Monday, August 4, 2014

Week 44 (Book 4b): "Love is as Strong as Death"

SONG OF SONGS: 6. "Place me like a seal on your heart, liked a seal on your arm, for love is as strong as death, zeal is as strong as the grave; its coals are coals of fire of a great flame!


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 44 - Loss of Security, Entering a House and Removing Its Valuables


Week 44 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Tisha B’Av, which marks the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, as well as the enormous destruction that took place at those times. The death and destruction is remembered every year, with fasting and other signs of intense mourning. It is also a day in which we remember all the tragedies that occurred in Jewish history, including the Holocaust.

The verse of Shir HaShirim is hauntingly connected to such destruction. It speaks of death and the grave, and even of a “seal on your arm,” (like the numbers etched on the arms of the Jews in concentration camps), and a great fire (like the one that burned the Temples). Yet love is stronger than death! In the end, we survived, and the great flame of our people burns strongly still today.
Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the forty-fourth mentioned is Ishvah. Ishvah has the same root as the word Leshavot, and appears related to the Pirkei Avot quality necessary for acquiring the Torah for this week mentioned in Book 2: Mityashev Liboh Betalmudoh, which means to be deliberate, literally to, "settle one's heart" in his study. As mentioned in Book 2, 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. This week is also connected to Huppim, son of Benjamin, whose name is related to a Chuppah, a wedding canopy, a reference to the fact that Benjamin did not get to see Joseph’s wedding. The Chuppah is the ultimate symbol of peace and normalcy, as famously contained in the prophecy of Jeremiah (Chapter 33), part of the Shevah Brachot said under the Chuppah:

10. So said the Lord: There shall again be heard in this place, concerning which you say, "It is desolate without man and without beast," in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate without a man and without an inhabitant and without a beast, 
11. the sound of mirth and the sound of joy, the voice of a bridegroom and the voice of a bride, the sound of those saying, "Thank the Lord of Hosts, for the Lord is good, for His loving-kindness endures forever," bringing a thanksgiving offering to the House of the Lord, for I will restore the captivity of the land as at first, said the Lord.  

The above words of Jeremiah express the tragedy of Tisha B'Av and the destruction of Jerusalem, as well as the ultimate redemption. The Chuppah also associated with love, mentioned above, and Tu B'Av, in the following week, a day very much associated with marriage and love. Tu B'Av is the "high" that immediately follow these Tisha B'Av's "lows."
Daf Mem Dalet (Folio 44) of Shvuot continues the discussion of the case of a mashkon (security) that was lost, just like the Temple (See Week 43). It also starts a new chapter, discussing oaths taken to receive payment. Much of this relates to someone enters someone else’s house without permission. It discusses a case in which that person takes vessels from the owner and a case in which he is wounded by the owner. It also seems related to Tisha B’Av, in which our house, the House of G-d, was entered without permission and vessels were removed, as well as the fact that those that entered the House were punished and will ultimately be punished again in the future.

There is also a discussion of whether this refers to when a party partially admits fault: a party to the taking of one vessel versus two), or a party admits to wounding the other one time versus twice. This last discussion appears related to the fact that two Temples were destroyed, both on Tisha B’Av.
Chapter 44 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter speaks of the great destruction brought upon Jerusalem and the cities of Judah. It also speaks of not listening to the prophets (Av in general is connected to the sense of hearing). Interestingly, it also focuses particularly on the idolatry of wives (related to the theme of marriage, mentioned above)

2. So said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; You saw all the evil that I brought upon Jerusalem and upon all the cities of Judah, and behold, they are waste, and there are no inhabitants in them, 
3. because of their evil, which they did to provoke Me, to go to burn incense to worship other gods, which they did not know, [neither did] you nor your forefathers.  
4. And I sent to you all My servants the prophets, sending them betimes, saying: Now do not do this abominable thing which I hate.  
5. But they did not hearken, nor did they incline their ear[s] to repent of their evil, not to burn incense to other gods. 

6. And My anger and My fury were poured out, and it burnt in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, and they have become waste and desolate as this day. 

7. And now, so said the Lord God of Hosts, the God of Israel; Why do you do this great evil to your souls, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling from the midst of Judah, not to leave over a remnant for yourselves, 

8. to provoke Me with the deeds of your hands, to burn incense to other gods in the land of Egypt where you are coming to sojourn, in order to cut yourselves off and in order for you to become a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth. 

9. Have you forgotten the evils of your forefathers and the evils of the kings of Judah and the evils of his wives and the evils of your wives, that they did in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?


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