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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Introduction to Book 3


Introduction to Book 3: Paths in Avodah

If the first book, like Bereshit, was about Derech Eretz, Creation (Perek Shirah) and the foundations of our people (Pirkei Avot), and the second book, like Shemot, was about receiving the Torah, this third book is like Vayikra. Sefer Vayikra is also called “Torat Kohanim.” Much of it is about the day-to-day functions of the Kohanim in the Temple, which were given this position due to their lineage going back to Aharon. It is a Book about Avodah (“Divine service”), elevating the material world through personal sacrifice, inkeeping with the spiritual above-nature quality of the priestly service and the Temple itself. The sets of 52 studied under Book 3 are as follows:

The Torah portion of Beshalach (from the fifth aliyah to the end), contains the Song of the Sea (Shirat HaYam) followed by the description of the Mannah (Parashat HaMan) and the war against Amalek (Zechirat Ma'aseh Amalek). The Torah reading is then followed by the Haftorah, the Song of Deborah (Shirat Devorah). These texts relate to the above-nature service/prayer, in response to the Divine miracles the Jewish people experienced.

The generations from Adam through David (the 33rd, Lag Ba’Omer generation) until the last king of Judah (52nd) describe the function of the king, who was given this position due to his Davidic lineage. Adam himself was like a king, and his Avodah was to conquer and take care of the Garden of Eden, while avoiding the pitfalls of the evil inclination.

The Talmudic tractate of Sotah is also about a service of G-d that is above nature, above intellect, a concept known as shtut d’kedusha, “folly of holiness.”

The 42 journeys through the desert and the conquest of seven (later ten) Cana’anite nations living the Land of Israel are connected to the supernal also about elevating the material world. It is said that wherever the Jewish people traveled in the desert, that part of the desert would blossom. It was about working on oneself, and elevating the fallen sparks of the world in the process (Tikkun Olam). That is what Diaspora is all about, as well as the ultimate purpose of each soul that is “exiled” from Heaven and comes down to this world.

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