Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Week 39 (Book 4b): Feeling the Harshness of Exile

SONG OF SONGS: 1. "O, that you were like my brother, who sucked my mother's breasts! I would find you outside, I would kiss you, and they would not despise me.


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 39 – Harsh punishments for false oaths.


Week 39 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz. The verse of Shir HaShirim of this week, the first of the last chapter, speaks of the Jewish people’s desire that it and Hashem be like siblings – then the Jewish people would find Hashem “outside” and not be despised. This is an appropriate verse given that the month of Sivan (Gemini/Twins) is now over, and it is in Tammuz that many bad things happened to us. It is a month connected to exile, in which we were despised outside our land. Rashi’s comments to this verse make reference to Joseph:

O that you were like my brother: that you would come to console me as Joseph did his brothers, who did evil to him, and it is stated concerning him (Gen. 50:21): “and he consoled them.”

Rosh Chodesh Tammuz is Joseph’s yahrzeit.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the thirty-ninth mentioned is Eri. The name appears related to the verb to be awake, as in  “I am asleep, but my heart is awake,” [Libi Er] our Sages comment: “Although I am sleeping in exile, my heart is awake for the Holy One, blessed be He.”  (Song of Songs 5:2)[1] This week is also connected to Gera, son of Benjamin, whose means a foreigner, a reference to how Joseph became a stranger in a strange country, like the Jewish people during this time. Er is also the name of Judah’s son who was killed by G-d due to his sins. Similarly, the harsh punishments of these months serve as a wake up call.

Daf Lamed Tet (Folio 39) of Shvuot describes the harsh punishments for false oaths. Even the family of someone who makes a false oath is punished. Furthermore, the punishment is immediate; “water and fire do not wear away the wood and rocks (of his house), but false oaths do… Regarding false oaths, Hash-m does not cleanse (without punishments) even if he repents.” The daf also connects this concept to the oaths taken at Sinai.
Chapter 39 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. It is here that the Book of Jeremiah begins giving its description of the atrocities that took place. It starts by stating that it was on the “tenth month” that Nebuchadnezzar’s army  besieged Jerusalem, and on “the fourth month” that it breached its walls. Here the months are counted from Nissan, so the fourth month is a reference to Tammuz, and although Tammuz is also known as the tenth month (counting from Rosh Hashanah), here it is a reference to Teveth. Tammuz is also related to the Tribe of Reuven, and the sense of sight. These verses mention that that after the walls are breached, the king of Judah is blinded.

6. And the king of Babylon slaughtered Zedekiah's sons in Riblah before his eye, and the king of Babylon slaughtered all the nobles of Judah.  

Rashi - and… all the nobles of Judah: These are the Sanhedrin, because they had annulled the oath.   
7. And he blinded Zedekiah's eyes, and he bound him with copper chains to bring him to Babylon. 

8. And the king's palace and the houses of the people the Chaldeans burnt with fire, and they demolished the walls of Jerusalem.
9. And the rest of the people who remained in the city, and the defectors who had defected to him, and the rest of the remaining people, Nebuzaradan, the chief executioner, exiled to Babylon.  

[1] http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/82583/jewish/In-the-Garden-of-the-Torah-Shmos.htm

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