Weekly Cycle

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Week 41 (From the Book): Not to Become Corrupt

The fox is saying, "Woe to him that builds his house without justice and his chambers without lawfulness; that uses his friend’s service without wages, and does not give him for his hire.” (Jeremiah 22:13)

Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar would say: Every gathering that is for the sake of Heaven, will endure; that is not for the sake of Heaven, will not endure.

Yesod shebeYesod (foundation and firmness within the context of foundation and firmness)

In the forty-first week, the fox in Perek Shirah warns against those who build without righteousness and justice. (Jeremiah 22:13) This week, beginning with the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, we begin the three weeks of mourning connected to the destruction of the Temple, the House of G-d. This destruction occurred due to the injustice and lawlessness of the Jews of that time.

This week also marks the Chassidic holiday of the 12th and 13th of Tammuz. This holiday, known as Yud Beit-Yud Gimmel Tammuz, celebrates the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn’s birthday as well as the date in which he was freed from prison in Communist Russia. Among Chabad Chassidim, this day is called “Chag HaGeulah,” the Festival of Redemption.[1]

The fox is considered a symbol of the Temple’s destruction, as depicted in the Talmud in the tractate of Makkot. The Talmud tells the story of how a group of rabbis were gathered soon after the destruction of the Temple and saw a fox enter the area of the Temple Mount where the holiest part of the Temple had stood. While all the other rabbis cry when they see the fox, Rabbi Akiva is able to see this event with optimism and in a positive light (characteristic related to the month of Tammuz), to such an extent that he starts to laugh. Rabbi Akiva then explains to them how the Torah makes the prophecy of Jerusalem's destruction dependent on the prophecy of its redemption. Now that the first prophecy was fulfilled, the second will be fulfilled as well. As he explains to the other rabbis the reasoning behind his laughter, Rabbi Akiva is able to truly comfort them. (See Conclusion)

At the time of Yud Beit-Yud Gimmel Tammuz, the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe challenged the entire Soviet empire at the time and won.[2] Despite his open defiance, refusal to obey orders, and insistence of not giving up even an “inch” of his religiosity, the Previous Rebbe was eventually released from prison, and his death sentence was commuted. Years later, the Soviet Union itself, filled with injustice and G-dlessness, collapsed, along with the Berlin Wall. The Seventh Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, predicted the fall of the Soviet Empire many years prior, when few thought that such a collapse was even possible.

The number forty-one spells the Hebrew word em, which means mother. This appears to be quite appropriate for the beginning of the three weeks of mourning, the second half of which takes place during the month of Av, which in Hebrew means father. In this historically difficult period for the Jewish people, it is important to remember that the difficulties presented to us by G-d are ultimately for our own good, just like a father and mother sometimes need to be strict with their child. 

In Judaism, the mother is the akeret habayit, the anchor of the house - she is responsible for the home’s values ​​and general atmosphere. Similarly, the upkeep and moral atmosphere of the Temple, G-d’s home, was primarily the responsibility of the kohanim (priests). Much of the extremely holy service of the priests paralleled house chores: the work involved in the daily sacrifices, the lighting of the Menorah, and tending to the upkeep of the Temple were very similar to cooking, cleaning, and lighting candles for Shabat.

During the time of the Second Temple, the priestly class had become enormously corrupt. Even the position of the High Priest was open for sale to the highest bidder. The Temple itself could not stand due in great part to this lack of morality.

Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar teaches in the Pirkei Avot for this week that an assembly that convenes for the sake of Heaven will be long lasting, but one that convenes not for the sake of Heaven will not. The teaching of Rabbi Yochanan is very similar to the above. He emphasizes the importance of not becoming corrupt or divided due to selfish motives. The firmness of the community comes from rock solid commitment to our principles and a desire to fulfill the will of G-d. The best example of this is the Sixth Rebbe of Lubavitch himself, whose efforts ensured Judaism’s survival despite intense Communist oppression. On the other hand, when we do not follow the word of Hashem, the entire community suffers and our structures do not endure, as was the case during the destruction of the Temple.

The sefirot combination for this week is yesod shebeyesod: absolute firmness in our Jewish values. A lesson in self-improvement we learn from the fox is that we must not allow ourselves to be dragged down by dishonesty and thoughts of immediate gain. By walking in the path of Torah, we will certainly be more solid and secure.

[1] When each day of the year is given a combination of sefirot, the 12th of Tammuz falls on gevurah shebeyesod shebeyesod. The Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak was the sixth Rebbe, which parallels the sixth sefirah, yesod. Moreover, Yosef represents the sefirah of yesod while Yitzchak the sefirah of gevurah. It is worth noting that this book was completed on this date.
[2] Perhaps the most famous excerpt of his imprisonment was when the Communist interrogators tried to force the Rebbe to divulge certain information. When the Rebbe refused, they waved a gun at him and said:
"Do you see this little toy? This little toy has made a lot of people talk; it will make you talk as well."
The Rebbe answered very firmly, "That toy can only frighten people who have one world and many G-ds. A person who has one G-d and two worlds is not afraid of your little toy." The Chassidic Approach to Joy, available at: http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/the-chassidic-approach-to-joy/05.htm

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