Weekly Cycle

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Week 7 (Book 3): More References to Rachel

SONG OF THE SEA: And with Your great pride You tear down those who rise up against You; You send forth Your burning wrath; it devours them like straw.
HAFTARAH: this (was at) Sinai, because of the presence of the Lord, the G-d of Israel. In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath,
Talmud Sotah: Daf 7: Being reminded of the righteous deeds of our ancestors.
JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Elim and camped by the Red Sea.
By the seventh week of the year, we are now in the midst of the month of Cheshvan. The verses of the Song of the Sea continue to speak of retribution against Hashem’s enemies related to the Flood. 
The Haftorah’s verses contain two different themes, which are in fact related. They describe the presence of G-d at Sinai, and mention Shamgar the son of Anath. This week includes the yahrzeit of our matriarch Rachel, and both of these concepts have significant feminine qualities. The Divine Presence, the Shechinah, is always referred to as feminine, and often specifically in connection with Rachel. The name Anath (lehavdil) is the name of a prominent figure in Canaanite mythology, a warrior goddess.[1] If Anath is in fact a reference to woman, this would be one of the very few places in the Tanach in which a man’s name is stated along with his mother’s name, not his father.
Daf Zayin (Folio 7) of Sotah discusses further the procedure of how a woman suspected of adultery would be taken to be tested with bitter waters. In the process, she would be asked to reconsider whether she wanted to go through with the punishment, and would be reminded of how her forefathers admitted to their sin, repented, and earned a place in the World to Come. This appears related to Rachel’s yahrzeit this year. (See also Book 2 regarding asking “you father” and reflecting upon the deeds of previous generations)
Enoch seems to be the “kosher” version of Cain’s son with the same name. While Cain’s son has a city founded after him, and he becomes immersed in civilization and even more distant from nature and from Hashem. Seth’s descendant, on the other hand, “walks with G-d.” Rabbi Shalom Arush explains that Enoch spent much of his time in seclusion, so as not to be negatively influenced by the world around him. However, he would reappear on a regular basis to teach the people. Ultimately, he was taken by Hashem alive, in a state of purity. As explained in the previous week, the root of the name Enoch, Chanoch in Hebrew, is Chinuch, education, also a parental quality.
In the seventh week, the Jews journey from Elim and camp by the Red Sea. The personal journey for this week is to internalize the revelations related to the 12 tribes and 70 nations, which are both scattered and mixed together in exile (bilbul, like the Tower of Bavel), and getting ready for an even greater revelation, the splitting of the Sea of Reeds. On the week of Rachel Imeinu’s yahrzeit, we feel the exile more deeply, and help elevate it.

An important lesson we learn from Chanoch in our approach to prayer and Divine service is the importance of education. As Pirkei Avot (Chapter 2:5) famously states, "Ein Am Ha'Aretz Chassid," an ignoramus cannot be pious. Even if compared to Hashem we are all complete and total ignoramuses, and even though our connection to Him in prayer is primarily not an intellectual one, there are still basic premises in how we approach the King that require education. Certainly exceptions are made, and everyone, no matter their level of education, has an open and direct line to G-d. Nevertheless, those that have the opportunity to learn how to pray properly should do so. Again, intent in prayer is of key importance, and it becomes much harder to have intent if one does not even understand what he/she is saying.

[1] http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/anath-bible

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