Weekly Cycle

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Week 44 (Book 2): Zechariah and Settling One's Heart

HAAZINU: And Moses came and spoke all the words of this song into the ears of the people he and Hoshea the son of Nun. (Deuteronomy 32:44)

HAFTORAH: And You have allowed me to escape from the contenders amongst my people; You shall keep me as head of nations; a people whom I have not known serve me. (II Samuel 22:44)

PIRKEI AVOT QUALITY: He Deliberates in His Study (Mityashev Liboh Betalmudoh)

PROPHET: Zechariah

Week Forty-Four is the week of Tisha B’Av, and Haazinu’s verse states that Moshe, together with Yehoshuah, spoke all the words of the song into the "ears of the people." As mentioned previously, the month of Av is connected to the tikkun (the spriritual “fixing”) of our sense of hearing. Perhaps Yehoshua is mentioned here together with Moshe because, of all the people, it was he that was best able to absorb Moshe’s teachings.
This week is connected to the birth of Mashiach (on the 9th of Av) and the Midrash (Shemot Rabbah) teaches that,Moshe is the first redeemer and the final redeemer.” Similarly, Yehoshuah is also a prototype for Mashiach Ben Yoseph.

The Haftorah for this week is clearly connected to the coming of Mashiach: “You shall keep me as head of nations; a people whom I have not known serve me.” Mashiach will be not only the king of Israel, but will represent the Kingdom of G-d on earth.

The quality for this week is “he deliberates in his study” (mityashev liboh betalmudoh). Great part of the destruction of the Temple that occurred on the 9th of Av, was due to to the hot-headed behavior of the zealots at that time. The Torah scholars of the time, on ther other hand, sought calm and compromise.

A more literal translation is that “he settles his heart with his study.” The Midrash states that Mashiach is a metzorah, someone who suffers from a form of spiritual skin disease. The Midrash further states that Mashiach cures one wound at a time. The Alter Rebbe explains that the cure for the metzorah is Torah. That is why the verse states that “this shall be the Torah of the metzorah on the day of his purification” (Leviticus 14:2) when a more straightforward wording of the verse should have been, “this is the purification of the metzorah in the day of his purification.” The metzorah is someone whose heart is unsettled. It is the Torah that settles it.

The above statement can also be read to be referring to the heart of his friend – a continuation of the qualities of the previous weeks. Mashiach will be someone known for his Torah and his power of speech. The word Mashiach is spelled the same as Mesiach, one who speaks, converses.

This week’s prophet is Zechariah. We read about a previous Zechariah in the kinot (dirges) for Tisha B’Av, and about how he was killed during the time of the destruction of the First Temple and his blood had to be avenged:. It is connected also to the idea of "settling one's heart" (in this case, the "settling" of Zechariah's blood): 
Our Sages say that when Nebuzaradan entered the Temple he found the blood of Zechariah seething. He asked the Jews what this phenomenon meant, and they attempted to conceal the scandal, but he threatened to comb their flesh with iron combs. So they told him the truth: "There was a prophet among us who chastised us, and we killed him. For many years now his blood has not rested."

Nebuzaradan said, "I will appease him." He then killed the members of the Great and Small Sanhedrins, then he killed youths and maidens, and then school-children. Altogether, he killed 940,000 people. Still the blood continued to boil, whereupon Nebuzaradan cried: "Zechariah, Zechariah! I have slain the best of them; do you want all of them destroyed?" At last the blood sank into the ground (Talmud, Gittin 57b).[1]

Zechariah’s prophecy also makes some of the most direct references to Mashiach:
Be exceedingly happy, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold! Your king shall come to you. He is just and victorious; humble, and riding a donkey and a foal, the offspring of [one of] she-donkeys. (Zechariah 9:9)
In the tale of Rabbi Akiva in which he laughs while the other rabbis mourn, it is the prophecy of Zechariah that brings consolation: “Old men and women shall yet sit in the streets of Jerusalem.”[2]
This week’s levitical city is Holon. Holon comes from the word “chol,” which means sand, as well as profane.[3] Similar to the destruction of the Temple, when something is emptied of its holiness, it is "chol," filled with a vacuum, “dead” like the sand of the sea. And yet, in the Torah perhaps nothing represents more the idea of life, particularly of children, than the sand. We are promised to be as numerous as them one day. One day, our tears of sadness, of “sandness,” will be tears of joy, and "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d, as the water covers the sea" … and the sand. The numerical value of the word ”chol” is forty-four. Holon is also the name of a city in modern-day Israel, the country’s second largest industrial area.

[1] http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/144569/jewish/The-First-Temple.htm#footnoteRef1a144569; the This section of the Talmudic tractate of Gittin is customarily studied on Tisha B’Av.

[3] It is worth noting that this section was written close to the time of Hurricane Sandy, and the Sandy Hook tragedy.

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