Weekly Cycle

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Week 14 (Book 5): Sticking with the Torah and the Temple

6. Who is this coming up from the desert, like columns of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, of all the powder of the peddler?
7. Behold the litter of Solomon; sixty mighty men are around it, of the mighty men of Israel.
8. They all hold the sword, skilled in warfare; each one with his sword on his thigh because of fear at night.


TALMUD SHEVUOTH:  Daf 14 - Forgetting the Laws of Impurity

Book of Jeremiah: Chapter 14

Week 14 in the Jewish calendar is the continuation of Chanukah, and also includes Rosh Chodesh Teveth.  The verses from Song of Songs for this week are very upbeat: they are said by the Jewish people and describe its state of closeness with G-d. The first verse speaks of traveling through the desert with G-d miraculously protecting them with the Clouds of Glory. Chanukah is also about Divine protection during exile and is eight days long in order to parallel Sukkot, which commemorates our protection under the Clouds of Glory while in the desert.

Rashi notes that the verses relate to the Mishkan, the moveable Temple, and to the "the war of Torah, and similarly, the priests who surround it, who camp around the Mishkan, skilled in the order of their service." There’s a clear relation to Chanukah

There is also an interesting parallel with Rosh Chodesh Teveth, in that Rashi describes that not only is the Mishkan being guarded, but the Torah itself, both Written and Oral. It is well known that the destruction of the First Temple, which began with the siege of Jerusalem on the 10th of Teveth was due to the lack of proper (spiritual) importance given to the Torah. Here are Rashi's comments:

each one with his sword: his weapons. These are the Masorah and the mnemonics, by which they preserve the correct version [of the Oral Law] and the masorah (the traditional spelling and reading of the Scriptures), lest it be forgotten.   

because of fear at night: lest they forget it, and troubles will befall them, and so Scripture says (Ps. 2:12): “Arm yourselves with the grain [of Torah] lest He become angry and you perish on the way.”

Night appears to be a reference to the darkness of Greece. It is incredible how Rashi also explains that the weapons used are for preserving the correct written and oral traditions, not only in line with the struggle of the Maccabees against Greek perversion of the law, but also a reference to giving the proper spiritual importance of the Torah, one of the main themes of this month, the lack of which caused the destruction of the First Temple, as explained in the previous books.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the fourteenth mentioned is Gershon. Gershon is the name of one of Levi’s sons as well as one of Moshe’s. It is a name connected to being in exile, and the fight to maintain one’s identity in the face of foreign influences. In fact, Moshe’s son Gershon was brought up by both Yitro and Moshe, and Yitro’s influence had long term negative effects. As also explained previously, Chanukah connected to the word Chinuch, education, and is related to the fight against assimilation and idolatry. Gershon and his family also played an important role in the upkeep of the Mishkan.

Daf Yud Dalet (Folio 14) of Shvuot comprises of a continuation of the discussion of the atonement of Kohanim, separate from the rest of the people. It also begins a new chapter that introduces the concept of awareness of impurity and what happens when one forgets the laws of impurity. The continuation of the laws of the atonement of the Kohanim parallel the continuation of Chanukah this week. Impurity versus purity is a general theme of Chanukah. Impurity and ignorance of the Law (lack of education) are ideas also connected to Chanukah and the 10th of Teveth.

Chapter 14 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The entire chapter is about a drought, generally associated with G-d’s displeasure with the Jewish people prior to the destruction of the Temple. Furthermore, a well known concept is that “Ayn Mayim Elah Torah,” every Biblical reference to water is a reference to the Torah itself.. At the end there is also a clear connection to themes of Chanukah, the Temple and the Brit (mepher brit means annulling the covenant of circumcision, prevalent among some Hellenized Jews at the time of Chanukah)

21. Do not condemn us for Your name's sake, do not disgrace the throne of Your glory. Remember, do not break Your covenant with us.  

for Your name’s sake: that you are called merciful.  

the throne of Your glory: The Temple. And according to Midrash Aggadah, Israel who is engraved on the throne of Your glory.   

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Week 15 (Book 5): Jerusalem and Motherhood

9. King Solomon made himself a palanquin of the trees of Lebanon.
10. Its pillars he made of silver, its couch of gold, its curtain of purple, its interior inlaid with love, from the daughters of Jerusalem.
11. Go out, O daughters of Zion, and gaze upon King Solomon, upon the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his nuptials and on the day of the joy of his heart.
TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 15 - Adding to Jerusalem
Week 15 in the Jewish calendar is the week of the 10th of Teveth, which marks the Babylonian siege, which led to the destruction of the First Temple.
The section of Song of Songs for this week speaks of the Jewish people as a “mother,” and we are taught that “Solomon”in the Song of Songs is always a reference to G-d Himself. Rashi cites a Midrash explaining that G-d's calling the Jewish people His "mother" is the highest demonstration of his love. The positive and joyous image of the Jewish people as motherly stands in direct contrast to what took place during the siege of Jerusalem as reported by Jeremiah in the Book of Lamentations, Chapter 3:
9. Better off were the victims of the sword than the victims of hunger, for they ooze, pierced by the fruits of the field.
10. The hands of compassionate women boiled their own children; they have become their food in the destruction of the daughter of my people.
11. The Lord has spent His fury, He has poured out His fierce anger, and He has kindled a fire in Zion, which has consumed her foundations.
In the future, the 10th of Teveth will be a day of great joy. This section of Shir HaShirim appears relate to this future Messianic time, and is replete with references and descriptions of the Temple and the Tabernacle, as well as Jerusalem. It also makes reference to the giving of the Torah (the day of his nuptials) and the dedication of the Tabernacle (the day of the joy of his heart).
Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the fifteenth mentioned is Kehath. Kehath is the grandfather of Moshe and Aharon, as well as their uncle, the brother of their mother, Yocheved.[1]The Rebbe explains that Kehoth comes from the word, “to gather.” Kehath’stask regarding the Tabernacle was the highest of all the Levites – to carry the Holy Ark and its equipment. At the same time, Kohath’s camp was that of Korach, which saw tremendous destruction due to his actions.[2]The destruction seems parallel to the one related to this week, while the highest Temple tasks appear related to future times, when the Temple will be rebuilt and this day will be one of great joy.
Daf Tet Vav (Folio 15) of Shvuot speaks of the sanctification of the Klei Sharet (the instruments used in the Temple service) and the concept of “adding on” to Jerusalem or the Azarah (the entranceway of the Temple). The ritual of “adding on” involves singing and carrying loaves of bread. It stands in stark contrast to the events of the 10th of Teveth when Jerusalem was not “added to,” but rather restricted under siege. Instead of singing there was mourning, and instead of bread there was famine. Again, this seems to be related more to Messianic times, when this date will be one of feasting instead of fasting.
Chapter 15 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above, although focusing on the negative aspects of this week, both related to the theme of motherhood and of Jerusalem. It also mentions the famine and distress that would come.
8. His widows are to Me more numerous than the sand of the seas; I have brought to them upon the mother a chosen one who will rob them at midday; I have cast upon her suddenly a city and terrors.
Rashi - upon a mother: Upon Jerusalem, which is a city (and a mother) in Israel.
9. She who bore seven has been cut off, her soul grieves, her sun sets when it is still day. She is ashamed and confounded. And her remnant I shall deliver to the sword before their enemies, says the Lord.
10. Woe is to me, my mother, that you bore me, a man of quarrel and a man of contention to the whole land.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Week 16 (Book 5): Being Wife and Midwife

1. "Behold, you are fair, my beloved; behold, you are fair; your eyes are [like] doves, from within your kerchief; your hair is like a flock of goats that streamed down from Mount Gilead.
2. Your teeth are like a flock of uniformly shaped [ewes] that came up from the washing, all of whom are perfect, and there is no bereavement among them.
3. Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your speech is comely; your temple is like a split pomegranate from within your kerchief.


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 16 - Holiness of the First Temple


Week 16 in the Jewish calendar is the third week of Teveth. As mentioned previously, Teveth is known as the month in which “the body takes pleasure in the body,” a reference to how the essence of the Jewish People connects to the essence of Hashem. (See Book 1) The Song of Songs verses for this week and next, the first six of Chapter 4, are the ones that most openly use the metaphor of the female body as a reference to qualities of the Jewish People.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the sixteenth mentioned is Merari. Merari family’s task regarding the Tabernacle was the least prestigious, and yet the hardest: carrying the beams, crossbars, pillars, and bases.[1] Merari comes from the word Mar, bitter, the same root of the name Miriam. The Rebbe’s father explains that of the three children of Yocheved, Miriam parallels Merari. These were the foundations of the Tabernacle, without which the other parts could not stand, similar to the discreet yet crucial role of Miriam as a midwife. Teveth is a cold and is some ways bitter month, yet it is also connected to strength/foundation and the capacity to multiply (characteristics of the Tribe of Dan).

Daf Tet Zayin (Folio 16) of Shevuoth discusses whether the holiness of the First Temple was temporary or permanent. It also discusses the case of someone who became impure when in the Temple, and the laws related to bowing in it. The fast of the tenth of Teveth is particularly linked to the destruction of the First Temple.

Chapter 16 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above, especially regarding marital relations and our ability to multiply:

1. And the word of the Lord came to me saying:  
2. You shall take no wife, and you shall have no sons or daughters in this place.  
3. For so said the Lord regarding the sons and the daughters born in this place and regarding their mothers who bear them and their fathers who beget them in this land. (…)
9. For so said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cut off from this place in your presence and in your days a voice of mirth and a voice of gladness, a voice of a bridegroom, and a voice of a bride. (…)

[1] http://en.yhb.org.il/2013/05/17/the-sweetness-of-bnei-merari/

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Week 17 (Book 5): Our Intimate Connection with G-d

4. Your neck is like the Tower of David, built as a model; a thousand shields hanging on it, all the quivers of the mighty men.
5. Your two breasts are like two fawns, the twins of a gazelle, who graze among the roses.
6. Until the sun spreads and the shadows flee, I will go to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense.


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 17 – Sins of the Temple and Marital Relations


Week 17 in the Jewish calendar is the last week of Teveth, which includes the 24th of Teveth, the yahrzeit of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe. As mentioned in the previous week, the verses from Song of Songs for this week has some of the most open uses of the metaphor of the female body as a reference to qualities of the Jewish People. 

One of the references made in Song of Songs is to “two breasts,” which is related to childbearing and procreation, themes of the month of Teveth. Rashi notes that this is a reference to Moshe and Aharon as well as to the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments. Rashi further explains how the laws on the first tablet (between man and G-d) correspond to those on the second one (between man and man). Similarly, the Alter Rebbe’s name, Shneur, means Shnei Or, two lights, and the Alter Rebbe fulfilled the potential of his name, revealing the light of Chassidus and the deep secrets of the Torah, which comprise the Tanya and other holy works, as well as a light in the revealed aspects of the Torah, which comprise his Shulchan Aruch, known as Shulchan Aruch HaRav, and other works as well.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the seventeenth one, who is not explicitly mentioned, is Yocheved. Yocheved is the mother of Moshe and Aharon. She, like Miriam, was also involved in the discreet task of midwiving Jewish children.

Daf Yud Zayin (Folio 17) of Shvuot speaks of the prohibitions against not properly taking one’s time when leaving the Temple, as well as taking the shortest path out. It also discusses entering the Temple grounds in an abnormal manner. The daf then switches to a different Mishnah, which leads to a discussion of how to withdraw from a woman that becomes a Niddah (impure due to menstruation) at the time of intercourse. The daf appears related to two distinct themes of this month, sins related to the Temple, as well as marital relations.

Chapter 17 of the Book of Jeremiah contains one of the main themes of the month, multiplying after being very small in number. This theme is found in the song of the wild goose in Book 1, which is contained in this chapter (the wild goose is the Perek Shirah animal for Week 15, also in the month of Teveth):

5. So says the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart turns away from the Lord.  

6. He shall be like a lone tree in the plain, and will not see when good comes, and will dwell on parched land in the desert, on salt-sodden soil that is not habitable.
7. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord; the Lord shall be his trust.

8. For he shall be like a tree planted by the water, and by a rivulet spreads its roots, and will not see when heat comes, and its leaves shall be green, and in the year of drought will not be anxious, neither shall it cease from bearing fruit.

It is also interesting that the chapter include references to nature and to trees, as the following week is that of Rosh Chodesh Shevat.


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