Weekly Cycle

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Week 27 (Book 3): Amminadab, Emunah & Self-Sacrifice

1. They journeyed from Elim, and the entire community of the children of Israel came to the desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt. 2. The entire community of the children of Israel complained against Moses and against Aaron in the desert. 

in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo;
they took no gain of money.

Talmud Sotah: Daf 27: when Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah became the Nassi; Song of Songs


They journeyed from Hashmonah and camped in Moseroth.

Continuing now in the month of Nissan, Week 27 contains the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shalom DovBer of Lubavitch, the Rebbe Rashab. In the Torah portion section for this week, we also enter in full into the theme of Parashat HaMan: the need to train the Jews to have faith in G-d and not complain. The verses repeat twice the phrase “the entire community of Israel,” which in the context of the complaints, appears to point to the fact that the lack of emunah  (complete faith) of this generation was widespread, and would require some serious work. As mentioned previously, the commentaries note that it was in this location that their food supplies came to an end, and it was this in fact that was the source of their complaints.

The Haftorah’s verses for this week speak of a lack of concern for money matters, which is the exact opposite of the concern and lack of emunah described above. The Canaanite kings “took no gain of money” to come attack the Jewish people. If our enemies act with such disregard for their financial condition, how much more so should we, especially since we know that our sustenance comes from Hashem.

Daf Kaf Zayin (Folio 27) of Sotah discusses the case of a woman of ill repute, a few cases of women that do not drink the Sotah water, and the punishment given to the male adulterer. The daf ends discussing additional laws taught when Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah became the Nassi, and discusses how the Song of the Sea was sung between Moshe and the Children of Israel. The daf contains many of the themes related to Judah mentioned in the previous week. The discussion of Rabbi Elazer ben Azariah as Nassi, is not only pertinent because the Nassi had to be from the Tribe of Judah as an extension of the Davidic dynasty, but because because Rabbi Elazar’s appointment as Nassi is one of the crucial focus points of the Passover Hagadah. It is also during these days that we read the “Nassi” for each day, connecting to the head of each Tribe. The discussion of the Song of the Sea is also obviously extremely connected to the Exodus and the month of Nissan.

Aminadav, son of Ram, is the father of Nachshon and Elisheva, Aharon’s wife. Miriam was married to his uncle, Calev. As will be discussed further next week, there is a well known Midrash that the actions of Nachshon were the ones that led to the splitting of the Sea of Reeds. Aminadav is perhaps the main link connecting the line of Judah to the family of Moses. This is perhaps the link between the redemption from Egypt and the Messianic redemption to come. The name Aminadav, offering of my people, which appears related to the offering of the Nassi mentioned previously. Nedavah means a voluntary offering, as was the gift of inauguration. The Rebbe Rashab, was a Nasi, someone who offered himself with great Mesirat Nefesh, self-sacrifice on behalf of his people.

In the twenty-seventh week, the Jews journey from Chashmonah and camp in Moseroth. This is the place of Aaaron’s passing. Aaron was the Nassi of the Tribe of Levi, and we read of his lighting of the Temple Menorah as part of the inauguration ceremonies. Aharon is the fifth Shepherd, just as the Rebbe Rashab was the Fifth Rebbe of Lubavitch. 

Rabbi Jacobson explains that Moseroth comes from the word musar, which means advice and chastisement related to ethical conduct. As we prepare for Passover, the cleaning for Passover also involves a cleansing of one’s ego – and that entails the ability to accept criticism. Moseroth also appears related to the word Mesirat Nefesh, self-sacrifice (above), and Masoret, tradition. Much of the ceremony of Passover involves continuing family customs and traditions. 

The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of rededicating ourselves, leading or being connected to our leaders, and now focus on self-sacrifice and emunah, cleansing ourselves of our ego in preparation for Passover.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Week 28 (Book 3): Nachshon and Help from Above

3. The children of Israel said to them, If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat, when we ate bread to our fill! For you have brought us out into this desert, to starve this entire congregation to death. 4. So the Lord said to Moses, Behold! I am going to rain down for you bread from heaven, and the people shall go out and gather what is needed for the day, so that I can test them, whether or not they will follow My teaching.  

From heaven they fought; the stars from their courses fought against Sisera.

Talmud Sotah: Daf 28: Divine intervention in Sotah matters


They journeyed from Moseroth and camped in Benei jaakan.

Week 28 also contains the first day of Passover. In the Torah portion section for this week shows the tremendous desperation of the Jewish people, which appear so quick to forget all the miracles they encountered, and the introduction of the Mannah, bread from heaven. It describes the Mannah as a test of whether the Jews would follow G-d’s teaching. On the Seder night, one of primary mitzvot is to eat matzah. Matzah is the bread of faith and of healing, which very much parallels the Mannah.  

The Haftorah’s verses for this week speak of how they fought “from heaven,” just like the Mannah would come “from heaven.” Likewise, the entire salvation of the Jewish people in Egypt came “from heaven.” On Passover, the initative came from above to below – Ita’aruta d’Leilah (arousal from Above) followed by Ita’aruta d’Letatah (arousal from below). The redemption from Egypt, including the plagues and the splitting of the sea, did not occur due to an initial effort on our part.

Daf Kaf Cheit (Folio 28) of Sotah discusses further how the water of the Sotah also checks and punishes the male adulterer and how he remains forbidden to the Sotah, just like her husband. She also becomes forbidden from eating Terumah. The punishment of the adulterer through the Sotah waters is also an example of an open revelation of heavenly intervention. The adulterer was nowhere near the scene of the drinking of the water, yet was affected by it just like the Sotah herself. The eating of the terumah also parallels the mannah, the matzah, and particularly the Passover offering. Terumah was a holy food, given to the kohanim in obedience of a Divine decree. It could only be eaten in a state of purity, like the Passover offering.

Nachshon was the first Nassi of the tribe of Judah. He was the one to bring the first offering for the inauguration of the Mishkan, which we read on each of the first days days of Nissan, as mentioned previously. Nachshon is most well known for his role in the splitting of the sea. His actions, diving into the sea even before it split, are seen as the quintessential aspect of faith, as mentioned last week.

The name Nachshon has at its roots the word Nachash, which means “snake.” Nachash has the same gematria as Mashiach, who will be the one to uproot the evil of the primordial snake, the yetzer harah, the evil inclination. Here, there is an even clearer link between the redemption from Egypt and the Messianic redemption to come. (See Book 1, Week 28)

In the twenty-eighth week, the Jews journey from Moseroth and camp in Benei Jaakan. Rabbi Jacobson writes that, “Benay Yaakan literally means the sons of Yaakan, grandson of Seir (Genesis 36:27). It is also translated as ‘wells of distress’ (Targum Yonasan), a place that is ‘narrow, confined and tight’ (commentary Yonasan).[1] On Passover, we also relive the distress, narrowness and confinement of the Egyptian exile, as we relive also its redemption. 

The personal journey of this week is to internalize the concept of purifying ourselves in our ethical behavior in preparation for Passover, and now focus on experiencing the “narrowness” of as well as the freedom from the first (Egypt) and the last of our exiles. This week involves facing Seir (literally "goat," another name of Eisav). (See Book 1, Weeks 27 and 28) Eisav represents our last exile, as well as evil in general and the "primordial snake" mentioned above.

[1] http://meaningfullife.com/oped/2008/07.18.08$PinchasCOLON_42_Journeys_Part_5.php

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Week 29 (Book 3): Salmah and Leaving Our Own "Egypts"

BESHALACH: 5. And it shall be on the sixth day that when they prepare what they will bring, it will be double of what they gather every day. 6. [Thereupon,] Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, [In the] evening, you shall know that the Lord brought you out of the land of Egypt.

The brook Kishon swept them away,
that ancient brook, the brook Kishon;

TALMUD SOTAH:  Daf 29 - Strictnesses related to eating Terumah and Sacrifices


JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Benei jaakan and camped in Hor hagidgad

For Week 29, the week of Passover, the Torah portion section for this week continues to introduce the Mannah, and finishes by saying, “you shall know that the Lord brought you out of the land of Egypt.” The mannah, after all, serves as a great reinforcement of the concept of faith, emunah, a central theme of Passover. 

The Talmud (beginning of tractate Be'ah) also derives an important principle in Jewish law – the concept of preparing for a holiday: “when they prepare what they will bring,” is understood in the Talmud to mean that one have in mind from beforehand what one will be using (both physically and spiritually) during the holiday, and that a holiday cannot prepare for a normal day,  or even for the Sabbath, and the Sabbath as well cannot prepare for a normal day or a holiday.

The Haftorah’s verses for this week speak of how the “brook Kishon” swept them away. This parallels the splitting of the Sea of Reeds, celebrated this week, in which the Egyptians were swept away. Rashi states that the Kishon had been a guarantor for the Sea of Reeds, as stated in the Talmud. (Pessachim 118B).

Daf Kaf Tet (Folio 29) of Sotah discusses further how the Sotah is forbidden from eating Terumah. It also discusses other specific purity laws of Terumah and of sacrifices in general. As mentioned in the previous week, Passover was a time when the laws of ritual purity were particularly strict, given that the Passover sacrifice had to be brought and eaten in a state of purity. Furthermore, in Passover we are very strict regarding what we eat, and many have the custom of not eating anything at all except for the food in one’s own kitchen.

Salmah is the son of Nachshon and the father of Boaz. Salmah means a garment. He is also called Salmon, which means a small garment (“on” is a Hebrew suffix denoting small; Nachshon therefore means small snake). Psalm 104 states, “Oteh Ohr Ka’Salmah,”   G-d enwraps himself with light as a garment.[1] 

The Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya that the Torah itself is the intermediary that is able to bridge the gap between the infinite and the finite, the “light” and the “garment.”[2]  Similarly, Salmah is the intermediary between Nachshon and the generation of the exodus from Egypt, and Boaz, who marries Ruth and sets the stage for the birth of King David.  Salmah also comes from the word “Sulam” which means ladder, and the Midrash builds on the idea of Salmah being an intermediary: “Because until him they formed a ladder of princes; from him onwards they formed a ladder of kings.” [3] Passover itself is an intermediary stage, the “Holiday of Spring:” a first step towards freedom and the beginning of the summer months.

In the twenty-ninth week, the Jews journey from Benei Jaakan and camp in Hor hagidgad. Hor Hagidgad means a hole/crevice of Gidgad. Based on the Arizal’s writings, Rabbi Jacobson explains that Hor HaGidgad is related to the intellect, the head and its crevices. Chor HaGidgad also appears to be related to the Mannah, which was called “zerah gad,” a seed of “gad.” Talmud translates gad in a few different ways, one of which is that it would be “magid” it would tell/resolve doubts. Another related translation is that it came from the word “Haggadah,” the stories of the Talmud (from the same verb, “lehagid”) that draw the heart of the listener, just like the Mannah did.[4] Again, the Mannah is a key aspect of the Passover story. 

In order to accept the gift of the Mannah, we have to make a vessel for it, a crevice within our hearts, within our selves. The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of experiencing the narrowness of as well as the freedom from the first and the last of our exiles, and now focus on opening up our hearts, to the gift of the mannah, to the gift of emunah.

[1] This is actually part of the preparatory prayers said before donning the Talit, the Jewish prayer shawl, as well as the Musaf prayers for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
[2] http://m.chabad.org/m/dailystudy/default.asp?tDate=9/6/2021&type=tanya
[4] Talmud, Yoma 75A.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Week 30 (Book 3): Destruction and Conquest

BESHALACH: 7. And [in the] morning, you shall see the glory of the Lord when He hears your complaints against the Lord but [of] what [significance] are we, that you make [the people] complain against us? 8. And Moses said, When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and bread in the morning [with which] to become sated, when the Lord hears your complaints, which you are making [the people] complain against Him, but [of] what [significance] are we? Not against us are your complaints, but against the Lord.

HAFTORAH: tread down, O my soul, (their) strength. Then were pounded the heels of the horses

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 30 - Children, fetuses, and the Song of the Sea


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

Week 30 is the week of Yom HaShoah, and the yahrzeit of Yehoshuah. The Torah portion section for this week speaks of how G-d heard the complaints of the Jewish people, and how Moshe saw himself and Aharon as nothing, Nachnu Mah. Yehoshuah shared this humble character trait of Moshe. The suffering the Jewish people underwent during the Holocaust is indescribable. Yet, we must always remember that G-d hears our complaints.

The Haftorah’s verses for this week speak of the Devorah’s soul treading down, “their” strength, and the pounding of horses. This could refer to Jewish suffering, such as the horrors of the Holocaust, and how the souls and the strength of the Jewish people treaded down to such horror. Yet, as Rashi explains, the simple meaning is that we treaded with our feet over the strength of our enemies, very much like Joshua put his feet on the neck of the Canaanite kings. The horse is a symbol of strength, the Perek Shirah animal of week 31 in Book 1. The pounding of the horses is reminiscent of how the “horse and its rider” were thrown into the sea, during the splitting of the sea in Nissan.

Daf Lamed (Folio 30) of Sotah discusses further certain purity laws regarding terumah and sacrifices. The daf ends by discussing in greater detail how it was that the Song of the Sea took place, how it was sung, and how even babies and unborn fetuses sung as well. What makes the Holocaust so tragic that it was a disaster that reached even infants, babies, and unborn fetuses. Again, we end the month of Nissan returning to the theme of the splitting of the sea.

Boaz, the son of Salmah, was the husband of Ruth. He also was the leader of the Jewish people at the time. Boaz contains the Hebrew word oz, which means strength, perhaps another reference to the strength of Yehoshua as well, and the salvation that came to Ruth after she had witnessed so much death and destruction in her life.

In the thirtieth week, the Jews journey from Hor hagidgad and camp in Jotbathah. Jotbathah means calm, peace and tranquility. The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of opening up our hearts to the gift of the mannah, the gift of emunah, and now focus on attaining the peace and tranquility that come with complete faith. Also, this is perhaps a reference to the relative tranquility we now experience as we return to our homeland, celebrated on Yom Ha’Atzmaut, in the coming week.

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