Weekly Cycle

Monday, May 4, 2015

Week 34 (Book 5): Healing and Rabbi Shimon's "Wine"

10. And your palate is like the best wine, that glides down smoothly to my beloved, making the lips of the sleeping speak."


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 34 – Oaths Taken Under Different Circumstances


Week 34 in the Jewish calendar is the last week of Iyar. As noted in Book 1, it represents the journey from Yaacov to Yisrael that started in Nissan and ends in Iyar, as we approach the giving of the Torah on Shavuot.

The verses of Shir HaShirim of this week also focus on wine, which is a metaphor for the inner secrets of the Torah. Those secrets are what gave life to the Jewish people in difficult times when they were spiritually asleep, bringing them back to life, making their “lips speak.” This is very much related to Lag Ba’Omer and the inner secrets of the Kabbalah revealed by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, as discussed in the previous week. It also appears connected to the healing qualities of the month of Iyar.
Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the thirty-fourth mentioned is Gad, son of Zilpah. It is also connected with Menasheh, son of Joseph. Gad was known as a fierce warrior, and his name means “(good) luck.” Menashe’s name has at its root the verb “to forget,” a reference of Joseph “forgetting” the hardships of his past. Menashe also means to sustain, as Menashe was Joseph main assistant in sustaining Egypt and running the affairs of the empire. Again, there’s a connection to the healing qualities of Iyar, and the journey from hardship to strength and relative independence (See Book 1).

Daf Lamed Dalet (Folio 34) of Shvuoth continues to discuss the issue of oaths that only apply to monetary claims. It also discusses witnesses that did not see or know the facts, and deriving laws of oaths for a pikadon (gift) from the laws of court oaths. The overall theme appears again to be to be the journey from being in a poor and weak position, to one of strength and order. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is by far the most quoted rabbi on this daf, from beginning to end.  

Chapter 34 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. It speaks of going from being a slave to be free, in the seven-year cycle of Sabbatical years.

8. The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people who were in Jerusalem, to proclaim freedom to them;  
9. That every man should let his manservant and every man his maidservant, a Jew and a Jewess go free, that none should hold his Jewish brother as a slave.  

10. Now all the princes and all the people who had entered into the covenant hearkened that every one should let his manservant and everyone his maidservant go free, no longer holding them in slavery; then they obeyed and let them go. 

11. But afterwards they turned and brought back the manservants and the maidservants whom they had let free, and forcibly made them into manservants and maidservants.  

12. Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying:

13. So says the Lord God of Israel; I made a covenant with your fathers on the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves, saying: 

14. "At the end of seven years you shall let go every man his brother Jew who has been sold to you, and when he has served you for six years you shall let him go free from you"; but your forefathers did not obey Me, nor did they incline their ear[s]. 

15. And now this day you turned and did what was right in My sight by proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbor, and you made a covenant before Me in the House upon which My Name is called.  

16. But then you turned and profaned My Name, and you took back, each man his manservant and each man his maidservant, whom you had let free to themselves, and forced them to be manservants and maidservants to you.  

17. Therefore, so says the Lord: You have not hearkened to Me to proclaim freedom, every one to his brother and every one to his neighbor; behold I proclaim freedom to you, says the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine, and I will make you an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.

Following three verses per week:

11. "I am my beloved's, and his desire is upon me.
12. Come, my beloved, let us go out to the field, let us lodge in the villages.
13. Let us arise early to the vineyards; let us see whether the vine has blossomed, the tiny grapes have developed, the pomegranates have lost their flowers; there I will give you my love.

These verses speak of closeness to G-d, "His desire is upon me." The tiny grapes that have developed and are now ready to give (and receive) Hashem's love at Mt. Sinai.

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