Weekly Cycle

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Week 17 (Book 5): Our Intimate Connection with G-d

4. Your neck is like the Tower of David, built as a model; a thousand shields hanging on it, all the quivers of the mighty men.
5. Your two breasts are like two fawns, the twins of a gazelle, who graze among the roses.
6. Until the sun spreads and the shadows flee, I will go to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense.


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 17 – Sins of the Temple and Marital Relations


Week 17 in the Jewish calendar is the last week of Teveth, which includes the 24th of Teveth, the yahrzeit of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe. As mentioned in the previous week, the verses from Song of Songs for this week has some of the most open uses of the metaphor of the female body as a reference to qualities of the Jewish People. 

One of the references made in Song of Songs is to “two breasts,” which is related to childbearing and procreation, themes of the month of Teveth. Rashi notes that this is a reference to Moshe and Aharon as well as to the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments. Rashi further explains how the laws on the first tablet (between man and G-d) correspond to those on the second one (between man and man). Similarly, the Alter Rebbe’s name, Shneur, means Shnei Or, two lights, and the Alter Rebbe fulfilled the potential of his name, revealing the light of Chassidus and the deep secrets of the Torah, which comprise the Tanya and other holy works, as well as a light in the revealed aspects of the Torah, which comprise his Shulchan Aruch, known as Shulchan Aruch HaRav, and other works as well.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the seventeenth one, who is not explicitly mentioned, is Yocheved. Yocheved is the mother of Moshe and Aharon. She, like Miriam, was also involved in the discreet task of midwiving Jewish children.

Daf Yud Zayin (Folio 17) of Shvuot speaks of the prohibitions against not properly taking one’s time when leaving the Temple, as well as taking the shortest path out. It also discusses entering the Temple grounds in an abnormal manner. The daf then switches to a different Mishnah, which leads to a discussion of how to withdraw from a woman that becomes a Niddah (impure due to menstruation) at the time of intercourse. The daf appears related to two distinct themes of this month, sins related to the Temple, as well as marital relations.

Chapter 17 of the Book of Jeremiah contains one of the main themes of the month, multiplying after being very small in number. This theme is found in the song of the wild goose in Book 1, which is contained in this chapter (the wild goose is the Perek Shirah animal for Week 15, also in the month of Teveth):

5. So says the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart turns away from the Lord.  

6. He shall be like a lone tree in the plain, and will not see when good comes, and will dwell on parched land in the desert, on salt-sodden soil that is not habitable.
7. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord; the Lord shall be his trust.

8. For he shall be like a tree planted by the water, and by a rivulet spreads its roots, and will not see when heat comes, and its leaves shall be green, and in the year of drought will not be anxious, neither shall it cease from bearing fruit.

It is also interesting that the chapter include references to nature and to trees, as the following week is that of Rosh Chodesh Shevat.

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