Saturday, August 20, 2016
Week 46 (From the Book): To Know Our Place in Order to Be Truly Happy
In week forty-six, the last week of the month of Av, in Perek Shirah the prolific creeping creatures state, “your wife shall be like a fruitful vine and your children as olive branches around your table.” (Psalm 128: 3) This week also contains the yahrzeit of the Rebbe’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, on the 20th of Av.
In the week that follows that of Tu B'Av, Perek Shirah is still focused on marriage and reproduction. The continuation of this theme further emphasizes that love, marriage, and building a home together is not a one-time action or decision. That initial feeling that brought the couple together has to be worked on and improved throughout one’s entire life, day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year.
The gematria of forty-six is Levi. Levi and Shimon were individuals who both contained in them an overwhelming capacity for violence and radical behavior, especially when they acted together. The two were responsible for the killing of the inhabitants of the city of Shchem, and were the main actors in the kidnapping and sale of Joseph. The tribe of Levi was able to transform these extreme qualities into positive traits. They used their zealousness in acting on behalf of G-d, and became a tribe consisting solely of priests. Ultimately, Shimon will also use its enormous strength and potential only for the good.
In Pirkei Avot this week, Rabbi Matya the son of Charash teaches that we should be the first to greet another, and that it is better to be the tail of a lion than the head of a fox. (IV: 15) It is amazing to note that this lesson is contained exactly in the last week of the month of Av, whose zodiac sign is Leo, and is just a week away from being the week of Rosh Chodesh, which literally means the "head of the month."
In the past, Shimon, and his tribe as a whole, led actions that were “fox-like.” However, the Tanach also recounts that the tribe also ultimately agreed to act as the tail of a “lion,” the tribe of Judah. After the passing of Joshua, when it came time for the tribes to conquer the remaining parts of the Land of Israel, Judah was chosen to act first. Judah then approached Shimon and asked that it follow it in battle. Judah said, “Come up with me into my lot, and we will fight against the Canaanites, and I will also go with you into your lot."
The Bnei Yissachar explains that this statement has a much deeper meaning, and is connected to the redemption of Passover, which occurred in the month of Nissan (Judah) and the future redemption connected to Mashiach, born on Tisha B’Av (Shimon). On Passover, we keep an egg on the Seder plate to remind us of the destruction that took place in Av. In the final redemption, even though it will be one of unprecedented miracles, we will still remember the redemption from Egypt that took place in Nissan.
Similarly, despite enormous Soviet pressure and oppression, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was very firm in his values and refused to associate himself with the “fox-like” Communist leadership. His extreme piety and stringency when it came to the kashrut of the matzah he mass-produced for Passover is a great example of his tremendous resolve. His refusal to give in to Communist demands caused him to be exiled to Siberia, where he passed away on this week of the Jewish calendar. It is known that the lion brings its tail to its head, while the fox brings its head to its tail. While today, the father of the Rebbe is still held in tremendous esteem as a great leader, rabbi, and scholar, Soviet Communism is a completely outdated and bankrupt concept.
This week, the combination of sefirot results in netzach shebemalchut, victory and endurance within the context of kingship. We must be persistent in our attempt to connect ourselves to the King of kings and reveal Him in this material world.
The lesson in self-improvement we derive from the prolific creeping creatures is that the humility that we achieved during this month of judgment must be used productively: to grow and reproduce, just as the vine and the olive tree.
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