Weekly Cycle

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Week 33 (Book 3): Blessed Above All Others

BESHALACH: 13. It came to pass in the evening that the quails went up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14. The layer of dew went up, and behold, on the surface of the desert, a fine, bare [substance] as fine as frost on the ground.  

HAFTORAH: Blessed above women shall Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, be;  above women in the tent shall she be blessed.

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 33 - The Language of Angels, the Holy of Holies


JOURNEYS: They journeyed from Ezion geber and camped in the desert of Zin, which is Kadesh.

Week 33 is the week of Pessach Sheini and Lag Ba’Omer. The Torah portion section for this week first introduces the Mannah. It is “fine as frost” and compared to the dew (in contrast with the physicality of the quail). The contrast between Mannah and quail is also a contrast between the revealed Torah (nigleh) and the Kabbalah (nistar). While in the area of nigleh there is back and forth and room for “digestion,” setting aside certain opinions and coming to conclusions, when it comes to the Kabbalah there is no need for separating the “good” from the “bad.” (There's also an opinion that the Mannah began falling on Lag Ba'omer, and that this is the reason for its celebration)

The Haftorah verses speak of how Yael shall be blessed above “women in the tent,” a reference to the blessings given to the matriarchs (Talmud, Sanhedrin 105)). Similarly Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is said to be praiseworthy above all of his colleagues. 

Daf Lamed Gimmel (Folio 33) of Sotah continues the discussion of certain statements that must be said in Hebrew in order to be valid, as well as those that can be said in any language, and the blessings and curses that were said at Mount Grizim and Mount Eival. The daf goes into detail about the language of angels and heavenly voices, and contains an entire story regarding what Shimon HaTzadik heard in the Kodesh HaKodashim, the Holy of Holies. Shimon HaTzadik and the heavenly experiences he had are deeply connected with Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. 

How appropriate it is that King David, G-d’s anointed, be the link in the chain of week 33, of Lag Ba’omer! King David had great closeness with Hashem and was given tremendous wisdom and prowess, yet also underwent enoemous suffering.  Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s life also reflected these qualities. David means beloved, and few tzadikim and few days are as beloved as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Lag Ba’Omer.  

In the thirty-third week, the Jews journey from Etzion geber and camp in the desert of Zin, which is Kadesh. Kadesh means "holy" or "sanctified." This was the place where Miriam passed away, and where Moshe struck the rock, which led to him not entering the Land of Israel, and G-d’s name being sanctified. There is an apparent contrast between this desert, the Desert of Zin, with the journey in Week 8, to the Desert of Sin. O.ne is spelled with a tzadi, the other with a samech. In the Desert of Sin is where the food supplies from Egypt ended, while in the Desert of Tzin, after Miriam died, there was no water. In both places, the people complained and showed lack of faith.

Kadesh also appears to be the same place as Kadesh Barnea/Rithmah, of week 15. This journey marks a return to the place of the sin of the spies 38 years prior. No wonder Moshe was upset when the people showed a lack of faith. After everything that had happened, after the entire journey of redemption from Egypt, how could people still complain? Yet, Moshe’s behavior towards the people apparently was not warranted, and for hitting the rock, and this appears to be part of the reason for his punishment. The rock is perhaps a metaphor for the stubbornness of the Jewish people – nevertheless, Moshe was supposed to speak to the rock, not hit it. This aspect of strictness and lack of patience for the spiritual shortcomings of the people parallels Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son’s reaction when first leaving the cave in which they learned Torah for 12 years. Similar to Moshe, Rabbi Shimon and his son were "banished" from the land and had to return to the cave for an additional year. 

The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of awakening and opening ourselves up to the inner wisdom of the Kabbalah, and now focus on being accepting of other people’s shortcomings and understanding that it is not always in our power to completely change all of those around us.

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