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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Week 8 (Book 5): Lovesick

5. Sustain me with flagons of wine, spread my bed with apples, for I am lovesick.
6. His left hand was under my head, and his right hand would embrace me.
7. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the hinds of the field, that you neither awaken nor arouse the love while it is desirous.

TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 8 – atonement for grave sins and abominations


Week 8 in the Jewish calendar is the nearing the last week of Cheshvan. The Song of Songs verses for this week include two verses from the People of Israel to G-d, and one verse in which the Jewish people address the other nations.

As explained in Book 1, as we go deeper into the month of Cheshvan, deeper into the year, we feel ourselves getting more entrenched in our daily affairs, and we become “sick,” yearning for spirituality, and fighting not to lose our connection with Hashem. This attitude, again is expressed in Rashi’s comments to the first verse:

Sustain me: now as is the manner of the sick, with flagons of grape wine or with cakes of pure white flour.   

spread my bed: Spread my bed around me with apples for a good fragrance, in the manner of the sick, for I am sick for his love, for I thirst for Him here in my exile.

The second verse reminisces of a time when G-d’s kindness towards us as we fight to make a living, was even more evident. Here’s Rashi again:

His left hand was under my head: in the desert.   

and his right hand would embrace me: He traveled a three-days’ journey; to search out a rest for them [as in Num. 10: 33], and in the place of the rest, He brought down manna and quails for them. All this I remember now in my exile, and I am sick for His love.

G-d’s left hand represents his attribute of discipline (under our head, perhaps to mean that he was keeping us in line), while his right hand symbolizes kindness, in an embrace. In Book 1, this is the week of Chesed shebeGevurah, kindness within the context of discipline and severity, marking the beginning of the cycle of seven weeks connected to Gevurah.

The third verse also points to a more confrontational attitude towards the other nations. As we feel perhaps the greater weight of the physical world, we make clear that we are not willing to give up our special relationship with Hashem.

The above verses also appear to hint to the events of the Flood. For example, when Noah leaves the Ark and “re-enters” the world, he is overwhelmed. He plants a vineyard, and falls in a similar manner as Adam. In the Talmud, one of the major opinions is that the grape (wine) was in fact the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the eighth mentioned is Jamin. Jamin in Hebrew is “Yemin” – right, or right hand, representing kindness as mentioned above. As also mentioned above, this is a time of the year where we feel that we must rely more and more on his kindness.

Daf Chet (Folio 8) of Shvuot continues to discuss the atonement of the goat offering, whose blood was sacrificed in the Holy of Holies. The sins mentioned in this daf are much more serious, and include the greatest sins of all: idolatry, certain sexual sins (such as incest) and murder, although the Talmud clarifies that it is discussing when these sins were committed unwittingly. It also mentions atonement for certain impurities, as well as the atonement of the goat offered outside the Temple. As Israel is more steeped in exile, it requires more atonements.
Chapter 8 of the Book of Jeremiah contains similar themes to the above. The chapter shows how, when steeped into exile, the sins begin to mount, even greater abominations, but we start to fail to see the severity of the sins we commit. They become second nature and even acceptable in our eyes. We even come to believe that we are doing G-d’s will. It is interesting that this chapter includes references to various birds that sing around this time of the year in Perek Shirah (See Book 1). The crane and the swallow both sing in the month of Cheshvan.

7. Even the stork in the heaven knows her seasons, and the turtledoves and the crane and the swallow await the time of their coming, but My people do not know the ordinance of the Lord.

8. How do you say, "We are wise, and the Law of the Lord is with us"? Verily, behold it is in vain, he made a false scribes' pen.  

9. Wise men were ashamed, they were broken and caught; behold they rejected the word of the Lord, now what wisdom have they?

10. Therefore, I will give their wives to others, their fields to those who possess them for from the smallest to the greatest, they all commit robbery, from prophet to priest, they all deal falsely. 

11. And they healed the breach of My people easily, saying, "Peace, peace," but there is no peace. 

12. They shall be put to shame since they have committed abomination. Neither are they ashamed nor do they know to feel disgrace. They will, therefore, fall among the slain; at the time I have visited upon them, they will stumble, says the Lord.

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