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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Week 47 (Book 4b): Serach and the Month of Virgo


SONG OF SONGS: 9. If she be a wall, we will build upon her a silver turret, and if she be a door, we will enclose her with cedar boards.
70 SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Serach and Chushim
TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 47 – An Oath that Returns to Its Place
BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 47

Week 47 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Elul. Elul is the month of Teshuvah, in preparation for Rosh Hashanah. The zodiac sign associated with this month is Virgo.
The verse of Shir HaShirim for this week appears to be speaking about the Jewish people as a young girl, a virgin (a “little sister with no breasts” – see last week). Rashi shows how this week’s connection to Elul is even more clear, specifically about the need for Jewish people to maintain (or regain) its chastity:
If she be a wall: If she is strong in her faith and in her fear [of God], to be against them like a copper wall, that they should not enter her midst, meaning that she will not intermarry with them, and they will not come into her, and she will not be seduced by them.   
we will build upon her a silver turret: We will be to her as a fortified city and for a crown and for beauty, and we will build for her the Holy City and the chosen Temple.   
and if she be a door: which turns on its hinges, and when one knocks on it, it opens. She, too, if she opens for them so that they enter her and she [enters] them.   
we will enclose her with cedar boards: We will put into her door wooden boards which rot and which the worm gnaws and eats.
Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the forty-seventh mentioned is Serach, appropriately a woman, one of the very few mentioned in this counting. Stories of Serach abound, including that she was one of the few to know the secrets of redemption, therefore able to identify Moshe as the redeemer. She is best known for the Midrash that states that she was the one to tell Jacob about the news that Joseph was alive, and that she told it in such a way that Jacob was able to absorb the information without dying of shock. For this she was granted eternal life. Serach’s name appears related to Sarah’s, yet with a Chet instead of a Heh. In general, Chet is connected to the word Cheit, sin, yet also to the ability to repent and rectify the past. Chet’s numerical value is eight, which is related to that which is above nature, such as teshuvah (repentance) and the Messianic age.
This week is also connected with Chushim. Chushim means “senses,” which is particularly interesting since it said that he was deaf. Yet it was because of deafness that he was able to kill Esau. During Elul we work on correcting the sins we committed with each of our senses.
Daf Mem Zayin (Folio 47) of Shvuot continues the discussion of those disqualified from taking oaths. It also mentions orphans that cannot take an oath, and those people that are clearly lying. Interestingly, there is a discussion about an oath “returning to its place,” returning to Mt. Sinai. Although primarily related to Heavenly punishment for those that take advantage of the situation and steal, it also seems to be a reference to Teshuvah.
Chapter 47 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter speaks of people crying out, as well as the downfall of the Philistines. As mentioned last week, each gentile nation is associated with a specific impurity. (Likutei Moharan Torah Kuf Alef, Lesson 101)
1. That the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines before Pharaoh smote Gaza. 
2. So said the Lord: Behold water is coming up from the north, and it shall become a flooding stream and will inundate a land and the fullness thereof, a city and those who dwell therein, and the people shall cry out, and all the inhabitants of the land shall wail. 
3. From the sound of the stamping of the hoofs of his mighty ones, from the noise of his chariots, the stirring of his wheels; fathers did not turn to sons out of [the] feebleness of [their] hands, 
4. because of the day that is coming to plunder all the Philistines, to cut off from Tyre and Zidon every surviving helper, for the Lord plunders the Philistines, the remnant of the island of Caphtor. 
5. Baldness has come to Gaza, Ashkelon has become a waste, yea the remnant of their valley; how long will you tear your flesh?  
6. Ho! Sword of the Lord, how long will you not be silent'? Go into your sheath, rest and be silent.  
7. How shall you be silent when the Lord commanded it? To Ashkelon and to the sea coast, there He appointed it.

 
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