Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Week 36 (From the Book): To Have Emunah
Week thirty-six in the Jewish calendar marks the holiday of Shavuot. The entire week is also known as “Shivah Yemei Miluim,” in which Shavuot sacrifices could still be brought to the Temple. On this week in Perek Shirah, the gazelle praises Hashem’s kindness in the morning, a shelter and refuge in times of trouble. (Psalm 59: 17)
The Hebrew word for gazelle is Tzvi, which has the same gematria as the word emunah, complete faith in Hashem. The word tzvi is composed of three letters, tzadi, beit, yud, and is an acronym for the phrase “tzadik b'emunatoh yichieh,” "a tzadik lives through his faith," a verse from the prophet Habakkuk. The Talmud explains that this verse is actually a summary of the entire Torah that was given to Moses on Mount Sinai on Shavuot.
The song of the gazelle expresses its faith in Hashem, both in the morning and in times of trouble (“night”). A similar concept is found in the beginning of Psalm 92, which states, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing to Your name, O Most High; To declare in the morning Your kindness and Your faith at night.” After the troubles we encountered during the Counting of the Omer, which is associated with the night, on Shavuot, we witness the revelation of Hashem, clear as day.
The horns of the gazelle are like a double crown, and we know that the Jewish people also received a double crown on Shavuot, as a reward for their faith in G-d. The Midrash teaches that while other nations refused to accept the Torah, the Jews did not even first ask what was in it. They simply stated, "Na'aseh veNishmah," "We will do and we will listen." The Jewish people willingly accepted to fulfill the commandments of the Torah even before knowing and understanding what they entailed. Hashem therefore gave each Jew two crowns, one for “Na'aseh” (we will do) and another for “Nishmah” (we will hear/understand). Unfortunately, these crowns were later removed after the sin of the golden calf.
The number thirty-six represents the thirty-six secret tzadikim that sustain the world. The number thirty-six is also the total number of Chanukah candles that are lit during the eight days of the holiday. These two concepts seem connected to the light revealed to us on Shavuot, when, due to our efforts during the Counting of the Omer, we are all closer to being on the level of tzadikim. These thirty-six tzadikim are literally the foundation of the world.
This week’s lesson in Pirkei Avot comes from Rabbi Yossi, who teaches that one who honors the Torah will be honored by others, while one who dishonors the Torah, will be dishonored by others. (IV: 8) This lesson is strongly related to the giving of the Torah, as well as to the unfortunate events that took place shortly thereafter. When we accepted the Torah, we were shown great honor, but when we dishonored the Torah with the sin of the golden calf, that honor was taken away.
On this week, the combination of sefirot is chesed shebeyesod, kindness within foundation. On Shavuot, the Jewish people had to stand firm (by not getting too close to the mountain and not letting their souls expire completely from the tremendous Divine revelation), in order receive from G-d the great good that is the Torah. (As the week of Shavuot and the Shivah Yemei Miluim, this week also represents the “eighth week” of the cycle of Hod)
A lesson in self-improvement we may learn from the gazelle is that we must have faith in Hashem at night (during difficult times), knowing full well that the night will eventually pass and we will be able to thank Hashem in the openly revealed light of day.
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