Weekly Cycle

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Week 16 (Book 5): Being Wife and Midwife

1. "Behold, you are fair, my beloved; behold, you are fair; your eyes are [like] doves, from within your kerchief; your hair is like a flock of goats that streamed down from Mount Gilead.
2. Your teeth are like a flock of uniformly shaped [ewes] that came up from the washing, all of whom are perfect, and there is no bereavement among them.
3. Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your speech is comely; your temple is like a split pomegranate from within your kerchief.


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 16 - Holiness of the First Temple


Week 16 in the Jewish calendar is the third week of Teveth. As mentioned previously, Teveth is known as the month in which “the body takes pleasure in the body,” a reference to how the essence of the Jewish People connects to the essence of Hashem. (See Book 1) The Song of Songs verses for this week and next, the first six of Chapter 4, are the ones that most openly use the metaphor of the female body as a reference to qualities of the Jewish People.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the sixteenth mentioned is Merari. Merari family’s task regarding the Tabernacle was the least prestigious, and yet the hardest: carrying the beams, crossbars, pillars, and bases.[1] Merari comes from the word Mar, bitter, the same root of the name Miriam. The Rebbe’s father explains that of the three children of Yocheved, Miriam parallels Merari. These were the foundations of the Tabernacle, without which the other parts could not stand, similar to the discreet yet crucial role of Miriam as a midwife. Teveth is a cold and is some ways bitter month, yet it is also connected to strength/foundation and the capacity to multiply (characteristics of the Tribe of Dan).

Daf Tet Zayin (Folio 16) of Shevuoth discusses whether the holiness of the First Temple was temporary or permanent. It also discusses the case of someone who became impure when in the Temple, and the laws related to bowing in it. The fast of the tenth of Teveth is particularly linked to the destruction of the First Temple.

Chapter 16 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above, especially regarding marital relations and our ability to multiply:

1. And the word of the Lord came to me saying:  
2. You shall take no wife, and you shall have no sons or daughters in this place.  
3. For so said the Lord regarding the sons and the daughters born in this place and regarding their mothers who bear them and their fathers who beget them in this land. (…)
9. For so said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cut off from this place in your presence and in your days a voice of mirth and a voice of gladness, a voice of a bridegroom, and a voice of a bride. (…)

[1] http://en.yhb.org.il/2013/05/17/the-sweetness-of-bnei-merari/

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