Weekly Cycle

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Week 5 (Book 5): The Temple and the World, the Field and the Flood (again)

13. A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me; between my breasts he shall lie.         
14. A cluster of henna-flowers is my beloved to me, in the vineyards of Ein-Gedi."          
15. "Behold, you are comely, my beloved; behold, you are comely; your eyes are like doves."    


TALMUD SHEVUOTH Daf 5: Getting involved in the world


Week 5 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. Cheshvan is the month of the Flood as well as of the construction of the Third Temple. It is also connected to involvement in the world. The verses for this week appear connected to boh these themes.

The first two verses are said by the Jewish people, and they speak of Hashem resting in our midst. This is the idea of the Temple, the very reason for Creation. Rashi’s comments also reference Hashem’s resting among us, as he connects it to Hashem forgiving us and dwelling in the Mishkan. Kofer (a reference to henna-flowers in the Song of Songs, although it can also mean "pitch") is also used in the description of how Noah was to build the Ark: (Genesis, 6:14)

Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with compartments, and you shall caulk it both inside and outside with pitch.

עֲשֵׂה לְךָ תֵּבַת עֲצֵי גֹפֶר קִנִּים תַּעֲשֶׂה אֶת הַתֵּבָה וְכָפַרְתָּ אֹתָהּ מִבַּיִת וּמִחוּץ בַּכֹּפֶר:

The third verse also speaks of forgiveness and cleansing, yet this time appears more related to the Flood. It is the dove that announces that there is dry land, that the Flood itself is over. (Kofer and Gofer of the Ark may be connected; Noah also planted vineyards)

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the fifth mentioned is Carmi. Kerem means vineyard in Hebrew, as in the above verse of the Song of Songs. Carmi can be understood as Kerem-Yud, the vineyard of Hashem, a reference to the Temple. Cheshvan is also the time to get involved in the world, and cultivate our fields and vineyards. One of the first actions performed by Noah is to plant a vineyard. (Genesis 9:20)

Daf Heh (Folio 5) of Shvuot discusses various technical issues and interpretive methodology, such as deriving laws from general statements followed by particular ones. It discusses the idea of “forgetting after knowing” when it comes to Temple sacrifices, the two primary legal examples of taking things out of a private domain into a public one, and the signs of the appearance of the spiritual impurity known as Tzara’as. Overall, although there are also several referecences to the Temple, the main theme appears to be similar to what takes place once we re-enter the world of the physical, leaving our “private domain,” and risking “forgetting after knowing” about spirituality and sacrifice, and getting involved in the technicalities and minutiae of behaving ethically in a world still suffering of impurity. 

The beginning of Chapter 5 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to that of the above ones in Shir HaShirim:

1. Stroll in the streets of Jerusalem, and see now and know, and seek in its squares, whether you will find a man, whether there is one who performs justice, who seeks faith, and I will forgive her. 

2. And if they say, "As the Lord lives," they, nevertheless, will swear falsely.

The verses speak of impurity of the public domain, even in Jerusalem, the place of the Temple. Hashem wants to forgive, and He searches for someone within whom He can dwell. Someone that performs justice and seeks faith, like Noah at the time of the Flood. The entire theme of the chapter also relates to the great destruction to come, also like that of the Flood. 

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