of Jeremiah, and his prophecy is described primarily as being, “like all the words of Jeremiah.” (Jeremiah 26:20) Jeremiah is the prophet of the next week. The murder of Uriah was also a Yeridah L’Tzorech Aliyah. As mentioned previously, he is also referenced in the Book of Isaiah.

The levitical city for this week is Yokneam. Its name appears to be a contraction of the words “Yikneh Am” – He will acquire a nation. These words can also be read as “a nation shall acquire.” On Shavuot, Hashem acquired us as a nation. It was also on Shavuot that we, the Jewish people, acquired the Torah. The verse is nonetheless in the future tense, since this “acquisition process” was to be felt again in the future, in the days of Purim (when the Jews accepted the Torah upon themselves on a higher level), and with the coming of Mashiach. Yokneam today is an important high-tech center, as well as an extensive archeological site.

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