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Monday, August 7, 2017

Fifteenth Set of 22 Days: Peh Sofit, Sheaves of Barley and Sheaves of Wheat (the Priestly Family of Jeshebeab)

On the 10th of Av began the fifteenth set of 22 days of the Jewish calendar, which parallels the end-letter Peh (Peh Sofit), as well as the Sheaves of Wheat and the Sheaves of Barley in Perek Shirah. This 22-day period runs from the day immediately following the Three Weeks of mourning until Rosh Chodesh Elul.

As mentioned previously, the Peh stands for "mouth," and its shape is that of a mouth as well. The final Peh symbolizes a mouth that is wide open. 

This period, after the difficulties and humbling experiences endured over the last three weeks and particularly beginning with the month of Elul (in which "the King is in the field"), is one in which we must open our mouths wide in prayer and personal supplications to G-d. It is also a time in which we seek to communicate better with one another (Av as a whole is a month connected to the spiritual rectification "tikkun" of our sense of hearing, listening to one another).

Furthermore, the Peh is formed by a combination of the Kaf and a Yud. The Yud stands for Godliness, and therefore the Peh symbolizes the revelation of Godliness. The more open lines of communication described above lead inevitably to a greater revelation of Godliness in ourselves as well.

This cycle includes Tu B'Av, which is known to be the happiest and most romantic day on the Jewish calendar. It was at this time that the Tribes of Israel were once again allowed to intermarry among themselves. To celebrate this day, young Jewish women would dress in white, form a circle, and present themselves before the single men of the community that were in search of a bride. The Talmud teaches that each woman would speak of different qualities that they thought might make a good impression on a potential groom.[1] This is related to the tikkun of the sense of hearing connected to this month, and also the revelation of our positive qualities and the G-dliness within us.

As in previous weeks, there also appears to be a parallel between the relationship of the regular Peh with the final Peh and that of Moshe and Mashiach. Moshe was very much connected to the mouth. The Torah states that he had "uncircumcised lips," in that he would stammer. Mashiach will be someone known for his Torah and his speech. The word Mashiach is spelled the same as Mesiach, one who speaks, converses. He will teach the world how to properly converse with G-d. Similar to the final Nun, the long downward "leg" of the final Peh appears to represent Mashiach's ability to infuse even the lowliest of realms with the revelation of G-dliness.


A similar theme can be found regarding the elements in Perek Shirah.


The Sheaves of Wheat are saying, "A song of ascents: Out of the depths have I cried to you, O God." (Psalms 130:1)

The Sheaves of Barley are saying, "A prayer of the pauper, when he swoons, and pours out his speech before God." (Psalms 102:1)

Both songs above contain within them a sense of desolation, difficulty, and great humility. Both songs also emphasize the sense of speech - crying out to God and pouring out one's speech before Him. Both sheaves of wheat and barley contain in them a potential to become food, but they nonetheless require much growth and "processing."

The sense of humility described above also appears to parallel the humble outlook of the animals for weeks 45 and 46 (Book 1), the creeping creatures and the prolific creeping creatures. 

The Temple guard for these 22 days is connected to the priestly family of Yeshebeab. The very name of the family contains the word "B'Av," meaning "in Av" like Tisha B'Av and Tu B'Av. It also contain the term, "Yesh," which means "to have." Yeshut means a feeling of existing one one's own, separate from Hashem, which is the opposite of humility. During this time of the year we work on countering this feeling and becoming completely attached to G-d, realizing our complete dependence on Him. We do so primarily through speaking to Him, in prayer.

As mentioned earlier, in Elul, the "King is in the field." Hashem comes out of his palace, so to speak, to greet his subjects. We must ourselves go to the field, as Rebbe Nachman recommends, and engage Hashem in Hitbodedut, personal prayer and meditation.

[1] Talmud, Taanit 31a



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