Weekly Cycle

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Week 38 (Book 3): Preparing for the Summer Months

BESHALACH: 23. So he said to them, That is what the Lord spoke, Tomorrow is a rest day, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake whatever you wish to bake, and cook whatever you wish to cook, and all the rest leave over to keep until morning.   24. So they left it over until morning, as Moses had commanded, and it did not become putrid, and not a worm was in it.  

where he sank, there he fell down dead.
Through the window looked forth, the mother of Sisera [peered] through the window;

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 38 - The Blessing of the Kohanim


JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Oboth and camped at the ruins of Abarim, on the Moabite boundary       

Week 38 is the last week of Sivan. Beshalach’s section for this week describes again how the sixth day was special. It also describes the concept of preparing for the Sabbath - as explained in Book 1, there is an idea about preparing for the difficult summer months to come. That preparation must be made in Sivan.

The Haftorah verses continue speak of how Sissera sank and fell down dead, and how Sisera’s mother were peering through the window. Again, taken out of the context of Sisera’s death, the verse also seems connected to the Sinai experience. Also, the mother peering through the window brings to mind the verse of the Song of Songs which states that G-d peers through the window to see their suffering, and that He is ready to return his Shechinah to its rightful place. Again, an apparent reference to the coming months.

Daf Lamed Cheit (Folio 38) of Sotah is all about the blessing of the Kohanim, and how the blessings given outside the Temple differentiated from the ones given inside. The blessing of the Kohanim, which halachically must be given out of love (as the brachah the make before specifies) is the ultimate example of brotherly love and peace amongst the Jewish people. The above verse of Shir HaShirim is also related to Birkat Kohanim.

Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa, was also an extremely righteous king. His counterparts in Israel were Omri, Ahab, and Ahaziah (1 year). Jehoshaphat’s name means G-d is Judge. (In Book 2, the prophet for this week is Daniel, whose name also means God is (my) Judge). Jehoshaphat’s one mistake was becoming overly friendly and at times even sought alliances with the evil rulers of the northern kingdom of Israel. This is the corollary to this month’s theme of brotherly love.One must know when to keep one’s distance. Overall, Jehoshaphat was extremely righteous and led the Jewish people for 25 years of significant peace and prosperity.

Contrast Jehoshaphat’s name with Ahab’s name, which makes no reference to G-d, but instead even suggests possible incest. His name means “brother-father.” Ahab himself appears to correct this problem when giving the name of his own son, Ahaziah, meaning, “one that holds on to G-d, which includes Hashem’s name; Ahaziah is also the name of one of the kings of Judah. Unfortunately, Ahaziah followed in the evil ways of his father, was involved in idolatry, and died after only two years of reign.

In the thirty-eighth week, the Jews journey from Oboth and camp in the ruins of Abarim, on the Moabite boundary. Abarim comes from the word Aveirah. Because of our sins related to the summer months of Tammuz and Av, our Temple lay in ruins. Rashi himself makes a parallel to Jerusalem in his commentary to the verse that describes Abarim, one of the few comments he makes regarding the journeys:

the ruins of Abarim: Heb. הָעֲבָרִים עִיּי, an expression denoting waste and ruins, as“into a heap (לְעִי) in the field” (Micah 1:6);“they have turned Jerusalem into heaps (לְעִיִּים) ” (Ps. 79:1).

Moab was a nation known for its immorality. Like Ahab, Moab’s very name suggests incest, and actually was given for that reason. (It is worth noting that after Ahab’s death, it was Moab that revolted against Israel) Moab means “from the father,” because the nation came into existence when Lot had relations with his own daughter. It is our job to fight such immorality, thereby elevating the sparks hidden in the kelipah of this nation.

The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of staying connected to our roots and true to our mission, and now focus on repenting from and fighting against the sins that led to the destruction of the Temple.

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