Weekly Cycle

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Week 18 (Book 5): Nature as a Metaphor and the Setting for Our Relationship with G-d

7. You are all fair, my beloved, and there is no blemish in you.
8. With me from Lebanon, my bride, with me from Lebanon shall you come; you shall look from the peak of Amanah, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from mountains of leopards.
9. You have captivated my heart, my sister, [my] bride; you have captivated my heart with one of your eyes, with one link of your necklaces.


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 18 –  Distancing oneself from forbidden pleasures and wrongful acts


Week 18 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Shevat. Shevat connected to nature, as it celebrates the Rosh Hashanah of the trees. It is also connected to emunah (faith) and ta’anug (pleasure). It is also related to the Oral Torah.

The theme for this week, in particular the second verse (verse 8), is very much connected with nature. It speaks of the forest of Lebanon, of various mountains, of lions and of leopards. Rashi also relates that this verse to the fact that Hashem is with us in exile, and how He will return with us from it as well. The peak of Amanah has the same root as the word Emunah.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the eighteenth mentioned is Judah. Of all the brothers, it is perhaps Judah that most represents the importance of the Oral Torah. It was Judah that was sent by Jacob to establish a yeshiva in Egypt, before the rest of the family came down. Judah also is very much connected to the concepts of pleasure and faith.We see how Judah often played the leading role among the brothers, and showed tremendous Emunah when confronting the viceroy of Egypt,  who turned out to be Joseph. We also see that his pleasure-seeking actions (such as those regarding Tamar) got him in trouble, but that he was not afraid to take responsibility for them, and repent. 

Daf Yud Cheit (Folio 18) of Shvuot comprises of a continuation of the discussion of withdrawing from a Niddah, how the main thing is to avoid pleasure. It also discusses separating from a Niddah before her predetermined period of impurity. Finally, it discusses whether one must know what made him impure before he forgot that he was impure – it discusses forbidden foods, forbidden relations with a Niddah, and actions that show lack of faith, such as work on Shabat and Yom Kippur. Some of the topics appear still related to the previous month, but are also connected to this month, such as faith and pleasure.

Chapter 18 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter is about Hashem as the potter (we need Emunah that everything comes from Him). It is also about nature and our lack of Emunah, about inappropriate pleasures, and about “cold flowing water.” It is in Shevat, that the sap of the trees begin to flow, although we are still in the middle of the cold winter at this time.

9. And at one instant I may speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant,   (…)

14. Shall one abandon [water flowing] from rocks of the field [that comes from] the snow of Lebanon? Shall strange cold flowing water be abandoned?

The Levanon (Lebanon), which is a forest whose trees were used for the Temple, is mentioned also in the verses of the Song of Songs above. Levanon is often a reference to the Temple itself.

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