Weekly Cycle

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Week 47 (Book 3): Hezekiah and Teshuvah

BESHALACH: 5. And the Lord said to Moses, Pass before the people and take with you [some] of the elders of Israel, and take into your hand your staff, with which you struck the Nile, and go.  6. Behold, I shall stand there before you on the rock in Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, and the people will drink Moses did so before the eyes of the elders of Israel.  
TANACH VERSES FOLLOWING THE HAFTORAH: 6. And Israel was very impoverished because of Midian, and the children of Israel cried to the Lord. 7. Now it was when the children of Israel cried to the Lord concerning Midian,
TALMUD SOTAH: DAF 47 – Wayward students
Week 47 is the week of Rosh Chodesh Elul. Elul is the month of teshuvah (repentance). The Torah section for this week of Moshe passing before the people, striking a rock and drawing out water from it. The drawing water from a rock is the idea of teshuvah. Even if our sins make us dry as a rock, with the proper “striking,” water (Torah) still comes out.
The verses in the Tanach contain the same message. Because Israel was very impoverished due to Midian, they cried out to Hashem in teshuvah.
Daf Mem Zayin (Folio 47) of Sotah continues to speak of Elisha’s actions, including those towards Gechazi, as well as the actions of Yehoshua ben Prachai towards his wayward student. Both men were said to have been overly strict, and in so doing made it difficult for them to do teshuvah. Teshuvah is certainly the main theme of the daf. In addition, the daf also discusses the beheading of the calf in cases that there are witnesses against the murderer, and whether the calf atones for the murderer. The daf ends by describing the decline in righteousness and the decline in Torah, both subjects again related to teshuvah.
King Hezekiah is the ultimate example of teshuvah. The Jewish people reached tremendous heights due to his own personal teshuvah. He famously stated that he had a tradition from his ancestor King David, that even if one has a knife to one’s throat, one does not despair and should continue to do teshuvah and pray for mercy. (Berachot 10a) Hezekiah’s teshuvah saved him from a heavenly death sentence for not wanting to have children (for he knew his progeny would be wicked) and also saved the entire kingdom from the hands of Sancheriv, the evil Assyrian general who had conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel. Before the Kingdom of Israel fell, Hezekiah’s counterpart was Hoshea ben Elah, who, despite his many misdeeds, showed an element of teshuvah in allowing the people of the north to pray in the Temple in Jerusalem. Hezekiah’s name means G-d is my strength.
The forty-seventh week is connected to conquering the Perizites. Their name appears to come from the word Prazi, which means an unwalled city. This is related to the concept of teshuvah, which is about going beyond our borders, beyond our natural limitations, and being open to change. Our sages teach us that “nothing can stand in the way of teshuvah.”
The Perizites are connected to the negative side of Hod. Hod represents service and acknowledgement, and the negative side of it is connected to the idea of too passive and too self-effacing. It is also connected to frivolity and idolatry, being too tolerant of those people and ideas that cause damage to ourselves and others. King David experienced such a situation with his son Absalom. David’s self-effacing efforts to appease Absalom and bring him back to his court were misinterpreted, and ultimately Absalom ultimately mounted a rebellion against his own father.

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