Weekly Cycle

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Week 31 (Book 3): Obed and Working Hard

BESHALACH: 9. And Moses said to Aaron, Say to the entire community of the children of Israel, Draw near before the Lord, for He has heard your complaints.  10. And it came to pass when Aaron spoke to the entire community of the children of Israel, that they turned toward the desert, and behold! the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.  

HAFTORAH: by reason of the prancings, the prancings of their mighty ones. 'Curse you Meroz,' said the messenger of the Lord, 'curse you bitterly (you) inhabitants thereof,'

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 31 - Job, serving G-d out of fear and out of love.


JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Jotbathah and camped in Abronah.

Week 31 is the week of Rosh Chodesh Iyar, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Iyar is about healing, “Ani Hashem Rofecha.” This month is represented by the tribe of Issachar. The Torah portion section for this week speaks of how the entire community of Israel drew near and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. This is reminiscent of the song of the horse in Book 1, which states that our eyes are like that of a servant to his Master, until he shows us mercy. Hashem saw everything we went through. He heard our complaints and brought us back to our Land.

The Haftorah verses for this week contain references to the horse, which, as mentioned above, is the animal of this week in Book 1. It also contains a curse against Meroz and its inhabitants, who failed to help the Jewish people in their war effort.

Daf Lamed Alef (Folio 31) of Sotah discusses serving G-d out of love and out of fear, as well as the number of witnesses that are needed to testify of a Sotah’s seclusion. Serving G-d out of love and fear again is reminiscent of the song of the horse in Book 1. The War of Independence certainly contained aspects of serving out of fear that were not present before. The war had an aspect of Ein Brera (there’s no other way out) related also to the destruction that took place during the Holocaust. The daf also specifically mentions Iyov, Job, who suffered so much in his lifetime, yet also served out of love, and ultimately saw his fortunes reversed for the better once again and his family, health and wealth reestablished.
Obed, the son of Boaz, was the father of Yishai. Obed means worker. It is also related to the word eved, servant, which again, is extremely reminiscent of the song of the horse in Book 1. Obed could also be reference to the Jewish army and the pioneering, hardworking generation of the time of Israel's independence.
In the thirty-first week, the Jews journey from Jotbathah and camp in Abronah. Abronah is a river crossing, a ford. Arguably the most important river-crossing in history was the crossing of the Jordan in order to conquer the Land of Israel. Another important crossing was that of the Jabok river, when Yaakov faced Eisav. The very name "Hebrew" comes from the word for crossing. Abraham was known has ha’Ivri. Crossing the river therefore also represents establishing, or re-establishing our identity and strength in our own eyes, and in the eyes of others.  The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of attaining the peace and tranquility that come with complete faith and in living in our homeland, and now focus on re-establishing our identity in connection with the land, in the famous phrase of the pioneers, "livnot v’lehibanot," to build and to be built.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Week 32 (Book 3): Battling for the Land, Laying the Foundations

BESHALACH: 11. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,  12. I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, In the afternoon you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be sated with bread, and you shall know that I am the Lord, your G-d.

HAFTORAH: because they came not to the aid of the Lord, to the aid of the Lord against the mighty.

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 32 – Entering the Land of Israel; importance of using Hebrew.


JOURNEY IN THE DESERT:They journeyed from Abronah and camped in Etzion geber.

Like Week 31, Week 32 is also linked to Yom Ha’Atzmaut and the Land of Israel. (See explanation in Book 1) The Torah portion section for this week also speaks of how Hashem heard the complaints of the people of Israel, and how they were so mercifully and so miraculously answered.

The Haftorah mentions again those that did not aid Hashem in battle. Why would Hashem need any aid in battle? Rashi states that “those who aid Israel are as if they aid the Divine Presence.” In 1948, the nations of the world did not come to Israel's aid. (See Week 32, Book 1, the mule.) The Jewish people faced tremendous odds, yet they were successful through Divine mercy.

Daf Lamed Beit (Folio 32) of Sotah discusses invalid witnesses, and certain statements that must be said in Hebrew in order to be valid. The daf also discusses the blessings and curses that were said at Mount Grizim and Mount Eival when the Jewish people entered the Land of Israel. The daf is connected to the theme of entering the Land of Israel related to this week. It is also perhaps a reference to the renewal of the common use of the Hebrew language that took place as well.

Yishai, the son of Obed, is the father of King David. He was great in so many ways:

Ishai is one of the “eight princes of man” in Micha 5:4 according to Sukkah 52b. He went out at the head of a multitude of followers and returned with a multitude and he taught Torah to a multitude (Brochos 58a). Ishai inspired David to fight Goliath (Tanchuma Buber Vayigash 8). Four died solely because of the serpent’s advice to Eve, for they never sinned. Ishai was one of them (Shabbos 55b). “The Sages said: Ishai lived more than 400 years (Genesis Rabbah 96:4)."[1]
Yishai is identified (such as in Shemuel I 17:58) as "Beis haLachmi," which is usually rendered as "from Beis Lechem" (Bethlehem).[2]
It is worth noting that Radak quotes a Midrashic interpretation of this term. After David killed Goliath, King Saul asked (Shemuel I 17:55) who David was. This question is puzzling, for King Saul knew who David was, already. Some read the question as, "Is he a scion of a powerful line?" Thus David identified himself, in response (Shemuel I 17:58), as a son of Yishai "Beis haLachmi," meaning a person of war ("Milchamah"=war).[3]
This is week 32, which has the gematria of lev, heart. Yishai, spelled yud, shin, yud, has the gematria of 320, ten times Lev. His name appears to be Yesh Yud, “There is Yud,” perhaps a reference to the 32 paths of Chochmah, also connected to Lev. Yishai laid the foundations for his son, David, to become king. Similarly, the pioneering generation that made possible the return to the Land of Israel laid the foundations for the redemption that is still to come. As noted above, Yishai was called Beis HaLachmiLike Israel's pioneers, he was a man of war.   

In the thirty-second week, the Jews journey from Abronah and camp in Etzion geber. Etzion geber means the crow of the rooster. It may also mean the wisdom of the rooster. The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of re-establishing our identity in connection with the land, and now focus on the spiritual awakening that is Lag Ba’omer, when we open ourselves up to the inner wisdom of the Kabbalah.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Week 33 (Book 3): Blessed Above All Others

BESHALACH: 13. It came to pass in the evening that the quails went up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14. The layer of dew went up, and behold, on the surface of the desert, a fine, bare [substance] as fine as frost on the ground.  

HAFTORAH: Blessed above women shall Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, be;  above women in the tent shall she be blessed.

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 33 - The Language of Angels, the Holy of Holies


JOURNEYS: They journeyed from Ezion geber and camped in the desert of Zin, which is Kadesh.

Week 33 is the week of Pessach Sheini and Lag Ba’Omer. The Torah portion section for this week first introduces the Mannah. It is “fine as frost” and compared to the dew (in contrast with the physicality of the quail). The contrast between Mannah and quail is also a contrast between the revealed Torah (nigleh) and the Kabbalah (nistar). While in the area of nigleh there is back and forth and room for “digestion,” setting aside certain opinions and coming to conclusions, when it comes to the Kabbalah there is no need for separating the “good” from the “bad.” (There's also an opinion that the Mannah began falling on Lag Ba'omer, and that this is the reason for its celebration)

The Haftorah verses speak of how Yael shall be blessed above “women in the tent,” a reference to the blessings given to the matriarchs (Talmud, Sanhedrin 105)). Similarly Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is said to be praiseworthy above all of his colleagues. 

Daf Lamed Gimmel (Folio 33) of Sotah continues the discussion of certain statements that must be said in Hebrew in order to be valid, as well as those that can be said in any language, and the blessings and curses that were said at Mount Grizim and Mount Eival. The daf goes into detail about the language of angels and heavenly voices, and contains an entire story regarding what Shimon HaTzadik heard in the Kodesh HaKodashim, the Holy of Holies. Shimon HaTzadik and the heavenly experiences he had are deeply connected with Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. 

How appropriate it is that King David, G-d’s anointed, be the link in the chain of week 33, of Lag Ba’omer! King David had great closeness with Hashem and was given tremendous wisdom and prowess, yet also underwent enoemous suffering.  Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s life also reflected these qualities. David means beloved, and few tzadikim and few days are as beloved as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Lag Ba’Omer.  

In the thirty-third week, the Jews journey from Etzion geber and camp in the desert of Zin, which is Kadesh. Kadesh means "holy" or "sanctified." This was the place where Miriam passed away, and where Moshe struck the rock, which led to him not entering the Land of Israel, and G-d’s name being sanctified. There is an apparent contrast between this desert, the Desert of Zin, with the journey in Week 8, to the Desert of Sin. O.ne is spelled with a tzadi, the other with a samech. In the Desert of Sin is where the food supplies from Egypt ended, while in the Desert of Tzin, after Miriam died, there was no water. In both places, the people complained and showed lack of faith.

Kadesh also appears to be the same place as Kadesh Barnea/Rithmah, of week 15. This journey marks a return to the place of the sin of the spies 38 years prior. No wonder Moshe was upset when the people showed a lack of faith. After everything that had happened, after the entire journey of redemption from Egypt, how could people still complain? Yet, Moshe’s behavior towards the people apparently was not warranted, and for hitting the rock, and this appears to be part of the reason for his punishment. The rock is perhaps a metaphor for the stubbornness of the Jewish people – nevertheless, Moshe was supposed to speak to the rock, not hit it. This aspect of strictness and lack of patience for the spiritual shortcomings of the people parallels Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son’s reaction when first leaving the cave in which they learned Torah for 12 years. Similar to Moshe, Rabbi Shimon and his son were "banished" from the land and had to return to the cave for an additional year. 

The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of awakening and opening ourselves up to the inner wisdom of the Kabbalah, and now focus on being accepting of other people’s shortcomings and understanding that it is not always in our power to completely change all of those around us.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Week 34 (Book 3): Feeling "Shalem" (Whole)

BESHALACH: 15. When the children of Israel saw [it], they said to one another, It is manna, because they did not know what it was, and Moses said to them, It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16. This is the thing that the Lord has commanded, Gather of it each one according to his eating capacity, an omer for each person, according to the number of persons, each one for those in his tent you shall take. 

HAFTORAH: Water he requested, (but) milk she gave him: in a lordly bowl she brought him cream.

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 34 - Crossing the Jordan, Entering the Land


JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, at the edge of the land of Edom. 

Week 34 is the last week of the month of Iyar. The Torah portion section for this week describes one of the key ideas of the Mannah. First, there was a social aspect of it – which caused people to talk to each other (and some commentaries say that it caused one not to recognize another, because after eating such a spiritual food they were on an even higher spiritual level). It also points to the miraculous nature of it, as it was a gift of Hashem: even though each one was only supposed to take one omer for each person, whatever they took would be according to their eating capacity. Hashem fulfilling the needs of the people, through giving them bread, appears related to the idea of healing of the month of Iyar. “Omer lagulgolet” also appears to be a reference to Lag Ba’Omer, the main day of the month of Iyar, since it contains the word “omer” and lagulgolet in Hebrew has two “Lamed Gimmels” in a arrow - “lag” “lag.

The Haftorah verses also speak of sating one’s thirst and hunger, connected to the aspect of healing of the month of Iyar. If one takes the verse out of the context of Yael killing Sissera (which is certainly a worthy event in and of itself), the verse hints also to the motherly kindness of women, who offer milk and cream, even when only water is requested. The mannah has a similar parallel. Instead of simply providing the Jews with bread from the earth, G-d provides them with heavenly bread, which has powers and blessings as well.

Daf Lamed Dalet (Folio 34) of Sotah continues the discussion of crossing the Jordan, the spies, and Hebron. As mentioned previously, week 34 represents a completion of a cycle, the Jews now being ready to enter the Land. They also must keep in mind the disaster of the spies, as also mentioned in the previous week.

Solomon (Shlomoh), whose name comes from Shalom, peace, is also related to Shalem, whole, complete. We finish the month of Iyar with a sense of being whole again, healed. Shlomoh also lived to see the completion of his father’s work, and the completion of the Temple. On that day, he authored the Song of Songs.

In the thirty-fourth week, the Jews journey from the desert of Zin, which is Kadesh, and camp in Mount Hor, at the edge of the land of Edom. Hor HaHar is double mountain, a “small apple atop a big apple.” This is the place where Aharon HaKohen passed away. The double mountain represents Aharon’s love – love within love, as explained by Rabbi Simon Jacobson. This love and harmony is what is essential to the receiving the Torah on yet a different mountain, Mount Sinai. Week 35 is when the Jews camped at Mount Sinai. The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of holiness and learning to live with people’s faults, and now focus on the love and peace related to Aharon, Rosh Chodesh Sivan, and the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. (As to why Hor HaHar is on the edge of Edom, see Book 1, Week 43) 

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