Weekly Cycle

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Week 37 (Book 3): Remembering the Shavuot Experience

BESHALACH: 21. They gathered it morning by morning, each one according to his eating capacity, and [when] the sun grew hot, it melted. 22. It came to pass on the sixth day that they gathered a double portion of bread, two omers for [each] one, and all the princes of the community came and reported [it] to Moses.
HAFTORAH: At her feet he sank, fell, lay; at her feet he sank (and) fell;

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 37- Covenants and Emunah


JOURNEY IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Punon and camped in Oboth.      

Week 37 is the third week of Sivan. The Torah section for this week describes how each person took according to their capacity. There is also a focus on “the sixth day.” The sixth day in Bereshit is not only a reference to the sixth day of the week, but also a reference Shavuot, which occured on the sixth of Sivan. The double portion could be perhaps related to the two crowns of Torah. The fact that “all princes of the community” came together appears to be a reference to unity, a key theme of this month.

The Haftorah verses speak of how Sissera, sank (or knelt, “Karah”), fell, lay. It is remarkable how many times these words are repeated in this verse (which includes part of next week). In verse all of 27, the word karah is repeated three times, and so is the word nafal (fell). In the section of the verse specific for this week, an entire phrase is repeated “at her feet he sank, fell,” with the word “lay” in between. Taken outside the context of Sissera’s death and placed in the context of Shavuot, it is perhaps a reference to the Jewish people’s  experience at Mount Sinai. There we bowed and fell, and lay, at the feet  of the Shechinah. Our souls left our bodies and we had to be revived.

Daf Lamed Zayin (Folio 37) of Sotah discusses the splitting of the Red Sea, including the intiative and self-sacrifice of the tribe of Benjamin and of Nachshon ben Aminadav. It also further discusses the evens at Har Grizim and Har Eival, including a discussion of where the Levi’im and the Kohanim stood. Finally, the daf also discusses the number of covenants were made with the Jewish people (including the one at Har Sinai), and further discussion of the blessings and curses said at Har Grizim and Har Eival. There are many parallels here with Shavuot: the initiative and self-sacrifice of the Jewish people when saying “Na’aseh veNishmah!” (We will do and we will listen!), as well as the covenant experience of Mount Sinai.

Asa, the son of Abijam, was an extremely righteous king, returning the kingdom to the ways of Hashem and ridding it of idol worship. He even removed his own mother from her position due to her worship of Ashera trees. He overlaps briefly with Jeroboam (2 years), as well as with all those kings of Israel that fought for Jeroboam’s succession: Nadav(?), Baasa, Elah, Zimri, Tivni (who was never an undisputed king), and Omri. All of these kings ruled for extremely short times (Tivni didn’t even get to rule), except for Omri, who ruled for 12 years. Asa reigned for forty-one years, and except for a brief moment in which he showed lack of faith in dealing with Baasa, he was extremely righteous and faithful, and led the kingdom of Judah on a good path. It is therefore appropriate that this king be connected with the week after Shavuot.

In the thirty-seventh week, the Jews journey from Punon and camp in Oboth. Rabbi Jacobson explains that Oboth means “enemies.” It also means necromancy, as in the practice of Ovoth and Yidonim. After the giving of the Torah, we begin to be tested by our enemies, in an effort to lower us from the lofty state we achieved. It is important to stay firm. Oboth also has the same spelling Avoth, the patriarchs. It was by visiting Hebron, the Cave of the Patriarchs, that Caleb was able to stay faithful to his mission and come back with a correct report.

The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of being revived by the Torah, and now focus on staying connected to our roots and true to our mission.

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