Weekly Cycle

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Week 44 (Book 5): "Love is as Strong as Death"

SONG OF SONGS: 6. "Place me like a seal on your heart, liked a seal on your arm, for love is as strong as death, zeal is as strong as the grave; its coals are coals of fire of a great flame!


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 44 - Loss of Security, Entering a House and Removing Its Valuables


Week 44 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Tisha B’Av, which marks the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, as well as the enormous destruction that took place at those times. The death and destruction is remembered every year, with fasting and other signs of intense mourning. It is also a day in which we remember all the tragedies that occurred in Jewish history, including the Holocaust.

The verse of Shir HaShirim is hauntingly connected to such destruction. It speaks of death and the grave, and even of a “seal on your arm,” (like the numbers etched on the arms of the Jews in concentration camps), and a great fire (like the one that burned the Temples). Yet love is stronger than death! In the end, we survived, and the great flame of our people burns strongly still today.
Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the forty-fourth mentioned is Ishvah. Ishvah has the same root as the word Leshavot, and appears related to the Pirkei Avot quality necessary for acquiring the Torah for this week mentioned in Book 2: Mityashev Liboh Betalmudoh, which means to be deliberate, literally to, "settle one's heart" in his study. As mentioned in Book 2, great part of the destruction of the Temple that occurred on the 9th of Av was due to to the hot-headed behavior of the zealots at that time. The Torah scholars of the time, on ther other hand, sought calm and compromise. This week is also connected to Huppim, son of Benjamin, whose name is related to a Chuppah, a wedding canopy, a reference to the fact that Benjamin did not get to see Joseph’s wedding. The Chuppah is the ultimate symbol of peace and normalcy, as famously contained in the prophecy of Jeremiah (Chapter 33), part of the Shevah Brachot said under the Chuppah:

10. So said the Lord: There shall again be heard in this place, concerning which you say, "It is desolate without man and without beast," in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate without a man and without an inhabitant and without a beast, 
11. the sound of mirth and the sound of joy, the voice of a bridegroom and the voice of a bride, the sound of those saying, "Thank the Lord of Hosts, for the Lord is good, for His loving-kindness endures forever," bringing a thanksgiving offering to the House of the Lord, for I will restore the captivity of the land as at first, said the Lord.  

The above words of Jeremiah express the tragedy of Tisha B'Av and the destruction of Jerusalem, as well as the ultimate redemption. The Chuppah also associated with love, mentioned above, and Tu B'Av, in the following week, a day very much associated with marriage and love. Tu B'Av is the "high" that immediately follow these Tisha B'Av's "lows."
Daf Mem Dalet (Folio 44) of Shvuot continues the discussion of the case of a mashkon (security) that was lost, just like the Temple (See Week 43). It also starts a new chapter, discussing oaths taken to receive payment. Much of this relates to someone enters someone else’s house without permission. It discusses a case in which that person takes vessels from the owner and a case in which he is wounded by the owner. It also seems related to Tisha B’Av, in which our house, the House of G-d, was entered without permission and vessels were removed, as well as the fact that those that entered the House were punished and will ultimately be punished again in the future.

There is also a discussion of whether this refers to when a party partially admits fault: a party to the taking of one vessel versus two), or a party admits to wounding the other one time versus twice. This last discussion appears related to the fact that two Temples were destroyed, both on Tisha B’Av.

Chapter 44 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter speaks of the great destruction brought upon Jerusalem and the cities of Judah. It also speaks of not listening to the prophets (Av in general is connected to the sense of hearing). Interestingly, it also focuses particularly on the idolatry of wives (related to the theme of marriage, mentioned above)

2. So said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; You saw all the evil that I brought upon Jerusalem and upon all the cities of Judah, and behold, they are waste, and there are no inhabitants in them, 
3. because of their evil, which they did to provoke Me, to go to burn incense to worship other gods, which they did not know, [neither did] you nor your forefathers.  
4. And I sent to you all My servants the prophets, sending them betimes, saying: Now do not do this abominable thing which I hate.  
5. But they did not hearken, nor did they incline their ear[s] to repent of their evil, not to burn incense to other gods. 

6. And My anger and My fury were poured out, and it burnt in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, and they have become waste and desolate as this day. 

7. And now, so said the Lord God of Hosts, the God of Israel; Why do you do this great evil to your souls, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling from the midst of Judah, not to leave over a remnant for yourselves, 

8. to provoke Me with the deeds of your hands, to burn incense to other gods in the land of Egypt where you are coming to sojourn, in order to cut yourselves off and in order for you to become a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth. 

9. Have you forgotten the evils of your forefathers and the evils of the kings of Judah and the evils of his wives and the evils of your wives, that they did in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Week 45 (Book 5): Our Enduring Love for G-d, Regardless of the Circumstances

SONG OF SONGS: 7. Many waters cannot quench the love, nor can rivers flood it; should a man give all the property of his house for love, they would despise him.


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 45 – Oaths of workers.


Week 45 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Tu B’Av, the happiest (along with Yom Kippur) and most romantic day in the Jewish calendar. The verse of Shir HaShirim for this week speaks of unquenchable love, that rivers cannot flood. Even despite all the suffering, we come back to G-d; all the destruction cannot quench our desire for Hashem; as Rashi notes, we are willing to give away everything for our love for G-d.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the forty-fifth mentioned is Ishvi. Ishvi also comes from the word Leshavot, relating to the concept of settling one’s heart. The difference between Ishvah (last week) and Ishvi (this week) is simply the additional letters Heh and Yud respectively. These two letters form G-d’s name, and are also those that differentiate the word Ish (male) and Ishah (female). The names Ishvi and Ishva also seem related to the words Ish and Ishah, although their names do not contain an Aleph. This week is also connected to Ard, the last son of Benjamin, whose name is related to a rose, which also has romantic connotations.
Daf Mem Heh (Folio 45) of Shvuoth continues the discussion of oaths taken to receive payment, as well as an oath of a worker. An oath of a worker only is effective in a case where it is known that he was hired in the first place. The Jewish people are Hashem’s workers. We never abandoned that status and never will, regardless of the circumstances we must endure.
Chapter 45 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter speaks of Baruch son of Neriah. G-d rebukes him for being upset about not receiving prophecy. In the midst of such calamity and destruction, he should not think of himself. Rather, he should be grateful that he was saved from such destruction.

2. So said the Lord God of Israel concerning you, Baruch:  

3. You said, "Woe is to me now, for the Lord has added grief to my pain. I have become weary with my sighing, but I have found no rest." 

Rashi - but I have found no rest: The Shechinah has not rested upon me to prophesy...

4. So shall you say to him, So said the Lord: Behold what I have built I will tear down, and what I planted I will uproot, and it is all the land. 

5. And you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek, for behold I am bringing evil upon all flesh, says the Lord, and I will give you your soul as prey in all the places where you will go.

Baruch was on a very high level, and therefore a great deal more was expected from him. The lesson, however, remains: no matter the circumstances, we must have faith that all that we have endured over the years is ultimately for the very best.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Week 46 (Book 5): Enduring Through Vulnerable Times

SONG OF SONGS: 8. We have a little sister who has no breasts; what shall we do for our sister on the day she is spoken for?


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 46 - Oaths regarding Upaid Wages, Stolen Property, Injuries, etc.


Week 46 in the Jewish calendar is the last week of Av. It is also the week of the yahrzeit of the Rebbe’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson. In the verse of Shir HaShirim for this week, Hashem refers to the Jewish people as a  “little sister who has no breasts.” Rashi explains that its time for redemption has not yet arrived - a vulnerable situation, which makes us susceptible to attacks by others. This is similar to the Jewish experience in Av, and to the difficulties the Rebbe’s father endured. Eventually, our situation will improve and we will be redeemed.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the forty-sixth mentioned is Briah. The name Briah means “cut down, cropped.” (Jastrow) This week is also connected to Dan, whose name comes from the word Din, judgement. We are getting close to the end of the period of stern judgement, in which we have been cut down and humbled.

Daf Mem Vav (Folio 46) of Shvuot continues the discussion of oaths taken by a worker. Again, there’s discussion relating to someone enters someone else’s house without permission, as well as someone who was injured. The general theme seems to be still related to the tragic events that took place in Av. The Daf ends with a new discussion about people who are disqualified from taking oaths, such as those that have sworn falsely in the past. This appear to introduce the theme of Teshuvah and our need to change, which is the central theme of the month of Elul.

Chapter 46 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter speaks of the downfall of Egypt – how it will be cut down. Egypt also will be paid back for its sins, and the Jewish people, long susceptible to attacks by others, will no longer need to live in fear. Overall, there is a switch to focusing on the other nations and their faults. Rebbe Nachman teaches that each gentile nation is associated with a specific impurity (See Likutei Moharan Torah Kuf Alef, Lesson 101) As we approach Elul and begin working on correcting our ways, we focus on one source of impurity at a time:

22. Its voice shall go like [that of] the snake, for they will march with an army and will come against her with axes as if they were hewers of wood. 

23. They will cut down her forest, says the Lord, for they are innumerable, for they are more numerous than locusts and they are uncountable.  


24. The daughter of Egypt has been put to shame; she has been delivered into the hand[s] of the people of the north.  

25. The Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel has said: Lo I will visit upon Amon of No and upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt, and upon their gods and upon their kings, both upon Pharaoh and upon those who put their trust in him. 

26. And I will deliver them into the hand[s] of those who seek their lives and into the hand[s] of Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, and into the hand[s] of his servants-and after that it will be inhabited again as in the days of old, says the Lord.  

27. You fear not, O Jacob My servant, and be not dismayed, O Israel! for behold, I will redeem you from afar and your children from the land of their captivity, and Jacob shall return and be quiet and at ease, and there shall be none who disturb his rest.  


28. You fear not, My servant Jacob, says the Lord, for I am with you, for I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end, but I will chastise you justly, and I will not completely destroy you.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Week 47 (Book 5): Serach and the Month of Virgo

SONG OF SONGS: 9. If she be a wall, we will build upon her a silver turret, and if she be a door, we will enclose her with cedar boards.
TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 47 – An Oath that Returns to Its Place

Week 47 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Elul. Elul is the month of Teshuvah, in preparation for Rosh Hashanah. The zodiac sign associated with this month is Virgo.
The verse of Shir HaShirim for this week appears to be speaking about the Jewish people as a young girl, a virgin (a “little sister with no breasts” – see last week). Rashi shows how this week’s connection to Elul is even more clear, specifically about the need for Jewish people to maintain (or regain) its chastity:
If she be a wall: If she is strong in her faith and in her fear [of God], to be against them like a copper wall, that they should not enter her midst, meaning that she will not intermarry with them, and they will not come into her, and she will not be seduced by them.   
we will build upon her a silver turret: We will be to her as a fortified city and for a crown and for beauty, and we will build for her the Holy City and the chosen Temple.   
and if she be a door: which turns on its hinges, and when one knocks on it, it opens. She, too, if she opens for them so that they enter her and she [enters] them.   
we will enclose her with cedar boards: We will put into her door wooden boards which rot and which the worm gnaws and eats.
Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the forty-seventh mentioned is Serach, appropriately a woman, one of the very few mentioned in this counting. Stories of Serach abound, including that she was one of the few to know the secrets of redemption, therefore able to identify Moshe as the redeemer. She is best known for the Midrash that states that she was the one to tell Jacob about the news that Joseph was alive, and that she told it in such a way that Jacob was able to absorb the information without dying of shock. For this she was granted eternal life. Serach’s name appears related to Sarah’s, yet with a Chet instead of a Heh. In general, Chet is connected to the word Cheit, sin, yet also to the ability to repent and rectify the past. Chet’s numerical value is eight, which is related to that which is above nature, such as teshuvah (repentance) and the Messianic age.
This week is also connected with Chushim. Chushim means “senses,” which is particularly interesting since it said that he was deaf. Yet it was because of deafness that he was able to kill Esau. During Elul we work on correcting the sins we committed with each of our senses.
Daf Mem Zayin (Folio 47) of Shvuot continues the discussion of those disqualified from taking oaths. It also mentions orphans that cannot take an oath, and those people that are clearly lying. Interestingly, there is a discussion about an oath “returning to its place,” returning to Mt. Sinai. Although primarily related to Heavenly punishment for those that take advantage of the situation and steal, it also seems to be a reference to Teshuvah.
Chapter 47 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter speaks of people crying out, as well as the downfall of the Philistines. As mentioned last week, each gentile nation is associated with a specific impurity. (Likutei Moharan Torah Kuf Alef, Lesson 101)
1. That the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines before Pharaoh smote Gaza. 
2. So said the Lord: Behold water is coming up from the north, and it shall become a flooding stream and will inundate a land and the fullness thereof, a city and those who dwell therein, and the people shall cry out, and all the inhabitants of the land shall wail. 
3. From the sound of the stamping of the hoofs of his mighty ones, from the noise of his chariots, the stirring of his wheels; fathers did not turn to sons out of [the] feebleness of [their] hands, 
4. because of the day that is coming to plunder all the Philistines, to cut off from Tyre and Zidon every surviving helper, for the Lord plunders the Philistines, the remnant of the island of Caphtor. 
5. Baldness has come to Gaza, Ashkelon has become a waste, yea the remnant of their valley; how long will you tear your flesh?  
6. Ho! Sword of the Lord, how long will you not be silent'? Go into your sheath, rest and be silent.  
7. How shall you be silent when the Lord commanded it? To Ashkelon and to the sea coast, there He appointed it.


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