Weekly Cycle

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Week 52 (Book 5): Transforming the World and Becoming Whole

SONG OF SONGS: 14. Flee, my beloved, and liken yourself to a gazelle or to a fawn of the hinds on the spice mountains."
TALMUD MAKKOT: Daf 17 - 24

Week 52 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Hashanah. The verse of Shir HaShirim for this week speaks of the Jewish people asking G-d to be like a gazelle on the spice mountains. It is in a sense a “crowning” of G-d, just as the gazelle’s antlers are like a crown. (See Book 1, Week 36) In Rosh Hashanah (the beginning of the “High Holidays”) we also reach new heights, exemplified here by the spice mountains. We “flee” the limitations of the world and connect to G-d on a much higher plane.
Rashi explains that the Jewish people are asking Hashem to take us out of the exile and hasten the redemption, so that we may serve Him on Mount Moriah, where Avraham sacrificed Isaac. Mount Moriah and the sacrifice of Isaac are also one of the themes of Rosh Hashanah.
Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the fifty-second added here is Benjamin, who was also mentioned separately. Benjamin comes from the word Ben Yamin. 52 has the numerical value of Ben. (See Week 52, Book 1) Yamin means right hand, strong hand. On Rosh Hashanah we feel G-d’s strength. Also, by working on ourselves throughout the entire year, we experience a self-transformation similar to Benjamin, whose name went from being Ben Oni (child of my suffering) to Ben Yemini, son of my right hand. Exile may have its share of difficulties, but it also comes with its share of rewards.
This week is also connected with Shilem, son of Naftali. Shilem comes from the word Shalem, which means “complete.” We arrive here at the completion of our journey. Shilem also literally means “paid.” Through exile we also atoned for our sins.
Dappim 17 through 24 of Makkot includes the remainder of Chapter 3, which is about different sins for which one is lashed. At the very end, the Chapter discusses decrees that were annulled, as well as the exile in general and the ultimate redemption. As mentioned previously, the theme of atonement, as well as the wish to end the exile is very much associated with Rosh Hashanah.
Chapter 52 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. This last chapter, for the week in which we crown G-d as King, begins by focusing on the life of the last of king of the Kingdom of Judah, Zedekiah. It speaks of the great suffering he underwent. It then returns to the the dire accounting of what happened to Jerusalem and to the Temple, as well as the remaining exiles. Like the end of Makkoth, despite all the tragedy, it ends on a positive note:
31. And it was in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth day of the month,[1] that Evil-merodach, king of Babylon, in the year of his coronation, lifted up the head of Jehoiachin, king of Judah and released him from prison.  
32. And he spoke with him kindly and placed his throne above the throne of the kings who were with him in Babylon. 
33. And he changed his prison garb, and he ate meals before him regularly all the days of his life. 
34. And his meals, regular meals were given him from the king of Babylon, each day's need in its day, all the days of his life.

[1] The twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month (counting from Tishrei) is the 25th of Elul, the first day of Creation, the week of Rosh Hashanah.

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