Sunday, December 3, 2017
Week 5 (Book 3): the Field and the Flood
The fifth week is that of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. Cheshvan is associated with the Tribe of Menashe. As explained in Book 1, “Menashe, the firstborn son of Joseph, assisted his father in managing the entire Egyptian empire at the time. In Cheshvan, we bring all the holiness that we acquired in Tishrei, and use it in our day-to-day spiritual and physical endeavors to elevate the world.” The Song of the Sea speaks of marching (or stepping) out of the “field of Edom.” While early in life our forefather Jacob was known for being an “Ish Tam Yoshev Ohalim” (a wholesome/straightforward that dwelled in the tents [of study]), his brother Eisav is described as a man of the field (Ish HaSadeh), involved in the affairs of the world. While Efraim, who is connected to Tishrei could be described more in line with Jacob’s original description - in fact, he studied under Jacob during his childhood - Menashe’s role is in the “field” that at one point belonged solely to the realms of Eisav.
Cheshvan is also the month of the Flood, and the verses of the Song of the Sea for this week are also about how the Egyptian officers sank into the Sea of Reeds and how the “depths covered them.” This event has clear parallels with the Flood, when the entire world was covered by the world’s depths. The Haftorah also draws similar parallels, as it states that “the heavens dripped.”
Daf Heh (Folio 5) of Sotah, discusses the concept of haughtiness and adultery, two of the main contributors to the events that led to the Flood. Adultery and immoral sexual behavior in general is specifically described in the Torah as a reason for the Flood:
At the core of the disease of "civilization" in the time of Noah were sexual immorality and violent robbery, both flagrant affronts to the dignity of man, ADAM, created in the image of G-d. "And the land was corrupted and the land was filled with violent robbery. All flesh corrupted his path on the land" (Genesis 6:11-12). The Midrash teaches that the latter sin was that of the spilling of seed -- sexual immorality. When man abuses his sexual urge for self-gratification alone rather than elevating it to breed future generations who will glorify G-d, the entire earth is corrupted. The violation of the proper boundaries of personal moral conduct leads to a mentality in which everything is permitted, including violent robbery -- HAMAS. http://www.azamra.org/Parshah/NOAH.htm
Noah himself also showed a certain amount of lack of humility in not praying for other people and only focusing on himself and his family. We see later in the Torah that Avraham and Moshe did not act in this way.
Mahalalel seems to be a “kosher” version of Mehijael, son of Chanoch, son of Cain. Mahalalel contains the root “Halel” which means “praise,” While Mehijael could be related to Chai – life, but also “Chol,” profane. On Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan we elevate Chol in Hallel, connecting the spirituality of Tishrei (Hallel was said every day of Sukkot), with the month of Cheshvan, which for now lacks any holy days.
The difference in the names also points to an overall difference between the letters Hay and Chet in Judaism. Mehijael is spelled with a Chet while Mahalalel is with a Hay. The Hay is a Chet with an opening. Chet is related to sin, while Hey is related to malchut and to teshuvah. The Hay’s opening is for the repentant person, the Ba’al Teshuvah, to be able to re-enter his relationship with Hashem: “The word teshuvah can be read as tashuv-hey - returning, restoring the Hay.....for when man sins he causes the letter hey to be removed from the Divine Name.” In Cheshvan, we go beyond our boundaries in order to help the entire world do teshuvah.
In the fifth week, the Jews journey from Penei HaHiroth (“face of rocks”) and cross in the midst of the sea to the desert. They walk for three days in the desert of Etham and camp in Marah. The journey for this week is about internalizing the struggle of facing the rocks of the material world we are to elevate - notice the change from Pi (“mouth”) to Pnei (“face,” as well as Pnim, inside). We prepare ourselves to face the bitter world we are meant to sweeten. Cheshvan is known as Mar Cheshvan, bitter Cheshvan, because it has no holidays (yet). This is also exemplified in the fact that we are going from the sea to the desert.
Rabbi Shimon Jacobson describes this journey as follows:
The final stage of human maturation – as we move from our teenage years into full adulthood – is completely crossing over from the pure, inner world of “water” into the dry, arid world of the desert. Indeed, Moses had to coerce the Jews to away from the Red Sea out into the Shur Desert, where they traveled three days without finding water (Exodus 15:22). They didn’t want to leave the insulated “cocoon” of the Red Sea only to be thrown into a harsh and hostile desert, one that leads us into a state of bitterness (Marah). Yet, leave we must. This is the purpose of our existence: To transform the wilderness into a Divine sea (Ohr HaTorah Massei p. 1383).
Because of their bitter waters “the place was called Marah” (marah in Hebrew means bitter). When the Jewish people came to Marah and could not drink the bitter water there, they began to complain. “What shall we drink?” they demanded. When Moses cried out to G-d, He showed him a certain tree. Moses threw it into the water, and the water became drinkable. It was there that G-d taught them survival techniques and methods, and there He tested them. He said, “If you obey G-d and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I am G-d who heals you.”
The journey to Marah refers to the stage in our lives when we encounter a bitter experience – loss, disappointment, pain, sorrow or illness. We then have two choices: Either we will complain, become bitter and overwhelmed with anguish and grief, or we will learn to rise to the occasion and discover the deeper powerful light and sweetness that lays embedded within the dark and bitter.
Therein also lays the power of healing: The ability to sweeten the bitter and to uproot infection in its source.
An important lesson we learn from Mahalalel in our approach to prayer and Divine service is understanding that at the most essential level, prayer is about Hallel veHoda'ah, praise and thanksgiving. The mitzvah of prayer is to "serve Him with all your hearts." It is about getting excited, it is about singing to Him, even dancing to Him if possible. One cannot let oneself get bogged down in routine, in simply reading the words of a book, because there is a good chance one is not fulfilling anything at all. The intention has to be there, and the intention has to involve "knowing before Whom you stand," and doing so with joy.
Posted by Kahane at 11:29 PM
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- Week 5 (Book 3): the Field and the Flood
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