Weekly Cycle

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Week 45 (Book 3): Unity and Upright Behavior in the Face of Amalek

BESHALACH: 1. The entire community of the children of Israel journeyed from the desert of Sin to their travels by the mandate of the Lord. They encamped in Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. 2. So the people quarreled with Moses, and they said, Give us water that we may drink Moses said to them, Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?  
VERSES IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE HAFTORAH: 2. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of Midian the children of Israel made for themselves the dens which are in the mountains and the caves, and the strongholds. 3. And it was, when Israel had sown, that Midian came up, and Amalek, and those of the east; and they came up upon it.

TALMUD SOTAH: DAF 45 – The Eglah Arufah

After the Song of the Sea, and Parashat HaMan, Beshalach now enters a new into a third and final account, that of the fight against Amalek. Amalek attacked the Jewish people at Rephidim. Rephidim means weakness, particularly weakness in Torah study. The lack of water also mentioned here is also a reference to lack of Torah. This led people to quarrel with Moshe, which was in fact was a quarrel with G-d, which in turn eventually led to Amalek’s attack.

Amalek is known for its cruelty and arrogance, and lack of faith and fear of G-d. This is the time of the year in which we fight these qualities, particularly in ourselves, as we do teshuvah (return to G-d) and start preparing for the coming year.

The Tanach verses that follow the Haftorah’s Song of Devorah, now begin to relate the story of Gideon, which begins with the oppression the Jews suffered in the hands of Midian, as well as Amalek. This crisis also came about due to not serving Hashem properly.

Week 45 is the week of Tu B’Av, which together with Yom Kippur, is the happiest and most romantic day of the Jewish calendar. It is known for unity and love, at it was on this day that the tribes of Israel were allowed to intermarry. The verses from the Torah portion of Beshalach begin by stating that the “entire community of the children of Israel journeyed” together. This is an example of the unity of this time of year.

Daf Mem Heh (Folio 45) of Sotah continues to speak of the Eglah Arufah, the measurements the needed to be made, how to handle the corpse, and how to behead the calf. The Eglah Arufah took place due to failure to appropriately accompany a stranger out of a city. Due to this lack of unity, the city’s sages must now all come together, in a sign of renewed unity, and perform this ritual to obtain atonement.

Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was an example of morality and was humble in nature. His behavior was very much influenced to what happened to his father, just as the happiness and unity of Tu B’Shvat is colored by the horrific events of Tisha B’Av. Jotham's counterparts in Israel were Pekah ben Remaliah (11.5 years) and Hosheah ben Elah (4.5 years). His name appears to mean Hashem (Yud-Vav) is Tam, which means whole(some), complete, perfect. This also appears related to Tu B’Av, in which we celebrate the wholeness of the Jewish people. Incidentally, the Zohar mentions that Tu B’Av is a particularly festive holiday because it takes place when the moon (symbolic of the Jewish people) is full.

The forty-fifth week is connected to conquering the Amorites. Their name comes from the word amar, the root word for the verb “to speak.” Speech is the primary distinction of man over the rest of creation. Le’emor is usually used to indicate a softer kind of speech, as opposed to Ledaber, which tends to be harsher.

The Emorites are connected to the negative side of Tiferet/Rachamim (beauty/mercy), which expresses itself as pride, as well as being merciful with those that deserve harshness. The gemara explains that King Saul showed such improper mercy towards Amalek and its king, and because of that ended up being cruel with those that deserved mercy (Nov, the city of Kohanim). During that episode, King Saul also did not have enough pride in his position as King to make sure that the word of G-d was fulfilled to its utmost, yet showed too much pride later, when the Prophet Samuel pointed out his mistake, yet Saul was not immediately willing to take blame.

This week, we must learn to have the proper balance of kindness and severity; knowing when to be merciful and when to be strict. We must also know when to exercise a small dose of pride, as well as when to act with absolute humility. As is said in Pirkei Avot, in one pocket we must hold on to the statement, “I am dust and ashes,” while in the other we hold on to the words, “the world was created for me.”

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