Weekly Cycle

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Week 31 (Book 5): Strong and Praiseworthy

2. How fair are your feet in sandals, O daughter of nobles! The curves of your thighs are like jewels, the handiwork of a craftsman.
3. Your navel is [like] a round basin, where no mixed wine is lacking; your belly is [like] a stack of wheat, fenced in with roses.
4. Your two breasts are like two fawns, the twins of a gazelle.


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 31 – Distancing Oneself  from Falsehood and Liability for False Oaths


Week 31 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Iyar, Yom HaZikaron and of Yom Ha’Atzma’ut. The verses of Shir HaShirim of this week all relate to praises made by the other nations towards the Jewish people. It speaks of how they want to cleave to the Jews. This seems so rare and out of context, and yet that is exactly what happened after Yom Ha’Atzma’ut. For the first time in a long time, the Jews were widely admired. This admiration, which started in great part in 1948, continues until this day.

It is interesting that Rashi notes that while the Jewish people praised G-d from top to bottom, beginning with the head, the praises of non-Jews to the Jewish people are from bottom to top, beginning with the feet. The initial praises after Israel’s War of Independence related to its deeds, military might, associated with the feet.

The third verse for this week also appears to be a reference to Iyar, as it speaks of “twins of a gazelle,” perhaps a reference to Yissachar and Zebulun, whose partnership was like that of twins.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the thirty-first mentioned is Elon. Elon means oak tree. Oak trees are particularly majestic, large, strong and enduring. Elon Moreh is another name for Shechem. As explained in Week 1 of Book 2, Shechem is the first place visited by Avraham, Yaakov, as well as Yehoshua when entering the Land of Israel. Even in modern times, the first settlement established in Judea and Samaria after the Six Day War was Elon Moreh, which is another biblical name for the city Shechem. Shechem is the gateway to the Land of Israel. Therefore, it is appropriate that Elon be mentioned this week.

Daf Lamed Alef (Folio 31) of Shvuot continues to discuss matters regarding an oath taken by a witness in a Jewish court and staying away from false mattes. It also discusses people that are excluded from liability for a court oath. It discusses cases when mistakes were by accident or on purpose (Shogeg uMezid). The return to the Land of Israel is often discussed in Jewish law in the context of three oaths made by the Jewish people during exile, one of which was not to return to Israel by force. There is much debate on whether the Jews indeed violated this oath by returning to the land, and if so, given the context in which it took place, whether they could be “liable” for it.[1] Almost all opinions deem that returning to the Land was not a violation.

Chapter 31 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. It speaks of openly of a time when the Jewish people would be able to return to its land, to build and be built:

1. So says the Lord: In the wilderness, the people who had escaped the sword found favor; He [therefore] went to give Israel their resting place.  

2. From long ago, the Lord appeared to me; With everlasting love have I loved you; therefore have I drawn you to Me with loving-kindness.  

3. Yet again will I rebuild you, then you shall be built, O virgin of Israel; yet again shall you be adorned with your tabrets, and you shall go out with the dances of those who make merry.  

4. Yet again shall you plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria, indeed planters shall plant [them] and redeem [them].  

5. For there is a day, the watchers shall call on the mountains of Ephraim; Rise! Let us go up to Zion, to the Lord, our God.  

6. For so says the Lord to Jacob, "Sing [with] joy and shout at the head of the nations, make it heard, praise, and say, 'O Lord, help Your people, the remnant of Israel!'

7. Behold I bring them from the north country and gather them from the uttermost ends of the earth, the blind and the lame amongst them, the woman with child and she who travails with child all together; a great company shall they return there.  

8. With weeping will they come, and with supplications will I lead them, along brooks of water will I make them go, on a straight road upon which they will not stumble, for I have become a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.  

9. Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it on the islands from afar, and say, "He Who scattered Israel will gather them together and watch them as a shepherd his flock.  

10. For the Lord has redeemed Jacob and has saved him out of the hand of him who is stronger than he. 

11. And they shall come and jubilate on the height of Zion, and they will stream to the goodness of the Lord, over corn, wine, and oil, and over sheep and cattle, and their soul shall be like a well-watered garden, and they shall have no further worry at all.

12. Then shall the virgin rejoice in the round dance with music, and the young men and the old men together, and I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and make them rejoice from their sorrow.  

13. And I will refresh the soul of the priests with fat, and My people-they will be satisfied with My goodness, is the word of the Lord. 

14. So says the Lord: A voice is heard on high, lamentation, bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her children for they are not.  

15. So says the Lord: Refrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for there is reward for your work, says the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.  

16. And there is hope for your future, says the Lord, and the children shall return to their own border.  

[1] http://www.kby.org/hebrew/torat-yavneh/view.asp?id=3970

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