Friday, June 20, 2014

Week 38 (Book 4b): Unity and Captivity

SONG OF SONGS: 14. The pots [of figs] have given forth [their] fragrance, and on our doorways are all manner of sweet fruits, both new and old, which I have hidden away for you, my beloved."


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 38 – Collective Oath


Week 38 in the Jewish calendar is the last week of Sivan. The verse of Shir HaShirim of this week extends the connection with Chag HaBikkurim, also describing fruit, “new and old,” specifically dudayim of figs. Rashi comments that before there were two types of fruits, good and bad. However, "[n]ow, both of them have given forth their fragrance. They all seek Your countenance." Sivan is the ultimate in both Jewish unity and the Divine revelation that follows.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the thirty-eighth mentioned is Ezbon. Ezbon appears related to the word Etzbah, meaning finger. The finger is not a truly independent entity - it is a part of the hand, and must be united with it. This week is also connected with Ashbel, son of Benjamin. Ashbel means "taken captive." Again, Benjamin gave such a names as a sign of unity with his brother, mourning that Joseph had been sold as a slave.

Daf Lamed Cheit (Folio 38) of Shvuot continues to discuss the oath of a “pikadon,” a gift or deposit. This daf also begins a new chapter on “Shevuas HaDayanim,” the “oath of judges,” regarding partial admission, and discusses how to administer an oath. Most of the daf discusses the concept of a collective oath. As mentioned above, this week, and this month, are very much connected to the idea of collectivity.

Chapter 38 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. As in the previous week, the king of Judah shows receptivity to hearing the words of Jeremiah. He also promises not to punish him for them. The chapter includes references to collective reward and/or collective punishment, including for the women and children:

14. And King Zedekiah sent and took Jeremiah the prophet to him, to the third entrance, that was in the house of the Lord, and the king said to Jeremiah, "I ask you a word; do not conceal a word from me." 

15. And Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, "If I tell you, will you not put me to death? And if I advise you, you will not listen to me." 

16. And King Zedekiah swore to Jeremiah secretly, saying, "As the Lord lives who made for us this soul, I will neither put you to death nor will I deliver you into the hand[s] of these men who seek your life."  

17. And Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, "So said the Lord God of Hosts, the God of Israel; If you go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, your soul shall live, and this city shall not be burnt with fire, and you and your household shall live. 

18. But if you do not go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city shall be delivered into the hand[s] of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand[s]."  

19. And King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, "I fear the Jews who have defected to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hands and mock me."

20. And Jeremiah said, "They shall not deliver [you]; hearken now to the voice of the Lord, that I speak to you, and it shall be good for you, and your soul shall live.

21. But if you refuse to go out, this is the thing that the Lord has shown me.

22. Behold, all the women who remained in the house of the king of Judah shall be taken out to the officers of the king of Babylon, and they shall say, 'Your cohorts have enticed you and prevailed over you. Your feet have sunk into the mire; they have turned back.' 

23. And all your wives and your sons shall be brought out to the Chaldeans, and you shall not escape from their hand[s], for you shall be seized by the hand of the king of Babylon, and this city you shall burn with fire."

The very last verse of the chapter states that Jerusalem was conquered:
28. And Jeremiah stayed in the prison yard until the day that Jerusalem was taken, and he was [there] when Jerusalem was taken.

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