Weekly Cycle

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Week 40 (Book 5): Upholding our Morality in Exile

SONG OF SONGS: 2. I would lead you, I would bring you to the house of my mother, who instructed me; I would give you to drink some spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate.          



TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 40 – Returning Disputed Items


Week 40 in the Jewish calendar is the second week of Tammuz. The verse of Shir HaShirim of this week makes reference to the Temple, calling it “the house of my mother.” (See Rashi) The month of Tammuz is very much connected to exile and the destruction of the Temple. The number forty is the gematria of the letter Mem and next week, 41, is the gematria of Alef Mem, which spells, Em, mother. The verse also mentions the pomegranate, and this period of the year is connected to the pomegranate in Perek Shirah (See Book 6).

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the fortieth mentioned is Arodi. The name seems related to the verb to descend, Lered, which is also connected to exile. This week is also connected to Naaman, son of Benjamin, whose means pleasant, a reference to how Joseph’s deeds were “seemly and pleasant.” Like Joseph, we must hold fast to the ways of righteousness, even in exile.

Daf Mem (Folio 40) of Shvuot describes admission related to paying someone back. Interestingly, this is related to Book 1, Week 40, in which the Wolf decries stealing – the wolf specifically mentions, “the ox, the donkey, the lamb, the garment, for every lost item” and the daf too, discusses all sorts of of items in dispute, including ox, sheep, vessels, land, etc. Again, the focus is on maintaining our moral standards, even in exile.

Chapter 40 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. It introduces the leader Gedaliah, a righteous leader. Because of Gedaliah’s righteousness, despite the great destruction that befell us, life is able to regain some degree of normalcy.

9. And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan swore to them and to their men, saying, "Fear not to serve the Chaldeans. Dwell in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well with you.  

10. And I, behold I dwell in Mizpah to stand before the Chaldeans who will come to us, and you gather wine and dried figs and oil and put [them] into your vessels and dwell in your cities, which you have taken. 

11. And also, all the Jews who [were] in Moab and among the children of Ammon and in Edom and who [were] in all the lands, heard that the king of Babylon had given Judah a remnant and that he had appointed over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan. 

12. And all the Jews returned from all the places they had been driven, and they came to the land of Judah to Gedaliah to Mizpah, and they gathered very much wine and dried figs.

Gedaliah was also so righteous that he refused to believe that another leader would attempt to assassinate him.

16. And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said to Johanan the son of Kareah, "Do not do this thing for you speak falsely about Ishmael."

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