Weekly Cycle

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Week 26 (Book 5): The Importance of Speech

15. His legs are [as] pillars of marble, founded upon sockets of fine gold, his appearance is like the Lebanon, chosen as the cedars. 
16. His palate is sweet, and he is altogether desirable; this is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem."               
1. "Where has your beloved gone, O fairest of women? Where has your beloved turned, that we may seek him with you?" 


TALMUD SHEVUOTH - Daf 26: The Importance of Verbalizing an Oath


Week 26 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Nissan is the month of Passover. The verses of Shir HaShirim are very much connected to the mouth and to and speech, which are the primary symbols of Passover itself. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev states that Pesach stands for Peh - Sach, “a mouth converses,” as it is a special mitzvah to recount and ponder over the miracles of our liberation during the Passover Seder as much as possible. The Megaleh Amukos states that Pharaoh stands for Peh Rah (evil mouth).[1] Here is Rashi’s commentary on the verses:

15. his appearance is like the Lebanon: One who reflects and ponders over His words finds in them blossoms and sprouts, like a forest which blooms. So are the words of Torah-whoever meditates over them constantly finds new explanations in them.   
16. His palate is sweet: His words are pleasant...
Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the twenty-sixth mentioned is Puvvah. Puvvah also appears to come from the Hebrew word for mouth (Peh), related to Pessach. This seems related to the name  Puah (spelled with an Ayin instead of an Aleph), mentioned in connection to Miriam in the very beginning of the Exodus story. “The name Puah, comes from a Hebrew root that implies a particular gift of speech. Rashi comments that Puah was able to soothe a crying baby to sleep with her special way of talking.”[2] Puvvah is also the name of the father of Tola, a Judge from the Tribe of Issachar.

Daf Caf Alef (Folio 21) of Shvuot continues to discuss oaths, particularly addressing whether an oath needs to be “spoken.” Again, the idea of “Peh - Sach.”

Chapter 26 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. It gives emphasis to the physical saying of the prophecy, not so much regarding the mouth, but the ear:

11. And the priests and the prophets said to the princes and to all the people, saying, "This man is liable to death, for he prophesied concerning this city, as you have heard with your ears. "          

12. And Jeremiah said to all the princes and to all the people saying, "The Lord sent me to prophesy concerning this house and concerning this city all the words that you have heard. (…)     

15. But you should know that if you put me to death, that you are bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and upon its inhabitants, for indeed God sent me concerning you, to speak into your ears all these words."

[1] http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/137089/jewish/Pei-Communication.htm
[2] http://www.torah.org/learning/women/class45.html

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Week 27 (Book 5): Faith in the Shepherd

2. "My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the spice beds, to graze in the gardens and to gather roses.
3. I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine, who grazes among the roses."
4. "You are fair, my beloved, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, awesome as the bannered legions.


TALMUD SHEVUOT: Daf 27 - Oaths on Bread


Week 27 in the Jewish calendar is in the beginning of the month of Nissan, and is the week of the yahrzeit of the Rebbe Rashab. The verses of Shir HaShirim mention Hashem as a Shepherd, grazing in the gardens, among the roses. As mentioned in Book 1, these weeks of Nissan are very much related to our relationship with G-d being one of a faithful flock with its Shepherd. Nissan represents the month of Aries, symbolized by the ram.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the twenty-seventh mentioned is Iob.  Iob’s name brings to mind Job (although without the aleph). Job is closely connected to the events leading up to the Passover redemption, as the Midrash teaches that he was one of Pharaoh’s three top advisors when the decision was made to throw the Jewish male children into the Nile. Job is also very much a symbol of the need for faith and humility.

Daf Caf Zayim (Folio 27) of Shvuot discusses oaths regarding a mitzvah. It also discusses two oaths made over the same loaf of bread. Here we have a clear reference to preparing the house for Passover.

Chapter 27 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter mentions behemot (domesticated animals, as above) as well as chayot (wild animals) It has many references to Passover themes, such as “an outstretched arm,” and “God’s servant,” Nebuchadnezzar, a term usually reserved for Moses himself.

5. I made the earth, the man and the beast [behemah] that are upon the face of the earth, with My great strength and with My outstretched arm, and I gave it to him that pleased Me.  

6. And now, I have given these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and even the beasts of the field [chayot] I have given to him to serve him.

The chapter also mentions the “yoke” of Babylonian oppression, and various other aspects and impacts of this exile. As also explained in Book 1, during Nissan we re-experience various exiles we endured, and our redemption from them.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Week 28 (Book 5): Shimron and the "Night of Vigil" (Leil Shimurim)

5. Turn away your eyes from me, for they have made me haughty; your hair is like a flock of goats that streamed down from Gilead.                     
6. Your teeth are like a flock of ewes that came up from the washing, all of which are perfect and there is no bereavement among them.
7. Your temple is like a split pomegranate from beneath your kerchief.


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 28 - Oaths over bread.


Week 28 in the Jewish calendar is the week of the first night of Passover. The verses of Shir HaShirim of this week are from Hashem’s perspective. Again, there is a reference to domesticated animals – the goat and the ewe. There is also a reference to the need to stay away from haughtiness, which is the essential aspect of Passover: ridding oneself of chametz and eating the matzah.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the twenty-eighth mentioned is Shimron. The name Shimron appears to have at its root the word Shomer, to keep, to guard. Matzah needs to be Shmurah, guarded: “You shall guard the matzot.” (Exodus, 12:17) The matzot need guarding to ensure that it does not become chametz. Otherwise, it may not been eaten on Passover. The main mitzvah of eating matzah is on the first night of Passover. That night is called, “Leil Shimurim,” a night in which we feel G-d watch over us to such an extent that it is even common custom to keep doors unlocked.

Daf Kaf Chet (Folio 28) of Shvuot continues to discuss different laws related to oaths made over a loaf of bread, and what happens if one ate such a bread. Again, there’s a clear connection to Passover and not eating bread at this time of the year.

Chapter 28 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. It again mentions the “yoke” of Babylonian exile, similar to that carried by a domesticated animal. It also gives the prime example of someone who is filled with spiritual chametz to the point of believing his own false prophecies, compared to Jeremiah, who maintains his humility throughout:   

10. And Hananiah the prophet took the bar off the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke it. (…)
13. Go and say to Hananiah, saying: So said the Lord: Bars of wood have you broken, and you shall make in their stead bars of iron.  
15. And Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah the prophet: The Lord did not send you, and you assured this people with a lie.
16. Therefore, so said the Lord: Behold I send you off the face of the earth; this year you shall die, for you have spoken perversion against the Lord.  
17. And Hananiah the prophet died in that year, in the seventh month.

Nissan is the seventh month counting from Rosh Hashanah.    

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Week 29 (Book 5): Feeling Chosen (Our Special Bond with G-d)

8. There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and innumerable maidens.
9. My dove, my perfect one, is but one; she is one to her mother, she is the pure one of she who bore her; daughters saw her and praised her, queens and concubines, and they lauded her;
10. Who is this who looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, awesome as the bannered legions?"


TALMUD SHEVUOT: Daf 29 - Oaths that are related to the supernatural and/or are contradicted by actions


Week 29 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Passover. The verses of Shir HaShirim of this week single out the Jewish people among all the nations of the world; its speaks of being being pure and praised by the one who “bore her.” It was on Passover after all that the Jews were truly born as a nation. It was specifically on the Seventh Day of Passover, when the Sea of Reeds split this week, that this distinction became the most clear, and the other nations so fearful.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the twenty-ninth mentioned is Zebulun. Zebulun comes from the word Yizbeleni, in Leah’s prophecy, which means “he will make one’s chief dwelling with me.” The words parallel the above words of Shir HaShirim. On Passover is when it becomes clear that we are chosen above the other nations. Passover is also the first step towards the creation of the Mishkan – the whole purpose of leaving Egypt is to serve Hashem and to have his dwelling be among the people.

Daf Kaf Chet (Folio 29) of Shvuot speaks of laws of sacrifices (like the Korban Pessach) brought for breaking a two-part oath (related to not eating figs and grapes), as well as the laws of vain oaths, and imposing an oath on someone else. These discussions also include references to oaths made over a loaf of bread. Vain oaths are those that contradict what people know to be true, things that are impossible, such as camels flying or a serpent the size of an olive press. Vain oaths are also those that directly contradict a previous oath, such as: “If one said 'I swear that I will eat this loaf, I swear that I will not eat it.” The Splitting of the Sea was something that contradicted what everyone knew to be true, and contradicted the very nature of the Sea, and apparently even the oath made by Hashem that the waters of Noah would never again pass over the earth. (Isaiah 54:9) Nevertheless, Moshe imposes an action upon the Sea of Reeds, in order to fulfill Hashem’s oath to Abraham, and the Jewish people’s oath to Joseph (regarding the burial of his bones in Israel). In fact, the Midrash Tehillim teaches that the sea only split when it saw Joseph’s casket.

Chapter 29 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. It speaks of redemption from exile, in the form of an oath (which was indeed fulfilled), and also of a special bond between the Jewish people and G-d (seeking G-d and finding Him), and once again being held in distinction from all the nations. Conversely, those that do not go to Babylon will have such a miserable future (like loathsome figs) that those that witness will make oaths.

10. For so said the Lord: For at the completion of seventy years of Babylon I will remember you, and I will fulfill My good word toward you, to restore you to this place.

11. For I know the thoughts that I think about you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  

12. And you shall call Me and go and pray to Me, and I will hearken to you.

13. And you will seek Me and find [Me] for you will seek Me with all your heart.  

14. And I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will return your captivity and gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will return you to the place whence I exiled you.  

15. For you have said: The Lord has set up prophets for us in Babylon.  

16. For so said the Lord concerning the king who sits on the throne of David and concerning the entire people that dwells in this city: Your brethren who have not left with you into exile.  
17. So said the Lord of Hosts: Behold I incite upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and I will make them as the loathsome figs, which cannot be eaten because they are so bad.  

18. And I will pursue them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, for an oath, for astonishment, for hissing, and for a reproach among all the nations where I have exiled them.

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