Weekly Cycle

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Week 51 (Book 3): Using Understanding (Binah) to Strengthen our Faith in the Merciful King

BESHALACH: 13. Joshua weakened Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.  14. The Lord said to Moses, Inscribe this [as] a memorial in the book, and recite it into Joshua's ears, that I will surely obliterate the remembrance of Amalek from beneath the heavens 
TANACH VERSES FOLLOWING THE HAFTORAH: 14. And the Lord turned toward him and said, "Go, with this your strength, and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?" 15. And he said to Him, "Please O Lord, with what shall I save Israel? Behold, my thousand is the poorest in Menasseh, and I am the youngest in my father's household."
GENERATIONS FROM ADAM TO THE LAST KING OF JUDAH:  Jehoiakim, also known as Eliakim

Week 51 also falls within the month of Elul. The Torah section for this week describes how Joshua weakened Amalek, and how Moshe is told to inscribe in the Torah and recite into Joshua’s ears that Hashem will surely obliterate the remembrance of Amalek. Hashem’s statement and Moshe’s words to Joshua are meant to encourage all those in doubt that Hashem will certainly destroy Amalek and punish them for their impudence. As mentioned previously, Amalek has the same numerical value as safek, doubt. This is the time of the year in which we strengthen our faith in G-d and prepare to crown Him as our King. 
The Tanach section for this week again shows Gideon’s doubts and feeling of weakness. Like the section from the Torah, Hashem gives Gideon strength and encouragement, while appealing to Gideon's logic and understanding. There is also an interesting parallel between Gideon who is from Menasheh and Joshuah who is from Efraim, both descendants of Joseph.
Dapim Kaf Gimmel through Mem Dalet (Folios 23 - 44) of Nazir (which mostly cover chapters 4 – 6), describe cases in which others join in someone’s vow, nullifying a wife’s vow, and other laws relating to women and their vows or power to annul the vow of others. The tractate then discusses vows made by mistake (such as vows made without known about the destruction of the Temple), as well as other mistakes Nazirites might make, trespassing the conditions of their vows. This parallels the second phase of Joseph’s life, when he mistakenly grew his hair and made himself attractive to Potiphar’s wife; it also parallels the further personal crisis Joseph endured, after being falsely accused and imprisoned. Nullifying vows is one of the most important preparations for Rosh Hashanah.
Prior to Jehoiakim, his brother Jehoahaz reigned briefly for three months. He displeased Pharaoh Necho, and was replaced with Jehoiakim, who was renamed Eliakim. Eliakim was lax in his piety, and did not help the people return to Hashem. Judah was engulfed by greater and greater corruption and depravity. (See Book 1, how week 51’s Wiesel is related to these qualities. Chuldah is also the prophetess that foretold of the destruction of Judah to King Josiah). Eliakim angrily refused to listen to the prophets, and instead sought to kill both Jeremiah and Baruch. He ultimately was forced to submit to Babylonia (who had defeated Egypt) and pay heavy taxes. After three years, he rebelled. The rebellion was quashed and he died in captivity. Jehoiakim failure to listen to the prophets was his greatest folly.
Both Jehoiakim and Eliakim mean “G-d will establish.” The only difference in the two names is the name of G-d used. The name “El,” in contrast to the name “Hashem,” is a reference to the thirteen attributes of mercy and is particularly connected to the month of Elul. (Alter Rebbe, Likkutei Torah, Re’eh) Throughout the month of Elul, these attributes are constantly repeated during Selichot (prayers of forgiveness and repentance said all month by Sefardi communities, and in the week prior to Rosh Hashanah in Ashkenazi ones). Elul itself begins with the letters of the name “El.”
The fifty-first week is related to conquering the Kenizites. The root of their name is Zaken spelled backwards. As mentioned previously, Zaken, translated as elder or sage, stands for “Zeh She Kanah Chochmah,” he who has acquired wisdom. The Kenizim stand for that which is the complementary “mirror” of Chochmah, namely Binah, understanding.
There are at least two very famous righteous leaders whose name are related to these people: Caleb the Kenizite and his brother Othniel ben Kenaz. Both are also known for their territorial conquests. Caleb, along with Joshua, was the only spy who came back from the Land of Israel with a positive report. Othniel ben Kenaz conquered Kiriat Sefer, and thereby merited to marry Caleb’s daughter, Achsah. (Joshua 15:17) Both also embody the attribute of Binah, a form of intellectual conquest.[1]
Caleb used his understanding to deal with the other spies with great cunning, thereby avoiding an even greater disaster. Caleb’s name contains the word “Lev,” heart, which is closely connected to the attribute of Binah.
Othniel ben Kenaz was the first Judge of the Jewish people. He was also the one to restore the Jewish laws that had been forgotten by Joshua during the mourning period of Moshe. Othniel ben Kenaz used deductive reasoning, the main attribute of Binah, to be able to decipher those laws.

[1] It seems interesting that the words Achsah, Kenaz, and Sefer are phonetically quite similar to the names for Ashkenazim and Sefardim.

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