HAAZINU: Destruction is not His; it is His children's defect you crooked and twisted generation. (Deuteronomy 32:5)
HAFTARAH: For the pains of death have encompassed me; streams of scoundrels would affright me. (II Samuel 22:5)
QUALITY TO ACQUIRE THE TORAH: Perception of the Heart (Binat Ha’Lev)
LEVITICAL CITY: Taanach
On the fifth week of the year, which includes Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, Haazinu’s verse makes a reference to destruction due to a twisted a crooked generation. Cheshvan is the month of the Mabul, the Flood that took place in the times of Noah.
This week’s Haftarah verse has an even greater connection to the Flood – the use of the phrases “pains of death encompassing” and “streams of scoundrels” both appear to be references to the events of the Flood. The Hebrew word for used “streams of scoundrels,” Nachalei Bli’al, can be more literally translated as “rivers of G-dlessness.”
The quality for this week is perception of the heart. Noah’s main mistake was not using his heart to perceive that G-d wanted him to pray to save the rest of mankind. Prayer is called “the service of the heart.” The word for ark in Hebrew, Teivah, also means “word,” and is a reference to prayer. It is ultimately prayer that keeps us above the tumultuous waters of the world around us. (Perception of the heart may also have a connection to music, the theme of the song of the Crane, in Week 5 of Book 1)
Furthermore, Cheshvan will be the month of the inauguration of the Third Temple, which is also connected to prayer and Divine service. Furthermore, the Torah states that those that made objects for the Temple were called “Chochmei Lev,” wise of the heart.
This week’s prophet is Aharon. “Perception of the heart” is probably the best description of Aharon’s qualities. He was known for his ability to serve as a mediator, someone who was able to bring peace between people, and between husband and wife. Furthermore, Aharon was the very first high priest, Kohen Gadol, to serve G-d in the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, the mobile Temple used from the time of that the Jewish people was in the desert until the construction of the First Temple.
The levitical city for this week is Taanach. The origin of the word Taanach is unclear, but it appears to have its roots in the verb, Lehi’taanot, which means to fast. There is a custom among pious Jews to fast on the first sequence of “Monday, Thursday, Monday” of the month of Cheshvan. This is known as “BaHaB.” We do not fast simply for the sake of fasting. We fast in order to improve ourselves, to mark a distinction between the holiday period of Tishrei (a similar fast exists after Nissan), and to gain control over physicality. Part of the idea of the month of Cheshvan is to conquer the physical world around us with the spiritual heights we obtained during the month of Tishrei.
Another important lesson we learn from this week's quality to acquire the Torah is the need to make the Torah we learn touch our hearts. It cannot simply stay in our minds. As Rabbi Simon, one of my Talmud teachers in Yeshiva University, would ask, "Do you feel the question?" If you do not feel the question, you cannot truly appreciate the answer. If the Torah is not in your heart, you will not be able to reach the heart of others.
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