Sunday, July 24, 2016

Week 42 (From the Book): To Be Loyal and Pursue Justice



The hound is saying, "Let the righteous rejoice in G-d; praise is befitting to the straight." (Psalms 33:1)


Rabbi Eliezer the son of Shamua would say: The dignity of your student should be as precious to you as your own; the dignity of your colleague, as your awe of your master; and your awe of your master as your awe of Heaven.


Malchut shebeYesod (kingship within the context of foundation and firmness)

In the forty-second week, now in the midst of the three weeks of mourning, the hound in Perek Shirah sings to the righteous to rejoice in the Lord, and that for the upright (yesharim) it is becoming to praise Him. (Psalm 33:1)

The hound represents uprightness, and often hunts after last week’s animal, the fox, who represents corruption and injustice. The hound is also the quintessential example of loyalty. During this period, despite our outward signs of mourning, we also come to the realization that after so many centuries in exile and despite so many tragedies, like the hound, the Jewish people still managed to maintain its loyalty and faith in G-d. Furthermore, G-d also maintained His faith in us. Such loyalty and uprightness, both on the part of the Jewish people and on the part of G-d, is certainly worthy of recognition and praise.

The Talmud explains how the verse of the hound is also deeply connected to the Temple. The term “befitting” (na’avah), should be read as naveh, habitation, a reference of how the enemies of the Jewish people had no power over the Temple constructions performed by King David and Moses.[1] Similarly, it is important for us to remember that the world has no power over the “holy habitation” inside each one of us. Upon being released from prison, the Previous Rebbe was sent into exile by the Soviet regime. At the Leningrad train station, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn parted with the following words, quoting his father: “This all the nations of the world must know: only our bodies were sent into exile and subjugated to alien rule; our souls were not given over into captivity and foreign rule... In any matter affecting the Jewish religion, the Torah, and its mitzvot and customs, we are not subject to the dictates of any power.”[2]

Forty-two is the number of journeys of the Jewish people in the desert. During these journeys,  G-d tested His people several times, yet we maintained our loyalty and proved ourselves worthy of His love. The Jewish people also tested G-d several times in the desert, yet G-d also did not give up hope in them.

Forty-two contains the letters mem and beit, which in Hebrew spells the word bam, which means “in them.” The Ba'al Shem Tov teaches that the words “vedibarta bam,” contained in the prayer of the Shemah, is a reference to the forty-two personal journeys each individual undergoes in his or her life, which parallel the forty-two journeys of the Jewish people in the desert.

In Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Eliezer the son of Shamua teaches us that the honor of your student should be as precious to you as your own, while the honor of your colleague should be like that given to your teacher; the reverence for your teacher should be like the fear of Heaven. Here again there is a close connection with Tammuz and the ability to look deeper and see the great value and potential of each person, be it a student, a colleague, or a teacher. Interestingly, the hound itself is a perfect example of this teaching. Its devotion to its master is like that due to G-d!

Completing the cycle of yesod, this week’s sefirot combination results is malchut shebeyesod, kingship within the context of foundation and firmness. This week, we maintain a solid foundation in our Judaism and use it to influence the world around us.

A lesson in self-improvement that we can extract from the hound is that just as it sings of being upright, and pursues the fox, we also must pursue justice at all costs, as stated in the verse in Deuteronomy: “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof,” “Justice, Justice you shall pursue.”[3] We must always strive for justice.









[1] Talmud, Sotah 9a.


[2] “Daily Quote,” available at http://www.chabad.org/dailystudy/hayomyom.asp?tDate=6/28/2007


[3] Deuteronomy 16:20
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