Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Week 38 (Book 2): Daniel and Not Acting Arrogantly with One's Knowledge


HAAZINU: who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their libations? Let them arise and help you! Let them be your shelter! (Deuteronomy 32:38)
HAFTORAH: I have pursued my enemies and have destroyed them; Never turning back until they were consumed. (II Samuel 22:38)
QUALITY TO ACQUIRE THE TORAH: Does Not Act Arrogantly With His Knowledge (Studies)
PROPHET: Daniel (Shemaiah)
LEVITICAL CITY: Nahalal

Week Thirty-Eight is the last week of Sivan, and Haazinu’s verse continues the questions from the previous week, where G-d asks the Jews where is the protection that they sought from other gods. Again, a positive reading of the verse would be a continuation of the questions asked to Israel’s enemies. The Haftorah’s verse appears to directly support this reading, since it speaks of how King David (the Jewish people) was able to pursue his enemies and destroy them completely, without their being able to find any refuge.

The quality for this week is “does not act arrogantly with his knowledge (studies).” As explained in the previous week, haughtiness is diametrically opposed to holiness and to the Torah. Therefore, to act arrogantly based on his knowledge would be the utmost example of inappropriate behavior. After all the knowledge does not belong to the individual but to G-d. Another way to read the verse is to read it to mean “does not act arrogantly with His (G-d’s) knowledge,” because the knowledge is ultimately all G-d’s. This is also an important message of the month of Sivan.

This week’s prophet is Daniel. It is worth noting that in Book 1, we explained how Week 38 is that of the lion. Daniel is known primarily for his being thrown in the den of hungry lions and miraculously being saved.

Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream shows how Daniel does not act arrogantly with his knowledge. Interpretation of the dreams comes from G-d. Everything comes from G-d:

And to these youths, the four of them, G-d gave knowledge and understanding in every script and wisdom, and Daniel understood all visions and dreams. And at the end of the days that the king ordered to bring them, the chief officer brought them before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and of all of them, no one was found to equal Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; and they stood before the king. And in every matter of the wisdom of understanding that the king requested of them, he found them ten times better than all the necromancers and astrologers in all his kingdom. (Chapter 1:17-20)

Then Daniel entered and requested of the king that time be given him, and the interpretation would be told to the king. Then Daniel went home and let his colleagues, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, know of the matter. And to pray and beg of the G-d of heaven about this secret, that Daniel and his colleagues should not perish with the remaining wise men of Babylon. Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in the vision of the night; then Daniel blessed the G-d of heaven.  

Daniel spoke up and said, "May the Name of G-d be blessed from everlasting even to everlasting, to Whom are wisdom and might. And He changes the times and the seasons, He removes kings and sets up kings; He grants wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who know understanding. He reveals the profound and secret things; He knows what is in the dark, and light dwells with Him. To You, O G-d of my forefathers, I give thanks and praise, for You have given me wisdom and might, and now You have let me know what I requested of You, for the matter of the king You have let me know." (…)

The king spoke up and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, "Do you have the ability to tell me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?"   Daniel answered the king and said, "The secret that the king asks, no wise men, astrologers, necromancers, or demonologists can tell the king. But there is a G-d in heaven Who reveals secrets, and He lets King Nebuchadnezzar know what will be at the end of days; that is your dream and the visions of your head on your bed.  

You, O king, your thoughts came while on your bed, what will be after this, and the Revealer of secrets lets you know what will be. And I-not with wisdom that I possess more than all living, did He reveal this secret to me, but in order that they should let the king know the interpretation, and you should know the thoughts of your heart. (Chapter 2:16-30)

Daniel’s actions are like those of his predecessor, Joseph, in his first interaction with Pharaoh:

And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter for it, but I have heard it said of you [that] you understand a dream, to interpret it." And Joseph replied to Pharaoh, saying, "Not I; G-d will give an answer [that will bring] peace to Pharaoh." (Genesis 41:15-16)

Rashi explains that there is a discussion among the sages on whether Daniel should be considered a prophet. Therefore, some substitute Shemaiah. The prophet Shemaiah, who prophesized in the times of Rehavam, the son of Solomon, would be significantly out of the chronological order presented here. There was another Shemaiah (a kohen), the father of Uriah, which would be somewhat closer chronologically, but still out of order. Perhaps, the name Shemaiah is instead another hint to the quality of this week, and of Daniel. The name Shemaiah comes from the word “Lishmoah,” to hear, and the name of Hashem, meaning “heard G-d,” or perhaps “G-d heard.” It hints to the humility and complete lack of arrogance necessary for a prophet; to remember that his function is simply to be a conduit, to hear the word of G-d, when G-d hears His people. These are the qualities associated with the month of Sivan as well.

The levitical city for this week is Nahalal, whose name includes the word “hallel” to praise. To praise G-d for all the kinds he’s done for us is the ultimate form of humility.
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