Weekly Cycle

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Week 29 (Book 3): Salmah and Leaving Our Own "Egypts"

BESHALACH: 5. And it shall be on the sixth day that when they prepare what they will bring, it will be double of what they gather every day. 6. [Thereupon,] Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, [In the] evening, you shall know that the Lord brought you out of the land of Egypt.

The brook Kishon swept them away,
that ancient brook, the brook Kishon;

TALMUD SOTAH:  Daf 29 - Strictnesses related to eating Terumah and Sacrifices


JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Benei jaakan and camped in Hor hagidgad

For Week 29, the week of Passover, the Torah portion section for this week continues to introduce the Mannah, and finishes by saying, “you shall know that the Lord brought you out of the land of Egypt.” The mannah, after all, serves as a great reinforcement of the concept of faith, emunah, a central theme of Passover. 

The Talmud (beginning of tractate Be'ah) also derives an important principle in Jewish law – the concept of preparing for a holiday: “when they prepare what they will bring,” is understood in the Talmud to mean that one have in mind from beforehand what one will be using (both physically and spiritually) during the holiday, and that a holiday cannot prepare for a normal day,  or even for the Sabbath, and the Sabbath as well cannot prepare for a normal day or a holiday.

The Haftorah’s verses for this week speak of how the “brook Kishon” swept them away. This parallels the splitting of the Sea of Reeds, celebrated this week, in which the Egyptians were swept away. Rashi states that the Kishon had been a guarantor for the Sea of Reeds, as stated in the Talmud. (Pessachim 118B).

Daf Kaf Tet (Folio 29) of Sotah discusses further how the Sotah is forbidden from eating Terumah. It also discusses other specific purity laws of Terumah and of sacrifices in general. As mentioned in the previous week, Passover was a time when the laws of ritual purity were particularly strict, given that the Passover sacrifice had to be brought and eaten in a state of purity. Furthermore, in Passover we are very strict regarding what we eat, and many have the custom of not eating anything at all except for the food in one’s own kitchen.

Salmah is the son of Nachshon and the father of Boaz. Salmah means a garment. He is also called Salmon, which means a small garment (“on” is a Hebrew suffix denoting small; Nachshon therefore means small snake). Psalm 104 states, “Oteh Ohr Ka’Salmah,”   G-d enwraps himself with light as a garment.[1] 

The Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya that the Torah itself is the intermediary that is able to bridge the gap between the infinite and the finite, the “light” and the “garment.”[2]  Similarly, Salmah is the intermediary between Nachshon and the generation of the exodus from Egypt, and Boaz, who marries Ruth and sets the stage for the birth of King David.  Salmah also comes from the word “Sulam” which means ladder, and the Midrash builds on the idea of Salmah being an intermediary: “Because until him they formed a ladder of princes; from him onwards they formed a ladder of kings.” [3] Passover itself is an intermediary stage, the “Holiday of Spring:” a first step towards freedom and the beginning of the summer months.

In the twenty-ninth week, the Jews journey from Benei Jaakan and camp in Hor hagidgad. Hor Hagidgad means a hole/crevice of Gidgad. Based on the Arizal’s writings, Rabbi Jacobson explains that Hor HaGidgad is related to the intellect, the head and its crevices. Chor HaGidgad also appears to be related to the Mannah, which was called “zerah gad,” a seed of “gad.” Talmud translates gad in a few different ways, one of which is that it would be “magid” it would tell/resolve doubts. Another related translation is that it came from the word “Haggadah,” the stories of the Talmud (from the same verb, “lehagid”) that draw the heart of the listener, just like the Mannah did.[4] Again, the Mannah is a key aspect of the Passover story. 

In order to accept the gift of the Mannah, we have to make a vessel for it, a crevice within our hearts, within our selves. The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of experiencing the narrowness of as well as the freedom from the first and the last of our exiles, and now focus on opening up our hearts, to the gift of the mannah, to the gift of emunah.

[1] This is actually part of the preparatory prayers said before donning the Talit, the Jewish prayer shawl, as well as the Musaf prayers for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
[2] http://m.chabad.org/m/dailystudy/default.asp?tDate=9/6/2021&type=tanya
[4] Talmud, Yoma 75A.

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