Friday, February 14, 2014

Week 24 (Book 4b): the Intoxicating Power of Food and Drink

9. "What is your beloved more than another beloved, O fairest of women? What is your beloved more than another beloved, that you have so adjured us?"
10. "My beloved is white and ruddy, surrounded by myriads.
11. His head is as the finest gold; his locks are curled, [they are as] black as a raven.


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: DAF 23 – Oaths on Forbidden Foods


Week 24 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Purim. The verses of Shir HaShirim of this week speaks of the “fairest of women,” a likely reference to Queen Esther, who was chosen above all the women of the Persian Empire. The reference to Israel’s Beloved being white and “ruddy,” appears to be connected to the wine of Purim. (See Week 23, Book 4a: “Do not look at wine when it is red; when he puts his eye on the cup, it goes smoothly.” (Proverbs 23:31))

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the twenty-fourth mentioned is Issachar. Issachar was conceived on the night that Rachel exchanged for the dudayim of Leah. The intoxicating nature of the dudayim seem to parallel the intensity of Purim, which is brought about as well through physical intoxication.

Daf Kaf Dalet (Folio 24) of Shvuot continues to discuss forbidden foods, and speaks about how one can violate more than one law in a single act of eating. One of the main points of contention of the Purim story was the fact that the Jews partook of Achashverosh’s festive meal.

Chapter 24 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. It speaks about duda’ey te’enim, translated as “pots of figs,” but which literally mean dudayim of figs. Some of the figs could be eaten – others not at all. This dichotomy, especially between the very good (Mordechai) and the very bad (Haman) is also symbolic of Adar. In this case, Jeremiah’s vision is referring to those that willingly go to exile in Babylon, and those that stubbornly decide to stay in the Land of Israel.

1. The Lord showed me two pots of figs, prepared before the Temple of the Lord after Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, had exiled Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and the princes of Judah and the craftsmen and the sentries of the gates from Jerusalem and brought them to Babylon. 
2. One pot [contained] very good figs like the first ripe figs, and the other pot [contained] very bad figs that could not be eaten because they were so bad. (…)

The end of this chapter also has language very similar to Haazinu’s verse for Week 24 in Book 2:  “They will sprout hair from famine, attacked by demons, excised by Meriri. I will incite the teeth of livestock upon them, with the venom of creatures that slither in the dust.” (Deuteronomy 32:24)

10. And I will send forth the sword, the famine, and the pestilence against them until they are consumed from upon the land that I gave them and their forefathers.

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