Weekly Cycle

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Week 29 (Book 5): Feeling Chosen (Our Special Bond with G-d)

8. There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and innumerable maidens.
9. My dove, my perfect one, is but one; she is one to her mother, she is the pure one of she who bore her; daughters saw her and praised her, queens and concubines, and they lauded her;
10. Who is this who looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, awesome as the bannered legions?"


TALMUD SHEVUOT: Daf 29 - Oaths that are related to the supernatural and/or are contradicted by actions


Week 29 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Passover. The verses of Shir HaShirim of this week single out the Jewish people among all the nations of the world; its speaks of being being pure and praised by the one who “bore her.” It was on Passover after all that the Jews were truly born as a nation. It was specifically on the Seventh Day of Passover, when the Sea of Reeds split this week, that this distinction became the most clear, and the other nations so fearful.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the twenty-ninth mentioned is Zebulun. Zebulun comes from the word Yizbeleni, in Leah’s prophecy, which means “he will make one’s chief dwelling with me.” The words parallel the above words of Shir HaShirim. On Passover is when it becomes clear that we are chosen above the other nations. Passover is also the first step towards the creation of the Mishkan – the whole purpose of leaving Egypt is to serve Hashem and to have his dwelling be among the people.

Daf Kaf Chet (Folio 29) of Shvuot speaks of laws of sacrifices (like the Korban Pessach) brought for breaking a two-part oath (related to not eating figs and grapes), as well as the laws of vain oaths, and imposing an oath on someone else. These discussions also include references to oaths made over a loaf of bread. Vain oaths are those that contradict what people know to be true, things that are impossible, such as camels flying or a serpent the size of an olive press. Vain oaths are also those that directly contradict a previous oath, such as: “If one said 'I swear that I will eat this loaf, I swear that I will not eat it.” The Splitting of the Sea was something that contradicted what everyone knew to be true, and contradicted the very nature of the Sea, and apparently even the oath made by Hashem that the waters of Noah would never again pass over the earth. (Isaiah 54:9) Nevertheless, Moshe imposes an action upon the Sea of Reeds, in order to fulfill Hashem’s oath to Abraham, and the Jewish people’s oath to Joseph (regarding the burial of his bones in Israel). In fact, the Midrash Tehillim teaches that the sea only split when it saw Joseph’s casket.

Chapter 29 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. It speaks of redemption from exile, in the form of an oath (which was indeed fulfilled), and also of a special bond between the Jewish people and G-d (seeking G-d and finding Him), and once again being held in distinction from all the nations. Conversely, those that do not go to Babylon will have such a miserable future (like loathsome figs) that those that witness will make oaths.

10. For so said the Lord: For at the completion of seventy years of Babylon I will remember you, and I will fulfill My good word toward you, to restore you to this place.

11. For I know the thoughts that I think about you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  

12. And you shall call Me and go and pray to Me, and I will hearken to you.

13. And you will seek Me and find [Me] for you will seek Me with all your heart.  

14. And I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will return your captivity and gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will return you to the place whence I exiled you.  

15. For you have said: The Lord has set up prophets for us in Babylon.  

16. For so said the Lord concerning the king who sits on the throne of David and concerning the entire people that dwells in this city: Your brethren who have not left with you into exile.  
17. So said the Lord of Hosts: Behold I incite upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and I will make them as the loathsome figs, which cannot be eaten because they are so bad.  

18. And I will pursue them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, for an oath, for astonishment, for hissing, and for a reproach among all the nations where I have exiled them.

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