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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Week 39 (Book 5): Feeling the Harshness of Exile




SONG OF SONGS: 1. "O, that you were like my brother, who sucked my mother's breasts! I would find you outside, I would kiss you, and they would not despise me.


70 SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Eri and Gera


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 39 – Harsh punishments for false oaths.


BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 39

Week 39 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz. The verse of Shir HaShirim of this week, the first of the last chapter, speaks of the Jewish people’s desire that it and Hashem be like siblings – then the Jewish people would find Hashem “outside” and not be despised. This is an appropriate verse given that the month of Sivan (Gemini/Twins) is now over, and it is in Tammuz that many bad things happened to us. It is a month connected to exile, in which we were despised outside our land. Rashi’s comments to this verse make reference to Joseph:

O that you were like my brother: that you would come to console me as Joseph did his brothers, who did evil to him, and it is stated concerning him (Gen. 50:21): “and he consoled them.”

Rosh Chodesh Tammuz is Joseph’s yahrzeit.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the thirty-ninth mentioned is Eri. The name appears related to the verb to be awake, as in  “I am asleep, but my heart is awake,” [Libi Er] our Sages comment: “Although I am sleeping in exile, my heart is awake for the Holy One, blessed be He.”  (Song of Songs 5:2)[1] This week is also connected to Gera, son of Benjamin, whose means a foreigner, a reference to how Joseph became a stranger in a strange country, like the Jewish people during this time. Er is also the name of Judah’s son who was killed by G-d due to his sins. Similarly, the harsh punishments of these months serve as a wake up call.

Daf Lamed Tet (Folio 39) of Shvuot describes the harsh punishments for false oaths. Even the family of someone who makes a false oath is punished. Furthermore, the punishment is immediate; “water and fire do not wear away the wood and rocks (of his house), but false oaths do… Regarding false oaths, Hash-m does not cleanse (without punishments) even if he repents.” The daf also connects this concept to the oaths taken at Sinai.
Chapter 39 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. It is here that the Book of Jeremiah begins giving its description of the atrocities that took place. It starts by stating that it was on the “tenth month” that Nebuchadnezzar’s army  besieged Jerusalem, and on “the fourth month” that it breached its walls. Here the months are counted from Nissan, so the fourth month is a reference to Tammuz, and although Tammuz is also known as the tenth month (counting from Rosh Hashanah), here it is a reference to Teveth. Tammuz is also related to the Tribe of Reuven, and the sense of sight. These verses mention that that after the walls are breached, the king of Judah is blinded.

6. And the king of Babylon slaughtered Zedekiah's sons in Riblah before his eye, and the king of Babylon slaughtered all the nobles of Judah.  

Rashi - and… all the nobles of Judah: These are the Sanhedrin, because they had annulled the oath.   

7. And he blinded Zedekiah's eyes, and he bound him with copper chains to bring him to Babylon. 

8. And the king's palace and the houses of the people the Chaldeans burnt with fire, and they demolished the walls of Jerusalem.
   
9. And the rest of the people who remained in the city, and the defectors who had defected to him, and the rest of the remaining people, Nebuzaradan, the chief executioner, exiled to Babylon.  






[1] http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/82583/jewish/In-the-Garden-of-the-Torah-Shmos.htm

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Week 40 (Book 5): Upholding our Morality in Exile



SONG OF SONGS: 2. I would lead you, I would bring you to the house of my mother, who instructed me; I would give you to drink some spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate.          


70 SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Arodi and Naaman

                                                                                               

TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 40 – Returning Disputed Items


BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 40


Week 40 in the Jewish calendar is the second week of Tammuz. The verse of Shir HaShirim of this week makes reference to the Temple, calling it “the house of my mother.” (See Rashi) The month of Tammuz is very much connected to exile and the destruction of the Temple. The number forty is the gematria of the letter Mem and next week, 41, is the gematria of Alef Mem, which spells, Em, mother. The verse also mentions the pomegranate, and this period of the year is connected to the pomegranate in Perek Shirah (See Book 6).


Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the fortieth mentioned is Arodi. The name seems related to the verb to descend, Lered, which is also connected to exile. This week is also connected to Naaman, son of Benjamin, whose means pleasant, a reference to how Joseph’s deeds were “seemly and pleasant.” Like Joseph, we must hold fast to the ways of righteousness, even in exile.


Daf Mem (Folio 40) of Shvuot describes admission related to paying someone back. Interestingly, this is related to Book 1, Week 40, in which the Wolf decries stealing – the wolf specifically mentions, “the ox, the donkey, the lamb, the garment, for every lost item” and the daf too, discusses all sorts of of items in dispute, including ox, sheep, vessels, land, etc. Again, the focus is on maintaining our moral standards, even in exile.


Chapter 40 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. It introduces the leader Gedaliah, a righteous leader. Because of Gedaliah’s righteousness, despite the great destruction that befell us, life is able to regain some degree of normalcy.


9. And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan swore to them and to their men, saying, "Fear not to serve the Chaldeans. Dwell in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well with you.  

10. And I, behold I dwell in Mizpah to stand before the Chaldeans who will come to us, and you gather wine and dried figs and oil and put [them] into your vessels and dwell in your cities, which you have taken. 

11. And also, all the Jews who [were] in Moab and among the children of Ammon and in Edom and who [were] in all the lands, heard that the king of Babylon had given Judah a remnant and that he had appointed over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan. 

12. And all the Jews returned from all the places they had been driven, and they came to the land of Judah to Gedaliah to Mizpah, and they gathered very much wine and dried figs.


Gedaliah was also so righteous that he refused to believe that another leader would attempt to assassinate him.

16. And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said to Johanan the son of Kareah, "Do not do this thing for you speak falsely about Ishmael."

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Week 41 (Book 5): G-d's Right and Left "Hands"


SONG OF SONGS: 3. His left hand would be under my head, and his right hand would embrace me.

SEVENTY SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Areli and Ehi

TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 41 – Repayment of Loans

BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 41

Week 41 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Yud Beit/Yud Gimmel Tammuz, as well as the 17th of Tammuz. The verse of Shir HaShirim of this week is one that if often quoted in the Tanya and under Chassidic and Kabbalistic sources. At the same that Hashem’s left hand (representing gevurah, discipline) is under our heads he is also embracing us with His right hand (Chesed, kindness). Hashem supported us through our exiles and difficulties; he also supported the Sixth Lubbavitcher Rebbe under the difficult times he faced.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the forty-first mentioned is Areli. This name contains the same letters as Ariel, the Lion of G-d, one of the names of the Temple. This week is also connected to Ehi, son of Benjamin, whose name means “my brother” (Achi), a reference to how Joseph was Benjamin’s brother. Brotherly love is what will bring about the rebuilding of the Temple.

Daf Mem Alef (Folio 41) of Shvuot continues to discuss the repayment of loans, and whether that must be done in front of witnesses. The daf also discusses the diference between an oath that is d’rabbanan and one that is d’oraisa, and how a d’rabbanan oath can be reversed, although payment is extracted through other means. This is also related to the 17th of Tammuz, in which payment is extracted for our “spiritual” debts.

Chapter 41 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter describes the murder of Gedaliah (for which we also fast until this day, like the 17th of Tammuz) and the internal divisions within the Jewish people (reminiscent of earlier divisions), which caused continued suffering.

2. And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the ten men who were with him arose and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, with the sword, and he slew him, whom the king of Babylon had appointed in the land, 

3. and all the Jews who were with him, with Gedaliah in Mizpah, and the Chaldeans who were found there, the men of war, Ishmael smote.  

4. And it came about on the second day of [his] slaying Gedaliah-and no one knew 

5. that men came from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, eighty men, with shaven beards and rent garments and having cut themselves, with a meal-offering and frankincense in their hand[s], to bring to the house of the Lord. 

6. And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah came out toward them from Mizpah, walking and weeping, and it came about when he met them, that he said to them, "Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam."

7. And it came to pass when they came into the midst of the city, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah slew them into the pit, he and the men who were with him. 

8. And ten men were found among them, and they said to Ishmael, "Do not slay us, for we have stores in the field; wheat and barley and oil and honey." And he refrained and did not slay them among their brothers.

9. Now the pit into which Ishmael had cast all the corpses of the men whom he had slain because of Gedaliah-that was [the one] that King Asa had made because of Baasa, king of Israel. That one Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled with corpses.



Sunday, March 8, 2015

Week 42 (Book 5): Faithfulness in Exile

 

SONG OF SONGS: 4. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem; why should you awaken, and why should you arouse the love until it is desirous?"

           

70 SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Asher and Rosh

                                                                                               

TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 42 – Paying Back Loans


BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 42

 Week 42 in the Jewish calendar is the last week of Tammuz, and the first of the three weeks of mourning over the destruction of the Temple. In the verse of Shir HaShirim of this week, the Jewish people call out to the other nations, adjuring them not to interfere in its relationship with G-d. It brings to mind the song of the Hound in Book 1, and how the Jewish people maintain their loyalty to G-d despite the difficulties of exile, and how G-d maintains his faithfulness to us. This is also captured in Rashi’s comment on the above verse: “Now the congregation of Israel addresses the nations, “Even though I complain and lament, my Beloved holds on to my hand, and He is my support in my exile; therefore, I adjure you.”

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the forty-second mentioned is Asher. Asher means “happy.” This week is also connected to Rosh, son of Benjamin, whose name means “head,” a reference to how Joseph was Benjamin’s superior. When Mashiach comes and the Temple is rebuilt, this week will be one of happiness, one in which we will feel like a “head” and not a “tail.” Both Asher and Rosh contain the same letters, Reish and Shin, just in reverse. With the slightest of variations, these letters spell Rash, poor. These weeks tend to be difficult times as well.

Daf Mem Beit (Folio 42) of Shevuoth continues to discuss the repayment of loans. It discusses the case of someone who is established as a liar, as well as questionable documents, and other cases of breaches of trust. Again, this is related to the 17th of Tammuz, in which payment is exacted for our spiritual “debts.”
Chapter 42 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter mentions faithfulness and G-d’s help during exile.

5. And they said to Jeremiah, "May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not do according to the entire matter that the Lord your God shall send you to us. 
6. Whether good or bad, we will hearken to the voice of the Lord our God, to Whom we are sending you, in order that it be good for us, for we will hearken to the voice of the Lord our God.

(...)

10. If you dwell in this land, I will build you up and I will not pluck you up, for I have repented of the evil that I have done to you. 

11. Fear not the king of Babylon whom you fear; fear it not, says the Lord, for I am with you to redeem you and to save you from his hand.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Week 43 (Book 5): Holding On Through the Birthpangs of Mashiach




SONG OF SONGS: 5. "Who is this coming up from the desert, embracing her beloved?" "Under the apple tree I aroused you; there your mother was in travail with you; there she that bore you was in travail."

           

70 SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Imnah and Muppim


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 43 – Guardians Who Are Exempt from Payment and the Loss of a Security.


BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 43

Week 43 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Av. This is a difficult period in the Jewish year, and also the week of the yahrzeit of Aharon. The verse of Shir HaShirim of this week speaks of the Jewish people holding on strongly to Hashem (under an apple tree) (This 22-day period is connected to the apple (Tapuach), and the Tapuach’s song is from Shir HaShirim, See Book 6). It also speaks of the travail of the Jewish people, its birthpangs. This week’s themes – the proximity to G-d symbolized by Aharon, but also the difficulty of these days, associated with the birthpangs of Mashiach.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the forty-third mentioned is Imnah. Imnah appears related to the word Yemin, right, or right hand. It is a reference to Hashem’s great might, with which He redeemed us at the time of the Exodus. Although, during these day throughout history, we have experienced Hashem’s might “against” us, in the future, it will be in Av that Mashiach will be born and we will experience an even greater redemption, and witness even greater might.
Imnah also appears to come from the word Limnot, “to count.” This week is also connected to Muppim, son of Benjamin, whose name is a reference to Joseph’s exceeding beauty. It was Aharon’s job to count the Jewish people with Moshe, focusing on their good points, their strength and their beauty.
Daf Mem Gimmel (Folio 43) of Shvuot discusses cases when a shomer (guardian) is exempt from paying, how claims must be quantified, and what happens when a security is lost. This seems relate to the above, related perhaps to Aharon as a guardian of the Jewish people, who “quantified” (counted) them in the desert. It also appears related to the loss of the “security” G-d entrusted to us, the Temple, which took place during this time of the year.
Chapter 43 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter speaks of gathering all the people that had remained in the land. It also speaks of the interaction between the people and their guardian at the time - the prophet Jeremiah. However, the people did not listen to Jeremiah. Instead, they chose to listen to Johanan the son of Kareah, who gathered them and took them to Egypt.

4. And Johanan the son of Kareah and all the officers of the armies and all the people did not hearken to the voice of the Lord to dwell in the land of Judah.  

5. And Johanan the son of Kareah and all the officers of the armies took all the remnant of Judah that had returned from all the nations where they had been driven, to sojourn in the land of Judah, 

6. the men and the women and the children and the king's daughters and all the people whom Nebuzaradan the chief executioner had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch the son of Neriah. 

7. And they came to the land of Egypt, for they did not hearken to the voice of the Lord, and they came to Tahpanhes.
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