Weekly Cycle

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Week 50 (Book 3): Josiah and Emunah

BESHALACH: 11. It came to pass that when Moses would raise his hand, Israel would prevail, and when he would lay down his hand, Amalek would prevail. 12. Now Moses hands were heavy; so they took a stone and placed it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one from this [side], and one from that [side]; so he was with his hands in faith until sunset.   
TANACH VERSES FOLLOWING THE HAFTORAH: 12. And the angel of the Lord appeared and said to him, "The Lord is with you, mighty man of valor." 13. And Gideon said to him, "Please my lord, if the Lord be with us, why then has all this befallen us? And where are all His wonders which our forefathers told us, saying, 'Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?' But now the Lord has forsaken us, and He has delivered us into the hand of Midian."

Week 50 is the week of Chai Elul. The Torah section for this week continues to describe the fight against Amalek. The key ingredient in the fight is Emunah, faith. It is well known that Amalek represents lack of faith, and has the same numerical value as the word safek, doubt. Our sages teach us that it was not Moshe’s hands that won the war, but rather when the Jewish people would turn their face towards Heaven, in an act of faith, that is when they would gain the upper hand.
The Tanach section for this week shows Gideon’s doubts and a relative lack of emunah. These doubts are in essence the same kind of doubt that Amalek sought to instill. How could it be that the people of G-d, with G-d Himself on their side, fall prey to the attacks of another nation? The answer, of course, is that it is due to our sins, and that it is only in this way, partially reliving the exile and the exodus originally experienced in Egypt that we come to teshuvah, which is the theme of of the month of Elul, especially Chai Elul.

After completing the tractate of Sotah, which corresponds to the Counting of the Omer, we now move to the tractate most associated with it, Nazir, which represents the three weeks connected to Shavuot as well as Passover of the coming year. The Nazir is also deeply connected to the teshuvah of Elul.
Sotah follows Nazir in the order of the Mishnah, and the reason for this is addressed in the opening pages of both tractates. The discussion makes note of the fact that in the Torah itself, the sections on Sotah and Nazir are side-by-side, although there it is Sotah, not Nazir, which comes first. The reason give for the juxtaposition in the Torah (which is the basis for the juxtaposition in the Talmud) is that, “one that sees a Sotah in her disgrace (kilkulah) should make a vow to abstain (become a Nazir) from wine.” The reason the order in the Talmud is reversed is because the legal discussion goes from vows (which are similar to Nazir) and only then turns to other related topics. The same is true regarding the two orders here. Passover comes before the omer, which represents the “vows” we take to be free and to receive the Torah, which begins the omer process. On Shavuot, once one has seen the Sotah in its disgrace (in other words, once he’s broken (kilkul) his animal behaviors and his Ruach Shtus of Kelipah during the counting of the omer, he is ready to move to an even higher level, to become a Nazir from wine, to crown himself (from the word Nezer) from wine of Torah, which is given to us on Shavuot. On Shavuot we received two crowns, one for Na’aseh and one for Nishmah. (See Book 1, Week 36)

The Torah states regarding the nazir, "for the crown of his G-d is on his head" (Bamidbar 6:7). Ibn Ezra explains this to mean: "He has a crown of royalty on his head." Similarly, the Torah calls him "holy," as it says: "He is holy to Hashem." (6:8)[1] There are three types of people who are crowned with a "nezer" in the Tanach: the King, the Kohen Gadol, and the Nazir. The first to be called this way is the Kohen Gadol (Shemot 29:6; Vayikra 21:12), followed by the Nazir himself (Bamidbar 6:7), and the King. (II Shmuel 1:10) Interestingly, both the King and the Kohen Gadol have strict rules about how often they are to cut their hair. [2] The very first mention of a Nazir is regarding Joseph, who is called the “Nazir of his brothers.” (Bereishit 49:26)
The Reisha Rav, HaGaon Rav Aaron Levine, explains how Joseph’s life in fact parallels that of the Nazir. Rav Levine divides Joseph’s life in three phases: 1) the conspiracy of his brothers which almost led to his death; 2) as a slave in Egypt in the house of Potiphar, where he has to stave off Potiphar’s wife’s advances, which were due to his physical beauty, including his long hair; 3) the events leading up to his appointment as viceroy and meeting his brothers again, when he had wine for the first time in 22 years. Rav Levine parallels these three phases with the main three prohibitions of the Nazir: 1) not being in contact with the dead; 2) letting one’s hair grow; and 3) not drinking wine.[3]  

For the purpose of these upcoming three weeks related to Shavuot, Nazir is divided into the sections of 22 dapim. They roughly parallel a division of the chapters of the tractate into 3 sections: chapters 1 – 3 (daf 2 to 20); 4 – 6 (daf 21 – 46); 7 – 9 (daf 47 – 66).
Dapim Beit through Kaf Beit (Folios 2 - 22) of Nazir (which mostly cover chapter 1 – 3), describe the kinds of vows and expressions that make a person a Nazir; instances in which the vow has to be recommenced; and how Naziriteship only applies in the Land of Israel. (This parallels the first years of Joseph’s life in the Land of Israel).

King Josiah, the son of Amon, is considered the most righteous of all the kings of Judah since David. He completely repudiated the ways of his father, repaired the Temple, and elevated the spiritual stature of the people in an unparalleled way. (It is appropriate that he be the king mentioned for the week of Shavuot/Chai Elul). His greatness and righteousness shone forth from time he took the reigns at the tender age of 8 (this also parallels with the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe’s childhood). Despite strengthening the people spiritually and militarily, Josiah was ultimately defeated. In what appeared to be a preventable death, Josiah did not allow free passage for Pharaoh on his way to war with another power, overestimating how much the people had repented. Josiah was thus killed in battle, and the Jewish people  were once again burdened by an Egyptian ruler, Pharaoh Necho.
In the fiftieth week, we also move from working on the emotional characteristics to those of the intellect. This is connected to expanding our territory, and is related to conquering the Kenites.

The Kenites are connected to Chochmah. The name appears to be related to the Hebrew word kinyan, which means “acquisition,” and of all sefirot, kinyan is associated with Chochmah. In fact, the Hebrew word for elder/sage is Zaken, which stands for Zeh She Kanah Chochmah (he who acquired wisdom). The Alter Rebbe, whose birthday is this week, is called in Hebrew, “Rabbeinu HaZaken,” our wise/elder rabbi.

The Kenites are the descendants of Yitro, and historically had good relations with the Jewish people in biblical times. Yitro himself represents both the positive and negative aspects of the trait of Chochmah. Before converting, Yitro engaged in every type of idol worship, and was deeply familiar with Chochmat HaGoyim, the wisdom of the nations. His wisdom made his recognition of G-d all the more powerful. Yael is married to Chever the Keinite, and among her descendants would be the source of most of our Chochmah today, Rabbi Akiva. The Midrash states that Yael became pregnant from Sisera, and that from this line of descendants would come Rabbi Akiva. This is similar to Yitro, who went from having the Chochmah related to the opposite of the service of Hashem, to the ultimate service of Hashem. Rabbi Akiva’s life also draws a similar parallel – he was unlearned until the age of 40, and then became the greatest sage of all times.

[1] https://www.kby.org/english/torat-yavneh/view.asp?id=3781
[2] www.seliyahu.org.il/parasha/par5757/epar57037.rtf
[3] http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/eylevine/5761mikeitz.htm

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