Saturday, June 25, 2016
Week 38 (From the Book): To Be Strong and Courageous in order to Defend the Common Good
And in the thirty-eighth week, at the end of the month of Sivan, comes the opportunity for the lion to declare in Perek Shirah that the Lord will come as a mighty warrior, and shall take revenge as a man of war. Triumphant, Hashem will roar and overcome His enemies. (Isaiah 42:13) This verse is connected with the month of Sivan, where all the people trembled at the voice of G-d presenting the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.
The lion’s verse is also related to the tribe of Zevulun, who would go out to sea in search for trade. Our sages make a very interesting link between the idea of "going out to war” and "going out in order make a living," which as we know can be a kind of war. (See Week 20 regarding how the age of twenty is both the age to pursue a livelihood and to enlist for war).
The week of the lion is not only the last week of the month of Sivan, but is also the last week of spring. The next two months of the summer, Tammuz and Av, are quite intense, and are closely linked to the destruction of the Temple. Moreover, these months are also connected to the reconstruction of the Temple and the coming of Mashiach.
In this verse for week thirty-eight, Hashem Himself is referred to as a lion. It should be noted that the Temple is also often referred to as a lion (Ariel, which literally means "lion of G-d"). The lion is also the symbol of the tribe of Judah, from whom comes King David and Mashiach. There is a Midrash that further explores this lion theme: "The lion (Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian emperor) appeared during the lion (the month of Av) and destroyed Ariel (the Temple), so that the Lion (G-d) will appear during the lion (the month of Av) and rebuild Ariel." Similarly, the lion’s verse compares Hashem to a man at war, a roaring lion, who will defeat His enemies and redeem His people.
In the last week of Sivan we prepare spiritually, physically, and psychologically, for the intense period that is to come. The next months of Tammuz and Av can be ones of much pain, but also contain the spirit of redemption - it all depends on how we approach them. In order to succeed, we must connect with the spark of the lion of Judah, of David, and of Mashiach, which each of us carries inside. If we prepare well, taking into account everything we learned from Passover to Lag Ba’Omer, to Shavuot, we will be strong as lions and, with G-d constantly on our side, we will have absolutely nothing to fear.
Thirty-eight is the gematria of the Hebrew word Bul, the Biblical name given to the month of Cheshvan. The Torah states that “in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, the house [of G-d] was finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it, and he [Solomon] built it in seven years.” On week twenty-three, in Adar, we had discussed the significance of the gematria of the word Ziv, the biblical name given to the month of Iyar. We mentioned how on Iyar the construction of Solomon’s Temple began. Having fully experienced the redemption of Adar and Nissan, having worked on ourselves in Iyar, and experienced the revelation of the Torah in Sivan, our internal Temple should now feel completed. It is our duty to properly protect that Temple, and to bring about the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Thirty-eight is composed of the letters chet and lamed, which form the word chol, meaning sand, and reminds us of the blessing Abraham received that his offspring would be as numerous as the sand in the sea. Chol also means profane, connected to the destruction of our Temple, our exile, and the profanation of G-d’s name that took place in the months that follow Sivan. Chet and lamed also form the word lach, which means wet or fresh. We leave Sivan and spring as a whole, fresh and full of water (a metaphor for Torah), and are now ready to face the summer heat.
The Pirkei Avot lesson for this week is from the teaching of Rabbi Yonatan (IV: 9): one who fulfills the Torah in poverty will fulfill it in wealth, but whoever neglects the Torah in wealth will come to neglect it in poverty. During this week we experience a similar concept. If we violate the Torah so close after we experienced its revelation in Sivan, it will be even harder to fulfill it in the potential poverty experienced during the months of Tammuz and Av. However, if we fulfill the Torah during those months of "poverty," we will transform them into months of tremendous spiritual, intellectual, and emotional enrichment, with the coming of Moshiach. In addition, our commitment to the Torah in the "spiritual poverty" of exile will be compensated with the ability to fulfill the Torah in the “spiritual wealth” of the Messianic era.
This week’s Pirkei Avot is also closely linked to the tribe of Zevulun, given its wealth and ability to provide for the tribe of Issachar, who was devoted entirely to the study of Torah. Zevulun itself, although more professionally active than Issachar, also remained faithful to the Torah and devoted to its study.
The sefirot combination for this week results in tiferet shebeyesod: beauty and balance within foundation. During this week, we feel the beauty and balance of the Torah within us, and reinforce our Jewish foundations in order to face the difficult coming months.
A lesson in self-improvement that we draw from the lion is that we must be brave and willing to “go out” beyond our insulated worlds and comfort zones in order to help those around us.
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