Weekly Cycle

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Week 22 (Book 3): Adar and Ratzon (Will, Desire)

and the Lord brought the waters of the sea back upon them; and the children of Israel walked on dry land in the midst of the sea,

to hear the bleatings of the flocks?
At the divisions of Reuben, (there are) great searchings of heart.

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 22 - Actions and Inactions that Destroy the World


JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Haradah and camped in Makheloth.

Week 22 is the week of Rosh Chodesh Adar. Adar is connected to the Tribe of Naftali, which was known as a Ayalah Shluchah, a swift (emissary) gazelle. When there are two Adars, the second represents the Tribe of Levi. This tribe served (and will someday soon serve again) as an emissary for the entire Jewish people in performing the Temple service. Adar is the month of Purim, and the Talmud states that “MisheNichnas Adar Marbim b’Simcha.” When Adar enters, we increase in joy. Adar also corresponds to the zodiac sign of Pisces.

The verses of the Song of the Sea for this week refer back to the theme of water. Interestingly, it notes that “the children of Israel walked on dry land in the midst of the sea.” This is reminiscent of Jacob’s blessing to Efraim and Menashe, stating that they would increase “like fish over the land.” For fish to increase over the land is a similar paradox to walking on dry land in the midst of the sea. (Land and sea also parallel the song of the giant sea creatures this week in Book 1)

The Haftorah’s verses for this week continue to refer to Reuben’s doubts and lack of resolve. Resolve is connected to ratzon, will, a quality deeply related with the month of Adar. Naftali is called an “s’vah ratzon,” which means “filled with will.” Levi also was known for its strong determination and self-sacrifice. Reuben’s actions do not reflect such a spirit. It is worth noting that each of the tribes had a perfectly excusable reason for not participating in the fight. They did not share a border with the places in which the fight took place.[1] However, Devorah makes clear that more is expected from her Jewish brethren. This is also in line with Naftali and Levi’s roles as emissaries.

This week’s description of the actions of Reuven begins with a mystifying reference to hearing the bleatings of flocks. The Tanach has a later reference to hearing the bleating of flocks, which is very much tied to the month of Adar. The reference does not involve Reuven, the a firstborn, but rather the first King of Israel, Shaul. Shaul was commanded to completely destroy Amalek. He did not act with enough Ratzon, leaving Amalek’s king alive, as well as the best of the flock. (It is well known that Amalek represents and has the same numerical value as Safek, doubt, which is diametrically opposed to Ratzon. When the prophet Shmuel came to Shaul to reprimand him, Shaul stated that he had fulfilled G-d’s command. Shmuel then asks, so what then was the bleating of flocks that he was hearing. Shaul’s actions, like Reuven’s, showed a certain hesitation, a division, a “searching of heart.” Just like Reuven is replaced as the firstborn, so is Shaul replaced as king.

Daf Kaf Beit (Folio 22) of Sotah continues the discussion of the kinds of actions that may seem pious but end up “destroying the world.” Here again, Reuven and Shaul’s actions come to mind. One of the main discussions is someone who rules when they are not capable, and does not rule when they are capable. Here again, Shaul’s decision, to disobey Hashem by “ruling” tha the king of Amalek and some of the flock could live, and at the same time not taking seriously enough his prominence as king and his ability to tell the people what to do (being “small in the eyes of the people”) led to great destruction, which Amalek continues to cause today.

Jacob is the third forefather of the Jewish people, and his name comes from the word Ekev, heel. It contains the idea of being a messenger (seeing another as the head), which is related to the month of Adar. Purim in general is associated to the concept of the Jewish people being the heel (Ya’akov) and not the head (Yisrael, Li Rosh), and the times of Yikveta d’Meshicha, immediately prior to the coming of Mashiach, called literally the “heels” of Mashiach.

In the twenty-second week, the Jews journey from Haradah and camp in Makheloth. Makheloth means assembly. At least in modern Hebrew, it means choir, a gathering for singing and playing music. Rabbi Jacobson suggests that Makheloth may be the place where the people gathered to see the miracle related to Aharon’s staff. This is connected to the joy we experience in the month of Adar. The personal journey is to internalize the concept of “trembling happiness,” and now prepare for taking that happiness a step further with unity, as well as musical gatherings of singing and dancing.

[1] http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/beshalach63.htm

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