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Geshmack Dvar Torah of the Week: Breaking the chain

Monday, 2 November 2009

Breaking the chain

In some ways, quite a simple one , that some may have heard before, but worth repeating as it shows meaning on every level that חז''ל set out for us...

There is an interesting debut appearance in this week's sedra - in 19:16 - a שלשלת (Shalsheles), a rare cantor's note. It is only to make 3 further appearances in chumash - in Chayei Sarah - 24:12, in Vayeshev 39:8 and in Tzav 8:23 So what is its significance?

Let's see in what contexts it appears...

In next week's sedra, Chayei Sarah, we find that Eliezer, Avraham's most trusted servant, is charged with finding a wife for Yitzchak. He is not allowed to take a wife from Canaan. The Midrash tells us that Eliezer had a daughter and it could have been in his mind that he might 'just not have found' a suitable wife outside Canaan. This could have left the path open for his daughter (although Rashi does point out that Avraham' friends Anar, Eshkol and Mamreh were next in line). Nevertheless, Eliezer overcomes any personal attachments and davens that 'ה should heed his master's request. This triumph over his own desires is signified by the Shalsheles on the word ויאמר - the opening word of his prayer.

In Vayeshev we see the tremendous personal struggle that Jospeh had to overcome. Indeed, by running out and leaving his coat behind, in the hands of his master's wife, it got him into more trouble in some ways. But on a personal level, he could not afford to be in the house a moment longer, refusing his master's wife's advances. That very word - וימאן (and he refused), has a שלשלת on it, denoting the breaking of his own potential negative desires.

As for the final appearance - in Tzav - the Midrash tells us that Moshe Rabbenu was the Kohen Gadol until the end of the Miluim, the first week of the Mishkan's use, at which point he had to hand over the position to his brother Aharon(according to various sources, because he argued at the burning bush). It must have been hard for him. Yet he overcame any personal desires and handed over the baton wholeheartedly. His final act as High Priest was וישחט...no surprises about the musical note on this word, at the point of his breaking with his own emotions...

Looking back at our Sedra, we see from Rashi that the Pasuk tells us that the angels had to grab hold of Lot because he was tarrying...leaving behind all his possessions. The first word of the Pasuk, which means he hesitated, contains a שלשלת - he overcame his physical desire for wealth and grabbed reality with both hands...literally.

It is no accident that Shalsheles actually means a chain. Furthermore, if you listen to its sound, it is elongated (3x a פזר - Pazer, another musicla note - which is long already), yet comes to an abrupt end, thus breaking the chain. See how wise Chazal are, even when ascribing the musical notes to the words...

מתוק מדבש!

Btw - obviously, you have 4 opportunities to use this Dvar Torah!

Geshmack!

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