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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Week 1 (Book 5): Song of Songs and Reuven, Oaths and Jeremiah

Week 1:

1. The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's.

2. "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine.
3. Because of the fragrance of your goodly oils, your name is 'oil poured forth.' Therefore, the maidens loved you.


Shevuoth (Torah verses)

Book of Jeremiah: Chapter 1

Week 1 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is literally the “head of the year,” a day that encompasses all days of the years.  The Song of Songs means the song that excels all songs – perhaps also the song that encompasses all songs; Rosh Hashana is the day that excels all days – it encompasses all days).

It is also known that every “Shlomoh” in Shir HaShirim is a reference to G-d. Solomon is the king; Rosh Hashanah is the day in which we make Hashem the King. Solomon also means “peace is his.” On Rosh Hashanah, we know that everything, including peace in our lives, is in the hands of Hashem. (Think of uNetaneh Tokef).

The second verse for this week makes reference to the closeness of the days of awe. (The verse “Search for him when He is close” is a reference to the days of awe.  The third verse, which speaks of “oil poured forth,” is a reference to how Hashem’s actions towards the Jewish people give forth a scent felt throughout the entire world, and that is why the “maidens” (the gentile nations) love Him as well. On Rosh Hashanah, all mankind is judged, not just the Jewish people, and the nations sense this to some extent. On Rosh Hashanah we recognize that He is King over the entire universe, including all of humanity. Wine and oil are signs of physical blessing received on Rosh Hashanah (See Book 1, Week 1, Chesed shebeChesed), and are also metaphors for knowledge, which is related to Rosh Hashanah (See Book 1, Week 52, Da’at).

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the first one mentioned in Reuven, the firstborn. Jacob calls Reuven, “"Reuven, You are my first-born, my strength and the first of my vigor.” First, literally from the word, “Rosh,” head, like “Rosh Hashanah.

The tractate of Shvuot is based on various different verses in the Torah. Like the day of Rosh Hashanah and Shir HaShirim, Shevuah is an all-encompassing term.

Chapter 1 of the Book of Jeremiah also is all-encompassing as it describes the major theme of the entire book, the destruction that was about to befall Israel and Jerusalem. It also contains the idea of everything being included, and to some extent foretold from the very beginning, as Jeremiah is told that he had been chosen by Hashem while he was still in his mother’s woumb.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Week 2 (Book 5): Yom Kippur - Entering the Inner Chamber, Enoch, Remembering the Love of Our Youth

SONG OF SONGS: 4. Draw me, we will run after you; the king brought me to his chambers. We will rejoice and be glad in you. We will recall your love more fragrant than wine; they have loved you sincerely.
5. I am black but comely, O daughters of Jerusalem! Like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon.
6. Do not look upon me [disdainfully] because I am swarthy, for the sun has gazed upon me; my mother's sons were incensed against me; they made me a keeper of the vineyards; my own vineyard I did not keep.




Week 2 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Yom Kippur. In the Song of Songs, the Jewish people sing about how, after getting a glimpse of G-d drawing us near, we now run after Him. On Yom Kippur is also the only time of the year when the Kohen Gadol, the high priest enters the Temple’s inner chamber, the Holy of Holies. The Talmud states that Yom Kippur, along with Tu B’Av, is the happiest day of the year. That is a remarkable statement, given that it is a purely spiritual day, with know festivity or wine (See Rashi who explains that “wine” in the above verse is a reference to all physical festivities).

Furthermore, the Jewish people sing of how they have sinned, but are beautiful in their essence – they can still do teshuvah. Rashi again comes to explain the verse in this manner: “and if I am black as the tents of Kedar, which are blackened by the rain, for they are constantly spread out in the deserts, I am easily cleansed to be like the curtains of Solomon.” (Verse 5, Rashi) The Jewish people exclaim that the exile has caused them to be unable to properly keep the commandments.We were meant to be a light unto the nations, help them guard their moral principles, yet our own morals we have not been able to uphold.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the second mentioned is Reuven’s firstborn, Enoch. Enoch has the same name as one of the first descendants of Adam, who was so righteous that Hashem took him alive, and he became an angel. That is the idea of Yom Kippur, to be like angels.
The tractate of Shvuot begins with the statement of the Torah that describes certain elements in Jewish law that “are two that are [really] four.” This points to the duality related to Week 2. Daf Beit (Folio 2) also spends a significant portion, perhaps the majority of its content on the ritual sacrifices of Yom Kippur!

Chapter 2 of the Book of Jeremiah begins with the exact quote used by Rashi to describe how the Jewish people felt in the verses of the Song of Songs above:

2. Go and call out in the ears of Jerusalem, saying: so said the Lord: I remember to you the lovingkindness of your youth, the love of your nuptials, your following Me in the desert, in a land not sown.
3. Israel is holy to the Lord, the first of His grain; all who eat him shall be guilty, evil shall befall them, says the Lord. 
Rashi again, links the verse to Yom Kippur, and the themes explored above, such as the nuptial room, and return to G-d. Shavuot is a marriage, and Yom Kippur, a second one (when the second set of Tablets were given):

I remember to you: Were you to return to Me, I would desire to have mercy on you for I remember the loving kindness of your youth and the love of the nuptials of your wedding canopy, when I brought you into the wedding canopy, and this (כלולתיך) is an expression of bringing in. Your nuptials (Noces in O.F.). Now what was the loving kindness of your youth? Your following My messengers, Moses and Aaron, from an inhabited land to the desert without provisions for the way since you believed in Me.   

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Week 3 (Book 5): Shepherds' Dwellings

7. Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where do you feed, where do you rest [the flocks] at noon, for why should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?"
8. "If you do not know, O fairest of women, go your way in the footsteps of the flocks and pasture your kids beside the shepherds' dwellings.
9. At the gathering of the steeds of Pharaoh's chariots have I silenced you, my beloved.
Week 3 in the Jewish calendar is the week of Sukkot. In the Song of Songs, the Jewish people ask  Hashem where He feeds His flock, the Jewish people. This is a reference to the Sukkah, where we eat and rest during this holiday. The Sukkah is a reference to Divine protection in the desert and in all exiles. This reference again becomes much more clear in light of Rashi’s comment: “Tell me, You Whom my soul loves, where do You feed Your flock among these wolves in whose midst they are, and where do You rest them at noon, in this exile, which is a distressful time for them, like noon, which is a distressful time for the flock?” In the Sukkah, we are exposed to the elements, and feel the heat of the sun at noon. The “companions” is a reference to the other nations, for whom we also bring sacrifices on Sukkot.
In the second verse, it is G-d’s turn to speak to the Jewish people. Because we have been judged and have repented, He now call us the “fairest of women.” G-d also speaks of the “shepherds dwellings,” perhaps a reference to the seven shepherds that visit the Sukkah during Sukkot. The Sukkot are also built as a remembrance of the redemption from Egypt, and the third verse of this week is a reference to that, to how Pharaoh’s chariots were thrown in the sea. All we needed to do at that time was be silent and have faith. This is connected to the faith we demonstrate on Sukkot as well, remembering how we were kept safe for 40 years and rejoicing in the holiday.
Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the third mentioned is Pallu. Pallu is related to the word peleh, miracle. This is perhaps a reference to the miracles experienced by the Jews during their forty years in the desert: the clouds of glory, the mannah, etc.
Daf gimmel (Folio 3) of Shvuot discusses primarily oaths relating to eating, as well as the laws of bringing things in an out of a home, a primary domain. These are clearly related to eating in the sukkah, and making the sukkah a home. The daf also discusses laws of lashes for inactions. This is similar to the sukkah, in which even if we do not do anything, just stay inside a sukkah, we are fulfilling a mitzvah.
Chapter 3 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme as the above ones in Shir HaShirim:
14. Return, backsliding children, says the Lord, for I possessed you, and I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.  
backsliding children: (Envasec in O.F.) That you perverted your way because of much good, that you enjoyed tranquility and pleasure, as Scripture states: They hum snatches of song to the tune of the lute (Amos 6:5), those who drink from bowls of wine (v. 6).   
for I possessed you: and you are called by My name, that I am your Master, and it is not honorable for Me to leave you in the hands of My enemies.   
15. And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, and they will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
The verse speaks of tranquility, as well as of shepherds.
Another verse of this chapter speaks of how the Jews are mingled among the nations:
19. And I said: How shall I place you among the sons? But I will give you a desirable land, an inheritance of the beauty of hosts of nations, and I said: Call Me 'my Father,' and do not turn away from following Me.  
How shall I place you among the sons?: i.e., how shall I place you, my congregation and My nation, among the other sons, mingled with the heathens. I, therefore, selected a handsome portion, and I gave you a desirable land.   
Here we see that all nations are called sons – we bring sacrifices for all of them as well.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

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

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.




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)

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."    


TALMUD SHEVUOTH Daf 5: Getting involved in the world


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. 


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