Weekly Cycle

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Week 11 (Book 5): Staying True to the Covenant

14. My dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the coverture of the steps, show me your appearance, let me hear your voice, for your voice is pleasant and your appearance is comely.'
15. Seize for us the foxes, the little foxes, who destroy the vineyards, for our vineyards are with tiny grapes.
16. My beloved is mine, and I am his, who grazes among the roses.
TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 11 - Ketoret (Incense)
Week 11 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Yud Kislev, which celebrates the release and redemption of the Mitteler Rebbe. The first verse from Song of Songs for this week is from G-d’s perspective. The second and third one are from the Jewish people’s. The verses continue the theme of this month: the spiritual and physical struggle against Greek domination, and the miraculous victory over it.
The first verse speaks of the Jews as a faithful dove, crying out to G-d in purity and despair, in the face of the enemy. Rashi interprets this to mean the crying out of the Jews by the Red Sea, which revealed the inner essence of the Jewish people. This is similar to the hidden flask of pure oil stamped with the seal of the Kohen Gadol found on Chanukah. (Interestingly, the voice of the Jewish people, which is the cry of the dove, is described as pleasant, Arev, which also spells the word for Orev, raven, the animal of Week 12 in Book 1)
The second verse speaks of little foxes who destroy vineyards. As explained in Book 1, the fox is a reference to the destruction of the Temple. Rashi makes a reference to the fact that the Egyptians would throw our male infants into the Nile. In the end, the Egyptians themselves were the ones inundated and drowned. Wine (like oil) is a reference to wisdom and Torah. The Greeks came to destroy our knowledge at a time when the people’s level of knowledge was lacking, like infants and tiny grapes.
The third verse speaks of the intimate and all-encompassing relationship between the Jewish people and G-d. Rashi states: “He demanded all His needs from me... All my needs I demanded of Him, and not of other deities.” This is something rationalist (as well as the pagan) Greeks could not understand.
Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the eleventh mentioned is Tzochar, spelled Tzadi, Chet, Reish. Tzochar also appears in the Torah as the name of the father of Ephron the Hittite, who sold the Ma’arat HaMachpelah to Avraham in Hebron in order for him to bury Sarah. Tzohar, with a Heh, was a light in the Ark. Perhaps Tzochar is mentioned here to represent the difficulties (similar to Abraham’s) of dealing with other nations occupying the Land of Israel, as well as the light of Chanukah. The Tzohar, like the Temple’s Menorah, not only served internal illumination purposes, but external purposes as well.
Daf Yud Aleph (Folio 11) of Shvuot discusses the holiness of the ketoret and of Hekdesh. The Ketoret is associated with the number 11 as explained in Book 1.
Chapter 11 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. In the verses, Hashem tells the prophet to speak to Jerusalem (See Week 11, Book 1, about speaking “to the heart of Jerusalem”) and mentions, again and again, the “fathers,” showing the continuity from generation to generation, similar to that of the Alter Rebbe and the Mitteler Rebbe. Another repeated term is“covenant,” Brit, which as mentioned before, is something the Greeks strongly opposed:
2. Hearken to the words of this covenant, and you shall speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
3. And you shall say to them, so said the Lord God of Israel; Cursed be the man who will not hearken to the words of this covenant,
4. Which I commanded your forefathers on the day I took them out of the land of Egypt, out of the iron furnace, saying: Hearken to My voice and do them, according to all that I will command you, and you shall be to Me for a people, and I will be to you for a God.
5. In order to establish the oath that I swore to yourforefathers to give them a land flowing with milk and honey as of this day. And I replied and said, "Amen, O Lord."
6. And the Lord said to me; Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying: Hearken to the words of this covenant and you shall do them.
7. For I warned your forefathers on the day I brought them up from the land of Egypt until this day, warning early every morning, saying: Hearken to My voice.
8. But they did not hearken, neither did they bend their ears, and they went, each man according to the view of his evil heart, and I brought upon them all the words of this covenantthat I commanded to do, and they did not do.
9. And the Lord said to me; A conspiracy has been found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
10. They have returned to the iniquities of their first forefathers, who refused to hearken to My words, and they followed other gods to worship them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah broke My covenant that I made with their forefathers.

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