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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Week 23 (Book 4): Coming to a Good Decision

STORY OF CHANNAH: 23. And Elkanah her husband said to her: "Do what seems good to you. Stay until you have weaned him, only, may the Lord fulfill His word." And the woman stayed and nursed her son, until she weaned him.  

QUALITY OF PIRKEI AVOT: and jurisprudence.       

PROVERBS: Chapter 23

Week 23 is the week of Zayin Adar, Moshe’s birthday as well as the date of his passing. The verse from the story of Channah describes how Elkanah allows Channah to do what she believed as right for Shmuel, which was to stay with him until he was weaned. The verse has a curious line, on which Rashi comments. Elkanah says to Chanah: “may the Lord fulfill His word.” To what is Elkanah referring? Rashi explains as follows:

RASHI - only, may the Lord fulfill His word: Since you asked of Him seed of righteous men (above v. 11), and Eli announced to you through divine inspiration: (above v. 17) “The God of Israel will grant your request,” may the Lord fulfill His word. This is according to the simple interpretation. The Midrash Agadah, however, explains thus: Rabbi Nehemiah said in the name of Rabbi Samuel, the son of Rabbi Isaac: Every day, a divine voice would resound throughout the world, and say: A righteous man is destined to arise, and his name will be Samuel. Thereupon, every woman who bore a son, would name him Samuel. As soon as they saw his deeds, they would say, “This is not Samuel.” When our Samuel was born, however, and people saw his deeds, they said, “It seems that this one is the expected righteous man.” This is what Elkanah meant when he said, ‘May the Lord fulfill His word,’ that this be the righteous Samuel.  

Elkanah is praying that Shmuel indeed be righteous. According to Rabbi Nechemiah, Elkanah was praying that this be in fact the “expected righteous man,” for which everyone was hoping. There is a clear parallel here with Moshe Rabbeinu, the expected redeemer of the Jewish people.

This week’s Pirkei Avot quality is that the Torah grants jurisprudence, Chikur Din. Chikur Din means to investigate a matter in order to arrive at the right decision. In the above story, Elkanah essentially tells Channah to make the decision, to “do what seems good to you.” This quality also seems very much related to the Sefirah combination for this week, Gevurah shebeNetzach (judgment in the context of endurance; see Week 23, Book 1)

Chapter 23 of the Book of Proverbs is very much about jurisprudence. It also continues the theme of the previous week, rulership.

1. If you sit down to dine with a ruler, you should understand well who is in front of you,
12. Bring your heart to discipline and your ears to words of knowledge.    
19. Hear you, my son, and grow wise, and walk in the way of your heart.

As mentioned last week, this year there are two months of Adar, and yahrzeits are usually commemorated on the second one, unless the person passed away in the first Adar in a year that also had two. We will therefore, leave the descriptions for the next month, when we repeat weeks 22 through 25.  

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