Weekly Cycle

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Week 50 (Book 5): The King's Field

SONG OF SONGS: 12. My vineyard, which is mine, is before me; you, O Solomon, shall have the thousand, and those who watch its fruit, two hundred.

Week 50 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Chai Elul, the birthday of the Ba’al Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe. The verse of Shir HaShirim for this week again compares the Jewish people to a vineyard, and states that Hashem will reclaim his field, and the nations will repay us for all they have taken.
This verse also appears to make some interesting references to the two men whose birthday is this week. The vineyard mentioned belongs to “Ba’al Hamon,” which is similar to the Ba’al Shem Tov’s name. Furthermore, “Hamon,” which means many also appears to be a reference to Avraham, who our sages explain means “Av Hamon Goyim,” the father of many nations. The Ba’al Shem Tov’s role as the founder of Chassidut is known to be in many ways parallel to that of Avraham.
The Alter Rebbe’s name was Schneur Zalman. Zalman is the Yiddish form of the name Solomon, Shlomoh. Schneur means Shnei Ohr, “two lights,” a reference to his revelations in the areas of Nistar (the hidden Torah, Chassidism and Kabbalah) and Nigleh (the revealed Torah, Jewish law) The Alter Rebbe received the field, the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, and “watched its fruit,” developing them into a system known as Chassidut Chabad (which stands for Chochmah, Binah and Da’at). He successfully transmitted all of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov (the full thousand silver coins, which represent the desire for G-d) and added another two hundred, like his name, in both the hidden and revealed areas of Torah.
Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the fiftieth referred to here is Rachel. Of all the Matriarchs, she is the only one whose name is mentioned in extra time, specifically as the wife of Jacob, again continuing the greater emphasis on women and closeness to G-d connected to the month of Elul and the sign of Virgo. The name Rachel means a female sheep, which indicates a devotedness to the Shepherd, Hashem, also associated with this month.
This week is also connected with Guni, son of Naftali. Guni appears related to the word Gani,  “my garden,” found in Shir HaShirim, perhaps also a reference to the special closeness we have  with G-d during this month, in which “the King is in the field.”
Folios 2 through 8 of Makkot includes all of Chapter 1, which is mostly about invalidating witnesses. Similarly, the teshuvah (repentance), tefilah (prayer) and tzedakah (charity) performed during Elul “invalidates” the heavenly accusations made against us due to our sins.  

Daf 7 and 8 are part of Chapter 2 of Makkot, which describes the laws of someone who needs to go to a city of refuge because of an accidental killing. The entire concept of the city of refuge is about teshuvah. Also included in this discussion is the idea of Yeridah leTzorech Aliyah, a descent for the sake of an ascent. This is a fundamental principle in teshuvah and key concept in Chassidut in general.   
Chapter 50 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter speaks of the downfall of the greatest empire at the time, Babylon. It also contains a message of consolation for the Jewish people, referring to them as sheep, and also mentioning the fields of the Land of Israel. It also contains a message of forgiveness related to the month of Elul.
5. They shall inquire of Zion; their faces are directed hitherward. "Come and join the Lord [with] an everlasting covenant that shall not be
6. My people were lost sheep, their shepherds caused them to stray, [to the] mountains [they] led them astray; from mountain to hill they went, they forgot their resting place. 
7. All who found them devoured them, and their adversaries said, "We are not to blame because they sinned against the Lord, the habitation of justice and the hope of their forefathers-the Lord."
17. A scattered sheep is Israel which lions have driven away. First the king of Assyria devoured him, and this last one broke his bones, Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon. 
18. Therefore, so said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; Behold I visit retribution upon the king of Babylon and upon his land, as I visited upon the king of Assyria.
19. And I will return Israel to his dwelling and he shall pasture in the Carmel and the Bashan, and in Mount Ephraim and Gilead shall his soul be sated. 
20. In those days and at that time, says the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but it shall not be there, and the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found, for I will forgive those I leave over.

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