Weekly Cycle

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Week 3 (Book 2): Calling out to G-d and Being Sheltered by Him, Listening and Jacob, Kibzaim and the Holiday of Ingathering

HAAZINU: When I call out the name of the Lord, ascribe greatness to our G-d. (Deuteronomy 32:3)
HAFTORAH: G-d is my rock, under whom I take cover; My shield, and the horn of my salvation, my support, and my refuge; [He is] my savior Who saves me from violence. (II Samuel 22:3)
PIRKEI AVOT: Attentive listening (Shmi’at haOzen)
On the third week of the year, which includes Sukkot,Haazinu’s verse makes a reference to “the name of G-d,” as well as to the concept of ascribing greatness to G-d. The day after Yom Kippur is called “G-d’s name,” and the four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot parallel the four letters of G-d’s name.[1] After these days, on Sukkot we go about ascribe greatness to G-d by performing his mitzvoth in a beautiful manner, such as having a nice Sukkah, a beautiful etrog, lulav, etc. Our sages explain that this is the meaning "Zeh Keili V'Anveihu – this is my G-d and I will glorify Him” (Exodus 15:2; Shabbat133b)
This week’s Haftarah verse continues the theme of relating to G-d as a source of protection, although in a way that it is even more personal and physical than last week’s. This is the idea of the Sukkah. In the fragile Sukkah we can feel G-d as our shield, our souce of support and refuge.
The quality for this week is attentive listening, literally the listening of the ear. As explained in Book 1, the ear functions as a source of balance for the body, and is tied to the holiday of Sukkot. Listening also represents the concept of being a vessel in order to receive a teaching. On Sukkot we are all vessels to receive G-d’s blessings, which pour down through the roof of the Sukkah.
As also mentioned in Book 1, Jacob is connected to Sukkot, and the Torah itself states that he traveled to a place called Sukkot upon returning to Israel. His yahrzeit is also during Sukkot. Furthermore, Jacob truly represents the characteristic of listening. He is described in the Torah as Ish Tam Yoshev Ohalim, a pure/simple man, who dwells in the tents. The most important prayer in Judaism, the Shemah, begins with “Listen O Israel…” The Midrashteaches that “Israel” is a reference to Yaakov himself.
The levitical city for this week is Kibzaim, which literally means two heaps/gatherings. Sukkot is also called Chag Ha’Asif – the Festival of the Gathering, in which the harvest is gathered. When it comes to the rituals performed on Sukkot, there are two groupings: we bring sacrifices on behalf of ourselves, and we also bring sacrifice on behalf of other nations.
An important lesson we also learn from this week's quality to acquire the Torah is the need for being balanced and realistic in what we wish to accomplish. At first we may get very excited about our goals and set a Torah study schedule that may be even possible to complete in the short-term, but has no chance of being sustained over a long period of time. We have to add little by little, just like a professional weight-lifter would do when lifting weights. Our sages use the following expression: "Tafastah Merubah, Lo Tafastah." If you grab on to too much, you haven't grabbed on to anything. In other words, "don't bite off more than you can chew."

[1] Rabbi Aryeh Citron in the name of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe.

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