Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Week 47 (Book 2): Mashiach ben Yosef and Learning in Order to Teach
The forty-seventh week of the year is that of Rosh Chodesh Elul. Elul is the month of teshuvah (penitence and return to G-d), and is represented by the Tribe of Gad. Gad was a strong tribe, and stands for the idea that the fate of a Jew is not predetermined, but rather is dependent on his or her return to G-d. The verse of Haazinu reflects this idea, as it states, “For it is not an empty thing for you, for it is your life, and through this thing, you will lengthen your days upon the land…”
The Haftorah’s verse also has the focus on life. It starts by stating, “The Lord lives,” and states how it is by clinging to G-d, the Rock, that one is saved. The theme of life during the month of Elul is very important, as it is a preparation for the Day of Judgment on Rosh Hashanah. For chassidim, Elul is known also for Chai Elul, the “Life of Elul,” the birthdays of the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe. The Alter Rebbe said that during Elul, we feel that the King is in the field. In other words, we feel even more just how alive He is.
The quality of this week is learns in order to teach (lomed al menat lelamed). Only by being prepared to teach what we learned does that teaching really become alive. The Kabbalah teaches that this is the difference between the Dead Sea (which receives water but does not give), and the Sea of Galilee, which is full of life because it receives but also gives to the Jordan river. In Chassidism, Torah is always compared to water exactly for this reason, because it goes from a high place to a low place.
Furthermore, it is usually only when you are ready to teach that you come to realize whether you’ve learned anything at all! Even before students ask questions and sharpen your knowledge, the process of taking in information when you hope one day to teach it is much more proactive.
This quality is appropriate for Rosh Chodesh Elul because Teshuvah is first and foremost and example of self-evaluation and proactive learning (the latter to be discussed more next week). As mentioned previously, in Elul is when “The King is in the field,” when Hashem leaves His castle, so to speak, and is out in the field visiting His subjects. It is also time for us to go to the field and talk to Him. In order to know what to say, and put into words the things about which we need to confess, we need the quality of “learning in order to teach,” even if in this case the only ones that need teaching is ourselves.
In his list of the 48 prophets, Rashi states that he does not know the 47th or the 48th. This is also where states that if one does not consider Daniel to be a prophet one should then include Shemayah. This appears to be inconsistent because how can Rashi “in the same breath” state that he is missing two prophets from his list, yet mention in an extra prophet in the case prophet number 38 should not be considered one. There appears to be more to this than meets the eye, and this book humbly suggests that prophets 47 and 48 are none other than Mashiach Ben Yosef and Mashiach Ben David. These were prophets that were “unknown” to Rashi in the sense that they had not yet come to the world.Rabbeinu Chananel states that the missing two prophets are Oded and Chanani, both of which are mentioned along with the names of their children who are specifically mentioned as prophets. The Vilna Gaon supports this view. What is interesting about these two names is that they are very much connected with Mashiach Ben Yosef and Mashiach Ben David. Chananiah is one of the names given for Mashiach (Ben David) in the Talmud. Oded comes from the word “Od”, which means to increase, similar to the name Yosef, whose name’s root also relats to adding. When Rachel named Yosef, she said, “Yoseph Hashem ben acher,” “May Hashem add for me another son.” The Yalkut Shimoni explains that ben acher also means “ben acharono shel olam,” one that will come at the end of time, the “meshu'ach milchamah,” “the anointed one [like Mashiach] of war,” a descendant of Yosef. There is also a well known verse in the Torah which states, “Od Yosef Chai” (Yosef is still alive). Yosef also asks his brothers “HaOd Avi Chai?”- Is my father still alive?
Mashiach Ben Yosef is also particularly connected to the Perek Shirah animal of this week mentioned in Book 1, the snake. The word for snake, nachash in Hebrew, has the same numerical value as the word Mashiach. Mashiach will come to the world to remove the impurities introduced by the snake.In addition, the snake appears to be specifically linked to Mashiach ben Yosef. Yosef had been thrown into an “empty pit without water,” which Rashi explains to mean that it had not water, but had snakes and scorpions. Yosef was also able to withstand the seduction of Potiphar, sexual sin being the prime example of the hot venom of the snake (compared to the cold venom of the scorpion, discussed next week). He maintained his foundation, and is therefore called Yosef HaTzadik.
Later, when Yosef was still pretending not to recognize his brothers, he tells them, “Haloh Yedatem Ki Nachesh Yenachesh Ish Asher Kamoni,” which is usually translated as "Did you not know that a man like me performs divination?" This sentence could also be understood as, "Did you not know that a man like me, Mashiach, will be able to fight the power of the snake?” We also see that in the Torah, it is Yosef that has the power to fight Esau, who in Kabbalah represents the embodiment of the supernal snake.Mashiach Ben Yosef also will be able to withstand the temptations and the hot venom of those that stand in the way of G-d’s revelation in this lowly world. The quality of Mashiach is also that of a teacher and the concept of lilmod al menat lelamed (learning in order to teach). His teachings will be so lofty that he will even teach the Patriarchs, yet he will also reach out to the simplest of Jews. (Hayom Yom for the 1st of Menachem Av) Mashiach Ben Yosef will reveal the truth of G-d and rid the world of the lies of the snake.
The greatest example of someone who’s life represented the ideals of Mashiach Ben Yosef is the Frierdiker Rebbe, the Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak. The Rebbe wrote extensively on how the life of the Frierdiker Rebbe paralled the life of Yosef. Furthermore, the Frierdiker Rebbe faced down the evil powers of Esau, exemplified by Communism (and to some extent Nazism), and prevailed. The values he championed are still alive today, and Chabad Chassidism is alive and well, while both Communism and Nazism are essentially dead. In Book 1, animals for week 47 and 48, the snake and scorpion, parallel Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David. Esau is represented by the snake, a “hot” yetzer harah, which Mashiach ben Yosef, who has the spark of Yosef, is able to fight.The Rebbe Rayatz also emphasized the idea of learning in order to teach, and teaching every Jew. If you know the Alef-Beis, teach it to your fellow Jew.The levitical city for this week is also unknown. It is one of the additional cities to be added on the other side of the Jordan River, once Mashiach comes and the borders of Israel are expanded. The Tribe of Gad, which represents the month of Elul, also has its territory on the other side of the Jordan.
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