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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Week 18 (Book 5): Nature as a Metaphor and the Setting for Our Relationship with G-d


SONG OF SONGS:
7. You are all fair, my beloved, and there is no blemish in you.
8. With me from Lebanon, my bride, with me from Lebanon shall you come; you shall look from the peak of Amanah, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from mountains of leopards.
9. You have captivated my heart, my sister, [my] bride; you have captivated my heart with one of your eyes, with one link of your necklaces.

70 SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Judah

TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 18 –  Distancing oneself from forbidden pleasures and wrongful acts

BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 18

Week 18 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Shevat. Shevat connected to nature, as it celebrates the Rosh Hashanah of the trees. It is also connected to emunah (faith) and ta’anug (pleasure). It is also related to the Oral Torah.

The theme for this week, in particular the second verse (verse 8), is very much connected with nature. It speaks of the forest of Lebanon, of various mountains, of lions and of leopards. Rashi also relates that this verse to the fact that Hashem is with us in exile, and how He will return with us from it as well. The peak of Amanah has the same root as the word Emunah.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the eighteenth mentioned is Judah. Of all the brothers, it is perhaps Judah that most represents the importance of the Oral Torah. It was Judah that was sent by Jacob to establish a yeshiva in Egypt, before the rest of the family came down. Judah also is very much connected to the concepts of pleasure and faith.We see how Judah often played the leading role among the brothers, and showed tremendous Emunah when confronting the viceroy of Egypt,  who turned out to be Joseph. We also see that his pleasure-seeking actions (such as those regarding Tamar) got him in trouble, but that he was not afraid to take responsibility for them, and repent. 

Daf Yud Cheit (Folio 18) of Shvuot comprises of a continuation of the discussion of withdrawing from a Niddah, how the main thing is to avoid pleasure. It also discusses separating from a Niddah before her predetermined period of impurity. Finally, it discusses whether one must know what made him impure before he forgot that he was impure – it discusses forbidden foods, forbidden relations with a Niddah, and actions that show lack of faith, such as work on Shabat and Yom Kippur. Some of the topics appear still related to the previous month, but are also connected to this month, such as faith and pleasure.

Chapter 18 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter is about Hashem as the potter (we need Emunah that everything comes from Him). It is also about nature and our lack of Emunah, about inappropriate pleasures, and about “cold flowing water.” It is in Shevat, that the sap of the trees begin to flow, although we are still in the middle of the cold winter at this time.

9. And at one instant I may speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant,   (…)

14. Shall one abandon [water flowing] from rocks of the field [that comes from] the snow of Lebanon? Shall strange cold flowing water be abandoned?



The Levanon (Lebanon), which is a forest whose trees were used for the Temple, is mentioned also in the verses of the Song of Songs above. Levanon is often a reference to the Temple itself.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Week 19 (Book 5): Spiritual Pleasure

 


SONG OF SONGS:
10. How fair is your love, my sister, [my] bride; how much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than all spices!
11. Your lips drip flowing honey, O bride; honey and milk are under your tongue, and the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
12. A locked up garden is my sister, [my] bride; a locked up spring, a sealed fountain.

SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Shelah

TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 19 - Oaths against eating food

BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 19

Week 19 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Yud Shevat. The verses of Shir HaShirim of this week again address the theme of nature, as well as Ta’anug, pleasure.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the nineteenth mentioned is Shelah. Judah’s first two sons are skipped because they died childless due to their sins. Shelah’s brothers also represent the idea of inappropriately engaging in pleasure. Shelah was also supposed to marry Tamar, yet he was still young and later Yehudah thought of ways to prevent him to be given to her.

Daf Yud Tet (Folio 19) of Shvuot is primarily about discussing the law of someone who forgot both that he was impure and that he was in the Temple. It also discusses the two primary kinds of oaths, both of which are related to food. The first part appears to be associated with the Oral Law, the focus of the month of Shevat. The second part, regarding food, is related to Ta’anug, pleasure.

Chapter 19 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter speaks about eating and pleasure, and how these concepts can be completely corrupted:

4. Because they forsook Me and they estranged this place and burnt incense therein to other gods, which they had not known, they, their forefathers, and the kings of Judah, and they filled this place with the blood of innocent people.

5. And they built the high places of Baal to burn their children with fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command, neither did I speak nor did it enter My mind. (…)


9. And I will feed them the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and each one will eat the flesh of his friend, in the siege and the straits that their enemies and those who seek their lives will inflict upon them.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Week 20 (Book 5):Perez and Bursting Out of the Cold




SONG OF SONGS:
13. Your arid fields are as a pomegranate orchard with sweet fruit, henna and spikenard.
14. Spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all frankincense trees, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices.
15. A garden fountain, a well of living waters and flowing streams from Lebanon."

SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Perez

TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 20 – Oaths related to eating and pleasure.

BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 20

Week 20 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Tu B’Shvat. Tu B’Shvat is the Rosh Hashanah of the trees. The verses of Shir HaShirim of this week again address the theme of nature, as well as pleasure. This week, however, fruit and trees are mentioned specifically.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the twentieth mentioned is Perez. His name means to “burst forth.” Perez’s birth is described in quite detail, and how he burst forth to become the firstborn. It seems related to also how the flowers and fruits must “burst forth,” after the trees’ enduring the cold winter.

Daf Kaf (Folio 20) of Shvuot continues to discuss different laws related to oaths, most of which are also related to eating and pleasure.

Chapter 20 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter speaks of pain endured by Jeremiah, but its most striking part is when he speaks of the day of his birth. It seems to relate back to the themes birth and conception related to this month:

14. Cursed be the day in which I was begotten; the day in which my mother bore me shall not be blessed.  
  
15. Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, saying, "A male child has been born to you," making him glad. 

16. And that man shall be like the cities that the Lord overturned and did not repent, and let him hear an outcry in the morning and a scream at noontime.

17. That he did not put me to death from the womb, that my mother should be my grave and her womb a perpetual pregnancy.
  


18. Why did I come forth out of the womb to see toil and grief, and my days end with shame?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Week 21 (Book 5): Celebrating "Sweet Fruit" in the Winter





SONG OF SONGS:
16. " Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out; let my beloved come to his garden and eat his sweet fruit."
1. "I have come to my garden, my sister, [my] bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice, I have eaten my sugar cane with my sugar, I have drunk my wine with my milk. Eat, friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, beloved ones."                        
2. "I sleep, but my heart is awake. Hark! My beloved is knocking: Open for me, my sister, my beloved, my dove, my perfect one, for my head is full of dew, my locks with the drops of the night."

SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Zerach

TALMUD SHEVUOTH: DAF 21 – Oaths and Eating

BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 21

Week 21 in the Jewish calendar is the last week of Shevat. The verses of Shir HaShirim of this week again address the theme of nature, as well as pleasure. It speaks of eating sweet fruit of a garden, spices, sugar cane, wine and milk. Wine and "drinking abundantly" is also mentioned, perhaps a reference to the coming month of Adar. The last verse also contains a theme similar to that of Shevat: "I sleep, but my heart is awake..." We are still in the middle of winter, but it is past Tu B'Shvat and the sap inside the trees has begun to melt.   

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the twenty-first mentioned is Zerach. Zerach is Perez’s brother. His name means sunrise. During his birth, he was the first to stretch out his hand, although he ended up being born later, after Perez. Similarly, sunrise is the first moment in which the morning Shmoneh Esreh can be said and the day initially begins, although most people begin prayer much later. This is all related to Shevat, the first “appearance” of spring and the sun, although spring itself comes much later.

Daf Kaf Alef (Folio 21) of Shvuot continues to discuss different laws related to oaths, most of which are also related to eating.

Chapter 21 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter has many references to nature: valleys, plains, fruit, and a forest:

The chapter speaks of pain endured by Jeremiah, but its most strking part is when he speaks of the day of his birth. It seems to relate back to the theme of “natural” birth related to this month:

13. Behold I am against you, O dweller of the valley, rock of the plain, says the Lord, those who say, "Who will encamp upon us, and who will come into our dwellings?"   



14. And I will visit upon you according to the fruit of your deeds, says the Lord, and I will ignite a fire in her forest, and it will consume all her surroundings. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Week 22 (Book 5): Mordechai the Shepherd




SONG OF SONGS:
3. "I have taken off my tunic; how can I put it on? I have bathed my feet; how can I soil them?"
4. My beloved stretched forth his hand from the hole, and my insides stirred because of him.
5. I arose to open for my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, and my fingers with flowing myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.

SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Hezron

TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 22 - Oaths and Drinking

BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 22

Week 22 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Adar. The verses of Shir HaShirim of this week speak of removing one’s head garment and bathing one’s feet. Removing one’s head garment appears to be a reference to the notion of letting go of the intellect, related to this month, focusing on the feet. Similarly, the Rebbe’s Ma’amar Ve’Atah Tetzaveh speaks of Mordechai, the Moshe of the generation, being the head, and the Jewish people being the “feet.” (See also Book 3, on Yaakov and Yikveta de Meshicha, being on the "heels" of the Messianic age).

The second verse in the Song of Songs is extremely reminiscent of perhaps what are the two most crucial verses in all of Megillat Esther (5:2):

And it came to pass when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she won favor in his eyes, and the king extended to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand, and Esther approached and touched the end of the scepter. 
The third verse, makes reference to myrrh, Mor in Hebrew. The Talmud states that Mordechai is hinted in the Torah in Exodus 30:23, in the verse about “pure myrrh,” Mor Dror, which in Aramaic is Mara Dachia.[1] (Chullin 139b)

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the twenty-second mentioned is Hezron. (Hezron, the descendant of Reuven, has already been discussed in Week 4). Interestingly, in Book 3, this Hezron, son of Perez, can be found in week 25, also in the month of Adar. There, it is written that Hezron comes from the word chatzer, which means courtyard, or enclosure. In order to be able to carry in a courtyard, two neighbors need to set up an eruv chatzeirot.[2] Interestingly, the word Eruv comes from the same root as Arev, which means sweet. When Jews come together, and their duality serves a positive function, there is sweetness. This is also one of the themes of the month of Adar.

Daf Kaf Beit (Folio 22) of Shvuot continues to discuss different laws related to oaths, related to eating. However, the main emphasis of this daf relates to the laws of speaking, and also whether drinking should be included in the category of eating. Clearly drinking is one of the main themes of Adar. Specifically, drinking to point of not being able to know the difference between “blessed in Mordechai and cursed is Haman.” This daf begins the discussion of speaking by mentioning how someone who curses (“blesses”) Hashem by mistake must bring a sacrifice.

Chapter 22 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. It speaks of a situation of the Jewish people being left leaderless, confused, as well as of eating and drinking.

15. Shall you reign, for you compete with the cedar? Your father-did he not eat and drink and perform justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him.  (...)

22. All your shepherds shall be broken by the wind, and your lovers shall go into captivity, for then you shall be ashamed and confounded because of all your evil. (…)

29. O land, land, land, hearken to the word of the Lord. 
  
30. So said the Lord: Inscribe this man childless, a man who will not prosper in his days, for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David or ruling anymore in Judah.







[2] http://www.dailyhalacha.com/Print.asp?ClipID=1079
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