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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Week 4 (Book 5): The Crown of the Angel Metat

SONG OF SONGS:
10. Your cheeks are comely with rows, your neck with necklaces.       
11. We will make you rows of gold with studs of silver."     
12. "While the king was still at his table, my spikenard gave forth its fragrance.

70 SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Hezron

TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 4

BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 4

Week 4 in the Jewish calendar is the week of the final days of Sukkot, Hoshanah Rabbah, Shmini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah. The verses for this week from the Song of Songs speaks of a tremendous closeness to Hashem.

The first two verses are said by Hashem to us. The plain meaning of the words reflect the elevation of the material. Rashi explains them as a reference to the spoils from the Song of the Sea, when Israel “emptied out Egypt” physically and spiritually, elevating its sparks. Regarding Simchas Torah, The Ba’al Shem Tov teaches, "The archangel Metat," boasted Michoel, referring to the most prestigious angel in the heavenly court, "ties crowns for G-d out of Israel's prayers. Today, I shall fashion an even more glorious crown for the Almighty out of these torn shoes."

Rashi explains that the rows also include a forehead plate. Hashem adorns us and we adorn Him on this day. The words of these first verses for the week also seem to allude to singing and dancing. Torim means rows, lines, and may be a reference to lines of people dancing, or lines from a song. Charuzim are beads, studs, but also rhymes, like the piyyutim such as those in the Hakkafot, Tefilat Geshem, and Mi Piel. Silver, as Chassidus explains, comes from Kissufim, desire, the desire to cling to G-d during these days.

Yet, perhaps the greatest of all indication of the meaning behind this verse, is the first one: Lehi, usually translated as cheek, but which also means jawbone, the crucial element one of the Tanach’s recorded stories of Samson defeating the Philistines. It was with a jawbone of a donkey (Chamor, material, a word repeated so many times in the story) that Shimshon struck a thousand Philistines, and from that bone water issued forth. One of the main dancing during Sukkot is with water, from which there would come Ruach HaKodesh, just like Hashem rested on Samson himself during that fight.

The third verse is also deeply related to this week, as it is well known that Sukkot is considered a festivitiy for all nations, but then, on the last day, Hashem has a private audience for the Jewish People alone. This is the idea of being at Hashem’s table just ourselves. There is some disagreement in the commentators over whether the spikenard fragrance is a good smell or otherwise. Either way, it represents our closeness to G-d, and even a certain sense of inadequacy, as we begin again the cycle of reading the Torah.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the fourth mentioned is Hezron. Hezron is also one of the descendants of Judah, the father of Caleb. As explained in Book 3, chatzer means courtyard, or enclosure. Here is seems to be a reference to the courtyard of the Temple (in which the dancing would take place). About the festivities of the day it is said that, “So abundant was the light that there was no courtyard in Jerusalem that was not illumined by the light coming from the place of the water-drawing.” (Mishnah, Sukkah 5:2)

Daf dalet (Folio 4) of Shevuoth discusses primarily punishments for inaction. In these days of Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, actual deeds are required to perform the mitzvoth of the day.

The beginning of Chapter 4 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to that of the above ones in Shir HaShirim:

1. If you return, O Israel, says the Lord, to Me, you shall return, and if you remove your detestable things from My Presence, you shall not wander.  

2. And you will swear, "As the Lord lives," in truth and in justice and in righteousness, nations will bless themselves with him and boast about him.

The verses speak of being in G-d’s presence, but having detestable things that need removing. They also speak of how the nations will see the special quality of the Jewish people. The verses speak of justice and righteousness, while the rest of the chapter mentions quite a few times about the need to heed the voice of the shofar, a reference to the period of judgment of Rosh Hashanah coming to a close. 


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Week 5 (Book 5): The Temple and the World, the Field and the Flood (again)

SONG OF SONGS:
13. A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me; between my breasts he shall lie.         
14. A cluster of henna-flowers is my beloved to me, in the vineyards of Ein-Gedi."          
15. "Behold, you are comely, my beloved; behold, you are comely; your eyes are like doves."    

70 SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Carmi

TALMUD SHEVUOTH Daf 5: Getting involved in the world

BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 5

Week 5 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. Cheshvan is the month of the Flood as well as of the construction of the Third Temple. It is also connected to involvement in the world. The verses for this week appear connected to boh these themes.

The first two verses are said by the Jewish people, and they speak of Hashem resting in our midst. This is the idea of the Temple, the very reason for Creation. Rashi’s comments also reference Hashem’s resting among us, as he connects it to Hashem forgiving us and dwelling in the Mishkan. Kofer (a reference to henna-flowers in the Song of Songs, although it can also mean "pitch") is also used in the description of how Noah was to build the Ark: (Genesis, 6:14)

Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with compartments, and you shall caulk it both inside and outside with pitch.

עֲשֵׂה לְךָ תֵּבַת עֲצֵי גֹפֶר קִנִּים תַּעֲשֶׂה אֶת הַתֵּבָה וְכָפַרְתָּ אֹתָהּ מִבַּיִת וּמִחוּץ בַּכֹּפֶר:

The third verse also speaks of forgiveness and cleansing, yet this time appears more related to the Flood. It is the dove that announces that there is dry land, that the Flood itself is over. (Kofer and Gofer of the Ark may be connected; Noah also planted vineyards)

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the fifth mentioned is Carmi. Kerem means vineyard in Hebrew, as in the above verse of the Song of Songs. Carmi can be understood as Kerem-Yud, the vineyard of Hashem, a reference to the Temple. Cheshvan is also the time to get involved in the world, and cultivate our fields and vineyards. One of the first actions performed by Noah is to plant a vineyard. (Genesis 9:20)

Daf Heh (Folio 5) of Shvuot discusses various technical issues and interpretive methodology, such as deriving laws from general statements followed by particular ones. It discusses the idea of “forgetting after knowing” when it comes to Temple sacrifices, the two primary legal examples of taking things out of a private domain into a public one, and the signs of the appearance of the spiritual impurity known as Tzara’as. Overall, although there are also several referecences to the Temple, the main theme appears to be similar to what takes place once we re-enter the world of the physical, leaving our “private domain,” and risking “forgetting after knowing” about spirituality and sacrifice, and getting involved in the technicalities and minutiae of behaving ethically in a world still suffering of impurity. 

The beginning of Chapter 5 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to that of the above ones in Shir HaShirim:

1. Stroll in the streets of Jerusalem, and see now and know, and seek in its squares, whether you will find a man, whether there is one who performs justice, who seeks faith, and I will forgive her. 

2. And if they say, "As the Lord lives," they, nevertheless, will swear falsely.

The verses speak of impurity of the public domain, even in Jerusalem, the place of the Temple. Hashem wants to forgive, and He searches for someone within whom He can dwell. Someone that performs justice and seeks faith, like Noah at the time of the Flood. The entire theme of the chapter also relates to the great destruction to come, also like that of the Flood. 


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Week 6 (Book 5): the Temple, Shimon and Hamas


SONG OF SONGS:
16. "Behold, you are comely, my beloved, yea pleasant; also our couch is leafy.
17. The beams of our houses are cedars; our corridors are cypresses."
1. "I am a rose of Sharon, a rose of the valleys."
70 SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Shimon
TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 6 - the Metzorah
BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 6

Week 6 in the Jewish calendar is the second week of Cheshvan. The Song of Songs verses for this week again appear connected to boh main themes of Cheshvan: the Temple and the Flood.

The first two verses again are said by the Jewish people, and again they speak of Hashem resting in our midst. Below are Rashi’s comments regarding the first two verses:

yea pleasant: For You overlooked my transgression and caused Your Shechinah to rest in our midst, and this is the praise of the descent of the fire (Lev. 9:24): “and all the people saw and shouted for joy.”

also our couch is leafy: Through your pleasantness, behold our couch is leafy with our sons and with our daughters, all of whom gather to You here, as it is said (ibid. 8: 4): “and the congregation gathered [to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting].” The Tabernacle is called a bed, as it is said (below 3: 7): “Behold, the litter of Solomon,” and the Temple is called a bed, as it is said concerning Joash (II Chron. 22:11, II Kings 11:2): “in the bed chamber” which was in the “House of the Lord” (ibid. 3), because they [the Sanctuaries] are the source of Israel’s fruitfulness and procreation.

The beams of our houses are cedars: This is the praise of the Tabernacle.

The second verse also mentions structures made of cypresses, like the cypress wood used in the construction of the Ark.

The third verse, which begins a new chapter in Shir HaShirim, speaks of the rose of the valleys, Chavatzelet HaSharon. Our sages note that Chavatzelet(rose) stands for Chav Tzel, the “shade of love” constructed byBetzalel, the Temple itself.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the sixth mentioned is Shimon. Of all of Jacob’s sons, he is the one most associated with violence, such as what caused the Flood (literally, Chamas). Jacob states that the weapons of Shimon and Levi are those of “Chamas.” The name Shimon comes from Shmiah, hearing.

Daf Vav(Folio 6) of Shvuot discusses primarily the afflictions of the Metzorah; there is a debate about its color. The Metzorah represents a high degree of guilt and negative social behavior, such as Lashon Harah, evil speech (and also hearing such speech).

Chapter 6 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above:

6. For so says the Lord of Hosts: Cut the trees and cast on Jerusalem a siege mound; that is the city whose sins have been visited upon her, everywhere there is oppression in its midst.
ו. כִּי כֹה אָמַר יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת כִּרְתוּ עֵצָה וְשִׁפְכוּ עַל יְרוּשָׁלִַם סֹלְלָה הִיא הָעִיר הָפְקַד כֻּלָּהּ עֹשֶׁק בְּקִרְבָּהּ:
7. As a well lets its water flow, so has she let her evil flow; violence and spoil is heard therein before Me continually; sickness and wounds.
ז. כְּהָקִיר בַּיִר מֵימֶיהָ כֵּן הֵקֵרָה רָעָתָהּ חָמָס וָשֹׁד יִשָּׁמַע בָּהּ עַל פָּנַי תָּמִיד חֳלִי וּמַכָּה:
8. Be corrected, O Jerusalem, lest My soul be alienated from you; lest I make you a desolation, a land uninhabited.
ח. הִוָּסְרִי יְרוּשָׁלִַם פֶּן תֵּקַע נַפְשִׁי מִמֵּךְ פֶּן אֲשִׂימֵךְ שְׁמָמָה אֶרֶץ לוֹא נוֹשָׁבָה:

Beyond the connection made here between Jerusalem and trees, there is also a connection between water and punishment for evil and the hearing of Hamas (violence and spoil). Repentance can save the land from desolation. In fact, the entire chapter focuses greatly on complete desolation, completely uninhabited, similar to the world after the Flood.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Week 7 (Book 5): Love and the Temple

SONG OF SONGS: 
2. "As a rose among the thorns, so is my beloved among the daughters."
3. "As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the sons; in his shade I delighted and sat, and his fruit was sweet to my palate.                                          
4. He brought me to the banquet hall, and his attraction to me [was symbolic of his] love.        
               
70 SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Jemuel
TALMUD SHEVUOTH DAF: 7
BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 7
Week 7 in the Jewish calendar is the third week of Cheshvan, and (almost always) includes Rachel Immeinu’s yahrzeit, on the 11th of the month. The Song of Songs verses for this week include a verse by G-d to the People of Israel, followed by two verses from Israel to G-d.
The first verse is a characteristic of Rachel, who, like her mother and sister, was like a rose plucked from among the thorns of the house of Lavan and Bethuel. The Zohar begins by comparing Israel to a Thirteen-Petaled Rose based on this very verse, and explains that Israel is surrounded by thirteen petals of Rachami, mercy. Rachel was also known for her Rachamim, and the Rachamim that Jacob showed towards her. In all three verses for this week, the love expressed so strongly between G-d and Israel was also expressed in the love of Jacob and Rachel.
As previously explained, Cheshvan is very muched connected to the Third Temple, and Rashi explains that the banquet hall mentioned in the third verse is a reference to the tent of meeting.
Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the seventh mentioned is Jemuel. Jemuel may mean “Yamoh-el” – his sea is G-d. This appears to be appropriate for Cheshvan, the month of the Flood. Yam (Mutzak) is also the name of washbasin which Solomon built for the First Temple. Perhaps this is another interpretation of the name.
Daf Zayin (Folio 7) of Shvuot discusses primarily the transgression of eating a holy sacrifice while impure, comparing it with entering the Temple when impure. The daf also discusses the atonement of the goat offering, whose blood was sacrificed in the Holy of Holies. There seems to be a connection here to the Temple, and its power in cleansing away sin. The Talmud concludes, however, a sacrifice cannot be brought to pardon an intentional sin.
Chapter 7 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. The chapter is about the importance of the Temple and G-d’s mercy. However, the prophet warns against committing willful sins and thinking that everything will be fine because of the Temple.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying:
Stand in the gate of the house of the Lord, and proclaim there this word, and say; Hearken to the word of the Lord, all Judah who come into these gates to prostrate yourselves before the Lord. 
So said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; Improve your ways and your deeds, I will allow you to dwell in this place.
Do not rely on false words, saying: The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord are they.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Week 8 (Book 5): Lovesick




SONG OF SONGS:
5. Sustain me with flagons of wine, spread my bed with apples, for I am lovesick.
6. His left hand was under my head, and his right hand would embrace me.
7. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the hinds of the field, that you neither awaken nor arouse the love while it is desirous.
                       
70 SOULS THAT DESCENDED TO EGYPT: Jamin

TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 8 – atonement for grave sins and abominations

BOOK OF JEREMIAH: Chapter 8

Week 8 in the Jewish calendar is the nearing the last week of Cheshvan. The Song of Songs verses for this week include two verses from the People of Israel to G-d, and one verse in which the Jewish people address the other nations.

As explained in Book 1, as we go deeper into the month of Cheshvan, deeper into the year, we feel ourselves getting more entrenched in our daily affairs, and we become “sick,” yearning for spirituality, and fighting not to lose our connection with Hashem. This attitude, again is expressed in Rashi’s comments to the first verse:

Sustain me: now as is the manner of the sick, with flagons of grape wine or with cakes of pure white flour.   

spread my bed: Spread my bed around me with apples for a good fragrance, in the manner of the sick, for I am sick for his love, for I thirst for Him here in my exile.

The second verse reminisces of a time when G-d’s kindness towards us as we fight to make a living, was even more evident. Here’s Rashi again:

His left hand was under my head: in the desert.   

and his right hand would embrace me: He traveled a three-days’ journey; to search out a rest for them [as in Num. 10: 33], and in the place of the rest, He brought down manna and quails for them. All this I remember now in my exile, and I am sick for His love.

G-d’s left hand represents his attribute of discipline (under our head, perhaps to mean that he was keeping us in line), while his right hand symbolizes kindness, in an embrace. In Book 1, this is the week of Chesed shebeGevurah, kindness within the context of discipline and severity, marking the beginning of the cycle of seven weeks connected to Gevurah.

The third verse also points to a more confrontational attitude towards the other nations. As we feel perhaps the greater weight of the physical world, we make clear that we are not willing to give up our special relationship with Hashem.

The above verses also appear to hint to the events of the Flood. For example, when Noah leaves the Ark and “re-enters” the world, he is overwhelmed. He plants a vineyard, and falls in a similar manner as Adam. In the Talmud, one of the major opinions is that the grape (wine) was in fact the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the eighth mentioned is Jamin. Jamin in Hebrew is “Yemin” – right, or right hand, representing kindness as mentioned above. As also mentioned above, this is a time of the year where we feel that we must rely more and more on his kindness.

Daf Chet (Folio 8) of Shvuot continues to discuss the atonement of the goat offering, whose blood was sacrificed in the Holy of Holies. The sins mentioned in this daf are much more serious, and include the greatest sins of all: idolatry, certain sexual sins (such as incest) and murder, although the Talmud clarifies that it is discussing when these sins were committed unwittingly. It also mentions atonement for certain impurities, as well as the atonement of the goat offered outside the Temple. As Israel is more steeped in exile, it requires more atonements.
Chapter 8 of the Book of Jeremiah contains similar themes to the above. The chapter shows how, when steeped into exile, the sins begin to mount, even greater abominations, but we start to fail to see the severity of the sins we commit. They become second nature and even acceptable in our eyes. We even come to believe that we are doing G-d’s will. It is interesting that this chapter includes references to various birds that sing around this time of the year in Perek Shirah (See Book 1). The crane and the swallow both sing in the month of Cheshvan.

7. Even the stork in the heaven knows her seasons, and the turtledoves and the crane and the swallow await the time of their coming, but My people do not know the ordinance of the Lord.

8. How do you say, "We are wise, and the Law of the Lord is with us"? Verily, behold it is in vain, he made a false scribes' pen.  

9. Wise men were ashamed, they were broken and caught; behold they rejected the word of the Lord, now what wisdom have they?

10. Therefore, I will give their wives to others, their fields to those who possess them for from the smallest to the greatest, they all commit robbery, from prophet to priest, they all deal falsely. 

11. And they healed the breach of My people easily, saying, "Peace, peace," but there is no peace. 

12. They shall be put to shame since they have committed abomination. Neither are they ashamed nor do they know to feel disgrace. They will, therefore, fall among the slain; at the time I have visited upon them, they will stumble, says the Lord.

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