Thursday, July 10, 2014

Week 41 (Book 2): Judgement followed by Teshuvah


HAAZINU: When I sharpen the blade of My sword, and My hand grasps judgment, I will bring vengeance upon My adversaries and repay those who hate Me. (Deuteronomy 32:41)
HAFTORAH: And of my enemies You have given me the back of their necks; them that hate me, that I may cut them off. (II Samuel 22:41)
PIRKEI AVOT QUALITY: Judges Him Favorably (Machrioh Lechaf Zechut)
PROPHET: Seraiah
LEVITICAL CITY: Kedemoth

The forty-first week of the year is that of 12th/13th of Tammuz, as well as of the 17th of Tammuz. In the verse of Haazinu, G-d exclaims that He will take vengeance upon His enemies and repay those that hate Him. The Haftorah’s verse contains exactly the same concepts: defeating the enemy and destroying those that hate. Judgement and Divine wrath are certainly central themes of th 17th of Tammuz.

The quality of this week is “judges him favorably” (machrioh lechaf zechut).” This is related to the fixing of our sense sight, which is connected to Tammuz. The exact term used is “Machrioh Lechaf Zechut” which literally means, “tips him to the side of merit.” The sentence therefore is literally translated as “tips him to the side of merit.” Rebbe Nachman teaches that when focuses on someone else’s positive points, he in fact tips the person to the side of merit. Maimonides also addresses this principle more broadly, in the context of Teshuvah, which is also necessary during this month:

Throughout the entire year, a person should always look at himself as equally balanced between merit and sin and the world as equally balanced between merit and sin. If he performs one sin, he tips his balance and that of the entire world to the side of guilt and brings destruction upon himself. On the other hand, if he performs one mitzvah, he tips his balance and that of the entire world to the side of merit and brings deliverance and salvation to himself and others. Mishneh Torah (Hilchot Teshuva 3:4)

Like in the previous week, the actions involved are not solely related to his friend, but instead, the invidual includes himself in the “balance,” and by acting justly tilts the balance of his friend as well.

This week’s prophet is Seraiah, Baruch’s brother. Seriah went into exile with the Zedekiah the King of Judah. Similar to Baruch, Jeremiah tasked him with reading dire prophecies to the king. This time, however, the harsh words delivered were against Babylon itself. The Jewish king and the his people were thus now being judged favorably, since Jeremiah’s prophecy assured that their suffering would one day end and be avenged. (Jeremiah, Chapter 51:59-64)

The levitical city for this week is Kedemoth. The desert of Kedemoth was where the Moshe sent messengers to Sihon, king of Heshbon, with words of peace. After Sihon rejected peace, it was in Kedemoth that he was miraculously defeated. Sihon’s actions were rooted in deep Sinat Chinam (gratuitous hatred), which is also what caused the destruction of the Temple commemorated during these days. Kedemoth comes from the word Kedem, which means "days of yore," often used in the context of the Garden of Eden and the previous pristine state of humanity. During this month, we begin our Teshuvah and try to connect back to that state. 
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