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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Week 36 (Book 3): Not Leaving the Learning for the Morning


BESHALACH: 19. And Moses said to them, Let no one leave over [any] of it until morning. 20. But [some] men did not obey Moses and left over [some] of it until morning, and it bred worms and became putrid, and Moses became angry with them.     

HAFTORAH:
she struck Sisera, pierced his head,
and wounded and penetrated his temple.

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 36 – The Ephod

Abijam

They journeyed from Zalmonah and camped in Punon.

Week 36 is the week of Shavuot. The section of Beshalach for this week describes how Moshe told the people not to leave any of the mannah until morning. However, some did not obey Moshe, and the mannah spoiled. This is similar to Shavuot itself, when in the initial giving of the Torah the people overslept, and Moshe reprimanded the people for it. This is the basis for the custom to spend all night studying Torah (ie. not leaving it until morning).

The Haftorah verses speak of Yael’s brave actions. If, like in week 34, we take the words out of the context of Yael’s actions, they could actually be a reference to the tremendous experience of Mount Sinai. There, the Torah pierced and penetrated our minds in a way that left an indelible mark in every Jewish soul.

Daf Lamed Vav (Folio 36) of Sotah continues the discussion of how the Jewish people entered the Land of Israel, how the tribes stood at Mount Grizim and Mount Eival, and also of how the names of the tribes were inscribed on the Ephod. This is a symbol of unity, also symbolized by Shavuot and the month of Sivan in general. There is also discussion of how there were 50 letters in the Ephod (the number 50 is also connected to Shavuot).

The daf also spends a considerable time  describing Yosef, and the tests he overcame. Shavuot is also about miracles, and about all of Israel standing at a mountain and entering into a covenant. Yosef is also the consummate example of someone that followed the Torah, the very definition of a Tzadik. (See Book 1, how being at Mount Sinai is related to being on the level of tzadikim)

The descendant of Judah for this week is Abijam, the son of Rehoboam. He is also known at Abijah, which means “my father is Hashem.” Just as on Shavuot we received the Torah because of our unity, so too Abiyah sought to reunite the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Despite his military victory, however, he was unable to reach his goal. 

As mentioned in Book 2, as much as Shavuot is a day of celebration, the unfortunate events that took place immediately following the giving of the Torah (ie. the sin of the golden calf), required Hashem's great mercy, as well as Moshe's begging on our behalf.  Abiyah, the king of Judah  followed in the wicked ways of his father, and the Jewish people were steeped in idolatry. 

Interestingly, like Rehoboam, Jeroboam, the sinful king of Israel (who actually built an “alternate temple with golden calves!) also had a son named Abiyah. The child became critically ill, died and was eulogized by all of Israel.[1] (The eulogy, even if for the son of an evil king, also shows the theme of unity connected to Shavuot

In the thirty-sixth week, the Jews journey from Zalmonah and camp in Punon. Punon is the place where the Jewish people complained and were bitten by snakes. It was also through Moshe’s copper snake that they were healed. Punon comes from the word “directed” (or faced) and also means death in Greek.[2] During the giving of the Torah, the Jewish people all died and were immediately revived. When they faced Hashem and heard Him speak, their souls left their bodies. Punon also has two letter Nuns, perhaps also a reference to the “50th” day of the omer, which is Shavuot. The personal journey for this week is to internalize the light of Shavuot in contrast to to the darkness of the omer, and now focus on being revived by the Torah as well.






[1] http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/showrashi/false/aid/15898/jewish/Chapter-14.htm
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