Weekly Cycle

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Week 30 (Book 5): Sered, Nets and Chains

11. "I went down to the nut garden to see the green plants of the valley, to see whether the vine had blossomed, the pomegranates were in bloom.                       
12. I did not know; my soul made me chariots for a princely people."                   
1. "Return, return, O Shulammite; return, return, and let us gaze upon you." "What will you see for the Shulammite, as in the dance of the two camps?


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 30 – Distancing oneself from falsehood, and communal oaths.


Week 30 in the Jewish calendar is the last week of Nissan, which includes the yahrzeit of Yehoshua and Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The first verse of Shir HaShirim for this week make reference to a nut garden, green plants, a vine and pomegranites. Rashi’s comments show these descriptions refer in large part to Torah scholarship and fulfillment of the commandments. Interestingly, Rashi also specifically mentions “teachers of the Misnah,” the Oral Torah transmitted from Moshe to Yehoshua, and from Yehoshua to the elders and future generations.

Rashi also brings a second homilectic interpretation regarding the meaning of the nut garden: “Just as if this nut falls into the mud, its interior does not become sullied, so are the Israelites exiled among the nations and smitten with many blows, but their deeds are not sullied.” This is a very fitting description of the events of the Holocaust.

The second and third verses also speak of exile, specifically the Roman exile, which we are still presently in, and in which the Holocaust took place.

12. I did not know; my soul made me chariots for a princely people." 
Rashi - I did not know: The congregation of Israel laments: I did not know to beware of sin, that I should retain my honor and my greatness, and I erred in the matter of groundless hatred and controversy, which intensified during the reign of the Hasmonean kings, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, until one of them brought the kingdom of Rome and received the kingship from their hand and became their vassal, and since then, my soul made me to be chariots, that the nobility of other nations ride upon me.
The Second Temple was ultimately destroyed due to baseless hatred. Failure to learn the lessons from those events are what have kept us in exile until this day.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the thirtieth mentioned is Sered. A Sarad is a netmaker or maker of chains (Aruch). Yehoshua would capture and absorb every word of Moshe, just like a netmaker would capture fish. Yehoshua Bin Nun literally means, Joshua the son of a fish (a reference to Moshe himself). Chains are also an appropriate metaphor for this week, given the captivity we endured during the Holocaust.

Daf Lamed (Folio 30) of Shvuot starts a new chapter regarding an oath taken by a witness in a Jewish court. The daf discusses to whom this oath applies, rules regarding not favoring one party over another, and distancing oneself from falsehood. Much of this seems to apply to Yehoshua. There is also an emphasis on the collectivity of the Jewish people, with many verses referring to Am: "B'Tzedek Tishpot Amisecha" … "va'Yeshev Moshe... va'Ya'amod ha'Am.Yom HaShoah marks a time that was rife with falsehood, as well as a time when all Jews were collectively persecuted, regardless of religiosity, ethnicity or nationality.

Chapter 30 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. As many of the the other chapters in the Book, it speaks of the destruction and calamity that is to take place, but Rashi notes that it does not only refer to the destruction of the Temple and the Babylonian exile, but also of Gog and Magog. The words also make reference to pains that are like birth pangs (similar to the birth pangs leading up to the Messianic era (Chevlei Mashiach). Many believe that the Holocaust is to be considered Chevlei Mashiach. Also, different than in previous chapters, this one brings a silver lining, stating that unlike other nations, the Jewish people would not be completely destroyed.

5. For so said the Lord: A sound of quaking we have heard, fear, and there is no peace. 

Rashi: A sound of quaking we have heard: Some interpret this as alluding to the tidings of Babylon, from which those exiled there quaked. But the Midrash Aggadah explains it as an allusion to the war of Gog and Magog.   

6. Ask now and see whether a male gives birth. Why have I seen every man [with] his hands on his loins like a woman in confinement, and every face has turned to pallor? 

Rashi: whether a male gives birth: Whether it is customary for males to give birth, so that labor pains should seize them like a woman in confinement...   
7. Ho! For that day is great, with none like it, and it is a time of distress for Jacob, through which he shall be saved.  

Rashi: that day: The day of the assassination of Belshazzar and the downfall of Babylon. Another explanation: the day of the downfall of Gog.    .


11. For I am with you, says the Lord, to save you, for I will make an end of all the nations where I dispersed you, but of you I will not make an end, but I will chasten you in measure, and I will not completely destroy you.
12. For so said the Lord: Your injury is painful, your wound grievous. 

13. No one deems your wound to be healed, you have no healing medicines. 

Rashi: to be healed: cure. No one thinks that you will have salvation.   

14. All your lovers have forgotten you, they do not seek you, for I have smitten you with the wound of an enemy, cruel chastisement, for the greatness of your iniquity; your sins are many. 

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